I’m sure by now you’ve all spent the last two days reading and re-reading the first part of our annual Most Anticipated Releases series, but in case you’ve just now crawled forth from beneath a rock (or a crippling New Years Eve hangover), you can find that one here. Read on for Part 2, and stay tuned for more.
SAXON – CARPE DIEM
Out 2/4; Silver Lining Music
Saxon’s been riding high in the new millennium, with records like Sacrifice and Battering Ram showing that these Englishmen aren’t anywhere close to out of steam. Carpe Diem will be their 23rd record, and the title track is classic Saxon metal, all chunky speedy riffs and Byford’s soaring gritty voice. That voice has aged brilliantly, the years giving it a depth and an edge that only betters what was already great. Nigel Glockler pushes the whole thing forward with a spark that many a man half his age would love to possess – modern Saxon is even fierier and more metallic than the classics that made them their bones, 40 years ago now.
I’ve long championed these old dogs as standard-bearers for a type of straightforward metal that never fails to entertain (or at least, never fails to entertain me, which is what’s most important, I would argue), so I’m always on board for a new Saxon. And I’m especially stoked when the first song is as rock-solid as “Carpe Diem,” so seize the day, kids, and let’s keep these fires of old-school heavy metal burning bright. Long live the old dogs. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 75%
SENTIENT HORROR – RITES OF GORE
Out 2/22; Redefining Darkness Records
Sentient Horror hit the scene in 2016 with 44 minutes of ripping melodeath that would make their Swedish forefathers proud. Appropriately enough, they’re from Stockholm, New Jersey, so surely they are just reaping the benefits of destiny. In fact, Swedish death metal legend Dan Swanö liked what they were doing so much that he decided to master all of their albums, including this one. From the razor-sharp riffs to the slick melodies and even the nod to Obituary on the album art, I thoroughly enjoyed Ungodly Forms back in 2016. For some random reason, I lost track of these guys between then and now. The benefit to that is I get to jam Morbid Realms and The Crypts Below (EP) in the same year as a totally new album, leaving me to be spoiled in riches. The last 5 years have seen this crew continue to develop and turn into their own thing.
Lead single “Till Death Do Us Rot” shows the band moving away from the Sunlight Studios guitar tone a bit for something meatier and grittier on Rites of Gore. Similarly, Matt Moliti’s vocals are exhibiting more power and oomph than ever before. This song rips from start to finish with a perfectly placed blistering lead. They’re not likely to be pulling off anything particularly new, but if you want speed and melody with a serious dose of brutality slammed into it, then be sure to mark February 22nd in your calendar. [SPENCER HOTZ]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
THE HALO EFFECT – TBA
No one with reason expects The Halo Effect’s debut to sound like In Flames’ Lunar Strain, despite that album featuring four of this new band’s five musicians. But even if just a handful of songs sound remotely like Colony or Clayman, I will be singing the album’s praises to anyone and everyone with an open ear (or two) to melodeath.
To be fair, my anticipation for this album is based in part on the dearth of good melodic death metal in this vein. I suspect I am not alone in that. I am always stoked for new Buried Realm – Josh Dummer’s solo outfit is absolutely killer melodeath that’s seen assists from Andy Gillion (ex-Mors Principium Est) and Peter Wichers (ex-Soilwork) – and Act of Denial’s debut last year with Björn Strid and Steve Di Giorgo, Negative, hit all the right notes. But it’s far from one of the more active scenes. And the potential of hearing Mikael Stanne over early/mid-period In Flames riffs is enough to command the attention of most anyone whose introduction to the heavier stuff was Projector, Whoracle, or any of the late ’90s to early 2000s Dark Tranquillity and In Flames albums.
