As you can imagine, there was high anticipation for Lamb Of God’s first album since Randy Blythe’s horrific ordeal in Prague. So unsurprisingly, the band delivered what’s arguably Blythe’s most personal (and angriest) album to date. Frankly, “512” alone makes this one of Lamb Of God’s best efforts, possessing possibly Mark Morton and Will Adler’s strongest riffs to date. Yet songs like “Overlord” and “Embers” (the former finding Blythe singing primary clean vocals, and the latter featuring a guest appearance from Deftones’ Chino Moreno) presents Lamb Of God discovering new ways to express their rage to great success. If there was any doubt that Lamb Of God might have lost any edge over the years, VII: Sturm And Drag proves naysayers wrong and smacks them in the face for doubting them.
Key Track: “512”
Time to make a confession: While Deafheaven blew me away onstage, I was a little puzzled by the surge of attention 2013’s Sunbather received. Not that I didn’t like the album, but I couldn’t understand why this was being declared the metal album of the year by every hipster outlet. So I was ready to be a little skeptical when New Bermuda’s release was announced… then I heard “Brought To The Water,” and it completely clicked. To say this album is a game changer/made me a true believer in Deafheaven is an understatement. George Clarke’s harsh, extreme black metal screams are of course a stand out on the album. But the real star of New Bermuda is Kerry McCoy, whose ability to effortlessly switch from satanic Slayer-esque riffs to gloomy, shoegazey solos is breathtaking. Critics keep declaring Deafheaven pioneers of blackgaze, but the truth is New Bermuda descends any sort of singular title.
Key Track: “Brought To The Water”
Alright, here’s another confession: I never viewed The Shape Of Punk To Come as the holy bible of post-hardcore that many still do. So I was looking forward to Refused’s first album in 17 years, but didn’t have enormous expectations as the diehard believers. It only took me a few short listens, though, to get completely hooked and addicted to the magical Refused kool-aid captured on Freedom. Even when they get a little dance happy on songs like “Françafrique” and “Servants Of Death”, Freedom oozes with the gritty flare and hardcore punk angst Refused is beloved for. The thrash-tastic anthem “Dawkins Christ” alone proves that Refused hasn’t lost its touch even after years of being apart.
Key Track: “Dawkins Christ”