Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Better Late than Whatever: 2011 Favorites

It's still January!

In case there would appear to be any major omissions on my part, I present the following. The releases listed below can neither be endorsed or otherwise in good conscience, since I haven't really given any of them a sufficient enough chunk of time to objectively do so. Except for maybe the new Morbid Angel -- after previewing a few of the songs on youtube, I'm a little more comfortable nnnnnot recommending Illum... to you.

Noteworthy/Acclaimed/Hated/Well-Publicized Releases I Failed to Listen To

Absu -
Abzu, Gridlink - Orphan, Liturgy - Aesthetica, Krallice - Diotima, Morbid Angel - Illum blah blah blah, Necros Christos - Doom of the Occult, Yob - Atma (Well, I listened a little..), Antediluvian - Through the Cervix of Hawwah, Craft - Void

Adding to that list, the new Taake, the Miasmal self-titled, Solstafir's new album, and the Flourishing full length, which I have only started to dip my toes into.

2011 Favorites in No Particular Order

Disma -
Towards the Megalith
Yeah, yeah, elephant in the room. It's an avalanche of muck. It's like being trapped on the North Pole for a century. A bunch of veterans team up to create a massive, grooving, crushing death metal album. You already know what's up.

Corrupted -
Garten der Unbewusstheit
Japan's best doom band (probably) comes returns back with another monster album. At times mournful, at times extremely placid, at times painfully minimalistic, always enormous and expansive. Not for the faint at heart. Just so, so good.

Autopsy -
Macabre Eternal
It's not like Autopsy went anywhere after Shitfun nor was Abscess thaaat far from their initial formula but, nevertheless (continuing from where they left off on The Tomb Within), they're back, playing Autopsy songs on an Autopsy full length. With that in mind, they manage to buck expectations here and there with a warm, clean production and, at times, more
(relatively speaking) technical riffage. Where there album succeeds most is in what you do expect. They're not going through the motions -- far from it, rather, Chris Reifert et al continue to refine and perfectly execute a formula for great shit. Special mention has to go to Eric Cutler's vocals on "Dirty Gore Whore," which are fucking creepy. Like, I'm very desensitized to being shocked, or whatever, by extreme metal, as you probably are, as well. Just like that, though, they inject a little extra something that takes Macabre Eternal out of my immediate comfort zone. The string of longer, slower songs starting around "Sewn Into One" and concluding with "Sadistic Gratification" are also just golden. Still got it.

Skeletonwitch -
Forever Abomination
I've heard this album described in a few different places as more or less "standard" for Skeletonwitch at this point and it's as though all these different reviewers took a day off from their critical listening abilities -- Forever Abomination takes this band to a whole new dimension. Speaking as someone who likes Skeletonwitch a lot, they've always had kind of an air of self-conscious kitsch, which is really suitable for such a fun, energetic band. Skeletonwitch is not an emotionally affecting group, typically -- they're like Sodom, they only kick ass. BUT, with that in mind, Forever Abomination changes the game and introduces a darker, more Second Wave feel which first reminded me strongly of Dissection and Emperor, all while maintaining the same catchy precision harmonies and tight rhythms. While Beyond the Permafrost is still probably the closest of their albums to my heart, in time I can see that being eclipsed by their 2011 effort, which is front to back, a dark, riff-slinging, blastbeating, motherfucker of an album.

Putridity -
Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria
I'm in kind of a bind, including an album that I can't remember any songs from, but here you go. Like an homage to early Suffocation, their is nothing catchy at work, nor is there anything that doesn't cause tension. It's not as much a collection of songs as it is a very merciless and calculated marathon of torture from severe headbanging. It's a good thing this album is so short -- maintaining that level of crush for an extended period of time is just exhausting.

Visceral Disgorge -
Ingesting Putridity
The other entry for brutal death metal bands in my favorites is slightly more varied and catchy. Visceral Disgorge is as equally unhesitatingly complex and technical as Putridity, however, flashes of harmony, deft tempo changes and enormous breakdowns help punctuate what would otherwise be another extended, nonstop beating. This band fucking rules. I think I've said quite enough. Oh wait. They sometimes have soundclips. Those are fun.

