“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 24th — March 2nd.
Sunday, February 24th
Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestial Lineage (2011)
Opener “Thuja Magus Imperium” sets the stage in true Wolves fashion with an intro of ambient noise and etherial vocals before giving way to raw-yet-warm black metal. Eleven minutes later a breather is given by an interlude track, undoubtedly to allow time for the crushing climax of the song to sink in. “Subterranean Imitation” works similarly, adding even more underlying vitriol over several movements before a pulsing second half builds to a cutting guitar line at the end. Neither song finale would be as effective without that which set it up, and neither song would work without the finale. Just massive stuff.
This sense of size is perhaps the most striking aspect of Celestial Lineage. The movements within songs, album structure, well-conceived codas, and ocean-sized depth to the production all work together to give this album both weight and space. It somehow feels bigger than its 50 minutes but passes by without distraction or much lag. (I say “much” because one might argue that there is a minute or three too much wispy ambience during the album’s middle. One might argue; I might not.) By the time “Astral Blood” reaches a half-psychedelic riff at about 2/3 of the way through, it is clear that the band has crafted yet another of these epic journeys, and the subsequent layering of tidal chords and keys delivers on this promise over the course of the four final minutes. So strong is this surge that Wolves in the Throne Room chose to end the album with “Prayer of Transformation,” a haunting but far less aggressive piece that closes Celestial Lineage with a very similar tone to which Agalloch closed Marrow of the Spirit. In no way does this blunt the edge of the rest of the album; instead, by being somewhat unsettling, it actually may leave the listener contemplating the rest of what he or she has heard, as opposed to feeling the compositional resolution that other tracks offer. [Zach Duvall]
Monday, February 25th
Isole – Born From Shadows (2011)
Album number five from this Swedish crew finds them very much in full swing within the classic Isole canon: majestic, towering clean vocals perfectly suit the album’s many epic moments, just as they do its darkly depressed measures; melodic leads snake alongside deeply layered atmospheric keys throughout mellow and harsh bits alike; and the overall mood still balances between gloomy (/gothic) metal and good-ol’-fashioned walloping epic doom.
Each of the band’s releases flash the above ingredients in surplus, with differences bubbling to the surface through subtle (and often not-so-subtle) refinements to further motley the mix. 2008’s Bliss of Solitude and 2009’s Silent Ruins both flashed bits of gruff death metal that upped the ante in the heft department, but Born from Shadow‘s overall darker stance and even stronger emphasis on weighty punch makes the occasional death accents that much harsher this go around. Additionally, savory opener, “The Lake,” and the album title track even spring moments of biting blackened metal — certainly something new for longtime fans to chew on. [Captain]
Tuesday, February 26th
Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu (2013)
Muukalainen Puhuu was immediate, sophomore album Kosmonument was anything but. A sprawling landscape, the album opened up the Pazuzu sound, allowing them to fully explore their “space” (multiple meanings implied) and grow in the process. While many praised the album as a triumph, I found it inaccessible, as if they had stretched their sound too far.
The second most notable thing about Valonielu, the band’s third, is in how it not only enhances the band’s entire catalog by both combining their varying sound and expanding it, but by how it seems to validate and justify all of the experimentation of Kosmonument. Revisiting the album upon the arrival of Valonielu made it sound brand new and brilliant in a way it never had before. This may be because the occasional “vast” moment on this new work seems to point to Kosmonument as a necessary step in the band’s evolution, but more than that, it is now obvious that everything this band does will be an exercise in growth and maturation. This is a difficult thing to accomplish without occasionally making an egregious error or misstep, but Pazuzu are only getting better and better.
And that brings us to the most notable thing about Valonielu: despite the high quality of their first two albums, this is easily the best album that Oranssi Pazuzu has written to this point, and it truly cements them as one of the most exciting and purely rad bands in metal today. [Zach Duvall]
Wednesday, February 27th
Thy Catafalque – Rengeteg (2011)
Rengeteg is album number five from the project, which is really the vision and near total execution of multi-instrumentalist / vocalist / songwriter Tamás Kátai. His vision has evolved gradually from its black metal roots into what it is today—an addictive, heavily melodic, and constantly exploratory brand of very heavy metal. Far less blackened in overall tone than Róka Hasa Rádió, Rengeteg loses none of its predecessor’s variation or aural expedition, featuring songs running the full gamut from bludgeoning forcefulness to soft balladry. Never-complex-but-adept guitar work meets wouldn’t-know-it-was-programmed drumming of the same quality, sci-fi sounding keys, gorgeous clean vocals courtesy of Attila Bakos (of the excellent Euro-folk acoustic act Woodland Choir) and most importantly a keen sense of knowing exactly what to place around the next corner.
