Tape Wyrm XLVI: Mid Year Review Tape Wyrm XLVI: Mid Year Review

The middle of the year is important for anyone keeping track of best of the year albums. First of all, it gives people a chance to write down all of the albums that made a serious impression on them during the past six months. Secondly, it gives people a chance to possibly place bets on whether or not their picks will fair well in the second half, or hopelessly lose steam. I personally find it fun because I enjoy talking about music as much as I enjoy gambling metaphors. If I would think of 2013 as anything it would be one of those vintage carnival games where the horse would move depending on skee balls. It is almost comical how long I searched for that game because the fill the clown’s mouth up with water until a balloon pops doesn’t really makes sense. Come on horsies win us a new suit.

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cultes-des-ghoules-henbane-cover-bigCultes De Ghoules – Henbane

Holy shit. Not since Peste Noire have I heard black metal that is so tortuous with the vocals. I almost want to call this witch metal because it literally sounds like an old crone cackling over a cauldron full of children’s bones. Henbane is evil, vile, and all other words that mean bad things using a V-L-I-E. Its occult lyrics make the listener uncomfortable but its crunchy guitars and occasional blast of drums locks the door so one cannot escape. Heavy metal has come far and darkness has not changed in some regions. There are places where one can go to get unadulterated dark from people that sound like withered witches. This is shiver inducing heavy metal and shouldn’t be taken lightly by the weak of heart.

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Caladan-Brood-Echoes-of-Battle-CoverCaladan Brood – Echoes of Battle

I knew I was going to like Caladan Brood. This isn’t just because the band bases its music around Steve Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, but the fantasy aspect certainly helps. It also isn’t just because this group is the modern avatar of Summoning despite Summoning still being around. No, Caladan Brood and their debut, Echoes of Battle, succeeds not only because of dense devotion to a fantasy series but because of a charming combination of mid tempo black metal and a crisp shriek. Place in the addition of battle noises, clean melodic anthems, and the occasional medieval melodies and one has a delightfully enjoyable metal record. I would go so far as saying surprisingly amazing. The fantasy part merely solidifies the whole presentation. It could have worked even without the geeky devotion, but the last part seals the deal with a blood oath over cloven shield.

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5870Satan – Life Sentence

Oh my stars, it’s Satan. Satan is lauded as being a staple in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with their record Court in the Act as one of the movement’s hallmark records. The band only recorded one more record, Suspended Sentence, in 1987. Life Sentence is the first album since Court in the Act with all original members and, Lord almighty, does it destroy. More and more I have been appreciating older bands that still make records like they could exist in their original time period. Dream Death is another example from this year. Life Sentence picks up exactly where Court in the Act left off and offers wild guitar leads, incredibly entertaining vocals, and a fucking badass logo with one of the coolest album covers in recent memory.

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PaysageDHiver-DasTorPaysage D’Hiver – Das Tor

As I silently await the new album from Darkspace to finally come out, I will take solace in the fact that at least one member from that band is still releasing existentially terrifying music. Darkspace and Paysage D’hiver exist on parallel lines. While Darkspace leans heavily on the horror of empty space, the band’s guitarist Tobias Möckl) seems much more interested in winter and the possibility of rational thinking obliteration under the weight of cold. Paysage D’hiver has always released limited cassettes full of lo-fi black metal that moves to near impossible lengths. While what I just said may not interest you whatsoever, take comfort in the fact that there are 300 copies of soul numbing black metal, which comes segmented by the sounds of frostbitten wind. Where do you get your music? The mall? Ha. Come with me to this dark hut on the edge of oblivion.

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Inter-Arma-Sky-Burial-e1358196898649Inter Arma – Sky Burial

I guess it is reasonable why I missed Inter Arma before. From Virginia, on Relapse Records, and play music with sludge in the name. It is reasonable to just casually assume they are progressive and sound like Mastodon or Baroness. Listening to Inter Arma’s 2010 Sundown changed my perspective. Listening to Inter Arma’s 2013 Sky Burial made me embarrassed I did not follow this band sooner. Much in the way Tombs combined genres, Inter Arma takes black metal, sludge, post rock, post metal, and black metal then bows deeply to Pink Floyd. Sky Burial is a damn interesting album and one that is capable of arresting its listener with the possibilities and heights a metal record could reach. “The Long road Home” could be my summer jam if my summer was a bleak landscape of rot and resolution.

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359762 (1)Portal – Vexovoid

I was really struggling between Abyssal and Portal. Both bands offer the listener a chaos ridden experience and, for the most part, sound similar. Both bands came out with records that frighten cute animals in 2013. Abyssal is more abstract than Portal. While Abyssal’s 2013 record Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius sort of starts where Portal’s previous record Swarth ended, Portal has made a new, more accessible record. I keep using that joke and I never tire of telling it. By accessible I mean that underneath the smog of insanity are grooves and riffs that the listener can ride on through the length of the record. This course may be bumpy and jarring at times, but Vexovoid was the first Portal record that I broke through the inaccessibility wall and found things that I could listen to rather than just talk about.

