Killer metal tends to come in waves that ebb and flow. For example from 2010 through 2012 one could not begin to stem the tide of awesome new releases being dished out every single month. This prolific three year stretch of metallic goodness was particularly noticeable when juxtaposed next to the comparative drought metal seemed to go through from 2006-2009 (hey, at least to me anyway). So the question of the moment has to be whether or not 2013 can maintain this high velocity level we’ve gotten used to from metal artists worldwide, spanning all sub genres. We won’t know until the year’s over but the tentative 2013 release schedules that are being compiled and posted on metal sites all over are promising to say the least. Here are my personal top five most anticipated metal releases of this new year!
1. Queensrÿche – TBA:
Just to clarify, I’m referring to the Todd LaTorre fronted, real Queensrÿche that has within its ranks founding members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, and Eddie Jackson. The abortion that is Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche can go die a slow, miserable, dinner-theater death. Why is this my most anticipated release of the year? Well my Queensrÿche fandom runs way back in my metal loving infancy, they were among some of the first bands to really make me appreciate music on a far more complex level, as well as being a musical cornerstone for a type of sound that I love to this day. They were one of my gateway bands in other words, and to see the deterioration that they had to go through in their post-Chris DeGarmo era at the hands of the woeful Tate and Yoko Tate has been more than a man can bear. When they finally gave him the boot in April of 2012 and soon afterwards debuted their newly recruited vocalist, LaTorre from Crimson Glory, I felt that one of my old favorites had been given a new lease on life. The recorded live clips of their recent string of shows have been nothing short of fantastic and grin inducing, and the talk of what this new album is supposed to be has me cautiously optimistic. I’m hopeful that these guys will make good on their promise to release a prog-metal album in the vein of what Queensrÿche fans have long hungered for.
2. Avantasia – The Mystery of Time:
Maybe the least surprising factoid for many of you who read this blog often is that I’m a fairly huge power metal fan. When I was first exploring metal that was off the American mainstream radar I briefly shunned power metal, sticking to death and melodic death metal with inborn stubbornness. But I loosened up when three power metal titans punched me in the face with releases from the late 90s, namely, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and Edguy. The latter of which contained one of the sub genre’s truly fantastic personalities: Edguy’s mercurial frontman, Tobias Sammet, was a vivid, loud, and zany character — but also one of the most accomplished and prolific songwriters that metal had ever seen. In a span of three years, 1998 to 2001, he knocked out of the ballpark three power metal classics with Edguy’s Vain Glory Opera, Theater of Salvation, and Mandrake.
The fact that he was folding into that same time frame a pair of classic records with his solo project Avantasia’s The Metal Opera Pt I & II was not only an incredible feat, but also the defining moment for the sub genre in what was a watershed period of excellent releases that began in the mid-nineties and would span well over a decade. It was a great time to be a fan of this style of metal. When he brought the project back in 2008 and onwards with a trio of releases and a new line-up, I felt like Sammet was forging a new path within power metal itself by mixing traditional elements with AOR, hard rock, and even pop. Sure there were catcalls and criticisms from naysayers who felt he was straying too far from the sub genre’s trademark elements, but to his credit, he insisted on making the records that he wanted to hear. This new album then, due out in March, is yet another resurrection of the Avantasia project, and Sammet is assembling another interesting cast of guest vocalists and musicians that I hope will live up to the exciting musical legacy already established with the previous releases.
But here’s the real talk about Sammet, regardless of how much he tries to deny it, its becoming clear that Avantasia has supplanted Edguy as his primary focus. When your solo project starts to outgun your main band’s albums in terms of songwriting quality, scale, ambition, and record sales, its obvious where you’re subconsciously or consciously putting forth most of your efforts. And I guess I’m fine with that. No disrespect to the fellows in Edguy, but I suppose I’m more of a fan of Tobias Sammet and his songwriting than anything else, no matter what project its in. It’ll be interesting to see the futures of both projects.
3. Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance:
I know its not just myself that feels this way, but generally speaking, I think I enjoy listening to the latter day, more recent Darkthrone albums than their earlier ones. Sacrilege? To many yes. But here’s the thing, there’s only so many times I can listen to A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Transilvanian Hunger without feeling like I’m spinning my wheels a bit. Those were the records that I’d see references in metal magazines lists of essential black metal listening, the ones name dropped by so many bands, and the ones that its generally believed that a metal fan needs to devour in order to understand the complete picture of black metal.
Hey, that was all fine with me — if a bit studious, but there is such a thing as over listening to an album (still can’t really listen to those Emperor albums anymore). Darkthrone made an abrupt stylistic shift to a punky, crusty, thrashy black metal blend with 2003’s Hate Them and never really looked back. This approach has progressed to a more and more non-traditional sound, culminating in what might be one of their best records to date, 2010’s Circle the Wagons. Clean singing in Darkthrone songs? Clean(er) production on a Darkthrone album? What the hell was going on right? If all else failed it was worth it simply to see the internet black metal crybabies go berserk on the Metal Archives and black metal blogs everywhere. But I loved that record, and enjoyed the four that preceded it (yes I’m even including The Cult Is Alive with its critic-baiting, rage-inducing “Too Old, Too Cold”). If the teaser that’s out for the new album is any indication — where the vocals take on a near Mercyful Fate-esque quality — troo kvlt fans will be even more pissed off and I’ll be even more pleased. Good stuff.
4. Satyricon – TBA:
It has been just under four and a half years since Satyr and Frost released any new music together. That is considered a rather long time in metal, a genre where Wintersun’s eight year delay of Time I was considered a long enough period to deem Jari Mäenpää as Axl Rose’s Finnish cousin. Unlike those two guys, who aim to be perfectionists much to their own detriment, Satyr had a decent enough reason to call time on his name sake band. Quite simply, he realized that he’d run the band’s sound as far as it would go, and was staring at a wall. It was time to go back to the drawing board and reconfigure the sound of Satyricon for the future.
The exciting part for us fans is that we really have no idea what this could mean. Few could predict the black n’ roll turn that these guys took with “Fuel For Hatred”, and really I’ve seen no one even take a stab in the dark at what the new stuff will sound like. The band is keeping mums the word as well, but we’ll all have some shreds of answers come late March when they take the stage at the Inferno Festival where its promised that they’ll debut several new songs live. I’m sure there are loads of people who have become disinterested in anything these guys have done since Rebel Extravaganza, despite their soaring popularity through the past decade. Again, like Darkthrone, I found myself enjoying black n’ roll Satyricon simply for what it was, in this case entertaining and catchy as hell metal. But if you were one of those disgruntled former fans, well here’s your chance to give the band another shot with a new album due this year that is expected to be the start of a new era of Satyricon.
5. Omnium Gatherum – Beyond:
These guys were a slow burn for me, as I took up an infatuation with Insomnium and Moonsorrow first and Omnium had to take the backseat for awhile. Choosing to ignore the odd subtext of that sentence, I’ll just move on and say that New World Shadows was my selling point on the band. What a great freaking album. I’ll have to admit that my listening experience with the band is so far limited only to the albums with Jukka Pelkonen on vocals, and I’ve no idea about anything done with the old singer. I’m okay with that right now, as I’m slowly becoming a Pelkonen fanboy. He might be one of the most versatile and expressive vocalists doing harsh/gutteral vocals in the metal scene as a whole. Musically not only does it feel like these guys are original in style and sound, but that originality extends to their songwriting as well, where standard pop structures are discarded in favor of more complex arrangements.
The new album, Beyond, will be the first of my most anticipated to be released this year, and the band have released a new song well ahead of the album’s expected release date of late February, and it can be heard here. It seems like the standard pre-album release cut strategy, issuing the most obviously catchy song first, but time will tell on that. I’m digging it, and it seems like they’ve gotten into more of the almost near power metal guitar sounds that they were exploring on New World Shadows. By the way, I wonder if anyone has passed a copy of that album to someone in In Flames? It’s seemingly the type of thing that those guys have been blindly trying to strive for with their recent clumsy, half-baked stabs at modernizing melodic death metal.