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Albums of 1/26/24

Here are the best releases of the week!

Exocrine – Legend

Absolute tech death banger from Season of Mist. Legend contains virtuosic arpeggiating straight out of the works of The Faceless or Alustrium and stays true to tech death orthodoxy, both in good ways and bad. The busy cover art sets the listener up for a maximalist musical experience. Exocrine delivers on this promise via trumpets, strings, and metal. The guitar tones stay distorted during the machine gun riffing but get a shinier, cleaner glean when wailing in higher registers for the solos. Legend’s production ends up being more complicated.

Whenever an album comes out, every aspect is the result of a choice. Maybe the claustrophobic production present on Exocrine’s new release comes from a producer who simply thinks that this style sells better despite some complaints. Maybe this is an instance of Exocrine copying those who came before, and said forerunners just didn’t know what they were doing. But a more forgiving approach would be to treat the tight, loud sound of this album as an artistic decision. You can see the benefits of the band’s approach from that lense. The metal base of the album becomes a dense, impenetrable brick, and when a guitar bursts through that solid object, or the typical sound of the album gives way to more orchestral strings, the distance between the two becomes even greater in the listener’s mind. Or maybe the band just think that this makes the album sound tech death-y. In any case, this album works.

Guhts – Regeneration

Shoegazy post-stuff is generally not my thing. But I found the new Guhts album, released on Seeing Red Records, interesting. This band uses long-form songwriting to mean something. I remember the first time I really listened to “Weight,” from Isis’s Oceanic. The way the song slowly built into something immense before crashing down intrigued me and made me feel a physical weight that was slowly released as the song grew in size. Regeneration tries to hit a similar spot.

Regeneration plays with time. Crescendos and building moments seem to play out over multiple tracks in my brain, even though that’s not how the actual music is written. Guhts attempt to combine the shimmering light of shoegaze and post metal with continuous forward motion, and they mostly succeed, resulting in a sound that avoids the stagnant waters that this sound can find itself in.

Junta – Junta

Hardcore from Sentient Ruin Laboratories that reminds me of raw black metal. Not stylistically, but in their approach to music. Junta have made a very raw, explicitly political album that approaches the creation of music with a disheveled, do-it-yourself philosophy. The snarling vocals remind me a bit of an angrier Toxic Holocaust.

Some of the songs on Junta don’t land, either because the music and political message don’t mesh, or simply because the band didn’t always succeed in writing a good riff. However, Junta’s musical missteps are easy to forgive due to the rage and infectious passion of this release. The album is concise enough that it leaves me with feeling impressed rather than bored.

Madder Mortem – Old Eyes New Heart

Smokey, bluesy, angry prog from Australia released on Dark Essence Records. Some catastrophic moments on here. But the most impressive part of Old Eyes New Heart is how Madder Mortem manages trojan horse in some seriously ballistic performances within these emotive songs. Often, music is portrayed as existing on an emotion knob where moving the knob clockwise increases the emotional impact and decreases the impressiveness of the performances themselves. Madder Mortem have both.

Old Eyes New Heart contains a weird variety of music, from fast and high energy to slow tracks ruminating in alcoholic misery. All the songs contain such a strong identity that the listener will not mistake them as being from another album, even Madder Mortem’s previous work. Having music this variety and identifiable is impressive.

Knoll – As Spoken

Knoll confuses me. I have appreciated their music, but not enjoyed it as much as I expected to. They have smashed through critical acclaim, are loved by pretty much every grindcore fan, and I almost get it. As Spoken establishes a high-energy, familiar grindcore sound similar to their previous albums, and then continues to a more exploratory sound where fluctuations in distortion take the place of riffs.

It’s interesting songwriting, and Knoll’s refusal to play by genre conventions is admirable. They play with all of their influences in an effective manner. I just never find myself in the mood for everything that Knoll tries to do at once. This album does not change that Knoll is a band that I respect more than I want to listen to, but fans will find a continuation of everything they’ve previously enjoyed about the band.