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Albums of 3/22/24

The most interesting releases of 3/22/24!

Hideous Divinity – Unextinct

Hideous Divinity are an old band at this point. The Italian group gives us their fifth full-length, Unextinct, on Century Media Records. This is guitar driven technical death metal in the clean, virtuosic arpeggiating lineage where the band sounds heavy via speedy riffs or solos, pummeling drums, and a “more is more” approach to songwriting rather than through dissonance or songwriting tricks. After the obligatory intro, Hideous Divinty start the album with a full seven minute track that shows you everything waiting for you on Unextinct.

On this opener, you get the wild guitar solos, the ethereal atmosphere to contrast to the virtuosic playing, the drummer’s attempt to turn the snare drum into a corpse. You also get the two biggest issues with the album cropping up: The production feels too compressed, and both the album and individual songs stretch on a bit too long. Neither of these issues are really resolved or smoothed out over the course of the record. But Hideous Divinity‘s songwriting remains solid enough that I keep listening to Unextinct. The riffs here are amazing, they are supported by excellent performances, and these gigantic tracks contain enough lulls and dissipations to allow Hideous Divinity to continuously feel like they’re building up towards something massive. Unextinct is a success and my new favorite Hideous Divinity album.

Aberration – Refracture

Raw death metal isn’t a thing like raw black metal, but I don’t know what else to call music that sounds like this. Aberration‘s debut full-length Refracture follows 2021’s self-titled EP, both released on Sentient Ruin Laboratories. This group plays a bass-heavy, lofi blackened death style of music that sometimes leans out the window towards war metal but never quite falls to the ground. Then the music slows down, the sounds stretch out, and suddenly you’re listening to grimy death/doom.

For how intentionally dismal the sound on Refracture can get, I’m surprised by how clearly I can hear the bass and the drums. When you get past the contradictorily excellent sound of this record and start listening to the notes that they’re actually playing, you start to see Aberration‘s biggest strength. The songs on Refracture are quite long, but the band makes full use of their length. Their tracks build and collapse, get stuck in the mud and in the fire, and through all of it maintain a depressed downward gaze. Aberration have made a very promising debut that will hopefully lead to the recognition and success that they deserve.

Brodequin – Harbinger Of Woe

The first Brodequin album in twenty years, released on Season Of Mist. I have been excited for this since it was announced last year. The time spent in stasis has not radically altered Brodequin or sanded down their edge. The band still plays relentless, monolithic brutal death metal that seeks to do just one thing really, really well. Moments without blast beats and down-tuned chugging are difficult to find. Harbinger Of Woe is 32 minutes of one precise, specific sound. Nobody does that sound better than Brodequin. If you hated their first three albums there’s nothing different here, but if you liked them like I did, oh boy. This is a lot to take in.

Of course, this begs the question of if you should take it in in the first place. The flip side of there being nothing different on Harbinger Of Woe is if it really needs to exist. And there are some updates to Brodequin‘s sound that make this worth a listen for brutal death metal fans. First, the production has been updated, resulting in a new coat of paint on the band’s ridiculous torture songs. More importantly, Brodequin seem to have been trying to go further down their rabbit hole than they previously have. Harbinger Of Woe is even sharper, even more focused than the previous three albums. Their sound is a more specific evolution of what they had before. While this could make the album too same-y for some and remove the appeal of the band’s older, more raw sound, for me their approach on Harbinger Of Woe keeps the record interesting and sounding like an evolution rather than a retread of tired ground.

Apparition – Disgraced Emanations From A Tranquil State

I could have sword they’ve released more music than this, but apparently Disgraced Emanations From A Tranquil State is only Apparition‘s second full-length release, following 2021’s Feel. Both albums come out on Profound Lore Records. I’ve listened to Feel and to the band’s previous EP Granular Transformation plenty. With Disgraced Emanations From A Tranquil State, Apparition have absolutely failed at creating “an individualized version of death metal,” which was apparently their goal according to the promotional material. But that’s ok because in the process of trying they managed to make an interesting and shifting progressive death/doom release.

Apparition do an excellent job switching between structured, more chugging sections of music to establish a base death metal sound, and then twisting their riffs around a telephone pole and creating an evolving mess that eventually returns to the structured chugging that began the journey. I don’t hate this back-and-forth pattern that develops throughout the record. They maintain their roots and their sonic connection to bands like Tomb Mold while also being able to explore any space they want. They travel through both steady riff-focused music and more unhinged ideas that break from the traditions of the genre while never sounding too bizarre. In a few years when Apparition release their third album, I’ll be just as confused as I was with this one because Disgraced Emanations From A Tranquil State will still sound so fresh and so interesting.

Acathexis – Immerse

I’m willing to try anything that has Jacob Buczarski’s involvement. The sound of his flagship Mare Cognitum group is present on Acathexis‘s second full-length release Immerse, released on Amor Fati Productions. But this presence may be more specter in my mind than actual music influence. Acathexis is fully its own project, with its own strengths and weaknesses. Immerse gives the listener plenty of both.

Immerse contains some emotionally intense passages, right off the bat. No dumb intros of wind blowing or something, instead Acathexis deliver an eleven minute opener with grievous guitar solos, anguished riffs, and vocals that squeeze out as much pathos as they can manage. This emotionally devastating sound continues pretty much with no exception for the entire album. The extremely long run-times on Immerse make it a sometimes food. When the songs work, they really sink in and envelop you into their sorrowful sound, leaving a complete and satisfying feeling in their wake. When the songs don’t, their length starts to drag and what was previously helpful to really push Acathexis‘s through to the listener turns into a slow and unnecessary march to the end. The difference between these two isn’t in Acathexis‘s songs, but rather in my mindset when listening to them. When Immerse hits, it really, really hits. Listen in the right mood.

Dödsrit – Nocturnal Will

Despite having multiple ten-minute tracks on their fourth release Nocturnal Will, Dödsrit have made by far the simplest and easiest to review album that I’m discussing this week. Nocturnal Will was released on Wolves Of Hades. This thing is just riffs. It’s riffs with the guitar in a solo position, it’s riffs with vocals, it’s riffs with blast beats, it’s riffs that evolve as the song progresses and it’s riffs that just get repeated over and over again but I don’t care because they sound so good. There are no tricks here, no attempt to redefine black metal or sneak another genre tag in there. This is a melodic black metal album with riffs good enough to catapult Nocturnal Will to the stratosphere.

That Nocturnal Will is just riffs might be a little reductive of me, but there’s enough truth there that I’ll stand by the statement. The guitar melodies are absolutely the core of Dödsrit‘s sound to greater extent than their contemporaries. The band isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done by thousands of melodic black metal bands before them, so it really is just relying on the strength of their melodic lines to separate the band. Even when they have a quiet section like in the middle of the opening track, the melody keeps the music moving forward. It turns out that Dödsrit can write absolutely triumphant black metal that strips away all genre trappings and just gives the listener some heartfelt, beautiful music.