As we kick off a new year, we are continuing to select the best metal albums released each month. 2020 begins with these selections for January’s best new metal albums.
1. Midnight – Rebirth By Blasphemy (Metal Blade)
Cleveland’s resident Venom worshipers Midnight return with their fourth album and Metal Blade debut, Rebirth By Blasphemy. The label change hasn’t exactly changed the band’s course which much like a track of their debut is three things: lust, filth and sleaze.
Right from the subtle intro, “Fucking Speed and Darkness” is Black Metal-era Venom sprinkled with Motorhead’s take no bs mentality. If this is your first foray with the band, let this serve as a trial by fire, and in true Midnight fashion they will pour more gasoline on it, too. If a good old-fashioned romp with the dark lord is what 2020 called for, then Midnight have delivered on all fronts with one of their most consistent releases to date, right up there with their stellar debut. Don’t sleep on this one!
2. Empire of the Moon – Εκλειψις (Iron Bonehead)
Even though they formed in 1996, Εκλειψις is only the second LP by the Greek black metal band Empire of the Moon. The album comes six years after their debut, Πανσέληνος. Quality is definitely preferred over quantity as both Empire of the Moon releases are tremendous.
The Greeks love classic metal/NWOBHM and it’s quite noticeable in the guitars, but still this is a black metal album: The vocal shrieking makes that perfectly clear. Just like the last record, the moon and the cosmos are common lyrical and visual motifs. Choir keys are a component in their majestic opus to the night sky. “Per Aspera Ad Lunae – IV. Son of Fire” features clean guitar melodies and choirs. “Devi Maha Devi” and the album intro bring a grandiose, cinematic factor to the album. Empire of the Moon’s Εκλειψις is another superb entry into the Hellenic black metal tradition.
3. Haunt – Mind Freeze (Shadow Kingdom)
The furious pace at which Trevor William Church has worked in recent years should be commended. With Haunt‘s latest album Mind Freeze, there’s a stronger emphasis by the band on the synth front, leaning more heavily towards the embrace that these guys are a fringe power metal outfit, in the best way possible. The sounds of guitars swirl within these synths and the pounding drums of Wolfy Wilson which are high in the mix, sounding more like a bomb brigade than a typical battery.
The speed varies over the album from the frenetic flamethrowers to the songs like “Have No Fear” which are great examples of how Church’s vocals have continued to improve over the course of these past few years.Haunt’s body of work essentially speaks for itself at this point. They play fast, furious, speedy heavy metal that if teeming with melody and lyrics that would appeal to the most stalwart power metal fan. With continued crossover appeal, Mind Freeze may yet be another feather in a plumage laden hat.
4. Nero Di Marte – Immoto (Season Of Mist)
Experimental post metal isn’t a style destined for mainstream popularity, or even widespread popularity within the metal genre, but that’s not the goal of bands like Nero Di Marte. More than five years after their last release, the Italian band returns with Immoto.
The songs ebb and flow from dense and cacophonous to serene and subtle. Nero Di Marte give themselves plenty of room to work, with most tracks clocking in between 10 and 12 minutes. Songs like “L’Arca” are urgent at times, meandering at others. The 13 minute title track is the album’s longest and most experimental with a lot of diversity. At 67 minutes Immoto a lot to absorb, and is one of those records that takes several listens to fully appreciate.
5. Sons Of Apollo – MMXX (InsideOut)
On their second album MMXX, Sons of Apollo pick up right where they left off, with progressive hard-rockers such as “Goodbye Divinity” and “Asphyxiation” showing us the same unpretentious mix of skill and songwriting that Psychotic Symphony produced. With an esteemed lineup it would be easy to reduce each song to exercises in wank, but Sons of Apollo completely avoid that throughout the album, instead relying on simply writing great songs.
This is another high-quality progressive metal outing from Sons of Apollo, and one that makes them one of my favorite modern prog bands. This album is yet another great example of how to craft a stellar progressive metal album without going instrumentally overboard, and is highly recommended.
If you are looking for a modern prog rock/metal album, you need look no further than Skyrunner, the second album from Indiana’s Thematic. I was surprised to find out this quartet was American, as their sound is very much in line with the Australian prog movement led by Karnivool, Caligula’s Horse, and others.
It’s been over five years since Thematic’s solid debut effort, The Endless Light, and that time has been well-spent. The songs on Skyrunner – a 68-minute concept album detailing a hero’s quest to honor a promise – are wonderfully arranged and performed, and run the gamut of delicate to heavy as effortlessly as one can imagine. Fans of the bands mentioned above will love this album.