“Album Of The Day” is a Last Rites Facebook feature we started 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 May 27th — June 2nd.
Sunday, May 27th
Oranssi Pazuzu – Farmakologinen (2017)
Originally released as half of a ludicrously good split with Candy Cane in 2010 (seriously, don’t ignore them just because of that name), Farmakologinen got a 2017 reissue to not only get the songs back in print, but to capitalize on the band’s ascent in popularity. And thank god it did; Farmakologinen is among the trippiest, most danceable, and most downright wickedly cool set of songs the Pazuzu has written yet. At the original time of its release, it eclipsed their extremely good debut and served as a bit of a deke before Kosmonument went in a darker direction, acting more as a precursor to the truly ass-moving parts of Värähtelijä. As a whole, it might not top Värähtelijä or Valnielu, but good luck finding 26 straight minutes on either of those monsters that can quite keep up with these four slabs of weirdness. [Zach Duvall]
Monday, May 28th
Soilwork – Natural Born Chaos (2002)
Despite their first three decent to very good albums, Soilwork’s fourth album Natural Born Chaos felt like a major statement. Melodic death metal’s key creative period was more or less finished—sure, Dark Tranquility released one of their finest records ever in 2002 (Damage Done), but it was also the year that In Flames released Reroute to Remain—but while Soilwork was late to the initial party, Natural Born Chaos’s wild success wrote its own version of the playbook: neon-gleaming earworms backed by equal parts sharp riffing and chunky, high-sheen breakdowns. It sounds very much… of its time, shall we say, but Devin Townsend’s production gave Soilwork the professional punch to back up some of the strongest songs of their career. From the wiggly synths on “As We Speak” to the organs on “Black Star Deceiver” to the impossibly catchy chorus on album closer “Song of the Damned,” Natural Born Chaos demonstrates that candy-coated knives still cut deep. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Tuesday, May 29th
Immolation – Close To A World Below (2000)
Today’s aotd is dedicated to a long-time ally who’s been a part of our site since the MetalReview days: James McKenna. You rule, buddy. Thanks again for making sure our crew continues the MDF trend of sending unholy piles of grim seabugs to a cruel grave*.
*our fiendish guts…
Immolation does not have any bad records, they just have some records that are better than their other records. Case in point, album number four, Close To A World Below. This particular slice of profane hellfire is widely venerated because in a world where more is better, these 42 minutes do the job of delivering more barbarity, more complexity, more clarity, more face melting, and, perhaps most importantly, more supreme heresy. Close To A World Below is more evil than Lucifer dropping a deuce on a Sunday collection plate, and one can’t help but submit to the melting flames of Hell that adorn its crudely ignited album cover. Who knew being damned for eternity could be so much fun. [Captain]
Wednesday, May 30th
Lunar Shadow – Far From Light (2017)
We’ve all found music we like and want to share with others, and usually it comes along with a bit of commentary on what it is we like about a given release. Describing what is special about Lunar Shadow’s 2017 album, Far From Light, can be an arduous task. Yes, the German epic heavy metal outfit’s debut LP has riffs, pretty much from the opening track to the epic “Cimmeria” near the end of the record. Yes, it has soaring and hooky leads, trading in a twin-axe attack for the extra punch when necessary. The vocals tend to be a point of contention, but what the band lacks in a powerhouse vocalist they make up for with the use of magnificent harmonies that add to the sense of melody on the tracks. The drumming is spirited without being overbearing or overproduced. As a matter of fact, the production overall is worthy of exorbitant amounts of praise. The record absolutely radiates with warmth and life. Nothing feels sterile or overproduced, and the music just seems to come alive off the record itself.
