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.

Frail Body – Artificial Bouquet (Deathwish)

In 2019 Frail Body dropped a 20-minute extreme music bomb, as the US act built on top of the work from screamo pioneers, with some additional post-metal and shoegaze twists, in A Brief Memoriam. Five years later, they return with a more in-depth representation of their vision in Artificial Bouquet. With two times the duration, Frail Body still explore many of the same themes. The relentless and unyielding progression takes a cue from intersections of screamo with black metal as “Scaffolding” takes hold. Dissonance is at a high, and despite the messy approach, which is also key in “Restrain” and “A Capsule in the Sediment”, Frai Body still unleashes this with an intricate grace. This erratic quality has further outlets, stepping outside of the blackened quality, in embracing the screamo visions of Envy in “Berth”, or more traditional hardcore lineages in “Monolith” and “Horizon Line”.

Frail Body explore a range of emotions, and while angst and frustration is a fundamental topic for them, there is also a deep sadness that defines their works. This is where the post-metal touch comes in, particularly effective in “Critique Programmer” and “Runaway”, in opening up the atmospheric dimension. It is an elegant approach, and its finesse stands in contradiction with the chaotic screamo. Traversing this side, Frail Body visit adjacent territory that bolsters their sentimentality.

The clean quality of “Devotion” brings something of the post-punk elusiveness and shoegaze dreaminess. The slower rendition further aids in that regard, as wooly distortion envelops the soundscapes and establishes the emotive backbone of this work. Because in the end, that is the great success of Frail Body. In exploring these different tropes, they never lose sight of their target, which is to evoke a wide spectrum of sentiments and emotions with their music. – Spyros Stasis 

Gouge Away – Deep Sage (Deathwish)

Contemplating the Genesis P-Orridge quote, “If punk is about saying ‘Fuck you’, post-punk is about saying ‘I’m fucked!’”, Gouge Away claim a superposition over these two states. It is not something new for them, having already released two records, Dies and Burnt Sugar, that showcase their affinity for both raw aggression and elusive dreaminess. Their third record, Deep Sage, kicks off strong in this trajectory, on one hand, the repetitive progression mirrors the post-punk narrative, while bursts of distortion and Christina Michelle’s cutthroat vocals unearth the hardcore lineage.

The two sides keep pulling on this contradiction. At times, it is the hardcore lineage that prevails. The throwback riffs of “Maybe Blue” ease this in, but it is complete with the destructive chaos of tracks like “No Release”. On the other end, the subtle post-punk elements take on more prominent forms through Deep Sage. “A Welcome Change” sees a different approach, as acoustic guitars and clean vocals are at the forefront, leaving behind the high-octane methodology.

Gouge Away further dig into this scene, tracks like “Idealized” presenting a laid-back demeanor, something that arrives with further sentimentality in “Newtau”. Only for it to be perfected with the closing track, “Dallas”, finalizing this immersive dreamscape. Throughout Deep Sage, Gouge Away showcase a disdain for choosing one side, moving completely towards hardcore chaos or post-punk heights. But then, why should they? In restraining themselves from picking a side, they have managed to deliver both punk’s unalloyed preciousness and post-punk’s emotive depth. – Spyros Stasis 

Hamferð – Men Guðs hond er sterk (Metal Blade)

Hailing from the Faroe Islands, Hamferð play a melodic, deeply sorrowful, and lightly progressive sort of contemporary doom-death metal with a sound that places them in the constellation of Katatonia, Godthrymm, and, to some extent, Opeth circa Blackwater Park, topped with a nod towards funeral doom. Above all, their music is heartfelt and emotionally affecting, with a combination of styles—the alteration of velvety growls and soaring clean vocal lines, the contrast of spiraling, blast beat propelled tremolos and atmospheric lulls—that all seem to be driven by the same goal of instilling a sense of cold, windswept sorrow in the listener. Like their previous two LPs, Men Guðs hond er sterk does so with aplomb, leaving a lasting impression long after the final riffs and cries of the doom-death dirge “Hvølja” and the spoken word ambiance of “Men Guðs hond er sterk” fade out. – Antonio Poscic 

Hands of Goro – Hands of Goro (BSP)

Hands of Goro is a project by the Lord Weird Slough Feg’s Adrian Maestas on bass and vocals, Spirit Adrift’s Tom Draper on guitars, and Avinash Mittur joining them on drums. As one can imagine just by noticing Maestas’s and Draper’s presence, the trio play old school heavy metal. So old school, in fact, that they reach further back into the past than most recent retro-fetishizing revivalists. In other words, they draw inspiration from the first generation of New Wave of British Heavy Metal, when punk influences were still strong in the sound of bands like Diamond Head, Thin Lizzy, Mötörhead, and, yes, even Killers era Iron Maiden.

