Welcome to the final part of our look forward to some of our most anticipated albums of 2024. If you missed the first two entries and gotta get back in time, Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. We wouldn’t leave you wanting.
SENTRY – SENTRY
TBD; High Roller
I assume this is fairly common knowledge amidst our longstanding readers, but it’s worth mentioning again: The Last Rites collective was crushed over the loss of Manilla Road spellcaster Mark “The Shark” Shelton back in 2018. A number of us were lucky enough to call Mark a friend, and Manilla Road has long been considered a sort of “house band” for LR, thanks to our obsessive and deep MR discography dives behind the scenes across many years.
Well, for anyone left unaware, Sentry is the next step for the surviving members of Manilla Road moving forward. So, same crew behind 2017’s To Kill a King, with guitarist Eric “Kalli” Kaldschmidt (Jameson Raid, Masters of Disguise) taking on the necessary but weirdly unenviable task of attaching solos to an overall sound that all but begs to have those fluid Shark leads wrapping around us like the most welcome blanket. Yes, it was very smart to commit to a name change (something I’m sure was never up for debate), but it’s admittedly a little strange to hear the voice of Bryan Patrick and Neudi’s familiar fills without Mark’s sorcerous fretwork in tow and taking its rightful place under a permanent spotlight. But hey, these guys still clearly love playing epic heavy metal together, and if a song like “Heavensent” from the Sentry 2023 demo is any indication of what to expect for the upcoming High Roller debut full-length, I think it’s safe to say that the spirit of ol’ Mark is beaming somewhere out there with the knowledge that his old friends continue to allow the Lords of Light to guide the epic adventure. [CAPTAIN]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
MOTHER OF GRAVES –
THE PERIAPT OF ABSCENCE
Fall 2024 (probably); Profound Lore
I’m a Hoosier through and through. In fact, I may go as far as to say that the grease drips from the Pangea-sized tenderloins from one of our many hole-in-the-wall diners scattered across the state flows through my veins. In fact, I’m chowing down on one right now. At times, Indiana can be a depressing place to set up camp—I’m sure most of you feel that way wherever you call home. Life can move like molasses here in the Midwest. And the weather fluctuates like our emotional states, from hot and humid to freezing and dry.
But a sense of pride comes with living here, too. Have you ever seen a harvest moon in the fall in the Hoosier State? It’s beautiful. We’re also accustomed to dropping pale, orange basketballs through rusted hoops on old blacktops in neglected parks. Thus, we’re proud to call Indiana a place that grows basketball. And marking off the days on the calendar until the next Indy 500 tailgate party is enough to get most of us by. Thus, we’re proud to be the motorsports capital of the world.
Musically speaking, we could dive into our pride of being the birthplace of heartland rock icon John Mellencamp or the more appreciated Axl Rose and David Lee Roth. But there’s a very particular style of music and group of lads in a death-doom band called Mother of Graves slowly creeping their way from the depths of the Indiana soil that I’m super proud to call my Hoosier brethren.
Mother of Graves founder and guitarist Chris Morrison started writing songs for the project when one of his best friends and bandmates suddenly passed away. On their debut album, Where the Shadows Adorn, the tone was dark but captured the palpable emotion of a grieving man. Some moments on their full-length debut will remind you of early Tiamat and Katatonia and The Peaceville Three. Still, you’ll also find the band’s unique interpretation of those styles. The catharsis that bleeds through the keys and guitar tones is a grim reminder that time heals all wounds but only to a certain extent—especially in death and loss. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Where the Shadows Adorn—released via the Indiana-based Wise Blood Records—I’d recommend doing so … immediately. You’ll see what I mean.
Nonetheless, I’m stoked for their sophomore death-doom-riddled album, The Periapt of Absence—also, major congratulations to them for signing with Profound Lore. I’m hearing rumblings that the songs they have cooking are spectacular. And the cherry on top is that the album is due for another fall release: perfect death-doom metal weather.
Now, back to my tenderloin. [JOSH HEATH]
Quality Confidence Factor: 95%
SEAR BLISS – HEAVENLY DOWN
It has been six years since we last heard from Hungary’s Sear Bliss, but having just celebrated their 30th anniversary as a band, their ninth full-length album, Heavenly Down, is expected sometime during the first half of this year via their current label home, Hammerheart Records. For the uninitiated, Sear Bliss play a stirring, atmospheric form of black metal with the unusual addition of brass instruments (trumpet earlier in their career, trombone/euphonium now). But despite that novelty, what sets Sear Bliss apart is not just that they feature a full-time brass player alongside typical black metal instrumentation; it’s that as a band they write the kind of music where it doesn’t seem at all outrageous to have a full-time brass player. This means that although their black metal is fiery and aggressive, it is also regal, sweeping, and majestic, placing them alongside such illustrious peers as Windir or Negură Bunget.
