Best Metal Albums of June 2024

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of June 2024

In June’s best metal, Crypt Sermon offer hooks in doom form, Insect Ark stay on the experimental path, and Ulcerate offer despair with technical death metal.

Incipient Chaos – Incipient Chaos (I, Voidhanger)

While I readily admit that I’m a sucker for furious, unshackled black/death metal that sounds like a jet engine taking off and whose very fabric threatens to come apart at any moment, I challenge anyone to try and not be dazzled by the hell fire brought forth by Incipient Chaos. Similar to the maelstrom of occult energy and rippling melodic riffs that Keep of Kalessin dropped on 2003’s Reclaim—a moment of magic they never managed to recapture again—the French outfit’s self-titled album Incipient Chaos storms out of the gate, thrashing and spouting fire like a crazed demon drunk on blood. While the sheer incandescent intensity of the music is the main draw here, the album is sprinkled with moments of fragile but raw atmosphere in the vein of Celeste’s sludge-tinged black metal and epic crescendos that are just as breathtaking. A near masterpiece of a debut. – Antonio Poscic

Insect Ark – Raw Blood Singing (Debemur Morti Production)

For all the experimental acumen that Dana Schechter poured into the one-person phase of Insect Ark, the project’s early attempts, such as 2015’s Portal/Well, felt somewhat too vague and meandering for their own good. The inclusion of a drummer—first Ashley Spungin, then Andy Patterson—on her subsequent records solidified the music and gave a more tangible path to the songwriting without having lost any of the grippingly disorienting avant-garde feel that Schechter excels in.

Yet, until recently, there was still something missing. Living and working in Berlin since 2022, Raw Blood Singing sees Schechter joined by Tim Wyskida of the legendary drone group Khanate for transformative effect. Outside his drumming contributions—heavy as if wielding a hammer made from white dwarf matter yet nimble and elastic as a hummingbird’s flight—he brings an elevated sense of purpose to the eight cuts and the kind of support that enables Schechter to realize her vision fully.

For the first time, we can hear Schechter shifting the avant elements from structures to textures, embracing a simplified, more melodic and unencumbered, even pop-like aesthetic in her songwriting, which she then lets flow through crushingly heavy forms and layers of intricate instrumentation. The ultimate effect is thoroughly intoxicating—like simultaneously listening to a doom-drone album and an ethereal, jazzy ambient work in the vein of Laurel Halo’s Atlas. – Antonio Poscic

Kerasfóra – Six Nights Beyond the Serpents (Iron Bonehead)

Hailing from a continent with a great tradition of underground black metal, Chile’s Kerasfóra introduced themselves as connoisseurs of the atmospheric. Their first demo, Denn die Todten reiten schnell, masterfully implemented the acoustic guitar within the hard and lo-fi context. At the same time, the use of synthesizers further enhanced the dark scenery and provided novelty. The latter now takes charge in the band’s debut, Six Nights Beyond The Serpents. The krautrock implementations are clear, piercing through with off-kilter majesty in “Of Night and Fire”. It is a powerful injection, setting the scenery ablaze while walls of distortion and ceremonial drumming prevail in the background.

While this implementation is not necessarily unheard of, Kerasfóra push it to extremes. It feels like a bizarre soundtrack to a sci-fi B-movie with “Of Omniscience and Mystery”, a theme that continues with the synthesizers appearing as elusive, flickering UFOs that pass over the night sky. Still, Kerasfóra can forge a connection with the past. The epic spirit of Bathory is harmonized in “Of Consternation and Ecstasy” while “Of Darkness and Confusion” dwells into the mysterious essence of the genre. The acoustic guitar still finds its place, providing stunning performances of emotive depth with the opener track and becoming the connective tissue between the folk past and retro-futuristic present.

Topping it all off, Kerasfóra also display a kinship with the traditional metallic applications. The lead work here is low-key stunning, weaving beautiful themes in ”Of Enlightenment and Fall” or offering outstanding and inventive playing in “Of Serpent and Return”. All is beautifully balanced to maintain the underground ethic but offer something more. – Spyros Stasis

Regere Sinister – Inside the Eye of Horned Winds (Nuclear War Now!)

Regere Sinister’s black metal does not dwell in the eerie bleakness of Scandinavia. Instead, it crosses the fiery path, following the early Hellenic tradition, with some echoes from the South American scene. Given the focus on the bass sound, the primary influence is obvious, and soon enough Regere Sinister contort many traditional metallic elements to fit their sickening vision. The defined hooks of “Black Commandment” and their punk-ish explosions distort reality, while the doom tone of “Halls of the Profane Temple” sets a crystal clear lunar scenery where wolves howl in the distance.

