[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Albinö Rhino - Albinö Rhino (Inverse)
The second album from this Finnish trio contains four epic songs of the classic stoner/doom variety. With the shortest track clocking in at 7:30, the songs get a little monotonous, but Albinö Rhino nails the Kyuss guitar sound and the riffs are as heavy as you'd expect. The vocals tend to lean toward the stereotypical High on Fire shouts, but the album is largely instrumental so they get a pass. That's a boss band name, too, right?
Arkona - Yav (Napalm)
The Moscow band's seventh album delves into Russian folklore and Slavic mythology, completely sung in Russian, with predominantly female vocals. Yav is a pagan/folk album at its core, with bagpipes, flutes and an arsenal of stringed instruments, but it's extremely progressive and even borders on black metal on occasion. I recommend this release for the folk metal fans who are tiring of the tried and true folk melodies and clichés.
Battleroar - Blood Of Legends (Cruz del Sur)
The Greek six-piece returns with their fourth album and continues down the path of epic power metal and tales of warfare. The vocals aren't the typical grating power metal vocals, so that's nice, and the twin guitar attack is on fire with melodic leads and thrashy riffs. There's even a violin thrown in for good measure. This is probably what Hammerfall would sound like if they weren't a bunch of pussies.
Doom:VS - Earthless (Solitude Productions)
The one man Swedish band returns for his third go-round, filled with oppressively heavy funeral doom and crushing death vocals. The pace is slow and the lyrics are as depressing as it gets, but there are some quiet interludes and melodic guitar lines on top of the maelstrom to keep things interesting. This is one for the crowd that likes their doom as slow and intense as possible. I'm guessing that even Electric Wizard thinks this dude needs to mellow out.
Ifing - Against This Weald (Blood Music)
The debut album from this Michigan duo delves into the world of blackened folk metal. The album is epic in sound and scope, with the three tracks clocking in at 36 minutes, including a 4 minute intro that just sets the stage. There's plenty of atmosphere here, with nature soundscapes and shredding guitars, and the feel isn't ruined by constant blast beats. The album maintains its lo-fi credibility, yet doesn't sound like it was recorded in a garage. If you like Ulver, you'll dig this.
Pet The Preacher - The Cave & The Sunlight (Napalm)
The Danish trio returns with a second album of pretty standard stoner metal. The Cave & The Sunlight has some incredible production, with a huge drum sound, thick guitars, and a killer, audible bass tone. There's not much new going on here, but if you like the classic 90's stoner rock sound, you'll find plenty to enjoy here. This is a solid, no-frills rock and roll album in the vein of classic Monster Magnet.
Space Chaser - Watch the Skies (This Charming Man)
The German quartet brings back everything awesome about 80's thrash on their debut album. Killer riffs and leads, strong vocal performances, impeccable production and goofball alien themes make this one of the most enjoyable releases of 2014. Make sure to check out the second half of the album for the best stuff. These guys might be late to the thrash revival party, but they definitely raised the bar with this release. [Full Review]
Vestal Claret - The Cult of Vestal Claret (Cruz del Sur)
These two Connecticut dudes keep busy with EPs and splits and their 3rd album keeps the party going with 70's influenced doom/heavy metal and occult themes. They include a cover of Sabbath's "Who Are You?" in case you were wondering where their minds are. The production is a little rough, with a popping sound on the bass drum, but that's the only complaint. Plus, Vestal Claret means "virgin blood", so that's pretty neat.