Sifting Through Bandcamp – January 2017

Tuesday, 31st January 2017

The start of a new year once more. A number of bands fast out of the gate already, with either preview tracks from material to come or short EPs to get a jump on the scene. Always plenty to explore for those willing to thirst for new metal acts. This month we cover A Cunning Man, Aerist, Altjira, Dyed in Grey, Eye of Horus, I Forlorn, Maniacal Violator, Neurotech, Sun of Gaia, and The Mantle.

A Cunning Man – Practical Applications of Theurgy
Release Date – January 2017
Location – Scotland
Style – Progressive metal

Tough to really nail down the sound of A Cunning Man, a one-man project that incorporates sounds ranging from black metal to power metal to melodeath in a progressive twist. Soaring clean vocals (with a Scottish accent) pair off against harsh, darkened riffs, occasional blast beasts, and eerie atmosphere in a blend that truly needs to be heard to be accurately described. From heavy to melodic, all three tracks take a unique tone and voice, and you’ll be ultimately intrigued to give the whole thing a fresh spin once it ends. An exemplary case of the term progressive actually being used in the way it was meant to be.

Aerist – Redeemer/Destroyer Part I: The Strength of Many
Release Date – January 2017
Location – Washington DC, USA
Style – Progressive deathcore

Some tend to balk when they hear the terms djent and deathcore thrown around, but for all the dime-a-dozen acts out there, there are also some worthy of discussion. Aerist initially drew this scribe in with the colorful sci-fi inspired artwork and then stuck around for the progressive riffs and ear-catching melodies that hit from beginning to end. It’s undeniably modern in tone, from the clean/growl combo and some electronic elements, but those who stick around will get an album full of strong progressive melodies with an ability to throw around some heavy riffs (see “Legion”) when called upon.

Altjira – Anent Wist
Release Date – January 2017
Location – Italy
Style – Power/thrash metal

Ever miss the Barlow-era of Iced Earth? If so, you may want to check out Altjira at your earliest convenience because you are bound to enjoy Anent Wist. That heavy, power/thrash sound with plenty of gallop is sure to leave you with a charge, as are the equally impressive vocals. There’s even an Iced Earth cover song (“Dracula”) to further the comparisons. That being said, despite some similarities, this is well-played and energetic material that deserves some attention on its own merit. For a first effort, there’s some serious potential, and the band is bound to rise up as they continue to craft their own mark.

Dyed in Grey – TARS
Release Date – December 2016
Location – New York, USA
Style – Progressive death metal

With previous coverage of The Forgotten Sequence in tow, there was some genuine excitement when a notification came through that Dyed in Grey had released a new track. In comparison to said work, “TARS” sees the band increasing the heaviness factor significantly, with intricate progressive riffs and low growls taking the song into an absurdly catchy chorus (some Soilwork/Scar Symmetry nods there), complete with clean vocals that are implemented without softening the tone of the track. More songs in this direction will lead to a real whopper of an album for Dyed in Grey’s next release.

Eye of Horus – Obsidian
Release Date – December 2016
Location – Canada
Style – Blackened death metal

One hates to sling the “melodeath” term around with a release that’s so decidedly heavy – Obsidian has all the snarl of any death metal band you’d encounter. However, beneath all of the bite, there’s some genuinely intriguing melodies that keep the release one that you’ll return to after the initial adrenaline rush wears thin. Blackened melodies wrap their way around the death metal framework in a way that never diminishes the intensity. A mastering job by Christian Donaldson rounds out an EP that should find plenty of traction from both black and death metal fans. And get a load of that fantastic art!

I, Forlorn – Through Her Eyes
Release Date – December 2016
Location – The Netherlands
Style – Doom metal

From the same man that brought you the triumphant melodic death/doom band Algos comes I, Forlorn. A full-on doom act, “Through Her Eyes” is the first taste of what to expect from I, Forlorn, and it’s a pleasant sample indeed. Gloomy despair interacts with some sullen beauty through some uplifting yet somber keys, melancholic riffs, and some emotive growls. The seven and a half minute track never once loses momentum, anchoring itself with depressive yet addictive riffs and the aforementioned gloomy atmosphere. A promising new venture for doom/death fans.

Maniacal Violator – Dead and Out of Control
Release Date – December 2016
Location – Massachusetts, USA
Style – Death metal

An up-and-coming death metal act from New England that grasps the essence of the old school without completely succumbing to it, Maniacal Violator find a ground that’s more their own. There’s some explosive energy that opener “Ancient Remnants” displays through frantic riffing and blastbeats, cementing an embrace of blackened tones and some thrashier influence as well. More blackened riffing rears its head on “Whirlwind of Hate,” and the band proves themselves worthy of a long haul with some catchy leads on the extended closer “Poison.” Death worship without the need to sound like every other retro act is a vibe more should be trying for.

Neurotech – Symphonies
Release Date – December 2016
Location – Slovenia
Style – Symphonic, electronic metal

The ever-consistent releases of Neurotech always find a way to up the ante, and Symphonies is a special collection indeed. A remastered collection of the annually released symphony tracks from the 4 years, the electro-symphonic one-man act delivers 4 songs at 66-minutes in length. Each of the four symphonies has its own twist, and frequently moves into directions that feel more akin to a movie soundtrack than a metal song, but that’s what makes them work. From ethereal calm to fast and driving, the dynamics will keep you at full-attention for many listens.

Sun of Gaia – Peril
Release Date – January 2017
Location – Australia
Style – Melodic death metal

Much along the lines of their previous release, Corrode, the symphonic approach to Sun of Gaia is worth noting. “Peril” is an intense track, with some notably catchy riffs to back it up, but the synth elements offer a support role. They give a sense of atmosphere, perking up around the half-way point of the track for a few moments in the spotlight, and allow a strong sense of fusion with the rest of the band. They never overtake the rest of the music, so much as put it into a light that makes everything shine. Another release should solidify Sun of Gaia as a band to watch in the Australian death metal crowd.

The Mantle – The Mantle
Release Date – January 2017
Location – New York, USA
Style – Instrumental metal

A common theme this month has been spectacular art, which is what got The Mantle located onto this article as well. Progressive instrumental metal is a tough sell, but The Mantle pull it off with an effective combo of relaxing atmosphere and complex shredding in equal measure. Much of the inspiration comes from this calculation and The Mantle provide some emotion and presence to a genre that frequently comes off as cold and more technical in nature, giving the album a more memorable approach that their peers. Oh, and did we mention that Kenny G’s son, Max Gorelick, is the shredder here?