APESHIT’s Top Metal Albums of 2016

VirusAnother strong year is in the books for heavy music, so strong that making a year end list seemed unfair to every release that we did not include in our lists.  The underground continues to thrive with releases from legendary bands such as DARK FUNERAL, VADER, and NEUROSIS that will stand the test of time. Actually, most of the long running bands did not fail to meet or exceed expectations.  Thrash metal pioneers, MEGADETH, VOIVOD, and TESTAMENT, certainly released excellent records.  What is more important is that 2016 saw a lot of great releases from less trendy, more obscure bands.

Trees of EternityThis past year is personally notable as lost a dear friend and contributor, Brandon Stratton AKA rocknro11chef13.  As a small tribute, we’ve included albums that he would’ve likely picked for his year end list.  Life is short, my friends.  Embrace it.

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THE WRETCHED END – In These Woods, From These Mountains

The Wretched End - In these Woods From these MountainsAs the years go by, the original torch bearers of the legendary Norwegian black metal scene travel further down their own unique music journeys.  While the spirit, soul, and creativity will always remain intact, the darkness, extremity, and sheer sonic force has often been left in the past.  However, THE WRETCHED END continue to redefine and progress not just what extreme metal is but also what Norwegian black metal is in 2016.  The Scandinavian super group, featuring Samoth (EMPEROR, ZYKLON, SCUM), Cosmo (MINDGRINDER, SCUM), and Nils Fjellström (DARK FUNERAL, IN BATTLE) have released an ambitious and progressive work that considerably widens the scope of their music.

In These Woods, From These Mountains is arguably the band’s best album to date.  The brutal thrash dimension from debut, Ominous, is minimal, and the death metal dimension found through the first two albums are largely secondary.  It is decidedly their blackest and most atmospheric to date.  There is an emphasis on using just as much clean guitar tone-riffs to create eerie, desolate atmospheres as there are on distorted ones.  Many of the clean guitar-tone riffs could easily fit into a SLOWDIVE or MY BLOODY VALENTINE album.  Samoth and Cosmo have also focused on creating melancholic melodies that come in at the perfect junctions.  In contrast to Ominous and Inroads, the riffing and song structures have more breathing room.  It’s less of a barrage of eighth and sixteenth notes and more about longer notes.  As a result, Dominator‘s drumming becomes more crucial in providing the backbone, which he does to brilliant effect.  Few extreme metal drummers have totally mastered the art of the ride cymbal like he has.

Other interesting aspects of In These Woods, From These Mountains that should not be overlooked are the use of keyboards, samples, and Cosmo‘s clean vocals.  He has done fantastic work with WINDIR contributing clean vocals.  And while his clean vocals here aren’t as prominent, it’s a welcome new dimension.

Every song provides a different look and highlights can be found all over.  And within each song is a full range of dynamics and dimension in play.  The nuances in artistry can fully be appreciated after successive listens.  So much ground is covered.  Comparisons to EMPEROR‘s IX Equilibrium come to mind.

Opener, “Dead Icons,” begins with a cold drum march before bursting into a speeding fireball with unique, eerie guitar riffs.  The lyrics easily apply to current events affecting the world today.  “Primordial Freedom” starts out ominous and doomy before taking flight with blast beats.  “Old Norwegian Soul” may be the “purest” black metal song, complete with the haunting, low end groans of Attila Csihar (MAYHEM, TORMENTOR), keyboards, melodies, and juxtaposed tempos.  “Atheos” is an absolute high point in the band’s career with its galloping, invincible momentum. The riff that comes in at the 3:27 mark lays everything to waste.  Devastating.  THE WRETCHED END closes In These Woods, From These Mountains with a glacier-sized cover of BEL CANTO‘s “Dewy Fields.”  Helping out is Einar Solberg (LEPROUS) on lead vocals and the criminally underrated LRZ (RED HARVEST) providing the epic synth and programming.

With In These Woods, From These Mountains,  THE WRETCHED END only seek to create an immediate classic album.  There is so much greatness to behold.  Hail.  (Indie Recordings)

Title Track from DARK FUNERAL’s Upcoming Where Shadows Forever Reign Released

The excellent title track from DARK FUNERAL‘s upcoming album, Where Shadows Forever Reign, has been posted online:

Where Shadows Forever Reign” sounds like pure classic DARK FUNERAL and new vocalist Heljarmadr sounds very good.  He enunciates each word very clearly ala David Vincent.

Band leader/guitarist Lord Ahriman comments: “I’ve said it before, but in case you missed it, I will say it again. WE ARE BACK!!! And to prove that we’re really back to reclaim the throne once and for all, we now have the privilege to let you all get a taste of what is to come in the form of the epic title track of our long awaited new masterpiece! Sit back, put your speakers on max and enjoy the ride through ancient realms so forlorn and cold, the majestic realm where shadows forever reign.”

Vocalist Heljarmadr further adds: “The lyrics to ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign‘ deal with self sacrifice. To reach further on my spiritual path I must give something from myself. Be it material or a piece of my heart and soul, as long as it’s something that deeply matters. To truly reach the world of shadows I must summon my inner shadows, my inner darkness and allow no light.”

Six years after the release of their last album, DARK FUNERAL will finally release their new album on June 3rd, 2016 via Century Media Records.  Album cover artwork was done by Necrolord and looks like a masterpiece.

