2. ALDA, ‘Passage’ (Bindrune Recordings)

Alda coverTacoma’s Alda have been on a trajectory upward for years now. Their last record, the stunning “:Tahoma:,” really seemed to open eyes and ears, and that built up some pretty serious anticipation for their latest and greatest “Passage,” a record we have been unable to remove from our loop of listening. Their spacious, atmospheric black metal sounds grounded in the nature around them and their awe for what’s ahead of them. But there also is a vitriol geared to those with no respect for the wild world, who would see it fit to be compromised for the goods of greed and commerce. Alda’s music sounds like a warrior fighting that good fight and who will not quit and not give an inch of ground. You can hear that in their music and playing.

This band is a four-headed beast with Michael Korchonnoff on drums and vocals; Stephanie Knittle on bass, cello, and backing vocals; and Timothy Brown and Jace Bruton on guitars, and they rip right into this amazing collection with the rousing opener “The Clearcut,” and from there, they squeeze your heart and emotions over and over again. The sound of the record is rough and raw, adding a gritty sentiment to what can be overwhelming, beautiful songs. That dresses cuts such as weathered, path-beaten “Weathering,” noting, “We are parched land aching for drink,” hammering home to struggle and the sense of crawling through the wilderness. A clip from the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” is worked in expertly at its center, moving toward the song’s fiery finish. Closer “Animis” has wild dogs howling, before the song strikes hard. It has you feeling like being locked into center of the wilderness, the song raging with fire and epic glory, a track that can make you feel truly alive inside.

Alda have made a true masterpiece with “Passage,” and it’ll be close to our heart for as long as we both shall live. We were lucky to have the band answer some questions about the record, its impact on them, and some of the meaning spread across these five amazing songs. (Sept. 25)

AldaMeat Meat Metal: We are naming “Passage” as one of our top 5 favorite metal albums of 2015. This record has really stuck with me ever since hearing it for the first time. Talk about its creation a bit and what went into constructing this album.

Michael Korchonnoff: The origins of “Passage” lie back in 2010 when we wrote the song “Animis,” before “:Tahoma:” was released actually. We were all still living in our Tacoma house together and had recently finished recording “:Tahoma:.” Our creative energies were very high at that time and pretty seamlessly flowed from working on one album into laying the foundations for the next. Shortly afterwards, however, it became harder to coordinate our schedules as we entered a period of transitional limbo, our lives branching off in different directions. We wrote the rest of the songs in this transitional period as we cycled through different living situations and spaces, completing the writing of the album in 2013. These three years afforded us a fair amount of time to take an eagle-eyed view of the album as a conceptual whole, and when we began recording it at the beginning of 2014, we thought of it as a whole, almost as one big song. We recorded and mixed it at our rural Pierce County home in Washington State with the help of our friends Pythagamus Marshall (who recorded our acoustic parts) and Nate Myers (who did the metallic sessions). Working with their busy schedules meant it ended up taking the entire year to finish the damn thing. So it’s been quite the long, strange process.

MMM: One thing that really struck me is the sound of the album. It had a rawness and a sort of primitiveness. I could see a record of this nature getting overpolished and glossed up, but you didn’t go that route. Was that a conscious decision?

MK: That rawness is probably because it is a home-recorded album. But it was conscious in the sense that we intentionally chose not to create it in a professional studio, the reason being that we knew we wouldn’t have the time we really needed to include reflection in the recording process. Plus we really wanted people we liked and trusted to assist us in recording, people who were familiar with our music and would understand and be able to work with some of the particular nuances of our vision.

MMM: What is the meaning behind the title “Passage,” and why was this the appropriate word to sum up this collection? It’s an interesting choice that seems fairly open to interpretation.

MK: “Passage” as a single word that carries many implications within it. Seeking passage, passage from one state of being to another, a passage within a piece of writing or music. It is referential of movement and transition. When we were writing the album we were in a in a state of flux, facing upheaval and trying to find balance. Although this condition certainly influenced our mentality at the time of writing, in keeping with our regimen of writing about humanity as one of the elemental expressions of Nature (and all the drama that comes with that!), the themes of these songs are writ large. “Passage,” as the passage of human beings navigating the exponential devastation of industrial modernity that severs us from our origins and poisons the source of our very vitality. “Passage,” as processing suffering and loss. “Passage,” as letting go of egoic personification itself and accepting the absolute return to that source from which we have sustained our individualized existence – the big surprise everyone has to look forward to!

MMM: The opener “The Clearcut” is such a powerful and great way to open up this collection. There are delicate sounds, gushing power, the blending of voices. Talk about this song a bit and what meanings lie behind it.

MK: Lyrically, “The Clearcut” is accusational towards those human entities who poison the vitality of life through their exploitation of the Earth. The admonition is that those who exploit and destroy also hollow themselves out and their innate vitality through those very actions. But this accusational tone is not just sanctimonious finger-pointing. The one who accuses is also complicit in the atrocity. The pronouns ebb and flow, “you” and “we.” We are the abuser, a blind hand cradled in iron smiting the striving of life. The writer of these lyrics first sang these words when they found themselves driving on a rural road late at night, swerving around trying to avoid running over a host of frogs who were crossing the pavement, traveling to their mating grounds. Yet the song ends with a reminder that beyond our reach, below our level of awareness, life sleeps, waiting to emerge again, with or without us.

MMM: You chose a clip from “Jeremiah Johnson” to insert into “Weathering,” with the line, “Can’t cheat the mountain pilgrim,” seeming the hammer-home sentiment. How does that piece relate to the song, and did you have its use planned from the start?

MK: “Jeremiah Johnson” was one of several movies we watched during the writing of the album. The theme of a traumatized colonialist trying to flee the memories of war and devastation and seeking sanctuary in the harshly purifying and unforgiving environs of the mountains was moving to us. In the quote, a personified “Mountain Man” reminds Jeremiah that many people seek something in Nature that they feel they are missing where they come from. But you can’t cheat the Mountain. If you aren’t willing to let go, you’ll take it with you wherever you go. The Wilderness is what it is – if you seek healing, you have to open your ears and your eyes and accept it for yourself.

We didn’t plan to use that quote from the start. It was kind of tossed into “Weathering,” the only song of ours that was completely conceptual in construction. We sort of mapped out “Weathering” –we never performed it live, unlike most of our other songs, and it will never be performed live. But the sample fit.