While the group has been around since 2016, this eponymous album is also their first official release. And it bangs! Many, many great riffs, big choruses, thrilling drum fills, breakneck rolls, and loads of fun are squeezed into eight tracks and a bit over half an hour of music. From the fluid melodies of “Prince of Shokan” and the thrashier attacks of “Demonizer” to the majestic, arena rock sound and slightly progressive attitude of “Archduke of Fear”, this is heavy metal through and through. – Antonio Poscic 

Mastiff – Deprecipice (MNRK Heavy)

This latest record by the Kingston upon Hull outfit Mastiff is also their most vicious and direct so far, turning their signature mad aggression and cruelty up to 11. Unlike 2021’s Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth and 2019’s Plague, which were both lauded on the pages of this column, Deprecipice does away with most of the doom and black metal influences. In their place, pure hardcore rage and sludge filth now seethe. 

The album opener, “Bite Radius”, thus feels like taking a sledgehammer to the face as a blast of rabid screams, seesawing riffs, and beat-up drums explodes from speakers, threatening to destroy everything in its path. Deprecipice remains relentless; each cut just turns the heat up and up. The level of brutality goes from extreme to unbearable over its ten tracks, until everything almost implodes and collapses on the chaotic scorcher “Worship”. If you’ve ever felt miserable when everyone else around you enjoyed their lives, then you’ll understand. If not, well, dig into their music and let Mastiff teach you some empathy the hard way. – Antonio Poscic

Misotheist – Vessels by Which the Devil Is Made Flesh (Terratur Possessions)

Misotheist’s Vessels by Which the Devil Is Made Flesh is one of those black metal albums that make you go “oooh, pretty!” despite its thorny appearance and ornery attitude. Divided into three lengthy cuts, this third release by Brage Kråbøl’s one-person project is chock-full of rocking, affecting black metal motifs, at times present in the music’s jagged melodies and clean vocal lines, at others peeking through bouts of brutal riffing and inhuman shrieks.

There is plenty of variety at hand here, too. “Stigma” is the most fluid and open-sounding of the three songs, with strange, jangling riffs leading into unexpected progressions. Meanwhile, the title track becomes an epitome of brutality that retains its attacking poise even when passing through folksier sections, all of it leading up to the 20 minutes long closer “Whitewashed Tombs”, which touches upon a bit of everything, from lo-fi, raw black metal to gorgeous, near post-metal plateaus. – Antonio Poscic

Pissed Jeans – Half Divorced (Sub Pop)

With Why Love Now released back in 2017, it has been the longest period without a Pissed Jeans record. Thankfully, the beloved hardcore via noise rock augmentation act finally returns with another visceral work in Half Divorced. It is another overarching affair, which finds the Pennsylvania outfit morphing throughout its short duration. The traditional hardcore punk DNA is still vibrant, infecting the rhythmic backbone of “Anti-Sapio” and “Monsters”, providing them with an exhilarating demeanor. This old-school spirit also prevails in slower moments, channeling the Black Flag My War weight in “Helicopter Parent” and the unnerving “(Stolen) Catalytic Converter”.

On the other side, there is the noise rock aspect that shines. The dissonant and brutal start in “Killing All the Wrong People” infects the traditional punk foundation. It also naturally leads to further enhancements in the skate-punk motif of “Cling to a Poisoned Dream”. The final form is achieved through the post-punk approach in the closer “Moving On”, as Pissed Jeans channel the off-kilter wing of the genre, reaching a Hüsker Dü tone via way of Sonic Youth. Still, what elevates Half Divorced, is Pissed Jeans’ defining vitriolic humor on the state of reality, particularly poignant in “Sixty-Two Thousand Dollars in Debt” and the sardonic “Everywhere Is Bad”. Twenty years in, and none of this has faded. – Spyros Stasis 

Prisoner – Putrid | Obsolete (Persistent Vision)

In 2017, Virginia’s Prisoner put out one of the most promising debut records with Beyond The Infinite. Their metallic crust/punk was dark and mean, and their industrial tendencies cracked the door toward a possible experimental future. This future would unfortunately take seven years to arrive, but it is finally here with Prisoner’s sophomore full-length Putril | Obsolete. Right from the start, this tilt toward experimentalism is made clear as the noise cue in “Flesh Dirge” is coupled with an industrial backbone. The ambiance is infernal and utterly dystopian, channeling the early days of Godflesh to make its point.

