Author Archives: Mary Spiro
For our end of the year effort, Derek and I recorded a really funny best of albums for 2014 podcast. Then I immediately lost the audio file. Thanks technology!
Anyway, we still wanted to share our countdown of best 14 albums for 2014. So here are our lists in narrative form! We can come to your house and read it aloud to you if you want that podcast effect, but it won’t be the same. You will miss all our impeccable comedic timing, giggling and all drinks we consumed.
Anyway, here goes. There is some overlap but not much. Mary’s picks are labeled (M) and Derek’s picks are labeled (D). Not surprisingly my list skews heavily toward black metal and his skews toward doom. We hope you will discover some new music here that isn’t on other website’s best of lists.
Barbelith – Mirror Unveiled (M)
Barbelith is what I call New Wave of 21st Century American Blackened Metal. Influenced by both noise and post-rock, this Baltimore-based outfit is pioneering a path of blackened metal style music, at which Deafheaven have failed miserably. Inwardly focused lyrics and highly melodic, this album was a joy to listen to from beginning to end. Lush atmospheric sections interwoven with harsh blistering passages will give you goosebumps and send your spirit soaring. https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/mirror-unveiled
Coffinworm – IV.I.VIII (D)
I don’t know what to say about Coffinworm. They defy my attempts to lazily classify them. All I know is this album feels like a warning that some catastrophically huge beast is coming to devour us, but that it will be completely indifferent or perhaps even unaware of our existence as it does so. https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/iv-i-viii
PACT – The Infernal Hierarchies Penetrating the Threshold of Night (M)
For more traditional USBM, you can’t go wrong with PACT of Erie, PA. Unfortunately in November, PACT split up with vocalist Hag joining Kult ov Azazel and the remaining members forming Pact Infernal. Still, this final collection shows that US true black metal can simultaneously sound fresh and also that it was written decades ago in a Scandinavian country. From the beginning chords to the final refrain, this album is aggressive and powerful with excellent production (sorry black metal elitists) and engaging songwriting.
Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend (D)
An appropriate title for such a transcendent work. Mike Scheidt’s style is distinctive enough to pick out within a few chords. This is him doing what he always does, only better.
Abazagorath – The Satanic Verses (M)
Another strong contender for best in USBM, the longstanding Abazagorath of New Jersey has surpassed their previous and excellent efforts with this album. Production here is somewhat raw, with vocals searing their way into the listener’s skull. It grabs you by throat and throttles you until the bitter end. Snarling, growling. One of American’s best true black metal bands, hands down, and a beautiful album that bears all the trademark Abazagorath riffs and rhythms.
Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem (D)
Like Motorhead, one of the band’s most obvious influences, Midnight doesn’t stray too far from their raucous signature sound from one album to the next. And, as with Motorhead, I have no problem with that whatsoever.
Myrkur – s/t (M)
New blackened metal needs a woman’s touch, and I love what Myrkur (Amelie Bruun) is doing in her self-titled album. Like the one-man black metal performers before her, this one-woman act lends her angelic voice to more traditional sounding melodic black metal melodies. She is an angel of darkness with clipped wings forced to ply her trade among mere mortals. Don’t think she is “trve” enough? Fuck off. There might not be anyone more “trve” coming out of Europe right now. Check out track 3, Må Du Brænde i Helvede (May You Burn in Hell).
Earth – Primitive and Deadly (D)
Earth has returned to form after a handful of floundering, lackluster releases. This is the first thing I’ve really dug since Hex. Here Dylan seems to be taking the best elements of each of Earth’s earlier eras and combining them into something new and truly exciting. Well, exciting for drone. You know what I mean.
YAITW – When Life Comes to Death (M)
YAITW (Young and In the Way) come to blackened metal via a hardcore approach. Are you feeling angry? YAITW is angrier. Do you hate someone? YAITW hates everyone. Every track here is filled with horrifying rage and provides the catharsis society desperately needs. Although they seem to find their way into black metal categorization, I still feel they belong in the hardcore camp due to the plaintive tone of Kable Lyall’s vocals and some of the obvious hardcore rhythms used. This does not affect my love for them. These songs are tight, memorable and invoke complete chaos.
