“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 May 5th — May 11th.
Sunday, May 5th
Baphomet’s Blood – In Satan We Trust (2016)
Sometimes I want metal to transport me to mystical realms, or plumb the depths of darkness in my soul, or even to challenge my very concept of what constitutes music. Other times (most of the time), however, I just want to hear a band play hard and fast and yell some bullshit about Satan. For such times as those, Baphomet’s Blood’s In Satan We Trust fits the bill perfectly. With a sound steeped so deeply in early 80s thrash and NWOBHM you can smell the leather, In Satan We Trust is pure satanic speed metal, and a Hell of a good time.
The music, on the other hand, is as serious as suicide. Speed metal isn’t exactly particle physics, but there’s no denying Baphomet’s Blood has its act down pat. As well it should, with three previous records under its belt. The band manages the improbable feat of sounding loose while playing tight as a noose. Most of the songs are built from the blues-rock-in-a-blender and double-stop riffs that were the bread and butter of every early Eighties metal band from Accept to Mercyful Fate, but they still work like a charm. It doesn’t hurt that Baphomet’s Blood dishes everything out with a Slayer-like intensity that gives the material an imposing weight, despite its high velocity. Credit must be given to drummer, S. R. Bestial Hammer (not his Christian name, I presume), who lays down strong, straight-forward beats in a Philthy “Animal” Taylor fashion, but also double kicks the shit out of almost everything, which imbues the songs with an exhilarating energy. [Jeremy Morse]
Monday, May 6th
Revelation – Inner Harbor (2013)
With the exception of one welcome new addition, which we’ll get to in a sec, Inner Harbor very closely resembles the music of modern era Revelation albums Release and For the Sake of No One, while mostly eschewing the melancholy inserted into the latter. John Brenner’s riffs range from upbeat stoner rock grooves (“Eve Separated” could be a Kyuss jam at times) to slow, weeping lines that when muted sizzle like a hamburger patty being smashed on a griddle. Brenner’s slightly nasal, almost lackadaisical vocal delivery remains unchanged, as does the skill of his rhythm section (Bert Hall’s jazzy Steve Harris impression in closer “An Allegory of Want” is killer). The songs themselves slow to a molasses-y ooze, pick up speed for a bit, return to a lumber, and repeat, never giving the impression of complexity but revealing to the hard-to-find attentive ear exactly how well thought out they are.
That addition? Some nicely placed synths, seemingly lifted right out of early 80s Rush. Both the keyboard-filled crescendo in “Terribilitia” and a synth break in “Jones Falls” feel like a passages cut from Signals. The latter even uses a wonky mix of sustained chords on top and the kind of bouncy, throbbing bottom end keys that Geddy may have implemented during one of the more driven songs of that album. These additional flavors don’t necessarily change the root songs, but serve to accentuate the prog side of Revelation’s sound, while also adding brightness to an album that was already teeming with it. [Zach Duvall]
Tuesday, May 7th
Fates Warning – Awaken The Guardian (1986)
Awaken the Guardian can be both epic, with songs like “Guardian” and “Prelude to Ruin,” and blisteringly fast. With that addictive back and forth riff that serves as its opener, “Valley of the Dolls” is a perfect example of the latter. Its ability to firmly grasp both approaches to heavy metal makes Awaken the Guardian a classic and deserving of its many re-issues. When epic, the album highlights the beauty of acoustic intros (“Guardian”) and the art of subtle progression. When fast, Awaken the Guardian plays almost like a speed metal record; full speed ahead with no hesitation. Seeing as how it covers so much ground with no filler, I can’t see many metalheads walking away from this album displeased. This is really the sound that Warrel Dane was trying to achieve a bit later in the 80s with Sanctuary.
The tone of the guitars is especially interesting on this recording. Almost piercingly clear and high, they come out just a bit more advantageous in the mix than the other instruments, which I think is to the benefit of the recording, as this is most definitely a riff-driven album. Certain recordings from the 80s really take advantage of that high guitar tone (think Megadeth’s Peace Sells), and I’ve grown to fall in love with that specific tone, so Awaken the Guardian was an almost instant winner in respect to sound. [Chris Chellis]
Wednesday, May 8th
Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (2006)
“Ocean Planet” begins the album with the standard variety of cattle-press-heavy slam riffage common among Morbid Angel and their descendants. But, what is really interesting is that Gojira punctuate each riff section with bright, almost hopeful sounding melodies that grant passages with the ever so rare hint of originality. The fluidity with which the group transfers from monolithic pounding to twinkly eyed strumming is impressive and it’s done without that kind of “aren’t we so clever” self awareness that relegates most bipolar heavy metal to the gimmick bin. Brought to a conclusion by a soaring melodic chorus (ala Darkane) and another grinding, harmonics littered slam riff, “Ocean Planet” is a meticulously crafted tune that sets a high standard for the rest of the album. “Backbone” sounds like a cool-off track. It’s heavy, straightforward and tight as hell, but not nearly as diverse or challenging as “Ocean Planet.” This is basically the kind of tune you bang your head to while you wait for things to get interesting again, and they do. “From the Sky” exists almost entirely outside the realm of death metal, but still is oppressively heavy. The bulk of the song is carried by a riff that sounds like Strapping Young Lad conjuring Buried Inside. That may sound like a stretch, but imagine the lumbering and almost subversively melodic progressions found on Chronoclast being produced by Devin Townsend and sung over by Andreas Sydow (Darkane). It’s just a hodgepodge of styles that have made post 1998 heavy metal exciting to me, and I love it. “Where Dragons Dwell” strikes again with a host of heart-wrenching melodies that I didn’t even realized were allowed to play so well in music this aggressive without sounding overly studied or forced. It’s another song marked by a fullness of composition that shows the band layering all the right vocal harmonies over robust power chords to create a really memorable listening experience. [Ramar Pittance]
Thursday, May 9th
Tribulation – The Formulas Of Death (2013)
Four years after their much-lauded (and much ass-kicking) debut album The Horror, the young Swedes in Tribulation have returned with a monumental follow-up album that, while still riding on a few links to the manic, thrashing energy of the debut, basically spits in your eye, cackles fiendishly, and then proceeds to hold a wholly unexpected masterclass in twisted, atmospheric, psychedelic blackened death metal. Still with me?
