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July 2016 Highlights – TO Staff

What a month this has been! The sheer number of solid releases that July 2016 had is mind boggling. Releases from the likes of Black Crown Initiate, Revocation, Vulvodynia, Defeated Sanity etc made sure that putting together this list would involve a lot of hard choices. I’m glad to report that the Transcending Obscurity staff have delivered once again, with a list that keeps the focus away from the mainstream (for most parts anyway)

On a personal front, July 2016 was the month of sludge. Be it by accident or design, almost all albums I enjoyed this month included a strong sludge metal side to it. This includes the likes of Bädr Vogu, Tides of Sulfur and Inter Arma. Maybe it is the persistent rains here, but this seems to be the season for some heavy, crawling riffs to leave one in a trance.

As always, check out all the albums listed below and tell us why we’re wrong / right in picking what we picked. ~ Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Blood Red Throne (Death Metal, Norway) – Union of Flesh and Machine (Candlelight Records)

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‘Union of Flesh and Machine’ is one hell of a release from Blood Red Throne, and definitely one of their strongest to date. While their self-titled comparatively seems like a step in a different direction, the band took those ideas and meshed them together with the groove filled hostility they founded themselves under to elevate their initial presence to a far more burdening level. Yes, some songs can walk along the straight-and-narrow a little too closely, though it never really feels like filler material save for Leather Rebel, but even that’s just something more out-of-place and time than anything that negatively affects the overall impact of the album. ‘Union of Flesh and Machine’ delivers on basically every level one could hope for, and long time fans definitely won’t be disappointed with this fresh dose of aggression. ~ Apoch Weiss

Ade (Death Metal, Italy) – Carthago Delenda Est (Xtreem Music)

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Ade have far surpassed their debut album with this one – it’s epic, mystical and also cutting-edge. It is rare that bands, especially the forward-thinking ones, incorporate that Eastern epic touch into their music but Ade are an exception. Everything about this release is grandiose. It’s Behemoth, Hour of Penance and Fleshgod Apocalypse all rolled into one but without diminishing the original intensity of these bands. Over here they seem to step out of the shadow of Nile and create music that’s fresh and also sonically powerful. Moreover, the writing doesn’t seem forced and is as hard-hitting as it can get. If you’re looking for a scintillating experience, this is it. ~ Kunal Choksi (Editor-in-chief)

Dejected Mass (Death / Doom Metal, Germany) – Dirge (Independent)

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‘Dirge’ is a piece of funeral / sludge / death / doom, relentlessly heavy and slow. This is six songs and 53 minutes radiating an atmosphere that is as menacing as it is sorrowful and it’s darker than the most bottomless abyss. The sound is monolithic, massive, intense. Thick walls of distorted riffs, destructive and filthy as hell, numb your mind, crush your skull and poison your soul. The four guys from Germany, that are Dejected Mass have created a quite unique style that keeps viscosity, rigidity, heaviness and density, just below the border line to complete stagnation that you wonder that there’s a sense of motion and air to breathe at all. But there is, and this is torturing and awe-inspiring. The lyrics match the poisoned, misanthropic atmosphere pretty well, covering themes like self-loathing, hate, depression, pain and sorrow. ~ Ulla Roschat

Dust Bolt (Thrash Metal, Germany) – Mass Confusion (Napalm Records)

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When it comes to more well known thrash bands, Dust Bolt isn’t exactly at the top of the list, but those of us who’ve heard them know that they aren’t fucking around on any of their albums. And just when most of us thought it couldn’t get any better, ‘Mass Confusion’ comes along and punches us in the fucking nads. Busting out with mind blowing thrash metal that we’ve seen coming from Dust Bolt for years and years, but never did we think it’d come in such a huge way on their third album in six years. Eleven tracks and over 45 minutes of speed, tempered skill, and pure talent merge together flawlessly to create a thrash experience that is damn near unparalleled for the newer generation of bands. Stunning, creative, and an excellent time front to back, Dust Bolt does not cease to reward those who listen yet again. ~ Vinter Dee

Fistula (Sludge Metal, USA) – Longing for Infection (Self Released)

