Friday, January 1, 2021

At least it's over- Best of 2020

Whelp, did this year suck or what? 2020 is one of those just abysmally awful years like 1939, 1929, 1860, 1349, etc…that was just tremendously awful for the entire planet. Here in the United States, we’ve been governed by a kleptocrat with the support his cult of the “stupid, ignorant, and desperate” who are fearful that a brown person somewhere somehow has a dollar more and a shinier smart phone than they do. Said orange faced kleptocrat has done fuck all to respond to a pandemic that as I type this, has killed more than 300,000 Americans who may not have otherwise kicked the bucket except for the malice and incompetence of this pitiful, weak, small quasi-man. Oh, then there was the fact that when cops were seen literally murdering a black man on cellphone video by choking him out, that after the initial shock subsided, we got more of the same “can’t we just all get along so I don’t have to worry about my property being stolen” bullshit. Heaven forbid the fucking police have to abide by the same doctrines regarding the use of deadly force that our military does. 


That whole thing about those who don't learn from the past...etc...

Not that the other side of the political aisle has done anyone any favors either. Diamond Joe, strategically speaking, barely won under the stupid ass rules that govern our elections despite having 7 million more votes. This was mainly because Team Blue would rather pander to token “representation” rather than deliver a meaningful actual change that may ask our economic and business elites to sacrifice a marginal percentage of their monopolized wealth for the good of everyone else, at least at its highest levels of leadership. And your arm gets twisted into voting for this bullshit, because your only viable alternative to going along with the diet soda version of Republicanism is so bat-shit incompetent they throw away a previous administration’s pandemic response playbook and since getting beat in an election are currently peddling some bizarre conspiracy that somehow Hugo Chavez’s rotting corpse has conspired with China’s Winnie the Pooh and the “Epstein/Clinton Reptilian Pedophile Crime Syndicate” to swing votes via rigged voting machines that somehow managed to allocate votes to Biden instead of Trump, but didn’t alter any down ticket races to give Biden a legislative majority. Yeah, this shit is wild… and by wild I mean comedic stupid and bound to get worse because Y’all-Qaeda thinks government mandates to wear masks and limit gatherings of people to reduce the spread of Covid-19 is somehow is an oppression of their freedom. 


Did I even mention that RBG dropped dead and was replaced by the Queen Bitch of Gilead, and for that we are now under his watchful eye, or at least that of a 6-3 conservative dickhead Supreme Court majority, with a president-elect too fucking pussy to stack the court, create new liberal states, or otherwise lock in some changes for the better? Don’t worry, I’m sure there’s some snarky socialist types lounging their parents basements with a bachelors degree in sociology along with a mountain of student loan debt, but at least those heroes come armed with a bag of dirt weed, Cheetos, internet pornography (or at least pics of AOC’s feet) and some dank memes to bring about “the revolution” once they’re done playing Animal Crossing and listening to Chapo’s Trap House. 

Look, they make me laugh too sometimes but if you think that these clowns are gonna bring about your political revolution, then rest assured that our elites can sleep well at night.

Fuck my country, man.

That’s a lot of political ranting and run-on sentences but the last 4 years of Trump’s awful reign has been exhausting in an all consuming way unlike anything else in my lifetime. It’s been the car wreck you want to take your eyes off of but you just can’t. That said, 2020, like much of the last few years, has been more positive for M and I than perhaps the public at large. I type this 4 classes away from completing my MBA from a directional state university with a Division 2 football team; I even have a 4.0 GPA to boot. M and I managed a couple fun trips, including adventures to several National Parks in Colorado and Utah, a lovely few days on the beach in Georgia that left us both so sunburnt as to be red as tomatoes, and we made to Oklahoma and New Mexico for the first time which has us down to 3 remaining states to visit to have completed the entire United States. I even managed to lose 50lbs. Sure, I need to lose another 50, but it’s a start, right? Hah.

It hasn’t been all fun and games though. M had her work hours briefly cut back at one point, my annual college football road trip got shit-canned, and I haven’t been to a fucking metal concert since December of 2019. I didn’t get to see either of my 90 year old grandmothers for Christmas this year, and my plans to finally get on an airplane were thwarted, as M and I had intended to make it to Las Vegas for Psycho Las Vegas in 2020, as well as to swing by a couple of National Parks (Death Valley, Grand Canyon, maybe Zion?) in a loop.

I’m not sure what 2021 holds but at least in theory the vaccines for our new plague are now starting to be distributed and by mid year we may be able to actually have fun again if we manage to live that long and/or if there’s any restaurants or concert venues that aren’t boarded up by that time. Until then, I’ve got another semester of college coursework ahead of me, some time spent screaming at the TV as the Green Bay Packers will get destroyed in the playoffs by a team with a strong running game, the Washington Capitals will grow older and waste more of what’s left of Alex Ovechkin’s prime, and hey, maybe a little more of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla to keep me occupied. With that said, here’s my take on the year in heavy music for 2020.


Our hero in DC is only getting older, and once he retires we're not winning shit.

Most Disappointing Record- Katatonia City Burials

I was a bit surprised to reach this conclusion, but this album came out back in April and I had almost completely forgotten it was a thing. I know that M listened to the song “Lacquer” a lot and I don’t think the album begins all that badly, but it ends up just being completely forgettable background music. Katatonia’s style is already relatively subdued for a metal band, but I thought the previous album “The Fall of Hearts” was amazing. I’m certainly willing to embrace and sit down with post-metal type stuff and don’t demand blood and gore as you, clearly bored individual reading this, will note on my actual list, but City Burials just didn’t have staying power or memorability. An example of a band I just expect more from.

Honorable Mentions:

Anaal Nathrakh Endarkenment
Athme Mephitic
Bedsore Hypnagogic Hallucinations
Benediction Scriptures
Contrarian Only Time Will Tell
Convocation Ashes Coalesce
Deathwhite Grave Image
Deeds of Flesh Nucleus
Demonical World Domination
Desolator Sermon of Apathy
Devoured Elysium Extermination Policies
Disavowed Revocation of the Fallen
Earth Rot Black Tides of Obscurity
Gaerea Limbo
Hinayana Death of the Cosmic
Incantation Sect of Vile Divinities
Incinerate Sacriligevim
Khora Timaeus
Molested Divinity Unearthing the Void
Napalm Death Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
Necrophobic Dawn of the Damned
Necrot Mortal
Paradise Lost Obsidian
Shed The Skin The Forbidden Arts
Skaldr Scythe of Our Errors
Solstafir Endless Twilight of Codependent Love
Ulthar Providence
Vader Solitude In Madness
Valdrin Effigy of Nightmares
Void Rot Descending Pillars
Werewolves The Dead Are Screaming
White Stones Kuarahy
Winterfylleth The Reckoning Dawn

10.) Spirit Adrift Enlightened in Eternity

M will challenge me on this pick, as she seemed to prefer this band when they just played slow and frontman Nate Garrett didn’t express himself as an overconfident rock star in interviews, but I appreciate that Spirit Adrift didn’t repeat the same album they had released on twice previously. In a miserable, depressing kind of year where nothing about society seems capable of functioning properly, there needed to be an album that offered…ummm...well…hope and resilience? The chorus of the opening track to this album makes that manifestly clear and I’d dare say a bit of an internalized slogan for myself this year.

