Metal of the Month: March’s 15 Finest Releases (2019)

METAL OF THE MONTH is a monthly feature that examines just that, a grip of fifteen of the most essential heavy metal (and sometimes non-metal) related releases from each month in the year 2019. I’ve chosen these entirely based on my opinions, meaning I’m primarily taking into account the hours of immersion, personal connection and the lasting value of each album before moving on to other things. There are several albums that I will have to leave out of this list, but they’ll all still be considered for end of the year lists. This monthly feature will largely focus on records I’d either reviewed or spent the most time with, as well as a few releases where the review is still in the draft stage. The feature will update with links for those as later reviews roll in. Do not think I’ve overlooked any promotional material, I am but one man and I’ll get to all of the promos I’ve received throughout the year. I am eternally grateful to have so much to choose from. Thank you.

What a month for heavy metal music in general, March wasn’t a blockbuster for the mainstream spectrum of music but goddamn did we get some undeniable darkness across every now-overflowing metal niche. I am so thankful to receive such a wild range of promos every week and although I didn’t break outside of the metal side of things towards hardcore punk, noise rock, avant-garde, heavy psych, and all of those other things I enjoy it was purely because the metal side of things was a full-time focus due to so many exciting releases. Look for a small update coming to Patreon in a few days (April 2nd, or so) and make sure you check out the Friday news column SYNCHRONY (Click/Tap HERE) which will also include sections pertaining to a site-specific ‘week in review’, upcoming releases, and new releases you might’ve missed. Otherwise no great big changes in March. The ongoing Thrash ‘Til Death feature saw four more entries (Messiah, Pestilence, Ripping Corpse, and Cynic), so if you’re interested in heavy/thrash metal bands that morphed into death metal groups as the early 90’s wave peaked towards 1993 check those out every Monday, I’ll be covering Thanatos, Panic, Vader, Dead Head, and Num Skull in April. Things will continue at a slightly faster pace in April as I have been putting in the work with more previews ahead of time. March was incredible, though I could have used a few more traditional doom metal releases the thrash, death, black metal fandom should be really happy with the major releases of the month. Here’s a glimpse of stuff I’m still planning on reviewing that released in March:

March releases still in consideration for review: Aoratos, Crucifixion, Nocturnal Witch, Frosthelm, Syrictus, Forged in Black, Triste Terre, Khnvm, Ataraxie, Dreams of the Drowned, Totaled, Nusquama, Ungraven, Folian, Lord Vapour, Shabti, Ultra Silvam, Katu Kaiku, Peleser, Saver, Leather Glove, The Riven, Heretical Sect, Equipoise, Fen, Monograf, Iron Griffin, Grave Violator, Malakhim, Bewitcher, Death Agony, Bastard Noise, Overt Enemy, Katechon, Aria, The Haunting Green, Iron Fire, Wardehns, Athanasia, Asthma Castle, Eyes of the Living, Ashen Horde, Accursed Spawn, Ola Englund, Nixa, Tides of Sulfur, Musket Hawk, Aihos, Necromutilator, Blind Scryer, Dream Ritual, Vargsheim, Zatemno, Excruciation and a few more. Most all of these band’s current releases will still be reviewed post-March in some form in the coming weeks. Drafts of the follow March releases are in-process: Hell Fire, Tamerlan, Skullsmasher, Sutekh Hexen, Bloodsoaked Necrovoid, Urza, Heaume Mortal, and Nocturnal Hollow. I’ve additionally received many requests direct from bands as well as a handful of 2018 releases and those will almost all be included in Ten From the Tomb features or full reviews. No guarantees, all things are considered.

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Artist Vircolac
Title [Type] Masque [Full-length]
 Rating [5.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Though I’d followed Dublin, Ireland death metal band Vircolac since the release of their first demo I’d never been sure they were onto something close to what they’ve done on their debut ‘Masque’. Yes, their sound had a certain mastery of dynamic fluidity that was appropriately ‘classic’ and modern at once but it fell in with bands like Taphos who blurred black metal guitar techniques with old school death metal fanaticism. On ‘Masque’ they’ve defined themselves in a beauteous way, a primal movement with complex modern humanity attached, through fastidious throngs of guitar movement with just enough of a wide berth and a divergent angle to bring to mind the rhythmic mastery of early Tribulation, Ensnared, and maybe even Morbus Chron but give muscle and mentality to those atmospherically boundless, artisan forms. I’ve given Vircolac my highest recommendation this month because I felt as though it’d be criminal to not reward such a thoughtful, ever-growing piece that many would overlook simply because it may not be a ‘tested brand’ quite yet.


