The newest noise for your listening pleasure!
Never Give Up | Feb. 15 | Yippee Ki Yay Records
RIYL: Optimism. Giving a shit. United nations—literally.
Abjects met in London but come from all over the world: vocalist and guitarist Noemi from Spain, drummer Alice from Italy, and bassist Yuki from Japan. “In Never Give Up, we want to spread a message of unity and hope,” Noemi notes. “We believe in culturally inclusive environments where people can thrive as human beings and interesting exchanges of ideas can happen. We are all different, and we are all one.” That sense of openness is prevalent throughout Never Give Up, and the trio never shy away from speaking truth to power. They see big, pervasive problems and believe one path forward is making small changes in their own lives. This solution-oriented approach would be meaningless if Abjects’ angular, aggressive garage punk weren’t amazing, but, of course, it is. The band seem to be as open-minded musically as they are personally. However, that sense of unity and adventure never bogs down this delightfully punchy release. Abjects are many things, but an abject failure is not one of them. Never Give Up is a wonderful success story.
Awareness | Feb. 1 | Tor Johnson Records
RIYL: People watching. Laughter of the damned. “Lighten up, Francis.”
The world is a serious place, and there’s a lot to get worked up about. That’s why Satan invented loud music, but aggression comes in all shapes, sizes, and sounds—and when it bursts, it’s often beautiful. Take Awareness, the latest batch of belligerent, boisterous noise rock from Aneurysm. It’s a record embroiled in some real shit—politics, death, racism—yet it revels in how not seriously the band take themselves. Indeed, vocalist Mike McGee laughs at how his first contributions to the band were thanks to a few slugs of whiskey and an open GarageBand app—that’s some good inspiration. McGee really appreciates laughing shit off, and that sense of humor shines throughout Awareness. “A lot of the subject matter on the album is pure social commentary,” he says, “if your idea of commentary is scribbling a few lines of garbage after a few hours of people watching at the DMV, any waiting room, or even a courtroom in an economically depressed mill town. I love watching people snap over minor bullshit while in their cars too.” The absurdity of life is rife with inspiration, and Aneurysm are all about yelling—and laughing—into the void.
Jersey City, New Jersey
Enders | March 8 | Human Blood Records
RIYL: Existentialism. Duality. Warmth.
It’s easy to say an album is “one of the best in recent years,” but Enders deserves specificity: it is one of the most compelling. Drenched in emotion, beauty, and texture, the debut LP from Dead Swords is clearly haunted by loss and the human condition. Co-created by The Gaslight Anthem guitarist Alex Rosamilia, Enders is like a musical seven-layer dip, and its different styles all coalesce into something remarkably cohesive and delightful. Sonically, Dead Swords are like an experiment in which Deftones wrote a doom metal record with My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. There’s an elegance in the metallic shoegaze sound that is amplified the more you dig into the songs, which are as pretty as they are overwhelming. However, that sense of devastation is assuaged by a silver lining of hope, and Rosamilia admits that is wholly intentional. “Figuring out where you go, if anywhere at all, is just a bottomless pool of inspiration for me,” he says. “Not to be morose, but I had recently lost the last of my grandparents, and my mind was flooded with thoughts of existential crisis.” Luckily, Enders is endlessly cathartic.
Satan Spits on Children of Light | March 1 | Relapse Records
RIYL: Spiritual liberation. Partying. Stagediving into the abyss.
There has been a certain dour seriousness attributed to Satan throughout history, one that makes sense given the grave consequences of giving up one’s soul. However—and I swear this is not a recommendation to sell your soul to Lucifer—one group of grimy punks have a markedly different perspective. Perhaps the devil really is in the details. Devil Master conjure up a captivating, furious, and unique witches’ brew of sounds on their debut LP, Satan Spits on Children of Light—imagine if Tribulation’s gothic blackened arena rock were raised on a steady diet of hardcore punk and PBR. Devil Master’s grip on what it means to fully embrace all the wonder, terror, and fun of the black arts results in a truly breathtaking first impression. “No musical trend owns the occult or any specific aesthetic or sound,” guitarist Darkest Prince notes. “That is what makes us tick: smashing the conventional clock!” That sense of adventure and freedom is Devil Master’s very musical essence, and this delightfully dirty satanic keg party has room for so many more souls to come join. Hail!
In the Living Room | Jan. 18 | Seal Mountain Records
RIYL: Comfort food. Chosen family. Nostalgia.