MMM: Much of this record seems to have an appreciation for the expanse of nature and the outside world. Perhaps that’s just my interpretation. Is that a correct assumption, or is there something else going on?

MK: That is absolutely accurate. Without the direct experience of the Wild world, we would lack the spirit to make the music we do. Everything we have to say is directly connected to that. If that were to change in our lives, the spirit to create the music would wane. However, our songs are not merely exhalations of the wilderness nor lamentations for its destruction. Talking about nature is to talk about the essence of our being. And lots of things are layered into that–the dichotomies of industrial modernity and our animal natures, facing the fear of extinction and the emotional experience of loss, processing that karmic hand of cards dealt to us by our ancestry. All of these and more are part of what is touched upon in our music. And then of course there is something driving the music that is hard to describe, something in the personal chemistry we share as long friends and musicians. This is the thing that truly forms the foundation for the music itself.

MMM: What does the band have planned going forward? What kind of year will 2016 be for Alda?

MK: Who knows? We will probably still all be living together and making music. We will be playing a festival in Minnesota that we are looking forward to. Otherwise the future is unwritten!

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alda/116289091792839

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/

3. INDESINENCE, “III” (Profound Lore)

Indesinence coverI remember the first time I heard UK death metal/doom unit Indesinence, it had an incredibly profound effect on me. I hear death metal and doom bands I like all the time, especially ones that mix the two elements together like they’ve always belonged. But with Indesinence’s music, it was one of those feelings that I had found something for which I had been searching for years. They weren’t just heavy and murky, they had something lurking beneath them that provided a measure of mystery. They seemed far ahead of where so many other bands of this ilk were treading (which is funny considering the very odd cover song they added to the record we discuss today), and they were just so much more interesting and substantive. That carries over into what has become their swan song, the unreal “III.”

As noted, I’ve long admired this band, as well as this record, but it really struck me one morning driving to work, as I was headed down Penn Avenue toward Point Breeze, that it felt like the sky had opened up and poured abundant light upon me. It was during the “Mountains of Mind/Five Years Ahead” that is truly hit me how special this collection is, and just how mighty Indesinence had become. The second half of that track is the aforementioned cover of The Third Bardo’s 1967 single that really hit the nail when, in perfect deathrock drama, Ilia Rodriguez sings back “I’m five years ahead of my time,” because it’s true. Indesinence live far and above so many other death/doom bands, and they do it with substance, ingenuity, and intrigue. The fact the band chose to disband following this amazing record is a heartbreaker, but as you’ll read in our interview with Rodriguez, it was well in their plans.

Much thanks to Rodriguez, on super short notice, to give us elaborate, thoughtful responses to our myriad questions. I hope you enjoy reading his answers as much as I did. The band has meant a lot to me as a listener and writer, and I’ll always hang onto tracks such as “Nostalgia,” “Desert Trail,” and “Strange Meridian” as our final trips into the band’s tumultuous dream world. (July 24)

IndesinenceMEAT MEAD METAL: We are naming “III” as one of our top 5 metal releases of 2015. It’s another captivating, adventurous record from Indesinence and really one of the most unique death/doom offerings out there. How do you feel about the record now that you have a little bit of distance between you and its creation?

ILIA RODRIGUEZ: Thanks for your words. I am really happy with it, and I think the same holds true for the other guys involved. We managed to cram a lot of work into relatively short recording timeframes and still came home with a mix that pushed the right buttons for us. A lot of this is thanks to the studio mastery of Greg Chandler, who deserves a big part of the credit. As usual, there was the odd technical glitch that we didn’t notice until after mastering stage, but considering the amount of material and ideas that went in (we literally worked day and night through some of it) such warts must be lived with. Perfect albums are boring anyway! Only Steely Dan and Boston could get away with them.

Every Indesinence release has felt like a coherent progression from the previous, and this is no different. Explaining why in a logical way is difficult. A piece of work either feels right or it doesn’t, and if doesn’t, you shouldn’t release it. Luckily I stand behind everything we’ve done 100%, period.

MMM: Sadly, the band recently announced “III” would be the final work from Indesinence. Why was this the right time to bring an end to the band, and what are your ambitions going forward? Do the respective members intend to remain involved in your other projects?

IR: The decision was made almost two years ago. A series of circumstances led me to realize the band was no longer sustainable without a struggle on various fronts, a struggle that was wearing me down. I still fully believed in our work, but furthering the band was becoming a burden to me on a personal level. It was a question of focus and energy and, in order to protect my mental well-being, something had to give. Musically, it also felt right to close the chapter and move on. I spoke to the guys, and we felt we still had one more great album in us, and it made sense to wrap things up nicely with it. We had enough ideas in mind for a solid basis, so over the following year we invested ourselves in consolidating the songs and finding a good conceptual flow to them, and an emotional arc that worked. We also went into a European mini-tour with Esoteric and Procession in 2014 knowing that those would be our final shows.

I live in Spain now, and Andy also moved to New Zealand this year. In some ways it’s of course a pity the band is no longer, but it had to happen, and I have no regrets. We are all still friends and proud to have been part of this humble but solid body of work. Andy (McIvor) and I might continue working with Anil (Carrier) on Binah, as we all enjoy the chemistry in creating that music, plus it is essentially a studio project, and we all have home studios, so physical distance is not an obstacle. I imagine everyone else’s bands and projects (with the exception of perhaps Code) will continue.

MMM: Dream states and slumber long have been a part of Indesinence’s inspiration. What is it about these things that have caused you to create this music?

IR: Just a natural fascination with them that has never waned, really. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. It might stem from the fact that we spend so long living in a state of “conscious reality” that the feeling of there being a more abstract realm of perception beyond the veil of everyday consciousness is just really intriguing.

MMM: At the same time, I sense a bit of a nautical feel to the record. The way some of the music seems to sail and float in the murk, the image on the album cover… Is that an accurate assessment of what’s going on?

IR: Yes, and I am really glad you picked up on this. It is a theme that gradually crept in and took over much of the album. The sea has influenced me a lot, as I was raised very near it. I grew up in the towns of Trapagaran and Barakaldo in the Basque Country, so the coast was always very close by. I also have vivid memories of walking around the coastline in Asturias (also right by the Atlantic), looking for mussels and staring at the horizon. After twenty years in the big noise that is London, I also seem to have gone right back to it, as I currently live in an island (Majorca), something that I didn’t really know was going to happen when working on the album.

