The EP, Split, and Single Post Part I [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

Time. Mighty time. It devours everything; destroys hard metals; dispassionately slaughters civilizations; levels mountains.1 And yet we always want more of it. In this age of constant connectivity, we crave it. You know what robs it from us? Albums. Full-fat, full-length releases which extend ever-closer to an average length of 60 minutes. And you know what that is? TOO FUCKING LONG. In lieu of some 80-minute progressive monster by some emergent neckbeard2 solely subsisting on Milton, Alighieri and Ghibli, invest your precious time and money into these shorter releases which will save you both.

Fuck albums, all my homies hate albums. – El Cuervo

Mortify // Grotesque Buzzsaw Defilement – The under-appreciated truth of metal is that so much hinges on a sick guitar tone. It overcomes mundane songwriting and crappy vocals when it hits the mark, and crushes the potential of exciting song-writing and good vocals when it doesn’t. Fortunately for Tokyo’s Mortify, they have all three across Grotesque Buzzsaw Defilement. Its Swedeath-infused guitars rip through 13 gore-soaked tracks in just 10 minutes, bridging a gap between death metal and grindcore better than most others I can think of. This is some of the most fun I had with metal in 2021. – El Cuervo

Enshine // Transcending Fire – Much time has passed since 2015 and the thorough slurping bestowed unto Enshine’s last record entitled Singularity. The hysterical weeping of melodeath sadbois called this Finnish/French duo from their hibernation, resulting in a short EP called Transcending Fire. It features all the shimmering guitars, mopey keyboards, and guttural vocals typical of its scene but most interestingly, branches out into synthwave for its third track “Ascend,” and acoustic melodies for its fourth, “Constellation.”3 I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by a Finnish(ish) melodeath band but color me impressed by the effort here. – El Cuervo

Shadowrunner // The StrangerEl Cuervo’s synthwave discovery o’ the year must go to LA’s Shadowrunner. Ripping a page out of FM-84’s (sub)genre-defining playbook, The Stranger operates with the smoothest of smooth dreamwave. Pulsing keys, immaculate production and Trenton’s understated singing sit this somewhere near the top of my most-listened list from this year. The combination of thicker synths with slower rhythms lends proceedings a swinging, sultry edge; this is Shadowrunner of prior singles but with a hungry glint in its eye. If you listen to one synth release from this year, make it this one (and also Faded Touch. And also 2043. And also Oasis Sky. And also Late Night Calls. FUCK. – El Cuervo

Grandeur // Aurea Aetas – Austrian one-man black metal project Grandeur has played an absolute blinder on its debut EP, Aurea Aetas. Stuffed to rafters with quality riffs and frantic blasts, but overlaid with an atmospheric, almost symphonic, grandeur Grandeur, this four track EP is a ton of vicious fun. Breathless and furious, yet majestic at the same time, this is another effort from the mind of Erech, the man behind numerous other BM outfits including Ancient Mastery and Narzissus. While Aurea Aetas undoubtedly has elements of Erech’s other output in its DNA, as well as things like old Uada, it is a more melodic, less unrelentingly harsh affair, even as Erech’s growling rasp barks out the vocal lines. Alongside the blackened assault there are elements of more traditional metal in some of the guitar lines, making Aurea Aetas more approachable than some of Erech’s other output but no less accomplished for that. – Carcharodon

Tenue // Territorios – Post-hardcore crust is not a genre I usually reach for but there is something about the abrasive, nerve-jangling stylings of Spanish trio Tenue that got its hooks into me. The strapline on Bandcamp that the band is “arming our affections fiercely” feels bang on point. Tenue has clearly poured boundless emotion into this single 29-minute composition. The tortured vocals fall somewhere between a black metal rasp and the throat-shredding screams of Zao’s Dan Weyandt, only occasionally dropping off into (dis)harmonized harsh-clean chants. Beneath the vocals, runs a deep, fast flowing river of high-energy crust and post-hardcore fury that borders on Pupil Slicer or even early Dillinger in moments. But alongside that, Tenue weave into Territorios heavy lashings of melody and ambience, giving it a slightly reflective, melancholic edge, probably driven by the frustrations and challenges we were all facing when it was written in mid-2020. – Carcharodon

夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) // Noč Na Krayu Sveta – 2021 has been a year of avant-garde oddities but Russian/Japanese/American experimental blackened noise outfit 夢遊病者represent the peak for me. Stirring into one hypnotically hallucinogenic mixing pot electronica and drone, hints of freeform jazz, noise, trip hop and black metal, overlaid with heavily distorted and effects-laden vocal samples, Noč Na Krayu Sveta (Night at the Edge of the World) is like a writhing serpent. Across its two-track, 30-minute run, the three-person collective twists and turns its languorous way through mellow psychedelia, warped noisescapes and into blackened nightmares. With instrumentation ranging from fretless bass, guitars and bouzouki to moog synths, organ and ‘objects,’ 夢遊病者 paint mind-bending sonic soundscapes and, for me at least, the EP format is the perfect length to enjoy these sort of Neptunian Maximalism-type wanderings. – Carcharodon

Sea Mosquito // Fire, Magic & Venom – Somehow, progressive black metal made a mark on my soul this year. If Sea Mosquito had released more than one song, they probably would have earned a spot on my list, but sadly they could only come up with Fire, Magic & Venom, a 23-minute long journey through tribal rhythmic blackened realms. Anchored by a relentless staccato guitar/drum attack, the arrangement of this song speaks volumes to the duo’s overall abilities. Blackened shrieks, guttural howls, foreboding spoken words overlay a stunning mix of standard black metal fare mixed with epic orchestrations and plenty of twists and turns – even the obligatory sax solo at the end fits in. In other words, “Fire, Magic & Venom” is everything you could want from an epic prog-black track. – Huck n’ Roll

Teeth // Finite – I am not the biggest on dissonant death, so if I love a record in this style you better pay attention. This was the gist of my review of Teeth’s The Curse of Entropy, and it still rings true with this year’s EP, Finite. Opening with seven minutes of doom-grind is a bold move, but the Californians pull it off, zig-zagging between disturbing atmospherics and colossal brutality. Finite is remarkably versatile in its moods and pacing, even when the more doom-oriented material is left behind. The vestiges of melody that cling to its bones, rendered in jagged dissonance and punishing riffs, sketch a portrait of utter chaos restrained only by the most diaphanous of membranes. Finish it off with a stellar production, including an unearthly bass, and Finite becomes a 20-minute injection of cyclopean horror no fan of brutality should ignore. – GardensTale

Sadistik Forest // Obscure Old Remains – I stumbled upon this EP back in May when I mistook it for a full-length and foolishly attempted to review it. After a well-earned hiding from Steel’s goon squad, I swore I’d eventually give these Finnish death metallers their due. Sadistik Forest have evolved so much since their 2010 debut that they almost sound like a completely different band, taking things in a thrashier, decidedly less Chris Barnes-esque direction. Over a little more than 19 minutes and across four strong tracks, Obscure Old Remains covers some well-trod but very enjoyable (and grimey) ground. From old school death to whirlwind thrash to a doomy, sludgy closer, this mountain of buzzsaw riffs is a testament to both Sadistik Forest’s musical growth and your ability to wait patiently for their next LP. – Felagund

Show 3 footnotes

  1. J.R.R. rolls in his grave.
  2. Coincidentally, the name of my grind band.
  3. Yes, I know this is an alternative version of their own track, nerds.
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