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Akimbo - City of the Stars (CD) Cover Art Akimbo - City of the Stars (CD)



City of the Stars is heavy but without a ton of distortion, and the songs have an almost mathy-type feel to them. With the jagged, hoarse vocals, Akimbo take on a more abrasive quality. It's a hectic, chaotic album. Songs start and stop without warning, yet all the time maintaining momentum. It’s like they’ve created a perpetual motion machine that runs on madness. If that doesn’t entice you to check them out, I don’t know what will.

The tracks are melodically versatile and the vocals beautifully abrasive. At times it will feel like you're listening to a classic rock station, then swept up by '80s punk and hardcore only to be laid out flat by the intense vocals and riffs. City of the Stars successfully embodies the elements of the hard rock and punk evolution.

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Price: $6.66
Atriarch - Forever the End (LP) Cover Art Atriarch - Forever the End (LP)



Oppressive in its atmosphere and crafted with an unrelenting darkness of aesthetic, Forever the End, from Portland, Oregon’s Atriarch is an intelligent masterwork that harkens to a very particular sense of drama. It’s a grieving, sorrowful atmosphere, playing modern doom tonality off depressive ‘90s-style guitar weeping that’s more Gothic than “gothic,” but owes something to drunken teenage late nights spent hanging out in cemeteries nonetheless. The four mostly-extended tracks of Forever the End keep to linear structures, and the result is they flow together almost as one larger piece. That they’re wrapped around a central and pervasive sonic misanthropy only enhances this feel, and through all of “Plague,” “Shadows,” “Fracture” and “Downfall,” Atriarch balance doomed heaviness with black metal’s cultish sensibility, vocalist Lenny resting far back in the mix for vicious cavern screams or cutting through with a sort of monotonic clean singing.

It’s an easy release to be excited about for its effective blend of modern doom and black metal – like Cough’s first record with more emotional flair – but Atriarch back up the surface hype with an obvious strive for individuality that one imagines will only help distinguish them going forward. Heavy tone, heavy heart.

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Price: $13.99
Batillus - Concrete Sustain (CD) Cover Art Batillus - Concrete Sustain (CD)



Two years after breaking through with Furnace, Brooklyn's finest, Batillus, are back with Concrete Sustain, a collection of six fairly lengthy but surprisingly lean and focused updates on the band's industrial sludge repertoire. Representing more of a refinement of the existing Batillus sound rather than an evolution per se, Concrete Sustain dials back the atmospherics just a smidge without sacrificing any of the bottom end. Heavy is and always will be the Batillus stock-in-trade. "Concrete" is hands down the band's catchiest song to date, which hardly makes it a radio friendly unit shifter but if you can get that damned chorus out of your head you're a more disciplined man than I.

"Beset" is probably the most "vintage" tune here, eight minutes of unexpurgated post-metal squall casually punctuated with scowling proclamations of grimy sludge hate. "Rust" is the only overtly industrial-themed track on the album, and though it offers a little spice-of-variety to an album already chock full of such, it also serves as a reminder that the rest of the songs work just as well without any electronic ornamentation. This is a group that has outgrown anything so forced as inter-genre alchemy experiments. While Concrete Sustain would be highly recommended for the track "Concrete" alone, this is really must own material as a whole for anyone whose tastes straddle those oft-blurred lines between sludge, doom and post-whatever. The fact that the band tour like madmen and are probably soundchecking in your local dive bar's basement as you read this only serves to make them all the more inescapable. 2013 is the year of Batillus.

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Price: $11.99
Diesto - High as the Sun (CD) Cover Art Diesto - High as the Sun (CD)



Heavy without being oppressive and familiar without being redundant, Portland, Oregon, post-sludgers Diesto’s High as the Sun is an hour of righteously brutal ambience made flesh with crunching riffs, post-metal rhythmic churn, hypnotically chanted vocals and drone just where it’s needed most. The four-piece seem modern in their influence, but as much as one could point to YOB, Kylesa and more recent A Storm of Light for comparisons, elements of Unsane, Earth, Oceanic-era Isis, Neurosis and Sleep are also audible.

