Crust, Punk, and Grimy Metal Favourites 2014.

Black Metal Dec 11, 2014


Punk rock opened the gateway to heavy music for me. Specifically, the first volume of the Punk and Disorderly compilation series, which I first heard back in the early ’80s. In the decades since, I’ve never shaken off my love of defiant bands and scrappy subterranean sounds. And that’s essentially the spirit behind this list.

These are some of my favourite releases from (mostly) belligerent punk rockers in 2014. Admittedly, my taste in punk generally favours the crustier and heavier end of the spectrum. So the list below features a lot of the albums that are probably as metal as they are punk. But you can take it for granted that, whichever way they lean, it was their headstrong punk-rock spirit that got me hooked on all the releases below.

War//Plague – Temperaments of War EP

Discovering War//Plague’s dark and defiant tunes was one of the highlights of my year. The Minneapolis-based band, formed by a crew of punk veterans, dish out incensed crossover crust that’ll stir your soul. Especially if you’re feeling jaded about the state of punk rock nowadays. Doubly so if you’re seeking no-holds-barred pillorying of shallow materialism, crass commercialism, and governmental misdeeds.

War//Plague’s 2014 four-track EP, Temperaments of War, was an all-out assault from the insurgent musical underground. Full of chugging riffs, spat-out vocals, and fist-pumping crust, it made War//Plague sound like a band that walks the walks 24/7. All of War//Plague’s discography contains that same rebellious roar of resistance. It’s all the perfect pick-me-up for troubled times. It’s all highly recommended.

Krigblåst – Power Till Demise

Krigblåst features members from groups such as D.R.I, Leftover Crack and Phobia in the ranks. And the band’s 2014 debut, Power Till Demise, delivered steely crust sharpened by black metal’s edge. Think Motörhead via Discharge via Darkthrone. And add in some buzzsawing Swedish hardcore too. Then you’re getting close to the blizzard-blasted d-beat of Power Till Demise.

Power Till Demise was originally released on Moshpit Tragedy Records, but the album risked getting lost when the label suddenly expired this year. Thankfully, Power Till Demise is being re-released by Polish label Self Made God in mid-December. That’s good news for anyone who’s interested in hell-bent-for-leather crust.

** Nux Vomica – S/T**

**** ****Nux Vomica’s self-titled album from 2014 was an outright masterpiece of heavyweight genre-blending that never obscured its crusty nucleus. Nux Vomica’s three long-form tracks saw d-beat, hardcore and gravelled gutter punk mixed with doom, death, sludge, and black metal. Obviously, that reads like a long list of different ingredients, but much like Agrimonia, Neurosis, Morne, or Downfall of Gaia, Nux Vomica showed astute handling of both crushing darkness and shimmering light.

**** ****Like the works of those aforementioned bands, Nux Vomica worked on two levels. There were the scuzzy guitars and up-front metallic punk to enjoy. But there were all those extra textures and layers that made Nux Vomica a far deeper listening experience too. Nux Vomica was all meticulously crafted as well. The album’s three epic-length tracks were monstrously heavy. But Nux Vomica‘s slow-burning passages met those colossal and ill-tempered sounds with lithe melodies too. Nux Vomica was a tour de force. In every sense.

Martyrdöd – Elddop

Crust isn’t known for its virtuosity. But that’s no bad thing. Eschewing technicality in favour of chest-pounding songs fuelled by incandescent rage is kind of the point. However, there’s no question that Martyrdöd’s Elddop album this year contained both nuanced songwriting and skilful musicianship.

Martyrdöd fused buzzsawing death metal with amp-flambéing d-beat and crust on Elddop. The album featured grimy guitars, a heavy dose of doom, and plenty of skull-scraping shredding. (Ticking all the required boxes on the crustcore anthems list.)

Yet, Elddop‘s greatest strength was that it sounded genuinely fresh. Martyrdöd have a knack for delivering catchy choruses and energetic riffs. But Elddop displayed the band’s gift for finding the perfect balance between finesse and ferocity best of all. Martyrdöd showed all that crust could be on Elddop. Producing a crashing kängpunk classic in the process.

