Upcoming Albums

Albums of 2/23/24

The most interesting releases of 2/16/24!

Amaranthe – The Catalyst

New Amaranthe album from Nuclear Blast. This will not change your already-definite opinion of Amaranthe. They are the cheesy unholy love child of Nightwish and Alestorm, they are pop masquerading as power metal, whatever else you want to throw at them, it’s here. There’s a bit more of an edge and more of an electronic influence compared to their previous output, but you know exactly what this is going to be.

And what this is going to be is completely fine. I don’t love The Catalyst, but it’s a catchy, fun release that sticks with you. Yes, it’s cheesy, but cheese tastes great in moderation. The tracks that lean heavy on electronics are weaker than those that use them more sparingly and the growling vocals just feel out of place and awkward. Yet Amaranthe can write a chorus. The breather tracks like “Stay A Little While” offer a surprisingly refreshing change of pace, and while the album lasts for a little too long it never gets boring. If you’re not worried about looking cool around all the people in corpse paint, Amaranthe is a fun time.

Fange – Perdition

Throatruiner Records’ promotional blurb stated that Fange’s new release is “Built…upon foundations made of mutilated death industrial loops and grievous melodic guitars.” This turns out to be completely true. Perdition contains some hypnotic and dark atmospheric mists pierced by effective melodies. The result is a post, industrial, death porridge that feels fuzzy and real. This hits with immense weight.

Much of Perdition consists of repetitive loops surrounded by eerie musical trappings. Fange counter the threat of stagnation in a few ways. First, the melodic lines allow Fange to keep shifting the context of their loops so that even though the notes are the same, they feel different. Second, as the loops are used to provide atmosphere, when they do repeat it often comes off as an intentional effect used to heighten tension and put the listener deeper in the mists. Third and most importantly, they simply used good loops. Repetition isn’t as much of a sin if the thing being repeated sounds great.

Toxikull – Under The Southern Light

Blatant Judas Priest/Chastain worship from Dying Victims Productions. Toxikull comes dangerously close to uncanny valley at times, feeling like a sampler of 80s heavy metal bands stapled together with no regard for song structure or flow. When they avoid falling into this moshless pit, Under The Southern Light contains some high energy fun times complete with screams, arrogant solos, and bridges that feel like they should play behind a music video of clouds parting and a cheesy fantasy action figure being lowered into the scene via a clearly visible wire.

I can’t say that the riffs here are particularly good, or that Toxikull give the listener many of the typical calling cards of 80s heavy metal worship done well outside of some spotless guitar solos. Instead, Toxikull just has so much attitude and energy all the time. When a riff finishes, I wouldn’t be able to tell you if I thought it was any good or not or even what song on the album it was from. Some of the bridges feel like they exist because they need to and not because Toxikull wanted to write them. But they do such a good job of bringing energy that it’s impossible not to headbang. Under The Southern Light shows an earnest band creating something better than the sum of its parts. If you’re into the Sumerlands or Eternal Champion scene, Toxikull is for you.

Bob Saliba – Hosts Of A Vanished World

Bob Saliba has made some happy folk/prog on his debut album released on FTF Music. The presentation and concept of Hosts Of A Vanished World give me Ayreon vibes. Bob’s songwriting is ambitious in a manner that proves detrimental as often as helpful. However, once you get past the moments that sound meandering or like filler, you find some gems as well. I won’t pretend that Hosts Of A Vanished World is the best prog album released this year. But Bob Saliba gives the listener surprising depth and adventure.

While the songwriting may be spotty, the performances aren’t. The vocals throughout the record are a highlight, switching from whimsy to burdened while maintaining excellent tone and without chewing on the furniture. The instruments underneath generally sound warm, with the folk aspects of Hosts Of A Vanished World being less an influence and more a piece of the album’s DNA. The album lasts a bit too long due to some of the meandering that prevents this release from reaching greater heights, but at its worst it’s merely pleasant. If you like the softer part of prog, Bob Saliba may surprise you.