All Tomorrow's Funerals, Part I
2017's Most Anticipated Releases3 weeks ago By:
Everybody's sick of talking about 2016, so let's just move right along... Every new year brings new metal -- that's one of the best things about the inexorable march of time. So without any further ado, here's the first of a three-part write-up covering the metal we're most looking forward to hearing in the next twelve months. Some of these upcoming albums have titles and dates that have already been announced, and some of these albums are just speculation, ones that have merely been hinted at as 2017 possibilities, and sometimes that's enough to get our hearts a-flutter...
Got any upcoming metal that you're particularly excited about? Let us know what it is in the comments below.
ZACH DUVALL: ABSU
After albums in 2009 and 2011, Absu sure are taking their time finishing off the so-called “self-titled trilogy” (Apsu is slated to follow Abzu, which followed Absu). There were rumblings that it was going to see the light of day last summer after a slew of new shows, including a Chicago-levelling set at Metal Threat Fest. But since then, silence.
On its own, this is frustrating, but considering that this is Absu we’re talking about, it’s extra irksome. This band is special. Sure, they share plenty of qualities with other bands -- blazing black/thrash riffage, unyielding/wonderfully silly dedication to esoteric mythology, a progressive/technical mindset without giving into wankery, etc. -- but no one quite puts it all together like these guys. Much of this has to do with Proscriptor. He is clearly the band’s musical director at this point in the game, but he is also their frontman, beating heart, and mascot. Very few figures in metal elicit such musical awe and unabashed grins. As a result, Absu has adopted Immortal’s arena appeal and showmanship, but sacrificed none of their intensity to gain it. Also, Proscriptor is funnier than Abbath; I once couldn’t help myself from saying “I just love him to pieces” during a show. Dude is a ham, not to mention one of the greatest drummers in the history of metal.
With all of that going on, it’s basically just an added bonus that they eschew the macho bullshit used by other well-known (but lesser) black/thrash bands.
I’ve got a fever, and the only Proscription is well, a Proscription.
Quality Confidence Factor: 95%
MANNY-O-WAR: TOMB MOLD
Metal is, much like hip hop, very fortunate that a large portion of the fans pay attention to demos (or mixtapes). When Canadian death metal band Tomb Mold independantly released two separate demos in 2016 (entitled The Bottomless Perdition and The Moulting) people took notice. So much so that the former was reissued by Blood Harvest (to which the band is now signed). Perhaps the inclusion of Max Klebanoff (Abyss) helped push the band into recognition but really, it was the music could have handled that aspect. Ripping an old school homage to the Finnish school, Tomb Mold are unrelenting. Their 2017 debut full-length Primordial Malignity is sure to carry 2016s death metal strength long into the upcoming year.
Quality confidence factor: 60%
Bandcamp Link for Pre-Order
MICHAEL WUENSCH: VAURA
I’m not even sure we’ll see a new record from Vaura this year. Last I checked, the band stated they were planning to “start recording a third LP in early 2017 for Profound Lore.” That doesn’t necessarily equate to a finished product by year’s end, but they’re saying there’s a chance…
Why should you care? Well, if you’re a heartless monster who hates beautiful music that bends strict genre definitions and wraps the listener in a warm, gothy mantle that you never want to let go of, you probably shouldn't. 2013’s The Missing was an absolute jewel of a… Well, I suppose I’m not entirely sure what we all decided to call Vaura’s brand of mope. Post blackened avant-garde deathrock? Echo and the Bunnymen colliding with Extol? Endless bogus arguments about proper tagging aside, “Incomplete Burning” remains my favorite song of 2013, and no amount of current new wave/deathrock/goth rock redundancy will quell my interest in hearing what this band comes up with next. A few things to count on: It will be warm, moody and crazy-good. At least that’s my hopiest of hopes.
Quality confidence factor: 85%
ANDREW EDMUNDS: OVERKILL
If you know me, you know my love for Overkill, so this choice isn't surprising at all. Titled The Grinding Wheel, and coming on Nuclear Blast in February (after being pushed back from a late 2016 debut), this one's been on my wish-list for a full six months already. After a three-album run that saw this first-wave outfit back at the top of its game, the promise of another rager from New Jersey's finest is enough to keep me going 'til at least then, and likely all year long...
