And there’s no denying there’s a heavy feel to this week’s top picks with big hitters Behemoth and melodic death metallers Mayan in the mix.
There’s new music from Van Canto and Winterstorm.
Plus we deliver our verdict on Within Temptation‘s (pictured) chart-busting, career-defining Hydra.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK.
And we round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Symphonic Metal
It would be wrong to suggest Within Temptation have come from nowhere to score their highest UK chart entry to date – predecessor The Unforgiving dropped at number 23 and even 2007’s The Heart Of Everything nudged into the Top 40.
But after steady if unspectacular progress, Hydra is the very epitome of the ultimate breakthrough album with its bullish production, ambitious collaborations (rapper Xzibit is outstanding on standout track And We Run), pomp-fuelled anthems and the vocal performance of Sharon den Adel’s career.
Dog Days raises the roof (or should that be woof?) while the epic Tell Me Why will touch long-standing Temptation fans and bandwagon-jumping new converts alike. Hydra has the potential to be symphonic metal’s banner-waving standard bearer and the record that can lift a sneered-at genre into the commercial and critical mainstream. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Hydra And Seek
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Symphonic Death Metal
It’s a big week for Dutch symphonic rock (see above) but where Within Temptation are chasing serious record sales with their radio-friendly refrain there’s an altogether heavier and more sinister sound at the MaYan end of the spectrum.
Grunting and growling his way through brutish blasts of death metal in the mould of opener Bloodline Forefeit, founder and frontman Mark Jansen may still be the driving force behind an ambitious and avant-garde musical project. However, the decision to appoint fellow singers Laura Macrì and Henning Basse on full-time contracts has added instant kudos to these genre leaders.
The pounding, perfectly crafted pomp metal of Redemption – The Democracy Illusion offers a perfect insight into what MaYan can offer and represents a huge leap forward from 2011’s Quarterpast. Those still too afraid to dip their toes into the murky waters of death metal can jump right into Antagonise with complete confidence. This is a modern classic. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 MaYantagonising
Genre: A Capella Metal
Different isn’t always good. Van Canto’s a capella metal is very, very different and at times it’s impossible to appreciate the band’s music – or their potential – through a fog of bizarre a capella vocals underpinning every tune here.
Sometimes it’s melodic, often it’s rhythmic and occasionally it’s like listening to an African tribe valiantly trying their hand at trad metal without ever truly capturing the mood. Very rarely does it work. And all too often it does nothing to complement what could be some compelling heavy metal.
Dawn Of The Brave reaches its utterly bizarre nadir with a certifiably crazy cover of Europe’s The Final Countdown. The legend surrounding this famous song means it’s impossible to resist a wry smile when experiencing the Van Canto makeover. But is creating amusement the German band’s ultimate aim?
Who knows? With nine originals and four covers (Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero is also given the a capella metal treatment) it’s a rollercoaster ride of musical twists and vocal turns. It’s different. But it’s just not right. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Van Breakdown
Genre: Death Metal
Behemoth’s first studio album since frontman Nergal was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2009 re-establishes the Polish band’s position at the forefront of the blackened death metal scene.
When one of the genre’s most mysterious and foreboding figures growls into action on the brutal Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel it’s clear this is no time for the recovering cancer patient to wallow in self-pity and wonder about ‘what might be’.
In reality The Satanist is a shot in the arm for survival, a thrusting middle finger raised at the bewildered mainstream and, more than anything, a classic metal masterpiece. Nergal’s commanding presence and his colourful past might dominate this release but it’s an album of breathtaking musical expertise.
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer is death metal at its most effective – lyrically and sonically (check out the multiple drum rolls) it blows the opposition out of the water with its sinister soundscape and obliterating power. A gloriously evil return to form. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 ‘Moth Bawl
Genre: Power/Folk Metal
As atmospheric opener A Hero Rises pulses through the speakers it’s as if Game Of Thrones has joined forces with Lord Of The Rings to support Braveheart’s bid for epic triumph: Winterstorm couldn’t have gone any further in setting the scene for superior folk-tinged power metal opus par excellence.
Alexander Schirmer’s vocals may lack the bite and authenticity required to pull off one of the most ambitious performances of 2014 but the boy’s a trier. Screaming passion, the furiously committed frontman only requires focus to meet his lofty challenge.
At times Cathyron is ridiculously overblown, trading in breakneck riffs, soaring trad metal solos and harmonised vocals more at home in a West End show than on a sweat-soaked stage in some unforgiving basement dive.
But Winterstorm’s ambition deserves credit. When the call comes to headline a vast festival, blow a mega-budget on lights and pyro and dress the stage in Spinal Tap-esque oddities, this German quintet will be armed and ready with a record ready for the job. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Storm Force