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January 2017 Highlights – TO Staff

January is usually that time of the year, where everyone seems to be recovering from the holiday season. The month in terms of metal releases is usually quite dull. But this time around, the momentum of quality releases from 2016 seems to have spilled over into the first month of 2017 as well. So without further ado, here is that thing we do where we tell you what kicked ass this month (according to us atleast). ~ Shrivatsan R

Ashenspire (UK) – Speak not of the Laudanum Quandary (Avant Garde Metal, Code666)

Ashenspire

 

Scottish quartet Ashenspire dropped their debut release this month and this is not a record to be taken lightly. Chock full of emotionally evocative tracks, this record does away with sub genre boundaries to create a deeply layered record whose subject matter is equally evocative as the music. The melancholic violins coupled with the blackened metal riffs come together beautifully to create epic pieces of music, which is given an extra boost of melancholy by the pained and anguished sounding vocals. Needless to say, this is not an album to be recommended as an easy listen. ‘Speak not of the Laudanum Quandary’ is rather a work of art that needs to be experienced in it’s full album format. ~ Shrivatsan R

Au Champ des Morts (France) – Dans la Joie (Atmospheric Post-Black Metal, Debemur Morti Productions)

Au Champ des Morts- Dans la Joie

Oh, atmospheric black metal…will I ever get enough of you? Such a rich, fertile ground it seems, one on which French black metallers Au Champ des Morts have firmly established themselves. Rich, textured and emotive black metal is what we get on ‘Dans la Joie’. Sharp and professional in tone, the band have produced a top quality album that’ll keep you captivated throughout its playing time. It’s a contemporary take on the style that sees the band taking orthodox influences and adding to them with atmospheric, post-black metal and blackgaze elements. The result? 52 minutes of first-rate emotive black metal. ~ Nigel Holloway

Code Orange (USA) – Forever (Hardcore / Metalcore, Roadrunner Records)

Code Orange

Well shit. I really can’t describe this better than my friend who recommended it to me. He said it sounds like these guys could give a crap for what everyone else is doing. Truth. There have been those out there who downed this release for “lazy” songwriting when discussing the sudden, often jarring, breaks of ambience amidst the otherwise hard-hitting (ruthless even) compositions. F@#k those guys. I love it. I love that Code Orange is not afraid to maintain its own vision and eclectic style by taking unexpected twists and turns both within tracks and the album as a whole. Where else can you get a catchy 90’s grunge anthem like Bleeding Through The Blur on a release that at other times could only be compared to Nails? I have come to also love their previous release, ‘I Am King,’ but with the help of Roadrunner to step of the production, they have released what will surely be one of the best hardcore records this year. ~ FlightOfIcarus

Dead Bhuttos (Pakistan) – Democracy is the Best Revenge (Hardcore Punk, Self Released)

Dead Bhuttos

Do you like punk? What about politically charged lyrics coupled with sharp, spastic riffs? If you answered yes to these questions, then here is the EP for you. Comprising of members from Multinational Corporations and The Kominas, this Pakistani trio conjure up three quick tracks of raw hardcore punk that gets straight to the point. Though short in it’s play time, the sheer enjoyability of it all is sure to have one smashing that replay button multiple times. ~ Shrivatsan R

Drab Majesty (USA) – The Demonstration (Post-Punk / Darkwave, Dais Records)

With dreary melodies and thick atmosphere, post punk and darkwave are just as likely to appeal to metalheads as some of the harsher genres they spend the majority of their time with. For this reason it makes sense to include Drab Majesty’s sophomore effort ‘The Demonstration’, as it’s not only one of the catchiest and atmospheric releases from those genres this month but it might still be one of the best representations come year end. Originally a solo project, but now a duo, Drab Majesty channels dark and gloomy melodies with both guitars and synth work, letting them expand naturally outwards in a way that casts you under its icy spell. Deb Demure’s vocals hang over the air with an otherworldly, specter-like presence, which is perfectly suited for a group that explores elements of cult rituals and other dimensional phenomena in their lyrics. Put on all black, turn the volume up, and dance the night away to your inevitable demise with ‘The Demonstation’. ~ Chris Dahlberg

