Gems from the Back of the Fridge, Part 2 – Albums You Might Have Missed in 2016

You again? Hath ye already fully osmosed the first ten treasures imparted upon thine hallowed pates by way of Part 1? Of course you have. Plus, it’s 2016 and our mutual noise addiction requires a near constant tapping of the vein, so you need more now Now NOW. We’ve got you covered, bless our enabling hearts.

As stated yesterday, “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 let’s stop muckin’ about and hop back into the fire for round 2.

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Forever Plagued Records, August 2016

Back in the ’80s there was always one rotten kid who was lucky enough to have irresponsible parents who let them rent whatever tapes they wanted from the video store. This of course lead to covert viewings of whatever 60s and 70s Witch Cult movies we could get our hands on, due both to the forbidden seduction of Wickedness AND the chance to glimpse some taboo witchbush. Them old Italian films always delivered, but the nudity regularly came with the price of seeing said witches getting fondled by a clumsy half-man-half-goat, and very often someone would end up giving grisly birth to a questionable baby in a dank cemetery. Proem of the Unborn is essentially the rudimentary black metal soundtrack to a verboten goblin-child being plucked from a witch’s breadbasket atop a cold, concrete cemetery slab. Relentless, dirty, wretched and inexorable –– like ancient Urfaust without the bells ’n whistles. No solos, no tricks…just rot. We are birthed into rot, and to rot we shall return. [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

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Bad Omen Records, May 2016

Hailing from British Columbia you might be inclined to assume Spell follows traditional heavy metal in the thrashier style of bands like Exciter, Razor or Annihilator. The trio look even further back in traditional heavy metal for their inspiration drawing from bands like Judas Priest and Scorpions. In a year rife with quality releases drawing on the traditional foundation, Spell stand out as one of the catchier, more accessible takes on the classic. For None and All, the band’s followup to their 2014 debut, The Full Moon Sessions, provides a more polished take on their air-guitar style riffage. All in all, For None and All, is an album that you can easily spin for years to come. Timeless and never timid, Spell push a classic power trio sound with just enough flourish to keep it interesting. [MANNY-O-WAR]

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Independent, April 2016

Modern music loves its cross-genre-pollination, sometimes to a serious fault. But occasionally something comes along that so should not work but somehow does. In the case of Manuel Gagneux’s Zeal and Ardor, you have a mix of black metal, industrial, electronic music, American slave and chain gang music, and roots blues. Really, that’s what this burst of soulful expression contains, and it works pretty dang brilliantly most of the time.

Where Devil Is Fine finds most of its success is through Gagneux’s knack for guitar hooks and his equally hooky, deeply expressive voice. In short, the man can flat sing. His warm baritone floats over any and all of the album’s backdrops, from the sounds of clanking chains in the title track and raw black metal during “In Ashes” to the odd, melodeath-gone-techno sounds of “Children’s Summon.” Adding variety are his occasional black metal screams, a touch of Thom Yorke in “Come On Down,” and the irresistible gospel chanting during “Blood In The River.”

This kind of style splicing surely isn’t for everyone, and it undoubtedly reads as incredibly odd on paper. But due to Gagneux’s obvious talents – not to mention the staggering variety he crammed into these brief 25 minutes – it actually comes across as quite natural. [ZACH DUVALL]

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Beer City Records, June 2016

With all the renewed attention crossover thrash has garnered in the last decade, I’d have thought that the return of the originators would’ve generated some more excitement, but then again, this EP is only nine minutes long and, of its five songs, two are re-recorded classics. Still, the three new tracks rip like vintage D.R.I., all hopped-up punk-thrash beneath the distinctive bark of Kurt Brecht – this is exactly what crossover is supposed to be, delivered by the band that basically invented the style. “Anonymity” and “Against Me” are custom made for shouting along to from the center of a swirling mosh pit (or if you’re an old fart like me, from a safe distance towards the back wall), and the revamped versions of “Madman” and “Couch Slouch,” while perhaps unnecessary, at least show why D.R.I. is rightly revered. But Wait… is D.R.I.’s first new recording since 1995’s Full Speed Ahead, so here’s hoping that there really is more… [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

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Osmose Productions, April 2016

The unfortunate truth is that if you were aware of Darkestrah in the early/mid-00s, it was likely because of the band’s novelty: not only did this pagan black metal band have a female singer, but they were from Kyrgyzstan. (Even now, the vaunted Arbiters of Arbitrary Minutiae at Metal-Archives lists a total of five metal bands from Kyrgyzstan.) Thankfully, if you followed up on that morbidly curious quest for unlikely weirdness, you would have found that, origin be damned, Darkestrah was pretty damned solid. Fast-forward about a decade or so, and Darkestrah is still going strong with their sixth album Turan. Although the band has apparently relocated to Germany, and Turan is their first album without longtime vocalist Kriegtalith, the music is still much the same: driving, slightly pagan-leaning black metal with tastefully restrained folk instrumentation. All of which is to say, if Kroda, Negura Bunget, or Moonsorrow tickle your hammer, Darkestrah has got an anvil for you. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

