All I do is complain

Accessibility of material has made metal “journalists” lazy. As if the process hadn’t already been simplified enough for these basement-dwelling, beard-stroking level 60 wizards of the keyboard, with albums available at the click of a mouse, metal discussion is deteriorating into a flavour-of-the-week groupthink session. I wonder when the neckbeards of metal journalism (accurate representation above) last ventured beyond their inbox or their friend’s blog to explore new music.

Not that monopolisation is the only problem LURKER has with modern metal.  We have best-of-year lists, too. Year-end lists are self-indulgent, lazy and insanely boring things. Everything will have already been dubbed “album of the year” by someone. Nothing is true, everything is permitted. Even more embarrassing is the fact that 80% of lists are exact lookalikes varying only by a few ranking issues.

Yes, we get it. Your website would like the traffic. You need those new posts to bring people back. Eager to write about that new album by *insert doom band name* from *insert widely appreciated label name*. Maybe your opinion varies by a few shades of grey from the guy two domains over who spells cult with a v instead of a u. It’s OK, go ahead, justify your existence. Pretend people care about what album came 7th, 8th and 9th respectively for you this year.

The truth is 2012 was a disappointing year for metal. Metal journalists shoveled more mediocrity down our throats on a weekly, subscription-based schedule and PR companies fed the flame with their monochromatic promotion methods. Nothing interesting happened. Everyone fed off each other’s mediocrity. You can count the memorable releases (the kind that you’ll still be playing in ten years’ time) on one hand.

The elephant in the room, doom metal, continues to gain weight and contribute nothing. Bets are now off for the doom bubble bursting in 2012. We’ll have to hedge our bets for 2013. Southern Lord are still running the whole hardcore/black metal/death metal crossover thing so far into the ground that nobody is even bothering to look for them anymore. Everyone playing sludge last year finally graduated to appreciate Cvlt Nation’s idea of good extreme metal. Lunar Aurora called it quits. Deathspell Omega received an unusually large amount of criticism for their botched bundle of an EP, Drought. Pitchfork carried on existing. Nobody stopped masturbating to thoughts of Profound Lore’s discography (ourselves included). USBM fell further into the rungs of mediocrity and insincerity, hoping that names like Bastard Sapling might save them. And everybody dug deep into their archives for something from yesteryear.

There is no saving grace. No light at the end of the tunnel. There are a few that have earned a position in my permanent music collection, though. Burzum went through a much-needed metamorphosis. Taake raised the bar for everyone. Dephosphorous’s monument to cosmic insignificance is still towering over all of us. Mgła and a host of bands on Daemon Worship Productions proved there are still such things as renegades in orthodox black metal. Blut Aus Nord released Cosmosophy and completed the 777 trilogy.

There are a few releases that slipped under everybody’s radar, too. Ones that are just as good as the majority of fodder on year-end lists and perhaps a little more interesting for their relative obscurity. Find a little time and dig deeper into the metal underground. It’s a vast place full of unearthed riches, labels and bands. Put that RSS reader away for fuck’s sake.

BaptismBaptism released As the Darkness Enters last month. Excellent songwriting, the promise of some melodic, riff-propelled orthodox black metal and a few interesting forays into the occult rock synth sound and ballad-like chorus arrangements are what sticks. Ofermod also returned with Thaumiel, proving once again that black metal doesn’t need to “experiment” or “crossover” to remain relevant.

Elysian Blaze, too, unleashed an album five years in the making. At two hours in length, Blood Geometry is all about the atmosphere. More pianos and synth ensure atmosphere is at the forefront of the experience this time around. More guts and melody paint a fuller canvas of feeling than before too. Those lows are unbearable thanks to the occasional release.

Instinct

One of the more interesting releases of the year came out of our glorious motherland, England. Instinct’s The Black Wound has left all LURKERs speechless for a number of months now. Words evade the depressive, terrorising sadism of this release. The Black Wound is an intensely layered hour-long rendition that I hesitate to label as DSBM but crushes souls nonetheless.

Blood Red Fog returned with their first full-length since 2005′s self-titled debut. Harvest is the same buzzing, arpeggio-driven black metal that the band have mastered over the last decade. Expect intricate, entangled melodies and ardent leads, eternally recurring cymbal splashes and an agonized, descent-into-madness kind of vocal performance. The clear vocals are a nice touch too.

