Improvement, evolution, and epic heavy metal are some of my favorite things–what could make for a more perfect combination? Over the years I have never pretended to be a particularly big fan of the older material from Vancouver’s Gatekeeper, nor have I been silent about my admiration as they’ve refined their sound and gotten better and better over time. Most bands stagnate, and it’s rare for a debut to miss me and then later releases to capture me, but Gatekeeper have done exactly that, each release being better and better.
The vast majority of the original extreme metal musicians from the 1980s have long since abandoned both the underground and extreme metal altogether. It’s legendary at this point how the musicians from cult bands like Cartilage (Fin), Dominus (DE), and Repugnant (Swe) have gone on to play with bands like Nightwish, Volbeat, and Ghost. Most of the classic death metal bands that didn’t break up outright ended up playing popular forms of groove metal, goth rock, or other more commercially viable genres as early as on their second album. Though the original wave of USDM was certainly more dedicated to the genre over the years than the European bands I mentioned, they were not immune to it, and the amount of musicians from that time period still just as dedicated to disgusting underground death metal filth can almost be counted on one hand. Deceased, Pentacle, Mortem, a few others…and Ares Kingdom.
Many years ago, when death metal was king of the United States and brutal death metal was a twinkle in Suffocation’s eye, Drawn and Quartered formed in Seattle with the intention of devastating their neighbors and fans across the world. Years of hard work with drummer Matt Cason (who would leave soon thereafter) resulted in their first album, To Kill is Human. Full of brutal riffs, strange transitions, and songs about pain and fear, this is Drawn and Quartered’s most primitive effort- not only a key insight into the death metal scene of the 1990s, but a great look into the early days of the band, and a killer album to boot!
Remastered for vinyl from the original master tapes by Resonance Sound Studios and with new photography and a new layout, Nameless Grave Records is proud to release this legendary slab of infernal American steel on vinyl for the very first time.
Note: the remaster is limited exclusively to this vinyl, and is not on the digital stream or any other reissues on any format. Limited to 500 copies!
Everyone that’s into doom metal understands that Candlemass is about as important and influential as a doom metal band (outside of Black Sabbath themselves) has ever been. The genre’s name itself arguably comes from their first album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and quite a bit of the reason that people love that album so much is the incredible session vocal performance from Johan Längquist. Dramatic, powerful, and dynamic, Längquist’s singing on that album has transcended the genre of doom metal itself and inspired generations of bands and their vocal performances. “Solitude” alone has been covered dozens of times by doom legends like Solstice and by smaller bands like Procession or Bewitched alike; even when the covers don’t necessarily work, the love is certainly going where it’s due, and it was no small deal when Candlemass announced that Längquist had returned to be their permanent singer a few years ago.
Megaton Sword is perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to Swiss metal in my books since Celtic Frost and Coroner. This is not necessarily because there has not been other great metal in the years since those bands dominated the world, or even because Megaton Sword is all that, but because I am just not aware of other Swiss bands since then that I like as much and I refuse to educate myself prior to writing this article. That’s it, it’s over, discussion ended: Megaton Sword has won Swiss metal. Seriously though, I do like them quite a bit, and this is my second time covering them after doing an interview with the band in early 2021. Though I liked them well enough then–or else I would not have interviewed them the first time–to my ears they’ve improved quite a bit since then, and their new album Might & Power really does live up to the praise in the intro in a way that their first album didn’t. That’s what a band wants, though, right? To hear that their new record is better than their earlier material?
As much as I admire a band that’s amazing from day one, I have a special place in my heart for bands that grow and improve over time. Lancaster’s Eliminator certainly has never been bad–I got into them before they had an album, and have been following their career with interest since- but to my ears at least their new album Ancient Light is the first time that they’ve been truly great. In quite opposite form to the dreadful sophomore slump, these heavy riffing lads have managed to refine their already promising sound from 2018’s energetic Last Horizon to give us something that’s equal parts sharp as a knife, furiously catchy, and understatedly elegant.
Rare is the band that can, like clockwork, drop a killer catchy heavy metal album every year or two without any dropoff in quality; there’s a reason that fans dread a “sophomore slump” after killer debut albums, and most bands just can’t keep up any level of quality over time. Ironflame has proved to be a strong exception to that and each one of their albums has been absolutely awesome, the new one included.