We predicted October would be a sticky wicket of a month for the put upon electors of Best in Show1, and it certainly was. Any number of killer platters could have been hoisted overhead and declared the new Golden Calf without damaging our enormous metal cred, and everyone had their own personal favorite clutched tightly to their steely bosoms. So how did we decide? Sleazy backroom wheeling and dealing, of course! In exchange for foregoing certain inalienable voting rights, staff members were bought off with major release reviews, gift cards, fine liquors and sumptuous cheese trays, even V.I.P tickets to Furry-Con 2016. Peace in our time by any means necessary – that’s our credo. When the smoke and slime settled, we felt dirty, but the job was done and we had a winner. Mothers, tell your children not to walk our way.
Coming off one of the biggest metal surprises of 2015 with their stunning Absolution debut, upstart doomers Khemmis should have taken to the road to saturate the world with the rich, creamy goodness of their doom-meets-stoner style. They should have taken extra time to carefully craft the all-important sophomore album, because that’s where so many promising bands go astray. They did neither and rushed Hunted to the shelves nary a year later, and in the process bested that amazing debut while quieting cranky doubters like Steel Druhm. Yes, against all logic, Hunted is bigger, better and more thought out than it’s predecessor, taking the Khemmis style to a higher plane of existence. The Pallbearer influence is greater, and the death metal vocals are reduced, moving the sound closer to classic doom and away from the stoner side, all without losing their unique identity. There isn’t a wasted moment on Hunted and if not for some poor production choices, it could have been perfect. This will be Album of the Year for many, and they won’t be wrong.
Anciients // Voice of the Void – Anciients rock an interesting blend of stoner and sludge metal and as such things go, they’re pretty damn progressive. On their sophomore album, it seems they’ve found a voice all their own, upping the prog-quotient and stretching the boundaries of their style, showcasing a new confidence and maturity. Tool and Mastodon influences are still present but the band does their own thing and fills the music with big hooks to boot. Killer riffs, harmonies and vocals abound, even if some may be displeased that the new sound is less heavy overall. A band to watch!
Ulcerate // Shrines of Paralysis – Kronos is a hard man to please, but Ulcerate has his number and keeps playing it at the Casino ov Metal. Shrines proved to be not only brootal enough, but gave him every single thing he craved in extreme tech-death and maybe a little more. Through his drooling and gushing, the truth of what Kronos was saying emerged thus: “In a way, Shrines of Paralysis is nothing more than what is expected; a densely written record that’s both technical and brutal, harrowing yet atmospheric. What we’ve come to expect from Ulcerate is far beyond that of other musicians. In its performances, writing, and scope, Shrines of Paralysis is a cut above.”
Hail Spirit Noir // Mayhem in Blue – The off-kilter Greek jesters of black metal are back with yet another experiment in experimentation. Ditching the Pink Floyd excursions of past albums, the band takes the listener on a journey into creepy carnival instrumentation a la Mr. Bungle, heavy with organs and short on furious blackness. Despite the absence of extremity, the band makes it all work somehow, crafting a platter full of trippy, surreal music for the madcap. As El Cuervo so delicately put it: “Despite the questionable weirdness, you’ll never question that it’s metal but more importantly, you’ll never question that it’s also very good.”
Editor’s Note: All payoffs, graft, kickbacks and payolla are final and illegally binding. No trade backsies in perpetuity, forever until The Great and Final Doom.