Machine Head – Of Kingdom And Crown
Having been written off by many in the aftermath of 2018’s divisive Catharsis, the current Metal Hammer magazine cover stars feel like a band with a point to prove on 10th album Of Kingdom And Crown. Tracks like the 10-minute Slaughter The Martyr and Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate lean fully into the style of beloved classics The Blackening and Burn My Eyes respectively, while the epic My Hands Are Empty is ambitious as the album’s overarching, anime-inspired concept. Things weren’t entirely broke, but Machine Head have fixed them all the same.
Sigh – Shiki
For all Japanese avant garde black metal linchpin Sigh’s creative diversity and mischief, band mastermind Mirai Kawashima has always understood the overriding importance of a killer tune, never losing sight of the need to get fists in the air and heads banging. Seldom have Sigh achieved this more resoundingly than on this 12th LP. Appearances might suggest more of the oriental folk influence that ennobled 2018’s Heir To Despair, but there’s none of that. Shiki is gleefully defined more by imperial, crunching riffs, dazzling twin-axe melodies and Mirai’s tasteful cosmic synth runs.
Thoughtcrimes – Altered Pasts
This debut album from the band led by ex-Dillinger Escape Plan drummer-turned Thoughtcrimes guitarist Billy Rymer is testament to the saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Altered Pasts has plenty of the frenetic energy that made his former outfit so beloved, but there’s also a sizeable chunk of more conventional and atmospheric passages. While many still pine for Dillinger, their members are carrying the torch forward into captivating and exciting new territories.
Lacrimas Profundere – How To Shroud Yourself With Night
Germany goth-doom veterans Lacrimas Profundere’s 13th album is a conglomerate of brooding, foreboding numbers like A Cloak Woven Of Stars, more groove-laden tracks such as Unseen, a salute to their formative years with the Paradise Lost-tinged Shroud Of Night, and a step into melodic hardcore territory with The Curtain Of White Silence. It might seem like the band are lacking direction with so many styles, but they’ve been in this game long enough to ensure that there’s an underlying, dark metal foundation running throughout that binds the album together.
Long Distance Calling – Eraser
The eighth album from this German post-rock quartet may seem like a chillaxing ride of instrumentalism at first listen, but hidden with these mesmerising riffs is a more urgent message. Inspired by the decimation of some of the world’s most endangered species – including that most metal of beasts, the sloth – this isn’t a soppy plea but a poignant soundtrack that paints an uncanny sonic portrait of these incredible creatures and the severity of their circumstances. Listen and weep.