Words: Brendan Crabb
2010 was a stellar year for heavy music releases, with many albums that in most other years would have rated as top contenders in end of year lists perhaps not getting the full acknowledgement they deserved. At the same time, heavy music fans seemed to be greeted with a never-ending stream of mediocrity and completely faceless releases forgotten as quickly as they arrived, which makes uncovering the exceptional music difficult, but ultimately more rewarding.
With that said, 2011 is looking to be a highly promising year for new releases. What follows is a rundown of a dozen of the more anticipated albums to be released this year. Keep in mind that some bands not included here (Tool, Anthrax and Dream Theater to name but a few) may have new ones in stores before the year is out, but at the time of writing that isn’t close to confirmed. Also, these might not necessarily be the releases this scribe thinks will be the best albums – just the ones that for whatever reason will be fascinating to finally hear and are sure to be major points of discussion. This is not intended as a comprehensive list either – more so just something to whet your collective appetites for the year in heavy music to come.
Also, if you have a particular forthcoming release that you’re especially salivating over the prospect of hearing, feel free to post your feedback and tell us why it’s one not to miss in 2011. Without further adieu, here is the list –
Times of Grace - The Hymn of a Broken Man (released January 14 through Roadrunner). The folks at Loud have been fortunate enough to hear a preview of this album, which reunites former Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach (who departed following 2002’s phenomenal Alive or Just Breathing) with the band’s current guitarist/producer/all-round nutter Adam Dutkiewicz. The ensuing album covers the kind of melodic metalcore territory you might expect given the duo’s shared history, but there’s also noteworthy tracks stooped heavily in soulful melodic rock and punk that are sure to catch the ears of a wider audience and may just be destined for considerable airplay as well.
Children of Bodom - Relentless Reckless Forever (released March 8 through Spinefarm). Let’s not pull any punches here – 2005’s Are You Dead Yet? Was patchy at best, follow-up Blooddrunk was painfully forgettable and while good natured fun, covers album Skeletons in the Closet felt exactly like the stopgap it so clearly was. The Finnish lads are more popular than ever, but after their recent creative fortunes, here’s hoping Alexi Laiho and his hard- drinking cohorts come out firing this time around, but don’t forget about consistency.
Cavalera Conspiracy - Blunt Force Trauma (released March 15 through Roadrunner). The band’s debut Inflikted was a lot of fun upon initial listens, if only to hear the long estranged Cavalera brothers back in the same room and making a racket together. Further spins did reveal a lack of quite enough knockout tracks and a few too many rehashed riffs. That said, with rumours of a possible reunion of the classic Sepultura lineup all but scuppered for good and Soulfly finally starting to live up to their potential, this could be an absolutely storming record.
The Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction and Ghost (both due for release in March – exact date to be confirmed through Inside Out/EMI). The madcap Canuck will complete his four-album series with the simultaneous release of these two albums. After the passable, if less than stellar Ki and the brilliant Addicted both got fans mighty excitable in 2009, this latest batch of music is purported to be wildly experimental, highly melodic and among the heaviest music "HevyDevy" has ever created – think for a second about the ground that covers. These could both be genuine Album of the Year contenders.
Arch Enemy - (title to be confirmed, tentatively due for release in May through Century Media/EMI). The Swedish metallers are a blistering live act and have released at least one masterclass in the melodic death field – 2001’s Wages of Sin. Recent albums have been enjoyable, if patchy and 2009’s The Root Of All Evil was an enjoyable, if less than essential backtrack through their early years. A legitimately killer record would go a long way towards restoring their reputation among some of their more savage critics, but dedicated fans are sure to lap it up in droves.
Machine Head – (title to be confirmed, tentatively due for release in late 2011). With 2007’s The Blackening, Machine Head seemingly did the impossible and topped jaw-dropping predecessor Through The Ashes Of Empires. However, the band is in a curious position as they prepare their next record – have they taken the expansive, almost prog-infused arrangements and complexity as far as they realistically can? Oddly enough, it places them in a similar position to their recent touring partners and obvious idols Metallica, who felt they had little other option than to change tack after pushing things as far as possible on …And Justice For All. I doubt there’s a "Black Album" in Machine Head’s future, but this ought to be an intriguing release to finally hear.
Opeth – (title and exact release to be confirmed, but will be released through Roadrunner). The band which has taken their fusion of progressive rock and death metal to previously unthinkable commercial heights may just continue to bolster their already diverse fan base with their next release. Expect a lengthy album of brutal, yet beautiful gems. Reports the Swedes will be collaborating with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) again for this one are certainly appealing to say the least.
Morbid Angel – (title and exact release date yet to be confirmed, but will be released through Season of Mist). The most anticipated death metal release of 2010 becomes the most eagerly awaited of 2011. The band’s first album with original frontman David Vincent in 15 years, new track ‘Nevermore’ aired during the band’s Australian tour in 2009 was promising, but surely the final album will boast greater material. At the very least, certain to be a major talking point, especially with Tim Yeung’s (Hate Eternal/Vital Remains/Divine Heresy) mere presence as session drummer sure to draw the ire of some grizzled older fans.
Megadeth – (title and exact release date to be confirmed, but will be released through Roadrunner). Mainman Dave Mustaine has been telling interviewers that the band’s next album will be heavier, more aggressive and possibly faster than 2009’s Endgame, a strong showing in its own right. There’s sure to be plenty of rapid-fire, hook-laden riffage at the very least, and the first album since bassist David Ellefson’s return to the fold could add another intriguing dimension to matters as well.
Nightwish – (title and exact release date to be confirmed, but will most likely be through Roadrunner). The Finnish symphonic crew took a major gamble by dismissing vocalist Tarja Turunen, but the results spoke for themselves with 2007’s excellent Dark Passion Play. The band have been intelligent enough not to rush their second record with charismatic new(ish) frontwoman Anette Olzon, who appears to have overcome a few personal crises and should be more comfortable in the role this time around.
Psycroptic (title and exact release date to be confirmed). The Tasmanian tech-deathsters have been making some considerable headway overseas of late, and have also managed to craft what is a rarity in today’s extreme metal scene – a distinctive sound that’s all of their own. There’s sure to be a few sonic surprises, but expect a barrage of frantic riffs, abrasive vocals and a multitude of stop-on-a-dime tempo changes, just to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.
Decapitated (title and exact release date to be confirmed). Understandably, Polish death metallers Decapitated are still feeling the gut-wrenching effects of the tragic accident in 2007 which killed drummer Vitek and left vocalist Covan in a critical condition. The new incarnation of the band toured Australia in 2010 and made a hefty impression, but what to expect of a new studio album, which will be their first in five years? Impossible to say for certain, but the band has already displayed great determination to get back on the proverbial horse, so a fantastic new record isn’t out of the question by any means. Especially as long-time chief songwriter Vogg is still the driving force within the band.