I’m posting this late so the “upcoming” part is a lie, but here are our most anticipated releases of the week!
Production value in the world of metal has some wild thoughts attached to it. For most music, the purpose of mixing/mastering and production in general is clarity. You want the listener to hear the notes they’re supposed to hear and at the volume that they’re supposed to hear them at. Yes, this can result in some freaky stuff like loudness wars and bricked music to account for music being played in cars, but the general thought is that clarity equals good.
Then you get to metal. The twin demons of 80s hair metal production and the 80s and 90s black metal counter response have absolutely destroyed any possibility of anyone agreeing on what the point of producing an album even is, much less whether or not the producer can succeed at their goal. And while this can lead to some excellent and unique music, it also leads to frustrating instances of bands hiding behind their terrible production being a result of artistic choice rather than incompetence.
All of this is to say, Australian band Resin Tomb released their debut album Cerebral Purgatory on Transcending Obscurity Records, and the production sounds great. This is a sludgy death/grind release where the notes are dense and the music is claustrophobic, but the album itself gives me enough clarity to really feel how tight Resin Tomb binds all of their sounds together. They have some nice, biting riffs on this thing, and they aren’t afraid to let their sound sink into the abyss and wallow there. This is worth a listen if you’re not offended by grind tracks that are longer than 2 minutes or sludge tracks that are shorter than 10.
Bad power metal albums flood the music scene, and the power/prog variants are only exceptional for how low they sink, so when I first put on The Path Of Decoherence my expectations were buried beneath the basement. Then I was thrown for a loop. This was released on Uprising Records.
The opening track is a meaningless instrumental intro, except that it lasts for over 3 minutes and is also interesting. The album isn’t real a power metal at all despite my initial impression. Instead this is pure post-90s Fates Warning worship. The result is music that expands beyond what it could have been. The production, unlike with Resin Tomb, is an issue, and could sink the album for some. The vocals sound precarious at times. But the songwriting and the riffs are just so solid that I can’t hold it against them. Advocacy have created the first great prog metal album of the year. These are long tracks that make a bad first impression and have very forward flaws, and despite all of that I love this album.
Back to death metal, this time for something more typical. Sinister Upheaval is another debut album, this time on Dying Victims Productions. This is the type of album to only try to do one thing, but to do it really well. Boundless Chaos are a death/thrash band with grimy riffs upon devastating riffs upon glorious riffs. There are verses and choruses and all that, but the verses feel more like an evolution of the riffs than the main thrust of the songs.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting something new and unique with every release. Boundless Chaos is not trying to be that. Sinister Upheaval could have come out in 1998. All they are doing is writing guitar music and doing so with pizazz. And while they are entering a flooded scene, they hold their own. I have to imagine this one will be talked about in January of 2025 as well, when the death metal reddit snobs will come out to proclaim that this is one of the best releases of the year for those who are too cool for bands like Advocacy. Ignore them. Spend your time listening to this album instead. It’s better for everyone.
Should have named the album “Full Kontact”. Oh well. Anyways, yet another debut, also on Dying Victims Productions. Kontact make full-blown 80s-style heavy metal. Since it’s the theme of the week, the production on Full Contact sounds sufficiently 80s to satisfy those looking for a nostalgic cassette tape kick, and functions as a stylistic choice well enough for those of us that like to actually hear the music we’re listening to.
Kontact repelled me on first listen. This album frustrated me. Once I was in a better mood and able to reach it where it’s at, I was able to see the gold. Again, this is a band focused on one strength to the exclusion of everything else. The riffs pack a punch, but this time it’s more the general atmosphere. The cover art of someone being abducted in a color scheme that hasn’t been desirable in decades fits well. Full Contact is simultaneously a record out of time and foreign. It wouldn’t work without the solid riffs, but it does work.
Swedish dark fold from Nordvis Produktion. I remain a complete sucker for vocal harmonies, and this album delivers. It’s always been bizarre that dark folk gets lumped in with metal on labels, promotional lists, and in the minds of music listeners. I don’t see the connection in terms of style or influence beyond that both genres can be sad-sounding sometimes. But this is a good instance of the utility of genre classifications outweighing the importance of their structure.
Back to the actual music, this is not for playing at the gym. Instead, the vocals on Nio systrar explore dark crevices. This album works best when miserable. You can see a slight flicker of light and nothing more. The mood shines through so intensely that talking about the music beyond the emotional impact seems useless. To enjoy Nio systrar you will have to accept large patches of barren time that have no purpose other than to amplify the mood. It’s worth it.