Sifting Through Bandcamp – April 2017

Saturday, 29th April 2017

Amazing how quick the year starts rolling by once the winter ends. Pleasant, spring days – be it rain or shine give off that nice, peaceful vibe. Perfect for ruining or complimenting by blasting some heavy metal. Here’s some new tunes to rip through your spring – Anakim, Animations, Assayer, Bleak Flesh, Muka, Oracles, Shepot, The Stranger, Wells Valley, and Winter’s Wake.

Anakim – Monuments to Departed Words
Release Date – April 2017
Location – United Kingdom
Style – Brutal/progressive/technical death metal

What makes Anakim stand out in their ability to craft death metal that is simultaneously as brutal as the next band yet the progressive melodies underneath it keep it from sounding like the usual offering. Guttural vocals sit comfortably among the brutal side of the table, as does some of the razor-sharp riffing that accompanies it. But the progressive leads and melodies (see “Xenognosis”) allow them to stretch songs into the 6-7 minute range without fear of repetition. This is the band’s biggest strength and worth checking out on that rational alone.

Animations – Without the Sun
Release Date – April 2017
Location – Poland
Style – Metalcore/modern melodic death

What seems to strike as a theme this month is band’s merging different genres together in attempt to craft something familiar yet unique. Animations fall directly in line with this mantra, fusing melodic and progressive death metal elements and swinging them into a ‘core-fueled aggression (and bouts of clean singing). They make it work, without sounding like a generic metalcore band – possessing the type of metallic prowess that should allow them to pull in fans of either sound. Just listen to the merging in a song like “Looking for Home,” which ping-pongs between death metal riffs, soaring melodies, and progressive strucutures and be convinced for yourself.

Assayer – Return to the Throne
Release Date – March 2017
Location – Pennsylvania, USA
Style – Thrash/death/heavy metal

The sound of classic thrash, along with its capability for brutal violence, is perfectly captured by Assayer. Frantic rhythms, occasionally moving into death metal territory, are a real highlight to take in and give the band a feeling that is rooted in tradition yet has kept up with modern times. That’s not all though, as they push songs into the 10-minute mark just as frequently as not, and this is where their more melodic tendencies surface. Gorgeous and flowing solos and slowly building melodies (see the title track) push Assayer’s sound to the next level without watering down their aggressive take. A real fist-raiser of an album.

Bleak Flesh – Overcoming Reality
Release Date – April 2017
Location – Chile
Style – Progressive/technical death metal

One of those bands that can play to a variety of extreme metal fans, Overcoming Reality is a sweeping piece of death metal that carries along progressive and technical tones. No shortage of melody to be found, though melodeath seems a ways from this act with a sound so intense. A barrage of speed, catchy grooves, the right amount of progressive noodling, a diverse vocal palette (both cleans/growls), and well-integrated symphonic elements all serve to point towards Bleak Flesh being a real up-and-comer in the genre. A surprisingly diverse EP worth seeking out.

Muka – Sveta Stoka
Release Date – March 2017
Location – Croatia
Style – Post-black/doom/death

Lots of different stuff going on with Muka’s Sveta Stoka, and that’s meant in a good way. A dark, somewhat creepy and bleak vibe is almost suffocating as the band mixes black, death, and doom in such a way that it keeps a grip on you at all times. Be it lumbering crawls (“O Tvom Soju” – which features some crazed shrieks), claustrophobic blasts (“Sutra?!”), or foreboding near-post material that keeps a caustic edge (“Od Panja Do Panja”), the dynamics shift and twist in a hypnotic fashion – weaving together a tapestry of energetic yet distant playing.

Oracles – Dawn of the Sycophant
Release Date – April 2017
Location – Belgium
Style – Symphonic extreme metal

A large band in comparison to the rest of this month’s acts, but any excuse to push Oracles is a good one. The production values stick out a little more on this song (compared to Miserycorde), and really help to give an urgency to the symphonic elements that open the track. Of course, it leads into a sequence of massive riffs with groove a-plenty that escalates into a saccharine yet brutal chorus from Ms. Salou, with some sleek technical/melodic riffing in the background. How they’ve already raised the high bar from their debut is anyone’s guess, but it certainly wets the appetite for a second offering pretty severely. A unique band that continues to impress.

Shepot – Nepoznata Zemya
Release Date – April 2017
Location – Bulgaria
Style – Progressive metal

Taking influence from bands like Opeth, Dream Theater, and even Pink Floyd, Shepot bring a melodic sense to progressive metal/rock. Use of piano and violin (see “Spomen”) add an emotive vibe that plays off the riffs quite well. A dreamy, floaty landscape is the norm here, with some occasionally biting progressive bends interjecting along the way. Rounded out by some well-fitting female vocals that can carry a more rock-ish vibe (“Because of You”) as well as launch off the more progressive moments (“Tamni Dni”). Worth keeping your eyes on this one if you enjoy some occasional quiet amid your progressive riffing.

The Stranger – The Stranger
Release Date – April 2017
Location – Australia
Style – Progressive metal

Upbeat, absurdly catchy, and intricate. Three ways to describe The Stranger. Progressive metal that utilizes the flashy playing that you’d expect from the genre and blurs it together with hook-y melodies that stick in your head after one listen. They even go a bit heavier, with some death growls invading a few tracks to help reach a more diverse crowd without scaring anyone off. Exquisite vocals add an even more addictive and urgent feel to the music (“Song for Dad”), and wrap everything into an impressive achievement. The type of album that’s bound to garner some attention as it falls into more and more hands.

Wells Valley – The Orphic
Release Date – April 2017
Location – Portugal
Style – Post metal

A swirling mix of doom, sludge, post-metal, and slight industrial really dig at the essence of Wells Valley. Drawn in by the gorgeous cover art, the sludgy groove of “Orphanim” didn’t take long to sell this writer on the band. Most of the time, a slow and calculating act, going more for ominous darkness in their riffs than scorching the Earth, they pull you in with atmosphere. There’s even a solid cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” that works well with a coat of sludge on it. They did well to make it their own.

Winter’s Wake – Awake
Release Date – February 2017
Location – New York, USA
Style – Folk metal

Symphonic and orchestral folk metal may be old hat to some, but there’s only a short list of US bands that do it right. One of which would be NYC’s own Winter’s Wake. Awake blends beautiful strings with assertive, deathly riffing that’s both epic and visceral. They hit just the right spot in terms of balance between the two, never allowing the orchestration to become too dominant but nor is it just window-dressing either. The four songs here are consistent in tone – the melodic death leaning keeping it grounded and avoiding the silly sense given by some folk bands – and do an excellent job of leaving you wanting more by the end. A must for fans of Eluveitie or Ensiferum.