This is a monthly post where I share some love for new, mostly underground metal albums. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
I try to focus on recordings from the past two to three months, but I'll add ones that are older if I've just come across them and they feel particularly worthwhile.
Leave a comment below with your thoughts on these and let me know which new albums you’re currently listening to.
(And be sure to check out last month's list here.)
(Discover more in my Death Metal / Brutal Death Metal playlist on Spotify)
Jungle Rot - A Call to Arms
There are three things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and quality Jungle Rot albums. A Call to Arms delivers everything I love about the band, pounding out 10 no-frills OSDM tracks guided by Dave Matrise's instantly recognizable vocal style. The band has such a great sense of songwriting, knowing when to vary a track to keep it engaging without derailing the music, and the whole album just flows effortlessly from one song to the next.
A Call to Arms may have come out in 2022, but it brings back warm, fuzzy feelings of listening to my first death metal albums as a kid in the mid-'90s. Plus, damn, I love that cover art. "Genocidal Imperium," "Vengeance & Bloodlust," "Maggot Infested," and "Total Extinction" are the favorites for me on this one.
Darkened - The Black Winter
Darkened's 2020 album Kingdom of Decay was a deep, nuanced recording that became more engaging every time I played it, and their latest effort, The Black Winter, is just as worthwhile. Somehow none of the tracks feel mind-blowing to me in the early seconds, but by the end of each one I'm going "Holy shit, this is so good." The songs have an amazing way of pulling me in over time until I'm fully absorbed in the music.
The band's style of OSDM has a touch of melodic death and even doom in it that creates a rich sense of atmosphere, and the songs feel dark and evil in a way that really sets the band apart. The Black Winter is best enjoyed in its entirety, but if I had to choose favorites, I'd go with "Flayed," "Black Winter," "Fearful Quandary," and "Regret."
Shed the Skin - Thaumogenesis
Shed the Skin's Thaumogenesis feels like it was written by insane people, and I mean that in the best way possible. The album carries a dark, manic energy that radiates out of every track, and the music's genuine viciousness impresses me every time I hear it. It took me a little while to warm up to this one, but after a couple initial listens something really clicked for me and now I'm just totally enthralled by it.
This is a solid album front to back, and I almost enjoy the back half more, but standouts for me include "Ingress-Thaumogenesis," "She of Ugarit," "Hounds of Orrea,""Blood Runs Red," and "Blades of the Lightning Altar."
Buried Realm - Buried Realm
My interests in death metal typically lean toward the brutal and old school: when bands start getting too fancy the music tends to lose what I love about the genre. That said, Buried Realm has really nailed a perfect balance between smart and savage, creating technical, melodic death metal that still manages to feel completely badass.
The songs are surprisingly interesting and accessible upfront, but my appreciation for them has really deepened through repeat listens, and it's become a joy to just put the album on and let it rip. This recording is even more impressive considering it was written and performed by one person – Josh Dummer – with a handful of guest contributions.
It may not be a coincidence that I'm loving Buried Realm right now: I've been nostalgic for the melodic death/black metal I was listening to in the late '90s and early '00s (I'm sure I'm not the only one), and Buried Realm has enough in common with those releases to warm my metal heart each time I hear it. Really having a blast with this one right now.
Evil Invaders - Shattering Reflection
Every now and then a band releases an album that feels transformative. It's more than just a step forward, it's a full re-think of the band's identity and what they're trying to accomplish with their music. Shattering Reflection feels like that kind of album for Evil Invaders.
The band's throwback thrash style has always been well above average, but where past releases tended to feel straightforward in their delivery, Shattering Reflection is significantly more varied and unpredictable. Each entry on the tracklist offers something special, frequently backing off the accelerator to deliver songs that are more nuanced, more melodic, and more finely crafted than anything they've done before.
The early one-two punch of "Die for Me" and "In Deepest Black" represents this perfectly, offering some of the most finely written thrash metal of the modern era. Painkiller-era, Halford-esque screams punctuate each song alongside synthesized guitar work for legitimate nostalgia, but there's no mistaking these songs for the work of anyone besides Evil Invaders.
Put the album on at the beginning and let it play through, this is a rare gem of old school thrash.
Destruction - Diabolical
Where Evil Invaders' Shattering Reflection is a bold recording with a vivid personality and unique, memorable songwriting, Destruction's Diabolical falls squarely into the camp of "if it ain't broken, don't fix it." This is pure paint-by-numbers throwback thrash, but as I mentioned last month with Tymo's The Art of a Maniac, there are some things in life I'll simply never get tired of.
Diabolical is slick and polished and professional, delivering heaping doses of deeply satisfying old school shredding from this classic German band. I'm a huge fan of "Diabolical," "No Faith in Humanity," "Hope Dies Last," "The Last of a Dying Breed," and the closing cover of GBH's "City Baby Attacked by Rats."
(Discover more in my NWOTHM playlist on Spotify)
Maule - Maule
Maule originally came out at the start of this year and I remember having a very positive impression of it at the time, but revisiting it this month has really driven home what a rare and valuable find this one is. The self-titled debut does a great job of blending traditional heavy metal with touches of thrash and hardcore for an energetic recording with endearing old school grit. Tight, clean performances from the band and a great vocal style really put this one on a tier above most of its contemporaries.
Favorites for me are "Ritual," "Summoner," "Maule," and "Red Sonja."
(Discover more in my Dungeon Synth / Medieval Fantasy playlist on Spotify)
Haryon - Memories of Arda
Haryon is a Lord of the Rings-inspired side project from the creator behind Morketsvind. (I gave some love to Morketsvind's new album back in April.) Heavily atmospheric and often leaning into dark ambient music, Memories of Arda has a sweeping, majestic quality to it that is amazingly subtle. It requires more patience and repeat listens to fully appreciate, but once I had been through the album a handful of times I found myself completely immersed in it.
The best way to enjoy Memories of Arda is by starting it at the beginning and letting it play all the way through, just sinking into it and admiring the careful world-building at work.
Tales Under the Oak - The Toad King
Dungeon synth is an amazing genre filled with beautiful and obscure gems, many of them presented without a trace of the real-world human who might have created them. In the case of Tales Under the Oak's first album, The Toad King, we get this bit of text instead:
The time has come my dear friend
To sit and rest under the oak
And listen to an ancient tale
About the dreamy mystic swamp
The Toad King is a serene and superbly understated creation filled with gentle ambience, crystalline melodies, and a quiet but penetrating sense of melancholy. It's laudable in its patience and minimalist restraint, staying true to the roots of dungeon synth music by managing to do quite a bit with very little.
On a side note: highly melodic or energetic music has begun to affect my ability to focus while I draw, so it's no coincidence that low-key creations like The Toad King and Memories of Arda have found prominent places recently while I work. Cheers to subtlety.
See you all back here next month, in the meantime be sure to check out last month's list.