This is a monthly post where I show some love to new underground metal albums. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
I try to focus on recordings from the past two or three months, but I'll add ones that are older if I've just come across them and I'm particularly excited about them.
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.)
Sadistic Force - Aces Wild
If you've been following these New Underground Metal posts you already know how much I love the world of old school thrash blended with black metal and black 'n' roll, and Sadistic Force is one of the most unique bands I've come across recently in the style. Aces Wild actually came out late last year, but this is a truly obscure gem that deserves all the love it can get.
Unlike many bands in this vein who take their genre influences and blend them together into a relatively uniform result, (ie Blackevil, Bonehunter, Hellripper) Sadistic Force frequently allows those elements to stand on their own side-by-side, shifting from rollicking rock 'n' roll riffs into pure black metal blast beats. The transitions aren't always perfect, but when they work they are so cool and unique that I wish more bands would do it. The title track is a perfect example.
The album's lo-fi production sounds absolutely perfect to me and I love the shrieking style of the vocals. Aces Wild is truly a wild ride, and the band's willingness to try new things makes this one of my favorites in any metal subgenre I've heard this year.
"Cavern of the Wraith" and "Strike of the Iron" were early favorites for me, but I've also grown to love "Aces Wild," "Murder at Boggy Creek" and "Snowblind in Texas."
Fugitive - Maniac
Another one in a similar vein to Sadistic Force, Fugitive takes old school, lo-fi thrash and blends it with hardcore for a five-song EP that feels like stepping into a blast furnace. Awesome blend of genre elements here with ultra-crunchy riffs and hellish screams packed into high-energy tracks that hit amazingly hard.
Maniac is like the audio equivalent of an abominable creature from the depths that has crawled out into the city streets and is maiming anyone within reach. In a good way. I'm particularly fond of the singer's snarl at the end of each line, which feels exactly right to me.
Setting aside the instrumental intro of "The Javelin," the remaining four songs here are all top-notch. "Maniac" and "Neutralized" in particular hit the sweet spot for me with their extra dose of speed.
Crisix - Full HD
There is so much polished thrash with old school roots in the world today, it's unbelievable. I wake up day each thankful for the opportunity to just absolutely mainline this stuff. Crisix's latest, Full HD is every bit on par with the band's excellent 2016 album From Blue to Black and a contender for the best the band has released to date.
Like the Traitor album I mentioned last month and the new Destruction I listed in June, Full HD won't win awards for smashing genre barriers, but again, it's such a brilliantly executed and well presented album that any old school thrash fan will be more than happy to dive in and soak it up for it's full 42-minute running time.
Favorites here include "The Many Licit Paths," "Speak Your Truth," and "John Was Born for Metal," but you won't go wrong with picking any track and letting it run. Awesome stuff all around.
(Discover more in my Death Metal / Brutal Death Metal playlist on Spotify)
Katakomba - Katakomba
I've been enjoying the hell out of the advance singles from Katakomba recently, and the band's first full-length album completely delivers on the promise of those tracks. Katakomba is packed with dark, gritty, and unrelentingly brutal death metal, striking a terrific balance between old school songwriting and modern production heft.
Similar to the Paganizer album I mentioned last month, Katakomba feels like it was conceived in the shadowy depths of an ancient crypt. A deep evil lurks beneath the surface of this one and it pervades every second of the recording. Whether the band is grinding out a thunderous midtempo section or igniting full-speed death metal firestorms, the album never loses its impressively grim character.
There are some exciting songwriting decisions in here as well, with atypical structures providing plenty of unexpected surprises. "Embalmed in Concrete" is a perfect example of the band's willingness to let a track play out without worrying about any preset formulas.
I've been through the full recording several times since its release and I can't find a single song on here I don't love. Death metal perfection.
Scalpture - Feldwärts
Here's a true hidden gem of old school death metal from Scalpture. I've been listening to this one for a few months now and I wasn't totally sold on it at first but damn, it's really grown on me. Brutal and often melodic and tinged with melancholic undertones, Feldwärts checks all the boxes for a great album in my book.
The band does amazing job of stepping off the gas pedal now and then and dropping into somber acoustic sections that add a ton of personality to the album, and many of the songs feel textured and nuanced in a way that sets the group apart from some their more formulaic contemporaries.
Favorites for me include "To End All Wars," "Thunder in the East," "Stahlbad," and "Through Hell and On," but really it's all good here.
(Discover more in my NWOTHM playlist on Spotify)
Acid Blade - Power Dive
Wow, what an awesome surprise this one is. Acid Blade's only prior release was a split with Venator (an incredible group I talked about here in April) under the name Angel Blade. It's incredible how much the two bands have improved since that 2020 effort, and Acid Blade's debut full-length Power Dive has suddenly marked them as one of the most authentically old school heavy metal bands around.
One caveat here: Power Dive has some rough spots. BUT, the best songs on here easily make up for the rest with their stunning songwriting, atmosphere, and underground grit.
Besides, this is a new band finding their sound and working out the kinks. The imperfections are part of the charm of this album for me, and it makes the songs that shine feel that much brighter.
I particularly love the production on the vocals, which have a vintage, epic metal feel and often remind me of the approach taken on Eternal Champion's releases. The songwriting sits in a perfectly evil groove that is impossible not to nod along to, and there are even some surprisingly heartfelt melodic moments, as on the chorus to "Ablaze at Midnight."
The four major standouts on here for me are "Ablaze at Midnight," "Into the Light," "King Killer," and "The Tomb of Khentika Ikheki," all of which reach heavy metal mastery in my book.
Hell Fire - Reckoning
Hell Fire's newest recording is an awesomely compelling blend of old school metal that spans the spectrum of heavy/speed/power and occasionally flirts with thrash elements. The result is fast, aggressive, melodic, and just a damn good time to listen to.
Unlike the Acid Blade release which carries the dungeon-like atmosphere of '80s underground metal, Hell Fire's music feels firmly planted in the more polished modern world of NWOTHM. These tracks feel like they were born for radio play, and I often find myself singing them to myself hours after I stop listening to the album.
The best stuff comes early on this one for me with "Reckoning," "Medieval Cowboys," "It Ends Tonight," and "Thrill of the Chase."
(Discover more in my Dungeon Synth / Medieval Fantasy playlist on Spotify)
Tales Under the Oak - Swamp Kingdom
In June I talked about a wonderfully understated debut album from Tales Under the Oak called The Toad King. I quickly fell in love with the album's immersive ambience and gentle, almost crestfallen songwriting style. Happily, Tales Under the Oak has a follow-up album out now called Swamp Kingdom that is a perfect sequel to its predecessor.
The production style of these albums is so elegant to me, each synth tone filled with a magic capable of carrying the listener to another world. Like The Toad King, there is little about the album that is immediately compelling. The person who discovers the true beauty of Swamp Kingdom is the one who embraces its devoted minimalism, savoring the overall character of the recording rather than seeking instant gratification.
Favorites for me include "Enter the Croaked Forest," "A Dangerous Knowledge," "Peculiar Shapes," and "Elder Swamp."
As an added bonus, Tales Under the Oak's music is now on Spotify, which wasn't true just a couple months ago. So streamers rejoice.
I'll be back next month with more new underground metal music. In the meantime, read full descriptions of my metal playlists and check out my other metal blog posts like the History of Heavy Metal. You can also follow me on Spotify to see what I'm currently listening to.