The sea is beautiful, and I find the architecture and overall sensorial stimuli that occur around it fascinating. It can be merciless and harrowing, but it also feels soothing and cleansing. The material on this album is probably the most landscape-inspired we have written, so the nautical ambience had to be there at the right times, and it’s great to hear it comes through well.

MMM: While the entire record is enthralling and expansive, I can’t help but ask about “Mountains of Mind” and its seemingly strange but ultimately sensible inclusion of The Third Bardo’s “Five Years Ahead (of My Time)” into the song. What led you to unearth that song, and why was it fitting for you to blend it into the back end of the track?

IR: We thought it would be a nice touch to have it in there as a coda to “Mountains of Mind” rather than as a self-contained track. These details just make albums more interesting, in my opinion … a bit like what Type O Negative did to Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” by adding their own coda to the song, but the other way around! In fact, that was one of the things I loved about Type O, the way they messed with unlikely covers until they made sense within their albums. Definitely an inspiration.

Some of us are great fans of psychedelic music in its various guises, and we wanted to grab this song and do our own rendering of it. The Third Bardo were a killer band, and, like other great bands of their era, only released a couple of singles. If they ever hear our cover, I hope they aren’t too annoyed by it! It is a fantastic tune that encapsulates both underground rock and roll and the exploratory spirit of its time. I did ponder whether to include it, partly because it had already been covered by The Cramps, Monster Magnet, and a bunch of other bands. But we just had a strong hunch that it could fit really well into our album, sonically and thematically. I think we got away with it.

MMM: A great reason I’ve always related to Indesinence’s music is the band brought something fresh and different to death and doom. There is nothing conventional to what you do, and the music always stood out from the rest of the pack. Was that intentional, to try to walk different paths, or was it an organic part of creation?

IR: This is probably not an “either/or” scenario. Our inspirations when we started were probably obvious (I was listening to Winter, Thergothon, and Dusk for the first time in ages recently, and it really hit me how much we had borrowed from them and others), but our listening habits were also pretty varied, and it was always clear in our minds that we wanted to pave our own way, to write Indesinence music. I guess around the time we managed to establish our sound on the “Ecstatic Lethargy” demo, things started to become organic. From “Neptunian” and “Noctambulism” onwards, songs took shape naturally and subconsciously and, aside from the odd intentional nod, with no direct references in mind. Of course making original music within such a specific framework is difficult, but we have always been naïve enough to try anyway. Like I tend to say, we weren’t concerned with being unique so much as with writing music that was good and meant something.

MMM: With Indesinence closing its final chapter, what did the band mean to you, and what was its purpose in your creative life? What do you hope it meant to other people?

IR: Indesinence literally took over my life for almost 15 years. Even when doing completely different stuff, it was always in the back of my mind. Some of the others who have been in the band were better than I at juggling the band and other priorities. Personally, while I managed this to some extent too, I also found it difficult. Nobody’s fault really; just how my brain is wired. Each step of the creative process was all-consuming and left me drained. For better or worse, this drainage was necessary to write stuff that reflected the honest and intense vibes that we felt were needed for a record to bear the Indesinence logo. I guess that’s ultimately what these albums capture; a great outpouring of energy, most of which did not come from easy places.

Looking back, I feel proud and a bit nostalgic, but also very relieved. The sadness will go away. There’s a universe of music to explore, and life is too short. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking a band has to last forever at all costs, but it really doesn’t. Many bands that inspired us weren’t around as long as we have! Our records might be a drop in the ocean of metal, but we feel grateful to have been that drop. If some people still remember them and tap into their energy through the years, then their job will be done. It’s no longer just our music; it now exists for other people to just enjoy, and I hope they do.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Indesinence

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

4. NECHOCHWEN, ‘Heart of Akamon’ (Bindrune Recordings/Nordvis Produktion)

Nechochwen coverWest Virginia’s Nechochwen have been a favorite in Meat Mead Metal land for years and years now. Ultimately, when you meet folks who find out you put together a metal site, you get the nagging, “What bands do you recommend?”question. Nechochwen also is one of the bands that I bring up, and that is reinforced even further with their excellent third album “Heart of Akamon,” a record I have loved since day one. The band digs back into their Appalachian roots for sure, and you get a deep sense of folk (check out the acoustic parts and the presence of flutes, lalawas, and other elements)  and the area’s history when digging into their music. On this one, they ratchet their intensity higher than ever before, hammering you with some of their finest compositions to date and offering a record that, if you’re like me, will leave an indelible impression on you for years to come.

The band doesn’t take long making their presence felt, opening with the thunderous “The Serpent Tradition,” one of the most enthralling songs in their entire catalog and a track that, if I was insane enough to compile a list of the best metal songs of the year, would get strong consideration for the to spot. It’s a thunderstorm that hovers over you and drives you into the ground. “Lost on the Trail of the Setting Sun” brings the horrors of war right front and center (the screams and wails are almost unbearable to witness) and crush your spirit; “Oct. 6, 1813” feels bruised and beaten but ultimately defiant; while closer “Kiselamahong” has the frost of winter frozen into its core, smoky, woodsy sentiments, and smothering doom that coats the white with soot. This is an amazing record front to back, one I cannot recommend highly enough.

Nechochwen were kind enough to answer some questions we had for them about this great, including why their origin region speaks so loudly to them, the meaning behind the record’s title, and the significance of some of the symbolism locked inside this record. Hails to them, and we hope for much more from the in the future.

NechochwenMEAT MEAD METAL: We are naming “Heart of Akamon” one of our top five favorite releases of the year. We’ve been following Nechochwen for a while and could not believe how overwhelming the experience of this record was. How does it feel for you now that it’s been out in the universe  for a while?

AARON CAREY: Thank you for this honor! We have been completely overwhelmed! We didn’t feel that the last two records caught on very much. This is not to say that fans weren’t supportive – they were – but our fan base has more than doubled in the past six months. To have this record out on two labels (Nordvis Produktion internationally) on two different countries has made a difference. It’s been very refreshing and encouraging to hear from people as far away as Angola, India, and Tasmania. A lot of Europeans are hearing us for the first time and talk to us often. So as we make music about native culture, we learn a lot about foreign cultures and languages too. I’ve learned a lot about other parts of the world this year, both from people I have met personally and people who have written to us. It has really opened my eyes. These year-end lists blew us away. I don’t think I’ve ever been on one! We are humbled by these many lists that people who are so passionate about metal are listening to it and getting something from it. It feels great.

