So, it is 2023. There is war, a new rendition of the doomsday clock, inflation, and frost in the ProgCave. But there is also plenty of music, too. If 2022 felt maybe a bit safe in the field of musical releases, 2023 seems to be getting off to a great start. Let’s have a look, shall we?
The year started with another release by Esoctrilihum called Funeral. After what seemed to be their masterpiece, Inhüma (2018), I was pretty certain Esoctrilihum would be one the brightest stars of the black metal genre. On that particular record, they combined the trippy, otherworldly qualities of Magma with the black metal greatness of Mayhem. I’ve been following their releases keenly ever since, but nothing has quite matched the greatness of Inhüma so far. Actually, the power of their magic has even been waning a bit. There seem to be quite a many releases coming from this camp and the efforts come across as a bit diluted somehow. Maybe it is time to retreat, take a moment of consideration, re-organize a bit, and come back with a full frontal trippy black metal record.
Buy Funeral on Bandcamp.
If Esoctrilihum was a bit of a letdown, Iggy Pop sure delivered. As a long-time fan of the mighty Stooges, Iggy Pop‘s solo records have never quite made me dive from the couch. Until now. Iggy’s latest, Every Loser, is manhandled by the same production team as the last two Ozzy Osbourne records – Watt, Smith, McKagan in the forefront – and it is by far the best thing on this side of the first three Stooges albums. It is rather rare to see an artist being able to pick up his former glories in this type of mindblowing fashion, but Iggy sure has done it! I freaking love this record from start to finish. A varied piece, with everything from punk to a 69 Eyes type-of gothic gloom, this one is a winner.
Buy Every Loser on Amazon.
Another solo work coming up! Former HIM mastermind Ville Valo released his first solo album in January. He is now called VV (a bit prince-ish, maybe), and his debut is called Neon Noir. Musically, I was expecting it to be a bit more cheesy than it actually was. The sound of things here can be (perhaps a bit unfairly) considered HIM without all the distortion, but still, a rather fitting way to put it. Neon Noir has a slight The Cure vibe, which makes it worthy of a spin to anybody interested in the 80’s goth thing.
Buy Neon Noir on Amazon.
On the more brutal side of the fence, Defy the Curse from Holland released a marvelous debut album called Horrors of Human Sacrifice last month. Mixing hardcore punk with an Asphyx type of no-gimmicks death metal is precisely how one would expect it to be. Full assault on the senses, with a no-rats arses-given attitude towards trendiness. I cannot recommend this one enough!!
Buy Horrors of Human Sacrifice on Bandcamp.
On the same bandwagon as Defy the Curse we have Obituary. If anyone actually needs to be introduced to how Obituary sounds – they should go back to death metal kindergarten and start googling things ASAP. No surprises in the musical direction here, but the production comes across as more modern than before, and the music has more of a thrash-metal vibe to it. A very straightforward and splendid listen, nevertheless. You always go right with the Obi!
Buy Dying of Everything on Amazon.
German death-doomsters Ahab have been known for a more challenging type-of delivery. Their latest, The Coral Tombs, is no exception. Coming across a bit more like Mourning Beloveth, this time Ahab takes the listener on a varied journey to the crushing depths of the bottom of the sea. Sure to take a spin (or a dozen) to fully reveal itself, The Coral Tombs is very much a recommended work for any death/doom fan. Especially those who like their dish served in a more complex manner.
Buy The Choral Tombs on Amazon.
Lycaon is the title of the new album by Swedish band Grá. Best known for having the current Dark Funeral vocalist Heljarmadr in their ranks, they come across as a very professional-sounding entity, with plenty of Dissection and Amon Amarth in their sound. The Bathory cover of “Chariots of Fire” alone is worthy of checking out.
Buy Lycaon on Bandcamp.
Katatonia returns after their most interesting album in ages, City Burials (2020), with their latest offering called Sky Void of Stars. Somehow, the element of surprise that was present with the varied songwriting of the predecessor, Sky Void of Stars comes across as a rather one-dimensional work. The main body of the album is too much in the same tempo and, despite the rather easy-to-like singles, the album sounds a bit jarring. Like listening to the same track all over again. The last track “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall” comes across as the heaviest piece on the album and wakes the listener from the coma a bit. But this particular record seems too safe and calculated. Very professional in delivery, though.
Buy Sky Void of Stars on Amazon.
…And Oceans have always been one of the most interesting bands to come out of Finland. Their first four albums each had a different identity, ranging from melodic black metal to progressive, industrial, and electronic. Their A.M.G.O.D. album is at the personal Top-3 of Finnish metal albums for me. For that reason alone, I was very much interested in their comeback a few years ago.
Now fronted by Mathias Lillmåns of Finntroll-fame and backed up by the impressive drumming of Kauko Kuusisalo (Gorephilia), their latest version of the truth is a bit more mainstream in delivery, working in the area of late 90’s melodic black metal. Much in the likeness of Covenant, or Arcturus, maybe. Despite coming across as less surprising now, they compensate with masterful compositional work. The melodies, furious drumming, smooth arrangements… It is all there. As In Gardens, So In Tombs is an easy album to enjoy.
Buy As in Gardens, So in Tombs on Bandcamp.
Iron Void impressed me with their great debut album and now they return with their latest, simply titled “IV.” Musically, this is pure Black Sabbath worship with slight touches of modern doomsters like Thronehammer to it. If you’re into doom, do not sleep on this one, buddy!
Buy IV on Bandcamp.
The long-running Australian extreme metal entity Vahrzaw started out with black metal like early Behemoth and switched to death metal. Their previous album The Trembling Voices of Conquered Men (2021) was a largely praised work in the realm of Morbid Angel and their peers, and for good reason. Easily one of the best records of that particular year!
Upon hearing the first single from their new album In the Shallows of a Starlit Lake, I was very much surprised. It boasted a HUGE Ulver vibe and then trebly 90’s black metal all of the sudden. Or should I say AGAIN? Yet, the surprise was a positive one, as the material here is so carefully written. I could throw comparisons to early Emperor with ease. Once again into ‘90s black metal. Not copying, but simply delivering it, Vahrzaw seems to have delivered a bomb here. If you are tired of waiting for the return of Thy Serpent, simply go for Vahrzaw instead.
Buy In the Shallows of a Starlit Lake on Bandcamp.
So, there you have it. A few calls on albums worthy of checking out, in case you have missed some of them. Hope you found something worthy here and let’s talk more after February, ok?
Till next time.
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