New year, my leather-clad minions, and metal is pumping right along with a raft of new proposals after a pretty quiet December as everybody threw a rolled-up Backstreet Boys poster onto the fire and drifted away with a shot of the hard stuff. As usual, the following is a great cross-section of the goods we all debate rightly or more rightly as falling under the big blood-dripping metal umbrella (obligatory Slayer reference). So check it out, get yer wallets out and support these mostly impoverished men suffering for their art.
1) ANNIHILATOR - 'Battered' 5:21; from Carnival Diablos (Metal-Is/BMG)
There's no mistaking that Jeff Waters, bolstered by his collaboration with new vocalist Joe Comeau ex-of-Overkill, has created a masterpiece of riff-mad metal here, Carnival Diablos presenting on a silver platter the axe legend's exacting, powerful axe mechanics, proving why Watters is indeed, Canada's prime six string musicologist. And now signed with Sanctuary/Metal-Is, 2001 should find Annihilator crushing crowds the world over.
2) PRIMAL FEAR - 'Kiss Of Death' 3:49; from Nuclear Fire (Nuclear Blast)
No question Primal Fear with their rock starry line-up and aspirations, have become the sterling crisp frontrunner of the highly active European power metal scene. And they've won metal hearts through the personality in their songs, also, importantly, through the distinct vocal stylings of Ralf Scheepers. Come see what the steel bird buzz is all about.
3) ZYKLON - 'Deduced To Overkill' 3:15; from World Ov Worms (Candlelight)
If Peccatum leaves you drowsy, then look no further than this vicious black metal firestorm designed by Emperor guitarist Samoth to indulge his fast, violent side. With the two, you've got both extremes that make up the Emperor sound, Zyklon definitely being the steel-on-steel blastbeated black metal beast of the two, cunning, quick and highly acidic.
4) ODES OF ECSTASY -'One With The Darkness' 4:48; from Deceitful Melody (The End)
If this song doesn't hook you in to this elegant Greek gothic band's hypnotic knack for gloomy melody, you're dead and buried! Odes OF Ecstasy have garnered raves for their symphonic keyboards, versatile death vocals, female siren vocals and their accessible Sentenced-like riffing. A classic of this difficult, competitive genre. Contact: 556 S. Fair Oaks Ave., #101-111, Pasadena CA 91105 or www.theendrecords.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
5) LOVE HISTORY - 'Angealism' 5:26; from Anasazi (The End)
Majestic, resplendent, a full year in the making, Anasazi takes the mournful tones of goth and death deeper and more daringly into the world of folk and prog than any record of this realm. Each track is loaded with dynamics from tender acoustic to the most carnivorous of death growls, all with a sense of adventure that is astonishing. Contact: 556 S. Fair Oaks Ave., #101-111, Pasadena CA 91105 or www.theendrecords.com or email@example.com
6) VINTERSORG - 'Rainbow Demon' 4:01; from Cosmic Genesis (Napalm)
Known as one of the best vocalists in Sweden, Vintersorg lends his unique stylings here to the lost Uriah Heep classic. Elsewhere, one finds a honing of the band's rich and diverse Viking metal pageantry, which includes lyrics in both Swedish and English. Extremely ambitious, exciting, creative black prog power metal that belongs in the same class as Nightingale, Opeth and Amorphis. Contact POB 382, Bremerton WA 98337 or 360-792-0277 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.napalmrecords.com.
7) LABYRINTH - 'Sons Of Thunder' 5:00; from Sons Of Thunder (Metal Blade)
Headmasters of power metal's third wave, Italy's Labyrinth are destined to steal the, er, thunder from second wave home soil competitors Rhapsody with their controversy-shrouded Neil Kernon-produced Sons Of Thunder album. The sound is sparkly, spontaneous and cutting, Labyrinth's guitar-heavy metal material winning legions of fans who like their epic metal at full volume.
