Looks to be a banner year for metal, with the likes of Opeth, Amorphis, Dimmu, Savatage and the exalted Slayer set to stake turf in '01. We kick off Super Brawl XXX (damn, that's a lot of samplers!) with an epic from what will be many a scribe and fan's rekkid of the year, Opeth's Blackwater Park. From there, well, like I say, it looks to be a stellar year for steel.
1) OPETH - 'Bleak' 9:15; from Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/Koch)
A masterful, futuristic, and at the same time paganistic, flow of musical genius, Blackwater Park, and this track 'Bleak', establish Opeth as the Led Zeppelin of extreme music. Mikael Akerfedt has written a dark journey into intense creativity that will have fervent musicologists at a loss for superlatives to describe the cathedral of turbulence at hand.
2) DIMMU BORGIR - 'Indoctrination' 4:42; from Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (Nuclear Blast)
Norway's Dimmu Borgir and Britain's Cradle Of Filth are without question, the biggest black metal bands on the planet. And now with Borknagar's Vortex and Old Man Child's Galder as permanent members, the creativity coming out of this evil army is truly frightening.
3) SOILWORK - 'Grand Failure Anthem' 5:20; from A Predator's Portrait (Nuclear Blast)
The biggest buzz band from the irascible next breed of Gothenburg-style progressive thrash bands, Soilwork have created a razor-wire masterpiece with this guitar-scorched speed machine. These are some of the most heart-bursting and well-reasoned riffs you are likely to hear outside of Arch Enemy. Harsh, classic and expertly arranged, A Predator's Portrait will quickly vault Soilwork into the upper echelons.
4) AMORPHIS - 'Alone' 6:17; from Am Universum (Relapse)
Finland's reigning lords of progressive doom are back with a hotly-anticipated new studio album that is perplexing and provoking people to readjust their ideas of metal majesty. Once more championing the cause of high art, Am Universum is audiophile melodic madness with a poison core. www.relapse.com
5) CATHEDRAL - 'Requiem For The Sun' 6:54; from Endtyme (Earache)
Lee Dorrian and his original shag rock machine Cathedral are back to twist minds and bulldoze brains with the band's long-awaited Endtyme album. Truly one of the most innovative, surprising and at times, downright atonal of class acts, Cathedral will amuse and bruise in equal portions with their tongue-in-cheek creak metal abominations. www.earache.com
6) DIECAST - 'In The Shadows' 3:50; from Day Of Reckoning (Now Or Never)
With a pulverizing, rhythmic, note-dense hardcore sound, Diecast will quickly find themselves vaulting above current buzz bands like Nonpoint, Nothingface, Glassjaw and a rejuvenated Earth Crisis. The production of Day Of Reckoning is enough to cook your speakers, and the band's canny sense of dynamic will send the pit mad with metal. Contact 732-758-0808 or email@example.com or noworneverrecords.com
7) CANVAS - 'Elephant Shoes' 2:37; from Lost In Rock (Metal Blade)
Somewhat of a mystery band, UK's pioneering Canvas infused elements of the avantgarde, as well as characteristics from Therapy?, Fugazi and Wire into a deep, chops-mad well of New England math rock, terrorism to the fore, anguished screams, riffs of the future that just might have had some effect on At The Drive-in. At times abstract, always thought-provoking.
8) HASTE - 'Engine' 3:43; from When Reason Sleeps (Century Media)
Alabama's Haste continue to utilize their highly unique two vocalist attack to great effect, the band writing innovative hardcore on this their second album, that has seen them tour hard with the likes of Kittie, Stuck Mojo and Boysetsfire. Instantly addictive but intellectual in its collection of wily arrangements, When Reason Sleeps might be the saviour of modern metal, pulling the nu-folks back to the pounding metal roots.
9) ANVIL - 'Groove Science' 3:20; from Plenty Of Power (Hypnotic)
The reigning lords of old school thrash, Anvil return with an explosive collection of tracks fired high with virtuosity and of course, lots of groove science. Already hailed in Europe as the best since Forged In Fire, Plenty Of Power is sending the Germans mosh-mad, sure to culminate in a tour for these Canuck legends but quick. Thick, pounding, this is Anvil at their headbanged best.
10) NIGHTWISH - 'The Kinslayer' 3:59; from Wishmaster (Century Media)
Building on the true classical metal idea perhaps pioneered by Therion, Finland's Nightwish are (G)athering effusive accolades, huge crowds and impressive sales in every metal territory with their high quality riffs sweetened by the operatic vocals of the one and only mistress of metal class, Tarja Turunen. Come hear why their cherished aristocratic sound has made them one of Finland's top three bands.
11) IRON SAVIOR - 'Predators' 3:54; from Dark Assault (Noise)
German power metal from the pros, Iron Savior is back with another elaborate and precise slammer of an album designed to put the speed and chops back into a genre getting all too progressive and bombastic. Iron Savior features Kai Hansen and Piet Sielck in one of the most potent guitar teams traditional Eurometal has ever seen. And once more, the storyline is worlds apart.
12) DIESEL MACHINE - 'Bones And All' 3:17; from Torture Test (Steamhammer/SPV)
Crushing, razor-sharp riffs, hardcore-lethal vocals, and a percussive attack that could only come from Schenker's Shane Gaalaas propel this dry, angry masterwork of an album into a zone similar to Pantera but somewhat more leaden, serious, harsher through determined forward motion. Contact: www.dieselmachine.net or www.sickheavymusic.com
13) GANDALF - 'One More For The Dead' 4:43; from Rock Hell (Earache)
Finnish death 'n' roll shoot-'em-ups Gandalf have conquered the drug called rock 'n' roll with this addictive slab of headbanger fare that finds Maiden hanging with Motorhead at Dismember's crash pad. Or if that description don't do it for ya, imagine Children Of Bodom tanked with a taste of Tygers Of Pan Tang, Gandalf putting the alcohol back in metal just in time for spring. Bloody 'ell! www.earache.com
14) DI'ANNO -'The Living Dead' 5:34; from Nomad (Perris)
Featuring Paul Di'Anno's best band since he was with a small pop combo called Iron Maiden for two seminal albums, Iron Maiden and Killers, Nomad is Di'Anno's classic metal blast from down under, down under meaning that Paul has tapped talent from his beloved Brazil for a grand, powerful, expertly produced collection of 11 intelligent power metal tracks. Contact POB 783, Cedar Park, TX 78630 or 512-260-6835 or www.perrisrecords.com
15) RAMMSTEIN - 'Links 234' 3:42; from Mutter (Motor/Universal)
Wildly successful with their locked-down industrial metal discipline, Rammstein are a wicked little piece of the hard rock world, and an explosion for the senses live. Now onto their third album, look for these severe Germans to cause fiery destruction the world over with their instantly imprintable futuristic stomp. You've been warned.