“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 January 6th — January 12th.
Sunday, January 6th
Wodensthrone – Loss (2009)
On Loss, Wodensthrone weave together eight tracks (at nearly 70 minutes) of bombastic, progressive, and sometimes even trance-like black metal which pulls in influences from the entire reach of all things epic and folk-influenced. They share a bit of Wolves in the Throne Room’s compositional style, Drudkh’s obsessive-yet-unpretentious attention to detail, Weakling’s aggression, Blut Aus Nord’s appropriate use of keyboards, and Negura Bunget’s love of folk instrumentation. Although the influences are obvious, Wodensthrone melds them into their own vision with a sense of songcraft rarely heard in such a young band.
Throughout the album, Wodensthrone use many of black metal’s tried and true weapons to forge songs of a captivating quality. After a typical (but effective) intro, “Leódum On Lande” balances blasts with a standard “True Norwegian” hypnotic drive, using keyboards in a manner which stops short of the symphonic marker. “Heófungtid” then adds to this formula with some of the album’s many fine tremolo passages. The WITTRish “Those That Crush the Roots of Blood” continues with an understated melodic sorrow, hinting at later sections of the album. [Zach Duvall]
Monday, January 7th
Harvey Milk – A Small Turn of Human Kindness (2010)
So what does it say that the members of Harvey Milk trash-talk their latest album, A Small Turn of Human Kindness? According to the band’s rhythm section, they deliberately made the album “as pretentious as we possibly could,” complete with “words about total bullshit” and songs named “in the most annoying fashion we could imagine.”
These Georgian blues / prog / metal / clusterfuck lifers have a history of taking themselves to task. The above quotes come from an article in which bassist Stephen Tanner and drummer Kyle Spense belittle every single one of the band’s releases, and frontman Creston Spiers has loudly proclaimed his contempt for their last album, Life…The Best Game in Town.
So are Harvey Milk just fucking with us? Is A Small Turn…, as they say, an elaborate joke on their fans? Judging by the album’s gut-wrenching contents, it’s hard to take that claim seriously. Their self-loathing, on the other hand, sounds more convincing than ever. A Small Turn… violently deconstructs blues-based rock music, reducing it to a tangle of go-nowhere guitar lines, mantra-like grooves, and noise, noise, noise. [Doug Moore]
Tuesday, January 8th
Vital Remains – Dechristianize (2003)
As most of you have already heard, Glen Benton (Deicide…duh) is handling the growling duties, and he does so in a vicious, guttural fashion. Even more impressive is the stellar guitar work by Tony Lazaro. While the speedy riffs are competent, Lazaro shines when he slows the pace, and breaks out unexpectedly intriguing leads. Dave Suzuki is a man possessed behind the kit with some of the fastest blasts I’ve ever heard.
The production is surprisingly clear for brutal death—crisp guitar tone, the drums aren’t overpowering, and Glen’s barking is right up front. In today’s metal world, every band feels the need to throw in silly little intros with no added value to the album as a whole. “Let the Killing Begin” is NOT one of those intros, in fact, it sets the anti-religious mood quite nicely, leading right into the outstanding title track. Clocking in at a stout 8:56, “Dechristianize” is an epic powerhouse. The slowed-up middle sections contain the most haunting and fitting leads this side of Nile. “Devoured Elysium” follows the same formula, mixing crushing brutality with demonic mid-paced breaks. This is actually the shortest song on the album, at 5:46, not counting the intro. [Tim Pigeon]
Wednesday, January 9th
Leviathan – Tentacles of Whorror (2004)
The twisted vision that is Tentacles, is a nightmarish trip into realms of absolute despair that needs to be absorbed as a full entity with no other distractions. When absorbing the psychotic tones in the dark, the sense of dread is stunningly palatable. You can’t just skip from song to song, as essentially the album is one distorted sonic excursion into a fathomless pit. Shifts from cultic chanting and disturbing FX (“A Necessary Mutilation”) to a vortex of black metal extremity (“Vexed and Vomit Hexed”), are jarring transitions that will test your nerves. Tracks that include both (“Mouth Orifice Bizarre) (“Deciphering Legend with the Serpant’s Briar”), simply drag you into the very depths of aural depravity and blur your perception of music. [Erik Thomas]
Thursday, January 10th
Alaric – Alaric (2011)
There’s probably only two reasonable ways of enjoying Alaric’s debut. Punk savants with a soft spot for the short-lived but creatively fertile era of post-punk / goth / death rock that saw bands expanding the melodic potential of the genre will get some kicks out of a superficial listen. But if you’ve got a little more time on your hands, this is the kind of album you’ll start eventually feeling in your muscle fibers. Its force rests not in apparent speed or power, but in its deadly serious promise that Alaric is not going to stop pushing the boulder forward. Ever. So either strap up for the slog, or avert your eyes as that death march rolls on. [Ramar Pittance]
Friday, January 11th
Kowloon Walled City – Container Ships (2012)
A few not-so-quiet years later, KWC has returned with Container Ships, an aesthetic marvel that threatens to render them the bleak-ass beacon that sludge so craves. Guitarists Scott Evans and Jon Howell made a brilliant shift here, altering their once-standard guitar tone into something that rivals a bloated, bummed-out Godflesh. The resulting vibe is one that is perfectly encapsulated by Container Ships‘ striking cover: Broken. Bleak. Yearning for warmth. This is a phenomenal guitar album, packed with rounded, rolling riffs that don’t bludgeon as much as they bury. [Jordan Campbell]
Saturday, January 12th
Ihsahn – After (2009)
If Act I of After shows off Ihsahn’s heightened sense of songwriting approach and variety, the second act is where he adamantly and finally states to all of metaldom that his solo career is no mere Emperor afterthought. The largest statement comes in the form of the ten minute “Undercurrent,” which builds slowly over its first third until a heart-wrenching saxophone melody brings the album to a soaring emotional peak. The song soon shifts into full prog, making the most out of repetitive guitar patterns through shifts in vocals, rhythm, and the drumming subtlety of Asgeir Mickelson (who is absolutely on fire here). A return to the sax melody reveals just how essential the instrument is to the emotional heft of After. It sometimes emulates the traits of tremolo-picked guitar and is elsewhere used as a substitute for keyboards, but it is when the sax is employed as an additional, wordless vocalist that it is most effective. Jorgen Munkeby puts on an utterly tortured performance, miles away from the pretentious use of the instrument elsewhere in metal.
Most albums would lie down and rest after such a song. After does not. Following are the beautiful, understated “Austere” and the imposing, minor key “Heavens Black Sea,” the latter of which throws down the gauntlet of heaviness, intimidation, and majesty. Album finale “On the Shores” bookends a few more minutes of progressive insanity with a reprise of the saxophone wail from “Undercurrent,” a small yet expert move which glues the entire album together into much more than the sum of its parts. [Zach Duvall]
See you next week.