25th Mission: Resilience

Long Island metallers 25th Mission are here with their follow up to the 2020 debut, Disciples of Metal. Resilience shows a metal band playing with talent and confidence. First off, vocalist Mike Deyhle is going to be a star. Right away his vocal style reminds me of a unique mix of Rob Halford and Messiah Marcolin (Candlemass, Memento Mori). Take a song like “Clash of the Faiths.” He sings in a typical heavy metal style, but can go high pitched or even seductive in style. “Kill Fight Die” is like old school Overkill thrash with a guitar solo you would have heard on an early Metallica record. “My Life” takes an anthemic approach, “Compelled to Kill” is straight ahead metal, and there are some old school gang chorus vocals on opener “Resilience.” A cover of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” closes what is about an hour of high quality metal that defies age and trends. I look forward to seeing them play out live. 

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Absolon: A Portrait of Madness

American metallers Absolon first appeared back in 2013 with their debut full length Darkness Rising: The Tale of Derek Blackheart. Almost ten years later vocalist Ken Pike returns with another psychological horror based storyline on A Portrait of Madness. Joining him is guitarist/bassist Marc Vanderberg and keyboardist Ryo Pike. Ken uses gothic imagery, and even though the storyline is also in that goth vein, his vocals and the music of Absolon are firmly in the eighties heavy metal/hard rock vein. There’s nothing flashy and intricate, just straight forward music and vocals, but some who prefer the dark side lyrically and imagery will be drawn to this. 

Label: Wormholedeath

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A.I.D.S.: Maleficus Sabbatum

 A.I.D.S. is the solo project of American musician Tophetarath and Maleficus Sabbatum is the long awaited follow up to 2006’s debut, Syndrome of the End Approaching. This is mostly black metal, or more safely labeled extreme metal. It’s a really solid album with some variety. The first two songs are fast and chaotic, but “Barrage of Sordid Visions” takes a more controlled approach. The creepy “Foreboding Watchtower” and slower, more atmospheric songs like “Mound of Mortal Dread Terror” and “Insanity’s Darkened Frey” are more enjoyable than the faster sloppier “Reversed Bleeding.” Overall, this is a solid black metal album, half really good, half fast, but not as interesting.

Label: Witches Brew

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Alex Nunziati: Black Space Void

The main idea behind Alex Nunziati (ex-Theatres Des Vampires, Lord Vampyr, Malamorte) and his solo career is to be able to not have any boundaries on the music he creates. He released his debut, Il Mangiatore Di Peccati, last year and Black Space Void is a departure as it’s more of a traditional metal and thrash metal album. It’s clear that Alex is influenced by the eighties metal scene. I’m often reminded of fellow Italians Death S.S. when listening to Black Space Void. “Stardust” has some variety, it’s heavy and dynamic. “Possessed by the Astral Entity” has simple riffs and “Black Space Void” is classic thrash.  Alex’s vocal style does match the music well. This isn’t a typical solo album that is meant to show off musicianship, rather it’s a vehicle to create metal music without boundaries or a preset formula. 

Label: Moribund

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Anguish Force: Novum Odinem Vetus Emblem

Anguish, I mean Anguish Force (you can tell Force was added for legal reasons) have just unleashing their tenth full length of traditional metal. Even though only guitarists Luigi Guarino and Luca Mattarei are the only members who recorded their debut twenty years ago, Anguish Force has kept their Accept meets Grave Digger sound. Yes, they sound more aligned to the German metal scene, than the pompous metal scene Italy is known for. Sometimes Anguish Force venture off into thrash (“The Tower of Hunger”) or even punk (the Motorhead like closer “Millenian Lies,” most of this album is in line with traditional heavy metal. “You Must Die Tonight” is like train bearing down on you, but “We Don’t Talk in the Pit” is way too simple and boring. 

Label: Wanikiya

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Blood Moon Wedding: An American Nightmare

This is one of the more unusual albums I’ve come across. It’s actually more cinematic than anything, and it’s a “goth noir roadtrip folktale.” Literally, at least half of the album is spoken word and storytelling. The idea of Blood Moon Wedding comes from British musician Steve Lake (Zounds) and American vocalist Mia Dean (Antler Family). Joining them are some musicians who bring the story to life. I don’t know what to think of this. It’s definitely trippy and interesting on a storytelling and visual level. The music is definitely not metal, or even rock, but it fits the story and provides an atmosphere. Much of it is spoken word, but there is some that is sung. An interesting concept for sure- I would love to see a film companion to go with the whole album.

Labbel: Mobilization

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Bred For Slaughter: Here You’re Born Here You Die

 This is the type of grinding death metal album you would have heard back when Napalm Death and early Sepultura were first coming out with music. Here You’re Born Here You Die is the debut recording of California’s Bred For Slaughter and it’s a quick onslaught of six songs, all fast and vicious. One member of note is vocalist Mike Beams (Mortuous, ex-Exhumed). The lyrics harken back to the goregrind bands from the early to mid nineties, and those fast and raw guitar solos are right out of Slayer’s Show No Mercy playbook. If you want something that sounds more like it was recorded in 1990 than in 2022 and you love extreme metal, check this out. 

Label: Horror Pain Gore Death

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Burden Of Ymir: Heorot

Canadian musician Joe Caswell (Olim, Anthromechanicus, Vintertodt, Drowstorm) is one busy musician. Heorot is Burden Of Ymir’s fifth full length since Joe put this project together in 2019 and this album continues to develop his mix of black metal, folk, and other subtle elements. “The Great Mead Hall” actually has some Iron Maiden influenced folk, but with black metal vocals and a moody atmosphere. “Revenge Found in the Night” is basically heavy metal with black metal vocals. “Threat of Fire” is more of a signature folk sound that dominates Heorot, but my favorite song here is “The Ninth Hour Approaches” which has long build up with a slower pace and a Viking metal type of sound. Joe’s created a band that mixes several elements into a diverse album yet again.

Label: Flowing Downard

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Carnal Savagery: Worm Eaten

I think Gothenburg’s Carnal Savagery are making up for lost time. The Swedish death metallers have members who were part of Divine Souls and Cromlech over twenty years ago, and now their back together with Carnal Savagery and have released four albums in less than three years. Listening to Worm Eaten, you realize they aren’t at a loss for ideas. This is typical Swedish death metal and Grave and Dismember are certainly obvious reference points. Most of the album is mid paced and enjoyable. “Return of the Rotten Dead” takes the brutal stomp route and songs like “Revel in Madness” and “Perpetual Suffering” turn on the speed a bit. There really is nothing better than that thick, heavy Swedish death metal guitar sound and that is all over Worm Eaten. Don’t think this is going to be just another brutal or gory death metal album, Carnal Savagery have the talent to sit right alongside Like an Everflowing Stream and You’ll Never See

Label: Moribund

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Category VI: Firecry 

The third album by Newfoundland’s Category VI is upon us and it’s their first since 2017’s War is Hell. Metal Rules editor Geoff Waye is their guitarist and frontwoman Amanda Jackman is a kick ass vocalist. I also like that you can frequently hear Keith Jackman’s bass playing on the album- his talent and style reminds me of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. Category VI primarily stick to the power metal sound, but the heavy single “Valkyrie” has a thrash edge at times. Amanda’s vocals are exceptional on Firecry and she has the attitude to fit the heavy metal, but I actually feel the more melodic “Heavy is the Crown” is the best fit for her style. If you’re looking for those female singers from European symphonic metal bands, this is not that style- but if you enjoy old school metal with a attitude, Category VI is worth your while. 

Label: Moribund

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Celestial Wizard: Winds of the Cosmos

Celestial Wizard first appeared in 2018 with A Sinister Awakening. Surprisingly from Colorado, the European sounding band reappeared in summer 2022 with Winds of the Cosmos. Scarlet Records signed them and are now officially releasing the album worldwide. Celestial Wizard would appear to be a boisterous power metal band, but they are actually more aligned with melodic death metal. There are definitely power metal elements all over Winds of the Cosmos. Keyboard flourishes appear here and there and the keys are always in the background. The vocals will be clean and traditional power metal sounding, but most of the album keeps in that melodic death metal style. After the opening instrumental “Andromeda,” Celestial Wizard alternate between predominantly power metal and melodeath for the next four songs. I feel like Celestial Wizard haven’t really found their niche.

Label: Scarlet

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Chasm Of Discord: Admonishing the Dawn of Reverence

Oregon death metallers Chasm Of Discord is the creation of guitar shredder Matt Miller who has released several solo albums. Joining him is vocalist Tony Reviere (Spawn) and drummer extraordinaire Marco Pitruzzelk (Rings Of Saturn, Six Feet Under). The result is an album of brutal death metal that reminds me a bit of Malevolent Creation due to its speed, precision, and brutality. Matt shreds all over this album songs like “Identified Singularity” and “Formless Being” have guitar solos galore. Matt shows off his sharp riffing on the brutal “Monolith of Deceit”  and slamming groove on “Disparaging Revelations.” Of course if you’re a drummer with Rings Of Saturn, you must be talented, and Marco’s drumming is insane and fast- check out “Living Envy the Dead” for proof. This is old school American death metal, but it’s played by superior musicians. 

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Contrarian: Sage of Shekhinah

Progressive death metallers Contrarian have built up quite an audience since releasing their 2015 debut Polemic. The guitar tandem of Jim Tasikas and Brian Mason continue to master their craft on Sage of Shekhinah, their fifth full length to date. Joining them is new singer Jakob Sin, who oftentimes makes me think of Kelly Schaefer’s vocal style with Atheist. While not as jazz infused as Atheist (especially like Elements), Contrarian do add intricacies that hint at this influence. The guitar playing is fast, technical but always interesting. The drumming on “In Gehenna” is just insane with speed and precision. Contrarian are part of a new group of progressive/ technical death metallers who are showing more consistency and reliability than the original leaders of this scene. You have to admire that in this band. 

Label: Willowtip

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Blackwulf: Thieves and Liars

Thieves and Liars is Blackwulf’s fourth full length and the first since the awesome Sinister Sides came out in 2018. While I feel Sinister Sides was their break through album and one of the best heavy metal albums released that year, Thieves and Liars is a worthy follow up. One thing Blackwulf has working for them is the talent of vocalist Alex Cunningham. He adapts to the psychedelia of “Psychonaut/ Edge of Light,” the upbeat rock riffing of “Brother” and the opening Alice Cooper/seventies sounding “Killing Kind.” Black Sabbath is another obvious reference- even more so on Sinister Sides, but it’s still apparent here, just check out that Geezer Butler like bass line during “Cries of a Dying Star.” I know I’m dating myself, but Blackwulf remind me of Abdullah when they were kicking ass with high octane rock with a kick ass vocalist back in the late nineties. 

Label: Ripple Music

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Blackwulf: Thieves and Liars

Thieves and Liars is Blackwulf’s fourth full length and the first since the awesome Sinister Sides came out in 2018. While I feel Sinister Sides was their break through album and one of the best heavy metal albums released that year, Thieves and Liars is a worthy follow up. One thing Blackwulf has working for them is the talent of vocalist Alex Cunningham. He adapts to the psychedelia of “Psychonaut/ Edge of Light,” the upbeat rock riffing of “Brother” and the opening Alice Cooper/seventies sounding “Killing Kind.” Black Sabbath is another obvious reference- even more so on Sinister Sides, but it’s still apparent here, just check out that Geezer Butler like bass line during “Cries of a Dying Star.” I know I’m dating myself, but Blackwulf remind me of Abdullah when they were kicking ass with high octane rock with a kick ass vocalist back in the late nineties. 

Label: Ripple Music

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Bodysnatcher: Bleed Abide

 Bleed Abide was originally released last year, but while they’re in the middle of a two month national tour, it’s getting a second, well deserved life. The Florida quartet first appeared in 2017 with Death of Me and followed that up with 2020’s This Heavy Void. Bleed Abide, being their crucial third full length clearly established Bodysnatcher as a leading deathcore band in America. This is an absolutely slamming mix of death metal and hardcore with slamming riffs and some slow grooves throughout. Bleed Abide has thirteen song and it’s all over too soon. You will be hard pressed to find a more intense and heavy album this year.

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Chemical Crucifixion: Chemical Crucifixion

Chemical Crucifixion is another project from the Fistula guys; this time joining bassist Bahb Branca and drummer/vocalist Corey Bing is guitarist Steve Watson (Iron Monkey, Raven Creed). First off, don’t let the logo make you think this is going to be some goregrind album. Second of all, this is some real kick ass thrash metal going on here. This is Chemical Crucifixion’s debut and it’s less than half an hour and has thirteen tracks, including a kick ass cover of Celtic Frost’s “Cherry Orchards.” As much as I like Fistula and enjoyed the Nazgulizor album- this is the best out of the four albums Corey and Bahb have released so far in the last year. A must have for thrashaholics.  

Label: Black Mold

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Cloak: Black Flame Eternal

Atlanta’s Cloak release their third album, Black Flame Eternal this May. Like many bands, there was a four year gap due to the pandemic restriction craziness. Cloak play a style of metal that crosses over several boundaries. “Ethereal Fire” opens Black Flame Eternal, I would call it combination of death and dark metal- there’s enough variety to keep you interested. “With Fury and Allegiance” reminds me of a Sepultura song. Elsewhere, “Seven Thunders” actually sounds more like a Viking metal song. “Eye of the Abyss” and “Holy Dark” are musically like mid paced black metal. “Heavenless” is an acoustic song, and another change of pace. The closing title track has some interesting melodic tendencies amidst the extreme metal. Black Flame Eternal is another solid album from Cloak. I don’t think they have found their identity, but there’s some positive to say about the variety. 

Label: Season Of Mist

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Daughters Of Sophia: Daughters Of Sophia 

Daughters Of Sophia is a melodic black metal project from Italian AzVs. They have two previous full lengths; 2015’s Soeurs de Sagesse and 2020’s Reflifu, and when they’ve played live they do have a full band. This third full length is almost eighty minutes of instrumental melodic/post-black metal. There is the signature fast tremolo type of guitar sound, dramatic keyboards, and fast pace we’ve come to expect from the genre. The songs (and album) are really long and there isn’t enough variety to make listeners pay attention for the entire duration. I find a band like Wounds Of Recollection really benefits from the variation (and the vocals) compared to what you hear with this album. 

Label: A Sadness Song

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De Mi Sangre: Enajenantes

De Mi Sangre is a band from Argentina that combines Sepultura like metal with some death, thrash, groove, and even occasional goth thrown into their sound. Enajenantes is the follow up to their 2016 debut El Fin de los Errores. “Desarraigado” focuses on the groove and has some in your face pop. “A Merced de Mis Demonios” is another song focused on that groove. Another highlight is “En Pena” which is a dramatic song, melodic, but also very dark. It’s not really thrash, it’s not death metal, it’s not even groove or straight heavy metal- but a little of each can be found in your typical De Mi Sangre song. De Mi Sangre are carrying on that sound that’s been popularized by Sepultura and Soulfly, and those who enjoy Hamlet should seek this one out.

Label: Kvlt Und Kaos

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Despised: Scorched Earth

The Brazilian duo of vocalist Rodolfo Carrega (Clawn) and musician Alex Roque comprise Despised. Scorched Earth is their twelve song, less than twenty minute debut and it’s a brutal album. More death metal than grindcore, Despised are intense. “My Hate Against Your Lies” starts this album off with that brutal death metal sound and there’s some hardcore influence. The thirty second “Force Fed Bullshit” is pure grind. Want killer death metal riffing, listen to “Chernobyl Burns.”  You want some sick drumming, listen to “Urge to Kill.” For old school, mid paced death metal you have “Coldblooded Murder.” This album hits hard, the less than twenty minute run time will have you wishing for more. 

Label: Kvlt Und Kaos

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Digir Gidim: The Celestial Macrocosmic Scale and the Shimmering Path of the Supreme Regulator

Now that’s a mouthful. This is the follow up to Italian black metallers Digir Gidim’s debut from 2017, I Thought There Was the Sun Awaiting My Awakening. The duo of Lalartu (vocals) and Utanapistim Ziusudra (music) have created an epic four song album. Ironically, or maybe planned, all four songs are within ten seconds of eleven and a half minutes. “IV” is chaotic and “II” is fast, but there’s a lot of building up and melodic tendencies to Digir Gidim’s extreme metal. The vocals are almost exclusively screaming black metal, except for some clean Viking like singing on “II.” This reminds me of some of those cosmic bands from the late nineties, like Limbonic Art and Covenant.

Label: ATMF

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Elvenking: Rapture

Rapture is part two of the Reader of the Runes series and the follow up to 2019’s Divination release. Only vocalist Damna and guitarist/keyboardist/harsh vocalist Aydan remain from the original lineup. These Italian folk metallers have developed a reputation for their folk metal sound. The first two songs on Rapture are the best. “Rapture” and “The Hanging Tree” are mostly straight forward power metal and prove that Elvenking can excel in that genre if they chose. Most of the rest of the album sees the folk metal sound finding its way into most tracks. There’s some occasional death growls (“Herdchants”) and some fast and heavy music on closer “The Repentant.” I’ve never been a huge fan of the folk metal genre, it’s a little too bouncy and happy for me. “The Cursed Cavalier” and the bizarre “Covenant” just don’t do it for me. 

Label: AFM

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Elysion: Bring Out Your Dead

Greek metallers Elysion have developed from a gothic metal sound to a more power metal sound with their third full length and follow up to 2014’s Someplace Better. “Blink of an Eye” establishes a heavy power metal groove similar to Eldritch and is the best song on the album. Elsewhere melodic metal dominates songs like the dramatic “Far Away” and “Brand New Me.” The typical ballad (“Buried Alive”) pops up early. “Raid the Universe” is a cool track, a little different for Elysion and “As the Flower Withers” has more life than the usual Elysion song. Vocalist Christianna Hatzimihali is solid throughout the album.

Label: Massacre

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Embryo: A Vivid Shade on Misery

Italy’s Embryo play a style of metal that combines death metal with hardcore into that recognizable deathcore sound. This is their fifth full length and first since 2017’s A Step Beyond Divinity. “Pride” is the opening track and it leans death metal with dynamic music and a vocalist (Roberto Pasolini) who is very good for a death metal band. He alternates between a high pitched aggressive style with a more guttural growling style. “Darkest Lights” and “Medusa” rely on a heavy groove, “Vanitas” takes a melodic death metal path, and the death thrash riffing on “The Seed of Lividity” is tight. I’m even reminded of old Strapping Young Lad with the background keyboards and style of extreme metal exhibited towards the end of “M.M.D.C.”. Deathcore seems to have run its course in terms of originality, but when there is a quality band like Embryo, the genre can still be enjoyable to listen to. 

Label: Rockshots

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Enforced: War Remains

Virginia thrashers Enforced are back with their third and best album. Following 2019’s At the Walls and 2021’s Killgrid, War Remains fills part of the huge void left by Slayer’s brutal thrash. “Mercy Killing Fields” and “Ultra Violence” have vicious Slayer like riffs. Vocally, Enforced are aggressive, almost death metal at times. Musically, many of their riffs will bring you back to the eighties thrash days. The song that probably best shows off Enforced’s signature sound is “War Remains.” Overall, aggressive thrash is the sound of Enforced.

