When I came to the realisation that a monthly instalment of album recommendations for my website would be a good way of turning people onto my favourite releases of the past four weeks without forcing them to read through my verbose reviews, I had initially planned to make the segment a top 10 list. It was at the end of January, when I realised that there were more than 10 records from that month that I thought were worthwhile recommendations, that I decided to make this segment a round-up of all the albums released over the course of the past 30 days that I love and would absolutely recommend to anyone interested, as to not have any records left out because of the strictures that a top 10 list entails. Of course, this decision meant that, eventually, there would come a month wherein I would have few albums to talk about, and it was during this July that this became very apparent. Until the very last few days of the month, there were only three albums from July that I had rated in the upper quartile of my scoring system, which is the barometer by which I determine which records make the list, but two obscure metal releases thankfully snuck in at the last minute. This does, however, mean that the recommendations for this month are slightly limited, even in spite of the fact that there were a great deal of albums released over the course of July that I was hotly anticipating. Looking at things more optimistically, however, this instalment of Albums I Love is comprised mainly of some rather underground acts to whom I would love to bring some attention. So, here are my limited — but no less worthy of recognition — picks for the records that really captured my interest from the month of July:
‘Anticult’ by Decapitated
Despite releasing some of the most defining death metal records of the 2000s, Decapitated’s more groove-orientated output since the death of drummer Witold “Vitek” Kiełtyka in 2007 has often left the metal community rather divided. Although this has been somewhat the case for the Polish tech-death outfit’s latest release, Anticult, the fact that the band manage to infuse so many of their past stylings so successfully makes for an album that is both dynamic and well-balanced, whilst offering a lot to appease all manner of metalheads. Whilst much of this new material adheres to many of the structural tropes of traditional death metal, Decapitated’s influence from progressive and experimental powerhouses from underneath the metal umbrella, most notably Meshuggah, entails an increased emphasis on groove-driven passages, and guitarist Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka’s heightened willingness to employ more stripped-down and atmospheric guitar leads leaves Anticult as a sort of amalgamation of the group’s stylistic history thus far in their career. The result is an exceptionally vibrant, vivid and vigorous undertaking from Decapitated that acts as a testament to their ability to continuously evolve and develop their sound over the years, regardless of the hardships that should befall them.
‘Dear’ by Boris
It was momentarily thought that the existence of one of modern experimental music’s most eclectic, prolific and versatile acts was to be coming to an end, with the Japanese trio Boris embarking on a tour of Pink, one of their most lauded and loved records, which would precede a final set of studio sessions, in which the group would record their final album. This remained the intention of the avant-garde outfit, until said recording sessions yielded three records’ worth of material, which seemingly reinvigorated the band’s desire to continue expanding on their legacy, as their newest project, Dear, has been confirmed to not be Boris’ final album. Instead, it is a celebratory record, marking 25 years of expansive experimentation from the three-piece, although Dear has been officially dedicated to any and all listeners of Boris for their patronage over the years. Rather fittingly, therefore, this 70-minute, doom metal mammoth of an endeavour harks back to much of Boris’ earlier and most revered material, whilst nevertheless integrating ideas from some of the trio’s more recent stylistic undertakings, ranging from J-pop to harsh noise. The end product is an exceptionally esoteric, but no less well-rounded, record that aptly encapsulates the appetite for stylistic adventure that has allowed Boris to retain their status as one of the most enthralling collectives of eccentrics in the music world for the past quarter of a century.
‘Infinity Ultra’ by Claude Speeed
Fusing stylistic principles from noise, drone, ambient, trance, hardcore, post-rock and more, the second full-length project from Berlin-based producer Claude Speeed, Infinity Ultra, is a hefty and audacious endeavour, but the end product is a kaleidoscopic exploration of electronic music and the way in which it occupies space. In spite of the sheer scope of Speeed’s experimentation across his latest record, Infinity Ultra comes together incredibly cohesively, with the musician’s colourful sonic palette painting a prism of pulsating power electronics, coruscating synthesizers, colossal drones and caustic feedback. Through all of its maze-like twists and turns, the album remains wound within the luscious and vibrant soundscapes that Speeed proves himself highly skilled at crafting, with Infinity Ultra being his most dynamic and emotionally commanding project thus far.
‘Ornuthi Thalassa’ by Serpent Column
A recent excavation of the ‘black metal’ tag on Bandcamp unearthed this underground gem from Serpent Column, entitled Ornuthi Thalassa. Although information on this American blackened death metal duo is scarce, their music speaks loudly enough on its own. With the group’s name appropriately paralleling their angular, serpentine riffage and towering, progressive song structures, Serpent Column pull from some of the more avant-garde crevices of both black metal and death metal, with the end product being utterly twisted, but no less graceful. In balancing labyrinthine compositional complexity with dizzying rhythms and a raw, monumental sound, Serpent Column have crafted one of the most glorious hidden secrets from the metal underground thus far this year with Ornuthi Thalassa.
‘Asheran’ by DVNE
2017 has been an exceptionally fruitful year for doom metal, sludge metal and stoner rock releases, and DVNE have risen to the challenge of matching the likes of Pallbearer and Elder with their newest record, Asheran. The band’s vast stylistic expanse, which is nevertheless rooted firmly in their sludgy tone, as well as their adventurous sense of song structure and unique ear for interplay between clean and distorted vocals makes for an album that pivots gracefully between Pallbearer-esque emotive apexes and heavy, brittle, Baroness-inspired instrumental breakdowns. With an immense sonic palette that reflects the vibrancy of the album artwork’s colour design, Asheran witnesses DVNE capture and convey a feeling of a burdensome journey through the desert, amidst overbearing, magnificent soundscapes that teeter between dirty sludge and soaring, dynamic heights.