Artist Akrotheism
Title [Type] Law of Seven Deaths [Full-length]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

In the week leading up to March I’d already known my two highest black metal recommendations as both Sinmara and Akrotheism represent exactly the sort of reshaped ‘modern’ orthodox black metal that feels like a newly achieved level of quality within established forms. Drastus‘ record released without warning and pulled me away from both releases with good reason, and it remains an equally compelling piece. In the back of my mind I couldn’t stop thinking about ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ and I ended up taking a couple of extra weeks to seriously meditate upon Akrotheism‘s second full-length. This was really for the sake of clarity and to realign with the serious esoteric artistic goals of the Athens, Greece band. Therein I found a sort of occult pleasure center, a surreal place to sit and stare quietly as if I’d been given a window to the cosmos eternal sparkling expanse. I rest upon ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ as a complete and distinguished black metal record and I am grateful for its power.


Artist Magic Circle
Title [Type] Departed Souls [Full-length]
 Rating [4.75/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Although I makes me sound like a complete ‘first!’ hipster, I was absolutely right there when Magic Circle first kind of hit the unknowing internet with their classic doom metal sound and impassioned performances. To think that Pagan Altar would choose Magic Circle‘s vocalist as their touring voice after the death of Terry Jones should be at the top of Brendan Radigan‘s metal resume. It helps quite a bit that in researching this Boston area bands members that most every one of them have some history of the best traditions in Boston hardcore punk. The Rival Mob is one of the best hardcore bands of all… oh man, those last two tapes… Well, anyhow Magic Circle have gone a bit more mid-70’s proto-doomed over the years with a fair share of Trouble comparisons coming in after the second album a couple years back. ‘Departed Souls’ delivers something ancient and doom, but they’ve not simply gone for musty basement-jammed sounds and you’ll hear a sort of later Cathedral-esque songwriting wisdom sparkling throughout this record. I’ve been a fan, I continue to be a fan, and still count them among my favorite doom metal bands of all time.


Artist Imprecation
Title [Type] Damnatio ad Bestias [Full-length]
Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Imprecation is one of the most underrated death metal bands, period. I’d count their history of releases up there alongside under-served underground bands like Morpheus Descends as well as the more popular spectrum of top-tier death that never truly embarrassed themselves such as Incantation and Immolation. ‘Damnatio ad Bestia’ is a more than worthy follow up to their ‘comeback’ album ‘Satanae Tenebris Infinita’ (2013) which I’d counted high among my favorites of that year. I almost forget how goddamn heavy true death metal is as I focus on the more artistic side of classic death metal and Imprecation are among the heaviest next to Drawn and Quartered and Dead Congregation, bringing that same level of riff and colossal heaviness with every hit. Death metal has such incredibly physical power to it when done right and I found this latest record from the Texas based band among the absolute most effective this month, and year so far.


Artist Drastus
Title [Type] La Croix de Sange [Full-length]
 Rating [4.5/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

Drastus is the all-consuming fire that will end existential record, and ‘La Croix de Sange’ is the thrilling black metal violence that’d capture that intent in musical form. Unheard of outside of small circles for a decade beyond a few minor releases and now appropriately finding his way to NoEvDia, this monstrous leviathan of French black metal reaches Deathspell Omega level musicianship and vision with the thrust of already related projects guiding the verve of the ruin. This is such an accomplished piece of black metal that is imposing beyond expectation specific to the artist as well as that expectation of quality among French black metal. Drastus‘ second full-length is so beautifully achieved I still find it spellbinding even a full month later and nearly 30 full listens behind me at that.


Artist Undeath
Title [Type] Demo ’19 [Demo]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

With the cavernous roar of Dead Congregation and the slippery, spiraling aptitude of post-Demilichian technical death metal so rises a trio of devout youths with curved dagger and rotted book in hand. Clever as early Cadaveric Fumes, rabidly detailed as Fabricant, and cavernesque as Voidspawn this demo would give a glimpse at a superior understanding of pace, movement within variation, and a true skill for transitional moments not seen since Tomb Mold. For this initial descent into twisted forms Undeath appear more than capable of incredibly detailed ‘new old school’ death metal with a moderate technical flair. There is such adept feeling in the guitar work that it begins to sound as if it were a long dead demo tape from the mid-90’s, preserved with crystalline ideas and cleaned of its obvious influences decades later. No question they will succeed with this level of guitar arrangement and doomed pacing moving forward.


