The Top Ten Metal Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 16th, 2016 by Matthew Lowery

Putting aside much of what happened politically in 2016, this has been one of the best years in recent memory for metal. There were many, many albums I loved this year, far too many to squeeze into an end-of-year list. So I have limited myself to picking my ten favourite albums, as well as five ‘runners up’. And by imposing this particular format on myself I had to think quite carefully about my choices and what it is that makes that particular album stand out to me. And really what it comes down to, most of the time, is whether an album moves me. If an album inspires some sort of reaction from me on an emotional level – whether that’s in an emotionally resonant song or idea, or by crafting such a rich and powerful atmosphere that the listener is transported away from their everyday life – that’s what really makes an album stand out to me. So there were many albums which I enjoyed but which you won’t find on this list precisely because, even though they might have some great riffs or something else, if I didn’t connect with it then it’s not something that’s going to figure into my list of the best metal albums of the year.

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TERRA: Interview and Album Review

Posted in Features, Interviews, Reviews on December 14th, 2016 by Matthew Lowery

That Cambridgeshire simply didn’t have any good metal bands was a sad fact I’d come to accept. When I’m not at university here in York, I live in the small cathedral-city of Ely, a short drive from the county’s namesake and hub of Cambridge. Musically, it’s an utterly desolate landscape. Friends of mine who live and study in Cambridge have confirmed as much. So when I learned that Cambridge was now the home of TERRA, an atmospheric black metal band along the lines of Wolves in the Throne Room or Ash Borer, my heart leapt. And while TERRA certainly do draw on these bands, they forge their own path on their second full-length album ‘Mors Secunda’. Read more »

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Départe: Interview and Album Review

Posted in Interviews, Reviews on November 12th, 2016 by Matthew Lowery

Tasmanian metal band Départe’s expansive sound draws on the most powerful elements of black metal, death metal, and even post-metal. While comparisons with bands like Ulcerate and Zhrine are inevitable because of the band’s penchant for dissonant, unsettling guitarwork, Départe carves out their own sound on their debut album ‘Failure, Subside’.

Stylistically the focus is much more on the atmosphere and flow of the songs than on heaviness or riffs, and the band frequently operate at a bulky, sludgy pace.At the core of their sound is unrelentingly heavy, technical death metal – in this sense, comparisons to Ulcerate are justified. Long sections of atmospheric doom offer some respite from the heaviness of their assault, but frequently simply seem to render the atmosphere even more suffocating.

The opening section ‘Grief Echoes (Golden Scars)’ is one of my favourite on any song this year, the incredibly heavy percussion and eerie melodic guitars working creating a deeply unsettling, brutal sound. And the use of clean vocals throughout the album are a real highlight. They don’t feel like an afterthought, they feel like a really strong tool to provide some release from the utter gloom of much of the music. Used towards the end of the ‘Ashes in Bloom’ they’re a really beautiful touch. The lyrics certainly invoke imagery of despair and grief, suffering and loss, but they also evoke a sense of hope and optimism. It’s in some ways a real treat to read lyrics in such a bleak, poetic style from a musician that has clearly put some real thought into them. It’s a very human, emotionally powerful album, and one very worth experiencing for yourself.

After enjoying the album so much, I reached out to guitarist, vocalist, lyricist, and songwriter Sam Dishington to talk about Départe’s music as well as the experience of being a metal band from Tasmania. Read on for the interview!

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