The debut release from Swedish melodic metal band Fans of The Dark was a genuine mixed bag. Conceptually, it tried to hard to link horror narratives with metal-based tunes, but some of the vocals were terrible, and the least said about the artwork, the better. Some of the material was distinctly average and yet, despite almost everything, it had something that showed promise. For those willing to persevere and make it past those heavily accented, really dated vocals, the seemingly ropey album actually hid three very strong tunes which combined chopping guitar lines, some muscular bass and a couple of big choruses. It suggested that – despite almost everything – Fans of The Dark might just be harbouring some talent. They just hid it very well.
When it comes to mining classic influences, Polish stoner rockers Volt Ritual dig deeply on their debut release. Their self titled disc from 2022 takes the mighty Black Sabbath as its root inspiration and takes a very 70s approach to a heavy riff, but the material could just as easily have been recorded in the 90s at a time when Kyuss, Fu Manchu and Roadsaw were at their height. Its seven numbers are crammed with heavy riffs and fuzzy grooves; the production values call back to Rodger Bain’s early no-frills approach, and the band’s overall sound is one that a vast proportion of stoner and doom fans will take to in a heartbeat.
This three track release from Draagyn isn’t shy in taking gothic infused metal into some interesting places. There are musical elements that are very recognisable from her 2019 digital single ‘Majesty’ (namely, bursts of classic sounding black metal) and the tech/prog metal riffs from 2020’s ‘A Night Between Two Days’ still maintain a strong presence, but there’s also a desire to throw in a few more commercial riffs and contrast those with something even more extreme at times. It’s fair to say that the composer’s hand now seems much stronger. It isn’t necessarily a question of confidence, but rather more a greater acceptance of creative freedom; of knowing when to cast aside any perceived boundaries and when to pull back, and throughout ‘Bent Rib’, Draagyn uses that to her advantage, even though it sometimes results in sounds that are challenging.
Every band needs to grow; to move forward and mature. This is even true of any smart thinking extreme metal band. In the case of Ontario’s Eaten By Sharks, the musical shift between their 2019 EP ‘We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat’ and 2022’s ‘Eradication’ isn’t just a natural progression, but a seismic leap.
They’ve held on to their great heaviness – that was always going to be the case – but on the bulk of the material that makes up this second release, they’ve traded in some of their harsher traits in favour of a more melodic death metal approach, and a vastly improved production job allows for a much broader vocal throughout the seven tracks. This doesn’t mean they’ve wimped out or even sold out in any way, since the material is still cut from some brilliantly uncompromising riffs. It’s just a little more mature, in a good way. Unless you’re one of those narrow minded extreme metal fans who want everything to stay truly marginal, it would be hard to argue against any of these changes being for the better.
To move forwards, sometimes you have to go backwards. That’s certainly the case with Ewigkeit and their 2022 EP ‘Out of The Woods’. This follow up to the band’s excellent – and intense – pandemic inspired EP ‘Depopulate’ features three tracks that were written for James Fogarty’s former band In The Woods at some point prior to 2019. However, circumstances led to the band splitting, and James decided it wouldn’t be wise to let some potentially strong material go to waste.