Lord Mantis – Death Mask (D)
All I keep thinking is this album feels like a march, compelling you forward in spite of the pain. One that you keeps coming back to so you can do it all over again.
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (M)
Mayhem does not follow any rules of so called black metal on this album. The songs are complex and unhinged. At times they dip into experimental sound patterns that defy classification. Attila plays lets his vocals explore new territory. Loved every minute of it.
Pilgrim – II: Void Worship (D)
Clearly inspired by Reverend Bizarre as well as Gary Gygax, this is right proper Doom, here. Low and driving, dark and foreboding. All with amazing vocals throughout to guide you through the album’s mystical landscapes. A voice that even gave me a surprise emotional sucker-punch on the closing track.
Satanic Warmaster – Fimbulwinter (M)
The one-man black metal project Satanic Warmaster has put out an amazing album filled with fiery black metal riffage with a good dose of lovely acoustic interludes. The album even closes out with some melodic synth melodic black metal that I wish was part of a video game. 51 minutes of music that has been on repeat for me lately.
Bongripper – Miserable (D)
This is the perfect album for those times when you just want to kick back, relax, and get crushed under an enormous sonic bolder. With riffs like these who needs vocals? I cannot wait to witness these guys in person again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWi8PCFi6hg
Lord Mantis – Death Mask (M)
Lord Mantis is dirty, filthy, unfiltered American blackened metal. Band members have told me that Chicago is a horrible soul-raping city. If this music is a product of that environment, then I can believe them. Charlie Fell’s torturous vocals sound like he is pleading for his captors to please kill him and release him from his shitty existence in every song. Beautiful and terrifying. http://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/death-mask
Young and in the Way – When Life Comes to Death (D)
This band is serious business. The blend of black metal and hardcore doesn’t sit well with everyone, but it suits me just fine. The madness and violence here has been a very apt soundtrack to 2014. Fuck this life.
Black Anvil – Hail Death (M)
If you have ever listened to Black Anvil before, Hail Death may sound a bit foreign to you. But I think it represents the natural evolution of this band. It took me several listens to really appreciate it. Head-banging tunes and masterful black metal songwriting abound. Black Anvil is one of America’s best black metal bands, forever.
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (D)
A continuing collaboration that represents some of the best work from two independently accomplished artists. It’s fun to hear El-P play with braggadocios lyrics instead of the usual heavy, depressed New Yorker existentialism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd1dTrFdZkA
Dead in the Manger – Transcience EP (M)
Despite what YouTube reports, Dead in the Manger is not from Sweden. Their members come from several sources and have chosen to remain anonymous. I have broken my own rule by including an EP in this list but who cares! You need to know about Dead in the Manger who bring together elements of black metal and grindcore to create something altogether sinister and infectious. Kind of like ebola for your ears.
Have a Nice Life – The Unnatural World (D)
A cold and indulgent Joy Division inspired release that’s in danger of ousting Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s I See a Darkness as my go-to sulk album.
Taake – Stridens Hus (M)
As with previous Taake albums, this collection of songs sounds a little rough in production and a little musically disorganized. These are not bad things to me because they keep the listener on their aural toes. Hoest has a way of finding musically satisfying riffs from metal and rock and constructing them into songs that ultimately have purpose. Since everything is in Norwegian, I have no clue what the songs are about but assume they are something terrible. The album begins with little fanfare blazing through one song after another and then ending as abruptly as it started, all the while showcasting the trademark flamboyant guitar work inherent in every Taake song.
Thou – Heathen (D)
Both bold new directions and true to what they’ve always been. There is an exploration of range here that makes the experience even more crushing.
YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend (M)
This is a YOB album. Therefore it is good. I love Mike Scheidt’s vocals too. I will defer to Derek’s previous description for all other points of commentary on this fine work.
