A stellar batch of brand new bands to wrap your ears around, from a glorious nu-metal throwback from members of The Agonist to full-on old grimness to the batshit-crazy Chinese prog-metal band who are out to put their home country’s music scene on the global map. Crank it up. You know it makes sense.
Generally speaking, when members of established bands get together to play the music of their youth, the results are either the rhythmic riffing of 70s rock or furious 80s-style hardcore punk. But Sicksense – formed by members of Stuck Mojo and The Agonist – have their eyes on a much more recent musical trend: nu metal.
“Nu metal is truly a limitless genre,” reasons Rob ‘The Ripper’ Fonts, singer with Stuck Mojo and one half of Sicksense’s vocal offering. “I believe hip hop elements add a certain aggression and bounce to the style that works with metal music when executed correctly.”
“We all have a background and experience with the more extreme side of metal, so returning to nu metal is fun,” adds co-vocalist Killer V, aka The Agonist’s Vicky Psarakis. “The music is light-hearted and kind of sparks that teenage nostalgia inside us, but we’re working with the experience we’ve gained throughout the years.”
With their debut EP Kings Today, Sicksense are calling back to the sense of heft and the anthemic qualities that made nu metal a turn-of-the- millennium commercial powerhouse. But this isn’t mindless nostalgia; it’s a reflection of the times.
“Nowadays, music in the pop and hip hop worlds seems to be incorporating industrial and heavy music elements”, Rob says. “Take artists like Mimi Barks, ZillaKami and Ghostemane. It’s a fitting time for nu metal to be making a comeback and hopefully it’ll start to reach mainstream audiences again too.” Freaks with riffs at the top of the charts again? About time. Rich Hobson
Sounds like: Now That’s What I Call Nu Metal Vol. 27
For fans of: Korn, Otep, Once Human
Listen to: Make Believe
Ianai want to be a faceless folk project. The problem is that they’re not very good at anonymity. In their marketing materials, they claim to be the solo venture of a figure called Trevenial: a quasi-mortal multi-instrumentalist. When Hammer requests an interview, the message comes back that Trevenial “does not speak any human language,” so it’s best to chat with their “backing band”.
Even though they’re speaking via email, Ianai instantly spill the beans. They’re composed of Swallow The Sun keyboardist/singer Jaani Peuhu, Nicole Thomas of London synthpoppers Client, and Bulgarian artist Cvetan Hadzhiyski. Jaani seems to be the nucleus of the outfit.
It was his Helsinki studio that they recorded their new debut album Sunir in, and his pipes that hum the graceful melodies of its 12 songs. “I had never been interested in this kind of music at all,” he says, “but just found myself working in this new world. The amount of instruments and voices on each song is insane. At the same time, this was the easiest and most important album I’ve ever worked on; it’s music with musicians from all around the world.”
Despite trading in traditional Nordic-style bliss, Sunir is strewn with cameos from high-profile rock stars. Members of HIM, Massive Attack, Sisters Of Mercy and The Rasmus all materialise, yet the band are hesitant to delve into specifics. “None of the musicians are there for their status, more the skills that have made them well-known,” says Jaani.
Of the project’s future, Cvetan states, “The next step is understanding the concept for future live performances. We imagine a theatrical audiovisual experience more than just a concert. So, there is still a lot of work to be done.” More work than they put into being anonymous, we can only hope. Matt Mills
Sounds Like: Delicate Scandinavian neo-folk with all the ambition and grandeur of heavy metal
For fans of: Wardruna, Mercury Circle, Forndom
Listen to: Savoj Icoil
I Am The Night
Black blood has been bubbling in Markus Vanhala’s veins for years. As his regular bands Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium slipped ever closer to more melodic territory in recent years, the Finnish guitarist found himself drawn towards the epic black metal he listened to as a youth. The result is his obsidian-hued new band, I Am The Night, whose debut album, While The Gods Are Sleeping, evokes such second- wave black metal icons as Emperor, Dissection and Bergtatt-era Ulver.
