From the Cheap Seats: Five Albums That Didn’t Make the Cut

#5, Russian Circles w/Gnosis

Russian Circles is a very cool post-metal band from Chicago that has had a number of very interesting releases over the last decade. This latest slab is pretty good, including the video embedded here for the song Gnosis, and the magnificent “Conduit” which has one of the best thrash riffs I’ve heard in a long time. The problem here is consistency, as the rest of the album ranges from meh to bleh to “oh that’s interesting.” The band is excellent at producing different atmospheres with their music, and the song Gnosis is probably my favorite atmosphere as it creates the sensation of a reflective walk across a wind-swept field, and all of a sudden, you fall into a sinkhole and panic about getting out alive. Yeah, that’s overly melodramatic, but it’s a really good tune. I had a chance to see them in DC in early but November but was out West with family, so that sucks because they bring the heat. It’s a good but not great album — check out the video!

#4, Long Distance Calling w/ Eraser

This Munster, Germany-based post-metal band known for their instrumental songs comes forth with their latest offering, and it’s hit and miss. The title track is mediocre. The extended bass is in the forefront during the middle of the song — and no one needs to hear that much slap bass for so long. This is a band that generally has one to three really, really good tracks on each album, and that remains the case here. The highlights are “Kamilah” and “Blades” which are in the first quarter of the album. After that, the music kind of drifts aimlessly, ending in an over nine-minute wannabe epic that falls flat. When these guys are on, they really, really smoke, and when they aren’t…you get mad, because they have such great songs, but only some of the time. I’m still waiting for an entire album that crushes from start to finish.

#3, Cult of Luna w/The Long Road North

A few years ago, I was lamenting to a friend about the dissolution of the band Isis, who were at the top of their game when they left the music scene. He told me to check out this Finnish band in the same genre called Cult of Luna, and they’ve been interesting enough for me to get excited when they have a new release. This is dark, atmospheric, sludgy post-metal that is repetitive and brutal. It’s got the screaming vocalist act down pat, and they do have some interesting transitions and riffs, but to compare them to Isis isn’t fair. They are different, and quite good, but this is music you need to listen to at certain times, in certain moods, and in relatively small amounts. The opening track, “Cold Burn” brings to mind an attritional battle on the Western Front in the Winter, with a dark and cloudy sky dropping a hard rain on the poor bastards in the trenches below. It’s that kind of music. This isn’t party music, this isn’t workout music, this is introspective music, best listened to through headphones by yourself.

A lot of tracks are long, with three over ten minutes long. That’s the kind of journey they take you on, you have to buckle yourself in and accept what’s coming, which isn’t pleasant, but it is good. A good album for February when the wind chill is minus 15, and you need a stiff whiskey to cope with the weather and the nonsense of everyday life.

#2, All Them Witches w/Live on the Internet

There are certain bands in the world that are just way, way better live than they are in the studio, and All Them Witches fall into that category. This latest live album, released earlier in 2022, is another nice capture of the band. This trio from Nashville is an odd blend of country, rock, post-metal, bluegrass, and classic rock. In the embedded video, “Blood and Sand/ Milk and Endless Waters”, you get a wonderful trip through the Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, with some Drive-By Truckers thrown in to make it even more interesting. Songs like “Alabaster” and “Charles William” are excellent introductions to their work, but you get the sense that this is a band you need to see in a small club, with a few bourbons under the belt, the stench of Camel unfiltered cigarettes in the air, and the power of the band jabbing you in the face like Joe Frazier with a hangover. A definite must-see when they get back to touring the East Coast!

#1, Meshuggah w/Immutable

Ok, the video for “They Move Below” is wizardry on one thousand different levels, and captures the Lovecraftian theme of this song perfectly. It’s nightmare fuel boosted with nitro, an absolute gem and really quite unique. The song is pretty good as well, with mellow guitars drifting over the sonic landscape for the first two and quarter minutes before the trademark “CHUG CHUG CHUG” riffs and the rhythm section take over for the rest of the song. This song and video make this album worth the tariff alone. I mean, I’d like to get a big projector next Halloween in my driveway and show this video on a loop for about three hours…anyway, Meshuggah are incredible musicians, and Immutable is more of the same from them. If you like industrial plodding and exquisite musicianship, then you will love this album. If not, you won’t. So it’s hit-and-miss on a broader level.

All of these bands have been around for a while, and they all have written amazing songs in the past and on these albums as well. These just don’t run the gamut from start to finish — and to be fair, Clutch’s album didn’t either, but I have a soft spot for my fellow Marylanders, so they get elevated into the top 5 this year while these bands are just below the cut…and certainly could make the list next year!



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