8) CHILDREN OF BODOM - 'Bodom After Midnight' 3:44; from Follow The Reaper (Nuclear Blast)
Slashing their way to the top of a heap they themselves created, Children Of Bodom continue to capture the world's imagination with their harsh-minded power metal, fronted by the guitar god majesty of Alexi Laiho. Fast, precise and nasty, this is why the boys from Lake Bodom have created ever-intensifying metal mania with each successive release.
9) PAUL DIANNO - 'Murders In The Rue Morgue' 4:14; from The Beast Live (Spitfire)
Nothing like hearing these old Maiden chestnuts with the original leather-clad belter singing them proud and true. The Beast Live is solid Maiden through and through, ten tracks recorded by Paul's bounty of solo bands over the years. They play the hell out of them, and Paul sings the hell out of them. Cheers!
10) THE FORSAKEN - 'Betrayal Within Individuals' 4:40; from Manifest Of Hate(Century Media)
Hailed as the next best band in Swedish thrash, The Forsaken have turned in a fast yet epic collection of crushers that remind one of invigorated Hypocrisy crossed with The Hunted, At The Gates and Dimmu Borgir. A trouncing debut that is sure to knock a few standbys off the mount, Manifest Of Hate was recorded by Peter Tagtgren's brother Tommy, who captures the band in all its dead-perfect fury.
11) MEMORY GARDEN - 'River Of Sludge' 4:48; from Mirage (Metal Blade)
Sweden's Memory Garden pretty much own the franchise that finds the band blurring the distinction between doom metal and power metal. Scintillating old-school sorrow awaits those who climb into these pounding contraptions of black and blue frozen pain. Produced by the doom master himself Mike Wead, who also lent his services to '98's well-received Verdict Of Posterity.
12) DIAMOND HEAD - 'It's Electric (Remix)' 3:35; from Diamond Nights (Metal Blade)
Of all the NWOBHM bands who didn't break through (and there were many), none have captured the imagination as much as Diamond Head, often trumpeted (by themselves as well as critics!) as the next Led Zeppelin. This compilation gathers the band's early recordings, many of them non-LP rarities, charting the beginnings of a band that the ultimate fans, Metallica, have covered many times.
13) ONWARD - 'The Last Sunset' 3:20; from Evermoving (Century Media)
Leading the New Wave Of American Power Metal, Onward have arrived with their debut album Evermoving, after Sentinel Steel's Dennis Gulbey discovered the band and struck a deal with Century Media for its unleashing. Guitarist Toby Knapp leads the charge, the man being a true guitar shredder with a solo album on Shrapnel. Very British-sounding, dark, electric and regal.
14) TRAIL OF TEARS - 'Driven Through The Ruins' 5:48; from Profoundemonium (Napalm)
One of the most frighteningly depressive bands on the gothic scene, Trail Of Tears causes shocking death quakes with their panoramic keyboard and guitar onslaughts, writing long, deep, delicious and bloody compositions blessed with a variety of vocal presentation. Gorgeous booklet as well. Haunting, intelligent, and state of the art within the gothic doom genre. Contact POB 382, Bremerton WA 98337 or 360-792-0277 or email@example.com or www.napalmrecords.com.
15) DOG FASHION DISCO - 'Headless' 4:19; from Anarchists Of Good Taste (Spitfire)
Look past nu-metal and you'll see Dog Fashion Disco waiting for open minds to open wider. High praise from Nothingface and System Of A Down's Serj have set things up nicely for the imminent release of this highly interesting album which combines Clutch with Faith No More with System, nu-metal and well, swirling clown music. No less than the future of modern hard rock.
16) SKINLESS - 'Enslavement' 5:45; from Foreshadowing Our Demise (Relapse)
Death that takes is back to the grindcore basement, Skinless are a crushing, relentless example of the power of a low slow blast of grind. First for relapse, second overall (their indie sold 11,000 copies!), this New York band have turned heads with their insane grooves, uncompromising low vocals and innovative deathgrind riffs. www.relapse.com