Album Review

Top 20 Metal Records Of 2016

I did it! I made another list. I didn’t think it would happen, but it happened. No more lists, though. This is the last one for 2016.

Lots of black metal this year. And I mean lots. But it’s all A+ Amazing. I didn’t hear too much doom (or rather too much premium doom) this year, but, again the doom that was good was really fucking good. There’s tons of weird shit in here that pushes the limits of metal that you should come to expect from my metal lists. Also, I gotta say I’m surprised at the amount of color found on these album covers. 10 of them feature full multi-colored artwork and even more toss in some non-greyscale-but-still-monochromatic flair.

I did something that some of you may find treasonous. I have 2 records tied for first place. So, technically, this is a Top 21 list, but whatever. I spent way too long (like, weeks, maybe even months?) trying to decide which of the two I loved more and just couldn’t settle on one answer for more than a few days. And when I was putting this post together I realized “fuck it, there’s no reason I need to choose one over the other” and thus the Tied For Number 1 spot was born. I’m happy about it and you should be too.

As usual, I try to keep the big names/labels off the list because I’m definitely not a metal blog and I’m sure you all know that The Body, Ash Borer, SubRosa, Cough, ColdWorld, and Primitive Man put out truly outstanding records this year. You don’t need another site to tell you how good they are.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Album Review

Top 30 Drone Records Of 2016

I did it! I made a list. I didn’t think it would happen being a new dad and all, but it happened. I’m going to try to make a Top Metal list too, but no promises.

At 30 entries, this is the longest Top Drone list I’ve made. But I’ve been eschewing reviews lately and focusing on AGB Radio and A Thick Mist, so I figure 30 is acceptable if you count how many records I’ve directly recommended over the past year.

I seem to continually expand my definition of what a Drone Record is, which means there’s probably a few on here that are stretching the confines of that label, but I still did my best to try to keep it as Drone as possible.

There’s plenty of reoccurring themes in here. Namely, lots of voices/singing (11 have vocals present at least somewhere on the record) and lots of organs & harmoniums. Neither of those are all that surprising, though. But there’s two solo records from drummers, so that’s kinda cool. There’s also two heavily inspired by traditional Indian music, also kinda cool.

I had fun with this one. I changed a few things up this year. First, I decided to exclude any artist that’s been on any previous list. This meant no Saåad, Roly Porter, Andrew Weathers, Sarah Davachi, Mamiffer, Ian William Craig, Danny Paul Grody, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, etc. (Seriously though go listen to the new Saåad and Mamiffer records.) No one likes to see the same people on such a niche list over and over again, so this was a good way to keep things new and exciting.

The other thing I decided to do was not rank this in the traditional way. Instead, I put the records in positions 7-30 into four groups of six, and the records within each group aren’t ranked. So that means the records in group 7-12 aren’t ranked, aside from me liking them more than the previous 13-30 drone records. I did this except for the top 6, which are ranked traditionally. I hope it’s not too confusing.

As usual, I try to keep the Big Droners off this list because anyone who’s a fan of drone probably already knows that Eluvium and Tim Hecker put out records this year and while their music is A+ Amazing, they don’t really need a little DIY blog to help them out.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Song Review

SONG PREMIERE: Oikos – “Menace And Portent” (Envelope Collective / Knockturne)

oikos-the-great-upheaval-album-cover

 

Dusty guitar droner Oikos (Rafael Femiano) has a new full length (and his vinyl debut), The Great Upheaval, dropping in January courtesy of Envelope Collective and Knockturne, his first stuff since 2013. It features Felipe Pavón on drums, plus some other folks like extra percussion via John Kolodij (High Aura’d, Ph.D.), Marco Serrato (Jacob, Orthodox) on upright bass, and various members of Ürsula, Pylar, and Blooming Látigo. I’ve got the premiere of the first single, “Menace And Portent,” down below, and it’s a fuckin doozy, a slow burning apocalyptic dream where you watch the black clouds roll in from over the plains spelling D-R-E-A-D across the sky, you can’t listen to this and not feel like the world is about to end, a total fuckin doom jammer once Pavón comes in and pummels the song into a bottomless pit, it’s heavy and foreboding living right between Earth in their drone & country psych phases, nothing short of excellent. Pre-orders for The Great Upheaval opened up today so you can and should go take care of business, like, now.

