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August 2016 Highlights – TO Staff

And just like that, summer is over and what a summer it has been for Transcending Obscurity. We’ve managed to cover a great deal of good bands across the months and now it is time to focus on what kept us hooked in the month of August. As much as we try to keep it underground, August did have quite a lot of high profile releases which were simply too good to be ignored. Make sure you give these records a chance, because according to the staff here, the following albums represent the creme de la creme of metal music this month. As always, feel free to tell us why we are right or how wrong we are, in the comment section below. ~ Shrivatsan R.

Blood Incantation (USA) – Starspawn (Death Metal, Dark Descent Records)

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Blood Incantation’s entry into this list should come as no surprise to anyone who has listened to the band’s debut full length ‘Starspawn’. These guys worship the old gods like Gorguts and Incantation (well, duh!) but the music these guys make is so much more than a cheap knockoff. By incorporating a lot of mind bending, sci-fi themed lead guitar work, blazing solos and smooth bass lines, Blood Incantation manage to freshen up with old school death metal sound. The production on this record brings to mind the glory days of death metal and puts to shame the modern sound opted by many a death metal band these days. Take away all the space themed influences in the sound, and you’d still hear evil, demented death metal at the core. ‘Starspawn’ has already earned it’s spot on a lot of year end lists and where Blood Incantation go from here is something a lot of metalheads, including myself, are excited for.  ~ Shrivatsan R.

Coma Cluster Void (International) – Mind Cemeteries (Avant-Garde / Technical Death Metal, Self Released)

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Obvious choice here. I interviewed the band, did a full review, pimped it across social media; so no surprise in my choice. But it was well-earned. As much as I also enjoyed Dendritic Arbor and Void Omnia, ‘Mind Cemeteries’ edges both of those out on all levels. This album is vastly technical with its drummerobics and 10 stringed guitar gymnastics, almost to the point of avant-garde chaos. But rather than take the final leap, the band manages to maintain a certain order and catchiness within its groove to keep things entertaining. FFO: Ulcerate, CB Murdoc, Krallice ~ FlightOfIcarus

Crowhurst (USA) – II (Experimental Black Metal / Noise, Broken Limb Recordings)

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Crowhurst, which has been a solo project by Jay Gambit till 2014, are back with their second full length effort as a band. Titled ‘II’, the album expands on the ideas established by the self titled debut. The band intensifies the noisy atmosphere which had a rather diminished presence in their previous effort to create an album that flaunts a dense, impenetrable atmosphere. The electronic / noise elements serve to create a sense of chaos, which the band counteracts with fleeting moments of ambience. ‘II’ is one of those albums that might not be very accessible, but the journey is one worth taking as the slow, brooding riffs and reverb drenched vocals do a solid job of instilling a sense of melancholy and chaos. ~ Shrivatsan R.

Howling Giant (USA) – Black Hole Space Wizard Pt. 1 (Stoner Rock / Metal, Self Released)

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Hailing from Tennessee, Howling Giant are the kind of stoner metal act that pushes the genre a little further than most. With a wonderfully catchy vocal end that features elements from all three of these musicians, as well as four distinctly different songs that take off in ways I wouldn’t imagine, Howling Giant might be one of the best up and coming stoner rock / metal acts in the state right now. There is an obvious commercial edge to pieces like Mothership and Clouds Of Smoke but in my eyes, that follows in the same kind of territory as Mastodon’s more accessible ‘Crack The Skye’ release and I’m not complaining one iota. The band are able to craft what I’d consider rather complex, keyboard driven hypnotic atmospheres that even feature a little bit of H.G. Wells thrown in for good measure. Fans of various stoner acts, as well as stuff like Mastodon, Kyuss, Floor and maybe even Tool will find something here, but just keep in mind that there are a hefty amount of doom riffs to be found on some of the cuts here. I’ve listened to it probably around five or six times now and can’t wait for the second part! ~ Eric May

Inquisition (USA) – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith (Black Metal, Season of Mist)

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RIFFS, RIFFS & RIFFS! That is the most apt description of Inquisition’s seventh and latest full length offering – ‘Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith’. When it comes to the American duo, no one expects any major surprises, we have the love it-hate it extreme raspy vocals of Dagon, accompanied with his icy tremolo-riffs and the in-human blast beat drumming by Incubus. What real works here and separates the album from the previous works, is the strong black metal foundation this album is built upon. While comparisons to the early 90s second wave of black metal are more direct due to the ‘thrash-ier’ riffs, they do mix elements of the first wave into their sound at times, resulting in a unique and fresh sounding album. Looking back, the album is definitely much more accessible than their previous outings and represents a true heir to ‘Obscure Verses for the Multiverse’. The hour long journey feels cinematic as one gazes out into the cosmic world of Inquisition. The duo at Inquisition have once again triumphed and released a masterpiece in an album that sounds aggressive from start to end. Oh powerful Inquisition, oh lord of supreme I hail thee! ~ Vidur Paliwal

