1. Ghost (B.C.)- "Infestissumam" Having picked up a new moniker for shows in the US (B.C.), Ghost (Sweden) released their sophomore effort. I really enjoyed this release, though I will say that it moved more towards melody and away from heavy doom riffs. They are still there, but the proportions have greatly changed. What the album lacks in heaviness it more than makes up for in catchiness. Ghost still sound like they are writing albums back in the 70's heavy rock scene, so if sounds in that style over sarcastic anti-Christian lyrics sounds good to you, check out this album! Interestingly, the single released from the album "Secular Haze" is probably my least favorite on the album, though still very good.
2. Gift Of Gods- "Receive" Darkthrone's Nocturno Culto brings us a 4 song, 25 minute mini-LP of excellent Heavy Metal Thunder! 3 songs are original, 1 is a cover of the (Swedish?) band Universe. My favorite is the last track, 'Last Solstice' which features a tough riff with a mega catchy finish. The songs overall are long and mighty and fall much more in the realm of early heavy metal than most Darkhrone songs. Those familiar with Ted "Nocturno Culto" Skjellum's guitar style though will recognize the obscure riffings that sound totally familiar and totally unique. How this man invents riffs is quite beyond me! This is a top pick for one of my favorite releases in 2013, Ted can do no wrong! I am eagerly anticipating seeing him perform with Sarke at Maryland Deathfest 2014!!!
3. Grave- "Morbid Ascent" This EP features 2 new tracks by the Swedish Doomy Death Metallers, 'Venial Sin' and 'Morbid Ascent' with a cover of Satyricon's 'Possessed' and 2 more tracks of alternate versions of older material. The new tracks are classic for Grave, fast and brutal like someone dropping tombstones on you followed by a slow doomy breakdown like someone dropping an entire mausoleum on you, excellent combo!
4. Grave Miasma- "Odori Sepulcrorum" This London Death Metal band, feat. 2 members of Cruciamentum, has been on my radar since they played the first Martyrdom Fest in NYC in 2012. This album brings us a progression of earlier material, so there is still the fast/slow death riffs, now with even more dissonance! There is a bit more experimentation with guitar tones to create some demented atmosphere. Overall, I like where the band is going and recommend this release to fans of their material. If you haven't heard of them and like stuff like early Incantation, I recommend checking it out!
5. Haemorrhage- "Live Carnage" The twisted Spanish goregrinders/Death Metallers bring us a live album created at Maryland Death Fest 2012 (I was there!) I may even me visible as a pixel or two in the booklet's picture of the audience, hahaha! Anyway, I love Haemorrhage, they do a Carcass-like medical Death Metal thing but with more punk and hardcore influence present (hail the d-beat!) so that makes them stand out. If you haven't yet heard them, this is a good place to start as I had only heard a few tracks prior to this performance myself (afterwords I became a full devotee!). The sound is excellent on the recording as well. Notably, the band's vocalist Lugubrious has a unique deep voice that he uses to screech occasionally to great effect. The whole band is talented, but I'd like to give extra credit to one of their guitarists, Ana Belen de Lopez just because Metal needs more females. The ladies often rock harder and longer than you do gents! So with that sentence, let the jokes roll...
6. Hellbastard- "Sons Of Bitches" EP These English boys brought us the title of the "Crust Punk" genre and were very influential in developing its blueprint. This release brings us some great slabs of crusty crossover thrash that's worth a listen or ten. I was first introduced to these guys at Maryland Death Fest 2012, though I had some notion of the band prior, and have been following them since. If you already like them, this release won't disappoint. If you would like to hear the present sound of some progenitors in the crusty crossover scene, this would be a good place to start!
7. Helloween- "Straight Out Of Hell" So I am a sometimes fan of these German Power/Speed Metallers. They have some really solid songs and releases and some that are a less powerful. This one was dead on. If you are unfamiliar with them, I often describe them as the German answer to Bruce Dickinson-era Iron Maiden. The album is loaded with hooks and is admittedly quite melodic but that's part of their charm. I was able to see them live for this album which was quite fun, great set list, tons of on-stage energy, fanatic crowd; it's an experience I'd recommend even to passing fans of Helloween. On a tangential note, what is Klaus Nomi doing in their video for 'Halloween'?