Trap Them – Blissfucker (D)
Easily my most anticipated album of the year. Blissfucker is a worthy followup to 2011’s flawless Darker Handcraft. And just like its predecessor, the only reason this one ever leaves my car stereo is because I get worried I’ll burn out on these guys. But there’s been no indication that that’s even possible.
Fortress – Unto the Nothing (M)
Everyone knows I hate most doom I hear, but this is most definitely a doom album. Hey, this is my list and I can do what I want. Grindingly slow, meant to be played loudly, Fortress opens up a portal to hell with this debut. Chaz Campbell’s vocals will drive you to madness. There’s a Crosby, Stills and Nash cover. I dare you to listen to it.
Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (D)
Gather ’round children. It’s time once again to contemplate some big-picture hopelessness and futility with Pallbearer! Turns out my concerns that they’d be unable to top the heights of Sorrow and Extinction were unfounded.
Abysmal Dawn – Obsolescence (M)
Technical death metal can be a narcissistic wank fest. But Abysmal Dawn does it just right. In terms of “technical death metal” this is the best you are going to get. In terms of metal in general, Obsolescence offers memorable riffs that make you want to hit repeat. The songs and lyrics are filled with an overall delicious aggression that you must sink your teeth into. Perfection. http://youtu.be/evsCobSLyOg
Mantar – Death by Burning (D)
Not only the album I listened to the most this year, but often several times in a row. I’ve had a lot of different reactions to the music on this list. This is the one that makes me want to get up and fight.
Friday, Dec. 5 Metallomusikum hosts a Krampusnacht concert of black metal blasphemy at The Sidebar. Bands include Dweller in the Valley (Frederick, MD); Ravn (Richmond, VA); Death Shroud (Radford, VA), Archael (Fredericksburg, VA) and Athame (Hagerstown, MD/Falling Waters WV). Check out the event page here.
Don’t know what a Krampus is? Perhaps you don’t really want to know.
Krampus is a pre-Xian era concept of a goat-like beast that has become known as an entity that punishes bad children. When the Xians came along, they turned him into the sidekick of St. Nicholas. Children who were good got presents. Bad children were beaten with a birch branch and stuffed into a sack and taken off to who-knows-where. In heathen times the Krampus may have been a symbol for an initiation rite. Perhaps today’s youth could use a good dose of Krampus fear in their lives.
The legend of Krampus pervades in many forms throughout Europe, and it is starting to catch on in the US, which of course turned it into an excuse to drink and run through the streets. There are some more pagan-style Krampus celebrations, such as the Krampuslauf in Philadelphia. For the most part though, I think Americans see it as a chance for second-Halloween.
Either way, the bands playing Krampusnacht are the best at what they do or I would not have booked them for my little Xmas Devil gathering. Check out some tunes below and make your way to 218 E. Lexington St. Baltimore by 8 p.m. on Friday. If you don’t, you-know-who will be waiting in the alley with a sack to carry you off.
Metallomusikum will be hosting a metal and camping fest in September 2015. Details are still top secret at this point but rest assured we are working on a great inaugural fest!
Go on over to http://shadowwoodsmetalfest.com/ and subscribe so that you can be updated on announcements as they happen.
Metal. Camping. Bonfires, Adult beverages, perhaps? Sign me up!
I am not sure that The Circuit, a relatively new music venue in Essex, has had a concert as large and as amazing as the one that will occur in just a few hours. I hope you all come out to witness this destruction. This epic heavy metal event is hosted and sponsored by Metallomusikum and The Circuit. Please note that this is a 21+ show.
Here’s the lineup.
Playing a full 90-minute set!!!!
A Sound of Thunder
Iron Man Band
Maximum Oversatan 8:30-9:00 (30 min)
Witch Hazel 9:20-9:50 (30 min)
Iron Man 10:10-10:40 (30 min)
ASOT 11- 11:40 (40 min)
Manilla Road 12-1:30 (90 min)
Buy tickets from Missiontix.com until 5 p.m. today or just get them at the door.
