1) THE CROWN - 'Death Is The Hunter' 4:17; from Crowned In Terror (Metal Blade/Universal)
No question who deserved to unleash this installment of KnuckleTracks, The Crown lacerating and strafing all contenders with this mercilessly fast and brutal epic of intelligent death proportions. And with Tomas Lindberg (ex-At The Gates) at vocals, The Crown have become the fastest rising force in extreme metal. Contact www.metalblade.com or www.thecrownonline.com for more info.
2) IMMORTAL - 'One By One 5:00; from Sons Of Northern Darkness (Nuclear Blast)
Searing yet accessible, high fidelity yet harsh, Sons Of Northern Darkness has once again vaulted Immortal to the absolute pantheon of the black metal domain. Receiving effusive accolades everywhere, this is quite simply a masterpiece of forcible epic metal. Contact www.nuclearblast.de/media or www.immortal.nu or email@example.com for more info.
3) RHAPSODY - 'Knightrider Of Doom' 3:57; from Power Of The Dragonflame (Limb Music/SPV/Fusion 3)
Italy's reigning kings of "Hollywood metal" return with their long-awaited opus, Return Of The Dragonflame set to slay all comers who dare make music as complex and impassioned as the best in the biz. Things are perhaps a little faster, more intense this time, but none less regal. Fans will be ecstatic. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.limb-music.de for more info.
4) ARCHETYPE - 'Hands Of Time' 4:28; from Dawning (Chris Matyus/BMI)
Creating visceral, dark, passionate, hi-fidelity power metal in the realm of Iced Earth or Nevermore, this Ohio band have on their hands an indie that should quickly and aggressively signed. These are some of the coolest riffs, drum grooves and Barlow-thespian vocals the BW&BK staff have heard in ages. Contact POB 41172, Brecksville, OH 44141-0172 or 440-263-8436 or email@example.com or www.archetype1.com
5) THE STORYTELLER - 'The Unknown' 5:35; from Crossroad (No Fashion/Fusion 3)
There's much discussion about the highly anticipated next album from these epic metal Swedes. After playing Manowar covers on stage with members of Hammerfall, The Storyteller is ready to unleash their Maiden-meets-Lizzy-meets-Stratovarius speed pageantry to a rapidly growing fanbase. Contact http://welcometo/storyteller or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more info.
6) VALLEY'S EVE - 'Point Of No Return' 4:42; from Deception Of Pain (Limb Music/SPV/Fusion 3)
Third album for this post-power metal outfit is an explosive, tight and often searing immersion way past earlier prog tendencies into the power aspect of power metal, led by the commanding vocals of Mystic Prophecy singer R.D. Liapakis. A new level of heaviness has been attained, with none of the virtuosity sacrificed. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.limb-music.de for more info.
7) ARCH ENEMY - 'Ravenous' 4:03; from Wages Of Sin (Century Media)
One of the big, big metal records of the year, Wages Of Sin features the debut of female death maiden Angela Gossow, who heats Arch Enemy to a nasty thrashy death metal boil on this fine guitar-drenched chunk of mayhem. Never has Arch Enemy sound so crunchy yet polished, shredly yet extreme. Contact www.centurymedia.com or email@example.com for more info.
8) THEORY IN PRACTICE - 'Colonising The Sun' 5:33; from Colonising The Sun (Listenable)
Third album now for this band of technically brilliant Swedes, Theory In Practice shocking the metal world with complex metal riffs that become accessible through perfect fidelity and a canny ear for keeping things memorable amongst the progressive exploration of it all. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.listenable.net for more info.
9) HATEBREED - 'You're Never Alone' 3:22; from Perseverance (Universal)
There's good reason that with the break-up of Earth Crisis, Hatebreed are the reigning kings of hardcore. And that reason is in the hard living metal grooves of the band's new album, Hatebreed able to strafe and infect minds the way Biohazard did in their golden heyday.
10) PRO-PAIN - 'F.O.A.D.' 2:24; from Shreds Of Dignity (Spitfire)
Gary Meskil and his legendary hardcore war machine Pro-Pain have returned with what is being heralded as their best yet, fired with great production, tight, speedy deliveries, and more bellicose anger than you thought possible. As usual, Meskil's social commentary is right on the money, and the soundtrack is frighteningly riff-mad. Contact www.spitfirerecords.com or www.pro-pain.org for more info.
11) HYPOCRISY - 'Destroyed' 3:36; from Catch 22 (Nuclear Blast)
Peter Tagtgren returns with an album that has the metal world abuzz, more than pleased with the return of the band to the classic, churning, deathly heavy Hypocrisy sound, characterized by unyielding production values from one of the genre's great producers, and just a hint of melody below those heaving, lurching guitars. Contact www.nuclearblast.de/media or email@example.com for more info.
12) THORAZINE - 'Aborted' 2:44; from Geneticide (Deathgasm)
Probably the most talked about death band from the west, Thorazine are both touring and selling lots of albums, and it's all due to a professionalism of writing and recording and staying distressingly, headbangingly extreme. Geneticide is a whirlwind metal force worthy of bigger and better things. Contact 7135 Huntercrest Rd. N.W., Calgary AB T2K 4J9, 403-371-3975, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.thorazine.ca or www.deathgasm.com
13) TIAMAT - 'Vote For Love' 4:49; from Judas Christ (Century Media)
The legendary Johan Edlund continues to provoke with his smoky-vocaled gothic metal, Judas Christ containing quixotic vignettes of darkness that re-establish Tiamat alongside Moonspell as the two reigning kings of melancholic mood music. Contact www.century.media.com or www.churchoftiamat.com
14) THE STONER KINGS - 'The Ebb And The Flow' 4:43; from Brimstone Blues (Rebel Breed)
Capturing the very elixir of sludge rock life, The Stoner Kings inject a punk intensity into their heaving, mountain-crushing grooves, arriving at an authority-defying cross between Spiritual Beggars and Fu Manchu. Great songs, slammin' production, and sneery rock starry vocals from Starbuck complete the explosive package. Contact POB 1288, 00101 Helsinki, Finland or email@example.com or www.stonerkings.net for more info, or for bookings, www.zmusic.be.
15) MUSHROOMHEAD - 'Xeroxed' 2:58; from XX (Universal)
Blowing up all over is this collection of intensely creative noise terrorists from middle America. Comparisons to Slipknot must be made with caution, because these guys have been keepers of this mad masked 'n' overalled look for years (almost 10 in fact). And the sound is insane, Mushroomhead creating textured, crackling high fidelity futuro-metal activity that kills all comers.
16) EXECRATOR - 'Book Of Dreams' 4:27; from Hideous The Mind (Execrator)
An absolutely mesmerizing and thoroughly unique combination of doom, early '80s thrash and progressive metal, Execrator further distinguish themselves with the despairing vocals of Matt Maggard, who for most of this album (and not this track!) recalls Warrel Dane and the Messiah. Captivating band. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.Cdbaby.com or www.garageband.com or 5814 Jacksontown Rd. S.E., Newark, Ohio 43055.
17) FLAW - 'Scheme' 3:47; from Through The Eyes (Universal)
If the likes of System Of A Down, Sevendust and Nonpoint have created a fresh, genre-straddling platform for new metal, Flaw look to leap in and provoke those ready for the next level. Through crushing grooves, reggae-influenced vocals and songs that steer capably the emotions, Flaw is set to win hearts and minds with this well-paced album.