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March 2016 Highlights – TO Staff

It is not until you are a part of a collective of like minded writers that you truly realize the amount of quality releases out there. Personally, I felt March 2016 had a bit of a dry spell and only when collating this article did I discover,  bands that I was previously unaware of. The highlights of March as compiled by my compadres, spans the entire spectrum of heavy metal, including thrash, black, death, doom, grind and even noise. So without further ado, I present to you the stand out albums of March 2016.

Abyssic (Norway) – A Winter’s Tale (Osmose Productions)


Norway’s Abyssic have unleashed a monster of an album on the world with ‘A Winter’s Tale’. Featuring almost 80 minutes of music, this is symphonic death / doom with an unashamedly epic scope and production. It may be a lengthy release, but it’s easy to get absorbed into the lavish atmospheres. The mix of classical orchestration and brutal heaviness makes this a compelling collection of music, not to be missed. – Nigel Holloway

Anthrax (USA) – For All Kings (Megaforce Records)


First album in 5 years, second album since the return of Joey Belladonna, ‘For All Kings’ sees Anthrax in a rich vein of form. A consistent album, setting a high standard from the off and not dipping through to the final Thrashings. ‘For All Kings’ is Anthrax’s heaviest album in a long time, and is also the riffiest and most Metal! Whether it’s the catchiness of Breathing Lightning, the serrated speed of Zero Tolerance, the crushing Pantera-isms of All of them Thieves, or classic stomp of Evil Twin and This Battle Chose Us, this album delivers the goods. Belladonna feeling more at home than he has since the band’s 80s heyday, and new lead guitarist Jonathan Donais truly shines. This is the best Anthrax release since ‘Sound of White Noise’, and the closest to the logical follow up to ‘Persistence of Time’ that one could hope for. The most relevant band from the Big 4 currently? You betcha! And by some way too. -Ewan Gibb

Beastmaker (USA) – Lusus Naturae (Rise Above Records)


Beastmaker is the second doom band to grace my pick of March’s best albums, and while they skew far more traditional than Plateau Sigma this approach is definitely not a bad thing. The difference with Beastmaker and a lot of the other “retro doom” out there is that they aren’t just blatantly mimicking Black Sabbath riffs and calling it a day. There’s a lot more happening on their debut full length ‘Lusus Naturae’, and it’s great to find another band of this type that can channel the horror and occult themes of classic doom but also has the songwriting chops to back it up. Beastmaker heads into Sabbath territory at times, but there are also some blues rock style elements that wouldn’t feel out of place on one of Danzig’s earlier solo records and nods at older occult rock bands like Coven. Rise Above Records has a knack for finding groups that nail the classic doom/occult rock vibe but aren’t mere imitators, and these guys are another great example. – Chris Dahlberg

The Body & Full of Hell (USA) – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache (Neurot Recordings)


When noise-mongers Full of Hell got together with doom duo The Body, one cannot help but expect an output that sounds like the fever dream of a deranged schizophrenic. Bringing together traces of grindcore, doom and heaps of industrial noise, the album is not something many people will enjoy. The tracks often lack a proper structure and they can be quite overwhelming with the noise elements. But the album itself is meant to be a misanthropic expression of the dark corners of humanity. It’s a deep emotional experience that immerses the listener in a wave of sonic dissonance. The styles of the two bands blend together quite nicely, making the album an amalgamation of sorts. It’s punishing, often inaccessible and it makes the listener put in effort, which is exactly why I love this record. –Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Bushwhacker (Canada) – The False Dilemma (Independent)


File this under biggest surprises of 2016 so far. I took one look at that band name in my inbox and was ready to pass. Fortunately for all of you, I try to not judge a book by its cover. Bushwhacker play some kick-ass progressive metal in the vein of groups like Mastadon, but occasionally hit the fury and speed of Lamb of God in the process. If we really want to talk about the biggest highlight here, you have got to hear this drummer. The man is diabolical. -FlightOfIcarus

