Five picks from January 2020

The year has got off to a tremendous start, hasn’t it? We nearly had World War 3, Australia has been on fire for weeks, we soon get to find out how Harvey Weinstein manages to convince a jury that he hasn’t sexually assauled or raped over 80 women, and we got a surprisingly good debut EP from probably the first ever amphibian-inspired band.

As always, I’m sure I’ve missed stuff you dig. You can either write a comment below and kindly let me know I missed something you really enjoyed, or you can be rude and call me an idiot. In which case you can fuck off.
You can listen to all of these on this month’s playlist over on Spotify, except the 殞煞 Vengeful Spectre release because that’s on bandcamp, linked in the review. I’ve replaced them with a pretty different black metal offering – Svarttjern, who don’t get a review other than “a great punky black metal record”.

Wormhole – The Weakest Among Us (Lacerated Enemy)
When I was younger, hardcore bands were usually judged on how good their beatdowns were. You know, the part of the song where everything slowed down to a quarter of the speed and the folk in the pit would stomp about and windmill violently to. Imagine that but death metal and you get the subgenre know as slam.
Wormhole are a great example of a slam band. It feels derogatory to just stick with that label and move on though. They play some awesome tech death and drop slammy bits throughout. I think you can really feel the difference with a real drummer instead of the drum machine they used previously, and the drummer has some very playing.
It’s interesting to hear the bass higher in the mix but kudos to them for this decision, as it adds another dimension to the music that is often missing. It helps that the bassist adds more than just a beefy bottom end to the tracks.
This is honestly great fun, from the cover art featuring what looks like a Space Marine fighting some sort of alien or mutant (awesome!), to the Spongebob Squarepants soundbite and the track names like “Wave Quake Generator Plasma Artillery Cannon”.
Odious Mortem – Synesthesia (Willowtip)
This is just an album of really well done tech death. A quick Google tells me this band was put on hiatus to create some Decrepit Birth stuff, and this is the first new album in quite a while.
I’m actually surprised Willowtip have put this out rather than The Artisan Era to be honest. It’s definitely in their wheelhouse.
This isn’t tech death for the sake of it though. Odious Mortem do a great job of blending in classic death metal with more technical passages meaning the groove is there for the headbangers out there and there are some genuinely thoughtful and interesting guitar parts in here, with both guitarists facing off.
I’m a drummer so that’s primarily what I listen to, and in this regard this record is absolutely solid. It’s always interesting hearing blastbeats in triplets, as you can hear on Cave Dweller.
This has to be the best tech death release of the month, and I’ll be surprised if it’s not in a number of top-ten lists for 2020 overall.
Garganjua – Towards the Sun (Holy Roar)
I wasn’t sure what to make of this record when I pressed play and heard a man talking about the pain caused by not living in the present. What the fuck is this Alan Watts shit?
Luckily I’m into that, so I pressed on. And I’m glad I did. This is a beautiful thick slab of post rock soundscapes mixed with sludgy doom at a low heat for nearly 50 minutes. Aforementioned transcendental overtones add to the appeal if you are a meditating philosophy nerd like me.
This is the perfect soundtrack to stick on while I write and do work, or for going for a long walk in the freezing Scottish January weather. I think this might be my favourite record of the month.
殞煞 Vengeful Spectre – 殞煞 Vengeful Spectre
Whoa a black metal concept album about war in Chinese. I’m into that. It’s not like I can make out the lyrics in most of the stuff I listen to anyway. What he’s saying isn’t the important thing for me, it’s how he sounds. And he sounds like a demon.
One of the reasons I, like many others, appreciate(d) Nile is their dedication to the theme. The lyrics, song titles and album art are all meticulously researched and the music matches. 
殞煞 Vengeful Spectre don’t need to do any of this. They can just drop in a hulusi or maybe a lusheng. The interludes where they utilise this approach makes the record feel like more of a narrative than a collection of tracks.
This is in turn angry and melancholic black metal with folk elements. But simply reducing it to that does the record a disservice. Have a listen, it’s only 36 minutes long. But I don’t think you’ll only listen once.
Frogg – A Reptilian Dystopia (Self released)
I only listened to this for a laugh. I mean, look at their name. Look at what they called their debut EP. Their logo is classic heavy metal, akin to Judas Priest. But 20 seconds into the opener, Ancient Rain, I wasn’t laughing.
If you ignore the theme and just jam this on, you’ll hear almost tech-punk super catchy riffs, some solid blastbeats, lead guitar sections filled with pinch harmonics and tempo changes to keep things tasty. If you listen closely, you’ll notice the bassist throwing his own flair in there now and again.
While technically five tracks, this EP closes off with an instrumental of the opener so let’s call it what it is. An outstanding four-track debut EP.
I still don’t get the frog theme and the baphomet on the cover art. What’s the gimmick? Are they tying an ancient creature to an ancient evil? At least it’s not yet another band who got their hands on a medical dictionary and threw darts at words!

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