Label: Century Media

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Enslaved: Heimdal

The evolution of Enslaved continues. It’s hard to believe this was the same band who released Frost back in 1994. Only Ivar Bjornson (guitars) and Grutle Kjellson (vocals, bass) remain from those earlier days. Heimdal is their sixteenth album and first since 2020’s Utgard. Right away, “Behind the Mirror” is perhaps their most progressive sounding song yet, even though there are occasional death growls. It’s also the best song on Heimdal. “Congelia” is next and it’s more aggressive, fast, and remains steadily paced. My second favorite track, “Forest Dweller,” is next. Progressive and mellow for the first few minutes, “Forest Dweller” gets heavy with some aggressive black metal vocals. “Kingdom” has some modern sounding keyboards and some weird gothic vocals- not a bad song, but different for Enslaved. There’s some adventurous instrumentation on “The Eternal Sea.” “Caravans to the Outer Worlds” has everything we’ve come to know from Enslaved. A build up and fast Viking metal with progressive moments and a variety of vocal styles. “Heimdal” closes the album with a wicked opening riff and develops into some weirdness that’s different from what we’ve heard from Enslaved before. Enslaved has left behind their more aggressive days for over twenty years now. They still manage to sound true to themselves and Heimdal is just as good as anything they’ve done so far.

Label: Nuclear Blast

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Hail The Void: Memento Mori

Hail The Void first appeared in 2020 with their self titled debut album. Memento Mori is the follow up and this is some great metal. “Mind Undone” is an intro of madness, and Hail The Void kick things into gear with “Writing on the Wall” which is the perfect mix of doom metal and vocals. Vocalist Kirin Gudmunson is the perfect vocalist for this style of music. He’s got the talent, but also the raw emotion to complement the intensity of the doom metal Hail The Void specialize in. Black Sabbath is an obvious point of reference especially on “Talking to the Dead” (I love those emphatic, but clean vocals) and “100 Pills” which is trippy and reminds me a lot of Black Sabbath’s “Air Dance.” Only album closer “The Void” fails to greatly impress. This Canadian trio are really creating great music and they have an awesome vocalist, you don’t have to be a Black Sabbath or doom metal fan to appreciate the talent here.

Label: Ripple Music

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Half Me: Soma

Soma is the full length debut from German quintet Half Me. Half Me sound more like an American band with their mix of Korn, Slipknot and industrial sounds. Check out “Wraith” which combines some screaming vocals with a more melodic singing style that recalls bands like Mnemic and Two Way Mirror. “Distort” leans more toward industrial, while the brutal double bass drumming and screaming vocals on “Proxy” goes more for modern or nu metal style. “Outbreak” features some djent guitar playing. Again you will hear contrasts between the clean singing of “Blacklight” and the brutality of “I Am But a Guest in Exile.” Half Me have released an exciting debut, I think they will have a legitimate shot at becoming a big band on the modern metal scene.

Label: Arising Empire

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Ice Age: Waves of Loss and Power

It was a great surprise to see that Josh Pincus (vocals, keyboards) and Jimmy Pappas (guitars) had reformed Ice Age and they had a new album (Waves of Loss and Power) coming out. The Great Divide (1999) and Liberation (2001) established them as a leading progressive metal band in America. As good as those albums were, Waves of Loss and Power is even better. “The Needle’s Eye” opens the album with energy and flair. It’s a perfect opener with energy and impressive guitar work from Pappas. “Riverflow” has a keyboard intro and then old school progressive metal sound. At points Ice Age sound like Styx, especially with the keyboard presence and the interplay between bass and keys work well. You knew this comparison was inevitable, but “Forever” has that classic Dream Theater sound with some sick drumming. There are frequent changes from quiet to busy moments musically and the lyrics harken back to The Great Divide. The progressive “Together Now” actually reminds me a bit of Enchant. “All My Years” and “Float Away” are straight ahead and catchy songs, both less than five minutes in length. The former has some vocal harmonies going on. The piano instrumental “Remembrance” provides a segue to the fourteen minute epic “Water Child.” It’s been a long time- over twenty years, but Ice Age sound like they never left.

Label: Sensory

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In Dornen: Trauer

In Dornen was the Austrian solo project of Wolfgang Kronsteiner. Wolfgang released a full length debut, Isolation, in 2009 and after about a decade of quiet, he returned with two full lengths in 2022. Trauer is the latest e.p. (basically full length) and first to feature guitarist Raffael. In Dornen play an impressive style of doom death and they have enough variety and moods to keep listeners interested. “Abschiedsbrief” and “Mein Letzter Tag”are both excellent songs; the later is an epic that just keeps building in sound and intensity. Right through the closing track “Trauer” which is just piano and spoken word, but maintains the haunting vibes that In Dornen are so good at. 

Label: Kvlt Und Kaos

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Isolant: Drain

It’s been about seven years since Isolant released their self titled debut. Joining mainman Max Furst is vocalist M. Alagna and nosiemaker M. Souto for this e.p. Drain features almost half an hour of music. The vocals sound like the type you would hear from a death metal band, but musically will recall the early days of Godflesh, or the first albums by Pitch Shifter and Scorn. The percussion is heavy and in the forefront. “Drain” seems to capture Isolant is their best- slow, punishing doom mixed with industrial music. The shortest track, “Lamentation” is the only one that takes the ambient route- the rest of Drain is that heavy mix of doom, death, and industrial.

Label: Sentient Ruin

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It’s Always Sunny In Tijuana: Say Nothing

Say Nothing is a four song e.p. from Denver’s It’s Always Sunny In Tijuana. The progressive deathcore band released a full length titled Demonia in 2018. Like everyone else, their lives were thrown into turmoil thanks to the response to the covid epidemic, but they were inspired to create this e.p. to let fans know they’re still here. The first thing I noticed about Say Nothing is the musicianship is first class. “Big Faces” is a great opener and showcases the skills of the band. Vocally, you will hear quality as well, especially on “Dream Crusher.” “Lakewood is Burning” offers some melodic intricacies. This is one of the better bands you will hear in the deathcore genre. Look forward to the full length.

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Kardinal Sin: S.A.L.I.G.I.A.

Kardinal Sin was originally known as Rough Diamond before changing their name nine years. Rough Diamond released a debut in 2012 called Stories from the Old Days. S.A.L.I.G.I.A. is their third album since the name change and it’s still basically straight ahead European power metal with expected songs. “They Crashed in the Storm” opens the album with prominent keyboard pomp and some vocal choirs in the background. Speaking of keyboards, there’s a weird solo on closer “The Aftermath,” but most of the album fails to excite. “The Beginning of the End” and “Devastation” just don’t inspire much enthusiasm. This type of power metal sounds better when the bands go over the top like Dragonforce and Rhapsody used to do.

Label: Massacre

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Kommand: Death Age

Kommand is an American death metal band that sounds like they were playing in Sweden about thirty years ago. “Final Virus” kicks off Death Age and makes me feel nostalgic over the days when Dismember, Grave, and Edge Of Sanity ruled the world. Death Age is the follow up to Kommand’s 2020 debut, Terrorscape. It’s a short gut punch with six songs and about twenty five minutes of death metal. Most tracks come fast, but “Global Death” has a dramatic build first. Nothing flashy or modern here, just straight up old school Scandanavian death metal. 

Label: 20 Buck Spin

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L.A. Guns: Black Diamonds

L.A. Guns (and specifically vocalist Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns) should go down in history as one of the most talented and underrated rock bands in America. Black Diamonds is their fourteenth full length; Lewis is on every album except 1996’s American Hardcore and 1999’s Shrinking Violet; and Tracii is on every album except 2005’s Tales from the Strip and 2012’s Hollywood Forever… amazingly they have yet to release a mediocre record. Black Diamonds is the fourth album for L.A. Guns since Tracii and Phil have reunited. Amazingly, they sound more invigorated and have as much punk and belligerent attitude as ever before. “Lowlife” is L.A. Guns at the fastest and most hyper. “Shame” has a mix of the blues guitar with a punk attitude. The first two tracks are classic rockers, but I can live without the ballad (“Diamonds”), despite their biggest hit being “The Ballad of Jayne,” ballads just aren’t their forte. I remember hanging out with Tracii and then singer Jizzy Pearl in the late nineties and they said L.A. Guns is just a rocking blues band that loves Led Zeppelin- well check out “Gonna Lose” for a total Zeppelin vibe. Guns has been a stellar guitarist who can play many different styles, check out his riff on “Rip and Tear” and the heavy rock of “Man in the Moon” for proof. Lewis is a perfect match. He is instantly recognizable and melodic, but he has the attitude to pull off the fast and furious rockers that L.A. Guns continues to promote. Can’t wait to see them out live again.

Label: Frontiers

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Lesotho: Through the Dying Light

Now this is what instrumental music should sound like. I’ve never been a fan of music without vocals, but Lesotho really know how to build a song and make it interesting. The trio of guitarist Kyle Loffredo, bassist Cliff Cazeau, and drummer Zach Ganshirt formed two years ago and released an e.p., Summer Wars, a year later. Through the Dying Light is their full length debut and it was recorded at the same studio as IsisOceanic. It’s an obvious comparison since Lesotho play a style of post-metal that’s similar to prime Isis. The only vocals are a brief spoken word on “Floater” by Molly Grace Chandler. The typical song on Through the Dying Light starts quiet and builds intensity. It’s not extreme metal or doom, just good music. After hearing so many generic vocalists, I feel like a vocalist might have ruined this album. 

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Lifeless: From Cradle to Grave

The duo of Varg Sverr (Norwegian vocalist) and Alex Bjorn (Australian musician) are Lifeless. They have at least three other projects together, so they are certainly familiar with each other. Lifeless released three full lengths in 2020 and From Cradle to Grave was originally released in November of 2021, but it is getting a proper release this spring. They play a version of black metal that incorporates some doom and a depressive atmosphere. The keyboards play a prominent role on the album, although guitars and drums are prominent. The vocal style is limiting, but there is some spoken word for variety. Closer “Hate and Pain” has some clean singing as well. The slow pace is depressive, but the style, especially vocally, lends itself to the black metal genre.

Label: ATMF

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Lunar: The Illusionist

The Illusionist is the third album from California progressive metallers Lunar. It is easily their best album to date and a progressive metal epic on par with 2023 albums by Ice Age and Enigma Division. “Prestidignation” opens The Illusionist and it’s really impressive and undefinable. “The Illusionist” is next up, confidently paced prog metal with a cool saxophone addition toward the end. “Turn Off the World” is another highlight, with a brutal groove and death metal vocals coming from out of nowhere.  Guitar solos are all over “Worship the Sun,” but it also has some acoustic strumming. More death metal vocals and a guest guitar solo from Obscura’s Christian Munzner on “Juggling Chainsaws.” “Disassembled” is the only boring track, with its typical progressive metal sound. Lunar have really created a conceptual progressive metal album that fans of the genre will really love.

Label: Saibut Reign

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Nazgulizor: The Corruptor

The Fistula trio of bassist Bahb Branca, vocalist and drummer Corey Bing, and guitarist Wizard have created a monster album with Nazgulizor. The Corruptor is six songs and half an hour of extreme doom bliss. “The Corruptor” kicks off the album fast and furious, but it’s the slow paced doom that is featured on most of the song. The next song, “Nazgulized” is a fast one minute track and “Fungal Putrification” is where Nazgulizor really hits their stride. The is also a fast first half, followed by a slow second half and both styles click perfectly.  “Necotized Sporocarp” gets into a heavy metal groove for the first two minutes before settling into the recognizable slower doom style. Corey takes a break from singing (screaming) on the instrumental closer, “Lidless Eyes.” This is the fourth album to come out in less than a year featuring the Fistula camp (Fistula, Chemical Crucifixion, Nazgulizor, and Three) and they all venture into different genres and are always an interesting listen. 

Label: Black Mold

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Neolia: Neolia

This band is going to be huge. You know how Tool and the Mars Volta developed into their own sound and how they have a legion of devoted fans? That’s what Israel’s Neolia is about to do with this self titled debut album. I know some will also compare them to Teramaze or Karnivool due to their unique progressive metal style. “The Shed” opens the album, leaning more progressive metal, but there are alternative influences at work and the vocals are fantastic. The vocals are all over the place- some screaming, some beautiful melodic singing, unique clean vocals- this album is all about music and vocal diversity. The experimental music between verses on “Anchors” reminds me of Cynic, that groove and style on “Rise and Fall” recalls Helmet, and Unsane is a reference for “Refahim.” There is a lot of experimentation here too and jazz, Latin, and other worldly influences all over this album. It’s long and demanding, but frequently very rewarding and cathartic. 

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Opus Arise: The Network

The Network is the second album from symphonic metallers Opus Arise. This one features some different musicians and was mostly composed and scored by Matthew Logan and Matthew Hannah. The nine piece band features cello, violin, viola, and contrabass; along with the traditional guitar, bass, and drums set up. First off, this is the type of album I would normally not like, especially since it’s instrumental. However, seven of the eight tracks are explosive metal tunes with enough variety offered with each track so it never gets boring. Of course there are dramatic tracks like “Reminiscence” and “The Unanswered Question.” There is some symphonic speed metal on opener “Inner Skepticism” and the second track “Electric Jungle” will have your head nodding to the heavy, palm muted riff. “Change” allows Logan to show off his drumming power, he also impresses on the short and very proggy “Antimatter.” Instrumental symphonic metal- you can usually count me out, but Opus Arise proves me wrong with this impressive combination. 

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Pestilength: Bosom Gryphos

Spanish death sludge doomsters Pestilength is a two piece band.  They released their debut full length, Eilatik, in 2020 and this follow up was originally released independently late 2022. Sentient Ruin is properly releasing Bosom Gryphos for the public to experience. I noticed two things right away. The cover artwork is unique and remarkable and the band’s name sounds like someone with a lisp saying pestilence. I feel like Pestilength lean more toward death metal here, they actually remind me a bit of nineties death metal like Abominant. The drums are up front in the weird mix, while the guitars are buried and not distinct. This give Bosom Gryphos weight and a full sound, but the guitars really only sound clear a few times- the head nodding “Tephra Codex” or the creepy “Chrome.”

Label: Sentient Ruin

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Predatory Void: Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being

And discomfort is what you will feel… in a good way. Predatory Void is a Belgium band formed by guitarist Lennart Bossu (Amenra, Oathbreaker) along with the bassist from Amenra and a guitarist from Cobra The Impaler. Vocalist Lina R. is a stand out here, as she has the diversity and intensity to match the brutal, disturbing doom put on display here. Predatory Void seamlessly sway between introspective, melodic and quiet moments, with speed and extreme aggression. As usual, I find myself really enjoying the slow doomy parts, while appreciating the fast, grinding, often sloppy sections not as much- although the contrast is certainly effective. Lina screams when necessary but also has some hypnotic (“Struggling”) features to her voice. This is one of the more interesting extreme metal albums I’ve across this year.

Label: Century Media

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Savage Existence:  Savage Existence

Savage Existence is a modern metal band from Costa Rica and features three members (vocalist Anton Darusso, guitarist Andres Castro, and bassist Emil Minott) from power metal band Wings Of Destiny. They released a debut (Animals) shortly after forming in 2021 and now take the next step with Logan Mader (Machine Head) producing this new album. Machine Head and Pantera are good reference points for Savage Existence, although they don’t sound exactly like either. The vocals on “Steady Blows to the Head” and the music on “Matricide” do recall those bands, respectively. I dig the southern groove on “Leap of Faith” and “Independence Day” is anthemic and appropriately vulgar. “Dumpster Water” is tense, with sharp riffing and drumming. Savage Existence ends with a solid power ballad, “All on You,” something Slipknot would do these days. Overall, a very good sophomore album from a band to keep an eye on.

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Sermon: Of Golden Verse

Not to be confused with Sermon from Turkey or any of the other Sermon metal bands, this is the Sermon with a mysterious frontman named Him and drummer James Stewart. James is not just a drummer, he’s a huge part of Sermon. Unlike most bands that are led by guitarists, Sermon uses the drums at the forefront of all their songs. Sermon’s debut, Birth of the Marvellous, was released to much acclaim in 2019. Of Golden Verse is already the leader for album of the year, that’s how good this album is. After a brief intro, “Royal” kicks things off with really engine rhythmic drums and an intense and cathartic vocal performance, despite not screaming or growling. “The Distance” has a Tool feel with an almost psychedelic vocal style from Him. “Sensescence” is mellow and dreamy, but “Wake the Silent” kicks the pace up again and damn is this a great song! “Departure” see Sermon going at a fast pace, extreme metal musically, but Him keeps the vocals clean and dynamic. Fans of bands like Katatonia, Anathema, Opeth, and Tool need to check out Sermon’s Of Golden Verse– this is a band that should be the next big thing.

Label: Prosthetic

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Shrouded In Darkness: Be None of You

Shrouded In Darkness have only been around for about two years but the Swedish trio are already on their sophomore album. One look at the logo and album cover and you can tell this is a band specializing in horror with some goth thrown into their style of doom meets death metal. After a dramatic intro, “An Approaching Storm” settles into some dark doom metal with a theatrical vibe and haunting- almost gothic sounding vocals. “Dwell in Solitude” is more mid paced style with black metal guitars and the ever present keyboards. “Strain of Emptiness” sounds like a continuation of “Dwell in Solitude” especially with the pace and the keyboard and drum sound. My favorite track here is “Frozen Death” which has some busy percussion and crunchy guitar riffage. Be None of You closes with two nine minute plus epics; “Between Two Worlds” with its omnipresent keyboards and power chords and the ambient closing instrumental, “Be None of You.” Shrouded In Darkness have a lot of potential and already have captured a unique, identifiable sound.

Label: Kvlt Und Kaos

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Skinflint: Hate Spell

Skinflint is a heavy metal band from Botswana and they’re fresh off an American tour opening for Soulfly. Their seventh album sees them continue to play traditional heavy metal with a new drummer (Cosmos Modisaemang) joining original members; vocalist/guitarist Giuseppe Sbrana and bassist Kebonye Nkoloro.  Highlights here include “Sasbonam” which has some interesting and confident guitar playing. “Blood Dripping from Torso to Toes” turns in some thrashing riffs, more good guitar work on “”Witch Haunting” and the distorted vocals on parts of “Mankind Creation” distract from Giuseppe’s limitations as vocals. Skinflint have always been about playing old school heavy metal and they continue to show improvement.

Label: Into

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Spirit Possession: Of the Sign

Portland’s Spirit Possession first came to our attention with their self titled debut in 2020. The almost anonymous duo of A (drums, keyboards) and S (vocals, guitars) have recorded another album of death thrash with Of the Sign. Most of the album is fast paced and raw. I feel like the debut was a little more on the black metal side of things, but just call this extreme metal. Vocals are what you would expect. The music is busy, but not sharp- more chaotic and messy overall.