The obligatory album trailers hinted at more of the same hyperactive thrash, right in line with those last three records. That's enough to grab me, and the two pre-released tracks really hammered the point home. "Our Finest Hour" is another chugging ripper, with Blitz's charismatic chattering, and one of those melodic thrash choruses that Overkill does so expertly, while follow-up "Mean, Green Killing Machine" overcomes its silly title by beating "Finest Hour" at its own game. The juxtaposition between the driving first half, the dreamy drift of the bridge, and then the swaggering closing -- it's simply masterful. Blitz is in great voice; DD brought the riffs; "new" drummer Ron Lipnicki provides that same adrenaline shot of energy that has characterized the band's post-Ironbound rebirth. It's straight-up Overkill glory, and I can't wait for it. May the green and black reign forever.
Quality Confidence Factor: 95%
DAVE SCHALEK: IRON REAGAN
In a brief interview published in the November, 2016, issue of Decibel Magazine, Iron Reagan seemed to distance itself somewhat from the election season. To be fair, Crossover Ministry was written and recorded well before November 8th, and the interview in question was also conducted well before the polls opened, but the American body politic with all of its resentments has been seething for years. It’ll be interesting to listen to and see Crossover Ministry while being viewed through the lens of the election’s results.
However, I’m expecting something scathing because, frankly, if you’re not going to comment on the relevance of your chosen approach in today’s political climate, yet your entire existence is based upon the stifling cultural and economic policies of the Reagan era, then what, exactly, is the point?
Quality Confidence Factor: 75%
MATTHEW COOPER: MANILLA ROAD / HELLWELL
It’s shaping up to be a very busy year for Wichita’s Manilla Road, longtime tenders of the true metal flame. The godfathers of epic metal celebrate their 40th birthday, as well as the 30th anniversary of the stellar Mystification. In addition to the events celebrating those landmarks, it looks like there will be at least 2 -- and as many as 4 -- new Manilla Road-related projects, including a documentary film.
The band has wrapped recording on its yet unnamed 17th album, and are in the mixing process. Not many details yet on when this thing will see the light of day, or its label, although it seems the band has settled into a pretty strong relationship with ZYX/GoldenCore, with High Roller handling vinyl duties. Already an entirely reliable act (aside from production woes now and then) 2015’s The Blessed Curse was the strongest album from the Road in several efforts, so expectations are even higher than usual. I was bummed to read that bassist Josh Castillo has left the band and am curious to hear what new low end man Phil Ross brings to the table.
That said, Castillo’s collaboration with Mark “The Shark” Shelton lives on with the release of the second album from Hellwell, which also sees ex-Roadster Randy Foxe on drums, stepping in for Johnny Benson. Shelton has said this one’s already in the hands of High Roller, so we should see a release in the first half of the year. Debut Beyond the Boundaries of Sin was excellent, especially closer “End of Days,” so keep your eyes peeled.
Shelton has also written that he’s completed an album with yet another Road alum, drummer Rick Fischer, although it’s not clear if there’s a deal for release.
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
KONRAD KANTOR: KREATOR
Essen's very own Kreator has been on an upward swing since Violent Revolution and hasn't slowed down since it shook off all of the dust of the 90s days of "experimental" thrash so many Bay Area and Teutonic bands suffered from. However, it's almost impossible to fathom the band continuing its upward trajectory beyond Phantom Antichrist, an album many saw as, although not groundbreaking or unique in any way, flawless for its style and time. So where's a band to go from there? Hey, there ain't nothin' wrong with a little plateau every now and again, right?
Seeing the average schmuck posting on social media in excitement over a new Metallica track last year pretty much sums up the state of mind of the casual thrash fan, and it's basically every-fucking-thing that's wrong with the genre: Either be so obsessed with the glory days that you're just praising Lars Ulrich for being able to keep a beat, or have Vektor on repeat to convince yourself the genre is about to hit another wave. (For the record, Vektor rules, but the band is an outlier, not a trendsetter.) Thankfully, a band with the efficiency of Kreator just needs to keep doing what it was born to, namely, write great songs. Shit, Overkill has been doing just that for quite some time, and it's not re-inventing the wheel by any means. Kreator took the reigns across the Atlantic quite some time ago, and all it has to do is maintain its course, and we'll all be happy.
Quality Confidence Factor: 75%
So that's it for Part I -- tune in Wednesday for Part II. Here's to a great 2017, and as always, thanks for reading...