 

Album Review

Top 15 Metal Records Of 2015

I’ve reviewed a decent amount of metal records, I’ve made four Black (Metal) Mixmas mixes, and last year’s non-genre list had a few metal records in it, but I’ve never done a full metal-only list (except for the little thing in Black (Metal) Mixmas IV), so I hope this doesn’t seem too out of place, but honestly I listen to wayyyyy more metal than I ever write about on AGB, so this sort of makes up for that I guess. I’m not as deep into the metal scene as I am the drone one, so I’m sure there’s way more awesome obscure metal records that would’ve made it onto this list had I heard them, but whatever. If you’ve got any recs, let me know in the comments or email!

And in case you’re not a huge metal fan, know that there’s plenty of stuff on this list that A: is only debatably metal (see: numbers 15, 13, 12, 1) and B: has plenty of AGB friendly elements aka drone, noise, etc (see: numbers 9, 6, 5, 4, 1).

Have fun. Thanks for reading/listening/appreciating.

 
 

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Album Review

Northumbria – Bring Down The Sky (Consouling Sounds, 2014)

northumbria - bring down the sky album cover
NorthumbriaThe Ocean Calls Us Home (Consouling Sounds)

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Mega doom drone from these two Toronto dudes, and on their second full length they make it seem like they’ve been doing this forever, a timeless maximal minimalism that carves new neural pathways in your mind and tears rifts in the fabric of the sky, shifting feedback & reverb as supreme as it gets, a wall of drone that demands only that you bask in its majesty, this is the call of gods, truly epic revelations with overwhelming buzz and toothy crackle, the kind of scorching bliss that turns amps white hot and parts oceans with its limitless power, this is absolutely fucking gorgeous, not black and occult like that other doom drone band you’re thinking of, more drone, less doom, Northumbria journey down their own righteous path of monolithic euphoria and leave us with tragically perfect records such as this. A fucking plus.

Album Review

Sun Splitter – Time Cathedral (self released, 2014)

sun splitter - time cathedral album cover
Sun SplitterDesistance (Sun Splitter)

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These Chicago dudes aren’t gettin the love they deserve. They’ve been at it for years (check out reviews of II and III) making consistently awesome dark demented psych doom, and their newest is a beast of a record, charging through the emptiness of space, destroying everything in its path, seeking Truth, this is some heavy weirdness that takes from industrial, noise, and drone just as easily as it does Lovecraft and Hawking, long riff heavy grooves that build into swirling chants, methodical and explosive arcs of abyssal rock, creeping, plodding, fuckin ugly, and heavily spiritual, worshiping the almighty Infinity, these songs are the mystic rituals aiming to cross through dimensions, reaching that which is unknown, and fuckin dooming it up real hard along the way. This will be primarily a digital release (available next week, along with a poster if you’d like) but there’s going to be a super limited CD-R version available only at the release show in Chicago at The Empty Bottle on January 5th. So, you know, that’s probably worth the hike if Chicago is in your general vicinity.

Album Review

Grasshopper – Dark Sabbath: Symbol Of Evil (Hausu Mountain, 2014)

grasshopper - dark sabbath symbol of evil album cover
GrasshopperInverted Cross Of Satanic Justice (Hausu Mountain)

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New York synth drone trumpet noise duo Grasshopper goes to new heights with Dark Sabbath and it’s a fuckin trip, a noise record wearing a doom cloak, worshiping the dark arts, and turning souls to stone, this is a totally twisted mess of demonic drone that buzzes & hums from the depths of the void, freakish spouts of squelching electronics, and constant pulsing from the unknown dimensions of horror, menacing as fuck and easily capable of driving you mad if you pay close enough attention, there’s a black beast hidden behind all the stretched out static and nauseating cosmic skree, ready to take you to the next level and flip you inside out, an unholy transcendence that is pushed upon you, full of fear, but infinitely grateful of the experience, these dudes have truly outdone themselves, and lucky for us Hausu Mountain gives them the vinyl treatment, which you can (and should) snag next week.

