What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:
Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment: A significant improvement over 2018’s slightly dumbed-down A New Kind of Horror, one of my favorite Extreme Metal bands of all time comes roaring back with a powerful 11th album. It may not be as essential as 2001’s Codex Necro or 2009’s In the Constellation of the Black Widow, but stellar highlights on here like “The Age of Starlight Ends”, “Punish Them”, and the title track showcase the group’s unique ability to find bright melodies in the most chaotic of places. Meanwhile, there are songs like “Singularity” that simply hit like a sledgehammer. My bias is surely showing, but this is gonna be one of my favorite Metal records of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Ariana Grande – Positions: In the eyes of the public, Ariana Grande has been virtually incapable of wrongdoing for at least half a decade. Dangerous Woman, Sweetener, and thank u, next in particular have achieved the difficult combination of extraordinary popularity among the masses, and accolades among the stuffiest of critics. Listening to Positions, I get the sense there’s gonna be more mixed opinions on this one – I, for one, can’t get into how surface level the record feels. The hypersexualized sophomoric moments like “34 + 35” (69, get it! You can almost hear Billy Madison yelling it in a classroom) are a bit much, and “Nasty” finds Grande overselling her Kehlani impression. The title track, the classy and understated “Motive” and a couple other moments stick, but the LP as a whole is spotty at best. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Benny the Butcher – Burden of Proof: As if being a lyrical powerhouse in his own right wasn’t enough, Benny continues to attract enviably high-level performances from the perfect guests – everybody from Lil’ Wayne (in one of his best post-2010 verses) to Freddie Gibbs to Rick Ross steps up to round out this project. Hit-Boy – who is having one of the best years of any producer in recent memory – also provides a fitting set of backdrops that range from soul-driven (“One Way Flight”, “Thank God I Made It”, “New Streets”) to rousing boom bap (title cut, “Legend”). RECOMMENDED.
Carcass – Despicable EP: These Liverpool legends took seven years to release a four-song EP that sounds exactly like Surgical Steel, so I can’t sit here and pretend to be over the moon. That being said, all four of these tracks are solid, and I’m still holding out for their next full-length Torn Arteries, which is due in 2021. RECOMMENDED.
Corey Taylor – CMFT: I’ve always maintained that I love people who “earn” their egos, which is why I’ve never had any animus towards Slipknot’s talented, self-obsessed frontman and his nonstop Blabbermouth headlines. I was happy to see him completely indulge himself here with a proper solo album, even if the results are a bit mixed. The blues-driven Hard Rock of cuts like “Halfway Down” and “Samantha’s Gone”, along with the occasional Stone Sour-esque Octane radio moment like “Black Eyes Blue”, represent the high points, while Taylor attempting to rap his way through his own 2002-era wrestling theme on “CMFT Must Be Stopped” is the kind of thing you wish you could un-hear. RECOMMENDED.
Pallbearer – Forgotten Days: I’m continually impressed with the ability of these beloved Doom Metallers to crank out albums that are as layered and intelligent as they are dirge-y and foreboding. Forgotten Days is the funeral that you drive through a thunderstorm to attend. And Randall Dunn’s production walks a balance not unlike that of the songwriting, between dirty and polished, hideous and refined. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Devildriver – Dealing With Demons I: Even though everything I listened to growing up SOUNDED just like Devildriver, they never released an album that completely connected with me. Maybe a song or two here and there. That’s why it’s so strange that as a grown-ass man, the first full Devildriver record I’ve truly enjoyed is this one. Granted, it’s Part One of a double album, and it JUST starts to wear out its welcome by the end. But since Dez and co were smart enough to release each part separately, they get credit for a tight ten-track outing with enough Extreme Metal-tinged brutality (“Keep Away From Me”), surprisingly melodic moments (“Wishing”) and New Wave of American Heavy Metal standards (“Nest of Vipers”, the title cut) to keep you engaged throughout. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Rittz – Picture Perfect: I know I didn’t particularly love my favorite Strange Music alum’s last record, but he bounces back here with a more lighthearted set of tracks that dial back the campy melodrama just a tad and welcome a few exciting features into the fold. The stomping “Bring Me Down” is one of my favorite instrumentals I’ve ever heard Rittz on (and Merkules and Snak the Ripper both slaughter their guest verses), while the metallic Tech N9ne-assisted title track and the dreamy Last Call-esque “Pain Killers and Paint Colors” are instant favorites as well. RECOMMENDED.
Armored Saint – Punching the Sky (Metal)
Bring Me the Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror EP (Rock)
Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator of God (Alternative/Experimental)
Necrophobic – Dawn of the Damned (Metal)
Spirit Adrift – Enlightened in Eternity (Metal)
Venom Prison – Primeval (Metal)
Enslaved – Utgard (Metal)
Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (Alternative)
Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (Metal)
Sevendust – Blood and Stone (Rock)
Smoke DZA – Homegrown (Hip-Hop)