How do they do it? Volume, baby. Here are the loudest metal, punk and rawk offerings of the month, listed in alphabetical order. Just click on the cover picture to read the original review (and listen to the album in full):
WHO ARE THEY? A hard-grooving, hard-hitting hard-rock outfit that came roaring out of small-town Pennsylvania nearly a decade ago.
WHAT IS THIS? Their third set of arena-sized anthems forged from canyon-sized riffage, thundering drums, chestbeating vocals and lyrics about alpha dawgs, stoning the devil and being buried in a shallow grave.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A cross between stoner-rock, groove-metal and post-grunge — played by a supergroup featuring members of Clutch, Soundgarden, Wolfmother, Monster Magnet, Audioslave and other testosterone-fuelled sonic behemoths.
WHO ARE THEY? A kick-out-the-jams Swedish power trio that proudly proclaims to be “Influenced by the shitty rock ’n’ roll of classic bands like The New Bomb Turks, Gluecifer, The Hellacopters, Turbonegro and The Stooges.” Do I really need to say anything more?
WHAT IS THIS? Their destructive debut album — and the followup to their magnificently titled 2018 EP Motherfuckers Be Drippin’ (which lets you know they also dig Supersuckers — as if they needed yet another point in their favour).
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Eleven short, sharp shots of full-tilt, no-bullshit badassery fashioned from smokin’ guitar riffage, thunder-chuckin’ drum beats, lung-busting vocals reminiscent of Turbonegro’s Hank Von Helvete and lyrics about drugs, death and other family-friendly fare (assuming you’re in the Manson Family).
WHO ARE THEY? A hard-hitting indie-rock foursome from Brooklyn who have been in the trenches for more than 20 years — which makes them not just one of the best bands most folks have never heard, but also one of the oldest.
WHAT IS THIS? Their seventh full-length studio album and 10th release overall — and an essential album for anyone who likes their rock infused with a thick, rich vein of dark matter.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Mostly, like Queens of the Stone Age, thanks chiefly to the band’s cocky, swaggering grooves and melodic crooning. But you can also hear traces of Black Sabbath’s stoner sludge, Alice in Chains’ ominous grunge and plenty of others over the course of this beefy 10-song slab.
WHO ARE THEY? A descriptively (and only somewhat sardonically) named quartet of self-proclaimed “punk rock lifers” from Nottingham.
WHAT IS THIS? Their third full-length release in six years, and a disc that aims to deliver “scorching reflection on balancing your creative impulses against the commitments of impending middle age.” Which is a highfalutin’ way of saying it’s made by grownup punks for grownup punks.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A powerfully aggressive, deliberately paced cross between whole bunch of great bands, from The Birthday Party and Jesus Lizard to Nirvana and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs.
WHO ARE THEY? The wildly prolific Australian sextet whose psychedelic musical explorations and detours are every bit as absurdly extravagant as their name.
WHAT IS THIS? Their 15th studio album in eight years (they released five LPs in 2017 alone — like I said, wildly prolific). Infest the Rat’s Nest also their second disc of the year, and one that marks their latest sonic and stylistic shift: It’s a thrash-metal and stoner-rock concept about global environmental collapse and the colonization of space. No, really.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A surprisingly and impressively authentic homage to old-school ’80s and ’90s bruisers and speed demons like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Motörhead and Kreator — complete with thundering blast beats, furious riffs, screaming solos, harmonized licks, prime-number time signatures, fire-breathing vocals and trippy lyrics. If this is a parody, it’s a damn good one.
WHO ARE THEY? A female-fronted Philadelphia foursome that combines classic guitar-driven rock ’n’ roll with a punky lyrical ethos.
WHAT IS THIS? Their sophomore full-length, which arrives two years after their lauded debut Need to Feel Your Love.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A great lost rock record from the ’70s. Singer Christina Halladay’s high-voltage, lung-shredding shriek could pass for those of some tight-trousered, mullet-headed bad boy, while the band’s classic recipe of chunky guitar riffs, anthemic choruses and four-on-the-floor cowbell-plonk beats wouldn’t be out of place coming out of your dad’s car radio. The lyrics, however, are another story, apparently tackling everything from Halladay’s troubled relationships and job loss to the refugee crisis and income inequality.
WHO ARE THEY? The long-running, Halloween-masked metal nonet from the mean streets of Des Moines — now featuring a mysterious new percussionist known only as Tortilla Man.
WHAT IS THIS? Their sixth studio album in two decades is also their first release in five years — which gave the band more time than usual to write and record “an album experience, front to back,” according to menacing behemoth/guitarist Jim Root.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Great vengeance and furious anger. As usual. But there’s no denying that as these malevolent malcontents have aged, their music has become more nuanced, varied and (believe it or not) approachable — even if you’re not a disaffected teenage loner. Though it might not hurt to be a disaffected divorcee, since a lot of frontman Corey Taylor’s lyrics seem to deal with his latest divorce. And in keeping with Root’s appraisal, it feels more crafted, with more sonic textures and atmospheric vignettes between some cuts. Don’t agree? You tell Root he’s wrong.
WHO ARE THEY? The artsy, psychedelic prog-metal band from L.A. whose music is almost as complex as iconoclastic frontman Maynard James Keenan — though perhaps less complicated than his relationships with fame, his bandmates and Tool’s massive legion of insanely dedicated fans.
WHAT IS THIS? The band’s seventh studio album and their long-overdue followup to 2006’s 10,000 Days — aka the very thing those rabid fans have been impatiently awaiting for nearly 5,000 days.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A Tool lover’s dream come true. Which is to say: A sprawling 80-minute voyage divided into seven epic tracks (plus three experimental soundscapes in the deluxe version), all fashioned from serpentine grooves and prime-number time signatures, beefy drums and searing guitars, shape-shifting arrangements and mind-expanding textures — all topped with Keenan’s creepy croon and articulate, ambiguous lyrics.
WHO ARE THEY? A powerhouse band of Australian indie-rockers whose sound splits the diff between grunge, post-punk and alt-rock — but whose not-so-secret weapon is fearsome force-of-nature frontwoman Marie DeVita, one of the most captivating vocalists I’ve stumbled across this year. Consider yourself warned.
WHAT IS THIS? Their first full-length release after a pair of EPs that have earned them plenty of praise in their homeland.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Three-fourths of a great album. When DeVita and her bandmates are firing on all cylinders, their aggressively adrenalized, angst-fuelled anthems come off like the second coming of Hole. And the sheer hair-raising fury of her full-blooded, braying wail and uncompromisingly confessional lyrics will stop you dead in your tracks. Too bad they water down the punch with just a few too many ballads — though I have to admit a couple of them are growing on me.