Immortal Terror 2020

First of all, who decided to tug on my heart strings by releasing a “new” Immortal Terror album in 2020?! In all seriousness though, you can’t beat this tracklist. Right off the bat, I must admit that this will be more of a nostalgia piece than an album review.

Since I didn’t enter the metal scene until 2000(ish), I completely missed The Skyroom. I’ve heard many stories, but none of them really did the place justice. I didn’t feel like I ever truly learned the vibe of the place until I heard this latest Immortal Terror release.

Immortal Terror were, for all intents and purposes, Buffalo’s first grind band. And as such, this collection of IT’s “big hits” comes jam packed with both live and studio material. More importantly, it’s also an homage to guitarist Jeff Budziszewski, who recently passed away.

Roughly the first 12 tracks on this album were recorded live at Skyroom on September 16th, 1990. I was just entering kindergarten at the time, so I couldn’t be there. I’m really sorry, guys. I tried my best, but my teacher was too busy locking us in a room and preaching country music.

Getting back to THIS music, I love these live tracks, mostly because the “in-between song banters” weren’t edited out or cut down at all. At least, they don’t appear to be. You can hear the awkward frontman segues and the even more awkward communiques between the band and the sound guy about levels. You can also hear the crowd and even pick out the voices of people who clearly know the band members personally. Getting in the zone during this listen, I could smell the piss and beer on the concrete floor. I could feel the stickiness of the floor under my sneakers, due to spilled beverages. I could even smell the Marb Reds sparking all around, since people were smoking in NYS bars back then.

And another thing that really takes me back is the “old school demo sound” when getting into the studio tracks. After talking with Jim Santillo (drums), he informed me that both the demo and live tracks that appear on this album were recorded at Skyroom. And I must say, for a grindcore band, the demo quality present on these recordings is perfect. All in all, this is a FILTHY sounding album. This latest Immortal Terror release is 25 tracks of pure, fast, grimy grindcore.

Though, not all the credit can be given to Immortal Terror in their original form. This album also includes an unreleased 1991 demo from Casket, a 2018 track from Casket and a 2019 track from Anthropic – Jim’s current band.

Casket, was a project of Jeff and Jim’s that never got off the ground …UNTIL NOW!

It’s also worth mentioning that A LOT went into putting out this CD. This stuff isn’t available online and due to the pandemic, Jim had to mail me my copy. However, I can’t complain about any of this, because it just added to the throwback experience of it all.

In putting out this album, Jim had the live and demo recordings remixed by Doug White at Watchmen Studios. Doug has been cranking out recordings for local bands since 1995 and he’s a pillar of the scene to be sure. The Casket material was remixed by Glenn Szymanski (Tines), Brian Pattison (Anthropic, Glorious Times) and Doug White (Watchmen). Furthermore, Bob Bieber (Lucky DeVille Tattoo) designed the album cover. The cover logo was designed by Lamont Bell and the photo on the back is from the earlier referenced 1990 Skyroom show.

Fans of all grindcore and (most) death metal, and ESPECIALLY WNY metal scene natives NEED this collection of great tunes and nostalgic moments in their album collections!

Again, I tried to make this an album review, but in the end, I couldn’t. I have far too much bias in me at the moment. If you are part of this scene now, or have ever been before, and any of this means anything to you on an emotional level, contact Jim through Anthropic and get your hands on this disc!

A Formal Apology to Leprous and the Album Coal

Back in 2013, Leprous released their much-anticipated follow up album to Bilateral – very much anticipated by myself, especially. I had stumbled across this band because of their collaborative works with another musical idol of mine, Ihsahn, and I completely fell in love with the sonic emanation that was that album. It was a life-changer for me, completely standing apart from all the other music I was listening to at the time – or even since. I have never found another band that even comes close.

Did you know the greatest Steven Wilson guitar solo of all time was actually recorded by Tor Oddmund Suhrke?

So they released Coal…. and I didn’t like it. I don’t know exactly what about it I didn’t like. Maybe I was a complete shit-head that thought it should sound just like Bilateral? I listened to it and tried to have an open mind, gave it a few spins, and decided that aside from a few kind of cool tracks I didn’t really like it. I even gave it a “meh” review on my Facebook or whatever I was writing on at the time, and even just this January trashed on it a little more in my top 50 albums of the last decade (it was the only Leprous album that came out in that era that I didn’t include.), which is also included in our book! That opinion is in print in several places I’m afraid. Subsequent releases obviously I enjoyed immensely. I have still absolutely loved the band and shared their music with anyone who would endure my gushing over this band. (Probably the majority of whom didn’t even bother checking them out…)

Anyway, being the completely devoted fan that I am to this band… when I actually found friends interested in listening to them, I wished there was one of those “This is…” playlists on Spotify like they have for so many other artists, so I could just link them to that. There wasn’t one. I guess they’re not quite big enough yet for that. So I made one. And being the kind of music lover that I am, I encourage people to form their own opinions about the music and not just copy mine, so I knew I needed to include songs from every release. And that got me to listen to this album again…

And oh my god. I absolutely fucking love this album. I want to weave it into a blanket and wrap myself up in this forever. I wonder what the hell was wrong with me in 2013? I think maybe I just didn’t get it. It’s definitely more experimental and adventurous, and I daresay even more so than its successors, The Congregation and Malina. On the surface, it doesn’t seem as heavy. It’s also surprising to me that some long-term Leprous fans are now balking at how much pop influence there is on their latest release, Pitfalls, when that influence was incredibly present on Coal.

My opinion that many of us extreme music fans are really just insufferable fuck-heads with shitty opinions stands, myself included! But at least, here, I will admit my fault. I’m sorry. I was wrong! Coal is a great fucking album. Every track is a total work of art. This is my formal apology, please forgive me, Leprous. Friends? ❤

Long Live Brockie!

Written by Ryan Howe

Today marks six long years since our brother in rock, Dave Brockie, passed away. I find it hard to believe it’s already been that long. It seems like only yesterday I was sitting in my bedroom after school at 13 listening to “Bring Back the Bomb” for the first time. 

Brockie made one of the biggest impacts on rock and roll since G.G. Allin, in my opinion. He helped start Slave Pit Inc., and worked tirelessly day and night to create some of the most controversial creatures in the industry. 

Gwar was just one project this brilliant man was involved with. First came Death Piggy, a genius project that spawned the Scumdogs we all know and love. Then, X-Cops became a staple of Gwar pre-show entertainment; the members of the latter would dress up as crooked cops and do songs about… being crooked cops. A stitch that is more relevant today than ever I think. And when Gwar wasn’t being as silly and absurd as he wanted… he concocted the Dave Brockie Experience.

Though he had more than his fair share of ups and downs in his lifetime, one certainty remains. That is, Dave Brockie was a man full of love and adoration for all things art. He encouraged his fans to be as creative as possible. 

Let’s all raise our glasses, hit our bongs, smash our light bulbs and say, Long Live Brockie!

