March 2019 Release Roundup
March seemed to be the month where great bands who haven't released anything in a while started to promise comebacks. Karnivool claims they’re "many, many months" into crafting their first new album since 2013, Dredg promises a very rock-oriented comeback after the lukewarm bore-fest that was 2011's Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy, and Refused says their follow-up to Freedom will make people who love 1998's The Shape of Punk to Come say "oh yeah, this makes a bit more sense." Then there's the mysterious 90 seconds of new Vildhjarta music called "Kaos 2" -- I really want to get excited about a potential new Vildhjarta record, but this is the second bit of contextless music they've dropped since 2016. So I remain cautiously curious, though their appearances at festivals makes me believe they’re forging a slow return.
I'd also really like to see a Liquid Tension Experiment reunion. Guitarist John Petrucci said this month he'd be down a reunion, while drummer Mike Portnoy had keyboardist Jordan Rudess come on stage to play some Liquid Tension Experiment tracks at a show in February. If this happens, it'll be the first music Petrucci, Portnoy, and Rudess put out together since Dream Theater's 2009 record Black Clouds & Silver Linings (bonus: check out our full review of Dream Theater's latest album).
In more concrete news, Baroness announced they're wrapping up the color-themed albums with one more called Gold & Gray. Baroness promises the new record will be adventurously experimental, and considering that it's 17 songs long, I'm inclined to believe that. I also still can't decide if I'm more blown away by the debut single "Borderlines" or the artwork.
At The Gates recently teased studio time, and there's a lot to unpack there depending on how you want to look at it. The photos revealing their studio presence had hashtags like #neworold? and #whatif, and their upcoming performance at Roadburn 2019 is mysteriously being billed as: "Details are still being finalized regarding exactly what the set list will comprise of, and just how those songs will be presented, but what we can tell you is that it’s going to be a must-see part of Roadburn 2019." So my guess is that these two things are connected. Maybe it's reimagining of old material? Or maybe they're playing with an orchestra.
Finally, let’s talk about the upcoming Black Sabbath covers project Magnetic Eye Records has going on. Magnetic Eye Records recruited bands like Whores, Thou, Haunt, Spirit Adrift, and The Obsessed to each cover a track from Black Sabbath’s 1972 album Vol. 4. The crowdfunding raised around $25,000 of the $5,000 the label needed, so now they’re doing a companion record. That one is called Best of Black Sabbath Redux, which sees bands Summoner, Earthless, Rwake, and Year of the Cobra tackle Black Sabbath songs from their whole catalog. Given the participants and source material, I’m excited for both. Magnetic Eye Records is also putting out a covers album of Alice In Chains’ Dirt in 2020, which features Khemmis, 16, Bell Witch, and High Priest among other great artists.
Now let’s get to some albums we can listen to in full.
-- Greg Kennelty
Satan Spits on Children of Light
March 1, 2019
G.I.S.M.-influenced blackened hardcore crust punk imbued with Bathory-styled vocals and sent to another dimension with one guitar that won't stop using a chorus pedal: Devil Master evokes the sonic equivalent of jumpy, flickering horror movies like the original Nosferatu in that there's an inherently terrifying quality about its simplicity. There's a recognizable humanness to the monsters. There's a summoning circle in the basement. There's a man in a cheap robe standing in the shadows with his face painted white, whose hands are too gaunt to be natural. There is a Satan, and his master calls his name from Philadelphia.
March 29, 2019
Hell Fire is clearly a 1980s heavy metal band that, just having opened for Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, figured they'd make a name for themselves by going back to before those artists existed. Hell Fire constructed a time machine in their practice space, got drunk, screwed up the math, and appeared in 2016. Luckily, the modern heavy metal scene was taking off at the time, so nobody questioned their presence. Hell Fire has continued to keep that retro spirit alive on their new album with such fervor and conviction that it's pretty difficult to refute the preceding theory.
March 29, 2019
Departed Souls explores trippy mellotrons, electric piano, and acoustic guitar in conjunction with more engaging instrumental melodies than Magic Circle previously conjured. The band perfectly sums up their first two records worth of doom-tinged rock, which combined the raw power of Led Zeppelin with the sinister evil Black Sabbath, with vast experimentation to achieve more than they could've just by sticking to their original sound. This album is effectively Magic Circle cementing themselves as undeniable masters of their craft all while getting very stuck in your head.
March 29, 2019
Moon Tooth pitches electrifying, bluesy, and highly original progressive metal at your head faster than you can duck. Walking the line between challenging and accessible, Crux appeals to musicians as much as casual listeners -- and Moon Tooth is a modern powerhouse who could not exist outside its four current members, each of whose participation is an immovable cornerstone to the band’s clear infallibility. This album is emotional and fed up, yet willing to cast aside misery with a boisterous “fuck it” to move on to something else. This is one of the best progressive records of the decade. Get on it.
Ripped to Shreds
Eight Immortals Feast
March 23, 2019
Fall into the mouth of dull, gnashing blades and become unidentifiable fragments of the body you once inhabited. The Eight Immortals Feast demo is grinding, tumultuous death metal that fearlessly barrels into the realms of grindcore and doom as the seemingly logical conclusion of its songs' building speed and fury. Ripped to Shreds immediately set a new quality standard for new-old school death metal on their debut record 埋葬 in 2018, and this new one is a warning shot that everyone will need to up their game again likely soon. The blades only get faster. The endless viscera never satisfies the emptiness. All becomes a mist of blood and bones.
March 29, 2019
Reinvention is tricky, though Whitechapel sure doesn’t make it seem that difficult. Whitechapel’s new album The Valley deals lyrically with the suffering endured by vocalist Phil Bozeman as a child growing up in Hardin Valley, Tennessee. Bozeman’s intense vocal delivery, both growled and cleanly sung, mixed with Whitechapel’s next-level songwriting makes for an album that will likely go down as their best yet. What sets this one apart from Whitechapel’s discography is that it doesn’t feel like a deathcore-type band throwing in other styles just to say they branched out. The Valley is suffering, sorrow and pain incarnate, and channeled flawlessly into ten tracks.
A Violent Dread EP
March 15, 2019
Woe returns to the world two years after their fantastic 2017 album Hope Attrition with one new song and a cover of Dawn’s “The Knell and the World.” The A Violent Dread EP is 19 minutes of hollow, sorrowful black metal whose emptiness will radiate slowly through your body like steel hammers striking the outside of a bell. Woe’s ability to craft melodies that weave themselves around Chris Grigg’s bleak lyrics is unrelenting through the title track, while the cover song has even a colder edge than the atomic original.