Best metal (and there’s a ton if it) of 2011’s second quarter

Loss: Depression at its darkest

I sat down this week to make a list of metal albums I wanted to consider for my favorite of the second quarter of 2011, and after doing so, I realized something: There is a ton of great stuff that came out the last three months.

I was considering doing two separate posts about the best of April-June, but that seems like overkill. So we’ll just get it all out of the way now. Plus, you’ll be too drunk or hung over Monday if you live in the States (it’s Independence Day, after all) to endure a second post, so consider this mercy on you.

I’ll try to break this down a little differently than we did the best of the first quarter of the year so I can mention everything I want to get into this space. I’d also be interested, if you’d like to add your two cents, what records from the past three months you’ve liked the most. And again, this isn’t me declaring these albums the greatest artistic achievements of the second quarter, but rather these are the collections I’ve personally enjoyed the most.

We’ll start off with a label, that being Profound Lore, who we discuss quite often on this site. They’ve put out a handful of really strong stuff, from Dark Castle’s “Surrender to All Life Beyond Form,” a hulking, Eastern-influenced, sludge-doom package, to Krallice’s dizzying and explosive third record “Diotima,” to A Storm of Light’s “As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade,” to Altar of Plague’s death-enveloped “Mammal,” but we’ll put focus on funeral doom merchants Loss and their astonishingly depressing “Despond.” I didn’t do a review on this site because I have something about the record in the upcoming issue of Outburn (No. 60, out later this summer), so I didn’t want to repeat myself. “Despond” is one of the finest examples of pure funeral doom I’ve heard this side of Mournful Congregation (one of my favorite bands), and the Nashville band captures perfectly those desperate times, when life is at its lowest point and could end by your hand at any moment. The hour-plus album certainly will not fill you with joy, and if you have a medicine cabinet full of pills to battle depression and anxiety, this can only push you further toward the edge. A highlight of the record for me is “Silent and Completely Overcome,” where the band is joined by Pallbearer’s Brett Campbell on a dirge that encapsulates hopelessness and sadness with such power, it seems anything but eternal darkness is not even tangible. “Despond” is incredible, and as long as you’re mentally stable enough to handle it, I highly recommend you find this.

To buy any of these titles, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com//index.php?option=com_ezcatalog&task=viewcategory&id=2&Itemid=99999999

Black metal has been interesting and, as usual, all over the map. There weren’t any true black metal albums I selected as my favorites from the last three months, but these have those roots and take them to the outer reaches of wherever they choose to travel. Blut Aus Nord’s “777-Sect(s)” (out on Debemur Morti) is the first of a trilogy that’ll continue in September and finish up in November, which is ambitious to say the least. Three records in one year? Who do they think they are, Kiss? Anyway, the dissonant melodies and overall mind-altering compositions likely aren’t for everyone, especially if you just want to sit around and play air guitar. But if you’re cool with letting yourself wonder/wander and imagine what other physical planes have to offer, this one will help you explore. Of course, Ireland’s Primordial are always fodder for best-of lists, and they’ve never steered us wrong. Their latest album “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand” (released by Metal Blade) finds the band growing even more melodic and epic in their songwriting, and Alan Averill’s biting words and venomous vocal approach both remain the most effective in the business. This album isn’t as instantaneously contagious as their past work, but considering it’s on this list, it obviously grows on you in a major way and refuses to let go. San Francisco duo Deafheaven put out their spacious and emotionally draining debut full-length “Roads to Judah” on Deathwish Inc., and it’s one of those that always has a unique effect on me every time I hear it. It’s shoegazey and atmospheric, savage and beautiful. Some people tag this as having an early screamo feel, though I don’t get that from it at all, and it’s only the first step on what should be a long career path.

To buy “777-Sect(s),” go here: http://www.eitrin.com/

To buy “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/11882/

To buy “Roads to Judah,” go here: http://deathwishinc.com/estore/category/DEAFHEAVEN.html

There’s a whole slew of death metal albums that I’m going to touch on really quickly, and like the black metal albums, these records are kind of all over the place sonically and philosophically. That makes for an interesting batch. Vastum’s awesome debut “Carnal Law” (out on 20 Buck Spin) is a weird paradox in that it sounds like old school death metal but doesn’t mess around with the same lyrical content. Instead they explore psychological and sexual behaviors (um, not in the same way as, say, Poison) of humankind, and it’s an intelligent, pulverizing album. If you need more, this band is made up of members of Acephalix, Saros and Hammers of Misfortune, so there’s that. There also were two techy, mathy efforts from veteran acts Obscura with their rock-solid, widely more accessible “Omnivium,” (out on Relapse) and from Origin with their spine-rattling “Entity,” their Nuclear Blast debut that I, apparently sacrilegiously, like more than 2008’s “Antithesis.” Either way, both will baffle you with their musical wizardry. Also still digging Hate Eternal’s new record “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes,” one of their best efforts in a few years.

To buy “Carnal Law,” go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/releases/spin040-vastum-carnal-law-cd/

To buy “Omnivium,” go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=42166

To buy “Entity,” go here: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/Item/Origin_-_Entity/37731

To buy “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/11946/

There are a few albums that can’t really be grouped with anything you see above, so we’ll discuss them here. “Path of Totality,” the second full-length from Tombs, and “Furnace,” the first full-length from Batillus, likely would have to battle it out for my favorite of the past quarter if we were keying in on a No. 1 overall. But we’ll save the bloodshed for now. Tombs still have a knack for sooty black metal but also have added some elements of Joy Division and vintage Celtic Frost to their cauldron to make what could be their landmark effort. Batillus always have been a massive live act, but they managed to capture that power and fury on this six-song effort that was released by Seventh Rule. They’re due to hit my town this summer, and for sure I will be in attendance. Finally, classic doomers Gates of Slumber returned with their latest album “The Wretch,” an effort that calls back to the late 1970s but has enough of a modern touch not to sound dated. I’ve enjoyed this Gates record as much as anything they’ve ever put out, and it also has stuck with me longer than have their previous albums. Plus, they have a song called “The Scuvrge of Drvnkenness,” one of the best titles this year. That also, I’m sure, will describe many an Independence Day celebration.

To buy “Path of Totality,” go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=43222

To buy “Furnace,” go here: http://www.seventhrule.com/store/

To buy “The Wretch,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/12258/

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