WAYS TO HELP BANDS DURING COVID-19

I’m not calling it “Coronavirus”, because I quit drinking months ago and I don’t want to be reminded of sub-par beer. Anyways, even though this topic has already been beaten to death, here’s a list of things patrons can do to help sidelined bands, as well as some ways that bands can help themselves:

  1. Bands – Go “Live” more often. Do play through videos, engage your fans, stream band practices, charge small amounts for private streams/”shows” etc.
  2. Patrons – Support your favorite bar/venues by buying gift cards for when all this blows over. If your favorite venue also does food takeout and delivery, buy their grub whenever possible.
  3. Bands – If you can afford it, slash your merch prices. Everyone is sitting at home, bored and staring at their phones right now. A lot of people are also losing hours or completely out of work. Cut your prices to just above cost on certain items and promote your new songs and cheaper merch on, you guessed it, a live stream.
  4. Patrons – A lot of your favorite overseas bands have to stay home now. Hit up your favorite bigger band’s merch store and show some love.
  5. Bands – Try going presale on your big return show. Every band on Earth (lol) should be promoting their BIG POST-COVID RETURN SHOW!
  6. Bands and patrons – Try keeping it light when talking about the virus. I know this sucks right now, but internet jokes help calm everyone’s cabin fever. Keep the memes and anti-COVID statuses coming.
  7. Bands and patrons – Message Eareckson Murray and tell him things like, “You have a nice ass”, “The Lair was a WNY staple”, “Victoria’s Secret models are jealous of your hair”, etc. Then, reach out to other people in the scene and compliment them on this or that in the same fashion. Let’s lift each other up. Just because we’re sitting at home, doesn’t mean life has to suck proverbial cocks and balls.
  8. Bands and patrons – Mike Shearer from Rockin’ Buffalo Saloon has done a lot for The Metal Webzine since the beginning. He’s one of the most supportive and reliable venue owners we’ve worked with and many people in the scene can say the same. Send him e-hugs, e-handshakes and e-high fives today.
  9. Bands and patrons – Since every band in the universe is rescheduling events right now, start e-communicating more. Keep each other informed about the COVID-CANCELLED METAL WORLD, (factual, verified information only), state regulations, venue re-openings, new show schedules and tours, etc. Getting the scene back on track is going to be very chaotic in the aftermath of this weird time. Let’s turn the scene into a well-oiled machine and help each other rebuild. Yes, it’s true that we may be looking at a Dystopian future. We may just be months away from living in the world of Mad Max. But since the odds are hugely against that, let’s stay optimistic. We have an opportunity to turn this crisis into an attendance resurgence. But… THE POWER IS YOURS!

LA Picks: Vaelmyst

Here’s our 2nd LA Pick: Vaelmyst! The name just makes you want to slowly spit water at someone!

Despite adopting the descriptor, melodic death metal, Vaelmyst are a much more complex animal than they seem at first glance. This article will be something of a chronicling of the band’s Bandcamp discography, as well as some commentary on specifics by yours truly.

I first discovered Vaelmyst while browsing the shelves at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. For those who’ve never been there, it’s a treasure trove of physical media, and easily the most impressive record store I’ve been in to date. I found Vaelmyst’s 2018 album, Earthly Wounds, tucked in under “Staff Picks”. The sticker on the CD said “Sweet Melodious Death”, which for me meant an instant buy. It was only $5, so at that point, I had nothing to lose.

Needless to say, the Amoeba “Staff Pick” sticker did not mislead me. Vaelmyst are all three of those things: Sweet. Melodious. Death.

Going back to December 2017, we enter Vaelmyst’s single, “Dear Esther”. “Dear Esther” is a carefully modified bridge between modern death metal and modern melodic death metal. From start to finish, thing song delights with all the evil riffs you’d come to expect from a band playing death metal last decade, while mixing in the band’s signature melodies during key chorus elements and transitions. I say “signature” because Vaelmyst’s melodies completely stand out to me. Since 1999, I’ve taken in countless melodic death bands and songs. As such, I often dismiss bands when guitar melodies pop out and sound too similar to this band or that band. That being said, it’s entirely possible that I just haven’t heard the band Vaelmyst are ripping off yet, but because I heard Vaelmyst first, I have to give them credit for the “sweet melodious” note passages they’ve crafted throughout their three offerings on Bandcamp. In other words, these songs are so catchy, they make me want to finally quit guitar.

In February 2018, the band released Earthly Wounds, which once again, ended up being my first Vaelmyst experience. This is a superb 5-song EP on which, the aforementioned “Dear Esther”, reappears as the closing track. Kicking off with “Prologue”, this EP immediately creeps the listener the fuck out with an eerie piano intro and some ominous whispering layered thinly around said intro. From there, you’re transported into something that almost reminds you of Cradle of Filth, but you already know it’s going to be way better. Proceeding on, the eerie piano intro turns into a nostalgic synth-y callback to all your favorite 80’s horror movies. Yep. You guessed right. This is going to be WAY better than what Cradle of Filth might do next…

From there, the opening riff in “A Smothering of Moths” kicks in, and you’re instantly confused. You’re thinking, is this a symphonic metal band? Is the new guy from Kamelot about to start singing? NO! Instead, Vaelmyst’s own Jonathan V. swoops in like a bat out of hell and bites your face! The vocals drop in with precision rasps; melodic death intensity that gives way to fret-burning solos and heavy mid-paced riffs; all complimented by the steady alt-picked note progressions you’d come to demand from a band with the audacity to name their first EP something like, Earthly Wounds… The song continues with heavy guttural vocals, layered over the top of a nasty chord riff. It’s one of those parts that demands simplicity from the drums and guitars, so that the audience can just bang their heads. It’s one of those riffs that makes you look stupid for NOT banging your head.

Moving on… the song, “Watchers” kicks in with a bouncy riff in an extremely low register. This is where I start talking about “modern” DM and MDM again, because traditionally, you don’t hear riffs THIS crunchy at the beginning of a melodic death song. BUT (!), the melodies that follow over the top of said riff and the forthcoming anthem-y chord progressions more than remind you who the fuck you’re listening to. I also can’t help but mildly compare Jonathan’s mid-ranged screams to those of Abbath, during Immortal’s work in the 90’s, but I only feel that way in this particular song. I also hear a lot of extra studio grit on the vocals to compliment that extra gritty, low-tuned guitar. That attention to detail during production is a serious nod to those who appreciate great tonal dynamics. All in all; a great sounding track.

“In Darkness, In Tongues” is up next, and it really delivers a great opening riff for “fist-pumping action”. This is easily my favorite track on the EP. From start to finish, this song just gets me. The riffs are interesting, the transitions are quick and unpredictable. Some tremolo passages feel familiar, but they ALL end with a surprise. This might just be me, but I had a hard time predicting what each “familiar”, “feel good” riff in this song was going to lead into. The main reason this song hits so hard after the previous three, is the diverse array of techniques used in the guitar playing throughout. There are beefy chord progressions, quick solos, great switch-pick-y riffs, anthem-like tremolo passages, choppy, detached sounding prog sections, etc. This tune just has it all. And since the ending track on this EP is good ol’ “Dear Esther”, we’ll just move on to the band’s latest sonic offering…

In January, 2019, Vaelmyst put out a new single entitled, “Disparaging Whispers of Wistful Flesh”. What a name! If you’re going to have the audacity to name a song something like “Disparaging Whispers of Wistful Flesh”, it’d better be a banger, yeah? Surprise! It is! Of all the metal subgenres Vaelmyst briefly covers throughout their songs, this last single of theirs might be the closest thing to black metal I’ve heard from them. The gritty vocals, dirty, fast guitars, quick blasting drums and crushing bass tones, all together sound just like a harsh Norwegian winter. While at the same time, a few of the more note-oriented riffs in this jam travel outside of Vaelmyst’s typical melodic realm, giving off some cool shades of 80’s thrash. There’s also a nice 80’s hair metal solo in this one. Said solo is VERY triumphant sounding, which was so surprising to hear after such a black metal twist. Then again, with Vaelmyst, one must learn to expect the unexpected.

So, there you have it! Fans of any era of melodic death metal, melodic black metal and other closely related subgenres, should be able to get into Vaelmyst. Whether you’re into Dissection, 90’s In Flames, Omnium Gatherum, The Absence, Disarmonia Mundi, At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Meadow’s End, Ablaze My Sorrow, etc., there’s something in Vaelmyst’s discography for YOU. Cheers!

Vaelmyst are:

Jonathan V -.Vocals
Ronny Lee Marks – Guitars
Nik W – Guitars
Wyatt Bentley – Drums

In Remembrance of Neil Peart

I couldn’t believe the news yesterday. I saw a story on my Facebook newsfeed that said Neil Peart had died. I hoped it was a false report like that recent one that went around about Ozzy being on his deathbed. But unfortunately upon further investigation it turned out to be absolutely true. And my heart sank. It was a shock for sure, as he has always been a private man and kept his illness from the public.

