Spring is here, and the number of new metal releases is increasing. There were plenty of quality albums to pick from this month, and these are our choices for March 2021’s best new heavy metal albums.
1. The Crown – Royal Destroyer (Metal Blade)
Royal Destroyer marks over 30 years of existence for The Crown (they spent their first eight known as Crown of Thorns). Hailing from Sweden, The Crown’s extreme metal style defies a single “Swedish death metal band” classification. Although sometimes listeners hear melodic death in their sound, their sound encompasses more styles. Royal Destroyer is a good example of this diversity with moments of death metal, grind, punk, thrash/speed and of course, melodic death metal.
Even though the album is extreme in scope, it rarely recalls traditional death metal, especially the Sunlight Studio variety of Swedish death. Along with the melodic death style, The Crown forge their own brand of extreme death metal heavy with thrash and melody. Royal Destroyer will not disappoint long-time listeners. Having released at least one album four consecutive decades, the band has found a sound that works and fans enjoy. The group change tempos and styles without becoming predictable, but there is still a vibe that stays consistent throughout their discography. Henrik Axelsson has only manned the skins for a few years, but steps right into their consistently pummeling beat. Royal Destroyer is a fierce album that truly lives up to its name.
2. Dvne – Etemen Ænka (Metal Blade)
Dvne’s 2017 debut Asheran flew under the radar, meaning we heard it later in the year but didn’t get a chance to review it. Their progressive blend of stoner and sludge metal captivated many, making Etemen Ænka one of my more anticipated albums this year. And thankfully, this U.K. band does not disappoint. Dvne come exploding out of the gate on “Enûma Eliš” and rarely let up.
The monolithic power of “Towers,” the killer riff of “Court of the Matriarch,” and the nuanced performances on “Asphodel,” it’s all here in one massive, immersive package. If there is one quibble, it would be that despite a wide variety in vocal delivery, it doesn’t all work both cleans and harsh vocals are hit and miss, although Lissa Robertson’s guest spots are excellent. Musically, Dvne knock it out of the park here with a near-masterpiece.
3. Memoriam – To The End (Reaper)
Memoriam are nearly five years old, but they seem to have been around for more than three decades because what happens in their music is a continuation of what seems to have ended in Bolt Thrower but hasn’t. With three albums under their belts, Memoriam have brought To The End to remind us what the true sound of old school death metal is like.
By maintaining the simplicity of the facade and spirit, Memoriam have moved towards groovier and more striking songs. “Onwards into Battle” opens the album to a real battlefield of guitar riffs. And the gloom of the doomy and sorrowful “Each Step (One Closer to the Grave)” moves the album forward emotionally, as “As My Heart Grows Cold” closes the album’s eyes to death. The storytelling is just epic, while the songwriting also has become more emotional, darker and more melodic. The production and mixing of Russ Russell has also helped Memoriam to prepare a more successful and cohesive work than its predecessors. Memoriam have shown their might in To The End.
4. Order Of Nosferat – Necuratul (Purity Through Fire)
Order Of Nosferat’s debut album Necuratul sounds as if it were recorded in a ruined medieval castle. Production-wise, the album sounds like the distant audio of an antique record, especially the crackling of the intro track, “Awaiting His Arrival.” Dungeon synth interludes create chapters and pauses between each black metal song. It’s not hard to figure Order of Nosferat are a vampire-themed band similar to blood fiends Black Funeral, Vlad Tepes and Mütiilation.
Order Of Nosferat are a duo consisting of Count Revenant (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards) from Germany and Anzillu (percussion) from Finland, so their sound has aspects of Finnish and German black metal. Horna often comes to mind. Emotionally driven raw guitars, muffled drums and gothic keys create grim, sinister sounds. Keyboard interludes instill cinematic horror, while the ensuing black metal tracks keep the album moving. Fingernails and fangs on point, Necuratul is the ultimate soundtrack to the undead.
5. Enforced – Kill Grid (Century Media)
When you’re a crossover thrash metal band from Richmond, Virginia, it’s difficult to avoid comparisons to bands like Municipal Waste, but Enforced are carving their own path. For their second album Kill Grid have signed with Century Media, which will result in a higher profile.
They have the goods to warrant that higher profile, making a leap forward driven by strong guitar work that gives the songs an ample supply of memorable riffs and solos. There are mid-paced, ominous songs along with lightning-fast gallopers like “Beneath Me.” Aggressive vocals from Knox Colby and some death metal and hardcore moments give the album even more bite. While most of the songs are compact and lethal, the band stretches things past the seven minute mark on the title track, and pull it off. Enforced are a band that will draw the attention of a lot of thrash fans in 2021.
6. Erra – Erra (UNFD)
While the leading metalcore bands seem to be moving into a pop-infused sound, and the underground towards a dissonant, raw and blackened sound, Erra have stayed the course with their new self-titled album. Erra is a riff-fueled feast, that elevates the band’s sound to its full realization. The cybernetic twist that took centerstage on 2018’s Neon is still present, with synths and guitars blending into a full metal onslaught of hard hitting riffs.
Inspired by the haunting Suicide Forest, this record explores struggles with depression and self-doubt, all the while being a resounding testament to the band’s artistic confidence. Vocalist/guitarist Jesse Cash and frontman JT Carvey are both in peak form, and the aggressive production really serves them well. Laying bare one’s insecurities through art takes a massive amount of guts, but in doing so, Erra have produced their best record to date. It’s also their heaviest and most melodic, without compromising on either end!