Napalm Raid – Storm EP

Napalm Raid’s Storm EP sounds huge. I mean,  mammoth, and monstrous. Like Corrupted, on uber-crust ‘roids. Storm was astronomically heavy, propelled by earth-quaking bass, and it was filthier than a shattered sewer pipe. The four songs on Storm will leave you feeling about as clean as you would after being showered in shit. Vocals growled from the catacombs. The guitars didn’t riff so much as just out-and-out trample. And it all sounded like Discharge gargling the pus from a gangrenous Doom. It’s that fucking good.

**Homewrecker – Circle of Death **

One hundred percent stiff-necked and turbo-speed crusty hardcore is what Homewrecker provided on Circle of Death this year. Which was a big change from the murkier maelstrom of death metal, grind, and power-violence found on the band’s debut, Worms and Dirt.

Circle of Death was certainly leaner than Worms and Dirt. But it was also unquestionably nasty, and totally uncompromising. The metal was still there, especially where Homewrecker hurled filthy guitars and guttural vocals around on Circle of Death. But there was a much stronger concentration on the kinds of short sharp bursts so thoroughly indulged back in the ’80s crossover days.

Circle of Death was rebirth, if you will, for Homewrecker. Where the band reduced elements of its sound and ended up increasing its core muscular strength. Certainly, Circle of Death was tungsten tough and always confrontational. So, if you’re looking to smash the system, here’s your soundtrack.

**** ****

Tercer Mundo – Ser Nosotros Mismos

A couple of years back, Mexican punks Tercer Mundo released a much-celebrated EP that included a stomach-churning photo on the cover depicting a victim of Mexico’s drug war. There’s no doubt that EP’s cover was shocking for some, and understandably so, but that’s the reality Tercer Mundo deal with in their lives and songs.

The band’s Ser Nosotros Mismos LP this year was hugely anticipated, but Tercer Mundo had no problem meeting those expectations with an album that was never less than utterly relentless. Ser Nosotros Mismos was blistering raw, but Tercer Mundo are a band that play tight and fast. So, for all of Ser Nosotros Mismos’ ragged edges, at its heart the album remained a direct and decimating release.

Absolut – Punk Survival

Canadian band Absolut’s Punk Survival was a cattle prod jolt for anyone who thought their days of discovering any fresh (albeit fetid and ugly-as-sin noise) were dead and buried. We’ve all heard plenty of disagreeable music in our time. But Punk Survival’s hideous pandemonium was an ear-splitting wake-up call.

Absolut threw a noose around age-old UK, Swedish, and Japanese punk on Punk Survival. Which wasn’t a complicated mix of influences at all. But then the Canadian band took that bucking and battering brew, and rode it to its death on the album.

Punk Survival was raw and crude – and I mean pissing razor-blades primitive, à la Krömosom – with Midnight associate Northern Intruder strangling his guitar throughout. Punk Survival was pissed-off, glue-sniffin’, and dog-on-a-string punk. With vocals so blown out you’d hardly even call them human. *Punk Survival *was absolutely fucking insane. And thus absolutely fucking essential.

Zex – Fight for Yourself

You can add Zex to the list of Canadian punks to check out as well. Like Absolut, Zex’s tank is fuelled by first and second wave UK punk. But that’s where comparisons end. Zex’s full-length debut, Fight for Yourself, was far more melodic, drawing inspiration from acts like Suzi Quatro and Slade, along with a huge helping of NWOBHM. In fact, think of your favourite second tier NWOBHM bands, and that’s where Zex’s street-punk sound found its steel edge. Fight for Yourself was chock full of wailing solos and gritty and glam ’77 riffs. And it was damn anthemic to boot.

The Estranged – S​/​T

If you’re looking for punk rock with the emphasis on the snotty and enraged, then look away now. There’s nothing bloody and bruising about Portland-based The Estranged. Although, the truth is, I started listening to The Estranged because the band contains ex-members from a couple of hard-as-nails punk bands, including the highly respected From Ashes Rise and War Cry.

