Tag Archives: Debut Albums

New Releases – 24th March 2017

Time for me to rake through today’s new releases. Some great stuff out today!

Memoriam – For the Fallen

There’s a justifiable buzz about this one. The band’s pedigree (Memoriam feature former members of Bolt Thrower, Benediction and Sacrilege) and a couple of excellent demo singles mean the expectations are high for the band’s debut full-length. Old-school death metal with crusty attitude, weapon-grade riffing and a conscience. I’ll be surprised if anyone’s disappointed by this. 

Pallbearer – Heartless

And speaking of buzz… These Arkansas doom-mongers have been enjoying plenty of critical praise in recent years and, judging by the reviews so far, it looks like their critical cache is only going to increase with this, their third album. Fans of extra tracks will want to check out the Japanese edition as it has an extra disc with three bonus tunes on it.

Me and that Man – Songs of Love and Death

And another biggie! Fresh from blowing everyone away with The Satanist, Behemoth’s Nergal is back but, this time, he’s teaming up with guitarist John Porter for this new project. Dark, rootsy music along the lines of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave, I was prepared for this to just not be my cup of tea but I’ve really enjoyed the few songs I’ve heard so far. Intriguing.

Michael Schenker Group – Michael Schenker Fest Live CD/DVD

I was about to knock this into the “elsewhere” category but, on closer inspection, this looks like good fun. It’s a MSG reunion in Tokyo, the Schenk joined by the wonderful Chris Glen/Ted McKenna rhythm section and the trio of vocalists Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley and Gary Barden along coming along for the ride. Can’t argue with a roster like that! And it’s good to see Michael back on form and enjoying himself.

Samson – The Polydor Years

Samson are mostly known for featuring a pre-Maiden Bruce Bruce on vocals but the talented guitarist Paul Samson kept the band going after the Air Raid Siren’s departure. This new package features the two albums (Before the Storm and Don’t Get Even, Get Mad) they made with replacement vocalist Nicky Moore with tons of bonus tracks. Both albums have been hard, if not impossible, to find on CD so this is a very welcome set.

Blood Divisions – Cardinal One EP

This is an all-star digital-only EP led by Chris Jericho with all proceeds going to Rock and Rescue. They get kudos for choosing two Nasty Savage covers as well as UFO’s awesome Hot N’ Ready (and their single had Scorpions’ Top of the Bill on it too which is another brilliant choice) Two new tracks seal the deal. Fun for fans of Jericho/Fozzy… and it’s all for charidee.

Anthrax – For All Kings (7″ Vinyl Box) 

Yet another new edition of Anthrax’s new album, still getting milked to death before people move on. This box has the album divided up into ten singles for… reasons. Does look pretty cool, I suppose.

Elsewhere, Frontiers (who else?) bring out a couple of releases from veteran AOR acts. House of Lords with Saint of the Lost Souls and Night Ranger with Don’t Let Up. There’s another Metal Blade release: Cut Up with their Wherever They May Rot album. It might surprise you to find out that this is a death metal album. Throw in a deluxe, bonus track-strewn 20th Anniversary Edition of Today Is The Day’s Temple of the Morning Star and that’s quite enough for one day! Please note, this isn’t an exhaustive list: just the stuff that stands out for me as being interesting or notable. If there’s anything you are into that’s not covered here then let us all know in the comments. Until next week… happy hunting.

And now you must vote for your FAVOURITE ALBUM COVER OF THE WEEK.

The Doomsday Kingdom – Never Machine Demo EP

Never Machine Demo EP – Original Cover

Candlemass bassist/songwriter Leif Edling has dubbed his latest project “music from the catacombs” as it was a visit to Paris’ bone-ridden underworld that inspired its creation. It’s an apt description. With The Doomsday Kingdom’s debut EP Never Machine, Leif’s music goes deeper and darker than it has for some time. The opening title-track and The Sceptre stick fairly close to Candlemass’ modern style but Niklas Stalvind’s grave and gravelly vocals and Marcus Jidell’s excellent, vintage soloing give the songs a fresh, grittier edge. But it might just have been a decent, unremarkable release if it wasn’t for the more interesting and engaging second-half. Zodiac City is a coiled and creepy serial killer yarn with a great chorus hook and the EP ends on a high with Edling taking the mic for The Whispering, a haunting and ghostly string-laden ballad. Never Machine doesn’t quite reach the inspired heights of Leif’s classic output but it’s a real grower and a definite improvement on last year’s half-(Candlem)assed EP Death Thy Lover. Candlemass might have fallen out of favour but these demos show promising signs that Edling still has what it takes to reign again as a king of doom.

(Here’s my copy. It’s the new edition released by Nuclear Blast. With new artwork, lyric sheet and red vinyl)

New Releases – 20th January 2017

Here’s my personal pick of the new metal releases coming out today. There’s only a few that stand out but we are starting to get into the first properly tempting releases of the year now.

