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June 2016 Highlights – TO Staff

Whoa! We’ve completed one half of 2016 already? Time flies indeed! Looking back at the past 4 monthly highlight pieces (we skipped Jan 2016, because we were still hungover from the highlights of 2016), it looks like year end lists will be a very daunting task.

For June, as always, the Transcending Obscurity staff have identified albums across the metal spectrum. There is something for everyone here and all you need to do is sit back, stream / buy the albums below and thank us later. ~ Shrivatsan R

Astronoid (USA) – Air (Blood Music)

‘Air’ is the most talked about release at the moment among metal fans and press alike. A couple of spins of the album is all it takes to realise why. Listen to Up and Atom’s  and Air, my favourite tracks from the album. The music might remind some of Devin Townsend and Deafhaven, but let me assure you that this is a completely refreshing sound. I am confident that this is going to be one of my top ten metal releases this year, despite it being just halfway through the year. Count this as another killer release from Blood Music this year. ~ Peter Kotikalapudi

Blaakyum (Lebanon) – Line of Fear (Self Released)

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Blaakyum, the oldest metal band from Lebanon is back with a new album after 4 years. ‘Line of Fear’ echoes the violence in the country. The band have added oriental percussion to their aggressive thrash sound on this album and I think it fits in quite well. Listen to the tracks the title track, Freedom Denied and Baal-Adon. This is definitely one of the best metal releases from the Middle East this year. Blaakyum are touring Europe with Onslaught this September, not a band to be missed live. ~ Peter Kotikalapudi

Black Fucking Cancer (USA)- Black Fucking Cancer (Osmose Productions)

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It has been a long time coming, but Black Fucking Cancer’s self-titled debut has been worth the wait. For a while it looked like the U.S. black metal band might have disappeared after 2011’s well received ‘Summoning Aural Hell’ demo, but clearly they’ve just been taking their time to make some of the filthiest, violent U.S. black metal out there. Clocking in at nearly an hour in length across seven songs, the band’s attack is centered around layers of dense blasting and aural chaos that build to suffocating levels over expanded periods of time. These longer periods of time aren’t padded out by extended intros or outros either, with the bulk of each song made up of abrasive blast beats and filthy tonality. Even when the group slows things down a bit, the guitar work is razor sharp and tears through you like a rusty dagger. The twelve and a half minute Acid Ocean is a perfect example of what makes Black Fucking Cancer so damn good, as destructive and fiery blasting gives way to a slow, unsettling melody that feels like it’s urging you to go set the nearest cluster of buildings ablaze. This is the real deal. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Grace Disgraced (Russia) – Lasting Afterdeaths (Razed Soul Productions)

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Grace Disgraced impressed me with their ‘The Primal Cause: Womanumental’ release – the Death worship on it is hard to dislike but I appreciated the innovation particularly, not to mention the rawer vocals of Miss Polina (when we’re talking about ‘Symbolic’ era comparison). ‘Lasting Afterdeaths’ is the latest album by Grace Disgraced and they’ve definitely taken it up by a few notches. The technicality and variations have increased and it has rendered the album even more engrossing and absorbing. With individual artworks created for each song, the passion, the ambition and the overall approach has to be applauded. This is recommended for fans of mid/late-period Death and/or well-concocted death metal music. ~ Kunal Choksi (Editor-in-Chief)

If These Trees Could Talk (USA) – The Bones of a Dying World (Metalblade)

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Instrumental post metal has cemented itself as being redundant today. Bedroom projects aside the stalwarts of this subgenre niche have had nothing commendable to boast as of late. With the exception of possibly Russian Circles, familiar giants such as Pelican and Toundra‘s latest releases have all been nothing but glorified duds. Truly relegating itself to comfy background music at most. ‘If These Trees Could Talk’ on the other hand have not necessarily been groundbreaking by any means. Theirs is but a strength that stems from a sturdy foundation. Past two releases have been nothing been nothing short of solid and appealing to every discerning niche lover. ‘The Bones of a Dying World’ then stays the course and is yet another triumph of expanding the tried and tested framework onto an even greater territory. A language cold and dreary, and the sorrow that it begets is what this record speaks. ~ Deckard Cain

Kayo Dot (USA) – Plastic House on Base of Sky (The Flenser)

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Kayo Dot has covered so much ground since 2003 that it can be hard to predict exactly what you’re going to hear when you put one of their albums on. Their latest full length Plastic House on Base of Sky’ does bare some similarities to 2014’s ‘Coffins on Io’, but pushes completely into electronic territory with an emphasis on a mechanical post-human future and mysterious lyrics and instrumental textures. With a wide range of synthesizers at work throughout each of the five songs and methodical, sprawled out drumming, Kayo Dot’s latest feels like it falls somewhere between experimental electronic, new wave, and Kraut·rock. The textures of the synths give off a mysterious, otherworldly feel that ties into the cryptic musings of the lyrical content. While they’ve once again pushed about as far away from the metal side of the spectrum as one can get, the darker, futuristic sounds throughout ‘Plastic House on Base of Sky’ should still appeal to the metal fan base quite a bit. Throw some headphones on and get sucked into Kayo Dot’s futuristic soundscapes, as this is an album you’ll want extended time to explore. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Nails (USA) – You Will Never Be One of Us (Nuclear Blast)