The little we have heard of The Halo Effect thus far (“Shadowminds”) suggests something closer to modern Dark Tranquillity than late ’90s In Flames, but (1) it’s the lead single, (2) I am choosing to remain optimistic, and (3) I’ll take it, regardless. Though there have been hints of it in Cyhra, it’s been a while since we’ve heard Jesper Strömblad’s signature melodeath riffage, and that promise alone is enough to pique strong interest. [CHRIS C]
Quality Confidence Factor: 60% (high risk, high reward)
VULTURE’S VENGEANCE – TBA
Throwing Italy’s Vulture’s Vengeance into the mix here is mostly wishful thinking on my part, as we have been given precisely zero indication that anything new has been rumbling behind the walls at the band’s headquarters—something that’s certainly not helped by VV’s lack of social media presence across literally every platform. But the timing just feels right, thanks largely to their “still active” status and a three year gap that’s somehow managed to pass since the release of their wonderful debut, 2019’s The Knightlore. Plus, you know, there’s something to be said about willing these sorts of things into reality, which I would very much appreciate because I have made a fairly hushed mission of calling The Knightlore one of my very favorite underground metal releases of the last decade after it hit a very respectable #2 on my Best Of list from that year.
What made The Knightlore hit the mark so handily for me was the way the band recalled the yesteryears of acts such as Cirith Ungol and a handful of other notably fantastical US power acts from 4 decades ago without actually sounding like any one or two bands plucked from the 80s. Yes, the vocals were reminiscent of Tim Baker, and the otherworldliness of the production felt very Queensrÿche / The Warning, but the innovativeness behind the riffing, the endless stellar leads and the overall strength behind the songwriting gave The Knightlore the sort of legs necessary to keep it in regular rotation. And friends, that record has absolutely remained in my regular rotation, which is clearly the sort of thing that makes a fellow like me greatly anticipate what might come in the (hopefully) very near future. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
SABÏRE – JÄTT
Out TBA; Listenable Records
Sabïre aren’t exactly a band that work quickly–after all, their first offering, 2018’s Gates Ajar mini-album, was a project that took ten years and transcontinental relocation from conception to execution for Canadian ex-pat and principal songwriter Scarlett Monastyrski to create and record. The result was a fun-filled romp into the morning hours, with Sabïre striking a chord somewhere between the sleaze of W.A.S.P. and the hook-laden speed anthems of Tank. Regardless of tangential comparisons, it felt like the arid hues of Australia rubbed off a bit into the sound, every bit of Gates Ajar feels like it’s kicking up dust as Scarlett is run out laughing from every backwater town and bar along the outback. However, the liner notes promise “Sabïre has many facets, and will in future display more of and less of each facet, as well as emerge with new angles unknown to the author at this time of writing.”
While 2020’s Mistress Mistress 7” felt like a bit of a sidestep, a fun little endeavor featuring a solid BDSM-themed heavy tune that felt like fan service to those who boarded the train with Gates (in a good way), as well as a cheeky cover of the Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane,” it didn’t quite have the overarching character that connected the songs on Gates Ajar. It feels like the new album, Jätt, will be the next presented “facet” of the band. The album art alone hints at cooler tones than the warm primaries found on Gates. Similarly, the album’s lead single, “Ice Cold Lust,” feels like a perspiring ice cube melting across a back still glowing with the heat of wax. That same sensuality in songwriting that drove the success of Gates Ajar is delivered in a different context, hinting at the diversity Sabïre are going for without losing the sexiness of it all. Jätt is poised to fully deliver on the band’s promise of varied pleasures–as long as the band don’t try too hard to oversell it. [RYAN TYSINGER]
Quality Confidence Factor: 87.53%
EUCHARIST – I AM THE VOID
Out 2/7; Regain Records
Like the band I covered in our first edition of this series on Monday (Dawn), Eucharist is a very well regarded band that put out two very well regarded albums in the 90s that were indicative of a very well regarded and very 90s style. Said style was an earlier take on Swedish melodeath more focused on melancholic melodies and harmonies than heavily thrashing rhythms and synths. Debut A Velvet Creation carries a certain neoclassical resemblance to The Red in the Sky is Ours (it’s a mite rickety in its beauty), while Mirrorworlds made things a touch smoother, heftier, and proggier. They even had an Erlandsson (Daniel) playing drums before he took his career gig in Arch Enemy.