“If we make it through the night, we will ride into the light.” 


9.) Xibalba Anos En Infierno

I discovered this band while hanging out with a homie at the last college football road trip, and I had some anticipation for this release. It’s exactly what I was hoping for, sludgy and grimy, a good bit raw, heavy as all fucking hell, straddling the line somewhere between old school death metal, 90’s hardcore, and doom. I dunno if they’re actually doing anything new, but they certainly sound fresh to these ears. 


8.) Valkyrie Fear

Speaking of the retro train, Valkyrie delves deeply into the same well of 70’s and early 80’s rock that bands like Graveyard, or In Solitude, or Sumerlands indulge in, complete with theatrical guitar work, extensive harmonies, imperfect but effective clean vocals. In a world where Ghost has become one of metal’s biggest bands, there’s clearly a space for quality bands like Valkyrie to occupy and I’ve certainly redeveloped my appreciation for these kinds of classic sounding bands. 


7.) Godtrhymm Reflections

Take early Paradise Lost, Saint Vitus, and maybe a bit of the first Pallbearer record, let it simmer for hours, then run it through a strainer of Serenades-era Anathema, and you’ve got Godtrhymm. Godrhymm is the labor of love produced by Hammish Glencross, recently exiled from My Dying Bride, and who had previously also played in legendary doom metal act Solstice. This is plodding miserable stuff, with riffs that are both massive, monolithic, yet memorable and vocals that reach for that territory Nick Holmes was treading in during Gothic and Shades of God. Absolutely top notch. 


6.) …And Oceans Cosmic World Mother

A welcome return, and they avoided some of the weird experimentation and bizarre indulgences of their later records to just focus on ripping, melodic and somewhat symphonic Scandinavian black metal delivered with precision. You always wonder about reunion albums and if the band should have even bothered, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that this album is well balanced between its ferocity and it’s melodicism, sharing most in common with the band’s debut The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts, which I also recommend if you can find it. A welcome throwback to that vibrant mid-late 90’s period of black metal. 


5.) Cytotoxin Nuklearth

I feel like this is a year where I heard a lot of really good, but not great brutal death metal records. Not that “elite-tier” anyhow. I mean, Molested Divinity’s Unearthing the Void was awesome and the Disavowed reunion was much welcomed but while I enjoyed the new Defeated Sanity album, I wasn’t nearly as impressed with it as other fans of the brutal death metal sound. Nuklearth, however, stands out. Cytotoxin scores points on a couple levels; their Chernobyl gimmick is original, their musicianship is next level, and they bring both the technical and the brutal in equal abundance. Nuklearth rips hard, furiously blasting while also providing those breakdowns without going overkill on it.


4.) Uada Djinn

A vocal minority of the tr00 brigade will complain about this album. The rest of us, who like ugly heavy music, will see this for what it is: the album where Uada escaped the Mgla comparisons and became the Judas Priest meets Dissection band they always were aiming for. This record opens with a post-punk sounding drum beat and ends with one of the absolute most epic Iron Maiden inspired guitar solos ever recorded in metal. Yeah, listen to the last 3 minutes or so of “Between Two Worlds” and tell me that’s not what you hear. Much like Behemoth has proven, just because you draw from many non-metal influences, it doesn’t mean that your extreme metal has to become “less metal” as a result. 


3.) Wayfarer A Romance With Violence

I love everything about this album and consider it a possible top album of the decade if not for the two albums above it; one of the best and most close together top 3 albums I could rate in quite a bit of time. Wayfarer really dives in deeper with the “cowboy western motif” as A Romance With Violence is very much more conceptual than previous Wayfarer releases; closely examining the westward expansion and just how grim and chaotic reality was for settlers in a lawless hinter-region of the United States. If you’ve ever driven across the Western United States, the vastness of the distances between cities is enormous and the hours upon hours just on the interstate can be relaxing in its solitude but it could also be scary, as mother nature unleashes ferocious storms and many of the folk who live in those rural, geographically isolated outposts can be rather rough around the edges, if you’re lucky. Wayfarer captures all of that perfectly, as they blend their black metal with clean, semi-acoustic spaghetti western vibes seamlessly, capturing the wild west for the morbidly dark, death and despair filled wasteland that it was. 


2.) Ulcerate Stare Into Death And Be Still

The idea that a 3 piece band can sound this heavy, this fierce, this ominous, this dark, this…horrifying? Ulcerate is the darkest, most terrifying sounding act in death metal at this point, as their 6 to 8 minute compositions have gradually moved away from their clankier, most discordant elements of their early sound to something that still is connected to that, but pulls at you with greater, almost black metalish despair without any high pitched shrieks or corpse-painted silliness. This is guttural growls and some of the most impressively bombastic drumming in any death metal band ever. While accessible…by Ulcerate’s standards, this is far removed from the caveman brutality of the 90’s and certainly a challenging record for people who may prefer their death metal…dare I say less intellectual? For those who want an involved, captivating listen that builds to peaks and crescendos instead of verse/chorus/verse, this delivers in spades. I was convinced it was going to be my number 1 album, except for the band that follows…


1.) Pallbearer Forgotten Days

With their 4th album, it’s just time to stop only thinking of Pallbearer as a tremendous doom metal band, but just flat out the best band active in metal in 2020. The tr00 d00mmmm crowd will dislike the shorter song lengths and faster tempos, but an album that’s easier to listen to is no crime. Rather, the fact that Pallbearer can write songs at different lengths and tempos and still sound haunting, miserable, and full of raw, sludgy goodness is a feather in their cap. The fact they’re playing up to their classic rock influences while still foundationally being a slow band who play long songs full of low end sludge I think has only made the band even better to listen to. 


Friday, April 24, 2020

Fuck You, Pay Me: the T-shirt Edition.

