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October 2016 Highlights – TO Staff

If you’re in the habit of making year end lists of stand out albums, I’m certain that the list would contain quite a few albums from October 2016. Yes, this month was THAT good. It’s a shame that we can’t include every single one of these release. If we were to embark on such an endeavor, this list would probably exceed the limit of my patience to compile it. So for the sake of brevity, we’ve condensed the list to 13 releases that we absolutely recommend you check out. ~ Shrivatsan R (Deputy Editor)

Gost (Finland) – Non Paradisi (Dark Wave, Blood Music)


While October had some really big releases, there were also quite a few fantastic releases that might have gone under the radar. One such release is Gost’s new album ‘Non Paradisi’ (not to be confused with Swedish occult-rocker’s Ghost). While the music here is technically not at all metal, with absolutely no guitar or real drum work, it probably is still some of the heaviest music one is bound to come across. Additionally, the advantage of a dark Luciferian horror theme on the album, helps bridge the gap. Call it dark-wave, synth-wave, slasher-wave, whatever-you-want, the noir 80s feel joining hands with the dark side is something most open-minded metal-heads are bound to love. If you are looking for some music, that’s different from the usual extreme metal but still alludes the same atmosphere and heaviness, look no further. Hail Luifer! Hail Gost! ~ Vidur Paliwal

Hail Spirit Noir (Greece) – Mayhem in Blue (Psychedelic Black Metal / Occult Rock, Dark Essence Records)

Hail Spirit Noir

The Greek trio, Hail Spirit Noir have managed to floor me with all their releases till now and 2016’s ‘Mayhem in Blue’ is no different. The psychedelic black metal style draws equally from second wave black metal and retro psychedelic rock to create mesmerizing narrations that get etched in one’s memory within just a few listens. With ‘Mayhem in Blue’, the band delivers 6 long winded, unique tracks that manage to keep one hooked and the band makes it seem effortless. The psychedelic soundscapes meld beautifully with the occult setting to create an experience that can be compared to a dark LSD trip that is downright seductive at points. The band’s occasional foray into second wave black metal territory adds a very sinister flavor and sets this band apart from the hordes of retro rock revivalist bands that seem to spring up like mushrooms after a heavy downpour. Take the plunge and give in to the Satanic psychedelia that is Hail Spirit Noir. ~ Shrivatsan R

Khemmis (USA) – Hunted (Doom Metal, 20 Buck Spin)


For what it’s worth Khemmis was usually viewed as a distant cousin of Pallbearer and for some they were actual clones. The cleans and use of slow winding melodic motifs of the former probably left impression to a style very reminiscent of the latter. And so their debut ‘Absolution’ remained in the shadow of Pallbearer’s ‘Foundations of Burden’ (although released a year earlier). But with ‘Hunted’, although nothing has radically changed, the overall delivery has. ‘Hunted’ operates well within the same thematic realm that Pallbearer did but sounds altogether different as the styles that they’ve hoped to incorporate in their brand of doom stands all the more prominent. You’d have St.Vitus like riffery, Trouble’s ‘Psalm 9’ gallops and a bit of Thin Lizzy’s heavy metal/hard rock all run through a modern system . All these were less prominent on their debut while their sophomore elicits a certain surefootedness not heard earlier. The riffs are allowed to breath and Ben’s cleans (unlike Brett’s soaring ones) seems rooted to the ground with its more baritone edge. This makes Khemmis finally stand clear of what they were once alleged of and make way for a what is going to be an interesting career. ~ Deckard Cain

Meshuggah (Sweden) – The Violent Sleep of Reason (Techincal Groove Metal / Djent, Nuclear Blast)


