Hey, guess what, we managed to slip into our TWENTIETH year as a metal site under the shared banners of Metal Review and Last Rites. It actually happened at some point last year, but we were a little too distracted to notice or make a big deal about it. Twenty years is a pretty significant achievement, though, because how the hell often do music sites such as this manage to survive for multiple decades? Some of the writers here have been working and obsessing about music together for 15-plus years, which essentially equates to armor-plated friendships and significantly strong opinions.
How that relates to “looking forward” pieces such as this opens the doors to a number of interesting avenues, two of the more notable being: 1) We are fairly dusty individuals, so we still look forward to new material delivered by dusty bands who likewise manage to creak past what some (many?) might consider “best if consumed by” dates, and 2) It’s not all that easy to get us whipped into “piss your pantaloons” excitement for new releases, because our hearts and ears are leathered and we’ve seen a hell of a lot out on those front lines over these long years. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get excited about prospective albums—it’s just a more mature level of enthusiasm that finds us celebrating with snifters instead of pounding an Old Milwaukee through a hole we just tore open with our bare teeth. Actually, some of us still do that, too; never underestimate the unbridled power a new King Diamond song can wield.
Anyway, here’s our official Welcome to 2021 and the first of three articles hailing our most anticipated releases of the year. Congrats on making it this far with us, and we hope 2021 delivers health, prosperity and countless top-shelf heavy heavies for you and yours. [CAPTAIN]
KING DIAMOND – THE INSTITUTION
MERCYFUL FATE – TBA
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums of 2019 feature from two Januaries ago:
“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.”
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums of 2020 feature from last January just before COVID brought down the hammer:
“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%.”
Here’s what I have to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums of 2021 feature for this January:
Barring some grim, unforeseen Three-Body Problem alien takeover scenario or something equally as inauspicious, it’s going to happen in 2021—this year we will see and hear The Institution, the first of a brand new two-part King Diamond album, and based on a few hints from key members, we will witness a brand new Mercyful Fate record as well. From Hank Shermann’s recent post on social media: “All cylinders fired up for 2021 // Mercyful Fate // solo album and much more I can’t talk about.”
Right, see you here next January! Until then, stay heavy! [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 666%
Confidence Factor That It Will Be Released In 2021: 66%
ATHEIST – TBA
Way back when, when a bunch of way back bands were coming back to prove that they still had the same strength they had way back, Atheist released Jupiter. It came along with the same wave that brought comebacks from At the Gates, Carcass, etc, and it was one of the best of the bunch. Jupiter revealed Kelly Shaefer and company to still be in top form. More than that, the record was a monster that almost rivaled their flawless first two releases. It was undeniably Atheist in nature but didn’t sound exactly like their three older albums (each of which also doesn’t sound exactly like the others). Most importantly, it kept all the technical wizardry, unpredictable songwriting, sassy leads, and attitude of the old days.
But that was more than a decade ago (!). The band has been teasing a new album for seemingly half of that time, and now only Shaefer and drummer Steve Flynn remain of the old lineups. Hopefully the long awaited new album will finally see the light of day in 2021, and hopefully the revamped lineup is able to recapture the Way Back Magic that Jupiter was able to crank up back in 2010. If those two factors come into place, it’ll likely be one of the year’s biggest highlights. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
Confidence Factor That It Will Be Released In 2021: 35%
CANNIBAL CORPSE – TBA
Last June, metal’s most beloved stuffed-animal hoarding dad, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, posted a picture of himself in a studio and tagged the usual suspects leading us all to believe a new Cannibal Corpse album was on its way. Then like our government, they abandon us with no substantive updates and not even a single or two as stimulus until they could deliver more. Was that post just a fake out? Was it actually Corpsegrinder recording his guest vocals for the Deeds of Flesh album that came out in 2020? There seemed to be whispers from those in the know that a Cannibal Corpse album was indeed coming late last Fall, but it never came to fruition. Having a new collection of slashing gore and rabid musical madness from those Floridian fellows this year would put them at a four-year gap between albums, which is the longest to date and I hope they don’t plan to make it longer. There are likely residual issues from guitarist Pat O’Brien’s 2018 legal struggles that still need to be remedied and I’m sure it’s difficult to get Corpsegrinder out of Target for more than a couple hours at a stretch, but here’s to hoping death metal’s AC/DC delivers us another reliable album that’s mostly killer and minimal filler. Their last several have fallen in the good-to-very-good category, so perhaps they’re due for another Kill-level modern classic! [SPENCER HOTZ]
