Release Day Roundup: 3/8/24

Fall to your knees and repent if you please!

a month ago

Top Pick

Judas Priest – Invincible Shield (heavy fucking metal)

You'd need an impenetrable defence in response to the assault brought by 2018's Firepower, and Judas Priest have brought just that with Invincible Shield. Following the Rush-ified intro of "Panic Attack,"* the band immediately kick into high gear and hardly let up from there, delivering eleven tracks of unrelentingly anthemic and utterly ferocious heavy metal that proves that, even after (over!) half a century, they are once again at the top of their game.

It's been said that the best defence is a good offence, and to that end Invincible Shield is consistently faster and more energetic than Firepower, even if it lacks real big hitters like "Never the Heroes" or "No Surrender". "Panic Attack" and quasi-ballad "Crown of Horns" perhaps come closest, and will slot neatly into setlists for however long Judas Priest continue to preach the heavy metal gospel.  Yet again, the secret ingredient is producer and touring guitarist Andy Sneap, who also contributes guitar parts this time, along with once again delivering one of the best -sounding records in the heavy metal history.** In particular, the 72-year-old Rob Halford (who I've seen struggle through a few live performances lately) sounds incredible here, perfectly delivering his trademark high screeches and mid-tempo turns of phrase with compelling conviction. I'd love to hear a re-recorded compilation of some of Judas Priest's '70s material with Sneap at the helm before the band bow out.

Despite its strong initial showing, Invincible Shield is not entirely bulletproof. At fifty-three minutes long, the record is only five-minutes short of Firepower, even though it contains three-fewer tracks, and, unlike its predecessor, it doesn't quite keep the momentum up all the way through. Although each is solid in isolation, the last three tracks feel comparatively tacked on. Epic-coded "Giants in the Sky" is also the one time on the otherwise up-tempo album that they bring back Firepower's distinctively Metallica-esque mid-paced stomp. This time, however, they also bring along that band's modern penchant for unnecessary repetition, so that the record somewhat drags across the finish line, rather than blasting through it as prior proceedings suggested it might. It'd still be the best song on 72 Seasons (2023) by an absolute Jotun mile. Both "Escape from Reality" and "Sons of Thunder" might also have been off being replaced by utterly vital bonus track "Fight of Your Life" (not to be confused with proto-"Rock Hard, Ride Free" track "Fight for Your Life"), which blends a sleazy, Whitesnake strut with an "Eye of the Tiger"-esque motivational chorus. Drop that in there and tighten-up "Giants" a bit and Invincible Shield would truly fulfil the promise of its title.

Extremely minor gripes aside, Invincible Shield is another absolute triumph to add to the latter-day Priest cannon. While not quite as good as Firepower or the last Primal Fear album (let alone Iron Maiden's Brave New World (2001)), it's right there with them and yet another testament to the fact that, whether or not Judas Priest are the first heavy metal band, they are undoubtedly the most heavy metal band, and arguably the best band to ever do it as well.

*Is there an actual song this sounds like, or is it just a mix of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and "New Millennium" by Dream Theater?

**Get. This. Guy. Working. With. Metallica. Now!

Honourable Mention

Doodseskader – Year Two (post-industrial prog-sludge, noise-rap/horrorcore)

Consider this one more of a "top pick as service" than a wholehearted recommendation. If we want to exclusively talk about things I actually enjoy listening to, then I'd be pointing you in the direction of that new Myrath album, but it's Doodseskader's who've come up with the week's most interesting offering. Year Two has been getting a rather rabid response behind the scenes here at Heavy Blog, and more publicly in our Discord channel), and for good reason. The band—who consist of Amenra bassist Tim De Gieter and drummer Sigfried Burroughs from a bunch of bands I (and I suspect you) have never heard of—genuinely defy genre categorisation, blending post and sludge metal with post-Code Orange-esque hardcore trappings with brutal, harrowing hip-hop that reminds me of clipping. at their darkest (and probably sounds like a bunch of other bands that I'm not cool enough to know about), which results in something ultimately reminiscent of Chat Pile, except if they were actually as interesting as everyone says they are.

Ironically, it's Doodseskader (whose name translates to "death squad") who are far more likely to induce a panic attack than the new Judas Priest album, and I'm just not in the right headspace for that at the moment/ever, but here's no denying the quality and intrigue on offer here. Just go in knowing that you might not come out the same way you went in.