I’ve never been one to be quiet about my love for Rush. I grew up with this music. I love listening to Rush and it fills me with joy. I can’t be in a bad mood when I listen to Rush. So with a heavy heart I began playing every Rush album one after the other, and actually cried. And now that joy is mixed with the sorrow of grief. 

This brilliant mind that helped bring this music to life is now gone. The world has truly lost a great talent. I know at least 10 drummers personally who would cite Neil Peart as a main influence and inspiration for their playing. Most of my favorite bands are influenced by Rush. There’s no doubt my taste in music as a whole is deeply rooted in all those Rush albums I grew up on. I’m absolutely certain they’re the reason I have a penchant for analog synths in rock and metal music, and why I gravitate more toward drummers who do more than just keep the beat.

And not only was he unmatched in his talent on the drums, he was such a great writer! The lyrics he wrote for the songs about philosophical ideas and science fiction and fantasy filled my head with wonder. With just a few lines of a song he could paint a picture in your head better than a lot of long-winded novelists out there. As a kid I liked the more story-oriented songs and as I grew up I grew to really love the contemplative philosophical stuff too. And let’s be real, a lot of the books I have decided to read in my life were because there was a Rush song about them. 

He also penned a few beautiful books about his experiences traveling on the road, and my particular favorite “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” about traveling and dealing with the loss of his wife and daughter. He was a truly remarkable person. I hope they reprint the books because I think everyone who is a fan of Rush, or even just a fan of traveling, should give them a read.

So, of course one of my fellow Rush-loving friends put out a challenge for people to list their 10 favorite Rush songs. I could never choose 10 songs, but I decided I could at least do albums. Although I love every album, and I do not believe there is a BAD Rush album, I have ranked my top 10 favorites:

10 Power Windows
9 Vapor Trails
8 Fly By Night
7 Signals
6 Moving Pictures
5 2112
4 Clockwork Angels
3 A Farewell To Kings
2 Hemispheres
1 Permanent Waves

Thank you so much for the music, Neil, you will be sorely missed.

Rachel Ardour’s Top 50 Albums of the Decade

For some reason, I decided it was a good idea to take a look back on the albums of the decade, and talk about which ones had the biggest impact on me and my music taste. And I know, I’m a little bit late with this. Writing this has been quite the undertaking that I didn’t expect it to be. There was so much good music to sort through, I find it incredible there are still people out there saying that nothing good is coming out these days. They obviously aren’t looking in the right places! I have edited and rewritten this list for days. It was a lot of fun looking back at all the incredible releases from the last 10 years, even the ones that didn’t make the cut.So I hope you appreciate it! Here are my personal favorite 50 albums of the last decade, chronologically not ranked but you can probably tell which ones I love most by how much I talk about them…

After
Ihsahn
26 January 2010

This was the album that turned me into a loyal Ihsahn fan. I really liked The Adversary and angL before this, but this one truly blew my mind. This one might have been one of the first times I listened to a new album and simply said “oh fuck” out loud. I had to listen to over and over again to really digest it. Not only was I in complete disbelief by the use of saxophones, but just how well it worked and fit in with the mood of this album. And that fretless bass! Even now, listening to this album, I hear little details that I didn’t notice before. AND THAT IS THE SHIT I LOVE. 

Curse of the Red River
Barren Earth
31 March 2010

Here is another album from 2010 that I still listen to regularly. I was first drawn to this album because it features Kasper Mårtenson, previously of Amorphis, on the keys. I always liked his style, and it shines through beautifully on this album. It also features Mikko Kotamäki of Swallow the Sun on vocals, and some other noteworthy Finnish musicians from bands like Moonsorrow and Chaosbreed. This album is a monster. It’s dark, it’s heavy, it’s melodic, it’s progressive, and at times absolutely beautiful.

The Obsidian Conspiracy
Nevermore
8 June 2010

As a long time fan, I had to give a slot in my chart to what became the last Nevermore album. The follow up of the absolute monster of an album that was This Godless Endeavor, is filled with catchy hooks and Warrel Dane sings with the same passion and conviction I have always loved him for. I rank him with the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford in vocal ability. A true loss of talent, may he rest in peace.

Kvelertak
Kvelertak
21 June 2010

Before this album, I had heard a few attempts at this genre they like to call black-and-roll. It never really got my blood pumping, not until this album. And I have no idea what they’re singing about, but they sure sound like they’re having a great time doing it. It is brutally heavy, but with cool melodies and really catchy riffs. This is a great album to grab when you’re in the mood for something that’s fast, brutal, heavy and fun!

Axioma Ethica Odini
Enslaved
27 September 2010

Enslaved was a band I liked by 2010, but were not yet my favorite band. I think this album really changed that. It also became a personal favorite of mine because this album was with me for some of the most difficult parts of my life, and I always find it strangely uplifting and calming. I still turn to this one when I’m down, or to calm my anxiety. To me it really was a shocking leap forward from its predecessors. Hearing this for the first time, I was like holy shit, where did this come from? They seemed to really push the envelope with this release. The production was more full, more of that wall-of-sound thing you’re hearing all over the progressive metal genre these days. Herbrand’s vocals shine through like they never really had before – even though they took on more of a backing role overall, that guy sang his heart out on this one. It is really heavy, and yet really dynamic and still holds that atmosphere that I’ve grown to love in Enslaved’s music. And this album made me think “There’s no way they can do better than this. This is peak Enslaved right here”… and of course they proved me wrong on that with every new album.

The Epigenesis
Melechesh
1 October 2010

Melechesh are a long time favorite of mine. If you’re not familiar with their particular middle-eastern brand of melodic blackened death metal, you should familiarize yourself. These guys shred, and have riffs for days, and also there’s these little details in the mix that just add that extra pizzazz like noodly little piano parts in the background and of course an array of classical arabian instruments.

Paracletus
Deathspell Omega
9 November 2010

I don’t know what to say about this album that hasn’t already been said. This is their finest work. A lot of people seem to agree on that. I love the jazzy elements, brooding atmosphere, and the somewhat disorienting organized chaos. 

World War IV
Warblade
20 November 2010

I know I am heavily biased with Warblade, because they truly were my gateway into underground metal as a whole. But this album contains my favorite song they ever did; Before You Learn To Speak. It’s hard to comment on bands’ work when you know them personally, so I won’t. If you can find this one, it’s worth a listen.

The Tree of Life
Orne
12 July 2011

Straight up melancholic progressive rock, heavy on the organ and mellotron in a way that will remind you of King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator.

Bilateral
Leprous
22 August 2011

Can we stop and talk about this one for a minute? So, I found this album I think like most Leprous fans, because they were the band playing with Ihsahn when he toured for his solo albums at the time. And of course Ihsahn made an appearance on this album. So of course I had to check it out…. And it simply blew my mind. I had never heard anything that sounded like this, and I still haven’t. There is no band out there that sounds like Leprous, besides Leprous. I listened to this album on repeat for weeks, just absorbing all it had to offer. And it’s truly remarkable. It somehow manages to simplify the progressive metal genre, and yet still be intricately complex. The different instrumental parts interact with each other on such a prodigious way, creating sound textures that are both beautiful and ferocious. The melodies take surprising directions, but never in a way that sounds forced or random. The keyboard and synth creates textures work perfectly with the tone of the songs. I don’t really know how to talk about guitars in a technical way, but Tor Oddmund Suhrke quickly became one of my favorites after this. And Einar Solberg’s vocals stand out particularly to me. He has such an incredibly unique voice, and has such command and control over it… To this day this one still amazes me.

Noregs Vaapen
Taake
19 September 2011

One of my favorite modern black metal releases, Taake manages to both keep the spirit of the original True Norwegian sound, and still do something new and interesting. It’s cold and harsh and haunting, and charged with such emotion. A staple for a long cold winter.

