5) Khemmis, Desolation (20 Buck Spin)
As a modern doom band that can be mentioned in the same sentence as Pallbearer and Yob, Khemmis have been pretty prolific, releasing three albums in four years. Taking a year and a half break between their last one and this one appears to have paid off nicely. They’ve sped things up a bit on some of this album, and it paid off well for them. In fact, with Thin Lizzy-channeling songs like “Isolation” and “Bloodletting” are mass appeal enough to reach well beyond the confines of the relatively limiting “doom” label. These guys have come a long way in a short time, and I’m sure they’re a band we’ll be hearing more from soon, and if every album continues to take a jump in quality like they did from their last one to this, a classic will be coming soon from them.
Key track: “Isolation”
4) Alien Weaponry, Tu (Napalm Records)
You know, it’s kind of a conflict of interest to write about a band on the label I work for, but these guys were on my radar before I left Insider, and well, they’re awesome. For all the high praise and Grammy nominations Greta Van Fleet have gotten for their second rate Zeppelin worship, another group of teenagers in New Zealand have written memorable songs with choruses and riffs that should have earned them just as many accolades. Listen to “Kai Tangata” or “Raupatu” and tell me you disagree. They do Chaos A.D.-era Sepultura better than Soulfly or Sepultura did, and with their first American tour (supporting Ministry) wrapping up, this is a band that you’ll likely be hearing for a long time.
Key track: “Kai Tangata”
3) Zeal and Ardor, Stranger Fruit (MKVA)
A few years ago, Devil Is Fine exploded out of nowhere from a racist 4Chan suggestion on what genres of music Manuel Gagneux should combine. Black metal and black spirituals more or less made on a laptop was a bold experiment that knocked it out of the park, and he found himself forced to find a band that could replicate that sound. His first album with that band is night and day from the first album, expanding the sound while remaining true to it. And while it’s not as surprising as the first record, the fact that it’s as good as it is is very promising, and we’ll get to see them next year with Deafheaven and Baroness on their first-ever big US tour.
Key Track: “Don’t You Dare”
2) Yob, Our Raw Heart (Relapse)
The story of Yob frontman Mike Schaidt is pretty much a concept album in and of itself. Diagnosed with acute diverticulitis, he was literally about 12 hours away from dying when he got surgery. His strength and positive mental attitude manifested itself into Our Raw Heart, the band’s Relapse debut. It’s a long, meditative album that’s beautiful in it’s doominess, both heavy and uplifting, which takes on added gravity once you know the back story. Even stripped of the significance of that, it’s a doom classic.
Key Track: “Our Raw Heart”