April 24, 2024

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Territory’s Edge – The Best New Metal and Hardcore of June 2023

What might reinvention mean for a band? Some bands entirely re-record early albums, such as Silent Planet’s 2020 redux of their debut The Night God Slept with improved production quality.  Other times, bands may release direct sequels.  One example from 2021 was Between the Buried and Me boldly titling their latest album Colors II as a sequel to their career-defining album.  Colors II had new material, but retained many qualities of the original Colors, incorporating passages from diverse musical styles and functioning as one long, continuous song.  The latest band to do this is Godflesh, the long-running industrial metal/noise project from Justin Broadrick.  Purge is a sequel of sorts to the 1992 album Pure that “revisits and updates the concepts” of the album.

For many metal groups, reinvention also comes with the departure of a key member and the arrival of someone new.  Among the June releases discussed below, several are from bands releasing their first music with a new vocalist in the lineup.

Crystal Lake – “Denial/Rebirth”

Crystal Lake are back with a new singer and a new single.  The Japanese metalcore band recently parted ways with vocalist Ryo Kinoshita after he announced he was stepping down in October 2022 to better manage his struggle with a mental health disorder.   (He is still currently making music with his new experimental project KNOSIS.)  As for Crystal Lake, “Denial/Rebirth” is a chaotic introduction to new vocalist John Robert C., previously from Pennsylvania deathcore band The Last Ten Seconds of Life.  Split into two tracks over a five minute runtime, the single marks a strong start indeed for the next stage of the band.  John Robert C. gets to display his rapid-fire vocal delivery, while the instrumental core of Crystal Lake delivers plenty of melody and atmosphere.


Mental Cruelty – Zwielicht

Replacing a vocalist can be a daunting task, but multiple bands have done so and come back stronger than before.  One recent example is the German blackened deathcore group Mental Cruelty.  After firing their previous vocalist for assault allegations, Mental Cruelty announced Lukas Nicolai would be the new frontman earlier this February.  Their latest release, Zwielicht, marks their first material with him.

While Mental Cruelty’s sound symphonic black metal-influenced style is comparable to genre frontrunner Lorna Shore, they’ve certainly carved out a name for themselves.  Zwielicht has received plenty of praise for its layered songwriting and devastatingly brutal composition.  The black metal influence is especially prominent on this release more than any other, evoking Dimmu Borgir and Mare Cognitum at times.   One moment that stands out in particular is the closer “A Tale of Salt and Light”.  A song thematically about facing fear and doubt, “A Tale of Salt and Light” is a triumphant, cinematic piece of symphonic black metal.


Anima Tempo – Chaos Paradox

Anima Tempo began in 2005 as a metal cover band known Caustica X, before three of the members formed the new project to compose their own original material.  Now signed to Famined Records, this eclectic band from Mexico describes their music as “experimental progressive death metal”.  Their second album Chaos Paradox lives up to that description as all sorts of musical elements are included. Each of the album’s eight tracks is at least five minutes long, giving the songs plenty of time to develop and build on a riff.  Track four, “Deconstruct” even has what sounds like a banjo in the intro.

Chaos Paradox was a long time in the making, as the first single “Primal Symmetry” released way back in 2018, followed by subsequent individual songs “Deceitful Idols” in May 2020 and “The Infinite Eye” in May 2021.  “Deceitful Idols” in particular is a standout song, bolstered by an Egyptian flair to its technical guitar riffs.  Overall, Chaos Paradox is a fun listen with plenty of technical skill and unpredictability throughout.  For fans of Born of Osiris, Shokran or SikTh, Anima Tempo is not a name to overlook.


Wooden Veins – Imploding Waves

A progressive doom metal band called Mar De Grises was known as the “Chilean Insomnium” by some and lasted between 2000-2013.  Their name translates to “Sea of Grays” in Spanish and their sound was influenced a number of styles ranging from post-rock to death metal.  Mar De Grises’ final album, Streams Inwards, is a haunting, intricate and melodic record that should not be overlooked.  While the band had a number of lineup changes throughout their career, the vocalist for their final two records was Juan Escobar.  In addition to his work in Mar De Grises, he has been involved in several different musical projects.  Among them, he’s the guitarist for five-piece band Wooden Veins and also handles the mixing on their latest record.

Imploding Waves presents a gothic progressive rock style reminiscent of Katatonia, especially in Javier Cerda’s vocals.   Melancholic, doomy rock dominates in softer tracks like “The Dreamer”, which segways into the progressive “Skies” via a short instrumental interlude.  In comparison to Mar De Grises, Wooden Veins is considerably mellower, with all vocals sung cleanly.  However, they add in a fair amount of experimentation, allowing the sound of the album to ebb and flow throughout.  “Broken World” is a strong point with symphonic elements, a mournful progressive metal song reminiscent of the Streams Inwards track “A Sea of Dead Comets”.


Obsidian Soul – Dreamvoid

This independent progressive metalcore band from Monroe, Louisiana unleashed an impressive debut EP on June 16.  Throughout Dreamvoid, Obsidian Soul does a good job interspersing melody with aggression while maintaining a consistent flow between tracks.  The atmospheric opener “Dream” conveys one side of the band’s sound, while the following two tracks are more urgent and heavy.  The ambient sections of the album transition nicely into the harder-edged snarls and breakdowns, providing a dynamic listen.  The penultimate song “Digital Grave” has the strongest hook of the seven tracks here.


The Arcane Order – Distortions from Cosmogony

While Distortions from Cosmogony is the fourth full-length album from The Arcane Order, it’s their first new material since 2015.  It’s also their first album to feature new vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf (also the frontman of blackgaze band Møl) and Soilwork drummer Bastian Thusgaard among the band’s lineup.  Signed to Black Lion Records, this Danish band plays thrash-influenced, technical melodic death metal.   Thematically, Distortions from Cosmogony explores “the eternal existential struggle between autonomy and submission” with tracks like “A Blinding Trust in Chosen Kings” hitting on that theme of hierarchies in society.  Dense, aggressive and blackened, this is an onslaught of tremelo riffs, dynamic drumming, and breakneck riffs.

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