“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 March 3rd — March 9th.
Sunday, March 3rd
Töxik Death – Speed Metal Hell (2014)
If you were browsing the racks of your favorite record store (they still exist, I swear) and came across an album called Speed Metal Hell by an umlauted Töxik Death, you would assume they played a progressive, atmospheric, shoegazing style of post-rock, right? You’d be prepared to hear delicately sung paeans to frogs and daisies and Thomas Kincaid landscapes, right? You’d settle in with a cozy cup of your favorite chamomile tea and an oversized cardigan and just feel the stresses of the day melt away into the Enya-sized ambience, right?
Jollity aside, Speed Metal Hell is exactly the sort of busted jaw brilliance you need in your life if you’ve worn out multiple copies of Voivod’s War and Pain and Sodom’s Obsessed by Cruelty, and if you love Aura Noir but really wish they played a bit sloppier. Töxik Death, perhaps unsurprisingly, hail from Norway, and although they come from Sandnes on the country’s southwest coast, their kinship is clearly with the black/thrash of Oslo’s Aura Noir, and the Darkthrone-affiliated Kolbotn Thrashers Union, including other such sloppily delicious deviants as Condor and Nekromantheon. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Monday, March 4th
High Spirits – You Are Here (2014)
The spirit of NWOBHM is ever-present, to the extent that you’re going to find yourself wondering if this is actually some reissue mined from the deepest part of Lars Ulrich’s vault—but it’s possible that the band would have been too cool for him. The tight, quick-picked riffs of “When the Lights Go Down,” the rolling, emphatic bass lines that drive “I Need Your Love,” the mysteriously Judas Priest-esque “Can You Hear Me”…they all crackle with an upbeat, optimistic energy that compliments and emphasizes lyrics that center upon the “I” and “me” of these song titles eager to be reunited with the (titular?) “you” of the same. Thematically out of place is the eponymous closing track, which nonetheless ends the album on a note befitting their name. Is it about apparitions flying overhead? Is it about feelings? You’re already asking too many questions—well, I am anyway. When things are this much fun, those things don’t really matter. [Dave Pirtle]
Tuesday, February 5th
Monolithe – II (2005)
If I were to tell you that one of the finest pieces of music I’ve heard in the past few months was a 52 minute concept album of funeral doom consisting of only one song, would you believe me, or just call me an asshole? That’s a rhetorical question. I know I’m an asshole. But, this album. I know it’s good.
Damn. Monolithe. I knew this band had potential. Their first album, I, was highly tolerable. Which speaks volumes, especially considering the delicate formula they manipulate. When funeral doom bands fuck up, they fuck up hard. But Monolithe definitely pulled off their first album with style. Like II, I was also a one song deal. And I don’t hesitate to use the word song. Unlike most artists who’ve tackled the single track opus, Monolithe were able to construct something coherent and resolute. Something that made you believe the carrot was worth the stick. II, which is the proper beginning of the story to which I was the prologue, is a fine example of what happens when musical progression goes right. While retaining elements of what made their previous work shine, cutting some of the needless chaff, tightening the performances, and bolstering their production, II plays as a logical follow up in both concept and execution. [Ramar Pittance]
Wednesday, February 6th
Vanhelgd – Relics Of Sulphur Salvation (2014)
This is dense, serious, and sinister death metal that, despite moving with the same fleet motions of countless bands both before and after, still feels fresh and vital. That energy is critical, because while there’s no bold new innovation to be had, there’s nothing wasted—no fat, nothing phoned in, nothing drags, and everything is played with bone-deep conviction. For lack of a more scientific description, then: it really sounds like the dudes in Vanhelgd are feeling it.
