Our (pseudo) monthly look at the recent metal releases that warm the cockles of our blackened hearts.
Herod – Sombre Dessein
No matter how often it happens, there is nothing better than an album coming out of virtually nowhere to knock you right on your ass. Hello Switzerland’s sludge lords, Herod. I’ll be the first to admit that their debut album flew right under my radar upon its release and it took a solid year before I stumbled upon it almost by accident. Still with the constant flood of new music it was a hear today, gone tomorrow type of record for me, sadly. Sombre Dessein will be no such record. Right from the get-go Herod do their best to simply pummel you into submission under the crushing weight of meaty riffs and a thunderous backbone. Their doom meets sludge sound is coated in a glossy post-metal sheen that gives it a sort of welcomed, almost futuristic twist on both genres. The Ocean vocalist, Mike Pilat, who joined Herod in between releases, delivers a phenomenal performance barking lyrics with determined and palpable vitriol. The album is a pseudo-concept record about the destruction of our “thermo-industrial civilization”, and Herod do everything in their power to deliver a believable rendering through a thoroughly crushing sonic display. This album is addictive in its heaviness and by the end you’ll want to wrap it around you like a lead blanket.
Devil Master – Satan Spits on Children of Light
I’m more than old enough to vividly remember the “Satanic Panic” of the mid-to-late 1980’s and early 1990s. For almost a solid decade we were all constantly warned about the Satanic dangers lurking in the night. Video games, board games, comic books, MTV, Stephen King novels, and above all heavy metal music were all working to send America’s children straight into the arms of underground Satanic cults, and in turn straight to hell. I’m pretty positive that Philadelphia’s Devil Master were one of those bands the newscasts and Geraldo Rivera was trying to warn us about. Relapse Records was kind enough to give the world a heads-up back in November when they released the compilation album, Manifestations. It was a nice compendium of previously released material but also served as a warning to anyone pure of heart – you’re about to get spit on. Their proper debut album, the aptly titled Satan Spits on Children of Light, see Devil Master pick up and expound upon their unique black metal meets punk rock in a goth-owned graveyard sound. Shredding solos, memorable riffs, and tortured vocals do a death dance over top of punk rock aesthetics, while the band certainly doesn’t shy away from both lyrical content and a stage presence that screams Hammer horror films and ritual sacrifice. This record is as catchy as it is evil and fans of everything from Venom and early Bathory to the Misfits and Samhain absolutely need this record in their collection. Devil Master hearken back to a time when genre descriptors meant way less than they do today. Is it a punk record? Is it a black metal record? Who gives a shit. It’s fantastic no matter what you want to call it.
Vircolac – Masque
Death metal, more than any other genre, has experienced an impressive renaissance over the last decade. It’s been noted in this very space on more than one occasion that the number of bands making top-notch death metal albums has soared to exponential heights. With their debut full-length album now in hand, you can add Dublin, Ireland’s Vircolac to that growing list of must-listen acts. To say that Masque is an impressive display of musicality would be a vast understatement. Vircolac somehow take elements of thrash, doom and black metal and weave them seamlessly into a traditional death metal tapestry without losing the pure essence of the genre. There are atmospheric elements deftly at play, but unlike some of their peers their don’t eschew brutality for vibe. Masque also has a sharp edge to the recording that heightens the sense of foreboding and impending doom that’s pervasive throughout the whole thing. This is not some overtly-polished album and that perfectly suits the material held within. With this record, both lyrically and sonically, Vircolac are looking to peel back the masks we all where to bear witness to the decaying humanity that we all hide within. Mission absolutely accomplished.
Chrome Waves – A Grief Observed
Metal isn’t a genre that’s completely devoid of beauty. We’ve bestowed the virtues of several bands on this site and through our radio show who take a brutally heavy sound and manage to create music that is equally gorgeous and captivating as it is overpowering. You can add Indianapolis power trio, Chrome Waves to that list. The metal lineage of Chrome Waves is deep and impressive, featuring former members of Wolvhammer, Nachtmystium, The Gates of Slumber, and Abigail Williams, just to name a few. That lineage is on display with their debut album, A Grief Observed. Yet despite their past band’s various successes the sound of Chrome Waves stands firmly on its own merit. Atmospheric post-metal abounds here while the band dips their toes into doom and black metal territory to add sonic accoutrements that help create something altogether unique and wholly unforgettable. It’s the type of album that seems to just float gracefully along until blasting winds of heaviness knock it back out of the upper atmospheres. Meanwhile we are all able to bear witness to this beautiful, dark dance between the ferocious and the lucid. We are truly able to observe grief on this record, alongside longing, suffering, and alluring beauty. It’s a kaleidoscopic array of emotions all set to a robust soundtrack.