“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 30th — January 5th.
Sunday, December 30th
Atheist – Jupiter (2010)
Jupiter is the band’s most complex and meticulous work to date. The level of instrumental syncopation and layering in the compositions is impressive as hell even when placed in the context of today’s overcrowded tech-death scene, and the increased complexity makes the innumerable hooks that much more effective. Whereas most techy bands begin to sound aimless and hazy after awhile, Atheist’s songs unfold like ornate puzzle boxes, each piece cleverly and deceptively fitting into the next, and it keeps you on your toes as you wonder where exactly the band could possibly go next. There are instances where the band seems to stumble over themselves (“Faux King Christ” takes awhile to get off the ground), but these shaky moments are virtually all overshadowed by the limitless stream of ear-catching riffs and exciting instrumental flourishes. So while there are times when the band does falter with a flat riff or confusing transition, none of the songs really suffer for it. Not bad after seventeen years on the sidelines. [Chris McDonald]
Monday, December 31st
Withered – Folie Circulaire (2008)
Withered have mastered the art of making songs that amount to strings of riffs feel completely organic and natural. After a brief intro (NOT the completely random noise variety, thank fuck), the album begins in earnest with “The Fated Breath.” By turns slinging thunderous Stockholm grooves, withering (har har) blast-beaten passages, and heaving, apocalyptic doom slowdowns, the track drags you through a maze of riffs that constantly build on each other’s desperate melodies until finally sliding teeth-first into one last gratuitous guitar drubbing—and that’s to say nothing of the first of Barney Greenway’s two guest appearances, who as usual sounds like a bear with a hernia. This band’s sense of timing and dynamic has improved from decent to astounding; it’s like listening to an entire 12-minute Wolves in the Throne Room opus condensed down to four minutes. In fact, one of the best things about Folie Circulaire is Withered’s decision to abandon their former ponderous longwindedness in favor of terser, more blackened stylings. “Dichotomy of Exile” and “Gnosis Unveiled” open with neato melodic motifs that eventually build into cathartic black metal fury, while “Purification of Innocence” dispenses with the buildup and delves straight into flensing tremolo-picking that could be straight out of a Dissection song. These guys are obviously very accomplished musicians with absolutely no interest in showing off—the focus here is purely on crafting gut-wrenching epic melody and then burying it under a thick shell of distortion and vitriol. It almost reminds me of early Edge of Sanity or Eucharist; the catchiness is there, but Withered’ll be damned if you’re gonna get it out of them without a fight. Even the friggin’ production is amazing: massive and kinetic, but simultaneously warm and inviting, with none of the muddiness that troubled Memento Mori. [Doug Moore]
Tuesday, January 1st
Noisem – Agony Defined (2013)
The most obvious influences on Agony Defined come from the more extreme side of the thrash coin. Touches of Slayer pop up everywhere, but not to the degree of plagiarism. Both the descending riff pattern in “Rotten Remains” and ascending passage in “Split From The Inside Out” give off a distinct Hell Awaits feel, but the atmosphere and reverb is stripped away, letting the energy and momentum do the work. Likewise with the Kreator influence, nothing sounds directly lifted, but there is a very Pleasure To Kill-like sense that at any moment the music could spiral out of control; but it never does. The death metal side of the band is less easy to define—vocals are throaty and somewhere halfway between death and thrash, and blast beats appear only sparingly—but the forwardly forceful nature in much of the riffage gives off a serious Vader vibe. [Zach Duvall]
Wednesday, January 2nd
Progenie Terrestre Pura – U.M.A. (2013)
U.M.A. is one-hundred percent about mood. You’ll find some muted clean vocals way toward the end of “Sovrarobotizzazione,” and “Droni” sees the band whip up some (relatively) intense interplay between the programmed drums and mechanistic riffing, which later transitions into a classic heavy metal gallop, but almost certainly by design, U.M.A. is a single, 51-minute journey through pillowy atmospheres and sharp outcroppings of metallic suggestion, like crude three-dimensional polygons barely glimpsed through the glittering haze of a comet tail. Elsewhere, the instrumental interlude “La Terra Rossa Di Marte” swoons and plunks away like Joe Satriani playing a Perdition City pinball machine in Tron, because, well, of course it does.
