As the world begins to stir, gently putting the gears back into production, and steadily adjusting weary eyes to the bright new horizon of 2019 (I mean, it probably won’t be that different, other than some cases of lingering hangovers, apparent nationwide incense about a vegan sausage roll, and more than likely international condemnation of whatever Donald Trump does next), we at least have a period longer to contemplate how good a year of music 2018 really did provide us with. However the longer it took to mull over how a good year of music it was, the more frustrating it became to whittle down and distil the ten best. It’s very safe to say EVERY album about to be mentioned was in contention for a top ten position. Tantrums happened and tears were nearly shed. An iron resolve and persistence eventually paid off, and in the settling dust, lay the final ten chosen to represent the best of 2018. Just one of them became the victor and declared ‘the undisputed favourite.’ Continue reading
Among all of the things that 2016 brought to us, no matter how good, bad or ugly, collectively, it was a very strong year for new music, hence why I have had an incredibly difficult task assembling a list of just ten albums that have lived on repeat and high volume. My only regret is that there are still albums missed I have yet to listen to, by artists I am yet to discover that could’ve been exemplary. If I were to just leave this to albums I’ve heard this year, Lantlos’ Melting Sun or Black Breath’s Slaves Beyond Death probably would have romped away with this one, despite being out in 2014 and 2015 respectively. There are so many honourable mentions too that a cephalopod with hands need be employed to even fathom counting. But, lo and behold, here are the ten albums from one of humanity’s most troubling years, that I personally consider to be certifiable must-listen experiences:
10. The Maras – Wax Beach
Having never met The Maras personally, it would be safe to say that the brothers from Ontario are a little hyperactive. Not purely because they’ve released a demo, an album and a brand new EP in the space of a year, but the speed, urgency and average length of their songs might have something to do with it. Though Wax Beach could be seen as an expansion of their already superb demo, the re-recordings sound a lot denser and deranged, letting their garage punk snarls and smorgasbord of influences flourish, on what is on one hand a damning indictment on mental health services, but on the other a dizzying rush of genre-bending bliss.
9. Cruz – Culto Abismal
From beginning to end, 2016 has seen some magnificent death metal releases, but few have been quite as memorable as Barcelona quartet Cruz’s Culto Abismal. Injecting crust punk deep into the veins of death metal’s old blood, this untameable hellbeast of an album charges fast and ceases to relent once in motion. Deep growls in their native tongue punctuate the onslaught as a cavalcade of riffs over 40 minutes keeps the monster moving, the perfect balance of speed, technical ability and sickeningly heavy tone serving as Culto Abismal’s addictive centrepiece. Spain may not have the most renowned history in death metal, but on the basis of a debut this strong, Cruz sees reason for that to change very suddenly.
8. Maeth – Shrouded Mountain
With every stride that Maeth take musically, it surpasses and obliterates the last, ensuring their status as one of metal’s must-hear bands. Shrouded Mountain is their third gargantuan footprint and maintains their unique, boundary-warping compositions which straddles the planes of psychedelia and sludge like no other band before them. They also play a mean flute too, to boot. So however Maeth choose to construct their stunning, mostly instrumental journeys, whether taking you soaring through the vast reaches of space or crunching hard down into the Earth’s crust, you can bet that it will be with an energy, passion and talent that you can scarcely conceive, and Shrouded Mountain does not disappoint. Not by a long shot.
7. Bossk – Audio Noir
Always a looming presence on the UK’s stoner/doom scene, even during their split, Bossk’s first release outside of their seminal EP trilogy has catapulted their gorgeous ambient passages and pummeling riffs to unprecedented new heights. Though can be listened as an entire conceptual soundscape, the fragmentation certainly aids the quartet’s longest opus to date and makes every change of pace and tone a stellar moment. Even vocals, while used sparingly, are utilised at their most impactful, shifting what already sounds like ripping your throat out intensity, into ushering in a new Armageddon. Bossk undoubtedly stamped their authority through live performances over the decade their name has existed, but Audio Noir distills that very essence into an immensely satisfying anthology, proving that they are here to stay.