Like Necrovation, The Chasm, or Degial, Tribulation stretches the traditional forms and sounds of death metal in mysterious directions. The opening of the first song “Vagina Dentata” sounds like a shamanistic summoning of the Doors or Ennio Morricone, and the way it transitions into “Wanderer in the Outer Darkness” is excellent, like finally tipping over some long-sought threshold.
“Through the Velvet Black” is one of the album’s best songs—it keeps up an ever-shifting intensity throughout, and demonstrates the album’s peculiar compositional mode. Most of the time, the song isn’t dealing in “riffs” the way we usually think about them; instead, the guitars and drums meet up into interlocking gallops and grooves, allowing spiky leads to dance on top, and thrash rhythms to propel the listener through. The tremolo riff introduced just after the five-minute mark underscores the black metal influence on Tribulation’s style. The one exception to the “not really riff” rule of the album is “Ultra Silvam,” which rides a sweet, swinging riff, but just a few, sparing times. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Friday, May 10th
Valborg – Barbarian (2011)
If you’ve followed these past two Valborg outings (and the band’s deliberately exclusive distribution methods make that relatively unlikely), you’ll greet Barbarian with dueling perspectives. The band has established a singular sound for itself: Distant, yet phenomenally phrased drumming; that aforementioned affinity for Tom G’s tones; and a pronounced focus on creating a greyed-out, swarming-cold atmosphere. Yet, despite these traits, one never really knows what to expect. Compositionally, these fuckers are off the goddamn wall. Often, they’re also brilliant.
Barbarian‘s first true track, “Astral Kingdom,” is a force, showcasing Valborg‘s uncanny ability to pummel whilst creating space. (Imagine a verse / chorus Blut aus Nord grinding down on some vintage Sisters of Mercy.) “Battlefield of Souls” boasts a proto-death stomp and a mean-ass main riff.
The enormous, left-field freakouts are what makes Valborg one of the most invigorating acts in metal. While occasionally falling prey to their own indulgence, the band consistently succeeds at collecting their disparate influences into a vital, monolithic whole. (And with the torrential pace at which they’re releasing material—three LPs in the last three years—they have plenty of margin for error.) As unclassifiable as they come, Valborg is one of the very few must-hear, what-the-fuck-was-that standalones currently active.
Weirder than thou? Sure. But it rocks, too. Get on the bandwagon.
Saturday, May 11th
The Ruins Of Beverast – Exuvia (2017)
Unlike past albums, you wouldn’t necessarily recommend Exuvia because it is a “grand expanse of sprawling black metal” or that it “unlocks achievements in the grand game of kvltitude” or something equally silly. Sure, it continues that undeniable undergroundness, but the success here, more so than on any past Beverast album, comes from Meilenwald leaning as much on vibe as on the songs. This record sits in that great space between zoning out and gripping enchantment, leaving it to the listener how it should be digested. If you want to take in the opening title track with all attention antennae raised, then you’ll follow along to the monolithic doom riffs, dynamic drumming, chilling solos, and variety of vocals (growls, screams, female wails, Meilenwald’s continually improving cleans). Relaxing and reading a book? It will be the masterful use of ambience, eerie empty spaces, and one relentless arpeggio that permeates nearly the entire song lulling you into vast landscapes.
I say “landscapes” here not for convenient metaphorical effect, but because one of the album’s most notable traits is how the rhythm guitars so often feel like the absolute foundation of everything else, as if they are themselves the changing land over which the rest of Meilenwald’s layers are placed. Beverast was never really known for thrash-levels of rhythm guitar activity, but here they are even more of a grounded force. This not only helps to elevate the moments when the riffs get a bit more neck-wrecky (album centerpiece “The Pythia’s Pale Wolves” has a couple massive passages), but also ensures that all of the lushness and layers always have that bedrock. Except, of course, at key moments when starkness reigns supreme.
And hooboy are there layers. Like the opening title track, much of Exuvia eases the listener in with minimalism, but eventually adds layer upon layer and sound upon sound. Towering doom riffs, scorching tremolo parts, several vocal approaches, ambient sounds, synths, samples, bagpipes, industrial percussion, and Meilenwald’s drumming talents. The basic song structures of Exuvia are often so simple that the variety of extra sounds could easily give way to gimmickry, but they instead reveal a songwriter that is only beginning to become comfortable in ditching his comfort. These are not drastic shifts, mind you, just perfectly calculated extra touches that enhance the already deeply dynamic songs, and anchor the listener’s addiction to the music. Sometimes everything is unloaded in a climactic barrage, and at other times, layers come in and out, working to hypnotic effect. The main point is that there is nary a misstep within these 68 minutes. [Zach Duvall]
See you next week.