Stuff we missed in 2017: Enslaved, Dreaming Dead, Botanist, etc.

Dreaming Dead in their current form.

We can’t get to everything. It’s just not possible. We publish a record review four to five times a week, and that equals 200-250 albums per year that get written up on this site. Yet so much stuff remains behind, because we just don’t have enough time in a year. It’s not a complaint, mind you. Just simply explaining the situation and why days such as today are necessary.

There are some records that passed this year that we never unpacked enough to write about here. Particularly, the “major” metal labels often get passed by because there’s already so many other outlets covering that, so we don’t really see the need to drop our voice in the sea of words. Also, many of those labels tend to release stuff that isn’t really our taste. No offense to them. Again, plenty of outlets are out there to handle those releases. They’re not being ignored. There also are records on smaller labels that we didn’t get to for whatever reason. In fact, in this piece today where we shine some light on these records, we’ll start with something on a smaller label. Also, this is by no means a comprehensive piece. This is a quick extra handful of records we want to mention before we wrap up this week and head into year-end stuff. If a record isn’t here, don’t get pissed. Just go find another of the thousands of sources out there who probably will give you a far more detailed view than we will. OK, let’s get into this.

DREAMING DEAD, “Funeral Twilight” (Hammerheart Records): It’s been five years since we last heard from this crushing, melodic death unit, led by guitar shredder Elizabeth Schall (also of Cretin), and “Funeral Twilight” did an excellent job making up for lost time. This is a band I never understood not having a larger following. Schall fucking kills on guitar, and her devastating vocals are not to be messed with. She’s reshuffled the lineup for the band since this record was released, but the group she assembled for this smasher does a fine job smothering your senses on these eight tracks delivered a tick under 29 minutes. There’s something to be said for that run time. Schall and her band trim off every bit of fat and just go right for your throat on killers such as “Your Grave,” “No Masters, No Slaves,” “Beyond the Black Moon,” and riveting instrumental “Remnants of a Time Long Forgotten.” This thing has been out there since February, so if you haven’t come around yet, what are you waiting for?

For more on the band, go here: http://www.dreamingdead.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://hammerheartstore.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.hammerheart.com/

ENSLAVED, “E” (Nuclear Blast): One of the unquestioned leaders of black metal and Viking metal over their nearly three decades together, Enslaved still manage to push all the right buttons on “E,” their 14th album. I’ll be honest: It took me a long time to warm up to this record, which is why I didn’t devote an entire review to this piece. I saw hordes of praise splashed down on the record, and the more I tried, the harder I found it to immerse myself. Maybe that was the problem. Later, I put on the record just to absorb the music and not for any critical means, and I found that really opened up this six-track effort (eight tracks if you have the version with the two bonus cuts, including a shocking version of Royksopp’s “What Else Is there?”). The music started to flow through me, and now I really love this thing. “The River’s Mouth” is a sudden and biting track, one of their shorter ones as well, while “Sacred Horse” and closer “Hiindsiight” also pour their brand of Viking magic nicely. I’m glad this finally sunk in, and it’s now on my post-holiday vinyl shop list.

For more on the band, go here: http://enslaved.no/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nuclearblast.com/en/label/

IMMOLATION, “Atonement” (Nuclear Blast): So, confessional time is here. I never saw New York death metal legends Immolation live until late last week. Another admission: I’ve never been super into this band, and there’s no great reason why. They’re an awesome band, Robert Vigna is one of the great guitarists of our time (though I think the overabundance of pinch harmonics has held me at arm’s length), and they do nothing but deliver tried-and-true death metal every time out. It just never worked for me. Their live show and “Atonement” honestly haven’t changed that very much, but I do appreciate their workman-like approach to their craft and their stellar musicianship that once again is on display on this 10th record. It’s definitely a strong record, and the material translates live pretty well. They bring a lot of punchy chaos to the table on “The Distorting Light” (it opened their live show), “Fostering the Divide,” “Thrown to the Fire,” and “Epiphany” (there’s also a bonus re-recording of “Immolation” from their debut “Dawn of Possession”), and if you’re a long-time fan, you’re going to love this. I’m trying, guys. I definitely acknowledge their power, but not every band is going to turn every listener’s heart, no matter how good they are.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/immolation/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nuclearblast.com/en/label/

