DECEASED – CHILDREN OF THE MORGUE
TBD; Hell’s Headbangers
King Fowley and the merry band of morbid minstrels in Deceased revealed the track list for Children Of The Morgue late last year, queued up for a summer 2024 release on Hell’s Headbanger’s. Sounds like a good time to me, there are few pleasures grander than rolling down the windows in the hearse on a sweltering summer day and letting Supernatural Addiction or As The Weird Travel On determine the speed limit.
The words “1 hour” and “concept album” could send shivers of jumping the shark for lesser bands, but for Deceased this sounds pretty par for the course. Most of their albums tend to be around an hour, but every minute feels justified. Like a well-curated anthology of chilling tales, each record has its own personality and theme. The impressive musicianship on display–drawing from death, thrash, and traditional metal–never quite overshadow the songwriting/storytelling aspect of the songs.
It’s been almost six years since Ghostly White drew praise here at Last Rites. Behind the scenes, it’s still getting regular play and chatter amongst the staff. More than I’ve seen The Queen Of Time get brought up, but hey, in their defense New Balance does make a comfortable sneaker. Deceased don’t miss, get with the grave already! [RYAN TYSINGER]
Quality Confidence Factor: 666%
BORKNAGAR – FALL
February 23; Century Media
Borknagar had reached a kind of peak of bloat by 2016’s Winter Thrice, and Øystein G. Brun and company wisely knew that change had to come. They pared the team down from the three-and-sometimes-four-vocalist lineup of Vintersorg, ICS Vortex, keyboardist Lars Nedland, and sometimes Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg to merely Vortex and Nedland, with the former the obvious holder of the frontman role. The move to focus on one of the most naturally gifted singers in metal seems obvious in retrospect, and may have helped the band write the stunning, somewhat freer set of melodic, blackened and proggy goodness that became True North. Depending on which particular Last Riteser you ask, that album was at least their best album since the late 90s, if not their best ever, full stop.
So now you’ve done it, Borknagar. You brought back Heightened Expectations. Can this rejuvenated band ‒ the exact same lineup as True North ‒ pull off the same trick again on Fall? (Fall kind of hilariously comes out in February, a month that is definitely not part of autumn.) True North is a special album. We want another special album. Last time the right move was a minor shakeup. Is the right move this time no move at all? If all the sweeping majesty of lead track “Summits” is any indication, signs point enthusiastically to yes. [ZACH DUVALL]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
KING DIAMOND / MERCYFUL FATE
TBD; Metal Blade
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums from January 2019:
“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 from January 2020:
“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 had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums from January 2021:
“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.’”
Here’s what I had to say in part 1 of our Most Anticipated Albums from January 2022:
“Who the hell knows. I suppose I’ll just go ahead and expect we’ll meet up right here in a very similar spot in January 2023. Thankfully, both of King’s projects have provided well enough good-to-greatness to last fans a lifetime. Stay heavily patient!”
Here’s what I have to say in part 2 of our Most Anticipated Albums from January 2023:
“There is absolutely no way we will see a new King Diamond and / or Mercyful Fate album in 2023. In fact, if either band releases a new album this year, our very own Zach Duvall will eat 70 chili dogs inside one week while walking around Central Park wearing a shirt that reads ‘THE NEW YORK METS WILL ONLY WIN TEN GAMES THIS YEAR.’”
And now here’s what I have to say in part 2 of our Most Anticipated Albums of 2024:
I’ve never really understood why so many people seem to be against radishes. I get that they’re potent and have a tendency to overpower, but when sliced nice and thin to play the proper role as a supporting act? Deeeelicious! Do yourself a favor and get some tasty tacos from an authentic taco truck run by someone’s sweet abuela and I guarantee you’ll find some delicious thin-sliced radishes alongside some pickled carrots. Radishes: totally terrific.
Ain’t no way we’re seeing a new King Diamond or Mercyful Fate album in 2024. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: I Enjoy Radishes
IHSAHN – IHSAHN
February 16; Candlelight
There’s a somewhat perverse phenomenon that sometimes happens when an artist is both stylistically unpredictable and consistently excellent: it’s easy to take them for granted. I’m saying this not from some abstract standpoint, either, but from my own true, dumb self: I have been taking Ihsahn for granted. When the Norwegian blackened progressive metal legend’s previous album, Àmr, landed in 2018, I thought, “Eh, this is pretty good,” and then set it aside. And you know what? I’m such a rascal I did pretty much the same thing with the Telemark and Pharos EPs in 2020 and again with the Fascination Street Sessions just last year.
