Week ending November 21st, 2021

1) Suffocation – Live In North America

Death metal is having something of a resurgence at the moment and there are tons of brilliant young bands bringing the gutturals and the blastbeats and the grotesque morbidity that makes the genre everything we know and love. But it also respects its elders and so many venerable masters – Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, etc – are still very much slaying. Suffocation’s Live In North America is a great reminder of the incredible songs they’ve made over the decades, but also provides fresh perspective and lovely new production, highlighting the way they still deliver brutality in buckets. An absolute joy, from start to finish. We’ll miss ya, Frank.

2) Abscession – Rot Of Ages (NEW)

Transcending Obscurity are not a massive label but they do seem to be quietly killing it at the moment, releasing a ton of great extreme metal records by bands who are delivering the best material of their careers. This sophomore effort from Abscession shows a huge leap forward from 2015’s Grave Offerings as the band thrash their way through 40 minutes of nasty, brutal metal that blends melodeath with an almost Teutonic thrash style that feels satisfyingly old-skool. There’s some super-catchy songwriting here on tracks like Rat King Crawl and The Final Furnace but also enough experimentation to keep things interesting (including a surprise clean/acoustic passage in the title track and a synth-heavy closing instrumental). Rot Of Ages is exactly the kind of dark, morbid stuff I love.

3) Cradle of Filth – Existence is Futile

I was talking to a friend about Existence Is Futile the other day and managed to get myself so enthusiastic about it, I fell in love with it all over again. This is an album that’s almost inevitably not going to see the kind of love it deserves on AOTY lists because of the band’s image and history but it really is one of the most musically accomplished, lyrically dazzling and outright brilliant extreme metal releases out there right now. Old-skool CoF fans will enjoy hearing this newfound aggression from the band and it may even win over some of the haters, as there’s a lot less of their trademark camp theatricality here. Existence may be futile but metal like this makes it worth the effort.

4) Ad Infinitum – Chapter II: Legacy

Symphonic metal is a hard thing to get right. Mixing that kind of epic bombast with songs that actually have emotional resonance and don’t just sound overblown is an artform in itself but when it hits, it hits like a baton to the skull. Chapter II: Legacy is a great example of how to get it right, mixing huge hooks with even huger orchestration, vocals that soar like an eagle flying free and lyrics that go HAM. Ostensibly a concept album about Vlad The Impaler, Legacy nonetheless runs the gamut of emotions and if songs like Unstoppable don’t get your blood pumping and your head banging, I’ve got nothing for you.

5) Obscura – A Valediction (NEW)

Obscura have been pushing the techdeath envelope for years now, making music that’s ever more complex and confounding. After a four-album sci-fi conceptual cycle that ended in 2018, they had a line-up shuffle and have come back as a new band, reborn for A Valedication. This album blends the kind of insanely technical performances they’re known for with a surprising ear for melody. There’s a lot going on here but not all of it is impenetrable by any means. There are hooks, choruses, bludgeoning riffs, beautiful harmony solos, and much more besides. If you’re a techdeath fan, you can’t help but appreciate the virtuosity on display here but even normal people (!) should get a kick out of this deep and rewarding record.

6) Omnium Gatherum – Origin

On the other end of the death spectrum is this melodic offering from Omnium Gatherum, who sort of sound like the previously uninvestigated missing link between Dark Tranquillity, Fear Factory and Def Leppard here. No one asked for this but damn, did we need it. Origin is a fabulously inventive album, full of songs that have the euphoric gloss of 80s AOR and the visceral thrill of death metal. It’s tough to come up with a unique sound in an age where everything’s been done but Omnium Gatherum really pull it off here while sounding completely confident and in control of the madness.

7) Hand Of Kalliach – Samhainn

Hand Of Kalliach are one of those underground bands who’ve been getting a ton of buzz lately and it’s entirely down to word of mouth, which just goes to show how their debut Samhainn is getting people excited. An atmospheric blend of blackened death metal and Celtic folk, there’s something just perfect for the colder weather in here. It’s a collection of immaculately composed and produced songs that feel like they carry ancient magic on freezing winds, blowing from the dark Scottish Highlands into the hearts of listeners worldwide. A great record that’s clearly just the beginning for this exceptional band.

8) Bonded – Into Blackness

Bonded don’t mess around. This is straight-up thrash worship played at blistering velocity. With lyrics themed mostly around war, anger, violence and fire, it’s a great album to just bang your head and scream along to. Most of the songs, you’ll know the chorus by the end of the first listen, and there’s a relentless energy to it that’s irresistible. There’s also a four-song suite about vampires for maximum horror points (and you’re always gonna find your way into my top ten if you’ve got MAXIMUM HORROR POINTS).

9) Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Senjutsu’s been in my top tens since release and there’s not much more I can say to praise it, so instead, I have put my thoughts into the form of limerick:

There once was a band known as Maiden
With many great songs they were laden
They just wouldn’t stop
Writing bop after bop
All others stood back while they slayed ’em

Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m available for greetings cards, weddings, parties, anything really…

10) Whitechapel – Kin

While there’s arguably an exhausting quality to hearing such an outpouring of trauma as this, Kin is nonetheless a record that keeps rewarding listeners through sheer force alone. The Whitechapel of old, a battering ram of merciless deathcore, is still there but here the assault feels all the more deadly as it’s mixed with raw vulnerability, some of the most accomplished clean vocals in the genre and all kinds of melancholic musical passages that come out of nowhere and blindside you with feelings you probably didn’t want to feel. Cathartic as Hell and a masterclass in how to mature as a band without losing your edge.


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