“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 31st — April 6th.
Sunday, March 31st
Grave Miasma – Endless Pilgrimage (2016)
The shortest track, “Purgative Circumvolution” is the most in-your-face of the bunch. That’s primarily thanks to the vocals that bump it up a notch to hit throat-gouging levels of fury. Alternatively, the solo work is subdued with a few affectations aspiring to create more mood than melody, like flares fired at the moon. It’s around the three-minute mark where the guitar takes off accompanied by didactic blast beats. It exemplifies what Grave Miasma does so well: balance. While at times it’s the band powering ahead as on all cylinders, their default mode is a balanced approach where one instrumental section takes the lead while the others play a supportive role. Thus, Grave Miasma come across as a polished, skilled band rather than a group attempting to produce chaotic, evil sounds. [Manny-O-War]
Monday, April 1st
Vaura – The Missing (2013)
Beyond the clear distinction that the band is made up of prime players who list Dysrhythmia, Gorguts, Asva and Kayo Dot on their resumé, the key to Vaura‘s success lies in the fact that they’re not actually a heavy metal band. This is dark music that’s primarily rooted in a gothy version of the shoegaze movement of the early 90s that just so happens to toss elements of extreme metal into the formula. In other words, you ain’t likely to bite the bait unless you’re inclined to gobble down stuff like Slowdive, Swervedriver and Ride. The fact that certain cuts incorporate additional moments of tremolo picking and aggressive drumming is just gravy on the taters.
For those already familiar with the equation, album #2 manages a pretty similar path compared to Selenelion, but with a stronger emphasis on the hook. Whether it’s a smoothly infectious vocal refrain, some gloomily inviting stretch of 80s goth-bass bubbling, or any of the near countless moments where contagious guitar bits sink grapples into your brain—The Missing delivers fifty minutes of purely addictive modern darkwave/gaze well-suited for anyone in cahoots with the gothic side of the game. “Mare of the Snake,” for example, has that sort of melancholy pop sensibility that allowed The Cure to kill it for so many years. And “Incomplete Burning” opens with the prettiest goddamn guitar lick you’ll hear this year. [Captain]
Tuesday, April 2nd
Dawnbringer – Nucleus (2010)
I do find it amazing how polarizing a release such as this can be. I suppose I can understand the intolerance if you consider yourself more of a “modern” metallist with a focus purely on progression. If that’s the case, Nucleus is likely to sound like yet another clunker your uncle might crank in the garage while stealing puffs off a stowed Marlboro outside the range of the misses and brood. But honestly, this album, and Dawnbringer in general, isn’t intended to cast a terribly wide net. This is music best suited for those latter-day devotees who still merrily trot out the Ostrogoth‘s, Griffin‘s and Sortilége‘s of the past—all of which lend Dawnbringer a piece of their heritage.
Barring complaints from casual passers-by squawking “old-guy metal, old-guy metal,” Nucleus actually shows quite a bit of variance beneath the deceptively elementary initial layer. One can indeed hear bits and pieces from a wide variety of the imprints that head-honcho Chris Black has his hands in. The vintage charge is obviously intensified from time spent drumming for modern traditionalists Pharaoh, who also lend guitarist Matt Johnsen’s lead-work to multiple break-outs on Nucleus. But outside this NWOBHM-inspired realm, we also hear straight-up ballsy hard rock via Black’s Superchrist outfit painting a few of the edges, along with a fondness for outright aggression (3:40 into “The Devil”).
Wednesday, April 3rd
Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull (2008)
Drone music is a tough pill to swallow for some, and I’d be willing to bet an ear that Dylan Carlson doesn’t exactly spend his evenings soaking in treasure baths from record sales since Earth‘s inception in 1990. The interesting thing is, it’s precisely these pioneers of the peculiar who end up creating trends because of their fearless dedication to pushing boundaries at acclaim’s expense. Such is the case with Earth, not just because of what the project did for drone through their seminal early works, but thanks to what it continues to do for the sub-genre through releases like 2005’s amazing Hex. That record introduced a heaping dose of “The Dusty Ol’ West” into the blueprint with enormous success, and now, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull pushes the boundaries even further by incorporating even more traditional song structures into the band’s familiar footprint.
Bees Made Honey also has an easier/breezier feel compared to Hex. There’s still a fair amount of shadowiness, but this material flashes a newfound optimism in cuts such as “Hung From The Moon” and the wonderful “Engine of Ruin,” which spotlights the superb guitar work of special guest Bill Frisell, who plays on three of the seven tunes offered. [Captain]
Thursday, April 4th
High On Fire – The Art Of Self Defense (2000)
This is truly the shifting phase between what Pike, Cisneros, and crew did with Sleep and what would come later with High On Fire. The intent to pummel through the repetition of elephantine riffage was here from the beginning, as was Pike’s swirling and echo-laiden soloing, but it was not until later that his obsession with Motörheadish thrashing would show up to send the riffs to the races.
Nearly all of The Art of Self Defense has a mid-paced, almost laid back feel (laid back in a metal sense only of course), coming through as some of the more open jams of the band’s career. None of these songs, not even the more direct opener “Bagdad,” go for the jugular with aggression, despite the band’s delivery containing plenty of bludgeoning violence (Des Kensel was already a beast of the skins here). Instead, grooves develop, hooks are strewn in where necessary, and for the most part the band’s collective chemistry is allowed to live on its own. Tracks such as “10,000 Years” and the ludicrously heavy “Master Of Fists” live by this expanded approach, using Pike’s leads as a glue from which to flow from jam to groove and back. And while nothing here matches up with some of the band’s later classics—there is a notable lack of those essential High On Fire tracks that work like crack with their fans – there also isn’t a second to scoff at. [Zach Duvall]
Friday, April 5th
Kreator – Pleasure to Kill (1986)
Kreator took the word “fast” to an ungodly level with its sophomore release, Pleasure to Kill. Considered too fast even for some people today, Fioretti, Petrozza and Reil didn’t hesitate to break down more boundaries than ever before. The result? Not only one of the most unique and innovative thrash releases of the 80’s, but also one of the ugliest. In retrospect, Pleasure to Kill meant as much to thrash metal then as it does to black metal today. (Much like Teutonic thrash warlords Sodom and Destruction.) Another thing that sets the album apart is that its best qualities have less to do with musicianship and songwriting and more to do with overall atmosphere and raw-as-fuck production values. Pleasure to Kill might not come into many discussions revolving around the “best” thrash albums of the 80’s, but only for the right reasons. This one is not for the faint of heart, and unlike other thrash albums such as “pick any of the first three releases from all the thrash legends,” this one actually paved the way for three entire decades of continued success and great songwriting. The same cannot be said for most bands of this time period. [Konrad Kantor]
Saturday, April 6th
Brocas Helm – Into Battle (1984)
San Francisco’s Brocas Helm is one of those bands that old-school rippers love to champion whenever conversations turn to 80s epic metal gems that typify the textbook definition of under-appreciated. Into Battle, their debut, is every bit as punchy, raw and lively as an early Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden record, yet the band managed to convey that same level of unbridled energy with just three players in the mix. Sadly, persistent label struggles continually hobbled Brocas Helm‘s production and kept them mostly cloaked from a wider eye. Their relatively sparse body of work is still a bit difficult to track down through conventional means, but the extra effort is always worth the work, particularly with regard to this raw and ripping debut. [Captain]
See you next week.