It’s never too late to quit being a no-account doofus, though, and friends, let me say that I have been recently reacquainting myself with the Ihsahn that I had brushed off as Meh-sahn and am thrilled to realize just how wrong I was. Just in time, then, for the imminent release of Ihsahn’s self-titled album in February.
Right from the opening of lead single “Pilgrimage to Oblivion,” Ihsahn lets loose with the casual arrogance that exemplifies his musical career: “With the sweet taste of wine on my lips.” The song is a twisty, storming first taste, and the other lead track “Twice Born” offsets it nicely with a gait that starts out bouncy but moves through some surprisingly pensive progginess later on. Notably, though, Ihsahn has created two versions of the album – one the more “traditional” proggy black metal of his solo career, and the other a fully orchestral version. He explained that he explored a new compositional approach to fit this planned dual vision: “I wrote all the music as a piano short-score and arranged it for a typical band ensemble and orchestra, accordingly, making sure everything interlocked.” Expect Ihsahn to sound… well, maybe not at all like what you expect, which is to say: like Ihsahn. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
Quality Confidence Factor: A No-Account Doofus Says ‘What?’% (aka 90%)
PAPANGU – TBD
Boy, oh boy, am I excited for a new Papangu album! 2021’s debut, Holoceno, came out of nowhere to level me like no other album that year. The Brazilian quartet delivered progressive metal in a package that I’d never experienced before and, as the year went on, it became clear that they were similarly wowing prog metal enthusiasts all around the world. Holoceno is super heavy and dark, but also lively and colorful, lit up with electric fractals of classic prog in the avant spirit of King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator and especially the mighty Magma. And Papangu is a band who is active in their community and vocal about their love of its people and culture and so, naturally, Holoceno features a wonderful array of local and regional musical influences, especially in the rhythm section. Papangu made an album like no other and, maybe most remarkably, given the style, they did it while maintaining every ounce of the heavy metal weight that is so frequently sacrificed in prog metal for atmospherics and melody; they said, “No! we will have it all!,” and then made it happen. And two years on, Holoceno is as magic as ever.
In music, of course, excitement for a new album after a great one comes with a certain degree of trepidation. Not only is there the quality of Holoceno to consider, but they took seven years to make it! And now this new album comes a little more than a couple years later. Hmmmm. We don’t have much to go on, as far as predictions, save some regular updates on Bandcamp and Facebook, but those appear to be reliable and say everything’s in the can and ready for the factory. And they’re a sextet now, apparently. As for the music itself, there’s but one new track, “São Lourenço,” on the Água Branca fundraising EP that may give us a bit of an idea; it’s an ambient track, so not too much, but it’s well done and hints at a vibe that may skew a touch more evil, maybe a little weirder this time around. And, heck, we don’t even know if it will be included on the new record. Regardless, evil and weird would be great! In any case, something tells me this new album was made in the midst of what has been a creative peak for Papangu and, while the wow factor may not hit the same highs as Holoceno, the fuck yeah factor surely will. [LONE WATIE]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
NILE – TBD
TBD; Nuclear Blast
In 2017, guitarist/bassist/vocalist/songwriter Dallas Toler-Wade departed Nile after 20 years in the band. The value of his contributions can’t be overstated, but sometimes a changeup like that can renew a spark. 2019’s Vile Nilotic Rites presented a renewed fire that hadn’t been as present on the previous two albums. If Karl Sanders and George Kollias felt they needed to prove their success wasn’t entirely dependent on Toler-Wade, they did so with flying colors.
Last summer, Sanders confirmed that the current form of the band had 10 songs written for album number 10 and that Kollias’ drums had already been recorded, which means we can all be pretty confident we’re getting that new record at some point this year even if a title, cover art or preview tracks have yet to be released. In fact, we included Nile in our Most Anticipated list last year, too, but with much more concrete information coming directly from Sanders, it seems more likely that we will be treated to another sandstorm of whirling riffs and gale-strength drums. No need to pull your brain through your nose out of frustration for the lack of new tunes.
It won’t matter who else is there, as long as Sanders and Kollias are together, it’s a safe bet that this album will rip, sear and sacrifice your skull for the greater good of the metal gods. [SPENCER HOTZ]
Quality Confidence Factor: 90%