This is it, kids, the finale of Most Anticipated Release Week 2022 here at Last Rites World Headquarters, Inc. If you missed the first two installments, you can catch up here and here. And if you haven’t already, tell us what (hopefully) awesome upcoming albums we missed out on — don’t let us overlook a winner, we beg of you. As always, thank you for reading and we hope each and every one of you (and us) has an amazing 2022 ahead. Let’s rock!
VOIVOD – SYNCHRO ANARCHY
Out 2/11; Century Media Records
Forever popping up when discussions turn to “most underrated metal band” or “the metal band’s favorite metal band,” Quebec’s Voivod has made a (very close to) 4-decade career out of keeping it weird and delighting fans who’ve come to depend on their otherworldly brand of punky, progressive, thrashy smorgas-we-are-the-Borg metal as an enduring example of how to own the word “unique” like a final boss at the end of all bosses. So unique, in fact, they’ve long since spawned a endless cavalcade of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” bands that owe Voivod an inexhaustible amount of dinners for borrowed riffs, drumming techniques, bulldozer bass lines, and science fiction howled from the maw of a supernova.
But we know how these things normally work: Bands that find ways to endure the hardest of hardships over the course of decades begin releasing material that’s serviceable enough to get them out on the road to play the classics, and their most ardent fans find creative ways to mine gems from those modern releases—it’s an amiable partnership that’s become one of metal’s unwritten ordinances. Whether or not a Voivod devotee would consider the run between 1995’s Negatron through 2009’s Infini to be mostly “serviceable” (sidenote: 2006’s Katorz is legit great) likely depends on the level of fandom, but it’s safe to say many of us never expected the band to ever fully recover from the profound loss of founding guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour in 2005 to cancer.
Enter into the story one Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain (ex-Martyr) for the 2013 release of Target Earth, and with said entry Voivod discovered a rekindling of energy that initiated one of the most significant revitalizations currently running in our crazy little heavysphere. The bar was raised with the wonderful Post Society EP in 2016, and 2018’s remarkable The Wake smashed into heights many of us consider as classic as anything the band produced through their iconic Killing Technology (1987) — Dimension Hatröss (1988) — Nothingface (1989) — Angel Rat (1991) — The Outer Limits (1993) run.
Consequently, expectations for full-length number fifteen (!!!) couldn’t be higher, and if the first two songs “Planet Eaters” and “Paranormalium” are any indication of what awaits fans with Synchro Anarchy, the outlook appears very positive in a suitably “Dimension Hatröss through a more modern lens” kind of way. I, for one, plan on immediately lowering shields and surrendering ships, with hopes Voivod will add my biological and technological distinctiveness into their own. Resistance is futile when a band remains this great. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 99.9%
ANUBIS GATE – TBA
Despite the 2020 release of the cleverly titled (and quite good) covers album, Covered in Colours, it has felt like ages since we last heard from Denmark’s one and only prog metal powerhouse Anubis Gate. Whether a four-year gap between original recordings is a lengthy one is up to the individual listener, I suppose, but because the band is never imitated, never duplicated, it’s been a painful one. So I was more than a little geeked this last September when the Gate of Anubis announced that it had finished recording its eighth, all-original album.
If you’ve been following the band’s amusingly narrated album updates – and I know there’s at least a few of you out there based on the equally amusing comments to said album updates – you have had ample time to get psyched about the yet-to-be-dated release. Between short studio snippets confirming that we will again be beneficiaries of the band’s prog meets quasi-power metal talents, and studio pictures of the reliably excellent producer companion Jacob Hansen staring at busy-looking computer screens and poking at Morten Gade Sørensen’s drums, we don’t have a lot to go on here.
