After so much time (let's be honest, 20 years is a long time for a rock band), our expectations for a band change. On one end of the spectrum you have bands like Metallica, suffering from intense overreaction (both good and bad) with every release since ReLoad. On the other, bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan consistently release quality material, but fans and critics lull into indifference because it’s business as usual. In this writer’s opinion, Every Time I Die have been cruising on this end of the spectrum for the entirety of this decade, and that’s just fine; but admittedly, there’s a point where this par for the course becomes a bore. Buffalo’s finest already have one of the most consistent discographies of any modern hardcore band, and they appear to have done it all, and most importantly, done it on their own terms. From humble punk rock beginnings, to mild enough success to warrant touring with Ozzfest, to Guitar Hero pseudo-stardom, to a sort of reinventing of their own sound, to refining that sound with "wild experiments” and "throwback" sounds, what's left for a band to do?
House of Lightning are back. Where were they? Who knows? Who cares? What’s really important is that they’re back with a new full-length since their 2014 debut, Lightworker. Consisting of members from Torche, Wrong, and Floor, these dudes don’t mess with Frankenstein-esque genre experiments or tomfoolery. Instead, they invest their talents into the piss-and-vinegar energy of an in-your-face blend of metal, rock, and punk.
Denver’s Khemmis materialized as quickly and supernaturally as the panel van wizard-style illustrations that grace their album art. Absolution, their impressive debut album from the not-so-distant 2015, bubbled up as a critical favorite, garnering attention from publications large and small - no small feat for an upstart band in an already populated scene. Taking nods from old-school progenitors like Candlemass and Thin Lizzy, Khemmis carry diverse classic vibes into the modern era, zeroing in on a more alloyed kind of retro revival than peers like Pallbearer or The Sword. Somehow, in wizard-like fashion, they’ve quickly conjured their follow-up, Hunted, a record that polishes the ideas presented on Absolution, but ultimately feels like an all-too-familiar sequel.
It only makes sense that we come to an epiphany about “Voodoo Child” while listening to Minneapolis psychedelic sludge outfit, Maeth. After all, their latest release, Shrouded Mountain, is the sonic equivalent to knocking down a mountain and building it back up again. This record finds the band flexing their post-metal muscle, making the ebbs and flows of their signature aural growth and decay feel more effortless and natural than ever. By tightening things up and leaving behind the shorter transitory interludes from prior albums in favor of merging everything into what could be a singular song, Shrouded Mountain runs efficient, but overflows with atmosphere and.
It is no small challenge for bands to find a way to sonically distinguish themselves from the legions of acts in their genre. There's no shortage of ways (intentional or not) for groups to get this done, but in the past ten years or so, we’ve been hearing bands more frequently pull from unusual and atypical influences, bringing about a “What the hell is this?” line of thinking more and more often. Whether it's a mixture of seemingly incongruent styles in the overlap of some wacky Venn diagram like this year’s fantastic Zeal and Ardor release Devil is Fine, or Between the Buried and Me’s spontaneous (and quite addictive) polka/circus/surf segues, it's proven that there's reward for ambitious risk-taking. As a result, it seems as though the metal community as a whole has adjusted their tastes. There's more open-mindedness for things that stray from the path, and that's exactly where Madison, Wisconsin grind duo The Central excel on their latest release, Discovery Of A Rat.