So on my social media feed, I just read this article where Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth is quoted saying that he'd love to get his band's shirts into Walmart because he'd like the money. Walmart, as I'm guessing the 3 of you that are reading this are aware, sells band merchandise for a variety of well known, mainstream rock artists. For example, their website offers a wide arrange of hideous looking KISS merchandise from many resellers.

Unfortunately, the KISS Kasket is not among their offerings.
Of course, they also sell stuff right on their shelves, and as crazy as it sounds to a 40 something like myself, there's kids who are out there wearing Nirvana t shirts from Walmart that couldn't name a song by them. Metal has it's rules of conduct, and only wearing a band's shirt if you actually listen to that artist is most certainly one of the core tenants. So while the likelihood of someone running afoul by buying a Metallica replica tour shirt at Walmart in Bumfuck, Indiana is rather unlikely, should more obscure bands be trying to get their shit into Walmart?

You can't name their third album or their original lead singer either, you fucking poser.

I get that Dani Filth is a tiny little drowning kitten of a metal vocalist in a band that has only ever written a smattering of good songs entirely by accident but I don't think he's wrong to have those aspirations. If anything, it'd be brilliant given that while CoF themselves might be a bit too edgy for Walmart, for other bands to get their merchandise on shelves would represent a revenue stream at a time when bands aren't really selling their music (outside of a few luddites like myself who still buy CDs or the vinyl snobs who have money to re-purchase their entire collections) band merchandise represents probably their best income stream besides touring and playing shows. It also promotes awareness of the bands themselves, which you'd hope would lead to people streaming their music on Spotify or YouTube and eventually buying a ticket to the concert, or ordering the album on vinyl. Or another shirt when 18 of their peers also have the same shirt that they bought at the same Walmart.

It's pretty likely that the teenage'd me would be rather confused, but with the disappearance of record stores in every shopping mall and music sales in general, trying to cling to an old model because it represents some idea of "cool" or "true" just doesn't make a lot of sense. If musicians or artists want to devote themselves fully to their art, they need a revenue stream to finance their endeavors. That's why so many bands have expanded their merch from just t shirts to shot glasses, thongs, action figures, and yes, the KISS Kasket.

I just want to remind you again that yes, this was a thing!

I guess this has all been shaped by two semesters taking post-grad classes in Marketing, but if your goal is to make your band bigger and promote awareness, then by all means you should not just be producing merchandise branded with your band, but you should be pursuing an "omnichannel" approach to distribution. Not just at concerts, or through a bandcamp website, but if you can pull it off, by getting it into a big box store. Get it in front of people in as many ways as possible, and perhaps it's time for me to come around and reshape my own thinking. Instead of saying you already need to know the band before getting the t-shirt, maybe the year 2020, getting the t-shirt makes the kid search the band on Spotify. Maybe in the near future having an eye catching logo and creative merchandising really will be just as important as the music itself for successful bands (after all, fans who are wearing your band's logo across their chest are literally providing free advertising for your art.)

Marketing Genius. Still sucks at vocals.
I'm agreeing with Dani Filth. Interesting times we live in!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How Heavy Metal Saved My Life: A True Story (No, Really, It Is!)

A few years back when talking about something to do with my childhood/teenage years, M and I somehow ended up on a toot about music, identity, and how for me personally, a lot of my life was shaped by my relationship with this obscure, mildly rhythmic noise. So as I sit here with a vacation largely interrupted by our ongoing COVID-19 Apolcalypse, which neat enough, is being broadcast in real time on Cable TV news while a reality show president only somewhat coherently rants each evening about how we should ignore science and send old people to die in the name of boosting the stock market so said buffoon can get re-elected in November...holy run-on sentence batman! These are fucked times, and as M and I are largely staying at home to avoid the latest, greatest, newest plague, I guess I have some free time on my hands. So I dedicate this post to M, who has occasionally pestered me to put this in writing.

I think this whole pandemic is really just marketing to get us to watch this guy's Netflix series.
I suppose in a sense this has to be autobiographical. It's largely a story of coincidence as well. So let's get right to it. I was born just over 40 years ago and raised in the outskirts of a small southern college town in the middle of Virginia. The kind of place where said college town equates to the "big city", and said college is the "center of the universe" that gives locals a certain sense of inflated importance. As though there aren't several hundred similar towns scattered about the United States. Residents here can be split into two groups; somewhat snooty white collar people (the Gilded Caste, if you will) who are brought from outside the area because of some affiliation or relationship with said college, or the "townies"; the "Jesus, Guns, and NASCAR" crowd who work in the service economy that serves said affluent crowd. There's a noticeable tension between these two groups. This became magnified as any type of blue collar factory work evaporated in the 1980's and 90's via globalization, free trade agreements, yadda yadda.

My hometown, inside of city limits...

and outside of city limits...

I was born to a teenage mom and a dad who was a factory worker, so it's easy to see what the anticipated trajectory of my life would be. "Townies" are just that, the people that never leave the damn place. My family, on both sides, goes back many generations, as people from the surrounding mountains that gradually gravitated towards said college town since it was a hub of commerce and economic activity...

So my family, if you went back enough, were like the Central Virginia equivalent of the Hatfields or McCoys.

(Side Rant: okay, so my mom's side basically relocated there after being forcibly evicted from what would become Shenandoah National Park, you can read about it here or here. The TL:DR is that during the New Deal, it was determined to be too expensive to bring electricity and sanitation infrastructure to the hillbillies of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so they were given a pittance as compensation and thru eminent domain evicted to create the National Park and Skyline Drive. Somewhere in the vicinity of Jarman's Gap Overlook on Skyline Drive is where my great grandmother was born; she passed away only in 2013. This is relatively recent history that still lives for many people. Interesting story really.)

...and took up jobs serving the general economy of the college town. They stayed, their children stayed, etc....I'm pretty sure that only two relatives that I can identify off the top of my head don't currently reside somewhere in Central Virginia within 45 minutes or so of "college town." You're born there, you go to school there, you get married there, you find a shit job there, eventually you die there.

So where does heavy metal fit into all of this?

I wish I was awesome enough to say that in 1987 I was listening to Sodom and Bathory, but I was in 2nd grade and that wasn't what they were playing on MTV.
Remember that I'm a product of the 80's, born right before Reagan was elected. So as a young kid, I'd play in the field with the kid next door that was close to my age. Now and then we'd go over to his house since he had a Nintendo (I wasn't that cool, I just had a Sega Master System. I guess having both between us was kinda cool though.) Anyhow, his older sister was all in with the glam rock/hair metal thing going on at the time, so via her, we were exposed to the hairspray and spandex shit like Whitesnake, Poison, Motley Crue, etc. We're talking late 80's so it also turned out that Guns N Roses was breaking big, and a particular California band had released their first ever music video.

