Hopefully you can appreciate just how challenging it can be to force twelve unique individuals who are utterly obsessed with music into a situation where they must agree on the best of anything. Sure, there’ll always be runaway albums that reach unanimous (or at least near-unanimous) consent, but what of the records that strike the heart of one individual for an endless array of reasons that fall short of eliciting a similar response in others—or at least not to a magnitude that wins said record a spot on the official list? That’s where Mulligans Island comes into the picture.
Here are ten albums from the 2010s that a pile of individuals behind Last Rites couldn’t bear to leave behind. Not only did each of us have to battle other members of the crew in failed attempts to vault these gems into the top 100, we had to battle our own brains in an attempt to choose just ONE mulligan—further proof that the 2010s provided yet another treasure trove of enduring wallopers.
One last time into the fray.
KATALEPSY – AUTOPSYCHOSIS
Autopsychosis, the debut album from Russia’s Katalepsy, has essentially everything I look for in a brutal / tech death album: disgusting toilet vocals, ferocious technicality, egregious abuse of pinches and sweeps, a bass tone that sounds like it’s played on downed power lines with a 3-foot diameter, playful flourishes that open up the more you dive into the music, pin-drop precise drumming, riffs that lurch and groove just as much as they sprint and batter, and perhaps most importantly, whiplash-inducing breakdowns and transitions. At their core, Katalepsy here mastered the sneakily difficult art of the Stank Face Riff. If you’ve ever poured the plumped-up poisons of brutal tech into the porches of thine ears, lapping up every last juicy drop and meaty gob of Suffocation, Deeds of Flesh, Defeated Sanity, Nile, Cryptopsy, et al, then you should already know the Stank Face Riff in your core. It’s the kind of riff, usually rolled out across a cripplingly heavy slam breakdown, that makes the gentle listener say, “No, please, the stank on this riff is just TOO STANKY” while pulling a flagrantly ugly face. But of course we all know that in the hands of such gifted craftspeople, there is no stank too stanky.
“Unearthly Urge to Supremacy” rolls out one of those riffs around 3:00. “Amongst Phantom Worlds” hits one right out of the gate. “Cold Flesh Citadel” traipses into a bridge at its halfway point with an almost delicately lovely guitar line, but the ultra-slowed down breakdown that closes out the song is one of the greasiest things of the whole album, and assuredly brings the stank like no other. The point here, and really with all of the greats in this hideously beautiful mongrel of a style, is that Katalepsy has absolutely nailed the balance between the competing impulses in death metal to be smart and to be stupid. This is music that is outrageously smart in doling out its head-caving stupidity, and it is music that is perfectly stupid enough to know when to cut the shit and give up on looking smart. “Knifed Humility” walks that perfect tightrope with several deliciously techy solo sections, and then “Taedium Vitae” rips the goddamned roof off the house with the delirious pinched arpeggio that punctuates its opening riff. Autopsychosis is, therefore, a perfect Goldilocks album, not only in the sense of using just the right amount of all its elements, but also in how it sounds like a version of the Goldilocks fairy tale in which a young girl exposed to radioactive waste rampages across the Siberian taiga, encountering family after family of bears which she rends limb from limb with her misshapen teeth, ripping up trees root and branch in pursuit of her unslakable bloodthirst. Please, if for the first or the five thousandth time, come get crushed by Katalepsy’s none so stanky brilliance. [DANHAMMER OBSTKRIEG]
• Released: January 8, 2013
• Label: Unique Leader
• Killing cut: “Cold Flesh Citadel”
THE CHASM – A CONSCIOUS CREATION FROM THE ISOLATED DOMAIN
The Chasm is the official Last Rites house band. We all adore them. Not only as a band but as people. When we finally host our festival, we hope they will headline. When we have a wedding, we wish they were the band. You get the idea. In fact, our Facebook page only likes ONE other page on Facebook. You know what page that is? If you guessed THE CHASM, then you are correct. So not having The Chasm in our top 100 albums was a baffling result. Sure, Daniel and Antonio have only recorded one LP in that period, and they chose to do so without any vocals, but they are still THE FUCKING CHASM, people.
