[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Arc EP (Relapse)
I wouldn’t normally listen to a Grindcore band, but this prolific Springfield, MA quartet is stepping out of the comfort zone this year with four EPs that cover the musical influences of each member. Luckily for us, the first in the series delves into the realm of Sludge/Doom Metal. The powerful riffs are as doomy as it gets and there are even a few groovy, classic metal riffs in there. The vocals are in the hardcore shout/shriek range and the lyrics are a bit angsty for my taste, but I really enjoy the music on this record. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series as the year progresses.
Borknagar - Winter Thrice (Century Media)
I’ve heard of Borknagar for years but I always assumed they were a shitty raw Black Metal band because “Borknagar”, so the 10th album from the Norwegian 6-piece was a delightful surprise. They’ve apparently morphed into a Progressive Viking/Folk Metal band and I can never get enough solid Viking Metal. They shift between Black Metal vocals and downright majestic soaring vocals and it all works together perfectly. There’s a shocking amount of melody here for a former titan of Black Metal and that’s not a bad thing. The guitars and keyboards weave seamlessly together, creating a regal soundscape worthy of the Vikings.
Gygax - Critical Hits (Creator-Destructor)
This album would have been pretty stunning if it was released about 10-15 years ago, but with the glut of retro-metal releases over that span, this one doesn’t quite have the immediate impact that it should have. Regardless, the debut album from the Ventura, CA quartet is a fun listen. Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitars weave over top of the smooth, D&D-influenced vocals. Pretty standard stuff here, really. The bassist/vocalist is the same dude from Gypsyhawk, so it's all pretty similar to that band's output. If you dig the late 70’s-early 80’s metal sound, you’ll probably enjoy this one. We might as well enjoy a few more of these releases before the Retro Metal bubble bursts in the next couple of years.
Latitudes - Old Sunlight (Debemur Morti)
Despite being saddled with the dreaded “Post-Metal” tag, this London quintet manages to worm just enough Doom and Sludge into their compositions to make a pleasant blend that really stands out. On their 3rd album, the band mixes Thrash and Doom riffs with some ambient, atmospheric pieces, keeping the vocals as sparse as possible. I actually dig the vocals – kind of a Pallbearer thing going on there – but I think more vocals may detract from the overall sound, so they made a good call there. This is more of a car album for me; solid background noise while I do my deep thinking. It’s not really a headbanger, but it’s heavy enough to make the grade this week.