Hey hey metal folk, here's your latest chunk of metals old, nu, death-warmed and black. Probably one of the richest KnuckleTrack listening experiences in a while, this one contains some of the BW&BK scribes' favourite pop combos, including Cradle Of Filth, Nevermore, Cryptopsy and a hard 'n' heavy Yngwie Malmsteen. Inbetwixt are some of the new potential usurpers to these great acts, people pushing the boundaries of metal, provoking us to question the limitations of hard music. So barricade yourself, prepare for a metal winter and listen up!
1) NEVERMORE -'Believe In Nothing' 4:19; from Dead Heart In A Dead World (Century Media)
Likely to top most writers' polls for 2000, Dead Heart In A Dead World is arguably the reigning masterpiece of this cherished Seattle institution, rocked by the raw guitar bite of producer Andy Sneap, shoved into the memory circuits by hooky yet somber, proud choruses, confounded by Warrel's intelligent lyrical passion.
2) CRADLE OF FILTH -'Her Ghost In The Fog' 6:20; from Midian (Koch)
The biggest black metal band on the planet come storming back through controversy and turmoil to deliver their most immediate and guitary album yet. Midian has been afforded an exceptional reception, likely because of its panoramic, theatrical vibe fired in the crucible of traditional metal discipline. Deliciously dark.
3) ENSLAVED - 'Aeges Draum' 4:41; from Mardraum: Beyond The Within (Necropolis)
This new Enslaved album is so good, we had to get them involved twice (the lords of black Viking metal were also on last month's KnuckleTracks). Destined for many year end poll best of lists, Enslaved have cranked their majestic, retro masterpiece, a black metal album that reaffirms the band's ranking with the Emperors and Immortals of this charred earth. www.necropolisrecords.com
4) DARK FUNERAL - 'Open The Gates' 4:34; from In The Sign_(Necropolis)
In the history books of the esteemed black metal pantheon, Dark Funeral reign defiant as one of maybe three or four true originators. Come hither and hear the vocals, blastbeats, frenetic riff work and doomful power that spawned many an imitator. Perfection and an adherence to roots mark this band's career, and they have indeed been rewarded by universal accolades from the underground and above. www.necropolisrecords.com
5) OVERKILL -'Can't Kill A Dead Man' 4:03; from Bloodletting (Metal-Is)
In the book of thrash, Overkill reign supreme, chiefly through their intelligent arrangements, smooth but swiftly crushing productions and a lyrical attack that is as thought-provoking as it is carnal. Come witness the elite of metal's American wing, created by musicians that are the top of their extreme game.
6) MACABRE -'Konerak' 1:51; from Dahmer (Olympic)
Controversial to say the least, the legendary Macabre do a whole 26 track concept album about serial killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. Lyrically graphic, and musically a capable cross between traditional metal, death, hardcore and speed, Dahmer is produced to perfection by none other than Neil Kernon of Queensryche/Dokken fame. www.olyrecords.com
7) ALICE COOPER -'Gimme' 4:45; from Brutal Planet (Spitfire)
Brutal Planet has been heralded as one of the Coop's coolest and hardest albums in years, not to mention the most cynical and well, brutal. And the high-concept stage show is also gathering accolades as Alice takes his future tale to hearts and minds that might be able to head off at the pass this bleak future Alice warns us about.
8) GODSMACK -'Awake' 5:04; from Awake (Universal)
One of the heavier, more traditional and all round cooler acts considered cutting edge nu-metal, Godsmack possess the bottom end grunge grind to kill all rappy hip-hop posers. Awake will be the album to push these deafening angst rockers over the top, the band's powerful yet somber sound coming off like Machine Head but with sonorous, hypnotic vocals.
9) BRUJERIA -'Brujerizmo' 3:49; from Brujerizmo (Roadrunner)
The mystery supergroup of revolutionaries is back with another slashing pile of boulder-rolling death. It is rumoured that Nick Barker is the drummer of this version of L.A.'s legendary masked marauders, but they'll never tell. And if they did it would be in death-growled Spanish. A unique entity, and a question mark on the face of extreme activism.
10) EXCEL -'Spare The Pain' 5:14; from Split Image (Rotten)
A reissue of an innovative late '80s thrasher, Split Image demonstrates a band ahead of their time, bringing punk into the world of thrash, iced with a chilly touch of doom. The album was produced by vocalist Dan Clements in conjunction with hot metal dude Randy Burns (Megadeth, Possessed), and the result is a complex yet still dangerous and chaotic skate-tinged speedster. Contact: POB 2157, Montclair CA 91763, 909-624-2332, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.rottenrecords.com
11) LAMB OF GOD -'Letter To The Unborn' 2:56; from New American Gospel (Metal Blade)
Formerly Burn The Priest, Lamb Of God are a highly unique and innovative slash of death metal featuring leanings into black, traditional, grind and hardcore with a big dose of Pantera. In other words, this band's sound is an entirely new metal conundrum, expertly thrown forward, hard, precise, musicianly, brutal.
12) SIX FEET UNDER -'Holocaust' 4:39; from Graveyard Classics (Metal Blade)
There's good reason why Six Feet Under are now the biggest death metal band in the U.S., Barnes & Co. knowing just how to push those groove buttons while the man at the mic delivers an uncompromising growl that sends the mosh pit swimmin'. Graveyard Classics is a full covers album from the boys, and this of course is one of Savatage's proudest moments.
13) CRYPTOPSY -'Voice Of Unreason' 2:53; from And Then You'll Beg (Century Media)
Quebec's Cryptopsy have for a few years now, been considered one of the fresh, intelligent explorers of death metal. Their new album however, just might push the band past Nile and Morbid Angel into an exalted zone, propelled by traces of blackness Satyricon-style and chops within and beyond the hot New England noisecore genre. Awe-inspiring arrangements and performances: a death masterwerk is born.
14) BOULDER -'The Invasion' 2:51; from Ravage And Savage (Teepee)
Irreverent? Yes, but Ohio's Boulder are garnering ecstatic reviews throughout the land with their Melvins-meets-stoner rock take on all things classic metal. The liner notes alone make this album worth it. But then there's the lyrics and those big, steaming riffs. Come see why this is one of the highest rated indie albums throughout Press-land. Contact: POB 20307, NY, NY 10009-9991, www.teepeerecords.com or www.boulder.8m/com
15) YNGWIE MALMSTEEN -'Crucify' 6:44; from War To End All Wars (Spitfire)
Metal's undisputed top visionary of the guitar returns triumphant with an American label deal and likely touring to follow. What's more, the man is hell-bent on metal dominance through his heaviest album ever, War To End All Wars simultaneously not sacrificing the blazing note density of the controversial Alchemy release.
16) LAJON -'Angel's Son' 3:48; from Straight Up (Immortal/Virgin)
'Angel's Son' is from an innovative tribute to deceased Snot vocalist James Lynn Strait, Strait Up featuring the Snot band backed by today's biggest hard rock draws, including the likes of Jonathan from Korn, Fred from Limp Bizkit, Corey from Slipknot, Serj from System Of A Down and Max from Soulfly. This track features Lajon from Sevendust turning in a lush, intriguingly Eastern ballad with a hypnotic haunt.