» Blog Archive It's Not A Phase, Mom: Some Of 2018's Darkest Releases -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

The dark side of heavy metal is a pathway to many abilities some might consider unnatural. In particular, it probably is the fitting soundtrack to that late-night depression you’re feeling as you lose track of why you’re still awake after nearly 20 hours. Yet no matter what your doctor tells you, you know he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know the way Mgla empowers you. Nor does your mom understand why Shining is actually a satirical, shock rock-inspired extreme metal act. But you totally do, and that’s all the more reason you should be diving head first into the darker and arcanic metal bands today. 

Joking aside, there’s some interesting metal releases that have been coming out as of late. Whether it be an amalgamation of your go-to extreme metal genres or a highly experimental forray into the unknown, 2018 has been interesting, to say the least.

Torii – A Judgement Divine: I imagine the guys in Torii are among the most aware of what makes a band the most “trve kvlt” possible, because much like Death Fortress, (Whom I’ve spoke of in high praise before) the band is completely off the grid save for a Bandcamp page and their own profile on Encyclopaedia Metallum. If that’s what it takes, though, then that’s fine because the band’s sixth (!!!) full length is a solid endeavor. Capturing the gloom of Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day, yet sliding in just enough of a black metal influence to spice it up.

The songwriting is nice and anyone who was and remains a fan of Agalloch will definitely pick up some vibes from the highly-influential act through Torii’s latest, but the production definitely sets limits for the band and the sound they wish to convey on the this relase. I acn see the band is a passion project and recorded on a DIY, limtied budget for that lo-fi black/death metal vibe, but I feel like if the band focus on their tones and invests into production, they’ll have something really special. Torii being a two-person group is highly interesting, as is that it’s an enjoyable album from start to finish, but I’d definitely like to see this project get the attention it deserves on a higher level.

Soliloquium – Contemplations: Whenver I see a band being pegged with being a death-doom act, I assume the worst and figure they’re about to aspire to be early-Paradise Lost or lean more into the gothic metal-era of the same band. I love the band in question, but I hesitated with Soliloquium based on this notion alone, and I can safely say I was happily wrong. The Paradise Lost influence is still present, but so are the likes of Swallow the Sun, Insomnium, old-school Katatonia and Agalloch as well. Contemplations plays me like a damn fiddle and just furthers the belief I hold that Swedes are naturally gifted when it comes to metal. Hauntingly beautiful at times while being crushingly heavy when it’s not, Soliloquium are thinking forward with their sound rather than copying what their influences had done years prior.

The production is tight, the writing is there, and the clean vocals scattered through Contemplations are nice surprises. Vocalist Stefan Nordstrom houses a powerful voice, perfect for commanding this kind of music, however he sticks to his comfort zone for the entirety of the album’s duration. Going forward, it would definitely be nice for Nordstrom to venture into other ranges to channel difference dynamics for the songs, yet this nitpick does not hinder the album going forward. It’s a good release, and one I can definitely see myself returning to in my spare time.

Lychgate – The Contagion in Nine Steps: Blood Music has been releasing some of my favorite albums as of late. The new Wolvhammer alum rips, the Chaos Moon release from last year is a wet dream for any sensible black metal fan, and their forray into 80’s-inspired synthwave with acts like Perturbator and GosT have opened my listening habits up to new sounds I wouldn’t have before if it weren’t for the occult imagery and aggresive nature of the music. Lychgate’s newest album, however, is something else entirely. Blending funeral doom and black metal with avant-garde tendencies, The Contagion in Nine Steps left me confused after the first song. I surely like the album, make no mistake, but the best comparison I can make to Lychgate isn’t an album, but rather a movie.

About three years ago, critically-acclaimed film distributors A24 released The Witch, a highly artistic and raw look at a Puritan family slipping into insanity as a supposed Witch terrorizes them from the woods in unconventional ways. Billed and marketed as a horror film, the film definitely has its moments of horror, but rarely is there terror, and the slow burn the film puts you through and accompanying old-English make this a film that not a lot of people liked, but film buffs loved. Lychgate’s album is a lot like that, in which I can see it being marketed as a black metal album, but the black metal aspect of the album being only a fraction of the sound. Discomforting and disconnected organs don’t register immediately and the arrangements of the instruments don’t send you into a chaos-storm of blast beats, but the album is a rewarding, if darkly meditative experience for those who are patient and listen through it entirely.

Simply put, The Contagian in Nine Steps is very much an art house film in the form of music. You may not find yourself comparing it to other albums, you may not know what to make of it at first, and, hell, you may not even like it in the end, but Lychgate have sculpted an album that’s best enjoyed in its entirety and without interruption. Headphones are definitely recommended you complete immersion. I highly enjoyed this release, yet recommending is comes solely to those who know they can change gears and appreciate an album who puts the artistic merit first.

Uada – Cult Of A Dying Sun: I took a trip out to Oregon and Washington last summer, and in what was one of the best vacations I’ve been on, I began to understand where US black metal bands such as Abigail Williams, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Leviathan’s recent outputs have been coming from. There’s a certain air on the west coast that gives way to this aesthetic, and Uada are the prime example to it. Part blistering black metal, part guitar-harmonizing monsters, Uada’s first release Devoid of Light was a sizable impression, and the band is only aiming higher on Cult Of A Dying Sun.

There’s awlays the fear of the second album not living up to the hype or quality of the first, but Uada side-step that with ease. The songs on Cult are longer, there’s more of them to be found, and the band are doing everything they did on their first relase but better. The album does run a bit long, coming in just under 55 minutes, but Uada do their best to pace the album eloquently. “The Wanderer” serves as an intermission to break up sides of the album, presumably for a vinyl release, whereas closing track “Mirrors” sends the album out on a high note and one of the strongest moments on the album, as well. The first half is like a 1-2 punc followed by a knockout with the album’s title track, and everything after the break in the middle hits just as hard. I can feel hesitatant about the album’s length, but when your songs ends up justifying the length, you can’t blame them for making this album a complete package. Any self respecting black metal fan will want to give this album the time of day, especially in a year where the genre is doing so well for itself. Uada raised the bar even higher, and should any band come close to what they’ve accomplished on Cult, it would be no easy task.

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