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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2011 HBG- Gothic/Industrial/Darkwave

-Hip Hop
-Melodeath/Thrash/Sludge Metal
-Power/Symphonic/Folk Metal
-Alternative/Indie Rock
-Death Metal
-Black Metal
-Folk- Coming Soon
-Doom Metal- Coming Soon
-Experimental- Coming Soon


Actual gothic music is unfortunately past is golden age, but that’s not to say that it’s a dead genre. As evidenced by the following 10 albums, there is plenty to like about contemporary gothic music. Whether you like your music beautiful or brutal, there’s something here for you.




Acylum’s Karzinom is an album of dark industrial beats, morbid lyrics, and some truly great atmosphere. Despite the over-the-top subject matter, there’s a lot of subtlety to the music. The beats change far more than the usual for EBM (electronic body music), which makes Karzinom is far more interesting than most other albums in the genre. Acylum keeps things unpredictable and even maddening, and the strained vocals give this dark album another haunting layer. There’s even legitimate emotion here, especially on the masterful “Angel.” As far as industrial music goes, Karzinom is one of the year’s best albums, and while it’s not necessarily accessible, it’s good enough to be recommended even to those who have know idea what EBM is.



Autumn’s Grey Solace

While Autumn Grey Solace incorporate darkwave, gothic rock, and ambient into their sound, their influences really aren’t all that important. Eifalian isn’t so much a unique album as it is a really beautiful one. Much of the music is very simple, just unintelligible female singing over slow atmospheric riffs and light drumming, but the way that Autumn Grey Solace’s sound comes together is capable of putting any listener in a trance. It’s just beautiful atmospheric music, almost hypnotic at times, and it’s simple pleasure is what makes ethereal music so appealing. Again, it’s nothing especially different, but Eifalian is effective at what its does, and it’s a very enjoyable listen.


the new earth

The New Earth

Aythis’ The New Earth is the intertwining of cinematic and gothic sounds. That works both for and against it. Much of the music is exceptionally beautiful, but too much of the album sounds like extended interludes or a film score to visuals that don’t actually exist. When it works it’s excellent, and thankfully it works more often than not. The more fleshed out songs are strikingly gorgeous, and the cinematic ambiance makes them epic sounding as well. That’s not an easy combination to have, but tracks like “Silvery Night” really do blend epic theatrical sounds with a more subtle beauty. It certainly has its flaws, but anyone looking for a beautiful darkwave or neofolk album will find a lot to like here.


counting to zero

Counting to Zero

Few artists balance harsh and beautiful sounds as well as Collide. The noisy production contrasts perfectly with the gorgeous female vocals, and Counting to Zero only farther expands on what makes Collide such an outstanding duo. That contrast still works, and more than a decade after they became minor critical darlings with Chasing the Ghost, they still find ways to add to their sound. Producer Statik is never afraid to try new things, and once the music finds its groove he’ll add in surprising new elements, all of which work well within that aforementioned contrast. Simply put, Counting to Zero is a beautiful album, and it’s an intense album. It also happens to be an extraordinary mix of darkwave and industrial, and an album that should definitely be listened to.


innere apokalypse

Innere Apokalypse

Varied, almost to a fault, Gedankenrasen’s Apokalypse is an album that has elements of just about everything in modern gothic music. There are a few tracks are either pure darkwave, industrial, or gothic rock, but the strongest moments of the album come when Gedankenrasen pulls out all the stops and creates music that I can genuinely say is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Take the track “Angst,” for example. The heavy wobbling synth beat is downright maddening, and the German blackened growls are raw and intense. Then add in the subtle yet beautiful violins, and you’re left with a song that encompasses everything that gothic music should be. While nothing else on Apokalypse quite lives up to that, there are some pretty interesting experiments that are worth hearing. While it’s great to hear so much variety, it becomes clear where Gedankenrasen’s strength lies. The intense moments are easily the best on the album, and when that intensity fades the lower energy tracks simply aren’t as strong. Still, much of Apokalypse is excellent, and at its best it’s what gothic music is all about.


garden of dilmun

Seventh Harmonic
Garden of Dilmun

From great compositions to excellent operatic vocals, Seventh Harmonic’s third album is exactly what a neo-classical darkwave album should be. Its dark and haunting atmosphere is made using a mix of strings and hard drum beats that are mostly played at a slow pace. That pace rarely picks up, and while a few of the songs build to nothing as a result, most of the music on Garden of Dilmun is better for it. This is exceptionally beautiful work, and it’s rare to hear classical music used so well with contemporary gothic sounds. If you’re looking for a great darkwave album, or even a great modern classical release, then the latest from this all-female group is an excellent choice.


have you seen this ghost

Sopor Aeternus & the Ensemble of Shadows
Have You Seen This Ghost?