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TWlogoBW2I have known Dan Lake for a while. We met while writing articles for Chronicles of Chaos and solidified our working relationship with field trips to Maryland Deathfest. He also writes for Decibel and maybe some other places I am not aware of. I did not give Dan a choice whether or not he wanted to do this article. I told him to give me five albums and he did. Well, in fact, he gave me six which then meant I had to do six because I can not let Dan Lake win in this imaginary album contest. I can not let Dan win.

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358565Cult of Luna – Vertikal

For some people, metal was their coming-of-age music, the soundtrack to their escape from the humdrum and the mainstream. Not me. I grew into musical maturity among the incoherent ravings of John Zorn’s game pieces, the aching drama of Sigur Ros’ chilly adventures in stretched melodies, and the brain-leveling crush of SunnO)))’s none-more-black drone. All this is to say that, while some listeners revere the songwriting present in great Swedish death metal, I’m more interested in unexplored avenues of sonic signal processing. Cult of Luna’s Eternal Kingdom offered some pretty straight-faced high-concept sludge, and I lost interest quickly. Vertikal fixes the problem, quickly and often, with a greater sense of theater and exploration. I feel like there’s more hiding in the corners of this album, lying in wait between the burly riffs. The best sign of all: I never get tired of listening to Vertikal, as I sometimes do with other albums this style.

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rotting-christ-albumRotting Christ – Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy

I’m sure to take some shit for this. Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy is not a breakthrough record for the genre, nor even for this long-running Greek band. It’s not the focused historical statement with experimental tendencies that Aealo was, and it wasn’t recorded in the mid-90s, which will always be a strike against worthiness in some minds. But Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy seethes with pure adrenaline, and whenever I queue it up it never fails to get the pulse racing and the fists pumping. It gathers all the best reasons to listen to Rotting Christ – hell, to listen to heavy music in general – and whips them into a driving, melodic lather. The new Christ is a truly satisfying metal experience.

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tgai_front1-630x630Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory and Injury

You know those records that make you completely reevaluate what you think you know? If your answer is no, that’s because you’re young and there aren’t that many such records out there. Don’t worry, it’ll happen for you, too. If your answer is yes, then you could immediately think of an album or two that made you feel that way. When music is so potent that it rearranges your neural pathways, it never quite leaves you. Teethed Glory and Injury is like that. I haven’t spent nearly enough time with Altar of Plagues’ latest venture to have grasped what I’m hearing, but I’ve listened enough to know that each song stamps its own exciting personality on the little plot of runtime it gets. Multidimensional, tantalizing, and a little hermetic, this one’ll stick around a while.

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dillinger-escape-plan-one-of-us-is-the-killer-artwork-604x604Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us is the Killer

Every blurb on DEP since Miss Machine seems like a tract of apology for bothering the listening public with yet another melody-laden, song-oriented out-of-the-park home run of an album that isn’t Calculating Infinity. For the sun-resistant basement dwellers, yes, there’s technical brilliance and chaos theorizing. For those of us who appreciate musicianship used to decimate minds and bodies as well as eardrums and finger tendons, well, there’s that, too. One of Us is the Killer presents itself as very recognizably Dillinger, but subsequent spins reveal the twisted genius always working within the band: Weinman’s quirky guitar priorities, Puciato’s vividly hateful lyrics, and the rhythm sections primal and precise attack. All of us are the winners.

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Antigama-MeteorAntigama – Meteor

I’m admittedly late to the Antigama party, but damn what an entrance! Special is the grind record with enough dynamics and personality to rise above being “that loud thing that’s really super fast, man, and like so totally brutal, you’ve gotta hear how brutal!” Meteor buzzes, red-eyed and feverish, for every single one of its 1,751 seconds. We’ll ignore for the moment that the album’s name describes a streak of light across the sky; these eleven tracks launch a crippling asteroid barrage to the hull of your not-so-safe-now space cruiser. Don’t miss this celestial event.

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Agrimonia-Rites-of-SeparationAgrimonia – Rites of Separation

Metal guitars are often used as bludgeons, sure, but on many of the great albums those guitars absolutely fucking speak. In words. Not like Peter Frampton guitar talking, not human words, but in musical words that are felt before they’re understood. Those guitars have some burning, abstract truths to tell, and they’re shouting at you like a maddened mute… if only you were conversant in those same musical words, the intercourse would be complete. There’s a human voice on Rites of Separation, but it’s nothing special. Listen to the guitars’ oration, and the piano’s response; hear the percussion stomp out its agreement. Swedes Agrimonia light up their third long player with a truly epic instrumental spectacle. Bonus points for coming out on Southern Lord, but not sounding like it.



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