MetalMatters April

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of April 2021

This month in metal: Spectral Lore push progressive black metal’s boundaries, post-rock pioneers Godspeed You! Black Emperor return, and modern thrashers Evile tweak their sound to arise after eight long years.

BRUIT ≤ – The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again (Elusive Sound)

The slowly unfolding apocalypse that we live in tends to inhabit monolithic, towering electronic soundscapes. Expansive ambient textures and droning booms evoke the grave shifts of climate change, the erosion of social fabric, and the self-consuming greed of capitalism. While Toulouse’s BRUIT ≤ draw from those thematic sources, their sonic language is only partially indebted to the same idioms. Instead, they use post-rock’s overpowering cacophonies and crescendos and contemporary classical’s expressionist compositions as a foundation for a monumental painting of an eternally dying world.

The sentiment behind The Machine is burning… makes it a breathtakingly heavy record even during its most gentle passages, when flutters of melancholy are sustained by swells of strings and acoustic guitar strums. Oscillating between today and tomorrow, between saturating guitar feedback and faint flute and synth caresses, BRUIT ≤ are equally concerned with confronting power structures, mourning the destruction of the environment, and tracing a path forward through stages of a cycle that we are doomed to repeat. – Antonio Poscic 

Evile – Hell Unleashed (Napalm)

Huddersfield’s Evile were a prominent representative of the height of the thrash metal revival in the late 2000s and early 2010s dubiously dubbed “re-thrash.” Characteristically for the era, they played a modern take on Bay Area thrash, borrowing in equal measure from the likes of Exodus, Anthrax, Slayer, and Metallica.

Eight years after their last LP Skull and sudden disappearance, Evile’s return shows a considerably changed group, both in lineup and style. Whereas in the past, they often sounded closer to Metallica than any of those other bands, Hell Unleashed sees them explore a style outside their comfort zone. Case in point, the opening cut “Paralysed” is a romping mastodon. Its horror atmosphere and proggy, technically impressive middle section are complete with wild cymbal rides and swirling riffs.

You can hear the familiar crunchiness, Exodus grooves, and Slayeresque breakneck tempos throughout the record. But there is also a surprising amount of new tech thrash elements akin to Mike Wead’s outfit Hexenhaus sprinkled all over the place. These are crossed with a buzzing, blazing intensity reminiscent of death and black metal. Joined in a cohesive whole, they make for a fresh-sounding and thoroughly fun slab of thrash metal and a most excellent return for the band. – Antonio Poscic 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! (Constellation)

It isn’t easy to put into words how much the world missed GY!BE during their ten-year-long hiatus. For the post-rock giants opened up unimaginable pathways, illustrated by formless concepts and guided by ethereal abstractions. The return in 2012 with ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend was the perfect comeback, rivaling the act’s early explosions in F # A # ∞ and of course Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. And this is by no means where the Montreal act stopped, carrying on with the shorter but equally deep Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress. When Luciferian Towers came along, it found GY!BE slightly moving their emotive palette, standing with one foot in the beautiful melancholy that has always followed them while reaching for a more powerfully hopeful element. It is now with AT STATE’S END! that GY!BE arrive at this destination.

As has been GY!BE’s methodology, their instrumental march is aptly constructing a world around the listener. “Military Alphabet” with its field recordings and dissonant, sparse parts sets the tone before the unbelievable “Job’s Lament” takes over. The buildup here is impressive, with GY!BE meticulously laying down the foundation, as solitary guitar parts minimally explore the space. Tensions rise, distortion kicks in, and this soon becomes a monster of a track, exploding brilliantly as an array of colorful post-rock soundscapes arrive. Still, it always retains a rare sense of optimism, a motivating force that acts as a call to arms. “First of the Last Glaciers” and “where we break how we shine” are responsible for the deconstruction, preparing the ground for the next climb, which begins with “Fire at Static Valley”. Sorrowful melodies join in, a cinematic ambiance rising from the dark, while GY!BE still hold onto their fiery outlook.

And it finally comes, with a more pensive and dramatic representation “GOVERNMENT CAME” builds up to reach an impossible crescendo filled with purpose and angst, while “ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE” closes the following triptych with a punkish injection of energy. And then everything fades into a blissful dream with “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H)”, letting on a final note of hope to this close this endeavor. At this point GY!BE have already established who they are and what they stand for, yet even with a small tweak here, they rise anew. – Spyros Stasis

Iron Flesh – Summoning the Putrid (Great Dane)

When I first heard the single  “Demonic Enn”, I was instantly drawn to Summoning the Putrid, the sophomore release by Bordeaux’s quartet Iron Flesh. The cut in question is a majestic slab of death metal, with huge, chugging riffs stomping slowly like a caravan of boulders rolling through the desert. On either side of this impressive piece, the band employs bits and pieces of death metal in its various incarnations.

Its more extreme end is haunted by the brutally grooving, Cannibal Corpse indebted “Servants of Oblivion” and the doom-death and horror atmospheres of “Cursed Beyond Death” and “Death and the Reaper’s Scythe.” Elsewhere, things get melodic and fast, as represented by the melodeath bangers “Purify Through Blasphemy” and “Thy Power Infinite” that sound like a parallel universe version of In Flames that had not gone to crap. Surprisingly, these stylistically disjointed segments all fit together into an album that’s coherent and enjoyable from start to finish. – Antonio Poscic 

Kauan – Ice Fleet (Artoffact)

It is always interesting revisiting an act’s early days. It is something that gives a better perspective on their current state. For Kauan, explorers of the heavy and the ethereal, the beginning had a more earthy and rigid presence. Founded by Anton Belov in the mid-’00s, Kauan blend black metal havoc, doom metal weight with a distinctly folk influence. Yet, through the band’s openness to new ideas and sounds, Kauan started to build a richer tapestry. The early days of Lumikuuro and Tietajan laulu were followed by the adventurous Aava Tuulen Maa, and from there on post-rock grandeur ensued. Through an extremely prolific output and an ambitious hunger Kauan would put out excellent works in Pirut and Soorni Nai, and are now returning with Ice Fleet.

Without many surprises, Kauan set down to create a deeply moving and atmospheric work. The subtle, desolate melodies of “Enne” open up this realm. The progression is slow, but at the same time beautiful, picking up steam with “Taistelu”. Once more, the melodic inclinations are key, forming like glaciers on the water’s surface, providing a delicate and precious narrative without the need for any lyrics. And this is where the pivotal aspect of Kauan kicks in. Despite their move towards post-metallic grandeur, they never completely let go of their heritage. The outbreaks of “Kutsu” come down with a doom sense, brutal and unforgiving as the otherworldly vocal delivery appears like a specter on the horizon.

Even more brutal is the approach in “Raivo”, where the heavy riffs collide with cacophonous guitars and a destructive beatdown. Cutthroat vocals bring to mind the band’s black metal days as this furious spur rages on. Yet, it is still the enchanting underplayed post-metal soundscapes of “Ote” and the meticulous buildups of moments like “Hauta” that find Kauan at their best. An excellent entry to an already rich discography. – Spyros Stasis