Within the world of heavy metal, the new year is in full swing. I’ve noted more than four-dozen new songs, EPs, and albums that have been released just this week alone and that, at least on a superficial level, seemed worth checking out. But for me it hasn’t been the best week to go exploring. With multiple premieres to write each day, and the time required to compile new installments of our evolving 2018 Most Infectious Song list (one more of which is coming later today), almost all my free time has been consumed.
By chance, however, I woke up at an even more ungodly early hour than usual this morning, and got far enough ahead on today’s planned posts that I spent a bit of time digging into that giant list of new things that appeared this week. I didn’t get far, but, serendipitously, everything I checked out proved to be appealing. All those new discoveries are collected here. Be forewarned: this list includes a healthy dose of clean singing, and one not-metal track.
SWALLOW THE SUN
Swallow the Sun threw more than a few people off-balance when they released the single “Lumina Aurea“ last month. But since then they’ve followed it with two tracks from their next album, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light, which will be released by Century Media on January 25th. The first was “Upon the Water“, and then more recently they debuted a video for the song “Firelights“.
The band introduced the latter in this way: “From the ultimate depths of Lumina Aurea, we rose upon the water. Now it is time to light the first torches in the night. Death might be stronger than life, but love is always stronger than death. This is Firelights!”
It’s a beautiful and even hypnotic song, though the band’s trademark weighty somberness is still quite evident. Vicious snarls, seething riffs, and anguished leads eventually surface, bookended by mystical chiming melody and differing clean vocal expressions.
March 29th is the date set by Osmose Productions for the release of Akrotheism’s second album, The Law of Seven Deaths. This Athenian band’s violent yet esoteric and experimental previous recordings make this one a matter of great interest and intrigue. The first advance track, which you’ll find next, is “Manifesting Tartarus“.
Ominous gloom descends immediately as the song begins, and you can soon sense a building of tension — which becomes greatly magnified as the flesh-rending vocals appear along with bursts of drum tumult and sinister, seething guitar dissonance. In your mind’s eye, the flames leap higher and higher, and the vocalist’s wild cries and searing shrieks amplify the feeling of unhinged fervor that burns within the music and eventually becomes a conflagration.
It’s a disorienting, hallucinatory, and intense piece of music, and a very good signpost for this eagerly anticipated new album. The record was mixed and mastered by Stephen Lockhart at Emissary Studio, Iceland, and it features guest vocals and chants by Acherontas V. Priest. The cover art was created by the distinctive David S. Hererrias.
OUR SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON US
I’m going to switch back again to music that’s an exception to our rule about singing. It’s a new video (made by director Martin Dimitz) for “Gold and Silver”, a song from the album Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men by the Austrian band Our Survival Depends On Us. On their Facebook page the band introduced the song and video with these words:
“‘Gold and Silver” is seen as the point in which each man becomes responsible for his own decisions. It is self-reflective of following beliefs and of rejecting material objects for hedonistic gratification.”
The beautifully made video is loaded with occult imagery, as well as scenes of snowbound wilderness, and it’s quite engrossing to watch. The music is dramatic, doom-cloaked, otherworldly, and sinister, with vocals that are quite good. At about the 2:00 mark, you’ll also encounter a striking dual guitar solo, which includes a furious performance by V. Santura (Triptykon, Dark Fortress).
And a great deal more happens in this 11-minute piece as the energy within it ebbs and flows, and becomes increasingly sorcerous as it envelops you in its embrace. It builds to a crescendo of considerable heaviness and intensity (and megawatt headbang-worthy power), and those clean vocals become throat-lacerating in their intensity too.
Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men will be released by Ván Records on February 2nd, and it features entrancing cover art by Elijah Tamu (Ikonostasis).
Now I’m turning back into much harsher and more punishing musical territories with three songs off the self-titled debut album by the Belgian trio Terre, which will be released on February 16th. I learned about the record thanks to a link from Grant Skelton this morning. He characterized the music as: “Fiery sludge I think will be worth your time. On the faster end, by sludge standards. Very explosive and bouncy. The bass is to die for.” The band themselves sum up their sound as “NIHILISTIC BLACK SEWAGE SLUDGE”.
Both descriptions work. This is highly destructive music with massive low-frequency power and a thoroughly black-hearted and bleak atmosphere. It does bound and explode — and it also hammers like a sledgehammer against the skull, and crawls like a dying leviathan drenched in narcotics. The vocals are a tag-team of acid-bath shrieks and deep, monstrous roars, making an already pitiless experience even more harrowing.
THE STEEL WOODS
Now we come to that not-metal track I mentioned at the outset.
This morning my friend Grant also linked me to a country song off the new album (Old News) by by Nashville’s The Steel Woods, which is being released today. I thoroughly enjoyed that song (“Rock That Says My Name“), even though the track’s Christian lyrics don’t hold any special appeal to me. I happened to notice another track off the same album in the side-bar to the song stream on YouTube, and when I saw the title, I felt compelled to check it out.
That song is a cover of “Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers band. The original was first released on their self-titled 1969 debut album, and then a 22-minute version of the song took up the entire final side of their phenomenal double live record, At Fillmore East. I fucking love the song. Numerous decades ago when I bought At Fillmore East, I listened to that extended live version of “Whipping Post” constantly.
The Steel Woods do a hell of a good job with their cover. Maybe no one will ever equal the guitar magic of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts on this song, but The Steel Woods do it justice. I’m excited enough to be reminded of the song that I decided to end this post with The Steel Woods‘ cover.
P.S. Grant tells me that The Steel Woods have also covered some Black Sabbath songs (there’s one on this new album).