Out of Print

October OOPs: Ehnahre – The Man Closing Up (Sound Devastation, 2008)

ehnahre - the man closing up album cover
 

Download The Man Closing Up

Absolutely ridiculous doom specked with some death & black metal featuring a few Kayo Dot folks, this is some of the weirdest doom you’ll ever hear, ominous & fucking devastating, with a violin & trumpets, and scary as fuck. Lyrics are taken straight from the five parts of Donald Justice’s poem The Man Closing Up, which you can read here.

Out of Print

October OOPs: Light – A Million Dead Beneath The Ice (self released, 2008)

light - a million dead beneath the ice album cover
 

Download A Million Dead Beneath The Ice

Before the folks in Book Of Sand were doing that avant black metal thing, they were doing this avant doom thing as Light. They put out three releases, and A Million Dead Beneath The Ice was the first, it came packaged in white folded paper with a bit of menstrual blood smeared on it, and the music was just fucking ridiculous, menacing faux organ, wall of static distortion, glacial hollow percussion, and tortured howling from the depths of hell, this is a slow droning slab of noisy old school doom with a tinge of Americana thrown in on the last song, absolutely horrific stuff, it’s perfect.

Album Review

Tecumseh – Violet (Anti-Matter, 2014)

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TecumsehSerenade For The Dead (Anti-Matter)

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This Portland trio (Ian Hawk, Jeremy Long, and John Krausbauer) has been pretty dormant of late (their last release was in 2011) and now all of a sudden they’ve got two new records out on Anti-Matter, this 30 minute LP Violet and the For The Night 10″, so yay! but regardless whether this is a sign of things to come or they’ll just hide out for another few years, this new stuff is the fucking besssst, Violet diving deep into the minimal drone via heavy dark doom vibes, this is like Sunn O))) minus the metal and laid up on downers, sorta like that Culver record on Fabrica from last year but way louder, funereal tonal shifting that’s absolutely fucking massive, a monolithic drone that roars in your head and rattles you to your core, but doing so without too much crunch or abrasive grit, so while this is evil as fuck, it’s also kinda soothing, like being inside a mausoleum reverberating from a constant rolling thunder, mega monstrous minimalism for those sleepless nights spent watching demons crawl up the wall, this is just fucking spectacular, and fyi For The Night is just as good, so do yourself a favor and scoop up both of these limited leviathans, if for no other reason than being able to see that beautiful eyefuck of an album cover (by Tauba Auerbach) in person.

Album Review

Blood Bright Star – The Silver Head (King Of The Monsters / Ascetic House, 2014)

Blood Bright Star - the silver head album cover
Blood Bright StarPale Sphere Apparition (King Of The Monsters / Ascetic House)

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My first introduction to Reuben Sawyer’s music as Blood Bright Star was on the excellent split 7″ with High Aura’d on Anti-Matter, after that I couldn’t wait for a new full length and this thing fucking delivers, a mystifying blend of motorik psych and mellow doom, this is refreshingly original shit that’s absolutely fucking brilliant, with deep grooves conjuring dusty demons, wobbly buzzing guitars and even wobblier vocals, this is the sound of a desolate seance, a shaman who’s out of his mind in the middle of nowhere, jamming hard on the occult vibes and going to shadowy places I’ve never heard of, never escalating into anything transcendent or overwhelming but rather a slow burning fog that feels like it’s warping your brain with every passing moment, this is magick of the highest order, and The Silver Head being his second full length, Blood Bright Star is only getting started, I can’t fucking wait to see this project develop.

Album Review

Dama/Libra – Claw (Northern Spy, 2014)

dama libra - claw album cover
Dama/LibraStravinsky (Northern Spy)

