You have a better chance of living off the cash in your tip jar as an embalmer than you would keeping up with every metal release that shoots across this scene’s radar every year. All bands want you to hear them. ALL bands. And each and every one has access to the very same basic tactics for dangling notes in front of anyone with ears and an internet connection. I suppose that’s a crazy thing to complain about – music gluttony – but even the fiendliest fiend is susceptible to over-saturation in a world where any given month might feature somewhere between 25-50 releases hoping to abduct endless minutes of your life.
So what’s a glutted headbanger to do? Throw one dart at every ten releases? Stick only with the labels you love? Switch over to nothing but Tuvan throat singing? All workable and perhaps wise choices. Thankfully, we Last Rites schleppers are also here to help, and there’s simply no end to the amount of punishment our ears are willing to take.
But even we end up getting slaughtered by surplus, which leads to releases falling to the wayside, including ones deserving of accolades. The purpose of this editorial is to do a little catching up – a chance to spend two days spotlighting a (sizable) handful of 2016 releases that either passed unnoticed at first blush or took a little extra time to fully unravel. These are all great records, subject to the level of faith you happen to hold for each individual staffer’s exquisite taste in terrible music, and they all deserve a chance to live loudly in metal fans’ ears.
So, infernal hails, sharp nails, happy trails, etc. On with the hellblazing. [CAPTAIN]
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TELOCH – THUS DARKNESS SPAKE
Saturnal Records, May 2016
Taking their name from the Enochian word for Death, Teloch rip off some punk-influenced black metal. Following in the tradition of band’s like Sarke, Teloch’s music is chord-heavy and driving (sometimes sounding more like Born Dead than a black metal band). While still maintaining a black metal image, the Finnish band is much more than traditional black metal. Their rhythms are forward thinking, rock-inspired and generally designed for foot-stomping. Tracks like “Towards Perdition” are largely composed for a sing-along, despite the infrequent use of blasts. Thus, it’s black metal more in thematic imagery and lyrical connotations rather than rhythm. Regardless, Thus Darkness Spake is an album that deserves a few spins and couple of hand claps. [MANNY-O-WAR]
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MASTER – AN EPIPHANY OF HATE
F.D.A. Rekotz, January 2016
My fandom for this long-running death metal outfit is well documented, but due to time and circumstances, earlier this year, I passed up (read: missed out on) the opportunity to once again lavish praise upon a new Master album. Still, if you’ve been keeping up – and you should’ve been – the trio of Paul Speckmann and his Czech cohorts Zdenek Pradlovsky and Alex Nejezchleba have settled into a comfortable groove over the last four or so records, and continuing their forward momentum with An Epiphany Of Hate, they’ve offered up another strong batch of primal, bare bones thrashy death. Never one for subtlety, Master kicks into a raging tempo and pretty much stays there, through killer cuts like “Just Take My Right Arm,” “It’s Clearly Eden,” and “Face Your Fear,” filled with Discharge-and-Motörhead-indebted drive and Speckmann’s vomitous growl. Sure, one could argue that this Epiphany is another Master record, just like the last one and the one before – and it is, but that’s what’s great about it. Don’t expect variety – expect only ferocity, and enjoy. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
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INCULCATOR – VOID ABECEDARY
Caligari Records, May 2016
I have found that records that successfully smuggle one eccentric or even slightly inhospitable element amidst a sea of favorable aspects often end up being all the more special in the long run. So much so, if you were to remove said oddity, the album would completely lose its magic. G.D.C., the lone brainchild behind Inculcator (and Abyssal (UK)) uses some rather peculiar, perhaps off-putting vocals to push his message throughout Void Abecedary that are difficult to detail, but they’re ultimately pretty vital to the overall fruition – like listening to a hunchback trying to argue his way out of a speeding ticket. Something like that, anyway. The beauty is that these weirdly warbled vocals also happen to shoot alongside the BEST example of cosmic thrash energy offered to the masses in 2016, and that includes the new Vektor (which, yes, is also pretty damn good.) Void Abecedary is aggressively melodic, yet raw and unforgiving, like a strange collision between Quebec’s Obliveon and the kingly Vulpecula. It is also unafraid of being downright beautiful at times, flashing bits of graceful acoustic guitar that culminates with the absurdly stunning “Unfurling Qemetiel Qlipah.” Lucifer in the sky with diamonds. [CAPTAIN]
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QRIXKUOR – THREE DEVILS DANCE
Invictus Productions, April 2016
A trio of unlikelihoods: The band’s name is Qrixkuor, which is apparently NOT just a supremely unlucky Scrabble draw; Three Devils Dance runs a voluble thirty-eight minutes but is considered an EP; and despite playing Teitanblood-styled blast furnace metal, Qrixkuor’s hideous racket bristles with riffs and leads that enhance the disgusting atmosphere, rather than using wet blanket production and “atmosphere” to mask a lack of actual ideas. Make no mistake, Three Devils Dance is a dense, difficult listen, but the British four-piece uses a judicious amount of early Slayer squealing guitarisms and helpfully legible drum fills and accents to ensure that the listener is never quite lost in the midst of the maelstrom. After all, what good is a Boschian hellscape if you can’t get a clear picture of the torments that await you? [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
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VEKTOR – TERMINAL REDUX
Earache Records, May 2016
Alright, it’s pretty sad that Terminal Redux didn’t get a proper review here at Last Rites. We just didn’t get around to it despite a large number of us being way into the album. But maybe we were so focused on all of the twists and turns, surprises and insane riffs that we didn’t even think to write down words.