The atmosphere and attitude are what make Inside the Eye of Horned Winds. The former is constructed through minimal means, simple ideas, sparse instrumentation, and interesting twists. In that way, it is a laconic release, capable of delivering a Bacchian haze, as with the latter parts of “Halls of Profane Temple”. The latter is seen through an adherence to the fervent and, at the same time, decadent aspect of black metal. It is the corrupt mystic, who was invoked entities from the great beyond one times to many and is slowly losing his mind.

The invocations in “Typhaeon” and the absolute triumph of “My Black Stigmata” relish Regere Sinister’s capacity for diving into these dark corners head first. The final nail to this coffin is placed through the intro, interlude, and outro, all subtly submitting their evil prayers to the abyss. – Spyros Stasis

Sect – Plagues Upon Plagues (Southern Lord)

Sect’s hardcore was always served with a measure of despair. Listening back to their debut, it is difficult not to feel the anguish in “Singing” as Chris Colohan sings, “I saved the messages, you don’t remember to play them back when you got better.” Now, on their fourth record, Plagues Upon Plagues, this despair has blossomed as “No Uncertain Terms” washes in with the unexpected clean melodies and vocals. It is a disturbing moment; instead of having a soothing effect, it plunges into the depths of sorrow. But, then again, there is anger here, and it does not hold back. The exhilarating progression of “Drowning In Sorrows”, the momentum of “The Lovers of Life”, and the grindcore fuel of “Inventory” firmly grasp this point of convergence.

This is a heavy record. Apart from the common themes that run through the discography of Sect, describing the state of the world, there is a definite embrace of slower and heavier scenes. Sect always adopted metallic notions and sludge-infused themes, with this work further embracing that side. While “New Low” carries much of the attitude and distortion of hardcore, it is propelled by a mid-tempo groove, and piercing riffs are closer to the doom lineage. The leads bounce between the tormenting Sabbath-ian of “#ForeverHome” and then into the melodic, traditional metal of “Zerzan Wept”.

Sect continue to wage their war, proudly waving their black flags through the excruciating finale of “Six Black Lines (Plagues Upon Plagues)”. This is an unexpected but very potent offering from a band that does not disappoint. – Spyros Stasis

Sumac – The Healer (Thrill Jockey)

Since collaborating with Keiji Haino in American Dollar Bill, Sumac have been committed to incorporating free rock methodologies within their sludge and post-metal core. The latest entry in this journey, The Healer, sees them even more determined to squeeze out every ounce of creativity this form can provide. If you are looking for an easy-listening album, this is not it. The four long-form compositions, clocking around 80 minutes, provide no easy access. There are no hooks to be found here. The structure is loose and ambiguous, and Sumac dig for treasure by focusing and obsessing over the textures.

Drones originate from the guitar amps, rich feedback, and sparse drum hits are evoked through the opening moments of “World of Light”. Anything is possible. The descent to the desert abstract domain through clean guitars and the mystical scenery of “Yellow Dawn” is just one pathway. The other road leads to brutality, leaving no room to breathe. Sludge and hardcore erupt, with the trio taking on a downtrodden and defeated quality, only to send debris falling from the sky in “The Stone’s Turn”.

As with May You Be Held, Sumac continue to harmonize the free rock influence on their sound, reaching a new peak. The utter chaos of Keiji Haino offers some mania and frenetic energy, depicted both in the opening track and “New Rites”. However, this unpredictable nature is further tempered by the insightful take of Casper Brotmzann’s Massaker. It is a process of introspection, of knowing thyself, which elevates the krautrock aspirations of “Yellow Dawn” and the cyclical nature of “New Rites”. I keep saying this with every new Sumac album, but it feels like this is their best. I guess until the next one comes out… – Spyros Stasis

Thanatotherion – Alienation Manifesto (I, Voidhanger)

What it lacks in outright, mad intensity compared to their labelmates Incipient Chaos (see elsewhere in this column), the Thanatotherion project of multi-instrumentalist Shelby Lermo (of Ulthar and Vastum) with drummer Jason Bursese (of Black Fucking Cancer) makes up in idiosyncratic touches, inventive fusion of styles, and delightful electronic miniatures woven into the otherwise majestic raw and second wave black metal fabric. On Alienation Manifesto, every moment of silly elation brought on by the relentless black/death/thrash metal attacks of “Red Cathedral” or “Nuclear Womb” is met by the equally well-done creepy ambient cues of “Orb” and the crepuscular dungeon synth of “Lament”. An excellent and consistently fun debut. – Antonio Poscic

Ulcerate – Cutting the Throat of God (Debemur Morti)

Standing at the apex can be tricky. How do you continue? Where can you go from there? Or does it mean remaining static, repeating the same thing that got you there? Ulcerate answered all these questions once before with To Stare Into Death And Be Still. There, the melodic inclinations and atmospheric promises from Shrines of Paralysis are complete. So now what? Well, now it is all about purpose. Cutting the Throat of God digs deeper into the novelties that their previous full-lengths brought. It is made clear from the striking melodies of the opening track, “To Flow Through Ashen Hearts”, melding perfectly with the ambient side of “The Dawn Is Hollow”.Every aspect naturally feeds the whole, as Ulcerate allow this monstrosity to come forth organically.

