The big story surrounding Arch Enemy's ninth studio album is that the band has done the impossible. They replaced their lead singer calmly, quietly, and without anybody knowing about it until it was already done—and somehow didn't miss a beat in the process. It's hard enough to replace a singer just once, but Arch Enemy has done it twice, and while there are still some people bellyaching over the loss of original vocalist Johan Liiva, it's safe to say Angela Gossow left a much bigger footprint on the band, and on metal in the new millennium. With her at the mic, Arch Enemy were one of the bands responsible for popularizing so-called "melodic death metal," if not in the mainstream, at least outside of the dank sub-basements of the underground. Plus, she reminded a new generation of female headbangers that you didn't need to be an opera singer, a goth chick, or a bassist to find a place in extreme metal.
TIBI ET IGNI
I could write all kinds of stuff about how Vader are the icons of Polish Death Metal. I could put all kinds of praise on them, and talk about how they and Behemoth are the trendsetters that allowed people to understand that Poland had some death metal brilliance coming out of their country. I could talk for a long time that they are playing faster than ever before. Or I can give you a fascinating fact about the new Vader release, TIBI ET IGNI. I'll go with that. There's a soft, slow part on TIBI ET IGNI. That's right! Are you surprised? For almost two minutes at the start of "Go To Hell", you get lulled in with a creepy, haunting and yet very soft and docile opening movement. Amazing, right? Don't be fooled though. From there, you are launched into what Vader does best - destroy you with a furiousness that only the most elite of the old school death metal bands have ever been able to offer. TIBI ET IGNI is an old school release, and much like their previous effort WELCOME TO THE MORBID REICH, it just flat out crushes.
IN THE MINDS OF EVIL
Am I the only one that remembers when Florida was THE place for brilliant death metal? That is definitely a ghost from the past, as the major players from that era have seemingly all faded away (or, at a minimum are putting out subpar material). One of those bands that was considered a leader of that pack was Deicide, and much like your Morbid Angels and Obituarys of the Florida world, their music has become little more than tired, regurgitated crud that will draw people to the clubs based solely on their past instead of anything they are doing now. IN THE MINDS OF EVIL feels like a glass of drinking water that you know was recycled from your neighbor's toilet. It may have the feeling that it's refreshing, but you just sense that it's not truly fresh.
WAITING FOR THE END TO COME
For a lot of people, the second they hear that a band is "death metal", they will exit the conversation. Their loss, I guess. Kataklysm are definitely a death metal-like band I guess, but in many ways the continue to remind me of their slightly less heavy former enemies Devildriver. To be certain, there's nothing here at all resembling anything but the most heavy of music that has ever been created, but there's always that slight bit of melody in the music that has long separated Kataklysm from the myriads of Cookie Monster sounding gurglers that clog the "death metal" world today with what is, basically, average music that plays more to it's genre's stereotype than it does to anything creative. While not the best release Kataklysm has ever done, WAITING FOR THE END TO COME continues the tradition the band has established and ran with for two decades.
THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART
It's been years and years at this point, and it's astounding to me that there's so many people that still talk about the former vocalist of this band each and every time they put out a new release. It's so silly at this point. I'm the first one to agree that releases like ARISE and CHAOS AD are some of the best that have ever been recorded. For so many though that have just written off Sepultura as "dead without Max", you've missed out on a lot of truly great metal. Two of the very best albums released under the Sepultura name (A-LEX and DANTE XXI) have come fairly recently and were fronted by vocalist Derrick Green. Going back to Ross Robinson to produce it and with more fire than they have had in 15 years, THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART is the most blistering release Sepultura has put forth since SCHIZOPHRENIA, MORBID VISIONS or the aforementioned ARISE. This is some seriously punishing metal, folks.