It is now a foregone conclusion that I would likely be a terrible A&R person at a record label, because I am very bad at predicting trends in the metal world. For example, if you had asked me four years ago if instrumental metal would ever be a popular genre, I would have laughed off such a suggestion as impossible and unreasonable. Metal fans – even prog metal fans – need vocals somewhere in their music, right? Even Apocalyptica succumbed to the need for vocalists eventually. At that time in 2007, with Between the Buried and Me enjoying their most successful album to date and anticipation running high for a new Meshuggah album, I never would have believed that instrumental metal could be a viable genre among the majority of prog metal fans, much less the body of metal fans in general. Well, I’m shaking my head at my 2007 self for being so foolish as to doubt the breadth of styles that prog metal fans can appreciate. Not only is instrumental prog a popular genre now, but the genre’s leading artist has the most highly-anticipated album of new material for all metal fans this week.
I will be fair and say that two artist collections – one a greatest hits compilation, and the other an album of B-sides and rarities – have generated greater anticipation that Animals as Leaders. And there are a number of other excellent artists releasing albums of new material this week, as well. But in the area of completely new material, Animals as Leaders is the leader of the pack today.
Animals as Leaders, Weightless (Prosthetic)
Tosin Abasi is high on the list of young and exciting metal guitarists with bright futures, alongside Periphery’s Misha Mansoor and Jake Bowen. With these three at the helm, America has helped to birth the djent scene as an official metal genre in the past two years. Interestingly enough, Mansoor assisted Abasi with engineering and programming for the 2009 self-titled Animals as Leaders album, a relationship which no doubt stemmed from the group touring with Periphery in 2008. It’s likely only a matter of time until a tour that features both Animals as Leaders and Periphery happens again, which will have guitar enthusiasts countrywide screaming in excitement.
A Plea for Purging, The Life & Death of A Plea for Purging (Facedown)
There was a lot of confusion regarding the title of this album, much of which was generated by the band themselves via a pair of “joke” videos that supposedly revealed the title. The new promo photos from the band that feature vocalist Andy Atkins “taking over” the band, so to speak, are also cause for good humor. However, this album is no laughing matter, as A Plea for Purging have taken the growth from last year’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell to a whole new level. Sprinkling a few acoustic tracks among a sonic onslaught of core-twinged technical death metal, The Life & Death of A Plea for Purging is still a late consideration for one of the heaviest albums of the year. Atkins has also taken a deeply introspective approach to his lyrics, making this one of the most mature lyrical outings in the band’s history.
Night in Gales, Five Scars (Lifeforce)
The only reason why Gothenburg, Sweden is considered to be the birthplace of melodic death metal is because of numbers. No disrespect to the excellent groups to emerge from the city, but if At the Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity had all come from different areas , then the “home” of melodic death metal could have been somewhere else entirely. Bearing that in mind, you should learn the name Night in Gales if you don’t know it already. What the three aforementioned bands are to Sweden, Night in Gales is to Germany. Forming in 1995, before many more popular German bands in the genre existed, Night in Gales released four albums of quality melodic death metal between 1997 and 2001 that put them on the map for touring around Europe with their peers from other nations. The latter two albums, 2000’s Nailwork and 2001’s Necrodynamic, are forgotten classics that I highly recommend. Unfortunately, the band fell off the map after that, only releasing two demos and a ten year anniversary EP between 2001 and 2010. This year marks a triumphant return for Night in Gales, and Five Scars is a powerful way to come back.
As I Lay Dying, Decas (Metal Blade)
Speaking of ten year anniversaries, this is the year that metalcore titans As I Lay Dying hit the one decade mark, and they’re celebrating with a compilation that the group is calling a gift to their fans for ten years of support and dedication. It’s quite a gift too, as the album is more than just a collection of greatest hits or B-sides. Decas features three brand-new studio tracks, four covers, and four remix tracks, giving fans a ton of music that they’ve never heard before and showcasing many sides of the band never before imagined. With the group’s “A Decade of Destruction” tour also slated to begin at the end of this month, it’s going to be a long and loud anniversary party for As I Lay Dying, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Disturbed, The Lost Children (Reprise)
Veteran Disturbed fans likely know that the band almost always records more than they need to for their studio albums, and as such, special editions are almost always released to give fans the chance to hear those songs. Well, if you never bothered to shell out the money for those special editions, now is your chance to get the bonus tracks all in one place. Featuring sixteen B-sides recorded between 1999 and 2010, The Lost Children is an interesting look into the history of Disturbed, more than anything. Because the tracks are not ordered according to their recording date, it’s fun to listen to the album and try to identify when each track was recorded, based on the stylistic differences and David Draiman’s vocal performance. With the band taking a break in 2012, this should keep Disturbed fans tided over for the time being.
Also being released this week:
Whitechapel, Recorrupted [EP] (Metal Blade)
Martyr, Circle of 8 (Metal Blade)
Brainstorm, On the Spur of the Moment (AFM)
Like Moths to Flames, When We Don’t Exist (Rise)
Confession, The Long Way Home (Mediaskare)
Autumn, Cold Comfort (Metal Blade)
Righteous Vendetta, Lawless (Red Cord)
Dogs Divine, Size of the Fight (Mortal)
Mureau, Rumors and Reputations (Mediaskare)
Condemned, Realms of the Ungodly (Unique Leader)
Hexfire, The Fire of Redemption (Nightmare)
Next Week: It looks to be a very short week that mostly caters to prog fans, but surprises are always possible between then and now, so be back here next Tuesday and find out!