So, where is purpose derived from? Cutting the Throat of God does not waste anything. Everything that Ulcerate have placed in this work has its use. The ferocious complex structures offer release and catharsis in “Further Opening the Wound”. The drive is necessary, as dissonant flourishes in “Transfiguration in and Out of Worlds” augment the brutality. Given their technical aptitude, it would be easy for Ulcerate to fall into the trap of doing too much. While this might have happened in the past, these veterans do not take the bait.

Minimal aspirations are awakened, with the trio knowing these can be augmented through subtlety, not verbosity. Slight flourishes add to the experience, building the cinematic scope of “Undying As an Apparition”. As a result, the creativity is unchained, ranging from progressions that steamroll with their unstoppable momentum to moments of dark contemplation. Some might think that the reason for Ulcerate’s success is the brutal perspective, the dissonance and melody, or the technical capabilities. In truth, their biggest weapon is their precision. Not the precision of their compositions or music but of their vision. While this does not waver, they will remain at the apex. – Spyros Stasis

Unholy Craft – Saa Mørkt, Saa Mektig (Purity Through Fire)

DIY ethic or just a fuck-you attitude, it does not matter. The lo-fi, harsh black metal production has become a staple. Guided by this approach, Unholy Craft haver released three full-length records of raw, old-school black metal in just over 12 months. The latest, Saa Mørkt, Saa Mektig, sees them descend further into this bare-bones methodology, becoming their harshest offering to date. The memories of early Darkthrone are pronounced, not only in the attitude and demeanor but also with this decadent, frostbitten rocking vibe (“La Asken Regne”). This naturally clicks with the other major influence in early-days Gorgoroth with tracks like “Jærtegn” screaming of Antichrist and Pentagram.

For the most part, Unholy Craft offer sound, not music. Here, incoherent riffing is augmented. They stretch the compositions through schizoid elements (“Evig Er Nattehimmelen”), and they offer devastating, cyclonic assaults (“Den Siste Lange Sorg”). But, still, underneath the rubble, there is something that glitters. The title track offers a glimpse of the early to mid-era of Bathory, defiantly piercing through the noise wall. Specters of Wrath of the Tyrant-era Emperor and Ildjarn’s blunt approach shine in “The Nighttime Spear Piercing”.

Even the initial steps towards black metal orthodoxy in De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas find their moment in the most unlikely places, with the short interlude “Betrayal, Wrath, Judgement”. This is a work brewed on the 1990s Scandinavian sound and nothing more. – Spyros Stasis

Venomous Echoes – Split Formations and Infinite Mania (I, Voidhanger)

In recent years, the influence of the Cthulhu Mythos has transcended the lyrical plane and infected the actual music of many acts. The amorphous, angular riffs of Portal and Howls of Ebb have opened up new spaces, and it is there that Venomous Echoes now dwells. The inherently otherworldly sense is immediately present, projected through a black/death force. The erratic rhythmic component and the schizoid lead work of “Miscreated Pustules” cause havoc, while the discordant push and pull of the title track unleashes pure destruction. Earlier influences ascend to the surface, a kinship with the death/doom motifs in “For Thy Avant Void” points toward early Autopsy decadence, while “The Millions ov Eyes Transformed” echoes with the degenerate spirit of Morbid Angel’s slithering offerings, the likes of “Where the Slime Lives”.

Yet, the most poignant quality in Split Formations and Infinite Mania is its atmospheric core. More excruciating than the black/death side, the ambiance here is daring and innovative. Stacks of sound effects come together, the instrumentation is stripped down to its sparsest, and the result is immersive. The final part of the opening track reveals this potency; the sound of beating wings from some unnamed entity fills the world with darkness. The noise-infused spoken word in “For Thy Avant Void” causes terror with its simple narrative; the flirtation with noise bears fruits and becomes the all-consuming offering that is “Abhoth Multiplied to Thy Millennium”. Venomous Echoes have produced a deeply harrowing work that channels all the artistic depth of their main influence. – Spyros Stasis