Reader, sit back, close your eyes (but keep reading, obviously) and flashback to Maryland Deathfest 2019 (hereinafter “MDF”). Konrad “That Guy is Fucking Crazy, Man” Kantor’s dream had finally come true: For years he had badgered, pestered and bullied MDF into getting The Chasm as a headliner. We were, as you can imagine, psyched. One of the best death metal bands of all time—a band we love, believe is undervalued and under-appreciated, and a band we have been screaming about relentlessly for years, was finally going to play in a place where we could all hold hands and watch them play. And boy did we ever. In the history of Last Rites, Metal Review and whatever other names this place has gone by, that goes down as one of the absolute greatest moments in our existence. Why? Because it was THE CHASM.
But, let’s get back to the task at hand. In 2017 The Chasm released A Conscious Creation From The Isolated Domain – Phase I. And yes, as we have mentioned, it was sans-vocals. But should that even matter? Is Daniel screaming his head off awesome? ABSOLUTELY. But is it the only thing that makes The Chasm great? Hell no. Their spirit, the riffs, their sense of community and their absolutely pummeling version of death metal is well and alive across this over one-hour long journey. And a true journey it is. Guitars rush to the forefront to pick out blazing leads and riffs that burrow deep into your subconscious. As the album snakes its way through dissonance contrasting with melodic solos, A Conscious Creation From The Isolated Domain – Phase I reveals itself as an album worthy of your attention. Yet, without vocals it’s apparently only truly appreciated by those with the courage, intelligence and conviction to succumb to new things and perhaps, for once, listen to their own inner voice for direction.
THIS BLURB WAS WRITTEN WHILE LISTENING TO……. THEEEEEEE CHHHAAAAASSSSSMMMMMMMMMMM [MANNY-O-LITO]
TEITANBLOOD – DEATH
There exists a level of careful sadism in being a fan of extreme metal. If you’re as old as the stars, think back on the first time you were whipped into resignation via Altars of Madness, Slowly We Rot or Deicide after having observed thrash eventually morph into a gutless charlatan of its former self. Or, better yet, think about the first time someone who wasn’t a metal fan first discovered you listening to such records. Why would anyone subject themselves to music that sounds like forty minutes of possessed Rottweilers battling over the kingliest dog bed?
Eventually, however—following intense exposure to an endless procession of works that mirror or extend paragons such as Effigy of the Forgotten and Close to a World Below—your tolerance for such masochism became…normalized, and suddenly you’re walking around the house casually listening to albums that equate to having a kitchen chair dangling from chains attached to nipple rings.
Then, one day, Death lands in your lap. And even though it doesn’t necessarily re-invent the wheel, even inside Teitanblood’s discography, the record delivers such a decisive blow that you can’t help but marvel at its tremendous intensity. Years of assault have standardized the brutality, but it’s still akin to being lost in the wilderness for weeks and then observing a Grizzly as it eats you alive.
You: “CHRIST, this hurts, fair Grizzly. But I understand my place in nature’s often unforgiving pattern at this particular juncture.”
Bear: “Whatever you say, hamburger. Nice job forgetting the compass.”
“Anteinfierno” kicks off by jamming the listener’s face directly into a heated cast iron skillet, and despite also delivering plenty of stretches that slow the drubbing down to a molten struggle, the album doesn’t really relent for the remainder of its hour and nine minutes. The songs are uncomfortably long, like a dramatic and drawn-out spray of life blood from a freshly headless feudal lord in some Samurai movie, and all the leads sound like chains fighting inside Hell’s fire. And for Pete’s sake, the better part of the record’s closing ten minutes are devoted to nothing else but a ghastly peek into some sinister religious ceremony that, while mostly quiet, doesn’t yield an ounce of Death‘s overall vileness. Ultimately, that’s really the long story short: Teitanblood’s Death is the most vile death metal record to land in the last decade, and its severity is so relentless that it becomes strangely Zen-like by its termination. Required listening for all depraved knuckle-draggers! [CAPTAIN]
INTER ARMA – PARADISE GALLOWS
Inter Arma’s prog-sludge-doom-death might nail the “hybrid extreme metal” approach better than perhaps any other currently active band. While each of the last three records would have made a fine mulligan pick, the converting experience I had with 2016’s Paradise Gallows means that one gets the slight nod over 2013’s Sky Burial or last year’s Sulphur English. (Although the monstrous final few tracks of the latter definitely made the decision tough.)