Label: Profound Lore

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Stoned Jesus: Father Light

Stoned Jesus is a long running stoner rock band from Ukraine. The trio has just released their fifth full length, Father Light. “Father Light” is the opening track and it’s actually mellow and acoustic. The song would benefit from a talented vocalist and Igor fails to impress here. He does fit the rest of the album much better. The eleven minute “Season of the Witch” has a heavy Black Sabbath like stoner riff and the song ventures into progressive territory as well. I definitely dig the cool riff on “Thoughts and Prayers” and the doom laden “Get What You Deserve” is enjoyable. I don’t love this album, I don’t dislike it- it’s not bad, but I just have listened to so many great albums in this genre in the last few weeks that I would rather recommend.

Label: Season Of Mist

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Third Eye: Vengeance Fulfilled

Danish power metallers Third Eye return for their first album since 2010’s debut, Recipe for Disaster. Joining them this time around is new vocalist Tiago Masseti (Daydream XI). Right away, “Ashes from the Rain” is a killer heavy groove oriented power metal, much like Eldritch, Morgana Lefay or Enertia.  Tiago has a little Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Ian Parry (Elegy, Consortium Project) to his style. “The Silence of Indifference” is another groove heavy song, while the rest of the album is more varied power metal, with progressive tendencies at times. Michael Bordin (Anubis Gate) has a crazy keyboard solo on “Forest of Lies.” “Even the Gods Cry” is a ballad and the melodic “Pages on Fire” builds intensity. It’s nice to see a good band like this back in action.

Label: Animated Insanity

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Three: Three

Part of the Black Mold stable of Ohio rockers and metallers comes the self titled debut from Three. Yes, that’s them on the album cover; Fistula’s bassist Bahb Branca and drummer Corey Bing, with vocalist and guitarist Siki Spacek (Black Death/ Black Death Resurrected). Three is more of the rocking side of Bahb and Corey’s bands. There’s definitely some of the doom and sludge that they’ve become known for. Siki’s vocals remind me a bit of Ian Astbury from the Cult at times. “For Your Love” sticks to the doom rock, but “Red Dragon” is outright chaos. You also have energetic songs like “Mirror of Darkness.” It’s time for people to catch on to what Black Mold is doing for the underground metal scene in America.

Label: Black Mold

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Tilintetgjort: In Death I Shall Rise

Norwegian black metallers Tilintetgjort are a new band on the scene, having just formed three years ago. In Death I Shall Rise is their full length debut. The music and vocals cross over into Viking metal territory at times and this sounds like the type of music Andreas Hedlund (Vintersorg) used to release regularly. “Kvikksolvdrommer” kicks of the album with fast, raw buzzasaw guitars. “Sannhetens Soyler” keeps the speed going with pounding drums and more fast guitars. In Death I Shall Rise add some clean singing occasionally, but the pace doesn’t vary much until the epic closer “Dommedagsmonument” which mellows out almost half through. Not a bad debut from a band with some potential.

Label: Dark Essence

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Tryglav: The Ritual

Tryglav mainman Boris Behara is from Croatia, but the black metal band he has created was formed in Italy and named after the Slovenian mountains. Joining Boris this time around is new vocalist Callum Wright. The Ritual is the follow up to the 2019 debut, Night of Whispering Souls. This is heavier than your typical black metal. The speed is on full display and there are some old school black metal references through out The Ritual. The vocals are often up front in the mix and there are some quality guitar solos, especially on “The Evocation”. This is a solid and heavy black metal album, but nothing that will draw fans who aren’t into black metal.

Label: Extreme Metal Music

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Tygers Of Pan Tang: Bloodlines

British metallers Tygers Of Pan Tang have been around for forty five years now. Bloodlines is their thirteenth album, hard to believe their Wild Cat debut was released all the way back in 1980. Guitarist Robb Weir has the longest tenure by far, followed by vocalist Jacopo Meillev, who’s been in the band since 2004 and has now recorded five albums with Weir and Tygers Of Pan Tang. “Edge of the World” starts off the album on a positive note. Really solid melodic metal with the talented vocals of Jacopo. Not sure what type of vocal effect he has, or if it’s just a little more reverb, but he elevates “In My Blood” with his talent. Catchy songs abound, the chorus “A New Heartbeat,” the sing along metal of “Light of Hope.” “Back for Good” and “Kiss the Sky” sound like they were written in the eighties. Surprisingly, Bloodlines does not sound dated. This is really excellent melodic metal.

Label: Mighty Music

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Wring: Spectra

The project of Don Dewulf has just released Spectra– the best sounding and most ambitious album yet. The third album from the Wring matches its title and offers an array of progressive metal sounds that recalls King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, and Rush, but also metal like Judas Priest. The Wring take a more song oriented approach to their prog, but you will find some technical flourishes like the crazy keyboard solo by Isamu McGregor on the instrumental “The Wolf,” or the flashy bass playing of Reggie Hache on “Tin Man.” Vocally, Chandler Mogel reminds me of the power of Josh Pincus (Ice Age) on songs like “Stiletto” and “From Mars.” “The Prince” sounds like a rock song played by prog musicians. This is a solid progressive rock/metal album, especially for prog fans who like their songs to show off skills, but also be memorable.

Label: Wormholedeath

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8 Hour Animal: Kill Your Boss 

One way to kill your boss would be to make him or her listen to this album on full blast… and that’s a compliment. 8 Hour Animal is a one man project from Poughkeepsie, New York. Pejorative, Armsanxhor, Vacuous, and Resigner are a few of the albums that he’s released in recent years and Kill Your Boss is the next one coming soon. Some of 8 Hour Animal releases are two long half an hour or longer songs, Kill Your Boss has shorter (like eight minutes) songs, five in total. “Real Masks” is absolutely relentless with the loud, pounding percussion. And I do mean relentless. “Grind Down” delves into some crazy noise and vocal weirdness before it kicks into more pummeling. “Under the Sod” has some catchy beats and vocals sort of similar to Ministry on steroids. The slower pace of “Make It” and the distorted vocals make this the most accessible song on Kill Your Boss. “Easy for Me” is the closer and it reminds me of soe of those nineties Swamp Terrorist albums. This is not just industrial metal, it’s extreme. The vocals and the music is brutal and extreme… and it’s pretty damn awesome. 

Label: Sentient Ruin

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Asylence: Endanger Us All

Detroit deathcore metallers Asylence have been around for about seven years and Endanger Us All is their debut full length and follow up to 2020’s Eulogy of Man. Much of Endanger Us All is slow to mid paced with a brutal groove. At their best they recall Acacia Strain. The vocals are mostly aggressive and in a variety of styles, even some clean singing on “The Garden of Disrespect,” although it’s not very good. Endanger Us All is a combination of new songs and older material they’ve been playing live.

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Birdflesh: Sickness in the North

I remember when I was getting promos from local grind label Razorback Records back in the early 2000’s and that was my introduction to Swedish grind weirdos Birdflesh. They released four albums between 2001-2008 and returned in 2019 for their next full length, Extreme Graveyard Tornado. Just like the previous records, Sickness in the North has twenty three songs and a little less than half an hour of grinding mayhem. It’s typical grind with a couple of standouts; the fun, but busy and fast riff on “Welcome to the Jungle Rot,” the anthemic “Chainsaw Frenzy,” and the grooving “Lose the Arise.” Only vocalist and drummer Smattro Ansjovis remains from the original line-up, but the Birdflesh grind is the same as always.

Label: Everlasting Spew

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Catacomb: When the Stars Are Right 

French death metallers Catacomb have taken thirty three years to release their debut full length, and here it is- When the Stars Are Right. Original members Ben Bussy (vocals, bass) and Tony Derytke (guitars) released e.p.’s in 1993, 2001, and 2022. When the Stars Are Right is straight up death metal. Some fast (“Blind Idiot God” and “The Great Dreamer”), some mid paced (“Servants of the Old Ones” and “Waiting for the Stars”). Ben’s bass playing is a standout and comes through clear on a few songs. They end the album with a cover of Morbid Angel’s “Chapel of Ghouls.”

Label: Xtreem

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Dawn Ray’d: To Know the Light

British trio Dawn Ray’d are back after a four year absence with their third full length, To Know the Light. Many of the songs here follow that established Dawn Ray’d formula of folksy black metal speed with a quiet middle section to break up the bombardment. The vocals and music are nothing special although the album gets better towards the second half. “In the Shadow of the Past” is the best song here, it’s slow, almost exotic and ends with acoustic guitars. “Freedom in Retrograde” has clean vocals with acoustic guitars and the more melodic approach. The closing two songs, “Wildfire” and “Go as Free Companions” also utilize better clean vocals and mix the music with folk and viking elements dominating. To Know the Light is a mixed bag, but Dawn Ray’d continue to show potential. 

Label: Prosthetic

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Elyose: Deviante 

Elyose is a French band featuring the vocals (and keyboards) of Justine Daae (one of the three vocalists on Aldo Lonobile’s the Erinyes self titled debut from last year). The vocals are typical female vocals for this style of music. Deviante is their fourth album and first in five years. The music is very interesting and modern sounding. “Il T’ont Dit” is the opening track and establishes the modern music, but with clear vocals from Justine. Much of the album continues in the heavy, modern musical style, “L’embleme” even crosses over with some djent guitars. “Retour Au Reel” is a killer song, fast, full sounding drums, while “L’Assemblee” adds some needed male death growls to the proceedings. Justine is a fine vocalist, but I have to wonder if someone with more aggression would better fit this style of music. 

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Firienholt: White Frost and Elder Blood

British black metallers Firienholt released their first three e.p.’s and a compilation in 2020. Their debut full length, By the Waters of Awakening, was released in 2021 and this is their sophomore release. Firienholt play a style of black metal that is keyboard and percussive dominant, not unlike Summoning. “Trails of Destiny” has mostly growling vocals, but some clean hypnotic ones too. “The Wolf and the Raven” is mostly music, but it does speed up and focuses on aggressive vocals. All four songs are long, but not boring. The fourteen minute “Tedd Deireadh” closes White Frost and Elder Blood in epic fashion, starting out quiet and minimalistic before building intensity.

Label: Naturmacht

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Foretoken: Triumph

Virginia duo (Steve Redmond does the music, Cooley does the vocals) Foretoken are back with the follow up to their 2020 debut, Ruin. The first thought that comes to mind when listening to opening track, “Revenant of Valor,” is that the busy guitar melodies, the heavy double bass drums, and extreme vocals make me think of In Flames. The slower pace of “Serpent King’s Venom” highlights a nifty riff and the drum programming on “Devil of the Sea” is full and powerful. They close Triumph with a cover of Naglfar’s “I Am Vengeance,” and that should give you an idea of what you will hear with Foretoken. It’s a mix of death thrash but nothing new.

Label: Prosthetic

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Grandiosa Muerte: Egregor

This is a solo project of Hermes from Costa Rica. Grandiosa Muerte play a form of extreme metal that borrows elements from the main sources; death, thrash, and black metal. The mix is weird, as the vocals are buried on most songs and the songwriting is subpar, but there are elements that make you think Grandiosa Muerte will develop into something more significant. The repetitive thrashing riff on “Isis Sin Velo” and the repetitive unique cymbals on “Oculto” find their way into your head. “Hereje” has a cool guitar riff as well. Not bad for a debut, but I would expect Grandiosa Muerte to show more progress next time around.

Label: Bitume

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Gribberiket: Drapen

Gribberiket is a Norwegian doom metal band and Drapen is the follow up to their 2017 debut, Sluket. This is an impressive death doom album. Raw, slow doom metal of “Togskinner Mot Odeleggelsen” starts off Drapen with aggressive vocals with a ten minute epic. “Stein Sund Mokk” is a killer track, slow doom again with desperate vocals and dissonant effects that contribute to the atmosphere of Gribberiket’s doom. Another epic is “Leren Om Oyet” which is fifteen minutes, the music is faster than their normal songs, but it’s still brutal and evil, about five and a half minutes in the song descends into noise and then suspiciously quiet. The use of feedback and noise is a big part of Gribberiket’s sound but it’s not annoying like you would expect, but rather an integral part of their sound. Less vocals and more atmosphere dominate the nine minute closing title track.

Label: Dead Seed

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Hong Faux: Desolation Years

Swedish rockers Hong Faux offer their third full length and long awaited follow up to 2015’s A Message from Dystopia. Desolation Years really starts out promising, opening track “Wake Me Up for Exit” is heavy and trippy, similar to what Saigon Kick was doing in their prime. That’s by the far the best song on the album, the rest of Desolation Years is not bad, it just fails to match the excitement of the opening track. A lot of the album is laid back and psychedelic rock in style. My second favorite song is “Traina” which is also trippy, but intriguing. 

Label: Golden Robot

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Infinity Ring: Nemesis and Nativity

Recorded in the great city of Salem, Massachusetts, Infinity Ring offer this unique gothic rock album. Led by Cameron Moretti, Infinity Ring create a style of laid back goth similar to some of Nick Cave and the Swans beloved work. Right from the start, “Crown of Stars” takes a minimalistic route and features deep spoken vocals with a style that is more post-industrial than anything metal. There isn’t much variety on Nemesis and Nativity, but Infinity Ring also create a dark, haunting atmosphere with those distinct, mostly spoken vocals. “Tiferet II” has a moody guitar solo and the heavy drum beat on “Lazarus Millennium Sun” may appeal to metal fans. “Wax and Oil” is the heaviest song here and features a hypnotic beat.  This is a little different than the metal noise you usually hear from this label.

Label: Profound Lore

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Isole: Aneridora

Sweden’s Isole impressed me right away when they released their debut,  Forevermore in 2005, especially the vocals of Daniel Bryntse (Ereb Altor) which were an instant hit. He and Isole have now recorded their eighth album and they are still impressive, but I feel like they should have developed into an even better band. Isole is still entrenched in the doom metal genre, with elements of folk (“The Songs of the Whales”) and death (growls on “In Abundance”). At their best, Isole recalls Solitude Aeternus, though they are more heavy doom oriented while Solitude Aeternus leaned more power metal. If this is your first time checking them out, I think Isole is highly recommended and they will draw fans from all genres, even with their clean vocals.

Label: Hammerheart

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Kommandant: Titanhammer

Kommandant are a brutal black metal band from Chicago. They’ve been around for over two decades and have four previous full lengths released in 2004, 2012, 2015, and 2018. Titanhammer is in the same style of blackened death metal with an old school flair- a little Bathory influence can be heard. Most of the album blasts by at a fast pace and not many dynamics- although they will occasionally let the guitar riffs cut through and be heard. “Spannungsfelder” is a cool, mood setting instrumental. I’ve seen comparisons to Marduk and Dark Funeral and those are close to what you hear on this album.

Label: Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum

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Kruelty: Untopia 

Japanese death thrashers Kruelty are back with their sophomore album and follow up to the 2019 debut A Dying Truth. Right away you will notice that Kruelty has a Swedish death metal sound. Kruelty does a good job of offering varied vocals and music in their death metal sound. Like the debut, the songs are relatively long and have frequent pace changes. “Reincarnation” has a nice head nodding groove and “Maze of Suffering” shows interesting mid to fast pace changes. This is old school nineties Scandanavian death metal which seems to be a source of nostalgia these days.

Label: Profound Lore

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Malice Divine: Everlasting Ascendancy

Malice Divine is the work of Ric Galvez from Toronto, Canada. Malice Divine released a self titled debut album two years ago, and Everlasting Ascendancy is the sophomore album from Ric. The good news is this guy was born to thrash, the bad news is the vocals are not up to the same standard as the music. The guy can write some killer songs and really knows how to highlight a killer riff or a blazing (or melodic) guitar solo. “Usurping the Paragon” has those classic hammer ons and thrash riffing perfected. “Apparitions of Conquest” starts off in high gear, fast as a black metal song, but those intricate thrash riffs and the melodic guitar solo at the end keep it rooted in classic thrash. I really would love to hear what this sounds like with a first class clean singing vocalist, because Ric Galvez is mastering his guitar playing craft. 

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Nattehimmel: Morningstar

This is the debut album from Nattehimmel, but when you look at the resume of these guys you see some of the most impressive bands in the last twenty years- In The Woods, Green Carnation, Strange New Dawn, Ewigkeit, Emancer, Meads Of Aspohodel are just some of the acclaimed bands these guys have played with. In The Woods is an important point of reference though, because what Nattehimmel have created here is in a similar style to In The Woods sophomore album, Omnio. James Fogarty is a talented vocalist with the dynamic range to capture both the black metal screams and the gothic clean tones with ease. Ewigkeit was an overlooked band and his talent is on full display here as well. “Mountain of the Northern Kings” is best track. The haunting, doom ridden song builds intensity. The final three songs stick to Fogarty’s clean style of singing and lean more toward a gothic doom sound. The first half of the album effectively sees Nattehimmel combine black metal, doom, goth, and viking metal naturally into an epic, creative mix. This will appeal to a lot of fans of dark metal.

Label: Hammerheart

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Naut: Hunt 

Naut is a band from Bristol and Hunt is their full length debut. This band plays a style of music that is close in style to the Cure, especially musically. They use a drum machine and it’s used very well on Hunt, sometimes dominant and effective. Naut play heavy gothic, the guitar is busy and clear with no distortion, so it’s not really a metal album. Most of the album is laid back, although “Damocles” has more forceful vocals than the rest of the album. There are eight songs and the album is a little over half an hour total. Listening to Naut makes me miss the Cure more than ever, this is definitely a similar style.

Label: Season Of Mist

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Night Goat: Totem

Night Goat is a band from Ohio and the Totem is an energetic album of raw rock and roll. “Sister Wolf” sets the tone with a brutal rock sound sort of reminiscent of Scissorfight. The next highlight is “Blood Circles” which is simultaneously beautiful and horrific. The guitars are heavy, but doom and psychedelic in style, with fast drumming and the vocals of Julia Bentley are raw and brutal. Julia’s vocals on “Rattlesnake” are almost as extreme as Tarrie B. when it comes to the aggression. “Ritual of Antlers” features mostly male vocals nd is a haunting, horrific song with more psychedelic tendencies. The hypnotic “Death Crow Dance” ends Totem on a high note. Night Goat are an interesting band, there’s some real heavy and raw stuff here.

Label: Black Donut

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Oak: Disintegrate

 Portuguese duo (Guiherme Henriques and Pedro Soares- both from black metallers Gaerea) follow up their 2019 full length debut, Lone, with this one forty four minute song. This is some really awesome doom metal and despite the song’s length, it doesn’t get boring. The pace is slow and heavy until about nine and a half minutes in, when they pick up the pace a little bit and then go real fast about ten minutes after that. There’s enough variety on Disintegrate to keep you interested at all times. Quiet to death growls and aggression, intriguing spoken word and mood setting sections- it’s all here.  Somehow it flows very well and Oak is always fascinating to listen to. 

Label: Season Of Mist

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Omega Infinity: The Anticurrent

Omega Infinity is the duo of Xenoyr (harsh vocalist in Ne Obliviscaris) and Tentakel P doing the music. The music and vocals are fast and extreme. There is a weirdness to this band. The vocals are a bizarre howl, this doesn’t even sound like it’s made by humans. This is closest to black metal, but it’s not your typical black metal band. It’s not accessible, but it is definitely a band high on originality. “Iron Age” is the best song, it has a weird trippy bounce and is a little less crazy. Omega Infinity is interesting, not sure this is an album I can listen to for pleasure though.