$15 online; $18 at the door.
Check out some videos from the bands below!
The Northern Virginia/DC/MD area band A Sound of Thunder has a new album out called The Lesser Key of Solomon. On Friday, November 21, they open for the legendary Manilla Road at The Circuit in Essex, along with Iron Man, Witch Hazel and Maximum Oversatan. Tickets to the show can be purchased here.
I thought I would give the record a spin and see what it was all about.
I must preface this review by reminding my dear readers, who probably already know, that I listen to very little modern metal or music with with clean vocals. I listen to a ton of black metal and death metal, along with some hardcore, grindcore and punk. Giving a legitimate evaluation of a record like this is an extreme challenge for me. But it’s not like I haven’t heard this sort of music before.
The first time I saw A Sound of Thunder was at The Sidebar in Baltimore, and I didn’t like them. The Sidebar can have good or bad sound depending on who is running the board. In that case, Nina Osegueda’s got lost under the guitars. You couldn’t hear her at all. Also, the stage at The Sidebar is small and there’s not much room for the performers to engage the audience unless they move onto the floor. Lastly, Nina was wearing her signature steampunk-style goggles pushed back on her hair. I wanted to rip them off. I didn’t understand why she was wearing them, but I wanted them to go away.
The second time I saw ASOT was at Empire in Springfield, Virginia with Ashes of Ares. In this case, I thought they sounded pretty good. What was the difference? It was probably the venue. Empire has a better sound system and a better stage. I could hear Nina’s vocals more clearly and the guitars better. She played a Theremin, which was very cool. I was standing far enough away from the stage that I didn’t have to focus on those goggle pushing her hair back or the fact that she apparently broke a heel that night. Overall, the group went from meh to OK.
That said, I still am not a huge fan of this style of metal. But if one is to review music at all, one must grasp an understanding of the difference between a band of lousy musicians and a band that can actually play their instruments, but who perform a style of music that is not your favorite. A Sound of Thunder falls into this latter category for me.
Now, let’s talk about the album. A Lesser Key of Solomon, named for a spell book, was funded with a Kickstarter. They raised more than $23,000 to fund this record (greater than two times what they needed), Depending on the backer’s level of support, the band handed out perks that included everything from an early bird digital download of the new record to a choice of a song covered. The financial vote of confidence that ASOT received for this project from their fans gives evidence of their popularity.
The production quality in A Lesser Key of Solomon is solid. It’s really a joy to listen to and sounds great in my car stereo and at home. I have to mention this because when listening to so much black metal, one gets used to the virtue of shitty production and learns to like it, nay expect it. This album is clean, possibly too clean.
The album starts off with the strange 2-minute intro “Nexus of Realities” with the vocalists reading sequential numbers. Not sure what is going on in this trippy track, but when they get to the number 23 it launches into some epic riffs and plows straight into the next song “Udoroth”. This track features powerful vocals and familiar heavy metal guitar chord progressions. Nina’s vocals soar to eardrum piercing heights and the melody is catchy in that radio-metal friendly sort of way. Why is this song not on the radio?
“Fortuneteller” is a song about a … wait for it…a fortuneteller booth. The lyrics are not anything overly creative (“the crystal ball has spoken, all your dreams are broken”) but the vocals really got to me. I found myself wanting to sing along. And oh man, I love bassist Jesse Keen’s keyboards! There is a lot of old-school proggy Brit rock in this song. At times Josh Schwartz’s guitar riffs trick me into thinking I am listening to an Iron Maiden song. The only thing I didn’t care for here was the abrupt ending. Even so, it is a memorable song that made me want to replay it.
The next song, “The Boy Who Could Fly,” also struck an emo nerve with me, which made me want to hit replay. The moody acoustic guitar at the beginning reminds me of Opeth but then turns into this lush, swirling tale of lost love. I think Nina’s voice sounds lovely here because she is not straining to reach those high notes. Riff-wise, the song has a 80s power metal vibe to it. I could see an audience filled with lit lighters. Ugh, I think there’s something in my eye. Again, why are these songs not on the radio?