One of the reasons why nostalgia is so sweet is the fact that our brains tend to smooth out the rough edges of our memories. When thinking back to a favorite childhood meal, an old friend, or a grandparent’s house, our neurons fire off a bunch of signals in the dopamine pathway. This positive feedback mechanism hints at what makes the gloriously ’90s-influenced guitar pop of Diva Sweetly so endearing. In the Living Room doesn’t shy away from life’s harshest realities. In fact, the record centers on the members’ growing pains over the past few years, but Diva Sweetly have become immensely comfortable with each other through their collective hardships, despite being split between two cities. The fact that the album was literally demoed in their parents’ living rooms is reflected in the brash, buoyant, hooky comfort food it serves up. “There was this indescribable feeling of love and friendship we felt recording this album that I imagined very clearly as a home within itself,” vocalist and synth player Karly Hartzman notes. That mutual ease and love just ooze out of In the Living Room, a guaranteed sugar high for any grunge pop or synth rock fan.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel
Nocebo | March 15 | The Flenser
RIYL: Anxiety. Medical terminology. Mind over matter.
Pessimists are formed, not born; it takes years of negative experiences to learn to expect the worst. Hope doesn’t just slip away; it gets sucked out of you over time. That existential despair informs the delightfully uplifting Nocebo, named for the flipside of the placebo effect. The term refers to the detrimental effects a negative expectation of treatment or prognosis can have on one’s health. If it sounds dire, it is, but Elizabeth Colour Wheel are a vessel of musical catharsis—think shoegaze influenced by black metal, ’90s noise rock, and an experimental refusal to sand off the sharp edges. Nocebo is far from haphazard, but it leans into every sonic left turn with aplomb. “I believe will is more powerful than the strongest body in this world,” vocalist Lane Shi states. “Everyone’s mind works differently, even in this band. That’s why we need all these different options and different resources to aid us. This album is personally an unstoppable journey for philosophical exploration, as well as a way to reconcile ourselves within.” Despite Nocebo’s foundation of apparent hopelessness, there’s nothing but optimism for the collective creative will of Elizabeth Colour Wheel.
Good Saint Nathanael
Kansas City, Missouri
Hide No Truth | Feb. 1 | High Endurance Records
RIYL: Decision matrices. Healing. Revolutionary resolution.
Nate Allen certainly earns the crown for the most emotionally and spiritually devastating record in recent memory. Hide No Truth embodies the notion of a performer bearing their soul on record, and like the best of its kind, it miraculously straddles the line between too personal and too damn relatable. Even for those with no religious baggage, Good Saint Nathanael seeks a different path for anyone who refuses to abandon the lessons of their upbringing but can’t untangle them from past trauma. Sure, Hide No Truth is a spiritual journey, but it’s more about Allen chasing the best version of himself. He calls this the Third Path: “Often, people with complicated trauma, religious or otherwise, process life in two ways: they either completely reject the thing that hurt them—punks are especially good at this—or try to bury the pain, which I believe is a timebomb,” he says. “I believe there is a third option where past trauma can be worked out without having to completely reject all your foundational beliefs or the people you care about.” Hide No Truth promotes personal and spiritual healing that will appeal to anyone in need of forgiveness—especially from themself.
You Found Me | Feb. 1 | Self-released
RIYL: Creative explosions. Mercurial moods. Self-actualization.
When an artist is known for bands like The Blood Brothers and Head Wound City, there’s a certain expectation of a dense, aggressive sound. Cody Votolato’s first venture with solo act JR Slayer, 2017’s Time Out, Crystal Heart, felt like a bridge between that bombastic noise and something a little calmer and more measured, but You Found Me feels like the truest expression of Votolato’s creative whims—at least, for now. Like anyone, Votolato is inspired by different styles of music that can change at a moment’s notice. Humans are fickle, you know? The mesmerizing, stripped-down pop of You Found Me came from a true wellspring of inspiration; the songs literally came out of Votolato so quickly, he didn’t know what to do. “This album was a real first for me,” he notes. “I’ve never been a part of something like this. It’s the most visceral experience I’ve ever had. Each song just came easily and on their own.” While that urgency could spell doom for many, it resulted in a beautiful connective tissue on this lovely little record. There’s a freedom of expression here that captures something truly ineffable.
Savage Monstrosities | Feb. 8 | Tankcrimes
RIYL: Collages. PMA. Marching in the street, then grinding the curb.