A few years ago, Eucharist vocalist/guitarist Markus Johnsson got together with Erlandsson to work on a long overdue third album from their old band. Eventually Erlandsson bowed out (after helping a bit with the songwriting) and German have-sticks-will-session drummer Simon “BloodHammer” Schilling took his place. The result is the imminent I Am the Void, a 12-song, 77-minute album that Johnsson describes as a darker, blackened, “complete makeover” of Eucharist. The tracks already released are probably not a complete makeover but definitely deliver on the darker and blackened parts of that promise. “Shadows” sounds like A Velvet Creation hopped in the sack with Under a Funeral Moon, and “Mistress of Nightmares” should sound a bit more comfortable for early 90s melodeath fans while still injecting things with Johnsson’s raspier blackened vocal and a punky rhythm. It’ll take time to see if the whole thing can deliver across that very bold runtime, but fingers are crossed tightly. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 75%
MESSA – CLOSE
Out 3/11; Svart Records
Doom isn’t often touted for its vast internal diversity, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not wall to wall gloom and glowering. Hopefully obvious to anyone with functioning ears is that the roots of doom – as the roots of heavy metal itself – stretch back to Black Sabbath, and as such therefore also stretch back to the blues. Point being: it’s easy to play low and slow, but much harder to do it with genuine soul. Italy’s Messa have already proven themselves tremendously adept at this tightrope walk. Debut album Belfry was a potent and bewitching start, but with 2018’s Feast for Water they ascended to an entirely different plateau. Feast for Water’s 50 minutes harnessed the inner strength and conviction of doom, but also moved with such a lightness of touch and seamless fluidity that it sometimes felt like a single, unbroken suite of luxurious, blanketing sadness. “PIlgrim,” the tantalizing lead single from their upcoming album Close, feels fully in step with the triumph of Feast for Water, and the striking visuals of the song’s video lend additional weight to the cause. Still, if the leap between Belfry and Feast for Water is any indication, there’s no telling what greater depths this excellent band has yet to sound. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
NAPALM DEATH – RESENTMENT IS ALWAYS SEISMIC
Out 2/11; Century Media Records
I mean, come on, were you not expecting me to talk about Napalm Death when they’ve already announced this ? We all know I love this band, and 2020’s Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism was yet another feather in the cap of these Brummy bastards, one of the finest records of that dreadful year. Even without the creative input of Mitch Harris (although he did perform on the record), Napalm’s fires are still blazing at nearly full capacity, and their experimental bent continues to push them further and further afield from the death / grind hybrid they’ve perfected since the early 2000s.
This new EP is a collection of outtakes from Throes, but Napalm’s outtakes are often as good or better than many bands’ best work, so the odds-n-sods nature of this beast doesn’t scare me much. If first single “Narcissist” is any indication, Resentment Is Always Seismic will be just that, seismic. And undoubtedly resentful, and raging, and killer. Give me all the Napalm Death, please. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 95%
CORPSEGRINDER – CORPSEGRINDER
Out 2/4; Perseverance Music Group
What’s a fella to do after his primary band releases a top-tier death metal album in 2021? Why, release a debut solo album of course!
Despite having new official Corpse member Erik Rutan on lead single “Acid Vat,” it’s clear that Georgie isn’t interested in being pulled into the same sewer drain as his usual collaborators. As his obsessions with World of Warcraft and winning stuffed animals from claw machines indicate, Corpsegrinder is a man of simple pleasures and it would seem that’s translating to his solo works. The aforementioned single opens with a speedy tremolo death metal riff and shifts down into a mid-tempo pummel for the chorus. There’s a nice beatdown in the middle and the song closes with a slower Hatebreedy riff that’s infused with death metal flourishes. It is well known that Corpsegrinder is involved in lyric and music writing at a very surface level for Cannibal Corpse. He is more content to let the other guys do what they do best and allow himself to do what he does best in the form of providing some of the most unique and recognizable vocals in all of death metal. So, it isn’t particularly surprising that Hatebreed-esque riffs appear, since Jamey Jasta is one of the co-producers and this album is coming out on his new label Perseverance Music Group. Fellow producer Nick Bellmore rounds out the writing crew alongside Charlie Bellmore on guitars and bass along with Nick Bellmore. All three Bellmores are also involved with Dee Snider’s band.
What we have here is a bunch of dudes who aren’t involved in death metal writing a death metal record for one of the genre’s top names. Sometimes challenging people to write outside of their comfort zone yields great results. Sometimes it’s an absolute disaster. “Acid Vat” is a solid but mostly unremarkable song. There’s a high probability that the rest of this album will be able to be described in the same way. But you know what? I’m still eager to hear it and I always welcome more George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher into my life. [SPENCER HOTZ]
Quality Confidence Factor: 65%