The most prominent American metal bands were, are, and will be The Big 4, for as long as their careers last. However, the surge of American metal in the past twelve years has, in some ways, led to a forced change of the guard in terms of fan enthusiasm. Sure, The Big 4 still draw huge crowds when they play their major tours. But with ticket prices for those shows in the wallet-breaking triple digits and an inability to mosh for 90% of the crowd, the attraction for most younger metal fans has moved on to the bands still playing clubs, mid-sized venues, and outdoor festivals. In many ways, these bands are quickly becoming the honored elders that The Big 4 and other ’80s and ’90s bands are now seen as. After careers spanning a decade or more and releasing numerous albums, these bands are looked up to by the newest artists in the same ways that The Big 4 were once looked up to. These trends are what make reviewing the history of American metal so interesting, even as more bands become veterans with the passage of time and the release of new material.
So it is with the two artists leading today’s list. A decade ago, Darkest Hour was touring heavily and releasing their second full-length album, So Sedated, So Secure. Meanwhile, DevilDriver was freshly forming from the ashes of nu metal group Coal Chamber and releasing their self-titled debut album on Roadrunner. For those that haven’t watched the bands’ careers develop, it might seem hard to imagine them coming from such humble beginnings. For those that have, it’s a wonderful sight to see these two bands and their many contemporaries now achieving such widespread acclaim. And now we get to hear the latest and greatest material from these two powerhouse acts, on the same day, no less.
Darkest Hour, The Human Romance (eOne Music)
If there is one thing Darkest Hour can be credited for, it’s stability. The band has undergone very few lineup changes in their sixteen year career, most of which occurred during the band’s formative years. Their signing with eOne Music last year also marked only the second time Darkest Hour has changed labels since the release of their first full-length in 2000. After a decade with Victory Records, though, many industry professionals believe the signing to eOne was one of the best moves the band could have made. The Human Romance is touted by guitarists Mike Schleibaum and Mike Carrigan as being “the most emotional and melodic Darkest Hour album to date”, while also partaking in the aggression that made 2009’s The Eternal Return so widely praised. I’m incredibly excited to see what new viciousness The Human Romance has to offer.
DevilDriver, Beast (Roadrunner)
DevilDriver is an even greater model of consistency than Darkest Hour, having only made one lineup change in a decade and staying with Roadrunner Records during their entire career. The band took some interesting steps on 2009’s Pray for Villains, experimenting with a couple of different styles and sounds that the band hadn’t tried before. By contrast, Beast has more in common with 2007’s The Last Kind Words. Both albums are filled to the brim with raw, violent power. The only difference is that Beast is somehow even heavier and more antagonistic than any of its predecessors. This is a record for angry people, by angry people, meant to provide the most destructive release for that anger possible.
Evergrey, Glorious Collision (SPV/Steamhammer)
The Swedish progressive metal group has gained a lot of steam in the past five years. Their albums Monday Morning Apocalypse and Torn did a great deal to increase the band’s recognition in the US. However, last May, three of the band’s five members left over problems interacting within the band, as a mutual decision to avoid ruining their friendship. With only vocalist/founder Tom Englund and longtime keyboardist Rikard Zander left of the lineup that recorded Torn, the new lineup that recorded Glorious Collision has produced an even more diverse and progressive album than anything else in Evergrey’s discography.
Earth, Angels of Darkness Demons of Light 1 (Southern Lord)
Earth is one of the leading veterans of post-rock and experimental doom metal, and they have survived through a plethora of difficulties in their 22-year career. Dylan Carlson never ceases innovating and changing Earth’s music to keep it fresh and interesting. On this first half of a two-part saga, cello becomes a regular inclusion in the band’s sound, making Earth one of the only metal bands to use cello in conjunction with other instruments in any regularity (since Apocalyptica is obviously a separate entity in that group). Earth is always doing more, and this album is no exception.
Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, D.R.U.G.S. (Sire)
This group may have named their band using the most forced analogy ever seen in music, but few people interested in this group will likely care about that. Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows is the new group from ex-Chiodos frontman Craig Owens, and the lineup also features members of From First to Last, Story of the Year, and Matchbook Romance. This group is almost a supergroup in that sense, raising the potential of this group a great deal. But most Chiodos fans, especially those disappointed with 2010’s Illuminaudio, will be clamoring for this album just to hear Owens’ vocals again.
Next Week: If you liked Earth, you’ll love the progressive and doom-inspired albums coming out next week. There are a few other options in another short week, but it’s worth returning to see the sleeper picks coming out!