Metallica was heavier, darker, and absent the spandex and hairspray, looked more identifiable and relatable. I was immediately hooked. Quickly, I became addicted to staying up late on Saturday night's to watch MTV's Headbanger's Ball seeking to hear not just Metallica, but other heavier bands, which at the time for me meant stuff like Ozzy, Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies, etc. Remember that my exposure was entirely due to cable TV; I've never known my dad to listen to ANY kind of music to speak of, and my mom's tastes were a combination of pop/country and whatever played on the "oldies" FM station. Why staying up so late though? Because my mom was convinced that heavy metal was "vulgar" and "satanic."

Fuck you, Geraldo Rivera.

Anyhow, at school, the children that would be my classmates in elementary school were either the children of the Townies or the Gilded Caste of Central Virginia. If you were the kid of a Townie, you generally liked to roughhouse around, bully other kids, and your social circle was probably mostly the other Townies. Likewise, the Gilded Caste would keep to themselves. I liked comic books and heavy metal. I didn't really fit with either group, which was fine by me because for someone who is quite verbose, I'm very much an introvert. Oddly enough, classes from the time I was in elementary school were broken up by academic ability, and curiously enough the "mediocre" group was the Townie kids, and the "gifted" group were the Gilded Caste. (These would eventually become the "rednecks" and the "preppies" by high school.) Someone fucked up somewhere, because I was grouped with the "gifted" kids. Talk about being a fish out of water in terms of peer group.

I will say that being grouped with these kids in elementary school is probably the number one thing that prevented me from developing the stereotypical "Southern Accent" that the entirety of my family is infected with to some degree, ranging from that dignified "Gone with the Wind" variant to more of a barely coherent mumblespeak. With only the occasional embarassing voice "breakage" to remind me that I am white trash at the core, I generally speak with an almost neutral, perhaps Midwestern dialect (except I don't do anything stupid like call Coca Cola a "pop" or a water fountain a "bubbler.")

Anyhow, developing niche interests has a way of bridging across gaps that otherwise exist among groups based on dividers like ethnicity, economic background, etc. Turns out, some of these other kids were also into comics and heavy rock music, and I began to form friendships with kids who were otherwise part of the Gilded Caste. That means meeting the parents of these kids, who were doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, etc. People who had traveled and been to places.

Owning a copy of this definitely broke a lot of ice in 5th grade.

For perspective I had never left the Eastern Time Zone in my life until I was 28.

What that did was open my eyes to what was possible, and in a sense what normal life looked like for a lot of people. Why couldn't I be one of those things? After all, for the kids I was befriending, it wasn't aspirational, but an expectation to be those things.

As the 80's became the 90's and hair metal became grunge rock then an entire alternative subculture, it became this broader subculture around which I grew up and understood life; because it was still "small college town", the goths, punks, stoners, and dwindling number of metalheads all kinda had to be around each other by necessity; there just weren't enough of us to further splinter up into sub-cliques. Unfortunately (or maybe not?), some of the collection of misfits and broken toys weren't the greatest people for a variety of reasons, or I just didn't "click" with them, or whatever. Certainly wasn't doing much to help with the old dating life. Lucky for me, the internet became a thing. And with that, there was a deep rabbit hole of obscure bands to discover and vile online trolling to engage in. To the point that I began to realize that I basically had nothing in common with the people around me; as I became captivated by the still fresh drama of the Norwegian black metal scene and was discovering exciting new bands via the My Dying Bride mailing list and those fold outs that came in Century Media CDs you'd get from mailorders, I was losing any sort of cultural frame of reference with the people around me as I increasingly nerded out on heavy music (they had all moved onto whatever new hip thing among the "alt-scene" was.) And here's the thing; the smart members of that alternative scene went to college elsewhere or packed up and moved but somehow got the fuck out of that small college town. The ones who stayed behind...were becoming Townies. But at least via the internet and chat forums and whatnot, I had a connection to a world beyond. Made friends. Some that are still friends to this day.

You'd probably quickly get tired of being around people like this too.
My life sadly through this point wasn't particularly stable; between family and school, I was basically accused of being some combination of "drug addicted", "homosexual", and "devil worshipping", with a bunch of people who thought they were doing the right thing for me by wrecking my life and making everything 50 million times harder. All because I wanted to have ordinary teenage fun and had a proclivity for the color black and listened to angry music. The eventual outcome of this was dropping out of high school and moving in with people I went to high school with for a few years.

By 2005 or so, life circumstances, as they're wont to do, provided me with a pair of options. I could accept my fate and try to make the best of it pumping gas or whatever in small college town, or I could pack up my life's belongings in my Toyota Corolla and relocate to the Washington DC area. I had a job opportunity via my McJob and had made enough friends and acquaintances via a shared love..of extreme metal music of all things. This was the "shit or get off the pot" moment. So I packed my shit up and slept on an air mattress in someone's apartment and put together a life. Someone I met online because of...a shared love of extreme metal music.

My new home, or at least across the river from it.

Washington DC and the surrounding metro area, thanks to lots of government contracting and IT money, offers a lot of economic opportunity for someone willing to work hard. I was done with making excuses or just "waiting" for the right opportunity; it took 25 years of waiting to get the hell out of that small college town. Free from distractions, burdens, and excuses, I enrolled in community college, transferred to McState University, earned two degrees from McState, and began earning a professional salary. A lot of that was pure work ethic, because I'm no genius or savant; I just wanted better for myself. But that very pathway was opened up, really, because I was able to network with people via a shared love of heavy music.

Perhaps even more remarkable, and for which I'm incredibly thankful for, is that it was also heavy music that brought M into my life. It was M sending me a random message on social media because we had a shared love of doom metal that brought her into my life...almost 13 years ago. A really awesome, fun filled 13 years that saw my life accelerate on hyperdrive; and it all began because I knew useless heavy metal trivia about her hometown (neat fact: Sepultura and Sarcofago are from her hometown. Way more awesome than what my town gets to claim) and didn't make dumb assumptions about her country of birth.

Another Ice Breaker.

So yeah, every good thing that happened in my life can be attributed to heavy metal. Imagine that. It's probably why I still get excited about hearing the latest 5th generation Devourment clone and still sacrifice sleep now and then to go see a show in the warehouse of a brewery with 50 people. It's why I've probably spent too damn much money buying tour shirts from bands who have had their tours dates cancelled by COVID-19/Coronavirus. It's probably why my walls of filled CD shelves still bring me joy when other people are downsizing their collections and "growing up."

