Tag Archives: Sumerlands

The Best Albums of 2016: #80 – 61

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If there’s one thing we learned since we launched Bandcamp Daily this past June, it’s that the world of Bandcamp is enormous—encompassing everything from emo in China to cumbia punk in Tucson, Arizona to just about everything in between. So narrowing our Best Albums of the Year down to 100 choices was a daunting task. This week, we’ll be sharing our picks, 20 at a time, until we arrive at the top spot on Friday.

More “Best of 2016”:
The Best Albums of 2016: #100-81
The Best Albums of 2016: #60 – 41
The Best Albums of 2016: #40 – 21
The Best Albums of 2016: #20-1

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Ten Bands Who Are Shaping the New Wave of American True Metal

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Original picture from David Quigley.

The winner’s history of American heavy metal encompasses Sunset Strip glam, Bay Area thrash, and Florida death metal, but there’s surprisingly little of what could be considered traditional heavy metal. (The same goes for its offshoots, trad doom and power metal.) That style of metal—guitar-solo-powered, with flamboyant lead vocals, often with lyrics about fantasy and science fiction—has long been a major force in Europe, but, cult fandom aside, the U.S. has never fully embraced it.

Of course, Americans have been playing the genre sometimes called “true metal” since its inception. Their patron saint is the late Ronnie James Dio, the New Hampshire-born singer who found fame with the British bands Rainbow and Black Sabbath before launching his multiplatinum solo career. Dio represents a best-case scenario for Americans playing this music; the far likelier outcome is that of Manowar or Manilla Road or Solitude Aeturnus—adored by a dedicated base, ignored by the majority of U.S. metalheads, and much, much bigger in Europe.

In the past couple of years, that tide seems to be turning. A class of bands influenced not just by Dio and the ubiquitous Iron Maiden, but by the never-quite-famous American true metal middle class, is emerging. Many of these bands have members with a background in extreme metal, punk, and hardcore. It might be that the young and angry have a tendency to age into Conan-reading heshers—or it might be that, in the time of Trump, it just feels good to sing about wizards and dragons. Whatever the reason for their existence, these bands are distinctly and meaningfully American—and they are forging a path for the next generation of traditional metal acts to follow. These 10 represent this recent movement at its best.

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Album of the Day: Sumerlands, “Sumerlands”

Though the “traditional metal” scene was once heavily dominated by British acts like Iron Maiden, Venom, Diamond Head and Nightwing, it’s recently seen an influx of American bands like Sumerlands. On their debut album, the Philadelphia group has assembled a batch of nervy, searing, swaggering compositions inspired by metal legends like Judas Priest and Angel Witch.

They come with a lengthy list of musical credentials: vocalist Phil Swanson once sang with Atlantean Kodex and Hour of 13 (among countless others), and producer/guitarist Arthur Rizk has manned the boards for Inquisition, Power Trip, and Pissgrave. That expertise shows: Sumerlands’ songs are full of triumphant, reverb-drenched vocal work, and are powered by riffs that are as catchy and infectious as they are clean, solid, and directional. Rizk’s solos are melodic and technical, and their unconventional placement—like the one in the closing moments of “The Guardian”—only serve to highlight his skill. Justin De Tore’s drumming is full of perfected accents, driving rhythms, and galloping fills, riding lockstep with Rizk’s leads. Tracks like “Haunted Forever” and “Timelash” follow the playbook for epic, heavy metal anthems: riffs awash in distortion, metronome-perfect drums and exultant singing. Sumerlands’ self-titled debut on Relapse feels like heavy metal circa 1986 in the best possible way.

Zachary Goldsmith