The best way to look at this new album is to do so with all preconceptions cast aside once more. Meshuggah has a history of trying new things or rebooting their style once in a while, which is how we got to the merciless mechanical juggernaut of late that fans have become so familiar with. ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’, however, simply is not that beast. It’s been twenty-five years since the world was exposed to ‘Contradictions Collapse’ and, in a way, this seems to be the band looking at their storied history like that of a “violent sleep” full of musical logic sprawled out between that very debut to the recent ‘Koloss’, all while sustaining a sense of suspended animation in the most science fiction of terms possible, than taking inspiration “a Goya painting called ‘The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters’.” That said, some songs will have a stronger impact than others, and a good few just aren’t all that memorable in the long run either. But, as a whole, Meshuggah remind you why they’ve been an unstoppable force across this solid new outing. ~ Apoch Weiss

Mithras (UK) – On Strange Loops (Experimental / Brutal Death Metal, Galactic Records/Willowtip Records)


Has it really been nine years since ‘Behind the Shadows Lie Madness’? That particular album was my first exposure to Mithras’ spacey take on technical / brutal death metal that merged overwhelmingly dense riffing and blasting drums with soaring melodic leads. 2011’s ‘Time Never Lasts’ brought two new songs and live tracks to tide listeners over, but it would take another five years until ‘On Strange Loops’. But that’s ok because the wait has absolutely been worth it. The biggest difference from its predecessor is the way the material is recorded, as you’ll find that it’s not as overwhelmingly dense and the separation between all of the elements makes it easier to pick out the details of each song. There’s still a considerable amount of intensity to the material, but there’s more of an emphasis on the sprawling leads that continue Mithras’ mastery of brutal/technical death metal and space/sci-fi exploration. Rayner Cross once again delivers his lower growls that hover over the instrumentals, though this will be his last album with the band as he left earlier in the year. Turn this one up and get lost in the depths of space and time. ~ Chris Dahlberg

T.O.M.B. (USA) – Fury Nocturnus (Black Metal / Noise, Peaceville Records)


T.O.M.B. may be a new name for a lot of you, but if you’re on the East Coast of the U.S. you may have come across this group before. They’ve been around since 1998 in various iterations, and each of the four times I’ve seen them live has been fairly different from the last. One of the most memorable performances had them amplifying the reverberations created by striking a gravestone, and these types of rituals are perfectly encompassed on their newest full length ‘Fury Nocturnus’. For all the bands that try to claim to be embodying the occult or paranormal through ritualistic material, T.O.M.B. is one of the few that does it properly and doesn’t feel like they’re doing it just for edgy imagery. ‘Fury Nocturnus’ is hard to categorize, as it moves between elements of second wave black metal, harsh noise, drone/dark ambient, and other experimental genres. It’s dense and unsettling, and each song flows perfectly making this a complete body of work best taken in a single sitting. Combine this with an incredibly abrasive vocal performance and you have an album that represents the darkest parts of the human psyche and a true lust for the occult. Enter at your own risk. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Unearthed Elf (USA) – Into the Catacomb Abyss (Doom Metal, Self Released)


My, my, my, what do we have here? This is something of an underground gem, make no mistake. Musically this is a mix of traditional doom and heavy/power metal, one that’s very well produced and written to boot. Add to that some of the most gorgeous, luscious vocals to grace a record in a long time…oh my, I think I’ll have to have a sit down. The songs are catchy, memorable and downright infectious. With so many huge-selling power metal bands out there producing watered-down pap, it’s almost shocking that one elf can come along and blow most of them out of the water. If you’re even remotely a fan of the style, then this is damn essential. ~ Nigel Holloway

Ulcerate (New Zealand) – Shrines of Paralysis (Technical Death Metal, Relapse Records)


New Zealand’s Ulcerate is possibly the fastest, mathiest metal band around. The vocals are insanely brutal, complimented by guitar and drum work that is quite simply insane. This album is no different. If the riffs previously drilled, here they sear; if time signatures were previously devoured, here they are consumed. Many of you fans out there likely caught a listen of the leading single, Abrogation. This track is a freakin’ colossus and remains my favorite on the record. It seems to be the perfect fusion of their bleak and disturbing controlled anarchy with some mildly conventional song structures. Like a sociopathic cyborg, soon we will not be able to recognize it in a crowd of our own closest friends. I can’t wait to see them at The Raven in Portland on 11/4. See you there. ~ FlightOfIcarus

