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Albums of 3/15/24

The most interesting releases of 3/15/24!

Vltimas – Epic

Epic, Vltimas‘s sophomore album, was released on Season Of Mist via fiery chariot and thousand-year-old prophecy. The band’s debut album Something Wicked Marches In didn’t really live up to the absurd supergroup hype even though some of the choruses have been stuck in my head since. The union of Cryptopsy, Morbid Angel, Aura Noir, and Dodecahedron members feels like it should be something that melts tectonic plates and blows up moons. Instead Epic sounds like a normal death metal album made by human beings.

If you’re tied to vocal quality, just skip ahead and read the Aborted section below now. Vltimas‘s vocals sound rough. For those like myself that enjoyed Megadeth‘s most recent album this doesn’t kill the release upon arrival, but for some it might. Beyond the vocals, the performances are across the board fine to great. Flo’s drums are consistently the best thing on the record. While this will leave some listeners looking for more, once you ignore the hype and the biographies of the band members, you are left with a very professionally-written death metal album with only one major blemish, fun riffs, some big moments, and a very high floor. No, this isn’t None So Vile meets Kwintessens. Yes, writing this section feels more like damning with faint praise than I intended. But I have been listening to Epic for months now and genuinely enjoying what it has to offer. Set aside the hype and expectations and be left with a worthwhile experience. Nothing more is needed to be a success.

Aborted – Vault Of Horrors

Vault Of Horrors, released on Nuclear Blast, comes at us as Aborted‘s twelfth studio album. From the title alone I assumed that this was an anthology of sorts instead of an album about how much Aborted likes horror movies and guest singers. The cover art looks more confusing than gory. Despite suspect first impressions, this album is amazing. Vault Of Horrors takes an “everything louder than everything else” approach to death metal that mostly functions and a theatrical approach that is absurdly successful.

Aborted have massive, unrelenting energy, which is impressive given their almost thirty-year history. Having newer members helps, but still, the aggression here will act as a tractor beam pulling you to the closest mosh pit. The riffs on Vault Of Horrors almost aren’t experienced at all. Instead there are ridiculous blast beats underneath some big vocals with the guitars and bass taking up any space that the listener would have had to breath. The focus on vocals on Vault Of Horrors is absolutely worth any opportunity cost given the absurd list of guest vocals. Aborted have recruited some of the best vocalists in death metal and deathcore and given them a spotlight and the end result ranges from working well to feeling truly special.

The production isn’t great, which does make the album more tiring to listen to. Aborted also could have done more with differentiating the sound of their tracks to match their guest singers given how much collaboration they had (Although “The Shape Of Hate” comes closer to sounding like Archspire than anything made by anyone other than the band itself). But nothing about Vault Of Horrors fails badly enough to hurt the final product. Bands aren’t supposed to have this much style and fire this late into their career. Aborted have made a wild album, and it will take some time to settle in.

Hadit – Metaphysical Engines Approaching The Event Horizon

Happy belated I, Voidhanger day. Hadit make dissonant and soaring death metal that shares significant sonic space with Cosmic Putrefaction. Turns out that the Cosmic Putrefaction guy produced this record and also plays bass, guitars, and synths, so the similarity makes perfect sense. Metaphysical Engines Approaching The Event Horizon is Hadit‘s second full-length release. Musically, this album features death metal that borrows heavily from sci-fi black metal bands, resulting in something that feels arcane and unknowing. Given the album’s subject matter, perhaps the band made good choices in their influences.

Hadit don’t sound paint-by-numbers, but they don’t sound overly weird by I, Voidhanger standards. This isn’t Ad Nauseam trying to make Penderecki-influenced, reality-warping death metal. Instead, Metaphysical Engines Approaching The Event Horizon seems more like a structurally standard death metal album with cranked up dissonance, extended bridge sections, and some rhythms that stand out for being more twisty than expected from…well, bands like Vltimas or Aborted. Gabriele Gramaglia (previously-mentioned Cosmic Putrefaction guy) absolutely nails the production. My biggest complaints with this record are a stumble in the album’s final seconds as it ends on a weird, awkward section, and the general sense that I’ve heard this all before and will hear it all again from many other bands. Still, some solid Italian death metal that lives up to its influences and expectations.

Backstabber – Patterns Of Domination

Just relentless, pummeling death metal on a new EP from the Quebec-based band. The straightforward songwriting approach on Patterns Of Domination allows the riffs to stand out, and stand out they do. The unexpectedly sparkling production job helps as well. Backstabber strip death metal back into bare-bones necessities, add a few spikes and a hilt for fun, and then bludgeon the listener for almost twenty minutes.

I am most impressed by moments such as the complete stylistic shift in the last third of the second track, “Langues Sales.” The shift is so abrupt, and goes from one passage with nothing really unique about it to another passage that sounds even more basic than the first one. Both passages work individually thanks to the across-the-board fun performances. I keep listening to this thinking that it should fail, and the song should fall apart, but instead I find myself smiling. Patterns of Domination just sounds fun.