Something tells me this next one will be even more progressive-leaning than Covered in Black, which had cello and piano (“Psychotopia”), sitar (“The New Delhi Assassination”), and Near Eastern influences (“Operation Cairo”). If Covered in Colours was any indication, the band has likely always found inspiration from disparate sources. Yet its magic has also always been in bringing those sounds together to create something uniquely Anubis Gate. [CHRIS C]
Quality Confidence Factor: 95%
WAKE – TBA
Back in February of last year (which seems like a century ago), Canadian grinders Wake announced that they had signed with Metal Blade for the follow-up to the stellar Devouring Ruin. These fine grinding fellers get better with every successive release, starting with second album Sowing The Seeds Of A Worthless Tomorrow (and a handful of great splits) through the kickassery of Misery Rites and onto Devouring, each one a blended-up mass of ugly, grind and black and death and post-metal and sludge, all tripping over one another and swirling around in the maelstrom. It’s loud and it’s riffy; it’s atmospheric and it’s emotional; and more important than all those fancy words: It’s every bit killer.
This newest album hasn’t been officially announced yet that I’ve seen – no title or art or release date or anything – but back in October, the band snuck out a tweet saying they’d finished the recording process, and just last week they rang in the new year (or more accurately, out the old one) with a hearty thanks to the fans and the short-but-sweet proclamation that a new album was coming in 2022. So this new year is looking up (on this one front, at least, if not hopefully many others), because this is one of my favorite bands these days, and I’m damn-well stoked for a new record! Bring on the beautiful blackdeathgrind barrage! [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
SABATON – THE WAR TO END ALL WARS
Out 3/4; Nuclear Blast Records
The optimist buried deep within what little is left of my soul tells me that there just might be something slightly different about The War to End All Wars. I am not ashamed of liking the Sabaton formula and the band has been a chest-thumping power metal staple for quite some time. Despite the addition of riff machine Tommy Johansson and his songwriting contribution to 2019’s The Great War (“A Ghost in the Trenches”), however, the band’s paint-by-numbers approach post-Carolus Rex has been disappointing given the band’s peaks.
Judging by the album’s first single, “Christmas Truce,” and most fans’ reactions to it, we may be looking at a willingness to step ever so slightly outside the tried and true Sabaton formula. And even a hint of potential intrigues me, because the only thing holding Sabaton back from the aforementioned peaks is Sabaton. This is especially true now that they have someone in their ranks who can write tunes like “Rising Tide” and “Future Land.”
No fan expects – or wants – Sabaton to think too outside the box. But an album that feels a little less linear than The Great War would go a long way toward a more compelling listen. “Christmas Truce” hinted at a renewed effort. The teaser for “Soldier of Heaven,” short as it was, seemed to corroborate the deliberateness of that shift. And when Sabaton fires on all cylinders, they’re among the best at the anthemic, motivational metal thing. [CHRIS C]
Quality Confidence Factor: 50%
SATAN – TBA
Satan are no strangers when it comes to resilience. The NWOBHM legends have held together with the classic lineup from their debut, 1983’s essential Court In The Act, through name changes, breakups, a sophomore record, and other musical projects before their triumphant return in 2013 with Life Sentence. Since then, the band have been fairly consistent with providing new material, and, most importantly, extraordinarily consistent in the quality of their output. There isn’t a single order that one could rank their material that would raise an eyebrow from anyone familiar with their catalogue.
Having just released their fifth album, Cruel Magic, back in 2018, the band’s plans for a 2020 U.S. tour in support of the album were put on ice due to Covid. Ever-resilient, the band hit the studio and got to work on number six. announcing it over their Facebook page this past November. The Quality Confidence Factor™ awarded below is quite high–as stated above, Satan simply do not make bad albums. The excitement comes from seeing just how good it’s going to be. I’m predicting (and hoping for) the band to continue dipping their toes a little deeper into progressive waters. Their songwriting has always had touches of complexity beneath the ever-flowing stream of melodies, but Cruel Magic felt like the band were sliding a little closer to being called “progressive metal” with the grace of aged wisdom.
