Twilight Force - At The Heart of Wintervale (2023)


There are just some days when you just want to hear an album filled with over-the-top technical wizardry, lush vocal arrangements, and an overall superbly up-beat vibe. Luckily for us, Twilight Force delivers just that, and plenty more, with the epic “At The Hearth of Wintervale”. We have a soft spot for extremely bombastic Symphonic Power Metal, and this album unleashes over 64 minutes of magical music in this regard.

Opening with the lush “Twilight Force” track, we instantly get rewarded with blistering guitar solos, crafty tempo changes, and very dramatic vocal arrangements. Vocalist Allyon, aka Alessandro Conti, shines through this release, but in particular in epic songs like “At the Heart of Wintervale”, filled with soaring vocal passages. We particularly love that epic vibe that bands like Stratovarius, Rhapsody, and similar outfits craft, but with Twilight Force, this effort is poured into every single track, particularly heavy hitters like “Dragonborn”, and the cinematic 10-minute epic “Highlands of the Elder Dragon”.

Hate Forest - Innermost (2022)


After being broken up for 15 years or so, Hate Forest returned with a punishing release in 2020, and before we even knew it, they dropped “Innermost” this past December. Featuring six tracks and around 35 minutes of punishing Black Metal, this release keeps the band’s mythos alive and well by unleashing their signature demoralizing style. If you are a fan of the band, and/or bleak and ravaging BM, you can’t miss out on this release.

The release quickly goes for the throat with “Those Who Howl Inside the Snowstorm”, a blistering piece of traditional Black Metal in the vein of Immortal, with piercing tremolo picking and crushing drumming. The album’s savagery level is quickly showcased as pieces like “By Full Moon's Light Alone the Steppe Throne Can Be Seen” and “Ice-Cold Bloodless Veins” provide no respite except for the occasional atmospheric interludes. Hate Forest has always been characterized for their relentless brutality and this is front and center on this release.

Ahab - The Coral Tombs (2023)


As the perfect companion for a gloomy and cold winter day, today we have Germany’s Ahab returning after eight years since their last full-length release with the crushing “The Coral Tombs”. As the pioneers of ‘Nautik Doom’, this band makes misery inducing music that only a handful of bands can rival (Skepticism, Shape of Despair, etc.). Featuring seven tracks and nearly 67 minutes of soul-crushing music, this is one of the finest Doom releases we have ever heard.

The release opens with the oppressive “Prof. Arronax' Descent into the Vast Oceans”, with a very aggressive opening that slowly transitions into clean vocals and total bleakness. We particularly like how the band blends in Epic Doom (or traditional Doom) elements with heavier and more punishing Death/Funeral Doom parts. The track “Colossus of the Liquid Graves” nicely creates a somewhat funky atmosphere that is brilliantly flanked by deep growls, oppressive riffs, alongside crafty tempo changes.

Serotonin Syndrome - Seed of Mankind (2023)


Unleashing aural waves of misery, today we have Finland’s, Serotonin Syndrome, and their third full-length release “Seed of Mankind”. Perfectly blending Post-Metal/Post-Black Metal elements with sobering melancholy, this release unleashings five tracks and nearly 40 minutes of brilliant music. Highly recommended for fans of bands like Karg, Harakiri for the Sky, and Heretoir, this release will certainly turn days cloudy and gloomy.

Opening with “Among Others”, the release starts heavy hitting with piercing riffs and crushing vocals. This slowly transforms into slower passages that set a very bleak mood early on. As “The Pitiful One” rolls in, the band keeps unleashing blistering aggressive sections in between dreamy guitars and crafty tempo changes. With “Seed Of Mankind” the release takes an interesting tour into Karg/Harakiri for the Sky-esque territories with lush guitars and some shoegazey passages.

Kanonenfieber - Der Füsilier (2023)


Delivering two tracks of switch brutality and incisiveness, today we have Kanonenfieber and their short but punishing EP “Der Füsilier”. Featuring two relentless tracks, this EP showcases the band’s raw power alongside their melodic undertones and craftiness. For fans of Black Metal that is just weird enough to be different, this is a band to keep in your sights.

Grá - Lycaon (2023)


Hailing from Sweden today we have Grá and their fourth full-length release titled “Lycaon”. For the uninitiated, Grá is the original band from Heljarmadr, Dark Funeral’s current vocalist. Unleashing eight tracks of superbly catchy and in a way a bit retro Black Metal, this release will give you a very nice and eerie Hypocrisy vibe, while delivering its swift punch. If you like old-school Melodic Black Metal, this is certainly an album to explore.

Opening with the superbly catchy “White City Devil”, we immediately got Hypocrisy circa “The Fourth Dimension” vibes and we totally loved it. The band however, keeps things more on the Black Metal side with incisive riffs, crafty drums, and a playful bass guitar line. As “Flame of Hephaestus”, and “Torn Asunder”, one can quickly appreciate that Heljarmadr is also a pretty solid guitarist, as most tracks feature very catchy guitar work that is both engaging and punishing.

Vile Valo - Neon Noir (2023)


Just in time to kick off 2023, Vile Valo (ex-H.I.M) is ready to drop his debut solo release titled “Neon Noir”. This unique singer is ready to get back on the Heartagram train and delivers twelve extremely characteristic tracks filled with soaring vocal arrangements and unrivaled melancholy. If you are a fan of HIM you will certainly love this release as it is full of superbly catchy and intoxicating songs that will leave you listening to it on repeat for days on end.

The release starts with the dreamy “Echolocate Your Love” and its playful synths flanking Vile’s gifted vocals. The song has his signature dark and yet lively mood, with a catchy chorus and nice distorted guitars. Quickly, the power ballad “Run Away from the Sun” leads to soaring vocal arrangements and a very intoxicating serenading mood. With a nice Amorphis-esque acoustic guitar intro, “Neon Noir” is yet another excellent track in this release with lush arrangements and well crafted tempo changes.


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