However, it wasn’t long before The Estranged’s post-punk, deathrock, and gothic rock had me completely enthralled. The band’s wield jangling guitars and darkly romantic sounds echo a mix of groups, like Joy Division, Wire, Gang of Four, Echo & the Bunnymen, or The Cure. And Estranged’s self-titled third album this year was a piece of moonlit rock ’n’ roll magic.

Added on to The Estranged’s sound this time was a rougher edge of garage rock, which gave The Estranged a spikier edge. Still, the band provided plenty of angular riffs and up-tempo driving post-punk on The Estranged as well. And it all made for a beautifully barbed brew. The Estranged’s previous albums (’07’s Static Thoughts, and ’09’s The Subliminal Man) are well worth a visit if you’re a fan of post-punk cut with a bristled brogue. However, The Estranged is the band’s very best work yet.

The Lowest Form – Negative Ecstasy

Negative Ecstasy is exactly that. London-based The Lowest Form piled on the nihilism and misery on the album until it all became one rabid and rapturous whirlwind of woe. Negative Ecstasy fed hardcore through a feedbacking grinder, and then set everything aflame. Or drowned it in acid. Or both. It’s hard to tell.

Really, such was the mind-melting noise on Negative Ecstasy, it’s probably best understood as an endeavour by The Lowest Form to push their songs to the utmost limit of any comprehensible form. Certainly, much of Negative Ecstasy rested at that point where dissonance and insanity twisted time. Or at least, I think it did. Something happened. And it was horrible and wonderful all the same.

Wretched of the Earth – Fire to their Houses

Portland-based Wretched of the Earth deal in anti-colonial crust, with a fair helping of traditional metal’s gallop seeping through. The band’s Fire to their Houses album was a d-beat free-for-all that was as incensed as you can get. Personally, I love hot-blooded politics in my tunes, and Wretched of the Earth provided plenty of intensity and fervency in that regard. But, if that’s of no interest to you, there’s still good news. Fire to their Houses also provided tracks oozing with street-wise metal riffage. In fact, there are catchy melodies among all the crusty punk pummelling that’d do Maiden and Priest proud.

Harassor – Into Unknown Depths

Harassor are a black metal band. Except when they’re being a punk rock band. Harassor’s no-fucks-given noise came with a great deal of hardcore’s hostility on their Into Unknown Depths album this year.* Into Unknown Depths* was a lo-fi, ultra-violent, and feverish brew of basement black metal. But what allowed Into Unknown Depths to rise from the, well, depths, I guess, was Harassor’s nasty-as-hell punk rock venom.

Venom is the keyword too. Because Into Unknown Depths was born from the earliest years of primitive and punk-influenced black metal. Harassor dealt in ragged riffs, throat-slit vocals, and buckets of misanthropy on Into Unknown Depths. And everything distorted to the nth degree.

**** ****Sterilized – Chemical Dust 7″ and Zero Sum Game 7″

Olympia, Washington-based Sterilized are exactly the kind of crusty cohort I admire. The band extols the virtues and vitriol of the progenitors of metallic punk, while still adding their own hateful accent to the whole deal. Sterilized’s two 7” releases this year, Chemical Dust and Zero Sum Game, added up to around 10 minutes of guttural and scabrous crust. You got eight in-your-face songs in total, and every one of them was a blown-out and pulverizing surge.

Things got downright feculent on Chemical Dust and Zero Sum Game too. Both releases were caked in stinkin’ mud. Not that Sterilized let any of the sludge and slurry in their sound slow down their breakneck tempo for a second. Grab Sterilized’s three-song demo from 2013 if you get a chance too. Then you’ll have a perfect trio of noxious crust to scare the neighbours with.

**** ****Leather Chalice – Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air

Like Harassor, you have to squint a little to get behind the notion that Leather Chalice is a punk band per se. But, that said, Leather Chalice is a project from Jan Slezak of Ramlord. And Ramlord are one of the filthiest (that is, greatest) blackened crust bands around. (See the band’s Stench of Fallacy and Crippled Minds, Sundered Wisdom full-lengths for abundant proof of that.)

