The extended Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, with our stomachs full and our wallets empty. But turkey, stuffing, and Black Friday deals aren’t the only things that kept us engaged. Though the calendar year in music releases is slowing down, this past week-plus was marked by the appearance of big names in extreme metal, newer acts making their breakthroughs, and one renowned group coming back for an early Christmas present. Cattle Decapitation and Kvelertak made impeccable strides with their heavy sounds, while (the previous Friday) Sleep Token and Sore Eyelids offered up distinct brands of progressive metal and shoegaze. Then there’s Go Radio, making a triumphant return to the scene with their first new song since 2012.
Cattle Decapitation – Death Atlas
They started out as another typical death metal band playing with filthy instrumentation and even filthier imagery, but Cattle Decapitation has tightened their sound a fair amount over their 20-year career. On Death Atlas, the group shines light on what works for them more than ever before. Whether it’s rapid-fast drumming, meaty guitar riffs, or Travis Ryan’s dynamic mix of vocal styles, the band is easily recognizable on the well-paced “The Geocide” and headbanger’s delight (and standout) “One Day Closer to the End of the World.” The thing that’s also noticeable is the increase in melody, as well as Ryan’s upped integration of clean vocals. But neither come at the expense of the members’ destructive force as a unit. It’s not always easy to take the frontman seriously when he sounds like the lovechild of Stitch and Jar Jar Binks, but the vileness of Death Atlas’ total package showcases a band still at the top of their game.
Go Radio – “Goodnight Moon“
We missed Jason Lancaster, and Jason Lancaster missed us too. Perhaps that’s why, seven years past their last studio album, he is bringing Go Radio back to the masses. What the vocalist and his gang of pop rock instrumentalists have offered up this November is double the goodness: a re-recorded version of “Goodnight Moon” (originally heard on the EP, Do Overs and Second Chances) and a new song called “Say It Again.” The former doesn’t offer much new apart from a fresher rendition, but the latter ties up everything we love about the band in one succulent package — from acoustic strums to Lancaster’s passionate crooning to backing gang vocals. In additional glorious news, Lancaster joined former Mayday Parade bandmates Derek Sanders and Alex Garcia on stage last week. No matter what this means, we’re at least content with Go Radio’s comeback.
Kvelertak – “Bratebrann“
Already known for their stylistic shifts, Sweden’s Kvelertak brought forth much more on their 2016 effort Nattesferd, with a further bolstering of ‘80s thrash metal, classic rock, and even punk in their already-eclectic black metal identity. While it was the title of their previous effort that translated to “more,” its follow-up truly lived up to the word, and they’re not slowing down with their upcoming 2020 release Splid. But if you’re worried about the move to notable -core label Rise Records, have no fear. The first single, “Bratebrann,” marks continued travel down the hard rock path — with the band’s core fully intact despite a change in lead vocalist. Heavenly harmonic choruses and groovy guitars showcase a heartier level of melody than ever, with dense chugs and black metal-styled screams helping Kvelertak maintain their edge.
Sleep Token – Sundowning
Over a week ago, Sleep Token dropped a new collection of unique progressive rock offerings in Sundowning. If you’re not familiar with the band, this article can help you out. In the two years since the story ran, a lot is still true: The members wear masks, have no names, and worship an ancient god. What has changed is that they now have a full-length LP in their discography, and it proves that the mystery behind the musicians’ identities is no gimmick. The record is a distinct and delightful display of rock and metal, transitioning from hard-hitting, thickly-layered instrumentation to the oft-piano-backed rock voice of its anonymous singer. Whether in style or substance, they avoid Ghost, Tool, or Meshuggah comparisons by transporting listeners directly into their ominous fantasy world. Forget trying to compare Sleep Token to anybody. Sundowning is dark, deep, and dynamic.
Sore Eyelids – Avoiding Life
At times bringing up half-asleep memories of ‘90s shoegaze and at times riding the coattails of the contemporary emo, Sore Eyelids blazes an atmospheric trail on Avoiding Life. They’re far from a new band, but they’re likely unfamiliar to those who didn’t catch on to their past releases — the earliest (a self-titled album) dating all the way back to 2012. Unlike their English shoegaze and Midwest emo soundalikes, this band is from neither place, originating from the northern lands of Norway. Across the 14 tracks of their 2019 full-length, Sore Eyelids manages to impress their name upon the listener — even with a high-energy, guitar-heavy sound that rarely relents. But they do strip their feedback-drenched sound down to strong results, too. “Everyone Disappoints” and dragged-out closer “Nothing Was Ever Fine,” are as depressive sonically as their titles, adding some much-needed sentiment to Avoiding Life’s stark delivery of emo/shoegaze.