AOTY 2K17 with Autokrator, Ghost Bath, Afterbirth, and Spirit Adrift
Our pals Loic (Autokrator/NKVD/Krucyator Productions) and Cody Drasser (Afterbirth) stopped by to share their choices of the year’s best. Don’t miss ’em.
Loic LF – Autokrator/Krucyator
10. Begerith – A.D.A.M.
We live sometimes in a strange music world, where some average bands get a lot of attention, and where some excellent ones go unnoticed. Begerith is the perfect example. Heavily influenced by Behemoth, which is far from being my favorite band, Begerith managed to catch my attention, to enter in my year’s top ten, because the overall record is very good. Begerith’s musicians are skilled, and the production is excellent (record and mixed in Hertz Studio). All was gathered to make a killer record. I regret that this record, released digitally in January has been released physically 11 months later.
9. Impetuous Ritual – Blight Upon Martyred Sentience
The Australian cavernous death metal warlords never disappoint. And it seems that they push their radicalism further, become more restless, vicious, cavernous, extreme. Their record is an unique claustrophobic journey, where the listener’s mind is slowly destroyed by the black filthy lava their music is. It’s hard to discern riffs, patterns, structure, lyrics, because the only goal of this record is to lobotomize. The beauty of ugliness.
8. Blut Aus Nord – Deus Salutis Meæ
Debemur Morti Productions
Each BAN album is an awaited event, even after more or less 10 albums and a good bunch of EPs and splits. BAN rarely disappointed me, taking new directions (Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry) or doing what they’re good at doing. Putting the listener into an industrial maelstrom. Their new stuff is murky as hell, blurring, dark, atmospheric, dissonant, mechanical. I like short albums; this one is 34mn, and the listener has no time to get bored. The artwork is splendid, reflecting perfectly the music. BAN follows his path, 22 years after its first record.
7. Arkhon Infaustus – Passing The Nekromanteion
Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions
No one could have predicted that Arkhon Infaustus would ever release new stuff. Tensions within the band, and with their former label seemed too strong. So their leader Deviant took another option, recruiting new musicians, signing on a new label. But continuing what has been done on their last effort Orthodoxyn. I’m not a supporter of the “Arkhon was better before” mindset. Arkhon Infaustus is still Arkhon Infaustus, and their new EP is fucking good.
6. Baneful Storm – Invocations
Here is the first French metal band of this list [Ed. – Depending on the order you read these in]. Baneful Storm, which is a one man band, plays some old schoolish Death Metal, influenced by Morbid Angel in the Abomination of Desolation/Altars of Madness/Blessed are the Sick era. Take these three records, put them in a blender, and you have Invocations. This is the kind of stuff I would like Morbid Angel to release in 2017 (even if their last album is quite good). The riffs and guitars sound like Trey Azagtoth ones (even if “Thushazotho” is inspired by Angel Corpse’s “Phallelujah”), drums like Pete Sandoval and vocals are a mix of David Vincent and Mike Browning. I heard that this EP will be released physically in 2018, a must buy!
5. Profane Order – Tightened Noose of Sanctimony
Scream and Writhe
Profane Order is an underground war metal band from Montreal, Canada, who released a first album called Marked by Malice, released digitally and on tape in 2016. The band offers this year a new EP called Tightened Noose of Sanctimony, released digitally and on tape too. Their music is uncompromising, crude, morbid, and this is only what I wait from a war metal band. They’re not original or whatever, they’re just good, point simple, point blank.
4. Tetragrammacide – Primal Incinerators of Moral Matrix
Evolution in extreme metal is always risky. Especially when you’re one of the more extreme noise/war metal bands in the world. On their first “real” album (former ones were splits and ep), Tetragrammacide makes a transition to a less noisy and more “musical” war metal. It’s still ruthless and amazingly brutal, and twice as good as their last work. The band has the cleverness to put instrumental interludes between songs, which offer some rest to the listener, to re-assault him even more ferociously the song after.
