90. ‘Downstream’ by Goatpsalm
Russia(?)…Black Metal leaning New Age
Yup, you read that correct. “New Age.” Shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering the frequent calls to the wild laced within the original waves of Norwegian black metal. Goatpsalm, allegedly a Russian act although more precise coordinates remain unknown, is hardly the first black metal troupe to incorporate wilderness samples into its work. It is, however, one of the few that can maintain that ASMR atmosphere as it progresses from woodland repose to doomy riffs and the metal that must be done. Vocalist Horth’s rasps come whispered rather than shrieked, and ancestral instruments complement the calls to the older world.
89. ‘Head Cage’ by Pig Destroyer
Washington D.C….Hardcore leaning Groove Metal
At the risk of sounding totally corporate, it’s possible that Pig Destroyer’s most recent, most accessible album is also it’s best. It’s a bold claim because the majority of fans will immediately cite 2004’s Terrifyer, regardless of whether they can identify a single song by ear. Instead, Head Cage lets Pig Destroyer be the more cogent alternative to Agoraphobic Nosebleed, guitarist Scott Hull’s typically even more insane outlet. The normalizing song lengths results in something that, outside of knee-jerk genre labels, is not grindcore…but approaches that genre’s hardcore roots, with more recognizable groove metal riffage.
88. ‘Sweven’ by Morbus Chron
Stockholm, Sweden….Progressive Death Metal leaning Progressive Rock
The unusual moments of quiet on Sweven, even when the band launches from musing interludes to a more full-on display of progressive death metal, grab the attention. Much of that comes with the big-room production, a divergence from the death norm. The measure of space allows listeners more discerning looks at each participant, almost as if at an art exhibition; not at a gallery mind you, but a colossal museum serving as a metaphor for the endless nature of time and space, and where the bandmates could play to each other across aeons, a disconnect that led to the band’s breakup, only two LPs into a promising discography.
87. ‘Symmetry in Black’ by Crowbar
New Orleans, Louisiana….Sludge Metal through-and-through
I honestly believe that if the guys down the street from me, who work out in their garage with the door open so we can hear the Five Finger Death Punch a block away, would listen to Crowbar instead that the world would be a better place. It’s no wonder that frontman Kirk Windstein formed Kingdom of Sorrow with Jamey Jasta, because Crowbar is essentially the sludge metal version of Hatebreed (which also makes it the better choice, at least for this appreciator of distortion). This is the rare instance on the list where positivity is the word, and when Windstein runs out of self-empowerment lessons, the riffs continue unabated.
86. ‘Immortal Legacy’ by Hirax
Los Angeles, California….Thrash Metal through-and-through
Slayer spurred some controversy by suggesting Anthrax be replaced with another act on the “Big Four of Thrash” stadium tour, probably for both not being from California (like the other three) or simply not being up to snuff in terms of quality. The next logical solution from that era would have been Exodus, but I wouldn’t have complained about Overkill (if East Coast lineage wasn’t a problem). Hirax never quite had the fanbase to qualify for the big four, but it did continue to bring the best combination of those latter two acts to the table, and probably released a better album than all the thrash bands referenced in this paragraph.
85. ‘The Oath’ by The Oath
Berlin, Germany….Heavy Metal leaning Hard Rock
It’s weird that the most un-PC thing I might say in a rundown of albums celebrating death and Satan is my wariness for bands that present themselves like the album cover on The Oath’s self-titled debut. Far too many in the metal and hard rock scenes are going hard for high schooler eyes (which are prevalent in this scene, and all scenes). Sad to say how refreshing the actual songwriting and technical capabilities of Johanna Sadonis and Linnéa Olsson are. The band dresses and plays like Black Sabbath but ultimately delivers dark odes with more sincerity than their icons, as Sadonis’s Lucifer continues to do following Oath’s split.
84. ‘Magus’ by Thou
Baton Rouge, LA….Doom Metal leaning Sludge
Thou’s Baton Rouge upbringing allows to it to borrow just enough from the New Orleans scene to make create its own sound, while being far away enough to see its own north star. Where the stalwart’s of the larger city’s established sludge scene sound like the accumulated wisdom of a hard life among the muck, Thou’s takes a more academic approach to the same question of why life is hell. This is more than just moderating irregular song structures; vocalist Bryan Funck is more audible than many sludgy doomers and it’s because he has more salient messages than most in the scene, reflecting screeds of both smaller and bigger pictures.
83. ‘Pillars of Ash’ by Black Tusk
Savannah, GA….Sludge Metal leaning Punk
I once missed the chance to see Kylesa at a basement show on campus because I didn’t know that the venue existed. At any rate, it seems like the Savannah sludge band to see such a band in would have been Black Tusk, whose distorted features never buried the hardcore punk roots, a facet fed by the multi-octave separation of its duel-vocal approach. Bassist Jonathan Athon died in a motorcycle accident prior to the album’s completion, a fact that its remaining members didn’t try to dampen his last living work with. Pillars of ash and Black Label empties collapse and brings the house venue’s ground floor down to match the vibe.
82. ‘De Doden Hebben Het Goed II’ by Wiegedood
Ghent, Belgium….Black Metal leaning Post-Black
Wiegedood’s second album wins instant approval from this blog for featuring an album cover set among, from what we can tell, land just waiting for a golf course. The alleged sequel to the band’s debut album, De Doden Hebben Het Goed II plays more toward traditional black metal. The band’s membership in Amenra’s Church of Ra collection reflects its deeper levels of experimental thought, however; one does not simply waltz into the Church of Ra without being willing to snap a few sticks (and make an awesome logo). Moments of drone and even throat singing dot what would otherwise be quite a second-wave black metal album.
81. ‘Gomorrah’ by Gomorrah
British Columbia, Canada….Death Metal leaning Deathcore
“Leaning deathcore” sounds like a death sentence coming from this critic’s mouth, but it’s not, and this band hardly is. What Gomorrah does that might lead me to lead my misbegotten deathcore friends to Gomorrah as a gateway into trve Death is simply the rounded bass production, and the occasional hawk-scream guitar slides employed here. But otherwise this Canadian group is far too dense (in terms of songwriting, not notes) for late-term Warped Tour acts, with the number of guitar layers occasionally reaching humorous levels and, in doing so, creating a listening experience somewhat like a train tilting precariously on the tracks.
Albums Nos. 80 – 71 continue below on Page 3.