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Price: $6.66
Gnaw - Horrible Chamber (LP) Cover Art Gnaw - Horrible Chamber (LP)



Ladies and gents, the next Eugene Robinson: Alan Dubin, formerly of Khanate -- oh yeah … that guy. Dubin-fronted Gnaw may be merely Oxbow ‘lite’, but their advanced mimicry has become nigh-comprehensive: the ugly blubbering of ischemic excruciation, gnash-and-spittle freakish yowls; every leaky faucet in John Watermann’s brain, the sawdust whispers of workbench trauma; the smothering hum of wound myiasis, maggots and locusts come to roost in a wet fleshly blanket all the terror of hypertrophy; the free jazz stagger of percussive rustles and ratchet spasms; the Conradian horrors of blood, ocher, charcoal … and eloquence. Dubin’s emetic performance is the centerpiece and the torque of this uniquely visceral album, Gnaw’s sophomore effort Horrible Chamber.

The abomination should not have been shivered into the light of day. If you aren’t sitting in a dark corner gibbering to yourself, licking raw eggs and vodka off your fingers, and utterly constricted to your hind-brain mind by the end of this …! “Look around,” urges Dubin in the title track, and indeed, the prospect is too horrible. Hyperbole? Barely. Horrible Chamber is the only album I’ve been scared to listen to again besides Calcutta Gas Chamber. Physically repulsive, it’s just awful to behold, and the fight to continue listening only makes you more cathexically involved and more disgraced. As with Oxbow and Watermann, Horrible Chamber airs those vivid imaginative inscapes not unknown to man, but lockboxed away; it is a stark, intimate, frenetic work of raw emotive power and sonic precision. Enter if you dare.

New York’s Gnaw have no respect for music whatsoever. Judging by this sweaty, fulminating mass of a record, the way they see it is that music should be utterly destroyed, the last breath of every tone, timbre, and texture ever plucked from a guitar string, smacked out of a drum kit, tickled from the ivories, and squeezed out of any electronic noise-producing box should be smashed to fucking bits and expression in its purest form should be its only purpose. And so with album number two, Horrible Chamber, “music” continues to die countless deaths. Violent, filthy, desperate, this journey is harrowing. The combination of slowly-slammed guitar, bass, and drums with terror-torn vocals and other-dimensional sounds makes for a chilling encounter. This is the soundtrack to your own private horror flick, one where the visual aspect is induced by the music. There is no choice. You must and you will suffer.

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Price: $14.99
Indian - The Unquiet Sky (Re-issue) (Color) (2LP) Cover Art Indian - The Unquiet Sky (Re-issue) (Color) (2LP)

Limited edition of only 100 copies with yellow and red bleed colored vinyl. Deluxe gatefold sleeve.

This is stripped down hate doom, very much akin to their late Chicago brethren Buried at Sea or Portland, Maine’s Ocean. The forays into southern sludge grooves and the occasional faster pace add some color as well. Like most bands of this nature, it takes awhile for the full effect of Indian to sink in. It’s a massive sound, almost confrontational in nature. Fans of this style of music will be raving about this one for awhile.

Amazingly deep, crushing production, and the tracks on the first half kill unequivocally. The overall vibe and presentation has vague suggestions of Buried at Sea, but I think Indian are their own beast.

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Price: $27.99
Indian - The Unquiet Sky (Red/Black) (2LP) Cover Art Indian - The Unquiet Sky (Red/Black) (2LP)

Limited edition of only 99 copies on red and black splatter colored vinyl. Deluxe gatefold sleeve.

This is stripped down hate doom, very much akin to their late Chicago brethren Buried at Sea or Portland, Maine’s Ocean. The forays into southern sludge grooves and the occasional faster pace add some color as well. Like most bands of this nature, it takes awhile for the full effect of Indian to sink in. It’s a massive sound, almost confrontational in nature. Fans of this style of music will be raving about this one for awhile.

Amazingly deep, crushing production, and the tracks on the first half kill unequivocally. The overall vibe and presentation has vague suggestions of Buried at Sea, but I think Indian are their own beast.

Price: 36,000 pts
Lord Mantis - Spawning the Nephilim (CD) Cover Art Lord Mantis - Spawning the Nephilim (CD)

Features members of Nachtmystium and Indian.

