The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Altaar - 'Altaar' (Indie)
Genre: Doom Metal
Norway's Altaar has crafted a truly innovative, intricate and emotional effort with their self-titled LP. The record consists of two epic tracks, "Tidi Kjem Aldri Att" and "Dei Absolutte Krav Og Den Absolute Nåde." The former, an instrumental, lurches along at a mid-tempo pace, adding layer upon layer of thick guitars and ambient noise.
The latter introduces raspy vocals and a black metal vibe. Both songs are extremely atmospheric and droney. Great care is given to tones, creating a very intimate album experience. The cover art is beautiful, too.
Genre: Technical Metal
They have released some EPs and splits, but Commuters is the debut full-length from the Swiss band Coilguns. Their style is hard to pigeonhole. It's sometimes frenzied and chaotic, other times controlled and almost avant-garde.
They have drawn comparisons to groups like Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and while that's a good start, Coilguns doesn't have a bass player, with the guitarist using pedals and amps to make it sound like he's playing both. Some songs are catchy, others dissonant. It's a challenging listen, but ultimately a rewarding one.
Genre: Heavy/ Speed Metal
The retro heavy/speed/thrash movement is alive and well; at least in the eyes of Sweden’s Enforcer. Playing around in that nether region of the late period of NWOBHM just before thrash metal and what would eventually become glam metal diverged, Enforcer take the very early sound of Mötley Crüe and inject it with just a bit more of a heavier, European flair, almost as if Iron Maiden grew up on the Sunset Strip.
The result is pretty good with Death By Fire, as it was with Enforcer first few albums. Just don’t expect any growth.
Feared - 'Furor Incarnatus' (Self)
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal
Feared was founded by Six Feet Under guitarist Ola Englund, and the current lineup also includes his SFU bandmate, drummer Kevin Talley. Furor Incarnatus is the group's third album. It's based in death metal, but also infuses thrash, plenty of groove and even a few progressive touches.
It's an impressive album, with excellent musicianship and really good songwriting. The songs are diverse and interesting, and even though Englund and Talley are the known quantities, vocalist Mario Ramos more than holds his own. Being unsigned they probably won't get the attention they deserve, which is a shame, because they are well worth checking out.
Hatchet – 'Dawn Of The End' (The End)
Genre: Thrash Metal
Bay Area thrash traditionalists Hatchet give the torque wrench a few more turns with Dawn Of The End. “After The Dark” gets the tribute to Exodus and Testament off to a perfectionist’s reproduction. It has some fun breaks and clamorous thrash in grand style.
“Silenced by Death” salutes 1989, and for those not yet born, provides a heaping helping of what they missed. By album’s capper, “Vanishing Point,” every blank box has been neatly filled with all the right answers. Great old school thrash.
Incura – 'Incura' (Coalition Music)
Genre: Theatrical/Glam/Hard Rock
During a frantic drive through Canada, sheet music from an unknown Broadway musical flew out of a limousine window and scattered across the highway. It was quickly gathered up by a group of kids from the nearby town who spotted them while returning from a gig in the "xix Goth bands for a Loonie night" in Lethbridge.
The gifted musicians formed Incura and created irresistible hard rock with genre-defying theatricality. Experience the initial jolt of Incura's album, then listen. Songs like "I'm Here Waiting" contort reality.
Jolly - 'The Audio Guide To Happiness (Part 2)' (Inside Out)
Genre: Progressive Metal/Rock
Jolly's third album The Audio Guide To Happiness (Part 2) is a sequel to 2011's Part 1. The band uses binaural tones that are supposedly scientifically designed to bring the listener to a state of true happiness, although I'm not sure that can be quantified.
The band's sound is diverse. Some tracks are mellow and progressive, others in the traditional rock vein, and they also venture into metal territory on songs like "Firewall." The songs are meticulously crafted and produced with a lot of twists and turns. True happiness? Probably not. Moderate enjoyment? Definitely.
Krokus – 'Dirty Dynamite' (The End)
Genre: Traditional Metal/Hard Rock
Krokus is a brand name as much as a band. When purchasing a cola, one knows what to expect. When purchasing Dirty Dynamite, it goes down like the last 16 Krokus albums. Since 1974-ish when they progged through Europe and then went rock and roll for the platinum, the band remains the same.
Dirty Dynamite has all the usual licks and lyrics, beats and brawn. No song needs to be highlighted. They are all the same, except for a cover of The Beatles’ “Help.”
Lifeless - 'Godconstruct' (FDA Rekotz)
Genre: Death Metal
Although from Finland, Lifeless play pure Swedish OSDM, plain and simple. The results are caustic and catchy as they obviously know their roots. Godconstruct fires on all cylinders as a solid slab of said death metal, much in the same vein as their 2008 debut Beyond The Threshold Of Death.
Godconstruct is loaded with that familiar Sunlight Studios sound, dense riffs, a galloping pace, and a bottom heavy production. You’re a fan of Swedish death metal? You’ve nothing to lose with Godconstruct.
Okular – 'Sexforce' (Regenerative Productions)
Genre: Death Metal
Combining progressive death metal with melody and technical brutality, Okular stamp their mark on the scene with the release of their sophomore record Sexforce. More accessible and dynamic then their debut the musicianship is flawless.
The band does an excellent job interweaving their many musical styles. This is captured remarkably on the acoustic based “The King of Life” and the piano driven “To Ring the Bells of Truth.” The album’s highlight is “The Greatest Offender,” where Vintersorg shares lead vocals. Susperia vocalst Athera is also featured on seven songs. At over an hour Sexforce is a staggering and battering listen. The album would have been more effective and dynamic if it were 20 minutes shorter.