6. Vodun – Possession
Lifting its name from the homophone of voodoo, as well as incorporating aspects of its lifestyle and culture into this very music representing it, this trio from London perform an ungodly racket that’s equal parts punchy to pulse-raising. In arguably one of the most original takes on big, fuzz-saturated grooves in years, the literally spirit-fuelled Vodun drags stoner rock by its ankles and imbues it with a staggering amount of soul. Think Aretha Franklin fronting Kyuss and you’re damn near close. The presentation of the album in a semi-documentary form, with a ritualistic thread running throughout, is a neat touch and grants deeper immersion into Vodun’s already enchanting sledgehammer of force and one of the best hard rock debuts of the decade.
5. Losers – How To Ruin Other People’s Futures
With an album title that scathing, you wouldn’t be wrong thinking there is intense subject matter here. Suitably riled up trio Losers, well versed in their weaving of expansive, luscious atmospheres, frightening buzzsaw synths, distorted guitar attacks and truly thunderous percussion, unleash one of the most adrenaline-surging bouts of electro-rock charged catharsis you could ever hope to listen to. While How To Ruin Other People’s Futures features several bursts of pounding rhythms and explosive instrumentation, it allows enough breathing space for a whirlwind of ambience to take shape, for every conflagration and slow-burner, all with Paul Mullen’s dynamic vocal delivery giving a touch of humanity where chaos could spiral out of control at any given moment. A simply tremendous listen.
4. Youth Code – Commitment To Complications
Certainly one of the most talked about bands of the year and for excellent reason, the Los Angeles duo’s sophomore offering builds upon the vintage analogue synths and drum machines of industrial’s heyday and cleverly sprinkles the zest of their own hardcore upbringings into the formula. The results are nothing short of spectacular. The growth from their debut is undeniably evident, not just as tempos vary and tones are more exploratory, but their whole sound is gigantic on this album making every notion of rage and every raw nerve amplified tenfold. When beats vibrate your skull and melodies claw into your brain like Youth Code’s do, it instigates that addictive property that all EBM enthusiasts have been raving about all year.
3. Noisia – Outer Edges
After mentions for half a decade, then seemingly nonchalantly announced three months before its release, Dutch drum and bass production maestros Noisia have compiled their second studio album, far more abstract and experimental in approach than the trio’s previous Split The Atom. While you will find the same mind-altering, visceral bass lines associated with the Noisia name, it’s the deeper, darker and noticeably slower beats that become the show stealer here. Often quirky in nature and exquisitely composed to emphasise the very best of every minuscule detail, the heavy gestation period for every track, especially the beats-driven numbers, brings a world class finish to what could filter through as an oddity, but arrives as a masterpiece in sound design and further reason to immortalise Noisia as the one of the best the genre has ever seen.
2. The Qemists – Warrior Sound
In the six years since the Brighton drum and bass rock outfit’s last album, they’ve been honing their skills to create dancefloor anarchy on the live circuit, a tenure that has seen their reputation skyrocket as one of the UK’s best independent live acts. Now that energy has finally metamorphosed into The Qemists’ strongest, most consistent blockbuster yet. Fixing both live vocalists as permanent band members, has only benefited the original lightning strike of a production unit, and makes every word have purpose against the backdrop of all-out mayhem. Unforgettable, unbelievable and unflinching in the pursuit of perfect crossover bombshells, Warrior Sound is a sonic shockwave explicitly targeted to induce pleasure at an intoxicating level.
1. All Hail The Yeti – Screams From A Black Wilderness
Three years on from their scorching debut, the Los Angeles metalcore mob return with a follow-up that is perpetually more terrifying in every imaginable way. Spinning narratives so gripping and ghastly, the lines of fact and fiction dissipate into black mist as imposing, monstrous roars with some mightily impressive clean vocal support coalesce their strength as bloodthirsty wordsmiths. Though horror and the occult is the given flavour, Screams… exhibits a previously unseen versatility in All Hail The Yeti, in that their sound features much broader influences from rock and metal, that fires on all cylinders and mellows in acoustic gloom. A hard-hitting, yet gruesome landmark of metalcore, All Hail The Yeti have once again established that they are one of the most essential bands in modern metal.
