Our (not so) monthly look at the metal albums that have been destroying our ear holes in a good way.
Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect
This is a band I’ve been shouting from the mountaintops about for quiet some time. Since their debut EP in 2013 I’ve been captivated by Immortal Bird’s precision in combining extreme forms of metal into this cohesive and potent brand of grinding, crusty, sludgy, blackened metal. Their newest full-length, Thrive on Neglect, takes everything they’ve done before, ratchets it up about fifteen notches and serves it from a canon. This is a venomous album filled with tangible vitriol and a penchant for drifting in and out of various metal sub-genres the way a malevolent spirit roams from room to room making everyone in the house piss their pants in fear. Blast beats and tremolo picking abound yet there’s enough diversity on here to keep you locked in from the first note, if only to see where this band flies around to next. With that said, one would think that cohesiveness is a word not suitable for this record, yet that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s a record that is meticulous and calculated, like the cold-blooded killer it very much sounds like. Fans of extreme metal, genres be damned, should be all over this record as quickly as possible.
Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
There’s a lot of great death metal floating around out in the sonic stratosphere these days. How does one wade through it all to find the cream of the crop? For Toronto’s Tomb Mold, now three albums in, the proof is in the primordial pudding. For the third year in a row this band has released an album that simply crushes all who dare to draw near. While there are distinct atmospherics at play here, and the element of surprise is always lurking around the corner like a well placed acoustic interlude, there’s also enough old school death metal aesthetics to pummel us all straight back to the early ’90s. When this band wants to create a distinctive mood they are able to transport you to some frightening outer dimensions, but when they want to get heavy they are as unforgiving as the Earth itself opening and swallowing you whole. Planetary Clairvoyance is easily one of the best death metal records of the year thus far, and fans of both the old school masters and their more atmospheric contemporaries need this record in their life.
Lingua Ignota – Caligula
There are some records I never get to review simply because of time constraints, and there are a select few records I don’t get around to writing about because I don’t even know where to begin. Those records in the latter category are the ones that challenge me in a way that makes me almost fearful to ever put the proverbial pen to paper because I feel that I could never really do it justice. This is absolutely one of those records. It’s been a long time since a record made me sit motionless for the entire duration while I allowed it to completely engulf me. Yet that’s exactly where I found myself with Caligula.
Let’s get the musical platitudes out of the way first. I’ve read everything I could about this record over the last two months and there’s been way too much “is it metal or is it not” floating about. Frankly, any record that can get as heavy as this one does at certain moments, and grow as terrifying as quickly as this one does deserves the “metal” label in my book. This is a harrowing record documenting one person’s harrowing personal experiences, so whatever labels seem convenient for you to use, then use them. But there are a million metal bands that wish they could create something as wholly despondent as this record.
Terrifying, harrowing, despondent. Yet somehow also one of the most empowering albums I’ve ever heard. Lingua Ignota mastermind Kristin Hayter has penned an album intimately dealing with the mental and physical abuse she’s had to endure. The end result is the end result of being abused. There is anger. There is fear. There is depression and self-loathing. But behind all of that there is also power and control. Hayter has taken those negative emotions and experiences and channeled them into some sort of ultimate statement of sonic retribution. In the dozens of times I’ve listened to this album it was not uncommon for me to tear up at certain moments. Those tears sometimes came from the tangible pain and suffering that is so deftly woven into every single moment of this record, and sometimes they came from moments that felt triumphant in their aural revenge.
From a strictly musical perspective, the whole album is a tortured and nightmarish one at almost every turn. Hayter’s vocal performance is triumphant and shows a range akin to Diamanda Galas and Jarboe. Her screams are merciless, yet her subdued moments are often angelic in their delivery. The lyrics are brilliant and truly read like poetic, raging madness more often than not. The music itself (which is often where metal purists start to lose it) crawls all over the map with Hayer pulling from her harsh electronic background and intertwining it with doom metal, neo-classical elements, and just about everything else you could imagine.
This is not an album to be taken lightly. You need to be in the right frame of mind to truly digest it properly, but when you do it’s a spiritual experience.