by: Chris Rigney, Loud Rock Director
Ancient VVisdom "Deathlike" (Prosthetic)
I think I like this band more every day. These Texans follow up their fantastic debut with a sophomore effort that's more than worthy of checking out. It's their atmosphere and dark subject matter that pulls them into the 'metal' arena, but that classification is flimsy given that they are almost completely acoustic. Dark, brooding lyrics cleanly sung over primarily acoustic compositions that sound like Alice in Chains (unplugged) meet Agalloch. This release isn't as dynamic as the band's debut, but songs like "Far Beyond Good & Evil," "Waiting to Die," and the title track make for hypnotic and addictive listens.
Cult of Luna "Vertikal" (Workhorse Music)
Art-metal/post-metal act Cult of Luna return with a concept album based on the silent film Metropolis. Heavy, mid-tempo songs with mostly screamed vocals and occasional clean sections, this band should appeal to post-metal fans of Isis and Vaura who like some heavier material. Included are a couple of instrumental tracks that incorporate some electronics and other unusual sounds, but these guys definitely hit the mark with tracks like "I: The Weapon" and "In Awe Of". Very highly recommended!!!
Altaar S/T (Indie Recordings)
These guys are serious when it comes to long, drawn-out, doomy, minimalist tracks with a flare for post-rock and shoegaze influences. Not quite as upbeat as up-and-coming bands like Cloud Archive, and they are firmly rooted in metal. Almost completely instrumental in nature, Altaar has unleashed a wondrous, bleak soundscape on this self-titled release that spans over 35 minutes across only two tracks! They don't employ the distortion that more prevalent bands like Sun 0))) and even Mono might use, but ultimately they don't need to in order to wrap you up in their sound.
Moss "Horrible Night" (Metal Blade)
The doomy bands keep comin'! Moss has been an underground force in the doom scene with unbelievably heavy, drawn-out tracks that rival the works of Sleep and Saint Vitus. The band commented in an interview that they wanted this album to stick around for the ages, so they took their usual formula of exceptionally long, rough tracks and refined it to incorporate songs of shorter length (averaging ~10 min), mixed clean and harsh vocals, and focused songwriting. The result is easily their best work to date that draws influences from bands like Cathedral, Burning Witch, and early Black Sabbath. Crushingly heavy and an excellent addition to any doom fan's collection.
Heaven Shall Burn "VETO" (Century Media)
Germany's leading metalcore masters Heaven Shall Burn release yet another behemoth of an album begging the question whether these guys will ever slow down in their excellent material. Unlike so many other metalcore bands out there, these guys maintain their own identity and use no clean vocals. Harsh, slightly digitized vocals (as normal) screamed over thrashy material with some melody and occasional breakdowns. Fans of Neaera, Dark Tranquillity, and As I Lay Dying should dig these guys a lot. This particular album also features an unexpected and awesome guest appearance by Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch on the track "Valhalla"!
Neaera "Ours Is The Storm" (Metal Blade)
Although these guys are metalcore at heart, they often take a more straightforward approach with a greater death metal influence to their songs. Their vocals also tend to emphasize higher pitches screams as the norm. As would be expected for a metalcore act, there are occasional breakdowns with lots of anthemic choruses to the songs. Biggest influences on their sound seem to be Heaven Shall Burn and Kataklysm. Although this is not the strongest album of their career, it's an excellent addition to their catalogue and a fun listen.
Pig Destroyer "Book Burner" (Relapse)
This album is a lot of fun and falls into the typical expectations for punk laden grindcore in the vein of Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Kill The Client, and Nasum. Nineteen tracks over about 30 minutes means you're in for one helluva punch for each song. Unbridled and oftentimes chaotic, Pig Destroyer somehow maintain enough coherence in their songs to remind the listener more of Napalm Death than Psyopus, which helps prevent things from feeling too derailed. A very fun, entertaining album that will help keep you guessing a bit.
Lightning Swords of Death "Baphometic Chaosium" (Metal Blade)
This American black metal band made a huge stir with their prior release The Extradimensional Wound, and this new album is a solid follow up. This time around on, the band varies their music compositions to add some slower segments that sound similar to Marduk's doomier material. However, that certainly doesn't mean this album is boring or slow. Where songs like "Psychic Waters" and "R'Lyeh Wuurm" keep things frantic while "Chained to Decay" has a doomy feel, their best material is in the songs that mix it up such as the title track, "Acid Gate" and "Epicyclarium."
Zombified "Carnage, Slaughter and Death" (Metal Blade)
Don't let the cliche name fool you! These guys are awesome!! This band is a newcomer to Metal Blade records, and they bring an excellent offering of death-thrash goodness. They seem to have taken some of the best parts of Vomitory, Deathchain, and Cannibal Corpse and mashed them up into one unstoppable beast of an album. Zombified bring you absolute destruction in their album without venturing too far into technical death metal territory that has started becoming mundane in recent times.
Gloria Morti "Lateral Constraint" (Metal Blade)
These guys sound like what you'd get if Lamb of God started playing Whitechapel covers. Gloria Morti take modern American thrash and give it an extreme metal makeover with some layered vocals and insane drums. The result is pretty awesome, and I really dig this album. They even occasionally drift further into extreme death metal realms reminiscent of late-era Behemoth albums, but for the most part they stay grounded in a very modern, American death metal sound.
Suffocation "Pinnacle of Bedlam" (Nuclear Blast)
This hands down will be one of the best metal albums of 2013!! New York death metal pioneers Suffocation have come back with a vengeance on this album and stepped up their game in all departments. This is easily the most intense release by these guys in over a decade, and this band has been around more than 20 years! The guitar work is far more technical, and the drumming is some of the best work performed for Suffocation by Dave Culross. This album is an absolute beast of technicality and brutality, and it will set the standard for future releases in 2013.
Hypocrisy "End of Disclosure" (Nuclear Blast)
Hypocrisy's past couple of albums have been a little bit spotty, but I'm happy to announce this album is a return to form. It combines much of the heaviness of their early material with some of the greatest moments of later albums such as The Arrival. Don't let their continued emphasis on aliens and abduction in their 20 year career stop you from checking this band out if you're not already familiar. The band is still in prime form here, and Peter's vocals remain as some of the best in the genre. This band remains the forerunner of excellence and consistency in melodic death metal. The songs range from slow to frenetic, and the backing synth sounds only add to the music without distracting. "Tales of Thy Spineless" is probably my favorite track on this one, but all of the songs are worth checking out.
Destruction "Spiritual Genocide" (Nuclear Blast)
Yes, that's right. Long time masters of thrash Destruction are back with another thrash-tacular album to knock you down and pummel you into submission. If you like any of the late 80s German thrash bands like Kreator, Destruction, or Sodom, then you need to check out this release immediately because it rocks!! The songwriting and performance on this album is unexpectedly tight and dynamic. I'm honestly shocked to hear an album of this quality come from Destruction at this point in their career, but I'm pleased to say they deserve all the credit they can get for releasing such an amazing thrash record. Very highly recommended!!!!!