WORMWITCH, “Strike Mortal Soil” (Prosthetic): It’s easy for the bigger indie labels to rest on their past success, keep singing like-minded bands, and just rake in with their signature acts. Not naming anyone in particular here. But Prosthetic Records have been pushing their roster to include creative new bands such as Venom Prison, Dawn Ray’d, and British Columbia-based black metal band Wormwitch. “Strike Mortal Soil” is their first offering, a 10-track, nearly 40-minute display that demonstrates the promise the band has, even if there are small wrinkles to smooth over. They’re kind of on that same wavelength as Tribulation, Cloak, and bands of that nature, though these guys bring the heaviness and never relent. The first seven songs or so rip by and hint at serious future glory, with high points being “Howling From the Grave,” “Weregild,” and “Everlasting Lie.” Things bog down a bit on “…And Smoke His Ruin Upon the Mountainside” (the bluesy guitar riffs feel a little too “Load” era Metallica) and the record doesn’t fully recover from there (“Mantle of Ignorance” steers a little too close to metalcore). That said, this band only should get better from here, and I also think I’ll add this bastard to my record haul come January.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/wormwitch/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.prostheticrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://prostheticrecords.com/

BOTANIST, “Collective: The Shape of He to Come” (Avantgarde): Anyone who has followed this site for any length of time knows our affinity for Otrebor’s mainly vocals-and-hammered-dulcimer project Botanist and the records covering the apocalyptic goings on in the Verdant Realm. The fact we haven’t gotten to this one before now just demonstrates how easy it is to have something slip under the surface, as this record, where Otrebor employs the full band concept with Botanist, is a treat. This is the first in a series of recordings of this nature, and if this record is any indication, the concept should only blossom from here. We also get significant added voices to the Realm as Bezaelith (also of the amazing Lotus Thief and who also has worked with Palace of Worms) and A. Lindo have significant roles within these six songs. The vocal melodies are enrapturing on the tremendous title track and “The Reconciliation of Nature and Man,” and Bezaelith’s haunting singing transforms the short turn of “And the World Throws Off Its Oppressors” it into something magical. Another interesting note is that the dulcimer, typically front and center in Botanist tracks, gets to play more of a complementary role here, which actually gives it more life. This is a really pleasing, rousing effort, and I’m excited to hear what Vol. 2 holds.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.botanist.nu/

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: http://www.avantgardemusic.com/

MYRKUR, “Mareridt” (Relapse): 2017 would provide the answer to a very important question: Are dudes done obsessing and whining about Myrkur? Answer? A resounding, gassy “no.” Look, Amalie Bruun said some dumb things about Muslims in Denmark, though she tried to clarify that in that she meant that she’s upset with the way women are treated in that religion (pretty much every religion is guilty of this, by the way). But metal is a place where we don’t embrace people who say dangerous things, so obv it’s off to the trash heap for her. Too bad, because her second full-length effort “Mareridt” (translates into nightmare) is a real step forward for her creatively, a record that pushed her well past black metal and more into folk, New Age enlightenment, and atmosphere. It’s a collection that hints she’s going in a very different direction, away from the smelly dungeons in which metal’s edge lords hail, and toward something more expansive. Too bad she went against metal’s rules about saying something offensive and insensitive. She’s the first ever to do that.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.myrkurmusic.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

THE BODY/FULL OF HELL, “Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light” (Thrill Jockey): In a world based in logic, there is no reason for this record to exist. These two bands already teamed up for collaborative effort “One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache” just last year, so what could these bands have to offer on yet another record? Turns out, a fuckload. To be honest, I have no idea how this record fell through the cracks. I listened to it a ton, took full notes, had it scheduled to run, and it just never happened. The cataclysmic doom of The Body and the frenetic grindcore of Full of Hell once again mix together and form something entirely different from their own worlds, creating a whole new entity. These eight tracks could have been listed under a different band name and passed off to the general public (though we’d know Chip King’s hoarse wail anywhere) and fooled everyone, that’s how chameleon-like this is. Oh, and it’s also one hell of a powerful, fire-breathing, psyche-melting document that, funny enough, it easily could spawn a sequel.

For more on The Body, go here: https://www.facebook.com/thebodyband/

For more on Full of Hell, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fullofhell/

To buy the album, go here: https://thrilljockey.com/products

For more on the label, go here: https://thrilljockey.com/index

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