Thanks for everything guys.
Ultimately, it was heavy metal that got me the fuck out of that small college town, a place that feels more foreign to me each time I return to it for whatever obligation. The longer I am away, nothing is more obvious to me than how small town life is the death of the possibilities and optimism that comes with youth. It horrifies me to even imagine what would have happened had I not escaped. I don't know where I'll eventually drop dead, but hopefully it won't be for a long time and I'm reasonably confident it won't be there. And for that, ultimately I owe a completely ridiculous subculture of obnoxiously loud, blatantly offensive, barely listenable "music." Funny how life works.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Best of 2019

It's New Years Day, 2020 so most likely I've heard everything from 2019 I'm going to hear at this point. I'm sure down the line I will discover some obscure records from the past year I missed out on and find myself deeply impressed, but for the time being, I think this is where we're at.

2019 wasn't a triumphant year for me; there were no amazing adventures to speak of though there was a fun filled football weekend in October and there was a short excursion to Quebec City. At this point M demands we visit the Great White North once a year so she can stop by Costco and acquire various home necessities on the cheaper Canadian dollar. The joys of being old and domesticated, I guess?  (As long as I can stop at Freeson Rock in Montreal, I can be a good sport!)

This year for me personally was mostly just about the grind. The effort to build that financial nest egg and to cultivate the skills I need for my next professional step. M has basically been in the same boat, if feeling less urgency given she's a few years younger than me. The MBA has gone well enough to start, and while I'm not really one for New Year's Resolutions, because they never get followed through on, I don't think it's a big risk for me to say that M and I will be having another big adventure of some sort, if not two of them, in 2020.

Sitting here experiencing old man fog regarding the best live bands I saw this year, and there were two shows that really stand out. One was a lineup featuring Saor, Wayfarer, and DC locals Sickdeer at a Atlas Brew Works in Washington DC. It was miserably hot and humid inside the crowded backroom of a brewery, but it was a fantastic performance by all bands. The other M and I saw the night before, in the basement of a coffee house called Songbyrd, also in Washington DC, where Khemmis absolutely crushed with their stoner-influenced doom and Atlanta black metal/black n' roll act Cloak made a fan out of me. Between the local venues of Baltimore (MDF in particular) and Washington DC, in 2019 the other highlights included Sinmara, Suffering Hour, Spirit Adrift, Rippikoulu, Naglfar, Guttural Secrete, Tomb Mold, Theories, Full of Hell, Borknagar, Scour, Brutality, Blood, Disassociate, Shape of Despair, and Vanum. There was also a roadtrip to Richmond, Virginia because Hypocrisy was playing and who knows when they'll be back in the States again.

Best development of the year that I observed is the plethora of Agalloch and Ulver inspired atmospheric black metal bands that are now dropping records. I'm not suggesting that these artists are tremendously "original" sounding, because you can't recapture the way "Bergtatt" or "Pale Folklore" sounded when they first dropped again. But bands like Minnesota's Ashbringer, Italy's Enisum, and multi-national band Sojourner all released outstanding albums that aren't even making my top 10 list. Collectively, these bands are releasing albums that sound "fresh" and "relevant" to my ears. Maybe it'll be remembered in a few years the way late 90's doom or early 90's death metal is.

The worst development is the abundance of YouTube videos of "reviewers" (i.e. nerds with even more spare time than I've got) who spent inordinate amounts of time telling you if or if not something is good. I mean, obviously I'm writing my thoughts here so I can see a little bit of "pot, meet kettle", but do you need a 45 minute album review to tell you if a 33 minute album is good or not? Here's a crazy idea, google the band or search them on Spotify, give it a few listens, and decide for yourself. That's why I try to find links for each of my top 10 albums; I like that shit and I want other people to check it out, like it, and give those bands money like I did so that those bands keep creating more art.

Most Disappointing Record of 2019

Tool Fear Inoculum

So there's two Batushka's out there and I can't keep up with which one is the one that isn't a whorish money grab by Metal Blade Records (after a quick internet search, I guess the one that released "Panichid" is kvlt and trve and the one that released "Hospodi" is the Faketushka...). There's also a coked up Abbath playing mediocre black n' roll when he's not in rehab for alcoholism...the rest of the Immortal guys win that dispute in artistic terms for sure (I do hope for a reunion though.) Death metal in general hasn't had the abundance of high quality releases I'd expect this year. But that said, there hasn't been a lot that I felt failed to meet my expectations.
That brings me to "Fear Inoculum". I like Tool, and I like proggy Tool. But Tool is at their best not when they're being proggy or playing stupid fucking nerd bullshit Fibonacci Sequences or whatever. Tool is at their best when they're being bombastic and writing bangers like "Vicarious". I don't give a fuck how many notes a musician can play or how precisely they can play those notes that might involve complicated finger techniques on their instruments. Does your music fucking rock? Do I want to crank it at high volume? If you can bust out a bunch of musical wizardry like Spiral Architect or Augury and blow my mind while still rocking that's awesome and yeah, you get more kudos than Devourment does for playing cave man riffs. But if your music just sounds like a bunch of pointless doodling that doesn't lead anywhere, I don't give a shit how complex it was to play or how much thought was put into writing music that makes me want to go to sleep.

"Fear Inoculum" has exactly one good song, "7empest", and if you listen to the album in sequence you're going to be asleep when it begins as track nine, 1 hour and 10 minutes into the record. Knowing that, I just go to Spotify and listen to the one good song, rather than sit through the snoozefest that leads to it. The worst part? This album will cost you a fortune to buy, see for yourself! (That's just the audio cd version, not the spiffy one that has it's own music player and visual do-hickey..)

My expectations for this were never that inflated, but given the nerds clutching their pearls about this band and dropping dumb money to buy the CD and see them perform at inflated prices and who have some bizarre belief that being willing to sit down bored out of your mind for 1 hour and 26 minutes makes you smarter and more sophisticated than the next music fan, I guess I'm gonna call this the big disappointment of the year. Much like Opeth, this band was better before 2010.