MMM: Your music bears witness to and digs up the past of the Ohio and West Virginia regions, places geographically near to us as well. What is it about this area that strikes so close to your hearts that it fuels your creativity?

AC: Heritage. Whether someone has native roots or not, this is a huge part of our heritage here and everywhere else in the Americas. We’ve never lived outside of this region. Neither of us has. We are so rooted to this place, and most of our life experiences have been here. Each generation before us in our families that we’ve known in our lives also lived here. It’s like a micro-culture. I can’t drive anywhere or hike or whatever without picturing in my mind what this area looked like a thousand years ago or more. It’s like an obsession for my mind to picture this all the time even though it’s impossible to ever actually see it this way. I’m proud of our heritage here, and we are both fascinated by our history. There is an endless supply of interesting things to write about here. 17,000 years of history is right in our backyards.

MMM: The title “Heart of Akamon,” what is the meaning behind that and why was it appropriate for representing these songs?

AC: Akamon is a very old Moundbuilder era word that means something like wilderness; the original place. For me, this is how I view my area; I try to look past the modern structures, the dammed rivers, power lines, and cities and see what it was like long ago. After a while, especially when spending time in nature, I started to realize that this is still the same land. It looks different, but if you slow down and pay attention, it’s very much the same in some respects. The events that occurred here and the distinct landscape are very inspiring to us, and the title is a sign of reverence and respect for us. We feel lucky to have grown up here; we feel we were born in the very heart of Akamon, the heart of the wilderness.

MMM: I can’t get over the opener “The Serpent Tradition.” It feels like the most immediate, heart-crushing songs in the band’s catalog. I think it’s one of Nechochwen’s best. Expand on that track a little bit.

AC: Thank you for saying that. It was written about a Shawnee prophecy. It stated that a serpent would come from the sea to destroy the People. When the European ships first arrived on the Atlantic coast, with their pennants flapping in the wind, this was interpreted like a serpent’s forked tongue – the symbolic serpent of the prophecy. They knew from seeing this that it marked the beginning of catastrophic events, and they were correct.

This was one of the first two songs we recorded for this album, and the new elements we had added to our sound were really exciting and refreshing. I started using a high-end 8-string guitar for rhythm guitars and a 6-string with a Floyd Rose for the lead. We also went completely back to tube amps and will from now on, also. Some of these ideas had been around for a while and others, like the ending parts, were written in the studio in about 15 minutes. I was much happier with the vocals, both in the lyrics and with vocal approaches, than our previous albums. The opening part, the acoustic beginning and heavy riff it builds into, are ideas I’ve had since around the time that the “Oto” album was being written.

MMM: I’ve tried hard to ascertain the significance of “Oct. 6, 1813,” and maybe I’m just terrible at Googling. What is at the heart of that song? I assume there is some sort of thing that must be overcome and/or conquered with the calls of, I hear, “We will rise again.”

AC: Most of what we write about probably isn’t able to be Googled. The  line is actually ‘’Okiima rise again.” Many people misinterpret this. ‘Okiima means “chief.” It’s about the wish for Tecumseh to rise again after his death in battle the day before.

I think the best description I could use is paraphrased from the album’s liner notes: Tecumseh was one of the most revered, respected, and cherished leaders in American Indian history. As a powerful war chief, he urged all Indians to return to the traditional, pre-Columbian way of life his ancestors had known. Tecumseh formed a far-reaching confederacy of tribes through his charisma, brilliant oratory skills in multiple languages, and his almost supernatural prophetic sensibilities. The tribes he united, many of which were ancestral enemies, resisted western expansion and gave hope to many war-weary nations. His confederacy collapsed after he was killed at the Battle of the Thames in Ontario. October 6, 1813 is actually the day after Tecumseh was killed, and was, according to many sources, when he was buried in a secret location. The lament presented on this album was inspired by the late author Allan W. Eckert’s depiction of the interment of Tecumseh, great ‘Okiima of the Šawaanwaki, in the hopes that someday he will rise again and lead his People once more.

MMM: I can’t help but think that much of this record is going to sound ideal once winter’s elements arrive. Especially with songs such as “Kiselamakong” and … well … “The Impending Winter.” Do some of these songs have icy bones, or is that just a singular listener experience?

AC: I’d originally hoped for an early summer release so that people would first get acquainted with it while they are out driving around in good weather, hiking, camping, etc., but I think the release date was fine too; late summer/early fall is a time I associate with some of my favorite albums.

“The Impending Winter” definitely had a creepy, cold vibe that I thought musically expressed the seriousness of preparing for winter. Cold is creeping in, and you need to gather what you need, work on tools, get your winter house ready, etc. “Kišelamakong,” I see this a bit differently. The event that inspired it occurred in late April a few years ago. The slow doom riff that churns throughout the second half of the song came to me when I was cutting my grass in the summer! It may be a singular listening experience. Remember that these songs can mean anything they end up meaning to you. We never intended for the non-historical songs to represent any specific seasonal framework. Feel the songs how you feel them. Art should be open for interpretation. I’m glad you feel this way about them; it means the songs are not limited by origin or by my own intent. I never really thought about this before.

MMM: What does the band have planned for the future? I’m sure it’s too early to think new music (or not). But do you have live events planned? Anything else?

AC: We have work to do in other areas in the immediate future – the debut Coldfells album (the recording commences on January 2, 2016), a new release by End (a Greek black metal band that I do vocals for), and a classical guitar album I’m working on.  As far as Nechochwen is concerned, we have a special project that we haven’t discussed with the public. It’s not even started yet, so I’ll wait to talk about it until we’re further along with it. We’d also like to release an EP before too long since we have such long gaps between albums. I’d like to avoid an EP just being leftovers from the previous album – I usually hate those kind of EPs and sometimes they seem like a waste of time. I’d like it to be a short album that flows as well as a longer album. This is what I’m hoping for, an enjoyable, flowing short release that doesn’t take three years to make. We don’t currently have any more live events planned. We will probably do this sporadically when the conditions are right for us, but we’ve always had the intent to just record music. Thank you again for the honor. MMM has been very kind to us. Please look for more from Nechochwen in the future!

