CJ Lines is a metalhead, writer, podcaster, ninja historian, award-winning pie-maker and unrepentant Six Feet Under fan. Somebody has to be. He’s written two books. He lives in Sheffield, U.K. Find out more at http://www.cjlines.com/

Week ending October 17th 2021

1) Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under

Still my #1, this collection of solo songs from ex-Delain singer Charlotte Wessels is an autumnal balm for the soul, as a turbulent year approaches its end. With the exception of a guest appearance from Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, Tales From Six Feet Under was entirely recorded by Wessels alone in her basement (hence the title) but its expansive production never gives this away. It sounds huge, frankly. There’s a lot less outright metal on here than a Delain album but fans of gothic imagery and bold, dramatic songwriting will find lots to treasure.

2) Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

It’s easy to board the hype train when a legendary band releases a new album and it’s easy to over-praise mediocrity if you don’t wait for the dust to settle. It’s been six weeks now of Senjutsu and, while it took me some time to ‘get’ it, I can honestly say it’s reignited my love of new Maiden for the first time in decades and it’s rapidly creeping up my Albums of the Year list. The breakneck energy of classic Maiden is long gone but songs like The Parchment and Hell On Earth are majestic constructions. Sonic citadels that feel handed down to us by ancient metal sorcerers. There’s a grandeur to Senjutsu that transports you to distant worlds, like all the best Maiden albums do. Forever up the Irons!

3) Carcass – Torn Arteries

Another group of veterans tearing it up with late career highs, Torn Arteries is a whirlwind of savage riffs and gruesome lyrics that could give most young death metal acts a run for their (blood) money. Although they’re still mixing melody with brutality in the way they pioneered with Heartwork back in 1993, Carcass sound like a born again band on this, bursting with exuberance and clearly having a ton of fun with the dark and grisly material on offer here. The Devil Rides Out is an instant horror metal classic and Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited does exactly what it promises…

4) BRIDEAR – Bloody Bride

Japan’s BRIDEAR have been in the metal game for nearly a decade but have always felt like something to file under an acquired taste rather than a band that could break out of the hardcore J-Metal fanbase. With Bloody Bride, however, they’ve finally transcended these limitations. The technicality on display here, as with a lot of Japanese power metal groups, is astonishing – there’s shred for days – but the songs are atmospheric, emotional and immaculately composed. Kimi’s vocals are a soaring howl that hold together all the dissonance and complexity of the music. Bloody Bride is a phenomenal record that western power metalheads would do well to discover before BRIDEAR take over the planet.

5) Feed The Corpses To The Pigs – This Insidious Horror

One of the best things about modern metal is its open-mindedness. Bands no longer restrict themselves to just one style and while that can lead to a big mess, Feed The Corpses To The Pigs are an example of how to nail it. While it blends grindcore, thrash, death, black, D-beat, shred and everything but the extreme metal kitchen sink, This Insidious Horror nonetheless captures a strong, distinctive sound from this New Mexico foursome. Memorable songs hold the chaos together and the lyrics are a shrewd mix of horror and sardonic social commentary. You even get Rick Rozz popping up for a guest solo on Ghost Of Winter, bridging the gap between classic old-skool and this new, gleefully inventive take on death metal.

6) Tombstoner – Victims of Vile Torture

If you’ve already played Cannibal Corpses’s Violence Unimagined so many times that you’ve either worn out the disc or wound up in jail, Tombstoner’s first full-length is the new fix you need. Straight outta Staten Island, Tombstoner worship at the altar of classic death and offer up monolithic riffs and brutal growls for the faithful. At times they hark back to the genre’s thrash roots with pit-friendly shoutalongs like Breaking Point but, as the album goes on, it gets deeper and darker, throwing in surprises like a string quartet on the dark and grinding centrepiece, Armageddon. No-nonsense death metal at its leanest and meanest.

7) Vomit Bag Squad – Tales From The Bag

I know that the tongue-in-cheek nature of this will put some listeners off but if you’re willing to have a good time with your metal, this thrash/crossover throwback party album will absolutely delight you. The more I listen, the more great lyrics I pick up as the Squad take us through their ultra-compact bonehead reimaginings of horror movie classics. Beneath the ghoulish derangement are some real songwriting chops though. The riffs are catchy and inventive and every song has a huge chorus ready for screaming along to in the pit. Basically Municipal Waste on a strict diet of B-Movies but honestly? What more could you ask for?

8) Doro – Triumph & Agony Live

I bought Warlock’s Triumph & Agony album over 30 years ago on cassette and still listen to it regularly. It’s one of the true great metal albums of the 80s (arguably the true great metal decade!) and there’s pretty much no way to improve it, so don’t expect this 35th anniverary live performance to do that. However, this is a fitting celebration of the album as Doro enthusiastically belts her way through the songs and clearly has herself a blast. What it lacks in the original’s sheen, it gains in raw energy and is a trip through the past that reaffirms metal’s timeless appeal.

9) Hooded Menace – Tritonus Bell

However, if you like your classic metal riffs to sound like they’re being played in a dungeon by a quartet of lich-like fiends, maybe the oppressive gloom of Tritonus Bell will light the torches for you. It’s a remarkable exercise in structure and control, each track sounding like it’s about to sprawl off into the ether before pulling itself back into a beautiful key change or tempo shift. Hooded Menace have positioned themselves at the forefront of death-doom with this and if you’re willing to sit in the dark with them for an hour or so, you’ll gain at least +5 stamina. Dungeon master’s promise.

10) Judas Priest – Reflections

I know it’s cheating a little to include a compilation but it also feels remiss to leave off the Metal Gods, given they’ve put such an effort into this. Reflections is a gargantuan 42 CD boxset that collects 50 years’ worth of Priest albums and a bunch of previously unheard concert recordings and if that isn’t the strongest discography in metal, I don’t know what it is. For those who don’t want to sell a kidney to fund their music habit, there’s a budget “highlights” edition that’s just 16 carefully curated tracks of pure Priest. It’s a remarkable journey through not just the band but the genre itself over the past 50 years and features awesome live versions of some of my personal faves like Out In The Cold, Dissident Aggressor and Electric Eye. Absolute perfection.


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