Release Day Roundup: 9/1/23

Rounding up new releases from Polaris, Primal Fear, Eclipse, Empire State Bastard, H.E.A.T, Soen, Outergods, Slowdive, Aortha and more.

a year ago

Top Picks

Polaris – Fatalism (nu-ish metalcore)

There's been no avoiding certain comparisons with Polaris's previous releases, but with ferocious, varied and notably nu-metal drenched third outing Fatalism, the steadily rising metal(core) superstars seem to have fully come into their own. That Fatalism is such a triumphant effort only reinforces the tragic loss of lead guitarist Ryan Siew. Siew's skillful playing and penchant for killer solo has always been a key part of what set the band apart and he has perhaps his finest moment here on crushing lead single "Inhumane", which lays rest to the age old question "what if nu metal but with killer solos?" Answer: It totally rips. While Siew is certainly the stand-out, that's not to downplay the other members’ performances. Both frontman Jamie Hails and bassist Jake Steinhauser's clean vocals are a lot more varied and refined and their melodies are notably more consistent.

This is a big moment for Polaris. Having started out forcefully, albeit rather derivatively with 2017's The Mortal Coil and their earlier EPs, and coming off somewhat directionless with 2020's The Death of Me, Fatalism sees the much-touted band finding firmer footing and finally nailing down an identity that seems both more individual and to fit them much more comfortably than previous incarnations. Fatalism might not contain a song as singularly momentous as "Consume" or "Masochist", or even "Lucid" ("Inhumane" probably comes closest). Pound for pound though, it's easily the most consistent and compelling Polaris album, being a more varied and ambitious effort than The Mortal Coil as well as a far more focused affair than The Death of Me. Siew's loss is beyond devastating, but his swansong itself is cause for pure celebration.

Primal Fear – Code Red (powerful heavy metal)

With the exception of Firepower (2018), all of the best Judas Priest albums since 1990 have been released by Primal Fear (if you haven't heard Jaws of Death (1999), do yourself a serious favour). None of their albums are seriously subpar, but after a few less-remarkable releases, Code Red sees the German metallers back at the peak of their powers, delivering their best album since potential career highlight Delivering the Black (2014).

Magnus Karlsson (the power metal one, not the chess one) is in fine form, having already delivered one of 2023's best albums. Code Red hits notably harder than the last few Primal Fear records, focusing in on the driving heavy metal riffage at the core of their sound more notably than they have done in recent memory, while also  leaning further into grandiose power metal pomposity than they have in some time, when the moment calls for it. It's regrettable that one of the album's best and most ambitious offerings is called "Cancel Culture" and is all about how holding people accountable is somehow the "fall of democracy", but it's also just a general rally against "political correctness gone mad", rather than a pointed defence of any particular behaviour or ideology, so I'm happy to just roll my eyes and let it slide. The chorus is still pretty cringe-worthy, but outside of that, Code Red rocks harder than maybe any other record released this year (or anything else released since Firepower...).

If you dig Code Red and/or are after something a bit more varied and a lot less (but still somewhat) cringe-inducing, that Aortha album, which is a prog-thrash supergroup thing featuring Hannes Grossman on drums, is also very good.

Release Roundup

Aneraxt – Operation Utopia CCCXIII (crusty blackened death metal)

Anger As Art – Virtual Sympathy (thrash)

Aortha – Monolit (prog thrash)

Applehead – The Light Side Of The Apple (heavy metal, Apple-core)

Arcas – Where the Light Once Shone (post plack metal)

Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips (Elucid, billy woods)

Aviations – Luminaria (nu-prog, post-hardcore)

Baxaxaxa – De Vermis Mysteriis (black metal)

Belial’s Throne – Forgotten Land Of The Lost Souls (black metal)

Bigstrut – Bigstrut (brutal sludge)

Bio-Cancer – Revengeance (brutal melodeath)

Black Apathy/Have A Nice Life/Nymphrenia/Shallow Existence/Vanessa Funke – Barely Living On The Edge... (post dsbm)

Black Birch – Black Birch (post black metal)

Black Magic Six – Black Cloud Descending (stoner metal)

Blessed Black – Seasons: Vol. 1 (heavy metal, stoner doom)

Bloodthorne – Cosmic Passengers (stoner doom)

Boréalys – L’héritage (black metal)

Conflagracion – Dilucidando el augurio de los malos espíritus (Morbid Skull Records)

Crestfallen – Melancholia (weird brutal black metal)

Crucible of Hate – The Unknown Path (death metal)

Cultus Sanguine – Dust Once Alive (weird blackened goth doom)

Cursed to Occult – Diary of a Broken Man (blackened sludge)

Demoniac – Nube Negra (blackened death metal)

Diamonds And Guns – Making Cash For Heartless Crooks (folk punk?)

Dikasterion – Chaos as a New World (blackened death, black thrash)

Dying Wizard – Artefact (doom)

Eaten By Snakes – Peace & Love (indie rock, post-hardcore?)

