6 Essential New Metal Albums That Bring the Heat

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Enforced metal albums that bring the heat

I declared it back in 2020, and the tradition has continued every year since: It’s heavy metal summer. Technically it’s not summer yet—we’ve got a few more years. But here on the East Coast the temperatures have been climbing upward, the skies are finally clearing after turning a bright shade of apocalyptic orange, and the sleeves are coming off. Heavy metal summer is here; get in loser, we’re crushing cans of Stella.

There’s no one way to celebrate a heavy metal summer, really; a lot of my friends who are other music writers will no doubt continue to immerse themselves in forward-thinking sounds in heavy music. But for me, summer metal represents a particular ideal, the kind of thing I can imagine spinning while playing video games with my friends in junior high (i.e. records that sound like Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, of which this month there’s a couple). It’s anthemic, bonfire metal like Judas Priest’s British Steel. And last year, we even had a resurgence of “Master of Puppets,” thanks to Stranger Things, which led us here at Treble down a path toward a deep dive into the ’80s as a whole.

I always love to kick off the summer by shrugging off the dust of the moldiest funeral doom and the cubist structures of avant garde black metal in favor of presenting six new metal albums that—if you’ll excuse the uncool middle-aged dude in me (translation: That’s just me)—fucking rock. So that’s what I’m going to give you this month is mostly just that: Thrash, crossover thrash, death metal and more death metal. Riffs for days, with an absolute minimum of atmospheric pondering.

There are a couple of exceptions, though. The best metal albums of May also included a couple of records I’d be remiss to exclude on the basis of being too weird or, in one case, too slow. But they still carry a sense of intense heat radiating from their core, and if we’re talking about metal records that scorch, well, they certainly qualify. So it goes something like this: Four metal records for reckless daytime drunken revelry, one for early evening psychedelic levitation, and one for a final descent into the lair of the beast. Compose the text adventure in your head, or turn it up and live out your best, loudest summer.

Enforced – War Remains

Virginia thrashers Enforced have an established aesthetic—crunchy power chords, thrash-metal gallop, black-and-white album art. They arrived fully formed, and there’s really no need for reinvention when your product already smokes like this. And yet, Enforced have indeed grown stronger as a band in just two years, with greater clarity of sound and a tendency toward maximum g-force crossover thrash speeds. War Remains is by all means the best sounding Enforced album to date, with a sonic punch that immediately brings to mind Power Trip’s incredible Nightmare Logic. But the band sounds even more energized, agitated and driven, with a sharpened production quality that feels lethal to the touch. Enforced’s thrash metal is even more of a precision instrument on War Remains and seemingly twice as dangerous. (Century Media)

Frozen Soul – Glacial Domination

Am I trolling you? After all, Frozen Soul’s whole thing is being cold. (Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze voice: “Everybody…chill.“) It’s the Texas band’s defining aesthetic, a unifying theme so convincing that you can practically imagine an ice cave forming around you. But here’s the thing: Death metal is invariably hot. It’s sweaty, swampy, gross, sticky, and Frozen Soul is no exception. So even though the group’s kickass second album features songs titled “Abominable” and “Atomic Winter,” evoking frost giants and beasts from the highest peaks, Glacial Domination still burns white hot, rife with nasty riffs and a taut, rhythmic urgency that maintains a balance of accessibility with aggression. The power of suggestion isn’t something to be hand waved away here, and you might very well feel the temperature around you drop while you have the FS cranked, but make no mistake: This is death metal made for summertime. (Century Media)

Kostnatění – Úpal

My initial plan with this column was to stick strictly to six albums that I consider a particular ideal for hedonistic summer metal. And four out of the six you see here definitely fit that particular description. But if we’re talking about heat, then I can’t overlook Minneapolis’ Kostnatění, whose new album Úpal is the most thrilling black metal album I’ve heard all year, in part because of how far it strays from the tried-and-tired approach to black metal that’s clogged up a thousand Metal Archives pages. The entity’s sole member, D.L., merges black metal with Turkish folk music and a kind of psychedelic, avant garde approach to melody and form (including occasional use of Auto-Tune) that makes Úpal feel less like kneeling at an altar of the occult than having an out of body experience—not to mention he’s cited some unusual influences like Robbie Basho and Lift to Experience. Genuinely wild and awe-inspiring stuff; this isn’t top-down beach metal, it’s a fever dream. (Willowtip)

Ascended Dead – Evenfall of the Apocalypse

I take a certain sense of pride in knowing that San Diego’s become something of a destination for great death metal, with no fewer than two of the county’s heavyweights now aligned with the reliably awesome 20 Buck Spin. (The other one being Ramona’s VoidCeremony) Ascended Dead’s second full-length is the proof in the boiled, fetid pudding, a blazing, technically spectacular set of death metal that’s nonetheless more about speed and wrecking every fucking thing in their path. Evenfall of the Apocalypse doesn’t have a medium setting; once Ascended Dead are off, they’re not running a gauntlet so much as barreling headfirst in a straight line, obstacles be damned. (20 Buck Spin)

Drain – Living Proof

Treble’s Colin Dempsey nailed it when he described Drain’s Living Proof as “warm-weather-short-shorts-and-tank-tops hardcore.” The songs are short, loud and nasty, there’s a Descendents cover, and the artwork looks like a deranged version of a T&C Surf Designs t-shirt print from 1987. Which is to say: This is a hardcore album in a metal column, but it’s constantly on the cusp of tumbling over into thrash metal. Like D.R.I. or Municipal Waste, Drain surf that pipeline with dexterity and a devil-may-care attitude. Yet with the furious riffs of “Run Your Luck” and the lightning chug of “Evil Finds Light,” Drain more than prove their capabilities in making thrash metal that more than holds its own and with plenty of bad attitude to spare. This is crossover thrash for blasting on the way to the beach, the soundtrack of every shitty older brother in ’80s cinema. (Epitaph)

Khanate – To Be Cruel

I recently wrote about Khanate’s wholly unexpected return in our recent list of the Best Albums of 2023 So Far, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much here, but I’d be remiss not to include it in a roundup of the past month’s best metal. Yet the heat that Khanate radiate on To Be Cruel is less the heat of hellfire or spontaneous combustion from speed and friction than it is of the slow and more pronounced burn of descending deeper into the lair of the hydra, the smoke burning your eyes with greater intensity the closer you get. Indeed, To Be Cruel is a long, slow album that demands both patience and endurance, and you might need to break it up into 20-minute chunks (each of its three tracks is about that long). But each of those epic chunks is so thrilling and unpredictable, ambitious and intense, that the promise of the next becomes too much not to accept that challenge. (Sacred Bones)

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