Label: Season Of Mist

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Ondfodt: Det Osterbottniska Morket

 Finland black metallers Ondfodt return with their fourth album. Det Osterbottniska Morket is the type of album that draws comparisons to bands like Thyrfing, Enslaved, and Kampfar, as their black metal mixes Viking brutality and more genre defying dynamics. “Tvetalan” is full sounding, combining death metal heaviness with black metal insanity. You will not be able to resist head nodding to “Falskhejtins Folk” and “Dosrejson.” The best song here is probably “Sjalavandring” with its dynamic riffing. The piano and keyboard instrumental “Ta Livi Bleknar” closes the album on a quiet note.

Label: Black Lion

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Pest Control: Don’t Test the Pest

Damn one look at that album cover and you think 80’s thrash, but is it going to be good or yet another band that sounds as cheesy as its artwork? Well, damn! British thrashers Pest Control kick ass. This is total old school thrash with sharp riffs and some great mosh parts. Vocalist Leah will leave some listeners recalling Znowhite’s Nicole Lee from their Act of God album, but her distinctive vocals are less annoying and fit perfectly with the music. Crossover era D.R.I. sounds like an influence as well, although this is much more thrash oriented than crossover. They just don’t make them like this anymore, somehow this new band has captured everything that was great about eighties thrash.

Label: Quality HQ

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Phantom Elite: Blue Blood 

Phantom Elite is a trio of musicians creating a modern metal sound with the female vocals of Marina La Torraca. They have two prior full lengths (2018’s Wasteland and 2021’s Titanium) and Blue Blood sees them continue their evolution. The first half of the album is the best. “Skin of My Teeth” opens Blue Blood and set the tone with heavy modern metal with occasional vocal effects. “Apex” and “Fragments” are two other songs that effectively utilize modern metal, but it’s not djent or industrial. The second half is just not as exciting and there are a few too many mellow songs. Consistency has been the biggest problem with Phantom Elite so far. They have a few really good songs on each album, but like a team winning by twenty points at halftime, they blow the lead with their second half.

Label: Frontiers

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Phlebotomized: Clouds of Confusion

When Phlebotomized released their debut album, Immense Intense Suspense, in 1994 they joined a growing crop (i.e. Pan Thy Monium, Carbonized, Pungent Stench) of death metallers who were pushing the boundaries of avantgarde death metal. Three years later they returned with Skycontact and their reputation intensified. Unfortunately things were quiet until Phlebotomized resurfaced in 2018 with Deformation of Humanity. Only Tom Palms remains from the early days, and Clouds of Confusion captures their classic sound and continues to expand. Keyboards remain an essential aspect of Phlebotomized’s sound. Even on the heaviest song, the groove oriented “Dawn of Simplicity” they are omnipresent. You’ve got a scorching solo on “Bury My Heart Reprise” and many songs go through several tempo changes- sometimes they occur naturally, oftentimes from out of nowhere.  Phlebotomized has always been a band to keep you guessing and Clouds of Confusion is no different.

Label: Hammerheart

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Redemption: I Am the Storm 

Redemption’s eighth album is upon us and it’s the second one to feature the vocals of Evergrey’s Tom Englund. Mainman Nick Van Dyk has employed two of the best vocalists in progressive metal; Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and now Englund. As impressive as that is, these extremely talented and unique vocalists have really failed to capture a performance as good as their main bands. If you dismiss that this is Evergrey’s leader singing, you can enjoy I Am the Storm for the solid album that it is. “I Am the Storm” is a great, heavy opener and features some of Nick’s best playing yet. “Remember the Dawn” has a cool groove and contagious energy musically, but Tom’s vocals seem to be restrained and he needs to be unleashed. “The Emotional Depiction of Light” is mellower and more dramatic and should be a perfect showcase for Tom’s talent, but it’s not the same delivery he gives with Evergrey. It’s back to the heavy with “Resilience.” The fourteen minute “Action at a Distance” runs the gamut musically and this is something you would expect from Dream Theater. “All This Time” is another prog metal epic with classic build up. There’s a cover of Genesis’ “Turn It on Again” that’s interesting, but doesn’t match the original- I always thought an industrial metal band would be wise to cover “I Don’t Care Anymore” or “Mama.” Redemption’s had some great songs through the year and there’s at one here (“I Am the Storm”) but I would actually rather hear an unknown vocalist next time, Ray Alder and Tom Englund are so good and so distinct with their full time jobs, and knowing what they are capable of hasn’t been truly captured with Redemption yet.  

Label: AFM

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Robin McAuley: Live

Seventy year old vocalist Robin McAuley seems to be putting out the heaviest music of his career recently- a new trend? Check out Joe Lynn Turner’s recent album with Hypocrisy’s Peter Tagtgren. Robin was almost thirty years old when he first appeared with Grand Prix on their 1982 album, There for None to See. My favorite era of M.S.G. were the three albums he did with them in the late eighties and early nineties. He was most recently with Reb Beach, Matt Star, and Jeff Pilson in Black Swan for two albums and his second solo album, Standing on the Edge, was just released two years ago. But we’re here to discuss Live… no it’s not a live album, but it does have good energy. “Feel Like Hell” is the heaviest song McAuley has ever recorded, but it still sounds like him. “My Only Son” is intensely emotional and memorable. Speaking of which, “Fading Away” is vintage Robin McAuley. Andrea Seveso’s excellent riff at the beginning of “Stronger Than Before” kicks things into high gear and he has a George Lynch like solo on “Dead As a Bone.”  I know Robin McAuley’s fans are more likely into his a.o.r. Style from the eighties, but he is really talented and it’s cool seeing him release four solid albums in less than three years in what is likely the twilight of his career.

Label: Frontiers

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Sermon: Till Birth Do Us Part

 Turkish doom metallers remind me of early Paradise Lost, especially the Gothic album era and because of their guitar tone and sound. They were originally a contemporary of Paradise Lost back in the early nineties and released demos in 1994, 1997, and 2004 before splitting up. They came back together about a year or so ago and finally release their full length debut. They play an engaging style of death doom, alternating between clean vocals and growling vocals. The musicianship is first class. “Flawless Entropy” has some mournful and expressive guitar work, and the drumming on “Destined to Decline” is a standout. 

Label: Bitume

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Somnambula: Estasis Interrumpida

Spanish death metallers Somnambula are back with their long awaited third album. Following their Obituary inspired cover e.p., Infected, comes Estasis Interrumpida. This is death metal with a slight doom influence, sort of like Incantation, but sometimes they have a flair for the exotic. “Agua de Ruina” is an example, with its dark vibe and esoteric samples.  Somnambula play death metal that’s more old school American in style with some doom influence at times.  

Label: Xtreem

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Star Gazer: Life Will Never be the Same

Now this is a band with talent. Vocalist Tore Andre Helgemo and guitarist William Ernstsen are two of the most talented musicians you will find at their respective roles. The band also includes former T.N.T. bassist Morty Black. I know it’s a general observation, but Star Gazer remind me of a weird mix of the Scorpions and Dokken. They have a metal style, but they are also frequently melodic metal too, or another reference, especially vocally could be Pegazus when Danny Cecati was the singer. Ernstsen’s solos are shredding and impressive all over Life Will Never be the Same. “Rock the Sky” is a great anthem and Tore reminds me a bit of David Coverdale with his powerful command. “Will I Come to Heaven” is another song with a sing along type of chorus and a Dokken like style. The blues on “Beyond the Moon” recalls some of those Scorpions songs that leaned into that territory. Closer “Push Me” is seductive and has the melodic metal sound popular in the eighties. There are a couple of ballads (“Heartbroken” and “Take Me to the Moon”) that are saved by the classy talents of Tore and William. This band leaves quite an impression and a must listen for anyone who likes classy, well played metal.

Label: Mighty Music

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Stonetrip: Run Free

Stonetrip is an Australian rock band and Run Free is their follow up to their popular e.p. Right away I notice that this is straight ahead rock and reminds me of Danish D.A.D. “Sideways” is the first highlight thanks to a killer guitar riff. “Leave a Light On” reminds me specifically of the Black Crowes, musically and vocally. The energetic stomp of “Wild Hearted Stomp” recalls Tesla. There’s a moody, bluesy song (“Run Free”) and an acoustic ballad (“My Angel”). Whatever that guitar sound they make right before the solo on “Mercy” is really cool. All in all, Stonetrip are not the best or most original rock band out there, but they have a few good tunes here and this is a solid debut. 

Label: Golden Robot

 

Temtris: Khaos Divine

Vocalist Genevieve Rodda and guitarist Anthony Fox put together Temtris back in 2000. Khaos Divine is their seventh album and sees the band continue to get better with each release. “The Grand Design” is a mood setting instrumental which sets the tone for “Khaos Divine” and its traditional metal with the confident vocals of Genevieve. Fox shows off his lead guitar skills on “Eternal Death Machine” and the dramatic “Revenge.” “Evolution of Hate” is Temtris at the most aggressive, though it’s still a traditional heavy metal song. Don’t let the piano intro on “Ground Zero” fool you, before you know it they’re kicking it into fast paced thrashing metal. That’s what you get- heavy metal. 

Label: Wormholedeath

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They Grieve: To Which I Bore Witness

Canadian doomsters They Grieve first appeared on the scene in 2016 with their e.p. I Made My Sacrifice Accordingly. To Which I Bore Witness is their official full length debut. This album establishes them as one of the better doom metal bands around. “Wither” is a proper opener with it’s slow doom pace (although it picks up pace a little at the end) and growly vocals. The moods created by the guitar playing is impressive. If you’re into doom metal, this is a band to check out. The vocals are rather one dimensional and aggressive, but the music is more dynamic and keyboards are also used to a positive effect. 

Label: Silent Pendulum

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Yskelgroth: Bleeding of the Hideous

Thirteen years since their debut, Unholy Primitive Nihilism, the trio of vocalist Dave Rotten (Avulsed), guitarist/ bassist Vicente Paya (Bisonte), and drummer Nexus 6 are back with a new full length, Bleeding of the Hideous. Much of this album is fast paced blackened death metal. Yskelgroth do a good job creating chaos, but I feel they work best when they slow the pace on “Omnicidal End” and allow for the guitar playing to get innovative and have some varied extreme vocals. 

Label: Xtreem

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Anachronism:  Meanders

This album is phenomenal. I was unfamiliar with Anachronism and didn’t realize they had two previous albums. Meanders is technical death metal at its best. This might be an album memorable and impressive enough to rival Cynic’s Focus. Lisa Voisard uses a typical death metal growler, but the music is incredible. Most of the songs are short, but they do pack in a lot of melody and intricacy. Weird angular riffs dominate the album. Meanders is technical, progressive and creative. As expected, the guitar solos are intricate, but never excessive. Definitely a very early contender for technical death metal album of the year.

Label: Unorthodox Emanations

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Aphotic: Abyss Gazer

I’ve heard of stargazers (even had one once in my saltwater tank) but an Abyss Gazer sounds dark. This is the debut from Italy’s Aphotic. Vocally, Aphotic are one dimensional old school death doom in style. The music has some dynamics to it, and effectively switches between old school death metal and brutal doom. “Deathward and Beyond” and the haunting “Abyssgazer” are death metal in style, while “Depths Call Depths” is classic early nineties doom. I know this may sound dated, but Aphotic sounds like they recorded this right at the start of the doom death movement.

Label: Sentient Ruin

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Banishment: Machine and Bone

Every since word got out that Prong’s Tommy Victor recorded some material with guitar god George Lynch, I’ve been anxiously awaiting this product. I think Tommy sings on “Right” and “Terror,” while Filter’s Robert Patrick and Godhead’s Jason Charles Miller also guest. Joining Lynch is vocalist Devik Szell and multi-instrumentalist Joe Haze. First off, I am immediately reminded of the amazing Xcarnation, a band (Kip Winger and Cenk Eroglu) that released a futuristic progressive industrial album almost twenty years ago called Grounded. This is experimental, but still song centered. Industrial metal meets melodic metal. Other references could be Shotgun Messiah’s Violent New Breed album or one a song like “Terra Nullius” a mix of Ministry and Jane’s Addiction. “The Dread” is something completely new for Lynch, although it could be a Lynch Mob song on the surface, there’s an unusual solo that mixes country with industrial. The Banishment have created a timeless (although this would’ve been huge in 1994 when Nine Inch Nails really broke through) album of pulsating industrial metal with Lynch’s usual emphasis on catchy songs.

Label: Frontiers

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Cross Country Driver: The New Truth

Cross Country Driver is a trio; Rob Lamothe on vocals and guitars (Riverdogs), guitarist James Harper (Fighting Friday), and drummer Zander (Rob’s son) Lamothe, but that’s one hell of a guest list as Rob’s former bandmate Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard), Doug Pinnick (King’s X), Mike Mangini (Dream Theater, Extreme), and Greg Chaisson (Badlands) all make notable contributions to this debut album. As you would expect, this is American southern rock similar to the Riverdogs. Doug guests on the funky “A Man With No Direction.” “Just me and my guitar…” line from the acoustic “Traces of Truth” basically sums up the essence of Rob Lamothe. “Shine” is some uptempo rock, but the second half of The New Truth goes into a more acoustic, laid back, even mostly ballad territory. Much like the Riverdogs releases, there’s some real good energetic rock and roll here, but a little too much of the mellower southern style that makes my mind wander away.

Label: Frontiers

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Dark Embrace: Dark Heavy Metal

Spanish metallers Dark Embrace released The Birth of Darkness in 2006 and The Call of the Wolves in 2017, both were more gothic sounding than their latest, Dark Heavy Metal. Dark Heavy Metal is a varied album. There’s some folk metal “Endless Months,” some more darker, almost death metal songs. Overall it’s not a good album and Dark Embrace sounds inconsistent at best. “This is the Rain” is the best song here, it’s melancholy, slower and more dramatic. When vocalist Oscar Rilo sings in a clear voice he reminds me of Matt Barlow from Iced Earth era, but he will combine that style with a more gravelly death metal style. Dark Embrace remind me a little of Crematory or Darkseed, so maybe those fans will like them, but there are a lot of better bands in this style. 

Label: Massacre

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Demons Down: I Stand 

Right away I thought of House Of Lord’s really good 1992 album. Demons Down. Turns out three members of Demons Down have been in House Of Lords. Guitarist Jimi Bell is part of the current House Of Lords lineup while bassist Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot) and drummer Ken Mary (Flotsam And Jetsam) have spent at least one lengthy stint in that band as well. And that’s what you get- I Stand sounds like classic House Of Lords except with Chilean vocalist James Robledo (Sinner’s Blood) instead of James Christian. This is grandiose melodic metal. Typical Ken Mary powerful drumming through out. “Down in a Hole” is my favorite song here, the guitars and keyboards really shine here. There are predictable types of songs; the ballad (“On My Way to you”) or the eighties chorus (“Where Will Our Tears Fall”), but House Of Lords fans will like this.

Label: Frontiers

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Diatharchy: Sentient

Italian musician Diath offers his full length solo debut and it’s an interesting endeavor. He previously played bass on an album by Sevitia a few years ago, but seems focused on Diatharchy for now. The title track kicks off the album and it’s chaotic, with powerful drums but the vocals and guitars are buried a little too much into the mix. “Memory of a Time” sounds like seventies influenced prog, “Pugacioff” starts off mellow with some harmonizing, and again, I’m impressed with that percussion. Diath goes folk metal on “Sikringen Birken” and Rhapsody comes to mind on the nine minute “V” due to it’s Italian epic power metal sound. Sentient is quite diverse and Diath is a talented musician and songwriter, he’s someone to keep an eye on as he continues to perfect his craft.  

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Downfall Of Gaia: Silhouettes of Disgust

German extreme metallers Downfall Of Gaia continue their evolution with their sixth full length, Silhouettes of Disgust. “Existence of Awe” is a great opening track and sets the tone. There is a lot of speed and aggression here, but they know how to add a sense of maturity with melodious dark sections. Second track, “The Whir of Flies,” is the perfect example of this- black metal speed and vocal, but the middle of the song changes gears and goes quiet and atmospheric. “Eyes to Burning Skies” starts out mellow, then blasts away. “While Bloodsprings Become Rivers” shows Michael Kadnar’s intensity with great drumming. At times Downfall Of Gaia still mix in some dirty, sludge metal to give Silhouettes of Disgust more weight.

Label: Metal Blade

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Giant Brain: Grade a Gray Day

It’s been about fourteen years, but Giant Brain is back with a new album. Grade a Gray Day is their third album overall and their last to feature guitarist Phil Durr (Big Chief, Five Horse Johnson) who died four years ago. Like those two bands, Giant Brain sound like a band rooted in the exploratory rock of the seventies, although it is almost all an instrumental album. “Terminator” has some trippy effects that complements the jam. “Between Trains” is a sweet jam. I was distracted by the quiet psychedelic ambient “The Variac,” but Grade a Gray Day is a quality jam and even reminds me a little of latter day Karma To Burn.  

Label: Small Stone

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Gorod: The Orb

Technical/progressive death metal bands always seem to get the cult following and endless acclaim, but not many of them release albums regularly. France’s Gorod is that rare exception. With a line-up that’s been in tact for nearly ten years, The Orb is their seventh full length. As usual, they give the listener a perfect mix of technical skills and brutal death metal- with opener “Thrematheism” setting the table. A Gorod album is not complete without a few highlights and a surprise or two. The vocals on “The Orb” are almost clear, and the vocals on closer “Strange Days” are trippy and clean. You’ve got the trademark fast and tight drumming (“Scale of Sorrows”) and the stop and go repetitiveness (“Savitri”). They are the best technical death metal band, but they are the most consistent.

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Gunter Werno: Anima One

Progressive metal fans are well aware of keyboardist Gunter Werno and his resume. Best known for his work with Vanden Plas, Werno has also recorded with Place Vendome, D.C. Cooper, Missa Mercuria, and Sunstorm. Anima One is not your typical solo album. This is a four part symphonic journey and joining him is the Pfalzphilharmonie Kaiserslautem Orchestra and his Vanden Plas bandmates. It’s almost exclusively an instrumental album and feels like you’re witnessing, aurally anyway, an extravagant play. This is not for the metal crowd, but it does show Gunter Werno’s talent and Frontiers was willing to take the chance to release and promote it.

Label: Frontiers

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I Am: Eternal Steel

Dallas extreme metallers are back with their third album, and their first since 2018’s Hard to Kill. Their sound continues to evolve but not stray too far from their metalcore/death/thrash roots. The vocals are definitely in that death metal vein, but the music is more varied. Musically it’s more interesting than the vocals, although the whispered vocals on “Heaven on Earth” have appeal, as does the deliberately paced “The Iron Gate.” If you’re a fan of this genre, I Am delivers a quality product, if you’re not a fan of this genre, I don’t think this is the album to win you over. 

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In Flames: Foregone 

I know I’m in the minority, but my favorite In Flames album was always 2002’s Reroute to Remain. The modern metal with subtle electronic elements, is the style that I most enjoy from the band. If you do prefer the classic In Flames sound, you now have the Halo Effect– a band which actually has more members from In Flames (all of them) compared to this incarnation of the band. Only vocalist Anders Friden and guitarist Bjorn Gelotte are long time members. The first proper song, “State of Slow Decay,” is that old school In Flames style- the speed, intricate guitar melodies and razor vocals. The rest of the album is in the more modern In Flames style. Slower songs, but heavy on the groove with some complementing electronics. “Pure Light of Mind” is an unusual song for In Flames as it is a full on ballad, and Anders’ vocal style on “Cynosure” is an alternative, clear style we haven’t heard from him before. This is my favorite album by them in over twenty years, but I think old school In Flames fans would be better served by the Halo Effect.