If you liked the look of this list and want to hear more, then here is a handy Spotify playlist for you (except Maeth, whom you can find on their Bandcamp page):
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All through out the mainstream, backstage, behind curtains and face-to-face, musicians take risks for their art. Risk is something at the very fabric of our being, a primal fear or instinct that can separate us from doing something good, and doing something great. Musicians are far too familiar with this concept. Some of the most famous and infamous moments in music history were all made on taking a risk. Bob Dylan’s switch to electric guitar attracted the ire of the folk community, but it did nothing to dent his legacy as most of the most acclaimed songwriters in music history. Iggy Pop, despite being great friends, rejecting David Bowie’s production of Raw Power in favour of his own and becoming one of the great rock albums of all time. In a reversal of fortune, Capitol Records wanted more airplay from Megadeth in 1999 and the band released the critically divisive and experimental album titled Risk, often considered to be the band’s worst work and could have even ended their careers. So where do The Schoenberg Automaton fit onto this scale of risk? Well, artists and musicians are often known to relocate to places where they feel their creativity can best thrive. But how many of them move to the other side of the planet? Relocating from Australia, one of the global hotspots for deathcore right now, the band opted to take their monstrous tech-death juggernaut and establish themselves in Canada, a land known in underground circles for its outstanding death metal exports. No matter what walk of life you come from, a career and life decision that gigantic is gutsy. And that’s a word that sums up The Schoenberg Automaton’s output perfectly. Gutsy, driven and unflinching in the pursuit of your passion.
Second studio album Apus certainly seems to have benefited from the change of scenery, as the maturity and confidence has certainly grown in the years of development between Apus and debut album Vela. But it continues the same plotline from the end of Vela, exploring philosophical and science fiction themes as the ground concepts of the band’s storytelling and lyrical content. That story is woven into the fabric of an expansive death metal powerhouse with a dizzying amount of shifts in tempos and time signatures, performed with the heaviness and ferocity of a butcher in open-heart surgery. The universe that The Schoenberg Automaton have crafted is one of surprising atmosphere given the carnage they themselves create, but an enthralling one as Apus progresses and from the outset, it is opening track Swarm that is the greatest footnote to this revelation. Though Year Zero paints the scene, the first few chords of Swarm set up a metal rampage for the ages, drums below generating energy with swift beatings and fills to transfer into a frenzied full frontal assault. Double kicks rain down furiously, while the punishing, distorted blades of guitar rev up the engine, strum by unrelenting strum and deep, petrifying growls set the tone and the journey’s course. As statements of intent go, it certainly leaves very little to imagination as a tremendous display of fortitude and showmanship. Melodic wails spill from the guitar following a guttural, primal howl just as drums enter a sugar rush of tempo clashes and meter shifts, peeling the veil off just a mere fraction of the band’s technical ability. A brief, bone-shattering breakdown even gets squeezed into the action. But a lot of the chaos is dictated by guitars and drums going mano a mano, matching pace and intricacy by every individual note and beat running parallel one another, spawning harmonies and melodies to stir heightened emotions in their listeners. Much as the sight or experience of a swarm should feel. A delicate symphonic undertone is subtly introduced into the final minute, amongst the full effect of the metal barrage that is only in its first full-length track, which grows in grandiose as Swarm closes out, making the transition into what is to follow all the more satisfying. Though a balancing act of extremes could be said of Apus, given the unbridled aggression of chords and the complex, but emotive layering of their guitar work, a hyperactive level of drum technique and the frankly terrifying growls that tell the tale, it does nothing to detract from the spectacle of one of the most courageous and fascinating metal bands around today. An album worthy of both Canada and Australia’s death metal lineage.