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Memoriam – The Hellfire Demos II

Following the sad death of their drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns, the legendary Bolt Thrower called it a day in 2016. But their vocalist Karl Willetts has formed Memoriam along with old BT pal Andy Whale and members of Benediction and Sacrilege for added supergroupness. Their debut single The Hellfire Demos was one of 2016’s best singles and now they’re back with the follow-up: one unheard track Drone Strike and Surrounded (By Death) which was previously only available on a Decibel mag flexi. This will be available on vinyl (through Nuclear Blast’s webshop) and you can download it from the usual places. It’s the first real must-buy of the year so get involved!

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Emptiness – Not For Music

Time flies. I was meaning to check out Emptiness’ Nothing But the Whole since it was released in 2014 and I still haven’t got round it. Now they’re back with a new album! I had a listen to a new song Your Skin Won’t Hide You and was thoroughly impressed by its black, unsettling atmosphere. It’s an exciting track, I’ve been reading good things and I love the cover too so this is looking like another must-buy. And as an added bonus, they’re Belgian. I can finally add some Belgian metal to the HMO Vault!

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Ashenspire – Speak Not Of The Laudanum Quandary

Here’s a promising debut from a Glaswegian avant-garde metal band. It’s an intriguing concept album about the dark realities of British imperialism: something Glasgwegians should know plenty about, with its history of tobacco lords, slave trade and all that. It’s an interesting topic, I like the atmosphere, deranged vocals and the violin but the songs I’ve heard have went a bit over my head. More listens required to see if it connects with me but if you like the weirder strains of metal you should definitely give this a go.

And that’s the lot for this week. To play us out, I thought you might enjoy a wee visual jaunt around Glasgow (it is HMO’s neck of the woods, after all) so here’s the lyric video for Ashenspire’s Restless Giants.

The HMO Top Albums of 2016

Roll out the red carpet! Let the champagne flow! Yes, it’s time for the HMO Top Albums of 2016.

As always, there were some really good albums that just missed the cut: Marillion’s F.E.A.R. Megadeth’s Dystopia, Winterfylleth’s The Dark Hereafter, Eternal Champion’s The Armor of Ire, Allfather’s Bless the Earth with Fire and Vektor’s Terminal Redux to name just a few. They’re all great albums that are totally worth your time and money.

But… there can be only ten!

THE HMO TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016

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NUMBER TEN: Gojira – Magma

The French band’s sixth album Magma found them simplifying and streamlining their challenging and hard-hitting tech-groove. Tunes like Silvera and Stranded are memorable and thrilling with genuine crossover appeal. And it’s a grower with an emotional resonance that earned many repeat listens… and a place in the top ten.

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NUMBER NINE: The Wounded Kings – Visions in Bone

The Wounded Kings make their second appearance in the yearly HMO Top 10 with this impressive slab of doom. Sadly, it looks like it will be their last as the band split shortly after its release. But they went out in style. This is a mature and accomplished album with great performances. Massive riffs, classic soloing and chilling vocals from returning vocalist George Birch.

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NUMBER EIGHT: Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith

No surprises on the black metal duo’s seventh album. Just riffs. Layers of riffs. Infinite riffs. Thrashing, icy and breathtaking riffs. And a big long album title! Bloodshed Across the etc… is a transcendent experience: the cosmic maelstrom of riffs and the hypnotic croaking vocals of Dagon producing an immersive, gripping and mystical listening experience. Oh, and did I mention there are riffs?

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NUMBER SEVEN: Blood Incantation – Starspawn

Gloriously old-fashioned death metal right down to the AAD symbol detail on the back cover. This harks right back to the genre’s grimy, primitive glory days: labyrinthine Demilch-style riffing and gonzo Trey Azagthoth soloing. But the band put their own extraterrestrial stamp on the style, giving the cavernous riffing an otherworldly quality through inventive use of effects and interludes. A remarkable debut.

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NUMBER SIX: Abbath – Abbath

Few black metal legends command as much goodwill and affection as the former Immortal frontman. And, based on the quality of his self-titled solo debut, that looks unlikely to change. This is an icy and militant statement of intent from the ousted singer/guitarist. Epic tales of legend and war, served up with his inimitably grim vocals and a veritable battlefield of inventive riffs. An epic triumph and one of the year’s most flat-out entertaining records.

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NUMBER FIVE: Cobalt – Slow Forever

Cobalt pulled off a hat-trick of impressive feats with Slow Forever. They managed to successfully replace a key member (Charlie Fell coming in to replace departed vocalist Phil McSorley), they managed to satisfyingly follow up their faultless, classic 2009 album Gin, and they also managed to release a double-album with no filler on it. Fucking show-offs! Literate, raging, savage black metal with a dusty, sunbaked hint of Americana.

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NUMBER FOUR: The King is Blind – Our Father

Released in January, this impressive and manly melting pot of extreme metal was the album to beat for most of the year. And it managed to secure the number four spot: no mean feat for a debut album in such a strong year as this. Our Father has a thoughtful, esoteric concept served up with a varied and cathartic total metal drubbing. And if their new track Throne of Skulls is anything to go by, there’s still plenty more where this came from.

