There’s a lot of metal out there, and in cold weather something loud and heavy can be just the thing. Here are five new and upcoming releases worth a listen.
The Lurking Fear are a sort of Swedish death metal supergroup. Their lineup includes three-fifths of the current incarnation of At The Gates (vocalist Tomas Lindberg, guitarist Jonas Stålhammar, and drummer Adrian Erlandsson), Andreas Axelsson of Skitsystem and Disfear on bass, and Fredrik Wallenberg, also of Skitsystem, on guitar. They debuted in 2017 with the three-track Winged Death EP, followed quickly by their first full-length, Out of the Voiceless Grave. Four years later, they’re back with Death, Madness, Horror, Decay, a title that cries out for an exclamation point (if not four). The music is less melodic and much less catchy than ATG’s, and unlike that band’s latest, there are no saxophone solos, for good or ill. This is headlong, aggressive material — three songs are in the 70- to 90-second range, and even on slower tracks like “Architects of Madness,” Erlandsson’s drumming is mixed like an avalanche. Lindberg’s vocals, as always, are a real you’re-in-or-you’re-out proposition: he’s only got one sound, a hoarse shriek, which works well enough with the material, but it’s hard not to wonder what a more dynamic frontman might bring to riffs this furious.
San Diego’s Pathology have had a tough time of it. The only steady member is drummer Dave Astor; their current vocalist, guitarist and bassist all joined in 2018, and the band had seven frontmen before this guy (not counting two who only performed live) and four previous guitarists. They formed in 2006, but from 2012 to 2018, they were a studio-only project, releasing five albums — The Time of Great Purification, Lords of Rephaim, Throne of Reign, a self-titled disc, and Reborn to Kill — on as many labels. (The self-titled album was also self-released.) Somehow, these dead-enders have wound up signed to Nuclear Blast, and they have a new album out, their 11th. It’s called The Everlasting Plague, and the cover art depicts zombies rampaging through a ruined city. Track titles include “Viciously Defiled,” “Submerged in Eviscerated Carnage,” “Dirge for the Infected,” and “Corrosive Cranial Affliction.” But the lyrics are completely indecipherable, so it hardly matters. What matters is that Obie Flett delivers them in a bearish roar and that guitarist Dan Richardson and bassist Ricky Jackson crank out speedy, Cannibal Corpse-ish riffs with producer Zack Ohren adding plenty of the subsonic bass booms that brutal death metal fans demand. If you’re in the mood for face-punching death metal, you could do a lot worse.
Germany’s Obscura have been pumping out extremely high-level technical death metal since 2002, but their membership is in near-constant flux, with guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer the only constant presence. This time out, he’s joined by guitarist Christian Münzner and bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling, both of whom played on the band’s Cosmogenesis and Omnivium albums, and new drummer David Diebold. Obscura have experimented with all kinds of things in the past. Their albums have included tracks that nodded to Cynic, to Trivium, to Opeth, and to Stanley Clarke — the use of fretless bass always gives their music a hint of jazz fusion, but sometimes they really lean into it. This time, though, they seem to be aiming for an almost…radio-friendly version of extreme metal. The songs are still blindingly fast, with complex riffs flying in every direction and the aforementioned fretless bass burbling in the middle, but several tracks have real choruses, Kummerer’s scratchy-throated shouting is almost catchy, and on “When Stars Collide,” Bjorn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork contributes high, clean vocals. The band hasn’t sold out in any way; this is still technical death metal, pretty much guaranteed to be alienating to the unconverted. But it feels like they’re trying to stretch themselves as songwriters, which is admirable.
France’s Cadaveric Fumes have been a band for a decade, but are just now releasing their first full-length album, which is also their farewell gesture; they’ve broken up. In a way it’s too bad. I mean, the world is full of bands, but Echoing Chambers of Soul is really good. The band play (played, I guess) pounding death metal that has some qualities in common with Morbid Angel, minus the wiggy guitar ejaculations. It’s more like a slow-motion avalanche, but just when you feel like your skull’s going to cave in, a piercing upper-register shriek of guitar comes through the murk, creating an almost…uplifting feeling. There are no hooks, no particularly memorable riffs, but there are more elements to a given song than you may expect, and the cumulative impression is one of grandiosity. Some death metal bands like to wallow in the mud, and others journey out amid the stars; Cadaveric Fumes are/were somewhere in between, planted on Earth but building sonic cathedrals.
In 2019, Sunn O))) released two studio albums, Life Metal and Pyroclasts. They were companion pieces, recorded in Chicago with engineer Steve Albini and guests that included bassist Tim Midyett, organist Anthony Pateras, synth player Tos Nieuwenhuizen, and most notably cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir. Although the guitars were as downtuned and world-engulfing as ever, the music was lighter in tone than anything they’d done in years, emphasizing their spiritual drone side rather than their metal side. Now they’ve turned the pair into a trilogy with the release of Metta, Benevolence. BBC 6Music: Live on the Invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs, a radio performance from October of that year. The version of Sunn O))) heard includes the two co-leaders, Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, on guitar and synth, Nieuwenhuizen on synth, Stephen Moore on trombone and synth, Midyett on bass, and Anna von Hausswolff on synth and vocals. They perform two versions of a piece called “Pyroclasts,” one in F and one in C sharp, and a version of “Troubled Air,” from Life Metal. The original was just under 12 minutes long, centered around Pateras’s pipe organ; this version runs more than half an hour. Like most of Sunn O)))‘s best work (a list that includes Monoliths & Dimensions, Oracle, Kannon, Dømkirke, Life Metal and Pyroclasts), Metta, Benevolence is an intense, immersive experience, psychedelic and almost dreamlike. It’s almost two albums in one, because it hits completely differently on headphones than it does through speakers.