At the Gates – To Drink from the Night Itself (2018)

Music is a language, and utilizes formulas to communicate emotions to an audience.  This is the most basic understanding of the idea of music as a tool, but the mastery of the manipulation of human perception through the mathematics of musical language can only be effective if an artist has something substantial to say, and uses the medium of music as the vehicle to communicate that idea, rather than approaching this communication as if the method of expression is the message itself.  This is the disconnect we see as musicians “mature” and develop their craft as their passions slowly extinguish, and it is not surprising that the best releases using metal as a communicative tool are often released in a band’s initial releases, when they knew the least of how the musical language works.  This ignorance allows an immediacy that overwrought cynicism betrays, and it is here that the heart of metal thrives.  The education gained from elaborating on the language of music can enforce the initial artistic message when the understanding of human perception is developed, or it can suffocate the communicative process should the composer fixate on how the listener will react to the information presented.  The efforts of post-reunion At the Gates are mired in the latter type of composition, and To Drink from the Night Itself is the band’s most grievous offense.

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Wolvhammer – The Monuments of Ash & Bone 2018

As with anything labeled “USBM,” it is an inevitable that an experienced metal fan will approach this release with caution regarding just how flannelly, how post rock, how try-hard and yet how vulnerable it is.  With a cliched moniker that clashes together a couple of clumsy tropes to echo the oil and water mixture that Americans and black metal suspend as, Wolvhammer presents itself and its material as confidently confrontational so the saccharine despair of modern takes on the vulturized genre are initially somewhat absent, but the juvenile approach does not in its stead give credence to the overbearing impudence on display.

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Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology (2018)

When you have nothing of substance to fuel the creative urge necessary for musical catharsis, the artistically bankrupt are forced into invention. Here, the muse for this act is a fictional slug overlord that has somehow provided a modern metal band with enough tongue-in-cheek material to spew out four records so far, so at the very least you can’t accuse Slugdge of not sticking to their guns. Bad ideas however tend to foster quicker and more permanent results, and I’m failing to see the inspiration of this act yielding anything further than superficial amusement, so perhaps this is the perfect modern metal product seen from start to finish.

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