Every month when we put together this highlights list, I go through the entries and try to sense a discernible pattern. But so far it has always been the case that our scribes cover a wide range of sounds where no commonality can be traced. April 2017, is perhaps a first in our monthly highlights series, where the entries tend to eschew towards two particular styles — Tech death and Crust. Though we do have a smattering of other styles included, it’s hard to miss how every other entry in this list either has a crust or tech death connection here. A random coincidence? Or some deep conspiracy by the scribes of Transcending Obscurity? One thing is for sure – these are all excellent releases that you should pay attention to! ~ Shrivatsan R.
Abomnium (UK) – A Hollow Path (Death Metal, UKEM Records)
On the fourth album from this UK one-man wrecking crew, Abomnium has delivered an absolutely cracking album. Flavoured with dark atmosphere and seasoned with blasting brutality, ‘A Hollow Path’ is a feast of blackened aggression, shot through with nuance and shaded delivery. With many different eras of black metal visited and plundered across its all-too-brief 42 minutes of content, this is an album to play again and again and again and again…well, you get the point. This is a hugely impressive release from a very talented artist. ~ Nigel Holloway
Archivist (International) – Construct (Post Black / Post Metal / Post Hardcore, Halo of Flies / Alerta Antifascista)
Archivist, ever since it’s inception has been about the grand ideas. This international collective featuring members from the likes of Morrow, Anophelli, Carnist, Thurm etc create epic, ethereal music that seems to span the limits of space and time. This remains particularly true in the case of the band’s second offering ‘Construct’, as thematically the album spans many years and diverse concepts from the likes of AI to religion. The atmosphere is the driving force here, underpinned by the post black, and occasionally post hardcore, flavoured riffs and organic drumming. There is a beautiful duality of harsh riffage and moments of beautiful clarity that manages to tap into the listener’s emotional spectrum. The songwriting here has a strong proggy overtone that brings a certain degree of unpredictability and experimentation into the mix. That said, this album is by no means perfect and could easily have been trimmed to under an hour as certain tracks feel needlessly drawn out. But that does not take away from the vision and ambition expressed in this release. And my, what a grand vision it is. ~ Shrivatsan R.
Artificial Brain (USA) – Infrared Horizon (Technical Death Metal, Profound Lore Records)
New York technical, progressive, and brutal death metal band Artificial Brain tear it up with their new album through Profound Lore and produced by Colin Marson (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Krallice). I hear elements of sped-up thrash, grinding death, and jazz-influenced brutality all force-fed down the gullet of highly progressive song-structures; all while incorporating some interesting melody and hooks into the otherwise obliterating chaos. This is THE tech death album of the month for sure, and very likely one of the best of the year. If you dig bands like Replacire, Ulcerate, and Coma Cluster Void then get the hell in here ~ FlightOfIcarus
Brume (USA) – Rooster (Doom Metal, When Planets Collide)
I’m not going to say too much about this, other than to note that it’s possible that Brume have just released the doom metal album of the year. Yes, ‘Rooster’ is that good. Mixing a healthy worship of all things riffy, alongside a keen appreciation of psychedelic atmospheres and depth, this album is a great combination of both. With a captivating vocalist who shows off her voice in the strongest light from the moment she first starts singing to the close of the album, Brume delight, entertain, and move with their delicious compositions. Flawless. ~ Nigel Holloway
Cult Cinema (UK) – Cosmic Horror II (Blackened Neocrust, Independent)
Let’s see… what does Cult Cinema cram into ‘Cosmic Horror II’ that has me forgoing — nay, willfully ignoring — many of this month’s more substantial offerings? A vicious synthesis of black metal and crust… literary lyrics based on the works of Lovecraft and Verne… badass artwork… spinal cord-crushing riffs… vocals so beautifully blasphemous they could curdle blood from the rotting body of Jesus Christ… Yeah, ‘Cosmic Horror II’ is pretty much everything I want from the “blackened and” genres. I haven’t been this smitten since I discovered Skeletonwitch. Need I say more? Get on this shit. ~ Eric Seal
Hive (USA) – Parasitic Twin (Crust Punk / Hardcore, Crown & Throne Ltd.)
