Hey everyone. Lightbreaker here with a new type of article recounting some of the best releases of the month. And what a month it’s been! Already we’ve got some complete surprises, strong debuts, and a few albums that will no doubt be contenders for Album of the Year in 11 months time. At the bottom of the article, you will find a link to a playlist with a selection of the best songs of the month. So without further ado, let’s see what’s been happening in the world of heavy music in January 2022.
These days, the majority of new albums are released on Fridays to capitalise on Spotify’s Release Radar playlists and to ensure potentially strong chart positions. That meant that Friday January 7th was a very special day indeed. The first new release I heard this year was ‘Epigone’, the mind-blowing fourth album by American prog-metallers Wilderun. From its understated opening to the epic Distraction suite in the album’s second half, Wilderun offer a range of variety and musicianship rarely seen outside of Opeth’s better moments. It has been receiving rave reviews across the board and every positive word is true. I’m delighted to say that Evan and Wayne from Wilderun are my guests on the next episode of The Coffin Nail. Don’t miss it on keithfem.com on Friday February 4th. ‘Woolgatherer’ is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a few years, so don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last time you hear me singing their praises.
Another pleasant surprise in the first week of the year was OAR’s debut album ‘The Blood You Crave’. Hailing from Sydney, OAR play an emotive brand of post-black metal that takes the black metal sound into new and exciting territory. They join a small but growing roster of bands who are applying blastbeats and black metal vocals to songs that could be reinterpreted as folk or indie if given a different instrumental arrangement. ‘Perfect Agony’, ‘What Used To Bloom’, and title track ‘The Blood You Crave’ build beautiful soundscapes that feel personal and epic all at once. If you don’t usually listen to black metal, give OAR’s new album a go. You might be surprised by what you hear!
Power metal has put on a strong showing so far this year. New albums from GIANT and The Ferrymen should satisfy genre purists, but the standout releases come in the from of Battle Beast’s ‘Circus of Doom’ and Edge of Forever’s ‘Seminole’. Battle Beast merge the chromatic jazz rock of Oingo Boingo and Devo with the grandeur of Nightwish. The title track and ‘Russian Roulette’ in particular show the adventurous songwriting that sets them apart from the pack. However, Edge of Forever’s sophomore album ‘Seminole’ takes the top spot for me. The riffs reek of Zakk Wylde with their squealing pinched harmonics and headbanging classic rock pacing. Vocalists are often the star of any power metal band and Edge of Forever’s singer and keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio stands alone when compared with his peers. His comfortable high tenor is reminiscent of 80’s legends like Sebastian Bach and Jon Bon Jovi. As it happens, mid-album ballad ‘Breath of Life’ sounds straight out of the back catalogue of Bon Jovi or even Heart. I can’t recommend ‘Seminole’ enough!
An honourable mention is due to Icelandic power metallers Power Paladin. Although their new album ‘With the Magic of Windfyre Steel’ starts strong, it quickly runs out of ideas. That said, ‘Kraven The Hunter’ sounds like an all time classic power metal track and I’m sure I’ll be replaying it for a long time to come.
It hasn’t taken long for the impact of Spiritbox to be felt across the metal spectrum and it has given a great opportunity for a range of strong female-fronted bands to make an impact on the heavier side of mainstream metal. Firstly, ‘Ecdysis’ by Maldovan melodic metalcore band Infected Rain, is a strong album with big riffs and impressive vocals from frontwoman Lena Scissorhands. ‘Showers’, ‘Goodbye’, and ‘These Walls’ are solid bangers, but I couldn’t help feeling like I would have been better off listening to Spiritbox’s ‘Eternal Blue’ instead. Then I heard Kandia’s new album ‘Quaternary’ and I found exactly what I was looking for. The riffage is straight out of the djent school of guitar playing, but rather than being rigid and painfully precise, there is a bounce that will have your head nodding like you’re listening to a hip hop record. There are prominent moments of samples, synthesizers, and spoken word bordering on rap that make this album feel like a creative and overdue evolution of nu-metal. For once, describing something as nu-metal is not only referencing its origins but actually refers to a new sound. Check out ‘Quaternary’ by Kandia for yourself and tell me I’m wrong.
After a long hiatus, Billy Talent are back and better than ever. ‘Crisis of Faith’ was many years in the making and holds together very well considering the length of its production. Album opener ‘Forgiveness I + II’ was released all the way back in 2019 and I still get excited by the bouncing buzz of its main riff. The song then departs into a half-tempo introspection complete with saxophone solo which almost sounds like Pink Floyd. Each track has its own identity and the synergy of the clever track listing elevates it as a whole. ‘Crisis of Faith’ is easily Billy Talent’s best work since their first two albums.
Comeback Kid have long been one of those bands that I would never turn off, but rarely think to put on. That has definitely changed with their new album ‘Heavy Steps’. If you like punk or melodic hardcore in any capacity, this album is for you. This album holds its relentless intensity the whole way through, and may just be their crowning achievement. Having Joe Duplantier of Gojira pop in for a guest appearance on ‘Crossed’ didn’t hurt either. On the day of its release, former The Coffin Nail guests Capra tweeted “Comeback Kid just dropped album of the year in January.” Coming from one of the most promising new acts in melodic hardcore, you can take their word for it.
Death metal is also very well represented in the first slew of releases this year. Swedish newcomers Necrophagus unleashed their brutal debut album ‘In Chaos Ascend’. While it doesn’t exactly break new ground, it is still a strong start with a higher standard of production than most death metal bands ever accomplish. Nihility’s second album ‘Beyond Human Concepts’ is a bit more adventurous. Melding death and black metal tropes, they somehow manage to sound like Mercyful Fate, Cannibal Corpse, and Machine Head all at the same time. But it’s Needless that really lead the charge of cutting edge death metal this month with their stunning science fiction themed second album ‘The Cosmic Cauldron’. A bold record that utilises the best aspects of death metal and melodic thrash to make an album which is as surprisingly digestible as it is frantic and heavy. The second half of the album is where it’s progressive side opens up. ‘Planet Oblivion’ is a welcome change of pace from the sonic assault that precedes it, and closing track ‘Transgalactic’ has a whole album’s worth of good riffs.
Lastly, Fit For An Autopsy released their highly anticipated sixth album ‘Oh What The Future Holds’ on January 14th. They have clearly taken influence from Gojira and Meshuggah and applied it to their evolving brand of deathcore. Songs like ‘Far From Heaven’ and ‘Two Towers’ showcase a level of songwriting they weren’t capable of a few years ago. Meanwhile, ‘Pandora’ and ‘A Higher Level Of Hate’ remind long-time fans that they can still throw down some of the most brutal breakdowns and hooks going. I expect this album to have them either headlining second stages or being close to topping the bill at major festivals this coming summer.
I could go on and on from here, but it’s time to excercise some restraint. I haven’t even mentioned the excellent new albums from SETYOURSAILS, Seven Nines & Tens, Great American Ghost’s new EP, or the awesome Leatherface/Hot Water Music split album. That’s a testament to the high standard of music we have been treated to so far this year. What were your favourite releases of the year so far? Let me know in the comments. Scroll down for the link to a Spotify playlist with all the choice notes from the albums mentioned above. The Coffin Nail is live this Friday February 4th with special guests Wilderun. Tune in to keithfem.com from 6-8pm Berlin time to hear me talk to the guys about their new album ‘Epigone’ and to hear all the latest rock, metal and punk tracks. And don’t forget to check out patreon.com/thecoffinnail to get involved with the show. Keep the horns up!