best metal albums of march 2024

MetalMatters: The Best Metal Albums of March 2024

In March’s best metal, Coffins and Slimelord define death/doom glory, Misotheist find beauty in raw black metal ugliness, and Prisoner attack the senses.

Keeping things short, this is an exquisite month that has about everything. From the darkest corners of outlandish doom/death to the explosive energy of metalcore. From the black metal dungeons to the spiraling, uncontrollable energy of hardcore. From the noise rock and post-punk applications to the experimental soundscapes of krautrock. There is something here for everyone, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis 

Aberration – Refracture (Sentient Ruin)

Featuring heavyweights from Suffering Hour, Annihilation Cult, and Void Rot, Aberration dedicate themselves to the dark, primal essence of black/death. Following their excellent self-titled debut EP and a split with Diabolical Oath, the Minnesota act delivers a coup de grace with their debut full-length, Refracture. From the get-go, it is an animalistic and cacophonous affair, as a dissonant force rushes through “Antithesis”. To this end, Aberration awaken the proto-death and black metal past, from Blaspemy’s ferocity to Possessed’s schizoid nature, but put through a modern lens. Echoes of Portal and Mitochondrion are to be expected, and they indeed deliver a nightmarish offering.

Where Aberration make a dent is their ambient leaning. True, a lot of black/death has atmospheric tendencies, but Aberration make it a focal point of Refracture. The guitar contorts to a deeply psychedelic quality in “Wresting Vibrations”, further enhanced through the doom pacing of “Interstitial Enmity”. Moving towards more abstract territories, they descend to a deconstructed scenery with the final part of the former while also completely immersing themselves into the black metal eeriness of the title track. It is a grueling ride through this alien dungeon, and Aberration fully complement it with the cosmic horror they have created. – Spyros Stasis 

Acathexis – Immerse (Amor Fati/Extraconscious)

The international collaboration between Jacob Buczarski (Mare Cognitum), Déhà (Silver Knife), and Dany Tee (Los Males Del Mundo) returns with their sophomore record, Immerse, after their 2016 self-titled debut. Given the main projects of the aforementioned musicians, Acathexis come as advertised. Subscribing to the current strand of atmospheric black metal, ushered partly through the excellent releases from I, Voidhanger over the previous decade, Acathexis lose themselves in the majesty of the cosmos. To achieve this end they employ the furious past of the genre, highlighted brightly after the introduction to “Dreams of Scorched Mirrors.” It is an overwhelming approach, and Acathexis conjure a sea of guitar distortion, a true wall of noise application that gives them an almost elemental representation.

Yet, Acathexis do not solely rely on this cataclysmic gear. Instead, they make a great effort to add hints of melody and sentimentality within their work. In exploring this mentality, they produce moments of bleak solitude in “The Other”, or dive into black metal’s original eeriness, albeit minus the discordance, with “A Slow, Weary Mind”. While their devastating approach moves them into an abstract state, where structure and progression are blurred, they still return to a more solid form. The epic perspective of “Adrift in Endless Tide” sees them take this extroverted nature, while hints of a more traditional, heavy metal perspective are found throughout the lead work of Immerse. Even though Immerse is a very good continuation of their vision, there is still overlap between them and their other projects. It will be interesting to see if they can differentiate more in the future. – Spyros Stasis 

Agonista – Grey and Dry (Armageddon Label)

There is nothing more refreshing than a 20-minute burst of old-school hardcore record, which is exactly what Agonista’s debut, Grey and Dry, delivers. The throwback to the 1990s style of the genre is immediate as “Larvas” comes in, calling upon this primal sense of expression. It further descends into animalistic instincts with “Eyes of Despair” and “Wrecked Inside” before it makes a turn towards the traditional. D-beat progressions in the title track and the frenetic energy of “In Haste” and “Muertas” reveal this no-bullshit attitude.

There are still certain deviations from the path. The hardcore lineage drifts into the crust essence, with Agonista calling upon the Swedish scene’s melodic inclinations. “Abuse Diffuse” channels the catchiness of Disfear and the havoc of Extreme Noise Terror. Switching their focus to the US scene, they invoke the methodology of Tragedy, merging the extreme with the immediate. It also comes along with a grander approach, shining in the mid-tempo parts of “Medication”.

