The world has changed dramatically in the past month as we all deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Though touring has been postponed, artists continue to issue new releases, and metal fans still have our music to help bring us together (as we continue social distancing) and get through these difficult times. Here are our picks for the best new heavy metal albums released in March 2020.
1. Code Orange – Underneath (Roadrunner)
Code Orange ascended to the proverbial “next level” with their last album, 2017’s Forever, which landed on numerous year-end lists and garnered the band a Grammy nomination. That has made Underneath one of the year’s most anticipated releases.
Each album finds the band evolving, and this is no exception. There’s passionate hardcore with increased industrial elements and contrasting harsh and melodic vocals. You’ll also hear everything from noise to punk to goth to rock at various points on the album. They smoothly shift from pummeling repetition to more dissonant and experimental moments. It’s an ambitious effort with a lot of depth and complexity in the arrangements that unfurls a bit more with each listen. “Autumn And Carbine” with vocals from Reba Meyers is perhaps the most straightforward and accessible song on the album, and it’s followed by “Back Inside The Glass,” one of the record’s most brutal. Underneath is full of contrasts and emotion, a compelling and constantly shifting album that meets or exceeds all expectations. It’s our pick for March’s best new album.
2. Sweven – The Eternal Resonance (Ván)
Prior to the demise of Morbus Chron, they released the excellent Sweven, breaking from the more traditional death metal they had been playing previously. The album was a progressive metal masterpiece, but was unfortunately the band’s dying breath.
Six years later a resurrection has taken place and in a relatively quiet fashion, founding Morbus Chron member Robert Andersson and former live member of the band Isak Koskinen Rosemarin are joined by Jesper Nyrelius to form a band named Sweven after the legacy of old. What The Eternal Resonance sounds like is a spiritual successor to Sweven with plenty of allusions to Human and Testimony of the Ancients. “Mycelia” is gorgeous and well worth the price of admission. Expect to see this on a lot of lists later in the year.
3. My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion (Nuclear Blast)
Gothic doom metal pioneers My Dying Bride return for their fourteenth installment of slow-moving melancholy. Changing moods and styles all while keeping the feeling sad and/or destructive is a masterful constant throughout their existence and The Ghost of Orion is no exception.
Fans of My Dying Bride’s style of dejected doom with a flair for interweaving somber strings within their pessimistic plod will be more than happy with this result. Their excellent songwriting skills and ability to operate as a well-oiled machine is certainly one thing that is very much in their favor.Entering their fourth decade of existence has not made this British body sound any different than in the past. We welcome them in for another stay, hopefully with the warm embrace that this cheerless collective is clearly in need of.
4. Malokarpatan – Krupinské Ohne (Invictus)
Slovakian band Malokarpatan return with their third album, Krupinské Ohne, the successor to 2017’s Nordkarpatenland, complete with more blackened heavy metal and songs I cannot begin to pronounce or spell. Think Mortuary Drape with more heavy metal structure, or maybe Master’s Hammer’s production quality or even the enigmatic Root as rituals and incantations swirl abound.
If Midnight are the more fun and less serious side of this metallic merger, Malokarpatan are the folky side which could be played at a ritual sacrifice, complete with excellent melodic soloing all around. The opening 13 minute epic “V brezových hájech poblíž Babinej” will hook you for a massive exodus for the better part of an hour. If you didn’t know Malokarpatan before this album, as fans of black metal, heavy metal or a combination thereof, you will now. This is their best yet.
5. Neck of the Woods – The Annex of Ire (Pelagic)
The Annex of Ire is the Vancouver, Canada band Neck of the Woods’ second album, and sees them continuing down the extreme progressive metal highway with no regard for others. Think of a hardcore-tinged, death metal-soaked version of Between the Buried and Me or Gojira, and you’ve got a handle on this album.
The music on The Annex of Ire is varied, propulsive, and hard-hitting, even when thinking of brief acoustic passages. There’s a ton of intricacy for progressive metal fans, yet at times the guitar solos possess a sort of classic metal feel to them. Musically, Neck of the Woods have nailed it here.
6. Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion (Metal Blade)
Anyone who remembers 2017’s Savage Sinusoid knows what they are getting into with avant-garde misfits Igorrr. A unique combination of extreme metal, classical baroque, Balkan traditional, and 8-bit Atari blips all added up to something completely insane, and the band is back to wreak havoc on our senses once more with Spirituality and Distortion.
All of the off-kilter instrumentation, operatic vocals, and blackened shrieks that we’ve come to expect from Igorrr are here, but this time around the songs are more cohesive and many have a distinct Eastern flair to them (“Camel Dancefloor” and “Downgrade Desert” of course). This doesn’t make Spirituality and Distortion any less enjoyable than the band’s previous album, and in fact might be a better starting point for those new to Igorrr.