The always interesting Sopor Aeternus released two albums in 2011, the better of which was the ultra dark and experimental Have You Seen This Ghost? It’s a weird album to say the least, with creepy vocals reminiscent of Devil Doll, as well as dark gothic instrumentals with a heavy classic influence. It all makes for a wildly entertaining album that ranges from being incredibly silly to legitimately serious, often doing so quickly without being too abrupt. It’s almost like a gothic Devin Townsend album in that sense. The music here is consistently unique as well. Few songs sound alike, yet all of it forms a cohesive package, and one that any fan of gothic, darkwave, or experimental music should listen to.


thorn in my flesh

Thorn in My Side

X-Fusion is the rare harsh EMB producer who puts subtlety into his sound, and his beats are more intense and have more longevity as a result. The vocals are mostly distorted screams, which is typical for the genre, but most of X-Fusion’s music shows a willingness to mix in elements from outside of his genre. Again, all of this comes without losing the aggressiveness that makes the genre appealing to begin with, and outside of Psyclon Nine I’m not sure there’s any other aggrotech artist I would recommend more to newcomers than X-Fusion. The reason I’m referring to the artist and not the album is that Thorn in My Side really is just more from X-Fusion. Everything you could say about his past albums can be said for this one as well. Yes, the sound was more, well, original the first time around, but a lot of the subtleties have been polished. It all comes out in a wash, and in the case of X-Fusion more of the same is really what you’d want.


somewhere between

You Shriek
Somewhere Between (Heaven & Sorrow)

There aren’t many quality synthpop albums being released these days, so You Shriek’s Somewhere Between (Heaven & Sorrow) really stands out. This is an atmospheric album with some catchy melodies and a ton of variety. Tracks like “Well Enough Alone” are pure catchy pop music, while others like “No Heroes” and “Heaven & Sorrow” border on darkwave. The variety works both for against You Shriek. The album will often bounce around from style to style, never letting the listener get used to a specific sound. Instead, Somewhere Between sounds like a modern band recreating as many different subgenres of new wave as possible over the course of an album. What makes it work is the quality of the individual tracks, as everything on You Shriek’s album does justice to their influences, even if nothing here is all that original.



Zola Jesus

After two excellent EP’s in 2010, Zola Jesus has returned with a solid full length album. Conatus is somewhat inconsistent, and only at times lives up to Zola Jesus’ potential. After her breakout EPs, that’s a bit of disappointment. Still, the vast majority of Conatus is very good, highlighted by her incredible singing voice reminiscent of the legendary Siouxsie Sioux. Her compositions are ambitious, and when everything comes together it’s nothing short of incredible. “Vessel,” for example, is a beautiful atmospheric masterpiece that perfectly blends together Zola Jesus’ vast array of influences. Most of Conatus is sort of darkwave, sort of industrial, sort of post-punk, and definitely experimental. It can all get overwhelming at times, and even with Zola Jesus’ powerful voice some the ballads can get repetitive. Still, most of it works, and the amazing highs make Conatus a great listen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 HBG- Ambient/Post-Rock

-Hip Hop
-Melodeath/Thrash/Sludge Metal
-Power/Symphonic/Folk Metal
-Alternative/Indie Rock
-Death Metal
-Black Metal
-Folk- Coming Soon
-Doom Metal- Coming Soon
-Experimental- Coming Soon


Ambient music and its more rock-influenced cousin, post-rock, had many great releases in 2011. Established greats returned with new albums that didn’t disappoint, plenty of newcomers added their new ideas to the mix, and a few old favorites even returned to form. More so than ever before, ambient music is appealing to wider audience, and 2011 had plenty of albums that should appeal to anyone who enjoys the simpler and slower side of music.


take care take care take care

Explosions in the Sky
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

I admit that I came into Take Care, Take Care, Take Care expecting more of the same from Explosions in the Sky. Their last album was solid, but there was a feeling that this band may have taken their sound as far as it can go. While Take Care… doesn’t necessarily reach the heights of their best albums, it has a surprising amount of diversity that takes their established sound in interesting new directions. It keeps the band’s blend epic and often beautiful post-rock, while adding subtle indie rock elements. “Trembling Hands” is the most obvious example of this, as it incorporates looped “ooh”s over a kind of post-rock/indie hybrid instrumental. It sounds strange at first, but the song builds into a fairly epic conclusion (albeit one that comes a little too soon). Things like that appear all over the album, often in more subtle ways. The structure of the more pure post-rock songs isn’t always what one would expect, especially from a band that many have criticized for their often predictable song structure. The conclusions aren’t always as epic as they’ve been in the past, and the chaotic and emotionally draining moments of past Explosions in the Sky aren’t as prevalent here. It’s a trade-off, and one that might silence a few of the band’s critics. For fans of Explosions in the Sky, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is a solid album that isn’t as much of a journey as The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place or Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, but Explosions have changed their sound enough to keep things interesting while still maintaining much of what garnered them followers in the first place.


hoping for the invisible to ignite

Farewell Poetry
Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite

When it comes to lyrics, there has also been a debate about its relation to poetry. Farewell Poetry don’t exactly take a side in that debate, but they certainly relate to it. Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite is as much performance poetry as it is post-rock. Jayne Amara Ross is the poet, and she reads her work over ambient post-rock that wraps itself around the words. The focus is on the poetry, and the instrumentation changes to fit the words and subsequently build with them. The two parts are never at odds, and the tension they create are a product of both working together. The work as a whole it haunting, beautiful, and interesting, and it’s the type of album that can be analyzed both as poetry and music. The case can be made that the poetry has become lyrics in the way that it’s used, but there’s definitely something different going on here. I can’t say I’ve ever hard music and lyrics that relate so well, and it’s interesting to hear an album that focuses on the words and builds the music around it. Regardless of how its classified, Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite is an incredibly unique work of art, and one that deserves the attention of any music lover.


