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!
Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime (Tishoumaren, blues rock)
While I don’t know much about Mdou Moctar or their latest album, it’s received enough buzz from outlets I follow to pique my interest. Afrique Victime pulls from the Tishoumaren tradition, or a style of electric guitar-led North African music with bluesy, psychedelic vibes and, fittingly, sonic imagery from the desert. With promises of “ZZ Top meets Black Sabbath” and “Van Halen meets Black Flag” on the album, this will definitely be the first new release I put on today.
See Also: Georgia Anne Muldrow – VWETO III (instrumental hip-hop, wonky) | Jazzy, funky hip-hop with Flying Lotus vibes, while also pulling from the traditions of ground-breaking black women like Alice Coltrane and Erykah Badu.
Monster Magnet – A Better Dystopia (psych rock, stoner rock)
While I didn’t really know them before they put out Powertrip back in 1998, when I first heard it, it perfectly synced up with everything that my drunk high school self had been getting into over the few years prior: all of that great mid-’90s stoner rock, and ’70s progressive rock. I was already obsessed with Kyuss and Fu Manchu, scouring the early world wide web for whatever low quality MP3 I could find from all these bands from all over the globe.
Suddenly, it was on my TV, with some crazy videos, and an album that never let up! I worked my way backwards in their discography and become quite obsessed with everything they put out. Then I found out the loose connections to some of the grunge scene, and that Dave Wyndorf (evil Dave Grohl?) had been around since the ’70s playing in punk bands for years before MM. It was all interesting, and they opened the doors to some wilder ’70s stuff like Hawkwind and Grand Funk, at the same time as I was discovering progressive rock through Rush, Yes, King Crimson and more.
High school is for more people, where the doors explode open and your musical tastes flourish. Monster Magnet were an important part of that for me, and while their later albums might never have reached the commercial heights that Powertrip did, each one had something new and exciting to offer, and the band remains one of my favourites to this day.
A Better Dystopia is a covers album, and a peak into Dave’s formative years with a mixture of psych and proto-metal from the late ’60s and early ’70s. Some names I recognize and have been a long fan of, like Hawkwind, Jerusalem, and Dust, while some I haven’t even heard of: The Macabre, Poo-bah, Josephus, etc. These 13 cuts should give a glimpse into the bands that helped shape the Monster Magnet sound, and hopefully have you digging through the individual artists back catalog for some lost sounds you never knew you missed out on!
Last Week’s Biggest Surprise: Per Wiberg – All Is Well In The Land Of The Living But For The Rest Of Us . . . Lights Out (prog rock, hard rock)
Tooth and Claw – Dream of Ascension (hardcore, metalcore)
This is one of those weeks where I could have picked almost anything to highlight here, but even with all the amazing and often complex music out this week, the album that has my heart right this second is one of the more straight forward.
Tooth and Claw are a metallic hardcore supergroup, made up of members of Earth Crisis, Die Young, Magnitude and Sect, among others, and they sound every as formidable and ferocious as that line-up suggests. There are a few twists and turns thrown in, in the form of modern, Napalm Death-style industrialisms and more than a hint of Obituary worship in both the vocals and the riffing (see “Torn in Half”). For the most part, however, Tooth and Claw play it straight(edge), delivering one of the most vicious and solid metallic hardcore outings since their respective pedigree’s heyday. You’re gonna want to clear some room for this one.
VOLA – Witness (prog metal, prog rock)
If you’re new to VOLA, they play a highly polished blend of electro-pop and djenty progressive metal. The Danish group draw from artists like Leprous and Agent Fresco, especially in the vocal department, but bring more of a groove oriented song-writing approach accented by plenty of synths and trip-hop influence.
Their sophomore album Applause of a Distant Crowd was a slightly polarizing album, as it leaned further into the pop and electronica aspects of their sound while traversing a more mid-tempo and relaxed atmosphere compared to the more urgent and striking Inmazes.
Witness, in many ways is a continuation of that sound, however back in more prominence is the thick, meaty guitar tones and general heaviness that Applause often shied away from. What results is a brilliant, constantly shifting contrast of light and dark, or the accessible and in-accessible. While this is almost becoming a predictable trope of some of the biggest bands in the scene of late (Loathe, Spiritbox, etc.), VOLA’s approach still feels authentic and exciting, and finds a better balance to let both shine at the same time. It’s also more daring than their previous endeavors, including a guest feature from hip-hop project SHAHMEN on “These Black Claws” and some of their heaviest riffs to date on “Stone Leader Falling Down”. Overall, the soaring vocals are as as buttery smooth as ever, and their juxtaposition with the chunkier grooves on Witness is still the main selling point here.
This should be the album that converts them from promising up-and-comers, to integral part of the current progressive metal/rock scene. If you were a fan of either of their last albums, there’s a good chance this will end up on your album of the year list, and it should just as easily seduce plenty of new fans.