Oct. 27Bell Witch, “Mirror Reaper”I hold to the idea that artist intent is a vital part of experiencing music. Some artists prefer their art expressed as two-to-four-minute singles structured around hooks, choruses, and leads. Others present a body of work as a whole, for digestion as the listener prefers. The idea of the album had gone away for a while but has made a comeback more recently. And others still demand more of their listeners. Such is the case with Seattle’s Bell Witch. Their new opus “Mirror Reaper” is one 83-minute song, meant to be absorbed as such. It is a suffocating and cathartic experience, building throughout the entirety of the piece, slowly adding vocals and organ where necessary. It honestly astounds me what this band is able to produce with just two full-time members on drums, bass, and vocals. It’s breathtaking. So much emotion comes across from so few pieces. By no means is this record for everyone – far from it – but those who are willing to put in the time and patience will find something genuinely rewarding. As a lament and funeral dirge for the passing of founding member Adrian Guerra, it is an immaculate and heartfelt swan song. And as a metal record, it does more to push the genre to further emotional heights than anything I have heard in a very long time.
Perturbator, “New Model”Last year I called Perturbator’s fourth full-length album, “The Uncanny Valley,” my favorite release of the year. Unbeknownst to me, while releasing said wonderful display of nostalgia-drenched synth worship, he was brewing an even more sinister EP. “New Model” is a breath of fresh air in the synthwave world, and it does so by exuding the patience of a predator stalking its prey. By slowing down the tempo, Perturbator allows the space between the heavy electronics to sizzle and crack with anticipation of the next build-up and come-down. This is most evident on “Tactical Precision Disarray,” a single that he unleashed at the end of 2016. About two and a half minutes in, everything melts away, time enough for the listener to appreciate the silence before the onslaught of auditory machine gun fire begins with a growling lead. He has followed up “Uncanny Valley” in the best way possible.
Ne Obliviscaris, “Urn”Progressive metal has, of late, almost become a checklist of tropes that bands must hit. Though not necessarily a bad thing, it does dilute the sound. What makes something progressive if it is fulfilling a checklist? Regardless, even while fulfilling the check marks, bands can soar above rudimentary entries into a genre by becoming more than the sum of their parts. Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris is one such act. First catching my interest in 2012 with their debut “Portal of I,” they have all the chops and then some, bringing in, most notably, some astounding bass work and vocals. High shrieks, low growls, and gorgeous alto all flow throughout the record, giving each part the emotional weight that it demands. One of the most notable aspects of the band is the presence of violin, and my favorite moments of the record come on the track “Urn Part II As Embers Dance In Our Eyes.” At the start there are these dissonant yearning strings, like a beast straining against its chains.
Other notable releases: Kelly Clarkson, Weezer, SOJA, Theory of a Dead Man, Hollywood Undead, Yelawolf, 10 Years, All Pigs Must Die, Powerman 5000, Butcher Babies, Winds of Plague, and Big KRIT