Depending on the song, passage, or long stretch, Paradise Gallows calls to mind everything from The Unreal Never Lived (the barren, pummeling sludge of “Primordial Wound”) and Massive Conspiracy Against All Life (the blastiest, most caustic moments of “Transfiguration”) to Gateways to Annihilation (that massive, syncopated breakdown in “An Archer in the Emptiness”) and any number of 70s prog rock records. The prog comes across clearest during the record’s expansive second half, which is a crucial reprieve after the first half descends further and further into exhaustive death / sludge. The gorgeous instrumental “Potomac” starts it, but it’s really the magnificent title track that gives the album its widest dynamic stretch, channeling the nasty metalness through the atmospherics of Pink Floyd and allowing those beautiful leads to just soar. The extra technical “Violent Constellations” then finds a way to merge every established style before “Where the Earth Meets the Sky” gives the record a surprisingly gothy finish. Such a series of stylistic shifts wouldn’t work without individual talents as diverse as the band’s stylistic choices‒they’re adept at each individual style, but are godly when it’s all flying at once, a quality that is even more apparent in a live setting (remember live settings?).
At various times, Paradise Gallows finds ways to be devastating, calming, brutal, gorgeous, harrowing, and draining. At all times, it manages to be thoroughly thrilling. [ZACH DUVALL]
LUNAR SHADOW – FAR FROM LIGHT
We’ve all found music we like and want to share with others, and usually it comes along with a bit of commentary on what it is we like about a given release. Describing what is special about Lunar Shadow’s 2017 album, Far From Light, can be an arduous task. Yes, the German epic heavy metal outfit’s debut LP has riffs pretty much from the opening track down to the epic “Cimmeria” near the end of the record. Yes, it has soaring and hooky leads, trading in a twin-axe attack for the extra punch when necessary. The vocals tend to be a point of contention, but what the band lacks in a powerhouse vocalist they make up for with the use of magnificent harmonies that add to the sense of melody on the tracks. The drumming is spirited without being overbearing or overproduced. As a matter of fact, the production overall is worthy of exorbitant amounts of praise. The record absolutely radiates with warmth and life. Nothing feels sterile or overproduced, and the music just seems to come alive off the record itself.
The songwriting on Far From Light feels like that of an experienced band—Lunar Shadow has the chops of a band in their prime, despite the members not having many previous projects listed on Metal Archives. Pulling from a wide array of influences including Angel Witch, Diamond Head, Bathory, Manowar, Dissection, and Atlantean Kodex, Lunar Shadow blend elements of all of these seamlessly to create something both familiar and new.
Far From Light can be subtly divided into two sections musically: the A-side is more upbeat, almost carrying a pop sensibility found in their Angel Witch roots. It’s a more uplifting excursion; the riffs and melodies are filled with a youthful exuberance and a feeling of wonder. The ballad “Gone Astray” divides the two sides, and when the record is flipped to the B-side, things get a touch heavier. Leaning more into their epic roots, this side feels a bit darker without losing the almost naive spirit of the record. The soaring climax of “The Hour Of Dying” is representative of the dark clouds moving in as the band moves further from the light. The following tracks evoke a bit more doom-and-gloom while still retaining the bright magic flame set ablaze with the start of the album.
Pinpointing what is so captivating about this record is still tough. There’s a certain magic going on here, be it in the notes played, the chemistry of the band, or the production. It feels so damn honest and heartfelt, a true work of passion of a band that is not just influenced but inspired. [RYAN TYSINGER]
RWAKE – REST
Rwake has always existed on the fringes and exactly at the center. Geographically, Little Rock, Arkansas is right in the middle of the United States, but easily and often passed over. Beautiful but isolated, and home of people who would prefer to do their own thing while the world keeps turning. But the music, while sharing the same Southern metal roots, is not the straight forward muck of Soilent Green or Crowbar, or the simpler, blues-indebted rock of Down. The free-form jams of the Allman Brothers? The outlaw country of Willie Nelson or Kris Kristofferson? Rwake is far too metallic, but the lineage is there. Equal parts raw sludge and crisp musicianship, with a grab bag of whatever feels right in the moment, that’s what makes Rwake such a unique and indispensable part of the heavy metal landscape.
