June 2017 Best Heavy Metal Albums

As the weather heats up, so did the quality of albums released in June. Narrowing down a strong crop of releases to the final five was a challenge. Excellent albums from Municipal Waste, Vallenfyre, Cellar Darling and others just missed making the cut. There are some extreme bands on the list, plus one that’s much mellower. Here are our picks for the best albums released in June.

Suffocation - ...Of The Dark Light

Nuclear Blast Records

1. Suffocation – …Of The Dark Light (Nuclear Blast)

New York death metal icons Suffocation return with their eighth full length album …Of The Dark Light, and it appears to be the swan song for longtime vocalist Frank Mullen. The guttural vocal style of Mullen’s has always been the glue that holds together this technical cacophony and through eight new songs and the continuing tradition of re-recording a song from Breeding The Spawn, he continues to hold his own.

For a band that has been going strong since the seminal days of death metal, Suffocation show absolutely no signs of rust; even with Mullen’s departure a known entity. He has given his blessing to a replacement, as well as other band members who were sought out by Hobbs. If you are looking for your fix of brutal technicality, you should look no further than the band that made this style famous in the first place.

Tombs - The Grand Annihilation

Metal Blade Records

2. Tombs – The Grand Annihilation (Metal Blade)

Brooklyn’s Tombs are a band that should be in your cassette player, hissing like a snake after the 60th replay. Dig out the neck brace. Cervical discs will pop after the head-bang provided by “Black Sun Horizon” and “Cold.” And cold it is, dark and dispiriting like a fortnight in chains. There is a chill wind that wafts between the groove and monotonic vocals.

Hints at melody in the draught of moonlight splintered by spider webs drift up like ghost dances escaping the block chord and thunder. Experimentation usually means another foul twist on Rush, but in Tombs there is a purpose for the trip to another cold world. A near great album hampered by a couple too many songs beyond the finish line. Still, Tombs are worth the indulgence and the Tylenol for the neck strain.

Goatwhore - Vengeful Ascension

Metal Blade Records

3. Goatwhore – Vengeful Ascension (Metal Blade)

What does Goatwhore‘s latest album Vengeful Ascension bring to the table? Riffs of course, tons and tons, markedly evident on the album’s second track “Under The Flesh, Into The Soul.” It buzzes from the beginning as Ben Falgoust and Sammy Duet handle the vocal duties as the drums nearly explode from double bass blasting.

Goatwhore are easily at their best when speeding through a fretboard engulfed in flames and a bass pedal that is a few kicks from oblivion. The vocal style suits songs like “Drowned in Grim Rebirth” excellently, since Duet and Falgoust switch in and out from the more shrill to the guttural and if done right, create an excellent atmosphere, especially if the black metal riffs follow in such a way as they do here on this track. Goatwhore remain one of the best bands that New Orleans have produced.

Dying Fetus - Wrong One To Fuck With

Relapse Records

4. Dying Fetus – Wrong One To Fuck With (Relapse)

It has been five years since the last Dying Fetus album, the longest gap between records in their quarter-century career. The Baltimore bruisers bring their usual brutality on The Wrong One To Fuck With,their eighth full-length.

Like on previous releases, Dying Fetus blend skillful technicality with skull-crushing extremity and John Gallagher’s guttural growls. Brutal death isn’t a genre that generally displays a lot of variety, but by varying tempos and intensities, Dying Fetus make it more diverse than most. The songs are longer than usual, with most in the 5 to 6 minute range, but they have the chops and songwriting skill to make them compelling throughout.

Anathema - The Optimist

Kscope Records

5. Anathema – The Optimist (Kscope)

Musically, The Optimist picks up where Distant Satellites left off, with electronic drum loops introducing us to the album proper after a brief cinematic introduction. “Leaving it Behind” is the first real song, and as we’ve gotten used to from previous album openers it is full of energy and power. “Tonight let go, let go of everything,” Vincent Cavanagh sings, laying the foundation for the rest of the record.

Anathema haven’t crafted an album of instantly recognizable anthems. There’s no “Untouchable” or “Thin Air” here. This collection of songs takes a few listens to get into, but patience is rewarded with a superbly crafted musical experience. There’s still plenty of Anathema’s trademark piano and string work, and Cavanagh and Douglas bring earnestness to their vocal performances, but the songs take time to sink in, which in some ways makes the experience more rewarding in the long term.

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