The Drip (USA) – The Haunting Fear of Inevitability (Grindcore, Relapse Records)

Washington grind force The Drip had been turning heads in the underground with their EP releases and this January finally saw a full length release from these guys. ‘The Haunting Fear of Inevitability’ does not merely satisfy expectations set by previous release. It rather manages to surpass them. With a sound that packs a powerful punch, this release unleashes riff after riff mercilessly. The constant change in direction combined with captivating grooves makes this not only a fresh sounding record, but an incredibly crushing one as well. Despite the various elements at play like the odd blackened melodies subtly injected into the mix, The Drip continue to maintain that core grind sound, bringing to mind other modern grindcore bands like Nasum and Rotten Sound. Simply put, this is a relentless 30 minute grind assault that will leave you saying “wow” as the riffs proceed to crush your face. ~ Shrivatsan R

Emptiness (Belgium) – Not For Music (Avant-Garde Black / Death Metal, Season of Mist)

Emptiness

I have lately been trying to stick to just one album for these month lists, but it was impossible for me to choose between two very different releases this time around. ‘Nothing But The Whole’ was not only one of my favorite albums of 2015, but one that has stuck with me to this day. Emptiness turned a genre on its head and further evolved “heaviness” beyond definitions involving volume and brutality. With ‘Not For Music’, this campaign for innovation continues forward in big way. Even more of the death metal riffing has been abandoned in favor of dreamlike-Lynchian nightmarescapes involving synthesizers and undistorted guitar effects. The vocals, despite being no more than a grumbled whisper much of the time, are ominous as shit. That true form of terror that lurks in the shadows as opposed to the hokey monster standing right out in front of the camera. Blackened death metal gone almost Bowie even at times. I never pre-order anything, but this was an obvious choice. ~ FlightOfIcarus

Plasmodium (Australia) – Entheognosis (Psychedelic Black / Death Metal, Cimmerian Shade Recordings)

Plasmodium from Australia are twisting the conventional black / death metal music in ways one wouldn’t imagine. Reminiscent of the UK act MRTVI who’re creating patterns out of what would appear like sheer noise and add a touch of psychedelia to it, Plasmodium do it in a slightly more refined manner but it’s every bit as unpredictable and bizarre. This is not for the faint-hearted but those who yearn for music that’s challenging and pushes the limits. After listening to decades of normal extreme metal music, this is something that is genuinely exciting and welcome. The style needs more of this than the done-to-death Blasphemy / Impiety clones. ~ Kunal Choksi (Editor-in-Chief)

Repulsive Vision (UK) – Look Past the Gore and See the Art (Death Metal, Self Released)

Here we have some marvelously repulsive (ahem), old school death metal from the UK. The band play their death metal with both feet firmly in the old-school, but they also include elements of hardcore/punk here and there too. Influenced by the classics it may be, but the album definitely has its own personality. The entire thing is a very enjoyable romp through aggressive lands. Catchy and memorable, ‘Look Past the Gore and See the Art’ is a sick piece of death metal art. ~ Nigel Holloway

Shaarimoth (Norway) – Temple of the Adversarial Fire (Blackened Death Metal, World Terror Committee)

Shaarimoth- Temple of the Adversarial Fire

Twelve years between albums is quite a long time, but after the first time through Shaarimoth’s sophomore effort ‘Temple of the Adversarial Fire’ I think you’ll agree that the longer incubation period has been well spent. Where their debut skewed more towards traditional death metal, this effort blurs the lines between death metal and black metal with ambient passages integrated in to create a dense, ritualistic atmosphere. With a lumbering bottom end that delivers a dense, destructive sound and swirling melodies that are capable of channeling dark and mysterious elements, each song on ‘Temple of the Adversarial Fire’ flows seamlessly into the next and creates a listening experience that keeps you under its clutches from beginning to end. The vocals also deserve special mention, with some of the high shrieks sounding like truly demonic entities. Shaarimoth has created a ritual through music, and unlike some of the other bands that try to claim that this feels like the real deal. ~ Chris Dahlberg

 

 

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