Burning Ambulance’s week-long countdown of the year’s best metal albums continues with #s 15-11. Into the pit!
15. Crown The Empire, The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways (Buy It)
A young band’s second album is a big hurdle to clear. The cliché is that you’ve got your whole life to write your first album, and a year to write your second. Well, this Dallas-based six-piece have stepped up in a big way; “metalcore” is officially too small a word to contain what Crown The Empire (along with a few other bands like Pierce The Veil and Blessthefall) do. Every aspect of The Resistance: Rise Of The Runaways is bigger, harder, and just more than The Fallout. Andrew Velasquez’ and David Escamilla’s vocals take modern rock frontman-hood in thrilling directions, adding a non-cheesy theatricality that suits the album’s concept-album-ness perfectly. Behind them, Brandon Hoover and Bennett Vogelman’s guitars rip and sear; Hayden Tree’s bass is a jangling, floor-shaking throb; Brent Taddie’s drumming is crisp and martial. The songs are dramatic and catchy in equal measure, heavy when necessary, and capable of sweeping emotional power, too.
The Satanist is Polish death metal band Behemoth’s most musically ambitious, and welcoming, album. The songs are the most melodic they’ve ever written, and they’re produced and mixed to give the guitars and bass have their own clearly demarcated spaces; at several crucial points, the bass is revealed as a postpunkish grind, rather than the usual throbbing, one-octave-down mirror of the guitar. The drumming isn’t all blast, all the time, either; midtempo grooves occur repeatedly. Orchestral trumpets augment several songs, and “In the Absence ov Light” stops dead about a minute in, for a dramatic recitation (in Polish) over acoustic guitar and cello(?). The guitar solos are the most conventionally hard rock/metal ever heard on a Behemoth album; the shredtastic final 90 seconds of “Messe Noire” could have come off a mid ’80s Dio album. And the vocals, while retaining the blasting power of old, are more human than ever. A genuine breakthrough.
Cleveland’s Ringworm are easily one of the top candidates for Angriest Band On Earth. Their blend of hardcore primitivism, thrash riffing, and the astonishing vocals of James “Human Furnace” Bulloch make Hatebreed and Terror, never mind their long-overrated peers Integrity, sound like Tegan & Sara. Hammer of the Witch is their debut for Relapse, but it doesn’t represent much of a change from the pattern established on their four albums for Victory—and that’s a good thing. It’s a simple formula because it keeps right on working: Ringworm riff; you mosh. Human Furnace roars and howls; you shout along, and mosh. The occasional squealing guitar solo (or rumbling bass intro, as on “Leave Your Skin at the Door”) punctuates the barrage, offering a momentary rest break, before it’s time to get back to moshing. This is a knuckle-walking, face-punching, tooth-spitting hardcore/metal album that’ll have you looking around for things and people that could use a good kicking.
Obituary have made exactly one change in their style since forming in the late 1980s: vocalist John Tardy started writing lyrics. On their 1989 debut, he spent multiple tracks just making guttural sounds. But beyond that, they’re doing what they’ve always done on Inked in Blood, their ninth studio album and first in five years. Their songs shift back and forth between speedy death metal and slow, grinding sludge, with the guitar solos all squeals and dive-bombs, and drummer Donald Tardy always maintaining a supple, almost swinging groove. This is music meant to make a pit look like a dancefloor instead of a riot; it’s got a strutting energy that’ll put a smile on your face as you pump your fist and flail your hair around (if it’s long enough). Obituary are entertainers; they give their fans what they want—they’re enough of a known quantity that they were able to crowdfund this album’s production without risk of dissatisfying a single customer.
Like Obituary, Vader are a band that plays to their strengths. They make muscular, headbanging death metal that owes a lot to Slayer and Deicide, but has nonetheless been extremely influential on its own. They were the first extreme metal band to break out of Poland, so in some ways they’re the fathers of one of the most creative scenes on the planet (Behemoth, Decapitated, and Lost Soul all came in their wake). Tibi et Igni is typical Vader—frontman and only remaining original member Piotr Wiwczarek roars his lyrics over buzzsaw riffs and machine-gun drumming, every moment a relentless barrage. While the individual songs may blur into the mass of the album as a whole, that only makes it easier to just sit back and let it all wash over you like a hail of red-hot rivets. Vader never disappoint, and this album is one more brick in the solid wall of death metal mastery that is their discography.