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April 2016 Highlights – TO Staff

Once again, it is that time of the month where we tell you what we think are the highlights in terms of releases. We’ve made it through a third of 2016, and the metal machine keeps on rolling, showing no signs of slowing down. At this rate, filtering albums for the year end article will most probably be a nightmare with too many releases to focus on. But that is a worry for a later time.

April 2016 had quite a lot of high profile releases, with the likes of Ihsahn (reviewed here), Diamond Head (interviewed here), Cult of Luna (reviewed here), Fallujah etc dropping albums. For this article though, we at TO, however, have managed to eschew these bigger releases (for the most part), as we continue to propagate the ‘kvlt’-ness of the underground. – Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Allfather (USA) – Bless the Earth with Fire (Sludge Metal | Static Tension Recordings)

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This one’s a total banger – all killer, no filler. At a little over 30 minutes runtime, Rochester-based four-piece, Allfather is a fairly new band and their debut album ticks most boxes in my book. It’s just good, swinging sludge music that’s been played, recorded and mixed wonderfully. It may not be the most original sludge album you’ll hear but it’s definitely one you’ll find yourself humming days after you listen to it. The band’s anger-filled, hardcore-heavy brand of sludge doesn’t sound so removed from its influences (High on Fire, Corrosion of Conformity) but they play it so damn well, you can’t ignore it. That said, the album stand-out Death, and Hell Followed With Him, a 11-minute serpentine of a track does show a lot of flair & promise and it is probably where the band finds its own space. I’d love to see the band explore this direction some more but until then I’m just going to lay back, grab a beer and turn this motherfuckin’ thing to eleven. – Anoop Bhat

Blizaro (USA) – Cornucopia della Morte (Doom Metal / Prog Rock | I, Voidhanger Records)

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Horror-themed doom metal band Blizaro sounds like the perfect soundtrack to classic Italian horror films. Imagine Candlemass and Goblin joining forces for the soundtrack of the best 80’s Lucio Fulci film you’ve never seen. The whole album feels like a tribute to all things horror and doom of the late 70’s and 80’s, and they do it so well that it sounds more like a love letter than an imitation. Take great lyrics that paint wicked worlds worthy of Lovecraft,  add classic doom metal that just sounds plain evil and top this with a dash of spaced out prog-rock weirdness and you get Blizaro. – Eirik Vandal

Debridement (Ireland) – Reduced to a Pile of Putrefying Slop (Death Metal | Rotten Music)

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If, like me, you saw the band name and thought it was a synonym for divorce, then you, again, like me, were very wrong. Trusty Google tells me it stands for:
“the removal of damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound.”
Now that’s far more Death Metal. Wouldn’t you agree? And Debridement are very death metal indeed. Everything about this band’s music is base, dirty, filthy, nasty, putrid… All that. From the lone mind, throat, and fingers of ex-Putrefy and current Oncology guitarist Connor Brown, Debridement focus on clobbering the listener with the heaviest riffs from the downtuned-est guitars, the pingiest snare relentlessly blasting you between sludgy grooves, and none-truer sewer chewer vocals. Got a frontal lobe? Get rid of it, for it is superfluous here. Got a thirst for pure aural muck being poured directly down your lug ‘oles? Then step right up! This is the disease you were looking for. -Ewan Gibb

Discharge (UK) – End of Days (Hardcore Punk | Nuclear Blast)

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With any band that’s been around for almost forty years, you’re sure to have a fair share of people saying that any new incarnation can’t match up to the classics. But I don’t think you can argue that the newest Discharge record ‘End of Days’ isn’t a complete rager though, especially when it comes to the high energy riffing. Since the last time the group released an album they’ve switched vocalists, with Broken Bones’ JJ Janiak taking over from Rat. His gruffer pitch fits Discharge’s aggressive riffing style perfectly, and every song has that perfect balance of d-beat and traditional punk, with a little metal influence mixed in for good measure. No matter where you end up finding this one fits in with the group’s previous discography, the blistering riffs and solos and power this record packs makes it worth coming back to. – Chris Dahlberg

ETHS (France) – Ankaa (Experimental Deathcore | Season of Mist)

