Beginning in the post-metal space, we have true royalty returning as Cult of Luna release their new EP The Raging River. At the same time, Infinity Shred continue to contort their post-rock flavor with electronica in their EP002 (Recovery). Staying with the out there records, Norwegian enigmatic artist Sturle Dagsland arrives with an avantgarde tour de force, while Blanck Mass unleashes a deconstruction of their early over-the-top energy for a more abstracted piece.
In the stricter confines of the metal realm, Paranorm merge death and thrash with their high technical aptitude for debut record Empyrean, while Ad Nauseam add an avant touch to their death/trash lineage. The Amenta is also returning with their first full-length in seven years, while on the underground there is resurgence of black/grind fiendishness as Alkerdeel and Gravesend rise from the gutter. At the same time, StarGazer reconfigure their progressive take on black/death while Kurushimi continue to break ranks and borrow from an array of grind, free jazz and noise rock influences to unleash their chaotic sound. On the doom/death intersection, both coming with a strong blackened flavour, Culted continue to explore their feverish industrial dreams, while Ruins of Beverast re-establish their position in the field with The Thule Grimoires.
Finally on the black metal edge there really is everything. Starting off from the extreme side, Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval arrives with his raw new project Forhist and Switzerland’s DSKNT combine their dissonant black metal with a cult death metal sound. With a distinct ambient influence adding to their venomous take, Spire tilt between dissonance and melody to a grand result, while Einherjer continue to explore the sagas of their Viking heritage. Also breaking rank here, Emptiness take the plunge into the post-punk world leaving behind much of their black metal identity, similar to White Nights and their change of course towards krautrock, deathrock and all good kinds of psychedelia. – Spyros Stasis
Ad Nauseam – Imperative Imperceptible Impulse (Avantgarde Music)
Gorguts. Krallice. Lychgate. Ad Nauseam? The fearsome Italian foursome and their dissonant, disorienting take on avant-tinged technical death metal appear like the perfect candidate to become the next element in that sequence of non-idiomatic groups. And Imperative Imperceptible Impulse – an album often strikingly similar to Gorguts’s Obscura in feel if not in direct sound – is their statement of intent. A no holds barred affair. An hour of getting thrashed in all directions by dissonant and disjointed attacks, spiked structures that rise high then collapse onto themselves, and rhythm and tempo changes that stumble and crash into each other.
This music can be a downright daunting experience, with a sonic makeup simultaneously looser and more violently deconstructed than Gorguts, more abrasively atonal than Lychgate, yet often armed with a laser-sharp focus and rumbling drive like that of Krallice. Phase-shifted death metal riffs growl angrily at each other. Pointillist drum rolls become swept away in a tide of string ensembles tuning in. A guitar tremolo buzzes like a swarm of bees then disappears into cosmic synths and atmospheric noises. Lightly syncopated cymbal hits and snare brushes meld distorted post-bop with mercurial metal blasts. So impenetrable is this album, that just as you grab onto any particular pattern, it slips out of your hands and makes sure you’re aware of its elusive, ephemeral nature. – Antonio Poscic
Alkerdeel – Slonk (Babylon Doom Cult)
And they’re back! After a slump with the ho-hum 2016 album Lede, the Belgian quartet Alkerdeel regain formidable form to once again floor us with a concoction of drone, black metal, and sludge. If that combination of styles sounds suffocating and dense, it’s because it is just that and more. Slonk is a heavy – a I mean really, really heavy – record that spins restlessly around an axis of roaring tremolos, sinuous bass lines, and a metronome-like drum pattern, while attaching limbs from various genres to this central mass. Their style is reminiscent of France’s Aluk Todolo, but with significantly blacker metal anger in their poise, and a mix of post-punk’s elasticity and sludge’s filth in their hypnotic, forceful repetitions. And when their pivot breaks and their attacks spin out of control into visceral, unpredictable directions, the already frenzied music gets elevated to a whole new level. – Antonio Poscic
The Amenta – Revelator (Debemur Morti)
The Amenta manifested in the extreme metal scene during the ‘00s, joining a wave of acts dedicated to reigniting the early visions of pioneers like Konkhra and Scarve. While fellow Listenable labelmates Gojira reached mainstream acceptance, The Amenta kept pushing their industrialized death metal vision. Today it feels that the combination of a sparser output and potentially fatigue of the ‘00s extreme metal take caused The Amenta to pass a touch under the radar. Looking back now, the band from Australia has assembled an excellent discography and is returning with their first album in seven years, with Debemur Morti debut Revelator.
The Amenta walks a line between being heavy and extreme on one hand, while retaining a straightforward and “catchy” appearance. This juxtaposition is clear in the applications of groove metallic recipes in “Parasight Lost”, with a guttural death metal addition. It is in these moments that The Amenta reach their homeostasis, spreading evenly across genres without disappointing either side. The early Gojira-like sound is still strong, forging dissonance and grandeur to create an overwhelming offering in the poignant “Psoriastasis”, while never forgetting the electronic and industrial augmentations that have always driven them. Noise injections and impressive synths appear in “Overpast”, casting shadows over the beatdown. Yet, they travel further into strange trajectories diving through ambient realms in “Overpast”, strange balladry with “Silent Twin”, or Code Orange-esque sensibilities with “Twined Towers”. A very complete work overall. – Spyros Stasis
Blanck Mass – In Ferneaux (Sacred Bones)
Benjamin John Power is a true explorer of extreme electronic music. During the late ‘00s and early ‘10s Power produced some excellent specimens of forward-thinking electronica under the Fuck Buttons moniker, alongside another great sonic explorer in Andrew Hung. During these investigations, Power and Hung would discover a sweet spot of experimental music, taking on elements of drone and noise, combining these with straightforward electronica and psychedelic twists. And while Fuck Buttons has stayed dormant for the best part of a decade, Power still stayed very active with his solo vehicle Blanck Mass, now releasing the project’s fifth album In Ferneaux.
While it easy to detect the experimental mindset and exploratory sense of Fuck Buttons, Blanck Mass has been delivering, for the most part, a more direct message. The rhythms are bombastic, the noise excruciating and the drone influences are tamed in favour of structure. This modus operandi saw Power unleash stunning works, especially in World Eater and Animated Violence Mild. Yet, In Ferneaux sees him return to a more abstract state, shedding away structure and immediacy in favour of scenery and fluidity. In Ferneaux is a tumultuous journey undertaken in two long-form compositions, aptly called “Phase I” and “Phase II”. Spacey effects introduce this opus, slowly building towards a dance explosion.
Up to this point “Phase I” has the Animated Violence Mild taste, but it then retreats to a drone subspace. Subtle synths sculpting the soundscapes, noise injections aptly appearing through the darkness. An isolation chamber, terrifying in its claustrophobic pressure but liberating in the serenity it offers. The second phase undertakes many transformations, the noise augmenting the pressure, the collage of field recordings flirting with musique concrete. All before the sardonic Blanck Mass facade appears through the final piano notes. A different ride, with an immense scope, yet Power is able to deliver in full. And it actually wets your appetite for the return of Fuck Buttons… – Spyros Stasis