I get the feeling that “Elijah” is supposed to be the album’s “hit.”. There are parts of this song that possess almost King Diamond-like melodies and vocal styling. It wants to be scary and creepy. It’s not bad, but I think it meanders on for far too long and loses focus. The vocal harmonies remind me of a Christian group I used to listen to middle school: The Second Chapter of Acts. (Hey, go look up their song Rejoice right now because it will blow your mind, and then remind me that I listen to satanic black metal all the time now.) I find no fault in the superb guitar work on this track because it is really well executed.
“Master of Pain” doesn’t really move me much. At first, Chris Haren’s drumming makes me think this song is going to take off into a real rock anthem. But then it kind of develops into Lita Ford song. For some people that would be a good thing, but for me it was not. Lyric-wise, it’s a bit cliché.
“Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb,” however, steers the band back to epic storytelling mode. For the most part, Nina’s voice floats over the melody, and the lyrical content is poetic. When she is most aggressive, her vocals seem a bit strained. But musically, you can hear the influence of Deep Purple and Iron Maiden. The chorus is memorable, and the guitar solo midway rambles somewhere between wanting to sound like David Gilmour and Jerry Garcia. Overall, this is one of the albums standouts, but probably goes on a bit too long with too many thematic changes.
Speaking of Jerry Garcia, the beginning of “Black Secrets” could have been the main riff of a Grateful Dead song. Very quickly though, the band reverts to 80s style chugga-chugga rock and roll and an almost southern groove sound. With a few tweaks, this could be a country song.
The album takes a weird dystopian turn with “One Empty Grave.” I think this song might be about the Civil War battle at Devil’s Den. Or maybe it isn’t. But until Nina starts hitting those high notes, this song almost sounds like a completely different band. I liked the soaring guitar solo a lot.
The last song on the album “House of Bones” begins with some creepy, jazzy piano and reversed vocal sampling. Then it unfolds into this 70s bluesy rock and roll essay. Clocking in at just shy of nine minutes, the song should feel long but it doesn’t. It deftly showcases the band’s best songwriting skills. It’s not like A Sound of Thunder is doing anything new or groundbreaking with this tune or even on this album, but what they are doing, they are doing well.
In the end, great music stands the test of time. I am not sure if The Lesser Key of Solomon will still sound relevant in 10 years. But at this moment, A Sound of Thunder has crafted an album of hard-hitting rock and metal that will appeal to many people. One or two of these songs could make it onto mainstream rock radio, which for many musicians is a desirable goal. And I believe they have attained the rare achievement of sounding distinctive enough to allow the mention of influences but not the naming of direct comparisons. It is quite possible that A Sound of Thunder’s magnum opus lies ahead. Let’s hope so.
Check out a song from the album below.
About an hour north of Baltimore, the city of York serves as kind of a hub for the music scene in South Central Pennsylvania. This time on the Metallomusikum podcast, I talk to Timothy Renner, who is in both the acid folk band Stone Breath and the experimental blackened noise duo Albatwitch. Brian Magar, the other half of Albatwitch, also chimes in. Topics include the release of the new Albatwitch recording, “If Corporations are People, Why Won’t They Die?”, the music scene in their region, and details of an upcoming folk music show at Baltimore’s Sidebar featuring Stone Breath.
I have been wanting to hold a folk music show in Baltimore for some time. But not the folk music that you find in coffee shops, no –the dark neo-anarcho-folk you find at pagan gatherings and protest rallies. Stone Breath is all of that plus a love of nature and a celebration of the environment. On the other hand, the duo Albatwitch, who do not perform live, offer up a chaotic mix of blackened, experimental punk noise that challenges the status quo of the government and the norms of society.
Thanks to Tim and Brian for joining me via Skype. Come out Saturday and meet them!
Listen to the podcast here.
The new Albatwitch record can be pre-ordered at this link.
