Category Archives: Death Metal

Napalm Death – Smash A Single Digit

“Crunch a number, grinds your gears”

A song about the dehumanisation and exploitation of workers should probably sound a bit angry so the topic is in safe hands with Brummie grind gods Napalm Death. In recent years they’ve been making some of their best ever music and Smash A Single Digit from 2015’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat is a masterclass in furious extremity. It’s dissonant and explosive with a superbly thrashy climax and an intense, vital performance from vocalist Barney Greenway. Napalm Death have been making excoriating noise for decades now and show no signs of taking a break.

 

Artificial Brain – Celestial Cyst

“A map to a constellation out in space”

As Xmas and New Year approach I’ve managed to drag myself away from my usual festive fare (KISS, Magnum, Steeleye Span) and revisit some of my favourite albums of the 2022. Artificial Brain’s self-titled album has been the most-played of the bunch in December and is definitely a front-runner for the year’s top spot. Here’s one of its best tracks, Celestial Cyst. It’s turbulent and rumbling death metal with relentless blastbeats and subterranean vocals but topped with spacey layers of guitars and keyboards that give it a tranquil, melancholic mood more associated with black metal. It’s a brutal and enthralling combo. Artificial Brain is the third album in the band’s stellar career (and the last in a dystopian sci-fi trilogy) and they are at their absolute peak. Metal fans in search of strange new worlds should get onboard.

Bolt Thrower – Forgotten Existence (1988 Peel Session)

“Past the point of no return”

Bolt Thrower scored a good deal of buzz and a record deal from their 1988 Peel Session. When you listen to the radio session’s opening track Forgotten Existence, you can hear why. This is thrashier than the lumbering tank-tread riffing the Brummies would become known for but it’s crusty and hefty stuff and, like a lot of the BBC recordings, sounds incredible. The riffs are very Slayer-inspired, which is a very good thing, and original vocalist Alan West has a punkier voice that reminds me of the early Kreator stuff that Ventor sang. This is also a very good thing. Throw in the band’s perennial “tragedy of war” theme and you’ve got one hugely promising banger. Forgotten Existence is a great start to one of extreme metal’s most memorable careers.

Shrines – Ghost Notes (Review)

Shrines – Ghost Notes (2021)

Given that their frontman Sam Loynes also keeps busy with Akercocke, The Antichrist Imperium, and Voices I can’t blame Shrines for taking six years to follow up their 2015 debut album with a four-song EP. But it helps that the EP, 2021’s Ghost Notes, is good: angular, dissonant progressive metal with pristine guitar tones, killer riffs and Loynes’ unique, melancholic voice and harmonies. While I miss the eclectic creativity and plaintive atmosphere of the debut, its good to have Shrines back and they sound like they have found a strong direction and purpose with Ghost Notes. Hopefully they won’t take so long to make their next move this time. Of all the bands in Loynes’ impressive CV this is the one I’d most like to hear more of.

HMO Digest: 1st June 2022

Extra! Extra! Read all about it.

May was a very black metal month here at HMO, with strong new releases from Watain and Devil Master. I also listened to the Abbath album… a lot. And three of my four reviews on the blog were of that nefarious ilk.

Athenar of Midnight

Recent Posts

Midnight – Lust Filth And Sleaze (Song Review)

I’m fairly aggrieved that the phrase “put their log in the fiery place” has gone unnoticed.

Emperor – I Am The Black Wizards (Song Review)

In the comments, Kingcrimsonprog brought up the fun topic of mis-spellings on album sleeves. Any favourites typos out there? It wasn’t on a sleeve but my fave is in the Paul Stanley ad above. Can you spot it? It’s a belter.

Abbath – Dread Reaver (Review)

Epic blandness that stretches out before you like a featureless tundra.

Whitesnake – All In The Name Of Love (Song Review)

Soulful rock goodness from the perennial HMO man crush.

HMO Salutes

Alan White, Yes drummer, who has passed away aged 72. Wonderful drummer from the ultimate prog band.

Vangelis, Greek musician/composer, who has died aged 79. Best known round these parts for The Four Horsemen by Aphrodite’s Child. Top. Tune.

Record Store Day 2022

I wasn’t able to participate on the day on account of a shitey cold. But I still managed to grab what I wanted later in the week.

What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post

The Boston S/T. I might be in the minority in preferring the second album Don’t Look Back but the debut is awesome too. Brad Delp is one of the best singers that ever sang and I should be sick of More Than A Feeling by now. But I’m not.

The Month Ahead

I’m looking forward to the new Artificial Brain and Kreator albums and finally getting my hands on the much-delayed Mayhem De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas box set. There’s also the latest in the KISS Off The Soundboard series, a recording of their Donington ’96 show. I was there but now I can finally find out… were they genuinely boring or was I just too sunburned to appreciate them properly? Find out next time!

