Noctem Aeternus - Landscape of Discord (2020)

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Having full creative control, one-man projects usually deliver very focused and highly cohesive music, today we have Noctem Aeternus and his sophomore release “Landscape of Discord”. Unraveling over 55 minutes of lush music, we are in awe of the quality and creativity presented in this release. While we will always love one-man projects like Unreqvited and Violet Cold, this one catapults itself to the first three spots on our list with this release.

After lifting our spirits and expectation with the magical “Invocation”, the band leads into the lavish atmospherics of “Those Who Shall Perish” paired with superb drumming and very emotional shireks. The release continues with the ravaging “Coming Home, Twilight”, another mid-tempo onslaught filled with lush arrangements and very well crafted moments of sheer intensity. While many one-man bands rely on plenty of samples and synths, this release includes mostly live instruments, adding clarity to an already epic package.

Assignment - Reflections (2020)

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After receiving what seems to be hundreds of Black Metal albums every week, it is quite refreshing we get some solid Progressive Metal from Germany with Assignment. As the band’s fifth full-length release, “Reflections” delivers nearly one hour of polished music filled with soaring vocal melodies and crafty instrumentation. Flying under the radar in North America, this band has some serious musical chops and they should get more exposure with this excellent release.

Following a dramatic instrumental opener, “Merciful Angel” showcases the band firing on all cylinders right off the gate. Pairing intricate drum patterns, powerful guitar riffs and the signature vocals of Diego Valdez, this track crafts a high-octane pace that never slows down as the band pummels through “Obsession” and “Corporate Men”. On the album title track we get a very powerful ballad-esque piece with a superb vocal duet and lush atmospheric enhancements, changing the pace of the album and providing a window into the band’s musical depth.

Entartung - Maleficae Artes (2020)

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Germany’s most vicious Black Metal band returns with a brutal fourth full-length release titled “Maleficae Artes”. Grounding their sound in 90’s BM, the band delivers five furious anthems of brutality, melody, and destruction. Focusing on longer songs, than a typical BM band, this German outfit unleashed intricate compositions that are both highly atmospheric and brutal, inciting furious headbanging from start to finish.

The release kicks off with the savagery of “Tower of Silence” and its waves of riffs paired with pummeling drumming. The level of intensity is a good indicator of what is to come, and it is nicely offset by ravaging melodic sections perfect for intense headbanging moments. Going through several tempos and styles, the track closes in a vicious manner and extreme brutality, only to lead into the cavernous opening of “Bortförd”. This last track showcases the band’s ability to craft hypnotic passages filled with creepy clean vocal arrangements and harsh onslaughts.

Ayr - The Dark (2020)

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Oozing melancholy and brutality, today we have Ayr and their debut full-length release “The Dark”. After a several year hiatus, this band returns with a furious and well balanced release filled with eerie atmospherics and ravaging harshness. Clocking in at nearly 40 minutes, this album has a vibe similar to Abigail Williams and similar North American acts that are bending the boundaries of Black Metal.

After the mysterious opener “Lion’s Blood”, the album title track delivers the first onslaught of blistering drumming, hellish screams, and incisive guitar riffs. The core of the music is quite old-school Black Metal which is both visceral and yet melodic at times. The band magically transitions from weeping melody into atmospheric eeriness as “Worship the Dark” provides a very creepy vibe.

Dark Sarah - Grim (2020)

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Always delivering quite lush and engaging Symphonic/Gothic Metal releases, today we have Dark Sarah and their latest opus “Grim”. With a cinematic vibe and always featuring very interesting fantasy-filled story-lines, this release unleashes 55 minutes of majestic music filled with dream-like atmospheres and the signature vocals of Heidi Parviainen. This release is a must-have for all fans of bands like Visions of Atlantis, Delain, Nightwish, etc.

Setting the stage with the mystical “My Name Is Luna”, the band gets fully warmed up with the bombastic opening of “The Chosen One”. Pairing dramatic lead vocals with heavy guitars and explosive drumming is a formula that works wonders for the band as songs like “Illuminate” and “Melancholia” deliver waves of catchy passages and the perfect balance of heavy and lush that we love from this band. For those looking for the power-ballads, “Iceheart” is a very nice mellow song that changes the pace of this release.

