Welcome. Let’s take a look at some of the latest releases to be put out this month in the world of extreme metal. This month’s picks are quite the mixed bunch. Three legends return and three of the hottest acts around remind us why their blazing flame has barely peaked. Let’s go….
Split E.P – Iron Reagan / Gatecreeper
I featured the two initial teaser tracks (one from each band) from this release back in January this year but now the entire split has finally surfaced. It was worth the wait I assure you.
Iron Reagan kick things off with 5 blistering tracks in their now familiar, crossover thrash style. Almost equal parts punk and thrash metal throughout. The band displays great musicianship in their delivery. “Proudly Unaccountable” is a stand out track for its shifting style and dynamics. The snare work from the drummer almost like a military march that helps it stand apart from the more classic crossover thrash moments. The two-hand tapping intro on “Paper Shredder” is one of many classic metal signposts you will come across on these recordings. Vocalist, Tony Foresta has an unmistakeable aggression running throughout this barrage of five tracks that hooks you in to his every word.
Gatecreeper are a busy band, it seems like 5 minutes ago when they released their last E.P, “Sweltering Madness”. Gatecreeper’s side starts with an instrumental scene setter in “Daybreak”. After the 2 minutes of the intro, the band launch into “Dead Inside”, introducing the full band at full heaviness. The difference in sound is immediate compared with Iron Reagan. This not just being a case of genre differences but the overall sound. Gatecreeper have maintained their Swedish death metal ultra-high gain guitars that are impossibly thick, heavy and gritty. “War Has Begun” is the final track on offer. The band channel all of their Bolt Thrower love into this one and it is done with a class you would expect from Arizona’s premier doomy desert death metal act. They’re a band that will deserve the words “The Mighty…” before their name soon enough.
“To Drink from the Night Itself” by At The Gates – Single
It’s like they’ve never been away. At The Gates, Sweden’s melodic death metal legends have returned. This song being the initial release from their forthcoming album, “To Drink from the Night Itself”. This is also the first set of recordings without founding guitarist, Anders Björler, though his bass playing twin, Jonas remains.
The track feels like coming home. There are no surprises other than the rhythm not having an obvious triplet feel unlike their classic “Slaughter of the Soul” album. There are some cool, sinister runs from the guitars that add some mean flavour to the track and the production is powerful and boomy. Be excited for their album, that would be my advice.
“Only One Way” by Code Orange – Single
Fresh from their Grammy nomination, Code Orange return with some new material. Two tracks, one being a remix of the other. This has all the hallmarks of Code Orange, there is no question of that but things have freshened up. New layers are emerging and if this latest offering, “Only One Way” is a taste of things to come, then I want a second helping, now. This track has guitarist Reba Meyers leading the vocals and is possibly the most melodic song they have released.
The band has retained their heaviness in typical style however with their trademark locked in phrasing between the bass and drums. Melodically this song reminds me of mid to late period Nine Inch Nails (I’m thinking ‘With Teeth’ / ‘Year Zero’ era). A punishing track that is packed full of interesting nuances and melody but grit yer teeth heavy.
The remix, “only1(the hard way)” is as enjoyable as the lead track in my opinion. Guitarist/Keyboardist, Shade from the band created this remix and it’s a great example of how a remix should be. Namely, interesting. The two tracks flow into each other really well and it feels like the remix is truly, a reflection of the original.
“Twilight Zone” by Ministry – Single
Some would argue Ministry helped start what we now know as Industrial metal. “Twilight Zone” is the first sampling from their forthcoming album, “Amerikkkant”. I am pleased that the band has focussed on their industrial edge as opposed to the more thrash leaning sound they have explored in recent years. The song clocks in at just over 8 minutes and packs in a lot, even in that amount of time.
“Twilight Zone” begins with some samples of none other than the 45th President of the United States. He is a sample bank, full of soundbites in his own right, let’s be honest. Manipulated samples via some Nu-Metal type record scratching, harmonica solos, and Presidential sound bites are just some of the eye-opening moments in this track. It’s certainly a fresh approach from Al Jourgensen and co that intrigues me enough to await the album.
“Arcana Imperii” by Ihsahn – Single
Emperor founder, Ihsahn is also back with some new music. His solo work being an ever-evolving state as were the black metal progenitors in their heyday.
One element that initially set Ihsahn’s solo work apart from Emperor was the added focus on melody from the vocals. Amongst his already established guitar playing and songwriting prowess is his honey soaked singing voice. It reminds me of the softer tones of Alice in Chains from Jerry Cantrell. His solo albums have truly been an exercise in evolution since the debut album, “The Adversary” back in 2006. “Arcana Imperil” is no different in this respect. A cleaner attack from the guitars is apparent at first. Ihsahn’s scratchy, throat-grating vocal is at home during the verses, only for this to be overshadowed later on in the song with the more melodic singing style, ripe with harmony and smoothness. The groove is almost Mars Volta like with the hi-hat work from the drums and even the guitars at times, boasting twisted, cycling riffs and leads. All of Ihsahn’s solo work to date has been of a highly dense composition style and musicality. “Arcana Imperil” is an interesting teaser from an album that is sure to impress, if previous albums are any kind of indication.
2018 is well and truly bursting out of the starting blocks.