It's been a solid start to 2023 so far as new metal releases are concerned, with some massive names like Metallica and Babymetal lining up albums over the coming weeks. But what about new talent? Each month, we scour the world of rock, metal, punk and beyond to find the very best and most exciting bands you need to know about.
Last month we asked you tell us which new band excited you most, and it was goth-synth heroes Kaelan Mikla that piqued your attention most, Hammer readers joining the likes of Ville Valo and The Cure's Robert Smith as fans of the bewitching group.
But who'll take top spot in March? We're back again with a unique spread of sounds, from the progressive grindcore of Escuela Grind (currently on tour with grindcore legends Napalm Death) to the beer'n'thrash fun of Skin Failure, the new project from former Black Peaks frontman Will Gardner. There's also kvlt black metal, tongue-in-cheek metalcore/nu metal crossover from Chuggaboom (also on tour this month), and a heartbreaking new sound from Sólstafir's Addi Tryggvason and former Pain Of Salvation guitarist Ragnar Zolberg.
As ever, don't forget to tell us below which band excites you the most, and check out our playlist at the bottom of the page for all the latest releases from these brilliant up-and-coming acts.
Escuela means 'school' in Spanish, and the goal of this grindcore rabble is to teach the rest of their genre how to lighten up. “In the United States, grindcore music is really good, but the people are salty and conservative,” says Escuela Grind’s drummer, Jesse Adan Fuentes.
This Massachusetts band’s second album, Memory Theater, adds levity to the grind canon using songs like Cliffhanger; despite being two-and-a-half minutes of blastbeats and snarling, it also happens to chuck in some lyrics from an 80s rap classic.
“For this record, we wanted to have hooks,” says singer and guitarist Katerina Economou. “We were listening to the song like, ‘What’s the hook?!’ It sounded like The Message by Grandmaster Flash, so in the end I just started singing that over the pattern.”
Just because Escuela Grind have a mischievous glint in their eye, don’t assume they can’t bludgeon the shit out of you. Jesse and Katerina started making music together out of a mutual love of Converge, Napalm Death and other such nasty noises, and Memory Theater channels the erratic yet slyly intellectual spirit of both those bands.
But beyond that, the music twitches between grind and slower, heavier death metal. Bruisers such as Faulty Blueprints are all about transforming from Repulsion to Cannibal Corpse and back again at the drop of a hat. Such fine-tuned lunacy is winning Escuela Grind the right kind of admirers: Memory Theater was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Plus, the band tour the UK with Napalm Death in March.
“It’s a dream come true!” Jesse declares. Katerina concurs. “I feel like Napalm Death have always had a positive message,” they say. “They lead the way and help the genre steer away from its more negative traits. We continue that tradition." Matt Mills
Memory Theater is out now via MNRK Heavy. Escuela Grind tour the UK with Napalm Death in March
Sounds Like: A grindcore band fighting a death metal band at an 80s hip hop show For Fans Of: Napalm Death, Obituary, Heriot
Listen To: Endowed With Windows
Beer and thrash. Have there ever been two more satisfying bedfellows? Bristol-based band Skin Failure have embraced the art of partying with Radillac, their debut full-length album.
“The focus is simple,” says vocalist Will Gardner. “Is everyone in the audience having as much fun as humanly possible? Are we having as much fun as possible? We’re trying to write the best music within this bonkers genre possible.”
‘Bonkers’ is the best descriptor of Skin Failure’s music, its members coming from backgrounds in alt metal (Black Peaks) and math rock (Memory Of Elephants) to birth a monster that mixes classic thrash with the muscular melodic sensibilities of Every Time I Die.
“About seven months or so after Black Peaks had broken up, Dave [Larkin, former Black Peaks bassist] called me up and said, ‘I’ve been jamming with these guys…’” Will says. “He sent me three instrumental tracks and I was like, ‘This is amazing!’ It was so far removed from anything I’ve done before.”
