Shadows Fall
The War Within
Century Media Records

Welcome to the new wave of American heavy metal. Shadows Fall’s latest shot (their fourth; the third with vocal cord-abuser Brian Fair) is a metal wake-up call. It proves that some bands still believe in mixing badass musical chops with kickass songwriting. Here the Massachusetts five-piece fuses the energy of ’80s thrash (Metallica and Megadeth) with the melodic prowess of Norwegian death metal (In Flames). Fair stamps his melodic rasp atop parallel guitar harmonies, but the spotlight is never solely on him; lead guitarist Jon Donias brings technical flash to every song. In fact, each band member has a place in the mix — no one overshadows anyone else. The latest wave of metal is in America, and Shadows Fall are riding shotgun.

Saturday, March 12, at Cobo Arena, 301 Civic Center Dr., Detroit, 313-983-6616. With Slipknot.


Dark Tranquillity
Century Media Records

Dark Tranquillity has been a staple in the Gothenburg, Sweden, death metal scene since that genre’s beginnings in 1991. Although larger, like-minded Swedish bands such as In Flames dominated international stages, Dark Tranquillity put their own spin on the death metal riff-and-growl formula, which here makes for a mix of melody and aggression. Keyboards add moody, gothic undertones that swell in your subconscious. Mikael Stanne’s throat-choke vocal strain works well with the chugging axes and constant thugga-thugga double kick-drum beats as he forces lyrical images of mythology and destruction. While the band’s core sound still adheres to their gnarly Swedish metal roots, Character should appeal to more than just your average advocate of the doomsday din.


Olympic Recordings

If there’s an art to breakneck drum beats, twitch-inducing power chording and unintelligible “vocals” — those things that make up 80 percent of death metal — then Behemoth, Poland’s latest metal monstrosity, are masters.

Kicking off Demigod (their third stateside release) is “Sculpting The Throne ov Seth,” which starts off serenely — aided by acoustic guitar melodies with, believe or not, a Middle Eastern influence — then launches into an opening riff that screams thrash, and the record continues on that tone from there. The foundation of death metal rests in the drummer’s ability, and here, beater Inferno lives up to his name by flame-throwing seemingly endless streams of drum blasts that sound positively inhuman. The chainsaw snarls of ’90s metal shouters like Glen Benton are echoed in vocalist Nergal’s screech; while screaming (vaguely about nihilism and working-class servitude) he shreds any hope of deciphering clear meaning. But aren’t all these things what make a good death metal record? Behemoth fans think so.


Judas Priest
Angel of Retribution
Epic Records

As you know, “Metal Gods,” “Hell Bent for Leather” and “Breaking the Law,” are all classic slabs of real metal that continue to spin around the world. So it’s great that Judas Priest, the British new wave of heavy metal kings, are back with the original lineup after a well-publicized 11-year split between band and singer. And the word classic comes to mind in every track on this comeback disc. Rob Halford’s timeless voice brings an unbelievable range and power to the songs, and his lyrical content is as provocative as ever (“Blade of the wheel cuts deep in the bone/ It’s Gideon’s quest, to take Satan’s throne” — from “Wheels of Fire”). The guitar duo of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton revisit the parallel riffing (with occasional flashes of new thrash) that made Priest’s sound; their melodic solo work and chunky riffage are balanced well. There is something for every metal or Priest fan here — the shout-along pop metal (“Deal With the Devil”), the acoustic-based power-ballad (“Angel”) and heavy, in-your-face head-banging (“Hellrider”).

So what, they’re old dudes, but they can still smoke anyone older than me.

Kent Alexander is a 15-year-old Metro Times editorial intern. Send comments to [email protected]
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