Eclipse – Megalomanium (heavy melodic rock)

Egregore – Synchronistic Delusions (brutal blackened death metal)

Electron – Defiance (industrial nu metal)

Els Focs Negres – Martiris Carnivors: Hymns Per A Um Nou Apocalipsi (“Firecum Records”)

Em Chamas – Rest In Peace (death thrash)

Empire State Bastard – Rivers Of Heresy (alt sludge)

Enterré Vivant – 四元素 (Shigenso) (black metal)

Exhumed – Beyond the Dead (death metal, goregrind)

The Fires Below – Masquerade (alt sludge)

Forgotten – Whispers Of Existence (black metal)

Gendo Ikari – Rokubungi (get-in-the-robot grind)

Glacerate – Hyper (“fuzz-infused hyper metal”)

Glista – Never Apologize For Defending Yourself From Being Violated (grincore)

Goat Piss – Subsonic Obliteration (brutal black metal)

Gutted Alive – Human Taxidermy (brutal death metal)

H.E.A.T – Extra Force (hard rock, hair metal)

Hån – Conquering Magnificent Halls (black metal, melodeath)

Heads for the Dead – In The Absence Of Faith (weird blackened death metal)

Heir Corpse One – Chopping Spree (death metal, goregrind)

Helytube – Cai Verzi Pe Pereți (weird prog metal)

Immortal Blade – All Who Suffer (metallic hardcore, crossover)

Imperial Crystalline Entombment – Ancient Glacial Resurgence (black metal, blackened death)

Intent – Sins of the Past (crossover thrash)

Kambodsja – Resilient (alt rock, math rock)

Karmamoi – Strings From The Edge Of Sound (symphonic prog)

Lathe of Heaven – Bound By Naked Skies (post-punk, goth rock)

Labyrinth Spell – Walking Through The Fire (black metal)

Ledmotiv – An Astronaut’s Diary (hard rock, prog metal)

Limbs – Everything Under Heaven (blackened screamo, mathcore)

Lord Of Shadows – Echoes Of Yore (gothic doom)

Marene – Rising After Midnight (synth rock, hair metal)

Mind Swell – Hands Of Fire (brutal death metal, slam)

Mind/knot – Esigenza (punky mathcore)

Misanthropik Torment – Declaration Of War (brutal death metal)

Monastery – From Blood (brutal death metal, deathcore)

Náströnd – Náströnd (black metal, melodeath)

Nexus Insidias – The Attested Atrocity (instrumental death metal)

Outergods – A Kingdom Built Upon The Wreckage Of Heaven (dissonant blackened death grind)

Phantom Druid – The Inner Landscapes of Death (doom)

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons – Kings Of The Asylum (hard rock, speed metal)

Primal Horde/Scorching Tomb – Primal Tomb (brutal death metal)

Pterodactyl King – Pterodactyl King (Protest the Hero-core)

Public Memory – Elegiac Beat (darkwave, trip-hop)

Raven Banner – Rise Up Clan (melodeath)

Repentance – The Process of Human Demise (death thrash, metalcore)

Reverence to Paroxysm – Lux Morte (disso-death doom)

Road Pig – Still the Future Is Bleak (crusty crossover)

Royal Blood – Back to the Water Below (indie rock, alt rock)

Shards of a Lost World – Harzgeist (black metal)

Show Me Wolves – All Roads Lead To The Same Grave (doomy black metal)

Silent Skies – Dormant (Melowdic Rock, Cringy Linkin Park Covers)

Slowdive – Everything Is Alive (shoegaze, dream pop)

Soen – Memorial (Increasingly Alty Prog Metal)

The Sound That Ends Creation – Exactly What You Thought, But Worse Than You Imagined (wacky matchore)

Spider Kitten – A Pound For The Peacebringer (grungey funeral doom)

SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE – i’m so lucky (post-punk, neo-psychedelia)

Sprain – The Lamb As Effigy… (noisy post-punk)

Stitched Up Heart – To The Wolves (industrial tech goth)

Strike Master – Tangram Apocalypse (thrash)

Sudenkehto – Elämän B-puolia (goth doom)

Svartkonst – May the Night Fall (blackened death metal)

Symbiotic Tomorrow – Rise Of The Pharaoh (death metal)

Taking Meds – Dial M For Meds (indie rock, emo (produced by Kurt Ballou?!))

Timechild – Blossom & Plague (prog metal)

Tombstone – Angel of Blood (power metal)

Tragic Forms – Arms ‘Round The Armistice (melodeath, metalcore)

Undergang – De syv stadier af fordærv (brutal death metal)

VAK – The Islands (prog sludge)

Weald and Woe – For The Good of The Realm (blackened folk metal)

Weird Tales – Second Coming, Second Crucifixion (sludge doom)

Zeke Deux – Vampire Tale (power metal, Visual kei)

Joshua Bulleid

Published a year ago