Case in point, the fastest (coolest) nine minutes of the year: opener “Fekete mezok.” Rhythm guitar lines repeat in cycles as lead work takes on a quality somewhere between black metal tremolo riffs and a Hammond B3, all the while Bakos appears and disappears with his natural Vintersorg-ish vocals. The song—and album—never becomes self-indulgent, instead offering slight variations to simple themes to lead the listener through music that is constantly infectious—infectious, and by the time of the staggering finale, heavy as balls. It isn’t a particularly dynamic track in the soft-to-loud sense of the term, but there is a journey to be heard, and Thy Catafalque brings plenty of light / dark contrast elsewhere. [Zach Duvall]
Thursday, February 28th
Absu – Abzu (2011)
Six tracks. Thirty-six minutes. Zero fuckarounds. “Earth Ripper” rumbles through the gates with a soaring, falsetto squeal, and the band proceeds to nail the gas pedal to the floor for nearly the entire record. It’s the most relentless thing that Absu has crafted since 1995’s The Sun of Tiphareth, and this comes as a welcome development. Absu is at their best when the prime directive is the destruction of worlds, and Abzu smashes planets.
Abzu is an exercise in velocity and hellfire; this isn’t an overly cerebral affair. Even the thinking-fans’ closing track, the fourteen-minute suite “A Song For Ea,” can’t resist the urge to bomb down the rails at four billion MPH. (See the sub-tracks ‘A Myriad of Portals’ and ‘Warren of Imhullu’ for the visceral evidence.) Thus, those craving a more mystical, complete offering from Proscriptor and his merry men may have been left fucked out to dry here. But those with a more single-minded focus on wrecking fucking everything will be more than satiated by this primal expulsion of thrashed-out insanity.
Has depth been sacrificed for sheer speed? Absolutely. But when the result is as scorching as Abzu, it’s irrelevant. Absu‘s internal fire remains unquenched. [Jordan Campbell]
Friday, March 1st
Ares Kingdom – The Unburiable Dead (2015)
According to an interview, guitarist / songwriter Chuck Keller actually had some of the song ideas for The Unburiable Dead around the time that he was writing for Incendiary, but he wanted the tracks that would make up this current record to be a part of a more focused whole.
Stylistically, the two records are similar—it’s Ares Kingdom’s signature death / thrash / black amalgam, presented once again with the loose and rough production that perfectly befits their style. Taking inspiration from World War I, a subject that Keller knows so well that he gets invited to conduct guest lectures at Kansas City’s World War I museum, the songs on The Unburiable Dead deal with the band’s usual topics of war and destruction. But in line with Keller’s desires, The Unburiable Dead feels more focused, more developed, and for lack of some greater critical appraisal, just plain ol’ better. Part of the improvement is a further embracing of Ares Kingdom’s earlier hints at catchy, more straight-ahead traditional-metal riffcraft—this is still death metal at heart, but there’s an art to creating catchy riffs, and Keller has developed it, and quite well.
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. [Andrew Edmunds]
Saturday, March 2nd
Thralldom – Black Sun Resistance (2005)
Think Hellhammer, think Bathory circa The Return, think Strappado-era Slaughter, think vintage Darkthrone, think Obsessed By Cruelty / In The Sign Of Evil-era Sodom, all curdled together with a filthy punk edge that recalls Cryptic Slaughter, the most rabid Black Flag material and MDC. Not altogether unlike the latter day, punk-inspired Darkthrone material, really, though in truth Thralldom are far more uncompromising and less ‘rocking’ than Darkthrone’s newest incarnation. I guess in some senses one could think of Thralldom as latter day Darkthrone ideas dragged kicking and screaming through the fetid filth of Panzerfaust and Transylvanian Hunger, though such a description would do scarcely any justice to the depth of the Thralldom experience.
Lipinsky is also acutely aware of the hypnotic potential of minimalism and repetition—“Diminishing Daylight” boasts a PUMMELING Hellhammer groove that insidiously wallows into your consciousness, but the track TRULY excels in its concluding passage, where a dissonant chord is repeated, supported by lofty, warlike percussion to yield for truly memorable, ritualistic feeling results. A song deserving of many spins, indeed! There’s a lot of super cool, meandering lead work that adds piquancy and a decidedly Brazilian flair to the proceedings as well (i.e. the opening passage of “Soothsayer Of The Red Moon”, where the lead bleeds all over the opening section and then wails ubiquitously throughout the rest of the track, adding dramatic depth and dimension). [Nin Chan]
See you next week.