[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Arcana 13 - Danza Macabra (Aural Music)
With the breakthrough success of Ghost, I would expect a glut of similar sounding bands crawling out of the woodwork. That was my first impression of the debut release from this Italian quartet, but it really exceeds and destroys anything that Ghost ever released. While there are retro organs and almost poppy vocals, the riffs here are heavy as fuck and the lyrics aren’t cartoonish. Apparently all eight tracks are based on classic horror movies, but I’m not well versed enough on that subject to glean any insight. Regardless, it’s an exceedingly fun release. If you’re looking for doomy riffs and spooky atmosphere, give this one a try.
Draugnim - Vulturine (Debemur Morti)
The Finnish trio brings some solid Bathory worship with their third album. Combining Black Metal with orchestrations, folk elements and Pagan imagery, this is pretty much all you can ask for in a modern-day Nordic release. The vocals are more of a guttural death growl than your typical Black Metal nonsense, so that’s a plus. The guitars are razor sharp and blazing throughout, blasting out enough melody to make all of Gothenburg weep. The drums are super echo-y, conjuring up images of ancient calls to battle (or something like that). This isn’t my usual forte, but I enjoyed it very much.
R.I.P. - In the Wind (Totem Cat)
I’ve been looking forward to this release for a long time, based solely on the album cover and knowing nothing about the band. It turns out that you can judge a book (or record) by its cover sometimes. The debut from this Portland quartet is the most fun I’ve had in a while. The lo-fi production, the up-tempo doom riffs, the reverb-drenched vocals…it all works perfectly. This is just a classic Heavy Metal album that doesn’t need to trade on nostalgia to make its point. It sounds like something that could have been released in 1982, but it also sounds incredible contemporary. I’m definitely keeping an eye on these dudes for a while.
Skuggsja - A Piece for Mind & Mirror (Season of Mist)
I have a hard time getting into a lot of Folk Metal releases because it’s all starting to sound the same. This release from members of Enslaved and Warduna (and a host of contributing musicians) is exactly what a Folk Metal should sound like. Rather than cranking through some standard Melodeath riffs and throwing some flute on top and singing about mead, these guys put some thought and talent into the record. The metal elements, while a bit sparse, could stand on their own without the additional folk elements and the folk parts would sound equally amazing without any drums or heavy guitars. That, in my opinion, should be the ultimate goal in Folk Metal and these dudes have achieved the target.