Welcome heshers, hellions, hessians, and hellraisers to the biggest metal week of the year. Stuffed with 2014’s most anticipated releases from bands both old and new—as well as a line-up of wild Halloween-themed bashes—today is one for the elder scrolls. So strap on the combat boots and smear on the corpse paint, we are going to war.
WHAT TO BUY: Like the emo revival and punk renaissance before it, metal has enjoyed its own nostalgia-fueled movement over the past several months, welcoming graying metal bands back to both operation and relevancy in the name of considerably-more-lucrative-than-the-first-time-around world tours, mega-label LPs, and some seriously impressive t-shirt sales rates. If that sounds slightly cynical, well, that’s because it is, but thankfully efforts from bands such as Carcass and icons like Tom G. Warrior have more than lived up to bar set by their very own ghosts, and today, Swedish death metal legends, At The Gates, look to do the same with their first album in 19 long, cold, barren years, At War With Reality (Century Media). Hailed by Metal Injection as the “greatest comeback album in metal history” and already anointed the “best metal album of 2014” by MetalSucks, the very belated follow-up to 1995’s genre-defining Slaughter of the Soul is already saddled with the same baggage that has sunk many of metal’s most-hyped returns over the years but At The Gates didn’t simply show up to read their riffs off the back of a Century Media paycheck. That ambition shows too, in in each and every instantly moshable, wildly anthemic, and perfectly produced passage of pure evil. I’m going to table the AOTY talk for now, because at this point the narrative is still overpowering the music, but in a few months, when we’ve all had a chance to sit down with At War With Reality sans the historical context, rest assured, this one will be at or near our precarious, snow-capped pinnacle.
Now pack up the death metal revival tent and head south where famed Floridians, Obituary, a band arguably as influential as At The Gates in their respective sub-genre, have their latest LP, Inked In Blood (Relapse), prepped for mass decapitation. Though the wait for this one hasn’t been as excruciatingly long as the former’s self-imposed hiatus–a scant five years in comparison–Inked In Blood does represent something of landmark for the band, being their first-ever release for Relapse records. The album, as evidenced by Loudwire’s full stream, is all big riffs and gore-slathered grooves, or in other words, pretty much what you’d expect from a band who self-subscribe to the “meathead death metal” label. If that sounds like your kind of good time, make sure to grab a copy, which comes in Relapse’s now-requisite collection of smeared and splattered vinyl.
The metal label messiahs don’t stop at Obituary this week either, dropping new releases from Portaland death/doom quartet Atriarch and techy death metallers, Abysmal Dawn as well. The former, An Unending Pathway (Relapse), is Atriarch’s third album in as many years, and finds the band in fine form, thanks in no small part to the expert knob-turning of Billy Anderson (who was last heard helming Pallbearer’s sophomore doom opus, Foundations of Burden) while the latter, Obsolescence (Relapse), is the kind of straightforward death metal that we have come to rely on for a palate cleanse in an extreme music community overrun with hybridization and shock-n-awe marketing strategies. An Unending Pathway is streaming over at Pitchfork Advance and Obsolescence at Metal Sucks, so make sure to give them a listen while they’re still free.
While all solid to amazing records (in reverse order), none of the aforementioned releases are going to see much critical deviation across the board, making them, at least from my standpoint, somewhat less compelling. Even the At The Gates fervor has become almost monotonous at this point, so it’s with some relief then that we have arrived at this week’s first true lightning rod album, Dawnbringer’s Night Of The Hammer (Profound Lore). Throughout the past decade, Dawnbringer, the primary reative outlet of Chicago-based metal master Chris Black, has been one of the most fire-proof projects in modern metal, turning in one MAOTY contender after the next to increasingly reverent audiences, but on Hammer, “Professor Black”, as he is affectionately known, has embraced one big risk: Change. All but abandoning the grandiose, high-concept structures of 2012’s Into The Lair of The Sun God and 2010’s Nucleus, Hammer puts immediacy at the forefront of its 10 tracks, which together clock in at well under an hour. Black’s crate-digging influences and NWOBHM nostalgia are still ever present and immaculately rendered, but their delivery—and thus the depth of their content—are sure to divide opinion faster than a Hadron Collider. If you dug Slough Feg’s Digital Resistance (lest we forget all albums pre-June), though, this one, especially its singles “One-Eyed Sister” and “Hand of Death”, should settle into your rotation nicely.