Cognitive
Soen
11 February 2012

I hate to compare these guys to Tool, but for me the similarities are undeniable. So when I found this band, it kind of filled that void that Tool left with their huge gap between 10,000 Days and Fear Inoculum. I have enjoyed all releases by Soen, but their debut is still my favorite.

Clockwork Angels
Rush
12 June 2012

This is possibly the last album we will ever see from Rush. If they truly have retired, what a great album to end on. It was a welcome release of new material after 5 years of just live albums and compilations. A lot of older bands seem to lose touch or their creative edge after being around this long, but Rush was particularly unique. There’s not a single album by Rush that isn’t good, or that doesn’t stand alone in being it’s own unique work. They always sound like Rush, but they always create something entirely different. And this is no exception to that!

Dead End Kings
Katatonia
27 August 2012

To me, this IS peak Katatonia. I have loved this band for a long time, and it’s the perfect soundtrack for your miserable depression days. This was the last album Katatonia recorded with drummer Daniel Liljekvist, and I think that’s why it’s peak for me. I wanted to love The Fall of Hearts as much, but I was so in love with Liljekvist’s drumming style – all his albums with Katatonia are my favorites. But this one in particular is hauntingly beautiful and melancholy. And in my humble opinion, absolute perfection.

Epicloud
Devin Townsend Project
18 September 2012

I don’t even know what to say about DTP. I feel like with Devin Townsend’s work, you either get it, or you don’t. And quite honestly, sometimes I don’t even get what he’s trying to do. But this album really stood out to me when it came out. It’s very epic, it’s heavy, but it’s very light too with elements of pop thrown in, as well as a gospel choir. I actually really liked the re-work of Kingdom and prefer this version to the original version now. Previous to this, he had released Deconstruction and Ghost, which were two extremely different albums. I feel like on this one, he successfully fused those two things – extremely heavy and chaotic, and the more ambient, melodic, lighter sounds.

RIITIIR
Enslaved
28 September 2012

If Axioma Ethica Odini didn’t make Enslaved my favorite band, this one definitely did. They pushed the boundaries on Axioma, and on this one they burned them down. This album is incredible from beginning to end. I couldn’t decide what was my favorite song on it then, and I still can’t. And I never know what to say about this. I can only describe my experience with this album. I still listen to it all the time. I still hear things I didn’t catch before. It still gives me goosebumps and occasionally brings a tear to my eye.

A Frail Becoming
Daylight Dies
9 October 2012

I absolutely love this band and everything they’ve ever done. This is the only release they have out in the last 10 years. It’s everything I have come to expect from this band; beautifully haunting, capturing that angry-sad vibe that really good death-doom encompasses. 

The Human Burden
Replacire
6 November 2012

This album I think is the epitome of what technical death metal should be. Unlike a lot of stuff coming out of that genre, it’s actually pleasurable to listen to. The drums actually sound organic and not programed or over processed. And the music is exciting and interesting at every turn. 

Shrine of the New Generation Slaves
Riverside
18 January 2013

Riverside is one of my favorite modern progressive rock bands that is still active. Their work before this always seemed to have more electronic and almost industrial sounds mixed in, but I feel like this album was truly a deviation from that, and for me, this is their best work. It was the last album to feature Piotr Grudziński before his tragic passing in 2016. I absolutely love the atmospheres and soundscapes they create with this album. It features all the things prog rock fans will love, lots of dynamics, tempo changes, odd time signatures, soaring keyboard solos… okay maybe things that I just love.

Heart of Oak
Anciients
15 April 2013

This was the debut full length from this act out of Vancouver. I love this album, and am still listening to it several times a year. They mesh together elements from black metal, death metal, stoner/sludge/doom and of course have those proggy licks that I love so much. Some have compared them to Mastodon and Enslaved, I guess I could agree with that. It’s dynamic, it’s heavy, it’s melodic and beautiful and the last track surprisingly reminds me of the Allman Brothers a little bit.

The Wild Hunt
Watain
16 August 2013

A daring and ambitious departure from their previous work. This album is more melodic, more varied, more dynamic, and features some clean singing. BM Fanboys hated it, I loved it.

Surgical Steel
Carcass
13 September 2013

We saw a lot of “comeback” albums from bands who had been inactive or not released new material for quite some time during this decade. One of the best I feel was Surgical Steel. They picked up right where they had left off with Swansong I feel. Filled with lots of groovy riffs and dual-harmony melodic guitar parts, this album simultaneously makes me want to air drum and play air guitar. I loved this album, and still love this album, as I do the rest of Carcass’s diverse discography.

Sister
In Solitude
1 October 2013

An absolute masterpiece of an album in the straight up heavy metal genre, this album is moody, heavy, groovy, and never too repetitive. It’s a shame that this band has since disbanded.

Sweven
Morbus Chron
24 February 2014

The excessive reverb on the production gives it such an eerie atmosphere. The songs are so well composed, never boring, never too repetitive. It manages to be incredibly atmospheric while retaining the crushing brutality they were known for. It just kills me that they released this absolute banger of an album, and then split up. 

Emergence
Shylmagoghnar
28 February 2014

This is a metal project by just two guys in The Netherlands. Melodic, ambient, atmospheric, folky at times, elements of black and death metal, and of course progressive. There’s a little of everything to love here.

Clearing The Path To Ascend
YOB
4 September 2014

Yob is just about the only band that plays in this style that I actually like. There’s a lot of terrible doom out there, and especially the more atmospheric and slow kind. It can easily get boring! But these guys manage to keep it interesting, and this is my favorite release of theirs.

At War With Reality
At The Gates
28 October 2014

Another prodigious comeback album from the first half of the decade. At the Gates released their first full length album since their inimitable release, Slaughter of the Soul in 1996! With this they destroyed any apprehension that they might not be able to follow up to the standards they set for themselves after so much time. They absolutely killed it with this album, and I spin it now almost as often as Slaughter of the Soul.

Awakening the Ancient Hunger
Malformed
15 November 2014

In my own humble opinion, nobody did the progressive melodic blackened death metal sound better than Rochester natives Malformed. Crushing riffs, titillating leads, powerful horror-inspired lyrics all kept in time by Rochester’s own human metronome Sno. You’ll never find a harder working drummer in Rochester.

Ravenhead
Orden Ogan
16 January 2015

I’m not usually into much of what ventures into the genre of power metal, but this album is an exception. Although I don’t know if it can be called power metal exclusively, it’s incredibly heavy, incredibly progressive, and very dark for the genre. This album captivated me from beginning to end. It’s another one I forced several friends to listen to also after finding it. Made a fan of me for life.

In Times
Enslaved
5 March 2015

So if you’re still reading you’ve probably figured out that any top album lists of mine will include any and all Enslaved albums possible. BUT SERIOUSLY how are they so good? I remember sitting down to listen to this on this day in March of 2015. That year we had a horribly harsh winter that seemed to last 6 months, and this was about ⅔ of the way through that. I was knitting a blanket, and sat down to work on that while giving this a critical listening. And I didn’t get any knitting done because I just sat in awe of what I was hearing. My only complaint is that it’s so short! But I would rather have a short album that is all top notch material than have any useless filler. And that’s what they gave us with this. I was shocked and amazed by the elements they brought in to this album, and they all meshed together and worked so well. The title track is something you could even dance to (I do!) and One Thousand Years of Rain is some of the heaviest and crushing riffs. Lots of ambiance and atmosphere, incredible production as always, and so many little details hidden in there that you can listen to this 100 times and still hear things you didn’t notice before.

Sleep at the Edge of the Earth
Wilderun
6 April 2015

This album had such an impact on me when I found it. I heard it, I had to have it, and immediately searched where to buy. I think I forced a good number of my friends to listen to it too. It’s progressive, folk, atmospheric, black metal, melodic, symphonic… and blends all these elements seamlessly. I was like holy shit, I can’t believe this came from some virtually unknown band out of Boston. They’ve since gained a much bigger following and finally released a follow up to this, which is even better, but the impact this one had, and because I’ve had several years to obsess over it earns it the spot in my top albums of the decade. Brutal, devastating, and beautiful.

