It is a new year, so I was hoping to start with something exciting from unfamiliar climes; alas it didn't quite pan out as such. The Southern and Central American metal scenes are oft overlooked, with precious few bands garnering wider appeal. Mexicans Mordskog give an insight as to why with their debut XIII . A perfectly well executed slab of harsh black metal, it is also wholly unoriginal. This is a pure copycat of the more refined bands that emerged with the technological revolution fifteen years ago, stuck in a time loop that feels forced. It is pleasant enough to sit through a few times, but ultimately sinks into boredom as we've heard this so many times before. You wouldn't necessarily associated New York with black metal either, but Black Anvil have established themselves over the last decade as a leading exponent of the country's scene. Album number four As Was  continues down this rather melodic path they have carved for themselves; the blend of old school and new is well balanced, the two working in tandem to create an experience that is both memorable and brutal.
I've never really "got" deathcore with it seemingly doing little more than interspersing basic death metal riffs with hardcore breakdowns; it always seems so monotonous and one dimensional. Unfortunately that is exactly what Aversions Crown are on Xenocide , a painfully dull exercise in repeating ad infinitum. Here we have an album devoid of character, inspiration and identity that seems determined to cram in every cliché as often as possible, just in case you missed it the first dozen times. The Ominous Circle produce a much more frightening and menacing brand of death metal, a claustrophobic yet riveting assault. The major issue with Appalling Ascension  however is the woeful sound quality; murky rhythm guitars lose their punch, whilst the over-loud drums a more akin to slapping a wet fish. It does rather take the edge off what is so nearly a bloodletting gem.
Unlike deathcore, drone is something very dear to my heart, yet this too I can find tiresome if poorly executed (which is rather easy, unsurprisingly). The Empire Never Ended  starts off promisingly for Twinesuns as the distorted guitars begin carving slow, oppressive trails that threaten to drown out everything. The killer blow is never delivered though, and the gargantuan pieces dissolve into the background as their repeated familiarity does indeed breed contempt. The prospect of a project featuring the triumvirate of Scott Kelly, Mathieu Vandekerckhove and Colin H Van Eeckhout is a very exciting one – and Absent In Body do not disappoint. Absent In Body  is a single twenty minute track that morphs from minimalist doomy drone to hardcore-tinged industrial rampage and back again with breath-taking ease. But an easy listen this is not; it batters and cuts into the brain in all the right ways, leaving the listener drained but thrilled by its climax.
It has been a rough few years for Pain Of Salvation main man Daniel Gildenlöw as he recovered from a near-fatal flesh-eating bacteria infection, an ordeal that casts a large shadow over the long-awaited new record. In The Passing Light Of Day  has been a longer time in coming than just the gap between this and its predecessor; it going in the direction I (and I'm sure many other fans too) wished the band had persued after Remedy Lane. This is genuinely a metal album, as it takes all of four seconds of the opener 'On A Tuesday' to realise with the crushing staccato riff that bursts into life, riding a wave of euphoria for the ten minutes of its duration. None of the wildly flamboyant proggy elements have been forsaken on In The Passing Light Of Day either, shifting as it does between emotions and styles at the drop of a hat in a dazzling display of complex twists and jaw-dropping musicianship. Welcome back Pain Of Salvation, we've missed you.
Mordskog – XIII (6th, Werewolf Records)
Black Anvil – As Was (13th, Relapse Records)
Aversions Crown – Xenocide (20th, Nuclear Blast Records)
The Ominous Circle – Appalling Ascension (27th, Osmose Productions)
Twinesuns – The Empire Never Ended (27th, Pelagic Records)
Absent In Body – Absent In Body (20th, Hypertension Records)
Pain Of Salvation – In The Passing Light Of Day (13th, InsideOut Music)