a l a


Released as a double album on vinyl and separately as individual albums digitally, Grouper’s A I A: Dream Loss and A I A: Alien Observer are distinct stylistically, but work brilliantly together. The first part, Dream Loss is full of fuzzy drone ambiance and is far heavier than fans of Grouper’s more melodic Dragging a Deer Up a Hill might be used to. Still, Liz Harris’ vocals are beautiful, albeit used more as background in Dream Loss, but the music ends up being a dark and uneasy wave of ambient beauty. The second half, Alien Observer is catchier and more vocal-heavy while still building on the drone-aspect of the first half. Each part is great on its own, but as a whole A I A is something special. The way that everything comes together after 75 minutes is extraordinary, as there’s a full spectrum of varied, emotional music on display, and it’s simply gorgeous from start to finish. This is one of the best albums of 2011, and an essential release for anyone with a passing interest in ambient music.




Ambient fans can rest easy. After a hugely disappointing follow up to the wonderful Treny, Michael Jacaszek is back on the right track. Glimmer picks up right where Treny left off, with muddy ambient tunes that are complex and uneasy while being oddly soothing at the same time. This comes from Jacaszek’s exceptional layering, as he creates a powerful background atmosphere where slow building electronic, drone, and acoustic sounds can form over it. It sounds like two distinct tracks being played over each other, but they way they match up and eventually form into one cohesive sound is nothing short of incredible. Jacaszek also plays with volume in ways that a noise musician would, ranging things from near silent to full volume, and changing volume quicker than the music. When all is said and done, Glimmer is an outstanding album. This is the type of ambient release with tons of depth and subtlety, and it sees this talented musician heading in the right direction once again.




With his self-titled debut in 2004 and the masterful Silver EP in 2006, there was a time not too long ago when Jesu looked to be the future of ambient music. His blend of so many different types of heavy ambient sounds was both original and powerful, and even somewhat accessible. After a string of disappointing albums since, it’s somewhat of a surprise to see Jesu return with an album that can be compared to his early work. Don’t get me wrong, Ascension is not the best album Jesu has made, but it’s easily the finest work of his since Silver. Ascension is not a return to the all-purpose ambient sound of early Jesu, but instead a simpler and more focused effort. There are shoegaze elements, as well as heavy metal and drone elements, and they mix in such a way where the tracks sound like cohesive, well constructed music, and less like a barrage of individual sounds and influences. Ascension just oozes atmosphere, and while it may be a simpler take on Jesu’s sound, that’s all for the better. This is a beautiful, well refined album, and it makes this talented artist worth listening to again.



Julia Holter

It’s always strange to hear ambient music that is legitimately catchy. Tragedy by Julia Holter is a catchy ambient album, but more importantly it’s a great one. This is the kind of original album that should appeal to ambient listeners, while introducing new listeners to the beauty of atmospheric art. Holter has drawn comparisons to Grouper, mostly due to that aforementioned catchiness, but it’s more that she’s one of the few others to actually pull off this type of sound. The influences on Tragedy are quite different from Grouper, as Holter pulls less from drone and heavier ambient and more from classical and chamber music, which makes for an interesting contrast to the low vocals. The vocals may seem out of place at first, but it really does work well with the music. Again, that contrast is important, as it allows the atmosphere to become more varied. There’s both light and dark here, and often the vocals bring out the darker side of Tragedy. Overall, this is a multi-layered work of art, and an exceptional ambient release that is both unique and accessible.


long distance calling

Long Distance Calling
Long Distance Calling

Long Distance Calling’s self-titled third album is slightly more streamlined than their first two. There are moments where the music is almost indistinguishable from the average post-rock band, and that’s certainly disappointing. However, when Long Distance Calling works in their progressive, psychedelic, and metal influences, things get a lot more interesting. Thankfully most of this album has those in some capacity, and as a result each song becomes progressively crazier as it moves along. This isn’t necessarily post-rock that you feel an emotion connection with, although there are moments that come close, but instead post-rock with some solid riffs and atmosphere. It’s great to hear progressive solos transition into the traditional post-rock sound, and even when parts of Long Distance Calling seem familiar and even boring, there’s always something around the corner to redeem it.


i was here for a moment

I Was Here for a Moment, Then I Was Gone

The problem with Maybeshewill has never been in their post-rock sound. At the core of their music lied a beautiful, extremely well executed take on the genre. It’s been the other stuff, or more specifically how the other stuff fits in with the post-rock foundation, that hasn’t always gone right. With their third album, Maybeshewill have removed the “other stuff” from their sound. Gone are the samples, the vocals, and the electronic influences. What you’re left with is a far more focused album, and one that still does things differently enough from other post-rock albums to make it stand out. The songs here are more aggressive and build at a faster pace than most other contemporary post-rock, and this works to the album’s advantage. There are still beautiful moments, heavy moments, and stunning climaxes, but it’s done in a much shorter package. This is not an atmospheric epic, so much as a collection of individual songs that are technical, varied, and just so happen to share the structure and sound of bands like Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and God is an Astronaut. To some, I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone may be seen has an original band conforming to the masses. In some ways it is, but what remains is a well above average post-rock album that does what it does very well.