Make A Change... Kill Yourself

Perhaps one of the only worthwhile DSBM acts, Make a Change… Kill Yourself, unleashed their third album, Fri, in the second week of December. Still stacking repetition, a trademark guitar sound and classically influenced sense of melody to recordings, MACKY’s music really does stand the test of time. Fanboy giggles aside, long after everyone stopped being able to take DSBM seriously, thanks to an influx of teenage angst and lonely metal voyeurism, MACKY are no less dangerous or relevant.

2012 also saw Ynleborgaz release a new album under the Angantyr moniker.  Forvist, released mid November, is epic, raw, melodic and utterly engaging. The lyrics continue the story that began with Haevn: Arngrim, a Scandinavian warrior, is out for revenge against the Christian aggressors that murdered his family. There is none more black metal than this. Also, as far as melodic and earth-inspired black metal goes, Wolfhetan’s new album, Was der Tag Nicht Ahnt, is worth your time. The debut album was one of the first things we reviewed when we opened the site and still has to be one of the most under-appreciated releases of the last decade.

VacantfieldTechnically not a 2012 endeavor but gone unnoticed all the same is Iteration from Vacantfield. If, like me, you’re bitterer every year that Snorre W. Ruch doesn’t announce a new Thorns album, then this might tide you over. It’s that same jarring riff technique with a hefty amount of Ved Buens Ende and Virus thrown in. Sprinkle some late 90s Norway atmosphere in and you have yourself a winning formula.

Two record labels that have yet to receive their dues are I, Voidhanger from Italy and Daemon Worship Productions from Russia. The latter have nary a mediocre release to their name and are continuing to pump out high quality, low filler black metal (check out the soon to be released Arfsynd). Italian masters of the avant-garde I, Voidhanger have championed ‘weirdo’ metal with releases by Aus Der Transzendenz, Saint Maria and Tempestuous Fall in 2012.

Rahu

The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows by Rahu follows up from a duet of excellent demos inspired by night sky constellations. Their distinctive off-kilter black metal, ululating rhythms (unsurprising considering the shared heritage with Circle of Ouroborus) and cryptic, supernal lyrics all coalesce into one of the more imaginative full-length releases of the year.

LURKER did manage to find a few diamonds in the rough, though. Godstopper pulled through on their debut, What Matters, creating a refreshingly new kind of sound tip-toeing precariously between doom and noise rock. The Great Old Ones summoned Al Azif from pitch-black abyss. “Post-rock”-influenced black metal done right. LURKER is proud to have them as headliners at our first show. Greed & Rapacity went from slightly gifted Sacramentary Abolishment clone to indescribable force of devout funereal triumph with Loki Bound, a 30-minute EP of immense promise. I pray for a full-length in 2013.

You'll find me in the vast wilderness of British Columbia, talking metal at LURKER, or working in publishing and front-end web/eBook development.

25 Comments

  • Reply December 14, 2012

    Bell

    I understand your chagrin, in fact I think that as more things are available to the average internet user the more things degenerate in the eyes of the predecessors of each genre and hobby. LurkerLurker is one of the few music blogs I follow on RSS as I found posts while searching for bands I discovered in distros.
    On 4chan’s /mu/ board black metal means Varg Vikernes and for the people that actually listen to black metal that’s either really obscure shit or various releases that are reproduced through p4k and other p4k-level sits for kvlt black metal. I think it’s sad but what can you do? People have the right to like what you don’t, and people have the right to listen to stuff they are spooned, I guess, it’s not really a bad thing.

    • Reply December 15, 2012

      Alex

      You’re right, everyones entitled to have stuff spooned down their throats and everyone can enjoy whatever dross they want. The sole purpose of this article was to express disatisfaction in the way year end lists are handled and how the metal community is becoming monopolized by a handful of uninventive, lazy writers that don’t seem to enjoy the search for music anymore.

      • Reply December 15, 2012

        Bell

        Oh, yes, then I really missed the point. You really can’t help it, though, nescient people that aren’t good at what they do are all over the place, journalism too. Metal journalism is sure to follow. But it’s not like that wasn’t the way it always was. Popular bands, whether people think they are good or not, become popular by being reproduced by advocating parts of the hivemind. It is normal.

        • Reply December 16, 2012

          Alex

          Obviously reproduction leads to popularity. Especially in review circles. I’m fine with that, we featured Pallbearer’s demo on here long ago – stoked that they’re making a name for themselves. Like I said, All I do is complain! Nothing ever sits right with this Lurker.

