Ensiferum – Two Paths

In the 2000s, metal went through a strange phase. Scandinavian high octane melodeath bands found a shared passion for melody, hooks, and flashy guitar work with power metal bands as well new lyrical inspiration from folklore. Overnight, it seems metal spawned a whole scene with a new pool of clichés (well, sort of new) to exploit. Folk metal was nothing new at the time but there was a huge rebranding of it and every label was jumping on board. New bands popped up every year, some great and some boring as hell. One of these bands, Ensiferum, unfortunately introduced heavy metal’s most notorious edging expert, Jari Mäenpää, into the world. Jari left in 2004 to focus on Wintersun, but Ensiferum has continued its steady output of quality music since his departure. Their new album, Two Paths, continues their streak.

Orden Ogan – Gunmen

Orden Ogan has made an extremely enjoyable power metal record with Gunmen. Like fellow power metal acts Unleash The Archers and Witherfall earlier this year, the band manages to make their respect for the genre’s past clear while still finding new sounds to play with. Originally a small-time act in the folk metal boom of the mid-2000s, Sebastian Levermann, the mastermind and frontman of the group, has worked to make the act one of the most unique and fresh voices in the current power metal scene. There’s so much to talk about here not least of which is Levermann’s talent for writing choruses with lots of huge choirs. Just listen to the opening title track.

Cormorant – Diaspora

Sometimes you put on a record and the music cascading into your head gives you a jolt straight up your spine. That opening salvo is everything you want, pushing all the right buttons and getting your blood pumping, your heart racing, and your mind zeroed in on nothing but the music. Pure, unadulterated sound that fills you with elation, an exuberance you can barely contain. I have been overcome by this sensation many times as a music listener. It’s that uncommon state of absolute and unashamed excitement for what comes next. Unfortunately, what actually comes next doesn’t always live up to that initial rush, either by sheer sugar rush effect or simply because the remaining tracks on the album aren’t up to the standards set by the opening track. What it comes down to is that many albums are good, but few are great. It is a truth that music lovers have to accept every time that damned opening track teases us into blind, all-encompassing hope that the rest of the album will live up to the soaring heights of those first few, precious moments. Cormorant’s new album Diaspora gave me this feeling I just described. But in those first few incredible moments, I couldn’t help wondering whether this reaction would persist. What resulted over the next hour was a thoroughly remarkable journey that I have relived and revisited many times since then. TL;DR: This album is profoundly good.

Iapetus – The Long Road Home

Long Island based Iapetus provide us with a left of field lesson in what ambition bridled by talent can create. Their 2017 self-release (which is, and always will be, completely free) The Long Road Home is an ambitious album which spans progressive death metal, neo-folk and progressive metal. It insists, even unto the brink of failure, to go where the vision of the two artists takes it rather than where convention would dictate it should go. As mentioned, during this process it comes dangerously close to overreaching its boundaries and even faintly grazes the markings of overwrought artistry. But for those willing to brave those extremes of wild, self indulgent and un-tethered self expression lies an album full of great musical moments.

Draugsól Continues Iceland’s Black Metal Dominance

Just about this time last year, Simon ran a piece about how Icelandic black metal was primed to be the next big movement in the genre. Though I had been familiar – and highly impressed – with albums from Misþyrming and Naðra, I was genuinely surprised to see how many other quality black metal bands hailed from the small, not-so-icy island. And thankfully for BM fans, Simon was right about this being a growing trend, as 2017 has already plopped Draugsól’s Volaða Land onto my running top releases list for the year. The album title’s apt translation to “poor country” points to the desolate atmosphere that permeates throughout the record.

Best Of: Global Metal

As in everything, the trajectory of global culture has affected the ways in which we perceive and consume metal. While we won’t have the time to go in depth on concepts like “the West”, “globalism” and “cultural appropriation”, it’s safe to say that metal is too often viewed with a Western-tinged lens. Thus, Europe (western/northern Europe, that is) and the US are often viewed as the focal points of the community and, sometimes, as the only grounds in which events worth consider occur. However, the reality is far from that and is much more positive: metal, like any cultural community which has, is or will one day thrive, is a global phenomenon.

Thy Catafalque – Meta

It’s tough for one-man projects to remain consistently exciting: often, their singular nature tends to bog down a sense of advancement or diversity across their sonic explorations. The problem with letting one mind have total creative control is that only one person is in charge, and that there’s only one…

Hey! Listen to Myrkgrav!

I discovered Myrkgrav in the years of my youth when review scores on The Metal Archives were as comprehensive and inarguable as Michelin stars. So Trollskau, skrømt og kølabrenning’s 99% score (albeit on three reviews) revved my anticipation for epic folk metal in the vein of Finntroll. What I received, however, paraded no beer-pounding jolliness or magnificent bombast, but was instead a softer and more stony-faced dialect of folk metal I haven’t heard before or since.

Half-Life – Amon Amarth

Amon Amarth has been one of the most consistently excellent melodic death metal bands to come through the pipes in the last two decades. Over the years, they’ve honed and refined their sound from the raw death metal ferocity of Once Sent from the Golden Hall into a cleaner, more accessible melodic death metal sound. Their graduation away from raw brutality happened largely in landmark leaps at a few points in their career. Because of this, I’ve taken the liberty of dividing Amon Amarth’s career into three distinct sonic stages in order to more closely examine the Amon Amarth of yesterday and today.