Casket Robbery (USA) – Evolution Of Evil (Mortal Music)


Wisconsin’s Casket Robbery are back at it again with another taste of melodic groovy death slop that’s recommended for fans of Jungle Rot, Gojira and Pantera. But I’m hearing other acts in there, like Australia’s Eight Foot Sativa and even Walking Corpse Syndrome, who you already know are one of my favorites. The record features a guest solo from John Laux of Warbringer as well as a guest speaking role from horror filmmaker Cory Udler (who I’m oddly not aware of for some reason, even though I’m very particular about my horror films after having seen so many sub-par efforts that didn’t manage to come off either funny or scary). In any case, the disc delivers as far as I’m concerned and I was quite happy with it the first time I heard it. There are many times where I’d more or less consider myself “The Groove Lord” and this is just the kind of album where that proves to be true. You’re not getting a very long record, but you’re getting a very thick one, which also contains slight instances of technicality, or what some might also call song structure. -Eric May

Cobalt (USA) – Slow Forever (Black Metal)


What more is there to say? If you aren’t aware of Cobalt yet, you don’t know USBM. If you aren’t aware of new vocalist Charlie Fell (ex-Lord Mantis, Abigail Williams) and his venomous vocal delivery, you have been living under a rock indeed. In any case, ‘Slow Forever’ fits quite nicely between ‘Gin’ and ‘Eater of Birds’ in terms of quality, and is every bit as good an entry point to the band. Get cracking and rectify your mistakes right now –FlightOfIcarus

Convulse (Finland) – Cycle Of Revenge (Svart Records)


Their second album after reforming in 2012, ‘Cycle Of Revenge’ marks the Finnish death metal metal trio’s fourth album overall. Based on what I’ve heard, these guys have been experimenting with a heck of a lot of prog and unfamiliar elements for the genre, which make for a type of death metal that isn’t really all that “brutal” or “heavy” but it’s still a lot of fun to listen to. It almost feels like one of those groovy prog-rock albums with all the vocals replaced by the death grunts, but it’s an approach that is unique and interesting enough that I’ll take it. I know, I know – some people just can’t fucking handle this sort of thing and I can understand that. But trust me when I say as sure as rain that there are upteen million death metal records that sound like death metal records, and probably less albums than I can count on all of my fingers and toes that sound like this. –Eric May

Draugnim (Finland) – Vulturine (Debemur Morti Productions)


I am increasingly disenchanted with the kind of metal that is being churned out today. What it has become is but a smorgasbord of different permutations and combinations tried out for their eventual effect on the lab rat that is the human species. Part utilitarian, part hack-job. Where is that majestic riff that rides forth into the void of irredeemable blackness? Where is that unmitigated inspiration that transcends the rut of temporal pleasure?
Draugnim hints at this. A war cry echoing out from the heathen hinterland of the North heralding the arrival of Damascus swords and linden shields innumerable. This is black metal at its most majestic and pagan self. Whole tracks revolve around a central theme unshakeable in its melodic proposition. Let them gales and blizzards abound! –Deckard Cain

G.A.S.(Indonesia) – Demoralisasi Penguasa Bangsa (Inferno Records)


The grindcore and powerviolence scene in Indonesia is vibrant and alive. Its most visible player is Bloody Mortir. East Javan unit G.A.S., who formed in 2009, plays a more modern form the genre, and leans more towards the hardcore end of the spectrum. ‘Demoralisasi Penguasa Bangsa’ is the band’s debut outing, one that draws mainly from European sources, especially German band Svffer. Deeply anti-authoritarian and decrying the socio-political problems of its country, the artwork – four corporate costumed rats tearing and gnawing at the Indonesian flag – is rich symbolically and metaphorically. In a culture where women, by and large, are subservient to men – G.A.S. is subversive by having not one, but two, females in its ranks with Sari Asyera (vocals) and Antonia Inri (drums). ‘Demoralisasi Penguasa Bangsa’ is the voice of a generation in protest. –Wouter Roemers