  • Reply December 15, 2012

    Oliver Drew

    I personally think 2012 was a great year. I love this blog and have discovered multiple excellent bands here and many of the bands mentioned above are ones I will check out solely on the strength of bands mentioned here previously. I have been overwhelmed in fact by the huge amount of rad bands emerging or releasing their best material etc. etc. You guys seem like the type to complain about Pallbearer or whatever just because they gain attention from other ‘non metal’ sites or whatever. I for one think the whole world should know the strength of the stuff produced in our little scene, whether they want to hear it or not. Let the genre strive, don;t suffocate with ‘true’/’not true’ labels.

    • Reply December 15, 2012

      Alex

      I have nothing against metal gaining attention from anywhere. The whole world should be aware of the strength of metal material. The whole pathetic stereotype of the metal genre in general should be overcome – and we should push that along as best we can. I want the genre to thrive, what I don’t want is an overindulgence of mediocrity.

      The vast majority of metal critics, or writers, or whatever, view the scene as if every release they review is groundbreaking, excellent. I know we favour positive reviews over negative ones here at LURKER, but our frequency is not at all up to that of other publications. How many albums this year will you honestly be revisiting in 10 years time? How many will the writer’s themselves be revisiting? Only a handful of what they proclaim is amazing, I’m sure.

      This comes to a head in year end lists, where everyone bustles for their say. It turns out, for me personally at least, that the lists are 90% crap with the same lauded 10% of material I’ve already heard. It’s like these writers don’t even want to lift the veil anymore. One of the things that has always captivated me most about metal is the relentlessly large underground and mass of small labels pushing things that goes unnoticed. LURKER, if anything, tries to focus on these and bring well deserved material some recognition. I’m not saying its ‘amazing’ stuff (we all overuse that phrase…), just that it’s worth your time. This is the reason I enjoy metal and I have found that in the face of other metal publications and a huge… huge… unnecessary PR drive, I’ve begun to lose touch with those gems that go by without credit.

  • Reply December 16, 2012

    BB

    Master’s Hammer and Vilnius also released 2 overlooked albums this year.

    • Reply December 16, 2012

      Alex

      I’ll check out the Master’s Hammer. While I enjoyed Velnias’ debut I’m a little apprehensive about the follow up. I guess, based on your recommendation, I’ll give it another go!

  • Reply December 16, 2012

    BB

    Fuck, that should have been “Velnias”. On Pesanta Urfolk.

  • Reply December 18, 2012

    BreadGod

    I disagree with your assessment that 2012 was a disappointing year for metal. If anything, it was a fantastic year for metal, if you dig deeper, and I mean really deep. Thing is, most metal publications never dig that deep.

    • Reply December 18, 2012

      Alex

      Please, fill me in. What releases in 2012 did I miss? Eager to hear the recommendations that may have slipped by me.

  • Reply December 18, 2012

    Billy

    Best stuff this year:
    Rahu – The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
    Mgla – With Hearts Towards None
    Dodsengel – Imperator
    Ketzer – Endzeit Metropolis
    Agatus – Gilgamesh 7″
    Beastmilk – Use Your Deluge 7″
    Necrovation – S/T
    Coffin Texts – The Tomb of Infinite Ritual
    Bolzer – Roman Acupuncture demo
    Deliquescence – Antinomism demo

    Also very good and interesting releases from: Karnarium, Blut Aus Nord, Wolfhetan (just not had time to digest it yet), Fuil Na Seanchoille, Salute’s side of the split with Occulta, Necromancy, Extinction, Askeregn’s side of the split with Vordr, Svartidaudi, etc, etc.

    • Reply December 20, 2012

      Alex

      I have to check quite a few of those out. Can’t say that Dodsengel release held up over time though. No mention of Kaevum?

      • Reply December 20, 2012

        Billy

        I liked what I heard of the samples, but by that point the vinyl was sold out everywhere. Once it’s released on CD I’ll get it.

        Sometimes the standout albums only reveal themselves over time; Craft’s ‘Void’ is by far the best album released in 2011, but I think I only came to that conclusion in about August this year.

        Nonetheless, I think the stuff I listed shows quite a strong and diverse year. Some of it has been hyped, some of it hasn’t. Ultimately, if it’s a very good record, who cares if everyone is praising it?

        Surprise you didn’t think Dodsengel held up. While it’s too long, it has such intricacies and depth that I feel it will yield almost an infinity of plays. I have a bit of a thing for sprawling double albums though – I somehow enjoy the indulgence of things like Physical Graffiti, Mellon Collie, Use Your Illusion, etc.

        And thanks for recommending MACKY and Angnatyr – didn’t even know they had new records out! Instinct sounds very good too.