Originally, the plan was to get a variety of guests from theBristol scene to sing on the songs, as the musicians couldn’t envisage one person who would be capable of doing all the vocal theatrics they had in mind. That’s when Dave suggested they speak to Will. “I was a massive thrash-head back in the day,” he says. “With these guys, I get to head down to Bristol once a month, hang out, drink a lot and live out my teenage fantasies of fronting a thrash band!” Remfry Dedman
Radillac is out now via Small Pond
Sounds Like: A giddy mix of headbanging thrash riffs marinated in a vat of Stella Artois
For Fans Of: Mutoid Man, Power Trip, Every Time I Die
Listen To: Sleeveless Jesus/ The Void
Taking their name from the Icelandic town of Ísafjörður that its founders are from, Isafjørd reflect the beauty of Iceland’s incredible countryside as well as its revered post-rock and metal scenes. But then, that’s hardly surprising considering the band is made up of Addi Tryggvason from Sólstafir and Ragnar Zolberg, the former guitarist of prog metal troupe Pain Of Salvation.
“We’re both mesmerised by Ísafjörður and nature,” Addi explains. “The more time I spend in Iceland, themore I’m still just constantly mesmerised by it. Besides, band names like ‘Chicago’ were taken!”
Fans of Sólstafir will recognise the melancholic, sparse melodies throughout Isafjørd’s debut album, Hjartastjaki. But as the pair tell it, this minimalism was more a reflection of their process, with the entire album written and recorded in six days in a countryside studio due to time constraints.
Ragnar jokes that they had to make the most of “an out-of-tune piano and half a drum kit”. This was a blessing in disguise: the lyrics of Hjartastjaki became stream-ofconsciousness observations inspired by the stunning panoramas just outside their front door. Written almost entirely in Icelandic, these lyrics lend the music a raw honesty.
“It’s what comes from within when you tune yourself into a very creative environment,” Addi says. “Like being on mushrooms and telling your mom your worst secrets!” Will Marshall
Hjartastjaki is out now via Svart Records
Sounds Like: An emotionally devastating journey soaring over Icelandic forests and glaciers
For Fans Of: Sólstafir, Sigur Rós, Mogwai
Listen To: Hjartastjaki
Since 2015, they've been annoying serious metal fans with their ironic takes on metalcore, but are we finally seeing an evolution for masked weirdos Chuggaboom? “We realised that if we just do songs mocking metalcore tropes, we’re only going to be as good as those bands,” says vocalist Levi Taurus. “So we’re more interested in turning it on ourselves. Metal is all a bit serious – we’re trying to make it a bit more fun.”
They’re certainly making it less serious. The band’s latest album, Death Pledge, is more nuanced than their previous work, but it’s also not going to be compared to The Dark Side Of The Moon any time soon, Levi namechecking the likes of Steel Panther and Limp Bizkit as recent influences.
“That kind of rapped thing we did on[single] No Rules, No Limits was definitely a new flavour for us,” Levi says. “We’re not just trying to be funny, we’re trying to write good songs. I don’t think of us as a comedy band. We just want to start a party.”
Comedy or not, if you’re looking for a good time, Chuggaboom might just give you one. Stephen Hill
Death Pledge is out now via Dead Serious. Chuggaboom tour the UK from March 10
Sounds Like: Self-aware more-br00talthan-thou metalcore with a nu metal twist
For Fans Of: Attila, Jared Dines, The Hell
Listen To: No Rules, No Limits
French black metal hedonists Bacchus, named after the Greco-Roman god of wine and pleasure, are here to scramble minds forever. “Our goal is to put the listener in a trance, to make them feel intoxicated,” says vocalist/guitarist Sébastien B, of the trio’s core mission.
The band have been providing catalysts for consciousness expansion since their formation in early 2020. A self-titled EP from 2021 set out their prurient stall, a hallucinogenic ceremony pickled in liquor. A microdose, if you will. Now comes debut album II, an equally impish morsel melding reverb-spiked guitars to hypnotic synths.
Continually teetering on the precipice of an arcane drone ritual led by an inebriated ringmaster, Bacchus are battering down the doors of perception on a one-way head trip to the truth.
Their psychedelic campaign follows in classic footsteps, a throwback to the rites and mysteries of ancient Rome which Bacchus hold so dear. “What fascinates us is the relationship the ancients had with mythology and the rites that resulted from that,” explains drummer Camille Olivier FB, before acknowledging the band’s role as contemporary custodians of an archaic tradition.
“Throughout the world and throughout history, humans have participated in rituals using music as a vehicle to reach an altered state, allowing us to see beyond reality This is what we want to convey though out music, with ‘Bacchus’ as our guide”. Spencer Grady
II will be released on April 7 via Debemur Morti Productions
Sounds Like: Kicking out time at the Beelzebub bierkeller
For Fans Of: Urfaust, Ringarë, Gris
Listen To: II.I