As stay-at-home orders continue in many parts of the world and no idea when live shows will resume, thankfully music is still being released. May was one of the strongest months of the year so far in terms of the depth of quality albums. Of course that makes it more difficult to narrow things down, but these are our choices for the best new metal albums released in May of 2020.
1. Paradise Lost – Obsidian (Nuclear Blast)
Death/doom pioneers Paradise Lost return with their sixteenth studio album, Obsidian. Long time fans will be happy to know Obsidian continues their return to the death/doom of their last two albums The Plague Within and Medusa. It’s somewhat ironic to say “happy,” since this recording is so gloomy and morbid. The album doesn’t fully rely on down-tempos. While a slow pace may dictate part of a song, there are other upbeat parts to fill in the whole. Whether it’s a gothic section or a death/doom section, each style resonates exceptionally well with major hooks. The way Paradise Lost mesh these styles is brilliant and the stylistic and tempo changes create massive dynamics.
Whether it’s a death/doom dirge or goth rock hip shaker, Paradise Lost are accessible on so many levels. Obsidian has something to offer fans from all eras of the band. Paradise Lost know how to turn a phrase or melody and master the control of action. It’s unusual for a band thirty-plus years into their career keep getting better, but that is the case with Paradise Lost. They succeeded in creating an unforgettable album from beginning to the end of Obsidian.
2. Green Carnation – Leaves Of Yesteryear (Season Of Mist)
Fourteen years after their last studio album, Norwegian prog legends Green Carnation return with Leaves Of Yesteryear. The current lineup of the band includes founding guitarist Tchort and longtime vocalist Kjetil Nordhus (Tristania).
The album has just five songs, but most are lengthy. The opening title track has progressive tendencies, but also memorable riffs and catchy melodies. The centerpiece of Leaves Of Yesteryear is the 15 minute opus “My Dark Reflections Of Life And Death,” a re-recording of the song from their debut album. The reworked track runs the gamut from quiet and introspective to heavy and more progressive than the Journey To The End Of The Night version, and Nordhus’ interpretation of it is outstanding. The album concludes with a mellow version of Black Sabbath’s “Solitude.” It’s a welcome comeback that captures the magic of their early records while breaking new musical ground.
3. Esoctrilihum – Eternity Of Shaog (I, Voidhanger)
When you’re the only guy in the band, you can work as quickly as you’d like not having to worry about anybody’s else schedule. With the French one-man black metal act Esoctrilihum, that has meant a packed release schedule. Eternity Of Shaog is Asthaghul’s fifth album in less than three years.
Even with the quick turnarounds, Esoctrilihum doesn’t skimp on material, generally issuing albums of at least an hour in length. This one clocks in just over the 60 minute mark, but doesn’t drag for a moment. The songs range from epic tracks like “Exh-Eni Soph” with symphonic elements adding grandiosity to the black/death intensity, to more focused songs like “Namhera.” Adding instruments like violins to tracks such “Shayr-Thas” and “Aylowenn Aela” give it an even more unique sound. By balancing avant-garde with brutality, Asthaghul has created his most compelling album yet.
4. Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
After showing their mellower side on 2018’s acoustic/folk album The Hallowing Of Heirdom, the UK black metal band Winterfylleth bring back the brutality on The Reckoning Dawn.
That’s evident from the crushing opener “Misdeeds Of Faith” with bludgeoning drums, icy riffs and piercing vocals from Chris Naughton. “A Hostile Fate (The Wayfayer Pt 4)” has dense sections along with some grooves, while “Absolved In Fire” has an engaging acoustic intro before the black metal kicks in. It’s a varied and memorable track. Winterfylleth shift smoothly between regal mid-paced sections and oppressively heavy and fast parts throughout the album, making for a compelling and enjoyable listen.
5. Forming the Void – Reverie (Ripple)
Forming the Void first impressed us back in 2017, when we reviewed Relic and loved the band’s fuzzy take on progressive rock. Rift came along in 2018 and also garnered favor, although maybe not as much. Regardless, when these Louisianans drop an album we all perk our ears up.
Reverie is the band’s fifth release, and picks up where the previous albums left off. Reverie is a short album, but the seven songs are laid down in impressive fashion, featuring majestic, anthemic riffs, a beautifully solid rhythm section, and more great vocals from James Marshall. While the album lacks the big epic tracks of yore, every song is immediate and catchy.
6. Umbra Vitae – Shadow Of Life (Deathwish)
Current and former members of Converge (vocalist Jacob Bannon), The Red Chord (guitarist Mike McKenzie and bassist Greg Weeks), Job For A Cowboy (drummer Jon Rice) and Hatebreed (guitarist Sean Martin) join up as Umbra Vitae for fevered death metal on Shadow Of Life. Though there are roots of the genre in each of those projects, there’s no question of where this band’s loyalties lie; it’s with the morose and gruesome haze of death metal’s legacy. Single “Return To Zero” steamrolls through its two-and-a-half minutes like every second spent is the last one alive.
This rapid pace defines the first half of the album, though the last few songs allow the band to open up the slightest bit of melody with strong lead guitar work. With a running time around 25 minutes, Shadow Of Life barrels through its ten songs with a snarling attitude intact. This is not merely an example of a group cobbled together, but experienced, confident musicians showcasing their love of death metal.