September has been an insane month, and the process of narrowing down to only 23 releases for this feature was tremendously difficult. So, as to not further add to the word count, know that the month has something for everyone. From raw black metal to more modern takes on the genre, from old-school death metal to grind mutations and doom/death extensions. All the way to post-hardcore returns, industrial machinations, and all-over-the-place, full-encompassing approaches. So dig in! – Spyros Stasis
Acausal Intrusion – Seeping Evocation (I, Voidhanger)
It was just a year ago in 2021 that Acausal Intrusion introduced themselves with their debut record Nulitas. In this nearly hour-long introduction, the duo from the States presented a work of labyrinthine death metal, drenched in the teaching of the eerie black metal. Now, they return with their sophomore full-length Seeping Evocation, calling upon the same forces. Their technical viewpoint on the black/death genre is pivotal, and it defines many of the twists and turns that Seeping Evocation lays forth. The erratic movements of “Formless Conjoining Chaos” see this form, as technicality merges with dissonance. At times it feels like a homage to Finnish masters Demilich, especially in moments like “Mnemonic Confabulation” and “Ostensible Implanted Inheritance”. At the same time, their rage is deafening, oozing with angst and purpose in “Transformational Death Phenomenon”.
This state of chaos and mayhem does not stand alone, with Acausal Intrusion allowing the eerie black metal touch to infect their structures. The off-kilter eeriness of Ved Buens Ende, by way of Gorguts, is apparent and smeared over the proceedings. The slithering mid part of “Clairvoyant Quantums” is defined by that influence. It also opens the pathway to a stripped-down ambient representation, either in the form of intros/outros with “Putrefaction” and “Exaltation”, or acoustic interludes like “Nythra Kthunae Atazoth”.
Still, whatever the manifestation, the oppressive form of Acausal Intrusion is always present, in towering fashion with “Ostensible Implanted Inheritance” and ritualistic grandeur in “Formless Conjoining Chaos”. Seeping Evocation encapsulates some of the most enticing aspects of the black/death scene today. And even though it does not necessarily move the needle for the genre, it is still a work of very high quality. – Spyros Stasis
Aeternam – Heir of the Rising (Independent)
Aeternam’s particular style of bombastic sympho death metal lends itself quite nicely to grandiose historical narratives. Their latest album, Heir of the Rising, uses the mythology surrounding the fall of Constantinople to weave together a musical work that encompasses Fleshgod Apocalypse and Septicflesh’s scorching death metal, Middle Eastern folk influences in the vein of Orphaned Land and Melechesh, and idiosyncratic progressive metal reminiscent of avant-metallers Green Carnation. What might sound like a nonsensical jumble of styles on screen becomes an exquisite work of musical storytelling in practice.
While the nine songs on the album are capable of functioning as excellent standalone metal pieces, they fulfill their purpose in full when listened to in sequence. Their segments of thrilling death metal—filled with gut-wrenching growls, crunchy riffs, unrelenting drum cycles, and orchestral embellishments—are completed with passages of pure folk led by bouzouki and beatific voices. Captivating, beautiful music. – Antonio Poscic
An Abstract Illusion – Woe (Willowtip)
For those who have been afflicted with pining for an atmospheric take on progressive death metal, the sort of Opeth used to make before going all in with 1970s psychedelic rock, Sweden’s An Abstract Illusion might just have a much-needed remedy.
Their sophomore LP, Woe doesn’t deviate much from 2016’s Illuminate the Path, and it frankly doesn’t need to. Instead, it provides another dose of the at times gorgeously atmospheric, at others forlorn and aggressive death metal reminiscent of mid-era Opeth. The album also collects a number of flourishes from other genres along the way that elevate it further, such as the bits of Pain of Salvation-like, piano-led progressive soft rock on “Blomsterkrans” and burrowing doom-death passages in the vein of Novembers Doom on “In the Heavens Above, You Will Become a Monster”. – Antonio Poscic
Autopsy – Morbidity Triumphant (Peaceville)
While it is always interesting to see some type of evolution take place from one record to the next, there are some exceptions to this rule. Case in point: Autopsy. The legendary death metal act is one of the genre’s initial pioneers. Their early alchemical experiments with extreme metal have opened up pathways that to this day, many new acts walk upon. The dissonant touch of thrash and proto-death metal, the doom pace, and the grind and punk attitudes are just a few of the contributions that records like Severed Survival and Mental Funeral bestowed on the extreme metal scene.
Autopsy’s latest full-length, Morbidity Triumphant takes the exact same path. Crazed solo work, calling upon Possessed’s teachings is still chill-inducing. This infernal quality still radiates in moments like “The Voracious One” and “Flesh Strewn Temple”. It goes hand in hand with the punk origin that their stampedes arrive with. This pedigree shows in the fury that defines tracks like “Born in Blood” and “Maggots in the Mirror”, with a slight grind twist. But, then there is of course the twisted Sabbath-ian vision that completely turns Morbidity Triumphant into an absolute monster.
This perverted doom mentality shines with “Slaughterer of Souls” and the second half of “Knife Slice Axe Chop”. It turns into an absolute epic beatdown with “Skin By Skin” and the slithering approach of “Your Eyes Will Turn to Dust”. Yes, some things should stay the way they are. – Spyros Stasis
City of Caterpillar – Mystic Sisters (Relapse)
City of Caterpillar belong in the cult category. The band from Richmond, Virginia showcased an off-kilter approach to the post-hardcore and screamo sound. Their debut, and until recently sole, full-length is an etude in versatility. Switching through different modes, ambient passages would give way to full-blown punk outbreaks. Post-rock fundamentals would mutate to screamo-induced emotional breakdowns. After that, there was only silence, but finally… after two decades, City of Caterpillar make a return with Mystic Sisters, revealing a bit more of their magic.
In many ways, Mystic Sisters sounds exactly like you would imagine the follow-up to City of Caterpillar’s debut to sound. Their approach awakens many attributes of the late 1990s/early 2000s post-hardcore scene. The awkward rhythms of “Paranormaladies” arrive with an old-school mentality. The dissonance comes hand in hand, in “Decider” for instance complimenting the unstable progression. On the other hand, there is always an emotional edge, the screamo pedigree shining in “Manchester” and in angrier fashion with “In the Birth of a Fawn.” Yet, there are also moments when a more straightforward approach is undertaken as the direct melodies and hooks of “Voiceless Prophets” showcase.
Still, as in the past, City of Caterpillar switch gears and retreat to an introspective space. The ritualistic start of “Thought Drunk” shows this processional quality and reveals some no-wave aspirations. Mantra-like vocal deliveries augment this transcendental quality. It is a mode the band keeps returning to, reaching a high note with closer “Ascension Theft”, where the psychedelic touch delivers a trippy recital. It is an approach that allows them to create fully immersive narratives, be it through simple clean interludes as with “Decider” that delivers an ethereal and serene perspective, or act as an intense build-up for their most devastating moments, as is the case with the title track. In many ways it feels like a record frozen in time, encapsulating the qualities of a scene that has since progressed. Still, nostalgia aside, Mystic Sisters is exactly the record that City of Caterpillar were supposed to produce. – Spyros Stasis