Thy Art Is Murder – Hate

Albums like Holy War exist to push the limits of extremity. The album name, the album cover (a child with a bloodstained shirt and a bomb strapped to his chest), as well as a band logo with a  take-no-prisoners name and prominent pentagram should give you some idea of what Thy Art Is Murder are going for here. This Australian band have long straddled the boundary between deathcore and death metal, but Holy War seem them developing their sound in much more of a death metal direction, drawing inspiration from bands like Behemoth, Hate, and Decapitated to great success, making Holy War by far their best album to date.

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Lorna Shore – Psalms

Psalms is the debut full-length album from New Jersey-based blackened deathcore band Lorna Shore. But this ain’t your grand-dad’s deathcore as Lorna Shore are at the forefront of fresh-faced new bands aiming to push the boundaries of what deathcore can sound like, and restore some credibility to a much-maligned genre; massive tech-death riffs, brutal slams, ferocious vocals, frenzied guitar solos, all coated in some truly grim and frostbitten black metal influences.

There are a bunch of different elements to Lorna Shore’s sound, but their most intriguing is the immediately apparent black metal influence. Not only are vocalist Tom Barber’s high-pitched shrieks and wretches straight out of a First Wave black metal band, his range also extends to gurgled brutal death metal gutturals. Tremolo picked riffs backed by relentless blast-beats abound on this album. No track better exemplifies this than ‘Infernal Haunting’ whose first thirty seconds sound like something off Behemoth – Evangelion, before the many-headed beast that is Lorna Shore shifts into neck-snapping tech-death riffage.

Their ability to write openly compelling, heavy, and catchy riffs is one  of their greatest strengths, really making tracks like ‘Death Gowns’  and ‘Throne of Worms’ stand out. Riffs are often fast and punishingly heavy, and would hardly sound out of place on a Black Dahlia album, while at other times rivaling Black Tongue for their crushing heaviness. The strength of the guitarwork is not  just in their heaviness but also in their natural ability to create and sustain a menacing and foreboding atmosphere throughout this album. And, unusually for deathcore, Lorna Shore are not afraid to whip out some of the most evil guitar solos I’ve ever heard. Something about them just oozes malice and it’s fantastic.

I must also mention for praise the production on this album: it has a cavernous quality to it which makes every instrument sound natural but also gives them all plenty of room to breathe. I can practically feel the drums and bass reverberating around my headphones, so kudos to the producer on this album. And the bass is another highlight of this album for me: many bands see bass as an afterthought, a problem often exacerbated by poor production. However, on Psalms Lorna Shore give the bass its rightful place, and it really does pack a punch, masterfully filling out the lower end of their sound, particularly on ‘Grimoire.’ The drumming is likewise very tasteful: powerful and perfectly-executed blastbeats accentuate the frenzied, heavier moments of the songs, appropriately pulling back when the other instruments come to the fore for the more atmospheric moments.

It’s all very professionally done, without feeling overly-produced or fake. If I have any complaint about this album it’s the band’s use of breakdowns/slams. While a lot of them are incredibly brutal and well-used, sometimes they feel haphazardly structured, thrown in between two very fast-paced sections and killing the momentum the band has going. And as a more general point, some of the songs feel somewhat disjointed, occasionally feeling like various ideas stitched together. This is not a very widespread problem however, and only affected my enjoyment of one or two tracks here. And as one final minor complaint, on the chorus section of the  penultimate track ‘Traces of Supremacy’ there is a kind of vocoder effect on his vocals which I found quite jarring.

But all in all this is a rousing success of an album. Though many will dismiss it simply because of the ‘deathcore’ label, this album shows that there is still a lot of life left in the genre and that it is wholly capable of progressing and evolving. The influences Lorna Shore draw from, from black metal to technical and brutal death metal, mercilessly put to death the idea that deathcore has to sound a certain way.

Ingested – The Architect of Extinction

The Architect of Extinction is utterly destructive. This fourth full-length album from the Mancunian brutal death metal crew Ingested manages to strike that fine balance between punishing heaviness, ferocious technicality, and still staying fresh and interesting. Albums in this genre often suffer from monotony, but this album is pretty much all killer, no filler, setting the standard for brutal death metal for the rest of this year.

To be quite clear, Ingested do not aim to pull at your heartstrings, they aim to put you six feet under with an all-out assault on your senses. That assault has five prongs: The first, and perhaps the single most devastating, is vocalist Jay Evans. On The Architect of Extinction, I would argue Evans makes a strong case for being the single best vocalist in the brutal death metal scene right now.  The reason for that is not only the fact that he has great variety, effortlessly pulling off seriously impressive gutturals, as well as some terrifying screams; but that the lyrics are very comprehensible. Evans spearheads this assault, but the rest of the band  are of course no less valuable.

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Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails

Very few metal albums have been hyped as much as Fallujah’s second full length album ‘The Flesh Prevails’ has. Though their first album put them on the map as one of better deathcore bands, blending technical death metal and progressive metal elements together, it was their Nomadic EP in 2013 that really made this a band to watch out for: ambient, heavy, and progressive all at once, the EP significantly raised people’s expectations for his band, though its short tracklist left us wanting more. So the question is: Does The Flesh Prevails live up to that hype?

In one word: yes. It absolutely does. On The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah take that deeply atmospheric and progressive death metal sound they began to really explore on Nomadic and really make it their own. There’s an even greater sense of atmosphere, but where Nomadic was dark and murky, The Flesh Prevails is ethereal and even upbeat. Of course, this is ultimately death metal so when I say upbeat take it in that context! There’s a great sense of contrast created between the ambiance and atmosphere created by the guitars and other instruments and the vocals; low, guttural, death metal roars keep The Flesh Prevails from floating away completely and keep it grounded.

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Rivers of Nihil – The Conscious Seed of Light

Rivers of Nihil’s debut album ‘The Conscious Seed of Light’ was actually released on Metal Blade back in October 2013. That means I’m pretty late with reviewing this album, but this album has impressed me so much that I feel I need to share it with you. If The Faceless and Fit for an Autopsy had a baby, this band would be it. Rivers of Nihil take a technical approach to death metal that is thoroughly brutal while also trying their hand at a bit of melody and ambiance, largely created by the two guitarists, as well as a nice sprinkling of black metal. I’ll be brief so you can just go and listen to the album straight away.

The twin guitars are at times pummeling, in the opening track ‘Rain Eater’ acting as an auditory jackhammer, drilling away at your eardrums with absolute ferocity, while at others such as on ‘Mechanical Trees’ where they play with the contrast between a down-tuned background chugging and ambient post-rock moments. The riffs come thick and fast, with the only problem being that there are so many riffs that I’m not sure which one I like the most! The drums compliment the guitars as an equally varied instrument, moving with ease between mid-tempo rhythms, to blastbeats, and other complicated, fast-paced arrangements. The vocals have a slightly deathcore edge to them but remain varied, with deep gutturals and powerful mids, while on some parts of ‘Place of Serpents’ they’re more hardcore. The vocals may be the only point on which Rivers of Nihil may divide opinion, as they’re not your usual death metal gutturals.

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