January 2024 Best Heavy Metal Albums

2024 if off and running with a strong initial slate of releases. Here are our picks for January 2024’s best heavy metal albums.

Nuclear Blast

1. Lucifer – Lucifer V (Nuclear Blast)

In case there was any doubt where their allegiance lies, just refer to their moniker. Sweden’s Lucifer continue to ride this century’s version of a “Satanic Panic,” one that thankfully, with a knowing wink and a nudge, embraces the outright ludicrousness of what happened in the early ’80s. Lucifer V finds the Swedish melodic doom-mongers at the top of their wicked game.

Lucifer bust out the bell-bottoms and tambourines for a groovy, demonic rave-up that hews closer to Green Lung than Witch Mountain – an alternate universe where Stevie Nicks fronts Vol. 4-era Black Sabbath. What makes V such a thoroughly engaging listen, besides the catchy tunes, solid riffs, and stellar musicianship, is the manner in which they pillage the best of ‘70s hard rock and metal to create a sound all their own. It’s our pick for January’s best album.

Dark Essence Records

2. Madder Mortem – Old Eyes, New Heart (Dark Essence)

We’ve waited a long time for Old Eyes, New Heart. Norway’s Madder Mortem kicked our butts with 2018’s Marrow, an album that came in sixth on that year’s Best Prog list. Family tragedy and other obstacles delayed the release of the band’s eighth album, but what a welcome return it is.

Of course the scene-stealer is once again singer Agnete Kirkevaag, whose vocals are nearly unparalleled, but the music cannot be denied its place here, either. The band delivers forty-eight minutes of incredibly diverse music here, ranging from all-out prog metal bangers to the sultry blues of “On Guard.” Old Eyes, New Heart is simply one of the best albums I’m sure we will hear all year.

MNRK Heavy

3. Lord Dying – Clandestine Transcendence (MNRK Heavy)

Lord Dying have been quiet since 2019’s Mysterium Tremendum. With nearly five years of growth, there was a lot that went into making their latest LP, Clandestine Transcendence. Right off the bat there are a ton of sounds that come together from Lamb of God’s general approach to a post-Crack The Skye Mastodon and everything else in between. “The Universe Is Weeping” and “Unto Becoming” feel like the start of what might just be the big breakthrough record for Lord Dying into the broader metal populous, as there is a lot to like here.

So much has been put into their fourth album, one that is just short of an hour, that it needs to be experienced as there is something for all types of metalheads and even folks that just dabble in the genre. Lord Dying are going to have a monster year and Clandestine Transcendence will undoubtably have plenty of staying power. This is one of the first great albums of 2024, one that will be talked about ad nauseum over the next 12 months.

Avantgarde Music

4. Sgàile – Traverse The Bealach (Avantgarde)

Now here’s an album that’s the opposite of the MesaVerde release: Traverse The Bealach is a solo outing from Scotland’s Tony Dunn, his second release, and boy is it good. A blind listen would lead one to believe this is a seasoned band of stellar musicians boasting great songwriting, rather than one fellow putting it all together.

Shockingly good doesn’t begin to describe Traverse The BealachSgàile have put together an hour of the most compelling and enjoyable prog metal I’ve heard in quite some time, and the fact that this all came from the hands and mind of one man makes it all the more special. The band’s second album takes us on a journey across post-apocalyptic Scotland through epic songs featuring soaring vocals, killer musicianship, and excellent arrangements.

Church Road Records

5. Mountain Caller – Chronicle II: Hypergenesis (Church Road)

The UK trio Mountain Caller emerged in 2020 with Chronicle I: The Truthseeker, and the instrumental album drew comparisons to bands like Pelican and Elder. That was followed by the Chronicle: Prologue EP in 2021. Guitarist Claire Simson, bassist El Reeve and drummer Max Maxwell’s second full-length is Chronicle II: Hypergenesis.

Dynamics and diversity are Mountain Caller’s forte. The songs on the album are generally in the five to seven minute range, allowing plenty of space for sonic exploration. Tracks like “The Archivist” shift from mellow prog rock to heavy sludge/doom and back again. “Into The Woods” is a highlight, showcasing post rock/metal, doom, psychedelic rock and more. And while it’s a mostly instrumental album, Reeve’s excellent vocals on “Dead Language” add another dimension to the band’s sound. While instrumental music isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, Mountain Caller’s songwriting and musicianship make Chronicle II: Hypergenesis an engaging and memorable album.

Silver Lining Music

6. Saxon – Hell, Fire And Damnation (Silver Lining)

Saxon have released albums in six different decades, and are nearly as prolific now as they were in their youth. The NWOBHM legends have issued five studio albums, a couple live albums and multiple box sets over the past five plus years. Hell, Fire And Damnation is their latest studio album, and the first with new guitarist Brian Tatler (Diamond Head).

The iconic English actor Brian Blessed (Hamlet, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Flash Gordon) lends his dulcet tones to the opening title track. Saxon cover a wide range of historical topics this time around, with Biff Byford penning lyrics about Marie Antoinette, the Salem witch trials and the Battle Of Hastings. Musically, there are classic sounding NWOBHM like “Fire And Steel” alongside more moderately paced groovers such as “There’s Something In Roswell” and “Super Charger.” Byford’s voice is still in fine form, and with Hell, Fire And Damnation, Saxon have delivered an album packed with memorable songs and first-class musicianship, defying Father Time and showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

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  1. bobsala

    4 months ago

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