Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 2011 Best Heavy Metal Albums CDs

1. Kvelertak - 'Kvelertak' (The End)
The End Records

Kvelertak is groovy black n' roll. Lean guitar riffs, catchy melodies and ample aggression make for an appealing combination. The songs are fun, but with a punk vibe that adds a swagger and attitude. The vocals are harsh, providing a sharper edge to the music. Tracks like “Blodtørst” even have brief acoustic moments.

In addition to Erlend Hjelvik's throat searing vocals, there are guest appearances from Ryan McKenney (Trap Them), Ivar Nikolaisen (Silver) and Hoest (Taake). “Sultans Of Satan” includes some melodic vocals in addition to the harsh yells. It also incorporates some bluesy Sabbath style riffs. There's no shortage of riffs on Kvelertak, as the band utilizes a three guitar attack.

2. Omnium Gatherum - 'New World Shadows' (Lifeforce)
Lifeforce Records

The album begins with the majestic and epic “Everfields,” a nine minute opus. It moves along at a moderate pace, then both the speed and aggression increase before a mid-song acoustic interlude. Jukka Pelkonen's death metal vocals are edgy and a little lower pitched than the usual, making them sound more distinctive. It's a diverse and progressive song with a lot of tempo and texture changes and a strong opener.

Omnium Gatherum have really hit their stride on New World Shadows. They've stepped up their songwriting and musicianship, and have delivered their best album to date. Melodic death metal fans will definitely want to check this one out.

3. Within Temptation - 'The Unforgiving' (Roadrunner)
"Within Temptation - The Unforgiving"Roadrunner Records

The Unforgiving is a concept album, based on a comic book created in collaboration with the band by Steven O'Connell. Musically, Within Temptation still plays bombastic and melodic symphonic metal, but add in some retro '80s vibes and other genres on some of the songs. The opener “Shot In The Dark” has a lot of atmosphere along with big hooks and powerful vocals from Sharon den Adel.

“In The Middle Of The Night” is a standout, an arena-ready anthem that's more intense than the usual WT song, but has great riffs and a memorable chorus. One of the strengths of The Unforgiving is the balance between orchestration and riffs. The symphonic elements don't bury the guitars, they both comfortably co-exist.

4. Amon Amarth - 'Surtur Rising' (Metal Blade)
Metal Blade Records

Their brand of melodic Viking metal won't ever cross over to the mainstream, but their appeal in the metal world has continued to grow, and their latest CD Surtur Rising will only continue their momentum. Surtur Rising gets off to an aggressive start with “War Of The Gods.” Catchy riffs, a searing solo and Johan Hegg's trademark low-pitched but understandable rasp make it a strong and memorable opener. “Tock's Taunt” runs the gamut from a brief mellow section to very melodic to double bass intensity.

There's no title track per se, but the band considers “Destroyer Of The Universe” to be that track. It's one of the more intense songs on the album. It's companion piece, at least lyrically, is “The Last Stand Of Frej,” which tells the same story from a different perspective.

5. Mercenary - 'Metamorphosis' (Prosthetic)
Prosthetic Records

Many doubted that Denmark’s Mercenary would be able to overcome the loss of leather-lunged screamer/singer Mikkel Sandager after the man’s departure following 2008’s album cycle for Architect of Lies. In light of all this, it’s impressive that Metamorphosis was created at all, never mind the fact that it also happens to be completely killer.

Taking the proverbial bull by the horns, bassist Rene Pederson has stepped up to the plate as the band’s new singer, handling both clean and harsh vocals with stunning confidence. Pederson leads the charge here, side by side with guitarist Jakob Molberg, whose significantly impressive chops are once again dropping jaws and raising fists with their near-flawless mastery of melody and technical prowess.

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