(Because your humble NCS editor has done a shit job compiling new-music round-ups in recent weeks, our contributor Gonzo stepped up and offered to begin doing that himself on Fridays, and this is the first edition. It actually would have been posted yesterday, on Friday, except your humble editor fucked that up too.)
Suffice to say, it’s been a fucking weird year.
Weirder, perhaps, is the fact that so much new music keeps rolling out from all corners of the earth; weirder still is that most of it is quality material instead of half-assed live albums, comps, EPs, singles and cover albums.
Most of it.
(I’m looking at you, In Flames.)
Before I start spiraling into a tirade about my odious thoughts on the Clayman reboot, allow me to get right to it: Yesterday, August 28, marked another Friday in this endlessly bizarre, dystopian and occasionally terrifying timeline we all just call “2020,” and it marked another day of new metal coming to assault our eardrums.
This one’s a glorious mix of old and new, and some stuff I’ve been anxiously awaiting for a while.
FATES WARNING: “SCARS”
Being a huge and unapologetic fan of ‘80s prog, Fates Warning is a band that’s been near and dear to my cold black heart for decades. And because I’m a fan of that decade and subgenre, I’ve been guilty of verbally eviscerating some of the shit that arose from both. It just tends to come with the territory.
As much as I love them, FW have not been immune to my gripes. A Pleasant Shade of Grey was an overhyped dud, and I don’t think I’ve really liked anything they’ve done since Disconnected came out 20 years ago.
Not expecting to be wowed at all by “Scars,” the band’s new single from their forthcoming album Long Day Good Night, I’m happy to report that it absolutely rules. Ray Alder’s voice sounds as reinvigorated as ever, the production is razor-sharp, and the song begs to be spun up again after you hear it the first time. I await Long Day Good Night with cautious optimism.
HINAYANA: “IN SACRED DELUSION”
One listen to anything Hinayana have released and I defy you to guess where they’re from. You’d probably say Sweden or Finland before you guessed Austin, Texas, but that’s where these melodic death/doom stalwarts hail from.
This track is taken from their new EP, released yesterday, called Death of the Cosmic. Simply put? It’s five songs of heavy, gloomy fucking majesty, but this track might be the high point. Featuring Toni Toivonen from Hanging Garden, the slow-paced, sludgy groove crawls along an ethereal backdrop that fans of Amorphis, Swallow the Sun, and Barren Earth will really fucking dig.
FIRES IN THE DISTANCE: “THE LOCK AND THE KEY”
Holy shit, where have these guys been hiding my whole life?
Islander gave us a glimpse of the band’s prior single, “The Climb,” back in February (which might as well be 1995 at this point) and I must’ve missed it at the time. I’m kicking myself now that I’ve realized I didn’t know this music existed during quarantine.
Imagine an American response to the breathtaking shit that Omnium Gatherum churn out with every release, throw in a little old-school Amorphis, and add some of the nuanced atmosphere of Dark Tranquillity, and you get the idea of where Fires in the Distance hits sonically. This track is expansive, layered, and scratches the itch I’ve had for quality death/doom like nothing else has in quite some time.
Listen to it immediately. (The album, Echoes From Deep November, will be released by Prosthetic on September 19.)
IHSAHN: “MANHATTAN SKYLINE”
The main man behind Emperor is still one of the most creative and talented dudes in modern metal, and I’ve been waiting for him to collaborate with Einar Solberg again. Their work together is always top-shelf, so I was intrigued to see this one pop up on my Spotify this morning.
“Manhattan Skyline” delivers in the sense that it showcases the insane vocal range of Solberg and Ihsahn’s songwriting genius, but judging one track released by this pair seems like critiquing one chapter of a book you haven’t read the rest of. Ihsahn’s albums are a lot like those of Devin Townsend – one track never tells the whole story, or illustrates the entire concept.
This is all without mentioning the fact that “Manhattan Skyline” is an A-Ha cover, so do with that information what you will.
(Ihsahn’s new EP, Pharos, will be out September 11 via Candlelight Records.)