[Gregg Harrington is a staff interviewer at Punknews.org.]
To me, Lemuria's second album for Bridge 9, The Distance Is So Big, is a drastic departure from the band's previous album Pebble. The songs are a little more structured, take a few more risks and incorporate more interesting parts, and the vocals are reaching out of the range that the band set with previous material. The record has a few tracks that really stand out, like the single "Brilliant Dancer" and "Clay Baby."
How to Destroy Angels: Welcome Oblivion
I was thrilled to hear a few years ago that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails started a side project with his wife that sounded nothing like his main band. Don't get me wrong, I love NIN, but How To Destroy Angels takes the electronic background Reznor is well-renowned for and adds an accessible ambiance to it with really interesting textures and unique approaches to the structure of the tracks on Welcome Oblivion. It doesn't lean too far into pop or industrial, but just lingers in the middle ground peacefully.
After a listen to Surgical Steel, you'd be surprised to find that Carcass split up in 1996 and this is their first album in 17 years. While this album may not reflect the band's signature gore-laced grindcore they became famous for pioneering, Surgical Steel is one hell of a death metal album. Heavy and harmonized guitars grouped with fierce drumming and Jeff Walker's signature snarl, the band crush through 11 tracks. Plus, the mail order version of the album came in a first aid kit, which is pretty fucking cool.
Following up Separation, eastern Pennsylvania band Balance And Composure's 2013 LP was probably the best example of an album that showed great maturation for a band. B&C didn't recreate Separation, but instead took it and layered what they learned over the past two years. There's a lot layered on this album, in terms of guitars both in the forefront and background, and if you don't pay full attention to it, there's probably more than a few nuances you miss.
Subrosa: More Constant Than The Gods
Utah metal band Subrosa created quite an atmosphere on this album. Mixing sludgy instrumentation, clean and haunting vocals and electric violin creepily hanging out in the background, More Constant Than The Gods is six tracks of a catchy yet dark take on metal. The band take equal influence from Sleep and Bjork and it shows on this album, with the band's female trio crooning over some pretty heavy riffs.
Old Wounds: From Where We Came Is Where We'll Rest
When New Jersey's Old Wounds released their Glory Kid debut, From Where We Came Is Where We'll Rest, it ruffled my feathers a bit. It was refreshing to see a band doing authentic â??90s-styled hardcore without relying too heavily on weird and choppy breakdowns. The band take the dissonance of early Every Time I Die and mixes up a lot of different riffs to make one hell of a hardcore record that is simple when it needs to be, but inventive throughout.
For me, Hoax's self-titled LP took my number two spot on the most disgusting-sounding records behind Nails. Building upon their well-established sound from previous EPs and splits, the bleak sound of this Boston punk band is grating on your eardrums in the best possible way. The grit of the album doesn't disappoint and the band's vocals have never sounded harsher.
Pray For Teeth: From The Dry Edge Of The Shore
This one may be below some peoples' radars, but Pittsburgh sludge metal band Pray For Teeth released one hell of a debut album. While the quantity of tracks is low, the quality of the material (as well as the length of the songs) makes up for it with the band weaving in and out of beautiful post-rock passages and punishingly heavy riffs. Imagine if Cult Of Luna were really pissed off.
Terror: Live By The Code
Terror have always seemed to be a polarizing band in hardcore, but they really seem to have hit their stride with their Victory Records debut and its preceding album, Keepers Of The Faith. I was really taken aback by vocalist Scott Vogel's unapologetically straightforward lyrics about how much he loves hardcore in the opening track, as well as the new thrash-influenced hardcore sound the current incarnation of the band are cranking out.
Full Of Hell: Rudiments Of Mutilation
If bleak and desolate hardcore is your thing, you probably got your hands on the second LP by Full Of Hell. This album is chock full of some of the most droning and hypnotizing riffs I've heard in a long time. This band manage to cram a myriad of influences into this record with great success: Integrity, Dystopia, Merzbow and Infest all shine through equally in these songs.
I slept on this for a while but oh man, Memorial is great. I remember really being into the band's debut, Enter, and thinking everything else was okay, but the instrumental trio are playing leaps and bounds above what some people give them credit for. The addition of Brian Cook from Botch and These Arms Are Snakes really shines through in how heavy this album is, even without vocals (except for the last track with Chelsea Wolfe, which is also creepy and awesome).
While it's pretty low on my list, Todd Jones and company released what was probably the biggest-sounding record of the year: singeing buzzsaw riffs over insanely fast drumming and some of the most pissed off vocals I've ever heard. The band definitely expanded upon the foundation they set with Unsilent Death without replicating the same formula.
Magic Circle: Magic Circle
"You like Sabbath, kid?" Magic Circle are members of current Boston hardcore bands experimenting with playing â??70s-styled psychedelic heavy metal akin to Black Sabbath, Motorhead and the like. While it's only six tracks, Magic Circle's self-titled album is heavy, catchy, and quite impressive in regard to Rival Mob and xFilesx vocalist Brendan Radigan's vocal range.
Grave Mistake Records / Refuse
While this album may not be considered a full-length LP by industry standards as it clocks in at a mere nine minutes, Coke Bust don't need a second more to craft their dense output on Confined. Blistering fast drums and classic hardcore guitar coupled with some pretty pissed off vocals makes this album one of the most intense releases of the year.
Weekend Nachos: Still
A healthy mix of downtuned fast hardcore and satirical lyrics never hurt anyone, but at some points on Still it sounds like Weekend Nachos will reach right through your stereo speakers and kick the shit out of you. Tracks like "S.C.A.B" and "You're Not Punk" openly lash out at the hardcore and punk scene in a humorous fashion and don't relent in regards to the music.
Iron Lung: White Glove Test
Two-piece experimental outfit Iron Lung have really outdone themselves with their most recent release, White Glove Test. A scathing approach to sludge and powerviolence, White Glove Test pummels anyone in its path with hectic stops and starts. The vinyl release includes a 22-minute long noise track, which is chopped up and mixed into the album's tracks for the "merged" version of the record.
A band that combines equal parts of shoegaze and black metal being embraced by the mainstream is something I never thought I'd see, but Deafheaven really ruffled some feathers with their sophomore LP, Sunbather. The band channel an impressive array of influences, at times sounding like Burzum playing U2 covers, and mash up beauty and ferociousness into an impressive and cohesive album.