Hello, friends. Welcome back to 2020 and to another batch of the Last Rites crew’s most highly anticipated metal albums of 2020, which is the year we just entered. Yesterday in Part 1, we ran through several records that we hope will help to guide our minds through the escalating terrors and accelerating environmental decline in the world, and today we have more. As always, please share your hopes for heavy metal in 2020.
FUATH – II
Release date: April 17 on Avantgarde Music
I will go on record saying that Saor’s Aura, the one with Panopticon’s Austin Lunn on drums, is the best album that Andy Marshall has ever released. A close second, however, would be Fuath’s 2016 debut. Since that time, Marshall’s focus has returned to Saor, releasing both Guardians and Forgotten Paths. Heck, it may even be his first release from an independent Scotland (or perhaps from the land of the apocalypse given the direction of the global political climate). The hope here is that Fuath shows Marshall returning to the raw aggression that made the debut and Aura such stunning works of atmospheric black metal. The assumption is that all instruments on Fuath will be handled by Andy Marshall yet with the recent addition of full-time touring musicians (Rene McDonald Hill and Nick) on guitar it’s possible that Marshall gets some assistance for this one. That also just might be the hopeful wish of a fan who thoroughly enjoyed Aura. Regardless, I’m very much looking forward to a new complete effort from Fuath. And with a title like II it should hopefully be more of the same great Fuath sound. [MANNY-O-WAR]
Quality Confidence Factor: 43%
HEAVY SENTENCE – TBD
These fellas from Manchester have been on the radar since releasing the Protector / Darkest Hour 7” back in 2017. Building momentum, the band followed up with another promising single the following year, chock full of hard rockin’, Motörhead-style speed metal with plenty of grit beneath the nails. Adding some absolutely searing leads over the chunky, beer-addled riffing and turbocharged drums proved to be a winning combo, and only having four songs of it from Heavy Sentence isn’t nearly enough to satisfy the inner rocker in us all. However, late last year guitarist Mike Woods tragically took his own life. Not to be stopped, the band have promised to record their debut in his memory, immortalizing their friend and compatriot in the fiery halls of heavy metal. Seriously, check out the singles if you’re itching for leather, bikes, chains, spikes, and the freedom of the open post-apocalyptic wastelands and see why this is one of my most-anticipated good times of 2020. Ride to Valhalla, Mike, we’re looking forward to hearing your work. [RYAN TYSINGER]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
MY DYING BRIDE –
THE GHOST OF ORION
Release date: TBD on Nuclear Blast Records
There are reasons to be both plenty hopeful and slightly trepidatious for the next My Dying Bride album. The hopeful reasons are obvious. First, this is My Dying Bride, and these peerless gods of doom, death, and goth have released far more great records than they have middling ones. Also, they’re following up Feel the Misery, which was not just their best record in over a decade when it dropped in 2015, but one of their finest works, period. Maintaining even half of that inspiration will likely lead to a quality album number 13.
The reason for slight nervousness? One key lineup change. The addition of drummer Jeff Singer will likely have little effect; he has a history with fellow doomsters Paradise Lost, after all. But the second departure of guitarist Calvin Robertshaw – who played alongside main six-stringer Andrew Craighan during the band’s 90s heyday and again on Feel the Misery – might be felt a bit more.
But if the main duo of Craighan and lordly vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe have any say, The Ghost of Orion will be yet another beautiful, heart-wrenching opus in a career dedicated to all things sadness. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 75%
ENSLAVED – TBD
Release date: TBD on Nuclear Blast Records
Maybe you’ve become familiar enough with the modern interpretation of Enslaved that news of a brand new recording no longer has the impact it once did. After all, these Bergenmeisters are nothing if not extremely consistent—(approximately) two years have separated each release since 2004’s Isa, and even though they’re clearly “progressive,” a notable amount of uniformity has managed to permeate their brand of…progressivity.
Here’s the thing, though: Enslaved is, like, really fucking good at what they do. And who but Enslaved sounds like Enslaved? Theirs is a peculiar blueprint unique to them, and even if you’re one of those asshole fans who’s “not quite ready for a new album” (I have been that asshole), the likelihood that you’ll eventually want to obsess over what they create hovers pretty damn close to 100%, because a new record always equates to epic, polished, melodic and knotty good times.
Bottom line: enjoy it while you can. The fact that a band can (still) actually make a living off creating and performing progressive black metal that sounds like King Crimson possessed by goblin royalty is a feat in and of itself in the modern age, so give us literally everything you’ve got in the tank, Enslaved.
Oh, and there’s new blood in the mix, too, which often leads to new and interesting things. This time it’s in the form of the drumming prowess of one Iver Sandøy, who’s actually “been behind the scenes for more than a decade.” Sandøy will also help with the knob twiddling for this, the band’s FIFTEENTH studio release, and Ivar Bjørnson is already saying the following with regard to the proceedings: “There is a wild drive and a level of energy that makes me extremely excited.”
We like excited Ivar Bjørnson. Excited Ivar Bjørnson brings donuts and akevitt to the table, as well as great, great music. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
ARMORED SAINT – TBD
To put it succinctly, Armored Saint rules. Armored Saint has always ruled. It appears Armored Saint will always rule, though I suppose there’s a slight chance that this album could change that. (Let’s certainly hope not.)