Honorable Mentions

Ashbringer Absolution
Belzebubs Pantheon of the Nightside Gods
Blood Red Throne Fit To Kill
Ceremony of Silence Outis
Cloak The Burning Dawn
Continuum Designed Obsolescence
Dead To A Dying World Elegy
Devourment Obscene Majesty
Disentomb The Decaying Light
Encephalic Brutality and Depravity
Enisum Moth's Illusion
Esoteric A Pyrrhic Existence
Exhorder Mourn The Southern Skies 
Fen The Dead Light
The Great Old Ones Cosmicism
Glare of the Sun Theia
Hath Of Rot and Ruin
Hideous Divinity Simulacrum
Imperium Dekadenz When We Are Forgotten
Isenordal Shores of Mourning
Mayhem Daemon
Mgla Age of Excuse
NecroticGoreBeast NecroticGoreBeast
Nile Vile Nilotic Rites
Obsequaie The Palms of Sorrowed Kings
October Tide In Splendor Below
Officium Triste The Death of Gaia
Organectomy Existential Disconnect
Pathology Reborn To Kill
Prostitute Disfigurement Prostitute Disfigurement
Sinmara Hvisi Stjarnanna
Spirit Adrift Divided by Darkness
Sojourner The Shadowed Road
Theories Vessel

10.) Mortiferum Disgorged from Psychotic Depths 

Dark, ominous doom/death of the sort that Profound Lore Records is known to release. I love the tone that they capture, and they manage to be plodding and miserable without losing my interest, which is what happens when you're slow and heavy but not actually creating a harmony or building to anything epic in your songwriting. Swampy, dank, and guttural. The way it should be.

9.) Nightfell A Sanity Deranged

Take someone from the hardcore scene during the "Entombed-core" revival, and introduce them to Celtic Frost and Bolt Thrower. That's what this sounds like; perhaps a WW1 tank plowing through trenches and murdering everything in sight on a particularly grey, miserable, damp day. 

8.) Dawn Ray'd Behold Sedition Plainsong

Absolutely ferocious and dark at the same time. Anarcho-Antifa punks with a healthy dose of Napalm Death's politics playing second wave black metal with serious urgency in their delivery. Heavy use of violins to carry a lot of melodies helps create a distinct sound. Incredibly righteous and a welcome counterbalance to the conservatism and NSBM bullshit that often plagues underground black metal. Not that it doesn't rage pretty fucking hard regardless of one's personal politics. 

7.) Vitriol To Bathe From The Throat Of Cowardice

Featuring a few songs from their debut EP, this is a ferocious blend of Hate Eternal and death-metal era Behemoth with the anger of Man Must Die. Raw vocals, non stop blasting drums, and just all around fast and furious top tier death metal in a year where I feel that there were a lot of death metal releases that were rather ordinary. 

6.) Falls of Rauros Patterns Of Mythology

One of the many well crafted albums by the emerging flock of post-Agalloch bands, FoR occupies the same space of warm, mellow acoustic passages that melds into tremelo heavy black metal that feels like it ever so pensively seeks something more grandiose and epic. Drenched with sorrowful melodies and even a smidgen of Spirit Adrift-styled guitar theatrics, I think the best way to experience Patterns of Mythology is on an open highway in a single complete listen. 

5.) Alcest Spiritual Instinct

Full admission; I'm a "Johnny come lately" to this French band. I think they opened an Anathema show that M dragged me to some years ago. By this time, Anathema sucked ass and ceased playing any of their old, good songs, so I was probably drinking and in the mood for something much more bloodthirsty. So my impression of Alcest wasn't great, and it wasn't until some years later when I heard them randomly on Spotify that I "got it"; I soon bought "Ecailles De Lune" and became a fan. So while I'm not really familiar with their more black metal incarnation, and barely hear anything black metal about the band, I deeply enjoy the ethereal, atmospheric sort of slightly "post" metal they perform. "Spiritual Instinct" is a bit more bombastic, a slight bit of the black metal influence is present, and overall this album is a whole lot catchier than the previous albums I'm familiar with. Is it still shoegaze-y and trippy? Absolutely. But it's constantly going forward, and flows in such a way that these 6 songs come and go before you know it, leaving you wanting a bit more. 

4.) Horrific Demise Excruciating Extermination

What happens when you pull a bunch of seasoned veterans from the Midwest death metal scene of the early 2000's? Featuring members (and ex-members) of Gorgasm, Lividity, Sarcophagy, Necrotic Disgorgement, and Human Filleted, the sum of the parts here surpasses all of those bands. Horrific Demise hits the right notes to recapture the glory days of late 1990's/early 2000's riff driven brutal death metal yet it sounds fresh enough that it's not some crappy attempt at nostalgia. The production and performances sound top notch professional, the songs are lean, mean, and have a lot of that early Dying Fetus "bounce" to them, and this album just feels fun. Absolutely no filler to be found in this collection of songs, the only sad thing is that because it lacks the sort of originality that tastemakers in the scene look for, it didn't get the attention it deserved. This is nearly perfect death metal and my hope is that the members of this band make Horrific Demise a priority. 

3.) Borknagar True North

First album with just ICS on Lead Vocals since "Quintessence" came out almost 20 years ago yet none of the evolution over that time has been lost as Borknagar still sounds like a massive, epic, ambitious melding of folk, 70's moog drenched prog, and black metal. Vortex shines in all of his varied vocal deliveries, and "variety" might be the best word to use to describe this album, which ranges from the fury of "The Fire That Burns" to the subdued yet majestic closer "Voices". Borknagar has created a space for themselves to create a wide range of sounds that seemlessly flow together and feel "right". Borknagar is long in the tooth, but still feels fresh, vibrant, and essential. There isn't a weak album in their catalog, and "True North" may rank among the best of them.

2.) Saor Forgotten Paths

2019 was the year I discovered this band, and I consider that, along with the opportunity to see them perform in July of this year (where I eagerly purchased their entire back catalog), to be highlights of the year. Saor plays an epic, melodic style of black metal with occasional nods to Scottish inspired folk music. Tasteful usage of keys, flutes, violins, and gentle guitar interludes lend further in creating an emotional sounding ode to Scotland while distinguishing Saor from the American bands looking to Agalloch for inspiration. More importantly, none of it sounds like cheese! It could be easy for something like this to fall of the rails, but the performances by multi-instrumentalist Andy Marshall (only permanent member of the band) are absolutely top notch, the production quality more than adequate, and the songs may be too drawn out for some, but I feel that the extended lengths of the tracks (3 out of the 4 songs surpass 10 minutes in length) give space to allow the harmonies to implant themselves in the listener. 

