Haggatha – V

Genre: Sludge | Label: Mass Deadening/Nerve Altar
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada| Listen: Bandcamp

Vancouver’s Haggatha has finally unleashed their third album, “V,” after an excruciating wait from 2012’s “IV.” Those familiar with the band’s previous efforts can relate, as Haggatha’s brand of sludge paints a bleak soundscape dominated by slow, infectious. The band has rewarded our patience with “V,” as they offer six songs of crushing magnitude.

haggatha v front

Fans of classic sludge bands such as Eyehategod, Noothgrush, and especially Grief will find much to love about Haggatha. Unlike those bands, Haggatha never really kicks into tempos beyond a mid-pace, so there’s no punk parts that are typical of sludge. Instead, the band relies on hypnotic pacing that eventually break away like the death of the universe.

Perhaps the fact that this record barely approaches a mid tempo speed may be concerning to those who question how a sludge band could write anything memorable without the genre’s staple approach to dynamic songwriting. Fear not, as Haggatha are a band that give songs their own nuances to keep things interesting. The opening track, “Scrying,” uses dissonant notes and a 7/8 time signature in its middle section, for example.

Some later-era Grief influence is really clear on tracks like “Swallowing Bile” and “Animal Husbandry,” both of which feature some high fretboard work, adding melodies into the colossal riffs as they cascade into the songs endings. “Sherman” starts off with some of this as well before the song really gives away to a slow crawl, where as “Filled With Idiots” gets right into a full out guitar solo.

Two members of the band do vocals, which again will lead to comparisons with Grief, as one member does lower death metal vocals, and the other has a higher scream that one would expect to hear in a sludge band. They balance each other out well throughout the record. Particularly, they do some interesting layering at the end of “No Light No Life,” creating an almost ethereal feeling.

haggatha-v-back

The band opted to record once again with Jesse Gander, who has had his hand in several Vancouver favourites such as AHNA, Massgrave, Chapel, and many more. His sound is very professional and manages to balance heaviness with clarity. For those that have seen Haggatha live, part of their appeal is the the physical loudness, which translates well here thanks to the recording.

Haggatha continues to be one of the leaders of doom/sludge in Canada, and this record solidifies their position. This isn’t music that’s made for putting on for your friends – this is music for getting lost in.

85%

Music of 2016

Another year has come and gone, and regardless of how you experienced the year, there’s been plenty of quality releases from a variety of bands this year. Here is my list of music I enjoyed this year, separated by full lengths vs demos/EPs/splits, and organized alphabetically.

Full Lengths

Altered Dead – s/t

altered-dead

Death Metal | Victoria, BC | Cavernous Records | Bandcamp

If you’re looking for death metal with a massive guitar tone, look no further than the debut full length from Altered Dead. This death metal duo from Victoria, BC spew forth exceptionally heavy riffs in the vein of Autopsy. The production of this album is fantastic, benefiting from an excellent recording/mixing job by Cody of Iskra.

Auroch – Mute Books

auroch

Black/Death Metal | Vancouver, BC | Profound Lore | Bandcamp

Vancouver’s Auroch return with their third full length, and manage to spew out a vast array of styles under the guise of death metal in just 30 minutes. Their sophomore LP was excellent, and foreshadows where the band would take their frantic paced music to next.

The Bellicose Minds – The Creature

bellicose-minds

Post-Punk | Portland, OR | Black Water Records | Bandcamp

Post-punk from Portland, the Bellicose Minds take huge influence from the Chameleons to make dark yet energizing music. Their sophomore album contains everything I liked about their previous material and shows that the Bellicose Minds are one of the better modern post-punk bands.

Blood Incantation – Starspawn

blood-incantation

Death Metal | Boulder, CO | Dark Descent Records | Bandcamp

Arguably, this is the album of the year. Based out of Colorado, these death metal maniacs flex their technical musicianship with copious amounts of marijuana to create a record that fans of all types of death metal from Demilich to Morbid Angel will eat up. It’s only 35 minutes but it reaches heights of epic proportions. The space themes further make Blood Incantation’s debut full length enjoyable to me as a sci-fi nerd.