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NUMBER THREE: Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law

This is a total nightmare merry-go-round of screeching, howling, screaming, mechanistic black metal. It’s a terrifying aural assault, but the impossibly versatile vocalist Dave Hunt (aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L!) serves up melodic hooks to die for on tracks like Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion, In Flagrante Delicto and Extravaganza! The most enjoyable migraine you’ll ever get.

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NUMBER TWO: Mithras – On Strange Loops

Death-metal-in-space! Seems to be a thing this year. But whereas Blood Incantation’s Starspawn went for the primitive old-school approach, On Strange Loops is visionary and progressive. It’s blasting and intense with sublime musicianship, but the real winner here is the writing and arrangement of the album. You just know a ton of thought and care went into this. There’s so much depth, the songs flow together beautifully and… my god… it’s full of hooks!

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NUMBER ONE: Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

Everyone can blather on about influences, genres, their old style, their new style and so on. But the fact is that whatever Darkthrone do, they sound like Darkthrone. On Arctic Thunder they sound even MORE like Darkthrone. This is raw and vital. A raging thunder of pure, unadulterated metal, blackened by a chill arctic wind of frosty misanthropy. Cohesive, consistent, fucks not given. The best Darkthrone-style band in the world at their best. And there’s nothing better than that.

HMO TOP ALBUMS BY YEAR

2016: Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

2015: My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery

2014: Voices – London

Blaze – Silicon Messiah

Blaze - Silicon Messiah (2000)
Blaze – Silicon Messiah (2000)

I loved Blaze Bayley in Wolfsbane but because I didn’t enjoy his stint in Maiden I never really thought of him as a “metal” guy. To me, he was at this best when he was painting the town red and lighting up the night with a little kiss. That was the Blaze I liked. So when his first post-Maiden outing Silicon Messiah proved to be a dark, very-metal affair I just passed on it. Not his forte.

I was wrong. Sixteen years later, spurred on by reading positive reviews and the return of Wolfsbane, I have added Silicon Messiah to my collection. It’s remarkably good. A proper underdog album if ever there was one. It’s downbeat, dystopian drop-D riffing is definitely of its time (think Brutal Planet, Magica etc…) and the opening tracks raise a worry that it’s all going to be a bit samey. But the album soon lightens up. Born as a Stranger, the galloping The Brave and Man on the Edge-esque The Launch are all extremely enjoyable, anthemic power metal tracks. The album just gets better and better as it rolls on and culminates wonderfully in Stare at the Sun: a gripping, goosebump-inducing epic. And, although tracks like The Hunger are chuggier and samier, their slower pace gives Blaze room to emote. He’s massively likeable throughout, delivering a vocal performance full of character and commitment.

So double dumb-ass on me for writing the man off. Turns out he is very-metal after all. He even manages to show Iron Maiden a thing or two with this anthemic and addictive album. It’s thoughtful and well-executed, topped off with a great vocal performance of considerable charm and charisma. That’s the Blaze I like.

[Blaze – Born as a Stranger]

15th Ann. Edition (w/ 3 bonus tracks) from blazebayley.net
15th Anniversary Edition (w/ 3 bonus tracks) from Blaze’s site

The King is Blind – Our Father

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Am yer Da

The King is Blind’s superb debut album Our Father was released back in January and it’s still the album to beat if anyone out there wants to take the coveted HMO Album of the Year 2016 spot. It’s a smart concept album about Satan, Christ and the devil in mankind given an absolute drubbing by the band’s burly death metal hammering. The King is Blind cleverly avoid all the usual concept album excess though, bashing out their tale in ten songs that are all a riot in their own right. The variation in styles carry the narrative (death, thrashing hardcore, Monotheist-ic doom and black metal atmosphere) and the focus on excellent songwriting and riffs means the concept that can be enjoyed or ignored. If you want to curl up with the lyrics or just enjoy a cathartic extreme metal battering, Our Father works equally well. An impressive and notable debut. I can’t wait to see them live in October.

In the Woods… – HEart of the Ages

A Black MEtal CLassic!
A Black MEtal CLassic!

I wish I’d heard HEart of the Ages when it was released. Mixing extreme metal with prog and folk hardly seems all that audacious now but when In the Woods…’ debut album came out in 1995 this was a leap forward for black metal. There were similar attempts from Ulver and Primordial in the same year but, even compared to those great albums, HEart of the Ages sounds more forward-thinking and groundbreaking. 21 years later their style might not seem as startling but the music still has a fresh zing of originality and there’s plenty to love in its combination of Burzumic shrieking, melancholic doom, heathen folk and Floyd/Crimson soundscapes. Latecomers should buy the recent Heart of the Woods box set for a particularly plush version of the album. The Norwegians are also due to return later in 2016 with their reunion album Pure. If like me, you’ve missed out on In the Woods…, now is a great time to get involved.

[In the Woods… – HEart of the Ages]

Plush box set from Debemur Morti Productions
Plush box set from Debemur Morti Productions