1.) Blood Incantation  Hidden History of the Human Race

 I probably gave this one away when I put it on my "best of the decade" list. I tried to think of reasons why it shouldn't be number one, and nothing was valid. I can't hold the fact they've got some buzz behind them against them; hell it's not like I was handed a copy of their demo and followed them since. I got into the band because "Starspawn" was a straight-fire album and I discovered it because there was hype. I guess now that they're starting to become less obscure (which is silly anyway, this is death metal released on Dark Descent Records, if it sold 10,000 copies I'm shocked) that certain elements of the underground predictably shit on them. Heaven forbid they get signed by Relapse or Nuclear Blast. The thing is, this record is recorded the way death metal should be recorded. It sounds murky yet clear, there's warmth in the guitar tones, all of the instruments are audible, nothing sounds overly compressed. I see more bands, if they have the means, going this route in the future, especially as vinyl becomes the predominant physical media people purchase (I'll stick with CDs since I don't have a vinyl turntable in my car, where I consume most music.)

Musically, it hits the notes of the more "progressive" 90's death metal bands, especially Immolation and Death. Maybe Morbid Angel to a lesser extent with its obsession with themes (Morbid Angel had ancient Sumeria, Blood Incantation has space aliens and ancient Egypt.) Reverbed growls layer over churning, twisting riffs and healthy doses of over the top guitar theatrics and tones that would have made "Sound of Perseverance" era Chuck Schuldiner proud. 

Blood Incantation made a thoughtful, intelligent record that clearly had a lot of work and love put into it to make it sound great. The fact it's only 4 tracks, including the 18 minute epic closer, leaves you wanting more when its over. I'm won't award them the championship belt for best band in death metal quite yet, but another release of this quality would probably be all that it takes. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The best ten metal albums of the decade, so sayeth me.

Just seeing the end of the decade approach us, as I approach the beginning of my 4th decade on this spinning rock myself, is kind of eye opening. It's always fun to look back on where I was ten years ago; newly married to M, broke as fuck, just transferring from community college to McState University to earn my BA. Hadn't been west of the Mississippi River yet, nor even owned a passport. Also legitimately about 90lbs lighter than I am today, with fewer grey hairs, so I guess some things were better ten years ago. Then again, since then I've roadtripped nearly the entire continental United States, completed that BA, as well as one post-grad degree and began a second one, did a pair of prestigious internships at DC Think Tanks, tripled my income, accumulated some shiny toys, managed to remain married to M (who also accomplished amazing things!) and relative to this blog, continue to and perhaps even to a greater degree maintained my connection to and love of this ridiculous obscure noise that is underground heavy metal.

Nothing can ever capture you the way it does when you're young and unfamiliar. That high school breakup hurt more than perhaps a failed relationship in your mid-20's would. The second time you visit a restaurant where you had an amazing never quite lives up to that first time, even if it still was perfectly fine. It's the same with music; so much of what you listen to as you get older, if you were truly passionate about a genre of music to begin with, will just never capture you the same way as it did the first time you heard those sounds. That's why all of these fucking dinosaur bands keep touring until they're 70; they're collecting bank off of the nostalgia people feel for when I guess their lives were fresh, exciting, and for many of them at their peak. Slayer can suddenly announce they're "retiring", and the rush of nostalgia means that instead of playing 1500 seat rooms, they're playing to 10,000 or more at amphitheaters.

I guess for me that wasn't a problem; high school and being a teenager in a smaller, southern college town was a fucking shit experience. The last ten years, weight gain aside, have truly been my best ten on this planet. So here's to being the old guy in the room, who still goes to shows solo sometimes just to check out who the young up and coming bands are, because maybe someday when I'm at retirement age this current era of metal will make me feel nostalgic.

With that, here's my top ten albums for the decade (2010-2019.) My criteria was pretty simple:

- Did I listen to this album a whole fucking lot? Basically, did I connect with it personally?
- Did the album have a huge impact, or will it have an impact on the music to come?
- Did the album represent something different or like a shift in the sounds being produced by the scene in general?

Not every album is going to cleanly check each of those categories beyond the first one, but as the author offering his subjective thoughts on the last decade of underground metal, here's what I came up with.

10.) Anaal Nathrahk Vanitas (2012)

My reasoning for this album is that, personally, it is my entry point to the band. It also represented a summation of so many styles that in the previous decade may have been distinct from one another; this album isn't Anaal Nathrahk's first stab at merging black metal with industrial samples and treatments, epic cleanly sung choruses, and some tasty At The Gates riffage, but it was probably their most mature, cohesive take on it. I think that this cross pollination of subgenre styles in 2019 is basically expected, as I can listen to an up and coming band like Vitriol and hear elements of that chaotic but memorable style that Anaal Nathrahk was doing at the beginning of the decade.

9.) Hamferd Tamsins Iikam (2018)

Is there such a thing as "post-funeral doom"? Hamferd plays at those slow ethereal tempos, with those massive monolithic riffs. But there's also a certain beautiful serenity about this album, in between the massive riffs and growls, and the tortured operatic singing; I don't speak Faroese but this album reeks of despair. I feel like this album was a shift away from so many of the bands who, with great success, borrowed from Katatonia, Swallow The Sun, and Rapture prior to this release. This is very likely the most obscure choice on my list, but as I heard it then, I remain convinced that doom fans are going to visit this album in the next few years and buy into it big time.

8.) Wormed Exodromos (2013)

So much of the criticism about brutal or technical death metal is that the subgenres are limited by self imposed constraints; artwork and album art have to look a certain way, other than playing faster or playing with more notes and arpeggios or triggering those blasts to go even faster, there's nothing innovative or creative that can be done anymore. The response to that is Wormed, who defy that with their combination of ferocity, jagged rhythms, incomprehensible vocals, and atmosphere that actually sounds like being sucked into a black hole; this wasn't just caveman slam metal. Sure there were other bands, notably Origin, who delved into the cosmic themes before Wormed did, but Wormed managed to create a distinct sound which really reached its maturity with Exodromos; technical, brutal, groovy...Wormed did it all. When I heard bands like Disentomb in 2019 try to write "intellectual slam", I feel that's the impact that Wormed brought to the table.

7.) Trypticon Melana Chasema (2014)

This is the fully evolved version of what Celtic Frost was aspiring to for years; definitely after CF reformed and released Monotheist in 2005. Dark, ominous, foreboding, reeking of sludge and mood. Probably the best record Thomas Gabriel Fischer ever participated on. I still listen to this often. Enough reason to go on the list.

