November 2021 Release Roundup
Despite what the metal journo-blog-sphere would have you believe, there is still music to be heard in 2021, and while not all of it will make it to year-end lists, November held a lot of high points that we're looking to properly acknowledge here.
Our year-end lists start next week, and if you have your own going you may be putting the finishing touches on it—here's some suggestions from November to round yours out.
Fortress—Don't Spare the Wicked
November 26th, 2021
Traditional heavy metal was best when there used to be as many synths as possible jammed into it. Sure, okay, fine, it doesn't always make sense to have swelling pads behind your already-intense vocals, sweet riffs, and all that, but I refuse to let my metal tastes bow to reason and sensibility. Fortress' latest album Don't Spare the Wicked is a boisterous ride that sounds like a long-lost tape from a classic 1980s heavy metal and NWOBHM collection, featuring incredibly strong vocals and fun songwriting to back it up.
After their incredibly strong debut EP got them signed to High Roller Records, expectations were definitely high for their next release, but their debut full-length easily fulfills the promise of that EP. Offering takes on both vicious speed metal (where yes, the synths do abate somewhat) and more dramatic ballads, it's a versatile celebration of vintage metal with a free-wheeling spirit.
Plebeian Grandstand—Rien ne suffit
November 19th, 2021
Holy crap, what a wacky and ridiculous album. This was to be expected after False Highs, True Lows' Deathspell OMetalcore-type, heavily discordant madness, but this new album… well, it's something else entirely. Leaning heavily into noise, power electronics, and free improvisation as a binding element, Rien ne suffit's five-year gestation period shows Plebeian Grandstand evolving instead of simply creating the genre sequel I think everyone was expecting. An album of continuously occurring moments--the drums in "Part maudite" are a standout--Rien ne suffit ("nothing is enough" in French) is a pummeling monster of horrifying textures, clattering discord, difficult structures, and mindful composition.
When I listen to "discordant music," I often feel left wanting. Most bands simply try to make the ugliest music around and call it a day (looking at a lot of you), but Plebeian Grandstand's hardcore and screamo background offers them a chance at true emotive communication, and Rien ne suffit's unbridled anger is both undoubted and unbridled. Some of these riffs hardly make sense, but with a very capable rhythm section (again, thank you hardcore) does Plebeian Grandstand fully transcend from "being a dissonant band" to "being something fucking terrifying."
Solar Cross—Echoes of the Eternal Word
November 19th, 2021
Great records go by unnoticed all the time. But Solar Cross's full-length debut Echoes of the Eternal Word flew so low under the radar, it may as well have been tunneling underground. As was pointed out to me by friendly neighborhood editor Ted, the band isn't even on Metal Archives yet—despite featuring longtime Omnium Gatherum members (and brothers) Harri and Jarmo Pikka on guitar/bass and drums, respectively.
Harri and Jarmo are complemented by third brother Lauri on vocals, but turned to author Matti Rautaniemi for lyrics—a type of collaboration that I feel is way less common than it should be. I love the idea of bringing in a dedicated lyricist who becomes as core a band member as the musicians performing the music on the record, because of the intentional weight it places on lyrics as a foundational aspect of the band's effort, and especially when lyrics are so often throwaway or trite.
The beyond-expansive record leapfrogs from early-Metallica thrash riffs to hooks that wouldn't be out of place on an Unto Others album—it's genre surgery taken to extremes, but the banquet is immaculately arranged. It baffles me that a record this infectious and cool is lying so low, but we don't have to let that trend continue.
Stormkeep—Tales of Othertime
November 19th, 2021
Last year, current Editor in Chief Jon Rosenthal sent me the promo for Stormkeep’s debut EP Galdrum, and I have to admit at the time I wasn’t quite as excited as he was for this new project. The pedigree was apparent enough given the inclusion of members from two of the Denver Colorado’s most exceptional bands, Blood Incantation (Isaac Faulk) and Wayfarer (
Jamie Hansen and Shane McCarthy). Yet, I didn’t hear anything that made me go, “wow”, but certainly enough there that could promise greater things. Well, Jon clearly heard that promise better than I could as I got smacked to the ground upon first listen to their debut album in Tales of Othertime.
This has to be one of the most fun black metal albums I’ve heard in a while. Their finely crafted work brings to mind a lot of early to mid era Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar and the often overlooked melodic black metal of Sweden’s Dawn. The soaring epic guitar melodies are reminiscent of the aforementioned Dawn, getting the listener drunk like a flag of sweet mead, while the Dimmu influences shine on Mustis-esque keyboard performances that puncture to the front of the band’s sound and the soaring clean vocals highly reminiscent of Vortex’s epic moments. Tales of Othertime is the type of black metal equally suited for soundtracking a hike into wooded hills or friends gathered around a D&D campaign, in either case helping listeners imagine themselves battling a horde of trolls and goblins or pondering your blue crystal orb in the highest castle keep. With only their debut, this new supergroup from the Denver Colorado area have set a real feather in the cap for their ever growing musical scene.
Morgul Blade—Fell Sorcery Abounds
November 26th, 2021
When I think of No Remorse Records, I think of heavy metal in all of its purest forms: raging speed metal, triumphing true metal, epic doom and perhaps even thrash- but certainly not black metal. Seeing a band I associate with black metal following their first EP on the roster was a shock, though it came to make sense with repeated listens. Morgul Blade aren’t quite black metal outright, but a sort of Bathory-adjacent extremity is written with certainty into their particular menacing take on swaggering epic metal, from the sometimes unsettling progressions that riffs launch through to the fact that the bulk of the vocals on the album are snarled rather than sun.
The variety works well and the sound is very well-executed, with the occasional tremolo picked line or unusually-dissonant riffy serving to set Morgul Blade aside from their more traditional peers without ever being quite jarring enough to distract from just how riffy the whole thing is. Occasional lines of killer clean-sung verses round out the package for one of the strongest debuts of the year, and one with a hell of a lot of depth for those seeking something a bit more off the beaten path than most hyped heavy metal.
November 19th, 2021
Opening an EP with a near seven-and-a-half-minute slab of casket-dragging death metal by way of doom is an awfully big statement, but Teeth are more than up to the task. Commencing things with “A Garden of Eyes”, the band’s new Finite EP leaves no doubters in its path; this is no-frills heaviness of the greatest degree. Later on, the track slows down to allow for spoken word passages that allow for some subtlety before Erol Ulug unleashes some of his ugliest utterances to date.
The rest of this affair doesn’t have the same chronological heft, yet manages to get their point across in different ways. Two quick tracks manage to vary their sounds in the slow heaviness and more of the death doom plod you expect from them, followed by the remaining two slabs: in particular, “Scornful Nexus” features some wonderfully scary moments where every sound the band makes builds upon itself before enveloping the listener in absolute darkness. Teeth manage to get a lot out of an EP, making for a “bite-sized” affair that doesn’t lack in what you’d expect. After seeing this collective in Philly earlier this year, their live show conveys these facts even better.