New & Noteworthy, November 23rd – Spirit in Black

Posted by on November 23, 2010

If you’re not in the holiday spirit by now, then you must be Ebenezer Scrooge, The Grinch, or Satan. Even venues are getting into the holiday cheer, with holiday discounts on tickets all over the place. And with Black Friday looming this week, there’s no reason not to capitalize on the sale prices and buy some new albums. With some of the abysmal sales numbers seen in recent weeks (seriously, how did Oceano and Gwar manage to break the top 200 with under 3,000 copies sold apiece?), now is the best time to boost your favorite band’s new release or get a new name on the list.

This week is very similar to the last week of October, in that there are no big-name metal bands on the list. That doesn’t diminish the quality of this week’s list at all, though. With a number of veteran groups releasing new material and plenty of enjoyable debut albums, keep your options and minds about the groups appearing here. You may just discover a new addiction for your headphones.

The Chariot, Long Live (Good Fight)

If you discount the closing track of 2007′s The Fiancée, The Chariot has been incredibly consistent with their sound and direction from one album to the next, which is no small feat for a chaotic and experimental mathcore band. Also, on both The Fiancée and last year’s Wars and Rumors of Wars, the Georgia-based group created interesting phrases and sentences with their song titles, making reading the track list almost as engrossing as reading the lyrics themselves. If Josh Scogin and Co. can maintain those two traditions on their Good Fight debut, then they will be in good position to eclipse Scogin’s former band, Norma Jean, in terms of quality and fan appreciation.

Agalloch, Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore)

The initiated veterans already know this, but Agalloch is one of the most intelligent and skilled groups in all of metal when it comes to writing progressive and intricate compositions that have long ambient passages mixed with crushingly intense sections. Want proof? Marrow of the Spirit was streaming on NPR earlier this week. How many metal bands could ever even hope to make that claim? The only possibilities that come to my mind are Katatonia and Damnation-era Opeth, and neither of those groups have done it. Agalloch may not be wildly popular, but they should be. After 2006′s mind-blowing Ashes Against the Grain and 2008′s equally stunning The White EP, Marrow of the Spirit only promises greater mastery to come.

God Dethroned, Under the Sign of the Iron Cross (Metal Blade)

The Dutch death metal group showed a lot of creativity on last year’s Passiondale, delving into the history and darkness of World War I. Under the Sign of the Iron Cross continues this exploration, which may be a sign of a new direction for the veteran quartet. This is also the band’s first album with Prostitute Disfigurement members Danny Tunker (guitar) and Michiel van der Plicht (drums), and their excellence is fairly obvious throughout the album.

After the Burial, In Dreams (Sumerian)

After the Burial is garnering a lot of attention for being absolutely balls-out heavy on every song they write, but without resorting to clichéd songwriting tactics or genre practices that their contemporaries fall prey to again and again. They may sound like deathcore, but they are not at all a deathcore band. You’ll find no pig squeals and very few breakdowns, if any at all, on In Dreams. What you will find is a band that takes the best parts of Meshuggah, Arsis, and Ion Dissonance as influences, generating a vicious technical death metal onslaught that blows the mind and induces a serious desire to mosh at the same time.

Burning the Masses, Offspring of Time (Mediaskare)

The cover for this album might look like a bad drug hallucination, but don’t expect anything psychedelic to appear on Offspring of Time. After starting as a deathcore band on their debut, Mind Control, Burning the Masses has taken its cue from the genre elders and moved towards a traditional death metal sound with technical influences. The vocals for this album were recorded by Cameron Argon (ex-Misericordium, among MANY others), who has since left the band to finish his college career and add to his musical résumé. His replacement, Brian Kulikoff, is getting positive reviews at live performances, so the transition appears to be smooth for the young band.

As They Sleep, Dynasty (Solid State)

This Detroit group really caught my attention with their 2008 debut Blacken the Sun. They’re part of the same new melodic death metal scene that contains Woe of Tyrants, Conducting from the Grave, and a number of other excellent young bands that you’re all probably sick of hearing me go on about. All the same, after moving up from indie label Luxor to the Solid State family, Dynasty promises to carry the same destructive output as Blacken the Sun. And with song titles like “The Third Reich”, “Bedlam at the Nile”, and “Attila” found among the track listing, the lyrical content will likely be even more powerful and uncompromising than on the debut.

Amorphis, Magic & Mayhem: Tales from the Early Years (Nuclear Blast)

After two decades of existence, what is the next step for the Finnish group? Well, following last year’s masterful Skyforger, apparently the band felt that some fans needed to learn about their roots. Hence, we now have this collection, which features re-recorded and re-arranged songs from The Karelian Isthmus, Tales from the Thousand Lakes, and Elegy. Vocals are mostly performed by current lead singer Tomi Joutsen, although rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari reprises his role as the band’s original vocalist on some songs. The eye-catching track will be the cover of The Doors’ classic “Light My Fire”, but the entire collection deserves a listen from those wanting to learn where Amorphis came from.

Samael, Antigod (Season of Mist)

If you are one of the many Samael fans longing for the band to return to their black metal roots, then last year’s Above should have left you at least somewhat pleased. Antigod will increase those good feelings, as the title track sounds like a B-side from 1996′s Passage. The re-recording of “Into the Pentagram” is decent, and the live versions of “Reign of Light” and “Slavocracy” actually work somewhat better than their studio counterparts. It’s a worthwhile purchase for the veteran fan waxing nostalgic for the glory days.

