Apologies for the delayed release of this month's column, but as they say, an (electric) wizard is never late or early, he arrives precisely when he means to.
That said, June was an absolute doozy of a month. There’s new releases from staples like Thou, and we’ve finally received the wide release of the highly anticipated Im Wald by black metal sensation Paysage D'Hiver. On top of those notable releases, some lesser known outfits stepped up to deliver us enough metal to make this month truly special.
Thou - Blessings of the Highest Order
In our full length review of Blessings of the Highest Order we discussed how cover albums are so rarely effective. Thou circumvents these troubled waters by taking their signature sludgy sound and using it to explore the depths of rage found in so many Nirvana songs. While it doesn’t always hit (see “Territorial Pissings” or “In Bloom”), it makes contact more than it misses. There’s something so enjoyable about the way Thou absolutely crushes tracks like “Aneurysm” and “Stain.”
Xazraug - Unsympathetic Empyrean
Chock full of 10 minute-plus songs, Unsympathetic Empyrean captures the full force of avant garde black metal. Each song is a self-contained emotional journey stuffed full of tremolo picking, gorgeously sung vocals and truly innovative song structures. A perfect entry point for anyone who is looking for a place to go after discovering Deafheaven.
Asthenia - Aisa
It’s no secret that eastern Asia has an explosive metal scene. Groups from Taiwan, Korea and Japan in particular have begun to reform and reignite the scene in surprising and innovative ways. Aisa, the latest record by Asthenia sees China hopping on the post-metal bandwagon with a gorgeous release that bristles with emotional catharsis. What really defines this record is its slower, more jazzy sections, which are unlike anything in American post-metal.
156/Silence - Irrational Pull
Continuing the rash of excellent metalcore we’ve seen over the past five years, Irrational Pull presents 156/Silence as a sizzling ball of fury. Heavy breakdowns, screaming high notes and hair raising vocals all enhance the maddening pace of this record. Just make sure nothing valuable is near you when you put it on, because whatever is closest to you is getting thrown through a wall.
OHHMS - Close
Fitting somewhat loosely in the realm of post-doom (let’s all be honest and admit metal subgenres are out of control), OHHMS brings crazy drums, slow vocals and gut-rending intensity all into the same album. While Close sometimes fails to connect tracks to one another, songs like “Alive!” and “Revenge” are varied enough to scratch just about any musical itch.
Vile Creature - Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
Sometimes a release just smacks you in the face with how good it is. This two-piece blackened doom outfit (a nine piece if you count pets, as their website implores you to) has jumped out of nowhere and delivered one of the best metal albums of the year. Easy-to-understand screamed vocals and a distinctively crunchy guitar make this release endlessly satisfying for metal fans of all stripes. Oh, and all their lyrics are focused on animal rights and social rights, so you can feel good while you engage in some socially-distanced headbanging alone in your room.
Paysage D’Hiver - Im Wald
There’s a weird perception, particularly in metal, that bigger is better. This line of thought has led to countless bloated albums that stretch on far too long. The latest project by the legendary Paysage D’Hiver, however, earns every single second of its two-hour runtime. Boasting a sizzling combination of groundbreaking production, soaring guitars and piercing screams, Im Wald is just about the pinnacle of modern black metal.
Hum - Inlet
While Inlet hews closer to something like hard rock or grunge, the fact that it exists at all is noteworthy. The album itself is the first release by Hum in 22 years, and much to my surprise, it was well worth the wait. You may not find the technicality or even the brutality you expect from a traditional metal record, but what you will receive is some of the most enveloping riffs and guitar tones you’ve ever heard.