“I had a darker-than-black vision for the music and the lyrics,” says Markus of frostbitten songs such as Ode To The Nightsky and Holocaust Of The Angels. “The pandemic was the perfect time to turn this into flesh. When everything else fails, forces of evil arise for a reason!”
I Am The Night’s period-accurate mix of icy guitars and epic keyboards was given extra realism when the remote studio they were using to record the album was hit by a huge, weekend-long blizzard. “It was a cool atmosphere to record some cold, northern blackened metal in,” says Markus, before undercutting the ambience a bit: “We had a real Finnish sauna after every working day.”
Their devotion to resurrecting the sound and feel of 90s black metal extends to the album’s cover, illustrated by Kristian Wåhlin (the artist behind Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse) and featuring a logo designed by Christophe Szpajdel of Dissection/Emperor fame. An exercise in nostalgia? Yes, it is.
“I wanted to make an album that young Markus Vanhala would’ve loved to listen back in 1995,” he says. “But from some old ingredients, we’ve created something new.” Dave Everley
Sounds like: Prime mid-90s black metal in all its frozen glory updated for today
For fans of: Emperor, Mayhem, Omnium Gatherum
Listen to: Ode To The Nightsky
“It’s about connecting with the things I’m afraid of, the things I’m angry about, and making something real out of that.”
Burner vocalist Harry Nott is describing the impetus that drives his band. The South London outfit’s 2021 single Ingsoc was dedicated to the persecuted Uyghur people in China, as well as the inhabitants of Hong Kong, Tibet and Taiwan; raging against oppression and injustice is a core part of their sound.
“A boot stamps a face forever”, he says of their lyrical inspiration. “It’s cliché, I know, but we live in that world. That stuff happens to people every day. We should be grateful that we live ina country where we have freedoms and we should use that power to protest.”
Burner’s hybrid of death metal and hardcore is the perfect delivery system. Current single Rat King Crown thrashes with Converge-esque fury, while Siege Fire, also from EP A Vision Of The End, is a firestorm of skewed time signatures.
“We wanted to express this message of urgency,” says Harry. “It’s important to say something unique because that struggle is not something we see addressed so much.” Will Marshall
Sounds like: Blasts of death metal mixed with the chaos of hardcore
For fans of: Converge, Full Of Hell, Nails
Listen to: Ingsoc
The Chinese music scene remains an unknown quantity to most Westerners, but OU are out to change that. “Beijing is the most eclectic musical city in China,” says Anthony Vanacore, the band’s American-born drummer. “You’ll find everything here from experimental music to jazz to metal. The musical creativity here is boundless.”
OU embody that ethos. On their debut album, ‘one’, the Beijing band deliver a brilliantly weird, fractal version of prog-metal. There’s a glassy hall-of-mirrors feel to their music, layering it with liquid electronics and skittering rhythms, while singer Lynn Wu’s protean, Chinese-language vocals add to the sense of dislocation. “Prior to this, Lynn had done lots of pop-oriented stuff,” says Anthony, who moved to China from New Jersey 10 years ago due to his fascination with the culture and language. “Her voice is the soul of this band as far as I’m concerned.”
A deal with prog-metal powerhouse InsideOut saw OU become the first Chinese band to sign to a Western label. Of course, there’s a need tp treading carefully when dealing with the authorities in their home country, but it’s something the band have learned to navigate. ‘Lyrically if you are a big band and touch on some sensitive issues politically you might run into some issues,” says Anthony. “But OU is not interested in politics.”
What they are interested in is dismantling the invisible boundary that exists between the Chinese music scene and the west. “We had all this music in our hearts that needed to come out,” says Anthony. “We want it to reach as many people as possible.”
Sounds like: A heading-spinning, hypnotic whirl of metal, eletronica, jazz and prog.
For fans of: Devin Townsend, Björk, Faith No More
Listen to: Mountain