Tag Archives: Debut Albums

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.

61awsttm-jl-_ss500

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!

51egwdgtaul

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!

a1794348836_16

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

91bqbi0hfl-_sl1418_

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.

71lji3otlzl-_sl1200_

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.

81ni4ltrill-_sl1200_

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?

71n21caqpdl-_sl1200_

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.

61sfhyz3vzl-_sl1034_

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.

710okjsmjml-_sl1205_

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.

51v-3wlpbul

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.

51vknkimzgl

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.

41kkw33xhxl

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!

61msm5ydhyl-_sl1200_

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

2016-08-27 11.03.37
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

Cirith Ungol – Frost and Fire

1765
Could take someone’s eye out with that

Cirith Ungol’s debut is 35 years old now but it’s new to me. After just a couple of listens, though, I can safely say… it sounds a bit like Rush. Mainly due to the piercing vocals of Tim Baker but the music reminds me of Fly By Night/Caress of Steel era Rush in feel, if not in compositional or instrumental niftiness. It rocks more straightforwardly, more garage-y like an American entry in the NWOBHM canon. With the exception of Jerry Fogle’s handy guitar soloing, it’s all pretty meat and potatoes but I find the simplicity inspiring. As I listen I’ve instantly got an idea what they’re doing. If I ended up in the rehearsal room I reckon I’d have a good crack at joining in. It makes me want to play and I can’t give it much more praise than that. Time has proven that the albums that give me the guitar-playing itch tend to be keepers. Oh… and how awesome is that cover?

[Cirith Ungol – I’m Alive]

Primordial – Imrama

Primordial - Imrama (1995) Original Cover
Primordial – Imrama (1995) Original Cover

When Primordial released their debut album Imrama they hadn’t yet discovered the unique and powerful heathen metal approach they’re now revered for. It’s easy to overlook Imrama, then, but you shouldn’t: all the pointers to their future greatness are here. And as a bonus you get to play “spot the influence” too. Always fun. There’s a much more prominent black metal attack on this than on later efforts and also a gothic mournfulness which reminds me of the early Anathema stuff. A.A. Nemtheanga also throws in some neat Martin Walkyier “chaarggee-AH” type vocals too which always wins points from me! And there’s that rolling, strummy folkiness in tracks like Fuil Ársa that would be become the band’s staple in future years. So it’s all here really, just rejigged, refocused, refined and perfected in later releases. An interesting and promising debut from a band headed for greatness. On last night’s train journey from Ayr to Glasgow this went down especially well: the folkiness was ideal for the beautiful sunset view of Arran, and the rough, charging black metal was perfect for drowning out all the drunken revellers heading back home from a day at the races.

[Primordial -Let the Sun Set on Life Forever]

Cover of Metal Blade's sweet reissue
Cover of Metal Blade’s sweet reissue