Hello, friends. Welcome back from whatever holiday-based bender of debauchery you’ve been on for the past week or two. It is, as you know, now 2020. This doesn’t mean you have to celebrate the return to The Roaring Twenties and go to a bunch of really lame Prohibition parties. It doesn’t even mean you have to make resolutions. Don’t clog up the gym for three weeks out of the year. Just be better or horrible all the time.
Also, there’s no need to really be hopeful just because Terrible 2019 is now in the past. Trust us, 2020 is going to be terrible as well. No escaping it. Welcome to Last Rites, Home of The Cheerful Chaps.
Anyhoo, as in all terrible years, metal will be here to provide some escapism and catharsis, even if we know it can’t save us. Below are several of the records we most hope will please our ears and minds in the coming year, and tomorrow we’ll have another batch of hopefuls. Please do enjoy and share your biggest hopefuls for the year.
SANCTUARY – TBD
“Sanctuary is seriously making an album without Warrel?” asked Mr. Duvall when I presented this as one of my Most Anticipated Albums Of 2020.
And that incredulity is one reason why I’m intrigued. (The other is, of course, thirty years of Sanctuary fandom.) I’ve watched live recordings with Joseph Michael (also of Witherfall)—he being the fortunate / unfortunate soul pressed into service to fill the gigantic shoes of the mighty Warrel Dane, the vocal god we tragically lost in 2017. Live, at least, Michael’s performances have been strong, his voice capable of matching Warrel’s octave-jumping melodies and laser-beam vibrato, all while perfectly capturing Dane’s signature melodrama. But then again, those songs were already written, some of them having become metal classics decades ago. So how will Sanctuary fare with new material? Can Michael hold up Dane’s legacy creatively as well as he’s held it up on stage?
That remains to be seen, of course, but I’m approaching this album with an open mind. Back in 2014, The Year The Sun Died was my #1 album, a worthy comeback and a grand addition to a too-limited collection of USPM classics, and no one expected a new Sanctuary album after all the greatness of Nevermore, let alone one as good as that. Can one band be reborn twice? I guess we’ll all find out. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 60%
MALOKARPATAN – KRUPINSKÉ OHNE
Release date: March 21 from Invictus Productions
Malokarpatan remains one of the single greatest live bands I have ever seen in my life. That show, in Brooklyn on the heels of the release of their sophomore LP Nordkarpatanland, saw the band posturing, fist-pumping and generally rocking-the-fuck-out. It was also completely in line with the blackened rockgasm style of music that Malokarpatan has displayed on their full-lengths since their founding in 2014. Since 2017, the band has released only a two-song EP (that was very uncharacteristic) and also a split with Demon’s Gate. All those releases did was fuel everyone’s collective appetite for more blackened heavy metal to pour out of Slovakia via this quintet. Unfortunately, Temnohor (their vocalist) has left the band, leaving HV to handle the mic. Fortunately, that’s the same guy that handles vocals for the nearly unmatched Krolok. The pressure is certainly on, given just how absolutely remarkable their prior two LPs are, and reaching that level with Temnohor watching from the sidelines (hopefully in his XXL Hades shirt) is going to be no simple task. But we here at Last Rites believe, particularly given the magnificence of the cover art, that this album has all the potential to rock. Prepare thy anuses for release February 28, 2020. [MANNY-O-WAR]
Quality Confidence Factor: 87%
PSYCHOTIC WALTZ –
THE GOD-SHAPED VOID
Release date: February 14 from InsideOut Music
The great prog and tech explosion of the latter 80s and early 90s is one of the most exciting eras of metal history, and while some of the biggest names are still around (Fates Warning, Dream Theater) or have made recent comebacks (Atheist, Queensrÿche*), many others disappeared entirely or are only occasionally active for festivals. Count San Diego’s Psychotic Waltz among the latter group. They technically reunited in 2010, but the impending The God-Shaped Void will be their first studio album in 24 long years.
Why get excited? Because in that near-quarter century, no other band in metal has ever duplicated the Psychotic Waltz sound. Their music was often dizzyingly complex, but always kept an eye on infectious melody or groove; their lyrics could be political and topical, but were sometimes cheerfully referential to their rock heroes; and they pulled from sources as diverse as 70s prog rock and 80s prog metal to alt rock like Jane’s Addiction and touches of blues, soul, and reggae. On all four of their excellent 90s records, this sound was honed and focused, likely due to the same five men making the music each time.
Another reason to get excited? The God-Shaped Void is made by those exact same five men. This isn’t some reunion in name only, but a true regrouping of musicians that essentially have a spotless record from their heyday. They likely only decided to put new music to tape because they knew they had something hot (and unique) to share. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 95%
*Yes, the implication is that Rÿche didn’t exist between about 1998 and 2012.