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The third album from this US grind/powerviolence band is 22 minutes of flawless brutality and savagery unleashed. How to describe the aural pain that Nails inflict? Words don’t really do the band justice, you just need to hear them really. As far as this kind of short, brutal music goes this is about as essential as it gets to my mind. Nails have produced something special here. Make sure you check this out. ~ Nigel Holloway

Nevoa (Portugal) – Re Un (Avantgarde Music)

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Portugal is proving to be a hotbed for unique artists. Just when I thought Colosso was taking the sound ahead albeit in the death metal realm, I chanced upon Nevoa. The music has a thick, yet somewhat translucent and dreamy quality to it, partially reminiscent of the French band Eibon, but are more minimalist and atmospheric as opposed to being progressive, and remain poised in a realm between sludge and black metal. Highgate’s exploits come to mind as well, but Nevoa are more subtle and keep it experimental, unpredictable, interesting. Avantgarde Music has lent to this release its touch of class and that only helps. ~ Kunal Choksi (Editor-in-Chief)

Sink (Finland) – Ark of Contempt & Anger (Svart Records)

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Sink’s latest offering ‘Ark of Contempt & Anger’ is one of the weirdest, highly erratic yet magical album that I have come across in 2016. The ark the band manages to build does not stick to any particular genre or form, rather blending in sounds from far and wide. At times it even feels more of a post-pop record (is that a thing?) rather than a metal record. Yet, its doomy-gothic-noise mixture offers one beautiful listening experience to the listeners. From synth-driven melodies, to pure drone noise enchantment, this album flows through it all giving the listener a truly memorable experience. Given its experimental form, the album is definitely not a one spin record and it takes multiple spin to decipher the hidden beauty behind the hum and the buzz. But once that black cloth is removed from the picture, one finds himself staring at a masterpiece. In an age, where every second band is trying to mimic another, Sink have created something extremely unique and beautiful. ~ Vidur Paliwal

Thrawsunblat (Canada) – Metachthonia (Broken Limbs Recordings)

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Having been a big fan of Woods of Ypres, the existence of Thrawsunblat came to me as a pleasant surprise. ‘Metachthonia’ is the band’s second outing after David Gold’s untimely demise and it is a concept album of sorts with all the tracks revolving around the how modern society has abandoned it’s natural roots on account of industrialization and automation. The strong melancholic tone of the music harks back to the sound of Woods of Ypres. It blends together beautifully with the blackened pagan metal style of Thrawsunblat. There is a beautiful side to the music which can be attributed to the moving clean vocals and the addition of a cello. One of the more emotionally evocative albums this year, it is perfect for a hike through lush greens.  ~ Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

ThrOes (Australia) – This Viper Womb (Aesthetic Death)

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ThrOes is what happens when a person gets completely disillusioned with the current metal scene and decides to create something that is completely unique. The band’s debut full length ‘This Viper Womb’ achieves just that. Calling it “dissident metal”, the influences in the music can be traced back to black metal, death metal, doom metal and even a bit of dark metal. But overarching sound of the album cannot be classified under any of the usual sub genres. The music tends to have a very hypnotic effect, filled to the brim with atonal guitar riffs that can induce a trance. The organic progression in the music and the strong sense of mysticism brought on by the dense atmosphere make this record a very engrossing affair. By not adhering to any of the tried and tested templates, ThrOes create music that encompasses a broad spectrum of extreme metal. One could stick this under the “avant-garde” umbrella term, but that wouldn’t do justice to the music. Let’s just call it a well done piece of extreme metal that manages to eschew traditional approaches to the style. ~ Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Void Obelisk (Germany) – A Journey Through The Twelve Hours of The Night (Meta Matter Records)

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Doom, sludge and drone are the dominant elements here. They are in charge of the heaviness and darkness, bits of electronic noise and psychedelia of the eeriness and obscurity. The use of a variety of instruments apart from the obvious ones offers a world of possibilities in terms of arranging and structuring the songs and the entire album. And the four guys who are Void Obelisk play with this world like Michael Jordan with a basketball. With ‘A Journey Through The Twelve Hours of The Night’ they created a concept album (their debut !!!) that truly deserves that name. It’s thoughtfully composed and the four rather long songs are each a piece of the whole album, each related to a stage of the journey through the underworld on which they accompany the dead … on the ancient Egyptian paths, that is. The song titles indicate that deities like Sokar and Apep are involved which are connected to notions of death, darkness and chaos. And who wouldn’t want to take that trip (not now – later) with a soundtrack as varied, exciting and cinematic as this. ~ Ulla Roschat

Winterhymn (USA) – Blood & Shadow (Soundage Productions)

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There were a lot more great releases in June, particularly when it comes to black metal. However, I felt like more attention needed to be paid to an album that hasn’t really made the rounds as much as the others. Ohio’s Winterhymn absolutely killed it with their new album in terms of creating something fun with tons of replay value. It’s the perfect fusion of melodic death metal and folk. The Celtic-sounding strings, the catchy melodies, the righteous sing-alongs…nailed it. If you dig bands like Wilderun, you should get a lot of mileage out of ”Blood & Shadow. Check out two tracks below and follow the link on the album page for more. ~ FlightOfIcarus

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