Personally, there has been a lot going on for me during these first six months of the year. A lot of it has impeded my desire to write about the albums I have been a fan of so far this year. However, completing my doctoral degree, passing a licensure exam, and moving across the country held a pretty high priority…
There’s been a lot to pick from and many more from these first six months that will inevitably show up in my full AOTY list later this year. Picking a top five came down to what I’ve listened to the most this year according to Spotify and Apple Music.
Baroness Gold & Grey
From Cody's review of Gold & Grey:
Gold & Grey marks the closing of a thematic journey for Baroness. The past 12 years have turned the once sludge-tinged band into one of the most important and prolific forces in modern metal and rock. For a band once synonymous with a regional sound, crafting a sustaining, idiosyncratic voice could be seen as the band’s crowning achievement. Yet, for all that Baizley and his bandmates have done, there is much more behind that climb to the upper echelon of metallic titans that has been cut wide open in their music. Baroness' artistic excellence and visceral emotional display throughout each arrangement are as vibrant as the art that adorns their album covers. Among the rich palette of colors and sounds Baroness has crafted, Gold & Grey is the brightest and most striking of them all.
HEALTH Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear
From Cody's review of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear:
The Los Angeles trio continues to blur the lines between noise rock, electro pop, and industrial metal. On their newest album, Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, this amalgamation also results in HEALTH's most ominous, brooding, and diverse effort yet—and consequently their best. (John) Famiglietti, (Jake) Duzsik, and (Jared) Miller's musical chops have carved out a niche of their own with very few contemporaries to rival them… They've burgeoned into an absolute sonic force, unparalleled and unique.”
Inter Arma Sulphur English
Inter Arma is in rarified air. The Richmond, Virginia quintet are one of the few bands that transcend any subgenre classification and construct beautiful metallic landscapes that rival some of metal’s most powerful names. Sulphur English, simply put, is flawless. It’s a striking balance of masterful and diverse song compositions and poignant atmosphere. From 90's death metal to southern-tinged dirge and folk, there are an overwhelming number of examples where Inter Arma seamlessly move between styles and sounds.
Even still—with all of its vibrancy and diversity—Sulphur English is Inter Arma at it's heaviest and bleakest. TJ Childers (drums) had a mission for making something much grimmer and grittier than Paradise Gallows and Mike Paparo (vocals) took a sociopolitical approach to a number of lyrics on the record (like the title track) as well as fleshing out his own mental strife into the words of songs like "Citadel."
Spirit Adrift Divided by Darkness
From Cody's premiere/feature of Divided by Darkness at Kerrang!:
“Since 2015, Nate Garrett has been at the helm of the traditional heavy metal force, Spirit Adrift, and a member of the death metal quintet, Gatecreeper. The former has been a conduit for his own catharsis—a means for a release of the emotions surrounding his past vices, views of the present society, and his own personal growth. His passion project continues to evolve — turning from Sabbathian doom to outright arena-filling heavy metal. Consequently, it has put Spirit Adrift at the crest of a wave of nostalgic metal that has swelled in the past couple years — his newest album, Divided By Darkness, is the crescendo… Through arena-filling riffs and a soaring voice, he unleashes his most stunning performance as Spirit Adrift — a message to personal and societal empowerment in the face of mounting adversity.”
Yellow Eyes Rare Field Ceiling
Yellow Eyes has probably been my favorite band over the last three or four years. The black metal quartet continues to build their own sound with their own hands. On their fifth full-length record, Rare Field Ceiling, the band once more records everything on their own—and takes another step towards the peak of black metal. Yellow Eyes is, by a mile, the best black metal band in the United States. Rare Field Ceiling only solidifies this notion.
Their newest effort continues their off-kilter and labyrinthine eloquence. The Skarstad brothers’ guitar layering and riffing create unruly serpentine rhythms and melodies. The low-end contributions from Alex DiMaria (bass) and Mike Rekevics (drums) are furious and visceral. Another trip to Eastern Europe brought more field recordings to add textured layers to brilliant musicianship. Overall, Rare Field Ceiling is a perfect representation of hypnotic and immersive nature of modern black metal.