plains of the purple buffalo

Plains of the Purple Buffalo

Plains of the Purple Buffalo is a post-rock/ambient album completely unconcerned with being beautiful or pretty. This is a rough, sludge-y album that may have some lighter melodic moments, but gets a lot out of the heavy riffs it builds towards. There’s a great deal of atmosphere, although *Shels surprisingly deals with the atmosphere better during the heavier parts. *Shels also use of an interesting array of instruments, and while Plains of the Purple Buffalo is certainly a post-rock album that goes from light to heavy, the type of light and heavy is very unique for the genre. Few albums have the unpredictability of this one, and while not every moment is great, Plains of the Purple Buffalo has many awe-inspiring parts that make the rough spots worth enduring.


deaden the fields

Tangled Thoughts of Leaving
Deaden the Fields

One of 2011’s most original albums and overall best debuts, Deaden the Fields is a very promising first release from Tangled Thoughts of Leaving. This jazz-influenced post-rock album is absolutely crazy, taking the structure of post-rock and introducing some very interesting sounds to the mix. The jazz influence is at the forefront, but there’s also progressive rock, metal, and tons of avant-garde music. At times the tracks can sound like experimental electronic pieces with noises that sound like something from a Satanicpornocultshop or The Residents song. Not all of the songs progress well enough, notably when parts stop and drastic new sounds are introduced at odd times, but for the most Tangled Thoughts of Leaving do a solid job of condensing a vast array of influences into songs that build logically.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2011 HBG- Black Metal

-Hip Hop
-Melodeath/Thrash/Sludge Metal
-Power/Symphonic/Folk Metal
-Alternative/Indie Rock
-Death Metal
-Black Metal
-Folk- Coming Soon
-Doom Metal- Coming Soon
-Experimental- Coming Soon


While it’s been part of the “extreme metal” section in the past, black metal had such a good year in 2011 that it needed its own category. Much of this is due to the rise in atmospheric black metal, a subgenre that combines the core sound with post-rock, shoegaze, and ambient music, but there were plenty of great traditional, symphonic, and even melodic black metal albums released in 2011 as well. Here are 10 of the best.



An Autumn for Crippled Children

Stylistically, Everything is a big change from An Autumn for Crippled Children’s debut last year. That album, Lost, was a unique and powerful black and doom metal hybrid. Everything is a more typical “blackgaze” album, as the doom metal influences are a lot less prominent this time around. This might be a disappointment to fans, but thankfully An Autumn for Crippled Children have made a great album that stands a cut above the vast majority of the many other atmospheric black metal albums released in 2011. The atmosphere here is really strong, and the balance between beautiful and brutal is nearly perfect.



Anaal Nathrakh

Uncompromisingly brutal, the part-black metal, part-death metal, part-grindcore Passion is an album that is every bit as creative as it is heavy. Anaal Nathrakh’s sound has always been fast and heavy, but on Passion the group is more consistent than they’ve ever been. Every song is a sonic assault that takes elements from just about every form of an extreme metal. It never settles, as even the drums constantly switch from snare-heavy black metal to blastbeats. The vocals switch between high and low growls, sometimes as often as every syllable, and it all makes for some chaotic and truly unpredictable music. Everything that Anaal Nathrakh do has been done before in some capacity, but the way that it all comes together on Passion is heavier than just about anything else in metal music.


takasago army

Takasago Army

One might not think that a black metal album influenced by Taiwanese folk music would be accessible, but that’s exactly what Chthonic have accomplished with Takasago Army. On first listen the oriental folk elements may be the most noticeable aspect of the music, but that’s really not the main part of Chthonic’s sound. This is a symphonic black metal album through and through, and it’s a damn good one at that. Few albums manage to at the same time be as cinematic, brutal, and catchy, and what’s more is that the symphonic core of the music does not compromise the more extreme parts of Chthonic’s sound. This is symphonic black metal that works, both as an accessible starting point for newcomers to black and death metal, and as something truly unique for established fans of extreme metal. Takasago Army is unlike any other album released in 2011, and cements Chthonic’s place as one the most innovative artists in modern metal.


roads to judah

Roads to Judah

Deafheaven start their first full length album off with what may be one of the finest extreme metal songs I’ve ever heard. The epic 12 minute “Violet” starts out purely ambient, builds towards a solid few minutes of post-rock that is beautiful while still being heavy, and then goes absolutely insane. The drums subtlety get faster and more snare dependent until it finally reaches full on black metal status. That’s when the vocalist belts out a powerful growl, and by the way, the beautiful ambience of the intro is still there. It’s rare to hear “blackgaze” or atmospheric black metal music that is so good at every aspect of the sound, especially in terms of how the tracks progress. By the end of Roads to Judah, Deafheaven have taken the listener on a journey. This is an album that builds on Alcest’s sound, adds some hardcore punk influences, and makes the heavy moments far heavier. It’s a near perfect blend of the “lighter” French blackgaze that know how to create beautiful music and build their songs, and the heavier atmospheric black metal that takes brutal music and mixes in some shoegaze and post-rock sounds. Deafheaven definitely borrow a lot from their influences, but the way they piece them together is simply incredible.




