Week ending November 14th, 2021

1) Suffocation – Live In North America

A live album at #1? I know, it’s unorthodox but damn, this is great. Suffocation are obviously death metal legends of the highest calibre and this compilation of performances from some of Frank Mullen’s final shows as vocalist finds them still on top of the game. What I like most isn’t so much that it captures the relentless brutality of a Suffocation show (what can?) but instead it’s just a bunch of great re-recordings of classic songs. The setlist is largely taken from the first three legendary albums and it’s great to hear them with crisp, modern sound quality. You can hear every instrument so clearly here and it really brings out the genius of the songs. Whether you’re a long-term fan or a newcomer, Live In North America is an essential showcase of a phenomenal band, still killing it after all these years.

2) Ad Infinitum – Chapter II: Legacy

On the other end of the spectrum, Ad Infinitum’s polished, melodic approach to metal is a soothing balm rather than a catharsis. It’s not to say there aren’t some moments of great anger here and a fair few of Melissa Bonny’s amazing death growls, but for the most part this just radiates an intense positive energy that only symphonic metal can pull off. The songwriting is as refined as the production here, as Chapter II tells the story of Vlad The Impaler across 12 songs that run the gauntlet of emotions. Each memorable, soaring chorus makes you want to go right back to the start of the song again and, before you know it, you’ve lost a whole day in there.

3) Omnium Gatherum – Origin

This is a real grower from Omnium Gatherum, who have finally transcended the tag of being just one of a million melodeath bands and perfected their own sound. It has a high-tech sheen to it, inspired by Def Leppard’s Hysteria of all things, and there are a ton of bright, major-key AOR style riffs that slide in and out of the melancholic atmosphere, punctuated by guttural growls. There isn’t another band making music that sounds like this at the moment. It’s almost like what might happen if Crimson Glory got possessed by demons and damn, that’s rad.

4) Cradle of Filth – Existence is Futile

Cradle of Filth have provided the world with top-tier extreme metal for decades and rarely get the thanks or critical recognition they deserve. Existence Is Futile makes it almost sound effortless, as they deliver an album that would leave most bands’ heads spinning like Linda Blair on a waltzer. Complex but catchy, brutal but symphonic, poetic and angry at the same time, this really is a fantastic record that any fans of extreme metal should enjoy. The recent troubles in the U.K. have clearly put a rocket up Dani Filth and Existence Is Futile kinda feels like the only sane response to an insane country.

5) Hand Of Kalliach – Samhainn

Samhainn really does get better and better with each listen. Atmospheric black metal is a difficult genre to nail sometimes, as it can just get lost in a neverending swirl of deep reverb, but Hand of Kalliach have brought something new to it here. While they’re by no means the first band to intersperse Celtic folk elements, they do it with tremendous authenticity and skill that makes this feel like an album wrenched from deep in the earth of the Scottish Highlands. The songs are well-constructed with the brutality and darkness balanced with an eerie beauty that resonates long after the album’s finished. It’s one that gets inside your mind, but has come for your soul.

6) Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

I watched the old Iron Maiden concert film/documentary, Behind The Iron Curtain, this week and it just made me love this new period of Maiden’s history even more. There’s such a difference now to everything they do and I think the more I appreciate this difference, the more I love Senjutsu. I’m no longer chasing the breakneck thrills of early Maiden – as great as they still are. I’ve accepted that Maiden are older and wiser and Senjutsu is arguably the logical culmination of everything they’ve done so far. And I still can’t stop playing it.

7) Whitechapel – Kin

Another band who’ve reached a state of maturity (despite being about half Maiden’s age!) is Whitechapel. Kin is still frenetic at times, loaded with the kind of hyper-aggressive deathcore fury that made a name for them but it’s tempered with longer, slower, cleaner passages that never feel forced or gimmicky or like the band has somehow softened up. Instead, this goes deeper and darker than anything they’ve done before. Kin’s an intense record, like a very raw and bloody therapy session set to music, but its catharsis is deeply rewarding.

8) Lucifer – Lucifer IV

The perfect mix of stoner doom and 70s AM radio rock, Lucifer’s years of combined experience makes them feel like they can do this stuff in their eternal, vampiric sleep. It’s an album that’s extremely easy to listen to, whether you’re doing the housework, rocking out in the car or sacrificing a virgin to a mysterious Goat God. The songs are just so catchy. Lucifer really do throw out more hooks than Candyman on a busy night – every track has a huge chorus and fuzzed-up monolithic riffs to die for. Johanna Sadonis’s eeeevil vocals sound like Stevie Nicks wearing the skin of Ozzy Osbourne and if that doesn’t appeal to you… you’re already dead!

9) Bonded – Into Blackness

Bonded’s sophomore effort gave me a similar kind of thrill to the first Haunted album back in 1998. Much like The Haunted, Bonded take cues from classic thrash but power it up with the intensity of extreme metal. There’s some almost Pantera-like grooves and aggressive vocals here, stacked up against Bay Area style riffage and speeds to rival yer death metal faves. Bonded certainly don’t reinvent the steel but they do deliver a ton of great songs that’ll give any devoted headbanger a serious case of whiplash.

10) Psycho Synner – Killing You Softly

When Five Finger Death Punch’s Jeremy Spencer deleted all his new band’s material from the internet, it seemed like he’d changed his mind about Psychosexual being a project. But instead, they were reborn this year as Psycho Synner and offered not just one album but NINE albums, all released simultaneously. Yow. Anything from a 5FDP member is going to generate a ton of hate from purists, of course, and this straightforward, party-oriented mix of Rob Zombie, The Sisters of Mercy and Andrew Dice Clay is probably not going to delight everybody. But if you’re looking for a good time without good taste, there are some addictive tunes to be found within Psycho Synner’s vast, instant discography. Killing You Softly is billed as “the acoustic album” and, while that’s a bit of a stretch, it’s a nice break from the pace and contains easily their best song, En Fuego – a Latin-infused slice of goth-pop that has taken up residence in my brain this week and won’t leave. And c’mon, it’s only another 349 days ’til Halloween…


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