IRONSWORD – SERVANTS OF STEEL
Release date: January 24th from Alma Mater Records
Hello, have you met Last Rites? We’re the dusty fuckers who’d rather drive a hundred miles to see Manilla Road play in a field during a tornado than hang out at home for a family member’s birthday. We’re the uncles who give our nephews and nieces Iron Maiden albums for Christmas when they clearly asked for Super Mario Maker 2. We’re the gentle souls who consistently pester MDF’s FB page with suggestions of Visigoth and Eternal Champion whenever an overseas death-grind postcore band doesn’t get their visa squared away. We…
WE ARE THE GRAVES OF THE 80s
WE ARE THE RISEN DEAD
DESTROY THEIR MODERN METAL
AND BANG YOUR FUCKING HEAD
Ironsword is essentially Portugal’s answer to Manilla Road, which makes them extremamente essencial to the lifeblood of Last Rites, and Servants of Steel, the band’s first record in five years, is highly anticipated for anyone awesome enough to own (ahem) “decorative” swordS. YES, THAT’S PLURAL.
Here’s a winning formula that’s as long as a differential equation, but not nearly as difficult to solve: plenty of marca comercial classic heavy metal packed to the rafters with the sort of galloping and triumphant riffs ’n’ rhythm we’ve come to expect from the band over nearly two decades of barbaric life + the crucial selling point that the record was produced by none other than Harris Johns, whose hands were involved with classic records such as Walls of Jericho, Pleasure to Kill, Dawn of Possession, Consuming Impulse, plus the classic runs from bands such as Sodom, Tankard and Voivod = one of my most anticipated records of 2020. Move to the head of the class, champ! [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: A-
CEPHALIC CARNAGE –
PERPETUAL STATE OF PROCRASTINATION
It will have been 10 long years (at least) before we finally get a new Cephalic Carnage album. Did Colorado’s legalization of weed in 2012 put the band permanently on the couch? Seeing as how that 100% serious album title was debuted on the band’s Facebook in 2016, perhaps do not hold your breath for a new album in 2020. Or do hold your breath. Perhaps go on a hunger strike. Anything that might get their attention. Cephalic Carnage’s hydrogrind evolved into an incredibly potent technical death metal juggernaut, but who knows what a decade of semi-hiatus will infuse into their upcoming sound. As long as they keep it weird and perform to the precision of their own high standards, this is going to rip. Cephalic Carnage, sweetie, if you are reading this, it’s because we are concerned about you. This intervention is… we are greedy and want more of the good stuff. Just give it to us, and you can get back to the couch. [FETUSGHOST]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
WAKE – DEVOURING RUIN
Release date: March 27 from Translation Loss Records
Wake’s Misery Rites was my top album of 2018, and (I’d like to think) for damned good reason: It was a blistering batch of grinding extremity that balanced a heady concept about cycles of relapse with appropriately excoriating heaviness. Most importantly, it saw the band leveling up yet again over previous record Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow, which was itself a strong effort and a level up over earlier offering False.
Not a band content to rest or repeat, Wake announced in December 2019 that the next step in their progression would appear in March of 2020, titled Devouring Ruin. Guitarist Rob LaChance described Devouring Ruin as possessing the ferocity and speed of Misery Rites, but with a melancholic mood heretofore unexplored by Wake, and all of that adds up to “interest totally piqued” for me. Released alongside that announcement, the first teaser track “This Abyssal Plain” backs up LaChance’s prediction / description, as blast beats alternate with an almost death / doom trudge, complete with morose guitar melody, bouncing back and forth between the blistering and the depressive, all of it crushing in its bipolar intensity.
This one’s going to be heavy, emotionally and musically, and it’s going to be fun. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
KING DIAMOND – THE INSTITUTE
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums of 2019 feature from last January:
“The only thing that stands in the way of us getting a new King Diamond album in 2019 is Kim Bendix Petersen’s boundless capacity for thoroughness. On March 29th, 2018, King conducted a very lengthy interview with Eddie Trunk where it was revealed that 80% of the new album’s storyline was complete and Andy LaRocque was on the way to Texas to commence work on the music in King’s home studio. Nine months could be enough to see a full record’s worth of new material finalized, but I’d still say there’s about a 50% chance that the album won’t see the light of day until December or early 2020 because Andy and King are voracious sticklers.”
Holy shit, that. As it turns out, nine months basically equated to one song. Well, sort of—it also led up to a brand new tour that hopefully all diehards were able to catch, because it was amazing. And how about that new song. “Masquerade of Madness” is precisely the sort of reveal we were hoping would rumble down the Kingly conveyor after an extremely long twelve year wait: epic, twisting, twisted, melodic and, of course, very Diamondy. If the whole of the new record manages a similar level of greatness, this could end up being the best release the band has produced since 1990’s The Eye.
But yes, there’s a ways to go before the, news flash, first part of this two-album concept finally hits ears. In fact, Andy LaRocque recently disclosed the rather unfortunate truth that there are only “four or five [songs] in the loop,” with a number of other ideas currently swimming around King’s head. Additionally, a portion of the start of 2020 will now be devoted to—holy shit again—the reunion of Mercyful Fate for some exclusive European dates. Pretty tough to complain about that element, because that could also lead to new Fate material?
Anyway, both King and Andy are sticking to their “late 2020” guns in interviews, but the likelihood I’ll be writing something King Diamond-related again for our most anticipated records of 2021 is floating somewhere around 80%. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
Confidence Factor That It Will Be Released In 2020: 15%