Fen’s Epoch is pretty standard atmospheric black metal, at least in terms of style. Quality-wise, Epoch is towards the higher end of the spectrum. It came out in February, and with the incredible year of atmospheric black metal that followed, it’s hard for not to get lost in the shuffle. But black metal fans who missed out on Fen’s sophomore release earlier in the year should go back and give this one a listen. For all the experimentation that came with the genre in 2011, it’s great to hear a band that sticks by their influences and makes a heavy atmospheric album that lets the black metal dominate the sound. And in terms of black metal, Fen plays their sound expertly. They have a raw, heavy sound with just enough post-rock parts to keep things from getting repetitive. Again, it may have been overshadowed by bigger and ultimately better albums, but Fen’s Epoch was the first great atmospheric black metal album of 2011, and it’s a very solid take on what would become a defining subgenre in extreme metal over the next ten months.




Oakhelm’s Betwixt and Between was a promising debut. Its follow up expands on that foundation, and is one of the best and most unique black metal albums in a year filled with many great releases in the genre. Oakhelm play a heavy and at times beautiful style of atmospheric black metal, and they mix in some prominent folk elements for good measure. While the combination was unique and exciting the first time around, here it’s become fully realized and truly spectacular. Most of the tracks are of epic length and switch between raw heavy riffs with blackened screams to some of the most gorgeous and well-implemented ambient music in any atmospheric black metal album. Most of the individual parts of Echtra aren’t extraordinary though. If you’re familiar with contemporary black metal, especially in the Northwest scene, you’ve heard the metal side of Oakhlem before. It’s the way that everything comes together that makes this album great and worthy of any metal fan’s time.



Oranssi Pazuzu

Technically speaking Oranssi Pazuzu do play black metal. They just play a very strange style of it, and one that makes Kosmonument as likely to appeal to experimental listeners as it is to black metal fans. Across the course of the album there are heavy psychedelic influences, as well as elements of doom and sludge metal, making this a sort of weird experiment that maintains the raw nature of its black metal core. The growling is strong, the riffs are big, and there’s even some heavy bass that is rarely heard in black metal. While Kosmonument is not as focused as their debut album, Oranssi Pazuzu have made another unique work of art. Not all of it works, and as one might expect the psychedelic influences don’t blend perfectly. Still, they get it right the majority of the time, and while bands like Nachmystium and A Forest of Stars have received critical acclaim for their form of psychedelic black metal, Oranssi Pazuzu do it far better than either.




Old school black metal with modern production, Vreid’s V is an album that embraces the evolution of the black metal genre without losing its roots. The music has a raw and gritty sound mixed in with serious melody and even a few atmospheric parts. This is an album that can be utterly brutal in spots, and then transition into softer segments. There will certainly be black metal purists who won’t be able to get over the melodic parts and the decent production values, especially considering Vreid has connections to the more traditional black metal band Windir, but V is an easy album to recommend to anyone who likes the classic blackened sound and doesn’t mind a more modern take on it.


celestial lineage

Wolves in the Throne Room
Celestial Lineage

The fourth album from Wolves in the Throne Room isn’t all that different from the first three. The band had a phenomenal debut with Diadem of 12 Stars, polished their sound with Two Hunters, and are now on cruise control. However, more Wolves in the Throne Room is hardly a bad thing. Even with the rapidly increasing number of atmospheric black metal bands out there, no one plays it quite like Wolves in the Throne Room. They continue to play black metal with folk and shoegaze influences, and unlike a lot of atmospheric black metal albums, the influences are almost completely interconnected. Even the softer moments still have a hint of black metal in them, and Celestial Lineage is better for it. The thing is, even with the long tracks, Wolves remains one of the most accessible extreme metal bands out there, and it’s hard to imagine any metalhead not finding something to like about their music. It’s heavy, unique, and each song is very well constructed. So while Celestial Lineage is nothing new for Wolves in the Throne Room, their sound is far from tired, and both established fans and metalheads yet to give them a listen will find an enjoyable album here.


torn beyond reason

Woods of Desolation
Torn Beyond Reason

Torn Beyond Reason comes just shy of being the perfect atmospheric black metal album. This dark masterpiece is filled with punishing riffs, desperate screams, production that makes the sound more raw without taking away from the music, insane melody at times, and some of the greatest atmosphere black metal has ever seen. Its only issue is variety. After the first couple songs the rest can get predictable, but when the sound is this good that may be for the best. This is atmospheric metal that perfects the balance between heavy and beautiful, and even with its flaws it’s one of the 2011’s most essential metal albums.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 HBG- Death Metal

-Hip Hop
-Melodeath/Thrash/Sludge Metal
-Power/Symphonic/Folk Metal
-Alternative/Indie Rock
-Death Metal
-Black Metal
-Folk- Coming Soon
-Doom Metal- Coming Soon
-Experimental- Coming Soon


Death metal had such a huge year in 2011 that for the first time ever the subgenre has its own category separate from other forms of extreme metal. It goes without saying that death metal isn’t for everyone, but anyone who likes their music as brutal as possible had a lot to love about the past the year.