Everything about Savage Monstrosities executes a perfect—if unexpected—balancing act. “I think we all try to embrace the dichotomy of chaotic noise and technical precision,” drummer Ryan Brundage says. “Thematically and lyrically, I feel that it’s similar as well, walking the line between light and dark.” He’s spot-on. Los Huaycos’ new record is steeped in a sort of florid psychedelic aggression, what Tankcrimes calls “Peruvian skate rock thrash,” like if The Mars Volta were more beer-soaked hardcore and a tad less hallucinogenic prog. Savage Monstrosities is an album imbued equally with the surreal and the somber: Los Huaycos are raging against the destruction of Earth and the devaluation of human and animal life, but the quartet—who include former members of Asmereir, Metamorphosis, and Experimental Dental School—never get bogged down in self-seriousness. These 11 tracks are protest music for people who care as much about having a good time in the pit as they do about ensuring that we stay alive long enough to keep enjoying each other and the world around us—hopefully without continuing to fuck it up.
Vancouver, British Columbia
NOV3L | Feb. 15 | Flemish Eye Records
RIYL: Funhouse mirrors. Dancing in the acid rain. Blunt personalities.
Any band who branch from Gang Of Four or DEVO’s sonic tree get an extra vote of confidence, but N0V3L offer up a different, more novel approach on their self-titled debut EP. Sure, the music has that perfect mix of shimmering guitars, dancefloor-ready percussion, and shouts of sadness—not to mention a saxa-ma-phone!—but there’s much more method to the madness here. Vocalist and guitarist Jon sums it up well, explaining, “As one objective, N0V3L hold up a mirror to the world. Sometimes, that may mean exploring sociopolitical topics and, at others, the intimate and personal.” The idea of post-punk bands exploring the political and personal is far from new, but the Canadian group’s progressive mindset and lyrical honesty give these eight songs a real humble, earnest nature that shines. Plus, NOV3L’s style is far from just post-punk: new wave, funk, disco, and shoegaze all coalesce to form a haunting background for their particular brand of smart musical mania.
Living Tomb | Feb. 1 | 20 Buck Spin
RIYL: Catacombs. Nightmare fuel. Disney’s horror collection.
Triumphant, elegiac, and beautifully horrifying, Living Tomb conjures up one of childhood’s most unexpectedly glorious sources of nightmare fuel: “Night on Bald Mountain” from “Fantasia.” The classic animated tale of a demon calling hordes of the undead to take over a small town is the perfect accompaniment to what Ossuarium conjure on their exultant debut. Rife with mournful doom, progressive wistfulness, and the foulest death metal imaginable—oh, Dark Lord, that fucking tone slaps—Ossuarium’s sound is an ode to the dark side of life and the afterlife. There is a growing horde of death and doom bands, but few dare to balance pensive writing with this much fetid rottenness. Thematically, Living Tomb is even more thoughtful. “I try to focus on what’s more terrifying than death and gore to me,” drummer Ryan Koger states. “A lot of these themes are more real: social anxiety, the quest for enlightenment, temptation, and failure.” Of course, it’s all taken to a death metal extreme and filtered through 20 layers of dirt, so those who yearn for the best death-doom in recent memory should lend their undead ears to Ossuarium.
Divina Autem Et Aniles | Feb. 1 | Ceremonial Records
RIYL: Realism. Seeing the coffin as half full. Sympathy-crying.
There’s something so magical about how ’90s death and doom captured existential loneliness and longing in musical form. One need not be a sympathetic crier to appreciate the sound of grown adults getting teary-eyed as their guitars gently weep, and that aesthetic is expertly channeled by this new supergroup. Featuring members of Wolvhammer, Eulogy, and Withered, Pulchra Morte evoke an era when death and doom were the perfect expression of life and loss, but their first statement surpasses many of the old greats. Divina Autem Et Aniles was written during a period of immense loss and is imbued with a sense of great despair, but it stops short of languishing in pessimism. The band’s name translates to “beautiful death,” and vocalist Jason Barron says that is their mission statement. “I was trying to put a point across that there is plenty of beauty that comes with the agony that everyone suffers,” he explains. “I had a horrible year or two. At some point in time, you see light. The shit ends, a new path begins—but eventually, everything ends. Embrace that truth.” That lantern at the end of the dank tunnel forges a breathtaking musical path forward for Pulchra Morte.
Whatever It Takes | Feb. 1 | Skeletal Lightning, Ideal Crash, Ugly And Proud, & I.Corrupt.Records
RIYL: Affirming mantras. Reignited passions. Self-love.
