Greetings, metal-heads of New Mexico Tech. It's been a crazy year so far, hasn't it? Politics in this country have gone utterly mental. There's been all manner of confusion within school politics as well. The rain finally hit Socorro for a few minutes, but not near enough. That was actually the first bit of precipitation to hit this town since that awesome snowstorm in February. Anyway, with all this going on, it's good to sit back once and a while and put on some awesome music to escape or get a better grip on the world. Let's talk heavy metal.
This year's been pretty good for releases so far. Amon Amarth, the glorious vikings of Tumba, Sweden, have put out Surtur Rising, another brutally delightful effort. The production's a little better than on 2008's effort, Twilight of the Thunder God; the distortion of the guitars is better preserved, without any detrimental effect on the cleaner passages. Lyrically, it's more of the same glorious Norse mythology, this time focusing on Surtr, a giant of fire. Musically, there are a few unexpected spots, but the majority of this disc is more of what Amon Amarth is known for: punishing melodic death metal. It's solid, and definitely worth a listen, but won't bring any new fans to the genre.
Speaking of rising stars in Sweden, Arch Enemy has released a marvelous disc as well, this one under the name of Khaos Legions. This is the first new material they've released since 2007's Rise of the Tyrant, and the first material since 2009's Root of All Evil, a compilation of re-recorded early Arch Enemy tracks. Rise of the Tyrant was a spectacular release, full of marvelous riffs and blistering solos, led by the iconic Angela Gossow and her brutal vocals, but they've had so much time to work on Khaos Legions, and it shows. The Amott brothers, Michael and Christopher, are pulling a few new tricks out of their already-impressive gig bags. This is probably best record yet. They will be playing the Sunshine Theater on September 30th, with supporters DevilDriver, Skeletonwitch, and Chthonic. All of these bands are supporting new albums; DevilDriver has Beast, Skeletonwitch has an EP titled Onward to Battle/The Infernal Resurrection, and Chthonic has Takasago Army, all three of which are excellent metal releases.
Agoraphobic Nosebleed, drum machine experimental grindcore types from the east coast, collaborated with old-school west coast grind guys Despise You for a marvelous split, titled & On & On. Despise You dominate the first nineteen tracks with some fresh riffs, marvelous drums, and aggressive shouts of defiance. This was their first release in 12 years, and despite that, they don't sound at all dated or rusty. It's solid, punchy stuff, and just accessible enough. Agoraphobic Nosebleed's contribution, seven tracks, reeks more of sludge metal than their past efforts, but guitarist Scott
Hull is really shining here, producing the most well-articulated guitar solos of his career. The whole thing is quite impressive.
Other noteworthy releases so far this year include sludge vets Crowbar and their disc, Sever the Wicked Hand, another great opus in a great career; Japanese/New Jersey grindcore band Gridlink released Orphan to great satisfaction by all; Worthless by Weekend Nachos was more than worthwhile; Symphony X's reliably excellent handiwork on Iconoclast, one of the best records of their career; Alestorm's ever-silly, ever-solid pirate metal is a treasure on Back Through Time; Protest the Hero integrate Scurrilous into their mathcore legacy, providing proof of their skill; and, after sitting on the backburner for 24 years, British metallers Hell finally released their debut, Human Remains, and with a sense of excess not seen in metal since the 80s, it is a testament to the bands they influenced.
Something that might have been missed from last year, though, was Ghost's Opus Eponymous, a marvelous traditional metal disc out of Stockholm, Sweden. The guitar work is gentler than most metal bands of the modern day, but reeks of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Mercyful Fate. The vocal work is melodic and gorgeous, but the lyrics are pure black blood and satanic bile. The anonymous members are unrepentant devotees of the church of Heavy Metal, and their dedication to that marvelous sound is unmistakable and, dare I say, catchy.
This year has been a heck of a year for metal so far, so take some solace in that. Despite all the discord and chaos in this world, heavy metal is still awesome
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