asylum cave

Asylum Cave

Asylum Cave opens with what may be the greatest intro to any metal album ever. From the first 30 seconds, it becomes clear that this French band has a great sense of humor and knows how to make some insanely heavy music. Benighted have all but perfected their form of deathgrind, and it’s amazing to listen to incredibly brutal extreme metal that is this fast and heavy without being sloppy. Asylum Cave does start to lose steam near the end, but the first half is some of the best and heaviest music death metal has to offer, and even at its worst it’s still heavy enough to be entertaining. This is hardly a work of high art, but it’s the rare album that can satisfy any metalhead’s lust for brutality.


agonyFleshgod Apocalypse

Fleshgod Apocalypse released a promising debut with Oracles in 2009, an album that combined some solid brutal death metal with light symphonic elements. On Agony, Fleshgod Apocalypse have upped the symphonic parts while still keeping the brutality intact. It’s a very good death metal album at its core, and the more prominent symphonic elements make it more chaotic and even heavier. The thing is, symphonic music is a natural fit with death metal, as the sound is heavily influenced by classical music to begin with. Adding keys, operatic vocal sections, and string instrumentals make sense and fit better than one might expect. The way they’re used is not as powerful as on Septic Flesh’s The Great Mass, a symphonic death metal album released earlier in 2011, but Agony is still great on its own merits and definitely worthy of any death metal fan’s time.


the sum of all fossils

The Sum of All Fossils

Flourishing’s debut album is one the more varied albums in the death metal genre. The band plays with tempo exceptionally well, creating an album that works when fast or slow. There are times when The Sum of All Fossils sounds like sludge metal with blackened growling, but just as often they are play fast and technical death metal with typical vocals for the genre. What remains consistent though is the brutality of the music, which is aided by some strong atmosphere and spot-on lo-fi production. This is a very solid album, and one that can recommended to any fan of extreme metal. If their debut is any indication, Flourishing are definitely a band to watch for in the future.




Kartikeya’s Mahuyuga opens with a short intro that goes from ambient music to death metal to Middle Eastern folk. When the actual songs start, it seems at first like the intro was a tease. The death metal is high quality, certainly, and sounds like a cross between Behemoth and Strapping Young Lad, but 3 minutes into the second track the real genius of Mahayuga starts to show itself. That solid death metal song turns into Mongolian folk with chanted vocals, and the album just gets crazier from there. Kartikeya have very strong Middle Eastern influences, and they put it to great use. There are plenty of pure death metal moments, all of which are great, but much of the music has their oriental influences fused directly into it. The songs here are heavy, unique, and even beautiful at times, and it makes for a very interesting listen. Mahayuga ends with an epic four-part closer that ranks among some of the weirdest and overall best music I’ve heard this year. If you like death metal, oriental metal, or avant-garde music in general, Kartikeya have crafted an album that you should absolutely check out.




Mitochondrion’s Parasignosis has its flaws, but when I look back on the most memorable albums of 2011, it’s hard to ignore this one. The band’s raw blend of atmospheric death metal is sometimes too raw for its own good. It can be like listening to an early black metal album, only with death growls and more technical instrumentation. Parasignosis is completely overwhelming in parts, as the technicality of the instrumentals and the raw production and atmosphere are often at odds. Still, there are parts of the album that make up the rough spots. This is just a ridiculously heavy album, and even while it may take a few listens to absorb all of the different parts, what’s here is unlike anything else I’ve heard in the death metal genre. Parasignosis may be the heaviest album released in 2011, and with the ridiculous amount of great extreme metal albums from the year, that’s no small accomplishment. With its problems, it’s somewhat hard to fully recommend Parasignosis, but it also needs to be done. The highs are just too good and the album is just too heavy for it to be ignored.



Technicality is one aspect of death metal, but it’s far from the only thing that makes the genre appealing. Most technical death metal albums forgo the brutality, and more importantly, the passion that comes from it, in favor of technical wankery. Obscura’s Omnivium is an exception to that rule. Here is some technical death metal with awe-inspiring musicianship, but a great deal of passion to go along with it. Everything here is heavy, and the way that complicated instrumentation works with the varied songwriting is nothing short of brilliant. Obscura take their cues from jazz and progressive metal, and in a way Omnivium feels like a modern update to early Atheist and Cynic albums. It needs a little more variety before it truly belongs in the same category as those, but it’s the closest tech death has gotten in some time. It’s rare and oh so satisfying to hear a death metal album be technically complex while still having great songwriting around it. Parts of it are even melodic, and certainly accessible compared to most other death metal albums. Omnivium is an exceptional release, and absolutely essential for metal fans.




A stunning original debut album, Owl’s self-titled release is one of the best metal albums of 2011. Owl play atmospheric death metal, similar to the popular “blackgaze” or atmospheric black metal that has become popular of late. However, the difference between the black and death metal is key, and a very difficult one to pull off. This is an incredibly dark and raw album, and it’s sometimes hard to believe that the death metal riffs and growls work so well in such a dreary atmospheric setting. The music is technical, epic, and depressing all at once, and while the last track goes on far too long (30 minutes), the first four are near-masterpieces that are unlike anything else in contemporary metal.


the great mass

Septic Flesh
The Great Mass

Heavy, brutal, and unapologetically crazy, Septic Flesh’s The Great Mass is one hell of an album. This symphonic death metal masterpiece contains some of the heaviest metal imaginable, and blends it with strong progressive and symphonic elements. There are brutal death vocals and instrumentals, as well as violins, flutes, and some help from the Filmharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Prague. It should be overwhelming, but the way that Septic Flesh build their music is chaotic yet never random. This is the soundtrack to going mad, and the music remains unpredictable throughout. What more is there to say about The Great Mass? This is an incredible tour de force of death metal, and it’s a masterpiece that absolutely must be listened to.



