“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 February 10th — February 16th.
Sunday, February 10th
The Vision Bleak – Set Sail To Mystery (2010)
Set Sail to Mystery is a collection of short horror stories voiced with deep, gothic tenor and forwarded with austere heavy metal music. Running a predictable range of topics from the literal consumption of something beautiful (“I Dined with the Swans”) to necrophilia (“A Romance with the Grave”), it’s the master thespian’s attention to detail that makes the not-so-novel telling of terrible tales via heavy metal conduit work so well here. It’s easy to imagine this pair pouring their hearts out on the sound stage to make every word on the record as authentically foreboding or morose as possible in support of the larger motif. And as central as the Goth ethos is to this record, make no mistake that Set Sail is more avant than heavy; its allegiance to the almighty riff is obvious and each is delivered with gratifying weight. [Lone Watie]
Monday, February 11th
Darkest Era – The Last Caress of Light (2011)
The band’s collective skills and obvious passion for their art bleed through their compositions, as is evident from the opening notes of “The Morrigan.” Guitar lines by Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Weighell move in and out of support and lead roles depending on what vocalist Dwayne “Krum” Maguire is doing at the time, backed up by a stellar rhythm section in bassist David Lindsay and drummer Lisa Howe. (Maguire, by the way, is as emotive and nearly as skilled as the aforementioned Averill, but in a very different way that befits the band’s less bleak aura.) The structure of each song generally revolves around instantly memorable choruses, but is bolstered by an acute sense of dynamics, allowing each track to build through the bridge and beyond. Early highlights, such as the heart-wrenching melodies of “An Ancient Fire Burns,” the NWOBHM-ish gallop to “Heathen Burial,” or the biting dual lead action, reveal the band’s deft touch for songcraft, but really they only hint at where the album will take listeners in its latter minutes.
This slightly back-heavy nature will add to the subtle learning curve that already exists on The Last Caress Of Light. While those earlier tracks are of high-to-outstanding quality, it is really the album’s closing trilogy that solidifies the proceedings. “To Face The Black Tide” follows the formula of earlier songs but ups the ante with a glorious arrangement, the album’s most moving and chilling chorus—Maguire is in top form here—and a masterful climax. Following is “Poem To The Gael,” a wisely-placed folk track that acts less as a palate-cleanser and more as glue for the two epics that surround it. Last comes the constantly building title track, “The Last Caress Of Light Before The Dawn,” a brilliant crescendo of vocals, rhythms, and intense melodies that will have those arm hairs standing on end. Individually each of the three songs is a highlight, but as a trio they reveal the band’s true talent. [Zach Duvall]
Tuesday, February 12th
Nagelfar – Srontgorrth (1999)
Alexander Von Meilenwald is the center of all that is unholy when it comes to the Fatherland. From Truppensturm and Kermania to The Ruins of Beverast, nothing says majestic quite like Meilenwald’s distinct influence. Nagelfar is no exception, as Srontgorrth contains more moments of schizophrenic ecstasy than should ever be allowed on one album. And then there’s that fucking riff… the embodiment of all that has ever been considered extreme. The power of Srontgorrth will certainly seize you, as the fear it instills seizes the blood of the others. [Konrad Kantor]
Wednesday, February 13th
Psychotic Waltz – A Social Grace (1990)
Psychotic Waltz rode the burgeoning wave of technicality in metal from the late eighties into the nineties with a unique flair for catchiness and outright oddity. Their debut runs the gamut from mind-bending progressive abstraction to impossibly infectious ear-worm melody, often within the same piece (see “Another Prophet Song”). Even now, that quirkiness feels a little bit unstable in the context of a raw, ingenuous production job, giving A Social Grace the sentimental edge over later efforts. Too many metal fans have never heard this strange bunch of heavy proggers from El Cajon, but those that have understand this album’s immeasurable contribution to progressive heavy metal. [Lone Watie]
Thursday, February 14th
Strapping Young Lad – City (1997)
After a clunky debut in Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing, a young Devin Townsend (and a prime Gene Hoglan, giving one of the most dominant performances of his career) turned damn near everything on its ear with City. Black metal aside, this is the most alien, extreme metallic contribution to come out of the 1990s: a crackling, urban wall-of-fuckery that’s constantly threatening to burst into complete madness. Unquestionably, this the crowning jewel in the spotty SYL discography: Dev’s rage is at its most organic, his compositions blissfully void of self-awareness. The result is timeless and forever vital. All hail the new flesh.
Friday, February 15th
Incantation – Onward to Golgotha (1992)
The full-length debut from Incantation remains heavier than hell, even decades later. With Craig Pillard’s low and choked gutturals and John McEntee’s tempo-shifting noxious riffage, Incantation blended rotten death metal with bouts of trudging doom, all of it down-tuned and bottom-heavy and simply vile. With tempos either crawling or blasting, and production dark and dank, Incantation sounded like no other band back then. The album that spawned legions of imitators, Onward remains one of the ugliest records of its time.
Saturday, February 16th
Svart Crown – Witnessing The Fall (2011)
Witnessing The Fall brings the type of prime-grade metal-as-fuckery that countless bands attempt but few achieve, mostly because they don’t possess the songwriting chops to back up the barrage. Svart Crown has both, and they execute through a particularly visceral and blistering blackened death metal attack. Upon first impression, this attack will sound an awful lot like a black metal version of Immolation. After all, there is a distinct Vigna quality to the contortionist don’t-call-it-a-breakdown coda of “Dogs of God” or the forceful verse riffs of “Nahash The Temptator,” and many of the album’s other memorable riffs have that certain backward quality to them. But apt as this impression is, it fails to paint the full bloody picture. Other elements bear similarities to the serpentine tremolo harmonies of Nightbringer, the deliberate delivery of black-thrash lords Absu or Razor of Occam (“Strength Higher Than Justice”), and even a touch of that delightfully cold twang that Glorior Belli have dabbled in of late (bits of epic closer “Of Sulphur And Fire”).
The result is a deceitfully dynamic 45-minute set of songs that show a surprising level of depth even after several spins, due as much to the smart arrangements as to Svart Crown’s collective ability as a tight unit of musicians. While not enough can be said of the riffs, the mid-range blackened growl of JB Le Bail leads the festivities, and the extremely skilled and opportunistic drumming of Gaël Barthélemy (who has also done time in Glorior Belli) can’t go without mention. As a true artist of heavy metal skinsmanship, Barthélemy simultaneously throws down the foundation whilst annihilating the upper floors. [Zach Duvall]
See you next week.