No release date, artwork, or singles have surfaced yet, but anyone familiar with the band has plenty reason to get excited. Conversely, if you’ve never had the pleasure of going through the band’s discography it’s a great time to see why this band not only gets mentioned in every list of the greatest NWOBHM bands and still continue to rank high on year-end lists. [RYAN TYSINGER]
Quality Confidence Factor: 97%
EARTHLESS – NIGHT PARADE OF ONE HUNDRED DEMONS
Out 1/28; Nuclear Blast Records
Nuclear Blast is releasing the new Earthless album at the end of the month. Once, it was pretty easy to guess what you’d get from this band of three free-wheeling psychedelic jammers, but they threw us a bit of a curveball with their last LP, so maybe we don’t know.
2018’s Black Heaven was a nice idea for Earthless. Its 40 or so minutes hit right in the band’s runtime sweet spot, but the six songs filling them pushed outside the bounds of one to four (and two most effectively) established in the 13 years since Sonic Prayer. These were songs, complete with vocals and verses and choruses and with riffs relatively obedient to the rules. It was a step outside the comfort zone, an experimentation, a growth moment.
Black Heaven is a good album full of good songs, but it sort of feels like an album that’s good the way a lot of other stoner / psychedelic albums are good, instead of that special oh-so-good good that most Earthless albums are. Even the band said that, ultimately, the comparative confines of traditional song structure just don’t suit the band’s true spirit and that they’d be striking out into freer space again. Then Earthless made good on that promise with last year’s rock solid and tantalizing EP, Death to the Red Sun, an enthusiastic call back to the band’s brightest boundless riff-fests of yore.
The new album, entitled Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, appears to be a return to core strengths: two songs evenly split between 40 minutes, an instrumental retelling of a Japanese ghost story of the same name. Long-time fans rejoice: if any band can pull that off, it’s Earthless, especially reawakened as they are. [LONE WATIE]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%
AMORPHIS – HALO
Out 2/11; Atomic Fire Records
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Amorphis has been on a bit of a tear lately. Both 2015’s Under the Red Cloud and 2018’s Queen of Time are massive, masterful records that challenge the band’s legendary Tales from the Thousand Lakes and other early peaks (Queen might even be my favorite Amorphis record at this point). While they’ve never done anything poor with Tomi Joutsen on the mic, The Beginning of Times and Circle seemed to settle them into a period of consistent goodness instead of fever-pitch-inducing-greatness. Thankfully, those aforementioned last two put them firmly back on top and firing on all cylinders.
Depending on how you classify Magic & Mayhem, Amorphis is set to release either their 14th or 15th album in February, and their recent resurgence has reset their hype to maximum. Simply titled Halo ‒ which is kinda suspiciously close to Circle but who cares because this band is basically in do-no-wrong territory right now ‒ the record sees them again running it back with the greatest lineup they have ever put together. Lead single “The Moon” contains everything we’ve come to expect from the best of the modern Amorphis era: Santeri Kallio’s light, bouncing, folksy-power-metal-ish keyboard lines, the effortless melodies and arena-sized riffs of the Holopainen and Koivusaari guitar tandem, and of course the beastly growls and enchanting singing of Jousten, who has long since solidified himself as one of the all time greats. Doubt this band at your own foot-in-mouth risk. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 100%
IMMOLATION – ACTS OF GOD
Out 2/18; Nuclear Blast Records
Does anything really need to be said to whet your appetite for new Immolation? This is their 11th album, so you know damn well what you’re getting and I’m not sure how to help you if you aren’t eagerly awaiting February 18 to hear the other 14 songs that will precede lead single and album closer “Apostle.” Unsurprisingly, that track unleashes neck-cracking angular riffs, octopus drumming and Ross Dolan’s ageless roar. In short, it rules.
How much more God bashing can this Yonkers quartet really have left to sell? Apparently, they have 52 more minutes worth, and quite frankly, that’s kind of a lot. That runtime is the only thing that gives me pause with this new batch of hellfire. With a five-year wait since Atonement, however, I’ll take too much rather than continue to be deprived of fresh blasphemies from these hellions. You’ve got a month left so be sure to tip over all the vats of holy water you can and be mean to priests so your mind is properly full of sin by the time you hit play. [SPENCER HOTZ]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%