MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Albums of September 2021

Here we are with the September crop of the best heavy music, featuring everything across the board from extreme metal to noise and post-rock.

Buck Gooter – Head in a Bird Cage (Ramp Local)

Buck Gooter - Head in a Bird Cage

Buck Gooter’s final album as a duo is excruciatingly heavy. But more than the sparse industrial-cum-blues backdrops that clang and crash through Head in a Bird Cage, its monumental heaviness is the result of impending absence. Recorded while Terry Turtle, one-half of the group with Billy Brett, was on his deathbed, the music here cannot escape the void that Turtle’s death left behind. Yet his echoes are not of sorrow, but of anger and defiance; not of acceptance and brooding, but of leaving this world singing. As such, it is Turtle’s enduring soul that defines Head in a Bird Cage and guides Brett’s touch throughout the fourteen cuts. You can hear him in each booming, discordant beat. You can feel him in every grinding guitar riff. You can see him in his birdcage—the medical neck brace that supported his neck and head in his final few months—as the duo croon and sneer together for one final time.

Samples of Turtle’s voice are interspersed throughout, but their presence is fleeting as his baritone silhouettes disappearing words in the air, equally painful but unflinching. “We are nailed to the cross,” he wails his last mortal lines as the album opens. “What we do is pathological,” he later repeats, convinced that his need to create, sing and rock out will outlive his frail mortal shell. But while each song inches them and us closer to the end, it is the candid final cut, “Dying to Believe”, where everything breaks down. Turtle sings accompanied by nothing but guitar and drums on a recording that sounds as if done live in one take. Brett, in a different time and space, hums alongside him. “No, Kurt, I don’t have a gun / I’m dying to believe.” The album ends. Turtle lives on. – Antonio Poscic

LISTEN: Bandcamp

Cognizance – Upheaval (Prosthetic)

Cognizance - Upheaval

Looking back at the past few years, it would seem that technical (death) metal is having somewhat of a resurgence. More importantly, the outfits popping up have all managed to evolve beyond the self-serving tradition of technicality for technicality’s sake that plagued many of their predecessors. Along with Ophidian I (see MetalMatters for July), Leeds quintet Cognizance are at the forefront of the genre in 2021.

Their sophomore full-length Upheaval is built just right in almost all thinkable ways to eclipse the already excellent 2019 Malignant Dominion. The group once again demonstrate how they are all skilled musicians equally capable of grooving, twitching, twisting, and thrashing forward without bringing attention to themselves. However, the balance of these elements in only thirty-odd minutes is the album’s crucial ingredient. The cuts and sections transition seamlessly and see the band move from a roller coaster of chugging riffs and frizzling solos on “Oneiric” to the deceptive calm of “The Mouth Which Cannot Speak” without skipping a beat. It’s as if this abrupt change of tempo and rhythm was the most natural thing in the world. If you need a taste of their wares before fully committing, check out “Forbidden Alchemy” – a mini-masterpiece built on top of mind-blowing segues of voluminous tremolos and technical shredding. – Antonio Poscic

LISTEN: Bandcamp

Deathsomnia – You Will Never Find Peace (Isolation)

Deathsomnia - You Will Never Find Peace

The result of an international collaboration of artists spread between the UK and Estonia, Deathsomnia is an act that celebrates the darkness of decades past. Therefore they naturally join a fantastic array of artists, including Cold Cave and the Soft Moon, that fan the flames of old scenes. Drawing from a deep appreciation and love for the post-punk sound and darkwave aesthetics, the trio embarked on the creation of their first full-length record, You Will Never Find Peace.

From the start of “Deo Non Fortuna”, Deathsomnia prove worthy students of the great ’80s masters. Sprinkles of darkwave conjure the oneiric essence of “Deo Non Fortuna”, as the dreamy guitar lines weave the scenery. The elusive ambiance, the otherworldly sense combines finely with an electronica essence, bringing a glorious manifestation to the front in the likes of the opener track and “Katabasis”. At the same time, Deathsomnia are awakening this aura of mystery to envelop their structures.

