“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 27th — February 2nd.
Sunday, January 27th
Ravencult – Morbid Blood (2011)
The entirety of Morbid Blood plays like the best sort of black metal potpourri. Ravencult has perfected a supremely focused blend of the sloppy black/thrash of Aura Noir or Desaster (see especially “Possessed on Burial Ground”) and the ruthless black traditionalism of the Finnish scene (think Horna, Sargeist, Baptism, Azaghal). “Hail Revenge” emotes like the best of De Mysteriis-era Mayhem, and even suggests a primitive reinterpretation of Thorns’ obsidian futurism. Meanwhile, the opening of “Winds of Damnation” is a dead ringer for Deathspell Omega circa Kénôse, or any of the other deadly serious “orthodox” black metal acts of the past five or six years. The song squeezes itself through a number of tight stylistic corners, shifting down into a funeral march before returning to the furious pace of the opening theme. Far more important than its ability to tick the boxes on this game of Black Metal Bingo (patent pending) is the fact that this album knows how to kick serious ass, mixing up tempos and styles with reckless and complete disregard for the health of one’s relentlessly banged head. (The breakdown into the harsh slow burn in “Hail Revenge” is a prime example.)
What all of this blackened variety means is that Ravencult doesn’t necessarily have a unique sound to call its own; what the band does have is an impressive knack for taking the best bits of a number of black metal’s kaleidoscopic dark hues and painting a diverse and intelligent landscape from this genre’s uniquely malleable and recombinant DNA. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Monday, January 28th
UFO – Seven Deadly (2012)
Seven Deadly hits the ground running with the classic-sounding riff of “Fight Night,” and between Moore’s riffs and Phil Mogg’s perfectly weathered voice, that track and the subsequent “Wonderland” serve up a pair of the hard-rocking tunes that put this band on the radar back in the early 70s. And while we’re on the subject of Mogg: The man has always been a powerful and (ahem) unsung voice in hard rock, but as he’s aged, that voice seems to have gotten stronger, tougher. He’s never been one to test the upper end of rock-god screaming—no Halford or Plant falsetto wails or Gillan piercing screams—but the man has soul, dammit, and his gritty style has only improved through the years. On the guitar front, Moore’s days as a Shrapnel shredder still color his playing—he does have a tendency to dance around the fretboard, although he’s tasteful about it, as Schenker always was—and he hands in a fine performance here, but still, the show is Mogg’s and its his voice and emotion that ultimately serves as Seven Deadly’s driving force. [Andrew Edmunds]
Tuesday, January 29th
Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)
As with each step in Enslaved’s career, Axioma Ethica Odini maintains the constant, if subtle evolution from recent albums. Remaining is the texture of Vertebrae, but with a much heavier delivery. Compared to Ruun and much of their recent work, it is more epic in scope—four songs at almost eight minutes and an album length of nearly an hour. The blackened roots remain, but the band also finds time to inject new styles into these prog landscapes, such as the doom/death which introduces “Giants.” But the most strikingly fresh aspect is the clean vocal delivery, performed as usual by both Kjellson and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen. No longer reserved, the singing here contains much more emotion and inflection, adding to the album’s quality at every turn and giving would-be ballad “Night Sight” a unique sensitive vibe hitherto untouched by the band.
One cannot say enough for the hard work and attention to detail that went into constructing these songs. Every track on Axioma Ethica Odini (outside of the tasteful and surprisingly necessary intermezzo “Axioma”) is a compositional clinic and musical journey, immediate in quality but rich in rewards for the repeat listener. Little details emerge, such as how the chorus of “Giants” starts without vocals to increase anticipation, or how the layered and sorrowful crescendo of “Raidho” gains intensity and reaches its peak with the song’s guitar solo finale (Ice Dale, we salute you). Closer “Lightening” is perhaps the best example of how the band builds a track while foreshadowing its climax. A section towards the beginning overflows with the sense of finality, but it is in how Enslaved returns to this idea over nearly eight thrilling minutes (including a wild bridge) that not only moves the song along but also ends the album in spectacular fashion. Only silence can properly follow. [Zach Duvall]
Wednesday, January 30th
Armored Saint – Win Hands Down (2015)
The opening title track is a straight rocker. I never thought the phrase “win hands down” would make for a fist-pumping crowd chant, yet the crowd at a recent live show proved me wrong (that happens a lot). It’s more blue collar than bullet belt, but John Bush makes it work; that guy could sing the phone book and make it sound like an arena anthem. “Mess,” meanwhile, is either a bit of biting social commentary, or an extended lament on the perils of dining at the Golden Corrals of the world (“The line at the all-you-can-eat buffet / will blow you away”). I can certainly relate to the latter notion. It’s all you can eat! Stop browsing—grab and move, then come back for more. “An Exercise in Debauchery” is a bit more serious in its talk of perverts and sickos, but the message is undercut somewhat by the energetic, rockin’ chorus.
