The Usurper

Noteworthy Metal – November

This column is reprinted from Unwinnable Monthly #109. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Selections of noteworthy metal.


Hello, and welcome to the November column! It’s a fairly light month for me in metal terms; I’ve been listening to mostly K-pop lately, so you know the following stuff is good if it can tear me away from EXO.

Smoulder – The Sword Woman

Toronto four-piece Smoulder play classic doom metal. Meat-and-potatoes stuff, accented with vocalist Sarah Ann’s powerful clean singing and some rudimentary guitar harmonies. Taken as a throwback trad-metal, it’s earnest and avoids retro affectations – reminiscent of Pilgrim’s Misery Wizard.

Hissing – Permanent Destitution

Permanent Destitution is a dissonant, elusive frenzy; Deathspell Omega as a caverncore band, all wheedling, whining upper-register riffs buzzing around over clangorous blast beats. The vocal approach is a bit like Portal, too, which should give you another handhold. When the band slows down there’s a nice spongy thickness to the waves of distortion. This is relaxing, to me, actually. I would play this at a hot yoga class.

Brainoil – Singularity to Extinction

Swamp sludge, coated in grime and rust. This is a fantastic, hateful record in the vein of Buzzoven or Eyehategod . . . you know . . . when sludge meant something besides John Baizley cover art and “southern rock influences.” Anyway. Singularity to Extinction sounds incredible turned all the way up, absolutely nails the head-filling murk of the best sludge albums. It’s still kind of warm here in Florida, because this state is hell, so this shit is essentially in season year-round.


Madder Mortem – Marrow

For about twenty years, Madder Mortem have been making the kind of music you’ll recognize from bands like Opeth, Katatonia and more recently Leprous. Knotty, over-the-top progressive metal powered by Agnete Kirkevaag’s soaring, stentorian voice. I’m not suggesting they don’t get taken seriously because they have A Chick Singer, but I wouldn’t argue with that assessment. Marrow comes off a bit like a harder version of Anathema’s The Optimist; drenched in melody and unashamed of its own virtuosity. There’s a lot of nu-metal in here, too, especially in the low-end guitar chording and syncopated riffing. It’s a dense record – I haven’t properly absorbed it yet, but there’s enough here to chew on for weeks. Essential.

VOID – Jettatura

VOID play an extremely specific type of black metal that suggests the only record they have ever heard is Dark Thrones and Black Flags. If you don’t like Darkthrone, you don’t need to bother with this one (or this COLUMN!!!!). If you do – VOID are all about midtempo death-and-roll-y riffs with a slight necro sheen to the production.

Evoken – Hypnagogia

Massive funeral doom from the New Jersey vets on their sixth record in 20 years. Despondent strings and piano sit in a nimbus above an unforgivingly dense mire of death-doom. There are plenty of parallels to contemporary titans of the sound – My Dying Bride, Shape of Despair and Skepticism – but even in such a hyperspecific subgenre, Hypnagogia carves out territory for itself. Goth-rock guitars and soft orchestral pads give way to grinding, achingly slow doom passages, over which strings bloom like flowers over a grave. Morose, unyielding, but beautiful. A tremendous achievement which most people will find entirely unpleasant.


Astrid Budgor is a writer and editor living in Florida.

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