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February 2016 Highlights – TO Staff

We’ve started this new monthly feature so that everyone can chip in with their monthly picks, across all metal genres. While most of our articles are genre-specific and subject to editing (especially when choosing the albums to be featured), this one is purely on the individual staff member’s taste. It’s all good anyway since it’s not easy to become a staff writer for Transcending Obscurity and it’s safe to say that most if not all of these albums are remarkable by any standards.

Oranssi Pazuzu (Finland) – ‘Värähtelijä’ (Black Metal, Svart Records)

OranssiPazuzu

Finnish experimental black metallers Oranssi Pazuzu are well versed in mashing elements of black metal with psychedelic soundscapes. The band’s newest full length ‘Värähtelijä’ has some of the best use of riff repetition in recent times. Often times riffs are repeated in black metal to get the listener to sink into the atmosphere. The droning riffs on this album make use of a strong ethereal atmosphere with hypnotic and almost shamanic beats, to guide the listeners into altered states of consciousness. The venomous, yet mesmerizing snarls add a sinister touch to the music, making this a dark, maddening psychedelic experience. ‘Värähtelijä’ is over an hour long, but it manages to engage the listener in a deep trance like state with merely the use of good music. – Shrivatsan Ragavan 

Svart Records | Oranssi Pazuzu Facebook 

Temple Below (International) – ‘Dark Goddess’ (Black/Death Metal, Iron Bonehead Productions)

TempleBelow-Pim

Second EP (on vinyl) by this Chilean/Swedish collaboration. This band consists of members of Slaughtbbath and Bestial Mockery and produces some vile sounding blackened death metal. Add to that the eerie sounding intros and splendid packaging of this 12” and you got yourself an outstanding piece of contemporary darkness. – Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste)

Iron Bonehead Productions | Temple Below Facebook

Megascavenger (International) – ‘As Dystopia Beckons’ (Industrial Death Metal, Selfmadegod Records)

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While most equate Rogga Johansson and his numerous bands to plain but powerful old school death metal, the latest Megascavenger release is not only phenomenally epic in comparison to the previous ones (featuring guest contributions from several star band members such as Dave Ingram, Kam Lee, Adrie Kloosterwaard, Jocke Svensson, etc.), it’s also surprisingly forward-thinking and laced with refreshing industrial touches. It must be noted that this hasn’t been done at the expense of the trademark ballsy death metal, but is done to add new life to the genre. The music is reminiscent of The Berzerker (!), Fear Factory, Godflesh and even Ministry. This kind of thing doesn’t happen too often, and especially coming from Rogga, it represents some sort of a quantum shift. Such innovation and progressive thinking must definitely be applauded, and despite the minor inconsistencies on the record, I’d heartily vouch for this one that’s forthcoming on Selfmadegod Records. This song below is an EXCLUSIVE one, so expose your ears to its industrial-laded death metal mayhem. – Kunal Choksi (editor)

Selfmadegod Records | Megascavenger Facebook

 

Conan (UK) – ‘Revengeance’ (Stoner Doom Metal, Napalm Records)

conan-revengeance

Crushing UK doom ensemble Conan released their third and latest full length album called ‘Revengeance’ via Napalm Records. Inspired by battles, retro swords, sorcery movies, and everything old school, the band have probably released their heaviest album yet, with the addition of Rich Lewis on drums. The bone-bending album will remain one of my highlights of the year, and it’s something that ought to be seriously looked into by all doom connoisseurs. – Peter Kotikalapudi

Napalm Records | Conan Facebook

Chthe’ilist – ‘Le dernier crépuscule’ (Death Metal, Profound Lore Records/Dark Descent Records)

Chtheilist

Chthe’ilist‘s debut album, ‘Le dernier crépuscule’ is definitely one of the best releases of this year so far. The band mixes the best elements of both the worlds; aggression and sheer power of US death metal and dark atmosphere and technical writing of European death metal which results in an ‘in your face’ wall of sound which will completely mesmerize you. The band’s sound can be likened to Demilich, Timeghoul, Cosmic Atrophy, Incantation and Mitochondrion. Death metal fans, grab your copy ASAP! Aumkar Lele

Chthe’ilist Facebook | Profound Lore Records | Dark Descent Records

 

Within Destruction (Slovenia) – ‘Void’ (Brutal Death Metal, Rising Nemesis Records)

Bandcamp

For me it’s a bit of a tough month to pick a favorite.  I think the last few have been pretty clear cut, but right now I’m torn.  If we’re going with sheer extremity, I’d say Altarage‘s ‘Nihl’.  But if we’re also throwing simple headbang-induction and marketablity into the mix, I might go with Within Destruction.  Their album really is a start-to-finish joy in pretty much all realms I rate music on.  It’s got the broader appeal of face-beating deathcore, but the musianship and brutality of technical death metal.  In other words, there’s something here for everyone.  Throw in some killer Cthulu-esque album art, and you have all the convincing you should need to buy this thing. Flight of Icarus

