We are halfway through autumn, mere weeks away from the holiday season, and the Christmas music is already starting to play in some stores. Personally, I’m rather irritated by this – not because of the music itself, but because of the choice in Christmas songs. Why is nobody playing anything from the We Wish You a Metal X-Mas collection that came out two years ago? Okay, the answer to that is obvious, but still, I think it would be fun for all the headbangers picking up new music to hear Lemmy singing “Run Rudolph Run” as they shop. It would certainly make the process of choosing which albums to buy this week a little easier, since the selection is so huge!
This week, we get one of black metal’s biggest stars making their impact on a new label, the return of a veteran horror/shock metal act from space, the reunion of a seminal technical death metal act after almost two decades of silence, and several other amazing new releases. The holidays came early for metalheads this year, and this week is the latest example of why there will be no silent nights for the rest of 2010!
Cradle of Filth, Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa (Nuclear Blast)
After 2008’s highly-acclaimed Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder, one would think that Roadrunner would have retained the English extreme metal group. However, last year the group mysteriously vanished from their roster. That’s a big loss for Roadrunner, as Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa is already receiving even better reviews than its predecessor. Dani Filth has never failed to deliver a gripping, heavy, and non-traditional record, and this one is no exception. No matter what your opinion is of Cradle of Filth, this album is undeniably unique and excellent.
GWAR, Bloody Pit of Horror (Metal Blade)
Coming off the success of Lust in Space, GWAR continues to steamroll on with their gruesome image and blazing thrash. They’ve never changed their approach to their music, and while some might call them formulaic, they are still some of metal’s best showmen ever. Bloody Pit of Horror is the perfect image for GWAR, and fans of the band will likely heap praises on the album for quite some time.
Underoath, Ø (Disambiguation) (Solid State)
Aaron Gillespie’s departure from the band in April leaves Underoath with no remaining original members. However, the band recruited a more-than-capable replacement in the form of ex-Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison. It is intriguing to track the careers of Underoath and Norma Jean; for as Underoath has gotten considerably heavier over the past six years, Norma Jean has continually gotten lighter, only breaking the trend on their most recent album, Meridional. Whether or not Underoath also levels off on Ø (Disambiguation) will be interesting to hear. Pick up the deluxe edition for a bonus DVD of studio footage.
Atheist, Jupiter (Season of Mist)
Atheist’s reunion in 2006 caused a great deal of celebration throughout the metal community, as one of the pioneers of technical, jazz-infused metal returned to create more mayhem. The return of Atheist has thus far been very similar to the reunion of their contemporaries Cynic and their 2008 release, Traced in Air. Jupiter will be the first release of new material from Atheist in 17 years, and it will likely be greeted with nearly universal praise, similar to what Traced in Air received. With the two creators of progressive/technical death metal back together, what’s not to be happy about?
Helloween, 7 Sinners (The End)
The expectation with Helloween is usually the same from one album to the next: deliver the best power metal possible, free of all external influences and distilled to its purest form. 7 Sinners comes close to that, and will likely be much more appreciated by fans than Gambling With the Devil was. It may not be on the same level as Walls of Jericho or Keeper of the Seven Keys, but it’s a much more impressive album than anything else Helloween has released in quite awhile.
Alter Bridge, AB III (Alter Bridge Recordings/Capitol)
There is a reason why Slash chose Myles Kennedy as the frontman for his touring band. Kennedy is one of the strongest, most consistent singers in all of rock, and it shows on every single Alter Bridge record thus far. AB III supposedly carries a loose concept, but most fans will simply be looking for another solid vocal performance from Kennedy. They will get that for sure.
Oceano, Contagion (Earache)
Love them or hate them, Oceano’s debut album Depths was undeniably one of the heaviest, most unforgiving albums to come out last year. Contagion either equals or surpasses Depths in heaviness song for song, aided by cameos from Alexandre Erian and Steve Marois of Despised Icon and Nick Arthur of Molotov Solution. Frontman Adam Warren is one of the most imposing singers in all of metal, and on Contagion, it almost feels as if he’s screaming every line right into your face.
The Ocean, Anthropocentric (Metal Blade)
Back in April, The Ocean released Heliocentric, the first of two albums this year providing a strong critique of Christianity. Anthropocentric, the second of these albums, draws on the writings of Fyodor Dostoyevsky; in particular “The Brothers Karamasov”. This album is also purportedly heavier and denser than Heliocentric, which will delight fans of 2007’s double album Precambrian.
Virgin Steele, Black Light Bacchanalia (SPV/Steamhammer)
Nearly three decades after their formation, Virgin Steele are still advancing their sound and trying new things. Visions of Eden showed a new side of the band, with thicker production, elements of musical theater, and additional progressive and symphonic metal. The album earned Virgin Steele a spot on the PowerProg VIII Festival in Atlanta in 2007. Black Light Bacchanalia will likely show some of the same progression and experimentation, keeping the veteran band relevant and interesting heading into their 30-year anniversary next year.
Ross the Boss, Hailstorm (AFM)
The former Manowar guitarist is releasing his second solo album after leaving the seminal power metal band, and critics are already proclaiming that he’s outdone his former bandmates again. 2008’s New Metal Leader had everything that Manowar’s early material had and that their recent material has lacked – intelligent, well-written leads and epic, shredding solos. Inspired by the best parts of Accept and Judas Priest, Ross the Boss is certainly living up to his stage name.
