MetalMatters March 2021

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of March 2021

This month in metal, Grindcore explorers Genghis Tron return, Krallice and Mare Cognitum push black metal to the extremes and sludge pioneers Eyehategod strike again.

Exanimis – Marionnettiste (Independent)

Symphonic elements in metal are hard to get right. In lesser hands, they usually result in overwrought, campy flourishes disconnected from the main musical flow or metal structures that collapse under the weight of neoclassical idioms. So for Exanimis’ debut to be such a cohesive marriage of death metal tropes and lush orchestrations is almost miraculous.

Escaping the trap of being just another Fleshgod Apocalypse clone, the French group’s music reminds me most of avant-garde tinged bands like Sigh or Unexpect. They channel the same sort of lunatic energy as the Japanese and Canadian group, weaving tight orchestral arrangements around fragmented compositions, working with and not against the metallic core. And beneath the chaos of string tremolos flashing left and right, haunted choirs staggering through the soundscape, and a piano stabbing as if its life depended on it, lurks a core of mercurial progressive death metal. At times, it grooves in a djent-like way. At others, it rumbles with black metal ferocity and blast beats, producing a huge, sprawling sound. Throughout, it remains wickedly tasty.  – Antonio Poscic

Eyehategod – A History of Nomadic Behavior (Century Media)

While the extreme metal scene of the early 1990s was dominated by the maturity of death metal and the inception of black metal, there was something equally abrasive rising in the US. Combining the Sabbath-ian weight with the punk angst, the sludge scene was born, and amongst its pioneers were no others than Eyehategod. Their 1990 debut, In The Name of Suffering was an insanely heavy and absolute cacophonous offering, arming its doom and punk mix with an inverted blues feel. Eyehategod would carry on exploring this trajectory, unleashing high-quality works in Take As Needed for Pain, Dopesick, and Confederacy of Ruined Lives. A long break would ensue, with their 2014 return delivering another perfect blow in their self-titled album. Now they are following on this with their newest record A History of Nomadic Behavior.

There are no surprises here. Eyehategod have a dedication to their craft, and they are not looking to alter the recipe. Piercing feedback sets off this work in “Built Beneath the Lies”, creating the trademark dizzying effect. The feeling of the worst hangover looms over you as the blues riffs, heavy distortion, and Williams’ famous cutthroat vocals complete the collage. Punk outbreaks take charge with “Three Black Eyes” and the more abrasive parts of “The Outer Banks”. But it’s the sheer weight and heavy groove that Eyehategod are renowned for that delivers the most brilliant moments.

Slow and grand with “High Risk Trigger”, the guitars dig deep in their disfigured form as if shoveling dirt, while the unconventional progression of “Fake What’s Yours” is a very welcome variation on a trusted and tried theme. The bottom line here is that Eyehategod do what you are expecting from them. They thrive on the ruins, they find solace in the dystopias, and their mix of hardcore, doom, and blues is as meaningful today as it was in the early 1990s. So while A History of Nomadic Behavior might not break new ground or surpass Eyehategod’s pivotal moments, it is still a most welcome punch to the gut. – Spyros Stasis

Fuath – II (Season of Mist)

Andy Marshall likes to live in the spaces in between. That much is displayed by his main project Saor, navigating the realms between the grim and the traditional. The black metal spirit standing defiant is merged with Marshall’s folk roots, those of his native Scotland. Traditional instrumentation melting over eerie black metal screams, a majestic essence combined with a delicate, organic touch. This uncanny combination has resulted in some excellent releases, most recently in Saor’s 2019 full-length Forgotten Paths. Yet, there is another side to Marshall, one that focuses much more on the black metal tradition, and it manifests under the Fuath moniker.

A mirror entity to Saor, which is Gaelic for “free”, Fuath, translating again from Gaelic to “hatred”, is a much more oppressive experience. The melodic inclinations of Saor evaporate here, tilting the soundscape from the Caledonian to the Scandinavian. Having already released Fuath’s debut in pure raw fashion, Marshall now returns with the project’s sophomore full-length to explore black metal’s past. It is the early 1990s that drive II, something apparent from the very early dissonant assaults of “Prophecies”.