People often have a misconception about d-beat hardcore and assume that it’s scope is limited. Hive, a supergroup of sorts hailing from the Minneapolis punk scene recently released their full length ‘Parasitic Twin’ and this is a record that can break any such assumption that people might have about this style of music. Combining a dark, brooding atmosphere with Swedish crust and relentless dark hardcore, Hive explore a wide range of possibilities on this record. Ranging from mosh pit triggering anthems to slow, crawling sludge like moments of heavy riffage, this album subverts expectations in the best way possible. Never compromising on the raw punk energy, this album manages to place equal emphasis on the dark atmosphere while the riffs have a strong metallic inclination. Overall, this is an extremely well balanced crust record that is highly addictive and instantly re-playable. ~ Shrivatsan R.
Inferno (Czech Republic) – Gnosis Kardias (Of Transcension and Involution) (Black Metal, World Terror Committee)
Plenty of black metal bands channel the occult and dark spirituality through their imagery and lyrical content, but when it comes to the music itself few are able to push the sound of the genre outwards to truly reflect that. But that’s exactly what Inferno has done in recent years, and with their newest full length ‘Gnosis Kardias (Of Transcension and Involution)’ they’ve blown the doors wide open. While many of the core elements of black metal remain, the way that each of the songs flow takes on a more spiritual and introspective feel, taking the listener on a journey into the unknown and the dark void beyond. Both the reverb heavy growls and instrumentation come through with an immense amount of power, and each song flows seamlessly into the next which will ensure you remain entranced from beginning to end. Each additional listen reveals new layers and nuances that weren’t clear previously, and it’s rare to find a band as focused and adventurous in this genre. ~ Chris Dahlberg
Ingurgitating Oblivion (Germany) – Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light (Death Metal, Willowtip Records)
Berlin’s Ingurgitating Oblivion have been honing their death metal craft since 2001, and their third album, ‘Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light’, feels refreshingly unique. The vital ingredient to what makes this album such an enthralling listening experience is the dynamism on display in every weighty track. The band deals mainly in a pulverizing brand of death metal that combines equal parts brutality, technical fireworks, and harsh dissonance. Flowing organically from blasting punishment to softer passages that somehow prickle with ominous energy, these long songs make the minutes fly. Overflowing with exquisitely-performed avant-garde touches (vibraphones? neoclassical piano? electronics? YES!) and topped with an avalanche of brutal gutturals and shrieks, this is quite simply one of the best metal albums of the year. Maybe any year. ~ Wyeth Holman
Kyryem (Spain) – Under the Sign of the Leo, Part 1 (Blackened Death Metal, Independent)
It’s hard for me to pick just one reason why Kyryem’s ‘Under the Sign of the Leo, Part 1’ got so much love from me this month — mostly because there’s a veritable feast of genres to choose from. An ever-present blackness adds equal parts atmosphere and aggression, but the thrash elements do that too. Liberal use of keyboards lend the album an industrial angle, while the varied vocal styles give cause to wonder whether there’s room for both Alice in Chains and Rotting Christ in their pool of influences. I guess the big takeaway is just how much overall fun this album is. With some of the most infectious riffs you’re likely to hear this year, Kyryem isn’t beholden to any one genre, and as long as you aren’t either, you might like ’em a hell of a lot. ~ Eric Seal
Martyr Defiled (UK) – Young Gods (Deathcore, Century Media Records)
The deathcore masters return! Say what you like about modern deathcore, when it’s done well, it absolutely hits the spot. Sadly though, most of the time it’s just not done too well, but on ‘Young Gods’ Martyr Defiled once again demonstrate why they’re just plain better than most of their peers. Sure, you could argue that there’s nothing groundbreaking or innovative here, but who cares? That’s resolutely not the point of this kind of thing. Instead, this is music designed to crush, maim, hammer, and slam across dance floors around the globe. More than that though, as one of the things I love about this band is that their sense of dynamics and structuring places them in a much better position than a lot of similar bands when it comes to replay value. There’s actually some depth of delivery here, believe it or not. A lot of it comes down to the riffs. Ooohhhh, so good! So may riffs with which to lose yourself in. Don’t be a jaded skeptic, ‘Young Gods’ has enough balls and attitude to get you moving in no uncertain terms. Infectious, brutal, compelling fun. ~ Nigel Holloway
