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SPECIAL FEATURE: Kaala’s Matt Ketchum’s Top 3 Albums from Japan’s Extreme Underground

I recently learned of the existence of Kaala, a web community working to shed light on Japan’s underground talent when it comes to metal, punk, and everything in between.   If you’re like me, most of your knowledge of Japan’s metal and punk scenes probably comes from bands that have been signed to well-known underground labels (Coffins, Abigail, Sabbat etc.) or that have come over to the U.S. to play festivals or do short tours.  But aside from that, you don’t tend to hear about everything else going on in the country, and as a journalist I haven’t found a lot of bands from Japan pitching me for stories.  They definitely seem to have a problem getting the word out internationally, and that’s where Kaala has stepped in with writers based in different parts of the country spreading the word about local gigs, noteworthy releases, and a lot more.

It’s a great resource, and they recently threw the idea around of putting together a guided tour of Japan’s extreme music scene and assisting potential fans from all over the world in getting there.  There’s a Google questionnaire running (which you can check out here) to gauge interest and budgets for pulling something off, but it has the potential to bring even more exposure to bands that could use it.  Writing about extreme music from parts of the world that don’t get that much press is something I will be focusing on more this year on Transcending Obscurity, and Japan is a definite area of interest.

I’ll be spotlighting Kaala more as the potential logistics of this guided tour prove to be feasible or not, as well as pouring through their wealth of content to find some worthy bands to bring to your attention on TO.  But to start, I’m happy to have Kaala’s founder Matt Ketchum contribute a guest post spotlighting his three favorite albums from Japan released in 2016.  These are groups you’re not going to want to sleep on! –Chris Dahlberg


ALBUM STREAM + REVIEW: Ill Neglect / Lambs ‡ – Trisma 7″ (Sludge Grind Split)

If you’re looking to give 2017 a heavy, bombastic start, here is just the split to get the job done. Titled ‘Trisma’, this 7″ vinyl release brings together two sludge grind mammoths in Italian band Lambs ‡ and German entity Ill Neglect. A collaborative release by multiple DIY labels, this split is a bleak, dreary record that contains a monstrous tone overall. Though it clocks under just twelve minutes, the shear abrasiveness and the intensity of the riffs would have you playing this record over and over again. To give you an idea about what this album holds, we have a full early stream of the album, followed by my review below.

Ill Neglect / Lambs


SONG PREMIERE: Scottish Avant-Garde Black Metal Band Ashenspire

Ashenspire- Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary

Code666 has shown a knack for finding some of the more interesting avant-garde metal over the years, and they’ve continued this with the upcoming release of ‘Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary’, the debut from Scotland’s Ashenspire.  When promotional material for an album mentions A Forest of Stars, Dødheimsgard, and Devil Doll (to name a few), that certainly catches my attention.  What Ashenspire has done on their debut is explore the taken a darker look at British imperialism and its effects throughout history, a direct refute of the type of nationalism that has taken hold throughout black metal and some of the other sub-genres.  Delivered through an avant-garde and theatrical filter, the group delivers these dark tales in a sprawling yet unpredictable manner that does its best to give off a feeling of discomfort and grime.  With the album set for release on January 20th, today we’re excited to premiere the title track of ‘Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary’ so you can hear for yourself everything this incredible band has to offer.


SPECIAL FEATURE: Best of 2016 – Vidur Paliwal (TO Staff)

A list of Vidur Paliwal's most-probable Top 25 Albums of 2016. It's called most probable mainly because, there were so many good releases this year that it is humanly impossible to highlight every single one. It's just that the 25 albums listed, are the ones he found myself going back to the most.

Flight’s Metalcore-ner Vol. 9

It’s a new year, so no time to waste.  Lets get the ball rolling on some new metalcore for your collection.


As A Conceit is an Italian metalcore/post-harcore quintet very much  in the vein of Architects.  Melodic leads mixed with djenty, off-kilter blasts of distortion lead to some righteous riffing.  The resulting hooks are fun and well-produced.  Vocals are very passionate, rebellious, and ripe for sing-alongs. Philip Strand (Normandie) also has a guest spot on “Idle Hands,” which with its haunting synth additions is possibly the best song on their new album, Frown Upon Us.  In fact, the work put into effects and other backing flair across this album does add quite a bit to the atmosphere.


