Another excellent month, October does not disappoint, and here we have 19 great albums to go through. Again, everything across the board from the old-school black metal debut of Feral Season, the melodic black/death of Be’lakor and Necrofier, and the dissonant debut of Eos. Brutal technical works shine in the new Apparition and Archspire records on the death metal front, while Antichrist Siege Machine relish their black/death onslaught and Worm descent into the doom/death abyss.
On the fringes, Blackdeath retain their traditional black metal approach while adding some intriguing twists. Full of Hell continue to push their grind/powerviolence/noise extravaganza. Threshing Spirit releases an exciting work of experimental black metal goodness, and Illudium continue to pursue their dark metallic shoegaze. That and much more, so dig in! – Spyros Stasis
Abstracter – Abominion (Sentient Ruin)
Welcome to the end times… This is where black/doom overlords Abstracter most feel at home. Found in California at the start of the 2010s, Abstracter started as a noise project but slowly evolved into a full band and set a course, navigating through the extreme underground. Their first two outings, Tomb of Feathers and Wound Empire, saw them molding a black/doom sound. Rawness defined the vision of Abstracter, and their aggressive and relentless approach rang true. Their 2018 full-length, Cinereous Incarnate, found them further refining their sonic qualities. Not losing any of their edge, their third record was a big step forward in vision. And now, they have returned with an even more potent offering in Abominion.
The pillars of Abstracter have not changed. On the one hand, the doom metal sovereignty. That is the main source for the oppressive, dystopian tone, and it rushes straight in with “Eclipse Born”. The glacial pace and heavy distortion fill the space as the ceremonial procession kicks off. And it is just the start, with the descent into the endless void of “Warhead Twilight” taking over. A pitch-black, starless night awaits, one that reminisces the latter days Celtic Frost, circa Monotheist. This fuel creates the immense shadows in “Lightbearer” or the oozing, sardonic sense of “Tenebrae”. And at times, it also moves towards more post-metallic directions. Channeling forth aspects of the drone pioneers Khanate, or a more brutal interpretation of Neurosis, especially in “Abyss Above”.
And on the other end, the explosive ferocity. The faster outbreaks bring forth an array of flavors. At times eerie, evoking the black metal aesthetics, it colors the soundscapes with its ethereal form. “Eclipse Born” sees the explosive energy channel into a bitter aftertaste as the blastbeats pass the torch to a blackened psychedelic state. However, the go-to mode here is brutality, and Abstracter bring in a hybrid black/death form. Unyielding, it carries much of the rotten ways uncovered by dISEMBOWLMENT, with “Warhead Twilight” setting an annihilating pace while “Tenebrae” flirts with an almost grind presence.
It is generally tricky to truly tap into the potential of extreme doom. And while Abstracter are not exclusively grounded in that style, they appear to have mastered its intricacies. They do not rely just on the slow pace and heavy riffs. They instead build ceremonies, they uncover sonic landscapes, and they take deep trips into the subconscious. That might have always been the case for the band from Oakland, but it never sounded as good as it does in Abominion. – Spyros Stasis
Antichrist Siege Machine – Purifying Blade (Profound Lore)
In recent years, there must be something in the air in Richmond, Virginia, making the local music scene bloom when it comes to extreme, weird, and extremely weird music. While they could be perceived as just another blackened death metal band on paper, the raw war duo Antichrist Siege Machine fit neatly into the Richmond-flavored chaotic template of strange styles.
Their sophomore LP Purifying Blade exists right on the edge of total metal insanity, squeezed between the unrestrained entropy of bands like Skáphe and more stable variants of the genre. As a result, the album is utterly brutal and filthy throughout its eleven cuts. It dishes out swift death metal stabs, then steamrolls them with breakneck blast beats and tremolos. All the while, dissonant riffs and growled screams appear as if they could come loose and splinter off at any second. It’s dangerous and excellent stuff. – Antonio Poscic
Apparition – Feel (Profound Lore)
More newcomers in the extreme metal scene, but this sound really is a blast from the past. Apparition might have been formed in Los Angeles, but the opening brutality of “Unequilibrium” screams the East Coast. Stout and unapologetic, they take the brutal technical death metal ushered by early Suffocation and make it their own. Since their first outing in the Granular Transformation EP, Apparition displayed a keen understanding of the mechanics of this scene. Brutality and experimentation, staying in the grid but thinking outside the box. And it is this vision that they explore with their debut full-length Feel.
Intune with the brutal death metal masters, Apparition have an uncanny ability for controlling the track progression. Displaying a wide range of gears, they can happily come out all guns blazing blasting away, only to then fall to measured pacing. “Drowning in the Stream of Consciousness” displays the full extent of this adaptive ability. Militant death metal leads into melodic pathways, exploding in pure havoc only to finally descend into a doom-inspired abyss. And this flirtation with all that is slow shines for Apparition. The necrotic fumes rise in “Perpetually Altered”, with a sense of majesty coming into full view near the end.
From there on, the jazz component might be an influence, but it is tightly integrated with the brutal death metal self. It provides moments of free-flowing narratives, as with “Nonlocality”, but then it can also result in more intense offerings. “Entanglement” is such an example, revealing a stronger improvisational sense before the death metal stench crawls out again. It’s these small additions that augment Feel: the drum improv in “Entanglement” and the atmospheric passes through synthesizers in “Nonlocality”.
For the most part, Apparition stay faithful to the principal dogma of brutal technical death metal, and on that side alone, they do an excellent job with Feel. But, it does feel like there is more going on beneath the surface. And it is these slight additions, the interchangeable pacing, and the atmosphere at times verging on the psychedelic, which promise a very bright future. – Spyros Stasis
Archspire – Bleed the Future (Season of Mist)
Like Archspire’s previous release, 2017’s Relentless Mutation, Bleed the Future is a technical death metal masterpiece, which you listen to with your mouth wide open from start to finish. The jaw drop is never solely a result of the inhuman level of musicianship demonstrated here, either. Rather, it stems from the fact that the mental speeds and bursts of acceleration and deceleration that dominate each second don’t gimp the exquisite song structures and sense of melody present in their cores.
As you start to untangle the layers of spiraling riffs, fragmented growls, plump bass lines, and minigun-like fills, you realize just how painstakingly architectured this music is, as if the laws of time didn’t apply when they weaved and manipulated their hyper intricate compositions. Each section of the eight songs is thus a breathtaking miniature in itself, sprinkled with dazzling flourishes of neoclassicism, ingenious musical twists, and even bits of humor. When put together, these musical cogs make one of this year’s best metal albums regardless of subgenre. – Antonio Poscic
Be’lakor – Coherence (Napalm)
For those familiar with Be’lakor’s earlier output, such as 2016’s Vessels, Coherence won’t come as much of a surprise. For better or worse, Melbourne’s premier melodic death metal band have carved a stylistic niche for themselves and feel quite comfortable in it. Luckily, their approach of choice is a nifty one: a superimposition of death metal variants that combines the progressive tendencies of Blackwater Park era Opeth with flourishes of Swedish melodeath (think Dark Tranquillity), death-doom in the vein of early-day Katatonia, and even more extreme metal subgenres.
While not much has changed in their formula, Coherence is proof enough that it didn’t really need to. Despite its substantial length, the album feels fluid and carefully fleshed out from start to finish. Without any fillers, it gracefully glides through atmospheric moments, epic acoustic passages, and blazing flickers of old-school death metal riffing before ultimately barging into melodic black metal attacks. – Antonio Poscic