A Furrow Cut Short
Drudkh
20 April 2015

In my opinion, this is their best work second to Blood In Our Wells. Brooding, dark, great atmosphere, everything you have come to expect from Drudkh.

Aria of Vernal Tombs
Obsiquaie
14 May 2015

Some ambiance, some black metal, some melodies, a lot of medieval themes. Another one I find myself frequently returning to.

The Congregation
Leprous
25 May 2015

After I fell so in love with Leprous’s sound on Bilateral, I had been really excited for it’s follow up release, Coal, in 2013. Although there were some really great tracks on it like Salt and Contaminate Me, it really left me underwhelmed, and I thought they were going to become one of those bands that I just like that one album from. So I listened to this one kind of expecting to be disappointed, but the opposite happened. This was their comeback to me. I was particularly blown away by Rewind, The Flood and Slave. With this album they added Baard Kolstad on Drums and Simen Børven on Bass, and I think both of them are just incredible musicians. Both really skilled, but with a great instinct for when to dial it back and play very simple, and when to go all out and be showy. Again on this album, like Bilateral, the instruments all interact with each other in an incredible way.

Winter Thrice
Borknagar
26 January 2016

This is absolutely my favorite release by Borknagar. Truly their most ambitious undertaking. Borknagar was a band that never set any limits on itself, and I feel like they truly explored their capability with this release.

Ursa
Novembre
1 April 2016

Ever since Ihsahn put a sax player on his album After, I have really loved the idea of including it in metal instrumentation. And guess what, there’s a saxophone on this album! Novembre is one of my favorites of the death-doom-gothic metal persuasion, and I think incredibly underrated.

Arktis.
Ihsahn
8 April 2016

I only just learned while doing a little research for this article that the cover of this album is a photo of world renowned Arctic explorer, social activist and environmentalist Fridtjof Nansen, and that’s really cool. Anyway, I LOVE this album. If I was to choose the album of the decade, I think this would be it. My Spotify put every song on this album in that playlist it makes of all the songs you listen to obsessively if that’s any indication of how much I love it. And think it’s maybe his most perfect piece of work. I love every single song, the twists and turns it takes, the shifts of mood, the use of synths and electric organ – and oh that noodly keyboard solo at the end of My Heart Is Of the North! The sinister but catchy hooks of Frail. The emotionally charged, sensual saxophone laid down by Jørgen Munkeby on Crooked Red Line… UGH It gives me the feely feels. And that tingly feeling, the goosebumps, whatever you call it. And Einar Solberg’s vocal performance on Celestial Violence is just breathtaking. The song is an absolute masterpiece, perfectly capturing the duality of destruction in that it’s both terrifying and incredibly beautiful. The shifts in mood of this song evokes the feelings of mixed terror, joy and wonder you feel when partaking in any activity that’s both fun and dangerous (skydiving, bungee jumping, roller coasters, etc.), and it brings a damn tear to my eye every time I hear it. Definitely the Album of the Decade for me.

Contrapasso
Seven Impale
15 September 2016

I only really discovered this one this year (2019). If you’re not aware of it, the band Enslaved has a new Keyboard player and clean vocalist on their latest release “E”. And that guy, Håkon Vinje, comes from this band. Listening to this I realized that Enslaved has barely scratched the surface on what Vinje can play. You can easily tell that every musician in this band is exceptionally talented. They perfectly mesh together Jazz and Prog Rock on this and previous releases. This album is impressive beginning to end, and I’m not lying when I say I swore out loud several times upon first listen. I also recommend checking out its predecessor, City of the Sun, because this album has a few tie-ins to that one, and honestly I love that one just as much as this one.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Ulver
6 April 2017

I love Ulver for the incredible diversity in their sound from album to album. But this one takes the cake as my absolute favorite thing they’ve ever done. A lot of it is stuff I’d listen to once in a great while. But this album with its 80’s synthwave worship and dark brooding atmosphere is a masterpiece. It’s not even metal. Not even a little bit. But it’s my list so it makes the cut. I also applaud them for making an album that’s just awesome to play while driving around downtown in the city at night. Well done.

The Source
Ayreon
28 April 2017

To be honest, there isn’t an Ayreon album that I don’t love. Arjen Anthony Lucassen can go on creating all the cheesy progressive metal space operas he wants. I will consume them all happily. As this one is the prequel to my absolute favorite Ayreon Album 01011001, it had to make this list. With catchy heavy riffs, and liberal use of analog synths and that classic electric organ sound, it’s got all the things I love.

Cloud Burner
Blurring
28 April 2017

Blurring is a band that’s hard for some to comprehend. Sometimes I don’t get it either. My experience is that they can only REALLY be appreciated live. That’s where you FEEL the energy of this music. Cloud Burner did a pretty good job of capturing their particular brand of disorienting grind on a recording, but you should definitely play it really fucking loud.

Gateway Spectre
Ancalagon
23 June 2017

Another Rochester native, but I have to give my love where it is deserved. This powerfully talented lineup spit out one of the finest albums melodic blackened death metal to come from our fine city, or even our State, maybe even the whole country, this decade. 

Malina
Leprous
24 August 2017

I honestly don’t think I really *got* this album until I saw them live for this tour toward the end of 2018, and saw these songs performed. I was not at all prepared for it. I just happened to be in Orlando on the same night they were, and took advantage of the opportunity. I had given the album a few casual listens when it came out, and kind of forgot about it, and I was on this huge death metal kick at the time. So it was like it impacted me for the first time right then. I remember watching in awe. They closed out the show with Mirage, which is definitely my favorite from this album, and it blew my mind! They actually played before Haken on that show, and after Leprous, I found Haken kind of boring! Anyway, this album really solidified Leprous as one of my all time favorite bands. This album saw the departure of any harsh vocals, which I guess upset a lot of long-time fans. I feel like Einar’s singing has become so polished, they are not needed. And any band that’s been around for a while will have those fans who just want them to always sound like their first album.

E
Enslaved
11 October 2017

What can I say, Every single time Enslaved puts out an album, I think it’s the best thing they’ve ever done, and this is no exception! I’m blown away by how they manage to do something completely unique and inspired every time, and still they have that unmistakable sound that is Enslaved. This album swept me off on a musical ride that I haven’t gotten off of since its release. This one I listen to at least once a week still. I can’t stop. This album is absolutely beautiful, beginning to end. So many shifts of mood, and flawlessly streamed together. From the ambient opening of Storm Son, to the absolutely mesmerizing end of Hiindsiight – my favorite track on this for sure – it is absolute perfection. It gives me goosebumps, I cry for its beauty. And I’ll say again, every time they put out a new album, I worry that it might be their peak. But they always seem to outdo themselves. I have high hopes for what they plan to release this year.

V: The Inside Scriptures
Aosoth
17 November 2017

I don’t really know what to say about this one other than I feel this is the epitome of french black metal. I don’t know how they do it, but they manage to be incredibly heavy and brutal and hauntingly beautiful… almost pretty in their sound. 

Ámr
Ihsahn
4 May 2018

Yet again, Ihsahn somehow puts into words and notes things I have felt for a long time. I’m really not good at talking about music technically, and I hate sounding repetitive so I’m not going to. All I know is that it made my neck hairs stand up and made me a little weepy with its sweeping melodies charged with emotion. And all the synthesizers. I love it.

背水之陣 (The Final Stand)
兀突骨 (Gotsu Totsu Kotsu)
24 October 2018

I first discovered this band when their album Retributive Justice came out in 2015 and I was completely blown away by this heavily bass-driven, thrashy death metal from Japan. These guys are incredibly skilled and add an edge to the genre that is exciting and refreshing. They also seem to be one of those bands that gets better with every release, and I can’t wait to hear what they do next!