Chthe’ilist – Le dernier crépuscule

chtheilist

Death Metal | Montreal, QC | Profound Lore/Dark Descent | Bandcamp

Speaking of Demilich, this Quebecois death metal act certainly has earned a lot of comparisons to the classic Finnish band. Much like Blood Incantation, Chthe’ilist are technically proficient but never let that take prominence over the all mighty riff. Aside from the obvious Lovecraftian themes, they even turn to video games (namely, the Legend of Zelda) for lyrical influence. It’s a pretty nerdy LP but you can’t deny how crushing songs like “Voidspawn” are!

Church of Disgust – Veneration of Filth

church-of-disgust

Death Metal | San Marcos, TX | Memento Mori | Bandcamp

Disgusting death metal out of Texas, these guys play raw death metal in the vein of Autopsy and Morpheus Descends. I had not heard this band prior to this album, but it’s certainly a strong release that will cater to those who like their death metal on the filthy side. A few guest vocalists appear on this record, including a member from Sewercide (who are also on this list) and Mike Browning from Nocturnus/Morbid Angel fame.

Czarface – A Fistful of Peril 

czarface

Hip-Hop | Brooklyn, NY | Silver Age | YouTube

Inspectah Deck (of the Wu-Tang Clan) returns with his collaborators 7L & Esoteric for the third Czarface LP. I personally love hip hop uses comic book imagery/allusions as its backbone (something that Inspectah Deck himself has done in the past), and Czarface manage to stay fun and fresh with each release. Fans of the last two LPs will love this, but may note there aren’t any guest appearances by other Wu-Tang members. I can understand that the group probably wants to stand on its own without relying on the Wu-Tang connections that much, and indeed this LP does. As many of you know, I’m a huge basketball fan and I can’t help but get stoked when I hear all the basketball references in these raps.

Deathspell Omega –  The Synarchy of Molten Bones

deathspell-omega

Black Metal | France | Norma Evangelium Diaboli | Bandcamp

The French black metal masters of dissonance return with their shortest full length to date – 4 songs clocking in at only 30 minutes. They’ve had EPs longer than this, but let’s not get distracted by what is an extremely solid effort by a band that’s been consistently putting out quality material for over a decade. This is a lot more aggressive than the “Drought” EP, and ends on such an ominous note that I have to listen to it over and over.

Howls of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows

howls-of-ebb

Black/Death Metal | San Fransisco, CA | I, Voidhanger | Bandcamp

Howls of Ebb’s second album is my first experience with this bizarre black/death metal band. This album is really unique, it’s almost like the soundtrack to a predator stalking its prey, as it dances in the shadows and lunges in for the kill with grace, embracing the chaos that comes with death. Not much compares to this, so if you like eerie and quirky riffs in your death metal, get this now!

Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed

inverloch

Death/Doom Metal | Australia | Relapse Records | Bandcamp

Inverloch is essentially the rebirth of the greatest death/doom band of all time, diSEMBOWELMENT. After releasing an EP, Inverloch has graced us with a full length album. Obviously, people are going to compare this to their former band, and although this isn’t on the same level as the legendary “Transcendence into the Peripheral,” it does have many of the same characteristics and overall similar atmosphere. If you like those sombre moments of pure desolation that diSEMBOWELMENT does so well between massive death metal riffs, Inverloch will surely satisfy.

Krypts – Remnants of Expansion

krypts

Black/Death Metal | Finland | Dark Descent Records | Bandcamp

From Finland comes Krypts, and they’ve certainly outdone themselves on this full length. Although I got some enjoyment out of “Unending Degradation,” this album breathes a lot more than their debut, controlling the pace much better. Listening to this album is like being crushed by the cosmos itself. I can’t stress how much of a leap Krypts has made with this record, it’s phenomenal black/death metal.

Massgrave – The Absurdity of Humanity

massgrave

Crust/Grindcore | Vancouver, BC | Haunted Hotel | Bandcamp

Massgrave are the greatest crust band in Canada, period. Taking the core of their sound from crust/grind legends Disrupt, Massgrave have been delivering the goods for a decade and a half. This is their third LP and they show no signs of slowing down. “RCMPig” is likely the best punk song of the year.

Necrot – The Labyrinth

necrot

Death Metal | Oakland, CA | Tank Crimes | Bandcamp

This is technically a compilation of three demos from the last few years but it’s all new to me, so I’ve included it on this list. Necrot are from the Bay Area, and share members with a lot of incredible death metal acts including Vastum, Acephalix, and Rude. Here we get nothing but filthy riffs performed in relentless fashion with a tinge of punk influence. Here’s hoping a proper album is in the works!

