As someone who is neck deep in new music on a daily basis, I often forget that there is a whole workd of people out there who have never even heard of bands that I take for granted. We're talking albums that the initiated consider true benchmarks of their respective genres. I was reminded of this recently listening to Pod Minues to Cast Night (the hilarious Two Minutes To Late Night podcast) when Jordan brought up Job For A Cowboy and NO ONE else in the room had a frame of reference. With that in mind, I thought I might share some of my favorites from over the years that might have gone under certain people's radars. Enjoy.
It's a shame that the mastermind behind incredible melodic black metal project Windir died of exposure so young. Don't get me wrong, that's a pretty black metal way to go, but he had so much left to offer with his melding of trademark, folky neoclassical leads with abrazive chords. There are songs on this album that make me want to dance naked around a fire. I promise I won't, but still...
Coming out during a major wave of metalcore bands, I think these guys didn't get a fair chance. They were marketed much in the same way, but I think they honestly were just too heavy and lacked the melodic qualities of what was taking hold around them to gain any ground. If Watch Them Die came out today, I'd be more apt to call it extreme or blackened thrash. Killer riffs set to modern production with dual vocalists who play of one another perfectly. They look pretty lame in those bandanas, but I assure you that the music is not.
Sometimes black metal just needs to drop the fanfare and do what it was made for, sticking a big, corpse-painted middle finger in the air. "Earth man...what a shithole." This Ron Perlman quote perfectly sets the tone for the concentrated, Satyricon-esque blast of black n' roll that follows. It's not mind blowing, but the aggression may very well blow a hole in your head. IXXI got it right on this album.
The most recent addition to this list, I tried to avoid anything less than 2 years old, but what a solid album out of 2014. While I was able to fight the urge to add a few others from last year, this one was a no-brainer. It has a super unique sound combining elements of black, death, and doom into a very stylized approach that is instantly recognizable. The songs come on and it takes less than a few seconds to say, "shut up...Emptiness is playing." The disconcerting cover art is just icing on the cake.
Say what you will, but as far as pretty standard metalcore albums go, this Remembering Never album is perfection. Women and Children Die First is every bit as good as the more well-known output at the time, and goddam these lyrics are angry. Aside from the level of emotion on display here, the lyrics stand apart from most of the genre by steering away from relationships to tackling religion, smoking, vegetarianism...and all without sounding preachy or pretentious in the process. Maybe it's just me. If I must stand alone, for this album I will.
Getting closer to present day here. This EP blew me the f#@k away. It all started when I asked a fellow metalhead on the forums for something "dark, grim, and seriously heavy." Demo MMXIII was the link she sent me. I listened to it 3 times in a row. Malthusian is the band to watch, and their new album is finally on the horizon. Their latest EP, Below The Hengiform, shows the group continue to impress with their heavy concuction of murk and menace, but it was this demo that started the obsession.
It's really difficult to pick just one album from The Chariot, because they are all just so damn consistent (and amazing). While Chad's split from Norma Jean ultimately led to the band going more melodic and mainstream (not a complaint, mind you), The Chariot explored noiser and more aggressive territories. This album in particular is super-raw and just a nonstop hardcore blast from start to finish. I also love that it was a limited, hand-numbered release (I was lucky enough recently to score one second-hand). Sad to see them go, but they definitely left a mark.
I freaking love this album, and pretty much anyone I recommend it to ends up loving it as well. I had the pleasure of seeing The Number 12 Looks Like You live in Chicago twice, and they were two of the best shows I have ever seen. Fuse post hardcore with mathcore, jazz, and progressive death metal. It's something I had never heard executed so well until I heard WRVTH's last album. They did a fine job, but they still didn't quite reach the heights of Worse Than Alone.
What can I say that I didn't already say in my review. If Botch is the glorious past of mathcore, Sikth may be the future. Every musician in this band is a mad, mathemagician. One listen to "Bland Street Bloom" should be enough to get you hooked. It's technical, it's melodic, it's progressive. No one else sounds quite like them, and with Opacities, they proved they can still bring it even after almost a decade of silence. Amazing.
I can already hear the mathcore crowd laughing hysterically. To the average fan of the genre, this is the holy grail. Botch is to mathcore what Meshuggah is to djent. And yet every time I mention Botch to the uninitiated, I get "who the hell is Botch?" Botch is technical metal boiled down to its most basic, primal form and filled with hardcore ethos. It's a crime that so many people know Norma Jean, but not the band that so greatly inspired them. Botch is love. Botch is life.
Now that I have the list in front of me, I'm noticing that there are quite a few swansongs here. They're all great, but none of them showed such a positive stylistic shift as Altar of Plague's Teethed Glory & Injury. Gone are the lovely, but (for me) generic and repetetive atmospheric post-black chords...replaced with the most unique fusion of industrial, noise, and raw black metal I have ever heard. And the crazy part is that they accomplished all of this without losing the band's emotive qualities. Fun fact, the drummer now plays for Malthusian.
Absu kind of sits on the fence as far as the underground goes. If you are into black metal, chances are good that you have heard of Absu, otherwise not so much. These Texans are the first USBM band to change my mind about whether North American can do the genre justice. And while so many others seek to fuse the sound with new ideas, Absu simply rides forth with it's highly technical, almost Dillingeresque, no-holds-barred take on black thrash. Tara is their finest hour, though I do also quite enjoy Abzu. I can't wait to hear the final chapter.
This is it. This is THE folk metal album for me. You can check out the full review for more details, but Nokturnal Mortum takes all the best parts of black, folk, and progressive metal and just kills it. The approach is somewhat Moonsorrow, but the result carries with it many years of honing their black metal craft. Probably the best band I have heard out of Ukraine, and this album hits just as hard as that hammer on the cover. They have been working on new material for some time now, and it is one of my most anticipated releases of...whatever year it finally comes out.