The asymptotically pop black metal of Deafheaven, the fitfully interesting fare of the thrash revival and reconfiguration, the death of Jeff Hanneman: The most prominent threads in heavy metal this year haven't really made room for Agrimonia, a Swedish crew whose long-form mix of doom, crust punk and post-metal accounts for one of the year's best albums. Indeed, the oblong and hourlong Rites of Separation comprises just five songs, each a series of down-tempo zigs and up-tempo zags through seemingly disparate metallic molds. Glacially paced marches uphold hardcore bursts fit for basement shows and atmospheric expanses suited for particularly cinematic scores. It's an apt release for Southern Lord, the home not only to drone monsters Sunn O))) but also to a motley mix of black metal bands, hardcore upstarts and sound-art veterans. But Rites of Separation is more than an indecisive mix of styles: All the parts that hold it together—livewire riffs and shifting rhythms, shout-out-loud yammers and delicate impasses—are wonderful in isolation, too. Agrimonia's music might not be au courant, but it is excellent and imaginative, the sort of stuff that will be waiting when the calendar and its trends shift into the new year. T.O.A.D. is an acronym for Arizona six-piece Take Over And Destroy. The gritty crew backs rock 'n' roll worship and death metal warpaths with acidic organ runs—less confounding than Agrimonia, but strange all the same.
—Grayson Haver Currin