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Albums of 6/28/24

The most interesting releases of the week!

Altar of Oblivion – In the Cesspit of Divine Decay

Altar of Oblivion are an epic doom metal act that have been creating big, dramatic sounds of anguish for a couple decades now. In the Cesspit of Divine Decay, their fourth full-length release, was released on From The Vaults. The band plays a style of dramatic epic doom similar to Sorcerer or Solstice. They keep their songs relatively tightly written for epic doom metal, meaning that all wild sprawl is contained in tidy eight-minute packages and the album runs for a mere 46 minutes.

The production on In the Cesspit of Divine Decay isn’t great, but it’s better than what I’ve heard in the past. Altar of Oblivion have always had an issue where their sound was too thin for what they were trying to accomplish, an unfortunate combination of songwriting and production clashing in ways that hurt the overall experience of the music. In the Cesspit of Divine Decay contains some mixing issues, but nothing that drives me away. The vocals sound off at times as well, but the band can mostly play it off as a style choice and make the notes that don’t quite hit still manage to feel right in context. With those issues out of the way, all that remains is the wandering, forlorn bass underneath gigantic riffs and guitar melodies that are well worth any warts on this release. Between Altar of Oblivion, Grim Colossus, and Crypt Sermon, we’ve been spoiled with doom metal releases in recent weeks.

Winter Eternal – Echoes of Primordial Gnosis

Meloblack with spoken word elements can be dicey. Echoes of Primordial Gnosis, Winter Eternal‘s fourth full-length, was released on Hells Headbangers with all sorts of red flags. This is a one-man black metal band with what sounds like artificial drums. And while Winter Eternal certainly isn’t Dissection, I enjoyed my time here and kept returning. The riffs are excellent, the spoken word passages provide nice variety, and there’s some depth in the songwriting. Some of the choices don’t pay off, and the album sounds like tissue paper at times. But I enjoyed listening to Echoes of Primordial Gnosis more than more one-man black metal bands.

Winter Eternal gave this release a smooth flow. Each track feels like it blends nicely into the next, each passage works well with what comes before and after. Even when a riff starts up that I don’t particularly enjoy, or when Echoes of Primordial Gnosis starts to sound too generic for its own good, I don’t mind too much because I know that the music will move to something better and make the bad times look better in hindsight.

Crystal Viper – The Silver Key

The Silver Key is a ridiculous album from a ridiculous band. Meant as a compliment. This release from Listenable Records shows Crystal Viper squeezing out everything they can from every moment. The clean vocals almost work. The growls almost work. The production is almost clean. The riffs are almost interesting. Everything comes together with such passion and pizzazz that you will immediately fall in love with all of The Silver Key‘s flaws. The Silver Key is a popcorn explosion of fun and venom.

Despite the dismissive first paragraph, there is a lot to genuinely love about Crystal Viper. The larger songwriting decisions create some spectacular decisions, even if the minutiae can sometimes fall into being generic tight pants heavy/power metal. The performances have gumption, Crystal Viper clearly give it their all throughout the record, creating an infectious sense of fun and excitement. This album sounds like someone driving a Ford Pinto through a ring of fire and coming out the other side unscathed, then immediately driving it back around to do it again but in reverse. There are some mid-tempo tracks and breathers. But the energy level stays high regardless of the tempo. The Silver Key has tightly written tracks with no apologies or forgiveness.

Slugcrust – Discharge(d)

Discharge(d) is a short EP from grindcore group Slugcrust, released on Terminus Hate City Records. I’m always shocked by how much grindcore bands can fit into small shreds of music, and here Slugcrust manage to do it five times. Discharge(d) is cacophonous and irreverent. This is more or less expected from this sort of release. Some of the slower bits remind me of Full of Hell in their more noise-focused, doom-fused moments.

Slugcrust show attention to detail throughout the ten minutes of Discharge(d). They don’t paste over transitions or let sloppy moments ride in the name of punk influence even though they very well could have. Instead. they turn everything into a tight celebration of grindcore’s excess, with the short runtimes offset by just how many twists can fit into each track.