The guitars sting with their venomous intent while the monotonous progression in “Into the Forest of Shadows” showcases Fuath’s relentless approach. It is a world built on an eerie quality, and it is this mentality that infects the entirety of II. The cataclysmic advance of “Essence” awakens this attribute, while at the same time showcasing a vast textural wealth that Marshall is able to explore. Yet, despite their differences, there is a common thread running through Saor and Fuath, and that is the atmosphere. While Saor relish the open landscapes and revel in their grandeur, Fuath thrive in the darkest of forests, infatuated by their asphyxiating ambiance. – Spyros Stasis 

Genghis Tron – Dream Weapon (Relapse)

At long last, Genghis Tron has returned! The upheaval of experimental hardcore acts during the 2000s saw an entire scene bounce between grindcore fury, mathcore complexity, and post-hardcore ethos. And in the midst of it all, Genghis Tron dropped their first bomb with Dead Mountain Mouth, merging the abrasive grindcore spirit with electronica’s digital soul. Yet, as insane as Dead Mountain Mouth was, nothing could prepare for the onslaught of the act’s sophomore record Board Up the House. Grindcore melted into Nintendocore aesthetics, post-metal structures and Autechre-inspired experimentalism lived in seamless cohabitation, completing each other in perfect harmony. And during that pinnacle, Genghis Tron decided to take a break, with the band going on a hiatus that would last for 13 years. Well, no more!

Coming back after such a prolonged break is daunting. What can we expect from Genghis Tron? Will they be able to recapture the magic and essence that made their two full-length records so awe-inspiring. The trick I think is to not overextend, not try to outdo your previous self but to explore new pathways, and that is what Genghis Tron do with Dream Weapon. Many things have changed for Genghis Tron, the line-up has been altered, and for the first time, the band has a drummer, no other than Nick Yacyshyn of Sumac and Baptists fame. This causes the digital backbone to subside, providing Dream Weapon with an organic and more humane touch. 

“Alone in the Heart of the Light” sees the chill electronica combine with mesmerizing rhythm patterns to achieve its hypnotic edge. Waves of synthesizers fill the space in the ambient interlude “Desert Stairs” and opener “Exit Perfect Mind”, expanding the soothing qualities of the work. This is the most stunning change for Genghis Tron, having left behind much of their grindcore lineage, they instead focus on the intersections between progressive and psychedelic rock with a post-metallic touch.

“Pyrocene” blissfully explores this hazy space, molding avant-metal characteristics with retro influences and an electronica injection, while always retaining an ethereal take. More extreme is the approach with the title track, as a heavy beating arrives, post-hardcore aspects are thrown into the mix as the distorted vocals add to the already heavily layered efforts. It is easy to dismiss this evolution as a taming that has occurred over time, but it is not so much that Genghis Tron has lost their edge, but they have rather claimed their maturity. It is the simple fact that while Board Up The House reveled in chaos and disharmony, Dream Weapon relishes in serenity and tranquility. – Spyros Stasis 

Krallice – Demonic Wealth (Independent)

When you are a musician as talented and ingenious as Krallice’s Colin Marston, Lev Weinstein, Mick Barr, and Nicholas McMaster, then you can pull off almost anything you think of. This includes recording vocals, guitars, and drums on phones and in cars with the result being a captivating piece of music instead of a post-ironic failure.

More than just a gimmick, Krallice’s lo-fi and synth-infused sound on Demonic Wealth seems sharply purposeful. It robes the album in an old-school patina and eerie atmospheres that hark back to early black metal aesthetics, still held dearly by many a black metal fan. But as is tradition when this bunch is concerned, the approach manages to be simultaneously sincere and subversive. Namely, while the aural form is lo-fi, the music’s matter is anything but. Here, primordial black metal semantics spiral away under the band’s usual arsenal of complex arrangements and avant-structures. It makes for a fascinating listen, whether passing through moody meadows of stark beauty or battlefields decimated by black metal furor. – Antonio Poscic

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