In Cauda Venenum (Swedish Version)
Opeth
27 September 2019

This has been my favorite release by Opeth in YEARS. I did like their other stuff that came out this decade, but none of it really grabbed me like Watershed or Blackwater Park or even Damnation if you want to talk about no-growling albums. I definitely prefer the Swedish version, and in my opinion that’s the only version worth listening to. The English version sounds like an afterthought and Mikael Åkerfeldt doesn’t sound as honest and convicted with the vocals. On the Swedish version, the vocals are more confident and passionate. I love the nods to old 70’s Italian horror soundtracks. It has a very dark and eerie sound. And it’s some of the heaviest stuff they’ve put out in years.

Pitfalls
Leprous
24 October 2019

Leprous has been gradually distancing themselves from their heavier routes with their last few albums, and this one almost saw a complete departure. I’m not even sure I’d call this metal in any sense. BUT it is definitely really good music, that’s for sure. I love love love love this album. I love the pop and hip hop influence. I love the hauntingly beautiful vocal acrobatics. I love that it just gets weirder as it goes along. I feel that it showcases just how they’ve matured as artists, they can keep it fun with catchy hooks and then they can delve into the weird experimental realm and still manage to produce a cohesive product.

Killing Desire
Gutted Alive
13 December 2019

I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing this band from its formation when they called themselves The Gutted until now. They have matured their sound to incomprehensible levels of brutality, and I think are worthy of being counted among the masters of American Death Metal. This newest release takes the cake, delivering the most crushing riffs they’ve ever created.

And there it is, my list. There were so many more albums that I loved and considered for this list. But as I’ve already spent a week writing this, I’m leaving it at 50. 

Cheers to a whole bunch of awesome new music in this coming decade as well!

Vintage Rarities: Introduction and Debut

   Written by Ryan Howe*

What is Vintage Rarities? A way for me to find and share heavy metal from around the world with fans of all kinds. It’s a way for me to familiarize myself with trends and traditions, and often cultural differences in heavy metal in tons of different countries, and then give that knowledge and those experiences back to those willing to read about them. 

    I remember when I was first getting into Heavy Metal, I was around ten years old. I would constantly sneak my step-father’s CDs into my backpack before school to listen to on the bus. His taste in music didn’t get very heavy, but the introduction to Metallica’s “…And Justice for All” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” proved to be a pivotal moment in my musical youth. A childhood friend would later introduce me to more extreme forms of the music I grew to love. At around twelve I was gifted a mixed CD with bands like Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth, Gwar, Mudvayne and Sepultura; needless to say this sparked a fire within that has yet to be extinguished.

    It was then that I developed a passion for listening to and learning about all things Heavy Metal, and Extreme Music. That same passion brings me to this keyboard today. I feel I have a duty to bring knowledge of lesser known artists and bands to anyone that will listen. 

Remember your first underground show? Or maybe it wasn’t necessarily an “underground” show, but surely there were some local bands opening the gig. I certainly do, and I think about that moment daily. Now, think about this. In every city, in every country, there is a kid picking up a heavy metal album and a guitar for the first time and saying, “I’m going to make this one day”. Every city around the globe has a local scene, and every local band is potentially someone’s favorite band ever one day. That’s why I’m here with Vintage Rarities. Every country will be explored for various styles of the music we come to this webzine for, with the purpose of bringing much needed attention to all the local scenes out there!

    Each month I will choose a country and genre of metal at random. From there I’ll choose five bands from that country and genre (one for each week plus an extra, because calendars can be tricky). The catch! There’s always a catch!

    The bands that I will be choosing, and the albums that I describe therein will be no less than 20 years old! That’s where the Vintage comes into play. While I will make mention to releases throughout the whole of each band’s career, I will only be going into detail on the releases that are at least two decades old. This makes for something more difficult for me as a writer and my research, which is something I need as a stimulus; but it also helps fans with finding pioneers and obscurities they’d never thought to look into. 

Vintage Rarities: Black Metal in Mexico

 

Band Name: Avzhia

Country: Mexico

Location: Mexico City

Activity: 1993-present

 

As I start this venture into the world of Black Metal in Mexico, I’m met with my first band. Avzhia are as raw as you can be, and it should be noted that for their time they were rather different in the black metal genre. Listening past the scratchy recording of their 1995 demo “Immense Dark Sky”, you can hear that the guitar tone was largely responsible in creating the atmosphere of being in a desolate cave. We could argue that the recording technique could have been intentional to add to that atmosphere, but given that this was self recorded in the mid-90s it’s hard to believe they had the tools to make that on purpose. What we see here, like we see in many extreme metal recordings in early years, is the band creating a sound that was full and frightening with equipment that was available. And it certainly worked.

    Lyrically we are exposed to grim lamentation and a foreboding bond with various supernatural beings. There is a lot of emphasis on anguish and pain, referring occasionally to waking up as being “miserable” and that the Darkness is the only real truth. Some can read and listen to the lyrics found within these recordings and hear “Satanic” or “Occult” based messages, and I can comfortably see where they can derive these understandings. I, however, hear and read stories of deep depression. Being on the brink of suicide, the edge of sanity. Now, we pair the beautifully tragic lyricism with this foreboding atmosphere mentioned above, and we’re met with such an abysmal and wretched beast of a band. 

    Not all bands are so lucky as to have a continuous and strong lineup. It appears between 1992 and 1993, they went under the name Vomiting God but never released anything. The lineup changed, and the first demo was released under the name Avzhia in 1995 on cassette through Bellphegot Records. 

    Their next release was a split with Xibalba Itzaes in 1996 titled “Ancient Blasphemies”, but their next separate release was their 1996 debut full length, “Dark Emperors”. Another lineup change occurs placing Demogorgon with both drum and vocal duties, and Gorgon taking up lead guitar and keyboards; we’re now introduced to Forneus on bass, while Laldabaoth maintains control of rhythm guitar.This release starts out with a more dungeon ambient approach, and the recording technique is so clearly better, but the same dread that was expressed in their first recording remains. The vocal techniques are now exhibiting a sort of operatic/cathedral chant style broken up among the pained shrieking we’re now used to from them. Musically we’re met with some expression of Mexican classical guitar, and some scales we’re used to hearing in the scandinavian bands of similar styles. This album has something for fans of late Bathory and Hellhammer, but still more it can potentially appeal to the mariachi and classical music fans that might find themselves regularly enjoying black metal. My favorite thing about this particular release is the vocal styling paired with the unique riffs (this album is riff central) and the extraordinary drumming techniques. The drums on this record are far more than what we’ve come to expect from typical black metal at that time. The use of jazz and almost disco-esque styles adds to this air of unpredictability that is so captivating.

    The rest of their records were released in the 2000s. 2004 saw the release of “The Key of Throne”, which sees another lineup change that actually drops the band down to a three-piece. Gorgon becomes responsible for both bass and guitars, while Demogorgon maintains position on both drums and vocals. We’re then introduced to Baimonth as their keyboardist. 

    2010 saw the final release and so far the final lineup change. With the release of “In My Domain” we are introduced to bassist Anzuz, and Demogorgon adds “effects” to his resume in the band.

    Throughout their career, though they’ve only maintained two constant members, Avzhia had a brilliant ability to appeal to a variety of metal lovers while creating a wonderfully grim atmosphere so enjoyed by the black metallers around the world. We hear clear influence from bands like Bathory and Hellhammer, while also picking up on intricacies notable of traditional Mexican guitar playing. We’re treated to some brilliant and unexpected drumming techniques, and the same is to be said of the vocal stylings. All in all, I would recommend this band all day to those looking for an obscure example of black metal around the world.

