DOM LAW­SON buck­les up for a delve into the darker, heav­ier side.

Prog - - Intro -

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.

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