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Okay, I thought I was good, but then I heard ‘Ankaa’. I am always in anticipation every single year for those albums that so greatly surprise me, so instantly connect with me, as to leave me in a state of breathless excitement. Call that hyperbole if you will, but how often can you say something like this over any variant of deathcore? I was completely unfamiliar with ETHS, but as I stated in my full review, they are a name I am not likely to forget any time soon. Their insane, capable, and at times ethereal fusion of djent, alternative metal, electronic, mathcore, and Middle Eastern influences (this is a French band, mind you) left me so befuddled in labelling the genre as to come up with one of my own: eclectic experimental deathcore. But even this fails to collectively explain the scope and unprecedented nature of this album. Most highly recommended for fans of iwrestledabearonce and Dillinger Escape Plan, but I consider this essential listening for everyone this year. – FlightOfIcarus

 Imperial Triumphant (USA) – Inceste EP (Black / Death Metal | Redefining Darkness Records)

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Imperial Triumphant’s exciting new EP and its contemporary take on black metal is such a breath of fresh air. It’s dirty, flat-out weird and all kinds of messed up. The band’s been consistently producing material since 2008 and while they have always presented an affinity for the bizarre, this release is where the band seems to have really hit it. The left-field approach to song-writing, the unusual time changes, the occasional French song sample and the cleverly interwoven psychedelia come together beautifully to give you 27 minutes of transcendent black/death metal. It’s beautiful. These guys are bustling with interesting ideas, both musical and aesthetical, and that probably makes them one of the most important black metal bands from America. – Anoop Bhat

Inherit Disease (USA) – Ephemeral (Brutal Death Metal | Unique Leader Records)

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Inherit Disease are back! ‘Ephemeral’ has been 6 years in the waiting, and as a follow up to 2010’s excellent ‘Visceral Transendence’, it will do very nicely. Despite the only line up change being the addition of a 2nd guitarist, the band’s sound has shifted over time. Of course it’s still head cavingly brutal death metal, complex and fast, but if anything they have gone even darker and more sadistic. Where ‘Visceral Transendence’ frequently recalled Deeds of Flesh, ‘Ephemeral’ stays in the same American state, but is more influenced by Disgorge. If you can appreciate what that subtle change means for the difference in Ephemeral’s pummelling goodness compared with its predecessor. Inherit Disease haven’t exactly reinvented the Brutal Death Metal wheel, but have produced a fine example of this particular antisocial art form. – Ewan Gibb

Mamiffer (USA) – The World Unseen (Ambient / Post – Rock | Sige Records)

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I follow Aaron Turner’s projects very closely (and so should everyone, duh). Mamiffer has been a rather special one. My introduction to the band came with their 2011 LP, ‘Mare Decendrii’, which is one of the most beautiful and layered instrumental albums I’ve listened to. Their more recent work, ‘Statu Nascendi’ that came out last year filled me with warm, fuzzy feelings, with its spine-chillingly beautiful, drone-tinged soundscapes and helped me with a rather difficult time. I’m happy to report that their new one is just as riveting, intense and beautiful as the aforementioned albums. The album, in Coloccia and Turner’s own words, is “an exploration of subconscious and psychic bonds between the past and present, and the ways in which the musical devices of repetition and incantation create hands across the chasm that divide the human from the divine.” It is quite a journey and I plead you to take it, for it is a deeply fulfilling one. Fans of Dead Can Dance, Lustmord, GY!BE, Jesu, Sunn O))), Death In June, I’m looking at you. – Anoop Bhat

Mantar (Germany)- Ode To The Flame (Sludge Metal | Nuclear Blast)

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Mantar is back with album number two and they’re still doing what they do best. It’s been well publicized that the deal with Nuclear Blast was on their terms, so any fears that a change to a bigger label might bring in some stylistic changes can be put to rest. ‘Ode To The Flame’ comes out of the gate swinging with dense, bottom heavy riffs that do their best to torch everything in their path no matter what styles the band is channelling. Each song has something a little bit different, whether it’s straight-up doom/sludge, faster punk and Motörhead leaning riffs, or even some black metal. Mantar plays to their strengths, and the result is an album that has some real substance beneath its destructive exterior. – Chris Dahlberg

Mortichnia (Ireland) – Heir to Scoria and Ash (Black Metal | Apocalyptic Witchcraft)

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Well hell, April sure has been one hell of a month. With top notch releases from Schammasch, Cult of Luna, Ihsahn, and many more it’s hard to pick a favourite. But this Irish post black metal group really got to me in a big way. I would particularly recommend them to fans of Deathspell Omega, MGLA, and Altar of Plagues; but their sense of melody and atmosphere would be well received by those more into Vattnet Viskar or Deafheaven as well. I can’t think of a better word here than “beautiful.” These compositions are absolutely haunting. If there is only one black metal album you check out this month, make it this one. You can find a full review here on the site as well. – FlightOfIcarus

Primitive Weapons (USA) – The Future of Death (Post-Hardcore | Party Smasher Inc.)

