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WIST - Strange Balance (Ixiol)

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Within the growing horde of synth-toting metalheads, long-running kosmische project Tangerine Dream have become an unlikely touchstone. WIST are their latest acolytes, transmogrified from a ‘mere’ progressive black metal group on their new LP Strange Balance , which teeters delicately between black metal’s moody basements and a laconic hotbox of retro-synth. The second track, “Betrayal,” is perhaps the most compelling demonstration: clean incantations echo while harsh vocals cackle atop a lattice of fuzzy guitar leads and trippy reverb plucking, before the whole tableau melts into a shimmering ambience redolent with New Age soulfulness. The guitars often lean into the atmospherics – heavier, fuzzy riffs have a whiff of the good green, while the more intricate and ethereal plucking recalls the bleeps and bloops of Klaus Schulz ’ modular synth. Of course, these elements may raise alarm bells. ‘Blackgaze,’ that largely abandoned and ultimately inconsequential trend, has perhaps tarnishe

(Re)Introducing Mutant Breakfast: Beta 2.0

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Consistency and diligence are great virtues in blogging, but perhaps more important than either is a conviction in having something to say. When OG Mutants Crisper, Geccho, and Trojan first conjured this happy (albeit somewhat forsaken) diner, we imagined we had forged a blood pact in the image of big-box blog outlets like Angry Metal Guy, Invisible Oranges, and the Quietus. That aspiration was always a bit of a mirage, for a couple of reasons. First and most obviously, our love of industrial metal could never translate to an industrial capacity in churning out reviews, insofar as we began as three otherwise busy fanatics without any serious ambition of mustering a phalanx of at-the-ready content creators. We’ve garnered some creepy-crawly friends along the way, and we're thrilled about that, but there was never any exchange of promises to push something out on a regular schedule. All along, our goal has been to put out quality reviews of neglected and  misunderstood  offerings. Th

Crymych - Songs of Sistrum (Death Prayer Records)

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While many black metal (BM) bands were busy last year unleashing boisterous tremolo bonanzas, the lurking warlocks in Crymych carved out a niche for themselves in the crowded world of dark ambient / atmoblack. Contrary to the worn-in routine of welding vibey space drones and elongated pads to oppressive blast-beat savagery (think Kvelgeyst ), the supposed duo approach the genre from the other way around. After a debut dabbling almost exclusively in electronics, their 2022 offering, Endless Fucking Winter , let the pale and repetitive BM elements glow dimly through its fragile ambience. Less than a year later, they’ve taken things to even more dismal extremes. Songs of Sistrum is not a breakout album by any stretch of the imagination. Its chiming keys and churning cymbals are forever condemned to ring the sewers underground. As if trapped on a quarter-inch reel tape, Crymych screech and hiss, suppressed and distant, like demented wraiths under your bed. The profound atmosphere that made

Hylda - Juniper Pyre (Self-released)

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“Blackened skramz” is among the most ubiquitous of emo-metal hybrids, perhaps because its two constituent subgenres share a lot of common ground. For better or worse, the combination between screamo and black metal (BM) often does little to differentiate itself from traditional outings in the former mode, simply played with more speed and blastbeats. More compelling genre fusions tend to highlight the idiosyncrasies of each style, which is exactly what Hylda set out to do on their debut album, Juniper Pyre . The Connecticut trio flaunt a masterful fluency in post-hardcore, screamo, sludge, and BM, which helps them mix and match the most explosive traits from each to really bombard the senses. Although the record comes branded with the “blackened skramz” tag, there’s more here than just woe-is-me songcraft at a faster tempo. From the opener, “Garden of Eyes”, Hylda let listeners glimpse their wide-ranging repertoire. A post-metal dirge abruptly becomes a rollercoaster ride that careens

Worn Mantle - Hole (Ordovician)

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It’s a testament to Worn Mantle ’s command over post-dissodeath menace that Hole more than once made me jump out of my skin. Being foolish enough to take the opening six minutes as reflective of the whole record, I settled into the Monarch -esque, thick-as-treacle drones for the long haul—only to be knocked on my ass by the eruption of a frantic tremolo so viscous and encrusted with grime that it wouldn’t be out of place on an Altarage record. The following hour is a riff-drunk tour de force , deftly weaving through the scorched labyrinth of Hole ’s two gargantuan tracks. The guitar work itself is often deceptively simple, but it’s imbued with infernal magic at the producer’s desk; behind the layers of char, there’s an undeniable sharpness to the recording quality. The rhythm section is captured with the energy and precision of a manic craftsman, particularly in the subtle metallic recoil of the bass strings. Hole ’s second half opens very differently, and on paper the extended clean

Amun - Spectra And Obsession (Self-released)

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This year has been replete with longform records from established figures in underground metal. Between Sól án varma ’s collective of Icelandic mystics and Mutant favourite Asthâghul ’s middle finger to fickle curmudgeons , it feels like big and operatic is back in vogue. More exciting, perhaps, this trend isn’t for proven scenesters alone. The Ohioan dreamers in Amun have been flying under the radar for five years, forging their own legend of progressive black metal (BM) behind the scenes. This formidable sophomore effort, Spectra And Obsession , appears unfortunately to be their last, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t layered the glitching resonances of their “electro-organic death music” and left listeners with a genuine epic. Amun’s members each hail from disparate musical backwoods, but they’ve leveraged this diversity to romanticize BM’s vast gothic soundscapes, resulting in a work of art not only coherent but fiercely ambitious. Relying on BM’s ability to swerve into a multitu

Jute Gyte - Unus Mundus Patet (Jeshimoth)

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Despite using electronics in an analogously complementary fashion, Jute Gyte kill one of my biggest gripes with that overcrowded subgenre atmoblack: it always sounds too pretty. Starry-eyed shoegazers have brightened the grimy earth tones that were once emblematic of the genre, using mawkish post-rock goo, glazed reverb, and acoustic frills like a set of oil pastels. It’s hardly any surprise. It was only a matter of time before the schlocky sentimentality of Explosions in the Sky , This Will Destroy You , and MONO —which sugar-coated a lot of post-rock in the 00s and early 10s—bled into extreme metal. Today, bands like Panopticon , Trhä , and Sadness carry that sequined baton into the future. Every yin has its yang, however, and even post-rock has a hidden dark side. Dissonant black metal (BM), perhaps in reaction to atmoblack's incessant beautification, often draws from the uncompromising atonality and grit of Swans , Slint , and early Mogwai , melding piquant guitar experimenta