The final cherry on top is the move towards the dark hardcore, very early days, side of Neurosis, which is reserved for the interlude “MMXXIII” but truly shines in the outro “MMXLlII”. And so, a fair amount of ground is covered in 20 minutes, and Agonista never lose focus on delivering a thoroughly enjoyable ride through hardcore territory. – Spyros Stasis 

Apparition – Disgraced Emanations from a Tranquil State (Profound Lore)

In recent years, a new strain of psychedelic, vaguely experimental strain of death metal seems to have taken hold. The heady journeys of Tomb Mold, Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, and others of that ilk are now joined by Los Angeles’ Apparition. On their sophomore full-length Disgraced Emanations from a Tranquil State, the group play with a number of death metal variations, rooting themselves in the dissonance of “Asphyxcreation”, then going through Morbid Angel-like motions on “Imminent Expanse of Silence and Not (or Not)”, before ending up in the heart of an infinitely dense neutron star on “Paradoxysm”.

The music possesses a cosmic, sublime quality throughout, embedded individually in the swirling riffs, diffused growls, and pumping rhythms, but also emerging from their unconventional fusion that sounds as if existing out of phase with the rest of the world. This sensation comes to its culmination on the noisy instrumental “Inner Altitudes, Light Transference”, which could easily be imagined as concocted by Japanese noise musician Keiji Haino, before things switch back into higher gear where the absolutely crushing “Circulacate” steamrolls through the end of an altogether excellent album. – Antonio Poscic

Boundaries – Death Is Little More (3DOT)

Born too late? Founded in 2013, Boundaries, at first glance, deliver a punishing brew of metalcore that dominated much of the 1000s. While there is no denying this fact, Boundaries have not only showcased both an incredible depth but also an overarching narrative to their sound. Returning just two years after their stellar sophomore, Burying Brightness, Boundaries continue to display their seriousness and dedication to this vision. At times it does feel like a throwback affair, reminiscent of the Roadrunner roster of old, as the beatdown of “Turning Hate Into Rage” heavily leans into this aspect. At the same time, the Connecticut act also delivers shiny melodic inclinations, the clean vocals shining brightly in “Darkness Shared” and “Easily Erased”.

Retaining this basis, Boundaries begin to explore further out. Their structures balance between being straightforward and overtly precise. More complex than appearing on the surface, they unleash old-school grooves but also some heavier menace. Case in point are the death metal applications of “Like Petals From a Stem” and the frenetic hyperblasts of “Blood Soaked Salvation”. Slight djent flourishes add to the unpredictability (“A Pale Light Lingers”) before fluidly navigating towards a Shai Hulud melodic depth with “Death Is Little More”.

While there is no track diving into the experimental depths of “The Tower” from their previous record, they still find places to explore timbre and ambiance. The noise injections are profoundly powerful, the infernal dissonance of “Easily Erased” and the electronica investigations of “Cursed to Remember” showcase this adventurous spirit. Not only do all the above work together organically, but Boundaries also deliver this recital with so much passion, composure, and fervor that it is difficult not to bow your head to this accomplishment. – Spyros Stasis 

Cancervo – III (Electric Valley)

The eerie church organ solo that introduces the third album by Italian doom metal trio Cancervo is somehow the least occult-sounding moment of their third LP. From the second cut, “Sacreligious Mass”, to the closer “Red Pig”, the group dish out a very fine Black Sabbathesque, Electric Wizard adjacent psychedelic doom metal imbued with devilish thoughts. The album is sprinkled with repeated, sinister incantations, at turns inciting the listener to “burn your child” and intoning “you’re gonna suffer” with sadomasochistic pleasure. Ultimately, the injection of just enough rust in the riffs, clever meanderings in their tempos and melodies, and death metal-inspired guttural growls in the vocal lines make this a standout album in this particular style released in recent years. – Antonio Poscic 

Coffins – Sinister Oath (Relapse)

The combination of sickening old-school death metal in the vein of Cannibal Corpse and Autopsy and haunting doom metal reminiscent of Cathedral makes the music of Japan’s Coffins a strangely pleasurable experience, both physically and psychologically. Its low-frequency sonic tendrils extend from a cauldron of humming guitars, abyssal growls, and a rhythm section that sounds as if playing from the bottom of a pit of tar.

