If there’s one thing I love, it’s spicy hummus. That’s not relevant to this column, but I’m going to need it for an overstretched analogy in a minute, so I thought I’d make it clear.
But another thing I love is shouting about albums I think are great that I don’t see enough love for, so I’m back with another selection of underappreciated gems from 2020. And this one is, even by the standards set so far, a fun one. Except for the first pick. That’s about as cheerful an Alan Bennett monologue on dropping your hummus on the kitchen floor, slipping in it, falling, breaking your glasses, and viewing that as a metaphor for your life. Or something…
Enslaved’s 15th (FIFTEENTH) album, Utgard, is out today, and (spoilers) it’s bloody excellent. It’s one of their absolute best records in a 27-year recording career that’s almost without blemish, and it is achieved by changing direction.
This really is not news, however, as this has happened multiple times throughout their run, and is often what defines their best records – and throughout all that, at no point have they ever stopped feeling like Enslaved. And it is time they were acknowledged as the best band at shifting gears heavy metal has ever had.
This installment of my rolling heavy metal ICYMI [“Paul Rudd here, actor and certified young person…“ – Ed], we’re off to France (twice), Italy, Belgium, Australia, USA (if they promise not to mention politics, anyway), and even drizzly old Blighty. And even this edition’s Googly is proper good, so you had best read on.
In the first of a (potentially… if anyone reads them) regular column, I round up some under-the-radar heavy music. Full details of how it works are on the about this blog page, to save making this intro boring and long.
This edition features some filthy doom, catchy power metal, something really unusual from Azerbaijan, and something slow about Rome.
The last decade of being a Nightwish fan looked briefly like being more of a nightmare, but then blossomed into a golden age. Imaginaerum was astonishingly good, then when Anette left, the band fell on their feet by recruiting Floor Jansen – their best singer yet – then didn’t put a foot wrong live, and put out the excellent Endless Forms Most Beautiful to show they didn’t even need bedding in time.
Then they released HUMAN :II: NATURE. And I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before I can stick up for them again.
Unleash The Archers blew my socks off with their last album, Apex. Understandably, I was itching to hear their next one. And once the follow up, Abyss, arrived, I found myself even more enthusiastic about the Canadians than before.
They stand out as one of the best things to happen to power metal in Odin knows how long – but they’ve done it by releasing a record I like less than the last. And it’s partially because I suspect you will like the new outing more than I do.
Just because we metalheads like nothing better than music that sounds like it’s coming to eat your face and destroy your house doesn’t mean we can’t be sophisticated. And what better way to show it than by finding the perfect wine to go with your favourite band? Here are 6 matches to get you started, with more to come in future.
Sometimes being a black metal fan is a bit like being the manager of an unfashionable football club; you’re frequently surrounded by people telling you exactly what you should think and explaining why you’re wrong, while you remain staunch and steadfast in your beliefs (even if they’re part of what’s making you unpopular), and it’s a damn sight easier when all the bullshit quietens down.
Put another way, Wolves In The Throne Room have gloriously reminded me how much easier it is to simply enjoy something when the circus has moved onto fresher pastures.