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As a diehard heavy metal fan, 2013 has been a pretty slow burn. There have been a few great releases here and there, but for the most part, the last six months have been pretty quiet for the headbanging community. Too much rap. Too much pop. Too much of the weak-ass radio sub-culture that has destroyed MTV, decimated the airwaves, and left the fans of hard music everywhere with nowhere left to turn.

Fortunately, for all of us, heavy metal business is about to pick up.

From mid-July through early September there are over fifty announced releases from metal artists old and new – an unprecedented amount in such a short window of Tuesdays. The releases come from every genre of metal, and this month we are going to give you some quick reviews of some of the highlights coming to record stores near you.

Philip H. Ansemo and the Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

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It’s been a while since we heard anything from former Pantera front man Phil Anselmo, and with good reason. After a few musical experiments (most notably the short-lived Superjoint Ritual) Phil has spent the last few years slowly crafting a release filled with in-your-face anthems of hate and anger. It’s as brutal and straight foward as you would expect, with a little bit of progressive metal influence thrown in for good measure.  It is just as hard and loud as his work with his former band, and possibly even better musically.  Dimebag would be proud. 8/10

Gorguts – Coloured Sands

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After a twelve-year absence, death metal icons Gorguts return with their fifth album of technical, genre-defying madness that continues to showcase why they are the envy of their peers in the metal world. While many will see this as a mere attempt to cash in on the resurgence of bands from the past, founder Luc LeMay lays any doubt to rest with over an hour of heavy, dark wickedness that can easily be ranked among the best technical death metal I have heard this year. The return of Gorguts is as welcomed as it is unexpected, and apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks.  7/10

Deadlock – The Arsonist

deadlock-coverThere probably isn’t a more socially conscience band than Germany’s Deadlock. While most bands are busy screaming about satan and death, these boys (and girl) approach their craft with tons of politically charged activism. Need a song about the destruction of our natural resources? Check. Want an intelligent view of the state of world affairs? Mate. The Arsonist is filled with message, electronic elements, devestating growls, and beautifully sung vocals from the under-rated Sabine Weniger. While you may not have heard of Deadlock before, the time to check them out is know – as their sixth album is easily their strongest effort to date. 9/10

Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1

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The highly anticipated return of 5FDP is upon us in the first half of a two-album release hit stores July 23rd. A combination of break-neck metal and hardcore punk, the band has exploded on the scene since their 2007 release “The Way of the Fist”.  For many, the mainstream success has spoiled the band to an extent, but the latest album shines with crunching guitars, well-written melodies, and a guest list of performers that reads like a who’s who of modern metal. Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta, the legendary Rob Halford, and Soulfly/Sepultura singer Max Calvera all lend their talents to the disc, which – somehow – is highlighted by a throat-punch cover (and collaboration with extreme rap artist Tech N9ne) of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.” 7/10

Chimaira – Crown of Phantoms

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The opposite side of mainstream success is defined by Cleveland, Ohio’s Chimaira. Normally a twelve year, seven album career is enough to earn the respect of all metal fans, yet somehow the screams of founding vocalist Mark Hunter has eluded a large part of the metal crowd.  Maybe it is for the best, though, as Chimaira is one of the few bands that have yet to put out a bad album. Crown of Phantoms is no exception, as the band continues it’s hate-everything attitude with monster tracks like “No Mercy,” “Plastic Wonderland,” and “Spineless”. It may not be the metal album of the year, but it’s filled with enough fury and rage to please even the most discerning of moshers. 7.5/10

Newsted – Heavy Metal Music

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Don’t be put off the completely unoriginal title of ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted’s debut solo album. After spending the early part of the decade as a member of Voivoid, Jason has focused his energy on fine-tuning this album, and the end result is well worth the wait. The title tells it all, as Newsted has crafted an amazing album of pure, no-frills heavy metal that is sure to please his old fans, and corral plenty of new ones along the way.  Tracks like “Soldierhead” and “Heroic Dose” are face-slapping reminders of what made heavy metal the force it is, and Newsted delivers an album’s worth of joyful pain.  9/10

Queensryche – Queensryche

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If you are not up to speed on the goings-on in the Queensryche camp the last year or so, you have missed the best soap opera not on television. Lead singer Geoff Tate threw a few temper tantrums, missed a few gigs, spit on a few band mates, and inevitably was kicked to the curb. Tate, though, felt entitled to take the band name with him, leaving us with the uncomfortable and confusing situation of two Queensryche bands. Tate gathered up a few out-of-work musicians and recorded Frequency Unknown, which was released this spring (to mixed reviews), while the remaining members hired on vocalist Todd LaTorre and released their self-titled effort a few weeks back. In the end, no one really won here (a judge will rule in November on “who” gets exclusive use of the name), but the Tate-less version won the bragging rights to the better new album by a landslide. La Torre’s vocals remind me a lot of Tate’s – sans the little girl whining – and the songs are better written, more soulfully presented, and far more memorable than the rushed through effort Tate tried to force down our throats. LaTorre and the “real” Queensryche will be performing at Rock Jam on Saturday, August 24th, so you will get the chance to make up your own mind. Until then, if you are going to pick up a new Queensryche album, make it this one. 7.5/10

Other great releases include Powerwolf’s Preachers of the Night, Mercenary’s Through Our Darkest Days, Dagoba’s Post Mortem Nihil Est and September offers up even more metal madness with forthcoming releases from DevilDriver, GWAR, Tyr, and Avenged Sevenfold (to name a few). So sharpen up your horns, raise your fist in the air, and punch your one way ticket to midnight. Heavy metal is calling.

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