“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 December 9th — December 15th.
Sunday, December 9th
Barrow Wight – Kings In Sauron’s Service (2016)
The year is 1980. Venom are getting ready to record Welcome To Hell. Cronos looks to Mantas and Abaddon and says, “You guys know what’s even cooler than Satan? Lord Of The Rings.” They proceed to share a bag of mushrooms and jump into the studio. At least, that’s how Kings In Sauron’s Service, the debut album from Ottawa’s Barrow Wight, sounds like it was conceived. Comprised most of very early first wave black metal worship mixed with a touch of odd psychedelia in the form of occasional synth work, noisy production, and a low end that, with a close listen, resembles more stoner doom or sludge than what one would expect from a more traditional band. The concept actually works extremely well, especially on bangers like the opening “No Sleep Til Gondor.” The band even plays with doom tempos on “Grond” to considerable effectiveness. “In League With Sauron,” easily one of the best highlights of the record, contains an extremely unexpected closing with a synth solo of all things that sounds like a break out jam session. No idea where this came from, but it’s a surprising strike of brilliance that peaks at the center of the record. The Venom comparison is taken to the next level on “Dwimmerlaik,” with bassist/vocalist Antero Wight channeling the hell out of Cronos. Barrow Wight put just enough of a twist on the Venom sound to keep from being labeled as a worship band outright, making an interesting blend of heavy metal that feels both familiar and fresh. [Ryan Tysinger]
Monday, December 10th
Killing Joke – Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell (2006)
Over its uncommonly long life Killing Joke’s creative path has taken them in an equally uncommon number of stylistic directions, and this album, whether due to the band’s revitalized passion or the recent twenty fifth anniversary celebrations, revisits many moments throughout the band’s glorious history. “Invocation” is a lush, hypnotic trip that uses Eastern tribal rhythms and occasional orchestration that recalls Pandemonium’s “Communion”. The nine minute “The Lightbringer” initially feels like a continuation of “Asteroid”, but the trance inducing club rhythms have more to do with Night Time (1985) with a splash of What’s THIS For…! (1981). “Majestic”, with its fat, loping basslines (Raven is in fantastic form!), noisy ascending Geordie guitar riff could be a long lost Extremities cut. The varied approaches can lead to occasional consistency issues, which will be more apparent to the new listener. Most notably, the percussion and keys give “Implosion” a distinct 80’s flavor that is partially out of context. Other similarities to days past run rampant, but Killing Joke aren’t handing out reheated and diluted leftovers from the glory days; the band has successfully tapped into those periods and combined them with the virulent roar of today’s voice. And quite simply, the band is firing on all cylinders. Geordie’s one of a kind wall of dissonance is more organic and impassioned this time around, and new drummer Benny Calvert has continued the youthful energy initially injected by Grohl. As noted, bassist Paul Raven doesn’t place a wrong finger. And Coleman himself is in vintage form. The fire is unquestionably there, and his more raspy delivery in recent years is better captured in the mix. The album’s production is more organic, which typically leaves him sounding like he’s shouting like mad to get out from under the pulsing mania of the band. [Matthew Cooper]
Tuesday, December 11th
The Amenta – Occasus (2004)
Imagine Devolved, Strapping Young Lad and Zyklon in one shattering experience. That, my friends, is the The Amenta. Blistering speed, moody soundscapes, orchestral grandeur, apocalyptic vocals and outstanding production. The guitars have a great, post black wall of sound production that envelopes the music as much as creates it. The rhythm section is precise to the point of machination, driving blasting staccato beats over moderately quick melodies. The keys and programming, instead of detracting from or destroying the music actually play an important role in defining the mood of the album, complimenting and even lifting the compositions into a different sphere of death metal. [Chris Sessions]
Wednesday, December 12th
Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2011)
I know I should really feel no shame, but this is symphonic pop metal in its purest, most stereotypically self-indulgent form. I don’t think it’s surprising that I’m having a bit of trouble assimilating my completely non-ironic enjoyment of this into my self-image. But that’s just the thing: This is the kind of ludicrous, never less than 100% over-the-top music that has a way of mercilessly battering all of my typical grouchy and skeptical defenses into a wheezing pulp. The concept and its execution are so completely contrived that it would normally drive me to fits of table-leg-gnawing rage, but because it seems so deadly sincere in its contrivance, I cannot help but swoon in spite of all my better angels. And the music is so sickly sweet and saturated, so meticulously and immaculately composed that it somehow ends up coming across as entirely guileless. [Danhammer Obstkrieg]
Thursday, December 13th
Ares Kingdom – The Unburiable Dead (2015)
From the outset of “Ubique,” it’s clear that The Unburiable Dead has an epic streak beneath its harsh exterior—those crashing chords, the driving riffs that don’t so much exhibit a melodic sense as imply it; the whole is raw and rough, but it’s informed by traditional metal, even as it’s wholly rooted in the crossroads of death and thrash. By the time vocalist / bassist Alex Blume snarls “Wave upon wave upon wave upon wave” through the chorus, “Ubique” has achieved a certain death / thrash perfection, a trifecta of unbridled energy, memorable riff and vocal hook, and fist-and-finger-in-the-air attitude.