Moonworshipper - 13 Fullmoon Nights of Loneliness (2020)

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Always releasing superbly interesting stuff, Hypnotic Dirge Records unleashes Moonworshipper and their ‘EP’ “13 Fullmoon Nights of Loneliness”. Featuring a truly chaotic, experimental, and yet lush sound, this release pretty much takes elements from almost every genre of music and mixes them together in a very melancholic and tormentous release. If you are a fan of Manes, Lethe, Ulver, and similar outfit, this release is right up your alley.

Starting with some cavernously Doomy guitar riffs, the single 24-minute track in this release hints at a very heavy and punishing journey. The crushing guitars and rhythmic drumming is perfectly offset by hellish vocals and crafty tempo changes. This is until the band switches things up with hauntingly eerie piano/atmospheric passages and the introduction of sultry female vocals. Note that at this stage the guitars and doomy vibe are still very present as the band continues to dabble in some Depressive/Suicidal BM influences mixed into jazzy and noir-esque female singing.

Convocation - Ashes Coalesce (2020)

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Unleashing a tectonic plate shifting release, today we have Finland’s Convocation and their sophomore release “Ashes Coalesce”. Giving a modern edge to the timeless Funeral Death/Doom Metal genre, this duo delivers one of the most intense and intricate releases we have heard in 2020. Perfect for fans of Mournful Congregation, Dark Buddha Rising, and Waste of Space Orchestra, this release will rock your world from start to end.

Featuring Marko Neuman of Dark Buddha Rising/Waste of Space Orchestra fame on vocals, the release starts with the intense “Martyrise”. For over 12 minutes, this track delivers a web of intricate tempo changes and an onslaught of weird and sinister vocal styles, creating a very chaotic and cavernous feeling. The release turns to doomier and more ‘traditional’ territories with the mournful “The Absence of Grief”, a 13-minute beast that delivers solemn atmospheric elements and crushing riffs paired with Marko's deep and piercing growls.

With The End In Mind - Tides of Fire (2020)

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Delivering a very rich and emotional 48 minutes of soul crushing Post-Black Metal with a Cascadian vibe, today we have With The End In Mind and their sophomore release “Tides of Fire”. Perfectly contrasting fragility with crushing aggression, this release unleashes three masterful tracks that weave together tons of influences while creating a very powerful and complex sound. If you are a fan of bands like Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room and Vanum, this release will blow you away.

The release leads with the dreamy opening of “Set the Cavernous Soul Alight”, which slowly turns into a very chaotic and savage onslaught of harsh screams, blistering drumming and a very firm and crushing pace. We particularly love how the band weaves pockets of intense brutality into mellow and lush soundscapes that are both hypnotic and eerie. Just as this track slowly built up, the ending soothes the listener with eerie clean vocals and a certain folky vibe.

Ensiferum - Thalassic (2020)

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Delivering a perfect balance of speedy Epic Power/Folk Metal ballads and and folky moody pieces, Ensifeum returns with “Thalassic”. Adding extra depth to their signature sound, the band hedges a bit more into Power Metal territories while keeping their lively and upbeat style for nearly 50 minutes. Perfectly in sync with their earlier releases, this album propels the band’s sound into new territories and pleases fans with intense and engaging songs.

Setting a very epic mood with “Seafarer's Dream”, the band goes full speed with the intense “Rum, Women, Victory”, which features a bit of a Children of Bodom-esque sound mixed in with their traditional blistering melodies and crafty instrumentation. The clean vocals on “Andromeda” really give it a slighter Power Metal edge, greatly elevating this catchy and awesome song to new levels. The same can be said for “The Defense of the Sampo”, which has a certain Stratovarius meets Ensiferum vibe.

Powerwolf - Best Of The Blessed (2020)

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Celebrating their 15 years of existence (in 2019) Powerwolf delivers the perfect compendium of their best songs and live renditions. Not settling for the traditional ‘best of’ album, the band made new versions of some of their greatest hits like “Resurrection by Erection” and “We Drink Your Blood”, giving something extra for collectors and fans alike. Never having played (and refused along the way) in the USA, this is one hell of a band with excellent music that no fan of Power/Symphonic Metal should miss out on.

Opening with a new version of our favorite song, “We Drink Your Blood”, we noticed a slightly polished edge and an even more bombastic nature to this epic song. The band’s sound has greatly been refined over the years, making it more explosive and lush, and the new versions of songs like “Werewolves of Armenia”, “Saturday Satan”, and the classic “Resurrection by Erection” , are brilliantly enhanced to give you the chills the band delivers on their live performances.

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