Stuck in the Filter: November & December’s Angry Misses

It’s a new year, and with it comes a sense of determination to make 2023 our best and most awesomest year to date. Part of that goal involves digging deep and cleaning out the Filter of the last dregs from the final months of 2022. We caught most of the notable gems in our promo sump, but as always there were those few that fell into the wrong chute. This, the first Stuck in the Filter of 2023, is a register of our semi-precious finds!

Angry Metal Guy’s Hairball o’ Shame

Viita // I [November 3rd, 2022 – Self-release]

I got depressed in the wake of Crimfall’s demise. There was no question in my mind that AMAIN was the band’s finest work, even if it was to be its last. I heard through the grapevine, however, that Jakke Viitala—Crimfall’s founder and primary composer—was writing on a new project entitled Viita. I is Viita‘s debut album and aside from the lyrics—composed by former Crimfall bandmate Mikko Häkkine—everything is written, performed, produced and mastered by Jakke himself. Listening to I is an interesting insight into the influences and vision of its composer. The album is an infectious combination of ’80s-influenced synthwave—with a Stranger Things vibe and a spooky feel (“0011,” “1011”)—orchestral metal á la Crimfall (“The Father,” “The Balance” or “The Honor”), and even some chunky riffing and groovecore on “The Hope.” The sound is thoroughly cinematic—almost Turillian in its drama—with songs that are memorable and theatrical, though not melodramatic. The compositions are fairly long with tons of twists and turns and I is loaded with unique and fun ideas packed into a nice little package. Viita’s biggest weakness is that Jakke isn’t Dan Swanö behind the mixing board. I has passable—but not great—sound, with the drums being the biggest victim.1 This mirrors the second weakness; the combination of electronic and new wave sounds with lush orchestras finds warm and cold sounds clashing with, rather than complementing, each other. In the hands of a high-priced producer, there would have been a sonic answer for this; but Viita’s I just exists with this clash and it can feel a little awkward at times. But don’t let that stop you from giving this a shot. Viita was one of my favorite albums of the year and made my list as an honorable mention because it’s fun and addictive. Jakke writes interesting songs and there are almost no albums in your record collection that sound like this.2 I look forward to getting a second one soon. Hopefully I won’t have to wait as long as I always did for Crimfall albums.

Thus Spoke’s Suspicious Scrapings

VALVE // Thermoclines [November 12th, 2022 – Moment of Collapse]

As I’ve commented before in the AMG staff room, metal is just about the only sphere in which I think ‘this is French, therefore it’s probably very good.’ I’m not generally a fan of post/hardcore, but I stumbled across VALVE—a “five-headed hydra from Paris”—recently and was hooked. I guess it’s because they’re French. Their brain-melting sludgy, disso-death-adjacent approach recalls a spectrum of acts from LLNN to Plebeian Grandstand. At only four songs and thirty-eight minutes long, Thermoclines nonetheless spares no expense. From the sprawling murk of opener “XXXIII” to the howl-ridden voids of “Schism,” this is the kind of music that demands your attention, and gets it. While I’m still not the hugest fan of the most ‘hardcore’ shout vocals (“Kabuki,” “Thermoclines”), the overall soundscape remains overwhelmingly, pleasingly bestial as well as darkly melodic. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to these Parisians going forward.

Constellatia // Magisterial Romance [November 11th, 2022 – Season of Mist]

If there’s a word that can divide a room amongst metalheads, it’s “blackgaze.” Constellatia don’t do anything to change the divisive nature of the style, with a dreamy blend of shimmering guitar and fading screams that’s almost too sickly sweet in how damn pretty it is. This does provide a pretty easy yardstick for enjoyability: if you like Deafheaven, then you’ll like this. The cascading, shivering tremolos of “In Vituperation,” and bittersweet, blastbeat-accented melodies at the apex of “Paean Emerging” especially provide those golden Sunbather vibes. There are hints at something a little darker and more musing that make Magisterial Romance feel just that tiny bit special. The reverberating echo of “Palace” gives Cult of Luna energy, while its eerie synth passage recalls—quite bizarrely—those found on the latest Defacement record. Still, Constellatia aren’t reinventing anything, and as the saccharine guest vocals (Alison Rachel) on “Adorn” exemplify, this record sits firmly within the glittery, ‘edgelord’ blackgaze camp. If that’s what you like then you’re in for a treat, because Constellatia do it well.