In this instance, the synthetic instrumentation does wonders, capable of providing both a retro nostalgia and a futuristic sense. Imagine the world and sceneries of the original Blade Runner 1982 film to get an idea. That dichotomy is showcased incredibly well in “Void Oblivion”, the guest vocals of Gabriel Franco (of Idle Hands) adding nicely to the narrative flow. It is this electronic component that allows a further degree of transformation from Deathsomnia. The mechanical progression of “One Being… One Flesh” is relentless, while “Wastelands” can awaken a dystopian and nightmarish scenario.

Yet, what Deathsomnia never forget, is to be direct and offer instantly gratifying music. They cut through the chuff very easily, using their electronic and soft industrial side for a different effect. “Self Sabotage” moves through dark dance floors, exploring the dim and cold space. Similarly, “Open My Eyes” offers a twist of the pop-y elements, the synth pads, and the electronic progression opening up to brilliant choruses. “Akinesia” offers an incredibly structured opus with a romanticized dark sense.

You Will Never Find Peace encapsulates so well what Deathsomnia stands for while also providing a glimpse into a few different areas. There are moments of stronger flirtation with a noise background, particular no-wave leanings that never truly erupt. If Deathsomnia decide to traverse these in the future, then very dark days lie ahead. And I, for one, cannot wait for it. – Spyros Stasis

LISTEN: Bandcamp

Defacement – Defacement (I, Voidhanger)

Defacement - Defacement

Defacement started as an offshoot of underground black metal act Deathcrush. Found in Libya, Deathcrush went on to release a solid old-school record in Evoke The Ancient Curse. While keeping the second black metal wave intact, nothing made the album particularly intriguing. Well, that is a complete turn when it comes to Defacement. Keeping the core line-up of Deathcrush intact with guitarist Khalil, bassist Ahmed, and drummer Marco Del Pastro, and adding Cryptic Shift guitarist Xander Bradley, Defacement are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Having released their Deviant debut full-length in 2019, they now return with a renewed purpose for their self-titled sophomore record.

Defacement stand at the brutal, verging towards the cult side of black/death. That much is obvious, as oppressive blackened atmospherics rally to support their death metal onslaughts. This dissonant edge really packs quite a punch. “Shattered” arrives with this remorseless perspective, blastbeats annihilating all in their path, deep guttural vocals roaming free, and these razor-sharp guitars causing havoc. It is a moment of Portal-esque glory, from where they can aptly move to adjacent territories. Turning towards a more primal death sense, they conjure the distinct touch of Morbid Angel in “Disenchanted”, or completely double down on the oppressive black/death of acts like Altarage. 

But where the differentiation comes is in the distinct psychedelic essence of Defacement. The long-form compositions deftly move through labyrinthine passages. Through this narrative, Defacement evoke the feverish dreams of Ved Buens Ende as drifting dissonant harmonies fill the soundscapes. Combined with their more direct and pummelling approach, the Ulcerate and Convulsing spirit is not that far behind. Their investigations further lead them; moments like the ending of “Wounded” see them flirting with an almost noise rock mode. This mindset separates Defacement from much of the herd, making them one of the most exciting death metal acts out there. – Spyros Stasis

LISTEN: Bandcamp

Iskandr – Vergezicht (Eisenwald)

Iskandr - Vergezicht

Iskandr’s vision of black metal is an epic and atmospheric one, concerned much more with building sensations than ferocious attacks. Most of the songs on the Dutch duo’s third record Vergezicht hover around the ten-minute mark, allowing the music to breathe deeply. Projecting a sense of timelessness and vastness, the expansive riffs, slowly resonating drum hits, and growled chants ripple through time and space while seemingly being caught forever in one mystical moment.

Like Mink Koops’s work with Fluisteraars (see MetalMatters for August 2021), melody plays a central part in Iskandr’s songs. It sometimes leads the music forward, wrapping slowed down black metal and sorrowful leads around itself or skipping along with tremolos and blast beats. At others, it fills voids, falling back into the background as acoustic guitars take them over from harmonized guitar lines and crawling segments to create a stunning, immersive experience. – Antonio Poscic

LISTEN: Bandcamp

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