These are weird times my friends. But even through the loneliest of nights or the grayest of days we still have new music being produced. I’m sure, like me, you’ve found heavy metal in all its forms to be a sort of catharsis. Below are a handful of new releases to help keep you sane and grounded.
Blessed Black – Beyond The Crimson Throne
The road between Black Sabbath’s mesmerizing debut and today is littered with bands worshiping the almighty riff and trying their best to emulate the very foundations of their sonic existence. There have been rough patches on that road and more often than not the type of aural potholes that blow out a tire. Cincinnati’s Blessed Black are one act though that keep it steady at the wheel with the hammer thrown way down. Mixing elements of stoner rock and doom, with pieces of traditional metal for good measure, Blessed Black writes music that feels both fresh and nostalgic in the best ways possible. This is a band that you could pick up and plop down in virtually any era and they’d still feel at home. The early ’70s proto-metal boom? Check. The ’80s underground traditional doom scene? Check. The late ’90s stoner rock explosion? Absolutely. Beyond The Crimson Throne is a record that feels like a straight shot through a desert of music where lesser bands lay dead on the side of the road. For fans of any of the genres listed above, get on board and keep it cranked.
Godthrymm – Reflections
When the band bio boasts that members served time in such luminaries as My Dying Bride and Anathema it would be easy (and frankly lazy) to sit and compare and contrast the current project’s merits in relation to previous projects. So let’s pretend for a second that I didn’t read that bio, and you didn’t read that last sentence (if you didn’t already know this band’s origins). What are we left with? We are left with almost an hour’s worth of sweeping, emotive, traditional doom and a record that should easily go down as one of the year’s finest doom releases. Reflections is a record that’s maybe not the best choice for anyone already suffering in the throes of social isolation. It’s a powerful record that alternates between crushingly heavy and beautifully expansive. It’s an addictive record you could easily fall into like a black void and truly lose yourself within. Filled with haunting riffs and a sonic backdrop that paints very grim and, at times, despairing pictures, Godthrymm have done their best to truly capture the essence of doom metal. Yes, fans of those previous projects will find a lot to like here, but Godthrymm have certainly done enough to stand on their own harrowing merits.
Black Royal – Firebride
Every year there’s that one record that just sneaks up out of nowhere and from the very first listen absolutely rips my face off. I’m never prepared for it, and it can be jarring in the same exciting ways that the first drop of a massive roller coaster brings. I offer you 2020’s addition to this phenomenal list. Admittedly, Finland’s Black Royal was not a band on my radar prior to a month ago when this album showed up in my inbox. It took a Facebook message from a fellow DJ/metalhead (Hi, Lord Gates) before I took the time to grab some headphones and sit down with this record. Needless to say, I’ve been hooked ever since. Not only was this album both heavier and darker than I expected it to be, the songwriting is downright dynamic. Mixing in elements of doom, stoner rock, post-metal, and even some death metal, Black Royal have composed an album that grabs you by the jugular from note one and never truly lets go. Taking nasty, growled vocals and layering them over chunky riffs and a thunderous rhythm section, Firebride is more often than not an unrelenting album in its heaviness. Add in lyrical content that’s not afraid to get extremely dark and the whole thing also takes on a sort of ritualistic feel to it. I can pretty much guarantee that this record is going to end up somewhere on my year-end list and it’s wholly deserving on multiple fronts.
Izthmi – The Arrow Of Our Ways
Another album, and band, that stormed into my life only to make me question how and why I was a late-comer, is Seattle’s Izthmi. Their debut album The Arrow Of Our Ways is a mature offering for a band that’s only released one demo prior to this year. Taking cues from various darkened corners of the black metal pantheon, the music of Izthmi is often times boundless in its construction and soaring in its execution. There are post black metal interludes woven among staunch second wave capsules, while various atmospheric and symphonic elements are at play as well. There feels like a constant conscious decision by this band all throughout this record to never allow genre parameters to ever get in the way of writing epic, and often stunning music. The Arrow Of Our Ways is a refreshing take on the black metal genre without ever feeling pretentious or forced. It’s ferocious when it needs to be and yet spacious throughout. This is an album that even the stodgiest black metal curmudgeon should find appealing on several levels.