   

2019: THE LOCALS

And who could forget the pile of great local metal albums that came out this year? Buffalo and Rochester both pumped out their fair share of gems. These won’t be ranked, but as usual, I’ll express who stood out to me. Here are my local picks for 2019:

  1. After years of waiting, Buffalo prog-djenters, Amputecht finally released From the New World. Fans of Periphery, Chimp Spanner, Substructure, Animals as Leaders and Tesseract might appreciate this.
  2. Human Delusion from Erie, PA released a cool melodic death/thrash album called Depravity this year. This band was formerly known as, Primal Scream Therapy.
  3. Ancalagon from Rochester, NY were one of my favorite bands from WNY from 2016-2019. I still love their releases, but as they are on an indefinite hiatus at the moment, it’s hard to see what the future holds for them. In any case, Ancalagon released Noctopoth this year and as melodic black metal albums go, it’s damn near perfect! Fans of Dissection should love it!
  4. Tyranitar put out Tales of Brutal World this year and this album is aptly named. This bardic metal band continues to impress me year after year, as (to my knowledge) the only Viking themed metal band in WNY. This was a long-awaited album for me and I’m so glad to have something of theirs to listen to other than old Soundcloud demos. Rochester has their own Amon Amarth. Hails!
  5. They’ve sort of grown beyond the local scene, but Rochester’s Contrarian also released a new album in 2019. Their Worm Never Dies is cutting edge progressive/technical death metal. I’m so happy to have booked them at RBS this past August and I will never tire of this band’s unique, intriguing sound.
  6. Pittsburgh, PA is in possession of a thrash/punk band I love called, Whitethrash. These guys play ridiculously fun music that never gets old to me. In 2019, they released Poser Exposer, which is my go-to album for getting energized on stagnant days.
  7. Here’s another break-up/hiatus that disappointed me this year. Mavradoxa are/were an atmospheric black metal band from Rochester that consistently released quality album after quality album, on a very short timetable. In just the past few years, they’d released three full lengths and a split with Deafest. In 2019, the band put out their third full length, Nightmarrow, an album that kept me company on many melancholic nights, whilst driving back to Buffalo from Bug Jar or Montage.
  8. Although they’re from New Jersey, Mike Deitzman and I have been bringing Embludgeonment around WNY lately and the fans are LOVING them as much as we are. These guys might be the heaviest, fastest, tightest thing around these parts in some time. Check out their 2019 crusher, Barn Burner. (FFO: death metal, grindcore, brutal death, slam, etc.)
  9. Hubris pumped out Regency of Hungering Swords this year and injected the metal community with yet another helping of high-grade, classic black metal. They’re still the only band in Buffalo going all the way with the black metal sound, attitude and look. I will never lose respect for this band’s attention to detail when bringing the culture of the genre’s Norwegian forefathers to WNY.
  10. Sertraline released two EPs this year! I have to respect that strategy. Not only are they the ideal atmospheric post-black metal band, but their decision to split their full length into two separate releases, expertly mirrored their sound. Sertraline are a band that like to drag things out, allowing the emotion behind their music to really seep into their audience. The albums are called From Both Our Hands and These Mills Are Oceans. 
  11. “Newcomers” to the scene, Vulcan, released Forged this year. Apparently, the album was almost shelved because they were lacking the “right” vocalist, and it had  already been recorded musically for some time before finally being unleashed. As someone with their own “eclectic metal band”, I LOVE Vulcan’s mixed subgenre style. I look forward to seeing them at our anniversary show in March.
  12. My former band, The Last Reign, released Prelude this year. This EP gives listeners a glimpse at their forthcoming album, Evolution, and also showcases the band’s new lineup. Melodic death is finally on the rise in Buffalo and hopefully things stay that way. Fans of the earliest materials of In Flames and Soilwork will love it.
  13. Still ranking as the funnest band in the area for me, Diluted released Unsubscribe just last month. I’ve been there to review just about all of their efforts, and I just love their “lack of fucks” while churning out their sound. Diluted are making the metal and metalcore of the late ’90s and early 2000s relevant in WNY again and I’m adoring every second of it. They’re replacing the trendy music of today with the stuff I grew up with, one note at a time. Thanks for the fan service, boys.
  14. Yanari dropped Offer Your Throat recently and it’s one of the slowest, but heaviest albums I’ve heard from around here in a long while. I never really got into sludgy hardcore, but Yanari stand out amongst the pack here in WNY. I can’t get over their live energy, which totally translates well into their recorded material. I also have to respect that their entire full length was recorded LIVE and in one take at Watchmen Studios. I wouldn’t have guessed had it not been pointed out to me. Magnificent!
  15. My eternal love for power metal and symphonic metal is no secret. Rochester have unleashed a band upon the world called, Gates of Paradox, and aside from the occasional over-the-top, insanely high ranged vocal bombardment, I find them to be absolutely perfect. Their new self-titled album came out this year and both musically and vocally, I find it to be a flawless homage to the European bands that made these genres great.
  16. Gutted Alive released Killing Desire this year and have once again proven to be Rochester’s most consistently brutal act. They’re not just a slam band. They’re the epitome of brutal death metal in all its forms: classic, evolved and modern.
  17. Of Desolation are another melodic death band fresh out of Buffalo, wreaking havoc on the scene with searing solos, blasting, bombastic drums and nasty classic death metal vocals. The clash between the old school death metal vocals and modern MDM riffing is what draws me to this band. Check out their debut EP, The Reckoning. 
  18. Grizzly Run are a band that take me outside my comfort zone in a positive way. Sometimes, I find myself intentionally avoiding “modern metal” or “modern metalcore”. Yet, here Buffalo has a band that are too tight and heavy to ignore. These guys waited two years before playing their first show and it’s really paid off in their recordings and live performances. GR use surgical precision in their songwriting, as well as during gigs. I like them enough to give others of the genre a serious try.
  19. Ecliptic Vision from Syracuse released their self-titled album this year. This record pulls on my heart strings for two reasons: EV outdid themselves yet again in the death metal realm, AND it will always remind me of the last conversation I ever had with drummer, Vincent Lawyer. Vincent’s death was a loss felt throughout three cities, at least. He had a positive impact on the metal communities of Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, on a level I don’t think he was ever truly aware of. I always looked forward to my talks with him about music and life in general. I will miss him dearly for the rest of my days.

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Mike’s 2019 Bigger Release Picks

I go through this every year. I have so much to say, I end up putting out three or four EOTY articles that only a handful of you read. Frankly, I’m grateful anyone checks these out. If I can get just one person into a new band or album, it’s worth it.

Here are my 2019 picks for bigger releases:

  1.  I was very impressed with Soilwork’s Verkligheten. It’s no Predator’s Portrait by any means, but it was definitely a step backwards, which was exactly what I was looking for. Soilwork’s 2019 offering was a throwback to their unique brand of early 2000s melodic death metal, while still infused with the band’s modern vocal melodies and pop song structures. It was nice to hear a band that’s gotten so soft bring back their roots, so to speak. I especially enjoyed the song, “Needles and Kin”, featuring Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis. Hearing Tomi and Bjorn vocally splitting a track in 2019 was a real treat. I love them both.

2. Evergrey came back into my life this year with The Atlantic. I had low expectations for it, but for production and songwriting, this early 2019, epic effort made me fall back in love with this band. Front to back, it’s a roller coaster of emotions, which was exactly what I needed to hear this past January through March. Those months made up one of the darkest points of my life and hearing an album that perfectly mirrored my emotions was essential to my moving past that time.

3. Swallow the Sun released When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light this year. I’ve never really been a doom guy, or a fan of slower tempos period, but Swallow the Sun are another band that really keep things interesting through expert layering and subtleties. Though, I will admit that getting through one of their albums, or even just one of their songs, can be a commitment. You need time, a bottle of water, or your favorite beer, and a sandwich when sitting down to listen. Fans of doom AND most melodic metal subgenres involving harsh vocals should be able to appreciate STS, but again, it’s important to take the time to pick apart how these songs, especially on this new album, are layered. A lot of time and planning went into the production of these songs and if you carefully examine every note, melody and effect, STS’s new album can be an insightful experience.

