A pretty big week for new music this week, from rock to metal to a fair bit of country. Check it out below!
The Smashing Pumpkins: Atum – Act II
The follow-up to last year’s Act I (read our thoughts on it here), Act II is at least more of the same. A fitting middle part to an album that is in large parts sadly underwhelming. ‘Moss’ and ‘Empires’ were the standout tracks on the album, mainly because they were the only two rock tracks. The former is a slower, almost sludgy grunge track while the latter channels heavy Muse vibes. Unfortunately everything else is more synth pop, like the majority of act I. It feels like it’s almost trying to ride the nostalgia wave of the 80s sound. Don’t get me wrong, none of it is inherently bad, but being a big fan of early Smashing Pumpkins in my childhood, this isn’t what I wanted to be hearing. 5/10, hopefully Act III closes things with a bang.
Shania Twain: Queen of Me
The queen of country music returns with only her sixth studio album. It’s insane that she’s sold over 100 million albums off of just the five that were released before Friday. This one will help boost those numbers even higher, too. It leans heavily into pop territory, but it’s a BANGIN’ album. Single ‘Giddy Up!’ is old-school Shania-country goodness, while ‘Best Friends’ and TikTok sensation ‘Waking up Dreaming’ are both country-pop awesomeness. ‘Last Day of Summer’ even gave me Michael Buble vibes a little bit, which I also loved. It all reminds me of early Miley Cyrus/Taylor Swift, which I am a fan of both of and really wish they’d both go back to that style. 9/10, this was awesome without a bad track on it!
All Out War: Celestial Rot
Wiki told me this is a metalcore band. Wiki lied. This is crossover thrash at it’s core, with maybe even old-school death metal mixed in at its heaviest points. It’s definitely a good album, but there isn’t even a hint of the metalcore I went into the album expecting. Bad Wikipedia. This is why teachers don’t like you.
The opening track is the aggressive, balls-to-the-wall start I love in these sort of albums. The singles, ‘Wrath/Plague’ and ‘Hideous Disdain’ are also big highlights of the album, having some awesome heavy, slower riffs as well as the aggressive thrashier elements. The whole album has a similar feel and style too it, and I’m not complaining at all. 7.5/10, good stuff!
Xandria: The Wonders Still Awaiting
The symphonic/power metal titans released their ninth album last week. Spoiler alert, it’s pretty fucking good! Opener ‘Two Worlds’ is quickly becoming one of my favourite tracks in the genre, up there with Nightwish and Within Temptation. Heck, the breakdown is awesome, heavy yet so melodic and catchy. Single ‘Reborn’ has one of the best vocal performances of the year already. Primal Fear’s own Ralf Scheepers lends his awesome growls to ‘You Will Never Be Our God’, adding et another epic layer to the dynamics. And that’s all the first three songs! My only slight issue is that the album is 74-minutes long and is pretty similar throughout. As excellent as it all is, it got a little samey by the end. 8.5/10
REXORIA: Imperial Dawn
Very similar to the previous entry into this weeks list, REXORIA are a little behind with only three albums now to their name. Because of this, while it is still very enjoyable music, it doesn’t feel quite as refined as Xandria did. It’s also a little lighter, feeling more AOR than power metal, but still having that symphonic edge. ‘The New Revelation’ and ‘Set Me on Fire’ are personal highlights of the album, with the latter being a synthy, 80s AOR masterpiece. 8/10, good stuff!
The Men: New York City
This is the closest thing to old-school punk I’ve heard in ages. It sounds like it could be ripped straight from the Sex Pistols or Ramones discography. It’s nice to hear new music in the genre, to be honest, and especially with the higher production value that this has. It’s hard to pick highlights as, like the Xandria album, it’s all relatively similar. Just 35-minutes of 70s goodness. However, personal highlights include the opening track and ‘Through the Night’. 7/10
Blackwülf: Thieves and Liars
The closest thing I’ve heard to modern Black Sabbath since that Dead City Ruin song. It’s NWOBHM as fuck, combining the best elements of Sabbath and Priest together amazingly. Evil, sludgy riffs and low, powerful vocals combine together perfectly. Heck, ‘Killing Kind’ has a very similar feel from its riff to ‘Black Sabbath’ itself. That, ‘Brother’ and ‘Shadow’ are definite highlights for me. An album you’ll love if you like old-school metal, but it has enough of a modern twang to keep it all fresh and interesting. 7.5/10
Doomsday Outlaw: Damaged Goods
This is excellent. Drawing together so many inspirations, everything from Blackberry Smoke to Soundgarden, Status Quo to Black Stone Cherry. Whether it’s through heavier blues riffs, powerful, catchy, stadium-filling vocals or lead guitar lines that would give Slash a run for his money, it has a bit of everything! I honestly cannot praise this album enough, every track is phenomenal. It was hard not to put the whole thing onto our playlist. However, three of my top songs did… but you’ll have to take a look to find out which!
One of the brightest sparks in the UK underground scene right now, this album will for sure push them into the mainstream, it’s just that good! They’ll be supporting huge bands in arenas across the world before the end of the year, and playing these amazing tracks as they go! 9.5/10
Jarrod Dickenson: Big Talk
I’d not even heard the name before, but I really enjoyed this album. It had an old-school feel to it, being more basic and stripped back, not as anthemic as the modern day country music. There was also a darker edge to some of the tracks, such as ‘Bamboozled’, that I found myself really drawn to and enjoying. And of course one of the singles, ‘Home Again’ featuring Oliver Wood and Jano Rix, was excellent. It for some reason reminded me of the non-Elvis track from Lilo and Stich, but with an Americana/indie vibe. It was hugely catchy, as is a lot of the album. The album fits in well alongside the country music that isn’t bro-country these days, and this could be Jarrod’s year! 8/10