Our pseudo-monthly look into recent metal albums that have been in constant household rotation.
Bone Church – Acid Communion
First and foremost I should admit that there were few albums I was more excited about their eventual release in 2020 than I was New Haven, Connecticut’s Bone Church. I was completely enamored with 2017’s self-titled offering and after finally catching them live at last year’s New England Stoner & Doom Festival, this band quickly jumped towards the front of the line for my favorite local metal act. Needless to say, not only were my lofty expectations met, but they were blown out of the water. Filled front to back with killer riffs, stellar vocals, and one of the nastiest rhythm sections around, Bone Church have set the bar astronomically high for any and all stoner rock releases for the remainder of the year. This album is chock full of memorable tunes that linger with you long after the record has come to a stop. Taking cues from various corners of stoner rock’s vast history and throwing a complex bluesy edge into the mix, Bone Church are able to get heavy as a sack of hammers while also laying down more groove than your average heavy band could dare to handle. Since it’s release I’ve found myself coming back to this album more often than even I could have expected, and with each listen there’s a new nuance I uncover that makes me appreciate it even more. Spoiler alert: This album is going to land somewhere on my year-end list. The only question is just how high it can climb.
Lord Fowl – Glorious Babylon
Not to be outdone is another rollicking stoner rock album crashing out of New Haven, Connecticut in the form of the third full-length from Lord Fowl. It’s been way too long since this long-running act gifted us with a new record, however it’s safe to say the juice was worth the squeeze. Lord Fowl have taken the expectations long-time fans may have had and dashed them at the feet of a veritable mountain of riffs and hooks. While maybe not as heavy as some of their counterparts, Lord Fowl can write catchy and memorable songs with the best of them, drawing as much from radio-friendly hard rock acts as they do the Sabbaths and Pentagrams of the world. (Some of the tracks on this album are so accessible to the non-metal world that I even considered including this review in our monthly non-metal post. But there is certainly enough here for stoner rock, traditional doom, and classic heavy metal fans to get behind.) This record takes previous Lord Fowl material and expands on it in exciting ways. This is a band that has matured in almost every respect and been able to successfully translate it into a record that may very well be their best yet. Rowdy when it needs to be, restrained when the songs call for it, each turn of this album is one that feels as natural as a river flowing downstream. Fans of acts such as Red Fang, Torche, and even early Queens of the Stone Age should be all over this album.
Depravation – III: Odor Mortis
It’s not an easy road to hoe for a band that wants to continually mold their sound into something unique and interesting on every record. However, Germany’s Depravation seem to have the formula down to a science at this point. An act with deep roots in the crust and hardcore circuits, Depravation have been drifting towards a more blackened sound for some time, with their darkened visions becoming wholly realized on their newest full-length album III: Odor Mortis. There are many things that black metal, death metal, and crust have in common. Not the least of which is all three genre’s ability to take moody and ethereal atmospherics to the absolute next level. Depravation have done their best to pull from the atmospheric corners of all three and meld it into a sound that not only punctuates the air with sonic violence, but with an element of foreboding that can become deliciously overwhelming at times. Blast beats and tortured screams are woven into guitar work that’s meant to be as mood-setting as it is attention grabbing. On paper all of these elements and influences might seem like too much stew in the pot to make it work, yet somehow Depravation does it and does it with aplomb. Fans of everything from Amebix to 2000’s era Darkthrone will find this album worthy of their record player.
Funeral Leech – Death Meditation
Sometimes when I listen to a band’s debut album for the first time I literally go back to make sure what I’m hearing is actually a debut. Not because I think I’ve heard it somewhere else before, but because I’m stunned to hear a band release something so mature beyond its years. Such is the debut long player from New York death/doom outfit Funeral Leech. One of the most brutal offerings I’ve heard in some time, Death Meditation is an album that somehow sounds both completely unhinged, yet simultaneously, entirely in iron-fisted control of the madness. Have you ever watched one of those heinous machines that can uproot entire trees and snap them like match sticks? Now take that image of mass destruction in your mind, run it in slow motion in grainy black-and-white stock and you may get some semblance of the heaviness we are dealing with here. What I love most about this record though is that it’s not just heaviness for the sake of heaviness. Everything about this record feels cold and calculated in the best possible ways, and the ways that the best death/doom records always do. Savage riffs, vocals that emanate straight from the bowels of hell, and a consistent sense of dread combine with a constant sonic churning to give this record a weight that just can not be escaped from. It’s a brilliant ride and fans looking for something cathartic in these ridiculous and trying times could certainly do a lot worse.