Label: Nuclear Blast

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Khymera: Hold Your Ground

Khymera is basically a solo vehicle for bassist (and keyboardist and vocalist here) Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Place Vendome, Unisonic). This is their fifth album and a quick, for them, follow up to 2020’s Master of Illusions. As expected from a Dennis Ward project, this is melodic metal/rock. It does remind me of early Sinner (speaking of singing bassists), Bon Jovi (second album), and Pink Cream 69. “Our Love is Killing Me” is the required ballad, “Believe in What You Want” is such an eighties cliche. Khymera is what it is, predictable, safe melodic metal inspired by the eighties.

Label: Frontiers

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Kuntsquad: Kuntsquad 

Kuntsquad is a four piece death metal/crust band from Australia. This is their debut full length after a couple of singles and an e.p. There are fourteen songs and about half an hour worth of music. Kuntsquad are more death metal and rarely play at a grinding speed, I guess that’s where the crust description comes into play. The songs are short and direct, nothing special, nothing memorable. The only two songs that really stand out are “Sit Down” and “Stomp” thanks to their heaviness and memorable riffing and “Psycho Killer” plays off as a cool anthem and “Out Alive” will have you nodding your head with approval. Maybe you could call this death metal with a punk attitude.

Label: Wormholedeath

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Morwinyon: Wastelands 

Morwinyon is an atmospheric black metal duo (Matteo Guarnello on vocals, keyboards, drums and Lorenzo Pompili on guitars and bass) from Italy. They formed their alliance in 2019 and released an impressive debut, Pristine, in 2021. Wastelands is the appropriate follow up. The ten and a half minute “Devouring Flames” opens the album and sets the tone for the next three songs- fast paced black metal with melodic keys dominating, giving Morwinyon a symphonic black metal sound. The vocals remain extreme and the songs are long, except for the keyboard orchestrated final track, “Quiesence.”

Label: Naturmacht

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Nervochaos: Chthonic Wrath 

Brazilian death metallers Nervochaos have been playing this style of death metal for almost thirty years now. They’ve been even prolific in recent years (this is their fourth album in five years), only drummer Eduardo Lane remains. They’re still playing that straight ahead old school death metal style. You would think they would be more advanced after all these years. “Avantgarde” doesn’t live up to its name, but at least there’s a cool solo in the beginning, and “Ouroboros” is the best song on Chthonic Wrath. You should know by now if Nervochaos is a band for you or not.

Label: Emanzipation

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Oak Pantheon: The Absence

Damn this album is good. “Becoming None” had me intrigued from the start. The first half of the song is just acoustic guitar strumming and it was interesting and made me wonder what Oak Pantheon is all about. After a few minutes there is an effective mix of clear and aggressive vocals. The second song, “Listen,” is a little more traditional for a metal band. The music is dense and busy, there’s even a killer precision thrash riff. The vocals are excellent and it turns out to be an exceptional anthem- “we’ve had enough- just listen!” There’s a lot of variety on The Absence. “Dissociate” sounds like a Johnny Cash song “Bard of the Hell Bent Angels” is folk metal with a dose of Pink Floyd. This is a band talented and diverse enough to appeal to fans of mid-career Opeth or any era of Agalloch.

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Replica: Sangre de Maquinas

Argentina’s Replica offer their debut full length sounds a lot like the the better power metal bands from the nineties. There’s some groove metal, but it’s definitely not nu metal. Juan Cruz Corsich has some good range. “Dolor Interior” recalls those early nineties critically acclaimed bands like Mordred and Ignorance (The Confident Rat). Replica is one of the bands I discovered by going through new releases on Bandcamp, I’m glad I took the time to listen and hope some potential fans give them a shot.

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Rezn: Solace

This album I really dig. This band turned out to be another surprise. Solace is their fourth full length and after checking out those albums, you can hear the progression. “Altered by Feverish Visions” kicks off Solace and it’s a moody instrumental and good tone setting for what’s to come. The second song, “Possession,” is where Rezn really excels. Heavy music, but just a haunting, dark song that defies categorization. “Stasis” is another heavy song, both vocals and music are excellent. “Webbed Roots” has some surprise saxophone. Solace contains six long songs, but they are always interesting. I know this fits under that psychedelic stoner doom metal tag, but Rezn are much more than that. 

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Seventh Crystal: Wonderland

Swedish rockers Seventh Crystal first appeared with their debut, 2021’s Delirium. Led by Perpetual Etude vocalist Kristian Fyher, Seventh Crystal are highlighted by solid vocals and melodic metal style. Some of the highlights include “Hollow,” the uptempo “Next Generation,” and “Higher Ground” with keyboards (reminds me of Bruce Hornsby from the eighties) perfectly complement the melodic rock. Some of Wonderland is predictable eighties style (“Million Times”) and two ballads in a row (“My Own Way” and “Imperfection”), so it’s an inconsistent album overall. 

Label: Frontiers

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Straight Hate: Slaves of Falseness

Polish death thrashers Straight Hate return with their third full length. Straight Hate has been around since 2008 and I am immediately reminded of Discharge with their style that mixes death, thrash, and grind. Of course, I also think of the Sepultura song, but this is much more extreme. The buzzsaw speed of “Cursed” actually recalls Ministry’s “T.V. II,” in sound and speed. There’s also some songs reminiscent of later era Entombed– “Infester” and “Stalker”- especially at the end. “The Curtain Has Fallen” has some drum and bass groove, but Straight Hate turns on the speed. Slaves of Falseness is a fast, crusty album, but it’s varied just enough to keep you listening.

Label: Selfmadgod

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Treedeon: New World Hoarder 

German doom metallers Treedeon are back with their third full length, New World Hoarder. This album had me hooked from the start. “Nutcreme Superspreader” kicks off the album and even though it doesn’t directly compare to “Black Sabbath,” like that opening track on the legend’s debut album, “Nutcreme Superspreader” is a unique, mood setting opening track that does not represent the primary musical style of Treedeon. When you hear the line “this insanity…” Treedeon sounds authentic. “Omega Time Bomb” follows and it’s another great track, with perfect vocal style for this type of music. “New World Hoarder” has a hypnotic groove with psychedelic vocals. By the last song, “Laderlappen,” finishes the album with a more stoner rock sound. This is a great album, and a must listen to stoner rock/sludge/doom fans.

Label: Exile On Mainstream

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Vanishment: Forced Compliance

Seattle’s Vanishment play a straight ahead eighties inspired brand of heavy metal. The band is new to the scene, but features members of Lair Of Minotaur (drummer Chris Wozniak) and Himsa (guitarist Brian Johnson). Forced Compliance (hmm.. Covid and vaccine mandate nonsense?) takes inspiration from bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest, etc- they don’t sound exactly like any of them, but you get the idea of what they’re doing here. Vocalist Rob Ropkins (Stricken) uses more of a shouting style than singing. I feel like the title track is the best song here, but it’s a solid, straight forward metal album that defies time. 

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Vittra: Blasphemy Blues

It’s no surprise to find out that Vittra come from Sweden. They are a new band and this is their debut, but they have mastered the classic nineties Swedish death metal sound. You have the melodic death metal, technical riffing, and aggressive vocals- all the trademarks. Want some At The Gates like acoustic intro- “Satmara” has it. There’s also an album Amon Amarth meets thrash and eighties heavy metal vibe here.  “Lykantropi” has excellent guitar work on the riffs and solos. “Sommarfodd” also has a great solo and a head nodding groove. Vittra break no new ground here at all, but they do bring back that early nineties At The Gates sound. 

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Air Raid:  Fatal Encounter

Swedish old school metallers (damn that’s an eighties logo) return with a new rhythm section and their first full length since 2017’s Across the Line. As expected you get straight ahead, song oriented metal. “Let the Kingdom Burn” is the best song on Fatal Encounter, as it’s a little more dynamic than their usual songs. Air Raid are just fine is you like your eighties traditional metal, but there’s nothing great or new to the genre here.  Only guitarist Andreas Johansson remains from the original line-up. 

Label: High Roller

Anatomy Of Habit:  Black Openings

American undefinable rockers Anatomy Of Habit are back with their fourth full length. There are only three song on Black Openings, and as expected their long and involved. I’m not the biggest fan of the clean singing here, the vocalist does better with the less melodic music. There’s some psychedelic weirdness creeping into their sound, and they will get mellow and adventurous. Perhaps the most obvious comparison to Anatomy Of Habit’s sound would be later career Neurosis, although that may really be a vague characterization.

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And Oceans: As in Graves So in Tombs

This is And Oceans second full length since reforming in 2017. Original members and guitarists Teemu Saari and T are joined by new members for 2000’s Cosmic World Mother and this follow up. Like that predecessor, this album harkens back to their early days as a melodic symphonic black metal band and doesn’t delve into the electronics found on 2000’s Amgod and 2002’s Cypher and the Havoc Unit album. Most of this album is blasting, yet melodic black metal.  “Cloud Heads” has a trippy middle, but there isn’t as much variety or originality as previous albums. There’s an underlying sense of exotic with And Oceans that’s always been present, and it’s still there, this is a solid symphonic/melodic black metal album, but I feel like And Oceans are really capable of creating something even more special.

Label: Season Of Mist

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Bizarrekult: Den Tapte Krigen

From Siberia to Norway, Bizarrekult mainman Roman V. has created an aptly named  band for his musical vision. Den Tapte Krigen is the second full length for Bizarrekult and it contains similar remarkable artwork to the first release. Just like bands like Arcturus before, Bizarrekult are rooted in black metal, but will venture into various experimentation musically and vocally.  Bizarrekult is musically much more interesting than typical black metal bands, and even vocally, there will be variation and clear vocals to complement the typical black metal screaming.  There are a variety of paces throughout Den Tapte Krigen and this band never gets boring. 

Label: Season Of Mist

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Brii: Sem Proposito

Brii is a Brazilian one man (Serafim) project that is quite impressive. Sem Proposito was originally released about two years ago, but now Flowing Downward are given it a reissue. This album has two twenty eight minutes and twelve seconds songs. The album starts out with an intriguing keyboard pulse and then it slowly builds on top of that before going full on black metal almost seven minutes in. There’s even a psychedelic like jam in the middle of this long song. The second song, “B,” is structured in a similar manner. It all actually seems to work, although the violence is sudden once the black metal kicks in. 

Label: Flowing Downward

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Electric Mob: 2 Make U Cry and Dance

One look at this album cover and album title and I was in no rush to listen to this promo. I was saving it until last, because I wasn’t even sure if this band played music that would fit with this magazine, and damn was I wrong. Brazil’s Electric Mob play high energy rock and roll with a blues influence. Sort of like some of those late eighties, early nineties bands like the Quireboys or Love/Hate, but with more talent and aggression. Renan Zonta is a vocalist willing to push his limits. “It’s Gonna Hurt” is just an awesome song. “Soul Stealer” and “Locked and Loaded” are heavy with a nice guitar groove. “Thy Kingdom Come” is fast paced and “Love Cage”- damn! What a killer riff. It’s always great to listen to an album with low expectations and enjoy it this much.  

Label: Frontiers

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Endorphins Lost: Night People

Pacific Northwesterners Endorphins Lost are considered a “hardcore/powerviolence” band, although I would just consider them grindcore. Much of the album is blastbeat fast and savage, with some slower hardcore mixed in. Like most grind bands, the lyrical message is an integral part of their existence and Endorphins Lost cover mental health and social equality, among other topics for their vitriol.  

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Engima Division: The Enigma Division

Damn this album blew me away like no other this year.  The Dublin trio the Enigma Division have created a progressive metal album that combines all the traditional aspects with modern sounds and some sharp djent riffing. Right away, this album sounds like it comes from the future. “The Escapist” and “Echoes in the Deep” are both tremendous songs. Heavy, technical, unlike almost anything you’ve ever heard before. The vocals are solid. “Afterglow” is a good song, but really average compared to what the Engima Division have done on the rest of this album. “The Age of Discovery” gets them back on track with sharp syncopated guitar rhythms and a slight electronic element, the melodic vocals perfectly complimenting. “Clarity” is introspective, while epic and almost twenty minute closer, “1977 Ad Infinitum” fits a more traditional progressive metal template. With their first recorded output, the Enigma Division have set a new standard for excellency in progressive metal. 

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Eyes: Congratulations

One look at the band photo, band name, album title, artwork and you will have no idea what this Danish band is about. Well, they let the music do the talking for them. I guess this is post-hardcore, rock or something. No easy label here. After listening to the opening track I do think of more recent A Life Once Lost, you know, that sorta commercial but not aggressive rock style- little bit of sludge thrown in. “Tearjerker” goes on the slower and sludgy sound, while “Dull Boy” is more aggressive rock, maybe a little punk in there as well. Sometimes I think of Unsane when listening to this. It’s just quality dirty rock that meant to be played live and not on the radio.  

Label: Indisciplinarian And Nefarious Industries

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First Signal: Face Your Fears

Less than a year since their fourth album, Closer to the Edge, the Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) fronted First Signal is already back with a new album. Bassist Michele Guaitoli takes over the production role after Daniel Flores (Mind’s Eye drummer) handled the previous three records. As expected, the new album is song oriented and classy. “Unbreakable” is a perfect opening track and it’s a really good song. “Situation Critical” ups the heaviest while maintaining catchy vocals. “Dominoes” and “Face Your Fears” are both up tempo and only “Never Gonna Let You Go” misses the mark. Some of Harem Scarem is hit or miss, I actually find First Signal to be more consistent and even more metal sounding. 

Label: Frontiers

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For I Am King: Crown

The most impressive thing about For I Am King’s third album, is the skills of the lead guitarist. I find the guitar solos are always ear grabbing throughout this album. The vocals on Crown are raw and more black metal in style, while the music is death metal, often melodic and sometimes intricate. “Pariah” is a good example of how For I Am King can create a dramatic, almost atmospheric. “Bloodline” even ventures into some djent guitar playing. This is their first album in five years and worth the wait. Even though the vocals are not, the music is sophisticated. 

Label: Redfield

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Haliphron:  Prey

Denmark’s Haliphron is a band new band but they have some veteran musicians; their drummer is in God Dethroned and the vocalist and the guitarist were originally in Izegrim. Keyboardist David Gutierrez Rojas plays a big role in Haliphron’s sound. The musical style is black and death metal, but keyboards a major part of the band. Listening to Prey I am instantly reminded of those classic death/doom bands from the nineties like Nightfall and On Thorns I Lay. There’s even an occasional theatrical sound that instantly recalls Misanthrope

Label: Listenable

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Hollentor: Divergency

Hollentor is the solo project of Floridian guitarist Glen Poland. Glen’s has an impressive group of guest musicians on his albums- including the Drovers (Glen and Shawn), George Lynch, Rudy Sarzo, Henning Basse, Ripper Owens, and others. This is a quick follow up to last year’s sophomore album, Escaping Myself. There aren’t any stand out tracks, but it’s all solid traditional metal. The songs are short and written without flair or experimentation. I don’t have any obviously comparisons, although I thought of Dokken while listening to “Judgement Day.” Glen Poland has put together another all star cast.

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Infinite And Divine: Ascendancy

Swedish duo (Tezzi Persson- vocals and Jan Akesson- music) are Infinite And Divine. Ascendancy is their follow up to the 2021 debut Silver Lining. This is song oriented, melodic rock album. It’s harmless and nothing really stands out- well, except maybe “Silent Revolution” and its great guitar riff, but it’s buried in the mix. Infinite And Divine sound like a band that would’ve had a great career in the early eighties. Persson’s vocals are just fine, but they don’t stand out from the pack of female vocalists in the past forty years. 

Label: Frontiers

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Majesties:  Vast Reaches Unclaimed

United States melodic death thrashers Majesties is the formation of members from two bands who have already established themselves with three full lengths between them; Tanner from Osequiae and Carl and Matthew from Inexorum. Majesties’ sound recalls the 90’s Swedish death metal scene and features lots of lead guitar playing and vocals that are a cross between black and death metal, but lean toward the later. The acoustic passage on “Path to Neverwhen” helps break up the aggression, as does some of the melodic sections towards the end of “Sidereal Spire.”  Majesties are able to capture that 90’s death thrash glory, but nothing new to the genre. 

Label: 20 Buck Spin

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Mortuous: Upon Desolation

Here comes Mortuous’ long awaited follow up to their 2018 debut, Through Wilderness. This California quartet feature veteran members of the death metal scene and there’s some good stuff here. One of the best things about this album are the guitar solos. Other bright spots are the sorrowful doom death of “Nothing,” the Scandanavian death metal of “Burning Still,” and the epic, sometimes melodic “Ash and Dismay.”  Upon Desolation is just a solid death metal album, no more, no less. 

Label: Carbonized

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Motive Black: Auburn 

Motive Black is a new band formed by vocalist Elana Justin after her move from New York to Los Angeles. Butcher Babies’ Carley Harvey and P.O.D.’s Marcos Curiel join as guest on the first two songs and Korn/ David Lee Roth/ KXM drummer Ray Luzier guests on half the tracks.  Auburn is a weird album because some of these songs are great, and some are forgettable. Ray makes his presence felt on most of his tracks. The middle of the album; “Purge,” “Cellophane,” and “Bad Decisions” are the best songs here. High energy, grooves, heaviness and speed all play a role in those songs. But other songs like “Broken” and “Bloodsport” are boring and don’t capture the same energy. Even though Ray and some veteran musicians are involved in this album, it is only Motive Black’s debut and they will likely to deliver a more focused album next time. There are some good tracks here, but not enough.

Label: AFM

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Necropanther: Betrayal

Necropanther are a Denver based band that plays a mix of thrash and melodic death metal. “One and Only” kicks off the album and I am reminded of old school Kreator. The rhythm section spent two years with thrashers Havok and the guitar solos and drumming are two highlights, and especially on “Furies.” “Breathe Evil” stretches the vocals into a more black metal style. Betrayal is a decent album, but nothing that feels like mandatory listening.

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Nothingness: Supraliminal

Nothingness is a death metal band from Minnesota and this is the follow up to the 2019 debut, The Hollow Gaze of Death. The logo and artwork makes you think this will be goregrind. Overall this is a solid album. I find when Nothingness slows the pace for some doom influences to creep (“Curse of Creation” and “Festering Abstraction”) they become a more interesting band. Despite appearances, Nothingness are less goregrind and more underground death metal. 

Label: Everlasting Spew

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Nuclear Holocaust: Sailing the Seas of Nuclear Waste

This album was recorded in one day and it shows. The bass sounds like the strings are made of rubber bands and the album lacks diversity. Obviously this is a thrash band with a sense of humor (and maybe Primus fans). Sailing the Seas of Nuclear Waste is the third full length and first in five years for this Polish band. This is messy, raw thrash with vocals that are more death metal in style. I do feel like Nuclear Holocaust would benefit from having longer songs and more mosh parts.