The songwriting on Far From Light feels like that of an experienced band, Lunar Shadow have the chops of a band in their prime, despite the members not having many previous projects. Pulling from a wide array of influences including the Angel Witch, Diamond Head, Bathory, Manowar, Dissection, and Atlantean Kodex, Lunar Shadow blend elements of all of these seamlessly together to create something both familiar and new. Far From Light can be subtly divided into two sections musically: the A-side is more upbeat, almost carrying a pop sensibility found in their Angel Witch roots. It’s a more uplifting excursion; the riffs and melodies are filled with a youthful exuberance and feeling of wonder. The ballad “Gone Astray” divides the two sides, and when the record is flipped to the B-side, things get a touch heavier. Leaning more into their epic roots, this side feels a bit darker without losing the almost naive spirit of the record. The soaring climax of “The Hour Of Dying” is representative of the dark clouds moving in as the band moves further from the light. The following tracks evoke a bit more doom-and-gloom while still retaining the bright magic flame set ablaze with the start of the album.
Pinpointing what is so captivating about this record is still tough. There’s a certain magic going on here, be it in the notes played, the chemistry of the band, or the production. It feels so damn honest and heartfelt, a true work of passion of a band that is not just influenced but INSPIRED. With the news of the departure of lead vocalist Alex Vornam earlier this year, it will be interesting to see what direction the band goes in when an adequate replacement is found. [Ryan Tysinger]
Thursday, May 31st
Meshuggah – Catch Thirtythree (2005)
By 2005, Meshuggah had nothing more to prove to the musical world. For three straight albums they had shifted paradigms and offered a new reflection on their polyrhythmic post-thrash / groove / whatever sound, building a dedicated fanbase with as many music school nerds in it as grizzled metalheads. But the most visionary among us always have more to say, and with Catch Thirtythree, Meshuggah released a single 47-minute composition that ran the gamut of their sound. The album had neck and mind-wrecking rhythms, passages of eerie ambience, actually functional robot vocals, tectonic grooves, some of Fredrik Thordendal’s trippiest, wildest soloing, and a true arc that culminates in near chaos. Catch Thirtythree essentially liberated Meshuggah to do whatever they wanted for the rest of their career, and the years since have seen (very relatively) streamlined albums (obZen), sprawling variety (Koloss), and the band actually… banding (The Violent Sleep of Reason). But no matter your favorite, Catch Thirtythree will remain the artistic peak of one of metal’s all time innovators. [Zach Duvall]
Friday, June 1st
Witch Cross – Fit for Fight (1984)
Fit for Fight is one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” gems of the early ‘80s. It’s not that the album itself is slight or undeserving—far from it—but until Hell’s Headbangers undertook a huge (and hugely needed) reissue campaign in the early 2010s, Witch Cross seemed destined for relative obscurity. The classic metal power in these eight songs more than speaks for itself, however, with Alex Savage’s high, clear voice and wildly catchy melodies backed by a twin guitar attack that, while not as timeless as their fellow Danes Shermann and Denner, crams in as many twitchy leads and needling solos as possible. Sure, Witch Cross occasionally had a darker, Mercyful Fate edge (“Face of a Clown,” “Killer Dogs”), but they were just as likely to indulge in the same kind of youthful exuberance that marked the very best of early Riot, Tokyo Blade, and Tygers of Pan Tang (“Rocking the Night Away,” “Nightflight to Tokyo”). An amazing document of one of the most thrilling periods in heavy metal history. Go get yourself fit. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Saturday, June 2nd
Dokken – Tooth And Nail (1984)
A large part of the bands lumped together under the umbrella of “hair metal” aren’t terribly metallic. There are exceptions, of course—early Ratt, Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind, early Crūe, some Stryper, some Krokus… and of course, Dokken. Between the sugary sweet vocal hooks and George Lynch’s Van Halen-y shredding, Dokken was primed for early-80s Sunset Strip glory, and they hit big with their second album, 1984’s Tooth And Nail. From the speedy title track through the pop-metal of “Just Got Lucky” and “Heartless Heart” to the bouncy California party metal of “Turn On The Action,” Tooth And Nail treads the line between metal and hard rock with fire-hazard amounts of flash and hair spray. Sure, George borrowed bits of “Into The Fire” from Judas Priest, and sure, Don’s voice might have been paper-thin, even then, but those riffs and layered harmonies and earworm melodies still stand the test of time, all these years later. How long does it take… to break the spell? Well, thirty-four years and counting, I guess… [Andrew Edmunds]
See you next week.