8. Hot Graves - "Fashion Victim" EP. I love these Florida D-beat Punk/Hardcore/Black/Death/Thrash/everything'ers. Notably, this band was featured on Fenriz's "Band Of The Week" though I was rocking the demo tracks just prior. These guys are funny as hell and write some tough, nasty, awesome shit if you like Metal and Punk. They are basically all the good parts of your favorite bands put together. They were hilarious and punishing live so see them, if you are privileged to have the chance! If you've already heard them, you know what you're getting and should have bought this already. If not, and above description sounds even remotely enticing, get it!!!
9. Inquistion- "Obscure Verses For The Multiverse" For those not familiar, Inquisition started as a Thrash Metal band in Columbia, but is now an American Black Metal band of the highest order. They are, in fact, towards the top of my list for best North American Black Metal.This release is probably my favorite by the band and is a progression of the style they've been developing and honed on their last release, 2011's superb "Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm." They have a base style that is reminiscent of Immortal (a HUGE favorite of mine) in the vocals and guitar arrangements. This is a comparison many make and I feel is starting to plague the band because they are so much more than that, they most assuredly have their own sound that blends dissonance and melody in a truly unique and powerful way. Additionally, their lyrical content is noteworthy in that it has developed along with the beliefs of the band's frontman, Dagon. Most particularly, this album delves into 'Cosmic Satanism' for lack of a better term, that is it discusses the destructive and creative forces in the blackest regions of space, astral projection and black holes, the utter unstoppable-ness and rebellion against order (seemingly) that take place in the cosmos. Think something like the last Dissection album mixed with Carl Sagan. Yeah, that good. Hail Sagan, Hail Inquisition!!!
10. KMFDM "Kunst"- For those already familiar with the idiosyncratic Kap'n K and the Ultra Heavy Beat, then know that this album is AWESOME! It is a bit of a return to their older sound with simpler, analog synths, catchy, fast, and heavy guitars; and self-depreciating lyrics, including a throwback to the old rumor about killing mother-fucking Depeche Mode, not to mention the classic Brute! artwork and main discussion of the Russian Punk band, Pussy Riot. For those NOT familiar, KMFDM are an electronic band with very sarcastic and topical lyrics that really can't be summarized too well by me other than heavy rockin dance, I can only suggest you listen.
11. The Legendary Pink Dots- "The Gethsemane Option" LPD, UK pioneers in the gothic rock and industrial scene, return with a new album of heavenly and bizarre electronic spacey tripfests. Of note to those familiar, LPD have worked a bit with cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy of both their own releases and collaborations. If you want to hear what it would sound like if you put Hawkwind and Bauhaus together with Tangerine Dream, trouble yourself no longer with searching for that elusive Hawkhaus Dream record, buy the new LPD album (...and pretty much all the rest of the them)! Expect a post discussing the live performance I caught of them (SPOILER: it was incredible!!!).
12. Manilla Road- "Mysterium" I'm not cool enough to have heard about these guys before they were booked to Maryland Deathfest 2013, but I have been hooked every since I first heard 'Necropolis' on "Crystal Logic." This album ups the hammers and gets the ole fist pumping. If you want some classic early Heavy Metal like the first few Iron Maiden albums mixed with Judas Priest and ever so slightly slowed down, this band is for you!
13. Metal Church- "Generation Nothing" Metal Church are an American Heavy/Thrash Metal group known for their high vocals, catchy and crunching riffs. This release is a bit of a return to their earlier sound of the first 2 albums, but still with the Power Metal type sound that developed in more recent releases. If you don't like Metal Church, this is unlikely to convert you. If you are already a fan, this album probably won't blow you away but I am reasonably pleased with it and feel that it will probably grow on me quite a bit. In any case, I can hardly wait to see them live in March!
14. The Mission (UK)- "The Brightest Light" The Mission bring us another great Goth Rock album, heavy on the rock, which I appreciate. The album overall is a bit lacking in the hooks of early Mission recordings like the classic "Gods Own Medicine" but is still a solid release and probably my favorite by them in the 2000's. 'Black Cat Bone' is way catchy and my favorite on the album. The digipack version has some demo tracks which weren't that special but cool to include anyway. This was another act I finally got to see live this year, and they didn't disappoint, but more on that in other postings!
*STAY TUNED for the final posting in the series, where I will also name the best releases of those reviewed!
*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*