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 24th 2021

1) Cradle of Filth – Existence is Futile

Despite being mainstays of extreme metal, Cradle of Filth still have a bit of a reputation throughout the scene for being somehow soft or uncool. Maybe Existence Is Futile will finally change that. Most bands tone themselves down over time but Cradle of Filth have never done that and their 13th album is their most uncompromising, heavy and aggressive so far. It refuses to follow trends and delivers just fast, brutal extreme metal at its leanest and best. Yes, there are all the trademarked gothic/symphonic flourishes and Dani still loves a good pun, but this goes hard from start to finish – not even half a bad track – and throws in some social commentary and genuine rage to the mix. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a CoF album this much since 2010’s Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa.

2) Charlotte Wessels – Tales From Six Feet Under

Knocked from the top slot by Cradle of Filth but still in very regular rotation for me, ex-Delain singer Charlotte Wessels rips up the metal rulebook with her debut solo collection and it’s a wonderful liberation. Loaded with high drama, rich emotions and a musical diversity that shows off her influences from all across the genre board, Tales From Six Feet Under is an essential listen for anyone who enjoys high quality songcraft and beautifully distinctive vocals.

3) Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

At some point, I’m sure the magic of Senjutsu will wear off but, for now, I’m still deep in the labyrinth of its riffs, melodies and stunning vocals. While it carries on a little from where Book Of Souls left off, this finally feels like the late-period album Maiden were destined to make, a complete and successful metamorphosis from their ‘classic’ era into far slower, more measured and eloquent beast that’s nonetheless a masterful piece of metal.

4) Carcass – Torn Arteries

At the other end of the spectrum, Torn Arteries feels like Carcass reborn and re-energised. Rather than dish out an elder statesmen of death metal album that emphasises their maturity as a band, Torn Arteries is a rip-roaring collection of high energy bangers that could give any young death metal band a good thrashing. Catchy, melodic brutality with morbidly droll lyrics at the boss level, Torn Arteries will inevitably and rightfully dominate the End Of Year lists.

5) Draconicon – Dark Side Of Magic

If you don’t already like fantasy-themed power metal, Draconicon are NOT the band who will change your mind. This debut from the Italian quintet is undiluted high sorcery in the vein of bands like Rhapsody and Serenity. It’s a concept album about evil magical cults and dragons and has song titles like Blackfire, Darkspell and Necropotence and there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about this for me. Whether it’s a nostalgia for old-skool fantasy tabletop gaming or a nostalgia for the classic bands like Helloween and Blind Guardian, Draconicon capture it with some gorgeous, soaring melodies and a completely straight-faced, sincere approach to an oft-maligned genre.

6) BRIDEAR – Bloody Bride

On the other side of the world, Japan’s BRIDEAR take a different approach to power metal. Bloody Bride is an insanely complex and modern album that throws in progressive elements (just check out that discordant breakdown in the title track) and classically Japanese-style synthesiser work. Bloody Bride is an unmistakably heavy piece of work though, with Kimi’s emotive vocals and empowering sci-fi/horror-tinged lyrics tying everything together nicely. If you like your power metal a little more off the beaten track, BRIDEAR are a must-hear band and Bloody Bride is easily their best offering yet.

7) Massacre – Resurgence

The Gods of Death return, with Kam Lee back on vocals and an all-star line-up of guests and collaborators. It has to be said, we’re in a second golden age of death metal at the moment with old and new bands alike serving up gruesome treats on a pretty much weekly basis so the competition is as stiff as the corpses in the lyrics. Massacre, very wisely, make no attempt to reinvent things here and stick to what they do best. Resurgence is exactly what you’d expect – grisly, cosmic horror-themed songs packed with crushing riffs, guttural vocals and a slew of legendary guest appearances. But the songs are fantastic too. Who doesn’t love a good singalong chant of “Ia-ia, Shub Niggurath”?

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

A berserker-style melting pot of extreme metal madness, This Insidious Horror is a breakneck behemoth from New Mexico that will have your head spinning. Feed The Corpses To The Pigs are as angry as their name suggests and their debut blends that fury with technicality, brutality and wildly offbeat invention create something that feels memorable and new. It’s as politically-charged and punky as it is gory and grim, and there’s even a guest solo from the legendary Rick Rozz solo if you like to kick it a little more old skool. Definitely worth a listen or six hundred and sixty six.

9) Vomit Bag Squad – Tales From The Bag

This thrash/crossover horror metal party album just keeps giving. A pair of Brazilian movie nuts with a great sense of humour and a knack for instantly enjoyable metal anthems, Vomit Bag Squad do exactly what you want from a band with a name like that. There’s definitely enough precedent for this kind of old skool party thrash but the addition of the horror theme and the sheer energy they deliver it with make Tales From The Bag an unexpected contender for one of 2020’s most consistent, entertaining and excellent releases.

10) Burning Point – Arsonist of the Soul

Finland’s Burning Point have amassed an interesting, albeit patchy, discography over the years, enduring numerous line-up shifts and stylistic changes. Arsonist of the Soul is their first album with new singer Luca Sturniolo, a former Voice winner no less (!), and it feels like they might’ve finally hit their stride. The obvious comparison is Primal Fear and Burning Point deliver a whole bunch of comparably melodic fist-pumping metal anthems here. If Hit The Night doesn’t do it for you, I guess you just don’t love the 80s like I do… Once or twice they drift a little too far into traditional power metal like on Rule The Universe, where they don’t seem as comfortable any more, but for the most part, this is a straight-up good old-fashioned heavy metal record that’ll get your blood pumping as hard as your head is banging.