For all its brilliant, gleaming surfaces, though, Progenie Terrestre Pura seems to understand the tension, the undercurrent of whitewashed unpleasantness that simmers in all utopian futures. By grafting this sort-of industrial black metal onto such beautifully atmospheric soundscapes, U.M.A. occupies the same aesthetic terrain as a Minority Report or a Blade Runner. Maybe U.M.A. takes the listener on a similar journey to Ocean Machine, after all, except that the referent unit is an entire civilization rather than an individual, cast into an uncertain future and left to consider the conditions of its inevitable end. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Thursday, January 3rd
Hell – Human Remains (2011)
Though Hell’s instrumental base is stellar and their songs well-crafted, if oddly so, the vocals remain the band’s most distinct and most divisive element—that factor that will forever split the masses for or against Hell. David Bower imbues his dynamic mid-range clean tone with the occasional guttural scream, but largely, he utilizes a nearly comically theatrical voice that certain types of metal fans will likely find off-putting. In Bower’s defense, Halliday’s vocals were equally unusual, often melodramatic, although not quite so much so as Bower’s. Like the songs they complete, the vocals are atypical and tread upon the line of silliness, and yet, like those songs, they work brilliantly in their own way. As with the riffing, the melodies often twist in unexpected manners, usually to fit the equally theatrical lyrics. In turn, those lyrics are bulky, wordy and given to strange pacing, but only rarely so much so that they become unwieldy. (“MacBeth” being the prime example of a literary ambition gone a step too far—an otherwise-decent track stifled beneath stiff Shakespearean references.) On paper, the mix of pseudo-Gothic poetry and pseudo-progressive songcraft shouldn’t work, but on record, Human Remains succeeds far more often than it doesn’t. On another crowd-splitting front, the album is lengthy, and the pomp can be overwhelming, especially so to those not predisposed to such overkill. But given that it took Hell two-and-a-half decades to make this record, I’m certainly willing to allow them a chance to spit forth as many tunes as possible, in whatever silly-but-serious manner they so desire, especially when each of those tunes is as good as these. [Andrew Edmunds]
Friday, January 4th
Jameson Raid – Just As The Dust Has Settled (2010)
Starting with the stellar “Seven Days Of Splendour,” the title track of their first EP, the Raid cranked out some driving trad-metal, riffy and rocking and sometimes mildly progressive-tinged beneath Terry Dark’s vocals and above Paul Kimberley’s drums. Falling somewhere between Saxon boogie and Maiden ambition, most of Dust comes from the Raid’s earliest incarnation, with guitarist John Ace and bassist Ian Smith alongside Dark and Kimberley. Smith has the gnarliest Rickenbacker bass tone this side of Lemmy, and often, it’s his instrument that carries these tunes, prominent in the mix and providing both a forceful rhythm and a sweet distorted harmonic underpinning beneath Ace’s classic-rock progressions. Dark’s voice is streetwise, at times enigmatic and emotive, although he’s not always a super-commanding presence—think a less-vibrant Phil Mogg or a less-caterwauling Biff Byford. This primary line-up recorded all but four of these fourteen tunes, although in deference to the later group (which substituted Mike Darby and Pete Green on guitar and bass, respectively), tracks like “Titanic” and “The Hypnotist” are stellar, the former an example of the band at their most developed and the latter an example of them at their most commercial but also their most confident. [Andrew Edmunds]
Saturday, January 5th
Griftegård – Solemn, Sacred, Severe (2010)
The tolling of a bell and a solemn church choir provide the opening notes to “Charles Taze Russell” (named after the early Christian Restorationist minister), instantly setting the ominous and heftily emotional tone which permeates the album. Griftegård’s riffing, which only seems uncalculated, works in tandem with minimalistic drumming that rarely settles into any type of actual rock beat. Each band member pulls their weight for the entire composition, knowing exactly when to keep it simple and when to add an additional touch, such as a chord instead of a single note, an extra bit of bottom end or a unified thump. This unselfish attention to detail thusly provides an ideal backdrop for the remarkable vocals of Thomas Eriksson. His mid-level vibrato and croon may be less operatic than the style has often called for, but it’s no less musical and still contains subtle inflections that give wake to an emotional depth rarely heard anywhere in metal, doing perfect justice to the chosen subject matter. [Zach Duvall]
See you next week.