Spacy, off-kilter death metal has undergone something of a resurgence recently, with bands like Chthe’ilist and Blood Incantation releasing albums to critical acclaim. Nucleus’s sophomore album, Sentient, ought to receive similar accolades, as it’s a mighty impressive homage to the strange, alien tone of classic Finndeath. Think of it a death metal version of a cosmic expedition gone horribly wrong. This fascinating, disorienting album is highly recommended to anyone who likes weird death metal.
Ascend the Hollow shows the proper way to invent a new genre with their unique, brutal yet haunting cyber-tech metal, an unholy union of nine-string guitars, six-string bass and a wide range of sci-fi electronic effects! Covering a range of triggering topics like mental illness, rape and murder, depicted through very original imagery and delivered by contrasting melancholic female vocals and vicious screams, the debut album Echoes of Existence takes you on a grim and tormentful journey through the darkest aspects of humanity.
This honour could have easily gone to either The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Slomatics, or even Nebula, but it is the long awaited return of Oakland’s High Tone Son of a Bitch which cinches the top spot. A transcendental ode to grief whilst scaling celestial heights never before reached by the band, Death of a New Day / Eye in the Sky sits atop the pinnacle of not just psychedelic music but of musicianship across every spectrum. The first new music since the death of Drew Kott, this duo of soulful and intricate tapestries flourish and leave their smouldering mark on your soul for days on end; the cover of The Alan Parsons Project “Eye in the Sky” alone hits like a truck right here * points at chest to signify heart * with its electrifying Sonny Reinhardt appearance and dual vocal majesty from Russ Kent and Scott Wagner. It’s brief, but beyond mesmerising.
Thirty-two years after their formation, Japan’s most consistent band released their twenty-first album, Shinseinen. While it could be seen as more of the same prog rock infused, groove-laden heavy/doom metal, this latest offering is the most diverse since 2006’s Hoochie Koo. The album is full of mystical proggy hard rock, hard hitting doom, and top notch tight musicianship. Often referred to as the Japanese Black Sabbath, there’s really no other band that sounds like Ningen-Isu. Shinseinen just solidified the band’s position as one of the greatest under-appreciated acts around.
Despite Greece’s long standing and deep running metal history, only few bands actually have really “made it” outside of the country’s borders (apart from their black metal scene, that is). Diviner are one of the few bands that have garnered wider spread attention and with Realms of Time are offering up their second album, coming via Ulterium Records. Like many Greek bands, their power metal is infused with traditional heavy metal veins, keeping things earthier than the majority of power metal bands out there, forsaking the pomp and circumstance for a more grounded approach. Not least through Yiannis Papanikolaou’s deeper, at times a little grittier voice, Diviner combine very melodic choruses (no bombast, though, mind you, or big choirs) with heavier set verses and a riffier character than many of their counterparts. The first two songs “Against the Grain” and “Heaven Falls” are among the best opening volleys traditional metal has to offer this year and the quality just does not let up throughout the album. Ulterium Records, while small, are well known for putting quality over quantity and Diviner are no exception to their rule.
Killer melodies? Thick guitar tones? Boundless attitude? Yup, it’s all here in the second installment of Chaos Magic: Furyborn. Moving away from the typical, Delain-esque symphonic sound of their debut, Furyborn instead attacks with a more aggressive yet accessible badassery, with some power metal and electronic elements thrown in for good measure. It’s all wrapped up neatly in a shiny, cleanly-mixed package, and can easily be enjoyed by both metalheads as well as the average mainstream listener.
Sabaton are a busy band, so it’s impressive that guitarist Tommy Johansson (also known as Tommy ‘ReinXeed’) has any time to pursue other projects, let alone ones as good as this! His melodic power metal project, ReinXeed, was chugging along happily until earlier this year where some magical event caused him to sign with Nuclear Blast and change the band’s moniker to the, frankly brilliant, MAJESTICA! Fuck me that’s a great name, isn’t it? Just say it out loud: MAJESTICA! Makes you tingle, am I right? And with the majestic quality of the metal on offer on Above The Sky, it’s absolutely appropriate. This is exactly what I want from my European power metal: vibrant, energetic, joyful, glorious anthems chock full of saccharine keyboards, galloping rhythms and catchy choruses with melodies that soar among the clouds. MAJESTICA! go that one step further with an effective sprinkling of ’80s AOR here and there, and some quirky shenanigans in the utterly bonkers “Father Time” to make sure this LP is as memorable as possible. Just listen to the chorus of the title-track. If that doesn’t make you wanna shout ‘MAJESTICAAAAAA!!’ then there’s no hope for you.
Hailing from Poland, Aether is a promising new band more than likely to appeal to fans of epic northern metal. The debut In Embers is a balanced and rich demonstration of melodic death metal with a powerful orchestral background, that fans of Wintersun and the likes will definitely fancy. To up the hype a little more, Rolf Pilve of Stratovarius has been handling the drums for the album. Step in and meet the glare of the Golden Eyed Fox!