This Week’s Best Albums: November 6, 2012

This Week's Best Albums: November 6, 2012

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

The Casket Lottery: Real Fear (No Sleep)

"In the Branches"

After a run from 1998 to 2003, Kansas City indie-rock trio The Casket Lottery was able to look back on three standout full-lengths and a handful of EPs. Flash forward to 2012 and the band has magically reappeared with two more members — a second guitarist and keyboardist — and a new full-length album, Real Fear.

The keyboard, in particular, adds a new layer with minor-key melodies. The songs are as well written and catchy as ever — all in the band’s morose-but-hopeful and slightly vengeful tone. Tension builds to release numerous times over the course of the album, with sing-along-ready lyrics built into its multiple-vocalist approach. Real Fear is a dynamic rock album — and that’s as the band only begins to refine its new sound.

- Text by Dave Hofer. Read the full review here.

Graveyard: Lights Out (Nuclear Blast)

"Endless Night"

Lights Out, the latest from Swedish psych-rock band Graveyard, is an album that drinks beer for breakfast, drives a rusty El Camino, and gets kicked out of bars for fun. Hot on the tails of 2011’s Hisingen Blues — which was as much a ’70s hard-rock homage as it was a reincarnation of the genre — Lights Out catapults the Black Sabbath sound into a more fuzzed-out, psychedelic universe.

Recorded entirely in analog, the album creeps in with the aggressive “An Industry of Murder,” cools off with “Hard Times Lovin’,” and hits a high point with the catchy “Goliath.” Joakim Nilsson’s gritty tenor is the perfect partner to Jonatan Ramm’s straightforward guitar work, and at the end, it’s lights out.

- Benjamin van Loon

Anaal Nathrakh: Vanitas (Candlelight)

"Todos Somos Humanos"

Originating in Birmingham, UK, Anaal Nathrakh is the primarily studio-driven project of multi-instrumentalist Mick Kenney (a.k.a. Irrumator) and vocalist Dave Hunt (a.k.a. VITRIOL). Kenney, who relocated to California in 2007, co-runs FETO Records with Napalm Death’s Shane Embury and must be the kind of guy who never sleeps, as his musical duties include guitar, bass, drums, programming, and production.

Vanitas comes just 18 months after the duo's last album, and it continues to expand Anaal Nathrakh's black-metal roots. In addition to the usual sinister assortment, the album touches grindcore, melodic death metal (At the Gates would approve these massive riffs), metalcore, and bits of industrial, with occasionally operatic vocals to go with scorching screams. "Todos Somos Humanos" is a great example of the style convergence, evoking both Morbid Angel (in speed riffs and electronics) and raging black metal.

The album, as a whole, is absolutely blistering — but with enough diversity to not grow tiresome. Recommended for many stripes of metal-head.

- Scott Morrow

Emeralds: Just to Feel Anything (Editions Mego)

Cleveland trio Emeralds made queasy, sprawling, psychedelic drone music prior to 2010, when it released Does It Look Like I’m Here? That album condensed the music into concise, direct, and absolutely stunning takes on the formula.

Just to Feel Anything is a new mutation in the Emeralds pattern. The most noticeable addition is the regular presence of a drum machine, which places a grid over the proceedings that limits the meandering of previous albums. The upfront aggression of fast, midrange saw-tooth arpeggios has been swapped out for more delicate pads and chords. If the last album felt like an amplified variation on 1970s kosmische, this one feels like a modern take on the new age and electronic experimentation of the early 1980s.

– Text by Patrick Hajduch. Read the full review here.

Isis: Temporal (Ipecac)

"Ghost Key"

As a two-disc (and DVD) collection, Isis’s Temporal details the band’s evolution from a heavy, post-metal experiment starting in 1997 to its 2010 dissolution as an avant-metal / drone / post-rock super group. The album upholds the dual functions of retrospective as inspired by and serving to create lore, and for a band as influential as Isis, there is no better word than “lore” to describe its legacy.

Disc one contains six previously unreleased demo tracks dating from the band’s early Mosquito Control days to its final full-length, Wavering Radiant. Only two of the eight tracks on disc two, and one of the five videos on the DVD, are previously unreleased. Those more familiar with B-side entries in the Isis canon will recognize the Black Sabbath cover “Hand of Doom” from 1999’s Sawblade or the disorienting “Pliable Foe” from 2010’s Melvins/Isis split LP.

As with all retrospectives, the collection lacks the polished feel or continuity of production on more standard studio albums, but it likewise provides a generous overview of Isis’s formation, evolution, realization, and mythos.

– Benjamin van Loon

Honorable Mentions:

Casket Girls: Sleepwalking (Graveface)

Crystal Castles: (III) (Casablanca / Fiction / Universal Republic)

Dirty Projectors: About to Die EP (Domino)

Dragged into Sunlight: Widowmaker (Prosthetic)

El Ten Eleven: Transitions (Fake Record Label)

Horseback & Locrian: New Dominions (Relapse)

Rage Nucléaire: Unrelenting Fucking Hatred (Season of Mist)

War from a Harlot’s Mouth: Voyeur (Season of Mist)