Orm (Denmark) – Orm (Melodic Black Metal, Indisciplinarian)
A fledgling band hailing from the Scandinavian shores of Denmark, Orm’s self-titled debut is a thrill ride of ostentatious and surging melodic black metal worthy of the gorgeous cover art by Paolo Girardi. Telling stirring tales of myth and legend with epic melodies, booming drums, and shredding roars, this album is a cohesive journey in the form of five raw, memorable songs. The melodies have a tinge of folk in their sound without being overbearing, and quiet interludes of acoustic guitar, as well as gorgeous sections of choral voices, make a strong impression. The recording was done live, and the loose and organic performance, and the high quality of the musicianship, are crucial components of the album’s charm. This is a scintillating debut release for any fan of black metal with an authentically epic sound. ~ Wyeth Holman
Royal Thunder (USA) – Wick (Hard Rock, Spinefarm Records)
Royal Thunder have been around for quite some time, dabbling with rock and roll, without ever constraining their music be genre. With this ever-evolving form, the band has delivered a career highlight in ‘Wick’, the bands third full length record. ‘Wick’ sees them shed their sludgy tunes, in favor of a more southern rock base, accompanied with a tinge of the 80s-psychedelic nostalgia. What really helps ‘Wick’ is the diverse variety in songwriting the band brings forth on the record. From straight out rockers like The Sinking Chair, to the bluesy waltz of Plans, to the ballad of The Well, this one has it all. Throughout the record, it is the amazing vocals by the lead singer/bassist Miny Parsonz that take the spotlight as they bring out the raw emotions embedded into the lyrics of the tracks (which reminds one of the likes of Joan Jett). Overall, with ‘Wick’, Royal Thunder manage to take one back to the days when good old rock was made with the heart, and not just a means to appease the masses. ~ Vidur Paliwal
Virulent Depravity (USA) – Fruit of the Poisoned Tree (Technical Death Metal, The Artisan Era)
Technical death metal is a sub-genre known for boundary-pushing, as bands try to outdo one another in the pure flash of their musicianship. It’s rare to find a band stretching the outer limits of musicianship, while writing memorable songs that are worth listening to again and again. Newcomers Virulent Depravity, hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, are one such rarity. The brainchild of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Colin Butler, ‘Fruit of the Poisoned Tree’ is an effortless masterclass in immaculately composed, mechanically precise death metal. Riffing veers wildly from angular abrasion and melodic, hooky leads into plenty of head-thrashing grooves. Solos are around every corner, and a laundry list of impressive guests lay down blistering fretwork. Butler lays down an impressive vocal performance as well, spitting his verbose lyrics at truly improbable speeds. ~ Wyeth Holman
Wolfbrigade (Sweden) – Run with the Hunted (Crust Punk, Southern Lord Recordings)
It is a rare that you’d find a release from a legacy band as an entry from me in this list. Sweden’s legendary lychanthropunks Wolfbrigade are an exception to that rule. Formed from the remnants of bands like Anti-Cimex and Asta Kusk, this band has been putting out raw, uncompromising, d-beat drenched crust punk for the better part of 22 years now. Now 5 years after ‘Damned’ the Swedes are back with ‘Run with the Hunted’. A seamless blend of metal and d-beat crust, Wolfbrigade (for the uninitiated) sound like what Motorhead would have sounded like if they had more of a punk influence and a little less heavy metal in the mix. With the new release, the band shows that they have not lost any of the vigour or fury and the tracks fly by with haste, while keeping the intensity at maximum. Slight traces of proto black metal bleed into the metal-punk aggression especially on tracks like Kallocain, giving the album an engaging dynamic. ‘Run with the Hunted’ is extremely addictive and fun from start to finish. For a band to put out a near flawless record 22 years into the game is very commendable and this perhaps will be the most fun I have with an album this year. ~ Shrivatsan R.