Release Roundup

Agonista – Grey And Dry (crust punk)

Alterium – Of War And Flames (symphonic power metal)

Andry – Skies (power metal)

Apogean – Cyberstrictive (brutal tech death)

Arthouse Fatso – Sycophantic Seizures: A Double Feature (weird grindcore)

Backskin – Destiny of Steel and Blood (black metal)

Barren/Vomit Spell – Split (deathgrind)

Before The Dawn – Archaic Flame (melodeath)

Besotten/Funerelic – Abyssal Synodality (death-doom)

Beyond The Hate – Darkest Times (symphonic death/doom)

Bite The Hand – Brutal By Design (hardcore)

Cell Press – Cages (sludge)

Chatte Royal – Mick Torres Plays Too F***ing Loud (prog shred, math rock)

Cosmic Dread – The Incredible Flying Machine (instrumental math prog)

Curse The Kings – Feral Earth (post black metal)

Discernment – To Leave (weird speed metal)

Domain – Life’s Cold Grasp (hardcore)

Early Moods – A Sinners Past (doom metal)

Ecclesia – Ecclesia Militans (doomy metal)

The End Machine – The Quantum Phase (heavy/hair metal)

Exhorder – Defectum Omnium (grungey thrash)

Floya – Yume (pop rock)

4Banned – Sanatorium (death metal)

Full Tone Generator – Refuge Of Sinners (stoner metal)

Goat Major – Ritual (doom metal)

Gost – Prophecy (gothy/blackened synthwave)

Grey Skies Fallen – Molded By Broken Hands (blackened melodeath-doom)

Hijss – Stuck On Common Ground (psych rock)

Holdlajtorja – Arcana Et Tenebraem (blackened doom)

Hydra – Into the Night (trad doom)

I Am The Intimidator – I Am The Intimidator (trad thrash)

Isenordal – Requiem For Eirene (funeral doom)

Kelevra – Oneiric (melodeath)

Kill The Lights – Death Melodies (alt metal, butt-core)

Kim Gordon – The Collective (alt/indie rock, noise)

Kings of Dark Desires – Battles Below (black metal)

Kollapse – AR (post sludge)

Menäce – Erebus (crusty black thrash)

Liderc – Profan Mysterium (black metal)

Liv Moon – You Live in Me (symphonic power/folk metal)

Magefa – Rotting Away (death metal)

Meadows of Melancholy – From Being to Nothingness (black metal)

Merrimack – Of Grace And Gravity (black metal)

Midnight – Hellish Expectations (heavy metal, black thrash)

Misophonia – (De)void Of Peace (black metal)

Mist Descends – Horizons (goth metal)

Mokoma – Myrsky (power/folk sludge?)

Molten – Malicide (brutal death metal)

Moonoises – She: The Void (posty doom)

Moor Mother – The Great Bailout (noise jazz?, doom folk?)

Motherwood – A Fading Elegy (black metal, prog doom)

Mutilated By Zombies – Scenes From The Afterlife (death metal)

Myrath – Karma (melodic prog metal, massive bangers)

Nick Johnston – Child Of Bliss (chill shred)

Nightgaunt/Trembling Void – Terrifying Vistas of Reality (black metal)

No Worth Of Man – What’s Your Damage? (brutal death metal)

Notio – Worldview (prog metal)

Nucelar Doom State – Final Siege (groove/death thrash)

Observers – The Age Of The Machine Entities (melodeath-doom)

Oppressive Descent – Sulfuric Wrath (black metal)

Pantheist – Kings Must Die (doom)

Prolapsed – Expulsion of Innards (brutal death, slam)

Puteraeon – Quindecennial Horror (death metal)

Resurge – Resurge from Underneath (death metal)

Sahon – Blood Shall Be Paid (death thrash)

Shadohm – Through Darkness Towards Enlightenment (alt metal)

Sirius – Fly High (power metal)

Skeletal Remains – Fragments Of The Ageless (death metal)

Skull Incision – Grim (blackened death metal)

Slimelord – Chytridiomycosis Relinquished (brutal disso-death)

Sociasylum – Harmony Of Discordance (blackened disso-death)

Sonata Arctica – Clear Cold Beyond (power metal)

Speedkiller – Inferno (black thrash)

Stargate – Escaping the Illusion (heavy/power metal)

Too Close To Touch – For Keeps (melodic post-hardcore)

Trueandtrue – Back Into Quiet (gothy post punk)

Turbulence – Binary Dream (prog metal)

Uncle Woe – Oblivion and Further Disaster (sludge doom)

Valhalla Awaits – Perdition (hard rock)

Varkolak – Fading Lights and Blurry Visions (post-black mteal)

Vicinity – VIII (proggy prog metal)

Vlad In Tears – Relapse (goth rock, emo)

The Wind Covenant – Hiraeth (progressive/tech metalcore)

Joshua Bulleid

Published a month ago