Groove Metal is a genre with high potentials but which also exposes the bands who play it to some risks because of the impressive number of masterpieces that have been published in the last thirty years. Luckily 2018 seems definitely a good one for this kind of music and, as a matter of fact, in the first part of the year we have already encountered a good number of interesting albums.
Groove Metal (also known as Post-Thrash or Neo-Thrash) is a subgenre of heavy metal music. At its core, groove metal takes the intensity and sonic qualities of thrash metal and plays them at mid-tempo, with most bands making only occasional forays into fast tempo. (from Wikipedia)
Let’s see in the following which have been the Groove Metal releases in the first half of 2018. You’ll find here both consolidated and well-known formations like Machine Head and Accu§er, but also a bunch of newcomers of the metal scene, which is definitely a good sign for the future of this genre.
At the end of the article I’ve included the link to the Spotify Playlist which includes all the best Groove Metal songs released in the last couple of years. Enjoy!
#1) “Tū” by Alien Weaponry
Alien Weaponry represents one of those young bands that occasionally arrive in the world of metal and that, with courage and a little unconsciousness, mark the beginning of a new musical direction. This groove metal band was formed in Auckland, in New Zealand, by the two brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong together, which later incorporated in the band bassist Ethan Trembath. Despite their young age, Alien Weaponry have quickly achieved worldwide recognition and some of their songs became “viral”, with the videos quickly hitting a huge number of views on social medias. The characteristic which made them stand out from the mass is the infusion of the Maori culture in the grooving and heavy sounds of their music, an element which gives their songs a strong sounding tribal feeling.
After releasing their early works across different media, in 2018 the band eventually published their debut LP, entitled Tū, The album is in that delicate point of equilibrium between what’s cool and what may become naive. The idea to insert elements from the Maori tradition follows the trend – established many years ago – of incorporating folk and tribal elements with heavy metal: there is a wide discography that we can take as example, and there are also a few records that have literally marked the history of metal (“Roots Bloody Roots” from Sepultura, just to mention one). There is always the risk, however, to make something which seems curious and intriguing when you hear the first song, but which may easily become naive and boring when you find it applied to every single track of the album. Fortunately, however, this isn’t the case with Alien Weaponry. The marriage between the Maori tradition and groove metal seems to work fine and it’s not boring even in the long run. This is one of those fortunate cases where the “folk” tradition which is taken as inspiration fits very well with the spirit of heavy metal: there is the energy, the pride, the masculine vigor, lots of muscles and the warrior spirit. And the utilisation of the Mauri language within the lyrics makes the songs instantly sticking into the memory of the listener. Good work, this is really one of the best debut albums of the year.
#2) “THE MASTERY” by Accu§er
Accu§er, from Germany, started many years ago as one of the many metal bands inspired by Bay-Area thrash metal sytle. Over the years, album after album, they developed however a more particular and personal sound influenced by many elements of groove metal. With their latest work, The Mastery, they have now reached the important number of 11 full-lenght discs released since their debut work in 1987. The music produced by Accu§er has never been dull or low quality, and this is absolutely confirmed in their new album, which offers a solid collection of thrash & groove tracks. The thrash components many times take over the groove ones and in this respect the new record of the German band seems to bring back the listeners at the beginning of their musical career, which is absolutely not a negative element in my perspective. The only limit of The Mastery, pheraps, is that it’s very hard to find a real spark of novelty or a particular element of innovation. Therefore, despite the excellent production and the uncontained energy and fury of the songs, the overall longevity of the album is somehow compromised by a lack of enough variety.
#3) “JUNGLE ROT” by Jungle Rot
Midwest metal band Jungle Rot has achieved over the years a fair good reputation in the world of death metal and for this reason it may seem strange to see their latest album reviewed among the best groove publications of the year. It is undoubted, however, that although the songs of their new self-titled LP maintain many of the characteristics of death, in the end the style played today by the American band is definitely closer to a slightly brutal and faster version of groove rather than pure and canonic death metal. Their riffs are essential, linear, explosive and they often recall the early works from Sepultura. But what’s really important, in my opinion, is that the groovy-infused death metal played today by Jungle Rot it is absolutely valid and totally engaging. The only flaw that I can report on their last record is pheraps some lack of homogeneity among the songs. The first part of the album is breathtaking and the songs hit you in the face like a truck launched at full speed without control; in the second half of the LP, unfortunately, the quality of the songs does not remain at the same level and it somehow breaks the atmosphere that was generated in the first part of the record.