Leather Chalice is a different beast to Ramlord. The band’s Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air release this year maintained a healthy obsession with metal and crust, but there was also hissing synthesized noise and an ultra-lo-fi post-punk pulse running throughout. Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air was harsh, primal, and raw, and there was plenty of black metal’s second wave buzz and fuzz to be heard. However, Sweet Perfume of Coffin Air definitely deserves a spot on this list for being so wilfully unaccommodating – that is, punk rock.

(Also, if you’re in the mood to hear one the best split releases this year, then make sure you track down Ramlord and Krieg’s alliance.)

Bädr Vogu – Agglomeration XXIV

Oakland, California, is home to an overabundance of underground punk and metal bands that deal in anguished squalor and decay. High on the list of releases that channelled all that misery was Bädr Vogu’s 2011 debut, Exitium. Bädr Vogu bring gutter punk blues, sludge, doom, and cough-syrup crust. And they pile on the negativity and brutality until there’s no hope in sight.

Bädr Vogu’s Agglomeration XXIV, released by the always superb Transylvanian Tapes this year, was all feedbacking filth and grim tidings layered on thick. Check out Bädr Vogu’s Bandcamp page for plenty more grimy tunes to download. Including the B-side tracks to Agglomeration XXIV, taken from the band’s 2012 split LP with Seattle grindcore band Wilt.

(And hey, while you’re lurking on Transylvanian Tapes Bandcamp page, why not check out Cease as well. More very heavy and obnoxious hardcore that’s worth investing in forthwith.)

Agnosy – Traits of the Past

Agnosy’s Traits of the Past was one of this year’s truly formidable crust punk albums. Not just because Traits of the Past was stacked with extremely heavy and iron-willed punk rock. But also because I doubt anyone saw Traits of the Past coming.

The album was a huge step up from Agnosy’s debut, Past The Point of No Return. I mean, a really massive step up. Traits of the Past is 10 times the album Past The Point of No Return was. And Traits of the Past is 10 times heavier too. In every way.

Sure, Agnosy still sounds like a band with some serious Tragedy worship going on. But, really, for all the similarities, Agnosy found their voice on Traits of the Past and stamped themselves on the crust map. Traits of the Past is a hell of an album (and I’m sure Hellshock, Hellstorm, and Hellbastard would heartily approve of it too). It was thuggish, grotesque, and mean. Exactly what you want with 10-tonne epic crust.

Witchface – Skrekk & Gru

If you were a fan of Raspberry Blubs’ Privacy album this year, then you’re certain to latch onto the sounds of Norwegian band Witchface. The band’s Skrekk & Gru album was a steep dive into lo-fi punk and crashing metallic noise that was as demented as it was utterly brilliant.

Skrekk & Gru was uber-distorted, uber-chaotic, and uber-coarse, but Witchface scattered hooks and traps all over their tunes. Skrekk & Gru was harsh and loose, and there was a little of black metal’s toxicity lurking in its depths as well. If it’s sawtoothed insanity and blown-out loudspeaker vocals you’re after, then Skrekk & Gru is going to push all your buttons.

**** ****

Siege Mentality – Arrest Days

Siege Mentality are proof positive that there’s no school like the old school. Featuring members from UK doom band Iron Witch in the ranks, Siege Mentality casts aside the slow and steady to concentrate on nihilistic crusty grind, and choke-hold hardcore. Unashamedly indebted to days of yore, Arrest Days was thick, heavy, grubby and grim. Siege Mentality piled on the misanthropy for a primal blast of bulldozing crust.

**** ****

Okkultokrati – Night Jerks

Okkultokrati have always been an idiosyncratic band. Like their Fysisk Format label-mates Årabrot, who released another dazzling piece of head-scratching magnificence with their I Modi 12″ this year, Okkultokrati have never been a band to toe the line, or take the easy route. The band’s Night Jerks album this year provided more off-kilter genre-fuckery. Sure, there was plenty of metal-fueled punk to Night Jerks, but it was all the weird and wonderful darkness and dementedness that made the album a piece of underground aberrance that you need to hear.