3. The Ominous Circle – Apalling Ascension
20 Buck Spin
Being signed on both 20buckspin and Osmose Productions is no coincidence and can only prove something: quality. That being said, the first listening left me of two minds, not because of the songs, but because of the production: drums were too sterile and guitars lack punch. This impression didn’t last long; after a few tracks I realised that the production fit the music so much. There’s a kind of dark fineness to The Ominous Circle’s music I only felt after some listenings. Songs are cleverly built, solos are magnificient. This band hits very hard for a first release. According to their videos, it seems that they are killer live musicians too.
2. Anima Damnata – Nefarious Seed Grows to Bring Forth Supremacy of the Beast
Godz ov War Productions
10 years after their last opus, Anima Damnata is back, and strong. Same formula, same efficiency. Some ferocious Death/Black Metal where sharp guitars are supported by pummeling blast beats, in the pure polish vein (Azarath, Infernal War). Brutal, straight, efficient.
1. Altarage – Endinghent
Season of Mist
Altarage took no break, releasing their new album one and a half years after their debut album Nihl. I had some doubt when I read that they shifted from the underground and upstanding label Iron Bonehead to the more versatile and mainstream label Season of Mist, fearing that they put water in the wine to become more accessible. Yes, the production on Endinghent is clearer, brighter, but it made them become more efficient, like a surgeon using a sharper scalpel. What makes Altarage that great to me, is, their riffs. Catchy but cruel, mindblowing and heavy. And their sound is unique.
Nameless – Ghost Bath
Well… apparently I’ve been sucked into a void and I’m not sure if I’ll return. I guess I tended toward the super atmospheric side of things, always sort of have. Many of these just take me to a different place. If you go in looking for escapism, you may enjoy them as well.
Outer神殿 – Hidden Empire
Listened to this on every night drive of tour as the rest of the band slept. Super catchy, extremely trance inducing; I had these hooks stuck in my head a ton.
ESPRIT 空想 – 200% Electronica
One of my favorite artists right now. Love the videos he has for these as well.
MindSpring Memories – The Binary Ocean
No Problema Tapes
Another one of my favorite artists. One of the most atmospheric and calming albums of the year.
Shoji正治 – See You When I Do
Classic slushwave done right.
식료품groceries – 인터넷 쇼핑 (Ascension)
This album just released so I’m still taking it in. But Yes! We’re Open is one of my favorites of all time. Best supermarket artist hands down.
Death’s Dynamic Shroud – Heavy Black Heart
Orange Milk Records
Another one of my favorite vaporwave artists. I love every album they put out, and this one is no exception.
runescape斯凱利 – runescape.wav符文風景骨架
Somehow dark while still being nostalgic.
天気予報 – 雰囲気
I don’t really know what to say about this one. I feel like it takes me back in time.
Hantasi – CA S T LE
Very abstract, as expected from Hantasi. One of their better albums from their vast catalogue.
Artificial Brain – Infrared Horizon
Something about their guitars intrigues me with every listen, both play style and tone-wise. I love every minute of it. And the vocals are awesome as well.
Cody Drasser – Afterbirth
Note that this list, though presented in order, is not necessarily indicative of an actual rank.
10. James Plotkin – Inevitable Archives: Vol. I-IV
I suspect that James Plotkin doesn’t need much of an introduction but in case he might, he’s been a tremendous force in the realms of experimental and ambient music since the early 1990’s and his direct input and influence can be felt far and wide within the genres of everything from extreme metal to guitar based ambience, sinister electronics and more. Having been a primary member of groups such as OLD and Khanate, he’s also been involved with countless collaborations and one-off projects and has more recently been settling into a rather nice role as something of a “go-to guy” for mastering all kinds of albums and soundtracks these days. The Inevitable Archive albums see Plotkin finally (thankfully) allowing old demos, experiments and other odds-and-ends that have been heard by very few people to see the light of day and be heard by fans the world over in 2017. In these releases you’ll hear anything from long-form guitar drift and drone, broken drum machine compositions and demos that either did or didn’t make the final cut on his numerous and varying releases over the last two decades. It’s a lot to take in and as might be expected, a little disjointed in spots, sometimes a little drawn out and not always cohesive (most of these were never intended to be released as final cuts, remember, so any perceived missteps can be viewed as part of the fluid creative process rather than as mistakes), but overall most of these pieces still sound fresh, inventive and way ahead of their time even if some of them are a bit crudely fashioned. In fact, many of these pieces sound more inspired and imaginative than a lot of things being released today by artists exploring similar terrain. That isn’t to say that wonderfully fantastic music isn’t being created by newer musicians today, there are many out there doing amazing work, it’s more that James was seemingly so far ahead in his creative process, so forward and futuristically thinking, that even these bits and pieces of his musical psyche resonate fully in the current musical climate. These four volumes are both a testament and a documentation of James’s musical imagination, worthy of exploration by both long-time and new fans alike.
9. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun
Temporary Residence Ltd.
Mogwai’s ninth studio album sees the post-rock masters as not only a reinvigorated unit bursting with some of their best ideas yet, but also as a band returning to an earlier, organic sound with the recruitment of producer Dave Friddman who had worked with them on their earlier, universally-acclaimed album Rock Action. In a genre as bloated and over-stuffed as post-rock, a genre which almost more than any other seems to play it safe by consistently adhering to predictable, formulaic compositions (sins even Mogwai have been guilty of committing), the band have magically tapped back into a creative vein that sees them playing music that while somewhat familiar is as imaginative and carefree as ever. Each member, each instrument and every note played comes off as the confident, content and poised workings of a band that have transcended as well as honored the older dimensions of their post-rock origins. Mogwai have not only rediscovered the best parts of themselves, the parts of them that created such lovely albums as Rock Action, Happy Songs For Happy People, and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, but they’ve combined those past elements with a new found, limitless sounding freedom that is almost unbearably beautiful and hopefully uplifting. I’d be remiss if I didn’t end this review by mentioning just how astounding the eponymous closing song is; it’s quite possibly the most life-affirming, positively gut-punching song the band has ever written, descriptive words do it no justice but suffice it to say that it sounds more like a swirl of pure feeling, like oceans of raw unfelt emotions; it is a monolith that stands as a testimony to the inexpressible majestic power of Mogwai’s music.
8. Emptiness – Not For Music
Season of Mist
Imagine close to thirty years ago in death metal’s infancy just how far the genre would move away from its basic components and overly-used musical/lyrical tropes? It would have been challenging, let alone impossible to suppose a death metal band could still be considered a death metal band, more or less, even with the removal of distorted, palm-muted guitar, the excision of drums that barely raise themselves above the level of a crawl (let alone displaying any hints of a blast beat) or the use of vocals, even though somewhat coarse sounding, that hardly raise themselves above the level of a whisper. And yet, here we are in 2017, three decades into death metal’s lifespan and its many off-shoots, and Emptiness have done all of that and more while retaining the adoration of fans both entrenched within and very far removed from the genre. Not For Music sees the band stepping into an almost completely unknown and unexplored universe of sounds; a place where their death metal roots twist and wrap around musical notions of a diseased gothic atmosphere infused with off-kilter rhythms and doom-laden slow motion nightmares of pain, heartache and all-consuming melancholy. The progression and potential unfolding the band have always displayed even in their earlier, raw incarnations is basically complete at this time, with every obviously heavy aspect of the band completely stripped away in favor of something more true, vulnerable and raw. Don’t mistake this metamorphosis as something weak and easily cast aside though, for Emptiness have actually grown in strength as they’ve changed and their deadly venom and malicious intent is the most potent it has ever been.
7. Grails – Chalice Hymnal
Temporary Residence Ltd.
