Sunday, September 11, 2011

August 2011 Best Heavy Metal CDs

1. Revocation - 'Chaos Of Forms' (Relapse)
Revocation could have crumbled from the pressure of trying to outperform the stellar Existence Is Futile, but they pull through with an album on par with their sophomore release. The album has insane technical guitars and a large amount of infectiousness, all glued together by well-rounded instrumental work. The band has brought a second guitarist into the group for the first time. A brilliant move on their part, it allows for more solo trade-offs and tighter rhythms. Each song is like a splash of aftershave on Kevin McCallister’s face. The solos on “No Funeral” may leave a listener with that permanent expression. Another member also helps with the backing vocals, which are given leeway to battle with David Davidson’s tormented screams.

2. Today Is The Day - 'Pain Is A Warning' (Black Market Activities)
While Today is the Day always retain their signature sound, a core identity that is immediately recognizable, the band incorporate the greatest strengths of the current line-up. And, on Pain Is A Warning, the album benefits from a thick, luxurious sound and a strong rock engine. The record kicks off with a siege of boiling pitch aggression in the first two tracks, ‘”Expectations Exceed Reality” and Death Curse.” After doing its best to physically assault the listener, Pain Is A Warning trades in the blasting rage for a different type of fury. “Remember to Forget” is a much more subdued effort that has a circular construction and repetitive, gently delivered lyrics combining for a supremely disturbing track. This is a slow burn, quieter anger that twists, writhes and plots.

3. YOB - 'Atma' (Profound Lore)
Doom metal is effective at pummeling listeners, repeating riffs and lulling devotees into a state that borders on narcolepsy. The best doom couples hypnotic phrasing with music that doesn’t offer complacency, but demands that listeners think and feel. YOB again achieves it with Atma, an album named after a term that means “higher self” in numerous Eastern religions. Atma is a tricky album, one that steers you into a false sense of complacency. Like a Zen Buddhist teacher it misdirects, plays the trickster, demands focus. This is YOB’s sixth album and it’s evident that they still have much to offer. Each song features a riff that functions like a Russian nesting doll. On a first listen it sounds like there’s nothing else when there’s a multitude of riches.

4. Leprous - 'Bilateral' (Inside Out)
There are influences on Bilateral ranging from The Mars Volta to Porcupine Tree on songs like “Acquired Taste.” The band does make sure to leave enough room for an out-of-control track featuring a guest spot by a black metal legend. Former Emperor vocalist Ihsahn gives a rousing performance on “Thorn,” which is supported by screeching trumpets. The song would have fitted in with Ihsahn’s latest solo album After.

5. Flourishing - 'The Sum Of All Fossils' (The Path Less Traveled)
It’s difficult to place Flourishing’s first full-length in terms of genre; it fits no category neatly. There are definitely significant death metal and grind influences, but to leave it at that would be reductive and inaccurate. The sound is metallic and mechanical, but without the cold echoes of industrial; instead, the sound clatters and pings like metal heated red-hot. There’s also a strong avant-garde hardcore sensibility and breathless blasts of noise. The result is something that Skynet might have composed to inspire its mechanical troops during the eradication of the human race. However, that’s not accurate either, as this isn’t robotically produced and lifeless like so much industrial, but rather a product of instruments being pushing to their limits. There are human minds behind this madness.

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