Hellstorm – S/T 7”

Aside from hearing Hellstorm’s 2009 demo earlier this year for the very first time, the rest of the Greek crust scene is a complete mystery to me. Still, that was a very encouraging four-song demo. And Hellstorm’s two-song 7” released this year was a reminder that there are still plenty of veins of punk rock to explore in the future.

You can pretty much guarantee that any crust band starting their name with ‘Hell’ is going to produce a salvo that owes a debt to Amebix and Hellbastard. That’s exactly what Hellstorm provided on their latest 7”, and the two tracks told a lot. Chiefly that Hellstorm were adept at dealing in dark and distorted crust. But also that those two songs promised great (and vile) things for the future.

Modern Pain – Self Deconstruction

Modern Pain are a throwback. Which isn’t a criticism at all. In fact, Modern Pain’s* Self Deconstruction* release from this year brought everything that’s visceral and anthemic about bare-boned, straight-down-the-line (and straight edge) hardcore to the fore. Six tracks. Every one of them a gimmick-free and skull-cracking delight.

Vanity – Vain in Life

Vanity’s Vain in Life provided some of the finest roughneck working-class punk I heard all year. The New York-based band blended garage rock and ramshackle UK street-punk on Vain in Life. Big hooks, throaty vocals, and dirty and driving melodic rock ‘n’ roll defined the album. Damn catchy, damn gruff, damn tough, and goddamn enjoyable.

Ajax – Bleach for Breakfast (Katorga Works)

Ajax’s Bleach for Breakfast demo was originally released in 2013. But I can cheekily sneak it in here, because it was reissued on 7” by Netherlands-based label Even Worse Records in 2014.

Ajax includes former and current members of New York groups such as Creem, Nomos, Nuclear Spring, and Warthog, and Ajax’s Bleach for Breakfast was a total riot. It’s a firecracker release. Hell, it’s a pipe bomb. “Chain Gang”, the recently streamed track from Ajax’s new 7″, sounds like a brutal kick in the teeth too. I’ll drop that stream in below. And good luck finding a copy. Like most releases on Ajax’s label, Katorga Works, expect it to be sold out in the blink of an eye.

(You should definitely hunt down Warthog’s fuzzed-out and fierce Prison 7″ released earlier this year too.)

Vulgar Trade – Gross Century

I have no idea why everyone isn’t shouting to the rooftops about Vulgar Trade’s Gross Century debut this year. I mean, Gross Century was recorded and mixed by Scott Evans, and mastered by Brad Boatright of Audiosiege Recordings, so it sounded gargantuan. Of course, as we all know, size isn’t everything. At least, I hope it isn’t. But Vulgar Trade easily backed up the dimensions of their sound with some of the most powerful hardcore I heard all year on Gross Century. The key to the album’s success was pretty straightforward: Gross Century had one foot in all that’s familiar and much-loved about bruising hardcore. While the other kicked down the door with an explorative and fresh approach.

Impalers – Psychedelic Snutskallar

Impalers feature a who’s who of Texan punks and metallers in the line-up, and there’s a real mix of patches to the band’s battle jacket. Impalers’ 2013 self-titled full-length was blistering, drawing from the legacy (and velocity) of bands like Motörhead, Skitsystem, and Discharge. Impalers’ Psychedelic Snutskallar EP, released earlier this year, was also filled with käng and krash mayhem. But the EP’s title track stretched things out for 12 minutes of buzzsaw guitars, pick-sliding galore, and meteoric drumming. The rest of Psychedelic Snutskallar’s tracks were shock ’n’ awe blasts. And it was all a breakneck eruption of punked-up metal (or metal-slathered punk, take your pick) that set the blood boiling.

Asylum – S/T

Asylum’s six-track debut was all over in about 10 minutes, but sometimes that’s all you need. Certainly, Asylum’s non-stop ’ardcore stomp was a hell of a lot of clanging and crashing fun. The band mixed Scandinavian-influenced d-beat and UK82 swagger on their self-titled debut, wrapping all that up in hardcore’s driving passion. Definitely a band worth keeping an eye on.