4. Nightrage released another banger called, Wolf To Man. Despite their constant lineup changes, I never tire of hearing this exact style of melodic death metal. Marios’s riffs have always really spoken to me and inspired me as a guitar player and songwriter. It’s also cool to see how dedicated and determined these guys are, consistently releasing a new album every two years or so. Regardless of members exiting/entering the band through a revolving door at times, or Marios living in Greece, while the rest of the band is based in Sweden, the material keeps flowing and the songs are still high quality MDM. Say what you will about the “departure from the classic ’90s MDM formula”, but I feel Nightrage are one of the only bands combining classic Swedish MDM riffing and drums with modern vocals, vocal melodies and groove sections. I will never not want a new Nightrage album.

5. Blackguard is putting out Storm early next year (1/3/20), but I’ve already heard the album and plan to review it soon. This release has a special place in my heart because of all the times I’ve seen them or played with them in Buffalo, NY over the years. I thought they were done, then magically, in 2019, they returned to the Canadian metal scene in a huge way with the single, “By My Hand” featuring Morgan Lander from Kittie. I still talk to Paul Ablaze from time to time to reminisce about the old days and I’m super pleased with their latest offering. I hope they stay the course and last well into next decade!

6. Amon Amarth released Berserker – another great Viking influenced MDM album! In my opinion, Amon have never released a “bad album”. They know what they’re going for and they crush it every time. Their live shows are always top notch and their music, no matter how similar song for song, is always a pleasure to listen to. I feel Amon Amarth are one of the few “niche bands” out there that can consistently repeat ideas without them ever getting stale. Their overall sound as a band is so unique, that I think AA’s internal process more than makes up for their “in the pocket” songwriting and conveyances. I will also never tire of this band’s ability to unite people from all over the world. I’ve seen them a number of times by now and I always meet people from across the globe, following Viking lord Johan Hegg’s commands without question. My new favorite, is of course, the “sit down and row” portion of AA’s set during “Shield Wall”, a stellar track from Berserker. 

7. Killswitch Engage are another band I’ve shamelessly loved since 2002. I’m one of the few people in my circle who heard them with Jesse on vocals before Howard, so I’ve always been biased. When Jesse came back for 2013’s Disarm the Descent, I instantly gave more fucks.

In 2019, KSE put out Atonement and they did “it” again for me. The first single, Unleashed, also the first track on the new album, really took me aback, however. I was expecting something heavy-hitting and relentless; something to really announce, “We’re back!” But what I got, was the exact opposite. I wasn’t happy with it at all. I felt like the label had gotten in their heads and their bold days were done. It’s a very mid-paced song with mostly clean singing, and honestly, it’s a borderline ballad. Luckily, I ventured into the rest of the album though, and the remainder did not disappoint in the slightest. If anything, KSE are just experimenting more and more with their modern metalcore formula as they age. And as one of the innovators of the style, that’s their right.

A top song for me is “The Signal Fire”, simply because it was great to hear Jesse and Howard splitting a track on vocals. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but there was something special about the song. For me, it provided a form of closure to the whole KSE story:

8. Tool! Are they metal? No. Well, I’m glad we got that out of the way. Anyways, I’d been waiting of the new Tool album for thirteen years, just like the rest of you, and I have to admit, the hype was discouraging me. I remember being very worried about the cult of newbie Tool fans coming out of the woodwork, along with the sea of diehard fans reliving their younger days through the promise of the long-awaited follow-up to 10,000 Days, Fear Inoculum. 

I’ve got to say, aside from this annoying three to four minute section in the song, “Invincible”, I was very pleased with the whole thing. Sometimes, Tool will repeat a simple, all open note riff, just a few too many times for me. “Invincible” has one such drawn out passage, but that aside, I LOVE this album! Briefly getting back to something I said about Swallow the Sun earlier, Tool’s newest offering is also a HUGE COMMITMENT. You have to be a dedicated fan of not only the band, but progressive music and subtly, but intricately layered music, to really appreciate it. You have to have the time and the patience to absorb all this music, and in turn, allow the music to absorb you. Most of my friends can’t take this album sober. I definitely had a few drinks during my very first listen, because I wanted to zone out, but remain attentive at the same time. This kind of stuff is certainly not for everyone, but as a long time fan of Tool, Fear Inoculum was a huge win in 2019.

9. Cold! Wow! This might be my most non-metal pick list ever! Back in my nu-metal/high school days, I loved Cold’s album 13 Ways to Bleed on Stage. For anyone who can relate, I was really hesitant about the new album, The Things We Can’t Stop, because across the board, it’s a mid-paced, depressing trip down the human psyche. Lyrically, it’s a slow dance from hell, where you’re forced to relive every regret and failed relationship you’ve ever had. Musically, it’s a depressing movement of darkening skies and plain loss. Naturally, I love it for these reasons. This year, I found myself listening to anything and everything that would torture my mind and force me to reset myself.

Don’t worry. Things get heavier and brighter.

10. Opeth’s In Cauda Venenum is a straight masterpiece by my standards. I’ve been a fan since the release of Blackwater Park and it’s nice to hear an album that’s primarily iced with clean singing, while the music takes all the heavy, tranquil, bi-polar, abrupt twists and turns you’re used to by now, if you’re a fan. As usual, the bass guitar stands out to me the most on Opeth’s latest effort. It’s great to hear bright, intricate bass, really shine against an already stellar band of musicians. Furthermore, Lars Mikael Akerfeldt hasn’t lost his touch as the band’s guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter. Each song feels like an ever weaving journey through his mind and it’s Just. Plain. Gold.

11. Insomnium’s Heart Like a Grave is a superb addition to the band’s brand of melancholic melodic death metal. Insomnium have always had a way of writing uplifting songs that are depressing and thought provoking at the same time. I love the clash of emotions in every riff. The new album carries a lot of classic melodic death and folk metal influence, while the band stays true to their dragged out, epic tremolo progressions, almost harking to the first melodic black metal bands. This is the kind of stuff that gets me up in the morning with a head full of good ideas, then slams me down at night, letting me know all my failures were not in vain. It’s perfect! They’re perfect!

12. Lacuna Coil scared the shit out of me this year. Their new album, Black Anima is shockingly good. The vocal ratio between harsh and clean on this album, surprisingly favors the harsh range and the music might be the heaviest stuff they’ve written since Comalies, to those who are familiar. Actually, scratch that. I fell way off their bandwagon years ago, but this might be the heaviest thing they’ve ever put out. Cristina Scabbia’s haunting melodies are still the focal point of the band, but I can’t get over her new, experimental range on this album. Her higher registers are insane and I even glimpsed her updated scream capabilities on a few newer tracks. Believe me, I was already surprised I put a Cold album on this list. But to put Lacuna Coil on here as well is just ridiculous. What year is this again?

13. Even Mayhem put out a new album this year. My soft spot for black metal peeked through recently, when the band finally released Daemon. I listened to it all the way through in Downey, CA recently at Dark Realm Records. Despite having more polished drums on previous releases, it appears Mayhem have retreated back into their classic and innovative sound. I was so pleased with the dirty production on the album, I bought it right then and there. To me, a classic black metal band, after calling themselves such, needs to leave the “warts” in their music. Daemon is bone-chilling, speedy, filthy, ominous and goosebump inducing. IMO, this was such a win for older black metal fans who want “their sound back”. I’m more a fan of the atmospheric “hipster” stuff myself, but when venturing back in time with the genre, this is the kind of stuff I look for.

Honorable mentions:

Within Temptation – Resist

Beast in Black – From Hell With Love

Delain – Hunter’s Moon 

Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

Eluveitie – Ategnatos 

Grand Magus – Wolf God

Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion (First album in 30 or so years, maybe?! Fuck! I got it on vinyl and I don’t even care about vinyl!)

Pathology – Reborn to Kill (I didn’t care about this band at all, until Deitz and I brought them to RBS in August and I finally watched the carnage. Damn! We’re bringing them to Bug Jar on 3/11/20. Save the date!)

The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings (Anette Olzon is STILL killing it after Nightwish dropped her on ’12. Very nice!)

 

Local/smaller bands are next! 🙂