Artist Obscure Infinity
Title [Type] Into the Vortex of Obscurity [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

German death metal band Obscure Infinity began as a subtle mix of old school death metal classicism and with each release they’ve incorporated influences from Swedish melodic blackened death metal (see: Necrophobic, Dissection, Unanimated) and with this release they branch out into the realm of speed metal and traditional heavy metal influences. The last three album have each incorporated finer guitar work, wailing leads and just ripping earworm riffs. ‘Into the Vortex of Obscurity’ sounds like a new phase in their career that is accessible as if it were the follow up to ‘The Somberlain’ or that long forgotten Decameron record, if they were beefed up with some speed metal riffs along the way. I’m a huge fan of this band and strongly encourage picking through their discography otherwise, they’ve done such a fine and tasteful job configuring old Swede atmosphere and updating it towards the fastidious standards of German extreme metal.


Artist Sinmara
Title [Type] Hvísl Stjarnanna [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read my REVIEW!

Icelandic black metal continues to prove its depth as the last two decades of innovation and trend has the truly dedicated artists at the heart of Reykjavík’s greater output generally ascend in terms of technique and maturing musical palate. Sinmara is just one fine example among many in the last several years as we find every band cautiously avoiding puritanical Deathspell Omega worship and reaching for distinct takes before they enter Studio EmissarySvartidauði‘s ‘Revelations of the Red Sword’ reached a higher plane of meandering glory late last year and now Sinmara unsheathe a most resonant and even more balanced record with ‘Hvísl Stjarnanna’. Beauteous melody, fables enriched by heritage and Norse spirituality, and several standout moments made this one of the finer black metal releases of the month though it was surely overshadowed this month by the grandeur of Drastus, and the furious atmospheric transcendence of Akrotheism, each record should land in the lap of similar fandom.


Artist Cardinal’s Folly / Lucifer’s Fall
Title [Type] Split LP [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

As a traditional doom metal fan since first hearing ‘Master of Reality’ as a dumbass kid circa 1990ish I don’t think I am hard to please anymore but, I am hard to impress. Cardinal’s Folly always manage to strike me at just the right wavelength, though, there is a dark intensity in their delivery that is satisfying in its fucked-but-memorable take on the Finnish traditional doom sound. I’ve so enjoyed their last two full-lengths that I was truly overjoyed to receive this split with Lucifer’s Fall, an up and coming Australian doom metal band who remind me of The Lamp of Thoth as much as they do the classics, I think I mention Saint Vitus and Pentagram and I’d be aiming for the ’84-’85 era of both with that comparison. The heavy/doom metal approach from Lucifer’s Fall and the wild yarn that Cardinal’s Folly spins still blows me away and the hope is that I can afford an LP before it becomes a collectors item. Pure love to both bands and what they do.


Artist Deafkids
Title [Type] Metaprogramação [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

From atmospheric and defiant dark-crust blasters towards an entropy of all natural forms the arc of the eclectic vision coming from Brazilian trio Deafkids is stunning as a future-tribal ray of hope for the oppressed. There is a humanity to ‘Metaprogramação’ that is focused upon the greater good, those who would take hammer to the server farms that systematically disenfranchise us and crush diabolical nihilistic corporations as they salt the corpse of our dying Earth. It isn’t a follow up to ‘Configuração do Lamento’ EP (2016) as much as it is a rescinding of the norms that divided their collective ideas, it is a true melding of song ideas. Less a collage and more of a streaming consciousness that manages to avoid weird cyber chic industrial metal cliches while still kind of reminding me of those earliest attempts at fusing distorted guitar music with electronic music. This album is just incomparable and fully enjoyable so, I loved it.


Artist Fine China Superbone
Title [Type] Plaguey [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW

These Dutch string-wranglers point to Dazzling Killmen first as early inspiration and I think most listeners will find the dynamic about as varied and ‘unexpected’ in its twists and turns as a record like ‘Face of Collapse’. I’d additionally recommend Tar‘s ‘Jackson’ and Unwound‘s ‘Repetition’ for an atmospheric reference, Fine China Superbone are definitely not a post-hardcore band but they’re also not as dejected or atonally stoned as a band like Colossamite, either. ‘Plaguey’ has an immediate and crooked sound that cranks discordant hits out in that bluesy, methed-up sort of fashion that you think The Jesus Lizard‘s ‘Goat’ sounded like but that’d just be the style of noise rock since; A bulbous and gorgeous bass tone pulsing and pinching through strings of anxietous, mathematical guitar skronk too clever to sound random but still wild as it hits. As with Heads. most recent record there is a sense of chill peppered throughout (see: “40 Years in the Desert”, “Somewhat Corny”) the full-listen but Fine China Superbone are ‘on’ the majority of the time, pulling out a surprisingly dense and frenetic noise rock album that should dazzle even the most diapered math rock dilettante with its guitar work..