The Boston Strangler – Fire

No frills, bully boy, and tough as old boots hardcore describes this year’s Fire LP from old-guard worshippers The Boston Strangler. Fire presented 13 straight-up and stripped down tracks of hardcore that mined the *This is Boston, not LA *school of hard knocks. The Boston Strangler paid homage to their ’80s hometown heroes on Fire, but the album was no eulogy to a fading memory. Instead, Fire was a hot-blooded tribute to the continued virulence of rough-hewn and hostile hardcore.

**** ****

Masses – Horde Mentality EP

If you’re a fan of the bleak world that Joy Division inhabited, then Horde Mentality, the debut EP from Australian anarcho post-punkers Masses, is well worth a visit. Produced by the Birthday Party’s Phil Calvert, *Horde Mentality *was full of driving gothic tunes that drew from grimmer deathrock too. There was shimmery dark-wave synth, and jangling and melodic guitars aplenty on Horde Mentality. And, of course, propulsive post-punk bass lines, and baritone barks as well. Horde Mentality wasn’t a sonic heavyweight per se, but it was as dark and pensive as anything else on this list.

**** ****

Mahtowa Death March –  Mansorrow

I hate social media. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ve met some really great people online, and I appreciate that social media is somewhat of a necessary evil. But, I’m also a luddite. And a bit of a curmudgeon. So, you know, a lot of social media action sticks in my craw.

That said, if there’s one thing I totally love about social media, it’s the ability to discover great music via recommendations. Case in point: Mahtowa Death March.

I discovered the Minneapolis band because someone pointed me to a post at No Clean Singing, which in turn pointed me to a post Kim Kelly had written for Bandcamp. Connections, you see. That’s what I dig about social media.

Anyway, Mahtowa Death March’s six-track Mansorrow release was a scuzzy blast of lo-fi punk and sub-basement black metal. The band weren’t remotely concerned about sticking to any genre guidelines. They threw shrieking vocals at bludgeoning rock ’n’ roll, then ground that all up in an obnoxious stew of noise on Mansorrow. Best of all, Mansorrow just tore it up on the merrymaking side of things. Sure, that merrymaking all came with a vindictive sneer. But there’s no denying Mansorrow was a hell of a lot of fun.

Obliterations–** Poison Everything and **Gust  S/T

This year, there were a number of releases from label Southern Lord that I’d happily recommend to anyone looking for some ill-tempered punk. The label’s reissue of Excel’s Split Image album is well worth getting (re)acquainted with. Baptists’ Bloodmines was a raging storm of metallic hardcore. And Electric Funeral’s 53-song Total Funeral compilation was a (wonderfully) disgusting wall of distortion.

However, the top two releases from Southern Lord, for me anyway, were from Obliterations and Gust. Obliterations’ Poison Everything featured 13 head-cracking old school punk tunes drenched in feedback. Poison Everything was all over in less than 30 minutes, but Obliterations crammed Poison Idea, Motörhead, Black Flag, and a gazillion bruisers from the mean streets of ’80s LA hardcore into the mix. Good times. Guaranteed.

Swedish four-piece Gust also drew from the past on their self-titled album this year, with Cursed’s legacy being the most obvious starting point. Gust brought pounding metallic crust. A d-beat rhythmic battering. And a vortex of catchy riffs. There was nothing remotely complicated about Gust. What you got were explosive tunes, delivered in bombarding fashion, one after the other. The ideal combination on an album that was full of gut-punch tunes, all skilfully and enthusiastically executed.

Hank and the Hammerheads – Stay Home

Hank and the Hammerheads’ Stay Home album from this year was one of the best examples of punk rock stretching its boundaries. Stay Home’s skittery velocity and frenetic and angular riffs had more in common with no-wave and garage rock than hardcore most of the time. But Hank and the Hammerheads played things tight to the chest, and provided plenty of lacerating guitar work too. Stay Home’s tracks were more warmly produced than the blitzkrieg blasts heard on Hank and the Hammerheads’ last album, ’12’s Go* Home*. But there still was plenty of grease and grime under Hank and the Hammerheads’ nails on Stay Home.