Venom Prison (UK) – Animus (Death Metal / Hardcore, Prosthetic Records)


Venom Prison are a UK death metal band that manages to combine death metal brutality and hardcore energy into a nuanced delivery of sonic extremism. Their debut album ‘Animus’ has a lot going on and a lot to recommend it. The album is one that I can, and do, listen to over and over again, so infectious is its savagery. Across the ten tracks the band flex their considerable musical muscles in a variety of different ways, from short, vicious blasts to more-involved extreme metal workouts. All in all this is a top-notch release from a band that are very much ones to watch. Essential. ~ Nigel Holloway

Vermin Womb (USA) – Decline (Black / Death Metal / Grindcore, Translation Loss / Sentient Ruin Laboratories)

Vermin Womb

With their debut EP ‘Permenance’, Colorado trio Vermin Womb set expectations high. Their newest full length release ‘Decline’ surpasses those expectations and then some. Sounding like the musical embodiment of all the collective hate in the world, this lethal combination black / death / grind takes no prisoners and is only intent on causing maximum carnage. Unleashing an unending barrage of acidic, mind shattering riffs, Vermin Womb is an experience in depravity that is not recommended for everyone. Then again, what else do you expect from a grind heavy side project of the Primitive Man vocalist? The way the riffs are crafted compels the listener to go through the album over and over, as the suffocating atmosphere becomes a form of sick addiction. Approach this with caution, you have been warned. ~ Shrivatsan R

Vvorse (Finland) – Näkyjä Helvetistä (Hardcore / Crust Punk, Inverse Records)


In this ages of digital promos, you sometimes end up with a release in your inbox that surprises you. This past month, the release for me was ‘Näkyjä helvetistä’ (Visions from hell), the first full length album from Vvorse a hardcore/crust act from Jyväskylä, Finland. The album is an intense listen with brief respite in the middle of the album on the fifth track Exitus. The lyrics are in Finnish and I had to find out what the song titles meant using Google translate. Despite the language barrier, everyone should check out this album. Vvorse are a band to keep an eye out for in the future. ~ Peter Kotikalapudi

Waldgeflüster (Germany) – Ruinen (Black Metal, Bindrune Recordings/Nordvis Produktion)


German atmospheric/melodic black metal band Waldgeflüster played their first U.S. show earlier this year at Hammerheart Ostarablot, and the performance was truly stunning. It left me eagerly anticipating what this now expanded lineup could offer on album, as 2014’s ‘Meine Fesseln’ still had most of the additional musicians listed as session members. With the others now presumably more involved in the songwriting alongside creator Winterherz, this year’s ‘Ruinen’ showcases another significant leap forward for the band. Pushing further beyond the traditional black metal sound towards somber melodies that have elements of folk and doom, each song is sprawling and adventurous. Some of that black metal bite is still there, particularly when it comes to the raspier screams, but the overall feel of ‘Ruinen’ is warm and inviting. There’s also an earthier feel to the tonality, as if nature and its tranquility are wrapping you in a tight embrace. Fans of everything from atmospheric/melodic black metal to doom a la Katatonia will find this album truly incredible. ~ Chris Dahlberg

Wormrot (Singapore) – Voices (Grindcore, Earache Records)


Singapore grindcore trio Wormrot sent ripples through the metal underground in 2009 with their debut album ‘Abuse’. ‘Voices’ is their first album in five years and the band still have the same fire. It is evident right from the first track Blockhead Fuck Off, the aural assault continues for the next 25 minutes. Lyrically, the band focus on personal experience and frustrations unlike their peers who lean towards political commentary. Overall, ‘Voices’ is 20 tracks of ball-crushing grindcore. Easily one of the best grindcore releases this year. Also, read my interview with frontman Arif Rot here ~ Peter Kotikalapudi


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