C.J. Lines runs down the top ten albums of the week for week ending 28th November 2021

1) Hypocrisy – Worship

Peter Tägtgren and his conspiracy-obsessed buddies return after an eight-year break and the result is a mighty metal monolith. Worship is straight-up Hypocrisy. They’ve not radically changed but if you love their mix of epic synth soundscapes, crushing riffs, furious death shrieks and memorable songwriting, you’ll love this. The lyrics take on a slightly different vibe in an age where all the mad conspiracies Tägtgren’s written about for decades are suddenly mainstream thinking, but his sardonic wit and blunt-force delivery keeps it the right side of crazy. Arguably, this is the best thing they’ve done since 1999’s magnificent self-titled album and has hit at just the right time to disrupt everyone’s Best Of The Year lists. If aliens do land, Tägtgren has clearly sussed out his plans to blast them back into space with phenomenal death metal.

2) Eternity’s End – Embers of War

I’ve said before that power metal’s always a tough genre to get right. It can either feel too silly or not silly enough and the required balance of fantastical dramatics and absolute sincerity is delicate. Eternity’s End nail it hard on Embers of War and drag power metal into the 21st century by its dragontail. Led by Obscura’s Christian Muenzner, they blend technical extremity with soaring melodic hooks and create an album that’s endlessly rewarding. There’s so much depth to the musicianship here but it never feels like a musician’s album, thanks to the abundance of catchy choruses, straight-faced OTT fantasy lyrics and old-skool thrash refrains. It’s almost medically impossible not to headbang to Deathrider. Just try it.

3) Cradle of Filth – Existence is Futile

No band of Cradle of Filth’s longevity is going to have a flawless discography. For me, they go in cycles where they drop one insane album, gradually lose that momentum over the space of the next couple, then come back with a vengeance and newfound ferocity. Existence Is Futile is one of those returns to form and definitely falls in the top tier of Cradle albums. It’s as aggressive and heavy as anything they’ve done but also showcases their skill with a good hook. If there’s another band on the planet who could get an audience pounding their fists and screaming along to a chorus with the words “Apophis / Reach dark office / Apophis / Seize the Goddess” then I don’t know who they are!

4) Suffocation – Live In North America

The daddies of brutal death show everyone how it’s done with this glorious new live album. The razor-sharp clarity of the sound on this reminds me of the first time I heard a Scott Burns-produced album back in the day, and suddenly realised exactly how much was going on in death metal that had previously been buried beneath sludgy production. It’s a great way to listen to these classic songs – you can hear every instrument, every note, so clearly – and appreciate the magnificence of both the songwriting and performance. Still brutal after all these years, you just cannot and will not beat Suffocation.

5) Abscession – Rot Of Ages

Taking plenty of inspiration from the classics are Sweden’s Abscession, who come of age here on their sophomore offering. Blending the Gothenburg sound with some Florida-style brutality and even a little Teutonic thrash, Abscession deliver a death metal album that’s by no means original but is extremely enjoyable. It’s made with so much evident love and knowledge of the genre and the songs are almost all super-instant. Rat King Crawl (not to be confused with the aforementioned Crawling King Chaos by Cradle Of Filth) is a real melodeath standout – easily one of the coolest songs of the year – and the occasional drop into experimental synth and acoustic sections suggest that the next Abscession album will take things to a whole other level of epic.

6) Obscura – A Valediction

A Valediction is probably not an album that most people are going to fall in love with on first listen but give it two or three and it’ll really start to pay off. Yes, it is technical beyond technical – Obscura play riffs that would need Einstein formulae to decipher, at speeds that threaten to break the sound barrier. In terms of sheer virtuosity, they’re on the extreme end of techdeath. But what sets them apart is that they legitimately mix this with so much melody and songcraft. There are actually hooks here, choruses, beautiful harmony solos, all kinds of classic metal goodness. The fact that it’s all played at such incomprehensible velocity only makes it more powerful. Definitely an album worth sitting with.

7) Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Is Senjutsu ever gonna leave my top ten? I don’t know. Not any time soon. This really is one of the most remarkable late-career highs I’ve ever heard and keeps giving and giving. A magnificent record that feels like a group of old sorcerers weaving their magic on you. A proper healing potion of an album.

8) Lock-Up – Dregs of Hades

It’s a shame that Lock-Up have always had the monicker of a “supergroup”, on account of sharing members with so many higher profile bands (Napalm Death, Brutal Truth, At The Gates, Brujeria, Terrorizer, Cradle of Filth, to name but a few). It makes them sound like a side project but I mean, they’ve been around since 1999 and delivered five extremely solid albums now. When can we just start seeing them as a band? Dregs of Hades is exactly what you expect from Lock-Up. It’s the deathier end of grindcore and just incredibly fast, hard, relentless from start to finish. It’s not groundbreaking but sometimes it’s just great to hear a bunch of utterly confident veterans banging out exactly what you’ve come to love from them.

9) Omnium Gatherum – Origin

This self-proclaimed “Death Leppard” style album – that mixes the sheen and major chord riffing of 80s AOR with modern melodic death metal – maybe won’t be everybody’s bag but I love it. I’m a big fan of things that have absolutely no right to work but somehow do. Metal’s an outsider genre and always has been, to one extent or another, so I admire the spirit of something that goes completely against the grain and still manages to pull off an album as accessible, joyous and heavy as Origin. Check it out – you won’t have heard anything quite like it before.

10) Hand Of Kalliach – Samhainn

With winter being truly upon us now (it’s snowing here in the north of England as I write this!), Hand Of Kalliach’s frosty debut, Samhaiin, is a mandatory addition to your playlists. Mixing Celtic folk with blackened death, Hand Of Kalliach – a husband and wife duo from the beyond-the-wall wilds of Scotland – are a band you can’t afford to miss if you like your metal soaked in atmosphere and magic. An absolutely fantastic piece of work from deep in the metal underground.

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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. Read more of his stuff via http://www.cjlines.com/ Follow him on Twitter at @cjlines