Within Destruction Facebook | Rising Nemesis Records

 

WormHole (Italy) – ‘Captivity Gardens – The Left Eye’ (Technical Death Metal, Self-Released)

WormHole

WormHole is a technical death metal trio that carries on the tradition of Italian genre bands Desecration, Electrocution and Illogicist. ‘Captivity Gardens – The Left Eye’ infuses that classic foundation with a dose of modernity akin to contemporaries Agony Face, Human, and Resumed. Fueled by an ambitious science-fiction concept that will allegedly encompass multiple albums these Italian metal are obviously passionate about what they do. Graced by spectacular artwork designed by the band’s own Lord Violent cordiale Esumamorti dal 1807 – LVCE 1807 ‘Captivity Gardens – The Left Eye’ has something to offer for fans, old and new. – Wouter Roemers

WormHole Bandcamp | WormHole Facebook

Abyssus (Greece) – ‘Once Entombed’ (Old School Death Metal, Transcending Obscurity Classics)

Abyssus-bandcamp
As a collector of CDs of underground metal bands, one thing that always bums me out is the availability of some of the smaller EPs and split releases. Though there are ways of purchasing a digital copy (thank Bandcamp!) of such releases, not having these tracks on a physical copy always made the collector in me a little uncomfortable. But thanks to efforts like Transcending Obscurity Classics, that scenario is changing.

The subject of the first effort from this label is the Greek death metal trio, Abyssus. This is a modern band that has successfully managed to capture the sound and atmosphere of early death metal bands like Obituary, Asphyx, Autopsy and the likes. ‘Once Entombed…’ collects some of the band’s releases prior to their first full length that came out last year, and the compilation offers insights into the evolution of a band. The old school, crusty death metal sound feels very nostalgic and Abyssus unleash riff after decimating riff. The second half of the record focuses on some of the band’s very first releases with the music carrying a strong punk vibe. From the weird crawling melodies to the rapid chuga chug gallops, it satisfies every craving of an old school death metal fan. Now this is how you pay tribute to the old school. – Shrivatsan Ragavan 

Abyssus Facebook | TO Records

Last in Line (US) – ‘Heavy Crown’ (Heavy Metal, Frontiers Records)

Last-in-Line-heavycrown

Debut by the original band of Dio, hence the band’s name. Very much alike those first two albums by Dio. You can’t and shouldn’t compare Andrew Freeman’s vocals to Ronnie James’ vocals, but his style fits the music very well. There’s a dark edge to this release as bassist Jimmy Bain sadly passed away a few weeks before the release. ‘Heavy Crown’ is well worth your time though. – Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste)

Last In Line Facebook | Frontiers Records

 

Seven Sisters of Sleep (US) – ‘Ezekiel’s Hags’ (Sludge, Relapse Records)

SevenSistersofSleep

Horrors sublime, holy smoke and a love for Beelzebub and his nefarious minions… are what drives this band. Trampling the forces of religion under their weight, the sludge demons in Seven Sisters of Sleep deliver yet another batch of paeans in praise of the land of perdition and its lone lord supreme. While their sophomore effort ‘Opium Morals’ wore an attire of sludge finery, ‘Ezekiel’s Hags’ goes for a slight death metal slant. The sludge still moves their music and yet they’ve managed to intersperse it with lithe death metal and feral crust parts without ever sounding contrived. Tim’s vicious snarls, grunts and screams bedevil the listener’s senses, Brian’s effort on the skins controls and sets the pace of the music while riffs laced in melody and grime guide them. The amplifier feedbacks herald the second coming of a land besmirched with evil yet unspoken and a myriad horrors lurking beneath, a consummation indeed to our vapid automaton of a life. – Deckard Cain

Relapse Records | Seven Sisters of Sleep Facebook 

Voivod (Canada) – ‘Post Society’ (Thrash/Progressive Metal, Century Media Records)

Voivod-PostSociety

Voivod‘s revival is one of the best thing’s happening to heavy metal. This new five song EP is the band’s first studio release with Dominique Laroche on bass, replacing Jean-Yves Thériault. The heavy metal quartet from Canada pack five songs in 30 minutes They’ve even got a Hawkwind cover thrown in. Silver Machine, the closing track, sounds like an ellipsis for the band’s long career. Post society, Forever Mountain, Fall and We Are Connected are the other tracks on the EP. They bring a mix of prog, thrash, heavy and speed metal. It’s worth checking out for Voivod purists as well as those who are new to the band and don’t know where to start in a discography that stretches all the way back to 1984 With 11 studio albums, one live album, two compilations, seven demos and a DVD. – Dinesh Raghavendra

