May 2024 Best Heavy Metal Albums

Here are our picks for May’s best new heavy metal albums.

Nuclear Blast

1. Gatecreeper – Dark Superstition (Nuclear Blast)

Arizona’s Gatecreeper have been at this death metal caper for a decade-plus now. They’ve crammed plenty of activity into that period, issuing a series of EPs and splits in between albums. Their third full-length Dark Superstition actually arrives after a five-year gap between LPs. Their first release for heavyweight label Nuclear Blast runs for a taut less than 40 minutes. It’s aggressive, yet hook-filled – see the bruising “Masterpiece of Chaos” and “Caught in the Treads.” And it’s bustling with variety, with a more melodic bent to many of the cuts.

“Dead Star’s riffage offers a strong nod to early In Flames. On the Swedish front, Dismember are a reference point; the group’s drummer/songwriter Fred Estby flew to the U.S. to work with Gatecreeper in pre-production. Entombed’s death ‘n’ roll is also a key source of inspiration. Meanwhile, “The Black Curtain”’s intro could’ve been lifted from a mid-’90s Paradise Lost record, and there’s gothic overtones within “Flesh Habit”. The production appropriately retains some dirt under the proverbial fingernails, thanks to Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Gatecreeper’s self-described “stadium death metal” appears set to reach a wider audience without compromising its potent attack. It’s our pick for May’s best new album.

Nuclear Blast

2. Pallbearer – Mind Burns Alive (Nuclear Blast)

It’s hard to believe that Mind Burns Alive is Arkansas doomsters Pallbearer‘s fifth full-length. It has been 12 years since their powerful debut Sorrow and Extinction made its way into the public consciousness in 2012. Brett Campbell and crew are one of the most notable faces in American doom metal with their slow and melodic doom that becomes an all-encompassing experience throughout the course of the album. Each record sounds a bit different with this new one lacking some of the fuzzy bite of album’s past, but still feeling like an authentic Pallbearer experience.

“Mind Burns Alive” is an emotional journey full of pains and joys with Devin Holt and Campbell handling it all with their strings, Joe Rowland’s bass is evenly placed within the mix and Mark Lierly’s drums rounding out all this impassioned heft. Big riffs and big heart are what help separate Pallbearer from the pack when it comes to modern-day doom. Mind Burns Alive is the latest chapter, one in which they try some new things, but not at the expense of being who they are. This is the best doom of 2024 so far.

Indie Recordings

3. Vredehammer – God Slayer (Indie)

The lineup on Norwegian black/death metal band Vredehammer albums has shrunk over the years. After three musicians participated in 2020’s Viporous, for their fourth album God Slayer it’s just main man Per Valla handling vocals, guitars, keyboards and bass, with Nils “Dominator” Fjellstrom (Odium, Dark Funeral) on drums.

The songwriting on the album is stellar. Dense black metal shifts into groovier sections, mixing in death and thrash. The riffs are memorable, and although the vocals are extreme, Vredehammer manage to inject melody into the proceedings as well. The songs are streamlined, with minimal filler and a svelte 40 minute run time. From the crushing title track to the majestic “The Dragons Burn” to the rifftastic “Product Human Slave,” God Slayer delivers the extreme metal goods. The album isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and is well worth checking out.

InsideOut Music

4. Wheel – Charismatic Leaders (InsideOut)

Over the years a number of Tool-influenced prog metal bands have been dropping albums, Soen perhaps the most successful of them. Wheel fall in this category as well. This Finnish-Anglo band is almost ten years old now, and Charismatic Leaders is their third album. The quality has not dropped off at all over time.

The Tool influences are still firmly atop the music, but Wheel are coming into their own now, with greater emotion in the delivery and more aggression in the songs. While other bands can come off as derivative, Wheel are moving past this and embracing both their heroes and their own individuality. It’s great to hear them putting it all together like this on their third, highly recommended, album.

Season Of Mist

5. Rotting Christ – Pro Xristou (Season Of Mist)

While it has been five years since the legendary Greek black metal band Rotting Christ‘s last studio album, there has been no shortage of available material. Since The Heretics there has been a split, a box set, two live albums, three compilations and an EP issued. Pro Xristou is their 14th studio album.

The album’s title translates to “Before Christ,” and the subject matter deals with the era of the last Pagan kings before Christianity. The songs are epic in scope, though relatively streamlined in length. Extremity, melody and atmosphere blend seamlessly on tracks like the grandiose “Like Father, Like Son” and the intense “La Lettera Del Diavolo.” Frontman Sakis Tolis mixes fierce harsh vocals and more melodic moments. Pro Xristou moves the band forward while incorporating their trademark style. More than 35 years after their formation, Rotting Christ are as vital and impactful as they have ever been.

Sacred Bones Records

6. Thou – Umbilical (Sacred Bones)

Sludge/doom purveyors Thou have been quiet for nearly six years upon the release of Umbilical, their sixth full-length. Known for their heavy, groove-laden and misery-soaked approach, Thou are a unique band. Vocalist Bryan Funck’s vocal style is reminiscent of Mike IX Williams of Eyehategod, but these are different bands, with more walls of guitar feedback, making their three guitar, one bass attack feel like a military assault.

The 1-2 punch of “Narcissist’s Prayer” and “Emotional Terrorist” makes for an oppressive drone doom experience and the latter has thick grooves that help make for a varied and continually heavy and varied front. Fans of Thou will appreciate the album’s heft as well as its more bite-sized length when compared to other full-length albums from this Baton Rouge-based battery. Umbilical is absolutely thick and grimy in all the ways you expect from a Thou release, one of their most consistent albums to date.

Other 2024 Best Monthly Album Lists

January 2024 Best Heavy Metal Albums
February 2024 Best Heavy Metal Albums
March 2024 Best Heavy Metal Albums
April 2024 Best Heavy Metal Albums

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.