Their previous album (and first for Hammerheart), Letters from the Edge, was their finest to date, with a powerful production, cosmic atmospheres, and diverse songwriting (from the black and roll bounce of “Haven” to the drifting, progressive epic “Leaving Forever Land”). With no song previews yet available, we’re left with nothing but idle speculation on any changes afoot in the Sear Bliss camp, but if the evidence of the past thirty years is to be believed, expect another grimly beautiful and proudly idiosyncratic album. [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
Quality Confidence Factor: 85%
SAVATAGE – CURTAIN CALL
April 2024 (per interviews with Jon Oliva, but unconfirmed); TBD
It’s been two decades since the last Savatage album, Poets & Madmen. In the interim, we’ve seen several Jon Oliva’s Pain records featuring posthumous creative contributions from Criss Oliva, and of course, a slew of Trans-Siberian Orchestra records and lucrative holiday tours. Each of those touch upon the magic and mastery of Savatage, but neither of them truly re-capture that perfect balance of bombast and grit that characterizes classic ‘Tage.
But now, after all these years, the dungeons are calling again…
Two-thirds of the band’s creative core are gone now – Criss killed in a car accident in 1993, and Paul O’Neill passing in 2017 after many health issues – but the Mountain King remains, and he’s announced this latest (and by his own admission, likely last) Savatage album, aiming for an April 2024 release to open the band up to summer festival bookings. Having been a fan of Savatage since the 80s, and having never seen them live, I’m hoping that the seemingly appropriately titled Curtain Call will be both another gem in the crown of one of progressive metal’s most interesting bands ever, and also a means by which I can finally cross them off my concert bucket list. According to Jon Oliva, it will also be a full-family affair, with contributions from members of both versions of the band, bringing back longtime drummer Steve Wacholz for a few tunes, and his replacement Jeff Plate for the rest, and also guitarists Al Pitrelli and Chris Caffery, bassist Johnny Lee Middleton, and both Jon and Zak Stevens on vocals.
If the demo idea that Caffery posted to YouTube several years back is any indication of the overall whole, then this will be exactly what fans want: Savatage back, and as close to full-strength as can be minus Criss and Paul’s involvement. New ‘Tage is long overdue, and here’s hoping that, if this truly is the end (and I’ll admit that I thought the end had already come), that this curtain falls with some killer riffs, epic pomp, and lots of those inimitable Jon Oliva shrieks. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
FELLOWSHIP – TBD
In 2022, Fellowship charmed the absolute socks off anyone with decent taste when they released their first full-length album, The Saberlight Chronicles. This, despite the interwebs being what is and having already declared these poor, talented souls the scene’s darlings well before release.
That they then not only met but exceeded those lofty expectations speaks to just how impressive that speedy slap to the face was then. Not since Majestica’s 2019 release Above the Sky had that unique blend of muscular pageantry graced my ears. Equal parts neoclassical and more traditionally melodic power metal, The Saberlight Chronicles felt—and sounded like—an event. And because of that, it also felt like a young band catapulting itself to a stratosphere only the likes of Twilight Force and Rhapsody of Fire dwelled.
Nearly two years have passed since Fellowship’s initial offering, but with the December 2023 release of The Winterlight Chronicles EP came word of a full-length follow-up in the new year. A gentleman long ago once prophesied, “I can’t help but feel that Fellowship can and will do even better in the not too distant future.” Notwithstanding the distant part, I expect that Fellowship will prove this wordsmith true. 2023 gave us At the Heart of Wintervale. What gift will Fellowship bestow us in 2024? [CHRIS C]
Quality Confidence Factor: 80%
GORGUTS – TBD
TBD; Season Of Mist
From 1991-2001, Gorguts dropped four bonafide classics of dissonant, discordant, technical death metal that would inspire innumerable bands that followed them. Then, they called it quits. In 2013, band mastermind Luc Lemay decided he had more to say and resurfaced with an entirely new band that included nothing but technical wunderkinder in the forms of John Longstreth (Origin, Neurectomy, Hate Eternal, etc.), Kevin Hufnagel (Vaura, Dysrhythmia) and Colin Marston (Krallice, Paroxysm Unit, Xazraug, Behold the Arctopus, roughly 75 other bands, producer of every other band you’ve heard and all the ones you haven’t) to release the exceptional powerhouse of Colored Sands. It took another three years for Gorguts to bless fans with one of their most ambitious releases in the form of the single-song 33-minute Pleiades’ Dust. Then, they disappeared.
Lemay once again went into hibernation, having only resurfaced to play live for the first time in nearly six years with special sets at the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest. Not long after, they announced they were doing a full tour with Cannibal Corpse, Mayhem and Blood Incantation, with Longstreth replaced by Michel Bélanger. For fans like myself, it was enough to know the opportunity to hear Gorguts’ mind-bending tunes from the stage still existed. Lemay, however, was kind enough to mention that he planned to get to work writing a new album when that tour concluded. We don’t know where in the process he is, whether writing is done, recording has begun or anything else, but we can rest assured that Lemay is a man who doesn’t release something just for the sake of releasing something. Whatever he has decided is finally worthy of the effort, and time to record, it will surely be fantastic. Here’s to hoping we’re treated to those new tracks this year and that we don’t have to wait until I look exactly like the guy on the cover of Obscura for a follow-up or another tour. [SPENCER HOTZ]
Quality Confidence Factor: 95%