Frigoris – …In Stille (2020) – Frigoris have created a melodic, yet heavy and rather dreamlike release that captures the spirit of classic black metal, yet throws in post metal and shoegaze elements. Many of the songs resonate along the same wavelengths, but it all seems to flow together even though there are slight periods for pause and reflection. There’s a slight air of sorrow to the piece, yet I also feel that there are bits of joy and happiness to be found here as well. Even so, the band certainly don’t skimp on moments of bleak devastation and it would be unfair to say that this isn’t black metal – it’s dreamy in parts, but most certainly grim.
Kassad – London Orbital (2020) – Kassad sounds in the very same vein as Frigoris with it’s mixture of black metal, post metal elements, shoegaze and loads of melody. However, more effort has been given to the soundscapes, making the record far less heavy and more focused on what can at times be dreamy or industrial. Unlike Frigoris, Kassad also utilize some electronic portions, which makes sense as the album is supposed to capture the spirit of driving in the traffic of what are probably now bare London highways. No one could have expected that the oncoming threat of Corona Chan would offset the tone of this intended release, but you can certainly jam it if you’re stuck in quarantine and miss the hustle and bustle of London’s highway system.
Novelists FR – C’est La Vie (2020) – Novelists FR (which I’m assuming regards to France) can be very easily classified as progressive metalcore, though with the dreamier aspects of acts like Karnivool or Tool. If you’ve always wanted to hear harsh vocals in Karnivool, well this is going to be the band for you. The frontman also has a rather glassy voice, which adds to what can come off as a dreamy atmosphere. Many times, I feel as if these guys are floating on clouds, yet still angry like those lightning throwing cloud enemies from Mega Man 2. In any case, they certainly caught me with hooky choruses that are good enough for the radio and far more inventive than Imagine Dragons musings.
Discordia – Delete/Rewrite (2020) – These guys certainly appealed to my love of obtusely heavy power, thrash and groove which by now you should be quite familiar with. Obviously, I’ll mention Mercenary’s 11 Dreams again, but there are numerous other albums in that vein that will give you an example of the experience you’re getting here. The record is full of hefty grooves, progressive landscapes, harsh vocals and potent clean singing that should work for most of us. As you may expect, there are also some guitar solos in the vein that I’ve always liked them (classic and all over the goddamned place) so that’s certainly a selling point for me. I also like the fact that they’re using honest-to-goodness death metal growls, rather than a lot of the shrieks and screams that a lot of bands like to pull off as death metal.
Starmen – Welcome To My World (2020) – If you dig KISS (and spoiler alert, I do) then you’re going to dig Starmen. To be honest, these guys sound a lot like several of the bands that are played heavily on my local classic rock radio station (which I’d honestly rather listen to instead of the modern rock station that unironically considers Imagine Dragons to be rock music) but they’ve made new songs so I’m not upset about it. The album is rather eclectic, but seldom soft aside from “Stay The Night” which wasn’t my thing. There are plenty of jams to be found here, but obviously this has a very classic rock sound that some of the kids won’t dig or will call dad rock or boomer music. Don’t worry, I’ve heard all the terms and I’m old enough now to have raised some of these kids, so it is what it is – check out the album if you like KISS and other classic acts though, you’ll love it.
Sutrah – Aletheia (2020) – Now here’s an interesting band, as Sutrah seem to mix technical brutal death metal with dreamy, sometimes even ambient atmospheres. Maybe you’re tired of having your face pounded in and you need a breather every once in a while. Well, that’s what Sutrah seem to offer here with just two songs on the extremely heavy side (Lethe and closer Genèse, respectively) and several on the light and slightly punchy side. The whole thing goes from dream to Cryptopsy-esque nightmare fairly quickly though, which shows that they have a lot of promise. Honestly, I think they should call the next one Pummeling & Peace which would sound a hell of a lot more interesting in their native language; but would make a nice tongue-in-cheek joke regarding their style.
Yatra – Blood Of The Night (2020) – Often I think to myself, “what would it sound like Grim Lord, if you lent your vocals to another style, like stoner doom?” Well, now I don’t have to worry about it as Yatra seem to be doing just that with an approach that sounds like a mix between The Sword and Acid Witch. We could probably throw EyeHateGod in there as well, but you get the picture. As for the vocals, the frontman and I both sound like swamp monsters, so I feel like I’m vicariously listening to what I would have done in this kind of band – and I honestly dig the hell out of it. I think more swamp monster growls should be implemented in heavy metal and it makes me happy that swamp monsters in general are getting the respect we deserve in this modern era – Just bring back Swamp Thing because we all miss it.
Empire Of The Moon – ΕΚΛΕΙΨΙΣ (2020) – Empire Of The Moon are a black metal act, sure – but they don’t seem to be one of those acts who lives in ’96 and completely forgot how to rock in the first place. That’s apparent with “Imperium Tridentis” and the fact that it actually contains heavy grooves, doesn’t rely on blast beats and tremolos, even employing a guitar solo. That isn’t to say that these common black metal mainstays don’t apply later on the album (because they do) but even then, these gentlemen simply don’t want to be placed in the same throwback category as all seventy thousand plus of these kinds of acts I’m exposed to on a daily basis. The record is raw, but it has heart and I have the utmost respect for any of these acts who remember how important a guitar solo is to heavy metal in general. Yes, there’s a stereotype about guys who do air guitar solos, but I am perfectly fine with embodying that stereotype as that’s just another thing I love about this kind of music – please, can we have more albums like this in black metal?
Malokarpatan – Krupinské Ohne (2020) – Let me start by saying just one thing, and this is going to make me sound like an old metal geezer. I absolutely love how classic this album sounds. I honestly think they were going for a kind of retro sound and it makes what was already going to be a vibrant beast of an album sound even better. The disc sounds like the very best of extreme metal in it’s heyday, with some added bells and whistles of the modern era. You can hand this to a young head and they can get a good education on heavy metal in both it’s extreme and classic forms which is not easy to do – it also helps if they’re into D&D, Pathfinder and classic Warhammer (the keyboards truly give off that kind of mood.) Not only that, but people who remember this kind of sound will go totally apeshit over it and they’ll find near endless amounts of adventure to discover within this experience – I’d expect nothing less from these artisans of the genre.
Shakra – Mad World (2020) – Shakra are one of those classic heavy metal meets hair with a little bit of power acts that I can’t get enough of and Mad World actually delivers. To be fair, not every song here hits but many of them do, especially the Bon Jovi in his prime influenced “Turn The Light On” which I was skeptical about at first, I thought it was going to be a soft ballad. In fact, the majority of these cuts are all-out rockers with the slight exception of “New Tomorrow” which certainly isn’t terrible. They also come jam-packed with catchy hooks that you’re going to want to play again and again just for said hooks, not to mention the fact that screaming guitar solos are part of this formula as well, making for a real slobberknocker of an album. I remember when these guys came out and had all those modern rock elements that I didn’t exactly care for, but now I’m a fan and I’m hooked – go get this one right now, I think you’re going to dig what they’ve done here, especially if you love classic metal as much as I do.
That’s all for part one. You can grab all of these discs at the links below. Hope you folks continue to rock out and stay inside, wash your hands often and keep away from Corona Chan. Stay tuned for part two in just a few weeks!