Every few years I hear talk that there is a revival of traditional heavy metal. This cycle of going in and out of fashion has churned it’s gears since it became a genre that more bands than just Judas Priest self-identified as a heavy metal band 40 years ago. I’ve been guilty of using unwieldy terms such as the NOWOTHM (New Old Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal) or NRWOTHM. And to hell with calling to “trve metal,” that’s just fascist. I appreciate many varieties and subgenres. This is just what I enjoy seeing performed live and listening to the most often, and I think it’s okay now just to call it heavy metal. There’s no point to call it a revival or wave when it never went away. Yes, metal had been spliced into dozens of subgenres by the late 80s, adding to the early variations like NWOBHM, doom and power metal. But every year there’s always at least a handful of very good to great heavy metal albums. This year was no exception, although for a while it was unclear if 2016 could come up with something to rival last year’s epic Magic Circle and Christian Mistress albums, until the second Khemmis album was released.
That it topped the Decibel year-end list is encouraging, but at the moment, attention is drawn toward the elephant in the room, or perhaps the dinosaur squashing the house — Metallica. It’s amusing to read the reactions to the band’s eleventh album. To a vast number of mainstream listeners, Metallica might be the only metal band they still listen to, while hardcore metal fans dismiss it as garbage. Both extremes are wrong. It’s a very good album, and I’ll get to it soon. But there’s a bunch of albums that deserve attention first.
1. Khemmis – Hunted (20 Buck Spin)
Only a year ago, this Denver doom metal band came out with their promising debut, Absolution. Now with their second album they’ve ascended from an underground traditional heavy metal band to one of the best bands of any of metal’s infinite subgenres. It’s refreshing to see a band not participating in the extremity wars get some attention. While both Zach and Ben have experience playing death and black metal, they bonded over their love of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, and worked to create their own signature rock ‘n’ doom sound.
“The first time it really started to click in that way was when we were writing “Antediluvian.” We got to that middle section, and were just calling it the Iron Maiden section, and we thought, Hey, this rules. So by the time we were writing “Ash, Cinder, Smoke”, it was all Iron Maiden section, and we thought, Hey, yeah, always this!” — Ben Hutcherson, Metal Sucks
With Phil (Criminology) and Ben (Cultural Sociology) working on their Ph.D.s, Zach a head brewer and Dan an engineer who builds bridges, Khemmis are unable to be road warriors. Which makes their January stop at Reggies in Chicago in January all the more a special event. | Full Review