10. Tribulation, Children Of The Night Amazon
On their third album, Tribulation are incorporating elements of occult rock and ’70s AOR into their music, which started out as fairly traditional Swedish death metal. The first sound heard is a haunted-church organ, and when the guitars come roaring in, they’re surprisingly Opeth-esque. On “Strange Gateways Beckon,” a one-note keyboard pulse repeatedly crops up, recalling Blue Öyster Cult. Each song has its own feel; some verge on classic rock, while others are doomy and ominous, and still others move in an almost Goth/postpunk, all while maintaining an essential metal-ness, mostly due to Johannes Andersson’s dry, agonized vocals.
9. Lost Soul, Atlantis: The New Beginning Amazon – Bandcamp
Polish death metal band Lost Soul exhibit all the muscle of previous albums like Chaostream and Immerse In Infinity on their first release in six years (barring 2013’s Genesis: XX Years Of Chaoz, which featured re-recordings of old songs). But there’s compositional and musical ambition on display, too, with the addition of female vocals, strings, and a greater structural complexity than ever before. Poland consistently produces some of the most face-punching, addictively rifftastic death metal around, and Lost Soul deserve to be put on the same plane of critical respect and fan devotion as Behemoth, Decapitated and Vader.
8. Visigoth, The Revenant King Amazon
The full-length debut from Utah-based Visigoth offers a massive dose of pure headbanging pleasure. The riffs are huge and fist-pumping; the tempos gallop; the vocals soar, with memorable choruses designed for audience singalongs – this is what heavy metal is meant to sound like. There’s a sense of humor present, too, that’s absent in the work of, say, Manowar; those guys would never have written a song called “Dungeon Master.” There are no growls, no blast beats – this is metal to be played at massive outdoor festivals. The album even includes a cover of “Necropolis,” by Manilla Road, another American band working in this decidedly European-friendly style.
7. High On Fire, Luminiferous Amazon High On Fire’s debut was the sound of guitarist Matt Pike working his previous band, Sleep, out of his system. But on each of the six albums that have followed, they’ve been models of consistency. Fast, scorching riffs; bass like storm clouds coming over the horizon; drums like war hammers; and Pike’s hoarse, desperate howls atop it all. It’s been up to producers to work small changes on their sound. For the second time in a row, Kurt Ballou’s behind the board, and he’s inspired Pike to write some of the best songs of the band’s career, most notably the doomy, psychedelic ballad “The Cave.” But even typical HoF blasts like “Carcosa” and “The Lethal Charmer” are better than usual. This is a career peak.
6. Apparatus, Apparatus Bandcamp
Danish death metal outfit Apparatus’s music and lyrical subject matter aim for listener unease and Lovecraftian cosmic horror, rather than headbanging riff-storms and tedious Satanism. There are similarities to French acts like Chaos Echoes and Spektr, with hints of Australia’s Portal and New Zealand’s Ulcerate tossed into the cauldron as well. Dissonant and slow-crawling, the songs are built around haunted, almost detuned-sounding riffs that clang and scrape. There are no guitar solos. The drums pound in a ritualistic and tribal manner, and the blast beats that appear are more assaultive than martial; they repel, rather than inspiring headbanging. Dissonant, tumultuous and concussive, this album strives to unsettle, even as it sucks the listener deep into its world.