So let’s get to it now: Vektor’s third album is fearless, monumental in scope, and more loaded with riffs than just about anything else in recent memory. Some new elements – female backing vocals, a heightened Schuldinerism, and some obvious Floyd nods – join the band’s usual slightly-deathy-slightly-blackened sci-fi thrash. Songs like “Psychotropia” are just friggin’ bonkers, and there is greater focus on album structure than ever before, with a finale that is thrilling to the max. Of course, because the band decided that risks and an adventurous mindset were better than toeing the genre line, there are some hiccups. Most notably, ballad “Collapse” is only about half successful, with David DiSanto’s limited singing capabilities being mostly at fault.
And yet, the flaws somehow only make the album more charming. Terminal Redux is not only Vektor’s best album to date, it reveals a band that is just beginning to discover its potential. They are entering a truly progressive zone where attempting to temper any part of their crazy expression might hurt the whole. So I’ll definitely take those minor missteps, because flawed masterpiece or not, this is still a masterpiece. [ZACH DUVALL]
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NECROSIC – NECROSIC
Nuclear War Now! Productions, April 2016
Eric Cutler of Autopsy? Check. Raw, semi-sloppy, bottom heavy death metal from the Bay Area? Check. Band members that have California death metal resumes that are a mile long and are undoubtedly friends of people in bands like Vastum and Acephalix? Check (I’m sure). If that doesn’t get you salivating, nothing will. Putrid Decimation is the debut four-song EP, and the only criticism that I can level is that it’s too damn short. [DAVE SCHALEK]
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DAKHMA – ASTIWIHAD-ZOHR
Iron Bonehead Productions, January 2016
Putting a new spin on the term murk-core, Dakhma produce some of the more muffled, moderately paced blackened death metal on the planet. Astiwihad-Zohr sees the band turning their guitars into melodic wind tunnels as they careen over vocals that would make Satan’s colon hurt. Although merely an EP, Astiwihad-Zohr makes an impression. The band’s lyrics draw heavily from Zoroastrianism rather than typical monotheism leaving the four tracks inextricably linked in their storytelling. In the end, the murky sound of the album is in honor of Daeva, whom the album worships, in the honorable pursuit in the corruption of the souls of man. Lyrics and meaning aside, the music on Astiwihad-Zohr is a virtual thunderstorm of blackened death. [MANNY-O-WAR]
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PANZERBASTARD – MOTÖRHEATHEN
PATAC Records, July 2016
If you can’t tell by the album art and the name, these crusty Bostonians owe a heavy debt to Lemmy and the boys, but then again, don’t we all? What PanzerBastard does with their Motörhead influence is exactly what Lemmy would want them to do: They rock, and they rock hard, and unapologetically. This latest EP is just four songs, and its only real fault is that there’s just not enough of it. From the monstrous opener “Shaman” through the Spades-y drive of “The Devil Wins Every Time” and the blistering “Traitor” to the Orgasma-trudge of the title track, the whole damned Motörheathen simply rips, from tip to toe, front to back. When it all comes down to it, this is what keeps me coming back to heavy music. You can keep the blackened, the neo-folk, the atmospheric, the technical – give me straight up devil’s music rock’n’roll bloodshed every time. Behold the ‘Bastards, for they are glorious. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
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GOATESS – PURGATORY UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
Svart Records, April 2016
Some critics will tell you that Goatess is a knock off of Sleep and Black Sabbath and they’re right. But, damn it all, Purgatory Under New Management is absolutely LOADED from top to bottom with kick ass stoner jams that are so laden with unbelievable riffs that I may yet declare this album the best of its genre since Dopesmoker. Sure, the guitarists worship at the feet of Iommi and Pike, and vocalist Chritus is a dead ringer for Ozzy on quaaludes, but I simply can’t get enough of this. “Crocodilians And Other Creepy Crawly Shhh…” has the best bass line that I’ve heard in stoner metal since…. Well, “Bassically”. [DAVE SCHALEK]
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ANGEL SWORD – REBELS BEYOND THE PALE
Heavy Chains Records and Underground Power Records, February 2016
In the magical realm that is the Heavy Metal Cereal Aisle, Angel Sword is the shiny beacon of joy (and 100% of your daily dose of Vitamin-X) your mom would’ve passed over as she reached for yet another box of fiber-rich Trivium-Os. Damn her. But then you’d eventually head down to Shit City to visit your grandparents and your sweet Grammy would pluck this baby right off the shelf at your request without even blinking an eye. Suddenly, you’d be sitting at a vintage vinyl table cloth with a bowl the size of a mailbox piled high as a mountain with corn-puffed Devil heads and the holy trifecta of marshmallow gauntlets, swords and beer cans, and you’d shovel that brutal mess into your yapper until the roof of your mouth bled like a stuck pig. And you’d trouble over that wondrous maze on the back of the box and genuinely CARE about helping that poor lost, hugely-pectoraled warrior wind his way to the scantily clad maiden held captive deep in the bowels of that roughly etched dungeon. Then you’d slink out to the backyard and secretly barf into the tulips for half an hour wondering when you might ever get a chance to experience this joy again. Angel Sword – Rebels Beyond the Pale: You could die an early and painful death if you consumed it every day, but my lord is it ever satisfying when the demand for unhealthy indulgence strikes. [MICHAEL WUENSCH]
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TOMORROW: round two. Keep your helmets on.