Label: Selfmadegod

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Obelyskkh: The Ultimate Grace of God

German trio Obelyskkh are back with their long awaited fifth album. The Ultimate Grace of God is worth the weight as Obelyskkh have recorded a meandering and creative album that doesn’t fall neatly into any category. There’s some doom, psychedelic, and even punk going on in most of these songs. “Dog Headed God” is quirky not unlike mid-career Voivod. There’s also a hypnotic quality to these songs as sounds are repeated and slowly build upon each other. Almost seventeen minute closer “Sat Nam” plays out like a cinematic soundtrack. As unique as their band name and album artwork, you can’t call Obelyskkh boring.

Label: Exile On Mainstream

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Phal-Angst: Whiteout

Vienna’s Phal-Angst are back with their fifth album. This is not the easiest release to describe, maybe the more experimental Killing Joke? “Whiteout” starts out with just keyboards, the song remains calm, although with rough vocal style. “Severence” has an industrial pulse beat, but is also calm and haunting. “Least Said Soonest Mended” continues to trend of slow build up, but I keep waiting for Phal-Angst to break out, but they never do. “Unhinged” builds up into an industrial sound, but doesn’t live up to the song’s title. I don’t know, parts of Whiteout are interesting, but I keep waiting for something more to happen.

Label: Noise Appeal

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Plague Bearer: Summoning Apocalyptic Devastation

This is the debut full length for Plague Bearer but you may recognized vocalist/bassist Herb Burke and guitarist Kelly Kuciemba from death metallers Drawn And Quartered. Similar to the partner band, Plague Bearer play an effective and dense mix of death black and thrash metal. Kuciemba’s renowned lead guitar skills are on display here as well. “Defiled by Sodomy” has some cool riffs before and after the guitar solo with thundering drums throughout. “Rise of the Goat” makes rare use of the flange sound in extreme metal, but it really works well here. Plague Bearer are in the same territory as Drawn And Quartered, albeit a little more black metal in imagery and lyrics, but you’re still getting the quality extreme metal you would expect from these guys.

Label: Nameless Grave

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Redlight King: In Our Blood

This is the Canadian rockers fourth full length and it’s quite impressive. Right away, “Cold Killer” kicks the album off with a distinct rock and roll energy, it’s even the type of song you would hear in an action scene for a movie. You can hear that Redlight King is not a generic band they have an individual identity. There are occasional vocal effects (“King Again” and “Paid Off”) that also make this album more distinct. “Evil Lie” has some fuzzy guitar and only “Heavy Heart” comes across as a song worthy of skipping. Redlight King demand your attention and have created a unique album most people will enjoy.  

Label: AFM

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Rigor Sardonicous: Praeparet Bellum

This is Long Island’s Rigor Sardonicous’ seventh album and first since 2012’s Ego Diligio Vos.  Not much has changed with their style of slow paced death doom since the duo of Glenn Hampton and Joseph Fogarazzo (ex-Forgotten, Dimentianon) formed the band thirty three years ago.  Even the logo and artwork reflects the dark simplicity of Rigor Sardonicous.  The songs vary in length but the sound doesn’t stray from the slow, brutal pace. This band has mastered this genre.

Label: Memento Mori

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Runemagick:  Beyond the Cenotaph of Mankind

When Sweden’s Runemagick came back with a new full length in 2018, I was so happy to see this doom death institution return. Starting in 1997, Runemagick released an album a year until 2006. Each one built on the other but they always (and still do) retained that old school doom death style. Even though they stick exclusively to this style, they do a good job of changing the pace and giving each song its own identity. There’s something comforting about knowing a quality band is going to deliver a product and you know what to expect.

Label: Hammerheart

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Sandrider: Enveletration

Seattle trio Sandrider (two members from Akimbo) have been around a few years and this is their fourth album so far. What we get is high energy and sometimes dirty rock and roll. First song and first single “Alia” sets the tone and they actually rip off a famous Led Zeppelin riff at the end of the song for punctuation. Sandrider a lot heavier than your typical stoner rock bands. The title track and its repetitive groove is something Unsane would have been proud of. Sometimes you’ll hear a little Quicksand (“Circles”) and a Smashing Pumpkins like riff (“Weasel”) but Sandrider is coming up with some energetic and heavy, grooving, dirty rock and roll.

Label: Satanik Royality

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Street Tombs: Reclusive Decay

After a few demos, New Mexico’s Street Tombs offer their full length debut. Like the cover artwork, this is primitive sounding death metal. Reclusive Decay is basically just the same speed from one song to the other and the vocals are generic death metal. The music is just boring and really doesn’t inspire much interest. This is the same label that released the solid Mortuous album. 

Label: Carbonized

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T3nors: Naked Soul

No, this is a new album with Ripper Owens, Harry Conklin, and Sean Peck (a.k.a. the Three Tremors), this is the adult oriented rock version of the same idea. The three singers in this case of Swedish vocalist Kent Hilli (Perfect Plan, Giant) and American vocalists Robbie LaBlanc (Blanc Faces) and Toby Hitchock (Pride Of Lions). As expected, it’s a classy album, the vocalists are solid- nothing great, nothing embarrassing. Surprisingly, it’s mostly an upbeat rock album, no real ballads, and more song oriented than one might expect.

Label: Frontiers

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Thron: Dust

The fourth album of Germany’s Thron is upon us and the first thing I commend them on is that, despite the aggressive vocal style, you can understand all the lyrics clearly. Sometimes Thron reminds me of the beginnings of the Swedish melodic death thrash scene when Soilwork and Dark Tranquility reigned supreme. “The True Belief” takes things in a more melodic, though still extreme. “The Golden Calf,” “The Face of Extreme,” and almost seven minute closer, “Martyr,” all have interesting melodic elements, even with a guitar tone that reminds me of Immortal. A solid, well done release. 

Label: Listenable

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Trha: Vat Gelenva

This is one of four albums released by American black metal solo artist Thet Alef (his name is a lot longer) in 2022. Flowing Downward is releasing Vat Gelenva properly here in early 2023. All five of these songs are over twelve minutes long, but they don’t seem too long. There’s a buzzsaw guitar and some death metal riffs. Sometimes Trha will go to only keyboards in the middle. Most of Vat Gelenva is black metal, but there are plenty of melody, keyboards, and some interesting guitar playing.  Trha is a high prolific project and hopefully a spotlight on Vat Gelenva will get it some worthy attention. 

Label: Flowing Downward

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Tribunal: The Weight of Remembrance

Canadian duo Soren Mourne (vocals, bass, cello) and Etienne Flinn (vocals, guitars) are Tribunal, a death doom band with, The Weight of Remembrance, their full length debut. Most of the album is slowly paced and heavy. “Inititation” uses death metal growls with some female singing. The female vocals are haunting and add an extra vibe to the album. There’s a good balance of the two styles on this album. “The Path” closes The Weight of Remembrance with sadness and more slow paced doom. This is a good album for people who long for the doom death of the nineties. 

Label: 20 Buck Spin

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Uranium:  An Exacting Punishment

This is really cool. I mentioned this in the Hold Me Down review, I felt extreme music and industrial would be the perfect match for new and largely unexplored territory. Uranium is even more intense. The drums and percussion most dominant on An Exacting Punishment.  If Godflesh was more brutal, this is what they would have sounded like “Gnawing at the Bones” is an appropriately noisy song, but the prevailing sound here is brutal, cold, and devastating- just what industrial metal is supposed to be.  

Label: Sentient Ruin

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Wig Wam:  Out of the Dark

During their initial run from 2001 to 2014, Norwegian glam rocking metallers Wig Wam released four acclaimed albums and developed a following, although they never really broke through. One of their songs made it onto an H.B.O. show and they came back with Never Say Die in 2021 and Out of the Dark is coming out this year. This is classic Wig Wam. “High and Dry” and “Ghosting You” are catchy songs, “Out of the Dark” kicks off with an energized groove riff, “The American Dream” sounds like it could’ve come off Slave to the Grind, “79” is a quality instrumental. Some songs are forgettable; “Forevermore” and “Bad Luck Chuck,” or the blah-llad “The Purpose.” It’s a good album and safe to say that Wig Wam is back.

Label: Frontiers

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Abduction:  All Pain as Penance

Abduction is a solo black metal project from the United Kingdom. This album is one of the better albums from this genre I’ve come across this month. Abduction do a great job varying the pace while maintaining the noisy chaos needed for black metal to thrive. “Prayer of Execution” is fast, “Infinte Ancient Hexes” moves along at an always interesting mid-paced, while “Seven Apparitions of Suffering” takes a slow, moody and dark path. This is Abduction’s fourth release and All Pain as Penance shows they are leaders in the current black metal underground.

Label: Inferna Profundus

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Absolom:  La Era del Caos

This debut full length from Spain’s Absolom was a pleasant surprise. This band seems to be the focus now for drummer Manuel Arquellada, former drummer from Azrael– the heavy metal band who have released eight full lengths so far. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Spanish power metal, I know Tierra Santa and Mago De Oz have carved out impressive careers, but there are very few from the country I would put among the best for power/heavy metal… that’s why I was impressed with Absolom. These are veteran musicians, besides the drummer, there are two members from Zanarkand, but it’s vocalist Julio Perez who stands out.  He’s got a little grit to go with the typical Spanish metal finesse and he fits typical power metal like “Incansable,” but adapts to the more intense and album highlight, “La Era del Caos,” as well as the melodic “No Quedaras en el Olvido.” I definite recommend to the power/heavy metal crowd.  

Label: Demons

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All My Shadows:  Eerie Monsters

All My Shadows is a new band comprised of Vanden Plas members Andy Kuntz (vocals), Stephan Lill (guitars), and Andreas Lill (drums). Just like the previous project Abydos, from almost twenty years ago, All My Shadows does sound like Vanden Plas, especially with Andy Kuntz’s distinctive vocals. All My Shadows set out to record an album that sounded like the classic eighties metal of Ozzy Osbourne (“Wolverinized” sounds like it could have been on Bark at the Moon), Savatage (“Syrens” but not the actual “Sirens”), and general eighties balladry (“Farewell”).  It works, especially because these are experienced musicians who have created greatness in the world of song oriented progressive metal with Vanden Plas.  Kuntz proves his style can fit this music just as well as it does progressive metal and the various rock operas he and Stephan are a part of.

Label: Frontiers

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Arctic Rain: Unity

Arctic Rain is a Swedish melodic metal band.  People often compare them to bands like White Lion and Talisman, and that’s appropriate.  They write catchy songs and play with class.  Vocalist Tobias Jonsson definitely has a voice that fans of Jeff Scott Soto would enjoy.  He does a good job creating vocal hooks that make each song catchy.  Unity is a little more metal sounding than their debut, The One.  It’s a safe album, definitely nothing new being written here, but there is an audience who really enjoys song oriented melodic metal/heavy rock and their singer is just right for this batch of songs.

Label:  Frontiers

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A Serpent’s Hand:  Rebirth

 A Serpent’s Hand is the project of a very young looking Azrael Luebbe.  Azrael has released five full lengths in the past four years and Rebirth is an album that is impressive for such a prolific artist.  The music will get labeled as melodic death metal and metalcore, but A Serpent’s Hand is better than your typical band of the genre.  Azrael is a solid player and songwriter.  The music is often melodic but frequently uses that djent guitar tone.  Vocally, he uses both melodic clear vocals and growls.  My biggest complaint about bands of this style is that they are usually one dimensional, all the songs sound too similar and/or the same can be said of the vocals.  However, in the case of A Serpent’s Hand, this is a top level talent for the genre and a musician and vocalist who is perfecting his craft.  If you’re into Periphery, this is an upcoming band to listen to. 

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Atrocity:  Okkult III

Okkult III is obviously the third of a trilogy so far (Okkult was released in 2013 and II was released in 2018). These days, Atrocity is the same group of musicians who are in Leaves’ Eyes. As such, I think that’s the reason Atrocity is much more of a straight forward death metal band these days and much less experimental than in the past. The more mellow and gothic sounding material probably stays with Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity keeps only the death metal aggression.  “Malicious Sukkubus” is my favorite song here as it’s a little theatrical and a change of pace. There are an infinite number of straight death metal bands out there, I always admired Atrocity’s forays into gothic groove (“Gods of Nations”), eighties covers (Werk 80), tech death precision (Willenskraft), and even new age (Calling the Rain), so hearing them just stick to formulaic death metal is a bit disappointing, even if they do it well.

Label: Massacre

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Big City:  Sunwind Sails

Big City is led by guitarist and songwriter Daniel Olaisen. Daniel is well known for his work with diverse bands as Scariot (progressive metal), Blood Red Throne (death metal) and Zerozonic (thrash metal).  Big City is song oriented melodic metal. This is their second album with vocalist Jorgen Bergersen and fourth overall. Jorgen’s brings a powerful, professional voice to Big City.  Other musicians include drummer Frank Nordeng Roe (Circus Maximus, Leprous) and guitarist Frank Orland (Scariot). While Sunwind Sails is a solid album of melodic metal, there aren’t many standout songs and you expect more experimentation from this quality of musicianship. However, Big City is supposed to be song oriented and melodic (think Pretty Maids, Jaded Heart, Harem Scarem), and as such, Sunwind Sails delivers on that promise.

Label: Frontiers

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Bis*nte:  Broken

Spanish doom metallers Bisonte are back with their second album. The first two songs, “Army of Faith” and “Can You Save Me” are an impressive way to start the album. There’s still an occasional growl vocal, but there’s a little less psychedelic/stoner vibe here than the debut, Ancient Punishment. Guitarist Vicente Paya masterfully sets the tone with heavy riffs, it’s slow paced, but always engaging. Maria J. Llado’s vocals are haunting and clear. Her melodic approach works perfectly in contrasting the heaviness of the music. This is must have for doom fans, and anybody who likes quality heavy metal should also check them out.

Label: Xtreem Music

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Cassius King:  Dread the Dawn

I first encountered the name Cassius King when Hades/Non-Fiction guitarist Dan Lorenzo released a solo album with this title back in 2004. A more focused revival is one display here as Cassius King’s second album in as many years hits the streets. Dread the Dawn hits immediately with that vintage classic riffing from Lorenzo is the first thing you hear on opener “Abandon Paradise.” This song is high energy, banging riff, and Jason McMaster delivering his distinctive metal voice. It’s easy to hear why this guy is impressing live audiences filling in with eighties metal bands like Dirty Looks, Accept, and Armored Saint (not to mention the other half dozen or so bands he currently fronts). “Dread the Dawn” and “Doomsday Hand” are timeless doom laden epics and they fit in nicely with the more up paced rockers here. I highly recommend this album to any metal fan and it’s one of the top ten I’ve heard all year.

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Celestial Shadows:  The Tragedy of Calufrax

From Australia comes the black metal project of Benjamin Penfold-Marwick. Celestial Shadows is up to their seventh full length since the mid-2010’s and their new album is the best yet. “Xyronite Fever” starts the album with a confident speed and esoteric screaming vocals. I do really like the guitar work here with its subtle intricacies. Almost half the songs on The Tragedy of Calufrax are quiet instrumentals and a narration, but that makes the five proper songs all the more intense. There are some really descent black metal projects out there, and this is one of them.

Label:  Rassilon

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Cline’s Mind: Land of the Plague

Land of the Plague is already the tenth full length from New York thrashers Cline’s Mind. Led by guitarist Tom Cline, the band has been around for nearly twenty years, but since a thirteen year gap between the debut and the second album- Cline’s Mind has been recording at least an album or two every year. This rock solid thrash metal.  The guitar riffs are professional and vocalist Mike Lacey has the perfect vocals for this style of music.  He mixes in some more melodic singing with the thrash styled aggression. This allows him to adapt to the band’s melodic tendencies on many of their songs. Cline’s Mind may lack the individual identity of those eighties thrash legends, but this is high quality thrash that fans of the genre should know about.

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Coffinborn:  Cadaveric Retribution

Coffinborn is a death metal band from Hungary. The trio have been around for the better part of the last two decades in a number of death and black metal bands and have an e.p. release from nine years ago. Cadaveric Retribution starts off with an intriguing mid-paced instrumental opener, “Self Mutilation of the Soul,” but from there this debut is mostly straight ahead, fast paced death metal. You will find some head nodding mid-paced riffing at times on “Flesh Eater” and the first part of “Infernal Entombment” and “Cadaveric Retribution” is linked to the same mood and pace as the opening track. Some interesting moments, for sure, well played by veteran musicians, but basic death metal with a classic old school Scandanavian sound.

Label: Xtreem Music

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Concrete Age: Bardo Thodol

This album really took me by surprise. I’ve heard earlier album by Concrete Age and heard the potential, and on Bardo Thodol they have delivered the best one yet. While the vocals are one dimensional, Ilia has a unique semi-aggressive delivery that fits in perfectly with the music. Concrete Age don’t adhere to the sound of a specific genre, as death and thrash metal elements are on display, what makes them unique is how the seamlessly integrate ethnic instruments and sound into their songs. The cool percussive “Purity” and crisp bass playing on “Thunderland” add flavor to a focus and intense album. I understand comparisons to bands like Orphaned Land, as Concrete Age’s aggressive sound has more depth and diversity than most bands of this genre. The ethnic aspect never sounds like a gimmick and flows naturally in each track.

Label: Firestorm

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Cora’s Heart:  Anima

Cora’s Heart is the melodic black metal project of Victoria Carmilla Hazemaze. This is her second album for this project and has many other albums with different projects and delves into darkwave and other black metal subgenres. It’s easy to label this album melodic black metal and/or post-black metal, the music is dramatic and the vocals are in the traditional black metal screaming, but it works well with the music. The quiet parts contrast to great effect with the aggressive sections. Victoria is an accomplished artist visual and sonically, as her artwork is impressive.

Label:  Flowing Downward

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Creye:  Weightless

Weightless is the third album from Swedish melodic metallers Creye. This is sort of a frustrating album.  It’s not that Weightless is a bad album. For a melodic metal/adult oriented rock album, it’s just fine.  “Glorious” is just a killer opening track, especially thanks to the vocal prowess of August Rauer. He’s got a voice reminiscent of former Elegy singer Eduord Hovinga and original Mind’s Eye singer Johan Persson. It’s a very catchy song, and so is most of Weightless, but really only “Glorious” stands out as exceptional.  “One Step Away” and “In the Shadows” are both upbeat, “The Game” and “How Far” are more a.o.r. In style. This is a quality album for the genre, but you can really hear the potential in Rauer and hopefully they give him some more creative material to shine with next time.

Label: Frontiers

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Crowne:  Operation Phoenix

Swedish rocking metallers Crowne return for their sophomore album. The line-up consists of members from other bands known in the genre H.E.A.T. (keyboardist Jona Tee), Art Nation (vocalist Alexander Strandell), Europe (bassist John Leven), Dynazty (guitarist Love Magnusson), and the Poodles drummer Christian Lundqvist). If you combine all those bands together, that’s what you get with Crowne. Song oriented melodic metal with singalong choruses.  “Ready to Run” sounds a lot like Ian Parry and the Constortium Project would come up, Strandell has a similar singing style. Leven must have had a hand in “Just Believe” because it sounds like it could have been an old Europe song. My favorite song is “The Last of Us” because Magnusson delivers some ear grabbing and edgy guitar riffs.  I wish the whole album had that energy. It’s still a solid record with memorable songs, all done by a group of professionals.