Nucleus – Sentient

nucleus

Death Metal | Chicago, IL | Unspeakable Axe | Bandcamp

Technical death metal appears to be having a resurgence this year, and Nucleus are another band that will appeal to fans of Timeghoul and Demilich. Unlike Chthe’ilist, the songs here are shorter and to the point, but still feature some whacky ideas that give the songs some twists and turns. Lyrically, the band takes influence from plenty of classic sci fi novels, and combined with the Dan Seagrave artwork, it’s definitely something that resounds with my inner nerdy death metal fan boy.

Phobocosm – Bringer of Drought

phobocosm

Death Metal | Montreal, QC | Dark Descent Records | Bandcamp

Coming from Montreal, Phobocosm’s first LP didn’t really make a huge impression on me. Quite honestly, this one didn’t either, but as the year progressed I came back to it a couple times, and found myself more pleased with it each time. Although this band is generally touted as a black/death metal band, Phobocosm is really doomy. The four tracks presented here are paced with ominious intent, building up to faster parts which release to open space.

Putresence – Voiding upon the Pulverized

putresence

Death Metal/Grindcore | Winnipeg, MB | Unholy Anarchy/Fatss | Bandcamp

Winnipeg’s Putrescence decided to call it a day this year with the release of their fifth, and most powerful album. Bluntly put, I consider these guys close friends and am very happy to see this line up execute such a stellar mix of death metal and goregrind. The two guitar players had not played on any releases for the band prior, but you couldn’t tell as they churn out neck breaking riffs like absolute pros. I feel this album will fly under the radar for a lot of folks, but if you’re a fan of stuff like Carcass, do not let this one slip by!

Ripper – Experiment of Existence

ripper

Death/Thrash Metal | Chile | Unspeakable Axe | Bandcamp

Apparently, the Chilean death/thrashers Ripper have been the fastest selling act on Unspeakable Axe records. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s listened to this LP – it’s absolutely furious! The classic South American sound that so many greats from Sepultura to Pentagram possessed is on full display here, with their bassist leading the charge of this thrashing masterpiece. This is an album that old school fans and newcomers alike will want to give repeated listens to.

Ruinous – Graves of Ceaseless Death

ruinous

Death Metal | New Jersey | Dark Descent Records | Bandcamp

Ruinous are a band composed entirely of former members of Funebrarum (as well as Goraphobia, Incantation, and many others). With names like that, expectations were high about this album, and Ruinous has certainly delivered a a dynamic death metal record. Don’t expect cavernous death metal with this release, as this is definitely more in the death/thrash vein, but there are also moments utilizing punk beats and slower death/doom passages. If you’re craving some riffs, Ruinous will satisfy.

Scorched – Echoes of Dismemberment

scorched

Death Metal | Delaware | Unspeakable Axe | Bandcamp

Hailing from Delaware, Scorched combat the boredom of the state with no identity by combining their love for horror films and mid paced death metal. There’s a lot of things about this record that remind me of Bay Area starwalts Vastum, from the mid-tempo Bolt Thrower riffs right down to the vocal style. But these guys aren’t a rip of by any means, as they manage to change it up with all the slashser film themes scattered throughout the record.

Sewercide – Immortalized in Suffering

sewercide

Death Metal | Melbourne, Australia | Unspeakable Axe | Bandcamp

Thrashing old school death metal right out of Australia, and another offering from Unspeakable Axe Records makes it on my list. These guys are absolutely savage and it’s a real treat to see their debut full length come out strong. Sewercide’s previous split 7 inches and EP held my interest, and this full length is an endless barrage of brutal riffs. Any fan of proper death metal will have plenty to sink their teeth into.

Soft Kill – Choke

soft-kill

Post-Punk | Portland, OR | Profound Lore | Bandcamp

Canadian metal label Profound Lore took a chance signing synthwave/post-punk act Soft Kill. All weirdness of that aside, this is a fantastic album full of lush dirges and dark waves of synthesized euphoria. Mark Burgess of the Chameleons even makes an appearance as a guest vocalist.

Spectres – Utopia

spectres

Post-Punk | Vancouver, BC | Deranged Records| Bandcamp

Vancouver post-punk titans Spectres released their third full length. They’ve expanded their sound to new heights compared to this album’s gloomy predecesor, “Nothing to Nowhere.” There’s more shades and colours present in the material here, and the vocal performance is better executed than ever. There are some massive hooks in the songs that will get stuck in your head for days.

