Because it’s been months since I’ve posted anything and I’ve been struggling to think of a reason to post something. I’m going to try and do a post like this at least at the end of every month (it might not turn out that way, but I’m going to try and do a write up like this at the end of every month. For the last couple of months I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, so I haven’t really been listening to a whole lot of new music. Having said that, my music library has been expanding in those months so I’ve tried to take time while working to actually listen to new music. So what I’m going to try and do with this post is talk about a couple of records I’ve listened to during the month that particularly blew me away or that I’ve been playing on repeat. These albums are in no particular order.
Killswitch Engage – Incarnate
This is probably going to come across as more of an apology even though I don’t mean it to but fuck it. This is certainly not the greatest album out there, it isn’t even the greatest album in KSE’s discography but I don’t really care because this is just really catchy and fun melodic metal(core). The band is pretty much sticking to their guns here, nothing outside of their typical wheelhouse, but the songs are just really good. KSE was one of the first bands I listened to that made use of screamed vocals (ah, the days of being in 8th grade) and I do have an attachment to them despite my tolerance for the whole metalcore (-core sounds in general really) that does keep me interested in hearing whatever they happen to put out. So as I had just said above, it’s nothing new here but just good songwriting (plus I’m a sucker for the harmony of Jesse Leach and Adam Dutkiewicz’s singing).
Standout Tracks: Alone I Stand, Quiet Distress, It Falls On Me
Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner
In my mind, Cult of Luna are one of the saving graces of the “post-metal” genre. They, along with groups like Isis, Neurosis, and a few others, pushed what was traditional sludge and doom and post-hardcore into realms that still remain unique and undecipherable to other groups who attempt to ape their style. CoL’s last full-length, 2013’s Vertikal, I think is probably their crowning achievement and was without a doubt one of the best records of that year and they’ve pushed even further ahead with this collaboration with Julie Christmas. There’s a level of emotion that comes through in CoL’s music that isn’t present in so many of the other band’s in their genre and Christmas’ presence here only enhances that quality. Her singing and shrieking provoke a level of beauty and intensity that couldn’t be conveyed (on the vocal front at least) by screaming before. Instrumentally though, the band expands the industrial elements from their last album even further, although the general tone is more melancholic and less harsh – the vastness of space as opposed to the coldness of Earth.
Standout Tracks: The Wreck of S.S. Needle, Cygnus
Plebeian Grandstand – False Highs, True Lows
This thing is like a rush of adrenaline. I was first made aware of Plebeian Grandstand through their last record, 2014’s Lowgazers, which I was certainly grabbed by – I am certainly a fan of music that goes fast and crazy and is as frenetic as these guys tended to be. This new record is like a logical extension from that record. These guys play black metal so ferociously that I will (and have) gotten anxious just listening to it if I’m not doing something else. Even when the band slows to a crawl there’s a tenseness to it that you know will at some point erupt and explode but you don’t know when. I like dissonant music. I like frenetic music. I like music that puts me on edge – therefore I like this. In addition to the fact that I can’t help but get a big grin on my face whenever the vocalist lets out one of his frenzied howls.
Standout Tracks: Tributes and Oblivions, Oculi Lac
Cobalt – Slow Forever
This was an album I have been eagerly anticipating since I first heard Cobalt’s last album, 2009’s Gin, and it certainly did not let me down. Erik Wunder and new vocalist Charlie Fell kill it on this record. Wunder’s playing has always been on point but this record contains some of his finest work. Behind the kit, he brings a style that is both exciting and yet non-traditional in his choices; but it’s his riffing that has always grabbed me. Though his style has moved away from more traditional black metal riffs into a style which appears to draw as much from grunge, progressive rock, and post-hardcore as it does from other metal styles. Fell’s presence on here is a welcome surprise. I can’t say he left much of an impression on me when I listened to his previous band Lord Mantis but his anger and passion come through on here perhaps clearer than any other emotion. It’s a ferocious performance and it sounds like he tore his vocal chords apart with every scream. At almost 90 minutes in total (this is a double-record by the way, for those not aware) it never lags or grows tiring. Every song has a propulsive energy to it that makes me want to actually headbang, which is something of a rarity today. Even the interludes are great.
Standout Tracks: Hunt the Buffalo, Elephant Graveyard, Final Will
Deftones – Gore
After two stellar records I guess it was only right that the Deftones made a record that changes things up to a degree that I find somewhat off-putting – though only to the extent that the highlights were not as apparent on initial listens as they were on previous records. The less metallic tone this record takes was not so much disappointing as much as intriguing I guess. My feelings are more mixed here than on the previous two records which I guess is why I could say it kicked my ass. There are songs on here that I think are up there with some of the best songs the band has ever written, but then there are a couple that just feel rather bland and don’t do much for me. What does strike me now, having listened to this record several times, is that it contains probably the best ending tracks of any album in the band’s discography thus far. The final 3 tracks are all stellar in my opinion while each showcase different sides of the band – the rough and off-balanced title-track, the more progressive Phantom Bride, and the more traditional (Deftones-y) melodic Rubicon. But it’s the overall sound which blends the more atmospheric post-rock and shoegazy tones with the heavier metal side on this album that intrigues me the most. The line between the two has blurred more than on any of their previous albums, and frankly that should be enough of a draw if the band wasn’t enough.
Standout Tracks: Hearts/Wires, Gore, Phantom Bride