When consumed, this concoction first massages eardrums, then digs itself deep into the psyche, lighting up some godforsaken crevices of the lizard brain. But aside from its visceral impact, Sinister Oath also impresses with its songwriting. Through nine unexpectedly varied cuts, Coffins move from the unabashed, primitive filth of “Spontaneous Rot” and the Slayer-esque dissonance of “Forced Disorder” to the energetic d-beat of “Chain” and the elegant guitar leads of the epic doom hymn “Everlasting Spiral”. Utterly gnarly yet truly excellent stuff. – Antonio Poscic 

Curse All Kings – Feral Earth (Cyclic Law/Breath Sun Bone Blood)

There is a definite essence of evolution in Curse All Kings’ third full-length Feral Earth. While their debut, Negation, explored the minimal, dark ambient ritualistic space, and Immersion adventured into the drone grandeur, Feral Earth sets different terms. Still drawing from past works, the project descends into the ominous and harrowing settings of “As the Spirit Watch Over Us, We Reciprocate”. It is a minimal affair influenced by the dark ambient identity but still flourishes through drone movements in “Ünmaal”.

The result is a deeply atmospheric work, capable of hitting emotive chords with subtle means. The sparse screams throughout the record, the intricate cymbals alongside the drones, and the field recordings of “Feral Spirits Rise!” are just some of the tools in their arsenal. They even reach for the serene, with the soothing, fragile soundscapes of “As the Earth Holds You”.

The big change comes with the embrace of additional dimensions. At first, it is the simple guitar melodies in the title track and “Feral Spirits Rise!” that point to this evolution. It is a post-metallic affair, stripped to its bare bones. But soon enough, it culminates in a blackened perspective. The disfigured distorted guitars of the opening track hail this approach, with Curse All Kings retaining a minimalistic perspective.

That all changes with the ferocious “Wounds of Land and Body”, the blastbeats making an appearance while the underlying synthesizers cling on to the ambient identity. It only becomes more brutal and cacophonous as Curse All Kings digging deep into the visceral with the second half of “The Veil Between the Forest and Glade”. Feral Earth is a step up from Curse All Kings, opening up numerous pathways of their decadent vision. – Spyros Stasis 

Dionysiaque – Diogonos (I, Voidhanger)

In a month that favored doom metal in various shapes and forms—see Cancervo, Coffins, and Hamferð elsewhere in this column—leave it to I, Voidhanger to bring the most idiosyncratic expression of the genre to the table. Diogonos, the debut record by French outfit Dionysiaque, bridges the divide between eldritch horrors, psychedelia, black metal, doom metal, progressive rock, and avant tendencies with music that is equal parts Venom, Bathory, Candlemass, and Hellhammer.

Across the eight tracks, the vocals shift from operatic drama to deranged black metal shrieks while the instrumental backdrop follows along, intertwining dynamic sections propelled forward by growling staccato riffs, pumping bass lines, towering moments of pure epic doom atmosphere, and ecstatic bacchanalia. At times deviously rocking and utterly strange sounding, at others elevated by the imposing swagger of its classic doom metal strut, Diogonos is one of the most unique metal records released this year. – Antonio Poscic

Dödsrit – Nocturnal Will (Wolves of Hades)

Among crust-inflected black metal bands, very few can rival the sense of lyricism and fiery spirit demonstrated by Sweden’s Dödsrit. With two guitars often locked in gorgeous harmonies and a volatile dynamism underpinning each growl, blast beat, and break, their music maintains a compelling flow even when confronted with loss, pain, and anger. Dödsrit’s fourth LP, Nocturnal Will, veers closer to pure black metal than any of their previous releases, leaving some of the hardcore and d-beat baggage behind and instead embracing moments of sheer melodicism, like the maelstrom of tremolos that devastates “Irjala” or the heartbreaking guitar solo—courtesy of Lamp of Murmuur’s M—that closes “Nocturnal Fire”. A mournful revelry. – Antonio Poscic


Publish with PopMatters

Call for Papers: All Things Reconsidered [MUSIC] May-August 2024

PopMatters Seeks Book Critics and Essayists

Call for Papers: All Things Reconsidered – FILM Winter 2023-24

Submit an Essay, Review, Interview, or List to PopMatters

PopMatters Seeks Music Writers