Sonne Adam

Sonne Adam is a new band with an old sound. Transformation is an impressive traditional death metal album, complete with raw vocals, lo-fi production, and dark and heavy instrumentation. It’s sort of a throwback to early 90’s death metal, but it manages to stand out. Even two decades after this style of death metal surfaced, it’s impressive to hear a death metal band be so heavy, so raw, and so enjoyable. The riffs are slower than in modern death metal, and there’s certainly a case to be made that “slow and heavy” is the way to go. Transformation is certainly for fans of old-school death metal, but with the possible exception of Bloodbath there hasn’t been a band in the last decade who’s re-created this sound in such a powerful way. It’s raw, it’s heavy, and it’s great.


the destroyers of all

The Destroyers of All

Listening to Ulcerate’s The Destroyers of All can be an overwhelming experience. Much like Meshuggah, Gojira, and other all-purpose extreme metal bands, Ulcerate throws just every form of heavy metal into their sound and somehow makes it work. Through the course of each 6+ minute track, Ulcerate plays incredibly technical and brutal metal with elements of death, black, sludge, and thrash mixed in. It’s an all out heavy metal assault, but it’s also the type of music that just begs to be headbanged to. Few albums pull off metal as heavy as this, and for fans of heavy metal The Destroyers of All is a treat.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 HBG- Hardcore

-Hip Hop
-Melodeath/Thrash/Sludge Metal
-Power/Symphonic/Folk Metal
-Alternative/Indie Rock
-Death Metal
-Black Metal
-Folk- Coming Soon
-Doom Metal- Coming Soon
-Experimental- Coming Soon


This section is comprised of the best hardcore punk, post-hardcore, metalcore, deathcore, and screamo albums of 2011. For those who aren’t familiar with those terms, just know the following 10 albums have lots and lots of screaming.


ferne tageÄra Krâ
Ferne Tage

Powerful, beautiful, and emotionally devastating, Ära Krâ’s debut is one of the year’s best albums in any genre of music. This is an incredible first album, and it’s hard to imagine what Ära Krâ may be capable of in the future. Stylistically, the music is very unique with elements of hardcore punk, atmospheric black metal, and post-rock. All of it comes together perfectly and with a great deal of emotion. There are certain albums that just seep passion, and Ferne Tage is one of them. The content is dark, yet still beautiful, and it manages to create a distinct and absorbing atmosphere. Most of the vocals are screamed, and the instrumentation can build from ambience to extreme metal, but does so at a leisurely pace. By its end it’s hard not be exhausted listening to Ferne Tage, and that’s a good thing. It’s an emotionally draining album, and as a result it’s definitely not for everyone. However, anyone who likes to sit and truly listen to their heavy music will find a one of a kind experience, and again, one of the absolute best albums of 2011.


the discovery

Born of Osiris
The Discovery

I’ve heard solid deathcore before, even a few great EP’s. However, Born of Osiris’ The Discovery is the single best pure deathcore album I’ve ever listened to. This is proof that mixing death metal with hardcore can work, and screams and breakdowns aren’t completely incompatible with death metal. The vocals vary between high and low screams and death growls, although not all are well done. It’s good that none of the specific styles stay for too long, and the constant changing only adds to the intensity. The Discovery is likely an album that will be enjoyed more by hardcore/metalcore fans than death metal purists, and that’s fine. This is really a metalcore album with legitimate death metal influences and some well implemented progressive and atmospheric sounds. Born of Osiris have crafted a chaotic mess of an album, and I mean that in the best way possible. If you’re an open-minded death metal fan I would recommend giving this one a chance, but more than anything it’s an essential release for fans of heavier hardcore music.


empty days and sleepless nights

Empty Days & Sleepless Nights

Empty Days & Sleepless Nights shows two very different sides of Defeater. Some of the songs are heavy hardcore tracks complete with heavy riffs and punk screaming. Those are solid for the most part, and Defeater do a good job of building the songs and giving them some variety. The other half of Empty Days & Sleepless Nights is much softer. There are four acoustic ballads, all of which are surprisingly good. Even without the screaming, Defeater still put a punk edge into the softer tracks. The lyrical themes are similar throughout the album, namely a loose story about a family dealing with their life post-war. The acoustic tracks all come at the end, after 35 minutes of hardcore punk. This makes the theme of the record all the more powerful, hearing anger followed by grief. Empty Days & Sleepless Nights is a complete album, and a great sophomore release from a band quickly gaining the attention of punk fans everywhere.



