The early 2000s brought us a wealth of riff-worshipping, bone-quaking goodness – what has essentially become the foundation of many current doom, stoner, and sludge metal acts. Bands like Mastodon, High on Fire, and Baroness expanded upon the standard set by metal’s forefathers with more progressive tendencies, expansive arrangements, fiercer presentation, technically demanding performances, and (presumably) better strains of grass. At the same time (and likely benefitting from the same improved… *ahem* genetics), there was also a bubble of traditionalists like The Sword, Wolfmother, and Saviours who made the case that a more conventional approach was worth revisiting, reinvigorating classic sounds for a new generation of headbangers. It’s from this very specific nexus that Australia’s Hypergiant explode, harkening back to familiar territories on both sides of this early-00s coin.
While death and black metal are seeing amazing leaps forward in talent, production, and ability for the denizens of the traditional metal world what we’re seeing from bands such as Enforcer, dawnbringer, Sumerlands, Eternal Champion, and Striker must seem like manna from heaven… or hell, depending upon your preference. One band that has been plugging away at this style, beginning as a bit of a Mercyful Fate worship act and evolving with each new release is Sweden’s Portrait (the band name derives from Diamond’s first solo album, Fatal Portrait). On their latest offering, Burn the World, we see a band who is getting comfortable with their own take on the venerable speed riffs, blazing solos, and soaring vocals of trad metal creating an addictive blend for fans.
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.