Everyone feels wrecked at times, whether emotionally, creatively, or even personally. Some call it depression, but there are moments when life just feels—empty. How does one move past that to find inspiration and something resembling happiness? Quentin Sauvé, best known as the bassist for French melodic hardcore juggernauts Birds In Row, felt all these things and more, especially after a severe bout of tinnitus. Whatever It Takes was his creative drug, so to speak, imbued with the sense of hope and fortitude that is infectious and addictive. At its core, the album is efficient acoustic indie folk, but one listen to Sauvé’s emotional wrecking ball reveals a much deeper meaning. “There is hope, light, and love in this album,” he notes, “and that’s pretty new to me. I’m aware of my darkness now, and I’m taking the first step toward healing by writing it down. While I still have this in my heart, while I still have the passion, I have to find the strength to keep on doing it. I have to try to do whatever it takes; otherwise, I know I will always regret it.”
The bowels of Hell
Lament | March 29 | Profound Lore Records
RIYL: Ugly beauty. Profound horror. Digging deeper.
NBC’s “The Good Place” has made philosophy cool again. The enigmatic band Totaled exist in an entirely different world: the Really Fucking Bad Place. Their brand of apocalyptic music mirrors their philosophy. Lament is dense and disturbing, the songs demented and tormented, yet there’s a thread of grit and a drive to embrace that gloom. “Happiness exists within the mind of the individual,” Totaled state. “The people this album is speaking to are those who dwell in hopeless darkness. Your darkness has the power to either destroy or move mountains for you. To harness your power, you have to seek answers from the shadows that haunt you. Show them respect and gratitude, and they will help you.” This exceptionally grim existentialism is married to the truly spectacular brand of blackened death metal Profound Lore seems particularly adept at finding, but Totaled offer up much more than a murky horror show. There’s a power and something adjacent to brightness in the melodic underpinning of Lament that is equally horrifying and beautiful—with arms open to the darkness, it creates a sort of light that permeates to great effect.
March | March 1 | Headless Queen Records
RIYL: Double entendre. Spring showers. Fortitude.
Post-rock—even the best of the best, and March certainly fits that bill—needs to carefully connect complex musical arrangements to tell a story without words. That emphasis on cinematic songwriting is why Wander’s eloquent instrumental style will win over fans interested in lush, life-affirming music. Immersed in a multilingual soundscape drawing from both the familiar and the bold—math rock, metal, shoegaze, and dreampop—March is a record brimming with nostalgia and hope. It’s also as dense and tasty as a layer cake, a delightful pun within a pun. Drummer Ryan David Francisco explains, “March is about facing a difficult situation, overcoming it, and moving forward. March falls in the spring season; during this season, flowers bloom, which symbolizes renewal, rebirth, life. March 1 also happens to land on my birthday.” For those looking to explore new horizons in post-rock, ones that swell up and latch on for good, Wander breathe new life into an old staple.
The Sublime | Feb. 8 | Debemur Morti Productions
RIYL: Subliminal messages. Surrealism. Ghosts.
Music often feels haunted, whether by personal demons or a sense of sonic terror. However, rarely does the songwriting itself feel possessed by an otherworldly entity. YERÛŠELEM, the new band from members of French black metal masterminds Blut Aus Nord, have developed a sound haunted by more ghosts than Hill House. “It’s all about feeling and intuition. We simply have let the album whisper his own title, and The Sublime instantly became an obvious choice,” vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Vindsval states. “It’s a pure relief to be guided by the magic of inspiration without attempting to understand, without attempting to control everything. This process is comfortable and surprising. It is as if music, words, and ideas came straight from elsewhere for you. This is the essence of YERÛŠELEM.” Without hearing the music, one may doubt the veracity of his words, but The Sublime is drenched in texture and aura. This blend of atmospheric and industrial is absorbing, like looking into the face of a great-great grandparent long dead. The Sublime is also surprisingly uncanny fun—if you’re prepared for what lies beyond.
Albany, New York
(this is) heaven | Jan. 18 | Equal Vision Records
RIYL: Perseverance. Making lemonade. Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
“That’s what this whole EP is about: taking a dark situation and turning it into something beautiful,” Young Culture vocalist Alex Magnan shares. “These songs were written during arguably the most difficult year of my life, and songwriting is my therapy. (this is) heaven, because I was able to take these terrible things and turn them into my favorite thing we’ve ever done.” That rousing mindset isn’t the only reason (this is) heaven will be one of the most joyous and buoyant releases of the year, but Magnan’s inspirational and honest approach certainly elevated these five fantastic songs. Young Culture’s take on pop punk is also aspirational musically. Taking cues from hip hop and pop, there’s a power in the dynamic songwriting that levels up in conjunction with Magnan’s surprisingly heavy tales of pushing through the darkness. Young Culture’s short, heavenly EP does feel like a tease, but that purgatorial feeling makes the wait for an eventual full-length that much more worthwhile.