The second month of 2020 saw an uptick in quality albums, which is hopefully a harbinger for the months to come. Here are our picks for the best new metal albums released in February of 2020.
1. Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World (Century Media)
German black metal veterans Dark Fortress took more time than usual between releases. There was a six year gap between Venereal Dawn and their latest album Spectres From The Old World.
Their brand of black metal is melodic at times while maintaining aggression and extremity. Tracks like “Coalescence” run the gamut from dense blastbeats to melodic guitar solos. “The Spider In The Web” is a highlight, with groovy riffs that transition to a mellow mid-section before the guitars resume. Tracks like “Pulling At Threads” and “Swan Song” insert some melodic singing that contrasts the ominous guitars and harsh vocals. Keyboards add atmosphere and depth throughout. It’s an extremely well rounded album, showcasing both old school black metal and more progressive, modern approaches to the genre while showing flashes of other styles as well, making it our pick for February’s best new metal album.
2. Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions (Metal Blade)
After a five-year gap in new material, Intronaut return with Fluid Existential Inversions. After an intro track to get things going the band breaks out “Cubensis,” a polyrhythmic tour de force, one that should hook longtime fans with the many different movements of overt heaviness combined with sections of post metal ambiance. “Contrapasso” is a slow-paced crawl that gives way to some progressive tinged speed and vocal harmonies courtesy of the guitar section. That sound continues to make Intronaut a unique band in the scene to this day.
Fluid Existential Inversions is a great intro to the band if you haven’t given them the time of day before, or if you have followed them since Void all those years ago. This album only gets better on repeated listens and with enough nuance to shake a stick at, there should be plenty to hear again and again.
3. Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre (Black Lion)
All songs on The Funeral Pyre are the creation of Jakob Björnfot, although Sebastian Ramstedt (Necrophobic, ex-Nifelheim) and Perra Karlsson (In Aeternum, Nominon, ex-Destroyer 666) and others make guest contributions. Kvaen play black metal, but there are moments of speed metal with pagan and Viking influences.
Kvaen’s debut album is thoroughly entrenched in the sound of Björnfot’s native country, Sweden. Emotional tremolo picking sets the long ships in motion for the southern shores on album opener “Revenge By Fire.” The track also has speed metal parts including a group chorus. “Revenge By Fire” sounds part Amon Amarth, part Nifelheim. The following track, “Yee Naaldlooshii” kicks in with pummeling drums and a change that recalls the string work of Naglfar. Dissection seem like a major influence. “As We Serve the Master’s Plan” is darkness in its purest form. The Funeral Pyre has enough fluidity, atmosphere, harmony, and speed to make it a Swedish extreme metal classic.
4. Xenobiotic – Mordrake (Unique Leader)
I didn’t know of Australian prog-death band Xenobiotic, but I sure do now. Mordrake is the band’s second album, and is a devastating, near-perfect example of progressive death metal at its finest. Going back to their debut for a frame of reference I found an extremely strong tech-death/deathcore release, but Mordrake tops it in every regard.
As one expects from this genre, the music is laser-precise and loaded with jagged riffs, massive vocals, and huge breakdowns that absolutely shred speakers. Xenobiotic don’t do anything new on Mordrake, but they write fantastic songs and perform them with unnerving excellence. One of the best production jobs of this young year is the icing on the prog-death cake here.
5. Godthrymm – Reflections (Profound Lore)
Reflections is the full-length debut album from the doom power trio, Godthrymm. Originally a duo of ex-My Dying Bride members Hamish Glencross (vocals/guitars, also ex-Solstice) and Shaun Taylor-Steels (drums, also ex-Anathema), bassist Bob Crolla was brought in upon completion of the debut to round out the band. Old-fashioned – and heavy – doom is the order of the day, and Godthrymm execute their plan in strong fashion.
While the music on Reflections is by no means original for the genre, the songwriting is strong and these songs are very well-played. The ace in the hole for Godthrymm is Glencross’s powerful, emotive vocals, which drip with emotions from mourning to rage. What the album lacks in originality it more than makes up for with wonderful production and performances, and is a welcome addition to the doom metal genre.
6. Kvelertak – Splid (Rise)
Kvelertak have always been a superbly fun band, especially on their debut and most of their follow up Meir. Their fourth album Splid sees the band with new front man Ivar Nikolaisen, who also was a guest on their 2010 self-titled debut. “Rogaland” opens the record with a distant guitar riff and gives way to a raucous good time, one that Kvelertak have made their staple, especially during their must-see live shows, complete with gang vocals.
“Crack of Doom” has a simple refrain and main riff that gets you excited every time it enters the fray, basically a figurative kick in the pants as a reminder that thing ain’t quieting down any time soon. Sometimes albums get overlooked due to their sheer simplicity. Splid may be that on the surface, but you would be a fool to deny yourself a punk metal wet dream delivered at high speed. Do you remember fun? Because Kvelertak do, it’s their stock in trade.