Quality Confidence Factor: 75%
QUEENSRŸCHE – TBA
TODD LATORRE – REJOICE IN THE SUFFERING
Release date: Queensrÿche – TBD / Todd LaTorre – February 5 from RatPak
By now, you should’ve noticed that Queensrÿche is on the upswing. It took awhile — the less we say about that those down years the better, and I’ve already said it all in various reviews anyway — but now that Todd’s firmly ensconced behind the microphone, the rejuvenated ‘Ryche is kicking major ass, getting stronger with each of their last three records. And, of course, there’s the fact that Queensrÿche is one of my all-time favorite bands, so you’re gatdamned right that a new Queensrÿche album has my attention. The Verdict was awesome, so the verdict on this one is that I’m damn well interested. I will say that I do wish Rockenfield would return — he’s always been a distinctive and great drummer, and while Todd can absolutely cover the drums in his absence (and live drummer Casey Grillo is also great), there’s just something about Scott’s parts that hit perfectly. Still, long live the ‘Ryche, and absolutely onehundredpercenthellyes for a new one. No release date yet, and maybe not even this year, but Whip has said that they’re working on it, so let’s hope it’s soon…
… And while we wait, Todd’s got his own thing going on, paired with one of his childhood best friends and former bandmates Craig Blackwell. Rat Pak has released two songs from Todd’s solo debut Rejoice In The Suffering so far, and it’s definitely displaying a different approach from what he does with Queensrÿche. Both pre-release tracks have a Rob Halford vibe, with “Vanguards Of The Dawn Wall” bordering on Fight-like thrash while earlier “Darkened Majesty” is a bit more melodic, still with that piercing falsetto. At the end of the day, bless this little bastard: First off, he absolutely revitalizes one of my all-time favorite bands, and then he comes along with (what is hopefully) a solid little solo album to fill in the gaps while I wait for more of that. But, since you’re undoubtedly asking: Completely honestly, no, I don’t think these Todd-only tracks will equal what he does with the ‘Ryche, but do I dig what I’ve heard so far, and am I interested in what’s still to come? Absolutely. Let’s have more of all of this. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: Queensrÿche – 85% / Todd LaTorre – 80%
STUNNER – TBA
I started using last.fm in 2018, so the tracking of my listening habits are a bit skewed. Sure, over all time there are plenty of classic albums I’ve played hundreds of times over, but since I’ve been tracking, Turbo City, the debut album from Gainesville, Florida’s Stunner has stayed consistently at the top of my most played albums. Is it the fastest? The heaviest? The most technically proficient? Probably not, but the magic in it comes from how brutally honest it is. Infectious, driving heavy metal that falls somewhere between the rock and roll swagger of Motörhead and the engine purring, palm muted speed of early Razor, Turbo City follows a loose, comic book style story straight out of the Bronze Age, centered around the mysterious Nightfighter as they patrol the neon streets of Turbo City. There’s a personal approach to the lyrical content, as though the band are projecting a powerful alter ego to combat the trials and struggles of everyday life. The band’s infectiousness takes hold – every song gets better with subsequent listens. The singalongability becomes an access point, throwing the listener themselves into this world Stunner are crafting across the tracks. After a scrapped take on a sophomore effort, Stunner are set to return with their next issue this coming year. And while I hope for more of the empowering exploits of the fabled Nightfighter, if the band bring half the energy and songwriting found on Turbo City they could make the whole album about the joys of Chicken McNuggets and I’d probably still love it. [RYAN TYSINGER]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
DARKTHRONE – TBA
Wednesday brings the 30th birthday of Darkthrone’s death metal debut, Soulside Journey, and since that time, Nocturno Culto and Fenriz (and a couple other folks on the earlier material) have been as much a model of consistency as anyone in metal. Their “weaker” albums are typically still quite good, and even Goatlord is interesting and hilarious. But hey, if you’re looking forward to a new Darkthrone album in 2021, you knew all of this already.
So why still get hyped for new Darkthrone if there’s almost a “ho hum” predictability of quality? Because there’s the slightest chance that they’ll surprise us. Rarely do Ted and Fenriz take a hard left turn, but also rarely do they repeat themselves. More than that, their career can really be split into some distinct phases, and the recent run of The Underground Resistance, Arctic Thunder, and Old Star is growing into one of their best eras. Mostly, this current era embraces all things old (the blackened trad/doom vibes) without the goofier aspects of their punkier records. If their just-wrapped 2021 album continues this trend, awesome. If it surprises us a bit but maintains that nearly unflappable consistency for which these two bepatched outdoorsmen have long been known, all the better. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
Stay tuned for Part 2 Wednesday.