[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Arch Enemy - War Eternal (Century Media)
The Swedish masters of melodic death are back with their 10th album, the first without vocalist Angela Gossow since 1999. This is a typically solid release for Arch Enemy with plenty of guitar pyrotechnics and heavy-as-fuck riffs from Michael Amott, who continues to be unparalleled in the melodeath universe. I was never fully onboard with the Gossow era, so having new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz at the helm provides a pleasant surprise. The vocals are as menacing as ever, but they don’t feel as forced and gimmicky as they did in the previous era. It feels like Arch Enemy had something to prove with this release, and they succeeded with an absolute shredder of magnificent proportions.
The Atlas Moth - The Old Believer (Profound Lore)
Sludgy stoner metal is the order of the day for the Chicagoans on their 3rd full-length album. The heavy riffs with the killer lead melodies on top are pretty much to be expected at this point, but they don’t disappoint and the synth/piano elements add a touch of evil to the proceedings. The screamed vocals are a little off-putting at first listen, but the clean vocals are stunning and haunting. The excellent songwirting and musicianship herein leads to a record that ends up being both atmospheric and beautiful, while maintaining the crushing heaviness when the songs call for it. Excellent release.
Bloody Hammers - Under Satan's Sun (Napalm)
The Charlotte outfit’s third release continues down the path of doom-influenced occult rock, but the band manages to throw in some genuinely catchy melodies and hooks on top of the gloom. I can’t help but wish there was a little more ass in the production, as the album feels a little flat, but the songs are definitely not lacking and the record has groove to spare. Fans of Ghost and the recent wave of 70’s-inspired occult metal should find plenty to like here.
Deus Otiosus - Rise (Deepsend)
Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of standard, old-school death metal, but when it’s done right, count me in. Deus Otiosus, a 5-piece from Copenhagen, add just enough touches of thrash to their 3rd album to force me to take notice. The riffs are just absolutely devastating and the leads are well done. Don’t expect much beyond the standard death growls, vocal-wise. Aside from some seriously annoying D-beats, the drumming is fantastic. The whole affair is incredibly tight and heavy. I’m on board.
Dust Bolt - Awake The Riot (Napalm)
The Germans return with their 2nd album, which basically boils down to 58 minutes of killer Slayer worship, without sounding like a tribute band somehow. Seriously, I haven’t heard riffs like these anywhere outside of the albums from the classic Slayer years. Unlike their Teutonic brethren, Dust Bolt opt for classic American 80’s thrash vocals instead of extreme screaming, which is a nice change of pace. I haven’t kept up with the recent thrash revival, so I don’t really know where these guys stand in that respect, but I think this is a fantastic album. I haven’t heard pure, classic thrash this effective in years, so I’m keeping my eyes and ears on Dust Bolt. Dig that ridiculous album cover, too.
Falconer - Black Moon Rising (Metal Blade)
The 8th release from the Swedish quintet is the band’s fastest, most aggressive output yet. Black Moon Rising is a power metal album at its core, but the riffs harken back to the thrash glory days and the solid bass riffs cut through the mix, which is atypical in the power metal realm. Falconer has always leaned towards the folk metal scene, but they don’t rely on the typical barrage of flutes and violins, instead opting to provide folksy melodies via the vocal lines. Aside from an acoustic intro on the 4th track, there’s really no folk instrumentation to be found here, with the band relying on twin guitar harmonies and thrash riffs instead.
Gloryful - Ocean Blade (Massacre)
There’s nothing revolutionary about this German band’s 2nd album, but what they do, they do well. This is classic heavy metal with some power metal influence. The riffs are more along the lines of classic thrash and are generally accompanied by some serious double bass drum work. The vocalist sounds like a late-period Bruce Dickenson, but he throws in some Halford shrieks for good measure. They even throw in a token acoustic folk song to appease that crowd. Like I said, nothing new here, but solid metal nonetheless.
Khuda - Molasses Constricts The Clinostat (Prügelprinz)
Khuda is an instrumental stoner/doom/prog duo with members hailing from England and Finland. After releasing 3 EPs, the band is now on it’s 3rd full-length album. You would never know this was strictly duo based on the huge sound on the record, with several guitar tracks recorded on each song. These guys are pretty good at taking a laid-back guitar part and building up to a heavy climax, often utilizing odd time signatures and an assortment of effects. The result is an album that has loads of atmosphere and if you’re looking for something new and different, these are your guys.
Mars Red Sky - Stranded In Arcadia (Listenable)
The French trio returns with their second album, cranking out stoner and doom metal tracks bathed in the most incredible fuzz I’ve heard all year. Stranded In Arcadia is plodding and heavy for the most part, but the record retains an air of psychedelia and is loaded with catchy melodies and hooks. The vocals are kind of strange at first; kind of high-pitched in a Budgie sort of way, but they absolutely work. In addition to the glorious fuzz tones, a handful of riffs make generous use of the wah pedal, providing a nice counterpoint to the doom. This is one of those rare albums that manages to stay heavy and mellow at the same time.
October File - The Application of Loneliness, Ignorance, Misery, Love and Despair - An Introspective of the Human Condition (Candlelight)
Due to the ridiculous album title and the “post-punk” tag, I didn’t have high hopes for this British band or their 4th album. I was wrong. There’s a first time for everything. The Application of Loneliness… is incredibly heavy and intense with huge riffs and fantastic vocals and lyrics. Despite warnings of industrial influences, I can’t really detect any on this record. It just sounds like a big, loud heavy metal album to me. An incredible heavy metal album, at that.
Tombs - Savage Gold (Relapse)
They call this “post-metal”, but don’t let that deter you. Silly genre labels aside, this is a heavy fucking metal album. The Brooklyn quartet is back with their 3rd album, a ripping affair that contains elements of black metal and sludge/doom, while also heaping on some excellent thrash riffs and melodic guitar leads. The drumming on Savage Gold is outstanding, which is saying something because I usually don’t take notice of an album’s drums right off the bat. The vocals range from the standard hardcore/doom shouts to some higher register black metal screeches. What I like most about this album is that is different. On a lot of metal releases these days, the bands are pigeonholed into a genre and you can almost predict the next riff, but with Tombs, everything is a surprise. It doesn’t hurt that it sounds badass, as well.
Valley of the Sun - Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk (Fuzzorama)
The North American release of the debut full-length album from this Cincinnati power trio has finally arrived via Fuzzorama Records. (I've had my copy since December, because I'm cooler than you.) The gentle strumming on the opening track eventually gives way to the Valley’s trademark tasty riffage and there’s no going back. It’s hard to put a label on the VotS sound, because they don’t really sound like anybody else. It’s not totally stoner metal or desert rock or anything of that ilk, but that’s probably the best place to start. If you’re into fuzzed-out riffs, monster bass lines and pounding drums, you’re going to love this band. There’s really not a weak track on the record and there’s enough variation to keep your head banging from start to finish.