Unsure how I managed to not know this group existed as they seem to have a long history with releasing albums on Neurot Records and Temporary Residence as well as sharing members with the group OM, I nonetheless somehow stumbled upon them and this album very early in the year. While I can’t speak to the band’s back catalog, the album Chalice Hymnal starts from a sturdy indie rock base structure and expands out to incorporate jazz, electronic, acoustic and ambient elements into their overall approach. The end results are a well-balanced and effectively blended mix of styles that lends itself wonderfully to the more evocative, less bombastic side of post-rock. While the album may start off from a familiar point with the first half of the Chalice Hymnal rooted in traditional rock music arrangements, things start to move towards more far-reaching and ever inclusive arrangements as the pieces become more focused on the amorphous; even as some of the more recognizable aspects of the band continue on, things such as feelings, emotions, color and a touch of the cinematic come into take the reins and lead the album out into its final act. A highly-recommended album of beautifully morose, mysterious instrumental post-rock that is a rich, multi-layered world worthy of multiple explorations.
6. Thundercat – Drunk
Although I’ve seen the name Thundercat quite a bit over the last few years, nothing about him ever seemed to reach out to me and tell me I needed to listen to his work. I’m sure that trend of not paying attention would have continued on had my best friend (and bassist of Afterbirth) not incessantly played this album during our band practices this past year. On the surface I once only saw a humorous, silly and obviously talented bass player that wanted to have a little fun with things, but upon much closer inspection and time spent with this album I realized that Thundercat is also a tremendously gifted producer with a natural propensity to write catchy, memorable and poignant songs about everything from the love he has for his cat, (“A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song II)), his unabashed love for Japan and all things Anime (“Tokyo”) to his personal anxiety and nighttime fears (“3AM”). Drunk is an eclectic and strange mix of emotions and songwriting that isn’t perfect and sometimes feels a little messy, if only because of Thundercat’s ability to traverse so much musical terrain, but it is ultimately a rewarding album that has a lot to offer the listener. Given that I tend to listen to a lot of music that takes itself way too seriously, with a heavy handedness towards all things grim and dark, the light hearted, humorous nature of Drunk is a welcome reprieve from my usual listening habits and a colorfully bright light in a craggy landscape of monochromatic forms.
5. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a musical chimera consisting of equal parts experimental, drone, ambient and rock music styles, offers up their newest album, Luciferian Towers that is also possibly their most streamlined and concentrated effort to date. Whereas the band is primarily known for their eclectic and long-playing compositions that often stretch past the 20-minute mark – recall the four sonic monuments that comprise the well-known double-album Lift Your Skinny Fists… – the individual pieces on display here are much shorter by comparison with the longest song clocking in around 8+ minutes and the shortest at only 3 minutes. Not to worry though, the album, though condensed in its approach, functions as one epic length track with each shorter piece woven together into a series of flowing musical suites that show GY!BE eschewing the droning ambience favored in the past for a sturdier, robust focus on the collective as a “band.” Guitar, bass, drums (and violin) are the predominant, driving forces and the band has never sounded as poised and clear as they do here; the album is dripping with infinite hummability, intimacy and something of a renewed vigor. Indeed, the band’s previous modus operandi of dark, anarchic gloom that favored crafting the soundtrack to the end of the world as we know it brought upon us by governmental oversight and greedy humanity has given way to a flexible and accommodating openness that feels more hopeful than I’ve ever thought the band could possibly be. While I am more than certain the band are still crafting music for a world going to hell in a handbasket (as evidenced by song titles like “Bosses Hang” and “Anthem For No State”), the music feels more rosy, upbeat and triumphant than ever before, like awakening to the morning of the best day of your life (even if it is your last day.)
4. Godflesh – Post Self
Industrial metal masters return after the much lauded, out-of-retirement album A World Lit Only By Fire from 2014. While most fans embraced their return to the more aggressive stylings of Streetcleaner, don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed it as well, it seemed something of a forced, one-dimensional return to form influenced more by the fickle needs/desires of fans than what one might have expected from such trailblazing masters themselves. Post Self finds Godflesh moving back to a more varied, experimental state, their natural state I’d argue, where the diverse results fearlessly and effortlessly branch out in a myriad of directions. Here you’ll find that oppressive and relentlessly heavy guitars give way to expansive, open-stringed meditations; thoughtful keyboard backing lends much needed emotion and detail to shimmering walls of noise; commanding and harsh martial style vocals stomp you under their boot and then mysteriously morph into cleanly sung lamentations that lift you up to the heavens (just before they drop you back into another depressive chasm.) As if we needed proof that Godflesh are the masters of God-like audio destruction (hint, hint, we didn’t), Post Self further cements that long-standing fact even more deeply.
