The year is slipping away from us. The cold winds of holiday insanity are blowing against your windows as the wolves of 2024 tear at the moribund carcass of 2023. It’s almost enough to make a person wistful and reflective. Upon reflection, October was a very solid month in metal, less stacked than September, but with a collection of gems of its own to savor. We carefully weighed the public zeitgeist and took the temperature of our knowledgeable staffers, then ignored all of that and called winners and losers. The losers are in the coal chamber and the winners get an extra gingerblood cookie in their stocking. Jørn to the world.
Vanishing Kids have that special “something.” I don’t know how to describe what that “something” is but like pornography, I know it when I stumble upon it. I was very taken by their 2018 Heavy Dreamer opus and was expecting equally great things on Miracle of Death. And don’t you know it, these Wisconsin wunderkinds delivered again! Miracle of Death is a strange, seductive, and ultra-moody platter that explores doom, goth, and alt-rock textures in ways that feel fresh and new. The melancholy is laid on thick and songs like “Spill the Dark” radiate a dark, haunting beauty that draws the listener in and traps you. The 70s doom-centric “Demon Glove” feels mysterious and ethereal, mining the same evocative territory as Messa, and 9-minute closer “Dust” is a total joy to get caught up in. Miracle of Death is an enchanting and unique listen and one I keep going back to for more. You should too.
Wayfarer // American Gothic – Once again, Wayfarer’s black metal meets Wild West schtick continues to defy expectations and not come across as silly or gimmicky. American Gothic walks a delicate line with their “Denver aesthetic,” contrasting classic black metal tropes against Western themes and idioms as they paint bloody tales of a particularly violent era in American history. Should this work? No. But it does. As an enthusiastic Doom_ET_AL gushed, “Wayfarer take the violence and beauty of the land they inhabit and translate that to music that reflects that dichotomy. The result is the best cut of their career and an effort that occasionally transcends the genre itself.” Sun’s out, gun’s out.
Sulphur Aeon // Seven Crowns and Seven Seals – The tentacles be slappin’ fast and furious as Lovecraftian eldritch horrors are once more conjured forth by Sulphur Aeon’s trademark blackened death attack. Taking a more ritualistic take on their past Behemoth-meets-Immolation insanity, Seven Crowns finds room for nuance amongst the extremity and tumult. Slick, smart songcraft wins the day as the horrors from beyond reclaim their earthly kingdom. Kenstrosity summed it well thusly: “Seven Crowns and Seven Seals is still a very good record by a band who, it appears, can do no wrong.” Watch for flailing protuberances.
Bonus Runner Up:
Prong // State of Emergency – Prong’s certainly had their ups and downs over their nearly 37 years in the metal business, but Tommy Victor really brought the thunder with him for 12th album State of Emergency. All the things I loved about Prong in their heyday are back and as pissed off as ever, and you get some of the best songwriting and riff construction since 1994s legendary Cleansing release. The sounds of New York attitude live large in cuts like the title track, “Descent,” Non-Existence,” and “Who Told Me,” and that classic confrontational quirkiness is there in Tommy’s pinch harmonics and heavy grooves. As the sometimes wise Itchymenace extolled, “State of Emergency is chock full of the signature East Coast punk/ thrash/ hardcore/ industrial sound you’ve come to expect from Prong.” Get Pronged.