Is it just me, or does it seem like there are a LOT more bands debuting this year than in years past? Virtually every week on this column, I have a debut release from a band freshly signed to their first deal and eagerly trying to make a name for themselves. By the same token, a fair number of older, more experienced bands have begun taking their time with the release of new material, allowing for opportunities with side projects and guest performances to flourish. These two things have had surprisingly good effects on the metal world, despite the pervasive news of the music industry continuing its path towards extinction. More young bands have been able to break into larger audience groups, while veteran bands are gaining more notice when they do actually release new material. The sales numbers themselves are abysmal, of course, but metal is one of the few genres where record sales aren’t the only indicator of success. It’s a big one, but it’s definitely not the only one – just look at black metal legends like Darkthrone or Mayhem, both wildly popular acts in the metal world that you would NEVER see on the Billboard 200.
With that in mind, we approach this week’s list as a microcosm of the trends mentioned here. There are a few bands, including our leading artist, that are slowing down their release speed, which makes their new albums very attractive to longtime fans. There are also a number of debuts and new signings making their names known to the masses for the first time. So get excited and read on for some very highly anticipated new albums of 2011!
Hate Eternal, Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (Metal Blade)
Death metal godfather Erik Rutan has made quite a name for himself as a top-tier producer in the international scene. Rutan was especially busy after the release of Hate Eternal’s last album, 2008’s Fury & Flames. In the three years since that release, Rutan produced new albums for Cannibal Corpse, Nile, Goatwhore, and Annotations of an Autopsy. There was also speculation that Rutan might return to Morbid Angel after providing guitars for their 2006 European tour, but at this point, it’s clear that such a reunion is not in the works. Instead, we get a brand new album from the three-piece group led by Rutan. Phoenix Amongst the Ashes has already gotten highly positive reviews, which is par for the course for practically everything Rutan touches.
Anvil, Juggernaut of Justice (The End)
Since 2008’s documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, the Canadian heavy metal group has received worldwide praise and recognition the likes of which they’ve never known. Following the documentary’s release, Anvil headlined stages at Download and Loud Park, played at Rocklahoma, opened for AC/DC and Saxon on separate tours, and played at both the Sundance Film Festival and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Such popularity promises that Juggernaut of Justice, Anvil’s fourteenth album, will be a popular album for the band, and likely the band’s biggest success of their career.
Catalepsy, Bleed (Eulogy)
These Florida-based deathcore kids have been fighting long and hard to get some notice since their formation in 2004. The band’s timing was perfect – the Godless EP, released in 2007, and their debut full-length Iniquity, released in 2008, both dropped in the middle of the deathcore explosion, when the scene’s biggest bands were gaining their popularity. Unfortunately, the band hit a string of bad luck after Iniquity‘s release, with a plethora of lineup changes and the shutdown of Stillborn Records. Catalepsy has now joined Eulogy’s roster, and hopefully Bleed will get them back on their feet.
Zombi, Escape Velocity (Relapse)
This instrumental rock duo has been a mainstay of Relapse’s roster for almost a decade, a testament to the creativity of bassist/synthesizer master Steve Moore. Escape Velocity is just their fourth full-length album, but the band has a lot of new and exciting things going on within these new songs. I got excited about this record from the moment that “Slow Oscillations” debuted last month. If you like spacey, progressive instrumental rock, then Zombi needs to be a band you check out.
Jesu, Ascension (Caldo Verde)
If it feels like you’re seeing a familiar name here, there’s a reason for that. It’s only been six months since Jesu re-released their debut EP Heart Ache, but they’ve already moved on to their third full-length album. This is the band’s first full-length release on new label Caldo Verde, although they did previously release the Opiate Sun EP on the label in 2009. Justin Broadrick has certainly kept busy in recent years, so with any luck, even more new material from Jesu could be on the horizon.
Black Label Society, The Song Remains Not the Same (eOne)
I don’t think of this as a standalone release from BLS as much as it is a companion piece to last year’s Order of the Black. Four of the songs are acoustic versions of tracks from Order of the Black, and five of the other six are tracks recorded during the sessions for Order of the Black. The four covers are capably performed, showing Zakk Wylde’s ability to reconstruct songs for his covers. This album makes for a nice supplement to its predecessor, but will BLS a traditional new album anytime soon? Your guess is as good as mine.
Clutch, Blast Tyrant [Reissue] (Weathermaker)
First of all, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for my woefully inadequate coverage of Clutch’s reissues up to this point. However, if you’re a diehard Clutch fan, then you likely don’t even need the reissues, because you probably have most of the bonus materials, if not all of them, already in your possession. The reissues are mostly geared towards more casual Clutch fans that haven’t quite gotten into all of their material. As Blast Tyrant is considered by many to be among the best material Clutch has ever written, this album was essential to cover. I shall do better with covering their future reissues until they finally decide to release a new album.
Also being released this week:
The Gates of Slumber, The Wretch (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Nazareth, Big Dogs (Eagle)
Sleeping With Sirens, Let’s Cheers to This (Rise)
Polkadot Cadaver, Sex Offender (Rotten)
Novembers Doom, Aphotic (The End)
Stillwell, Dirtbag (Nu Day/The End)
New Keepers of the Water Towers, The Calydonian Hunt (MeteorCity)
Horseback, Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn & Forbidden (Relapse)
Make it Reign, Sound Asleep as the World Burns (Dead Truth)
Ark of the Covenant, Separation (Strike First)
Portrait, Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae (Metal Blade)
Forty Winters, Reflection (Dead Truth)
Olde Growth, Olde Growth (MeteorCity)
Scelestus, Scelestus (Megaforce)
Korn, The Essential Korn (Epic/Legacy)
AC/DC, Live at River Plate (Columbia)
Mindless Self Indulgence, Tigther (Uppity Cracker/The End)
Next Week: One of the best stories of redemption in metal unleashes a magnificent new album, one that will likely be counted among the best that 2011 has to offer. Wondering what it is? You’ll have to come back and see for yourself!