Autopsy – In The Grip Of Winter: EP Version

“Put your legs in the flames”

This is one winter wonderland you won’t be walking in. Autopsy’s In The Grip Of Winter is one of my absolute favourite death metal tracks. It’s a tale of arctic demise, perfectly expressed with (impending) doom metal swagger, panic-stricken death metal hammering and blizzardy guitar solos. It’s brilliant stuff and one of the tracks I always spin the minute I feel a chill in the air. There’s an even frostier version of this on the Mental Funeral album but this earlier version (from 1991’s Retribution For The Dead EP) emphasises the doom with its humongous, fat sound. But, no matter which version you hear, In The Grip Of Winter is a stone cold classic.

Anathema – Serenades (Review)

Anathema – Serenades (1993)

Anathema closed out their career with an album called The Optimist but back in their early days they were pessimistic purveyors of purest woe. Their 1993 debut album Serenades is growling, grinding doom: all funeral drapes, dead loved-ones and weeping willows. It puts a smile on my face though cause I love misery-guts metal and this is a great album to wallow in. The Cathedral-esque Sweet Tears is top drawer and Sleepless‘ goth melody makes it an early favourite of the band’s career. Even the more forgettable tracks like Under A Veil (Of Black Lace) have their share of cool riffs and moreishly sorrowful harmonies. Avant-garde interludes and French lady voices keep things interesting and varied. The 23 minutes of ambient wallpaper music at the end is a bit try-hard and the why/cry lyrics have a naiveté that would persist throughout the band’s career. But these minor quibbles are nothing to get sad about. Serenades is an impressive debut from a band with plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Anaal Nathrakh – Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion

“The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”

If I was making a playlist of my favourite songs from the previous decade Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion would definitely be on it. Taken from their 2016 album The Whole Of The Law, it’s absolutely berserk. Excoriating, industrial-grade grind mixes with hammering electronic passages. But for all their nightmarish noise, Anaal Nathrakh sure have a way with a hook and cram plenty of them in here. And in Dave Hunt, they have a vocalist versatile enough to deliver them. So when he’s not creating a white-noise shitstorm out of his face, he’s delivering an insanely catchy chorus with crazed metal god vocals and driving the song to a operatic climax. Oblivion has never been this much fun. This is what you wanted, this is what you need.

My Dying Bride – The Long Black Land

“Long have I waited for this”

Congratulations to My Dying Bride as they celebrate 30 years of innovative, influential and thoroughly miserable metal. It’s an especially pleasing achievement given that the last five years have been particularly trying for the British band. When vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s young daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, he was forced to take leave from the band. And when a further two band members decided to quit during this hiatus, the band’s future looked extremely doubtful.

Thankfully Aaron’s daughter was given the all clear and the band not only survives, but thrives. On their latest album The Ghost Of Orion they sound as vital, relevant and glum as ever. With its glacial pace, less obvious song structure and Andrew Craighan’s mournful riffs, The Long Black Land is definitely one of the album’s less instant and accessible tracks. But its also one of its most powerful: a black void right at the heart of the record. Like all the best doom, it’s laden with feeling and at the 6:25min mark, when a mellow breather bursts into a lumbering, seismic riff, it’s exquisitely powerful.

You wouldn’t know it from the music but, three decades in and at the top of their game, My Dying Bride and their fans have many reasons to be cheerful.

Sepultura – Necromancer

“Can feel the presence of death”

It’s almost unrecognisable as the band that became a major force in metal years later but the early Sepultura stuff is still pretty remarkable. Brazil wasn’t a corner of the globe where anyone was expecting a metal scene to pop up and when the band recorded their 1985 debut EP Bestial Devastation (a split release with fellow countrymen Overdose) it was just emerging from decades as a military dictatorship. Musically it’s not the most amazing stuff you’ll hear from the era but the band were pretty impressive considering they were all still in their mid-teens. And they got in early enough and extreme enough that their raw, filthy undergound thrash was also a primordial stew of nascent black and death metal.

My favourite track from the EP is Necromancer, with its naive evil lyrics, grinding Celtic Frost riffs, blasts of Discharge-like speed and a wild “all notes matter” guitar solo right out of Slayer. Fun stuff. Unfortunately, my favourite part of the song is a bit that I always mishear and misremember. One of the great metal mondegreens. After the chaotic solo the song returns to a slow sludge as vocalist Max “Possessed” Cavalera sings “necromancer, dead’s invoker”. But in my world this line has always been “necromancer, dirty fucker”. And it always will be! And it’s about time they just ‘fess up and admit that’s what the lyrics really were all along.