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This aggressive New York quartet has both the guts and brain to take the fury of hardcore and mix it up with great hooks and an intelligent sense of melodies, all the while without compromising the intensity and heaviness. Released through Ben Weinman’s (Dillinger Escape Plan) Party Smasher Inc, ‘The Future of Death’ sees the band finding a balance between the dissonant chaotic heaviness of bands like Converge and the more melodic side of post-hardcore bands like Quicksand. And this balance is what makes this album a modern hardcore classic. -Eirik Vandal

Schammasch (Switzerland) – Triangle (Avant-Garde Black Metal | Prosthetic Records)

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Putting out a double or triple album is almost always a risky affair. Following up your most well received album with a triple disc release is even riskier. Swiss black metallers Schammasch have done just that and the results are worth the risk. With ‘Triangle’ the band manages to surpass what they achieved with ‘Contradiction’. The band justify their three part release by imbibing each part with it’s own unique characteristic. The first part is whirlwind of occult influenced black metal that is bathed in high degrees of dissonance, which is followed by the sludgy and more murky tunes of the second part. The third part of the album is an immersive and ambient experience with strong ritualistic qualities. Regardless of the style, it’s hard not to become entrapped in Schmmasch’s occult influences and avant garde leanings. The band’s penchant for writing mind bending black metal shines through and ‘Triangle’ is a long, twisted ride into the deepest corners of darkness. – Shrivatsan R. (Deputy Editor)

Surgical Meth Machine (USA) – Surgical Meth Machine (Industrial Metal | Nuclear Blast)

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Al Jourgensen is at it again, and he proves he still got it. With SMM you get the whole spectre, the opening track is a fast, industrial, metal beatdown with Al ranting and screaming “I don’t fucking care!”, and the first half of the album follows in the same vein, which should be known territory if you are familiar with Ministry. On the other hand, through the second half the record slows down a bit and lets Uncle Al try out a couple of different directions. This might be somewhat off-putting to those who just wants to hear another heavy Ministry record. But hey, its Al Jourgensen and if its one thing you should know about him by now its that he does whatever the fuck he wants. – Eirik Vandal

Tombs (USA) – All Empires Fall (Black / Sludge Metal | Relapse Records)

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Tombs have always been somewhat of a special band. With this latest EP they provide us with 34 minutes of their individual blend of black metal, sludge and hardcore. Continuing their trend of mixing these styles together into a potent brew, Tombs have crafted a compelling collection of tracks that are as catchy as they are dark. Here they’re showcasing a new member (Fade Kainer – vocals/synthesizers – of Batillus fame) and a tweaked change in blackened direction. It all works a treat; with good variety, plenty to hold the attention and songs that you’ll remember long after the last note has faded, ‘All Empires Fall’ is definitely one of my favourite releases so far this year. – Nigel Holloway

Wode (UK) – Wode (Black Metal | Broken Limb Recordings)

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Broken Limbs is one of my favourite labels at the moment. 2015 in particular was a great year for this rather principled, one-man-run, independent label from New York with some fantastic, end-of-the-year-list-worthy releases by Immortal Bird, Ad Nauseum, Nightslug, Moro Moro Land and Cape of Bats. And by the looks of it they aren’t slowing down. Broken Limbs’ first release this year is the debut, self-titled full-length by Manchester-based, three piece black metal outfit, Wode. It’s a fantastic, front-to-back listen that is singular in its vision and purposeful in its writing. The music here is relentless, visceral and every bit exhilarating. The band seem very much in their element and have put together an immense black metal album with a lot of recall-value, that tips its proverbial hat to the greats like Emperor and (at the same time) far younger bands like Liturgy. Basically, this thing rules. – Anoop Bhat

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