Artist Necrogosto
Title [Type] Necrogosto [Demo, Reissue]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

The sound of this tape is just incredible, somewhere between the spacious clunk of early Mystifier tapes, the groaning pulse of Sarcófago‘s ‘Satanic Lust’, and the more pronounced bruised hits of Grave Desecrator. The style itself intends to resurrect the gods SarcófagoSextrashExpulserInsulter, and that whole outrageous scum-fucked blend of hardcore punk, first wave black metal, and brutal late 80’s thrash. The result is pretty close and in some ways it feels like an extreme exaggeration of those old demos that’d define bestial black metal and war metal with a heavy boot full of the thrash ‘edge’ felt on Obscurity and Messiah demos as well as ‘Bestial Devastation’. If you’re looking for that sound no doubt you’ll pick up on the intended authenticity that has justified wider release of this demo the moment you fire it up.


Artist Contrarian
Title [Type] Their Worm Never Dies [Full-length]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] CLICK/TAP here to read the full REVIEW!

Progressive death metal has birthed some of its finest forms this way from Stargazer and Quo Vadis (Canada) to Lykathea Aflame all the way up to Sutrah there is a reasonable path towards resonance with some artistic integrity in tact. As their third full-length, ‘Their Worm Never Dies’, since their formation in 2014 lands upon us in 2019 I believe it is fair to include Rochester, New York act Contrarian into that mix. Originally sort of sold as a collaboration between Nile and Mithras members, Contrarian primarily features members of lesser known prog-death band Delirium Endeavor and deathgrinders Sulaco, both of which indicate the style of the band most clearly. It was hard to look past how much I loved Contrarian‘s first album and find their two follow-ups just not as mystifying but with ‘Their Worm Never Dies’ I found a very distinct, entertaining old school prog-death metal record that took me back to what everyone was trying to accomplish in ’93-’95 and yanking it forward to the subtle dynamism of 2019.


Artist Nocturnal Witch
Title [Type] A Thousand Pyres [Full-length]
 Rating [4.0/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

There were many releases I wanted to fill the final two slots here with but I simply hadn’t had time to listen to everything in enough depth to claim they were the very best of the month. Nocturnal Witch might seem like an average blackened thrash metal act at first glance but holy shit are they fuckin’ buffed up to Hell with riffs. Evil, cacophonous black metal ripping brutality a la Nifelheim‘s debut with some Absu-esque precision when it counts, there is an unholy classicism to ‘A Thousand Pyres’ that I found irresistible with each listen. I’ve already found myself excited to go and spin it again day-to-day (as I did with Vomitor‘s last album) so I’ll have some great praise for this record once I’ve had a bit more time with it.


Artist Urza
Title [Type] The Omnipresence of Loss [Full-length]
 Rating [4.25/5.0] REVIEW coming soon!

Funeral doom metal albums can be a tough prospect to review because any record falling under that umbrella is typically long-winded and requires a lot of in-depth listening to really convey (or just recall) the nuance within. German band Urza lean towards the death/doom side of things in that they have pure death metal moments here and there whilst still leaning towards the Ophis, Adversum, and Lycus side of things. Is it the second coming of ‘Antithesis of Light’? I think this band has it in them. Essential funeral doom, especially if you loved the most recent ones from Un and Ataraxie. I’ll review Ataraxie as well, and their album almost made it here, but Urza kind of stole me away from that record for a few weeks.

Honorable mentions [Click/Tap to Read Reviews]

Did I miss your favorite metal/rock/whatever album released in March? Tell me about it, I know I missed a lot! This list is representative of my opinions and personal favorites taking into consideration influence, innovation, replay value, arrangement, cover art/design, production style, nostalgia, quality of experience etc. There are hundreds more releases from the month and I might have overlooked something amazing, let me know. Don’t worry, no piece of music is ever too old to review! Again I want to thank the bands, labels, hardworking PR folks, and my Patreon Patrons for their support and contributions! This is a dream for a lifelong fan and collector like me.

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