Undercover Spotlight: Hadal Maw, Aeternam, and Primal Attack

Hadal Maw - Olm
Label: EVP Recordings
Runtime: 46 Minutes
Released: February 5th, 2017

Atmospheric Death, Tech and Groove Influences

Hadal Maw's sophomore release, Olm, sees quite a few changes to what was once another 'me too!' in a sea of tech-death metal bands. Three years and one new vocalist later they've gone darker and slower, sacrificing much of their technical wankery on the altar of atmosphere and rhythmic groove. The Meshuggah influence is strong here, and while it's not overpowering, it shows through in composition, guitar tone, and even occasionally in new vocalist Sam Dillon's varied screams. The album should resonate with fans of slow to mid-paced atmospheric death metal, while fans of a more speedy tech death would do well to give the band's previous album Senium a spin or two.


MORE BEHIND THE CUT! Aeternam's Ruins of Empires and Primal Attack's Heartless Oppressor

A Year in Review: Metal Undercover's Top Ten Albums of 2016

Twenty-sixteen was one of the best years for metal in recent history, and the sheer quantity of quality releases was truly off the charts. I went into the process of creating this (late) list completely overwhelmed by the number of albums from the past twelve months and no real means of doing them all justice. Now, this type of list is, of course, subjective and caters to the whims of the individual author. In my case, I spent a good portion of 2016 obsessed with technical death metal, and that will show quite obviously on my list. As always, your mileage may vary. Here are my favorite metal albums of 2016:

Review: Chariots of the Gods - Ages Unsung

Label: Independent
Runtime: 41 Minutes
Released: September 16th, 2016


Something amazing has happened here. Forget all you think you know about Einstein-Rosen bridges and throw your quantum mechanics textbooks into the void of the closest wormhole, because Ottawa, Ontario-based metalcore/melodeath band Chariots of the Gods has at last uncovered the mysterious art of time travel. It's difficult to know exactly how it all went down, whether a group of intrepid space/time-faring musicians traveled fifteen years forward in time to remind us future-dwelling technophiles of a time before smartphones and Spotify, or if some nefarious songsmith devised a means of filtering our modern consciousness into the past, (no doubt all part of some grand scheme of world-domination), but either way prepare yourself to rock like it's 2002 all over again. So if you are or were a fan of early Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Trivium, or the early New England metalcore scene, you might find this trip down memory lane a welcome diversion from the fast-paced uncertainty of the digital age.

Review: Eye of Horus - Obsidian

Label: Independent
Runtime: 17 Minutes
Released: November 25th, 2016


Just take a moment and soak in that gorgeous cover artwork by the talented Federico Musetti. Say what you will about Edmonton, Alberta-based death metal outfit Eye of Horus, but they are blessed with consistently high quality artwork gracing their covers that just screams modern death metal (and a love for mysteriously glowing towers.) Eye of Horus bills themselves as melodic death metal, and while there is absolutely a degree of melodic death influence in their songwriting, it's not the only sub-genre that springs to mind by a long shot. Obsidian runs a wide gamut of sound from melodic death to black metal, even tastes of what feels like deathcore from time to time, at the core of which is a solid foundation of slightly-blackened death metal. Obsidian is a step up in songwriting from the band's previous album Infernal Calling, somehow feeling more diverse in influences while being more focused in composition, a fine feat for any band zeroing in on their own signature sound. 

Review: Wastewalker - Funeral Winds

Label: Independent
Runtime: 33 Minutes
Released: November 1st, 2016


Funeral Winds is the debut album from Sacramento-based melodic/progressive death metal band Wastewalker. Despite being mainly lumped in with modern tech-death acts by press and fans alike, this debut owes a weighty portion of its sound to the melodeath greats that came before them while adding in just enough tech and progressive elements to be their own unique animal. Just listen to the leading riffs of opener 'Hazmat Birth' and the melodeath influences will be more than readily apparent. Genre conventions aside, how does Wastewalker stack up against the competition in an ever growing pool of talented metal artists? The band features a number of notable names from modern metal, including Alterbeast vocalist Cam Rogers, John Abernathy from Conducting From the Grave, Sepsis's Nate Graham on guitar, Dire Peril's Justin Tvetan on drums, and is rounded out by Joel Barerra on bass.With this kind of pedigree, metal fans that have been in the loop for the past few years should know that they're in for something killer.

Review: Dark Tranquillity - Atoma

Label: Century Media Records
Runtime: 49 Minutes
Released: November 4th, 2016

November marks the return of two Gothenburg, Sweden-based melodic death metal originators, and while the collective metal community seems to have given up on In Flames after their numerous and storied shifts toward a pop-metal sound, Dark Tranquillity stand accused of an entirely different crime: stagnation. Even DT's staunchest supporters generally admit that since 2007's album Fiction, Dark Tranquillity have been in a creative rut that just keeps getting deeper and deeper. 2010's We Are the Void failed to innovate or garner much attention in an increasingly over-saturated metal scene, and in 2013, Construct proved that consistency of output isn't always a net positive. And then in early 2016, a bombshell dropped: founding band member Martin Henriksson quit the band, stating that he had "lost the passion for playing music", leaving fans more nervous than ever about where Dark Tranquillity would go from here on out. This brings us to the November release of Atoma, the latest DT platter and their first album post-Henriksson. So how does the new album measure up against Construct? Have Dark Tranquillity broken the chain of Fiction-clones and produced something for Gothenburg metal fans to sink their teeth into?

Review: Testament - Brotherhood of the Snake

Label: Nuclear Blast
Runtime: 45 Minutes
Released: October 28th, 2016

What a year it's been for the return of old-school thrashers! Following hot on the heels of sensational albums from their contemporaries in Megadeth, Anthrax, and Death Angel, Testament aren't about to shirk in their duties to the denim-clad gods of thrash. Since these Bay Area originals rose like a phoenix from the ashes with 2008's triumphant return The Formation of Damnation, Chuck Billy and company have been putting out regular hot slabs of gritty thrash metal every four years that never deviate too far from the template laid out in 1999's exceptional album The Gathering, but nonetheless show flourishes of originality and invigoration despite the long road this troupe of titans has tread over the years since the salad days of the 80's metal scene.

While the band feels that it's one of their strongest records to date, Brotherhood of the Snake was plagued with difficulties from the beginning of the recording process, with iconic vocalist Chuck Billy stating that the album was "probably the most difficult record we've ever done." Brotherhood's music was written entirely by guitarist Eric Peterson and the band entered the studio having never heard or practiced the songs before. Despite the stress and miscommunication plaguing the production, the finished album feels tight and well-played, a fitting testament to the sterling musicianship of the band as a unit. Legendary drummer Gene Hoglan returns once more, providing his own unique voice to the rhythm section, paired with long-absent bassist Steve DiGiorgio for a call-back to the nuanced brutality of The Gathering.