Each month, tons of new music from many taste-spanning genres is released into a fast-consuming, unforgiving market; it can be tough to get a handle on what’s new before it’s on to the next. In an attempt to highlight the standout releases, at the end of each month, AUX staff re-cap the month in Punk, Metal, Indie/Pop/Rock, Hip Hop, Electronic, and Pop with the top five releases in each. Consider it your cheat sheet for year-end lists.

Top 5 Metal Releases: February

Pilgrim - Misery Wizard

The fact that this is Pilgrim’s first album is only more impressive when considering what an absolute masterclass in doom metal Misery Wizard is, smashing comfortably into the void left behind when Reverend Bizarre called it quits. “Astaroth” is perhaps the most powerful album opener you’ll hear this year, and from there the rest of the album’s punishing 55 minutes pummel the listener with a slow battering of Iommi-inspired riffs. As expected, Pilgrim often dives into occult goofiness, but pull it off with such style and sincerity that the songs never hit the point of parody. Sure, each member calls himself by a silly name (‘The Wizard’, ‘Korlg Splinterfist, Slayer of Men’ and ‘Count Elric the Soothsayer’), but that only adds to the mystique.

Orange Goblin – A Eulogy for the Damned

The easiest way to describe Orange Goblin’s A Eulogy for the Damned is to say that it’s stoner metal meets Motörhead, pairing an absolute assault of riffs with a barrage of fuzz-laden grooves. This is metal meets hard rock meets a substance abuse problem, with whiskey soaked vocals playing their part alongside bong-inspired basslines and other such puns, all of which combine for a record that’s dirty enough to hide against the tires of a monster truck. Don’t let these allusions fool you into thinking this is southern stripper music—though it’d likely fit the bill— with songs like “Stand For Something” written around a hook you’ll wish you’d written.

Nephelium - Coils Of Entropy

Nephelium’s Coils Of Entropy appropriates a lot of modern death metal elements without falling into some of the genres more irritating tropes. More importantly, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a contemporary release, which in this case is a compliment given its combination of brutality and technicality. The muddy low end falls somewhere between the sounds made famous by Cryptopsy’s None So Vile and Suffocation’s Effigy of the Forgotten, both of which also work well a point of reference for Coils of Entropy, which while not as worthy of cultural praise as either of its influences deserves a hearty commendation for being justifiably talked about in the same sentence (as much of a run on as it might be).

Psycroptic - The Inherited Repression

For a while it seemed like Psycroptic might never recover after losing burp-happy vocalist Matt Chalke, but for the first time since, they’ve put out an interesting album in The Inherited Repression, which recaptures some of the magic The Scepter of the Ancients with its uncalculable guitar work and reluctance to simply blast along indifferently. The album works because it, at times, sounds like a variation on a theme without necessarily sounding overly similar. “Carriers of the Plague” introduces the album with a very distinct, arpeggiated kind of guitar work that carries throughout, one which emphasizes riffs instead of technicality all the while sounding immeasurably technical.

Pharaoh - Bury the Light

Pharaoh succeeds at sounding like a power metal band that could hold its when someone inevitably tries to beat them up, which in and of itself says a lot about the genre. But amongst a sea of fantasy dorks and bad shredding there’s always an exception to the rule, and like Lost Horizon before them, Pharaoh are quickly becoming kings of a sound that’s triumphant without being wimpy. Bury the Light doesn’t do anything especially different than its peers, but it never feels as forced as many of its contemporaries. There are plenty of extended solos, vocal acrobatics and galloping hooks to put the album into a box, but the overall approach is tastefully done enough to make it a pinnacle rather than example. The only thing holding Bury the Light back is its incredibly dry production values.

Surprises, disappointments and albums to watch for next month

Surprise of the month: Corrosion of Conformity, the band’s first release after a six year hiatus and 8th full length in their 30+ year career. Blending sounds, styles and speeds in a way that only Corrosion of Conformity can, their latest self-titled album is a triumph in perserverence even if it’s not an instant classic.

Disappointments: That I didn’t have the chance to hear Asphyx’s Deathhammer, which will be considered for March because fuck the rules of society and junk.

Out in March: Every Time I Die’s Ex Lives, Sigh’s In Somniphobia, Black Breath’s Sentenced to Life, Gorod’s A Perfect Absolution, Ministry’s Relapse and more.

Recommended Videos: