Editor’s Note: Do you think we “missed” an album this week? Click here.
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!
At the Gates – The Nightmare of Being (melodeath)
Slaughter of the Soul (1995) will forever be the defining At the Gates record. Many would say the defining melodic death metal record as well. For me though, 2014’s phenomenal comeback record At War With Reality is their crowing achievement and one which set a lofty bar for comeback records, which none have managed to topple since. (I’m giving them the edge over Carcass, in this instance, although I’ll see Slaughter of the Soul’s supposed melodeath supremacy with a little 1993 album called Heartwork.)
Its follow-up, To Drink from the Night Itself (2018), may have fallen a bit flat, but The Nightmare of Being shows there’s still plenty of fuel and ambition left in At the Gates’ tank yet. The Nightmare of Being, again, maintains the band’s distinct and definitive sound, but there’s an added—and rather surprising—layer of Opethian prog rock added to the mix that makes the album stand out against the Swedes’ back catalogue and their legion of imitators. Although unlikely to be heralded as another landmark release, this record a welcome addition to an already impressive discography that has renewed my interest in the band and more than justified their existence among a sea of contemporary bands who owe an insurmountable debt to their influence.
Last Week’s Biggest Surprise: Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon; Were these guys always this proggy? Either way, this seems like a huge step up from their previous release.
No Living Witness – Cosmic Simulacra (progressive death metal, atmospheric black metal)
I’ve been trying to increasingly use this column to highlight lesser known and newer artists. Sure there’s some bigger names dropping new stuff this week, but it’s a little guys who are more likely to be overlooked with these sort of lists. That brings us to my pick this week: No Living Witness. To be honest, I had never heard of this band until the day of writing this. Took a flyer on their name and bandcamp tags and wow, what a pleasant find. Atmospheric death metal, especially that drawing influence from black metal seems like a lesser explored, or at least less-excelled sub-genre of death metal. While Kardashev have made a name from their unique deathgaze sound, and Fallujah sort of monopolized the big soaring atmospheric progressive death metal thing for a bit, No Living Witness seem to be on a bold exploration into a territory somewhere in the middle of them.
The lead single “Sailing on a Cardboard Sea” begins in strong atmospheric black metal fashion with a triumphant tremolo melody that devolves into a surprisingly thunderous breakdown and some melodic death metal riffing. An intrepid start to what is a journey of a track. We soon bring on some prog metal fitting clean vocals and equally proggy riffs, layered by those sky-scraping atmospheric guitars. Stretched out instrumental sections allow them to really flex their technical and progressive muscles with some pretty creative guitarwork, bookended by equally spirited death metal. The blackened-death style vocals add a sinister mysteriousness to their already peculiar and dynamic sound.
Love it when a super out of nowhere release can impress on this level. Check out Cosmic Simulacra out now on bandcamp from this Washington state based two-piece, mastered and co-mixed by Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams, ex-The Faceless).
Last Week’s Best Surprise: Intercessor – Sola (progressive metalcore, djent)