War from a Harlot’s Mouth, MMX (Lifeforce)
Rising out of the same scene that birthed Heaven Shall Burn, Neaera, Maroon, and many other ferocious metalcore/death metal bands, War from a Harlot’s Mouth has always tried to go one step further than their contemporaries. Both Transmetropolitan and In Shoals added mathcore, grindcore, and experimental elements into a basic metalcore/deathcore structure, creating a frenetic, multi-faceted sound equivalent to the marriage of Converge and Suicide Silence. MMX continues the chaos by throwing 8-string guitars into the sound, which will only add to the depth and multiplicity of their sound.
Facebreaker, Infected (Metal Blade)
Aside from having an awesome name, Facebreaker’s biggest claim to fame is that their lead vocalist is Scar Symmetry growler Roberth Karlsson. This group has a lot in common with the Swedish death metal elite, such as Bloodbath, Grave, Entombed, and Dismember. Their music is heavy and intense, but they occasionally throw in a Bolt Thrower-esque crunch that adds variety and texture to the otherwise polished speed and technique. Check out these guys if you’re looking for a heavier and more diverse take on the Swedish death metal formula.
Aborym, Psychogrotesque (Season of Mist)
Aborym isn’t quite on the level of EBM, but their industrial black metal mix is very close to it. The Italian-Norwegian band has always treaded a very thin line between their distinctive style and straightforward EBM, and yet it always sounds unique and amazing. Psychogrotesque is an innovative album that attempts function as a single track broken up into ten parts. It’s a very ambitious and interesting record that should grab the attention of both industrial and black metal fans.
Place of Skulls, As a Dog Returns (Red General)
Place of Skulls formed after guitarist Victor Griffin left Pentagram and found faith in Christianity, which is ironic considering his former band. There aren’t many Christian doom metal bands out today, if any exist at all beyond the most obscure underground scenes. Place of Skulls is the closest one that will get to this unlikely combination, and given the daring lyrical content on their last record, I highly recommend checking it out to see if Griffin can keep the interest level high.
First Blood, Silence is Betrayal (Bullet Tooth)
The first big release from Josh Grabelle’s new company/label Bullet Tooth, First Blood followed Grabelle over from Trustkill for their second full-length album. It’s been four years since the release of Killafornia, and the only remaining member of the band’s old lineup is vocalist Carl Schwartz. However, since Schwartz is a former member of Terror and Sworn Vengeance, and First Blood shares many musical elements with those two bands, expect Silence is Betrayal to be very similar to what the band has previously done.
Salome, Terminal (Profound Lore)
The trio from Virginia is back for their second full-length album of crushing doom metal, much like Fistula, Grief, and Zoroaster. Vocalist Katherine “Kat” Katz is also known as the new vocalist for grind veterans Agoraphobic Nosebleed, showing just how diverse her vocal talents are. This group has a very bright future if they can maintain their track record of bleak, heavy doom.
Evocation, Apocalyptic (Metal Blade)
Evocation could have been one of the stalwart veterans of the Swedish death metal scene, but unfortunately, after two very promising demos, the band was forced into hiatus in 1993 by creative differences. However, in 2001 the band resurfaced with the re-release of those two demos, and have since released two excellent full-length. Apocalyptic follows its predecessors with a fresh sound that doesn’t simply rehash the scene’s mainstays. Vaguely reminiscent of more obscure Swedish groups like Centinex and Eucharist, this album is worth checking out.
PowerWorld, Human Parasite (Steamhammer/SPV)
Formed by ex-Freedom Call members Ilker Ersin and Nils Neumann, PowerWorld plays melodic power metal in the same vein as Freedom Call, but with more atmosphere and a somewhat heavier overall tone. Former Threshold vocalist Andrew “Mac” McDermott makes his debut on this album, equaling and somewhat surpassing former singer Steffen Brunner. PowerWorld is an enjoyable listen for fans of Masterplan, Pyramaze, Thunderstone, and other keyboard-intensive power metal groups.
Messengers, Anthems (Strike First)
The debut EP from the Dallas-based Christian thrashers is a great start to their career. Filled to the brim with high-quality old-school thrash, Messengers has a very bright future in front of them if they stick with this sound. There is also a fair amount of hardcore crossover with the gang vocals and mosh-worthy riffs. This is one EP that will raise the bar for young bands and veteran acts alike.
Darkthrone, Panzerfaust [Re-issue] (Peaceville)
Together with Transilvanian Hunger, Panzerfaust is considered by many to be one of the most essential albums of Darkthrone’s long and controversial career. Peaceville is reissuing this classic with a bonus disc that contains commentary on each track by main man Fenriz. It’s not a typical re-issue of a classic album, but then again, when has Darkthrone ever done anything typical or expected?
Dio, At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987 (Niji Entertainment Group)
This live album is the first official release from Dio’s label, Niji Entertainment Group, and covers both of his performances at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington. Although there is some crossover in the track lists between the two performances, these shows are still worth listening to in their entirety. Taken from the Holy Diver and Dream Evil tours, both of which were high points of Dio’s career in the ’80s, this is an essential for fans of the legendary singer.
Behemoth, Evangelia Heretika (Metal Blade)
This new DVD was already guaranteed to sell well due to frontman Nergal’s battle with leukemia and the immense outpouring of fan support. But now that a bone marrow donor has been found, the sales numbers will likely be even higher. Regardless of Nergal’s condition, though, this DVD is a worthwhile purchase for any fan of the Polish blackened death metallers. With one DVD showing two amazing live performances from Warsaw and Paris, another DVD packed with the Evangelion tour diary and other goodies, and a live CD of the Warsaw performance, there is enough excellent material on this release to excite every Behemoth listener out there. Do not pass this up.
Next Week: Much like last week, everyone vanishes in deference to a legend. This time, though, it is one of the fallen heroes of 2010. Come back next week as we pay tribute to one of the greatest we have ever and will ever hear.