If you were to leave Lair of the Minotaur in the depths of whatever cavern Khanate existed in, they might come out sounding like Lord Mantis, whose appropriation of Morbid Angel-type mythological references (and a black metal-type logo) underscores the varied influences playing out in Spawning the Nephilim’s seven tracks. As the chugging modern sub-thunder riffage shows, they’re not just blasting away with aimless aggression. There’s a sense of purpose to all the chaos. Just what that purpose might be, other than sheer destruction, I haven’t a clue. Sometimes sheer destruction is enough. Anyone who dug Coffins’ Buried Death but wants something a little more cerebrally menacing would do well to dig into Spawning the Nephilim. It feels familiar on the surface, either because of the personnel, or the production, or even just the mentality; Lord Mantis’ songs have a character to them that is unique unto themselves. If that character is buried under 600 tons of riffs, well, start digging if you feel up to it.

Utilizing his time in black metal outfit Nachtmystium to his advantage, guitarist/vocalist Andrew Markuszewski has learned to embrace torment, bleakness and fury, combining them with extraordinary results in the bludgeoning outfit Lord Mantis. Doom-y and baneful, Spawning The Nephilim is a continual onslaught of scorching vocal shrieks blasting out over methodical yet odd metallic structures. When realizing the degree of demonic intensity that permeates these seven tracks, one can't help but gawk in awe at Lord Mantis's power.

Spawning The Nephilim is the perfect soundtrack for something fucked up and awful. Some dark, violent, hellish journey into the unknown. It's really heavy and insane sounding, not an album to kick back and relax to, more like an album to have an axe fight to. If you like Unearthly Trance, Lair Of The Minotaur, etc. I'd check Lord Mantis out immediately.

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Millions - Gather Scatter (CD) Cover Art Millions - Gather Scatter (CD)



Say whatever you want about the fact that Millions features Seventh Rule Recordings co-founder Scott Flaster. Gather Scatter is worth your attention because if Flaster wasn’t playing guitar and singing in this band, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear them on his label anyway. Semi-tech spastic smartypants noisy hardcore with some sunburned, driving Southern riff work and the occasional Black Flag about to have a nervous breakdown groove? Yeah, that’s such a departure from what Seventh Rule did when they put out those Akimbo and Sweet Cobra records.

Chicago band Millions has come out with an uproarious debut in Gather Scatter, an album that is hard to pinpoint into one genre. At some points, it’s an edgier version of Queens Of The Stone Age; at others, it’s the vile spawn of Black Flag and Iron Maiden. Their sound is tight and compact, with guitar harmonies, heavy distortion, and a biting glimpse into our bleak present-day civilization.

Gather Scatter is an unbelievably impressive full-length debut for this Chicago foursome. It's one part melody, one part punk energy, and one part inventive rock, all wrapped up with enough off-time rhythms and coarse emotion to ensure the listener's engagement. It goes well with Akimbo and a lot of the current Louisville scene (Young Widows, Lords, Brain Banger, etc.).

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Price: $6.66
Raise the Red Lantern - Breathe Fire (CD) Cover Art Raise the Red Lantern - Breathe Fire (CD)



A metalcore alike to Rwake at times, mixing the tonalities and production of sludge with the speed and melodic sensibilities of your early Mastodons, your Keelhauls, and fuck, let's toss in the vocal style and general aesthetic of your Neurosis' and your Isis'. Breathe Fire is a satisfying and propulsive experience. The band is great at crafting a single, unified narrative out of the songs and riffs on the record, and it's a narrative that consistently entertains. I'm a sucker for it: the catchy heavy-ass riffs and the leads delicately melodic at times, but always very tastefully distorted. It's just a good thing then that aside from being the kind of music I like, it's also good music.

Throughout all of Breathe Fire is a manic energy, propelled primarily by the drumming. Following a close second are the guitar parts, which have a surprising (and refreshing) amount of melody to their angular dissonance. What also works is layering their songs with competing guitar parts. While the music is abrasive and forward-moving, it’s not a one-dimensional wall off riffs and attitude. What that adds up to is music that’s more than just thrashing out blindly. Raise the Red Lantern’ Breathe Fire is one of those albums that keeps drawing you in. I really dug its mix of pounding rhythms and subtle melody. For fans of Akimbo, Unsane, Black Flag, Mastodon, Jumbo's Killcrane, and Rwake.

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Price: $6.66
   
 
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