[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Exgenesis - Aphotic Veil EP (Rain Without End)
The international duo, comprised of members from Sweden and Columbia, unleash a massive fury of blackened doom on their debut EP. There is plenty of melody going on amid the punishing riffs and guttural vocals and haunting screams. While this record clocks in at just over 27 minutes, the potential shown by these guys is off the charts. I’m eager to see if they can harness that talent on a full-length recording in the (hopefully near) future.
Falloch - This Island, Our Funeral (Candlelight)
These guys take an absolute beating in the metal press and I can’t quite figure out why. After losing founding member Andy Marshall to his admittedly superior solo project Saor, the Irish post-metallers expanded to a four-piece for their second album. Sure, there’s not a whole lot of aggression in Falloch’s material, but that doesn’t mean they’re not heavy. The vocals are a bit grating at times, but there’s a ton of talent here. Good atmospheric background music.
Lord Dying - Poisoned Altars (Relapse)
If you dig that whole Portland, OR sludge scene and/or High on Fire, you’ll find plenty to like on the second album from this Portland quartet. Expect a shitload of killer riffs and the usual shouted vocals. The songs are all well-crafted and surprisingly tight for a sludge band, most likely due to the band spending the last year and a half out on the road. These dudes seem pretty pissed off about something and let’s hope it stays that way.
Night Demon - Curse of the Damned (Century Media)
Nothing really groundbreaking going on in the debut album from this Ventura, CA trio. They play NWOBHM-inspired classic metal and they do it quite well. This is a fun record, filled with chugging riffs, songs about Satan and catchy choruses. The vocals are pretty smooth and the presence of a single guitarist gives the bass plenty of room to breathe. All in all, this record is a killer trip back to 1981, when heavy metal was just heavy metal.
Shallow Rivers - The Leaden Ghost (Solitude Productions)
It’s getting to the point where I don’t even have to listen to Solitude Productions releases and I can just green light them right into the recommendations column every time. On their second album, this Moscow quartet delivers the standard level of Solitude excellence with a ferocious slab of doom/death metal with some atmospheric tendencies. The riffage is amazing and the seamless transitions keep the listener’s full attention for the entire hour’s worth of doom.
Sumokem - The Madness of Lu Shen Ti Vol. 1 (Handshake)
Little Rock, AR keeps pumping out quality doom bands. Must be a nice town. This quartet follows in the footsteps of Pallbearer and Rwake with a fantastic debut EP, a strange classification for an album that runs over 42 minutes. This is the first traditional doom record to make the list this year and it’s a winner. Sumokem combines the Pallbearer psych/doom sound with slightly heavier riffs and early Candlemass vocals. Also, it’s a concept album, so that’s neat.
Trial - Vessel (High Roller)
Much like Portland with their sludge and Little Rock with their doom, the Swedes have spawned a mini-scene of their own with the traditional heavy metal sound of bands like Portrait and In Solitude. The torch has been passed to Trial and the Trollhättan quintet doesn’t miss a beat. This is a big week for Candlemass worship, as these dudes join Sumokem with the Messiah Marcolin vocals. The songs owe obvious debt to Mercyful Fate, without sounding like a carbon copy.
Visigoth - The Revenant King (Metal Blade)
The Salt Lake City quintet plays power metal, but they don’t fall into the basic, tired pattern of triplets and tenor vocals that plagues the genre. Their debut album delves into the usual swords and sorcery malarkey, but with a darker edge. They’re kind of like a downtuned Manowar without the jackass piccolo bass solos. This record makes the list on the strength of “Iron Brotherhood”, the first track this year that actually caused me to pump my fist.
Voices - London (Candlelight)
Formed by three former members of Akercocke, this London quartet explores the realms of progressive, black and death metal on their second release. I never got into Akercocke, so I don’t know if this is in the same vein, but it’s one of the more ambitious releases I’ve heard in a while. It’s a very disjointed album, which makes it hard to classify and compare. There’s a lot going on here, with vocals and styles varying throughout. Give it a couple of tries to get the full effect.