The post Mining Metal: The Best Underground Albums We Missed in 2021 appeared first on Consequence.
Mining Metal is a monthly column from Heavy Consequence authors Joseph Schafer and Langdon Hickman. The focus is on notable new music emerging from the non-mainstream metal scene, highlighting releases from smaller independent labels – or even releases from unsigned acts.
Inevitably, we come across albums that we would like to cover but that we don’t do. More than eight good underground metal albums are released almost every month, even when the reach of “underground” is reduced to labels without dedicated distribution.
But not every month. January is usually a fallow season for metal records as people recover from the holiday season and start planning for their year ahead. Because we dedicated December to our annual best-of list, we decided to dedicate this column to covering a few bits and bobs we missed in 2021.
Rest assured, we will return to our normal pace in February. Until then, happy digging. – Joseph Schaefer
Ethereal – Leiden
The list of collaborators, including members of Flub, Equipose, Vitriol and Inferi, gives a clear idea of the type of progressive and technical metal it will be, not to mention the cover art and the philosophy of the titles. On paper, this might read as a lighthearted, band that safely plays in the idiom of their genre, but again, the point of the music isn’t just in newness and innovation, but also well to execute the forms which have already been made. It is the weight of Leiden; these players know this style as well as they know their instruments and, thank goodness, use this power to steer their songs away from the cliches and forms that can sometimes make this stuff boring. No mindless, endless sweeps, no hyper-robotic playing, and even an ear for mixing that cherishes the low end and the sense of bringing out the grooves and rhythmic patterns of these songs over high-pitched sound. tak tak tak strings and drums. It’s simply good death metal, and it will forever be my catnip. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman
Aquilus- Bellum I
The end of the year drew my attention to this glorious surprise. Ten years ago, Horace “Waldorf” Rosenqvist was dating Griseus his only feature as solo black metal band Aquilus. For those in the know, this record was something of a revelation, a sprawling, archaic fusion of atmospheric black metal with delicate folk passages reminiscent of what my untrained ears can only call “fancy” classical music. After that, relative silence except for a few limited physical releases of the 80-minute epic. After a decade, however, Rosenqvist released Bellum I, a sequel that does not differ stylistically from Griseus but features lusher instrumentation and a deeper sound. At one hour it’s shorter than its predecessor, but judging by the title, we won’t have to wait another 10 years for more Aquilus. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Joseph Schaefer
Ethereal Veil – trisagion
The common flaw of black metal here, at least for me, is not that I don’t like the style, but rather that it so often doesn’t give me what I’m going for. It’s music, at its best, of a kind of spiritual fervor, which transcends even the atheistic shell around my heart to make me succumb briefly through the power of art to these kinds of higher visions. All this to say trisagion kindles the inner fire in me in a way I haven’t felt since Schammasch’s flawless Triangle or more if you return to Light Bearer work. These songs are oceans to get lost in, replacing the mice and broken air conditioners of American working-class apartment life with the whipping winds past the hidden throne of God, erasing the cold glass and uncomfortable bench of the bus stop with the burning star buried in it the mountain of God. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman
First fragment – Eternal Glory
This has got to be the most creative metal album I’ve heard all year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been so surprised by any band’s outright willingness to disregard genre tropes since I first heard Zeal & Ardor. Nominally a technical death metal band of the bright, hi-fi variety, First Fragment goes far beyond their peers. Their second effort is a jaw-dropping epic that incorporates fretless slap bass, flamenco acoustic guitar and triumphant power metal melodies that make Dragonforce sound reserved. The thing that sends me as a listener into the twilight zone, however, is the “Swingdowns”. Imagine Dying Fetus and Jaco Pastorious trying to emulate a Buddy Rich big band, and you’ll get an idea of what I mean. These sections are corny, absurd, ridiculous and anathema to people who take their metal very seriously. But they are also brave. What they lack in moderation, they make up for with flawless execution. Simply, Eternal Glory you have to hear it to believe it. Is it perfect? No. At 70 minutes, including 20 minutes of soloists, that’s way too much to handle in one sitting. Seriously, this should have been a companion album and EP. For all its melody, it’s also not the most memorable technical death metal album of the year (it’s Archspire). But it’s exciting and one-of-a-kind, challenging the boundaries of good taste and “metal taste”, and if you’re the kind of person who thinks art should be a challenge, then you at least have this technicolor glove a good trick. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Joseph Schaefer
Hyperdontia – hideous entity
In 2018, Hyperdontia’s debut album, Nexus of teeth, caused a stir in the fattest, cavernous halls of the death metal revival. Fans of blown distortion and unforgiving percussion flocked to this international lineup, led by Mustafa Gürcalioglu from Istanbul. To be honest, my favorite thing about the band is their logo. However, their second record represents a dramatic improvement in songwriting and performance. The songs on hideous entity still appear as asymmetrical masses of wriggling tentacles and grinding teeth, but a little clarity makes all the difference. When I hear “Coils of Wrath,” I can imagine the light reflecting off the dripping music of Lovecraftian horror the music evokes, and I’m all the more terrified of it. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Joseph Schaefer
Wall- Cut the vein of rivers
My inner American comes out in the world of doom metal. Europe’s epic doom with its baroque figures and warbling chants leaves me cold at times. So to say I felt at home pressing play on Mur’s latest record, a combination of black metal, doom, post-metal and American folk, would be a gross understatement. They touch on similar spaces covered by Sumac and Yob less through clear or deliberate attempts to copy, but more by trying to exploit the same emotional space with the same musical tools. It’s more than good for me; snuggling up comfortably against two of America’s finest bands, producing raw, heartfelt music where the heaviness comes like a hammer to your heart (raw) rather than changing minor thirds and operatic vocals, is always a plus in my book . I cried at my desk at this disc the first time. What greatest cosign is there? Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman
Phrenelith – Chimera
OK, everything I wrote above about Hyperdontia goes double for Phrenelith. Their first LP, 2017 Desolate landscape, perfectly reflected its title and album art. Listening to it felt like driving over 40 miles of lava-spotted road in a used jeep with no suspension. Some loved it. I wanted to leave the ride. In contrast, Chimaira more like whipping through fog-choked mountain streets in a Rolls Royce Phantom. It’s much softer but also more dark and atmospheric. I feel more suspense, but I also feel a greater sense of fun when songs like “Awakening Titans” kick in. Some fans don’t want to have fun in that kind of black, cinematic death metal. Instead, they prefer a constant brutal assault. I still hear the danger in their soundscapes, but it’s less molten projectiles falling from the sky and more eldritch hunters lurking in the mist. But I congratulate Phrenelith for having reworked their approach without sacrificing anything in their tenacity or their musicality. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Joseph Schaefer
Reveal! – Doppelherz
It’s mutant black metal, the kind that shatters in a haze of opium smoke and lysergy, jaw splitting in tongues, giving rise to half-mad rock and roll. Occult rock thrown into the black metal pot has always produced some interesting concoctions, from the greats of In Solitude and Tribulation to intriguing smaller figures like Year of the Goat and the various spinoffs of The Devil’s Blood. Reveal! split the difference between these two camps, having more of that heavy, swinging rock vibe than a prog-strewn post-punk or blacked-out approach, but still retaining the harsher vocals and occasional streak of feisty beats that give these songs a little more bite. Buy it on Bandcamp. – Langdon Hickman
Mining Metal: The best underground albums we missed in 2021
Joseph Schafer and Langdon Hickman
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