Recommended Underground Titles - Part II
"If heavy metal bands ruled the world, we'd be a lot better off."
Heavy metal, in its purest of forms, was rather dimmed out in the most recent years, by the amount of releases from its more extreme and darker relatives. Fortunately, power metal has proudly carried the torch in the meantime. Furthermore, the last couple of years saw an increase in quality releases from newcomers and veterans alike, fact that lead me to dedicate this new column to, and as the name simply implies, New Wave Of Underground Heavy Metal. The first part of recommended underground titles, published a few days ago, had a broader approach, while this new edition tends to stay a bit closer to the core, a bit more purist. Without any doubt, some of the titles featured here will find their way to end of the year fan created charts, and not only. 'Till next time, happy headbanging!
The Portuguese band returns with a darker, heavier and more evil heavy metal style 3rd album, "Aggressive Hauntings". Modern sounding with a mad 1980s vibe, the ten original tracks on the album feature very intense, unholy vocals (an unmistakable cross between Rob Halford and King Diamond), hellish dual guitars and infectious rhythms to match. Midnight Priest don't need any gimmicks to prop up their music. It's a true feast of pulsating rhythms, erupting guitars with tasteful solos and screaming vocals that will pierce your eardrums, and like a dagger, it will cut deep through your heart. If you're into Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, Enforcer and the like, you will not want to miss this slab of pure and evil heavy metal! One of the best heavy metal releases this year so far. Not to be missed!
Al Final / In The End
The Spanish heavy metal veterans, Viuda Negra ("Black Widow" in English), formed as a band in the early 1980s. Focusing on live performances, throughout the decades since inception, "Al Final / In The End" marks the band first ever full-length album. The material, cleverly released on two CDs (a vinyl LP was also released), one sung in Spanish and the other sung in English, widely covers classic heavy metal and 1980s hard rock, and all the way into power metal. The album features great guitar work, riffs and licks, high velocity rhythms and full range vocals, including well executed, singalong choruses. For all 1980s heavy metal fans.
Burn The Night
Burning hot, ripping heavy metal, full-length debut from the young Canadian band formed in 2011. The eight originals on the album feature intensely soaring lead vocals, apt background vocals, hyper guitar work, cascading bass and frenzied drumming, in a style closely associated with Judas Priest's "Painkiller" era, while remaining true to N.W.O.B.H.M. roots. Clearly being a band on the rise, Riot City continues to gain deserved recognition from fans of the genre worldwide. Highly recommended for fans of Judas Priest, steel, spikes and leather! Another top tier 2019 heavy metal release!
Intoned entirely in the band's native Spanish, "Ritual" is a great example of heavy/power metal's pirate metal sub-genre. Third full-length album from the Argentinean act established in 2012, takes the listener on a musical journey, fluently tale-telling (via varied vocals) alongside a glorious musical soundtrack, beautifully accented by violin and accordion melodies. BarloVentoS cites the following influences: Mägo de Oz, Rata Blanca, Korpiklaani, Alestorm, Ensiferum, Heroes del Silencio, Lughnasad la Force, Zrymgoll, Skiltron & Triddana. The Latin alternative to Running Wild (Germany) and Alestorm (Scotland). Arghhh!
Portland, Oregon, USA
Formed in 2017, Idle Hands, issued debut EP in 2018, and just a few days ago, their first full-length, "Mana", a unique blend of traditional heavy metal (rawness & aggression) and Gothic rock (melody). Already receiving praise from its growing fanbase, the band is currently on a extensive European tour. Making full use of both heavy metal and Gothic roots , the band cites the following bands as influences: Iron Maiden, Sisters Of Mercy, Heroes Del Silencio, Accept, Judas Priest, Depeche Mode, Scorpions & Satyricon. The great songwriting and sound production places this releases with some of the best releases this year, in both camps, traditional heavy metal and Gothic.
Only One Flag
2018, digitally reissued 4/10/2019
Sitting at the crossroad of American 1980s hard rock and heavy metal (with a strong glam metal affinity), yet with a modern vibe, S.N.A.K.E.'s second studio album was well received by the critics and fans alike; physical copies of the album (on CD) being already sold-out in Japan. Sung entirely in English, the eleven original tracks on "Only One Flag" were recorded and mixed in 2016, offering a quality, melodic vibe, singalong quality lyrics/vocals and perfectly matching instrumental work. This album is sure not to disappoint listeners seeking melodic, arena quality, 1980s hard rock influenced heavy metal.
Enter the Falkön
San Francisco, California, USA
Delving further into the glam metal scene of the American heavy metal of the1980s we found Falkönner's debut, "Enter the Falkön"! Self-describing as the best 1980s band of the 21st century,"Falkönner is everything you love about that razor's edge in musical history (1983-1987) when seriously shreddy guitar riffs collided with catchy hooks and lush vocal harmonies to land heavy metal on the pop radio dial." The band cites as influences: Dokken, Ratt, Queensrÿche, Ozzy Osbourne (Jake E. Lee era), Yngwie Malmsteen, Winger, Scorpions & early Motley Crüe.
Deeply dwelling within the traditional heavy metal realm, we find the Belgian band established in 2016, by five musicians that played in various bands together, during the last two decades, Hunter, "represents powerful heavy metal, averse to sub-genres and stereotypes; A combined century of experience and all sorts of influences come together as a mighty brew that tastes like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Manilla Road, Metal Church, Omen and Cirith Ungol." A pure analog audio production, the band's self-titled debut exudes quality compositions and execution, highlighting the full-range, powerful vocals (most in the vein of Udo Dirkschneider), dual guitar riffology, mighty rolling bass and precise drumming: "the theme of each song bleeds through in its lyrics, riffing and solos."
Oakland, California, USA
High octane rock 'n roll from the recently formed Oakland, California power trio, channeling punk afflicted late 1970s heavy metal. Left-stage we find Rancid bassist Matt Freeman, here paying tribute to one of the most legendary four-stringers of all time, Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, veteran guitarist Andrew McGee, to the right, and Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine's Jason Willer, behind the drums. Matt and Jason sharing lead vocal duties with Andrew properly accentuating the background. Already receiving high accolades from the fans, this band is able to take speed metal to new levels, while striking an impressive balance between familiar traits and new ideas.
Between the Eyes (Demo)
Miami, Florida, USA
Midnight Spell in the brainchild of drummer Brian Wilson. After spending his formative years playing almost exclusively extreme metal, Brian wanted to bring things back to the roots, by paying tribute to his influences. Brian, currently enlisted in Yngwie J. Malmsteen's band, recruited the best musicians he knew: The Hammer (guitars), Cam Martell (bass), Paolo Velazquez (lead vocals), and Denver Cooper (guitars). Together, they form Midnight Spell, an unstoppable force of pure heavy metal. In this formation, this four tracks demo (three originals and a Savage cover) was released on April 12, 2019, to positive reviews. Currently the band is rehearsing for their upcoming live debut, on June 22nd, in Miami.
© 2019 by Emil Chiru