Author: Henry Glasheen

Macabre Omen
Gods of War – At War
Ván Records
Street: 02.20
Macabre Omen = Bathory + Kawir + Varathron
 
It takes a hell of an album to stand up to comparisons to the mighty Bathory, but Macabre Omen’s second full-length rises to the challenge with vigor and heroic triumph. Taking a decidedly Hellenic spin on Quorthon’s legendary viking metal material, Gods of War – At War resounds with an evident love for the black metal of Alexandros’ home country. Macabre Omen play in a style that embraces the chaos of ancient bloody battlefields, but revels in glorious melodies that pierce through the haze of violence and death. While Gods of War – At War still has quite a way to go before it could join Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods in the pantheon of epic metal godhood, Macabre Omen’s riffcraft is the stuff of legend. This release will definitely find its way into its fair share of year-end best-of lists. –Henry Glasheen

 

Photos:
Gladenfold
From Dusk to Eternity
Buil2Kill Records
Street: 05.05
Gladenfold = Wintersun + post–’00s Amorphis + Rhapsody

Even though it sounds like a smooth blend of bands from Spinefarm’s early years, Gladenfold mixes just enough power metal into their synth-driven melodic death metal to breathe life into a genre I had given up on years ago. The band’s musicianship is stunning for a debut, and the production is incredibly clear, giving those dueling guitar solos and sweeping synth leads the extra push they need. Yet, there’s something delightfully cheesy about From Dusk to Eternity. Gladenfold’s debut remains refreshingly out of place in an age where metal seems to be taking itself way too seriously.
–Henry Glasheen

Photos:
Lesbian
Forestelevision
Translation Loss Records
Street: 06.25
Lesbian = Neurosis + Red Sparowes + (early) Job For A Cowboy
While it isn’t the worst album I’ve heard this year, Lesbian’s Forestelevision might be the laziest. As if unsure of whether they wanted to sound like a jam band tribute to Radiohead or an unexciting knockoff of Neurosis, Lesbian frequently descends into meandering mediocrity. The whole album sounds like a series of half-baked riff ideas stapled together and hastily affixed with a “progressive doom” label, complete with deathcore breakdowns, atonal guitar jangling, and obnoxious post-rock interludes. The band thanks “drugs” in the liner notes of their 2010 Stratospheria Cubensis, which is appropriate, as I can’t imagine anybody actually enjoying this album without the assistance of hardcore narcotics. Periodically, the album will transition through sincerely interesting material, but instead of sounding premeditated and deliberate, it sounds like a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters and eventually reproducing the entire collected works of Stephenie Meyer. –Henry Glasheen
 
Photos:
Blood Ceremony

Let It Come Down / Loving You Single

Rise Above Records

Street: 06.23

Blood Ceremony = Jex Thoth + Mount Salem

This single gestures towards the more psychedelic proto-metal direction they’ve been taking since Living With The Ancients. With Michael Carrillo’s snappy rock beats and Lucas Gadke’s massive bass grooves, Blood Ceremony manage to confidently break away from the dullness of The Eldritch Dark. Their cover of Iron Claw’s “Loving You” shows that this band is able to play with some serious panache, but their other track feels a little dull by comparison. “Let It Come Down” gets a little caught up in its own jaunty swing and loses the energetic rock riffing of their proto-metal roots. –Henry Glasheen
Photos:
Moon Zero
Tombs / Loss
Denovali Records
Street: 04.25
Moon Zero = Steve Reich + Akira Yamaoka + Loscil

Like an unsettling dream, this pair of albums produces associations and feelings that displace and frighten the listener. Tim Garratt plays with the possibilities of maximalist ambience, pitting a full range of reverberating overtones against each other to create overpowering aural experiences. In the midst of the swirling ethereal sound cloud of “Dalyan,” you can occasionally hear voices that never become fully distinct, as if they’re being swallowed up in the undulating waves of noise. Vague impressions endure, like wiped-out faces from last night’s dream or the lines of static on an old VHS tape. Beautiful, odd and mesmerizing. –Henry Glasheen

Photos:

Erik Enocksson – Apan (Reissue)

Erik Enocksson
Apan (Reissue)

Posh Isolation
Street: 06.29
Erik Enocksson =  Christian Zanesi + Ben Prunty + Earth