Murder Construct, Murder Construct (Relapse)

Featuring members of Cattle Decapitation, Exhumed, Intronaut, and Bad Acid Trip, this deathgrind supergroup is a dream come true for extreme metal fans. However, this EP has been a long time coming – the band has disbanded and reformed numerous times since their initial formation in 2001. They signed to Relapse in August for its release, and played a few shows with Kill the Client and Venomous Concept to spread the word about its creation.

King Conquer, America’s Most Haunted (Mediaskare)

These Floridian deathcore dealers have been working hard to get noticed, releasing two full-length albums and an EP on their own before getting picked up by Mediaskare. Our friends at Noisecreep recently discussed the band’s personal struggles getting to where they are now, including bassist Adam Whited’s struggles with multiple sclerosis. This is not your typical death metal/deathcore band, with lyrics about personal struggles and introspection instead of the usual gore and murder topics of their peers.

Your Memorial, Atonement (Facedown)

This album was produced by Misery Signals frontman Karl Schubach, and one listen is all it will take for his influence on the band to be noticed. The vocal similarities are fairly obvious, and the progressive nature of the instrumentation is drawn from the best parts of Misery Signals’ last two albums, Mirrors and Controller. Thus, Atonement suffers from a lack of originality, but the album more than compensates with solid, veteran-level execution. This Minnesota group is likely to go places once they’ve mastered this sound.

Broughton’s Rules, Bounty Hunter 1853 (Relapse)

This instrumental post-rock group from Pittsburgh sounds exactly like what you’d expect to hear from a collaboration of former members of Don Caballero and Blunderbuss. They are yet another group in a scene that is slowly taking over the experimental/ambient metal subgenre, as instrumental rock becomes the popular standby in favor of Southern-influenced progressive doom. The scene may be expanding too quickly for its own good, but that won’t stop these guys from jumping on the train, along with many others to follow.

While She Sleeps, The North Stands for Nothing (Good Fight)

The British hardcore youngsters have been waiting a long time to make their impact known in the US, after being lauded by Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, and many other UK-based metal publications. The North Stands for Nothing is an excellent melodic hardcore album that will surely attract fans of It Prevails, The Ghost Inside, and For Today. As reported by Noisecreep, listeners will have to wait to catch the band live on this side of the Atlantic, but a UK tour with crabcore’s finest Attack Attack! will only serve to build even more hype during the waiting period.

haarp, The Filth (Housecore)

Where has this band been all this time? It’s as if the purest black essence of sludge metal was distilled into its most disgustingly pure form and set to the intonations of the drums of hell. Phil Anselmo did the metal world a great service signing this band to his label, Housecore Records. If you’re looking for the future of sludge after Crowbar and Eyehategod hang it up, look no further than The Filth.

Pantera, Cowboys from Hell (20th Anniversary Ultimate Edition) (Rhino)

You’ve waited ten weeks since I teased this for it to be released, and now it’s finally here. Trust me when I say that getting your hands on one of these boxes will be extremely difficult this week. Putting aside all of the bonus music and the awesome packaging for this collection, the amount of physical bonus material contained in this box is mind-boggling. I won’t list it all here, but suffice to say, you would have to have been a roadie for Pantera in 1990 and 1991 to have all of these items originally. This is how a 20th Anniversary ought to be celebrated.

Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine (Remastered) (UMe/Null Corporation)

21 years later, Pretty Hate Machine still beats the test of time as one of the most thought-provoking, intelligent, and unique albums in rock music. Now, Reznor has finally completed the reissue of the album that he always wanted to do. Rob Sheridan provides new cover art to augment the original design by Gary Talpas, and the band’s rare cover of Queen’s “Get Down, Make Love” (originally on the “Sin” single import) can also be found here. It’s a great collector’s item and a must-buy for those that became fans of the band later in their career.

Five Finger Death Punch, The Way of the Fist (Iron Fist Edition) (Prospect Park)

Love them or hate them, Five Finger Death Punch has helped tremendously to make metal a more viable genre in the mainstream, as evidenced by the ubiquitous War is the Answer on the Billboard charts more than a year after its release. Now fans can get debut album The Way of the Fist in a fancy box set with two extra discs. One is a CD of bonus tracks, live renditions, and instrumental versions of the album’s biggest songs. The other is a DVD with a documentary of the band’s origins and three music videos. Also included are a set of trading cards and a poster calendar.

Haste the Day, Concerning the Way it Was (Solid State)

The first of two reissue packages from Solid State, Concerning the Way it Was contains the first three albums of Haste the Day’s career: Burning Bridges (which contains the track for which this collection was named), When Everything Falls, and Pressure the Hinges. The first two discs are the albums which feature original vocalist Jimmy Ryan, while Pressure the Hinges was their first with singer Stephen Keech. For those that are only familiar with the band’s latest album, Attack of the Wolf King, this collection is a great way to get to know the band’s roots, especially in light of their impending break up that was announced yesterday.

Norma Jean, Birds and Microscopes and Bottles of Elixirs and Raw Steak and a Bunch of Songs (Solid State)

The second Solid State reissue package covers the beginning of Norma Jean’s discography, featuring the albums Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child, O God, the Aftermath, and Redeemer. Vocalist Cory Brandan has spoken out against this package, claiming that it will counter the sales of the band’s latest album, Meridional. While that may be true, this collection will illustrate just how frenetic Norma Jean’s career has been to those that are only recent fans of the band. Therefore, anyone that only knows The Anti Mother and Meridional might find a lot more to like here, depending on what kind of sound they’re looking for.

Next Week: As we wind down 2010, we come to something that I’ve feared all along – a week with no metal releases whatsoever! How will Metal Insider deal with such a curveball? Come back next week and find out!

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