TheKenWord’s Killer Catches

Synestia // Maleficium [December 2nd, 2022 – Self-Released]

2022 saw the rise of symphonic deathcore juggernauts Lorna Shore and companion upstarts A Wake in Providence. But then, at the very last possible second, Minnesota’s/Finland’s Synestia dropped a massive anvil of Victorian gothic symphonic deathcore, Maleficium. Much like A Wake in Providence, Synestia do an excellent job of balancing lush orchestrations with crushing riffs. Relatively restrained use of breakdowns—my least favorite feature in extreme metal—put this band squarely in Shadow of Intent territory, which is possibly the best position to be in for this nascent act. Dramatic orchestrations and gloomy atmosphere set the stage in these tracks, but the songwriting is undeniably carried by multi-instrumentalist Sam Melchior’s addictive riffcraft, leads, and pummeling drumming (or programming, not sure which), while Ville Hokkanen provided a monstrous performance behind the mic. This is what good deathcore sounds like, folks, and it’s a shame more people haven’t given it the time of day. For those who feel hesitant, as you should be, to explore a new deathcore record, allow me to direct you to killer tracks “Empyrean Skies (ft. Dan Tucker),” “Scarlet Moon,” “Ascendancy (ft. Johnny Ciardullo),” “All Things Must End,” and brilliant highlight “Death Magic (ft. Adam Warren).”

Souldrainer // Departure [December 9th, 2022 – Black Lion Records]

Goddamn. “The Council of Five” is such a massive beatdown of awesome death metal. If I had heard it earlier it would’ve been a shoe-in for my Songs o’ the Year playlist. Alas, Sweden’s Souldrainer didn’t release their fourth full length, Departure, until December. What you might not expect, on the other hand, is that this tectonic death metal outing actually has as much in common with Insomnium and other sadboi selections as it does with beef-fed death metal muscle like Hypocrisy. As Departure progresses, woe and despair seeps in at increasingly greater quantities. Nonetheless, Souldrainer keep heft and memorability in ample supply, with “Where Angels Come to Die,” “Weaver of Mortal Dreams,” “Paint the World in Lies,” and “End of the World” moving mountains to keep this continental plate of Earth shoving into your brain as surely as it drags you into the abyss. As an added bonus, they’ve offered this record on Bandcamp for a fine price: NYP. Go grab it!

Dolphin Whisperer’s Drenched Determinations

16 // Into Dust [November 18th, 2022 – Relapse Records]

The splintered family tree that defines sludge lends itself well to the down-tuned artists like 16 who call it home. When I stumbled upon Into Dust, I didn’t expect to find that this California act has been pumping out albums steadily nearly as long as I’ve been alive, though aged origins do explain the simplicity of their name. But here we are 30 years after their debut, and 16 feels as punishing as ever. Though geographical isolation has allowed this act to meld 90s alt rock into their sound in a different way than the crooked NOLA bend of legacy acts Crowbar or Down, tracks like “Scrape the Rocks” and “Never Paid Back” bear the same boggy chug and rumble. At other times, jagged, noisy hardcore roots bleed into punky beats and tense breakdowns (“Misfortune Teller,” “Lane Splitter”). And, just like any band who grew alongside the tough guy stomp of groove and lived to tell the tale, 16 takes its turn pounding its chest with drop-tuned bravado (“Null and Eternal Void,” “The Floor Wins”). Founding guitarist and now primary vocalist (for the first time in this band’s long tenure) Bobby Ferry has taken 16 a long way with a simple and punishing sound but still finds a way to surprise us with the jazz lounge meets bar room brawl ending of “Born on a Barstool”. In that regard, 16 succeeds at being an aged contender in the 2022 sludge revival (which includes Come to Grief and Negative 13) who truly continues to build upon their defining sound. Whether your need to unwind stems from a long day at work or a long stare down the road, mark Into Dust as fit for service.

