Metal, for all its anti-establishment credentials, can often be quite conservative. Many of the same old tropes have been rolled out again and again for the past four decades or so. Whilst that’s not a major problem for many metal fans, it is arguable that the same recycled ideas just don’t have the same impact that they once did. What once seemed impossibly heavy, deafeningly loud, even shocking or transgressive, can now be played on mainstream radio without anyone raising an eyebrow.
With only guitarist Wolf Hoffmann remaining from the original classic Accept line-up you could be forgiven for assuming this might eventually result in a decline in quality. And you may end up being proven right. Just not yet.
Avatar is not your ordinary metal band. Melding crushing melodic groove metal with humor and mysticism, Avatar creates something new and intriguing that breaks the mold. For the second performance of their epic 4-part “Avatar Ages” livestream event, dubbed “Illusions”, the band performed fan-voted tracks off their records Feathers and Flesh (2016) and Avatar Country (2018).
Saber – Without Warning (1/1)
It’s pretty easy to compare Saber to their fellow Californians in Haunt. In addition to playing a similarly polished Heavy Metal style, the band has released their debut album through Trevor William Church’s record label with Church himself even playing the drums on a sessional basis. Fortunately, Saber is able to set themselves apart by means of over-the-top vocals and faster tempos on songs like ‘Strike Of The Witch’ and the appropriately titled ‘Speed Racer.’ There’s certainly room for further development, especially given that Without Warning is less than a half-hour long, but it’s a fun listen for fans of groups like Cauldron and Riot City.
Buy the album here: https://saberheavymetal.bandcamp.com/album/without-warning
7 / 10
Konquest – The Night Goes On (1/8)
Konquest is a one-man project from Tuscany whose first full-length album makes no bones about their Iron Maiden worship. The vocals have a more workman quality in comparison, but the guitar harmonies are on point and the bass gets plenty of chances to let out some Steve Harris-style flourishes. The songwriting is also well-executed as songs like the title track and ‘Helding Back The Tears’ (Not a typo?) are packed with catchy Eighties-friendly hooks while ‘Heavy Heart’ and ‘The Vision’ hint at more Epic Metal aspirations. The latter’s musical lifts from ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ are a bit much, but it’s in good fun. I also keep wanting to write their name as Kong Quest, which just makes me want to play through Donkey Kong Country 2 again. Fun stuff.
Buy the album here https://konquestband.bandcamp.com/
8 / 10
Midnight Spell – Sky Destroyer (1/8)
In a way similar to recent efforts from groups like RAM and Ambush, Midnight Spell’s first album is a grab-bag of Classic Metal tropes. Tracks like ‘Lady Of The Moonlight’ and ‘To The Stars’ seem inspired by the likes of Dokken with their borderline Glam hooks and anthemic pacing while ‘Cemetery Queen’ is the token occult number taking influence from Mercyful Fate and the title track goes for all-out Speed Metal. The rather meat and potatoes presentation risks coming off as too plain, but the musicianship is tight and the fantastic earworms on songs like ‘Midnight Ride’ just can’t be ignored. It’s a bit more polished than your typical Traditional Metal debut, but it manages to be endearing in its own right.
Buy the album here: https://midnightspell.bandcamp.com/album/sky-destroyer
8 / 10
The first word that comes to mind when listening to Gravehuffer’s new album NecroEcolosion (Black Doomba Records) is “fun”. Gravehuffer takes us on a journey through many different styles. Their versatility and ability not to be genre bound is on full display with this entry.
With only founding guitarist Prika Amaral remaining from their original 2010 line-up, Brazilian thrashers Nervosa return with a much more international look on their fourth full-length studio release, Perpetual Chaos (Napalm Records). Joining Amaral this time is Spanish vocalist Diva Satanica, Greek drummer Eleni Nota, and former Abbath bassist Mia Wallace.
Having successfully navigated their way around the many obstacles and challenges thrust into their path by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Christofer Johnsson and his Swedish symphonic act Therion return with their seventeenth studio album Leviathan (Nuclear Blast).
Bloody Hammers are the Hard Rock husband and wife duo Anders Manga (Vocals, Guitar, Bass) and Devallia (Keyboards/Organ). Hailing from Transylvania County, NC, the Gothic-Metal rockers released Songs of Unspeakable Terror (Napalm Records). Of the Horror-Punk record, Manga says, “When the pandemic hit and I realized I’d be stuck at home for a while, I started thinking I needed to dig into a music project. I was oddly inspired by the unknown, and fear that this plague was gonna wipe us all out. I needed a creative escape.”
A new album and a new singer. The Dead Daisies’ latest album Holy Ground (SPV Steamhammer) is their first with the “voice of rock” Glenn Hughes, and his powerful pipes are a perfect match for the band’s well-honed classic rock. Having been in Deep Purple and more recently Black Country Communion Glenn is no stranger to famous bandmates and supergroups. The lead single ‘Unspoken’ shows that despite the ever-revolving door of bandmates, the music is as thunderous, hooky and rocking as ever.
No better way than to start the year than with some new Death Metal is what I say. I’ve quit coffee and don’t touch Red Bull, so I need something to kick start the day. It’s a particularly cold winter here in New England and every time I check Twitter there is a freshly developed shitshow going on so the more extreme music the merrier. Long story short, thank you Frozen Soul for kicking in the 2021 door with Crypt of Ice (Century Media).