“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 feature that gathers the albums in a single piece on a weekly basis.
Here are the seven albums we picked for the week of September 23rd — September 29th.
Sunday, September 23rd
Swallow The Sun – The Morning Never Came (2003)
2003 was a fantastic year for metal, but it was also a bit of a mixed bag as far as which particular sub-genre managed to deliver the ultimate punch to the gut. Doom had gems from Reverend Bizarre, Orodruin and While Heaven Wept, black metal had records like Hate Them, The Work Which Transforms God, Below The Lights and Kruzifixxion, and even power metal hit the upper echelon with releases from Tad Morose and Lost Horizon. For a number of metal fans, however, 2003 ultimately belonged to misery and Finland’s Swallow The Sun, a band whose debut, The Morning Never Came, whipped in on wintry winds out of seemingly nowhere and managed to challenge the godfathers of gloomy gloom, Katatonia, for the year’s preeminent crown for “album most likely to turn leaves of green to…well, dead.” Swallow The Sun was just getting started with their deathly take on gloominess, where Katatonia had already left growling far behind, but maybe that was one of the many reasons why metal fans grasped for The Morning Never Came like a dying wretch lunging for a very last possibility of light. [Captain]
Monday, September 24th
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
1970. Birmingham. Little did anyone know what Black Sabbath’s debut album would do to change the landscape of rock and roll forever, yet going back to it almost fifty years later, it is indisputable that the very DNA of heavy metal was synthesized here. Sure, others like Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Uriah Heep and the like contributed as well, but it is Black Sabbath that encompasses all the elements together in a singular record with a run time of just under forty minutes. While the slow dirge of the opener breaking out amongst the rain and church bells is the obvious precursor to the doom sub genre, black metal bands would, decades later, spend an entire career trying to achieve the haunting, sinister atmosphere captured on the self-titled track. The higher energy and drum frenzy on ”The Wizard” or riff-laden “Behind the Wall Of Sleep” would most certainly inspire the more blues/rock-based works of early Priest. The sheer heaviness of the main riff on “N.I.B.” alone inspired legions to pick up a guitar in pursuit of a creative outlet for the heavy, dark tones within, awakened by the forefathers of heavy metal. While still rooted in hard rock, Black Sabbath is a singular testament of heavy metal spawning in the dark, sinister shadow of rock and roll. [Ryan Tysinger]
Tuesday, September 25th
Covenant – Nexus Polaris (1998)
Nexus Polaris can’t get no respect. Yes, Norway’s Covenant carefully followed the guidelines laid down by Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth (echoing the latter rather stridently by employing Sarah Jezebel Deva for backing vocals), but despite the slathering of symphonic, melodic, and, well, extremely 90s elements, Nexus Polaris is much more of a guitar album that you might think. A song like “Bizarre Cosmic Industries” sounds a little bit like what Arcturus might have done if they had an album in between Aspera Hiems Symfonia and La Masquerade Infernale, with the carnivalesque elements present but still subordinated to rock-solid riffs. (It should be said that the Arcturus connection is explicit, since that band’s primary composer Sverd plays keyboards on Nexus Polaris.) Hellhammer’s drumming throughout is unimpeachable, particularly on the jittery and thrashy highlight “The Last of Dragons,” but the most important point is this: Nexus Polaris is a snobbery-destroying delight from start to finish. Re. Spect. Are you talking to Covenant? [Dan Obstkrieg]
Wednesday, September 26th
Borknagar – Borknagar (1996)
More often than not, Borknagar enthusiasts point toward the material the band created after the 1996 self-titled debut when discussing favorites. It’s an understandable stance if you prefer things like cleaner production, further developed songwriting and a more diverse vocal approach. But for those of us who, well, prefer the opposite of those things, at least as they relate to epic Norwegian black metal, it’s tough to beat Borknagar’s very first jump into the hay. This record wins out simply because it sounds like it was made by actual Vikings—fighters who are clearly skilled at what they do, but accomplish the task with the same raw, bloodied hands that only ten minutes earlier were gouging the eyes of a worthy Anglo-Saxon defender. There’s still plenty of prettiness to be heard—Øystein’s beautifully sweeping guitars, the occasional keyboard ornamentation (courtesy of Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson) and the frequent “ahh-ahs and ooh-oohs” from Ulver’s Garm—but it’s the savageness of the overall iciness, Garm’s vicious rasp and the absolutely ferocious drumming of Grim that, when packaged under an absolutely grim production, makes Borknagar’s debut the record many of us prefer. [Captain]
Thursday, September 27th
Deicide – Deicide (1990)
Released in one of death metal’s pivotal fulcrum years (a few months prior to Cannibal Corpse’s debut, but the year following both Slowly We Rot and Altars of Madness), Deicide’s self-titled debut is a nearly perfect document of unrelenting, mechanistically precise death metal mastery. A large part of the reason the album is so clockwork is that more or less everything had been demoed under the band’s original name Amon, but none of that should detract from the unearthly power, speed, and blasphemy of this foundational eruption. Deicide doesn’t seem to have directly inspired legions (har har) of stylistic emulators as, say, Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse, but in a way that makes the band’s first two albums an even more singular achievement. More to the point: If “Dead by Dawn” doesn’t turn you into a ranting, raving, raging lunatic, you just might be lost to the cause of heavy metal. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Friday, September 28th
Dolorian – Voidwards (2006)
Finland’s Dolorian perfected a very unique style of creeping metal that ain’t exactly funeral doom, but it most often gets recommended to those with the patience for funeral doom. The pacing is certainly funereal, but instead of a mood that’s openly crushing, the band opts for something decidedly more…otherworldly. 2006’s Voidwards is often elegant, usually undulating and occasionally astringent, and the entire communication delivers an overall sense whose closest relation is probably Esoteric when they’re absorbing you with psychedelia, but with a much kinder, cleaner, less heavy trip. Basically, Dolorian is the organic mushroom to Esoteric’s liquid LSD dropped directly into your eye, and there’s obviously something to be said for having something as beautiful as Voidwards available when you need to escape the harsh realities of everyday life. [Captain]
Saturday, September 29th
Gillan – Future Shock (1981)
With a voice as distinctively great as that of Ian Gillan, it’s no surprise that this later eponymous outfit bears a significant similarity to his earlier work with the mighty Deep Purple. Atop heavy riffs and prominent keyboards, the man wails and screams, his voice as powerful as ever in the driving title track, the rollicking “Sacre Bleu,” or the talking-blues swing of “No Laughing In Heaven.” Still, some differences crop up, and in a rare instance of the influencer being in turn influenced by the influenced themselves, Gillan sports a noticeable NWOBHM bent, sometimes eschewing the bluesier leanings of 70s hard rock in favor of a more economical heavy metal attack—”Sacre Bleu,” for example, falls in the middle ground between Purple’s riff-heavy drive and Saxon’s more street-level approach. (Coincidentally, to further the band’s ties to the NWOBHM, on the subsequent Future Shock tour, Gillan guitarist Bernie Torme would be replaced by White Spirit six-stringer and future Maiden replacement Janick Gers.) Find the expanded edition of Future Shock and be rewarded with an additional eight bonus tracks, including the non-album single cover of Leiber & Stoller’s “Trouble” and a ripping take on Little Richard’s classic “Lucille.” [Andrew Edmunds]
See you next week.