3. Coma Cluster Void – Thoughts from a Stone
Translation Loss Records
It might be an EP, but what an EP this is. Roughly 20 minutes of slow-building, dark and angular technical death metal that utterly consumes the listener. Can this even be considered death metal though? It’s probably a distracting hang-up to even worry about what to call it as it transcends, re-imagines and some of the structural framework that death metal has erected for itself over the last 30 years or so. It’s massively brutal and muscular, it’s spastic and almost schizophrenic even, but those things shouldn’t be mistaken for mindlessness or aggression for aggression’s sake; this is also intellectual, highly intelligent and open-minded music (yes, this is definitely music) that doesn’t pretend for one second that it’s better than you or that it even has your well-being in mind. No, CCV just wants to attack, assail and take over everything about you. Listening to Thoughts From A Stone feels more akin to a physical and spiritual attack, like being chosen and dragged down by a malevolent, metaphysical predator where it will suck the marrow out of your very soul before discarding your useless husk on its skeleton heap of atrocious victories.
2. GAS – Narkopop
Wolfgang Voight’s GAS project returns after a nearly 20 year hiatus. He last left us with the beautifully organic and universally acclaimed album Pop, an album so striking in its uniqueness that it’s hard to imagine anything could touch its exquisite allure. Narkopop does its best to follow in its predecessor’s footsteps, and any perceived or actual failings it might have in its duty can be easily disregarded; I’m of the persuasion that any conversations which compare and contrast this album with any of his past work are belaboring a useless point and waste time one could actually be spending with the album. It truly is its own mythical creature of hazy, hallucinative, ambient magnificence that makes absolute sense when placed alongside the rest of GAS’s catalog.
1. Skincage – Unimagined Space
Long-running, one-man dark ambient/noise/experimental act releases an album of meticulously crafted sounds inspired by the strange imaginings of HP Lovecraft, Robert W. Chambers and others. The songs found here eerily slither around your subconscious like nameless, tentacled things in the horrifically dark abyss. Whereas the majority of dark ambient/noise acts prefer the method of direct confrontation by giving their work a defintive shape and name, Skincage here exercises the gift of restraint and control by allowing these sounds to lurk around the edges, to snake around in the shadows of your fertile imagination, thereby remaining nebulous and formless (and much more unsettling as a result.)
10. Grave Pleasures – Motherblood
9. Division of Mind – Demo
8. Tomb Mold – Primordial Malignity
7. Death Bells – Standing at the Edge of the World
6. Impalers – Cellar Dweller
5. Gorephilia – Severed Monolith
4. Death of Lovers – The Acrobat
3. Phrenelith – Desolate Endscape
2. Incinerated – Lobotomise
1. Krolok – Flying Above Ancient Ruins
Jeff (guitar/backing vocals)
10. House on Willow Street
8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
7. The Eyes of my Mother
6. Gerald’s Game
5. Creep 2
4. The Babysitter
3. A Cure for Wellness
2. The Shape of Water
1. Get Out
10. Godflesh – Post Self
9. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
8. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun
7. Taake – Kong Vinter
6. Incantation – Profane Nexus
5. Kendrick Lamar – Damn.
4. Hell – Hell
3. Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
2. Blut Aus Nord – Deus Salutes Meae
1. The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension
10. Gorephilia – Severed Monolith
9. Laser Flames on the Great Big News – Self-titled
8. Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
7. Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
6. Malokarpatan – Nordkarpatenland
5. Necrot – Blood Offerings
4. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
3. Pallbearer – Heartless
2. The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension
1. Loss – Horizonless
Many thanks to our celebrity guests for sharing with us!