Editor’s Note: Longtime reader Remi VL is a regular guest contributor to our Release Day Roundup posts! He submitted several of the albums listed below. Join his Facebook group for more recommendations.
Each month, we always seem to come to the same conclusion when it comes to our Editors’ Picks column: Friday release days open the floodgates and unleash a seemingly endless stream of quality new music. But while some of our Editors and Contributors sit down gleefully each week to dive into this newly stocked treasure trove, others find themselves drawing a blank at the end of the month due to the breakneck pace needed to keep up to date with what’s been released. Which brings us to this Heavy Blog PSA: a weekly roundup of new albums which pares down the week’s releases to only our highest recommendations. Here you’ll find full album/single streams, pre-order links and, most importantly, a collection of albums that could very well earn a spot on your year-end list. Enjoy!
Abiotic – Ikigai (progressive deathcore, tech death)
Tech death upstarts Abiotic appear to have made their breakthrough album with their third full-length. Whether by packing the record with top-notch guest spots, from likes of The Black Dahlia Murder, Arcspire, Fallujah, Entheos and The Contortionist or by streamlining the songwriting into more-managable-yet-still-striking packages, Ikiagi stands head and shoulders above Abiotic’s previous material, poising the Floridians to break into the upper echelons of modern tech-death in the process. The added progressive tinge, à la The Faceless and Rivers of Nihil hints at where the band could go on future releases. While I can’t really see Ikiagi threatening any AOTY polls come December, it’s as strong a start to 2021 as any tech-death fan could have asked for.
This Week’s Biggest Surprise: Inglorious – We Will Ride; that guy can really wail!
God is an Astronaut – Ghost Tapes #10 (post-rock, space rock)
Nineteen years out and 10 albums in, you’re either onboard or not for God is an Astronaut. Being part of a sort of “second wave” of post-rock bands with the incredible one-two punch of The End of the Beginning in 2002, and what is probably still their peak, All Is Violent, All Is Bright in 2005, GIAA have become one of the elder statesmen of the genre!
More adventurous than similarly long-lasting acts like Russian Circles or Mono, GIAA haven’t quite “given up” on the genre like Mogwai has. Their albums are always more than good, or better. Other than their 2005 album, they’ve never reached the highs that Russian Circles had, but they’ve continued on, slightly shifting their sound with every release, trying new things, incorporating more and more, and then less vocals. More electronics, but not as much as Mogwai or 65daysofstatic… a steady flow of trying new things.
I think they’ve struck a fine balance of continuously putting albums I want to hear… and I want to hear this one! Will it be my AOTY? I doubt it. But it might still be of the best of a genre that, sadly, infrequently has anything new to offer, other than by leaving it… Did I just write a eulogy for post-rock? I swear there’s lots of great stuff out there, and please check out GIAA!
Last Week’s Biggest Surprise & Best Album: Black Country, New Road – For the first time (post-punk, experimental rock)
Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde (djent, progressive deathcore)
It’s difficult to talk about Humanity’s Last Breath without referencing their fellow country-men and progenitors of thall, Vildhjarta, of which the founding HLB member (Buster Oldeholm) now plays drums in. However, with Buster moving to guitar and hiring a full band around him, the project has gained momentum and firmly stepped out of Vildhjarta’s shadow. With their second full-length Välde dropping today via Unique Leader, they’ve pushed their cutting-edge progressive deathcore sound even further.
If you’re a fan of HLB already, you know what you’re getting yourself into. They haven’t dramatically changed their sound, but everything feels bigger, bolder, and with heightened sense of grandiosity. It does seem as if there’s a greater focus on nuanced songwriting and track ordering, as the album has steady flow from song to song. While the absolutely monstrous grooves and breakdowns are still present, the use of atmosphere feels just as important on the whole. Buster’s insanely tight production combined with creative use of guitar effects processors, pushing guitar tones to a sonic potential not thought possible, makes this not only a great test of expensive headphones and monitors, but the perfect listen if you’re looking for some oppressively heavy modern metal.
Last week’s Biggest Surprise: Earthly Bodies – Paradise (prog metal, metalcore)
slowthai – TYRON (UK hip-hop, alternative hip-hop)
I think we all look back at the previous year and discover an album that absolutely should have made our AOTY list. It’s one of the reasons I’ve instituted a “gap year,” so to speak, where I ignore releases I missed over the last 12 months until that year’s list is safely in the past. This might seem like a niche, non-problem, and honestly, you’d be right think that. But as someone who curates and writes about music, whiffing on new releases is one of the worst feelings.
The best recent example I can cite is slowthai’s fantastic debut Nothing Great About Britain. While I’m able to say that now, I wasn’t when it came out in 2019, because I inexplicably let the year pass by without ever moving it to the top of my “need to listen” list. As a result, I missed out on the chance to highlight slowthai’s excellent brand of UK hip-hop, pulling from grime and trap to soundtrack some snarky, conscious lyricism.
I’m aiming to fix that with TYRON, his first release after officially landing on everyone’s radar. The lead singles have me hyped to hear the entire album, including absolute bangers like “CANCELLED” (featuring grime legend Skepta) and “MAZZA” (featuring my freshman year obsession A$AP Rocky). In his young career, slowthai has proved that trunk-knocking beats and good lyricism aren’t mutually exclusive, and so far, TYRON seems to further prove that point.
Last Week’s Best Discovery: Yasmin Williams – Urban Driftwood (American primitivism, fingerstyle guitar)