  • Reply December 18, 2012

    Artvr

    I’m so tired of watching those “copy-paste” Lists. I used to check out these End of the Year Lists in order to discover new music (by the way, Thank you Lurker, for all the great music you write about here) but now they’re all clones of each other. I’m so tired of this that i’ve decided to make a best of “underrated” albums of 2012 for my blog. I’m just going to highlight some good albums that are not as known as the albums featured on the List around the corner but in terms of quality,are as good (or better).

    It sure was a great year for doom and black metal, in terms of sludge and death metal, there were few but good… not gonna shoot names here and post some spam or the Lurker will get very angry.

    I’m also glad to see that the hype around vinyl and tape is on top of the game again. Let’s hope that it will make metal writers one click away of those albums…

    • Reply December 20, 2012

      Alex

      I’m not sure I agree about the whole doom/sludge thing. I like good doom and sludge. I don’t like hardcore. I don’t like hardcore infused black metal or whatever people are calling it. Or at least I like to think I do, but this year it has bored me to death. It’s stale. Plus, getting mighty sick of every writer adding the ‘blackened’ prefix when talking about a black metal band that has a few outsider tendencies in their sound, or vice versa. Just some pet peeves.

      Keep up the blog, I enjoy it!

      • Reply December 20, 2012

        Artvr

        Yeah i know exactly what you mean. Like i say a lot “everything is blackened nowadays”. There are some good bands in this bag, the rest are all copy-cats. It’s the evolution of music, what can we do? All the kids nowadays are into black metal, we get these self-called kvlt clothing lines putting inverted crosses on tshirts and calling it fashion… ugh. It was a weak year for sludge (thank God Amenra put a new album out), there are some good doom releases out there (Faal, Profetus, Faustcoven, Bereft…) and so on.. And i totally agree with the albums you chose, it reminds me i got keep moving if i want to publish my List until, you know… the End of the World as we know it.

  • Reply December 19, 2012

    AilesGrises

    Ahh, though I disagree with your sentiment about metal this year, I fully understand the feeling and attitude about this little issue. This was the same exact problem in 2010. People were putting Kanye West’s Twisted Dark Fantasty at the top of their list simply because of all the hype it got and that was what everyone else was doing. A vicious little cycle really.

    At certain places, in trying appeal to a wider audience, they would try to appear eclectic by reviewing albums from several genres and giving them high ratings. However, the big problem with this is how incredibly similar it was to other places and how disingenuous these recommendations were. The attitude was basically “yeah, this sounds cool and so I’m going to recommend it.” It was just all so insincere. Nothing heartfelt. Seems like the big metal publications have caught onto this little scheme.

    May Lurker keep on chugging.

    • Reply December 20, 2012

      Alex

      Replace Kanye West with Pallbearer.

      Sorrow and Extinction bored me.

  • Reply December 30, 2012

    D Pearce

    Why y’all gotta hate on America?

    • Reply December 30, 2012

      Richard

      America is why we can’t have nice things.

      • Reply December 30, 2012

        Hoodie Menace

        Death, bro. Death is American.

  • Reply December 30, 2012

    D Pearce

    Also that Blood Red Fog album rules. Good look.

  • Reply January 20, 2013

    Degtyarov

    The thing about these ‘end-of-year’ lists is that they seem to thrive on hype. I’m sure most of these bloggers think it’s really important to note which albums surprised them and which albums disappointed them, but in a year or so, really, who gives a shit? I don’t think good music should be bound to a year. If I can talk about a mediocre album from 2013 or an amazing album from 1995, why would I choose the former? The only reason I could think of is more hits.

    The second problem is that a top 10/20/50 list is so abstract. I mean, if a blogger, who is basically a random guy on the internet, ranks album X on as the 6th best of the year instead of the 7th best, then what does that tell me? Not to mention that, myself, I listen to maybe 50 different albums in an entire year, snd even then I have the feeling that I am not giving certain releases the attention they deserve. So why should I care for the opinion of someone who might as well just listen through an album once before passing judgment?

    Sorry for the self-indulgence there. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply February 6, 2013

    Sylence

    As a huge Doom/Sludge fan I thought 2012 was a mediocre year. As usual the ‘mainstream’ metal press circle-jerked around bands I didn’t give two fucks about while many worthwhile releases were passed over. here are 5 doom albums I thought were good or better in 2012:

    Bell Witch – S/T
    Eagle Twin – The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale
    Adrift for Days – Come Midnight
    Royal Talons – S/T
    Stoic Dissention – Relinquished

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