“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 17th — March 23rd.
Sunday, March 17th
Author & Punisher – Melk En Honig (2015)
Throughout Melk en Honing, A&P is more interested in corrupting the rhythms of dance than in hammering heavy metal to an industrial anvil. Crucial late-album track “Teething,” for example, is reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails‘s cover of “Physical (You’re So),” with its gear-fed lust. In general, A&P’s percussion provides ample evidence that Shone’s background is more concentrated in electronic and industrial music than in metal—you can hear elements of dubstep, gabber, and other heavily distorted forms of electronic music throughout.
The biggest change from A&P’s previous work is the increased reliance on clean-sung vocals, which feature prominently on “Shame,” “Future Man,” and “Void, Null, Alive.” The easy way to interpret the change would be to say that the melodic vocals offer a compelling contrast to the thrum and crush of heavy industry, thus inviting the listener to contemplate human fragility in an increasingly mechanized, automated world.
But listen closer: Is that the whole story? Maybe these disquietingly sweet, shimmering passages aren’t the beauty to the machinery’s beast; maybe they’re the lure at the end of the anglerfish’s mouth. In any case, when the final, post-corrosive calm of “Void, Null, Alive” patters out, it feels a little like emerging from a chrysalis of aluminum and ash. “Sun beats down on the brow / Palm trees bear it somehow” – sweltering imagery that matches the claustrophobic intensity of Author & Punisher at its merciless best. Melk en Honing doesn’t hit those highs consistently, but the greatness of its grind and clatter outweighs its fallow, plodding moments. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Monday, March 18th
Witchery – Don’t Fear the Reaper (2006)
Jensen has said in interviews that in writing for The Haunted, he’ll sometimes come up with a riff that is just too good, and he’ll put it aside for Witchery. You can hear a lot of that here—riff-driven thrash that just gets better each time you hear it. Toxine’s vocals are more black than thrash, but just seethe of evil, which is great. Fattening up the sound is Sharlee D’Angelo, who gets such a big sound out of that Rickenbacher bass that it can’t be ignored and is actually a big part of the Witchery sound, setting them apart from their contemporaries. After all, how often can you actually hear the bass in thrash? New on drums this time around is veteran Martin Axenrot, best known currently for his work with Bloodbath, a hard-hitting skinsman who fits in perfectly. Rounding out the lineup is guitarist Richard Corpse, who proves to be a more than ample foil to the riff-happy Jensen.
The album starts off with the aptly-titled instrumental “Disturbing the Beast,” which serves more as an intro to “Stigmatized” than as a stand-alone track, but it sets the right mood for what is to come. The latter track proves that nothing has changed in the five years since Symphony for the Devil, that this is the same Witchery we remember—no dilution from the members’ multiple other projects. I never found fault in their production before, but somehow they’ve improved on it here. It’s subtle but I think you’ll pick up on it. “The Ritual” is driven along by the rhythm section of D’Angelo and Axenrot while the guitarists sort of noodle over it while Toxine spews his venom all over the place. The next track, “Ashes,” brings in symphonic keyboards for the first time (that I can remember) and they fit like a glove, setting a perfectly menacing tone for this mid-paced slab of evil. Also of note is “Plague Rider,” which is more of a straightforward thrash number, but it’s where this band really excels. The instrumental “The Wait of the Pyramids” belongs on the soundtrack to Hell, or at least in the tombs of the most evil pharaohs and other mummified folk. The 1-2 punch of the instrumental “War Piece” and “Cannon Fodder” closes the album proper, the former being a perfect introduction to the Slayer-esque latter. [Dave Pirtle]
Tuesday, March 19th
Place Of Skulls – As A Dog Returns (2010)
As a Dog Returns is a very good album—certainly well worth the four year interval since the amazing The Black is Never Far. And as strong a bond as I felt with that 2006 release, this offering hit me just as hard in a shorter span of time. The breezy haze that touched the corners of the previous record has been extended this time around, so those taken by tunes such as “Lookin’ for a Reason” will find plenty to enjoy here. Opener “Timeless Hearts” and “Psalm” emphasize a relaxed hook via liberal use of harmonica and hand percussion, while “Daybreak” and the closing title track rely mostly on Victor’s shimmery leads to deliver a relaxed spirit before eventually dropping those familiar, buttery doom riffs.
Place of Skulls‘ more somber face is also put forward. “Though He Slay Me” breaks out with the album’s most ecclesiastic feel with Victor’s pleas to The Man Upstairs being accompanied by nothing but a gingerly strummed electric, but it eventually slips into a very satisfying grip of remorseful jamming by its hefty midpoint. And the record’s personal highlight, “Breath of Life,” slays with brooding, bluesy riffs before Victor rips a beautifully gutting lead at its 4-minute mark. [Captain]
Wednesday, March 20th
Vanden Plas – Christ 0 (2006)
Really. If you MUST do power/prog with a real singer, ganged chorals, melody and keyboards, well, then you should do it like these guys, I guess. The key is the songwriting. These compositions are not simply homages to a time when no one knew better than to write boring shit because there were no thrash or speed metal bands yet and we all were convinced punk was a dying musical form which appealed to the neuvoriche decadents we all wanted to beat with crocodiles. Nor are they monuments to the godlike abilities of the musicians involved to the detriment of any actual musical viability. They are, in fact, damned good songs, played perfectly and with more than enough contemporary edge to keep this thing off my list of pretentious pig shit.