Like Rats (USA) – II (Southern Lord Recordings)


Chicago’s Like Rats has kept listeners waiting quite a bit for a follow-up to their 2012 full length, but one listen of ‘II’ is all it will take to confirm that the long period of time between records has been well spent. From beginning to end this one hits the listener with immense force but there’s substance to back it up. Coming in somewhere between the hardcore leaning death metal of Black Breath and grittier sludge, Like Rats has both the beatdown sections and lumbering riffing down perfectly. Add in the harsher vocals of Daniel Shea that go from in your face aggression to downright disgusting pitches, and you have an album with plenty of staying power. Another great addition to Southern Lord’s continuing dominance of this particular type of hardcore and death metal combo. –Chris Dahlberg

Livet Som Insats (Sweden) – Check Your Grind (Everydayhate Records)


The demise of legendary Swedish band Nasum left a void in the grindcore scene. Listening to ‘Check your Grind’, the latest album from Swedish grind trio Livet Som Insats, I feel they could fill up that void. The album has 24 killer song in under 24 minutes, not even one filler track on it. The songs end even before you can get a moshpit going. On tracks like Instadeth and Like And Share the band critique our society dependency on social media. Another killer release from Everydayhate after Wake’s ‘Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow’, Livet som insats are confirmed to play the Obscene Extreme Festival in Czech Republic later this year. Europeans (you lucky guys!) keep an eye out for their tour dates. – Peter Kotikalapudi

Necronomicon (Canada) – Advent of the Human Gods (Season of Mist)


‘Advent of the Human God’ stays in line with the delusional ramblings of The Mad Arab himself, or so it feels given the vast deserted wastelands of his time period that make up the foundation of this blistering new creation. Like always, Necronomicon present a new recording that feels like more of an experience than just your average collection of atmospherically charged compositions in or outside the scope of a conceptual release, and its that dark imagery surrounding H.P. Lovecraft’s ancient ones and their influence in humanity that continues to remain center stage in the death metal community despite being criminally overlooked. As mentioned, the main gripes behind this release are the less-than-original symphonic and vocal elements, primarily at the start, and the few thinner performances that come about for the sake of melody over brutality. Thankfully a lot of these faults are few and far between, blessing the listener with a nightmarish journey to the shores of R’lyeh once more you’ll find yourself helpless to take time and time again. – Apoch Weiss

Nilexistence (USA) – Existence in Revelation (Self Released)


Born from the ashes of the short lived Disfigured Dead, NilExistence sees the members try a bit more mature and personal approach to death metal. ‘Existence in Revelation’ is dark, gritty album that has a lot of emotion riding on it. The music continues to pack a devastating punch, bringing together elements of technicality, slamming grooves and a bit of blackened character. If Immolation and Vader ever had a love child, it probably wouldn’t sound much different from NilExistence. Perhaps the crowning achievement of the record is the way it pounds the listener into the ground with it’s unrelentingly brutal riffs and pinch harmonic screams, while managing to have mature song writing and focused direction in the music. That is a particularly rare combination these days. –Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

North (USA) – Light the Way (Prosthetic Records)


I love me some massive-sounding sludge, but it has to be done just right. North from Tucson, Arizona did absolutely everything right with their new album, ‘Light the Way’. Simultaneously beautiful, mournful, and heavy as hell; that opener took hold of me and carried me away to another place. Recommended for fans of Beautality, Trapped Within Burning Machinery, and The Lion’s Daughter. – FlightOfIcarus

Old Forest (UK) – Dagian (Avantgarde Music)


The UK’s Old Forest are back at it again, with another disc of symphonic and rather folky black metal. This would be their third full-length, showing that the steadfast ambitions of James “Mr. Fog” Fogarty (In The Woods…, Jaldaboath, Ewigkeit and several other awesome bands) still hold up just as well as always. Fogarty handles those crystalline synth nodes, as well as some static and other instances that stretch the work of Old Forest far beyond that of other bands. He also handles the vocals, which don’t stray too far from the menacing scowl of which we’d expect, even though the cleans when used are quite pleasant. Beleth plays some rather melodic notes, which seem to bring ‘Dagian’ an almost mesmerizing feel, compared to the darker atmospheres invoked by some of the band’s previous records. -Eric May