Prisoner stitch together masterfully different post-metallic methodologies. “Pathogenesis” sees them invoke the mid-era of Neurosis, this nightmarish, futuristic vision come to full form. On the other, they also apply some Sumac-inspired free improvisational near the end of the opening track, and they also let a blackened perspective cover the soundscapes with “Entity”. It is still all grounded on extreme metal and punk foundations, as the primal and old-school progression in “Pool of Disgust” suggests.

Fragments from Napalm Death by way of His Hero Is Gone are brought forth in “The Horde”, where a death metal underpinning is exposed. While the more hallucinatory methodology in “Leaden Tomb” and “Shroud” is reminiscent of the Sky Burial days of Inter Arma. The progression of Prisoner is fantastic, going from the core components of Beyond the Infinite to the more overarching approach of Putrid | Obsolete. It feels like they are still evolving, and hopefully, the next chapter will take less than seven years. – Spyros Stasis 

Slimelord – Chytridiomycosis Relinquished (20 Buck Spin)

To oversimplify things, Slimelord is to Cryptic Shift what Spectral Voice is to Blood Incantation. All kidding aside, members of the tech death/thrash stalwarts started tinkering in the death/doom sphere around 2019, and they are now releasing their debut record, Chytridiomycosis Relinquished. Enamored with the atmosphere and vitality of the early days of Autopsy, Slimelord descend to the primal depths with “The Beckoning Bell”. The slow pace is coupled with the schizoid lead work, at times drifting towards the infernal, a recipe reminiscent of the likes of Immolation and Incantation with “The Hissing Moor”.”

Not forgetting their technical aptitude, Slimelord offer a tour de force of brutality and precision. The abrupt explosions of the opening track and the final processional moments of “Splayed Mudscape” revel in the teachings of Demilich and Timeghoul. A turn towards the more traditional sees them implementing the classic Death methodology in “Gut-Brain Axis”, while they even extend to the modern-day applications of the genre, with the slight post-metallic elements of “Heroic Demise”.

Yet, this is a record baptized in the mythos of acts like dISEMBOWELMENT. The combination of slow pace and unpredictability is the driving force behind “Tidal Slaughtermarsh”. This contradiction between the erratic and the grand further devolves towards a psychedelic leaning. It is the all-encompassing and asphyxiating quality of “Batrachomorpha Resurrections Chamber” that completes this transformation, something that is also applied through a Sabbath-ian lens with tracks like “Gut-Brain Axis”. The striking part of Chytridiomycosis Relinquished is that Slimelord achieve a balance between their tech, extreme metal background, and their death/doom affection. Here, they do not favor one over the other, but they force the two together. And the result is stunning. – Spyros Stasis

Zombi – Direct Inject (Relapse)

Zombi are one of the acts responsible for introducing a different musical realm to the metal audience. Releasing their music through Century Media and then Relapse not only has opened the door for like-minded acts (S U R V I V E,) but also for crossovers, in the works of Pinkish Black. The importance of Steve Moore and AE Paterra cannot be understated, and their return with Direct Inject is very welcome. While in recent years Zombi moved into a stricter, rock-oriented form, they now make a trip back to the electronic past and their synth-wave beginnings.

The start feels like you are being dropped into a 4-bit video game as the colorful notes of the title track settle in. This lighter motif carries on with “Kamichi & Sandy”, bringing a visual dimension seemingly drawn from Tron (yeah, the 1982 version.) From there, Zombi play between the light and the dark. Both “Improvise Adapt Overcome” and “Sessuale I” balance between these two worlds, while diving deep into the kosmische Musik majesty. On the other hand, Zombi descend into a jazzy lounge with “Sassuale II”, setting up an intricate laid-back ambiance.

Still, Moore and Paterra take a darker turn to their trademark harrowing approach, with the title track shifting towards a Dario Argento cinematic and the alien setting of “Insurmountable Odds”, evoking a John Carpenter vibe. Some heavy guitars still find their place, subtly at first with “So Mote It Be” and the heavy “Bodies in the Fletsam” before diving into the Black Sabbath-ian dread of “The Post-Attomic Horror”. Taking into account the excellent flow of the record, passing through the multifaceted nature of Zombi, Direct Inject is an excellent addition to their discography. – Spyros Stasis