Well, not completely. But often enough to get a recommend. There is such a delicate balance on this thing between everything I hate about the genre and transcendent record making that I find myself, again and again, wondering how they do it. I have heard other bands pull this off, but generally they are just downplaying their arty sides. Flamboyancy, though, comes to you via the abilities of a band of ROCK musicians. Instead of phony melodrama and overwrought melodies, you get intricate time signatures, perfectly distinct key changes and chord phrasing, and the ability to simply fucking jam. The motto of this band seems to be “when in doubt: pound”. It’s nice when musicians this talented remember why music is appealing to people who don’t attend Julliard.
As an aside, all power metal singers with naturally clean voices should be strapped into a chair in a very cold room with nothing to see or do but listen to this guy NOT fucking abuse his position as singer for this band. [Chris Sessions]
Thursday, March 21st
In Solitude – Sister (2013)
Album number three from these Swedes exhibits a marked improvement in terms of overall song-writing. Things are relatively straightforward in their overall structure, but more attention is directed toward hooking through an infectious chorus, riff, or lead. The album’s center-point, “Pallid Hands,” stands particularly tall as one of the more contagious cuts of 2013, but every tune offered brings some sort of memorable catch to the table to help guarantee a healthy shelf-life.
We’re also exposed to a full range of tempos to help further spice the pot—faster numbers such as “Death Knows Where” and the rollicking “Horses in the Ground”; mid-paced gallopers like “Lavender” and the title track (the closest thing to the band’s previous material); and slower, moodier rumblers such as “A Buried Sun” and the record’s stretched closer, “Inmost Nigredo.”
What puts Sister over the top, however, is the fact that the band absolutely nails the new sound that now paints the edges. The overall stance is still undoubtedly In Solitude, but the brazen nods to elder Mercyful Fate are mostly dropped in favor of a different brand of dark atmosphere—one that emphasizes an enjoyable collision between The Cult‘s raw energy and The Mission UK‘s goth-rock. The latter is most noticeable in the sulking acoustic opener, “He Comes,” and the former jumps to the spotlight throughout the album’s more lively cuts. The fundamental result of this newfound alliance with the band’s traditional metal nucleus gives the blanketing mood a fairly fresh perspective on one of today’s most glaring metal trends—hues of Ghost, except, you know, actually heavy fucking metal. [Captain]
Friday, March 22nd
Hail Of Bullets – On Divine Winds (2010)
Where …Of Frost and War was mired in the grinding brutality of the Russian front, On Divine Winds focuses on the far-flung battle for the Pacific. Musically, however, little has changed, and that’s as it should be. Though Hail of Bullets has only been active for four years, due in no small part to the membership of Dutch death metal veterans Martin Van Drunen (Asphyx, Pestilence, etc.), Ed Warby (Gorefest) and Stephan Gebédi (Thanatos), the group has firmly established itself as a champion of death… the old school way.
In addition to compositional similarities between On Divine Winds and …Of Frost and War, the albums also share a structural kinship much like Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. Both albums feature twelve tracks, the first of which is a foreboding instrumental intro. Where the debut began with the German betrayal of Russia in “Ordered Eastward”, On Divine Winds gets fully underway with “Operation Z” which tells the tale of Japan’s comparably underhanded sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, the tenth track of each album is designated as a bonus track, although from what versions of the albums these tracks might be absent I cannot say. I doubt Metal Blade is pressing any cassettes these days, so perhaps the tracks were left off the vinyl versions of their respective albums. Both albums end with the conclusions of the campaigns they feature: …of Frost and War with the fall of Berlin (“Berlin”) and On Divine Winds with the Japanese surrender following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (“To Bear the Unbearable”). [Jeremy Morse]
Saturday, March 23rd
Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained (2017)
Thankfully, the key ingredient of Kingdoms Disdained is the same as always: the guitar work of Trey Azagthoth. Sometimes he commands the assault, but sometimes he almost sounds minimal, lazy. You can almost picture him sitting in a room, playing whatever comes to mind over a neck wrecking backing track, sporting a big grin because he’s the only person on the planet that could pull off this “evil Eddie Van Halen” quality without sacrificing brutality. The man has a deft touch for riffcraft, and on Kingdoms his craft is surrounded by relentless drives that are probably more relentless than ever. This is among the most relentlessly relentless material the band has ever recorded; it’s relentlesser than a really relentless thing.
Where it fits within their career is a (silly) question for time to decide. After all, it’s nearly impossible to truly ascertain the status of any album based on a brief period of listening, but even harder when an album is delivered with as much baggage / history as Kingdoms Disdained. Most reactions to this album are destined to range from “relieved because it isn’t another Illud Divinum Insanus” to “hot damn this is great!” For those of us that fit somewhere in between, it’s tough to tell which is the truer statement. It also doesn’t matter any more than a pointless attempt to rank it among the full catalog.
What matters is Trey Azagthoth writing fiery death metal again, with songs good enough to get us to shows to growl and air guitar and generally act the fool for every monstrous second. What matters is sharing in Steve Tucker’s enthusiasm and primal feeling. That more than anything reveals that Kingdoms Disdained is a winner, and fully deserving of the logo on its cover. [Zach Duvall]
See you next week.