Last week’s album sales totals were bad. REALLY bad. How bad, you ask? Well, they were SO bad, Zach was forced to use a Marilyn Manson reference in the headline for Metal by Numbers just to fit Sodom into it (it could have been Bram, but I’m pinning my bet on Zach). No raining fire from Sodom and Gomorrah on the non-metal heretics of the world. Not even a throwaway line referencing the Cradle of Filth songs “Beauty Slept in Sodom” or “Sodomy and Lust”. No, we referenced Marilyn Manson instead, in what I can only assume is our way of expressing our disgust and dissatisfaction with the low album sales figures of recent times. And while I’m holding out hope that last week’s big releases managed to jump-start some metal sales figures, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Which brings us to this week’s releases, a list that leaves me feeling rather disconcerted. True, there are a lot of great albums on this list, and plenty that should be purchased in high quantities. However, this is the last week before a February that is so bloated with new releases, I will likely run out of space on each week of my new release calendar. Therefore, this week’s releases are likely to get passed over in favor of saving for future albums. I beg you, metal fans – please pick up at least one of these albums. There is a lot of quality here that needs to get some notice, especially among the unknown bands debuting this week.

Deathspell Omega, Paracletus (Season of Mist)

These French black metal mystery men have been weaving a tale of evil for over a decade now, taking a decidedly more philosophical and analytical bend on Satanism than other bands. Paracletus is their fifth full-length album during that span, and the conclusion of a trilogy that began with 2004’s Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice and continued on 2007’s Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum. The trilogy reportedly focuses on the theological implications of man’s relationship with both God and Satan, taking an intellectual approach to an extremely heady topic. If you like music that makes you think while you headbang, Deathspell Omega is worth checking out.

Architects, The Here and Now (Century Media)

This album has been getting a lot of attention from the UK press, including Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Radio 1, and XFM Radio, the last of whom boldly named Architects as one of their Top 21 Artists for 2011. That Top 21 is not just metal bands, though. It’s artists in all genres, and Architects is the only metal band on the list. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these guys are getting a lot of press – this will be their fourth album in five years, and the previous three have been veritable steamrollers of destructive metalcore and hardcore. With the lead single “Day In Day Out” lighting up airwaves across the pond, The Here and Now promises to deliver a similar onslaught of violence on American shores.

Ekotren, The Dead of Night (Burnhill Union)

Ekotren debuted in 2008 with Light the Fire, and upon hearing it, it became obvious that we are now in the post-Five Finger Death Punch era of metal. There are now a plethora of bands attempting to emulate 5FDP’s success via heavy, hard rock with touches of melody and a pervasive edge of gritty metalcore. Some have achieved a degree of success, such as Dirge Within, but most of these bands just come off as being less talented knock-offs, and unfortunately, Ekotren firmly entrenched themselves in that group with their debut. Hopefully The Dead of Night will have something fresh and interesting to offer.

Roger Miret and the Disasters, Gotta Get Up Now (People Like You)

How does Roger Miret have time to do anything at all? With a list of activities that includes fronting NYHC legends Agnostic Front, guesting on tracks for almost every other NYHC band currently active, and touring nonstop, it’s a wonder the man even has time for his family, never mind another band in addition to Agnostic Front. However, Miret and the Disasters have been around since 1999, and have already released three albums of excellent street punk in that time. Gotta Get Up Now is the group’s triumphant return after five years of silence, and it’s an album that fans of Street Dogs, U.S. Bombs, Time Again, and Lars Frederiksen will eat up. Unfortunately, with Agnostic Front’s My Life My Way just two months away from its release date, a Disasters tour seems highly unlikely. Nonetheless, punk fans will want to pick this up to indulge in a different side of Roger Miret.

Ulcerate, The Destroyers of All (Willowtip)

Is such a thing as atmospheric technical death metal even possible from a songwriting standpoint? If it is, then Ulcerate are the pioneers of this intriguing concept. It took them seven years to get to the point where they were able to release Of Fracture and Failure, but one listen to it was all it took for most to become instant fans of the New Zealand outfit. Following up with Everything is Fire, Ulcerate were clearly out to find uncharted territory and make it reality. The Destroyers of All is the natural progression of that search, with the atmospheric aspects of their sound flirting with doom metal ground. Ulcerate is a very difficult band to pinpoint influences for, but the influence they are having on other bands will likely be felt strongly in the coming years.

Eastern Front, Blood on Snow (Candlelight)

The British group has gained a steady following in Europe through relentless touring with black and death metal heavyweights. Like Deathspell Omega, Eastern Front is a black metal group with lyrical purpose. However, unlike Deathspell Omega and most other black metal bands, Eastern Front stays away from religion in most of their lyrics. Most of their lyrics focus on war and the histories behind various wars. They’re almost like a black metal version of Sabaton, except that their focus covers all wars instead of just World War II. The members of Eastern Front have gone out of their way to state that their band is not politically minded in any way, a stance which will hopefully open the minds of some fans to different ideas about conflict.

Magnum, The Visitation (SPV/Steamhammer)

It may be hard to believe it, but this is Magnum’s sixteenth album in their nearly four-decade history. It is also their sixth since their reunion in 2001, proving just how resilient Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin are this far into their career. Magnum never really achieved the level of success of bands like Rush or Y&T, but fans of those groups and similar-sounding prog rock bands will have a lot to like when they hear Magnum. And with a touring history that includes runs with Whitesnake, Tygers of Pan Tang, Krokus, and Blue Öyster Cult, the diverse appeal of Magnum can never be discounted.

Rhapsody of Fire, The Cold Embrace of Fear [EP] (Nuclear Blast)

This EP lasts a whopping 35 minutes and is basically one symphonic song divided into seven movements, essentially in the same fashion as an actual orchestral symphony. Rhapsody of Fire is one of the only bands that can successfully pull something like this off, being the powerhouses of symphonic metal that they are. There are several moments that recall last year’s The Frozen Tears of Angels within the orchestrations, making this EP an excellent bridge between that album and this year’s forthcoming From Chaos to Eternity.

Astral Doors, Testament of Rock – The Best of Astral Doors (Metalville)

Having only been around since 2002, it seems like it’s a little early for Astral Doors to have a best-of collection already. Nonetheless, their consistency over the decade has been their greatest strength, apart from the presence of vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson. The young Swede began earning comparisons to Ronnie James Dio immediately after the band’s first release Of the Son and the Father, which should give you an idea of his skill. This band is vastly underrated, and power metal needs more vocalists like Johansson in its ranks.

Also being released this week:

Cavus, Fester & Putrefy (Listenable)

Cold Snap, Perfection (M.I.G.)

Defiled, In Crisis (Season of Mist)

Návaz, Silent Stream of Godless Elegy (Season of Mist)

Shadow Theory, Behind the Black Veil (Inside Out)

Tuck from Hell, Thrashing (Metalville)

The Very End, Mercy & Misery (SPV/Steamhammer)

Next Week: Some up-and-coming bands have big releases coming that could prove to be their big breaks. Be ready, because the big names of 2011 are coming soon!