Through Lucid Eyes is a Canadian progressive metalcore band for fans of ERRA, Northlane, Kardashev.  Rather than just going for an emo, sad set of lyrics and hooky guitars; the focus on atmosphere on their latest album really emulates the feeling you get when nothing seems to be going your way. That weight on your shoulders.  The vocals have a nice range: brutal deathcore lows, higher metalcore screams, and occasionally even higher-pitched singing (think Saves The Day).  The guitars stick to a groovy djent, but the layering, keys, and effects on the leads make for one of the better performances in the style.  There are moments that conjure everything from Make Me A Donut to Fallujah.  Big drums, and glad to hear the bass standing out as well.


I like to shout-out the underdogs when I can, and these guys fit the bill.  Another metalcore act emerges from Stockholm.  Set Before Us are a young, hard-working band influenced by the likes of Parkway Drive, Breakdown of Sanity, and August Burns Red.  They have so far released two EP’s and a single, the latest of which ‘Enigmas’ came out this past November.  While there is still plenty of room to polish things up, I think they have a strong foundation when it comes to catchy riffs and some vocal variation.  With the right guidance in the studio, I could see a solid full-length on the horizon.  With that in mind, the band is actively seeking labels and support.  You can check them out on Facebook and listen to ‘Enigmas” in full below.

SPECIAL FEATURE: Best of 2016 – TO STAFF (Combined List)

Yay! We’ve completed yet another revolution around our home star! While we celebrate this cosmically insignificant milestone by resetting our man made Gregorian calendars, the staff here at Trasncending Obscurity wanted to call attention to some of their favorite records from 2016. This combined list is split into Black, Thrash, Death, Doom / Sludge, Post Metal and Grindcore sections to reflect the tastes and preferences of our scribes in a better way. I’m sure even with all of us working together, we will not be accounting for every single standout release. So why don’t you comment below and tell us whether you agree with this list or if you had better albums in mind? ~ Shrivatsan R

Black Metal

Celestial Grave

Celestial Grave – Burial Ground Trance EP (Iron Bonehead Productions)


SPECIAL FEATURE: Best of 2016 – Shrivatsan R (TO Staff)

Ah 2016, how I wish I could call it as just another year gone by. This year will be remembered as one of the most terrifying and mishap filled years in recent memory. Heck, some even doubted that we will ever see the end of it! But here we are, with only a few more days left on the calendar before we take a step into what hopefully fares to be a better year.

For all it’s fault, this year had one good thing going for it. I’m talking about the music ofcourse, especially on the extreme side of things. Then again, music has always been reactionary to the events of the world. So it’s not all that surprising we got so much good music from a year so shite otherwise. There were so many good releases this year that it is humanly impossible to highlight every single one. Hence I’ve restricted myself to 20 of my personal favorite releases this year, while saving away some for the combined TO STAFF list, which should be coming out very soon. So without further ado, here is my personal year end list.


ALBUM STREAM: Tyrants Blood- Into the Kingdom of Graves

Tyrants Blood- Into the Kingdom of Graves

Tridroid Records has been busy this year, and they’re not done yet.  December 23rd will see the release of a vinyl re-issue of Tyrants Blood third full length ‘Into the Kingdom of Graves’.  The Canadian black/death metal band originally released this album in 2013, and this vinyl edition will come with new liner notes from guitarist Marco Banco and a download code for the band’s compilation album ‘Coven’ (released a year later in 2014).  I was all about ‘Into the Kingdom of Graves’ when it originally came out, and with the re-issue fast approaching I’m happy to have the opportunity to present you with a stream of the entire release.  Which gives me another chance to tell you just how destructive of a force Tyrants Blood is, as they’ve gone under the radar for a good number of people despite having been around for a decade and that should definitely change.


SPECIAL FEATURE: Best of 2016 – Chris Dahlberg (TO Staff)

2016 has been a year of ups and downs, but one thing that has been consistent is the amount of incredible music available.  Last year I did a top 15 list, but this time around I had to expand it to 25 because of how much material I was able to listen to.  And even then I’m leaving out a number of noteworthy releases in a variety of different genres.  Having recently celebrated my one year anniversary of writing for Transcending Obscurity, I’ve had the chance to write about and be exposed to more metal and related genres than ever before.  Anyone who says there isn’t a lot of good new music out there in 2016 either isn’t looking hard enough or isn’t open minded enough to try new things, as I could have easily made a top 50.

As with most personal lists, I’m sure you’ll find some picks to disagree with or albums you think should have been included, and I’d love to hear your comments so we can debate.  Look for more best of material from the rest of the TO staff, which is sure to include a lot of different bands from my list and give you some exposure to some other worthy efforts.  –Chris Dahlberg


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