Plateau Sigma (Italy) – Rituals (Avantgarde Music)


Seeing that Plateau Sigma’s sophomore effort ‘Rituals’ is a strong contender for the best release I’ve heard in 2016, I have to give it another mention in this round up of March’s best albums. Doom bands have a tendency to be fairly one dimensional, either skewing towards the traditional Black Sabbath style or opting for crushing death/doom. But Plateau Sigma bucks that trend by writing dynamic material that can span traditional doom and death/doom within the course of a single song, all while offering a cohesive narrative and flow. Crushingly heavy riffing and growls give way to soaring clean singing and progressive rock style melodies that provide plenty of twists and turns. It remains completely unpredictable throughout and hasn’t lost any of that sense of adventure and intrigue on subsequent listens. If you’re a fan of anything doom released, Plateau Sigma’s latest is a mandatory listen. –Chris Dahlberg

Rorcal (Switzerland) – Creon (Halo of Flies Records)


Swiss metal band Rorcal are back with a new album ‘Creon’, 3 years after the release of their awesome album ‘Világvége’. A concept album, each track tells the story of 4 characters related to Creon – a well-known figure in Greek mythology. The bands continues with the unique mix of black metal, death metal and progressive metal. The album is not for those with short attention spans with the 4 tracks in excess of 10 minutes. The album is available for free download (like the rest of their discography), so you have no excuse not to get it. Stay tuned for my interview with the band. –Peter Kotikalapudi

Rotten Sound (Finland) – Abuse to Suffer (Season of Mist)


2016 has already been an incredible year for grindcore, with Wake and Magrudergrind releasing standout albums in February. A month later there’s another best of the year contender out courtesy of Rotten Sound’s newest full length ‘Abuse to Suffer’. Seven albums in these guys haven’t lost any of the elements that have made their take on grind work so well, as they continue to display a level of precision and attention to detail that sets them apart. Whether it’s the utter chaos and scorching riffing of their fast blasts or the absolutely gnarly sounding guitar work when they decide to slow things down, this is a release you’re going to want to crank all the way up and let it peel layers of your skin off. There’s a reason Rotten Sound’s name comes up frequently whenever grind is mentioned, and if you have yet to experience them for yourself this is a great place to start. – Chris Dahlberg

Skáphe (USA) – Skáphe² (I, Voidhanger Records)


US based black metal project (who recently became a duo) Skáphe continue their onslaught of dark, dissonant and disorientating black metal with the bluntly titled ‘Skáphe²’. The atmospheric black metal affair has a maddening quality to it. The spacey and almost psychedelic riffs are well balanced by the vile sounding vocals that sound like depraved bellows from a dark abyss. Even the most ambient sections of the album evoke a sense of claustrophobia, while the more aggressive sections engulf the listener in a storm of dissonant chaos. This is challenging music that guides the listener through a dark, never ending portal. –Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Vitruvius (Mexico) – Above the Silvered Sky (Silver Fist Records)

Taking its name from 1st century BC Roman author, architect, civil – and military engineer Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Méxican progressive metal outfit Vitruvius returns five long years after its 2011 self-titled debut. Oozing with Latin American warmth and graced by the sensual vocals of frontwoman Dulce Robles, ‘Above the Silvered Sky’ is a treat for fans of the early works from Dream Theater and Symphony X. Robles eschews the trappings of more typical singers, and never overcompensates. Vitruvius is neither excessive nor bloated, but delicately balances technically advanced sections with more vocal-centric segments and tranquil moments. The production is economic, and the songs are central to the experience. As before the record comes with stunning digital artwork. It’s great to see México excelling at other genres outside of death – and black metal. ¡Viva México! – Wouter Roemers



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