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nechochwen-Official/110325015754751

For more on the label, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

To buy the album, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/

5. CHRCH, “Unanswered Hymns” (Transylvanian Tapes/Battleground)

Chrch coverThere is a lot of doom to consume each year. It spills like a dark, muddy tidal wave, and  it is so hard to gather all of it, much less have it move you. But upon the first listen to Chrch’s debut offering “Unanswered Hymns,” I was instantly captivated. Three songs spread over 44 minutes that take their time to develop and spread atmosphere is what you will find on this album. It’s heavily melodic, constantly changing, and always memorable. At times the songs can be guttural and brutal, while at others it has elements of beauty and reflection. There is so much going on here, and the way the band constructs these songs is damn-near expert.

The band–vocalist Eva, guitarists Chris (who also provides backing vocals) and Shann, bassist Ben, and drummer Matt–make an immediate impact on opener “Dawning,” a 19:16 epic that’s chock full of anguish, power, and grit, but later takes on psychedelic colors. It’s one hell of a journey, and the band keeps you engaged and anticipating each new burst the entire way. It’s one of my favorite tracks of the year. “Stargazer” is the short one at a mere 11:45, with Eva’s shrieks crushing you, the doom fires raging, and the band dragging you off into the night. Closer “Offering” rips right open, with the singing pointed and expressive, the tempo hulking along, and the band letting the final moments bathe in a sizzle. It’s such an impressive record, and the fact that it’s the band’s first is damn scary.

Chrch guitarist Chris was kind enough to answer some questions about our No. 5 record of the year, and he gets right to the point about the band’s music, what goes into its creation, the impressive bands with whom they’ve shared stages this year, and what 2016 has in store for the band (hint: some really big shows). (Released April 9)

ChrchMeat Mead Metal: “Unanswered Hymns” made an immediate impression and has remained one of our most listened-to records of this year. How does the record feel to you now that it’s been out there for consumption and you’ve continued to play these songs?

Chris: For us, the songs have stood the test of time. It took us quite a long time to develop the songs and they still have the emotional impact that they had in the beginning. It feels great to finally have physical copies of the record.

MMM: This album has a couple different labels involved–from Transylvanian Tapes to

Battleground Records. Was this something you planned before or during recording, to spread out the formats to different labels? Or did this come about afterward?

Chris: We never expected this recording to be so well received. We recorded it as a demo and had planned to just put it out on CD ourselves.  After we recorded it, Transylvanian Tapes approached us about a tape, and we worked that out with him. We still had plans to release the CD ourselves. Battleground heard it and approached us about the LP. It all happened quickly and we’re still blown away by its reception. We ended up getting a second press of tapes within a month of the initial press.

MMM: Not much is known about the intent of your music from a lyrical/philosophical standpoint. What do you care to share about Chrch’s mission and what you tried to accomplish on “Unanswered Hymns”?

Chris: We just wanted to create music that moves us as humans.  

MMM: The band has a nice mix of light and dark elements, from guttural, churning passages to parts where there’s more atmosphere and lush singing. Do you see these elements doing battle or acting more as a complement to each other? Where do they come from?

Chris: A little bit of both. As in life, there always exists contrast. Sometimes that contrast complements one another; other times the contrast seems like a battle. Some of the major themes represented within this album are longing, sorrow, and the hope for redemption.

MMM: The band has shared stages with some pretty impressive groups this year, from YOB to Pentagram to Ufomammut to Usnea. What were those experiences like for the band, and what did you take away from those situations?

Chris: Every show we played this year was its own unique experience. Being able to play with the aforementioned bands, whom we have all looked up to and respected for years, was beyond incredible. Sharing the stage with some of our biggest musical influences, it’s truly a considerable honor and a great experience.

MMM: How do you feel the band has grown and developed this year, from putting out a great debut to getting out on the road more and doing shows? Do you notice a greater interest in the band? Do you feel “Unanswered Hymns” gained traction with people?

Chris: Everything has happened at an overwhelming rate. It still feels like we just recorded, and now people all over the world have the LP in their hands. Before this band, none of us had played music together, so it’s awesome to see it develop into what it’s become.  

MMM: Finally, what is the band looking forward to in 2016 and beyond? Any new recording ideas? More touring? Something else?

Chris: We are looking forward to touring Europe for a little over three weeks in March and April. We are honored to have been invited to play Roadburn. We’ll also be playing Doom Over Leipzig while we’re there. After that, we have some more touring and shows planned. We’re currently writing and have plans to record.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/chrchdoomca

To buy the album (vinyl), go here: http://battlegroundrecords.bigcartel.com/

Or here (digital): https://churchdoom.bandcamp.com/releases

Or here (cassette): http://transylvaniantapes.bandcamp.com/album/church-unanswered-hymns

For more on the label, go here: https://battlegroundrecords.bandcamp.com/

Best of 2015: 10-6

Vanum cover10. VANUM, “Realm of Sacrifice” (Profound Lore): There are those albums that come out every year that, once the final days are here, you wonder why more people didn’t talk about said record. I cannot believe more people are not all over “Realm of Sacrifice,” the stunning debut record from black metal duo Vanum. Comprised of K. Morgan from Ash Borer and M. Rekavics of Fell Voices and Vorde, their union alone was enough to drum up a ton of excitement. But then taking on the music and its waves upon waves of riffs and vicious, tormented vocals, it was an experience that surpassed the enthusiasm I had in my head. It’s one hell of a quaking record.

Spread over four tracks, the band creates an atmospheric, hellish world that swirls overhead and sprays chaos over the land. Starting with opener “Realm of Ascension,” the band lights a fire and fans those flames as far as the eye can see. Sometimes the music feels like it’s emitted from the mouth of a volcano, at others in the deepest underground science lab, and through it all, they find ways to make your head spin and your flesh burn. “Convergence” feels spooky and spacey before the bombs are dropped and carnage digs its teeth into your senses. Closer “Convergence” feels like the outline of a demonic spirit hovering overhead, hulking, seeking to spill your guts, but settling for leaving you permanently scarred psychologically. I don’t know if folks slept on this record or forgot it, but it was one of the most enthralling, energy-spitting black metal releases of the year.  (June 25)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/realmofsacrifice

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Yellow Eyes cover9. YELLOW EYES, “Sick With Bloom” (Gilead Media): We’re barely into the winter season (the solstice was yesterday, after all), but as noted in our review a few weeks back on the great new Yellow Eyes album “Sick With Bloom,” these songs make me think of the first days of thaw. The NYC-based black metal band on their third record managed to pump out the best music of their career, and certainly the most disorienting. The riffs flood your senses, the damn-near inhuman shrieks blister you, yet the sub-freezing atmosphere pumped into these songs practically makes steam rise from the dying ice as you crawl your way to the damp, saturated woods.