Stone Breath’s many recordings can be found at this link.
Much of York’s music scene revolves around the club The Depot. View their schedule here.
Tomorrow night, Oct. 7, the infamous Deicide plays at Empire in Springfield, Virginia. The other bands in the lineup include Inquisition, Carach Angren, Septicflesh and Abysmal Dawn, along with some local death metal bands, such as Tortile. Of these, I am particularly excited to see Abysmal Dawn.
I first caught Abysmal Dawn in December 2011 when Sonar was still a club in Baltimore. They opened for German tech death band Obscura. I saw them again with Origin at The Ottobar. Technical death metal is something that I choose carefully, and Abysmal Dawn fits all my criteria. The lyrics are smart. The melodies are memorable. The rhythms are driving but also have something of a swing to them. And Abysmal Dawn’s stage performance is engaging, thanks, in part, to their front man and chief songwriter Charles Elliott, who challenges the audience with his expert guitar shreddery and intense gaze. Abysmal Dawn has a new album coming out, “Obsolescence,” and Charles replied via email to a few quick questions about the new record and touring. Here’s the transcript.
Hi Charles, it’s been a long time since we have heard anything from you or Abysmal Dawn. I know you did a stellar job in your role on the North American Death to All tour. But musically, what else has been going on in your life since the release of “Leveling the Plane of Existence”?
Well, the making of our new album “Obsolescence” took up most of the time in my life for the past year and a half or so. Musically I haven’t been up to much else since BEREFT is on hold as well. BEREFT is my doom band with a couple of other well known musicians. We released an album in 2012 but since then we’ve been on hiatus.
The video for “In Service of Time” surfaced about a year ago. Why did that video take so long to complete?
It was self-financed but it was also done using a lot of favors. Aside from all the sets and actors you see all the green screen CGI shit took forever. We were just in over our heads. We plan on being a little more to the point this time.
How are you feeling about the upcoming tour with Deicide and others? I am particularly curious to see what Carach Angren sounds like live. What about you? Anything you are especially looking forward to with this unusual lineup?
I’m excited to hit the road again with some great bands. Nothing against Carach Angren, but I’m not really familiar with them. I’m sure we’ll have some great times together though. I’m just excited to be touring again and playing for people. That’s what I love most about being in a band and I’ve missed that.
I am excited to hear the new album. I see that former-Obscura guitarist Christian Muenzner has a guest spot on the new record, as does Bobby Koelble who performed on Death’s Symbolic. Who else is performing on the new album? And who will be going out on the road with you?
Those were the only two guests on the album. Other than that it’s just the band and they’ll be hitting the road with me as is customary for bands to do haha.
Tell me about the songwriting process this time. And where are you deriving the themes?
It’s a very personal record for me, but then again so were the last two. With each album though I feel it draws more from my life experiences. This one has maybe one song based lyrically in science fiction, the rest is social commentary and existentialism.
What challenges have you faced that have put so much time between this new album and the last?
Our drummer moved up north about 6 hours away, so that was a tough one to work around. I basically just bought a new computer, recording software and improved on my drum programming skills to make the best of things. That wasn’t fun but the songs might sound more thought out because of it. Of course, Scott added his flavor and made the songs better in the end. We sort of recorded when we had the free time and studios were free as well. With the budget we had, and how we write, it was the only was to make it happen. My mother passed away during the recording process as well and that wasn’t easy for me.
What’s next after the US tour?
Not sure yet but probably another US tour and possibly a run in Europe.
Do you have any other projects brewing?
Not really. As I said, Bereft is sort of on hold. Sacha from Intronaut is totally focused on their new album and touring and now I’m going to be promoting the new Abysmal Dawn record. Maybe we’ll do another album some day but not anytime soon.
Anything else you want people to know about you or Abysmal Dawn?
“Obsolescence” comes out on October 27. I hope your readers enjoy the album and pick up a copy. Support the music you love!
Check out a video of a track from the new Abysmal Dawn album.