Jesus & Paka

The first time I listened to Duality, the debut album from Jesus & Paka, it took only about a minute for me to realize that this duo has come up with one of the most unique sounds imaginable. With that being said, it took quite a bit longer for me to realize that this album was more than just a unique experiment. Jesus & Paka play acoustic screamo. Yes, you read that right. This album has powerful punk screams being delivered over borderline-flamenco acoustic guitar parts. It’s hard to believe that this style works, but it does, and quite brilliantly at that. This whole thing would fall apart if the vocals were lackluster, but thankfully the screams are forceful, and they are only intensified by the acoustic instrumentals. The guitars are fast enough to work with the music, but they put a powerful emphasis on the vocals that makes Duality an incredibly emotional record. This is one of the most unique albums of 2011, and it’s also one of the best.



La Dispute

Wildlife is not an album that be critiqued at a technical level, and that’s what makes punk music so great. This is an album of pure emotion. Every word that comes from the vocalist’s mouth is said, screamed, and sung with passion, and the same can be said for every note of the guitar. Wildlife is just intense and beautiful in the most heartbreaking of ways, and it’s the kind of album that’s exactly what emo could be if you removed all of the stigma and commercialism. That is to say, this is a punk album with real emotion, and it makes for a powerful and at times difficult listen.



Protest the Hero

Protest the Hero is a band that makes incredibly complicated music sound simple. Parts of Scurrilous are nothing short of ridiculous and borderline overwhelming. You’ll hear the vocalist screaming over guitar shredding, chaotic drum beats, and melodic backing vocals. Other times high singing will occur over chugging hardcore riffs and breakdowns, and instruments will sometimes transition to new parts seemingly without regard for what the other parts are playing. What sounds like a guitar solo will start in the middle of a verse, and the instruments will slow down in the middle of another. It shouldn’t work, but somehow Protest the Hero manage to pull it off, and the moments where everything does come together bring a much needed rest to chaos. All things considered, Scurrilous is really pretty accessible. It’s a testament to the band’s songwriting that such crazy compositions can work, especially at a level where the music can appeal similarly to fans of hardcore and progressive metal.



Pulling Teeth

Pulling Teeth’s Funerary feels like two different hardcore albums packaged into one. Both are great, but in different ways. The first half is a loud, fast, and chaotic collection of straightforward hardcore punk songs. The latter half is slower and basically sludge metal with punk screams. Again, both work, and they show a tremendous amount of variety. The instrumentation ranges from slow and heavy sludge to fast and sloppy punk to technical metal and even melodic in the solos. It’s an interesting mix, especially in the latter half, and it makes for an incredibly strange and rewarding listen. The vocals won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, even amongst hardcore fans, and the screaming isn’t as powerful as it could have been. The sloppy screams work well with some parts of the music, but occasionally it stands out too much. For the most part though, Funerary is a unique hardcore album that works, and it’s a great album for punk fans and metalheads alike.


sulla linea d'orizzonte tra questa mia vita e quella di tutti

Sulla linea d'orizzonte tra questa mia vita e quella di tutti

Makers of some of the most creative and emotionally-charged screamo out there, Raein have returned with an album funded by fan donations. In a lot of ways, this is a return to Raein’s roots, as the music is simpler and closer to their influences than any of their albums before it. The vocals are a mostly powerful screaming, with a few spoken sections, and the instrumentals are similar to influential modern screamo bands like Saetia and pageninetynine. There’s a lot of variation in the instrumentals, both in style and mood, and the music stays interesting throughout as a result. Unlike the aforementioned bands, Raein refrain from moments of pure chaos. The music is certainly emotional, angry, and devastating, but it all stays pretty steady and even accessible as far as screamo albums go. Sulla linea d'orizzonte tra questa mia vita e quella di tutti isn’t anything new for hardcore punk, but it’s a very solid album nonetheless. It’s certainly recommendable for those with interest in screamo, but even newcomers to the genre might want to give this one a try. It’s available as a free download on Raein’s website, and it’s definitely worth any music fan’s time.


after dark

Todos Caerán
After Dark

While many hardcore bands keep their songs short and to the point, Todos Caerán take the opposite approach. After Dark is cinematic album with long tracks, instrumentals that sound like post-rock at times, and spoken storytelling that eventually turns into screams. It’s definitely for a different type of listener than those who prefer short and intense music, but those who are more patient will find an ever changing album that is successful at building the quiet into the loud. It’s no surprise to learn that Funeral Diner are a primary influence, as that style of hardcore screaming over part-post-rock part-punk instrumentals is in full effect here and done very well. After Dark is a very impressive album, especially for it being the band’s first full-length release. If this is any indication, Todos Caerán have a bright future ahead of them.


darker handcraft

Trap Them
Darker Handcraft

Fast, loud, and heavy, Trap Them’s Darker Handcraft is everything a crust punk album should be. That’s not to say that Darker Handcraft is just a crust punk album though. There are straight up rock ‘n roll riffs, used in a way similar to that of Kvelertak last year. Many of the songs are short, and are just brutal segments without intros or outros. That structure is common in punk music, but hearing something as heavy and brutal as the music here makes it all the more powerful. The longer (3+ minutes) tracks are also straight to the point, although the “death ‘n roll” parts are more prominent on those. Trap Them are a crust band that do things a little different and a lot better than most of their contemporaries. If you buy one crust punk album in 2011, you can’t go wrong with Darker Handcraft.