Apus is out now at all respectable music retailers now in physical and digital formats. The band’s previous two releases Vela and their self-titled EP, are available on their Bandcamp for a reasonable fee as well as T-shirts and the likes via their webstore. They are actively touring, having just finished their first headline tour of the UK, but if you wanna see them at a venue near you, hit them up. You won’t regret it. They’ve just releases a brand new video for Vengeance too which you can find here.
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2016, probably not just in my own personal opinion, has been a fantastic year for music releases so far depending on how far you’re willing to commit yourself to the kaleidoscopic universe out there. To name but a few of my favourites would include The Qemists, Youth Code, Autopsy Boys, All Hail The Yeti, Mask of Bees, Lowflyinghawks, Amplifighters and Weekend Nachos, and at this point, some music media outlets would like to take the chance to reflect on what has already come before and sum things up in a handy little list for you. The Soundshark isn’t some music media outlets. What The Soundshark has done has compiled a list of 30 forthcoming releases in 2016, of varying genres, and from mass appeal down to the underground to better illustrate why 2016 will remembered as a truly incredible year of music. There could be your new favourite band waiting here or an album announcement by that band you like you may have missed, who knows?
Let’s begin shall we?
Now people I imagine are familiar with the concept of supergroups. A band put together from existing members of other established bands to make musical output. Some famous examples of this being Led Zeppelin, Audioslave, Velvet Revolver, Roadrunner United and more recently Teenage Time Killers, the latter two bands being examples of super collectives more than super groups. But I wonder if metal bands have ever considered the scenario of being drafted into a fantasy band league, people putting their two cents in to craft the best or a totally unique band based on the calibre of the musicians chosen. Obviously it would personally be far more interesting for a league like that over say a football one, but that comes with the consequences of being a music fanatic. Adimiron to me, leap out as a result of if that fantasy metal league were to exist. Combining the courageous, but venomous roars of Machine Head, the brutal simplicity of Meshuggah’s riff onslaught and the phenomenal technicality and precision of Gojira’s sticksman, the five gentlemen from Rome specialise in a titanic and constantly evolving exercise in maximum blunt force trauma. It would go without saying that their comparisons and influences mean their music carries substantial weight behind it and boy is it heavyweight. We’re talking collapsing tower block levels of heavyweight. Having held the honour of supporting of some of their heroes only adds to their legitimacy of being an all-opposing and all-conquering demolition crew of a band. The release of last year’s Timelapse has seen them take their punishing tech-metal avalanche to a new level, gathering critical acclaim from more than several luminaries of the metal press. The instrumental force of which they strike down upon is earth-shattering and rightfully applauded with glowing words and praise. State Of Persistence, the personal highlight of the nine bone-crushing pieces Timelapse holds, showcases the very best of that musical fusion discussed earlier. Matching note for hit, the opening is a gigantic sledgehammer of guitars and drums in unison already raining hard, also teasing a little of that time signature madness later to come. Then the utterly terrifying roars burst through the gates, to the battering of double kicks and a merciless barrage of riffs, completing the wolfpack and letting chaos loose. That wolf metaphor is no joke, as the time signature, on this song alone is torn and pulled apart like a piece of meat, constantly shifting with whatever pulverising metallic force comes next. You get a fantastic vocal showing too, between some incredibly powerful growls and soaring clean bellows, not to mention the clash of light and darkness in a Thordendal-esque ambient solo against the backdrop of the other mighty guitar hammerfall. No doubt it, these guys definitely deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Meshuggah and Gojira. Adimiron are well within the top echelon of the thinking man’s metal warlords, and Timelapse is an exclamation point, executed with excellence that should mark a meteoric shift in their sphere of influence.
There are at least two other studio albums of theirs around, for now Timelapse and 2011’s K2 as well as a limited edition single can be bought from their Bandcamp page, but When Reality Wakes Up and Burning Souls can be bought from most respectable music retailers.
