April showers have rained upon us some truly special releases. These albums are not just highlights of the month or of the year, but they all receive the highest possible recommendation from this website. They shall be enjoyed for years to come, and will stand as monuments of their respective styles that all other bands can only hope to touch. Normalcy shall return next month.
Demonomancy – Poisoned Atonement
If you let this album pass by as more or less background noise, it would be easy to pigeon-hole it as a normal black/death affair by one of hundreds of bands doing it. Proper absorption tell us that this is no ordinary album, rather these are the sounds of men that have sacrificed their souls for the devil himself. No mortal being can just write these riffs and piece them together so masterfully. Something sinister is at play here, and Demonomancy are leading a fresh crusade in the satanic revolution.
The vocalist is obviously possessed, and delivers one of the more varied performances you will hear in some time. Yells, desperation, chants, echoes, and pure rage screams are the offerings for this experience, and some tracks have an undeniably catchy chorus that do not hinder the suffocating evil atmosphere, such as “Day of the Lord” and “The Last Hymn to Eschaton”. The title track takes no prisoners, and is the finest offering in terms of unveiling everything this band has to offer. The vocals are on an uncontrollable warpath and the wealth of riffs is tastier than a hot carcass after a long frigid winter. This album is full of moments where you are grooving with a riff, then a changeup occurs for an even better riff and you no longer possess mechanical function in your entire body.
The last track, “Nefarious Spawn of Methodical Chaos” is a supreme testament to the loss of motor skills incurred by the listener. It showcases the pure power this band has when it is purely blasting away, managing to sound so hellaciously evil while simply blasting, whereas most bands use it as a non-emotional stopgap between ideas. No second is wasted with this album. The chorus riff that hits around 3:55 is flooring; there is no other way to put it. Forces both alive and dead are pushed aside by the imposing might of this riff, and the mere listener is rendered helpless. The fact that the guitarist created such an ungodly riff and it only makes one highlight appearance on the album is doubtlessly insane, yet it is a representation of the creative wealth that Demonomancy possess. Other bands would have milked the shit out of that riff (and rightfully so), but Demonomancy stand above their peers. This is simply an unbelievable album filled with passion, prowess, and seething hatred, executed with absolute perfection.
W.A.I.L. – Wisdom Through Agony Into Illumination and Lunacy Vol. II
W.A.I.L. have unleashed a monolith of artistic brutality that has been carefully honed and crafted over a long period. While music is obviously at the forefront of any album experience, I have always appreciated bands that take that creative process a step further with a high quality art and lyrics booklet, and W.A.I.L. have delivered quite the manifesto to accompany the music. Over 20 pages of art and text/lyrics work to provide meaning behind the album’s concept and to glimpse into the minds of these individuals and what they were thinking while this album was being created. In short, this album focuses on duality and the interconnectedness of all things in this world; no separation of good and evil.
The first track, “Through Will to Exaltation Whence Descent into a Bottomless Black Abyss”, is a 25 minute behemoth of raw emotion, beginning with a heavy black metal attack. Speed is sacrificed for sheer pummeling riffs and a mid-paced drum beatdown. This track is more focused in negative energies, and the grim atmosphere overflows through the entire track, whether it is in the black metal sections or the meandering guitar outro that takes up a chunk of the end of the track. The production is perfectly suited for the style of this album with every instrument and the vocals presented clear and beefed up in your face, allowing for a true heaviness that is not often found on black metal related albums. The drummer shows great restraint in allowing the atmosphere to emerge around him even when he is just intermittently pounding away, never trying to overtake the songs, but providing great variety when his time arrives.
His great performance is even more evident in the second track, “Reawakening Through Anguish into Gestalt of Absolute”, and tempos constantly vary as he fills the voids masterfully. This is a 35 minute ascension from the depths we explored on the previous track. For this band to pull off two lengthy songs as these while maintaining originality and freshness throughout showcases their songwriting acumen as well as a wide breadth of originality not seen on most album. These guys brought a lot of ideas to the table, and the 20 something pages of art and text reinforces their huge mission. The instrumental section on this track is a lengthy piano and violin piece that holds a wide range of emotions, and is performed expertly and passionately. This is not a simple atmosphere building interlude, but rather a complex arrangement played by skillful musicians. The drums march again for the final eight minutes of the song, with a triumphant guitar solo propelling us towards permanent destruction of the ego. The final riff in the final three minutes of the song is the perfect conclusion to this monolithic experience, equal parts triumphant and devastating as we break through towards the beyond.
W.A.I.L. have created a transcendental musical experience that pushes past all boundaries and stereotypes in this metallic realm. A timeless piece of art stands in this wake, crafted with meaning and endless passion. The musicians in W.A.I.L. are complex individuals that are determined to make sense of the world from their view, and making sense of their masterwork is a task that will take some time, but luckily they have given us all the tools to try for ourselves. Owning a physical copy of this album is the only way to experience it. The band has put in a lot of work both musically and visually, and the final product is well worth the price of acquisition.
Sleep – The Sciences
What has not already been said about this album… a true landmark surprise release by one of the godfathers of the metal genre, and pioneers of the stoner subgenre that has spawned thousands of copycat bands. Sleep returns to crush inferiority into spacedust with a lineup that has become a supergroup at this point. All of the members’ respective bands forms a perfect equation for Sleep’s sound: a sacred, sabbathian, smoky adventure towards the beyond. Matt Pike is the unquestioned riff god of today, and he is the reason these songs transcend all the stereotypes of stoner doom, powering past monotony and slowness just for the sake of it into a nebula of creativity and variety while crushing all bone matter within a certain radius.
We are finally gifted the official releases of two tracks that have long been played live: “Sonic Titan” and “Antarcticans Thawed” and they do not disappoint. The title of Om’s first album (bassist Al Cisneros’ other band) is titled “Variations on a Theme” and not only is it fitting for Om’s output, but it is also apt for the way Sleep perform songs, which is why they are able to execute long songs to perfection. This album is the perfect follow up to “Dopesmoker” as Sleep have been able to harness the same energy and songwriting prowess to deliver the goods on the long tracks. “Sonic Titan” is exactly as the name suggests, and when the smoke clears about five minutes in, all that’s left is the pure power of the bass guitar proving its might as the backbone of the cosmic voyage.
“Antarcticans Thawed” is the highlight of the album, both musically and lyrically. Sleep’s lyrics have never been deep or scholarly or mysterious, but here the imagery that is conveyed transports this song to another level. The second line “sets free Antarctic legions” gives you the sense that an ancient force possessed by riffs has been unleashed from the frozen wasteland, and will bring destruction previously unseen by mankind. Sleep’s use of the unknown in their themes, whether it is the frozen mountainous abyss of Antarctica or the mysterious realms of deep space, gives their music a unique otherworldly quality that seems both honest and foreboding, as if the members possess some sort of primordial knowledge. The vocals near the end of this track have this nasty grit that is extremely satisfying, giving off an aggressive vibe as the song comes to a close; its just magnificent.
Aside from the previously mentioned song, the best moment on the album comes in “Giza Butler”, which is aptly titled as the bass lines are out of this universe. The moment in question is the riff that simultaneously begins with the line “marijuana is his light and his salvation”, about 5:50 into the song. The entire track takes an aggressive turn while the vocals still maintain their meditative quality, and it is a supremely transcendent experience. The way that Sleep can seamlessly transition to these more aggressive qualities is what separates them from their too stoned peers, and this is credit to the members’ other bands rubbing off on their playing style. We all know what we’re getting with Sleep, who are a flawless studio band and one of the greatest live bands of our time, and any creation that bears their name is beyond worthy of undivided attention. An instant classic.