“Sick With Bloom” also is likely to be the most accessible release from the band from a physical product standpoint, as Gilead Media put this thing out into the world, and if you’re new to Yellow Eyes and hunger for black metal that shows you new colors and shades, this is the record for you. The album gets started with the title track, as a swarm of insects penetrates before the band sets you on a dizzying spin. “What Filters Through the Copper Strain” lets melodies wash over and stream into electric force, with a storm coming later to soak the grounds. Plus, the stunning “The Mangrove, the Preserver” has vocal scrapes and pure anguish, while closer “Ice in the Spring” caps off the album with an emotional caterwaul. This is an amazing record, one that should put Yellow Eyes on the tips of more tongues.  (Dec. 11)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Yellow-Eyes-659862920738821/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.erodingwinds.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

CDBO04.pdf8. VASTUM, “Hole Below” (20 Buck Spin): Sex long has been a part of heavy metal. But for the most part, that’s been as an element of sleeze, womanizing-heavy fantasies, and pure innuendo. Bay Area death metal pounders Vastum have taken a different angle to sexuality over their time together. Instead of going that cheap route, they’ve exposed the ugly, torturous side. That carries over to their smothering third record “Hole Below,” a punishing six-track journey that is as psychologically bruising as it is impossibly heavy.

We begin this thing with a song called “Sodomistic Malevolence,” just in case you thought the band was going to ease you into the horrors, and from there, the destructive, driving death metal and the dual, threatening howls from Leila Abdul-Rauf and Daniel Butler do serious damage to your insides. Clearly it doesn’t end there. And it’s not limited to sexual derangement either, as the band certainly drags you through other dark waters on cuts such as “In Sickness and in Death” that’s mauling and chugging; “Intrusions” that is mangling and horrific; and the great closer “Empty Breast,” a track that you can skim meaning a bit from the surface based on the title but won’t fully prepare you for the rampage ahead. Vastum are three albums into their run, and there hasn’t been a weak moment yet. (Nov. 6)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vastum/440192535391

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/collections/music

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Obsequiae7. OBSEQUIAE, “Aria of Vernal Tombs” (20 Buck Spin): You want a dose of fantasy with your metal? You want something that will make you want to storm a castle, rescue a princess, make her yours for life, and live in a room of crowns and riches? Holy shit, man, that’s what an Obsequiae record feels like. “Aria of Vernal Tombs,” the band’s second record, is another fantastic adventure into a timeless time, yet one that feels drenched in bygone eras. If that makes any sense. The metallic glory separated by beautiful harp solos make for an interesting combination of heavy and classical, and this band’s work literally has no peer. Name another Obsequiae, and you’ll fail trying.

This spectacular follow-up to their debut “Suspended in the Brune of Eos” is 11 tracks and 44 minutes of fun and chainmail-bloodied, sword-clanging power. The record is more exquisite and mystical than it is brutal, and the great guitar work, gushing growls and shrieks, and sense of adventure fuels this album and sends into the stratosphere. Creator Tanner Anderson, who handles guitars, vocals, and bass, is at the height of his powers here on songs such as “Autumnal Pyre,” humid “Pools of a Vernal Paradise,” molten “In the Absence of Light,” and purely dark “Orphic Rites of the Mystic.” It’s a record that rightfully has gotten a lot of praise from many scribes and fellow musicians because it’s a one-of-a-kind burst of metal ripped from the past and smeared into the present.   (May 26)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/epicuscastlecusmetallicus

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/collections/music

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Panopticon cover6. PANOPTICON, “Autumn Eternal” (Bindrune Recordings): Austin Lunn has been on a pretty impressive clip the past few years, and now, two years in a row, his Panopticon project has put out one of the most impressive, expressive metal records of the year. Coming off his impressive journey to and from home with “”Roads to the North,” Lunn returns with “Autumn Eternal,” a record that landed right in the middle of the Fall as a collection that pays homage and tribute to that very season. From the breath-taking album cover to the thunderous, emotional eight tracks on this record, you are treated to an hour of brilliant work and bloody raw sentiment that is missing from so much of modern metal. We praise Lunn over and over each year because he truly deserves such accolades for his work.

Working this time with Colin Marston, Lunn sets the stage with acoustic-fed, water-trickling “Tamarack’s Gold Returns” before shifting into an incredible high on “Into the North Woods,” a track that will pick you up, carry you on its shoulders, and rage into the lands of trees and fading leaves. That continues into the flooding, furiously melodic title cut; the picturesque and raucous “Oaks Ablaze” that gives you the perfect scene of red-and-orange autumn at the height of its majesty; through the moody and punchy “Pale Ghosts”; and on to “A Superior Lament” that has passion, fire, and a range of emotions (including shadowy, solemn singing about halfway through the cut) that spill over and swell your heart. It’s impossible to hear a Panopticon record and not feel a tidal wave of various energies. “Autumn Eternal” is no exception, and it’s another example of Lunn’s seemingly never ending inspiration and brilliance. (Oct. 16)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TheTruePanopticon

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/

Best of 2015: 15-11

Jess cover15. JESS & THE ANCIENT ONES, “Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes” (Svart): Finnish band Jess and the Ancient Ones went from being an occult-based, metal-leaning group to one that has a head full of psychedelic ambitions that rock out a little more. Whatever it is they’ve stumbled upon on their second full-length “Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes” really, really works, and the nine tracks here are infectious, fun, and absolutely addiction worthy. Your head will swim in the clouds with these tracks, and you might find your mind has been altered by these hippie cult jams. On top of that, awesome vocalist Jess is at the top of her game as an alluring, storytelling force, and she deserves more mention when it comes to discussing the best singers in rock and metal.