The album is availble on Spotify.
#4) “FURY” by Ektomorf
There are hundreds of metal bands that are inspired by some legendary group of the past. Ektomorf, a groove & thrash band from Hungary, seem to have applied this process of imitation so deeply that all of their music seems inspired not just to a generic style, not even to a single band, but really to a specific and well-identified album, which is the iconic album Chaos A.D. by Sepultura. The masterpiece from the Brazilian band was released in 1993, which – coincidentally? – is the year of foundation of the Hungarian group. As a matter of fact, inside most of the songs composed and performed by the band since their formation, including their new and thirteenth LP Fury, we find basically all the possible permutations of the riffs and rhytms which we enjoyed in the legendary Sepultura’s album. The interesting thing, however, is that the final result is still good! For sure these guys will not be rewarded for their inventiveness and innovation, but if you look for an album of solid groove metal, you won’t be absolutely disappointed.
Fury is available for streaming on Spotify.
#5) “LEGION: XX” by Burn The Priest
It’s always complicated to express a clear judgement in front of a cover album: the value of the product is affected in fact by the quality of the original material and the “differential” contribution that should be put by the performing artists. In general I tend to appreciate the most those bands who manage to select a song where it’s possible to highlight some “universal” feature of the starting material, something which eventually goes beyond the intrinsic characteristics of the original genre of music, a peculiar element of the reference song which emerges even from the more dramatic and incredible transformation that can be made on it: this may be a particular unforgettable melody, a catchy and intriguing riff or any other feature which is clearly recognizable regardless of the conversion that is operated onto the original score. In this respect, the new cover album by Lamb of God, who are here operating under their original name of Burn the Priest, doesn’t shine or impress for the originality or any particular concept behind the selection and the interpretation of songs that were performed in Legion: XX. The guiding principle in this case was bascically to have some fun in reinterpreting a bunch of songs from the most diverse origins, with no particular link if just the fact that most of the tracks contributed – at different levels – to support the musical growth of the these American metal titans. Anyway, at a more basic and elementary level this is still a nice collection of nice metal tunes, played with skill and precision, and also relatively interesting to hear if you’re familiar with the original versions. A few tracks manage to stand over the average level and have the potential to be part of many different metal playlists. The covers from Ministry and Melvins, in this respect, are among the best songs of the collection.
The album is available for streaming on Spotify.
#6) “CATHARSIS” by Machine Head
Almost 25 years have passed, but I can remember exactly the emotions that I felt the first time I listened to Machine Head in the radio of my car. It was the song Davidian, the opening track of their incredible debut album, Burn My Eyes. After the very first time I heard the song I said to myself: “this music has never existed before, and it’s damn good!” I was totally right because the history of metal says that with their debut LP Machine Head were bringing a new way of composing and interpreting metal. They were also showing to the world the courage to define a different way of transmitting their anger towards the flaws in our society. In a recent interview I heard the leader of the band saying that today he couldn’t be in condition to compose an album like Burn My Eyes, for the simple reason that his life has changed (for the better, evidently) and the temper and the fury on which the songs of his first record were born are no longer part of his creative process. The problem of Machine Head, however, is that instead of evolving their sound and a style to be more suited to this new stage of maturity, the group began to turn in circles between the groove/thrash approach of their early phases (a genre that they actually contribute to define) and a sort of nu-metal, mid-tempo songs which in true honesty lack any real element of interest . The last album of the band, Catharsis, doesn’t bring any element of innovation in the path taken by the band, and with the exception of a couple of relatively more enjoyable tracks, I presume that this album will be quickly forgotten. As the undisputed masters of groove metal I couldn’t exclude Machine Head from this chart. It’s a bit sad, though, to see them here at the bottom of the ranking.
Chatarsis can be streamed from Spotify.
As anticipated at the beginning of the article I maintain a Spotify Playlist that is fully dedicated to Groove Metal. “GROOVE METAL FEAST” is updated periodically with new tracks and it offers more than 2 hours and half with the best songs released in the last couple of years. Listen to it, follow it, and spread the word!