We’re back with more picks from the first half of the year that we don’t want to see disappear into obscurity in the back half of the year. The Last Rites crew had picked out twenty-five albums that have flown under the radar so far. You can see our Day One and Day Two picks at these links. All five of today’s choices are available on Bandcamp with prices ranging from $5 to 10€, so it’s easy to listen for free and then support your favorites. Now, on to the picks!
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NIGHTFELL – THE LIVING EVER MOURN
Pedigree. That’s what we’re talking about here. Portland duo Nightfell feature guitarist/vocalist Todd Burdette, from bands such as Tragedy, Severed Head of State, Warcry, and crust punk legend His Hero Is Gone. Joining Burdette is drummer/vocalist Tim Call, from Aldebaran, Weregoat, the Howling Wind, and many more; and Call’s also the owner/operator of label Parasitic Records.
Nightfell’s debut, The Living Ever Mourn, pretty much represents the exact point at which Burdette and Call’s varying musical projects meet. There’s plenty of crusty pick-sliding and guttural roars here, along with downtuned doom, scuzzy black metal, and a hefty amount of classic, mid-tempo 90s death metal too. Add in a heavy dose of graveyard Gothic eeriness, and that’s The Living Ever Mourn. Due to be released on vinyl via Southern Lord (the album is available on Bandcamp right now), the The Living Ever Mourn’s eight tracks are produced to perfection, stacked with crossover dirge and doom, and did I say it was heavy as fuck?
I don’t know if you’d call The Living Ever Mourn underrated, but more people need to be talking about this. Oh, and Brad Boatright mastered the album at Audiosiege. As I said, Pedigree, man.
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HARK – CRYSTALLINE
The Welsh trio Taint was woefully underappreciated over the course of its career. Taint’s debut full-length The Ruin of Nova Roma is one of the true gems of the beard metal Renaissance of the mid-00s, except that it was made by dudes who had been plowing fields of riffs long before it was a fashion statement. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the band’s principal songwriter, Jimbob Isaac, to slap together a new group following Taint’s dissolution.
Although his new project Hark sees two new faces filling out the trio line-up, Jimbob’s vision remains unadulterated: melodic yet inescapably heavy sludge played with a passion and invention that belies the otherwise tired nature of this particular style of metal. Honestly, one listen to such gems as “Hounded by Callous Decree” and “Mythopoeia” should be enough to smack your jaded ears into remembering the pre-Relapse Baroness, or fantasy drafting a riff-and-jam dream-team collision between High On Fire and Clutch.
The bottom line: Crystalline is front-to-back stacked with what Last Rites’s own Erik Highter has aptly christened Big Fuck-Off Riffs. Come drink, ye who are thirsty.
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HANNES GROSSMAN – THE RADIAL COVENANT
It is not every day, month or year that you come across a solo project with a drummer at the helm of the ship. Even though he hasn’t ventured into uncharted waters in terms of composition from his work with Obscura and previously Necrophagist, there are subtle differences that elevate The Radial Covenant in comparison. The residual impression of ego as typical for technical death metal is kept at bay through the captivating grooves and ethereal use of synthesizers embedded into each track. The precision and eloquent fluidity of time signature shifts is the trademark take back from The Radial Covenant, however it is the diversity that will reel you back for subsequent listens.
Hannes Grossmann did not carry the weight of this album alone. Jeff Loomis, Christian Muenzner, Ron Jarzombek, V. Santura, Danny Tunker and Per Nilsson were a few of the collaborators to lend their talents. Since there is no way to top the sales pitch laid out in the previous sentence, we’ll leave it there.
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KUOLEMANLAAKSO – TULIJOUTSEN
The strangeness of the Finnish language may be the strongest argument I’ve seen for the existence of extra-terrestrials. I suspect that the extremely hard to pronounce (for the untrained) titles of this band, this album, and all of their songs may play a big role in the relative obscurity of this death/doom quintet. But I learned long ago that Finland hides some of the most experimental and psychedelic metal out there. If you knew the band’s name translates to “Death Valley” and that the album is named “The Fire Swan” would you get excited? You should.
Kuolemanlaakso’s death/doom calls to mind My Dying Bride, Swallow the Sun (with whom Kuolemanlaakso share a vocalist), and Doom:VS, but it’s much more bushy-eyebrowed and clenched-jawed. Tulijoutsen sounds punch-you-in-the-face angry. Slow and low is the name of the game, with a production by V. Santura keeping things sharp and dark on standouts like “Verihaaksi” and “Musta.” And then there’s the oddball “Glastonburyn Lehto,” which plays like a demented jazz nightclub piece.
Tulijoutsen is a tad long at just under an hour, but it’s sure to please any fans of death/doom who felt the genre has grown a little too emo.
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THE DRIP – A PRESENTATION OF GRUESOME POETICS
Similar to how Metal Blade will hide hyper-polished tech acts on the bottom rung of their roster (Allegeaon, Rivers of Nihil), Relapse farms an under-the-radar Triple-A grindclub. The Drip’s six-song, twelve minute label debut isn’t breaking a ton of new ground (par for the course in the world of grind), but their blastery falls decidedly on the punk end of the spectrum—always a good thing—while piggybacking the rounded-off grooves of the death-leaning.
Rapid-fire yelps n’ squalls with massive mosh breaks create a blazing inferno of twisted wreckage at the intersection of Man Must Die and Wormrot. The time changes are absolutely lethal; let’s hope these prospects don’t go the way of Mumakil and Relapse (and the world at large) can get some return on their investment. Rad stuff brewing here.
Presentation of Gruesome Poetics by THE DRIP</a>