First, an announcement: we at Malicious Intent have decided to move our radio show to Twitch for the foreseeable future. You can stream us every Sunday evening from 7 – 9 p.m. CDT at Malicious Metal Twitch. Song requests can be made on our Facebook page in the comments of the weekly posts about the stream or on the Twitch chat if you have an account.

Second, we’re all still stuck at home. We still have a stay-at-home order that…many but not all of our community is still abiding by. Restaurants, bars, and other establishments continue to be closed. For those of us who still have jobs, our jobs are now remote as we work from home. We’re isolated from each other, and we’re isolated from the lives that we used to live.

All this free time has provided a nearly endless amount of time to listen to music. In the last post, I listed five albums that had got me through the beginning of my quarantine when I was experiencing depression and disorientation embedded in reverse culture shock and the new surreality that I found myself in.

The overriding feeling now seems to be of ennui. While I have been trying to busy myself with creative and professional projects while doing a number of activities to keep my mental, emotional, and physical health in order, there is still a pervading feeling of listlessness that lingers in the background.

Therefore, the albums I’m going to cover below relate to that aforementioned feeling in direct or indirect ways — mostly as a way to try and dig myself out of this feeling of ennui by providing something innovative and/or exciting for me to listen to!

Grieving Birth, by Internal Rot

First of all, I really appreciate when metal bands can successfully flout the implicit rules of metal imagery. The album cover of Grievous Birth flouts the implicit rules for metal album covers to such an iconoclastic extent that it’s almost bewildering. It really presents more questions than answers. Whomst is this woman? Where does this photo come from? What symbolic significance does it have for this album?

This is surprisingly my favorite grindcore album of 2020 so far. I write “surprisingly” because it doesn’t have the technical proficiency nor emotional gravitas of Discordance Axis, Wormrot, Cloud Rat, and some of my other favorite grindcore bands. While those latter bands revel in the intricacies, Internal Rot delivers a gut-punch of grindcore without any frills, à la Insect Warfare.

This is mostly straightforward grindcore, but there are enough bells and whistles and “catchy” (I use this word liberally) riffs to keep me returning to this album over the last couple of months.

Mestarin kynsi, by Oranssi Pazuzu

I recently watched a live stream of Oranssi Pazuzu performing this album in full, and it pretty much confirmed the brilliance of this band, and more specifically, this album.

In terms of propelling me out of stagnation, this album accomplishes that by putting me into a state of psychological disorientation. The songs on the album often feature hypnotic repetition of odd-timed motifs with layers of alien electronic sounds that are built up and often explode into complete psychedelic freakouts.

To my knowledge, there is no other band that so seamlessly melds black metal, psychedelia, and Krautrock. Their last album Värähtelijä was my second favorite album of 2016 and Mestarin kynsi is shaping up to be easily in my top 10 for 2020.

Stare Into Death and Be Still, by Ulcerate

To be completely honest, this is Ulcerate being Ulcerate. They have a unique sound but they haven’t really updated it too dramatically over the course of their career (and there’s nothing wrong with that). But this is also Ulcerate being a VERY focused Ulcerate. There seems to be a lot less post-metal meandering compared with albums like Shrines of Paralysis. Furthermore, the tracks on Stare Into Death and Be Still are just meatier. Guitarist Jamie Saint Merat doesn’t rely as much on his typical high-end labyrinthine dissonance as he has on past albums. Rather, he gives equal weight to low-end beefiness which definitely gives this album a more even-keeled sound for an already dynamic band.

Visitations from Enceladus, by Cryptic Shift

At the time of writing this, I’m still digesting this incredibly dense and complex album. Cryptic Shift amalgamates influences from bands like Death, Atheist, Vektor, Voivod, and Gorguts into a unique progressive death metal sound.

I often find that my potential mental or emotional connection to a lot of progressive death metal can be clouded by overproduction and an overreliance on technical wizardry. While the music on Visitations… constantly shifts (no pun intended) and mutates, there is a grimy edge to it à la Blood Incantation that raises its appeal for me. Likewise, Cryptic Shift’s particular brand of progressive death is helping to raise me out of my existential fog.

The Arrows of Our Ways, Izthmi

There seems to be a glut of atmospheric black metal bands and releases these days, and to be completely honest, I automatically skip over most releases labeled as such on the metal websites I peruse because most of the bands and releases come off as rather generic IMHO.

However, with The Arrows of Our Ways, there is an added progressive element as the band takes the listeners through several different and variously emotive passages. However, the fluidity of the songs is maintained by the band’s great attention to songcraft acuity.