That streak continues through Dead’s best moments: “Salient And Redoubt,” the instrumental “Writhe: Fettered To A Corpse,” and the ten-minute literal-epic closer “Stultifera Navis (Armistice And League).” Blume’s growl is intelligible, perfect considering the Wilfred Owen war-poet quality of Keller’s lyrics—Ares Kingdom trades not in standard death metal gore-and-war fare, but rather in the kind of learned writing that brings you such simple but effective summations of life on the front line as “Hell no longer of fire and flame / hell is mud.” Still, with multiple listens of The Unburiable Dead (and likely many more to come), what stands out most are these riffs—most bands can’t manage one single one as killer as the main riff to “The Unburiable Dead,” and Ares Kingdom brings many of the same ilk, throughout every track. [Andrew Edmunds]
Friday, December 14th
YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
The final two songs on Clearing the Path to Ascend represent the most drastic shifts in the band’s sound in quite some time, even if they are still largely identifiable as YOB. The structure of “Unmask The Spectre” harkens to early prog rock in how each new section feels like some sort of movement in an epic whole, using foreshadowing and self-referencing to move things along. The breadth of dynamics is also massive, with every one of Scheidt’s bellowing growls or harrowing wails again leading the way.
If “Unmask The Spectre” reveals a desire to move into new terrain, “Marrow” is the unveiling of a brave, emotionally naked and introspective YOB. The nearly 19 minute track—which seems to go by in barely half that time—is loaded with everything from sorrow, loss, and melancholy to acceptance, remembrance, and even hope. Emotions ride on the backs of a few perfectly simple chord progressions, aided by subtle shifts in the instrumental performances, particularly the wonderfully understated work of drummer Travis Foster. But like much of the album, Scheidt’s vocal performance is the centerpiece. The man has always been unique in extremity, and he remains so in his moments of soulfulness, somehow expressing all of the emotions stated above while turning “Marrow” into one of the most exceptional songs in the band’s catalog. Go ahead and name this one the recipient of the “Patrick Walker Award for Making Doomheads Cry” for 2014.
It isn’t until the finish of “Marrow” that the album’s brilliant arc is fully obvious, with each song working to ensure that Clearing the Path to Ascend is far more than the sum of its parts. YOB’s most celebrated albums work in this way, but here the dynamic landscape is far more sprawling, both musically and emotionally. For these reasons and many more, YOB remains one of the heaviest bands currently walking the third rock from the sun, even if they sometimes sound as if they are transporting their sounds from deep space. [Zach Duvall]
Saturday, December 15th
Antigama – Meteor (2013)
By taking a death/grind base and adding expert touches of unexpected elements, through six full-lengths now, Antigama has carved for themselves a niche at the top of the modern grind scene. They’ve mastered the push-pull art of writing quality grindcore, of creating memorable moments in their maelstrom, building tension with atonality and aggression and then allowing release through brief and well-timed shifts into groovy hardcore or drifting sci-fi soundscapes.
Meteor opens strong, with its first four tracks as full-on ragers, ripping immediately through highlights like the blistering opener “Collapse” and “Prophecy.” With its squalling breakdown and robotic chant of “You are no longer human… You have nothing to say,” “Prophecy” is a perfect summation of Antigama’s grinding power, the confluence of their influences in two-and-a-half minutes of purely perfect pummeling. Rokicki’s guitars are stout and punishing; the drums bring the appropriate blast-happy thunder, once again performed by Pawel Jaroszewicz (Decapitated, ex-Vader), who joined the band just in time to Stop The Chaos. [Andrew Edmunds]
See you next week.