Of course, witchery is afoot, a fact that becomes bloody obvious on rousing opener “Samhain,” a track that warns the wary of the trappings of the witches sabbath, and from there, the tracks bustle, the choruses drive your heart, and the sticky glory of “The Flying Man,” “The Equinox Death Trip,” and the Manson-inspired “Wolves Inside My Head” set up to do a number on you. But it’s the 22-minute “Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever” that adds the dramatic exclamation point at the end of the album. It starts off as a piano ballad, but as it builds, layers of drama and bombast arrive, bringing this thing to raging life and a triumph over death, especially with the band all joining in the refrain that brings the record to its huge end. Great band that’s just getting greater before our ears and eyes. (Dec. 4)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/jessandtheancientones

To buy the album, go here: http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/

For more on the label, go here: http://svartrecords.com/

Bell Witch cover14. BELL WITCH, “Four Phantoms” (Profound Lore): Wallowing in depression and death is just something Bell Witch happen to do very well. They carved a niche out for themselves in the funeral doom category over two full-length efforts now, and “Four Phantoms” is the dreariest, darkest work of their career. The record centers its loose concept on souls that are trapped in the four elements of wind, water, air, and fire (you can see this depicted on the album cover) and their torment that results from this encapsulation.

Like all Bell Witch work, the songs are gargantuan, deadly, and demand a commitment from the listener. You are entering into chasms of suffering here, long journeys in which the pain and wailing of the subject matter is made soberingly clear. The band crushes and wails in the mud, dragging you through at a slithering pace for the most part, but also sprinkling in serenity and beauty when the scene calls for it. The album opens with a 22:39-long epic “Suffocation, A Burial: I – Awoken (Breathing Teeth)” that is impossibly grim but later allows gothic blackness to stream in and cause great flooding. “Suffocation, A Drowning: II – Somniloquy (The Distance of Forever)” is a few ticks longer and has elements of deathrock and folk infused into the cascading doom, and a guest spot by Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin) adds spacious, clean singing to the ugliness. It’s one hell of an emotional, gut-wrenching record, and once it’s done, you can’t help but feel you’ve suffered along with those lost, damned souls. (April 28)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/BellWitchDoom

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Cruciamentum cover13. CRUCIAMENTUM, “Charnel Passages” (Profound Lore): If you just want a platter of pure death metal without the unnecessary polish and bells and whistles, UK crushers Cruciamentum had your ass covered with their destructive debut full-length “Charnel Passages.” Actually, that might be the most fitting album title of the entire year, as it describes perfectly what the record sounds like. This band also had the potential albatross of a lot of hype surrounding the arrival of this record, but they smashed every expectation set in front of them.

This seven-track, 45-minute album smothers you from front to back, as these guys clearly are drinking from the same bloody streams as bands such as Incantation, and the flesh scorching you take from this band is hellacious and permanently damaging. From the riff-splattered, at times really catchy opener “The Conquered Sun (The Dying Light Beyond Morpheus Realms),” you head off into a frosty, brutal world that I sometimes forget can exist in modern death metal. “Tongues of Nightside” brings screeching guitar work and vicious thrashing; “Piety Carved From Flesh” tears opens wounds and keeps pounding on them like Abdullah the Butcher carving an already bleeding laceration with an old fork; and closer “Collapse” pushes your face into the pavement, makes you swallow cinders, and keeps up the intensity until final punishment has been dealt. Cruciamentum is a nasty shot in the arm the death metal world badly needed. (Sept. 4)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cruciamentum/285239791946

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Night Demon cover12. NIGHT DEMON, “Curse of the Damned” (Century Media): A lot of writers, myself included, take a lot of time to dissect music, figure out the messages included, and explain why an album should be seen as important. What we sometimes forget about is that heavy metal as an artform also can be really fun. It’s an escape, a trip into somewhere else where danger is afoot, the devil is laughing comically, and you leave with your heart pounding with excitement. That’s what I’ve gotten with every trip I’ve made to Night Demon’s debut long player “Curse of the Damned,” and it has remained with me faithfully the entire calendar year.

Inspired by the comic book “Blood Sacrifice,” the band tears into tried-and-true heavy metal, with hooks going on for days, great guitar work, and lyrics you’ll want to sing back in your stupid bedroom. Many of the songs revel in B-movie horror, which is a huge compliment, and through memorable cuts including “Screams in the Night,” the great title track, “Heavy Metal Heat” (which might as well go back in time and be mid-1980s Headbangers Ball fodder), and killer closer “Save Me Now,” Night Demon establish themselves as true metal heroes, a band that has a strong emotional and mental connection to the roots of the genre. This record is full of life and fills me with joy every time I hear it. That’s something that doesn’t happen to me often enough. (Jan. 14)

For more on the band, go here: http://nightdemon.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/

Immortal Bird cover11. IMMORTAL BIRD, “Empress/Abscess” (Broken Limbs/Manatee Rampage): It’s been no secret that Chicago’s Immortal Bird are ensconced in a soft place in our idiots hearts, but that’s for good reason. Ever since their stunning debut EP “Akrasia” and through their live shows, they’ve proved to be an interesting, fresh band that isn’t settling with blending in with the pack. Through their strong, creative playing, monstrous vocals from Rae Amitay, and giant leaps and bounds of progression, “Empress/Abscess” is one of this year’s most satisfying moments. This first full-length proved the band has the chops, intelligence, and tenacity to make something truly memorable, and the work they do on this record makes them even harder to classify than before.

Over five tracks and 30 minutes, Immortal Bird serve up their weird black metal, grind, doom, death amalgamation just right, giving you a hefty serving of what they do best, yet still leaving you wanting more. Crushers “Neoplastic” and “The Sycophant” leave welts and bruises all over your body, twisting and turning your mind into weird pretzel shapes. Yet cuts such as “To a Watery Grave” and apocalyptic, 10-minute closer “And Send Fire” show different shades of the band, reveal their vulnerability, but also cement their ferocity. This is a damn fine record from a band that’s still in its formulative stages, which is a pretty scary thought. I have no idea where they go next, but I’m awfully happy “Empress/Abscess” was one of their stopping points.  (July 14)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/immortalbirdband

To buy the album, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/

Or here: http://immortalbird.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/

Best of 2015: 20-16

Caina cover20. CAINA, “Setter of Unseen Snares” (Broken Limbs/Church of Fuck): An asteroid raging toward Earth for a cataclysmic collision is not a thing that cannot happen. That’s why the storyline that plays out on Caina’s latest album “Setter of Unseen Snares” is so damn unsettling. We seem to have a good idea of objects that threaten our existence, but we never know. That theme comes back again and again with these six songs, and it makes for one of the band’s best efforts both from a musical and thematic standpoint.