Halo of Flies: Protestant, Recreant and Anopheli

Halo of Flies had a phenomenal year. The label released three of my favourite punk releases with Protestant’s In Thy Name, Recreant’s composite crust onslaught Still Burn, and Anopheli’s compelling A Hunger Rarely Sated.

Halo of Flies’ founder, Cory von Bohlen, features in Protestant’s line-up, and the band’s In Thy Name album was their best and most metal-injected release yet. In Thy Name was filled with ferocious hardcore anthems slathered in caustic black metal. And in the realms of warp-speed blackened hardcore, it really didn’t get any better, or more corrosive, this year.

Recreant have a little of black metal’s bite about them too. But the Florida-based band leaned harder on screamo, hardcore, and swampy crust on their Still Burn album this year. Still Burn was inflamed, with abrasive guitars wrapped around powerful lyrical themes delivered with off-the-hook vocal aggression. Passionate punk rock, done just right.

Anopheli’s debut, A Hunger Rarely Sated, took post-metal, post-hardcore, neocrust, and doom, and mixed it all up with dual male and female vocals. Cello took a lead role on Hunger Rarely Sated, with strings and acoustic guitar adding mournfulness to otherwise incensed broadsides. A Hunger Rarely Sated blended atmospheric metal with heartfelt howls, all drawn from the crustiest domains.

Full of Hell & Merzbow – S/T

Buckle up and gird your loins because Full of Hell & Merzbow was one of this year’s most strident releases. Full of Hell have produced some of the most powerful grind/hardcore heard in recent years. And the band’s got previous experience when it comes to utilising harsh electronics. Add in the brain-battering exploits of Japanese noise legend Merzbow, and you had all the makings of a punishing collaborative effort.

That’s exactly what Full of Hell & Merzbow delivered. The two-disc album found Full of Hell taking the lead role of sonic serial killer on disc one – with Merzbow stripping flesh in the background. And Merzbow took command of the ear-splitting noisescapes on disc two. It was all a match made in heaven. At least, it was if your idea of heaven features cerebrum-smashing hardcore and noise battling in a hideous environment where even angels fear to tread. Full of Hell & Merzbow was (and is) the promised land for those who enjoy innovative audio torture.

**Hierophant **– **Peste **

The Secret aren’t the only Italian band slamming sledgehammering crust into black metal, sludge, and hardcore that’s worth paying attention to. Hierophant’s third album, Peste, was an all-out-assault of blast beats, dissonant blackened riffing, and visceral hardcore. Peste was Hierophant’s most mammoth-sounding and relentlessly aggressive recording yet.

**** ****

Black Monolith – Passenger

Black Monolith’s first full-length, Passenger, battered raw black metal and crusty punk to and fro in a blast-beaten maelstrom. The one-man band released a self-titled demo back in 2011, and while Passenger was packed with vitriol like Black Monolith’s first recordings, the band broadened their template on their debut album.

Passenger’s longer tracks drifted into more progressive, post-black metal pastures. And Black Monolith wasn’t shy about twisting the tremolo and punk riffs or working more melodic atmospherics into the brew either. Still, Black Monolith did work with raw ingredients, and Passenger’s breakneck blackened punk and d-beat reigned supreme overall.

**Young and in the Way – When Life Comes To Death **

Why not one last black ‘n’ crust crusader, eh. Young and in the Way’s *When Life Comes To Death *album attracted a lot of heat this year. And it certainly wasn’t all positive. Still, far removed from scene politics, and the other shenanigans Young and in the Way got up to this year, I could listen to *When Life Comes To Death *and hear a band embracing black metal and punk. Was When Life Comes To Death original? Hell no. But *When Life Comes To Death *did have plenty of rancorous and raucous tunes. And they were dirty and villainous enough to fit the bill.

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