April 2021’s best heavy metal albums include some legendary bands, including the one that tops the list, along with some up and comers. Here are our picks for the best metal albums released in April.
1. Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (Metal Blade)
Death metal legends Cannibal Corpse are back with album number 15 Violence Unimagined. Corpsegrinder sounds great as always, joined in lock step with Rob Barrett and their newest member Erik Rutan. Paul Mazurkiewicz’s drums are explosive and high in the mix on “Inhumane Harvest,” met with the fat and wobbly bass of Alex Webster, continuing the constant crushing grooves that help Cannibal Corpse to bludgeon their way through your aural cavities.
Death metal fans have been looking forward to a new release by these beasts and that should come as no surprise. Cannibal Corpse have always been remarkably consistent, especially since the introduction of their now longtime frontman into the mix. Violence Unimagined takes what the band has already been doing and replaced one guitarist for an even better one. Go out there and blare this auditory bloodshed for all to hear, this is a total ripper.
2. Domkraft – Seeds (Magnetic Eye)
After a live album last year, Swedish sludgesters Domkraft are back with their third studio album Seeds. Their heavy style has a psychedelic bent, influenced by bands like Sleep and Hawkwind.
The power of the riff is front and center on Sleep. Domkraft are able to come up with a large supply of varied and memorable ones. From the catchiness of the opening title track to the more mesmerizing style of songs like “Perpetuator” to the deliberateness of tracks like “Into Orbit,” the guitars propel the album. Martin Wegeland’s vocals are sometimes aggressive and emotional, other times smooth and melodic. It makes for a diverse album that’s compelling from start to finish.
3. Steel Bearing Hand – Slay In Hell (Carbonized)
There’s no sophomore slump for Steel Bearing Hand. These Texans come out with guns blazing on Slay In Hell. Their mix of thrash and death metal is familiar, but the way they piece together every section is fresh, distinctive and utterly catchy. Songs of demons and wizards come to life through influences such as Slayer, Celtic Frost and Autopsy.
“Command Of The Infernal Exarch” kicks off the album with break-neck thrashing speed. The vocals first appear in shrieking blackness. “Lich Gate” follows with growling, death metal savagery. The bass clap is audible. Drums push the speed with blast beats and furious fills. Guitar solos add shred and evil effects. “Til Death And Beyond” opens in a fashion recalling the early days of Mercyful Fate and Slayer. “Tombspawn” and twelve-minute closer “Ensanguined” showcase groove and death-doom elements, bringing to mind Morbid Angel and Autopsy. Slay In Hell is a riff factory that will keep fists and heads banging!
4. Void Vator – Great Fear Rising (Ripple)
Los Angeles’ Void Vator formed in 2014, and since then have released some EPs and splits. Great Fear Rising is their first full-length recording, and it clocks in at a svelte 33 minutes over 9 songs. Short and sweet, but don’t let that fool you. The music here is full-on metal, what we in the biz might refer to as New Wave of Traditional American Heavy Metal. It’s fast, fun, and furious.
Taking their queue from bands as diverse as Metallica and The Ramones, with a touch of Power Trip and maybe even a little Motorhead (see “McGyver’s Mullet”), Void Vator deliver a dynamite album that never stops pounding the listener with riffs and hooks. Great Fear Rising goes for the jugular on every exuberant track, and hits every time. Top it off with modern, aggressive production and you have one of the most enthusiastic and infectious debut albums of the year.
5. While She Sleeps – Sleep Society (Spinefarm)
For many bands 15 years into a blossoming career, the follow up to a top 10 record would be something of a victory lap. Not While She Sleeps. On Sleep Society, Sheffield’s metalcore heroes instead stay true to their hardcore roots and pay tribute to the countless fans who have propelled them where they are today.
While it is rooted in unusually positive feelings for a metal record, Sleep Society is no saccharine affair. For each celebratory anthem about brotherhood, there’s a rallying call to rebel against the world; for each touching harmony part, an equal pissed off denunciation of those who lead us astray from our own self-worth. The riffs are some of WSS’s finest, and the choruses are instant sing-alongs, with most songs filled with unbridled hardcore energy. One cannot simply resist headbanging to these bangers. The world might be screwed, but with unity, self-love and resilience, and kick-ass songs like these, maybe we’ll be alright.
6. Horndal – Lake Drinker (Prosthetic)
A “digital devil” is coming to town in the form of a giant tech company, squeezing a small town of its resources and its people of a livelihood, on Horndal’s relevant sophomore album, Lake Drinker. Though this is taking place in a small Swedish town, it could be happening anywhere, a point the sludge/hardcore group makes clear on “Ruhr.” As they call out the names of towns from the U.S. rust belt, places like Dayton, Ohio and Flint, Michigan, genuine pain can be felt for the inhabitants of these towns and cities crushed by money-hungry corporations.
The group toggle their sound a bit, utilizing a solemn horn arrangement on “Thor Bear” and a few acoustic passages sprinkled in the latter half of the album. They don’t minimalize the scorn etched through each of these 11 songs, ramping up as the album goes on. Lake Drinker gives those without a voice a platform to know their plight is not unique, nor is it a death sentence for those willing to stand up and fight back.