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Holy fuck this collab is immeeeense, Silkworm vet Joel Phelps and G. Stuart Dahlquist formerly from Sunn O))) and now Asva got together and made something way more than that math has any right to add up to, Phelps’ vocals that sound so much better with Asva style gloom than any of Asva’s previous collabs and any of Phelps’ previous stuff, including Silkworm, so yeah I’m saying this is maybe the best work either guys have been involved in (well not including Sunn O))) because come on), this is a droning brooding hulk of avant doomed orchestral majesty, the darkness offering an easy passage to the other side, soft, smooth, and easy to swallow, but still heavy and fuckin weird, the organs sounding like a dungeon’s lobby music, guitars, drums, pianos, and everything else within reach aching & bellowing from the deep, crazy samples of thunder cracks and cheering children, resonant, moaning vocals floating out from misty crypts and hallowed cathedrals, at once beautiful, powerful, & super emotional, then it ventures into catchy indie pop territory with steel drums and shit that manages to come off as anything but cheesy, an inexplicably enjoyable record that is seriously fucking bizarre in the best possible way, eerie and dark as fuck but something you could probably toss on while the normal friends visit and you wouldn’t get too many weird looks, I honestly have no idea how this record got made or what went through their minds when making it, this is the most original music I’ve heard in a long fucking time, and I’ll be pretty much devastated if these dudes don’t put out any more records together.

Album Review

Gog – Gog (King Of the Monsters, 2014)

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GogThe Lies, They Want To Give You Something (King Of The Monsters)

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Muther. Fucken. GOG. This dude rules all. Everything he’s done has been the highest caliber black drone metal and his newest self titled release on the ever trustworthy KOTM takes shit to the next level. Things are way rowdier than before, less drone (but also more drone?), more songy songs, even pianos & vocals (with Francesca Marongiu of Agarttha & Architeuthis Rex lending her incredible voice to one track), the heavy doom is amped up, cranked to 11, and absolutely mono-fuckin-lithic, serious blown out darkness spewed from a core of pure fury & pain, the black metal blacker and metaller than it’s ever been, Gog transformed into a dynamic beast capable of droning silent voids of non-existence and unholy squalls roaring from the depths of despair, listen to this at maximum volume and be prepared for a true pummeling, this is a wholly unique record, and as a Gog fan, I can safely say it’s my favorite thing he’s ever released. Only 300 copies pressed, and if you’re unfamiliar with Gog or KOTM, know that this will not stick around long.

Album Review

Ambarchi, O’Malley, & Dunn – Shade Themes From Kairos (Drag City, 2014)

ambarchi omalley dunn - shade themes from kairos album cover
Ambarchi, O’Malley, & DunnShade Themes From Kairos (Drag City)
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Three dudes who hardly need an introduction, Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley, and Randall Dunn, have come together for what was originally supposed to be the score to the short Belgian film Kairos but evolved way beyond that into this 2xLP of harrowing dark ambient, a subtly menacing record that merges the already outstanding collaborative work between O’Malley’s guitar and Ambarchi’s electronics with Dunn’s perfect percussion, Shade Themes From Kairos walks the dark side of life, showing us all manner of occult & macabre, smoke & magik, ruins & rituals, truly penetrating music that ebbs & flows with soft skittering, bombastic nightmares, effortless drifts, enchanting vocals, devastating feedback, sonorous drone, and unholy freakouts, sights never before seen are laid in front of you, monolithic & unyielding, the sound of kingdoms fallen and souls forgotten, this is incredible fucking stuff, a truly magnificent record. I know these guys are pretty prolific but this one is not to be missed. And look at the fucking artwork by Denis Kostromitin I mean come on.

Album Review

Planning For Burial – Desideratum (The Flenser, 2014)

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Planning For BurialWhere You Rest Your Head At Night (The Flenser)

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After a ton of EPs and tapes and singles and splits and experiments, Planning For Burial, aka Thom Wasluck, finally follows up his 2010 debut LP Leaving with this second magnificent beast of a record (and his first foray into vinyl). Thom is the gloomiest bastard I know and Desideratum showcases that perfectly, this is beautifully depressing shit, taking the monstrous shoegazed metal from Leaving and building on it with the tender low-key sadness from other releases like Quietly, he’s turned a wild mix of styles & genres including doom, slowcore, black metal, drone, gothwave, and everything else into a patented buzzing darkness that’s loud as fuck and just pure fucking excellence, overwhelming in sound and emotion, bleak walls of noise that build and crumble, huge waves swelling & crashing against cliffsides in a foggy storm, it’s blissful and devastating in the best way possible. If you dug Leaving as much as I did, rest assured Desideratum will not disappoint. It’s PFB at his best and it will fucking destroy you.