Dec. 91. Deathspell Omega, “The Synarchy of Molten Bones”Finally returning from the depths to smite those who call themselves heavy and true, French black metal titans Deathspell Omega weave an elegantly grotesque vision of the antithesis of the cosmos, a world made in the image of the destroyer for humanity to either bask in or turn away from in terror. Black metal tends to be high concept as a general rule, especially the more modern take on it, and “Synarchy …” is no exception. I recently received my vinyl copy in the mail and have spent a few days meditating on the lyrics and the idea of the “Iatro,” a Greek root word for healer, and what it means when a creator has lost control of his creations and in doing so has doomed them to suffering or perversion. The album is an aural assault on the senses, and only a chosen few can revel in the chaos.
2. Antaeus, “Condemnation”Sometimes, you need some metal music that has bass drums that sound like popcorn kernels popping and howling vocals ripped from a horror movie where people get eaten by other people. Any album that has songs with names like “Flesh Ritual” will tend to catch my eye (as well as the stunning red and black artwork). “Condemnation” did not disappoint. Sometimes, the cold puts us in the mood for mellow jams, and sometimes, we need the extra energy to get through the day. If the latter is more your speed, I highly recommend Antaeus.
3. Call of the Void, “AYFKM”Colorado’s own grind masters return with a new EP chock-full of grooves and general relentlessness. AYFKM (or Are You F***ing Kidding Me?) is a statement on the sideshow nature that life has seemed to take on over the past few years, whether it be the reality TV circus that our politics have become or the accusatory shouting matches that dominate seemingly all discourse in general. Call of the Void plays grindcore, a hybrid of metal and hardcore punk. Some of the louder shows over at Sweet 101 are a good indicator of the style. For me, it feels as genuine as a protest song can. Sometimes, you need a quiet conversation to change someone’s mind, and sometimes, a blunt instrument does the job. AYFKM is that blunt instrument.
4. Ash Borer, “The Irrepassable Gate”While some black metal wallows in the shrieking bowels of the underworld, other takes on the genre eschew this tradition in favor of what has become commonly referred to as transcendental black metal. Time ceases to have meaning as melodies and harmonics intertwine with each other, warping the music around a black-hole nexus. Such is the case with Ash Borer and its new album “The Irrepassable Gate.” It’s name is fitting as well, once you are drawn in by the low rumble that starts the title track, there is no escape and no turning back. If you want something that is triumphant and somewhat terrifying, so much so that you cannot look away, then give this one a shot.
5. La La Land, “Original Soundtrack”When director Damien Chazelle burst onto the scene in 2013 with his short film “Whiplash” and the subsequent full-length adaption of the same name, I wasn’t sure where he would go next. “Whiplash” captivated moviegoers with something that most had never experienced before: a movie about music that didn’t shy away from the ego that can come with it. Imagine my surprise when he counteracted that almost-gritty look at music education with “La La Land,” a classically-styled musical in the vein of “A Star is Born” and “Guys and Dolls.” Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling do a fine job on their numbers, with “City of Stars” being an easy highlight, as well as John Legend and Justin Hurwitz (who composed the music for “Whiplash” as well) giving astounding performances on their pieces.