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You ever get the feeling that you stare at a band name with a completely vacant expression because you have no idea what that means, but you certainly want to know more? I guarantee those without a background in biology will definitely be thinking that right now. The inclusion of larvae implies offspring or spawn of some description and a psilocybe is… actually a mushroom. The genus known to induce hallucinations in fact. So one could assume you’re getting a psychedelic band, but you couldn’t be more dead wrong. This imposing Russian outfit actually apply their trade in progressive death metal, occasionally incorporating classical and symphonic sensibilities into the otherwise vicious musical arrangements. Their career has survived nearly 20 years, four albums and countless line-up changes, but their free-flowing approach to a genre famed for its savagery is refreshing on a quickly stagnating scene. Although labelling themselves as a manic-depressive band is kinda deceptive, their execution in reality is far more uplifting. The music of Psilocybe Larvae does have some bleak overtones for sure, but the addition of keyboard and what almost sounds like a string section elevates the already stellar schizoid nature of the death metal towering above, into a grander, more engrossing listening experience. The most recent effort from the band, 2012’s The Labyrinth of Penumbra showcases guttural growls and soaring clean vocals running in parallel, guiding you through a perilous yet enchanting journey through this darkened world they lay forth before you. Opening track Soul Trekking leads you in with gentle warps of keyboard and the sorrow-tinged plucking of guitar, before building with cavernous bass and the ominous pounding of drums, to the lift of the curtain and the grizzled voice of authority. Clutching you in their grip, the band then walk you into an empowered metal display, filled with ferocious double-kicks, sharp guitar marksmanship and regal sounding atmospherics. The bridge however with just the chugging of bass, an enlightening keyboard melody and the hushed voice of a sinister presence is undoubtedly a highlight of this evolving, affecting landscape. Psilocybe Larvae is a fascinating death metal specimen, akin to the realms that fans of Septicflesh currently tread, one that deserves further attention and a larger awareness. Their talent for orchestrating a progressive nightmare with an unchained sense of sorrow and despair, but can remain an engaging listen and excite in equal stead is unbeatable, and they deserve that step up onto a higher climate of exposure.
The Labyrinth of Penumbra and 2009’s Non-Existence can found on their Bandcamp page, although oddly not for sale. You can find these two albums however on most respectable music retailers and buy merchandise from their website. How to obtain their previous two albums nowadays I’m unsure of. Also they are currently looking for a new drummer, so go hit them up if you fancy being in a killer death metal band.
A canopy, according to the Oxford English dictionary, describes a layer or material above our heads, normally suggested as a form of shelter or cover. This actually stems from the Latin word conopeum which means ‘mosquito net over a bed.’ Who says this blog isn’t educational? Any which way you look at it, staring at the word canopy, the image of a Swedish melodic death metal band doesn’t immediately come to mind. But upon listening to the bludgeoning force split between three guitarists, who breathed new life into a dying breed of metal, that vision attaches substantial weight to that single word and a monster of skull-crushing compositions is at your disposal. In tune with the original Gothenburg melo-death trinity of In Flames, At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity, the sextet of Canopy bring the multiple guitar harmonies and unmistakable death growls, but with the aid of heavyweight, denser guitars tones that technology couldn’t produce twenty years ago and the creative influences of some of the more experimental names in the metal game a la Opeth and Strapping Young Lad. Their acclaim for easing emotion and atmosphere out of a darker, heavier style of music speaks for itself. Where 2010’s Menhir succeeds is taking that creativity and ramming it into a combustible yet massively textured furnace, burning with the intensity of a forest fire. Speaking of fire, third track in Earth Splits Into Fire prophecies the self-destruction of our planet and our species through a booming death sentence, led in by acoustic plucking with the inevitable pulverisation of three guitars worth of distortion and downtuning and hammerblows of double kick pedals drawing ever closer, before they collide in a detonation of riffs, shredding and blast beats. Canopy blend the old breed with new techniques in such a way it comes across a fresh approach to metal entirely. Between the six combined muscle powers of these gentlemen, there lays a myriad of incredible musical and technical masterworks that have sunk so far under the radar, it seems ironic that they should bear the name Canopy.
Menhir, their most known album can be purchased either via Bandcamp, or via Dissension.se, where as their previous two albums, Will And Perception and Serene Catharsis can only be bought through Dissension.se.