Now that we are we all warmed up and properly stretched, its time to blitz this one to the finish line. On the speed-centric side of things, hardcore supergroup Obliterations (featuring members of Black Mountain, Saviors, and Night Horse) have their debut, Poison Everything (Southern Lord) ready to rip, while extreme metal heathens should dig their, ahem, chops into Annihilated’s XIII Steps To Ruination (Unique Leader), Canandian tech kings Beyond Creation’s Earthborn Evolution, and Anaal Nathrakh’s latest fucked-up frappe of noise, grind, and black metal, Desideratum (Metal Blade), which you can stream in full over at Revolver. If your ears are looking for more abuse after all of that, check out Italian post-prog outfit Nero di Marte’s Derivae (Prosthetic), also spinning at Revolver HQ, and Necrophagist’s classic death metal spawn (a big week for that, apparently), WhiteWorm Cathedral (Season of Mist), which has slithered up from the depths of rusted-out Ohio just in time for Halloween.
And speaking of This One Goes To Eleven’s favorite day of the year, Windhand and Salem’s Pot are celebrating with an ultra-limited 7” split (RidingEasy Records) that ships Friday, while Maine black metal specialists, Falls of Rauros—who a tore a star-devouring hole in Union Pool’s universe back in August—have their latest LP, Believe In No Coming Shore (Bindrune Recordings) due out on Saturday. It’s all too easy for non-Tuesday releases to slip off the radar, but these are two of the best this week, so make sure to keep your sights set squarely on the weekend (as if they weren’t already).
WHAT TO SEE: The show week kicks off in about the biggest way possible tonight, with the second of Pallbearer’s two sold-out-since-August shows at Saint Vitus. I managed to catch the show last night—also featuring Tombs, New Hampshire black metal breakthroughs, Vattnet Viskar, and Estatic Vision—and let’s just say Pallbearer buried their checkered live reputation deep in Greenpoint dirt with a non-stop, two-hour doom metal marathon. It would take Rip Van Winkle to sleep on this one, so make sure to get out there and show your support.
Vitus keeps things going on Wednesday with a Sixpoint sponsored gathering headlined by psych rock trio Ruby The Hatchet, Black Black Black, and, umm, Blackout that will cost you just five bucks. If you’re still drained from the CMJ insanity, however, then save up your energy for the holiday weekend, when a Halloween thrash rager featuring Toxik, VEKTOR, Blood Feast, Rise To Burn, Surgical Strike, and Paralysis, as well as an ultra-rare set from Columbian black metal outfit Thy Anitchirst on Saturday, make the hallowed venue the place to haunt and be haunted.
The Acheron appears to be healing up after Inter Arma curb-stomped its face for CMJ, so you’ll have to turn elsewhere for metallic sustenance, such as this week’s maybe totally premeditated Misfits v. Samhain face off. The legendary horror punks, sporting their sans-Danzig line up, of course, hit Irving Plaza tonight for their annual NYC Halloween appearance, which would definitely be a must if it weren’t for the fact that Danzig’s other band, Samhain, which just so happens to actually feature the high asshole overlord, headlines a bash for their namesake holiday at Best Buy Theater on Saturday with Goatwhore, Midnight, and more. Pick one, the other, or both, but whatever you do, just don’t hold out for the impromptu secret reunion show at Vitus, because that is the only thing guaranteed not to happen.
If that’s not your cup of goat’s blood, get over to the Gramercy Theatre, where the original occult rockers Pentagram spearhead a killer bill featuring Radio Moscow (who headline Saint Vitus on 11/4), Blood Ceremony, and Kings Destroy. There’s no telling how much longer Bobby Liebling and co. will be able to get out the road—let’s just say they haven’t treated their bodies as well as they should have over the years—so make sure to get out there and see them while still can.
WHAT THE FUCK: Somber news today, as Corey Mitchell—founder of Housecore Horror Film Festival, acclaimed true crime author, MetalSucks contributor, and much-loved member of the East Coast metal scene—apparently succumbed to a heart attack Sunday at Emo’s in Austin, Texas, where Housecore was wrapping up its second successful year. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family, as well as the wider metal community, which has already experienced too much loss this year.