One of America’s classiest traditional metal outfits, Armored Saint hasn’t ever released a bad album, even if their post-reunion output has been sporadic and admittedly, not quite on the level as their quadruple-classics run from 1984 to 1991. But John Bush’s voice is still formidable, raw and gruff and melodic and powerful; the band behind him has been the same since Symbol Of Salvation, cranking out speedy and hard-driving classic metal that’s timeless, eternal.
A band announcement on December 10 showed drummer Gonzo Sandoval hard at work in the studio, getting his drum sounds, so the process has begun. Here’s hoping it’s a short wait for the next marching of the Saint, and here’s hoping that march takes them across the US—I had the pleasure of seeing them for the first time on the Win Hands Down tour, watching them level an Ohio club and the strip mall around it, and I’m ready for more. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
TEMPLE OF VOID – THE WORLD THAT WAS
Due for March release, Detroit’s Temple Of Void are gearing up for their third studio album. While many bands today get the death/doom tag simply for playing death metal riffs at slower tempos, Temple Of Void proved to be masters of merging the two styles – at times it sounds like slower death, at others it sounds like doom from the crypts of the necrovoid. However, the band never sacrifice or compromise their sheer heaviness, rooted heavily in one of the absolutely thickest guitar tones in the style and vocalist Mike Erdody’s throaty, yet decipherable, growls. There’s a melodicism and clarity that aid in Temple Of Void’s accessibility, but as their sophomore effort Lords Of Death proved, the band are not outside experimenting a bit with their sound. The clean vocals near the end of the record (“Graven Desires” for those keeping up at home) were a highlight moment, not just of the record but of 2017 as a whole. The band’s choice to slowly incorporate new elements gives a confidence boost for their new work, and I’m hoping for a few more surprises tucked away on the upcoming record without the band losing what makes them so good in the first place: eerie death/doom that’s heavier than the cast-iron gates of the underworld. [RYAN TYSINGER]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
BONGZILLA – WEEDSCONSIN
Bongzilla hung up the bong and lighter in 2005, only to return to the live circuit in 2015. Amerijuanican was a choice nug to end on, but it’s time to remember to press record this go around and give the stoner metal masses more massive music. Bongzilla will feature prominently in my “B is for Bong” primer, as soon as Michael “Not A Real Captain” Wuensch stops deleting my post every time I try to work on it. You see, dear reader, this primer would profile (and rank!) every metal band with the word “Bong”in their name. Bongzilla, you handsome so-and-sos, if you are reading this, it’s going to be difficult to coast to #1 on the merits of aging albums, especially when Bongripper is putting up contender after contender. Hell, even Belzebong and Space Bong (RIP, hopefully not forever) have compelling albums from the last 2 to 5 years. You’ll always rank above Bong Rips for Jesus, but that’s not exactly an accomplishment to brag about. [FETUSGHOST]
Quality Confidence Factor: 420%
IHSAHN – TELEMARK & TBD
Release date: February 14th and TBD on Candlelight Records
There was a time when I didn’t think I cared about the music of Ihsahn outside of his pioneering days spent with Emperor. It’s been so long that I don’t really remember the reasoning behind my bias, but I think it might have had something to do with the fact that his particular brand of progressive extreme metal—when compared to, say, Enslaved—seemed a hell of a lot more snooty. You know, more emphasis on ruffles, snifters and monocles than on obsessing over King Crimson, Genesis and EL&P records. Hey, I never said it was a smart justification.
Then at some point I finally heard the flares of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond on The Adversary and came to realize that 1) I like ruffles, snifters and monocles, and 2) as a fan of showy progressive metal, it’s patently absurd to deny an impartial ear to an artist spreading proggy wings from the ashes of what is undeniably metal’s most arrogant subgenre, black metal. I have been on board ever since.
I don’t believe Ihsahn has always hit the target with his solo work—oftentimes the bends and curls are so dramatic and sudden that sweet turns to sour on a song-by-song basis. But really, that’s one of the more interesting temptations with regard to this man’s records in the modern age; when you’ve been listening to a genre for decades, you learn to treasure the musicians that really understand the importance of challenging perspectives and expectations. Ihsahn is absolutely one of those artists.
That said, it would appear as if Ihsahn has decided to find an interesting way to dial back the weird a bit in 2020, at least with reference to how things will be delivered. Instead of allowing a single full-length to twist and bend in any and all directions, we will see two new EPs in the coming months—Telemark, exploring the heavier side of things, and the follow-up (title and release date to be determined) to venture into softer, more experimental realms.
Whether or not the choice to separate the more straightforward and experimental in this way will end up benefiting Ihsahn remains to be seen, but the first peek into Telemark, “Stridig,” proves Ihsahn ain’t ready to hang up his more aggressive face, particularly when compared to 2018’s relatively limp Àmr. And hey, electing to close part one with a cover of Lenny Kravitz’s “Rock and Roll is Dead” and Maiden’s “Wrathchild” also indicates that Ihsahn’s interpretation of straightforward isn’t exactly the most straightforward interpretation of straightforward, and that’s always great news. [CAPTAIN]
Confidence factor: 85%