Win Hands Down is arguably the best of the albums Armored Saint has released since reconvening 15 years ago. Yes, it’s a small sample size, and La Raza was damned good, but it’s close. The musicianship and songwriting are solid, and John Bush sounds as amazing as ever. If you like your heavy metal straight up, decked out in blue jeans, with lines in its face and grey in its hair, this is an album that you must hear—loudly and often. [Dave Pirtle]
Thursday, January 31st
Vreid – V (2011)
Until now, Vreid could rather conveniently be described as thrashy black metal with a good dose of rockin’ mixed in. On V, things get a mite more complex in the genre delineation department, coming in as something like “progressive blackened thrash’n’roll.” It’s not that different, mind you, but fresh enough within the band’s well-established framework to be worth mention. Still present are the punchy black/thrash riffs, harsh rasps, and flowing lead guitars that the band uses in lieu of keyboards for ambient effect. New to the party is a noted increase in instrumental prowess and prog leanings, no doubt spurned by the addition of another former Windir brother in Stian “Strom” Bakketeig on guitar. This new attention to fret-board activity is immediately evident with triple-lead harmonies—yes triple, bassist Hvall gets in on it too—in opener “Arche.” The band has also plastered the entire album with heaps of killer soloing, not the least of which turns “Wolverine Bastards” (gotta be a song title award for that one) into an early-album beast. At times these solos and proggisms will jump right out, and at others they are woven directly into the overall texture, aided by a lush and very astute production treatment for the instruments. (Only for the instruments however, for some reason the vocals seem quite separated from the rest—my only real complaint about the album.) [Zach Duvall]
Friday, February 1st
Seidr – For Winter Fire (2011)
Louisville, Kentucky’s Seidr is the full-band doom project of Austin Lunn, mastermind and sole member of anarcho/atmospheric black metal outfit Panopticon, and For Winter Fire is the band’s first full-length. It is also fucking awesome, and if two word album reviews were considered sufficiently “critical,” then we could just leave it at that. Alas, journalistic integrity beckons.
Seidr incorporates the delicate tremolos and emotional chord swells of post-rock luminaries like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky into an otherwise caustic, stretched-out doom template. The post-rock trope almost universally comes across as one-dimensional, due in large part to the fact that even though the dynamics swing from quiet to LOUD, the LOUD parts are only ever distorted recitations of the very same quiet parts. Not so with Seidr—the band’s blending of these two styles is unique because while they do go all gorgeous post-rock trilling during quiet parts, when they amp up into massive riffs and dual-throated howling, they’re making an entirely different kind of noise.
At times, Seidr also evokes black metal, though more through an underlying mood or oblique suggestion than through actual musical gesture. The Norse-derived themes of some of the lyrics certainly help, but there’s also a vibe very reminiscent of some of Blood of the Black Owl’s dark-forested musings. (The campfire banjo and acoustic guitar strumming of “In the Ashes” goes a long way here.) One of Seidr’s strengths, though, is that the band seems to draw from whatever tradition will best communicate its vision at any given point. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Saturday, February 2nd
Anacrusis – Suffering Hour (1988)
They started strong and consistently improved. Less gonzo than Voivod or Thought Industry and more accessible than Coroner or Mekong Delta, Anacrusis found the holy grail at the crux of these extremes… only no one wanted to drink. They became a touchstone for seekers of the rare, sometimes surfacing after decades to maybe elicit slight hope for new material (looking at you, Watchtower). In retrospect, these Missouri mad men led by Kenn Nardi formed a complete artistic statement across their four albums proper and, even in their earliest form, focused their ferocity while maintaining meticulous melodies; Suffering Hour scarcely reveals their impressive eventual evolution. [Matt Longo]
See you next week.