Essential Metal Releases – Winter 2022 !!!

1. ZEAL & ARDOR : Zeal & Ardor (MVKA)

Every now and then a band hit the scene with an originality that makes them stand out from the crowd, and when Zeal & Ardor released their debut album Devil Is Fine in 2016, their offbeat blend of Avant-garde Rock, Blackened Post Metal and Delta Blues with African influenced vocals did just that. Originally the music was created solely by Manuel Gagneux, who then formed a band as the albums popularity grew, gigs such as the mighty Roadburn Festival were offered, and touring the music became inevitable.

In 2022 the Swiss band’s stock is at an all time high, and with the release of this their 3rd and self titled album, they have progressed their sound and created their finest collection of songs yet. There are some absolute stand out cuts such as Run and Death To The Holy, and the album roars through all manner of different genres with the band the heaviest it’s been in places, and at its most experimental in others. The creativity within this record is outstanding and Gagneux’s unique vocal style has never sounded better.

2. CULT OF LUNA : The Long Road North (Metal Blade Records)

Sweden’s Post Metal innovators have been releasing the highest quality of music for over 20 years, and with The Long Road North they have created something as epic, powerful and emotive as anything that has come from their outstanding catalogue before. Lead single Cold Burn showed exactly what was to follow when it dropped online in December 21, a heavy building track full of emotion, and with a video which creates a feeling of isolation, within a bleak and desolate landscape.

With An Offering To The Wild they may just have created one of their finest and memorable songs, opening with beautiful strings which make you feel at one with nature, before taking you on a relentless near 13 minute sombre and melancholic sonic journey. Cult Of Luna’s main man, vocalist and guitarist Johannes Persson sounds powerfully raw throughout, even when showcasing a cleaner vocal style on Into The Night. Sadly the band had to postpone their Beyond The Redshift festival in London at the beginning of March, but we’ll certainly be looking forward to catching the revised date, and the opportunity to see some of these songs performed live in the UK.

3. ROLO TOMASSI : Where Myth Becomes Memory (MNRK)

Sixth album from the Sheffield natives who now base themselves in Brighton, and this feels like it could be the one to propel them beyond their already sizeable cult following. Vocalist Eva Korman sings with a cleaner vocal style more than ever before on songs such as Closer and Almost Always, which means that when she breaks into her full throttle screams on standout tracks including Cloaked and Labyrinthine, the juxtaposition is even more impressive than ever before. She clearly has a distinctively beautiful voice either way.

The tone of this record is outstanding, making the band sound better than ever before, specifically Chris Cayford’s guitar which supplies fantastic riffs throughout and the keyboard/synth sound of second vocalist James Spence. A Rolo Tomassi record is always a chaotic affair as varying styles merge together at an almighty pace, and the band have never been shy about the influence that The Dillinger Escape Plan have had on their sound. However here the chaos is refined and expertly controlled, as Rolo Tomassi have evolved into a unique force of their own over the years.

4. WIEGEDOOD : There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road (Century Media Records)

For those that know, Wiegedood (translating asDeath In The Cradle’) have been a band bubbling away in the sizzling hot cauldron of the Post and Black Metal scene in Belgium, and form part of the Church Of Ra collective of artists that make up bands such as Amenra, Oathbreaker and Hessian, with all three founding members having played in those bands at one time or another. But Wiegedood are way more than just a side project, and have created a devastating sound of their own, while amassing an impressive body of work.

Having created a trilogy of Crust influenced Black Metal albums from 2015 – 2018 with De Doden Hebben Het Goed Parts 1-3, the band have undoubtedly now released their finest work with There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road, taking a more experimental approach to their music this time around with a greater use of samples and synths, accompanying some dazzling guitar work. All combine to create an extreme collection of music that is relentless throughout, with just the odd moment of melodic recourse to help you catch your breath.

5. VENOM PRISON : Erebos (Century Media Records)

Album number four for the now British based band led by former Wolf Down vocalist Larissa Stupar, who proves yet again that she is one of the finest Extreme Metal vocalists out there. The album is a furious rollercoaster ride of brutal emotion, as the band serve up a delicious dish with a blend of old school Death, Thrash and Groove Metal all rolled into one.

There are shades of 80’s Metallica and Slayer in the duel guitar work of Ash Gray and Ben Thomas, sprinkled with influences of Naplam Death and Carcass, while the band also allow themselves the scope for a little more experimentation on the beautiful Pain Of Oizys. This could be the album that propels them just that little bit further up the festival bills this year, and into the speakers of a fair few more homes.

6. CROWBAR : Zero and Below (MNRK Heavy)

With Crowbar it’s safe to say you know exactly what your getting. A tried and tested formula of sludgy Doom Metal, full of influences from Sabbath, St Vitus and Trouble and a sound they’ve been purveying for over 30 years. Zero and Below is their first record in six and follows to the formula to a tee, with vocalist, guitarist and main man Kirk Windstein showing that age is but a number, as he sounds as fresh as ever.

The New Orleans veteran has helped mould the ‘Nola’ sound and although his side project Down with Phil Anselmo and Corrosion Of Conformity’s Pepper Keenan maybe his most popular work, his day job and main focus has always been with Crowbar. His monstrous riffs are legendary, and this album is full of them. Crunching guitars soaked in distortion with the overdrive turned up to 11, Windstein also knows how to write a catchy hook, and this album stylishly flows from one to another.

7. AUTHOR & PUNISHER : Krüller (Relapse Records)

Author & Punisher aka Tristan Shone returns with his unique Industrial Metal fusion, created largely on synths and his own man made ‘Drone Machines’. This is an album that see’s his sound develop beyond the all out ferocity of his earlier releases on labels such as Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records. On Centurion he channels shades of Nine Inch Nails at their very heaviest, while naturally throughout you can’t help feel that bands like Ministry and Godflesh will have been an influence.

Misery features a lovely clanking hook, while on Blacksmith, Tristan goes for a sublimely weird and tripped out Aphex Twin style track of heavy Electronica. He even manages to squeeze in a fashionable Portishead head cover with a version of the Bristol Trip-Hop veterans Glory Box. Something different for sure and although lacking in standout guitar riffs, KRÜLLER still packs an almighty punch.

8. // NAPALM DEATH : Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw Of Throes (Century Media Records)

The legendary Midland’s Grindcore kings are 40 years into a unique career that has seen them reinvent a musical genre, while making themselves one of the most recognisable names in extreme music. With many early line up changes during the 1980’s, departing members went on to form bands such as Godflesh, Carcass and Cathedral, all considered UK Heavy Metal royalty. Over the last 30 years or so Napalms’s most recognisable faces, bassist Shane Embury and frontman Barney Greenway have continued to push the band with endless tours and new music.

In 2020 Napalm released the excellent Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism, their first record in 5 years, and now in Resentment Is Always Seismic, have released an 8 track mini LP from recordings left over and tweaked, from their previous albums recording sessions. For Napalm the music is quite experimental, and although we get some pure balls to wall Grindcore on cuts like Narcissus and By Proxy, there are also some slower moments and a couple of covers of songs from Bad Brains and Slab! Interestingly Shane Embury also drops a remix from his Dark Sky Burial side project, producing a mighty fine bass heavy, industrial groove.

Words by AbStrAkT_SoUL


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