Caina, long led by Andrew Curtis-Brignell, smear atmosphere and raw energy over their style of black metal, and this tale of the last remaining family on Earth trying to avoid the destruction threatened by a hurtling asteroid really hits you in the guts. Following the intro cut that’s peppered with Rust Cohle’s dark dialog from “True Detective,” we hit on storming “I Am the Flail of the Lord” and its calls of, “All life is blasphemy!” That assault continues over the rest of the album and sets the stage of the gut-wrenching “Orphan,” a 15:28 song that takes up the entire B side of the vinyl release and is the most dramatic, emotional songs on a record full of high points. I’ve long loved this band, and this record totally pays off that devotion. (Jan. 20)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/cainaband

To buy the album, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/

Or here: http://hatecof.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/hatecof

eye_of_nix_12in_pptemplate_319. EYE OF NIX, “Moros” (Belief Mower): Seattle’s Eye of Nix emerged as one of the freshest, most exciting new bands in metal, and “Moros” was a true eye opener. They pile sludge on top of doom on top of prog, and their compositions keep you guessing the entire time. And as great as all of that is, it’s topped off by Joy Von Spain’s unreal vocals that go from operatic to gothically morbid to gutturally brutal, sometimes within the same song.  

The tracks on their killer first record take you all over the place, from “Elysium Elusive” that kicks off the album and lets Von Spain unfurl her powerful operatic tones; through to storyteller “We Perish” where things really start to get ugly for the first time on the record; to “Turned to Ash” that is moody, punchy, and jangling (and, woah, the singing on this one!); to “Optimo Vero” where the shrieks and progressive pounding bruise your senses; to the closer “Rome Burned” that contains battle cries of the SLA and a furious, devastating groove you cannot shake. This band infuses the metal scene with freshness and originality, and I can only imagine how Eye of Nix will sound when record two comes to pass. (Nov. 6)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/EYEOFNIX

To buy the album, go here: http://www.beliefmowercult.bigcartel.com/

Or here: http://eyeofnix.bandcamp.com/album/moros

Cloud Rat cover18. CLOUD RAT, “Qliphoth” (Halo of Flies): There are records that can capture you solely from the emotion and conviction baked into the songs, and the new effort from Cloud Rat was one of those. That’s not exactly a shock. Cloud Rat wear their beliefs and values on their sleeves, and never has that been as apparent as it is on “Qliphoth.” Spread over 17 tracks and 40 minutes, this record finds Cloud Rat as explosive and passionate as ever, and if you can’t get swayed from the tumult and fury of this collection, you literally might be dead.

Madison Marshall’s vocals are one of the main events here, as she brings rage and menace to songs that very obviously mean a ton to her. The rest of the band smothers you with volcanic grindcore and portions where they let the tempo subside a bit in order for you, and I’m sure them, to have a breath. But those gasps are not easy to come by, and they blast through the record track by track with nary a chance for you to get your bearings about you. That’s part of what makes this record so damn fun, too, because while they’re overwhelming you with riffs, and clobbering smashing, and destructive vocals (though Marshall also infuses beauty here and there), you’ll find you’re absolutely hooked. The fact they also have a noble, positive fight to launch lyrically just adds to this record’s worth. This band is just unstoppable. (May 29)

For more on the band, go here: http://cloudrat.blogspot.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo81-cloud-rat-qliphoth-lp/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/

Dreadnought cover17. DREADNOUGHT, “Bridging Realms” (Sailor): It feels like the bulk of the records we’re talking about today have a common theme, that being inventiveness. Dreadnought’s new record “Bridging Realms” made me sit up and take notice right away, from listen one, for what they bring to heavy music and their resume as a band. This record is not brutality through and through. I think people get stuck on that sometimes. But as far as dramatic highs, storytelling, passion, and new ideas, yeah, this band has a ton going on. This record feels more cinematic than anything, with the songs floating into one another, the tempos toying with you, and the overall moods of the songs morphing over and over.

It’s hard to describe the band’s sound and nail it 100 percent, but in our review in August we made a comparison to ISIS hanging out with Eisley, both bands we love insanely. You have some of the traits one would expect from a metal record here, but there is so much more. From Lauren Viera’s great singing, to the fluttering flute work, to the progressive arrangements, to the way they take their time and let these songs develop and breathe, from listen one to listen 80, you can have a completely different experience with this album. This record is like a sci-fi fantasy film wrapped into a metal album, and it remains in constant rotation. (Aug. 11)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/dreadnoughtband

To buy the album, go here: https://dreadnoughtdenver.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://sailorrecords.com/

Crypt Sermon cover16. CRYPT SERMON, “Out of the Garden” (Dark Descent): Lots of bands do classic, throwback heavy metal. Not all of them do it right. Or well. Or competently. But Philly’s Crypt Sermon knock it out of the park, over the stadium wall, and into your windshield. Holy shit, what a fun, awesome record their debut “Out of the Garden” is, and pretty much the entire year this thing has been bleeding out of my speakers. This feels like the music that made me fall in love with metal in the first place. This thing is pretension free, heavy, burning, and true, and if you want something that’ll make you repeatedly grasp the invisible citrus, this is the one for you.

The Biblical elements of the record (it’s not a Christian record, you dorks) give it a Maiden feel, as they’ve often toyed with those texts, and the epic feel of the music brings into mind thoughts of Dio, Sabbath, Candlemass and bands of that ilk. From the great opener “Temple Doors,” you’re on a journey of true heavy metal thunder, and it never relents over this seven-track album. “Heavy Riders” is one of the best, most memorable metal songs of the year, and its chorus is terminally stuck in my head. Actually, same can be said for “Byzantium” and “Into the Holy of Holies,” both strong, blood-and-guts songs on this collection. “The Master’s Bouquet” is creepy as hell (including words from the song’s originator Hank Williams) and is one of the weirdest, most memorable songs on this record. Holy hell, what a great album and band. (Feb. 24)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CryptSermon

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/