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Albums of 3/8/24

The most interesting releases of 3/8/24!

I Am The Intimidator – I Am The Intimidator

A fantasy Dale Earnhardt-themed album released on Miserable Pyre. The most gimmicky thing I’ve heard since Neckbeard Deathcamp, but it somehow works. I Am The Intimidator displays an earnest approach all the way through this release. And while the production quality definitely betrays the demo-status of I Am The Intimidator, the performances stand proud.

The singer’s Dio-like vocals immediately dazzle, but the fuzzy guitars, complementary bass, and solid drums all impress as well, especially considering that this is a one-man band. The songs themselves definitely have a raw and aggressive songwriting quality. Some impressive riffs prop up songs that sound cohesive, yet more distinct than I was ready for. I have no idea where this project can go from here, but this obvious labor of love and celebration is the thing that’s been missing in your life since Dio and Lemmy died.

Mutilated By Zombies – Scenes From The Afterlife

I guess this week’s theme is not judging bands by their aesthetics. After the cold water shock of I Am The Intimidator, Mutilated By Zombies still had me taking a deep breath before pressing play. The band’s aesthetic seems like a million other Cannibal Corpse ripoffs that can’t figure out what makes the original artistically successful. But there were some green flags that signaled what was to come. This was the Iowa band’s fourth album and it was released on the usually-stellar Redefining Darkness Records. Scenes From The Afterlife does turn out to be Cannibal Corpse-worship, but it’s a damn good example of the style.

The general stop-and-start riffage pattern of the opening few songs creates a nice, flexible base for Mutilated By Zombies to work with. While they mostly play boiler-plate death metal, there are a few moments like the delightful syncopated passage just before the two minute mark on “Reciprocal Horror” that give this album spice. Songs on Scenes From The Afterlife routinely feel like they’re bursting out of the darkness, and when the band resolves a particularly funky lick into a standard on-the-beat death metal riff it feels both earned and satisfying. I’ve had more fun with Scenes From The Afterlife than any other new release, including the new Judas Priest. Just an absolute success.

Merrimack – Of Grace And Gravity

It’s black metal. It’s just black metal and it’s all black metal. The band’s from France, they’re on Season Of Mist Underground Activists, and they’ve been been doing this for a while. Of Grace And Gravity sounds good, they nail all of the black metal trappings, they have the black and white album cover and they glower at you on their bandcamp page, it’s fine. It’s all fine. This won’t be one of the best black metal releases of the year but it’s certainly fun to listen to. That’s all that it needed to be.

Merrimack have atmospheric tinges around the edges of their sound but they never fully get lost in the noise. They have the evil-sounding vocals that sound like they’ve mixed with death metal over decades of osmosis. The drums sound great and I’ll give the band credit for having audible bass lines that are both interesting and effective. While Merrimack have trouble separating themselves from many other black metal acts, there’s no doubt that they know their craft and that they succeed in leveraging the expected aspects of their genre to give an enjoyable listening experience.

Vicinity – VIII

They named it VIII, but this is Vicinity’s third album. Maybe it’s supposed to be the letter V followed by the roman numeral for three and I’ve just been reading it wrong. VIII was released on Uprising Records. The promo blurb simultaneously says that Vicinity take a “fresh approach to composition” and that this album will “please traditional prog fans,” which confuses me. As a traditional prog fan, I am pleased, so apparently they got the album description at least partially correct.

Vicinity starts off with some muscle power metal riffs that sound like a reflection of mid-2000s Dream Theater. This sometimes-distorted reflection continues throughout the record, with Redshift and occasionally Moon Safari also popping up. While the album’s attempts at making progressive metal work sometimes, the catchy melodic core carries me through some interesting song structure choices. VIII is over an hour long, and it still feels rushed at times. With all of this, Vicinity is at their best when they really sink their teeth into a concept and fully explore whatever slow-buildup or melody they’re working with. The heights of VIII are impressive, and the floor is entertaining melodies. Worth a shot for any prog fan with a spare hour.