This has been a really worthwhile project.
As the months go on, I’ve developed a much deeper sense of how broad the spectrum of heavy music really is. Not that I wasn’t aware of both the slowest of slows and the extremely fast and technical, but I hadn’t fully explored my own tastes within the embarrassing riches of heavy music.
I have the entire history of music from the birth of blues onwards to delve into, so of course, I’m only scratching the surface but I’ve enjoyed expanding my musical horizons over the past few months. Hopefully there have been releases I’ve covered this year that have been new to you too.
My five favourite releases from this month include at least three I wouldn’t have predicted I’d have listened to back in January. What’s the point in being alive if you don’t grow though, eh.
You can check out this month’s Spotify playlist here.
Next year marks the 20th year Anaal Nathrakh have been with us as a record-producing entity, and I’m ashamed to say this is the first album I’ve listened to.
It’s not from a lack of interest. People have played tracks, I’ve enjoyed them, then… something else entered my brain and I’ve gone off on another path. I hate a lot of decisions that past me made, including this one.
I chose this as my driving music all month because nothing gets you hyped up for a drive like Anaal Nathrakh riffs. Maybe you don’t need to get hyped up for driving I guarantee you’ll drive different when Dave Hill’s clean vocals hit in the title track, Endarkenment.
Fans of Nathrakh’s more industrial-heavy material may be left a little wanting but I think any fans of black, death or grind (I guess?) will be able to find something to love in this album.
Wild they still put out stuff like this 10 years in.
Death doom is a relatively new to me. I’ve heard a few things I enjoyed enough for me to look for more: Solothus, Exgenesis and Funeral Leech. If I was paying attention earlier in the year, Yatra would have already been on that list since this is their second full-length of 2020.
With some of the doom I listen to, it can be easy to forget that it began as a close cousin of blues music. Yatra might have a death metal logo but their music has a mean blues streak running right down the middle.
Running just shy of 35 minutes and 9 tracks, this is a shorter release than their last two. But it is far better than anything I did during lockdown! Come to think of it, there might be few better ways to aurally capture covid lockdown year than the sludgy, fuzzy death-tinged doom of Yatra.
I discovered Venom Prison last year, with their outstanding album Samsara. I was hooked when I learned they covered Stampin’ Ground’s Officer Down – my second favourite song by SG. Everybody Owes A Death is an absolute beast!
I was surprised to hear they dropped another album already! But upon checking it out, you’ll learn this is a recording of their first two EPs, with two new songs as well. Let me say right now that this is not a bad thing. This is a great collection of songs beefed up and given a new lease of life.
If you have never heard Venom Prison before, they have taken influence from both death metal and hardcore and put out music that isn’t deathcore or slam. An achievement in itself for sure. The VP brand of death metal goes from brutally heavy, to groovy, to punky d-beats and all the way back to tight blast beats – all with Larissa’s absolutely savage trademark screams and growls over the top.
I absolutely love this shit.
Black metal is so weird. For a scene that came to existence from a dark heavy metal band from Newcastle, there is such a diversity of sound to be found. Not only that, but bands will sound vastly different depending on how they came into the scene and the influences they bring with them.
Toadeater, for example, are a Bakunin-influenced anarcho crust band who just so happens to make black metal music. Their lyrical themes and raspy, venomous vocals are straight from crust punk. The drumming and riffing are straight up black metal. The two meet in the middle with somewhat murky production.
If you wanted to be a weird genre snob you might say Toadeater are post-black, but that doesn’t feel like a real thing to me. But then again, they certainly don’t fit into any BM “wave”.
The main compositional tool Toadeater use is repetition. Each song (~8/9 mins) consists of one or two fairly catchy lead parts or riffs with atmospheric sections dancing around them – the so-called “post-” part of that post-black designation.
I’m sympathetic to the band’s politics and I felt the repetition, along with the relentless drumming was hypnotic. With only 4 songs and an intro I did feel this was a bit too short. At the same time, another 4 would probably mean I wouldn’t have put this on this list as it would have overstated its welcome.
I enjoyed this. I think it’s a good record with not too many of their contemporaries putting out anything that sounds similar. Others have not been so kind. The only way to make your mind up is to listen, I guess.
There’s no way I’d have expected to have two German back metal bands on this month’s list and for there to be absolutely no doubt that neither is NSBM. Although, while it’s clear to me that Toadeater is a socialist or anarchist project, Wallfahrer might be leaning into ecofascism.
My quick Google Translate effort with their lyrics have me leaning towards green anarchism, especially with the lyrics from the final track on the album:
“You speak of honesty and bend the truth as you please
You speak of tolerance and reject the opinion of others as an attack
You speak of righteousness and you judge with many standards
You speak of responsibility and turn away from misery, need and danger
We wanted to explore the distance and build cultures
Rise us as lords
But in the end the person crawls
Overestimating false prophets who lie to themselves
And follow irrational illusions
Because in the end the human crawls
And you speak of freedom but obstruct your mind and gaze
And you speak of progress and you set back thoughts and values
The end of philanthropy!
We wanted to be rulers of science
But we forgot the greed for power
The addiction to authority
The bright golden future is a long way off
Man crawls in a circle
Away from reality
Vain and arrogant“
At around an hour’s playtime and 6 tracks, you would be forgiven for thinking that there’s a lot of filler or atmospheric lead-in for each track but the album rattles along at a consistent pace, using some beautiful lead trem to link passages in the music instead.
The throaty vocals work really well over the almost positive feeling a lot of the music has, and even though it’s all in German you feel the hatred and misanthropy dripping from every word.
I have no idea how I found this record, but I’m glad I did. The human destruction of nature is something that deserves more attention, but unfortunately antithetical to Wallfahrer’s blacker than thou approach of shunning all promotion.
If you missed it up the top, you can check out everything except Wallfahrer on this month’s Spotify playlist here.