There’s a fearsome intelligence at work here that calls to mind such other luminaries of modern death as The Chasm and Dead Congregation, and yet while Vanhelgd are deadly serious, they never come across as self-defeatingly so (*ahem* Necros Christos *cough*). In part, that’s due to the clear attention to stylistic diversity, from the loose rock fills leading into clattering blasts on “Where All Flesh is Soil,” to the riveting conclusion of album opener “Dödens Maskätna Anlete,” which drapes fierce tremolo octaves atop its tumult. In addition to offering up huge, greasy riffs with much more liberal doses of lead guitar than typical for the style, Vanhelgd’s drummer is spry and judicious with perfect ride cymbal accents. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Thursday, February 7thth
October Tide – A Thin Shell (2010)
It didn’t take much for former and current Katatonia members Fredrik Norrman and Jonas Renkse to capture a fair share of attention back in 1997 when they released the very sturdy October Tide debut, Rain Without End, yet the ensuing follow-up Grey Dawn was a far less intriguing effort that failed to live up to the standards set by its predecessor. Now, ten years later, and with Renkse having since left the ranks, Norrman returns with a slew of new compatriots, solidifying the cliché of the third time being a charm with the revitalized A Thin Shell. Attaining nearly the same level of quality as the debut, this seven-track doom/death metal trek through downtrodden atmosphere takes a chance or two, and it results in a very current and invigorating collection of songs.
Exhibiting a mastery of mood and an incredible sense of flow throughout its forty-two minute running length, October Tide taps back into a type of depressive vibe that isn’t too draining or incredibly weighty. This is an excellent example of a musician and songwriter who has rediscovered his muse, as A Thin Shell capitalizes upon each and every strength this project established itself for earlier by bringing back those same pristine melodies which join with heavier, more substantial riffs throughout. It’s all very smooth, clean, and almost supple with the entwining of carefully-plotted blunt force and airy resonance, with medium-length compositions that never waver in purpose. [Jim Brandon]
Friday, March 8th
Onirik – Casket Dream Veneration (2015)
Seemingly emerging out of nowhere as a beautiful, weird, and beautifully weird beacon in the middle of so many other single-minded black metal albums, Casket Dream Veneration is anything but. It provides a listening experience that goes far beyond just its list of influences to craft a unique, gripping vibe that never gets in the way of the songs. Or is it the songs that never get in the way of the vibe…
As for those influences, they give Onirik is pretty unimpeachable placement at the crossroads of pure musical pedigree and blackened cred. Beginning with the drifty, straight up weirdness of it all, it’s very easy to hear the whole Ved Buens Ende family of bands, but Casket Dream Veneration never feels quite so far out or intentionally avant-garde. Also massive is the Blut Aus Nord influence, with The Work Which Transforms God in particular coming through in every bend and phrase-ending guitar dive. (The drums also duplicate that feeling; straight descending tom fills, all of them.) However, the album also doesn’t delve completely into that abyss of madness. Rather, it maintains a link to melodic black metal through a constant delivery of oft-eerie leads, calling to mind everything from early Borknagar to even this year’s excellent Obsequiae album. [Zach Duvall]
Saturday, March 9th
Esoteric – Paragon Of Dissonance (2011)
Funeral doom is, in most appreciable ways, a niche within a niche. Forcing the listener to bear witness to a cripplingly slow march to oblivion is not, it must be said, the easiest way to win friends and influence people. Nevertheless, for those of us slavering pursuers of the deepest slow and darkest doom, the UK’s Esoteric has been churning out psychedelic funeral doom / death metal of unmatchable brilliance for nearly two decades. While the band is still a fiercely psychedelic trip through and through, with most of the songs summoning a towering groove to sink into and then ride out to its furthest possible limit and beyond (see “Cipher” in particular), sixth album Paragon Of Dissonance is undisputedly beautiful in a way that Esoteric has never before embraced so fully. Though this particular writer finds it difficult to over-enthuse about Esoteric, Paragon Of Dissonance just might be the band’s finest album yet, and easily stands as one of the most monstrously satisfying albums of the year.
Although the band has undergone subtle shifts between each album, the contours of Paragon Of Dissonance suggest that Esoteric’s career to date can be segmented rather neatly into two-album epochs. Epistemological Despondency and The Pernicious Enigma presented the band at its most hostile and nihilistic, capturing the sprawling corrosion of Disembowelment as it disintegrated into shimmering waves of disorienting noise. The two single-disc albums, Metamorphogenesis and Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum, pulled back ever-so-slightly on the suffocating weight of earlier efforts in order to make room for a bubbling undercurrent of increasingly woozy psychedelia. The most recent pair of albums, 2008’s The Maniacal Vale and the current Paragon Of Dissonance, has reverted to painting on a more expansive canvas, but with a completely cleaned-up production that is no less crushing for its occasional serenity. [Dan Obstkrieg]
See you next week.