1.) Insomnium – One For Sorrow: Insomnium, a Finnish band that for years have been climbing the ranks of Melodic death metal has created their most distinctive and concise album. Clearly with One For Sorrow they have become one of the forerunners for the genre. One For Sorrow is an album that truly shows Insomnium’s place in the pantheon of Melodic death metal with its tight heavy guitar riffs and soaring melodies. The album starts with Inertia, an instrumental track that builds up for the first single of the album Through the Shadows. The album continues with its melodic assault with some highlights being Song of the Blackest Bird, Unsung, the epic Lay the Ghost to Rest and Regain the Fire. Being Finnish they are like their counterparts across the pond in Sweden, yet Insomnium clearly has their own distinctive sound and have been carefully crafting that sound throughout their years making this Finnish Melodic Death Metal at its finest.
2.) Septic Flesh – The Great Mass: Septic Flesh is one of the premier acts to come out of Greece since Rotting Christ. Septic Flesh plays a mixture of Blackened Death metal like Behemoth however Septic Flesh stands out with its symphonic elements and not more clearly than The Great Mass. With Great Mass (and their last album Communion) they have employed the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra with guitarist Christos Antoniou, who has a master’s degree in concert music from the London College of Music, composed all the orchestrations. The Great Mass just sounds epic with a full orchestra and with songs like The Vampire of Nazareth, Pyramid God and Oceans of Gray you get the feeling of an evil metal orchestra playing at the pits of Hell.
3.) Vallenfyre – A Fragile King: A newly formed supergroup with such superstars as Gregor Mackintosh and Adrien Erlandsson of Paradise Lost and Hamish Hamilton Glencross of My Dying Bride. With big names in the Doom metal scene you would imagine this to be very doom-like, however Vallenfyre is Death metal in its most purest form. To call A Fragile King a heavy album would not do it justice, this album is monstrous, guitarist Hamish truly made some evil riffs mixed with the extremely low tuning of the guitars and bass and the monstrous vocals of Gregor Mackintosh makes this a spine-chilling listen. Highlights include All Will Suffer, Cathedrals of Dreads and The Grim Irony.
4.) Amorphis – The Beginning of Times: One of the most well-known acts to come from Suomi (or as we call it Finland), Amorphis is a band that can’t be described by mere genre classifications, they are just Amorphis. With this album The Beginning of Times, Amorphis continues on their sound that became present in their album Eclipse with the addition of singer Tomi Joutsen. The Beginning of Time is a concept album about Väinämöinen, an iconic hero of Finnish mythology, which is nothing new since throughout their career the Kalevala, the great epic Finnish poem, was and is used as a primarily source of their lyrics and themes. This album is a culmination of everything they have done in the past while still moving forward with some highlights like Battle for Light, My Enemy and Reformation.
5.) Opeth – Heritage: Opeth, a name that is known throughout the metal community for their brilliant songwriting and musicianship work. Opeth is led by frontman Mikael Akerfeldt who writes all the music and as such is a pivotal part in Opeth (in some way he is Opeth). Heritage is their 10th album and by no means does it show the slow down of the band but it does show a shift once again in their sound. One thing that is shown the biggest shift is the lack of death growls from Mikael, which some have cried foul. However this does not mean that Heritage is a bad album, far from it, Heritage is probably their most interesting release to date. Mikael has been known in the metal circles to be a great fan of obscure progressive rock music and throughout their career Opeth has been shifting to that direction with each album release. Heritage is definitely a very weird album with strange sounds being played from obscure instruments and interesting melodies. Songs like The Devil’s Orchid, I Feel the Dark and Häxprocess greatly show this.
6.) Torchbearer – Death Meditations: Hailing from Sweden this band plays a blend of Melodic death metal mixed with elements of Black and Thrash metal. One thing the members of Torchbearer have in common is that they were (or are still) in bands with Christian Alvestam (yes as former vocalist of Scar Symmetry Christian Alvestam) who plays guitar and does backup vocals for this band Torchbearer. Death Mediations is their third album and by far their best with highly melodic leads, intense drumming and the black metal raspy screams of vocalist of Pär Johansson coupled with the death growls of Christian. Each song is diverse ranging from the highly melodic Coffin-Shaped Heart, to the weird At Takao River, to the black metal styling of Severing to the almost Decrepit Birth riffage of The Aphotic Depths.
7.) Night in Gales – Five Scars: Night in Gale, a band that for years has brought Melodic death metal and the Gothenburg sound to Germany (and were one of the first). Five Scars is a continuation of their sound, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it is a solid release that harkens back to the 90’s Gothenburg scene but with a modern touch. Stand alone tracks like This Neon Grave, the title track and the blistering Endtrip displays the prowess of these veterans in over-bloated scene.
8.) Uneven Structure – Februus: Over these past few years there has been bands clinging to the intense guitar and drum polyrhythmic styling of Meshuggah. Uneven Structure, hailing from both France and Sweden, is one of those bands. However unlike say TesseracT or Vildhjarta these French/Swedish guys know how to create great atmosphere coupled with very groovy riffage. Each song on Februus seems to flow into each other like a puzzle revealing the whole picture that is Februus.
9.) Thulcandra – Under a Frozen Sun: Thulcandra is a relatively new German project from Steffen Kummerer of Obscura fame. Thulcandra is highly influenced by Dissection and as such plays a very blackened sort of Death metal. While their last album Fallen Angel’s Dominion sounded much like an homage to Dissection, Under a Frozen Sun comes off as more of their own work and of a real band. Under a Frozen Sun, like the name, creates a very cold and icy atmosphere with songs like Aeon of Darkness, the title track Under a Frozen Sun and Echoing Voices (A Cold Breeze of Death).
10.) Pagan’s Mind – Heavenly Ecstasy: Pagan’s Mind is a band from Norway that plays a blend of Power/Progressive metal. Heavenly Ecstasy is their newest take on the genre and by the sound of it they haven’t change much from their last album God’s Equation however even with this Heavenly Ecstasy is a very well done album and is in fact better than God’s Equation (a very good album in its self). With songs like Eyes of Fire, Walk Away in Silence, and Revelation to the End, Pagan’s Mind have released a concise album that should not be missed out.