Album: Khors, Wisdom of Centuries
Label: Candlelight (Cult Series)
Release: September 11, 2012

I’m a big fan of the Candlelight Cult Series, not always of all the music but the concept at least. I love discovering new music and the next big thing and that’s pretty much what the label does with the albums that are part of this. Khors is one of those groups that have steadily improved over time and while maybe not quite known enough to get full backing, it’s recognized that there’s something about them that’s going to make them big.

Wisdom of Centuries is the Ukranian band’s fifth album in seven years. I’m sure there aren’t many in the US that have heard of them, especially the first two or three records due to them being on a very small label and I’d bet not even seeing a release here. But having dug them all up, I can safely say this is a band to watch out for.

They play an atmospheric brand of black metal that has progressed from rawness, to precision and darkness over time. They’ve always used keyboards giving their music somewhat of a psychedelic sound and even prog-ish at times though with this new album they enhance their sound better than on any other disc. At first glance I was thrown off a bit by the track list consisting of four songs all 6+ minutes in length and four short instrumentals with back-to-back ones smack dab in the middle (it probably works nicely and the end of side 1 and start of side 2 on the LP). They’ve put instrumentals on their records before but never to this extent. But thankfully all the parts align well enough to create a solid recording.

This is the first album sung in their native tongue (though like most black metal releases, this could have been in any language as you can’t really understand much anyway) but the vocals are still cleaner than a lot of what their peers put out. The production quality is great for a smaller release with the fantastic guitar riffs and superior drumming really standing out. Of the four with vocals, “Black Forest’s Flaming Eyes” really stands out not only for what are two or three really mesmerizing riffs but also they keys adding an atmospheric touch making darkness and light come together. And the title track is led by some really non-black metal sounding drums and some fantastic grimness to the rhythm while the keys bring this kind of spooky element to the tune, like something out of a horror movie. I still might argue that the short, mellow interludes take away from the brutality of the other tunes but take them out and you have a fantastic EP. As a whole, it’s still a great LP which should only help bring some name recognition to a damn good group.

Album: Midnight, Complete and Total Hell
Label: Hells Headbangers
Release: September 25, 2012

Complete and total fucking midnight motherfuckers! For those of you seeking out the 2005 Complete and Total Fucking Midnight compilation after hearing last years devastating Satanic Royalty, stop. Unless you are some die hard “must. have. original.” robot like me, here it is again and with more tracks!

I hadn’t been familiar with Midnight under said 2011 album but fell in love with that beast of a speed metal record quickly. So to have Hells Headbangers pick up the older material and re-release it is simply fantastic. For me, it’s a neat trip back into the roots of the band which don’t start out sounding like what you have these days at all.

The “complete” part of the name is supposed to indicate that this is everything from the band pre-Satanic Royality which isn’t necessarily true but is close enough. It consists of their first self-titled demo, plus their next EP and split release tracks put the Farewell To Hell EP from 2008 and the title track to Berlin Is Burning, another compilation sort of like this one.

Early on in their career they were supposedly black metal, though they sound way more punk than anything else. If nothing else, that tunes are dark, speed fueled and hooky as hell. Then as you progress through the disc you start seeing more of the black metal influence but even more so, the speed metal come through. By the time you reach “Cross Held High” in the always crucial 19th position on the disc you heard more of the current day sound, essentially full on headbanging metal riffs with guttural, angry vocals. And of course, Midnight know how to write hooks that any metalhead can sing along to.

Complete and Total Hell is a must own for fans of the group and although if you haven’t heard of Midnight yet, I’d recommend Satanic Royalty first, you might just want to pick up both at the same time.

Album: Cocks Arquette, S/T
Label: OSCL Records
Release: September 7, 2012

This was sent to me a few months ago to review and I can’t tell you enough how happy I am to get this off of my iPod.

So I pop all my music to review in an iPod folder and then listen to it at random points, one of those being as I go to sleep. I put the earbuds in and listen until I fall asleep but of course that means they stay in as I’m knocked out. Three times now, this fucking record has woken me up. The first time it was because of the distant pure screaming that takes place on this album. I ripped my earphones out and thought someone was being murdered outside my window. The second time it was during a portion of crazy feedback in which I simply jumped almost out of my bed when I heard it. And the third was just a few minutes ago as I was dozing off on the couch and was awoken by a crazy fucking racket. Fool me once… sigh.

Unfortunately, that’s the most interesting thing I can say about this four track 38-minute release. If I’m not mistaken, they are a three piece band from down under in Melbourne, Australia. What I’m sure of is that they personify the “freak-out” label so many avant garde bands are given. There is virtually no structure to any of the tunes with only a pattern of repetitiveness to tie them all together. The album is simply noise for noise sake, recorded live. I can only assume they never play the tune the same way on stage as it’s all just based around squelching feedback, distorted guitars and utter randomness. Sure, you probably have to know how to play instruments or study sound a little bit to figure all this shit out but to my ears it just sounds like dudes with ADD playing anything (or nothing) and recording it to disc. I usually just toss albums like this one aside and don’t bother with the review but the band’s name is Cocks Arquette which is seriously the best thing about this record. If you like random nonsense, go for it. Not for me though. At least now it comes off my iPod and I will go back to getting a good night’s sleep.

Album: An Autumn For Crippled Children, Only the Ocean Knows
Label: A Sad Sadness Song/ATMF
Release: September 3, 2012

I’ve ignored An Autumn for Crippled Children in the past because their name sounds like they are going to be a douche-core band. But alas, they are not now that I’ve taken time to listen to a record. They are actually a depressive black metal band that’s about to release their third album and while I thought their name was pretty popular in the underground metal scene, even the press release seems to indicate they are obscure.

There’s other words to describe the band too. “Bleak,” “Biting,” “Textured” and “Blissful.” Some of these may seem to be contrasting styles but that’s what’s intriguing about Only the Ocean Knows. There’s some really biting, dark riffs and hollow screaming intertwined with some beautiful melody and blissful atmospherics.

After going back and listening to the first two records, An Autumn for Crippled Children definitely continue to progress over time. The blend of the post-rock/shoegaze stuff with the black metal is much tighter than on either of the previous two releases and the keys on the record even bring a semi-uplifting feel to some of the tunes. And they even get all new wave on your ass for a little bit at the start of “The Rising Tide.”

Overall, it’s a fiercely dark record but with moments of light and beauty mixed in seamlessly. It didn’t hold my attention from start to finish but having went back and listened to the catalog I think it’s safe to say that each record has gotten better than the last so if you want to dive into An Autumn for Crippled Children, start here.

Albums currently on the potential ten best of 2012 list:
Baroness, Yellow & Green
Christian Mistress, Possession
Denial of God, Death and the Beyond
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Jorn, Bring Heavy Rock To the Land
Kadavar, Kadavar
Korpiklaani, Manala
Mongrels Cross, The Sins of Aquarius
OSI, Fire Make Thunder
Satanic Bloodspraying, At the Mercy of Satan
Terrorizer, Hordes of Chaos
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light