Underpass – Red Reflection

underpass

Post-Punk | San Diego, CA | No Sun Recordings | Bandcamp

More new post-punk made its way into my listening habits with Underpass’ debut full length. They take a more minimalistic approach with their music (ie: the drums are literally a floor tom and a snare), but it allows for huge soundscapes in their guitar/bass work. Songs like “Whitest Light” and the title track are absolutely fantastic and the type of songs you’ll keep coming back to this album for.

WAKE – Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow

wake

Grindcore | Calgary, AB | Nerve Altar | Bandcamp

Hatred oozes its way out of Calgary, AB in the form of Canadian grinders WAKE. Their third full length shows the band is stronger than ever, as they blast through 8 songs in a mere 20 minutes. WAKE stand out from the grindcore crowd by mixing equal parts of Nasum with unsettling chord work in the vein of Deathspell Omega.

EPs/Demos/Splits

Auroch/Mitochondrion – In Cronian Hour

auroch-mito

Death Metal | Vancouver, BC | Dark Descent/Hellthrasher | Bandcamp

Auroch makes an appearance again on this list, this time on a split 7″ with their sister band Mitochondrion. Mitochondrion has been relatively silent in terms of new music since the release of “Parasignosis,” teasing us with another 7″ a few years ago. This is a great 7″ but it’s a shame it’s not a full 12″ collaboration as it’s apparent  both bands are able to mesh well together.

Cemetery Filth/Ectovoid/Sabbatory/Trenchrot – 4 Doors to Death

4-doors

Death Metal | USA/Canada | Unspeakable Axe | Bandcamp

I gave high praises to this 4 way split earlier this year, and it’s still holding up well. Each of these bands play a convincing style of death metal influenced by the classics, and compliment each other well over the duration of this split. Hats of to Unspeakable Axe for doing such a bang up job for such an ambitious release.

Drawn & Quartered – Proliferation of Disease

drawn-and-quartered

Death Metal | Seattle, WA | Self Released | Bandcamp

Seattle’s own cavernous death metal masters Drawn & Quartered haven’t put out anything since their 2012 album, which I’m sure has a lot to do with getting a new drummer. That being said, they’ve certainly struck gold with the latest addition to the band, and this demo proves just that. This is essentially a full length but it’s got a charming demo quality to it.

Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust

gorguts

Death Metal | Montreal, QC | Season of Mist | Bandcamp

Canada’s masters of avantgarde death metal have followed up their reunion album with a single song, 30 minute EP. There are clearly peaks and valleys with definite movements within, much like Edge of Sanity’s single song Crimson albums. The band seems to be locked in with the addition of Patrice Hamelin behind the drum kit (who took over for John Longstreth during the touring for “Colored Sands”).

Gruesome – Dimensions of Horror

gruesome

Death Metal |Arroyo Grande, CA/Miami, FL | Relapse Records | Bandcamp

Matt Harvey and company return with another 6 songs of Death-worshipping metal. While their debut LP “Savage Land” was shameless in its approach of regurgitating classic Death songs, “Dimensions of Horror” has a little more of its own identity and proves to be a fun and disgusting listen. If you just can’t get enough Death in you life, Gruesome is there for you.

Messiahlator – Doom Forever

messiahlator

Death Metal/Crust | Edmonton, AB | Self Released | Bandcamp

Full discolsure: I recorded these tracks for Messiahlator a couple years ago as part of a larger session, and finally they have been pressed on a 7″ released by the band. They are one of the strongest metal acts in Edmonton, perfectly blending their crust and Eyehategod influences into their Swedish death metal fandom.

Necrosic – Putrid Decimation

necrosic

Death Metal | Oakland, CA | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Bandcamp

Necrosic is a supergroup from the Bay Area featuring members of Autopsy, Impaled, Scolex, Funebrarum, Gravehill, etc. There’s not much here that will surprise anyone, as it sounds like Autopsy and friends making quality death metal. The four songs on this mLP cut deep, and one can only hope a full length is next on Necrosic’s radar.