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Purveying some of the most disturbing and dark forms of sludge metal, Fistula’s latest full length ‘Longing for Infection’ is a belter of a record. Combining the slamming intensity of hardcore with the monolithic heaviness of sludge, Fistula have a record that leaves the listener gasping for breath by the end of it. The record as a whole has a very demented and dark feeling, which is only compounded by the haunting shrieks of vocalist. Ranging from slow, crushing sludge riffs to high energy hardcore rhythms, this record manages to scratch every itch a sludge metal fan would have. That and killer song writing skills combine to produce on the heaviest and most engaging albums this year. ~ Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Grond (Death Metal, Russia) – Worship the Kraken (Xtreem Music)

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You there! Want to pretend that you’re the death metal equivalent of Aquaman and get up close and personal with lots of evil-looking marine life? Sure you do! Grond have got all of this going on, by the looks of their impressive cover artwork at least. Once you finally get all of this out of your system and press play, (while hugging your dearly-beloved trident for good measure), you’re treated to some of the best undersea death metal that clams can buy, (that’s a currency, right?). Anyway, this is the squid’s balls, as it’s ultra-heavy, ultra-brutal and ultra-good, all catchiness, watery atmosphere and crushing brutality. Break out the flippers and get ready to worship, as this particular Kraken is definitely worth it. Damn. ~ Nigel Holloway

Inter Arma (Sludge / Post-Metal, USA) – Paradise Gallows (Relapse Records)

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After their 2014 release ‘The Cavern’, which was my favourite release of that year, pretty much, who knew Inter Arma still had so much awesome in them? Well, if you weren’t aware of their status as High Lords of the Super Awesome (TM), then it’s time to correct this oversight with their latest full-length, ‘Paradise Gallows’. Yes, this is one shit-kicker of an album. Yes, I’m not really sure what that means, but it sounds apt. On ‘Paradise Gallows’ you get 70 minutes of post-metal/doom/sludge/whatever awesomeness. It’s a lot, but doesn’t seem like it. This is exceptionally good and I heartily suggest that you drop whatever it is you’re about to do that you think is so damn important, (it isn’t), and listen to this as soon as you can. Off you go. Now. You won’t regret it. ~ Nigel Holloway

MAKE (Doom / Drone / Post-Metal, USA) – Pilgrimage of Loathing (Accident Prone Records)

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‘Pilgrimage Of Loathing’ is the third full length album of doom / drone / post-metal outfit MAKE from North Carolina and their heaviest and angriest so far. And right from the start and throughout the album you feel that this anger is not only a stylistic means, but a heartfelt anger and that is aimed at repressive US and especially NC politics (key word: House Bill 2). MAKE put a lot of psychedelic sludge and black metal elements into their blend and created album of six distinctive songs (one of them an amazing cover of the Stooges song Dirt) Nonetheless, the songs are wonderfully complected into an organic entity, not only by its overall subject, but also by linking and overarching musical elements.
And although the songs are multi-layered and carefully structured, all the ferocious and raging emotions the album is charged with, are unleashed upon the listener with an instant and unbridled powerful violence – aggressive, abrasive, harsh and heavy. ~ Ulla Roschat

Mortalized (Grindcore, Japan) – 呪われた …Complete Mortality (Blastasfuk Grindcore)

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A band can be compared to a sentient organic creature that goes through a lot of metamorphosis over time. Grind bands tend to have a shorter lifespan on an average, compared to bands from other styles. Mortalized from Japan was one such short lived project and was one of the first bands that Takafumi Matsubara was part of. Being the big Gridlink fan that I am, this compilation release by Blastasfuk came as a revelation. This compilation documents all splits and EPs that Mortalized had released over the span of 13 years and through the course of this record, one could see the metamorphosis of the band itself across the span of the album. The style varies from straight up old school grindcore, to Discordance Axis inspired chaotic tech grind. There are a couple of noise / ambient tracks in there as well. Mortalized is a grindcore gem and I’m glad Blastasfuk made this compilation. Chaotic, mind bending and overwhelmingly noisy, this is classic grind. ~ Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Periphery (Progressive Metalcore, USA) – Periphery III: Select Difficulty (Sumerian Records)

