February 21, 2024

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Territory’s Edge – The Best New Metal and Hardcore of September 2023, featuring Termina, Night Verses, and more

September had plenty of excellent releases in heavy music.  Code Orange’s diverse new album The Above is nothing short of a nostalgia trip for 1990s industrial/alternative rock.   Black metal stalwarts Wolves in the Throne Room released a four-track EP Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge, consisting of two B-sides from Primordial Arcana and two atmospheric remixes.  Thy Art is Murder released Godlike, the deathcore band’s first album with new vocalist Tyler Miller from Aversions Crown.    Tomb Mold blended dreamlike atmosphere into death metal with tracks like “Will of Whispers” on The Enduring Spirit.  Silent Planet dropped “Annunaki”, possibly their heaviest song to date (rivaling “Panopticon” in terms of aggression) ahead of their upcoming November 3 album Superbloom.

Read on to discover more of the best new releases across the heavy metal spectrum this month.


Invent Animate – “Heavener”

Occasionally a band from the progressive metalcore scene gets significant attention from the wider public.  Back in 2020, Loathe garnered major praise for their album with the help of Deftones’ frontman Chino Moreno, and more recently Bad Omens and Sleep Token surged in popularity thanks to songs trending on TikTok.  You could even make a case for Silent Planet having a breakthrough moment in July with “Antimatter”.  Invent Animate had their moment to shine with the release of Heavener, their fourth studio album (and second with vocalist Marcus Vik) back in March.  The album is a contender for many listeners’ best-of lists, combining bright melodies and ambient soundscapes with well-placed breakdowns.

On September 14, Invent Animate released one more song, referring to it as “our late released title track”.  Melodic and dynamic, “Heavener” was written after the album itself was completed.  Guitarist Keaton Goldwire explained the band attempted to create a song that “encompassed the feeling of the album as a whole,” while Marcus Vik wrote the lyrics.  The track is a fitting (late) conclusion to one of the strongest metalcore albums of the year.


Sylosis – A Sign of Things to Come

Sylosis founder Josh Middleton was also a guitarist and songwriter for longstanding Architects for a while, appearing on their last three albums.  Earlier this year, he left Architects on good terms, citing musical and creative differences as the reason for departure.   While the split was amicable, it’s clear that the more accessible, arena-rock leaning direction Architects followed was a factor in his decision to focus solely on Sylosis.  Josh Middleton’s primary project remains heavy, while taking steps forward.  A Sign of Things to Come is more tightly focused and concise than its predecessor Cycle of Suffering, featuring co-production by Scott Atkins (who’s worked on records by Cradle of Filth and Amon Amarth).  The result is an intense and technical yet memorable sound.

In short, you can expect to hear an album more comparable to Machine Head or Unearth than For Those That Wish to Exist or the classic symptoms of a broken spirit.  In particular, “Absent” is the resident ballad that builds up to a climax, with Middleton’s clean vocals sounding reminiscent of Robb Flynn on “Darkness Within”.  Opener “Deadwood” sets the tone working in thrash metal elements, heavy guitar chords, and melodic vocals in the bridge.


Dismal Aura – Imperium Mortalia

Dismal Aura is a post-black metal trio from Ontario, signed to Avantgarde Music.   Their latest album is themed around the essay “Necropolitics”, and a passage is included in the liner notes for the vinyl record.  The lyrics, which explore the concept of sovereignty, discuss topics like exploitation of power, colonization and environmental destruction.  In addition, the credits for Imperium Mortalia state: “This album was made on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin nation.”  This is a nod to the sociopolitical themes present on the album, as well as bassist/vocalist Kìminidjàgan’s Algonquin heritage.

Dismal Aura’s style of second-wave black metal is feral and concise.  In contrast to the long-form songs common to artists like Blackbraid or Wolves in the Throne Room, no song on Imperium Mortalia reaches the five-minute mark.  In total, the eight tracks on the album run just under thirty minutes.


Medicine Horse – Medicine Horse

The self-titled debut from Oklahoma sludge/doom metal band Medicine Horse includes three different languages, an homage to the cultures and backgrounds of the band members.  The bassist Chris West and drummer Garrett Heck are both from Louisiana, while frontwoman Nico Williams is from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.  Medicine Horse has a knack for storytelling on their first release, backed by a slow and heavy sound reminiscent of longstanding Louisiana sludge metal veterans Crowbar.

“Letiche” includes lyrics in both French and English, and tells of the origins of a vengeful spirit who inhabits the swamps according to Cajun folklore.  Another highlight is the heavy, psychedelic closer “Kuwa Detlukv (The Orchard)”.  This track, sung in Cherokee and lyrically about the forced displacement of Native Americans by the United States government, showcases the versatility of Nico Williams’ vocals.


Night Verses – Every Sound Has a Color in the Valley of Night: Pt. 1

Night Verses made a welcome return this year, and are back with their first new music since 2018’s From the Gallery of Sleep.   On that album, the trio defied preconceptions of what instrumental rock music could accomplish.   The members of Night Verses are well-versed in writing technically impressive compositions that engage the listener, all without vocals.  Their latest release marks the first part of a double album split over two release dates, with part due planned for early 2024.   Throughout, the compositions convey a sense of atmosphere while remaining technically impressive.

As with From the Gallery of Sleep, the seven tracks here stylistically range from the post-rock of “Love in a Liminal Space” to the energetic progressive metal of “8 Gates of Pleasure” and “Arrival”.    Single “Karma Wheel”, which received a music video, is a dynamic track with thunderous, heavy riffs giving way to delicate post-rock passages and back again.  The final song, “Seance”, includes bass from Tool’s Justin Chancellor.   These seven tracks alone offer a worthy follow-up to the excellent album that came before it, but there’s still more music soon to come from Night Verses.  Listeners can expect to hear additional collaborations on part two – including some big names like Brandon Boyd, Anthony Green, and Author & Punisher.


Termina – Soul Elegy

In November 2021, the legendary Howard Jones (Light the Torch, ex-Killswitch Engage) collaborated with Jared Dines to create SION and unleash a self-titled debut album.  Reportedly, that band has another album on the way.  However, SION isn’t the only successful metal duo featuring an iconic vocalist and a YouTuber instrumentalist working together.  Another excellent example is Termina.  Guitarist Nik Nocturnal, Monuments vocalist Andy Cizek, and host of guest artists teamed up to create an impressive, diverse progressive metal album.  Soul Elegy is the second project from the duo, following 2021’s Dysphoria.

With no shortage of heavy riffs, musicianship, and solid hooks, this album has something to offer for just about any fan of progressive metalcore.  Andy Cizek’s impressive vocal range is on full display here, transitioning effortlessly from soaring highs to guttural growls.  Among the numerous highlights, the ominous “Bathed in Solitude”, featuring Northlane frontman Marcus Bridge stands out, as does the melodic and emotive “Blackwater” featuring Sean Harmanis of Make Them Suffer.  Brand of Sacrifice, Phil Bozeman of Whitechapel, Joshua Travis, Calle Thomer, and Jason Richardson also make appearances.

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