Eluveitie have hit their peak in their eighth record, Ategnatos. It’s fantastically fluid for such a diverse folk metal album, and, while it retains the trademark Eluveitie sound, it’s a distinct experience from most of their other releases. To say the least, it’s dynamic. The songs range from huge melodeath blast beats with rough vocals to softer, mournful tracks like ‘Eclipse’. There’s even a bouncy tune in ‘Ambiramus’ that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks (but don’t worry, you’ll welcome it). The broad instrumentation of this Swiss septet includes traditional instruments and shamelessly skilled drums, as well as three different vocal styles, my favourite of which are the versatile pipes of Fabienne Erni. The control she displays is insane and honestly, without her, the album wouldn’t have made it as my top pick.
Back to business after a series of splits, Scotland’s Hellripper returns with four tracks of ripping, thrashing black/speed metal mayhem. Black Arts & Alchemy sees Hellripper continue to melt your face while making you enjoy it. Midnight meets Venom meets Kill ‘em All done with a vicious snarl and enough hooks to clear the Atlantic of all aquatic lifeforms for eternity.
Smoulder’s debut album is full of sweeping, epic doom riffs and memorable vocal melodies. Formed by Sarah Ann from Sam Dunn’s Banger TV and members of Olórin and Ezra Brooks, Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring comes storming out of the gate with “Ilian of Garathorm” and doesn’t look back. Mixed and mastered by Arthur Rizk (Eternal Champion, Sumerlands, Pissgrave, Uada) so you know it sounds retro and massive. Highly recommended for fans of recent epic doom in the vein of Crypt Sermon and Solstice.
Their second album in as many years, this German black metal band took me by utter surprise. Great artwork, fantastic vocals, and a great mix of melody and ferocity. I may have just discovered this release, but it has been pretty constant in my listening habits.
Crowhurst are known to be prolific in the field of harsh noise, whether it is a solo release or a collaboration.When they work on their self titled works however, things change. With III, Gambit and co. create one more excellent addition to their discography and the best possible follow up to II. III is as emotional as it gets, a sincere and unapologetic work that draws influences from all over the place and still manages to layer them all effortlessly. This is their best work yet.
Initially born from the creativity of JP Ahonen, Belzebubs started out as a comic book about a black metal band and bloomed in popularity up to the point where the characters needed a voice. Pantheon of the Nightside Gods is the real debut album from the fictional band and a very convincing dose of top quality melodic black metal. With the real line-up never seeing the light of day, there’s an aura of mistery surrounding the album that only adds to the effect of the songs. It’s epic, menacing, diverse and cinematic and it sets a very different tone from the gut challenging humour of the comics. This is a must listen for fans of Insomnium, Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth.
Probably one of the most anticipated prog albums of this year, and for good reason, Periphery IV: Hail Stan pushes deeper into every one of the band’s assets from earth-shattering riffs and breakdowns to catchy grooves, more calming and optimistic energies and even an electronic song. It is loaded with creativity and expands their horizons but it stays 100% true to the sound that is so easily recognized as Periphery. Pumped by what might just be the best production work the world has ever seen and wrapped in a constant attitude of badassery, there really isn’t much more you can ask for whether you’re into prog, or just want to bang your head until it drops!
Four years after the band’s somewhat lukewarmly received eponymous seventh album, Månegarm are back with Fornaldarsagor and while some may complain that is ‘more of the same’, the Swedes stick to their formula, but they do it with such fervour that it is hard not to be dragged along with the tide. Their mix of melodic black metal, folk , some borderline-power metal influences and an amazingly varied approach to their songs still bears as much relevance as ever and their hand for dynamics, tremendous flow and just overall outstanding songwriting. Foregoing the often prevalent blastbeats for double-bass in many cases is one of the elements that make Månegarm stand apart from the majority of their genre-mates and the resulting sheer intensity and power of songs such as “Hervors arv” or “Tvenne drömmar” are prime examples for this, but one can take basically any of the songs and find a good representative for what to expect on Fornaldarsagor.
In my review of this album, I dubbed West Of Hell as ‘progressive heavy technical melodic groovethrash’ – and I stand by that statement. Blood Of The Infidel is a phenomenal crowd-pleaser for fans of many sub-genre of metal. Being complex (but not too complicated), catchy (but not simplistic) and virtuosic (but not unnecessarily flashy) – this is a real tour de force of talent. The Canadian metallers completely outshone anyone who even came near their chosen style, with oodles of skill being shown through the chaotic drumming, wild-as-hell guitars/bass and batshit crazy vocals. This is Chris Valagao’s finest performance on disc and is guaranteed to inspire generations of young metal vocalists to reach his insane heights.