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Call me a fanboy, call me untr00. I don’t care. This album is a blast, and never at the expense of solid songwriting and neck-snapping musicianship. If you are opposed to having fun, by all means don’t listen to this record. Go back to your front porch and keep shaking your cane at all those young whipper-snappers to get off your lawn. But if you are into mixing absurdly heavy riffs with righteous melody, strings, and catchy AF vocals, get in here. If you’ve never listened to the band before, now is as good a time as any to hear one of the best progressive metalcore acts out there. If you’re a longtime fan like me, I will make the bold statement that this may be their best release to date. ~ FlightOfIcarus

Seedna (Atmospheric Black Metal, Sweden) – Forlorn (Transcending Obscurity)

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Well, what can you say about this one? 2016 has already been a pretty stellar year for music, Hell, July alone has been a pretty damn great month; Seedna are another great example of some of the, frankly, fantastic music that’s out there if you’re willing to look. This is over an hour of highly emotive black metal with lashings of atmosphere and doom. This really is a great album. But hey, don’t take my word for it – just give it a listen for yourself and revel in its silky dark caress. ~ Nigel Holloway

Storm of Particles (Melodic Death Metal, Italy) – Storm of Particles (Independent)

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Storm of Particles is a very promising debut recording from the band of the same name, though one could only wish it were a little better in the studio and mastering departments. The performances themselves are often brilliant and leave you not only with a lasting memory of the many addicting passages strewn about, but also feeling a surge of energy through your body from the material. There is no denying this Italian quartet has the chops and ability to run with the big dogs, which is a surprise in and of itself. Rarely do you ever get such a tightly knit and memorable demo recording this day and age, especially from such an early point in the band’s career. Storm of Particles is a name you’re going to want to remember, and a five song recording fans of the melodic death metal genre definitely need to hear. ~ Apoch Weiss

Vanhelgd (Death Metal, Sweden) – Temple of Phobos (Dark Descent Records/Pulverised Records)

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Vanhelgd seems to have flown under the radar compared to some of the other Swedish death metal out there, which is a shame considering they have a lot of the competition beat. After 2014’s ‘Relics of Sulphur Salvation’ blew me away, this year’s ‘Temple of Phobos’ was one of my most anticipated releases and Vanhelgd has once again delivered. Not only is there plenty of the crunchy, buzzsaw style death metal that rips through your skull with immense force and speed, but this time around the instrumentalists have slowed things down quite a bit. With riffs moving at half speed, atmosphere builds in a way that’s reminiscent of some of the best doom and death/doom that came out of Europe in the early 90s. Plus the vocals once again come in as tortured wails and scratchy yells that sound as deranged as possible. It’s not as immediate of an album as its predecessor, but give time to explore all the layers and you’ll find ‘Temple of Phobos’ to have plenty of depth. Almost ten years after their formation, it’s time for these guys to step further into the spotlight. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Verwoed (Black Metal, Netherlands) – Bodemloos (Argento Records)

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Originally known as Woudlouper, Dutch black metal band Verwoed’s new EP ‘Bodemloos’ is one of the most stunning additions to the genre I’ve heard so far this year. This one man project delivers a dense, shifting sound throughout each of the three songs that outclasses what a lot of bands with multiple members have come up with. The title track comes roaring out of the gate with unsettling riffing that gets under your skin and a dense cavernous sound that gives off as much of a death metal vibe as it does black metal. But this isn’t a one trick EP where the blasting dominates everything, as the harsh, cavernous sound gives way to shimmering melodies that have a bit of a psychedelic flair while still capturing a nihilistic feel. Captivating from start to finish with bursts of all-out violence and somber reflection woven into each piece, Verwoed is an impressive newcomer that is sure to only keep getting better. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Witherscape (Progressive Death Metal, Sweden) – The Northern Sanctuary (Century Media)

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Swedish metal band Witherscape is the studio project of Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale) and Ragnar Widerberg. Their sophomore album ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is a concept album and builds on the story from their previous releases. The album is a mix of melodic death metal and 80’s progressive rock; check out the track In The Eyes Of Idols below to get an idea of the sound. Another masterpiece from Dan Swano. Read my interview with Dan Swano here! ~ Peter Kotikalapudi

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