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Eisenwald Tonschmiede, April 2016

From Portland, Oregon, Uada is a quartet playing rather typical black metal with plenty of rasps, blastbeats, and buzzsaw riffs. The debut full-length, Devoid Of Light, by itself, is probably not much to get tremendously excited about (as you’ve heard semi-melodic, fast black metal with pagan themes before), but here’s what piques my interest: Uada’s work ethic and its stage presence. Recently, I made the trek to Chicago for the inaugural (and probably only, from what I’ve heard) incarnation of Metal Threat Fest, and Uada garnered an opening slot for the Sunday show. I was pretty impressed by what I saw. Playing on a backlit, darkened stage and decked out in hoods and leather jackets, Uada may look like a Mgla clone at first glance, but the drumming was impressive in its machine like precision, and the band has some extra “oomph” on stage that may not necessarily come across on record. Combine that performance with Uada being booked for other small festivals throughout North America, and I’ll continue to follow Uada with interest. [DAVE SCHALEK]

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Throatruiner Records, April 2016

With Deathspell Omega off doing godknowswhat, it’s good we have acts like Plebeian Grandstand doing similarly dark, demented things within French black metal. But while DsO is a convenient first comp – near constant dissonance, eerie open picking favored over trem riffs, suffocating atmosphere, etc. – this is only one element of the band’s sound. To start, False Highs, True Lows (their third) takes the off-kilter, almost mathy direction farther, and also approaches Ulcerate’s penchant for claustrophobia through a lot of sustained, pulled dissonant riffs and bottom-end churning. To top it off, there are even some very Second Wave-ish chord progressions hidden in songs such as “Tributes and Oblivions.”

However, these are merely ingredients, as it is the structure and mentality behind False Highs, True Lows that best reveals the band’s talents. As the album goes on, Plebeian Grandstand becomes noisier, grindier, and techier, with tracks like “Oculi Lac” offering a seemingly free-form bludgeoning. “Tame The Shapes” even shows the band in droning, song-deconstruction mode, revealing not only another tool in their arsenal, but a willingness to just get weird.

And that’s the true value: This contains a lot of very familiar, appealing elements, but Plebeian Grandstand’s individuality and methodic approach ensure that this won’t just take a backseat. Fun, devastating stuff, this one. [ZACH DUVALL]

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Creator-Destructor Records, January 2016

Way back in January, before we even had a real handle on just how great 2016 would be for metal, Spinebreaker quietly released an album that has survived around for the entire gestation. These Southern California boys produce raw, crunchy death metal in the old school spirit of such greats as Entombed and Grave. This is death metal born for stage diving, skateboarding and telling your mom to “get our of your room.” It’s angsty, volatile and punkishly adversarial using lyrics to challenge not only the establishment but the listener. Ice Grave should figure in the year end lists despite the absurd cavalcade of death metal released in 2016. [MANNY-O-WAR]

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Heavy Chains Records, January 2016

The way that vintage-sounding lead explodes off the the front end of “Autumn Conjuration” makes me feel as if I just fell through a mystical portal that transports unsuspecting listeners to an enchanted kingdom where garden gnomes have cobbled together a rock ’n’ roll band in hopes of winning a village talent contest that might pocket them enough coin to buy a pound of Elven cush with a little left over to gamble away at the cricket pits. Equal parts Pagan Altar, Comus, Wishbone Ash and Riverbottom Nightmare Band, Hobart, Tasmania’s Tarot throws down a hermetical melange that’s goddamn guaranteed to please anyone who’s ever wanted to play a long, fiery lead under a spotlight and has shopped for capes very seriously for reasons that have fuck-all to do with Halloween. [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

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Blood Music, June 2016

Lïan, the debut album from Rïcïnn (AKA Laure Le Prunenec), is a gripping but ungraspable album. These ten songs conform to no easily definable style, in part because songs tend to be linear rather than circular, but also because an element may appear in one song and then never again. Although there are plenty of parallels to be drawn to metal-adjacent artists such as Peccatum, Jarboe, Menace Ruine, or Julie Christmas, or to the experimental electronic digressions of Ulver, Manes, or even Thee Maldoror Kollective, Lïan also spends significant time dallying with trip-hop and modern classical/chamber instrumentation and composition, all while Rïcïnn’s vocals move from sensually rooted whispers to hushed incantations to ululations strikingly reminiscent of Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard. In the end, Lïan’s unpinpointableness may be its greatest asset: magic is everywhere. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

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Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lard split you.

Posted by Last Rites


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