THE WRETCHED END Return with New Album, In These Woods, From These Mountains

After four long years, Scandinavian supergroup THE WRETCHED END, featuring Samoth (EMPEROR, ZYKLON, SCUM), Cosmo (MINDGRINDER, SCUM, SOURCE OF TIDE), and Nils Fjellström (DARK FUNERAL, IN BATTLE), have announced the April 22, 2016 release of In These Woods, From These Mountains.  The album was recorded by the band themselves and mixed with producer Marius Strand in Norway.  Mastered at Fascination Street in Sweden, it is without doubt the strongest and most varied of the extreme metal band’s growing sonic portfolio.  Artwork was handled by Trine + Kim Design Studio.

Old friend Attila Csihar (MAYHEM, TORMENTOR) lends a hand on “Old Norwegian Soul” while LEPROUS vocalist/keyboardist Einar Solberg and RED HARVEST’s LRZ contribute on the band’s unexpected adaptation of BEL CANTO’s “Dewy Fields” for the album’s epic closer.

Samoth comments: “It’s great to finally have this album ready for release. It took us some years for various reasons; different things in our every day and professional lives that took a lot of focus on our parts. We never felt any great pressure.  Looking back, I think the whole process affected the album in a positive way. I personally feel I’ve almost come full circle with this new album, bringing more elements rooted in the darkness of black metal.”

Check out the opening song, “Dead Icons“:

Watch THE WRETCHED END’s Nils “Dominator” Fjellström Prove He is a Beast

THE WRETCHED END are currently working on their third album, which is set for a 2015 release.  They just posted a video of Nils “Dominator” Fjellström laying down some of his drum tracks.  Check out why he is the blaster master:

As you can see and hear, Nils exemplifies extreme metal drumming with the key ingredients of ride and crash cymbal work.  Awesome.

EMPEROR Kicks Off Nightside Eclipse Anniversary Shows at Sweden Rock 2014

Black metal kings, EMPEROR, played their first show performing In the Nightside Eclipse as part of the album’s 20th anniversary at the Sweden Rock Festival this past Saturday. Hopefully, you were one of the lucky ones at the show.

Let’s pray for a full, official band reunion as we enjoy these clips from the show. Cheers to Niclas Johansson for the footage.

Video of the Day: MINDGRINDER’s Return from 8 Year Hiatus

It’s been a long time since MINDGRINDER‘s last album, Riot Detonator, was released (eight years to be exact).  The wait is over as the band’s third album, Prop Agenda, is available now on iTunes and Spotify.  The album was recorded in Akkerhaugen Lydstudio and MINDGRINDER‘s Barnsville Studios, mastered at Andy La Rocque‘s Sonic Train Studios, and features cover artwork by Eliran Kantor.

Check out the video for the track, “WYSIWYG“:

As a bonus, check out their awesome cover of the EMPEROR classic “I am the Black Wizards” featuring none other than EMPEROR guitarist Samoth on bass:

New Video for THE WRETCHED END’s “Zoo Human Syndrome” Now Online

Despite the fact that “Zoo Human Syndrome” is taken off THE WRETCHED END‘s 2010 record, Ominous, the band have posted the official video for it.  Check it out below.

The video was filmed, edited and produced by none other than Trym Torson (ex-EMPEROR/ZYKLON/ENSLAVED).  Epic song and cool video.

THE WRETCHED END is currently working on their third record and will release news soon.

APESHIT’s Top Metal Albums of 2012

As another great year for heavy music comes to a close, APESHIT takes a look back at our favorite pieces of music of 2012. This year had some great comebacks in CRYPTOPSY and STRIFE. There were also some nice surprises in the new sheer quality of the new SIX FEET UNDER and brutality of the new SOULFLY.

We want to thank all our readers, friends in the industry, and all the amazing artists, big and small, that we get a chance to work with for a great 10th year of existence. As the music industry as a whole continues to take an economic hit, let us all remember: If you like a band or one of their releases, support it!

Here’s hoping for a great 2013!

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THE WRETCHED END – Inroads

After making a strong debut with Ominous, Norway’s THE WRETCHED END easily proved their worth.  Now, with Inroads, the band have honed and focused their sophisticated, multi-dimensional style of extreme metal to a blacker, more desolate place.  Everything from the classic album artwork to the atmospheres and overall sound possesses a distinctly Norwegian black metal undercurrent.  However, this is not a rehashing of past victories. This is the band’s modern expression of Norwegian black metal fused with the other elements of their sound.  The thrash elements of their sound make less of an appearance this time around.

Soon after Inroads begins, it’s clear that THE WRETCHED END have further defined their style with new sounds, vibes, and dynamics.  Lead guitars are effectively, succinctly, and frequently used to add color.  Norwegian black metal dissonance is utilized in riffs such as in “Tyrant of the Mountain” and “Deathtopian Society.”  “Death by Nature” and “The Haunting Ground” have killer grooves.   “Cold Iron Soul” constantly shifts tempos with the subtle, contrasting riffs that flow well together.  THE WRETCHED END deliver the sense of ominous urgency with the run away train feel of “Fear Propaganda.”

In addition to the subtle complex song arrangements and sounds, the sheer spirit of Inroads is very reminiscent of the mighty EMPEROR.  Indeed, THE WRETCHED END reach new heights as shown on the absolutely invincible, decadent melodies at the end of “Blackthorn Winter,” the powerful emotion of “Hunger,” and the total domination of closer “Throne Renowned of Old.”

While all the various dimensions of Inroads may not be readily discernible nor fully appreciated at first, it all comes out over time.

In an ever crowded and formulaic extreme metal scene, THE WRETCHED END easily distinguish themselves as one of the best.  (Nocturnal Art Productions/Candlelight Records)