Last Rites’ Facebook Albums Of The Week: March 25-31

“Album Of The Day” is a new Last Rites Facebook feature we started recently whose purpose is quite straight-forward: highlight one album per day and say a few words about it. Understanding that not everyone chooses to participate in the booking of faces, we thought it might be nice to toss in a new feature that gathers the albums in a single piece on a weekly basis.

Here are the seven albums we picked for the week of March 25-31.

Sunday, March 25th

Arcturus – La Masquerade Infernale (1997)

Although black metal had gotten weird prior to 1997 (hellooooooo, Fleurety and Sigh), ‘97 was something of a banner year for weird-ass black metal, with such notable albums as Solefald’s The Linear Scaffold, In The Woods’s Omnio, and Sigh’s Hail Horror Hail. In the lastingly influential weirdness stakes, though, there’s still nothing that can match the diabolical carnival chaos of Arcturus’s second album, La Masquerade Infernale. With Hellhammer on drums and both Ulver’s Garm and ICS Vortex on vocals, the band’s insane talent was more than matched by keyboardist Sverd’s brilliant, bewitching compositions. This isn’t so much music to take drugs to as it is music to invent new drugs to. [Dan Obstkrieg]

Monday, March 26th

Necroblaspheme – XXVI: The Deeper, the Better (2011)

The uniqueness of XXVI: The Deeper, the Better goes far beyond the gorgeous, totally weird cover art, even if it’s pretty easy and correct to just call it “death metal” on paper. Necroblaspheme finds that all-too-rare crossroads between massive heft and extremely smart songwriting, giving old school fans of the style plenty of THICK riffs to latch onto while keeping things interesting with a nonlinear approach. Necroblaspheme offers plenty of familiar elements — raging blasts, suffocatingly heavy passages, deep, throaty growls, noisy slams and grooves — but put them together in a way that doesn’t seem necessary until after it’s over. Maybe Necroblaspheme was just trying to make something conventional with XXVI. Maybe they’re too nuts for such things. [Zach Duvall]

Tuesday, March 27th

Crescent Shield – The Stars of Never Seen (2009)

LA’s Crescent Shield showed a near endless amount of potential for producing galloping, grade-A U.S. power/traditional heavy metal tailor-made for those who grew up with the likes of Metal Church, Heretic, Shok Paris, Jag Panzer, et al. Sadly, their run was cut far too short following the sudden death of vocalist Michael Grant in 2012. Other bands might have found a way to soldier on, but Grant’s distinctive baritone was just too unique and too anchored to the overall Crescent Shield sound that the band decided to permanently shutter the doors directly after his passing. The void left behind by Michael Grant still looms large today, and we remain very lucky to have records like The Stars of Never Seen to remind us of that truth. [Captain]

Wednesday, March 28th

Dream Theater – Awake (1994)

After rewriting the book on progressive metal with 1992’s Images and Words, Dream Theater toned down the overt wankery and took on an overall darker atmosphere for the crucial follow-up. The result was Awake, and some of the best material of their now 30-plus year career. The suite of instrumental “Erotomania,” phenomenally moody “Voices,” and introspective “The Silent Man” is absolutely masterful; “The Mirror” is maybe the heaviest thing they ever penned; and closer “Space-Dye Vest” remains haunting to this day. The latter was written by original keyboardist Kevin Moore, who would depart soon after Awake’s release, marking an end to many fans’ preferred version of the band. This, in combination with the understated-by-Dream Theater-standards collection of songs, makes Awake one of the most striking and essential albums in the prog metal pantheon. [Zach Duvall]

Thursday, March 29th

Lunar Aurora – Zyklus (2004)

Germany’s Lunar Aurora was perhaps never destined to break out from the underground, but across nine surprisingly diverse albums, they proved themselves capable of mining gold from many of the nooks and crannies of black metal’s sprawling, subterranean veins. Although some of their albums flirted with more directly melodic or symphonic black metal, 2004’s Zyklus is a much colder, denser, and thoroughly hypnotic beast. The four songs on Zyklus (“cycle”) follow the earth’s daily rotation (morning, day, evening, night), which lends a certain unity to each lengthy, heavily atmospheric composition. Keyboards and various effects litter the landscape, but above all else this is an album invested in the pure promise of black metal as haunting riffing and brittle yet caustic blasting. Imagine Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse hijacked by Darkspace and Nagelfar, and that might get you part of the way there. The rest of the way you’ll have to fill in yourself with the gnawing terror of realizing that the yawning abyss of time and space is utterly indifferent to your very existence. Great fun! [Dan Obstkrieg]

Friday, March 30th

Abigail – Forever Street Metal Bitch (2003)

Japan’s Abigail always deliver the goods when it comes to raging black thrashy speed metal. 2003’s Forever Street Metal Bitch is no exception. Taking a more stripped down, Razor-influenced approach, the album is a searing study in blasphemous, in-your-face black metal. Played at mind-scorching speed and with a raging intensity with a raw production to match. Bassist/vocalist Yasuyuki Suzuki may not be the strongest lyricist in metal, but his delivery compensates for it tenfold; his sneering, near-unintelligible vocals reek of beer and attitude. While the whole album is good, a few standout tracks include album opener “Violence, Kill, and Destruction,” the (almost) anthemic “Bitch, We Gonna Kill You!” and of course album closer “War 666.” Forever Street Metal Bitch is overall just a high-octane speed metal record with the aesthetic and chaotic tendencies of black metal, but it is one of the best to do it and it’s 31 minutes seem to fly by at twice the speed. [Ryan Tysinger]

Saturday, March 31st

Crowbar – Crowbar (1993)

Listen, Crowbar saturated their own market ages ago (they have 11 albums!), but at their best, they were the kings of muscular sludge. The thundering doom riffs were like two Lord Humunguses caught in the most epic arm wrestling match of all time, while the hauntingly pretty harmonies are like said Humungusi hugging and crying after the bicep dust has settled. Even Kirk Windstein’s vocals and lyrics maintain this dichotomy. His delivery is absolutely THICK, but when he even hints at singing, the man shows off a surprising knack for vulnerability and melody (the combined effect is that he often sounds like he’s trying to push out a planet-sized BM). And the lyrics? Song titled like “Self-Inflicted,” “All I Had (I Gave),” “Existence is Punishment,” and—most telling—“I Have Failed” show that this album was about more than flexing riffs; it was about flexing riffs as a final act of desperation. On the short list of sludge’s truly essential albums. [Zach Duvall]

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See you next week.

Posted by Last Rites

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