Label: Frontiers

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Dead Sun:  Soul Diseased

Dead Sun has been one of Swedish death metal king Rogga Johansson’s main focuses during the past two years. Listening to Dead Sun’s eighth full length (third in less than two years) it’s easy to hear why. I feel like there’s more of a traditional metal influence finding its presence more in Dead Sun’s melodic death metal on this album. The guitar melodies on “Stashed Away” would have fit right in on Rogga’s Gauntlet Rule album. I know he’s saturated the market with all these death metal albums, but Dead Sun have delivered a solid album reminiscent of those mid-career Edge Of Sanity releases.

Label: Xtreem Music

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Defy The Curse:  Horrors of Human Sacrifice

The full length debut of Defy The Curse sees the Netherlands based quartet (line-up includes Legion Of The Damned bassist Harold Gielen on guitar) unleashing their brand of Swedish style death metal. I enjoyed this record because Defy The Curse make each song interesting and vary their pace through out the album.  “Leading into the Realm of Torment” and “Existence Consumed” kick off the album with two minute songs in that classic Edge Of Sanity/ Dismember/ Grave style of death metal. “The Tower of Suffering” offers a change of pace and sounds like a song that Black Sabbath would have written if they were a death metal band. “The Oppressor” is suitably oppressive and sounds like a train with its brutality at the start.  his is a solid debut.

Label: Hammerheart

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Deiquisitor:  Apotheosis

Danish death metal trio Deiquisitor are back with their fourth full length, Apotheosis.  This is the long awaited follow up to 2019’s Towards Our Impending Doom. This is once again classic death metal, similar to what you would have heard in the early nineties. The song “Deiquisitor” is the highlight of the album, which is solid, not spectacular. If you’re a fan of straight up death metal, this is a good listen, but they don’t offer anything new to the game.

Label: Extremely Rotten

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Demona:  Dirty Speed Metal

When you call your album Dirty Speed Metal, well- it better deliver what it says. And it does. Led by female vocalist and guitarist Tanza, Demona has been kicking around the world (literally) for almost two decades now, briefly changing their name to Outline, but now back as Demona. Dirty Speed Metal is a collection of fifty one songs from their career, with a couple demos and live songs thrown in the mix. This is a three disc set and seems to include several previously released e.p.’s and albums. This is the type of speed metal we heard from the eighties when bands like Sodom, Whiplash, and Exciter were first starting out. That same spirit and sound, with a little punk attitude in there as well.

Label:  Morbid and Miserable

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Dryad:  The Abyssal Plain  

This is Dryad’s full length debut album. I really like the artwork on this one, definitely unique. This Iowa band utilizes vocals that are so extreme they don’t even sound human, while the music is chaotic and fast- sort of a mix of black metal vocals with grindcore speed. In between all the madness, Dryad use some interesting interludes (plus the opener and closer) to break up the chaos and set a somber mood. I enjoyed the one minute plus build-up on “Pompei Worm” and the keyboards on “Chimera Monstroso” work perfect with the music. Most of The Abyssal Plain is speed and extreme, but I find I really enjoy the diversity of those quieter moments, which help break up the speed, but it also makes the extremity Dryad creates that much more insane.  

Label: Prosthetic

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Falaise:  After All This Time

Falaise is an Italian duo (Lorenzo Pompili and Matteo Guarnello) and After All This Time is their fourth full length album.This is straight forward melodic black metal with vocals that stay in that classic black metal style. Similar to Cora’s Heart, the music is the most interesting aspect and the vocals add lyrics and a sense of aggression to the proceedings. Like the previous albums, including the 2015 debut, As Time Goes By, Falaise write about the emotional complexity of time. This a solid release for the genre.

Label: Flowing Downward

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Festerdecay:  Reality Rotten to the Core

Reality Rotten to the Core is the debut full length for Japanese goregrinders Festerdecay.  The most obvious point of reference here would be old Carcass and the band has recorded Carcass covers before. The blasting music is in the forefront of the mix, while the vocals are often buried beneath the speed and chaos. As expected, all but two of the tracks here are under three minutes long and the album and all fourteen songs are over in no time. A solid debut for goregrind fans or people who still listens to Carcass and Symphonies of Sickness.

Label: Everlasting Spew

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Finistere:  Only the Tides Are Forever

Finistere is a one man black metal project from Germany and Only the Tides Are Forever is the official debut. Most of the eight tracks here are fast paced, raw black metal.  There are some songs, like “Doggerland” that makes me think Finistere is someone to keep an eye on as M.D. will add elements to the raw black metal that shows he’s creative and willing to expand Finistere’s sound as it develops.

Label: Human Noise

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Frostbitt:  Machine Destroy

I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for a band like this. If you love Meshuggah but are not a fan of the one dimensional aggressive vocals, or if you really like the rhythmic and engaging vocals of Jonathan Davis, but wish Korn’s music was more metal and modern, well then I present you with Norway’s Frostbitt and their long awaited third full length. This band is deceptively technical, yet evoke the mood and feeling of bands like Korn or maybe Disturbed. They don’t feel cold like Fear Factory, maybe Klayton Scott’s work with his Celldweller project or the band Mnemic would be better reference points for what Frostbitt have done with their albums.  This is one of the best modern metal albums I’ve heard in some time.

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Girish And The Chronicles: Back on Earth

This is not the fourth album from Indian rockers Girish And The Chronicles, but it is a re-recording of their unofficial debut album from 2014. The band released some songs on YouTube and garnered a loyal following.  Back on Earth was never officially released, even though the songs made their way onto the internet between 2006 and 2014. Thankfully, Frontiers is releasing this officially to the public and it really kicks ass. Frontman Girish Pradhan has the perfect voice for the energetic heavy metal/rock and is the perfect compliment to Suraz Sun’s raucous guitar playing. This is a pair not unlike Axl Rose and Slash on Appetite for Destruction, but imagine Axl was actually a great singer.  I’m just not a fan of ballads, and there are three here, but all the other songs are high energy, raw, and sound like a band on fire.  Very rarely do you hear a studio album capture this type of ripping energy.  “I Wanna Get That Loving” has crunchy guitar and songwriting made for a 1980’s arena concert. Opening track “Ride to Hell” is perfect to kick off the album. Most of the time, bands will put their best song and then the rest of the album is mediocre, that’s not the case on Back on Earth. This album needed to be released properly to the public and this is a special treat, especially for anyone who loved the 80’s when bands focused on energetic anthems and image and money making was a secondary priority.

Label: Frontiers

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Graviton:  The Reaping of Eternity

The Reaping of Eternity is the first of an ongoing science fiction themed story and contains music that is truly out of this world. Certainly falling in the djent genre of music, but so much more than that simple label, Graviton’s full length debut demands attention. Featuring two members of Babirusa, Graviton’s style is best described as chaos. The speed most of this album is barely out of control, sometimes you’re left wondering if these are machines playing everything, because it seems to intricate and crazy to come from human hands. Songs like “Serve the Unseen Despot” and “Expulse” border on absolute chaos. There is a little more melody and even groove found later in the album. “Dread Arcanum” sounds like something Strapping Young Lad would’ve created today if they continued down the path they created with City. The keyboards on “Begging the Heavens” take me back to the mid-nineties when Sadist released their groundbreaking record Crust. Be sure to check out any of their three videos, some people may not have the stamina to keep up with this ride, but it’s exciting hearing a band this intricate and crazy, you never know what they will do next.

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Great Cold Emptiness:  Immaculate Hearts Will Triumph

The third full length from acclaimed Maine (mainman Nathan is in Canada these days) extreme metal trio Great Cold Emptiness continues their intricate epic journey through diverse black metal mixed with some doom and slow to mid paced time signatures. The songs are a little shorter than the four epics from 2020’s Death Gifted a Bouquet and this is a natural evolution for the band. It’s a little more direct than the previous two of this trilogy, but fans of their previous work will once again be impressed by this new epic.

Label: Flowing Downward

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Heroes And Monsters:  Heroes and Monsters

This self titled debut is great eighties heavy rock. The trio consists of veterans.  Vocalist/bassist Todd Kerns (Slash), guitarist Stef Burns (Y&T, Alice Cooper), and drummer Will Hunt (Evanescence) have been recording and playing live for professional bands for years now and it shows here.  “Locked and Loaded” (is there even one bad song with this title?  Hell, Mat Sinner has two different killer songs with this same title) kicks things off with high energy and exceptional vocals. Hell, if Myles Kennedy decides to leave Slash, Todd can take over and they won’t miss a beat.  “I Knew You Were the Devil” and “Blame” are other examples of heavy riffs and energetic eighties influenced rock. “Break Me” has an infectious chorus and only the ballad “Angels Never Sleep” misses the mark.  There’s even a killer cover of Sweet’s “Set Me Free.” They didn’t even make eighties records this good during the eighties.

Label: Frontiers

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Hold Me Down – Powerless

Out of the ashes of American (two mid-2010’s albums- Out of the Ashes of and Step) comes Virginia’s industrial metallers Hold Me Down and their follow up to the 2019 self titled e.p. Powerless is a brutal industrial metal album. This is like Godflesh made brutal and they make Fear Factory sound like cream puffs. Most of the album is instrumental and pounding, when there are vocals they are more in the demonic black metal style. The powerful percussion is the main instrument, while the guitars add to the mood and aren’t the driving force of Hold Me Down. There are some different paced tracks, and I feel the highlight is “Money and Bodies” which just builds in intensity and ends in madness. This is the type of album I’ve been waiting for years to hear. Industrial sounds can make for an absolutely devastating album when mixed with extreme metal influences.

Label: Sentient Ruin

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Hollow Hour:  Till the Grey Skies Are Gone

Till the Grey Skies Are Gone is the debut album from modern progressive rock/metallers Hollow Hour. I’ve read some frequent comparisons to Leprous, which is fairly accurate, I also thought of Teramaze as another point of reference. There’s a similar level of sophistication to the music and vocals here. The vocalist is talented and delivers the necessary talent to match the quality of the music- only complaint could be that he never seems to push the envelope or go outside his comfort zone, let me remind you, that’s not a serious issue, just a thought while listening to this album. Among the highlights are “Cipher” which a cool hypnotic riff and “Neon” with its trippy but subtle electronic percussion. “Summer Sun” sounds like it would be a great live song and reminds me a bit of a Tool song. It’s not easy delivering a high quality song oriented progressive metal album, but Hollow Hour have done so with this impressive debut.

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Howling Void:  Into Darkness Ever More Profound

San Antonio’s The Howling Void is the solo project of Ryan Wilson. He has released eight full lengths of slow paced doom metal. Most of this record is instrumental and I feel like the drums are the dominating force here, though there is the heavy guitars and growling vocals you expect from this genre. This band is the antithesis of Ryan’s work with Intestinal Disgorge and their faster paced brutal death grind.   This album contains four long songs and a mostly one dimensional approach, but if you’re into the funeral death doom of bands like Evoken and Ahab, this is for you.

Label: Funere

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Hypno5e:  Sheol  

French tech metallers Hypno5e have been around for twenty years and this is their sixth full length record. Long time members Emmanuel Jessua (vocals, guitars) and Jonathan Maurois (guitars) are joined by a new rhythm section for this release of Sheol. If you’re familiar with their history, you know that this band is unpredictable. They’re released a soundtrack album and an acoustic album in recent years. Sheol is adventurous and exciting.  You may hear some Gojira or Meshuggah to their angular riffs and brutal sound, yet more than half this record is more quiet, a trio of string players, and melodic sections are later punctuated with intense build up and release. There’s a distinct contrast between their lengthy quiet passages and the brutal, precise and technical extremity. Hypno5e has shown potential for greatness before and Sheol sees them deliver a long, always interesting album of contrasts, with a singer who is talented enough to pull it all off.   

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Immortalizer:  Born for Metal

If this debut album is any indication, Canada’s Dave D.R. was certainly Born for Metal.  “Out on the Streets” kicks things off and I’m instantly taken back to L.A. Guns’ debut album from 1988 with its raw energy, but melodic rock sensibilities.  “Cut Loose” has a variation of the Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” riff. The anthemic “We Were Born for Metal” and tribute “Lemmy” follow and this is pure unadultered eighties pleasure. This is a guitar driven record, with solid vocals and a timeless sound. The songs get longer toward the end of the album, closing with “Fallen” an enjoyable epic.

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Issa:  Lights of Japan

Frontiers had two unexpected killer records from Heroes And Monsters and Girish And The Chronicles, so it was a bit of a letdown hearing this album comparatively. Issa is Norwegian vocalist Isabell Oversveen and Lights of Japan is her seventh full length since 2010. While she is talented and these are professional musicians and they’re writing catchy songs, I just did not get drawn in.  Isabell’s vocals don’t hold that charm for me. There’s no metal grit, there’s no beautiful singing, there’s no undeniable emotion- things that a singer like Anneke Van Giersbergen has in abundance. The same can be said for the music.  Just nothing special that stood out, although “Fight to Survive” was a stand out track.

Label: Frontiers

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Jenner:  To Live is to Suffer

This is the reissue of their 2017 debut and only official record, To Live is to Suffer. This trio of females from Serbia deliver an album of classic speed metal which will take you back the eighties when this type of music was made popular by bands like Raven, Whiplash, and Razor. To Live is to Suffer speeds ahead at a fast pace from start to finish, the vocals are perfect for this style of music and you feel like this would have been huge if it were released in 1985. The galloping “The Heath is Coming Again,” the melodic metal of opener “Factory of Death,” and the straight forward speed metal of “Demon’s Call” are all highlights here.

Label: Fighter

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Katatonia:  Sky Void of Stars

Led by original members Jonas Renske and Andres Nystrom, Katatonia has been around for over thirty years and Sky Void of Stars is their twelfth full length album. One thing you can expect, much like the career of Anathema, each Katatonia album stands out as an individual album that is different than what’s come before. My favorite era of Katatonia would be mid-career when the combination of the original heaviness was combined with Renske’s developing clear singing and he expressed intense emotions on songs like “The Sleeper” and “I Break.”  Sky Void of Stars is a further extension of what Katatonia achieved with City Burial, as it’s more melodic, more dreamy, and less edgy. The dreamy vocals of “Austerity” and that great riff on “Author” are some of the better elements here.  Closer “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall” is a solid track, but much of Sky Void of Stars doesn’t live up to to this band’s capabilities.  “Birds” sounds like Katatonia, but it lacks the intense emotion of their better work.  “Drab Moon” (drab song too) and “Impermanence” lack any identity and are not up to the quality we expect from Katatonia. Their last three original full length albums always had a couple of stand out tracks, I’m just not hearing that same quality here, don’t get me wrong, Sky Void of Stars is a quality record in its own merit, but you know they can be more exciting and the emotion that drives their best material is lacking here.

Label: Napalm

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Lansdowne:  Medicine

To announce their addition to the AFM Records roster, this is a twelve song compilation from Boston rockers Lansdowne. They sound a lot like some of the bands they’ve opened for:  Creed, Puddle Of Mudd, Pop Evil, etc.)  I hear some Staind in there as well. They champion themselves working man’s rock. There’s a southern vibe at times. This is definitely a hit or miss mix of songs.  I do like the slight electronic rock influence on opener “Medicine” and “Conquer Them All” is very memorable.  Watch Me Burn” sounds like a Creed song.  Several other songs are not that interesting. If you’re into this style of music or these bands that I referenced, you should check this band out, but if not- this isn’t the album that would make you want to listen to this style of music.

Label: AFM

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Lattermath:  Winter’s Painting

And what a fascinating painting this is. Lattermath’s long awaited follow-up to their 2019 self-titled debut is an impressive piece of work. The best comparison I can make here is Tesseract. Daniel Tompkins (Tesseract, Skyharbor, Haji’s Kitchen) is perhaps the best of this type of music, but the vocals of Eli Cutting are nearly as good here. Mostly clean singing, with the occasional aggressive death growls (like toward the end of “The Vice”).  Another highlight is the bass playing of Kilian Duarte. He’s got a crisp up front bass jamming on songs like “Like Waves,” “Waking Life,” and my favorite track here, “The Vice.”  “Nigh” is downbeat and dark, despite the memorable, melodic vocals. There is a hint of djent guitar here and there on songs like “One by One.” Boston’s Lattermath are building something really special here. This band has created one of the best albums I’ve heard recently and they could be the next big thing.

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Leatherwolf:  Kill the Hunted

“Hit the Dirt” kicks off the new Leatherwolf album in fine fashion. It’s high energy, in your face heavy metal. The chorus recalls those days of “Street Ready” and “Hear Me Calling,” but the high energy straight ahead delivery hasn’t been heard from them since their first independent debut from back in 1984. The rest of the album s just fine, it is impossible to match the high quality of “Hit the Dirt”- which just might be the best song I’ve heard this year. Drummer Dean Roberts is the only original member and new vocalist Keith Adamiak fits in perfectly. This isn’t the same Leatherwolf from the late eighties, but it’s still quality heavy metal.

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Mantiel:  Vestiges Engraved in Frozen Mysticism History

This is another of a number of projects from Chile’s Lord Valtgryftake (Pyreficativm, Rundgard). Vestiges Engraved in Frozen Mysticism History is their fourth album and it will appeal to fans of the early nineties black metal roots. You know the sound, esoteric and extreme, low production, raw sound. Mantiel will turn down the noise and use quiet atmospheric passage like “Wisdom of the Ancients.” Definitely a must listen for old school black metal fans.

Label: Inferna Profundus

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Maze Of Sothoth:  Extirpated  Light

Italian technical death metallers Maze Of Sothoth have been around for well over ten years and they sound like the well seasoned veteran band they are. They have a previous release, 2017’s Soul Demise, but Extirpated Light is a great album.  The vocals are straight up death metal, average overall, but the music here is exceptional. I am reminded of Morbid Angel’s second or third album while listening to Maze Of Sothoth, but they are certainly not clones and have their own identity. The first thing I noticed about this album is opener “The Unspeakable” which has a unique guitar solo. “The Revocation Dogma” reveals the quirky side to it and that’s what makes Maze Of Sothoth much more interesting than your typical death metal. “Blood Tribute” is the next highlight with an extraordinary two minutes before blasting and going back to the mid-paced intrigue. There’s some really cool guitar and drum work on “Blasphemous Ritual.” “Sanctae Inqvistionis” is another song that brings back that Morbid Angel vibe, not unlike “Where the Slime Live.” This is pushing the boundaries of death metal and creating something fascinating.

Label: Everlasting Spew

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Mechina:  Cenotaph

Chicago trio Mechina have been putting out high quality music for about twelve years now.  The amazing thing is not only do they get better with each album, they also continue to solidify a style that has become their own. I know there’s some comparisons to Fear Factory– and maybe that applies to early work, but the ethereal, dreamy, but still heavy sound transcends metal into a genre all their own. Mechina is not industrial, not symphonic, not metal- but those elements are encompassed into their sound. Thing is with Mechina, this is not a band that will immediately hit you. It takes a few listens to absorb, but this band is well worth your time.  “Starlifter” and “The Grand Hunt” are two songs that sink in right away. This is a band that has a loyal following, but they should be huge.