Paroxsihzem – Abyss of Excruciating Hexes

paroxsihzem

Black/Death Metal | Toronto, ON | Hellthrasher Productions | Bandcamp

Toronto’s black/death entity known as Paroxsihzem have certainly been coming into their own over the last few years. After releasing a full length in 2012, the band struck back with even stronger material on a split with fellow Toronto act Adversarial. They’ve upped the ante once again with a new mLP, performed by the band’s new full line up. The Akhon Infaustus cover at the end wraps things up suitably.

Spectral Voice/Phrenelith split 7″

spectral-voice-phrenelith

Death/Doom Metal | Denver, CO/Denmark | Iron Bonehead | Bandcamp

Spectral Voice is a death/doom band featuring most members of Blood Incantation, and Phrenelith is a Danish death/doom act with members of Undergang. Do I need to explain things further? This 7″ is a solid slab of wax, and it’s increasing my hunger for a full length from Spectral Voice.

Teitanblood – Accursed Skin

teitanblood

Black/Death Metal | Spain | Norma Evangelium Diaboli | Bandcamp

Spain’s most menacing death duo returns with a new EP that features a new 14 minute track alongside a previously released CD-only track. So there’s not much new here, but it is a damn fine piece of filthy death metal. More importantly, this confirms the band is working towards another LP, and this is a fine way to tide over fans in the meantime.

Temple of Abandonment – From Outer Spheres… Death

temple-of-abandonment

Doom Metal | Vancovuer, BC | Self Released | Bandcamp

Temple of Abandonment took the underground by storm this year with this single track, 30 minute demo. The Vancouver quartet features members of some of my favourite acts in that city (AHNA, Chapel, etc) playing some of the most desolate death/doom I’ve heard in years. Sounds of mourning, anguish, and sorrow cut through in slow, pummeling waves. It’s no wonder this tape sold out immediately.

Noothgrush – Entropy

Genre: Sludge | Label: Fuck Yoga Records
Location: Oakland, CA, USA| Listen: Bandcamp

In regards to sludge, there are three bands I consider to be essential to the genre: Eyehategod, Grief, and Noothgrush. Noothgrush never released as much material as the other two bands, but they’ve certainly left their mark on the genre. While Eyehategod incorporates more punkier grooves in their music, and Grief is usually set on slow crawls, Noothgrush straddles that middle line between the two approaches.

noothgrush entropy front

Having reformed in 2011 after a ten year hiatus, Noothgrush haven’t wasted any time putting out new releases. There’s been a few releases of old material, and there’s been some new material: the split 12″ with Coffins, and this 7″. The band looks a little different now, with Dino Sommese (former Dystopia drummer) taking over the vocal department. That being said, Noothgrush sound like they haven’t missed a beat, and “Entropy” certainly doesn’t sound like the band was broken up for ten years.

“Entropy” consists of two tracks – the A-side title-track, and an old song re-recorded for the B-side. Both are solid slabs of sludge. The A-side embodies the main qualities that made Noothgrush so amazing in their initial existence: big riffs that groove along to pounding drums, with savagely screamed vocals that can tear through flesh. As the song grooves along, it breaks down into an even slower part, increasing the magnitude of heaviness put forth. The outro of this track is cool too, it has a nice melody that leaves a feeling of desolation.

The B-side, as I mentioned, is an old song that was re-recorded for this 7″. “Life Shatters into Pieces of Anguish” was originally on the band’s 1994 demo, and appears here with a twist: Dino sings on this song. His singing voice sounds kind of like Ozzy but less nasally, which is fitting for a sludge/doom metal band. The feeling of agony is really displayed well thanks to the vocal performance. Again, this song has a fantastic break about 3/4 of the way through, entering devastating realms of slow riffage.

noothgrush entropy back

This is a really solid 7″, and both songs benefit from thick guitar/bass tones and a pounding drum sound. I’m glad Noothgrush decided to record some new material, even if it’s only been a handful of songs. Based on that, I’m sure a full length would be welcomed, but if they choose just to release smaller releases, I won’t complain. Thankfully, the price of this EP is very affordable, and anyone who digs Noothgrush should get their hands on it.

80%

Chronobot / Hemptress – Split LP

About a year ago, I mixed 3 songs for Saskatchewan based stoner/doom band Chronobot. The tracks have finally been released as a split LP with Kamloops stoner band Hemptress. Both bands are wonderful, and I’m very happy with how the Chronobot side came out! Check the links below for listening and purchasing:

Listen to the Chronobot side.
Listen to the Hemptress side.
Purchase the LP from Sunmask.