Massa Nerra – Derramar | Querer | Borrar [December 2nd, 2022 – Zegema Beach Records]

OK, full disclosure, Massa Nera plays post-hardcore that you could easily interpret as screamo. Still reading? Good.3 Cause guess what? This isn’t just a revisiting of the screamo of yesteryear. This is torn throat hardcore cutting through wistful math rock jangles around themes of self hate and dissociation tied together by a hypnotic motif. If it isn’t clear from the album title alone, Massa Nera explores their tortured inner workings through existential oscillations about many of the members’ Spanish speaking heritages (“Hipócrita,” “April 7th,” “Tristeza Consume (Lowering the Blinds)”). Many of the lyrical breaks take on the same flair with Latin music inspired passages adorned with percussive guitar phrases and sneaky shuffling rhythms (“An Endless Cycle // I Was More Than the Weight of My Work,” “Lost Faces,”). The dance motif culminates in EDM/trance laced crisis of “Shapeshift” which leads to a back half that toils in the shredded ferocity of later day Converge or Plebeian Grandstand. And, naturally, in the cyclical nature of the negative ruminations upon which Massa Nera dwells from track to track, the closer “Anchored” dissolves in defeat back into the opening phrase of “An Endless Cycle”. Success by way of elegance rather than revolution, if Massa Nera wasn’t on your core radar before, now’s as good a time as any to have a good shout with Derramar | Querer | Borrar.

Dear Hollow’s Shower Drain Dredges

Yuh // Yuh [December 3rd, 2022 – Self-Released]

Yuh bruh. Grind a la mathcore that still feels as tropical as the Hawaiian islands and as vicious as pineapple on your sensitive tum-tum? Yuh. While these Honoluluans are content blasting your face off with jagged riffs and shifty time signatures, warm bass and full noise ambiance create a humid palette that makes the relentless shriek and stinging dissonance go down smoothly. In true mathcore fashion, whack individuality is key, as each instrument works off of its own whims, as tracks like “Radiate Anyway” and “Five Teeth Shy” benefit from this wild whirlpool of sliding riffs, noodling fretless bass, and manic vocals, but when the stars align in truly punishing riffs is where Yuh shines: the blastbeats and riffs of “Against the Wall,” the bass-led chuggy explosion of “BLEED/BURN,” and the blackened intro of “The Idea of Talking Like John Wayne” all serve as mileposts on this road trip straight into the volcano. Major key pop/punk optimism plagues the two-part “Stuck in Isolation in the Desolate Pits of Fire” until it descends into sourness and madness. While undoubtedly owing to acts like Sectioned or Me and Him Call It Us, a thick haze of noise rock settles heavy on the Pacific islands. Yuh come for the tropics, Yuh stay for the pain.

Wait! Memories Are Fading Away! // Collapsing On Our Way to Snowcloaked Mountaincrests [December 31st, 2023 – Digital: Self-Release; Physical: Fiadh Records (US) / Vita Detestabilis Records (EU)]

German duo Wait! Memories Are Fading Away! approach their emotive sound, balancing screamo, post-rock, crust, and black metal. Collapsing on Our Way to Snowcloaked Mountaincrests is as cold and desolate as its name suggests, recalling the atmoblack of acts like Fen and Paysage d’Hiver, but through the frantic skramz of Pianos Become the Teeth or dark hardcore of The Rodeo Idiot Engine. A reinterpretation of its kvlt imagery, Envy is a clear comparison, but the icy atmosphere suggests something far more evocative. A warm heartbeat in the form of throbbing basslines courses through the frigid post-rock textures and shifting punk drums and blastbeats, elevating tracks like “Eclipse on an Icecold Winternight” and “Downhearted Ascent Along Bleak Serpentines” from succumbing to the frostbite, while the warm glows of “Out of a Barely Lighted Cellar, All in Vain” and “Okay, but Whose Goodbye Is It Really?” are welcoming to the weary traveler. Collapsing on Our Way to Snowcloaked Mountaincrests expertly balances icy atmosphere with warm heart, a frigid and majestic place to be transported again and again.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. They sound like he’s been using the Strapping Young Lad settings in Drumkit from Hell.
  2. And I’ve had a couple other writers here tell me this, as well. Viita’s vibe is genuinely unique—idiosyncratic, even—and that’s tough to do while still being good.
  3. Truth is if you stopped I don’t care anyway! – Dolph
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