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Memoriam:  Rise to Power

British death metallers return with their fifth full length already. Featuring members who have spent time with Benediction and Bolt Thrower should give you an idea on what Memoriam have to offer. They also take on the war themes prevalent from Karl Willett’s much missed Bolt Thrower.  The is straight forward middle paced old school death metal with those riffs that aren’t far from thrash at times. There is a maturity to their songwriting that makes each track feel like a story in itself. Must have for death metal fans, worth checking out for other metal fans who haven’t already.

Label: Reaper Entertainment

 

Misanthrope:  Les Declinistes

French death metallers Misanthrope have always been one of my favorite underground metal bands. Les Declinistes is their twelfth full length and it contains four re-recorded songs from their early nineties era. I feel like it takes a few songs from Les Declinistes before the more avantgarde nature of Misanthrope’s best side starts to come out.  S.A.S. De L’Argiliere’s Celtic Frost (Into the Pandemonium) vocal influence starts to come through and their more intricate style as well.  Bassist Jean Jacques Moreac always impresses with some slap and technical playing and he particularly shines on “Declin Garganuesque.”  Misanthrope show a flair for the theatrical on the re-recording of “Le Roman Noir.”  It’s cool to hear new albums from 30 plus year veterans Misanthrope (France) and Atrocity (Germany) and both bands have an illustrious career thanks to their ability to transverse genres and record creative music, the latter disappointed me with their one dimensional death metal on Okkult III, but Misanthrope still show a flair for the unexpected on Les Declinistes.

Label: Holy Records

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Nachtlich:  Third Ritual

Third Ritual was originally released independently back in 2018, prior to Nachtlich’s two full lengths and a number of e.p.’s and compilations. There are six songs here and most of Third Ritual is highlighted by U.E.’s chaotic shrieking and traditional black metal sound.  “Resolute” and “A Frozen Moor” are quiet, instrumental and atmospheric. The cold north of Canada surely provides inspiration for their sound. Another highlight is “Solitude of Coffin Intrusion” which is mid paced and delightfully noisy.

Label: Inferna Profundus

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Negative Vortex:  Tomb Absolute

Negative Vortex first appeared on the death metal scene in 2015 with a demo and Tomb Absolute is their full length debut. The duo (Marcelo Rodrigues and Mario Martinelli) were both part of early nineties Brazilian death metal band the Endoparasites, so they’re veteran musicians. They play a Scandanavian style of death metal and vary the pace, sometimes in the same song (“Tomb Absolute”).  I like that they tend to add a little something special and different to each of their lengthy compositions. The pace changes and the added elements make the album a more interesting listen.

Label: Sentient Ruin

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Niederwelt:  Deus Magnus

Germany’s Niederwelt return with their second album in as many years, the promising Deus Magnus. Niederwelt is a full band and have only been around a couple of years now.  The recording quality is on the low side, though it’s not inappropriate for their style of black metal. I find vocalist Ghash is more interesting and unique than your typical black metal screechers.

Label: MX Official

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Obituary:  Dying of Everything

Florida death metallers Obituary are an institution. One of the originators of the famous Floridian death metal movement from the late eighties and early nineties (along with Death, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Monstrosity, etc.) They have always had their signature mid paced simple death metal riffing with John Tardy’s recognizable vomitous vocalizations. “Be Warned,” Dying of Everything’s closing track best exemplifies that classic sound of Obituary. “Barely Alive” is that one fast paced song that differs from the usual mid paced stomp.  “The Wrong Time” and “My Will to Live” are two standout tracks and best show the Obituary sound, the former and instant head nodder. “Dying of Everything” has some sharp guitar and drum work.  Another slight change is that John Tardy’s vocals are little more aggressive and less of the instantly recognizable sound he had in the early days.

Label: RELAPSE

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Occulsed:  Parturition of Adulteration

This is a remaster of Atlanta death metallers Occulsed’s first two e.p.’s; Cenotaph to Putridity and Ceremonial Lifelessness with a new song, the headbanging “Resiled Necromniscence.” Occulsed play fast paced, old school death metal. Even with the remastering, this album sounds primitive and not the work of a veteran band. This is even more apparent with the new song, “Resiled Necromniscience,” which shows more maturity in the songwriting department.

Label: Everlasting Spew

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Onward:  Of Epoch and Inferno

Onward is back with their first album since 2014 and first album without late vocalist Michael Grant. Joining mainstay guitarist Toby Knapp is new vocalist Robert Van War (ex-Attika). With a new line-up in tact, Toby has decided to take the musical direction further away from progressive power metal and into a more speed metal territory. An accomplished shredder for more than thirty years (he was on Mike Varney’s Shrapnel roster), Toby proves to be an equally worthy riff master on Of Epoch and Inferno.  “Vicious Beauty” and “Ring Around the Rosary” have riffs that are so good, they can’t be ignored. Toby’s riffs and solos are the highlight of this Onward album, but my only complaint are that the vocals are buried in the mix.  “Neptune’s Revenge” is one song where the vocals stand out.

Label: Moribund

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Owl:  Awaken the Mountain

It’s been a long time coming but California psychedelic doom/stoner rockers Owl are back with their third full length album. Looking at the logo, the artwork, and listening to this album, you would swear this was recorded in the mid-seventies. Everything about this band has that look and sound.  Owl is a family affair, only outsider is new bassist Jamie Sanitate and his love for Iron Maiden fits in perfectly with Owl’s retro sound. First single “Minion of the Amethyst Cave” has an energetic vibe recalling a more laid back Black Sabbath or some of those N.W.O.B.H.M. bands from the late seventies and early eighties. Most of this album are full of four minute song oriented tracks, but there is “A King for Every Mountain” which is an adventurous ten minute song. Anyone who loves seventies sounding rock will enjoy Owl.

Label: Lummox

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Patriarchs In Black:  Reach for the Scars

Patriarchs In Black is the latest project from Hades/Non-Fiction maestro Dan Lorenzo (Vessel Of Light, Cassius King) and he is joined by drummer Johnny Kelly (Type O Negative, Quiet Riot, Danzig, among many others). Among the guest bassists are previous collaborators Sott Lepage and Jimmy Schulman and among the guest singers are Karl Agell (Leadfoot, ex-Corrosion Of Conformity) and John Kosco (Dropbox). As with any Dan Lorenzo project, you get kick ass guitar riffs and energetic, memorable songs that combine old school metal, doom,  and rock into his own sound (Kiss, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith).  “I’m the Dog” is an excellent opener, the simple and effective riff and Karl’s vocals take you right back to the Corrosion Of Conformity’s Blind album and how essential that sound is.  The most immediate song is “Sing for the Devil” with the vintage Lorenzo riff.  “This Damn War” and the doomy “Demon of Regret” both feature Karl’s distinctive vocals.  Those familiar with Dan Lorenzo’s three solo albums or the album he did with the Cursed (Overkill’s Blitz on vocals) will enjoy the nasty attitude of “Hate My Life.”  “Mourning This Life” and “The Submission Bell” are two great songs as well and even their cover of the Led Zeppelin classic “Kashmir” makes for a great listen.  Patriarchs In Black isn’t as immediate as Cassius King.  You would be wise to spin this a few times and live with it for a week because there’s some great songs here.

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Pyreficativm:  Oneiron

Another solo project from Lord Valtgryftake (aka Melek Rsh Nvth IX here). This is my favorite of his projects.  Pyreficativm is their fifth album and it’s quality old school black metal.  If this came out in the early nineties, Pyreficativm would have been huge. Pyreficativm do combine some majestic ambient with their traditional black metal.

Label: Inferna Profundus

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Pythian:  Understanding in Light

Pythian is a trio from Ohio and Understanding in Light is their most recent and most accomplished e.p. There are four songs and half an hour of impressive, unclassifiable heavy music here.  You can hear elements of the better of those “post-hardcore” bands like Cult Of Luna or Isis and some of those New England bands from the late nineties and early two thousands. There’s some sludge and doom here and a vocalist with enough dynamics to his semi-aggressive style to keep your interest. I hear some serious potential in Pythian and look forward to more new music in the near future.

Label: Morbid and Miserable

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Remorseful:  Our Law Grace

Massachusset’s extreme metallers Remorseful are back with their second album. This is one of the better albums I’ve encountered in extreme metal as of late. The vocals are inhuman and slightly distorted- but ultimately just that one style, while the music delivers some diversity.  The slow paced, almost industrial pounding of “Audition” and “Two Masks” contrast well with the varied speeds of songs like “Dull Pattern.” They’re colder than Anaal Nathrakh, but more brutal than Godflesh, but if you like those bands, you should check this out.

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Riverside:  Identity 

Polish progressive metallers Riverside return for their first album since 2018’s Wasteland.  Identity is a modern conceptual album and it is probably Riverside’s most diverse album to date. The production is first class and you can clearly hear everything that is going on musically. Sometimes I’m reminded of the progressive rock of Genesis, especially when there are keyboards up front, like on “I’m Done With You.”  “Self Aware” gives off a rock vibe, while “The Place Where I Belong” is a lengthy prog rock/metal epic which shows off the many facets to Riverside’s sound. Identity is a solid progressive album, but I don’t feel there are any essential songs. 

Label: Inside Out

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Ronnie Romero:  Raised on Metal Radio

Ronnie Romero is best known for his work singing for the Ferrymen, Rainbow, Sunstorm, Lords Of Black, and Michael Schenker Group. If you know any of those bands you will have an idea of what type of singer he is.  He does possess a voice that has a little of that Ronnie James Dio grit and power, along with the finesse you would expect from such an in demand melodic singer. This is an album of covers by metal legends with typical popular songs from Accept, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Metallica, Manowar, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, and Yngwie Malmsteen. I was pleased to hear two of my favorite, but not most popular songs covered from Black Sabbath (“The Shining”) and Deep Purple (“The Battle Rages On”).  Chris Caffery (Savatage, Spirits Of Fire) guests on the former. Ronnie is talented and he has stepped up with Rainbow and Sunstorm recently and his work with Magnus Karlsson and the Ferrymen must be commended. This is a follow-up to his previous Raised on Radio covers album, but moves on from A.O.R. and classic rock to heavy metal covers here.

Label: FRONTIERS

Rundgard:  Ulvmonddomanen 

Here’s another release from the busy musician and artist from Chile, Lord Valtgryftake.  Rundgard previously released Stronghold of Majestic Ruins in 2021 and Ulvmonddomanen is the logical follow-up. I really like the atmosphere and mood Valtgryftake creates on Ulvmonddomanen. “Dominions of Unveiled Grim Obedience” is dark and moody, I enjoy the hypnotic and repetitive nature, while “Unhallowed Visions of Monumental Black Arts” is just solid mid to fast paced old school black metal. 

Label: Inferna Profundus

 

Sarkasm:  As Empires Decay

This album takes me back to 1991 when Heathen released Victims of Deception and Dark Angel released Time Does Not Heal, Believer’s Sanity Obscure came out the year before as well… or maybe Obliveon’s classic Cybervoid– after all Sarkasm vocalist Bruno Bernier sang on Obliveon’s last two albums. I know Sarkasm has a little more death metal to them, but the sharp thrashing guitars, the fast paced rhythm section and those vocals will find more appeal from the old school thrash metal crowd than your typical death metal fan.  This band was releasing demos back in 1990-1992, and underground interest resulted in some live shows and a compilation release in the 2000’s. As Empires Decay is much more sophisticated than your typical debut album. This is a band that has stuck together through decades and deliver a timeless fast paced thrashing classic.

Label: Xtreem Music

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Sicut Glacies:  Eremitt Vokter Ab Tid

Sicut Glacies is a duo from Italy and Norway- one member handles the vocals, the other the music.  This second full length is epic black metal. In between, Eremitt Vokter Ab Tid starts and finishes with cinematic foreboding instrumentals. This isn’t a stand out, but it’s not bad either. Sicut Glacies will draw black metal fans for sure, but there are more accomplished bands that would better draw fans of other metal genres.

Label: MX Official

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Slegest:  Avstand 

Avstand is Slegest‘s fourth singularly titled album of black metal mixed with rock and roll/metal. Avstand is like rock and roll musically, but with the troll like vocal style of Stig Ese. When Slegest pick up the pace like they do on “Vinterkrisus” they sound more like an old school black metal band, but they are more similar to fellow countrymenVreid and Sarke in the way that they play mid-paced black metal, but sounding more rock with the extreme vocals. They close with a cover of the Status Quo hit “Oh Baby.” 

Label: Dark Essence

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Slog :  Divination

Slog is a doom metal duo from California.  Divination is the follow-up to 2021’s Graves.  Slog plays typical old school death doom metal, the deep growly one dimensional vocals, with dark, depressing music, slow paced, but I really do like some of these guitar riffs.  They have a little more edge to them than your typical band of this genre.

Label: Morbid and Miserable

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Sons Of Cult:  Back to the Beginning

Back to the Beginning is an apt title for this Spanish heavy metal band. The music here recalls the late seventies and early eighties New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement mixed with some of the doom rocking metal of bands like Pentagram and Witchfinder General.  The songs are deliberately paced and with competent, but nothing remarkable, vocalization from Jaume Vilanova. This is the second album to come out in the beginning of January to feaure guitarist Vicente Paya and the other (Bisonte’s Broken) is much more recommended.

Label: Fighter

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Storms Within: Minds of the Wicked 

I believe Minds of the Wicked is the debut album of Pennsylvania’s Storms Within, although they’ve been around for nine years and have several local shows. This is solid straight ahead melodic metal/ energetic rock, led by frontwoman Erica Mayr.  The songs are short and direct. There is an anger and aggression to the lyrics that is matched by the energy of the musicians. Despite the lyrical aggression, the band fits in a more melodic category of metal. “Eternalize” is the strongest song here, even if “Rage” is more representative of the sound Storms Within have captured here.  

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Ten:  Something Wicked This Way Comes

It’s hard to believe British melodic rockers Ten have been around for almost three decades (minus a four year hiatus) and this is their sixteenth album. Recorded around the same time as last year’s Here Be Monsters, Something Wicked This Way Comes delivers exactly what you would expect from Gary Hughes and Ten. Catchy melodic/progressive rock with Gary’s distinctive mid level tone and professional musicianship with an occasional standout guitar riff. Ten have never been one of my favorite bands, but I’ve always appreciated their skill and Gary Hughes’ songwriting and singing ability.  They’ve had almost a dozen amazing songs in their career.  My favorite here is “Parabellum” which is one of their few songs that sounds heavier than the others. Something Wicked This Way Comes is not their best, but if you know Gary Hughes and his style, this is just right.

Label: Frontiers

Tithe:  Inverse Rapture

Inverse Rapture is Portland’s Tithe’s follow up to their 2020 debut Penance. The best parts of this album are when the pace slows down and Matt Eisman gets to shine on some creative guitar playing.  It’s a mix of sludge, black, and a little punk and death metal. I do think Matt’s vocals are very good for this extreme style of screaming. Most of the album is blasting away, but there are enough slower, sludgier passages to keep you listening; but this album is savage.

Label: Profound Lore

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Tot Aus Dem Wald:  Satan No Mono

German black metaller Das Kakophoniea created Tot Aus Dem Wald back in 1997 but has been busy putting out three full lengths in the last three years. Tot Aus Dem Wald is all about fast paced old school black metal. The eight songs here are one dimensional and will appeal to traditional black metal fans. The more modern melodic/atmospheric style and shoegaze elements are nowhere to be found on Satan No Mono.

Label: MX Official

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Totensucht:  Trimurti  

Germany’s Keltor’s solo project Totensucht is back for his fifth full length album.  Keltor briefly moved to England and released an album with Scutum Crux.  He’s been focused on Totensucht and Trimurti’s style of old school black metal.  The faster paced black metal comes across as messy and underproduced- something that underground black metal values, but does not make for an enjoyable listen.  When Totensucht slows down on “Embraced by Fire” the album becomes a much more enjoyable listen.  

Label: Wolfmond

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Toxicon: Be the Fire and Wish for the Wind 

This Australian band is an unexpected gem. Be the Fire and Wish for the Wind is the follow up to their 2016 debut, Purge. Toxicon play power metal, borderline thrash, that will bring to mind the best from the American bands of this genre; Metal Church, Vicious Rumors, Wicked Maraya, etc. “Fear Itself” is heavy and almost thrash in its pacing. “Deletist” and the songs heavy groove recalls the Metallica self titled album.  “The Lost” and “Synthetic” have an intensity that elevates this band to an elite level. Speaking of which, the two best songs are “Husk” and closer “Wish for the Wind.” Both are over six minutes and take their time building up before unleashing some powerful riffs and solid vocals. This is a band worthy of your attention and a must for people who enjoy American power metal.  

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Turbid North: The Decline 

It’s been eight long years since their last album, but Texas trio Turbid North are back with their best album yet.  I’ve always heard the potential in Turbid North, but this album certainly fulfills that and exceed expectations.  The first seven songs are short and direct.  “Eternal Dying” starts off the album with a brooding brutality and some noisy, but ominous guitar playing.  Next track, “The Oppressor” is also brutal and slower.  Turbid North turn on the speed with the grinding “Slaves.”  In three short songs we get to hear how well rounded an extreme band this is.  “Patients” is another short grind track.  “Drown in Agony” is a perfect combination of the slow and fast styles of the band.  “The Road” even has a guitar solo with a more traditional structure and some heavy ass bass sound.  The last three tracks are longer, but no less interesting.  This is what extreme metal should sound like. 

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Ulthar:  Helionomicon/Anthronomicon

American black death metallers Ulthar follow up their sophomore record Providence with two albums.  Helionomicon consists of two twenty minute tracks.  While the vocals are generic death growls, the music is quite interesting- especially the labyrinthine guitar riffing.  Both albums have  spectacular artwork.  Anthronomicon features eight songs, not that different from the epics on Helionomicon sound wise, although there seems to be more urgency because the length of about four of these tracks are about the same as the Helionomicon release.

Label: 20 Buck Spin

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Vanja Gvozdanovic Depressor:  The Final Plague

Damn, the last time I checked out a new album by Vanja Gvozdanovic Depressor it was Nenad 2000 in 2021.  He’s already released half a dozen more albums since then, including the third part of the Battlestar Lemon trilogy, The Final Plague.  Despite the wealth of material, and my inability to keep up with it all, I always find Vanja’s albums to be interesting.  His style of black metal feels epic (even though most songs are about three minutes long) and eccentric.  He reminds me of some of those nineties black metal bands when they started to become more melodic musically and visually, like Night Conquers Day, for instance.

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Wothrosch:  Odium

This debut is killer. Wothrosch are a new band from Greece. This is their first release and it’s an accomplished adventure. They play a combination of death metal that often ventures into the depths of dirty, brutal sludge metal. Think of Gojira, but much nastier and more brutal, same with old Mastodon, as these songs have that epic and brutal vibe they created on their first album or two. There are some faster, straight ahead death metal parts throughout Odium, but when it comes to slow, intricate brutality; which is the majority of this album, Wothrosch really clicks and makes you feel the depth of this musical quagmire. Highly recommended.

Label: HAMMERHEART

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