The idea of a multi-part album cycle or EP series is not new in the metal world. Bands have been engaging in such concepts for decades, even becoming well-known exactly for that reason. Hell, there are even some bands whose entire discography is portrayed as chapters within an overarching series. So is it really a worthwhile strategy for bands to employ when it’s already been done so many times before?
Of course it is! That strategy continues to work for bands even in the current day. Anticipation is already high for the second part of the two-release (so far) sequence The Parallax from Between the Buried and Me. At the same time, the announcement that Wintersun’s Time would be split over two albums already has fans salivating to hear both albums back to back, despite the fact that they’ll be waiting at least a few months between the first and second releases. Perhaps most significant of all, though, is today’s lead artist and the first release of a four-part cycle that is, in itself, the fourth part of their discography-spanning “series” of albums. And if that jumble of numbers made no sense to you whatsoever, that’s okay! Just go read the list and be happy for new metal coming out today!
Down, Down IV, Part 1 – The Purple EP (Down Records)
It’s always tough to be a Down fan, simply because you have to wait so long between albums. A seven-year wait between albums followed by a five-year wait between albums is excruciating for all but the most patient fan that has also been tempered by the wait time between Tool albums. Well, long waits for new Down material are over! At least, for the next year, they are. Part 1 of Down IV ends the second five-year drought between releases in a row (not counting the 2010 live DVD Diary of a Mad Band in this case), but after that, reports indicate that it will only be a few months until Part 2 debuts! In fact, Parts 2 through 4 are all expected to debut during 2013, which will make it quite the eventful year for fans of the band! The Purple EP also marks a new era for Down, as Patrick Bruders (Crowbar, ex-Goatwhore) makes his recording debut with the band. Bruders replaces former bassist Rex Brown, who left the band in 2011 after months of absence from touring.
The Devin Townsend Project, Epicloud (HevyDevy/Inside Out)
Devin Townsend describes the writing process for Epicloud as if it was almost an accident. In a widely-publicized interview with Soundwave TV, Devin says that the album came about while attempting to write the next chapter in the Ziltoid the Omniscient saga, which he intended to be a very dark and epic “space opera”. However, all his attempts at writing for that album resulted in lighter rock songs that would be ill-fitting for the concept he envisioned. He also credits the album’s emergence to having “a sober frame of mind” and allowing the writing to take him where it wanted to go. This album may be among the most wide-ranging musical gamuts that Devin has ever traversed, using styles that have been spread all over his career and some that have even never appeared before. It just goes to show that, when Devin is being experimental and leaving nothing out, his greatest strengths as a composer and a musician come to life.
Vision of Disorder, The Cursed Remain Cursed (Candlelight)
I had always intended for this album to be the lead album the week that it came out, because I assumed that nothing could top new material from one of the seminal bands in New York hardcore from the late ’90s. After more than a decade of waiting for new material, I believed that the hype for new Vision of Disorder would be overwhelming from their die-hard fans. Thus, the fact that they rank third on today’s list is a bit shocking to me, but also is more indicative of the two artists ahead of them than any shortcomings on the part of VOD. Regardless, VOD’s reunion four years ago and the numerous subsequent tours have all lead up to this album, a fifth release from the hardcore group that was way ahead of their time before anyone realized it. Unfortunately, VOD’s reunion comes at the expense of Bloodsimple, the project that Tim Williams and Mike Kennedy formed after VOD’s breakup in 2002. While neither Williams nor Kennedy has ever commented on the official dissolution of Bloodsimple, the statement issued by bassist Kyle Sanders in 2010 (wherein he announced the formation of his new project MonstrO) makes it clear that Bloodsimple is no longer active. That is the unfortunate state of metal often now, where a side project might have to die in order for a full-time band to live on.
Becoming the Archetype, I Am (Solid State)
The technical Christian death metal group underwent some drastic changes last year, with the departure of founding members Jason Wisdom and Brent Duckett and leaving Seth Hecox as the only remaining member of the group to have played on all five of their releases under the current name (they previously had released one album as The Remnant). In a surprising move, though, the group decided that this was the perfect time to make a return to basics. So rather than the wildly progressive elements that were included on last year’s Celestial Completion, I Am mostly features complex, technically-focused metal songs with some of the group’s best compositions to date. The music is so raw and engrossing, listeners will barely notice the change from Wisdom to new singer Chris McCane, whose style is admittedly very close to Wisdom’s. If you enjoyed the other odd-numbered releases from the group, 2005’s Terminate Damnation and 2008’s Dichotomy, then I Am carries some major appeal for you.
Ensiferum, Unsung Heroes (Spinefarm)
Despite being much more skilled and experienced overall, Ensiferum has received less notice than some of their newer peers in recent years. I remain very confused as to why this is, as their music has always seemed to be much truer to the style of folk metal than what some other bands will often try to pass off as folk metal. Regardless, though, Unsung Heroes picks up right were 2009’s From Afar left off, with the same consistent degree of high-caliber guitar work and well-blended compositions. From Afar received some of the best reviews of any Ensiferum album released up to that time, and Unsung Heroes is already following up on that trend with impressive reviews throughout European press and websites. With any luck, that string of positive feedback will continue here in America and lead to better recognition of the band’s skill.
Stolen Babies, Naught (No Comment)
You might not be familiar with this avant-garde metal group from California, likely because it’s been six years since their debut album There Be Squabbles Ahead hit the scene and earned them a spot on the 2007 “Hottest Chicks in Metal Tour” with Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation. To be fair, the band has had some conflicts in scheduling – bassist Rani Sharone and drummer Gil Sharone both contributed to Puscifer’s debut album, and Gil Sharone also was a member of The Dillinger Escape Plan for the recording and subsequent touring cycle of Ire Works. The writing and recording for Naught has taken a lot of time to complete, with the first completed song “Splatter” having appeared on the band’s MySpace page as early as July 2010, but the work is finally done and the album is ready to be unleashed. Today only marks the digital release, though – you’ll have to wait until October 16th for the physical CD to be available. And if you want a preview of Stolen Babies before buying the album, you can check them out as the opening act of the “Kings & Idols Tour”, alongside Devin Townsend, Katatonia, and Paradise Lost. As if you needed another reason to go that tour, if you haven’t already…
Also being released this week:
Liv Kristine, Libertine (Napalm)
Haarp, Husks (Housecore)
Gallows, Gallows (Bridge Nine)
Legacy of Disorder, Last Man Standing (MRI)
Indesinence, Vessels of Light and Decay (Profound Lore)
All Human, Catholic Guilt or the Queerest of Thoughts (Revival)
Lowtalker, The Marathon EP (No Sleep)
Next Week: American metal surges into the limelight once again, as one of the stars of the 2000s delivers their latest opus of fury and spirit. Be back here in seven days for more metal greatness!