4) Heaven Shall Burn, Wanderer (Century Media)
I initially wasn’t even aware of this album until the week of its release, but I am so glad that I found it, because HOLY CRAP, this album is amazing. The piledriver that is the opening riff of “Bring the War Home” really sets the tone for this whole record – intense, destructive, and unstoppable. Heaven Shall Burn has always been motivated by causes and positions in the past, but Wanderer is driven forward with otherworldly force, the likes of which I haven’t heard before. This album grabs you by the throat and does not let go until the final note has been played. Suffice to say, I was not expecting something so powerful from Heaven Shall Burn, but they delivered in a huge way with this one.
Highlights: “Bring the War Home”, “Downshifter”, “Extermination Order”
3) One Hundred Thousand, The Forms in Which They Appear (Architekt)
All too often in the realms of progressive rock and metal, the experience and emotion contained within the music are sacrificed for the sake of displaying technical prowess. It’s one of the reasons that prog rock is so often maligned and taunted by the mainstream media. One Hundred Thousand is the antithesis of that philosophy. This young band uses their incredible musical skill as a means by which to enhance the listener’s emotional connection to the music, creating unique atmospheres and tones that are a tool of the overall musical experience, rather than its end goal. To that end, The Forms in Which They Appear is an evocative, moving journey that most would not expect from such a band. This is a hidden gem of this year’s release calendar, and I highly recommend giving it your full attention.
Highlights: “Fathoms from This Place”, “We Surround”, “Better Days”
2) Devin Townsend Project, Transcendence (HevyDevy/InsideOut)
These days, every record label and publicist out there will tell you that the latest band they’re promoting “defies genre classification”, or “is beyond the realms of any one genre”, or some other equivalent statement. To date, I have only ever found one artist for whom such a statement is true, and he’s never needed to say it because everyone already knows it. Devin Townsend remains the most breathtaking anomaly of the heavy music world, as he has been for years, with a sound that truly does transcend (pardon the pun) any genre definition that could be applied to it. Transcendence is an absolutely gorgeous record from start to finish, and even though it can’t be described as being part of any specific subgenre, fans of music (not just metal) will find this album delightful, no matter what.
Highlights: “Truth”, “Secret Sciences”, “Offer Your Light”