Unfolding like a long, dark journey into the yawning void of space, Erik Enocksson captures a delicate weightlessness with his ambient music on Apan. While never overstaying his welcome with any one particular track, there is still something endless and captivating about Enocksson’s drones and ambiances, which combine guitar-driven waves of distortion and a selection of synths to create expansive soundscapes, enveloping the listener in a world of private contemplation. “IV” brings to mind the surreal, understated pacing of ’70s sci-fi films, while the majestic sweeps of “V” evoke alien landscapes and a sense of overpowering mystery. Themes of discovery and intrigue permeate the aural experience of Apan, melding together the pioneering spirit of musique concrète and a modern, more controlled aesthetic. While this album might not be pushing any boundaries in its chosen genre, Enocksson creates a genuinely interesting headspace that is at once nostalgic and unfamiliar, contemporary and deeply retrospective. Compelling even in its stark minimalism, Apan inspires introspection and reflection, making it an excellent companion on long nights spent looking up at the sky and pondering our place within the infinite reaches of the cosmos. –Henry Glasheen

Ben Q Best
Apricot Exorcist
Self-Released
Street: 05.24
Ben Q Best = A Perfect Circle + Gregor Samsa – Explosions in the Sky
Though his songs are tinged with a kind of delicate earnestness, Ben Q Best excels most in his ability to craft unique melodic passages that carry the darker themes of this album. His voice warbles and wanes through layers of shoegazey post-rock and quiet piano passages. Instead of relying on the long, building crescendos typical of post-rock, Best uses dissonant phrases, minimal instrumentation and a variety of other techniques that enhance the negative space of this album. Apricot Exorcist sounds like a small, guttering campfire with the warmth and closeness of its production, but the quiet still lurks in the darkness beyond the ring of firelight. “Milk Coma” and “Dead End Horse” take this aesthetic in a more intense and distorted direction, and feature some of the most catchy vocal lines I’ve heard in a while. –Henry Glasheen
Photos:
Saxon

St. George’s Day Sacrifice – Live in Manchester

UDR Music

Street: 03.14

Saxon = Accept + Judas Priest

I’ve never been a great fan of live albums, but listening to Biff Byford’s stage banter makes this entire experience worthwhile. Despite being one of the oldest and most prolific NWOBHM bands still touring, the guys in Saxon are still extremely humble and grateful to their fans. St. George’s Day Sacrifice catches an entire chorus of Saxon fans backing up Byford’s vocals, but not at the expense of a crisp, immediate recording of the instrumentation. “Crusader” definitely benefits the most from this stellar audience interaction. –Henry Glasheen

Photos:

uncleacid-thenightcreeper-800x800

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats
The Night Creeper

Rise Above Limited
Street: 09.04
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats = (Blue Cheer + Blood Ceremony) / The 13th Floor Elevators

Seeming to awaken from the psychedelic haze of mediocrity that was Mind Control, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats return to their rock n’ roll roots with The Night Creeper. It’s great to hear K.R. Starrs and company getting groovy again, and while this is still no Blood Lust, it’s a strong release with some legitimate bangers on it. Still, I can’t be the only one who got excited when I heard the savage chunk of rockin’ love that was “Runaway Girls,” and it’s kind of a shame that so little of that up-tempo energy made it onto this record. Nevertheless, if you like your riffs slow, heavy and loud, Uncle Acid delivers. “Waiting For Blood” starts things off with a big, ballsy groove, setting the tempo of the first half of the album. Meanwhile, “Melody Lane,” “Inside” and the title track form the solid core of The Night Creeper, bringing back some of the Blood Lust energy that made me fall in love with this band in the first place. There’s a restlessness to the style on this album that bespeaks the band’s will to keep on developing their sound, never resting in their pursuit of a place in rock n’ roll to call their own. –Henry Glasheen

Dwellers
Pagan Fruit
Small Stone Recordings
Street: 05.06
Dwellers = Datura + Kyuss + Greenleaf
 
Producing more of their psych-tinged “gut rock,” Dwellers have doubled down on the space rock sound that they experimented with on Good Morning Harakiri. The resulting album is unbelievably laid back, sounding a lot like mid-’90s stoner rock but without the angst-driven intensity. Pagan Fruit captures the sweat-dripping, lazy attitude of a Salt Lake City summer, with each song crawling from one dusty crack in the pavement to the next. Joey Toscano’s voice melds well with the dry distortion of his sparse guitar riffs. Even on the slowest parts of the album, Dave Jones carries the rollicking groove with his solid bass and backs up “Call of the Hallowed Horn” with a fiery rock organ. With Zach Hatsis’ skillful drumming and eclectic musical motifs, Dwellers seem to have crystallized their sound without losing their penchant for experimentation. –Henry Glasheen
Photos: