Well... This was another eventful year wasn't it!? In yet another twelve months dominated by political issues, a global pandemic, hatred, division and injustice, all the ingredients were there for metal music to have plenty to tuck into. Musically, 2021 was a solid year with some superb offerings from bands all over the world, including some wonderful debuts and returns. However, before we get to the best of the brutal, it's only right that we acknowledge those who have left us since January.
How I Wish You Were Here
Sadly, 2021 has seen some of metal's most beloved leave us. From teenage favourites to cult heroes and those who weren't on stage but still made an impact, metal was left poorer for such losses. Entombed/Entombed A.D. vocalist Lars Goran Petrov, one of Swedish death metal's most recognisable and favourite voices succumbed to bile duct cancer aged only 49 in March, with three more singers following him into the aether in June in the shapes of Skid Row's Johnny Solinger, Sven Gross of Fleshcrawl and John Lawton of Lucifer's Friend/Uriah Heep. Only a month later, former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, himself an inspiration for so many of today's young drummers, passed away at the age of 46. The COVID-19 virus also claimed a legend in former Trouble singer Eric Wagner, who died at 62, just before a scheduled tour with his band, The Skull.
As sad as death always is, some felt particularly tragic this year, including the suicide of ex Metal Church singer Mike Howe, who initially spent eight years with the band between the eighties and nineties, before returning to the fold in 2015, recording two more studio albums with the seminal group. The metal world was also affected by terrorism, when vocalist Andrea Haugen was killed in the Kongsberg this past October.
Behind the stage, some of our most important figures would also pass on, including Malcolm Dome, the British journalist credited with coining the term "thrash metal," who was a walking encyclopedia of metal knowledge, appearing in numerous documentaries and penning several books on some of metal and rock's greatest icons. Early on in the year, we also said goodbye to Megaforce co-founder Marsha Zazula, who was responsible for signing so many of the most revered names in thrash, as well as Mick Rock, an iconic photographer who captured some of the best shots of such names as Ozzy, Motley Crue and Thin Lizzy to name a few. More...
So one of the things you need to be doing as a band is try to create some sort of brand that operates beyond the music. You need to be tapping into culture as a whole so that people have a more clear way to really integrate with what you’re doing. One of the best ways to do this is to talk about your interests.
I wanted to break down some strategies that allow you to build brand in a logical way. This includes stuff like talking about sports, sharing details about your reading and of course unveiling some of your day to day life. This is how you really start to build brand that goes beyond. More...
Hey so a lot of people ask me about what yo put in their label pitches. Obviously everyone wants to get signed but understanding how to speak to labels is really important and you need to know what stats they are looking for. So I decided to compile some ideas from my years of doing A&R to help you.
See – labels need to make money (Most of the time) so they want to know your past sales, they also want to know what your impact has been like on the road, then of course, if you can round it out with good social and streaming numbers you are much more likely to get some sort of deal. More...
This beast we call 2020…we all know what happened, especially how it ravaged and destroyed concerts, tours and festivals throughout the year. Bands released albums that we didn’t know about, some that were going to be released have been postponed until 2021 and even worse, some bands have called it quits altogether. It’s been one for the ages… Now that all the negative shit is out of the way, let’s look back at some positives, specifically the ones I took notice of.
We were all blind to what was stirring about at the time, but that’s the whole point of a metal festival in general. Put all the bullshit that ails you aside and enjoy being alive with your metal peers and some of your favorite bands. This year it was no different with acts such as Exodus, Emperor, Venom and Michael Schenker sailing along with thousands of headbangers to Cozumel, Mexico and back.
Finntroll – Vredesvävd
This is one of those casualties that I mentioned in the opening paragraph. This album was released in September to nary a mention in most metal blogs and magazines alike. Without a tour or festival dates to promote albums released this year, “Vredesvävd” has fallen into an abyss of forgotten albums, a shame since it’s some of their best work to date.
Necrophobic – Dawn of the Damned
To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know that Necrophobic even existed anymore. Call me a poseur or what have you, I just haven’t thought about them in a very long time. I was reading a chart of albums that were released in 2020 and was pleasantly surprised to see them listed. After a few spins of “Dawn of the Damned,” it’s become one of my favorite albums of the year. I know that’s not saying much due to the lack of releases we’re used to any “normal” year, but it is what it is.
Azarath – Saint Desecration
This is one album that I knew was going to be released in 2020. I’ve been pushing this band since I became knowledgeable of their existence back in 2017. Again, I’m late to the party with them, but so are many of you readers. This Polish blackened, extreme metal band is a fucking gem and “Saint Desecration” is another brilliant addition to an already stellar discography. Behemoth’s “Inferno” is a recording and founding member, what’s not to love?
In closing, we’re all hoping for a much better 2021, and for the return of live music in grand fashion. Plenty of festivals that are scheduled for the summer have been releasing daily line-ups recently, so I consider this a good omen. To all our readers, take care of yourselves and others and thanks for reading.
First, a disclaimer… I don’t tend to listen to everything that comes out in order to pick my favorites. My listening, instead, focuses on bands I think I may be seeing in the coming year or bands I’ve seen in the past few years that I was impressed with.
These aren’t in any order, and a fuller list (including several non-metal albums) can be found here.
Also, check out Diamond Oz’s picks here. Our choices include one overlapping album. Of course, my personal favorites shouldn’t be considered concession picks of MetalUnderground.com.
Sodom – Genesis XIX
I always liked Sodom, but I didn’t listen to them much. They were supposed to play at the 2017 Gefle Metal Festival so in the six months prior I really started to get into them. Alas, they were a last minute cancel so I had to wait another year to finally see them live. That happened at 2018 Copenhell (pictured above) at about 2 a.m. I was blown away. That was a magical performance, and I’ve been a super fan ever since. Genesis XIX is their 16th album but called 19. Why? I have no idea. The album doesn’t create a new Sodom sound, and, in fact, some songs could have easily been on earlier albums. Even though there is nothing ground breaking or revolutionary here, Sodom delivers as well as they ever have and fans won’t be disappointed.
Dark Tranquillity – Moment
One of my favorite bands since I first heard them in the late 1990s, Moment is Dark Tranquillity’s 12th album. The only thing puzzling, to me, about Dark Tranquillity is why they aren’t more well known and respected. They always seem to be playing in the afternoon at festivals or opening for a couple other bands that should be opening for them in my opinion. Not to take anything away from bands like In Flames or Opeth, but it is odd to me that Dark Tranquillity has less than a third of the following on social media as them. Moment has only been out for a month so I have only listened to it a few times, but each listening sounds better (and the first run was fantastic on its own)—a good sign.
Redwood Hill – Ender
Blackened post-metallers Redwood Hill were one of the bands I most wanted to see at 2020 Copenhell, a festival which, of course, didn’t happen. Hopefully the 2021 version goes off without a hitch. Even the shorter songs on Ender are epic. If you’ve never heard of Redwood Hill and you enjoy black metal, post metal, or shoegaze then it’s time to experience an underground masterpiece.
Enslaved – Utgard
Enslaved’s 15th album was in my rotation since its release a few months ago, but I hadn’t really noticed how brilliant it was until a week or two ago when I listened to it after an edible I had consumed kicked in. That listening changed everything. Let’s just say it was a The Dark Side of the Moon kind of experience that you all should take part of.
Auðn – Vökudraumsins Fangi
Vökudraumsins Fangi is the third of three perfect, or nearly so, albums from Iceland’s Auðn. The writing is carefully crafted, beautiful, and well executed. The atmosphere created here provides therapy for a troubled soul. Put your headphones on, turn down the lights, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy the best 55 minutes of your day.
Right off the bat, I know some of you are laughing at the idea that 2020 could offer a best of anything. It's been a year to forget for most of us, thanks largely to the COVID-19 virus, which has had a devastating effect across the globe. Metal is no exception to the impact of the corona virus, and subsequently, we've not been able to attend many shows this year, with tours being cancelled left and right and it being unknown when they'll return. We've also sadly lost some true icons this year, including Eddie Van Halen, Pete Way and Leslie West, as well as the tragic death of Power Trip frontman Riley Gale.
Nevertheless, every situation has a positive and when it comes to the music itself, metal does what it does best and fights against the negative with some stellar new albums, as well as some incredible new bands emerging and the reformation of such bands as Vektor, Genghis Tron and Trail Of Tears. In this article, we'll be recognising some of the year's best releases, best live bands (from the short time we were able to actually see live music) and the best newcomers. Starting with...
Best Live Band
As I may have mentioned once or twice already, live shows were a rarity this year and so much of the bands I saw came from my time on board 70000 Tons Of Metal, where there were some very strong contenders for best live performance. While Toxik, At The Gates, Possessed and The Agonist all put on blistering shows, delighting all who were lucky enough to attend, the two bands who really stood out this time were Mexican deathgrinders Brujeria and Irish folk metal pioneers Cruachan. Brujeria are always a treat live, never failing to combine extreme metal with humour and a decent slice of politics, plus there's nothing quite like boarding a boat to Florida from Mexico, with a crowd singing "La Migra" at the top of their lungs! Cruachan meanwhile fought through some technical difficulties and a very late time slot to thrill those who stayed up to see them, before packing out the bar on the third night for their version of an Irish pub sing along, leading hundreds of metal fans in stirring renditions of such staples as "Seven Drunken Nights", "Come Out Ye Black And Tans" and of course, "Ride On." However my pick for best live band goes to a quartet who are about to unleash their first album in seven years and who weren't on board 70000 Tons this year.
In what had to be the best package tour to actually happen this year, Napalm Death collected a motley crew of some of metal's best to wreck the ears of European headbangers, storming across Europe with Eyehategod, Misery Index, Rotten Sound and Bat. Each one of these bands were absolutely fantastic and it's always hard to top Napalm Death live, as it is Rotten Sound, but somehow Eyehategod did it. With fearsome energy, Mike IX's "fuck you" attitude and Jimmy Bower's exemplary riffs, the four piece absolutely tore Leeds apart on a cold February night. There were some in the crowd who weren't familiar with the New Orleans icons, but by the end of their set, they were cheered as heroes by all in attendence. One young lady I spoke to before their set that didn't know them was nearly in tears after by how overwhelmed she was by their performance. That new album can't come soon enough. More...
My Top Five (Actually Six…) Albums Of The Year
5. Imperium Dekandenz – When We Are Forgotten
I actually reviewed this album for another blog I write for, The Sludgelord, a stoner/sludge related blog of all things. The band’s PR rep requested an album review, I was really pleasantly surprised because I usually never review bands I’ve never heard of before. While listening to the opening track, I was already preordering a vinyl version for my collection. This two-piece black metal band from Germany fills out their sound to perfection. I stated in my review that I would make sure this album ended up on any end-of-year list of mine, and here it is. Take a chance on this album as I did, you won’t be disappointed.
4. Batushka – Hospodi & Krzysztof Drabikowski - Панихида
Both versions of this band in included in this list by design. I was a fan of Batushka way before the onset of the ridiculously messy, never ending divorce. I’ve read the clickbait articles and watched a bunch of the YouTube videos showcasing the soap opera like drama. I refuse to pick a side because in the end, it’s the music that’s important to me. Krzysztof dropped his album first and I have to say that this sounds closest to the legendary Litourgiya album of the two. However; the production is lacking just a little. Bart’s version was released a short time after Krzysztof’s and had the better overall sound, but fell a little short on the trademark Orthodox feel. In short, both albums garnered a lot of listening time from me and I’m happy I didn’t fall for the drama about which version was the “true” Batushka.
3. Mgla – Age of Excuse
The Force is strong with Poland this year! The follow-up to 2015’s “Exercises in Futility” did not disappoint at all! This band continues to grow and master their unique black metal prowess. If I had to pick my favorite song overall for 2019, Age of Excuse III would be the winner by a mile. It may even be their best song ever, but that’s a subjective argument because of Exercises in Futility V. I foresee Mgla touring extensively during the “Age of Excuse” album cycle and landing on a shit ton of festival bills next summer. A well-deserved accomplishment indeed.
2. Gaahl’s Wyrd – Gastir – Ghosts Invited
I waffled back and forth between my top two picks for the better part of a day, it was really that close of a call. This album was in a constant rotation on my turntable for the greater part of a few months, never getting old. This isn’t black metal, and it’s definitely not Gorgoroth…It’s so much better than that. Gaahl has found his true voice with this album and his gothic ways are the strength of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are black metal passages, but with the Peter Murphy style vocal phrasings on top of them, it takes it to another level. Trust me, it works.
1. Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion
It wasn’t an easy choice to make, but this was the best album of 2019 for me. Possessed is one of my favorite bands of all time by a mile, but there is no favoritism here. This overall number one pick is well deserved. When I initially heard that they were recording a new album after a 20+ years absence, I braced for impact. In my experience these coming out of retirement albums usually don’t go over too well. “Revelations of Oblivion” was unequivocally the exception.
Possessed obviously took note of the sound that made them a favorite among death metal fans in the first place and IMPROVED ON IT! Jeff Becerra’s vocals have never been so brutal, and he never lost the harshness that was a Possessed trademark among the cacophony of death metal vocal styles out there. In my humble opinion, his vocals are even better now! Even the guitars on this album have the Possessed style riffing from yesteryear. Everything is improved and most importantly, the overall sound and clarity of the album is spectacular. Only if “Seven Churches” had this production…
Overall, I thought this was a great year for metal releases, here are a few honorable mentions that I silently debated with myself while coming up with my top five:
Abbath – “Outstrider”
Rotting Christ – “The Heretics”
Sorxe – “The Ark Burner”
Tomb Mold – “Planetary Clairvoyance”
Wormwood – “Nattarvet”
Festivals I Attended in 2019 Ranked:
1. Brutal Assault – First and foremost, the lineup was incredible this year with such heavyweights as Anthrax, Meshuggah, Carcass, Triumph of Death (Hellhammer) and Rotting Christ being a handful of the great bands that played this legendary festival. This was my 2nd Brutal Assault and just like last time, it was incredibly well organized. The organizers really go out of their way to make this a fun time for the attendees and they’ve nailed it both times that I’ve been. Check out some photos of this year’s Brutal Assault within Metalunderground.com’s photo galleries.
2. Metal and Beers (Philadelphia) – This is the most genius idea for a metal festival EVER. A metal festival and a craft beer festival combined? Truly a match made in hell... Both Testament and Enslaved played exclusive sets and that was just part of the allure of this delicious festival on top of all the tasty brews that surround you while the bands destroy your ears. Read my road report about it here!
3. Psycho Las Vegas – After Psycho Las Vegas was unceremoniously booted from what felt like a natural home at The Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, I wondered if it would lose some of its magic at the new digs of Mandalay Bay. Not at all. In fact, this festival will continue to grow in popularity and in lore. Power Trip playing the beach stage this year is probably my favorite set from this festival throughout its entire existence.
Another year, another welcome barrage of metal albums. After some absolute belters last year from the likes of Judas Priest, Mantar and Primordial, 2019 had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, there were plenty of legends, established artists and fresh faces with new material on offer this year. OK. Obligatory intro out of the way, let's get on with why you'll tell me how wrong I am on Twitter this year...
Best Live Band
Just like last year, I've been a very lucky boy this year in terms of how many bands I've seen. A great live band, in my opinion, is one which can cut it in a large venue as well as a smaller place. Some notable performances this year came from the Graspop Metal Meeting festival in Belgium, where Candlemass, Slayer, Orange Goblin and Discharge, to name but a few, treated fans to unforgettable shows. In fact, I very nearly gave this year's award to Discharge, since they attracted a big number to see them at Graspop, but I've also seen them perform just as sharply in venues the size of bedrooms. However, this year the award goes to...
Anyone who's familiar with the man won't be surprised by this, but finally seeing King Diamond live was a dream come true. Anyone who can get a crowd to go crazy, without playing a note, without saying a word, without even moving, is a born performer. Currently blowing audiences minds in North America, the Danish metal icon opened his set simply by sitting in a chair, before the lights go up and the audiences can be hold the two floor set promoting his new album, "The Institute." The man is sixty three years old and still in phenomenal voice, treating fans to classics and album cuts, King Diamond puts the likes of Alice Cooper and Kiss to shame with his theatrics too. He's still a bucket list artist for many people and I strongly urge everyone to see the King as soon as they can. More...
Today marks International Women's Day, in which we remember the contributions of many great women throughout history as well as in the world today. The day was first celebrated by the Socialist Party Of America on February 28th 1909. The tradition of celebrating women on March 8th was first done in the then newly formed Soviet Union, who declared the day a national holiday. It was adopted by other Communist and Socialist countries as a holiday before the United Nations recognised the event in 1975. Today the significance of the day varies, still being a public holiday in some countries, a day of protest in others and officially ignored in a number of other nations. So, what does all this have to do with heavy metal? Marie Curie, Rosa Luxemburg, Angela Davis and Joan Of Arc may not be common names in the metal world, but we have plenty of our own heroines and ladies to rival the lords.
For a long time, the role of women in heavy metal was seen by outsiders as miniscule or worse, nothing more than objects. Perhaps women have more of a role in metal music than previously thought however. Let's take for example what's considered the first heavy metal album, "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath. The cover art depicts a mysterious woman, cloaked in black, stood right in the middle of an illustration of Mapledurham Watermill in Oxfordshire. This is only a tiny example of course, but as heavy metal grew, so did the presence of women. Bands would often sing about women, be it in the context of relationships ("Victim Of Changes" by Judas Priest for example, was comprised of two earlier songs "Whisky Woman" and "Red Light Lady,") sex "Charlotte The Harlot" by Iron Maiden or as inspirations ("Jet City Woman" by Queensryche.) More...
Eagle eyed readers may have noticed that last year, Metal Underground didn't have our annual Best Of awards. While we unfortunately won't be having one this year either, we don't want to miss out on telling you about some of our favourites of 2018. So with this in mind, here's one Limey's opinions on who released the best albums this year, who rocked hardest live and what I'm most looking forward to in 2019. Why not start proceedings off with...
Best Live Band
I've been absolutely spoiled this year quite frankly. Beginning the year with an awesome co-headlining show from Rage and Firewind and almost capping it off with the Headbanger's Ball tour, which was comprised of Exodus, Sodom, Death Angel and Suicidal Angels, as well as attending the Bloodstock Open Air festival and 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, it's been a great year for gigs. I've seen some truly phenomenal sets this year, and choosing just one band was difficult, especially given that I've seen Voivod three times this year and they were outstanding every single time. Other special mentions go to Mantar, Judas Priest, Primordial and Skindred, the last of which I've often stated are the best live band I've ever seen. However this year my choice is...
It's been twenty two years since Jerusalem black metal veterans released their debut full length, "As Jerusalem Burns..." and they've continued to just get better and better. Melechesh are a band which can deliver on big festival stages and intimate club shows with a mix of darkness, enigma, great stage presence and most importantly, great music. Those who aren't necessarily fans of their studio work should really give them a go in a live setting because you're almost guaranteed to come away as fans. The seamless performances of such intricate music is stunning but most of all, Melechesh are incredibly fun live, without being corny. Frontman Ashmedi knows he doesn't have to give the "Are you ready to party!?" shtick, or pretend to have arrived straight from Hell, he just has to be Ashmedi... And Ashmedi is fucking badass! More...
Metalsucks published an article last week that essentially questions why Vegard Sverre “Ihsahn” Tveitan, the ringleader of black metal legends Emperor, would continue to work with some of his bandmates who were involved with the criminal activity of the notorious Norwegian scene in the early ’90s. The article’s author(s) discuss the often referenced arson of churches that guitarist Tomas Thormodsæter “Samoth” Haugen was involved with and convicted for as well as former drummer Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun’s murder conviction, erroneously referring to the latter act as bigoted in nature by jumping to a conclusion based upon assumption. Additionally, in a separate Metalsucks article published in 2017, one of the site’s editors/writers, Axl Rosenberg, wrote, “Yes, Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun murdered a gay man, Magne Andreassen, who allegedly propositioned him (not that propositioning Eithun would make Andreassen’s murder okay, obviously — but to hear Eithun tell it, it’s the reason for his homicidal act).” Rosenberg later added that he speaks “for both Vince and myself when I say that we won’t give Emperor a free pass any longer.”
At press time, I was unable to verify whether or not Metalsucks’ editors/writers actually wear superhero capes.
The problem with Metalsucks’ claim is that they provide no evidence suggesting that the act was motivated by homophobia. It is conjecture. In these two instances, and this appears to be a recurring problem with the website, Metalsucks prove themselves to be sloppy at best and disingenuous at worst. Eithun was quoted as using a homophobic slur in Lords of Chaos, a 1998 book that he described—upon my request for this article—as one including “a vortex of bad statements, misquotes and still youth gone wild out-eviling each other.” More...
My long journey with Metalunderground began nearly a decade ago. Obama wasn't President yet, and I still had a day job. I was tired of people screaming at me on the phone over problems with their cell service that I hadn't caused and had no ability to fix. It was time for a change, so the wife and I decided to give a big old middle finger to the daily grind and dive headfirst into freelancing online.
It wasn't long after getting in touch with Deathbringer that I found myself in Seattle on a tour bus shaking hands with Mikael Akerfeldt and blathering like an idiot about what a big fan I was. Its an experience I'll never forget, seeing a legend in the flesh and learning what his daily life was like while performing across the country. I was so star struck I accidentally left my audio recorder on the bus after the interview and didn't get it back until after the show. I've got a good half an hour of Mikael on the phone talking to family in Sweden that I'm never going to delete.
Never in my life did I figure I'd be talking to Kyle Gass about the death of Dio and whether there might ever be a Pick Of Destiny 2, but there I was on the phone with one half of Tenacious D chatting about legalizing drugs and how mortality sucks. Phone calls with lifelong idols like Emperor's Ihsahn and Vorph from Samael became semi-regular occurrences. I actually ended up discussing the infamous “Jesus is a cunt” t-shirt directly with Dani Filth.
The Metalunderground of those golden days feels like a completely different era now. I remember back when every Avenged Sevenfold or Slipknot thread had 150+ comments and became any given reader's personal chat room. That time Deathbringer made a forum link on the main page as an April Fool's joke (royally pissing off everyone who wanted a message board long before we actually had one) had me in stitches while fending off angry emails.
Looking back at those days, I think of shirtless Wilco and his creative grammar. Regulars like americanpatriot1 and Gorecunt keeping conversations going. InfernoNecrosis oversharing about bodily functions. KMADD and Korndogg trolling. The constant cry of “That's not Rob Zombie!!” All those times I accidentally wrote “Mike Porntoy” or “Windows Of Plague” in a headline. Branded or Kali getting into massive fights with anyone about anything. Blindgreed1 coming up with ever more inventive insults to anyone who would dare besmirch the Metalunderground name or anybody who called MU home.
If you got past the hazing phase, you were a regular – you were on of us, and that meant something. Those were the days of R10 and Wolf, Natsquatch and Cozen, BrunoHockalugie and Jackrum, Terminator and BrianSD, IrishMetal and Trendkill91, PorcupineTreeFan and IrishMetal, Fuck_A_Name and Drum_Junkie (who blessedly has stayed active). Whoever thought a grown man could look back at a forum thread titled “I'd put my tongue in her butt” and feel nostalgic?
It wasn't just the readers that made us into that powerhouse of metal though, it was also the contributors. It was Vicky bringing absurdly underground pornogrind bands to the world's attention. It was CROMCarl's pun-tastic reviews. It was James (Cynic), Zack (zMETALlica), Peggy (darkstar), Cody (The_Avant_Garde), Dan (heavytothebone2), Kevin (n0thinghead), Joel (bloodofheroes), Andrew (remembermetal?), Matt (Dasher10), psythe, and more turning this thing into a community. All the while there was Deathbringer keeping us together and introducing me to bands like Acid Bath. More...
Heavy metal and video games are such an obvious combination that its baffling the collision doesn't happen more often. Despite four decades of games to work through, the number of titles that specifically revolve around metal themes or use heavy metal soundtracks is just abysmally low.
Today we're going to take another look at the limited options available, covering some old and some new entries that should be sitting on your shelf or taking up space in your Steam library.
For those who missed our previous three articles discussing various games with heavy metal soundtracks, be sure to go back and check 'em out (and let us know if you end up playing or re-playing any of these gems!):
Part 1: the amazing Brutal Legend, Saints Row III, Killing Floor 2, Pain Killer, and Guilty Gear X2 Reload
Part 2: Splatterhouse, Twisted Metal 2, The Witcher's bonus music disc, and Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost And The Damned.
Part 3 (the retro edition!): Rock And Roll Racing, Beavis And Butthead, F-Zero X, Earthbound, and Heavy Metal Geomatrix
Whether you agreed with our 2016 Staff Awards or not, one of the things we take great pride in at MetalUnderground.com is being able to unearth some new acts (or acts just releasing a full length album in the current year) that you should take notice of.
We pour over literally thousands of new albums between all of the staff and there is a reason: the quest for great metal. I'm sure I do not stand alone in the belief that once you lose the desire to seek out new bands, you've given up on the scene. Metal should be perpetual and though there are so many acts out there trying to get attention, this should not dissuade you from the hunt. One of the biggest problems in metal fandom is falling into the lazy trap of saying "no good music is made these days" or "nothing can ever be better than the music of the 80's, or 70's, or 90's." The hunt for great music is the driving force for passion for music and it is imperative as fans that we continue to do it.
So for this final installment of Newcomers 2016, I wanted to draw attention some bands not nominated, but would fall in line as "6-10" on my list for 2016. Hopefully, you will find something you like. More...
Our annual staff awards were recently announced, but each year we delve into some of the newcomers a little more in-depth to help our readers discover new metal bands. Here are my top metal newcomer picks for 2016: More...
Our annual staff awards were recently announced, but each year we delve into some of the newcomers a little more in-depth to help our readers discover new metal bands. I have not been on the pulse of metal as much as in years past, but I still discovered a few new bands to enjoy in 2016. While my best-of picks were all folk metal and thrash, the newcomers I enjoyed were a little more varied, but some still falling into those categories. Here were my top five metal newcomer picks for 2016:
I enjoy folk metal a lot and with the shakeup in Eluveitie's lineup, I was especially happy to discover another excellent folk metal alternative in Huldre, who released "Tusmørke" this year. While not officially the band's first album, until hitting bandcamp just recently it was extremely difficult to get a copy of the band's music in the States. Huldre varies things quite a bit on "Tusmørke," going from soothing folk with female vocals to heavier, chugging riffs. "Hindeham" is a decently heavy track throughout and is a good place to start, while "Underjordisk" is a bit faster paced overall.
The capitulation of each year is that glorious time when we pour over hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of titles trying feverishly to rank them into either a Top 5, Top 10, Top 20, Top 50, Top 100 or Top 1000 lists (we did our own, which you can read about here). One of my favorite list to compile is the new, unknown or newly formed groups in order to very year we make a point of searching out new, unknown, and freshly formed groups because its pretty rare (though not impossible) that they top the album lists. However, the search for new bands to perpetuate the scene is something I take great pride in doing because every Blind Guardian or Amon Amarth or Dream Theater started somewhere.
For all the pain that 2016 seemed to inflict on people all over the world, in music it seems like despite the evolving and changing music industry a plethora of new bands try to stake a claim on the world. Technology and the internet contribute greatly, as bands can record, produce and release albums themselves and those creations far exceed the quality of the demo tape trading that went on in my youth. Crowdfunding aids in relinquishing the need for record company control, which allows for more bands to take a shot at becoming the next big thing. The problem is - that shot is more like 1 million to 1, instead of 10,000 to 1 years ago.
To give you a glimpse into some of those newer acts which came out in 2016 that you may have missed or overlooked, MetalUnderground.com will be covering individual band nominations for the Best Newcomer category. Here are five bands who I nominated for in the Newcomer category. Hopefully, you will find something you like. More...
The end of the year means our annual staff awards have arrived! Every year we make a point of searching out new, unknown, and freshly formed groups to bring the best of the best in the metal underground to you.
Ultimately Abbath ended up taking our Best Debut Album / Newcomer award with his self-titled album after splitting off from Immortal, but there were a whole lot of other bands nominated in that category. To give you a look back at what new material came out in 2016 you may have missed, the staff will all be covering our individual band nominations for Best Newcomer.
This was a first for me personally in my time at Metalunderground: unlike nearly all years past, most of my best debut album nominations didn't come from legitimate "newcomers" in 2016, but rather were from new bands consisting of established members of the scene. That's not to say there weren't truly new outfits born this year that are worth hearing, but rather that none of those I heard blew me away and made my top list like these bands did.
Trees Of Eternity
Featuring members of Swallow The Sun, Wintersun, and October Tide, this ill-fated band showed up with a stunning debut album that will also most likely be its last ever release.
Recording on "Hour Of The Nightingale" (reviewed here) was nearing completion when tragedy struck and vocalist Aleah Starbridge unexpectedly passed away.
This highly atmospheric release is made all the more haunting (and lyrically compelling) knowing that Aleah is speaking beyond the grave to the audience. It's a shame the band is likely over just as it was getting going, but it offered some truly stellar music on this debut release, easily beating out all the competition for me.
It's a yearly tradition for metal bands, sometimes of the very extreme death/black variety, to pull out a few tongue-in-cheek Christmas covers around this time.
While most are just jokes or aren't pulled off with much effort, there have been a handful of legitimately awesome heavy metal Christmas albums released, and we're going to show you the ones worth hearing.
If you've got a significant other or family member who insists on Christmas music this time of year, these are the albums you want to pull out to really give them a shock!
Death Metal Christmas - "Hellish Renditions Of Christmas Classics"
Back in 2013, Hate Eternal bass maverick J.J. Hrubovcak released a twistedly unholy rendition of some of the seasons darkest hymns. The EP as a whole is a bit hit or miss, but that death metal rendition of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is absolutely killer. For all the hype this got at the time, it's a shame there's never been a follow-up release.
August Burns Red - "Sleddin' Hill"
While I'm not a huge August Burns Red fan personally, this Christmas album is absolutely phenomenal, and filled to the brim with metallic recreations of classic holiday tunes along with some originals. It's also instrumental, which is a plus, as the instrumentation here is top-notch and the band puts a heavy spin on these songs to a much better degree than many heavy metal Christmas albums that came before.
Every year in December we cover the best and worst of metal with a focus on recorded material and live releases, but what frequently gets lost in the shuffle is an integral part of all things metal: the artwork.
While the prominence of physical media that you actually handle and admire while listening to an album has faded with the advent of digital distribution, cover artwork remains a core and iconic part of the heavy music experience across all sub-genres.
From frozen occult black metal to the most over-the-top fantasy power metal, the artwork is the first thing people are going to notice, and the artists deserve more recognition than they typically get.
Our roundup of the most memorable art last year saw jaw-dropping pieces from the likes of Marco Hassman, Par Oloffson, and the increasingly prolific Seth Siro Anton. This year will feature a markedly contrasted lineup of artists and bands as we explore drastically different styles that all express thematic ideas in amazingly divergent ways.
Some art this year was memorable for more negative reasons. Freedom Call, Devildriver, Gojira, and Metallica in particular all had less-than-stellar or head-scratching cover artwork this time around. We'll (mostly) be skipping that sort of memorability below, and instead focusing on things that looked amazing or were too bizarre to ignore.
Alkerdeel – Lede
We have to start here with Alkerdeel's “Lede” cover crafted by Luchtrat, an artist I'd never heard of before who does a variety of graphic designing online. I seriously haven't been able to stop thinking about this cover all year long from the moment I first laid bewildered eyes upon it.
Is it a joke? Is it completely serious? Is it taking square aim at the sort of people who would wonder about the difference? It's both minimalist and somehow simultaneously complex. It's a childish idea presented very simply – a demon taking aim and farting – but also seems to be so much more. Is it a comment on the pointlessness and absurdity of life? Is it meant to be lighthearted or threatening? Are we supposed to be taking something away from the stripped down color scheme and the blank spaces between the lines?
I have no idea if this was even the intention, but this artist caused something of an existential crisis for me. I have to wonder if somewhere there's a farting demon currently laughing about that fact.