Voivod Official | Century Media Records

Unborn Suffer (Poland) – ‘Nihilist’ (Death Metal/Grindcore, Selfmadegod Records)

UnbornSuffer-Nihilist

Blistering brutal death metal with a bass output that sometimes sounds like a buzzsaw blade to compliment the Polish three-pieces grindcore tendencies. Selfmadegod has unleashed a lot of great death metal over the years, and ‘Nihilist’ just furthers the notion that this underground label stands as one of the forerunners of violence and gore in metal today. Groovy, bludgeoning, nasty, and all around decrepit, Unborn Suffer prove why they’ve been a solid export for their country since 2001, standing with the likes of Dies Irae and Parricide. – Apoch Weiss

Selfmadegod Records | Unborn Suffer Facebook 

Sad Iron (Netherlands) – ‘The Antichrist’ (Heavy Metal, Tonefloat Records)

SadIron-TheAntichrist

Rotterdam based label Tonefloat recently released a compilation with Dutch heavy metal bands from the early 80s. Beautifully compiled by journalist Robert Haagsma. The label now set up a subsidiary called Dutch Steel and the first release is the album ‘The Antichrist’ by Sad Iron. This album was recorded in 1985 and was supposed to be the follow-up to their 1983 debut ‘Total Damnation’. Problems with their label resulted in this album being shelved although copies floated around the tape-trading scene. Later on even bootleg versions popped up, but now the album sees an official released with the recordings being polished up and the artwork revamped. Killer satanic heavy metal that shows how it was in the 80s. – Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste)

Sad Iron Official 

Gehennah (Sweden) – ‘Too Loud to Live, Too Drunk to Die’ (Black/Thrash Metal, Metal Blade Records)


Gehennah-tooloudtolive

Old-school and filthy metal has been dominant in 2016 with Baphomet’s Blood taking top honors in January and Sweden’s Gehennah blowing everything else out of the water in February. Too Loud to Live, Too Drunk to Die finds the long running band return with riff after riff of sleazy black/thrash and heavy metal that has a punk edge to it. The album hits with the force of a drunk truck driver and has that don’t give a fuck attitude that makes this particular metal variant so appealing, and it’s delivered with such conviction that you’ll be spinning this one for months to come. It may have taken Gehennah close to twenty years to deliver another full length record following 1997’s ‘Decibel Rebel’ but it was definitely worth it. Crack a beer, pour some whiskey, and crank this sucker up. – Chris Dalhberg

Metal Blade Records | Gehennah Facebook

Rotting Christ (Greece) – ‘Rituals’ (Extreme Metal, Season of Mist)

RottingChrist-Rituals

This 11 track album has it all-a cameo from a certain Paradise Lost band member and spoken word recitations of Baudelaire, plenty of references to mythos, religions and absolutely grandiose riffs. These extreme metal musicians from the Hellenic Republic bring a lot to the recording room every time they make an album and ‘Rituals’ is no different. The vocals are operatic and ethereal, the riffs are tight and intense and the drumming is thunderous. Fans of extreme metal music will be very pleased with Rotting Christ‘s new album and they have plenty of reasons to be. Worth listening for fans and the uninitiated. – Dinesh Raghavendra

Rotting Christ Official Site | Season of Mist Records

Graveyard Dirt (Ireland) – ‘Of Romance and Fire’ 10” + ‘Shadows of Old Ghosts’ 12” (Doom/Death Metal, Sentinel Records)

GraveyardDirt

Graveyard Dirt is one of those Irish gems. This band simply is amazing but hardly anyone notices their brilliance. Sentinel Records (also from Ireland) understands that this band needs to be heard and reissued the 1996 demo ‘Of Romance and Fire’ and the 2007 EP ‘Shadows of Old Ghosts’ on 10” respectively 12” vinyl. Killer doom/death metal in the vein of acts like Paradise Lost, Mourning Beloveth, Morgion or old Anathema– Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste)

Sentinel Records | Graveyard Dirt Facebook

Moon Tooth (US) – ‘Chromaparagon’ (Progressive/Sludge, Self-Released)

MoonTooth

In this day and age, with countless new bands popping up all across the globe, one needs to find their unique sound and identity to stand out from the crowd. On ‘Chromaparagon’, Moon Tooth seem to have done exactly that. Over the 12 songs the band brings in a mix of stoner and prog rock, that is mashed together with some heavy sludge metal and even dopes with some blues tunes, resulting in one high octane/ weird album! Chunky riffs, virtuoso leads, and energy filled vocals, this one has it all. Simply put, the level of musicianship on the record is stunning where every member stands out on a level of his own, making the album one of the most fun filled records you will come across in 2016! Do I need to go on further? If you like anything ranging from Rush to Mastodon to Sikth, chances are you will enjoy this one quite a bit. – Vidur Paliwal

Moon Tooth Facebook 

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