DOM LAWSON buckles up for a delve into the darker, heavier side.
Not content with bossing the symphonic metal scene in Epica, Mark Jansen seems to be hell-bent on making his cinematic death metal project Mayan a seriously big deal too. Dhyana (Nuclear Blast) is colossal on every level: from its explosive orchestral interjections to the pristine, hi-def thud of the production, this is progressive, operatic metal designed to level stadiums. The growled vocals may unnerve more sensitive listeners, but this is so gloriously, unashamedly over the top that if you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to be in an episode of Game Of Thrones, crank Dhayana up to ceiling-cracking volume and prepare to feel seriously epic.
Extreme prog stalwarts Into Eternity have finally re-emerged with The Sirens (self-released), the Canadians’ first album since recruiting new vocalist Amanda Kiernan. While still firmly rooted at the extreme end of prog metal, densely melodic songs like Fringes Of Psychosis are a great showcase for Kiernan’s wildly versatile range. It’s clear that her bandmates are revelling in the experience too, as they repeatedly spin on a structural dime, from surging, Savatage-like pomp to blistering, deathly fury.
Revered masters of progressive funereal doom Pantheist excel themselves on long-awaited fifth album Seeking Infinity (Melancholic Realm). Unlike many of their snail’s-pace peers, Kostas Panagiotou’s crew are no slaves to repetition. Languorous epics like Control And Fire are underpinned by the unmistakable, shattered-knee crawl of those doom riffs, but continual detours into more refined, elegiac realms make this an endlessly fascinating and heart-rending journey toward oblivion’s embrace.
Always worth checking out for their Victorian laudanum junkie shtick alone, A Forest Of Stars have conjured another mind-bending feast of psychedelic black metal indulgence on their fifth full-length, Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes (Prophecy). Worth hearing for the genre-crunching insanity of the 11-minute Scripturally Transmitted Disease alone, it’s a work of sustained, heroic madness.
Back on more familiar ground, Australia’s Sum Of Us offer a subtly distinctive take on prog-tinged alternative rock, more closely linked to left-field post-hardcore than anything overtly metallic. Their Sharp Turns In Dark Tunnels EP (self-released) brims with promise and will delight fans of Black Peaks and Coheed And Cambria.
Finally, and only if you’re feeling brave, British black metal stalwarts Anaal Nathrakh have made an album partly inspired by World War I poetry, the horror of the trenches and some distinctly chilling parallels with the modern age. A New Kind Of Horror (Metal Blade) is vastly more inventive than most records this extreme, and Dave Hunt’s excoriating screams and ripping falsetto make for a startling focal point. The fact that the anti-war ethos behind songs like Obscene As Cancer and Forward! is both righteous and wise makes the whole bewildering cacophony both timely and irresistible.