6.) Blood Incantation Hidden History of the Human Race (2019)

This might be recency bias that I rate this at all, or possibly my desire to avoid said bias that keeps me from rating this higher. Blood Incantation represent where death metal is in 2019; sure there's the tech-death olympics to see who can play the most notes the fastest with the most pristine production, and there's certainly a healthy amount of slam bands, and deathcore bands who are evolving into one of those niches, but at the sunken depths of the underground it's bands like Blood Incantation, who emphasize mood and atmosphere above all. Murkier production values meet Immolation vibes, and in certain spots visits Nile-sounding Middle Eastern influences. The songs themselves, of which there's just 4, and only 3 of those have vocals, are grimy death metal but clearly have underpinnings elsewhere; I've read reviews throwing out names like Yes and King Crimson. I'm not a prog rock guy so I don't know one way or another to agree with that, but I wouldn't dispute for a moment that Blood Incantation aren't top notch musicians; there's plenty of guitar theatrics abound here. That said, what I think is going to be the lasting impact of this album might not even be the material on it, which is outstanding, but the fact the album was recorded to tape rather than digitally. The result was that Blood Incantation largely recaptured the best aspects of the 1990's productions that make people so warmly remember how good all of those death metal records by seminal artists like Obituary and Morbid Angel sounded. I think this style of recording, and the warmth it adds to the recorded sound of death metal, is going to come back in a big way.

5.) Full of Hell Trumpeting Esctasy (2017)

I think Full of Hell's ambitiousness in collaborating with noise artists like Merzbow and The Body is what gets the nerds at Pitchfork and Rolling Stone willing to pay attention to them, but Full of Hell is at their best when they keep the samples and nerding to a minimum and just viscerally go for the jugular. Trumpeting Esctasy is probably Full of Hell's peak at indulging their rage monsters within, as for most of this album's 11 tracks and 23 minutes they are peak deathgrind, with blastbeats and roars and razor sharp guitars punishing the listener. Combined with an impressive live show, I think they hit the 2010's in much the same way as Pig Destroyer did in the decade before. The fact Full of Hell are a bit deathier in their grind makes me like them better.

4.) Panopticon Kentucky (2012)

The lineage of this nature focused black metal feels like it obviously traces its roots back to Agalloch, but also even further back, like towards Ulver's Bergtatt album as a spiritual ancestor. Panopticon began as, and really still is, a low-fi one man project by Austin Lunn which encompasses the totality of his musical influences. Kentucky was, and remains, a very bold album as Lunn, who plays basically everything in Panopticon, alternated between Kentucky bluegrass and blistering folk-inspired black metal. It's held together with with a dark enough theme, the struggles of the working class in rural Kentucky; some of the tracks are literally calls to unionize coal miners. This sort of left wing politics in black metal also is a paradigm shift in a genre notorious for pro-fascist NSBM artists and the (at times) suffocating conservatism of many black metal "elite" fans. For me personally, it's been a rabbit hole into Nordvis and Bindrune Recordings and similar sounding artists like Falls of Rauros and Nechochwen. I think there's also been a boom in similar sounding bands, especially from America (the "Cascadian sound") and the UK (Saor, Fen, Winterfellyth), since this band kinda "broke out." Panopticon has continued to release great albums throughout the decade, but Kentucky, with it's most blatant bluegrass influences, remains their peak, IMO.

3.) Pallbearer Heartless (2017)

I think most fans would pick Pallbearer's debut, Sorrow and Extinction as their album of choice, but for me it's their third album, Heartless. Pallbearer pretty much immediately emerged in 2011 as challengers to the throne for best doom band. Hipster and Pitchfork/Noisey approved, nevertheless Pallbearer borrowed from a variety of influences ranging from classic rock to Rwake and New Orleans sludge to write oppressively slow, heavy, yet deeply soulful doom. The reason I give Heartless the nod is because on this effort, they ever so slightly embraced their prog rock and classic rock sensibilities and picked up the pace ever so slightly, crafting a much more listenable record. When Pallbearer releases an album now, it feels like a big deal, and that's more than I can say for many bands who I do enjoy.

2.) Gorguts Colored Sands (2013)

Death metal, now long in the tooth from it's thrash-based origins in the late 80's, has undergone several "movements" as bands have tried to distinguish themselves. Gorguts, in their own history, certainly reinvented themselves from the meaty death metal of Considered Dead to the hyper-technical and admittedly almost unlistenably discordant Obscura album. After a hiatus following the suicide of their drummer, Luc Lemay reactivated the band but instead of retreading their past, went in another direction altogether. Borrowing a bit from bands like Ulcerate, Gorguts used those discordant sounds to create something that, instead of dark and ominous, was still furious but also bombastic and majestic at least as much as a death metal band can be. Colored Sands is both challenging and engaging and demonstrated that death metal doesn't have to be blood splatter and gore, but that it also engage as, dare I say, "high art" if there is such a thing. Much like Wormed, I feel that some of their influence has rubbed on other bands within the death metal scene.

1.) Behemoth The Satanist (2014)

In 2019, it seems to be cool to shit on Adam "Nergal" Darski because he really has made it clear he doesn't give 2 fucks about the metal scene's nebulous "code." Success makes you uncool; having other ventures like barber shops or dating fashion models is apparently against the "code" as determined by the groupthink and memes of the metal underground. Darski obviously doesn't give a shit and why should he? He released an album that not just myself, but it seems much of the "metal press" agrees was the best album of the 2010's.

By the late 2000's, Behemoth was an established metal institution of sorts, having morphed from a mediocre kvlt black metal band into a Polish death metal powerhouse. Albums like Evangelion and Demigod were full of ragers that held up against any of the undergound's Polish darlings (Yattering, Lost Soul, etc.) They were touring world wide, including the United States, and drawing. They could have stayed the course and probably did pretty decent for themselves.

Then Darski was diagnosed with Leukemia and had to fight for his life. Normally, faced with one's impending mortality, people have a funny way of discovering religion and trying to make amends for all of the shit things they've done. Darski? Not a chance. He beats the disease, then records the defiant album The Satanist, a manifest that offers no apologies for his life philosophy. Musically, many of the traits from Behemoth's death metal era remain present; the vocal delivery remains raw throated as ever and the blasts are still quite present. But some of the elements from their black metal era crept forward again, as did a variety of outside musical influences to craft a distinct sound and more haunting mood; this was Behemoth, but more. Angrier, darker, more aggressive, moodier.

The hype this record had to overcome was enormous; "metal media" basically talked this up like it was the second coming of Reign in Blood and to say that it was comparable to reunification of Dissection would be accurate. The front man of this band literally came back from facing death to record this album. Anything less than a masterpiece would have been completely shit on. Instead, Behemoth 100% delivered, and to dispute that is probably rooted in motivations that have nothing to do with the music contained within The Satanist's 45 minutes. What one thinks of Adam "Nergal" Darski in 2019 (honestly, he does some corny and mildly cringe things sometimes, but nothing that represents a crime against the metal scene, stop taking yourselves so goddamn serious, folks) has no impact on the fact that Behemoth did succeed in delivering their Reign in Blood.