In the face of an ever-changing and increasingly more adversarial music industry, metal bands are being forced to do different things in order to survive. Some bands are modifying their sound to keep interest high among fans, while others are staying the course to remain consistent. Some groups are releasing albums more frequently, while others are taking more time with their new records. Veterans, rookies, side projects, and reunions are all being pushed to adapt in order to survive. Those that do not adapt do not survive.
This week, we encounter a number of bands that are taking numerous different routes to maintain survival. In fact, almost every scenario I’ve listed above is represented in some way on today’s list. The one constant is that all of these bands are gaining ground through these new releases. In a list packed with this much quality, choices will be difficult. So I’m declaring this week your first “splurge week”, meaning that you should spend extra money on these new releases, because they’re worth it! Don’t believe me? Try denying it after you read the contents of this list!
Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)
How does Amon Amarth keep getting better? First With Oden on Our Side, then Twilight of the Thunder God, and now this? Is there no end to this band’s talent? Apparently not, because the Swedish masters of Viking metal have created yet another masterpiece album. Johan Hegg has yet to exhaust his library of fantastical themes, while the band continues to churn out one incredible composition after another. At this rate, the world is on course for an actual Viking takeover in the next five years.
Cavalera Conspiracy, Blunt Force Trauma (Roadrunner)
The reunion of the Cavalera brothers for 2008’s Inflikted was a cause for joy in the metal world, but many fans of classic Sepultura still clamored for a reunion of the old lineup. Hopefully, though, the combination of Igor Cavalera’s recent comments on the matter and the release of Blunt Force Trauma will silence those voices. This sophomore release from Cavalera Conspiracy is even better than their debut, and it shows that Max and Igor Cavalera are still amazing, no matter who they play with.
Whitesnake, Forevermore (Frontiers)
David Coverdale hasn’t lost his voice completely, despite his scary vocal injury at a show in 2009 at Red Rocks in Colorado. And although he may not sound like the same man that recorded “Here I Go Again”, he’s still one of the best active frontmen remaining from the ’80s hair metal craze. Forevermore is a solid addition to Whitesnake’s discography, and even though the band doesn’t take any chances on this record, it does show that they still have what it takes to rock a stage and write catchy tunes.
The Haunted, Unseen (Century Media)
I had some hope for The Haunted after the release of Versus. With songs like “Moronic Colossus” and “Trenches” leading that album, I thought the band had returned to their thrash roots and were done experimenting. Clearly, I was wrong. Unseen has even more experimentation and oddity than 2006’s The Dead Eye. Frontman Peter Dolving has done a lot of bragging about this album, but for all his boasts, the vocal diversity that he shows is one of the few things I find interesting here. Listen on your own and judge for yourself, though – this album is strange enough that it might appeal to more people than it pushes away.
Obscura, Omnivium (Relapse)
If Cosmogenesis is any indication of Obscura’s talent level, then the new leading band in technical death metal has already been established. Eclipsing Necrophagist (the former band of drummer Hannes Grossmann and guitarist Christian Muenzner) in skill and even managing to show up The Faceless, Obscura is stunning in every one of their compositions. Omnivium extends their tutorial on how to make good technical death metal, setting a new high water mark for the subgenre. Expect to see this album on plenty of top 10 lists at the end of the year.
Within Temptation, The Unforgiving (Roadrunner)
This is how cross-media storytelling is supposed to work. Both a series of short films and a comic book series accompany this album, creating a concept story that is fully engrossing for listeners and fans. However, in order to get the short films and the beginning of the comics, you need to pick up the special edition of the album with the bonus DVD. If you only buy the album, you won’t get the whole experience. However, given how good the compositions are on this album, the bonus DVD might not be necessary.
Becoming the Archetype, Celestial Completion (Solid State)
With each release of their career, the members of Becoming the Archetype get more ambitious with their sound, and it always makes them sound better somehow. Celestial Completion is no exception, as the sounds of trombone, sitar, tambura, vocoder, and other not-quite-metal musical elements make their way into some of the new songs. Becoming the Archetype is nothing if not bold, and the four members of the band have proven time and again that they are vastly underrated composers. If you haven’t checked out this Christian progressive death metal group, you need to. They have more raw talent than almost all of their peers and even eclipse some of their primary influences.
Mercenary, Metamorphosis (Prosthetic)
It’s been just under a year and a half since Mercenary’s lineup was torn in two by the departure of the Sandager brothers (vocalist Mikkel and keyboardist Morten) and drummer Mike Park. But in spite of the huge personnel changes since 2008’s Architect of Lies, Mercenary’s sound has surprisingly stayed mostly consistent from that album to Metamorphosis. This album has lots of the same elements that made Architect of Lies such a good album, and while harsher critics that only enjoyed 11 Dreams and The Hours That Remain will spurn this album, most fans of Mercenary will find this album to be a welcome surprise with lots of positive qualities.
Blackguard, Firefight (Victory)
Blackguard is one of the rare bands in today’s metal world that can tour in support of almost any other band, regardless of genre, and still get a good response from the crowd. From the summer of 2010 until the summer of 2011, Blackguard has toured/will tour with Hypocrisy, Scar Symmetry, Kamelot, Leaves’ Eyes, Nevermore, Epica, The Agonist, Deicide, Neuraxis, Symphony X, and Powerglove. If you can’t understand how a band’s touring roster can be so diverse, just listen to Firefight, and you’ll get the picture quickly.
The Black Dots of Death, Ever Since We Were Children (Rocket Science)
As Slipknot continues to float in uncertain limbo, M. Shawn Crahan, better known as Slipknot percussionist Clown, has begun a side project of his own. The Black Dots of Death doesn’t have any set genre that I can tell, but from the sound of the song “Standing Alone” that’s streaming on their MySpace page, they seem to be a rock/spoken word group in the same vein as Rollins Band. While no one can be sure if Clown will spit the same vitriolic fury that Rollins did, we can all be certain that the lyrical content of the songs will be attention-grabbing at the very least.
Between the Buried and Me, The Best of Between the Buried and Me (Victory)
We’re only two weeks away from the release of The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, so I agree with our friends over at MetalSucks that this is an obvious last-ditch grab by Victory. But I will also agree with their assessment that the packaging for this release just flat-out rules. That alone makes this release worth it, regardless of whether or not you own the band’s albums or not. It helps if you don’t, though, because then you can get acquainted with this skull-crushingly amazing band.
Also being released this week:
Emery, We Do What We Want (Tooth & Nail)
Beardfish, Mammoth (Inside Out)
Havok, Time is Up (Candlelight)
Goes Cube, In Tides and Drifts (The End)
Benighted, Asylum Cave (Season of Mist)
Iskald, The Sun I Carried Alone (The End)
Of Legends, Stranded (Season of Mist)
True Widow, As High as the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth (Kemado)
Desultory, Counting Our Scars (Pulverised)
Bloodiest, Descent (Relapse)
Various Artists, Sin-Atra (Eagle Rock)
Next Week: The list is short as April begins, but there is so much disparity on the genre representation of the month’s first release week, you’ll hardly believe your eyes. Get back here in one week for your next dose of the new and the noteworthy!