Do your own thing, loudly and proudly. That’s the mantra of Rwake. They heard of another band called Wake (not the fine Canadians featured in this very piece) and said [we assume], “Fuck it, put an R on the front of it. And it’s still pronounced ‘Wake,’ you idiots.” Unlike their earlier and slightly more straight-forward offerings, Rest is a mere 4 long songs, with a haunting acoustic intro and an interlude of a reading from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Rest is doom, but of the impending variety, in the creeping style of Neurosis filtered through Eyehategod; it’s definitely not your father’s stately, British doom.
Kiffin and Gravy sear white hot guitar leads across your face. Their riffs bubble and boil, instantly recognized as a singular force of nature that is Rwake. CT’s harrowing vocals roar and bellow and snarl and gurgle from the depths, feeling every ounce of pain in the lyrics. Jeff’s drums scamper and blast and nimbly shift through gorgeous transitions that weave these songs into a cohesive statement, supported by Reid’s thundering bass. And never forget B, sampling, jamming on the Moog and howling harsh harmonies with CT.
Rest turns the Southern Gothic literary tradition into an auditory tale of despair and contemplation of our place in the universe. Rest is Essential because Rwake is Essential. Beauty mixes with pain, and raw emotions are lain bare, to be inhaled, exhaled, and felt deeply. Here’s hoping that the gang can recapture the fire, and express it again in the 2020s, in a way that only six passionate, talented Arkansas misfits could. [FETUSGHOST]
OSTURA – THE ROOM
They made one of the best progressive metal albums of the last ten years in 2018’s The Room, and yet chances are that you’ve never heard of Ostura. There’s a number of reasons for that, not the least of which is that they’re from Lebanon, way outside the range of metal’s spotlight for at least most of the western world, but none is because they don’t deserve the recognition.
Ostura plays what the band calls Cinematic Metal, which translates pretty directly on The Room. It’s a concept album in the tradition of some of the very best progressive metal ever made, in which songs are integrated into movements, each contributing to the greater story arc of the record, and many of them equally strong as standalone pieces. The story here is of a girl struggling with social anxieties who retreats to the relative safety of The Room, where she finds solace, but also a world unto itself unfolding around her and revealing its own compelling story.
The story is told through wonderful lyrics and given life through an amazing score, characters portrayed by three classically-trained vocalists and a full backing choir. An extensive repertoire of guests, including Arjen Lucassen, fill out the stage playing various guitars, keyboards, woodwinds, and strings, and they are accompanied by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as The Lebanese Filmscoring Ensemble.
Of course, that all sounds so very grandiose, which it is and was meant to be. And, the thing is, on The Room, Ostura lives up to every expectation raised by all that spectacle with the commitment and integrity of a master thespian. It’s big, bombastic, and exhilarating, and often warm, tender, and beautiful. It’s all the words you might think of to describe music that tells a story as well as a movie can, and Ostura did it better here than anybody else in the 2010s. [LONE WATIE]
• Released: February 23, 2018
• Label: Universal Music
• Killing cut: “Deathless”
WAKE – MISERY RITES
By 2018, Wake had released two strong full-lengths in False and Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow. They’d already proven themselves as a band to watch on the grind scene, getting markedly better with each step. When it arrived, Misery Rites was the culmination of their forward trajectory, but the steps between Tomorrow and then were large ones, and they covered a breadth of ground that I wasn’t quite expecting. The result: Misery Rites is an absolute beast of a record that picked up various pieces from extreme metal graveyard and stitched them together into a Frankengrind’s monster of unrelenting fury, one that would fall snugly into the top spot on my 2018 year-end list.
It apparently took the band a year and a half to write these Rites, piecing together the concept and hashing out the idea and the music together to make sure that everything fit perfectly, and the care taken in its construction is reflected in the final offering. Musically, Misery Rites is born primarily of grindcore, but with notable dashes of death and black and sludge and post-metals to keep things interesting, all of it filled with raw-nerved emotion, from Kyle Ball’s throaty screams to Rob LaChance’s clashing chords and Josh Bueckert’s whip-tight rhythms. Lyrically, the album is based on a conceptual arc of repeating life cycles, of the concomitant ups and downs, addiction and relapse, start and finish and start again. It’s an album equally visceral and cerebral, and it’s an absolutely crushing ride from beginning to end.