Desolate Shrine -
Tenebrous Towers
What a great surprise! Of all the "retro" sounding death metal albums to come my way this year, this is one of my favorites. This Finnish trio knocks out monster songs with completely amazing guttural and shrieked vocals (shared between two vocalists). They write terrific songs. Listen to "The Brightest Night" right this minute. This would have flown right under the radar for me, were it not for The Living Doorway, to whom I extend my sincerest thanks. Speaking of which, have you thanked the Living Doorway for an album you've loved recently? Just a thought. Here's Desolate Shrine's bandcamp, which can direct you to a place where you might render them your US Dollars. Incredible album art, too.

Wormrot -
Yup. It's premium grindcore. I don't know what else to say. Wormrot rips.

Burial Invocation
Okay, okay, they only released one new song this year on their split with Anatomia but it's just REALLY GOOD is all. Perhaps this can be your introduction to them, if you haven't checked them out previously.

Mammoth Grinder/Hatred Surge
Two of my favorite Texan exports released an eponymous split this year. Mammoth Grinder plays chunky, old school death metal. Hatred Surge plays deathgrind/powerviolence. This has the distinction of featuring some of Hatred Surge's slowest and grooviest songs. See what all the fuss is about here. Hatred Surge also appears on last years Brutal Supremacy four-way split from Painkiller Records.

& Mitochondrion - The Destroyers of All & Parasignosis
Last but not least, each of these bands had great full-lengths that leaked around the late 2010 mark and are about the definition of "old news" by now. They each interestingly expand upon the death metal formula, with Ulcerate having terse, slow-burning leads built over a highly active rhythm section, and Mitochondrion employing a very alien and hostile riffs that all meet within what can best be described as a wormhole of chaos. Both are stand-outs for me. I'm loath to forget about them after the passing of so much time. Puh-lease, listen to both if you missed out on the first go-around.

Honorable Mentions

Rwake - Rest
I like Rwake a lot and clearly there's plenty of stuff going on here. All the same, this didn't have the immediate "wow factor" that Voice of Omens and If You Walk... had for me. It's my estimation that this will be more of a "grower." Either way, it's exciting to see them on Relapse Records. They are most deserving of their success.

Falls of Rauros - The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood
This is a really cool band that I'm proud to share a hometown with. It's funny how I didn't know about them until well after I had moved away for school. I can't emphasize this enough, when there are seemingly hundreds of American bands out there who got into black metal last year and are aping Wolves in the Throne Room, it's very refreshing to hear Falls, who have been going since at least 2006, if not earlier, and who keep knocking out very thoughtfully composed, creative, and well-executed music. Good fucking band. I look forward to seeing them again.

Miscellaneous Non-Endorsements

Trap Them - Darker Handcraft
I find this incredibly boring. I've been doing this song and dance with Trap Them since at least 2007 -- they'll release something to general acclaim and I'll think "This will be the record that gets me into this band" and it never is, actually. All of the individual components here (guitar tone, grinding, minor resemblance to Converge (one of my favorite bands), dark themes, etc.) should make this a perfect fit for me but it just isn't. Maybe I need to hear the right song at the right time. Until then, I'll just go ahead and wait another year or so until their next release. Related: that band The Secret, who sort of sound similar to Trap Them -- not so hot on them, either.

KEN Mode - Venerable
Another one -- what's the fuss about? I'm not closed off to the idea of ever liking this band, I just am again unmoved. I like noise, I like noise ROCK, I like hardcore...why is this so tedious to me?

Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
This was a surprise. Maybe I'll have a change of heart some day but I found this whole thing very lacking in focus. I love WITTR but listening to this is a frustrating experience with little to no continuity. Like, I guess they're going back to a more "experimental" sound after releasing Black Cascade, which was probably their most linear release yet. Was I hoping for Black Cascade II? Maybe. That's just how I feel. As I said, I'm not counting out the possibility of me one day liking this. Bah.

Well, that's that. At least it's not February of 2012.


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