When I mentioned in last week’s column that there was a release shortage this week, I should have known that someone, somehow, was going to make a fool of me. Last week, when I checked the upcoming releases for today, there were four items on the list (five if you count the physical release of The Great Mass by Septicflesh, which I discussed two weeks ago on its digital release date and am not rehashing today). When I started writing this week’s column over the weekend, that number had jumped up to sixteen. Don’t get me wrong – I’m quite happy to see all these new releases pop up spontaneously. I just wish it didn’t happen at my expense.
Oh well, enough about my bruised ego. Let’s instead bask in the wondrous glow of these new records. Death metal and gothic metal fans reap the greatest number of rewards this week, although prog fans will also have plenty of reason to be happy. All in all, it’s yet another great week to be a metalhead!
Sixx:A.M., This is Gonna Hurt (Eleven Seven)
Technically, this is the second studio album for Nikki Sixx’s side project, but since it is also associated with a book authored by the Mötley Crüe bassist, I prefer to think of it as a second soundtrack. Lead single “Lies of the Beautiful People” has done markedly well in the two and a half months since the video debuted on Sixx Sense, Sixx’s online radio show. The fact that the fans have demanded the album so heavily is the reason why it appears on today’s list, rather than next week’s.
Leaves’ Eyes, Meredead (Napalm)
This album got released in Europe two weeks ago, as seems to be the status quo lately with bands that are popular in Europe and still developing in the US. The band’s fourth full-length follows their successful 2009 opus Njord, an album named for one of the Norse gods. Apparently the theme has caught on, as many of the song titles on this album are in Norwegian. And in another continuing theme of Leaves’ Eyes, the band has had personnel changes since Njord, with guitarist Sander van der Meer and drummer Roland Navratil joining the fold last year. However, the one thing that will never change about Leaves’ Eyes is the angelic voice of Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull, one of the most unique and recognizable in all of gothic metal.
dredg, Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy (Superball)
Okay, so dredg is not really metal, but the California rock quartet is a favorite of many metalheads with broad musical palettes. Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy is certainly the oddest album title that dredg (and quite possibly every other mainstream alternative rock act) could use, and the downright unsettling album cover only compounds this insanity. It’s hard to believe that the same group that created such disturbing imagery also creates such beautiful music, but, there’s your evidence right there.
Ulver, Wars of the Roses (Kscope)
Kristoffer Rygg, better known to most of the metal community as Garm, may have largely left the spotlight after leaving both Arcturus and Borknagar. But Rygg has never stopped creating music, he’s just done so in a lesser-known capacity. Ulver has actually been Rygg’s longest-running project, and was also his first musical venture with published material, thanks to 1993’s Vargnatt demo. Wars of the Roses is Ulver’s eighth studio album and further develops their experimental and avant-garde style. If you like prog with dark, aggressive undertones, then Ulver may be the best band you’ve never heard of.
Before the Dawn, Deathstar Rising (Nuclear Blast)
The fact that Before the Dawn is practically unknown in America is almost criminal. The Finnish group has been a force throughout Europe over their twelve year career, as part of tours with the likes of Katatonia, Amorphis, Scar Symmetry, Moonspell, and many other big names in metal. Additionally, their fourth album Deadlight spawned two singles that each peaked at #2 on the Finnish Rock Radio charts. Deathstar Rising, the group’s sixth album, is their debut with Nuclear Blast, and hopefully also the beginning of a dedicated fanbase in America.
Suidakra, Book of Dowth (AFM)
Germany’s answer to Eluveitie and Finntroll, Suidakra has quietly commanded the world of folk metal for over fifteen years. Lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist Arkadius “Akki” Antonik has kept the band running for so long, despite an unstable lineup for the first few years, because of his ability to craft epic, gripping songs in ways that few other bands can hope to match. 2009’s critically-lauded Crógacht was a masterful album that greatly expanded the band’s audience, and with any luck, Book of Dowth will garner just as many new fans for Suidakra as its predecessor.
Midnattsol, The Metamorphosis Melody (Napalm)
If you’ve never heard of Midnattsol, you will at least be somewhat familiar with one of their members. Lead singer Carmen Elise Espenæs is, ironically enough, the younger sister of Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull, a fact which has irrevocably linked Midnattsol to Leaves’ Eyes (and also Theatre of Tragedy, Liv Kristine’s former band) for their entire career. Midnattsol has not developed the worldwide recognition of Leaves’ Eyes, but with any luck, The Metamorphosis Melody will turn things around. Now only one obvious question remains – did Napalm Records intentionally schedule Meredead and The Metamorphosis Melody to debut on the same day, or is that just a coincidence? One can only guess.
In Fear and Faith, Symphonies (Rise)
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that was absolutely shocked when In Fear and Faith’s sophomore album Imperial debuted on the Top 200 charts last June. For a band with only one album signed to a relatively small indie label, such high first-week sales were outstanding for In Fear and Faith. Symphonies is an interesting new EP for the band, carrying orchestral renditions of the band’s biggest hits, with guest vocalists performing on each track. Although not all the guests have been revealed yet, the name recognition of those already known is significant, including Nick Martin and Craig Owens of Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, Tyler “Telle” Smith of The Word Alive, and Caleb Shomo of Attack Attack!.
Also being released this week:
King Kobra, King Kobra (Frontiers)
Wormrot, Dirge (Earache)
Blitzkid, Apparitional (People Like You)
Xerath, II (Candlelight)
Solar Fragment, In Our Hands (Scarlet)
Voodoo Circle, Broken Heart Syndrome (AFM)
While Heaven Wept, Fear of Infinity (Nuclear Blast)
Shaman, Origins (Scarlet)
Next Week: We get another round of names you’ve never seen before, along with a sprinkling of some names you wish you’d see more often. May is going to be another solid month for metal, so stick around!