Welcome to the 2011 release calendar, headbangers! Have you missed me? I know I missed all of you! The insanity of the holiday season has passed, and the music industry is grinding its way back into regular operations, including new releases. I already mentioned in the final weeks of 2010 the stacked lineup of new releases that is in store for us. However, we’re not getting them all at once. In fact, the selection in this first new release week of 2011 is quite limited. Don’t worry though, because the next few weeks will make up for it.

This week, we’re seeing our biggest new release hail from the shores of Germany, where one of the biggest thrash stalwarts is throwing down the gauntlet early for other veterans to follow. We also get a long-awaited DVD from one of America’s hard rock heroes of the previous decade. So crack open those wallets, pull out those gift cards, and get your metal rolling!

Sodom, In War and Pieces (Steamhammer/SPV)

If you’re looking an album with decidedly grim cover art, then look no further. This is possibly the darkest, most realistic cover artwork I’ve ever seen from Sodom, making the horrific details of war look extremely realistic in the painting. Musically, this album is a great way to pick up from where the band left off on 2006’s self-titled album. Sodom has maintained a high standard of quality on most of their newer material, and there’s no reason to think that In War and Pieces would be any different.

Engel, Threnody (Season of Mist)

It’s about time this album saw the light of day in the US! Japan got it last April, and Europe got it in November, and at last, American Engel fans can have their fill of the band’s new material! It may have taken a long time for this album to get released here, but the wait is worth it. Engel is one of the better young melodic death metal bands from Sweden, helped significantly by their members’ experience in bands such as In Flames, The Crown, and The Haunted. With these veteran-level skills, on top of a complex and melodic song structure, Engel is an enjoyable listen for those looking to try something new and different from Sweden.

Casey Jones, I Hope We’re Not the Last (The First Division)

This will be Casey Jones’ final album before the members decide to go their separate ways. And there goes my wish to not have to write another feature on breakups in 2011. However, you can hardly fault both Josh and Caleb James for wanting to work on Evergreen Terrace full-time, now that the band is picking up steam. This album is available digitally at all major online outlets, but won’t be available physically except at a few locally-owned music shops. Your best bet to get a physical copy of the album is to pick it up at a live show, starting with their January mini-tour supporting Death Before Dishonor alongside The Mongloids and Hundredth.

Monsters, Monsters (False Prophet)

Initial impressions of these guys reveal a plodding engine of deathcore, slow-moving and breakdown-intensive. This kind of approach worked in the early days of deathcore for bands like Carnifex and Impending Doom. However, many bands have since modified their approach to incorporate greater amounts of speed and technicality. For those that only want the brutality, Monsters is a great band to look at. You may have already caught them without even realizing it, since they were the opening act on ABACABB’s farewell tour last month and will be heading out with Legend and Dr. Acula this week.

Chevelle, Any Last Words? (Epic)

This new live DVD is Chevelle’s commemoration of their ten-year anniversary as a band, chronicling their ten-year anniversary shows at The Metro in Chicago. The DVD also comes with a CD of the recorded audio from the shows, making it a live album as well. Pre-orders that occurred before November 13th will earn the buyer a spot listing their name in a special thank-you section of the liner notes, which is incidentally exactly the same thing as what In This Moment did with their debut album Beautiful Tragedy. However, seeing as how Chevelle has been around for a lot longer and carries a lot more name recognition, I anticipate that this section of the liner notes will be at least three pages long.

There it is, folks. One down, about fifty more to go until we hit 2012. Leave your comments on what you think of today’s list, your predictions on the albums due to be released this year, and/or what album you want the most this year. Keep it metal, my friends! See you next week!