Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service

Blackened thrash veterans Witchery are back, once again with significant line-up changes. These changes, thankfully, embellish the ethos which have made the band, in all their previous installments, vital in their respective field throughout the years. With new vocalist Angus Norder and drummer Christofer Barkensjö now in the fold, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service marks a new chapter in the band’s career, a chapter which sounds as ferocious, angry and evil as ever. It’s business as usual for the Scandinavians, and the horror-themed occultisms coupled with copious amounts of thrashing are all present and accounted for. No pretenses. No nonsense.

Aenaon – Hypnosophy

When looking through a tag in music curation services, encountering “avant-garde black metal” means clicking play will either result in something incredible or terrible. Few artists have the combination of self-irreverence, self-respect, sense of the fundamentals and how to think outside of them to be able to pull off the latter. As if that’s not enough, take a black metal band, add a saxophone, power metal-esque clean singing, a blues/jazz tint – does it sound potentially disastrous already? Several bands this year alone have attempted this formula and failed. Well, good news is, the Greek masterminds Aenaon have totally nailed it with Hypnosophy.

Khemmis – Hunted

Denver’s Khemmis materialized as quickly and supernaturally as the panel van wizard-style illustrations that grace their album art. Absolution, their impressive debut album from the not-so-distant 2015, bubbled up as a critical favorite, garnering attention from publications large and small – no small feat for an upstart band in an already populated scene. Taking nods from old-school progenitors like Candlemass and Thin Lizzy, Khemmis carry diverse classic vibes into the modern era, zeroing in on a more alloyed kind of retro revival than peers like Pallbearer or The Sword. Somehow, in wizard-like fashion, they’ve quickly conjured their follow-up, Hunted, a record that polishes the ideas presented on Absolution, but ultimately feels like an all-too-familiar sequel.

Atsuko Chiba – The Memory Empire

Earlier this year, Montréal’s Atsuko Chiba released three-track EP Figure & Ground, a perfectly enchanting follow-up to their 2013 endeavor in Jinn, which we sang the praises for when we discovered them a little over a year ago. To say we were anything but delighted with Figure & Ground as…

Tommy ’86 – Transhumanism

For a mix of reasons, instrumental music tends to carry a greater inherent potential towards the cinematic. Without a primary voice to guide us through the music’s message, we as the audience are both required and enabled to find an emotional and environmental through-line to the sounds we hear; instrumental bands…

Spellcaster – Night Hides the World

2016 is shaping up to be a treasure trove for the traditional metal style. Bands like Sumerlands or Spiritus Mortus are tapping back into their metal roots and dredging forth intensely moving albums that more than succeed at holding a light to the greats of yesteryear. However, perhaps the most successful of these 2016 excursions is Spellcaster’s Night Hides the World, an album steeped not only in the aural trappings of traditional metal but also in the iconic aesthetics that have always accompanied the style. One needs only look at their video for the title track from the album to appreciate the level of dedication these Portlanders have for the aesthetic: aviator goggles, wolves crying at the moon, absurdly over the top solo gestures, leather jackets and much more combine to create that Iron Maiden circa the late 80’s feeling, channeling that over the top, rock star swagger that had captured an entire generation during the time.

Korn – The Serenity of Suffering

Few bands out there can lay claim to influencing the creation of an entire musical movement. Meshuggah’s a relatively recent candidate with the explosion of the djent genre that formed in their wake, and despite what you think of the copycats that followed, you can’t necessarily blame them for it; they’re a band that did something different and naturally, others took notice. Korn are in the same boat; their 1993 self titled debut is a celebrated classic, and despite some missteps and the continued teenage angst from an aging band, they should not be thought of in a negative light because of the legions of terrible acts that followed.

Metallica – Hardwired…to Self Destruct

In a lot of ways, Hardwired is like an anthology of the band’s entire discography in all of its splendor and stubbornness. The album kicks off with the no-bullshit barn-burner “Hardwired,” an undeniable throwback to the band’s primitive debut record. It’s the only song on the record that keeps things under six minutes and is much better for doing so, leaving no time for subtlety or nuance and going straight for the jugular. After that, the remainder of the album ventures into much more expansive territory. The remaining eleven tracks can range from the riff-o-rama aesthetics of …And Justice for All, the stadium rock swagger of the Black Album, the blues/hard rock mish-mash of Load and the Cthulhu worship one could have found on Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning. None of these songs are outright references to a particular album quite like the title track, but it doesn’t take a die-hard Metallica fan to see that the band have gone back and thoroughly analyzed what makes them a truly fantastic band.

Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies

In 2016, if you’re still listening to Crowbar then you know what to expect: slow tempos, chugging riffs, raspy vocals, the occasional shifting time signatures, and – most of all – comforting, loud familiarity. The Louisiana sludge pioneers have been doing what they do best for thirty years after all, and even with their endless line-up changes, you can count on them to deliver the goods. After nearly three decades grinding away, they might not sound as fresh as they once were; often is the case with so many bands who don’t evolve significantly with time is they get stale. On the other hand, some bands try to evolve and end up worse because of it. But Crowbar are a band who’ve remained consistently good for the duration of their career so far without ever departing from their roots, and it’s never been to their detriment – nor is it now.