From the dissonant squall of “Exhumation” to the trudging climax of “Burial Ground,” Misery Rites runs frantically through twenty-seven minutes of bludgeoning catharsis. Most of these songs are comparable to Napalm Death’s more experimental outings, from the lurching quasi-industrial stomp of “Exhumation” to the blistering, gnarled rage of “Rot.” The one-and-a-half minute “Rumination” may well be a deep and considered thought, as the title suggests, but it’s delivered in pained shrieks atop white-hot riffing and relentless blast-beating, the entirety of it sounding like rage ratcheted up to 11. By the time “Burial Ground” winds down to its droning closure — that final track taking a full quarter of the album’s total run time before trudging to a halt — Misery Rites has pounding, pummeled, and screamed itself raw, and the only thing to do is exactly what the album itself suggests: Start the cycle anew. Start, finish, start again…
When the album stops, just reach over, push play and ride the ride one more time..[ANDREW EDMUNDS]
• Released: February 23, 2018
• Label: Translation Loss
• Killing cut: “Rot”
UFOMAMMUT – EVE
Editor’s Note: Life and times amidst an age of plague got in the way of our Finnish shipmate Juho Mikkonen getting an opportunity to sit unencumbered and in the right mindset for attaching the words necessary to outline the impact Ufomammut’s fifth (and very likely best) record Eve made on him in the early 2010s, but it seemed improper to allow it to fall away unnoticed. Like so many cherished albums for so many of us, Eve landed at the perfect time and place for Juho, where its effect became intensified not only by an intensive study of the music, but also by virtue of an unforgettable live performance that culminated with a Ufomammut interview in the midst of their tour. In a few words, if you count yourself a fan of emotionally eviscerating drone-doom superiority that’s equal parts roiling storm and tranquil Elysium, Eve’s got you covered in spades. [CAPTAIN in service to JUHO MIKKONEN]
• Released: May 5, 2010
• Label: Supernal Cat
• Killing cut: “Eve”
ALTAR OF PLAGUES – TEETHED GLORY & INJURY
The City destroys life. The pulse of the Machine is cold, unfeeling, stillborn. Nature cries and groans and falls silent. Neptune is dead.
And so the final album from Irish black metal trio Altar of Plagues, instead of choosing to retread the ground that had been thoroughly covered in White Tomb, Tides, and Mammal, takes an entirely different approach. Teethed Glory & Injury weaves an electronic pulse through nine songs of excruciating emotion. The lyrics are a crushing expression of loss; human and organic amidst a tangle of electronic noise. They are just cryptic enough that a listener can place these songs into whatever situation is relevant—loss of a child, loss of faith, loss of a relationship, loss of hope. But they are eminently human.
Every song stands on its own as a powerful force. The slashing, stabbing energy of “God Alone,” with its strobe-lit modern dance music video. The amazing drum solo of “A Body Shrouded.” The seething tremolo cacophony of “Scald Scar of Water.” But the absolute pinnacle of the album is mid-point, the longest and slowest track, “A Remedy and a Fever.” The band plays with the ever present pulse of the album, slowing it dramatically one moment and rushing it tumbling forward the next. It feels like drowning.
There was no follow up to Teethed Glory & Injury. The band broke up immediately after it was released. This album did something profound by completely ignoring expectations, and that seems to have hurt its acceptance among the general metal community, particularly those who are more directly devoted to the Cascadian Black Metal style the band had previously delivered. More’s the pity. For every amazing piece of music released in the last decade, there was never any doubt in my mind what blazes proudly at the top of the tower. My love for this album is so well known it’s become an in-joke among the Last Rites staff. And I laugh too, because how could I not? Teethed Glory & Injury changed the way I listen to music. It is my most essential album of the 2010s. [MEGAN ASTARAEL]
• Released: April 30, 2013
• Label: Profound Lore
• Killing cut: “A Remedy and a Fever”