1. Judas Priest – ‘Redeemer of Souls’ (Epic)
Redeemer of Souls is the first Judas Priest studio effort for guitarist Richie Faulkner, who joined the band in 2011 after the exit of K.K. Downing. The album gets off to a strong start with “Dragonaut,” a classic sounding track with dual guitars from Faulkner and Glenn Tipton and of course the unmistakable vocals of the metal god, Rob Halford. He utilizes more of his lower register on the album, but he is 62 years old. He knows how to use vibrato, and sings with a lot of texture and variety.
More than 40 years into their career, Redeemer of Souls shows that Judas Priest are no nostalgia act. They are still creating vital, vibrant new music that will satisfy both longtime fans and attract a whole new generation of admirers.
2. Mortals – ‘Cursed To See The Future’ (Relapse)
It was love at first listen with Mortals and their debut Relapse release,Cursed to See the Future. The first 15 seconds of the love affair dealt with finding pleasure in their wall of sound, blending sludge, black metal, doom and thrash into something altogether new. By 45 seconds-in, I was enamored with the vocals as well. The remainder of the time was spent with my jaw on the floor, reeling from what an almost perfect record sounded like.
Mortals hail from Brooklyn and consist of Caryn Havlik (drums), Elizabeth Cline (Guitar) and Lesley Wolf (Bass). Fans of Buzzoven, Eyehategod, Goatsnake and Celtic Frost will find this record to be satisfying. I am pretty sure Cursed to See the Future will appear on quite a few end of the year lists. Pick it up and see for yourself.
3. Wolvhammer – ‘Clawing Into Black Sun’ (Profound Lore)
Wolvhammer have operated under the mannerisms of black metal, the spirited attitude of punk, and the crushing spectacle of sludge metal. All of these styles blend and twist as a universal entity, neither one being more important than the other. Clawing into Black Sun is not a deviation from this, though there’s definitely something different about the band.
The band’s first two full-lengths were strong, but Clawing into Black Sunis beyond them in quality. Though not the easiest album to embrace, once it takes residence in a person’s subconscious long enough, giving it repeated listens will be a hard habit to crack.
4. Every Time I Die – ‘From Parts Unknown’ (Epitaph)
From Parts Unknown sees the band cradling the familiar and appropriately straddling the unknown on their seventh record. Just when you think Every Time I Die were just about to settle into the comfort of their last record Ex-Lives, we get a surprise. The album’s sound is a no-nonsense delivery of awesome packed into just over 30 minutes of unpredictability.
From Parts Unknown is another chapter in their wonderful book. It’s true, honest, straightforward and unapologetic. It is all there: hardcore, punk, southern groove, and plain ole’ dirty rock and roll.
5. Novembers Doom – ‘Bled White’ (The End)
Bled White further plots out the tantalizing atmospheric touches that were started back in 2007 with The Novella Reservoir. Going almost 70 minutes, this album has a bundle of material to take in, but strong pacing and an ability to not be a one-note entity works in favor of Novembers Doom.
It’s comforting to know that Novembers Doom are more than willing to step away from their death/doom roots. The death metal has not been completely dropped, but it’s been augmented with music with far greater finesse. Bled White is an ambitious record that is able to maintain both its quality and its poignant, bleak realism throughout.