Mountaineer (USA) – Mountaineer 7″ (Sludge Metal / Rock, Self Released)

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If you choose to look up information using the terms “Mountaineer” and “Bandcamp” you will find a lot of bands oddly making a similar style of music. In any case, we are reviewing the dreamy sludge/rock of what I think is an absolutely killer band. According to some of the information I’ve grazed, the act contains ex members of Lycus and Secrets Of The Sky, which I’ve always thought warranting, so of course this is going to be good too. The band’s frontman is of course awesome, with a voice like porcelain that gently glides along the wondrous harmony of shoe-gazey guitars. It’s a very fluffy sort of album, a very airy sort of disc, the kind of thing that you just sort of zone out to and contemplate life. It doesn’t even matter what the songs are about as far as the vocals are concerned, I’ve been paying more attention to just the delivery to really ascertain the lyrical matter. I really can’t wait to hear the act’s full release as I feel that Mountaineer will make waves. They are a very “this generation” style of music, so older heads probably have already quit reading by now, but that is okay with me as I’m of course open to many different styles of music as it is. This isn’t “that kind” of Mountaineer. Leave your pick-axe at home. Oh, shit. That’s Miner. Eh, I guess some mountaineers are miners as well? Check out the disc, it’s only a dollar digitally on their Bandcamp and I doubt the full release will warrant much more than that. ~ Eric May

Pulse of Nebulae (International) – Pulse of Nebulae (Progressive / Melodic Death Metal, Self Released)

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International metal band Pulse of Nebulae released their long awaited self-titled debut album. The 8 track album has been described as “Progressive death metal” however you can hear hints of melodic death metal and even power metal. The catchy guitar riffs are well complemented by growled vocals. Triumph of the Sun and Drone are a couple of my favourite tracks from the album. An impressive debut release, Pulse of Nebulae are a band to keep an eye out for in the future. Those in the Baltics can catch them on mini tour this month, their facebook page has all the details. ~ Peter Kotikalapudi

Spirit Adrift (USA) – Chained To Oblivion (Doom Metal, Prosthetic Records)

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Spirit Adrift released what may end up being one of my favorite EP’s of the year back in February, and six months later they’ve followed it up with full length ‘Chained To Oblivion’. For a project that only has been around since last year, it’s incredible just how developed this material comes across. This is sprawling doom that incorporates post rock and psychedelic melodies and lets them expand naturally over longer spans of time, pulling the listener into a whirlwind of warm sounds and a flair for the adventurous. What I didn’t know at the time I reviewed ‘Behind- Beyond’ was that in the studio Spirit Adrift is the work of one man, Take Over and Destroy’s Nate Garrett. The fact that one person was able to create sweeping doom that is simultaneously breezy and epic and makes you want to take a drive to parts unknown is impressive, and ‘Chained To Oblivion’ is more tightly constructed and engaging than most full bands. This is the type of album you can put on and close your eyes to, imagining all of the wind swept deserts and rolling plains that the music is capable of taking you to. Plus the vocals only add to the appeal, delivering a clean yet commanding singing pitch that enhances the grandiose feel of the material. Don’t miss this one. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Stilla (Sweden) – Skuggflock (Black Metal, Nordvis Produktion /Bindrune Recordings)

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Stilla released two incredible albums between 2013 and 2014, injecting Scandinavian metal circa the 90s with some hints of 70s progressive flair. After a short break they’ve returned with their third full length ‘Skuggflock’ and while it doesn’t deviate too far from the path that ‘Till stilla falla’ and ‘Ensamhetens andar’ laid out the stellar songwriting once again makes this band a must listen. At the band’s core is the same distorted melodies and musical representations of Scandinavian’s nature in all its glory, but there continues to be exploration into somewhat unconventional elements that sets the group apart. That familiar second-wave of icy layers might give way to moodier synthesizers that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 70s progressive rock or even a Goblin album, while some of the other song structures bring the jagged, off balance sounds of early post punk to mind. It’s capable of simultaneously capturing the best elements of 90s black metal while pushing that familiar sound into some territory that gives it an identity of its own. While more of a natural progression than a radical departure, Stilla’s latest is still far ahead of so many of the others out there. ~ Chris Dahlberg

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