Having formed upon the date of the Summer Solstice in 1990, there is effectively one real constant with this band regardless of all the turnover that happens within their ranks. That is, Rich Walker, the guitarist and main songwriter of the band, unflinchingly delivers great metal pretty much every time the band puts music out, no matter how sporadic. It doesn’t matter if you pick any of the other full lengths or even the EPs – both Halcyon and Death’s Crown is Victory would be the highlight of a lot of other band’s careers. Still though, New Dark Age has always been the top of the heap, and for my part one of my favorite doom metal albums in general.
Having been formed in 1997 as initially a studio project, Doomsword as a band was aimed at the idea of playing traditional metal in the style of the old American greats. Warlord is their biggest influence, first and foremost – the pseudonym of Deathmaster, the main songwriter of the band, is from the cover painting of the Deliver Us EP, as was the drummers on this album – as well as a strong hint of Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol and viking-era Bathory mixed in. Lots of bands nowadays are influenced by those first three bands, but in the late 90s, bands playing that style did not really have a ton of traction in either the US or Europe.
Wino brought a sense of despair that feels more working class-adjacent than anything else. The kind where you work a shitty job that barely pays enough to live on and not enough to meaningfully save up for anything. You get drunk night in and night out on shitty cheap beer (and if you’re lucky, maybe some whiskey) to numb the sense of smoldering rage deep down in the pit of your stomach. There’s a sense of passive-aggressive, languid hopelessness around the Wino albums.
Midwestern US underground metal legends, influenced a ton of bands in trad and even a little outside of it – albeit in more modern times than in their own era – you know the drill by now.
Downfall is kind of an odd album in the Solitude Aeturnus discography. It has the band’s signature touch, certainly – the evocative, stone-heavy riffage and harmonies; Robert Lowe’s consistently impeccable vocal delivery, and that sweet, sweet over the top melancholia underpinning everything. All that said, Downfall has a pretty distinctly different vibe in that it’s the least “epic” thing the band ever did, least to my ears anyway.
What Witchfinder General does is that they fuse the bludgeoning, lumbering violence of Sabbath with the deceptively-lithe athleticism & agility of what the other NWOBHM bands were doing at the time
Candlemass’s later two 80’s records are an example of how expectation can distort and alter the perception of certain works. They are both fine albums, but because this was also the band who happened to write two of the best albums of all time right before (forget genre for a second), they both tend to be dismissed because they happened to be ever-so-slightly flawed by comparison. Which is a perverse reinforce of the band’s greatness at their peak, in a sense – a friend of mine recently put it that even the two “weaker” Candlemass albums would still make them one of the best doom metal bands of all time.
Ultimately, the greatest NWOBHM album of the movement always deserves to be noted, and as far as I’m concerned, that album is Court in the Act.
In that light, Crush the Insects is a surprising follow up to the debut because it takes several VERY different tacks on the band’s patented take on the genre: namely, it bothered being accessible in a way their other full lengths really aren’t. Whereas that first album was innately gripping, by virtue of its riffs and the way the band painstaking arranged/structured the way each passage glacially flowing into one another in lieu of conventional hooks, Crush… was very clearly an attempt at crafting a more traditionally memorable record than its predecessor ever attempted. It’s the closest thing to a “fun” album the band ever crafted; the band themselves even cheekily pointed it out with a sticker on the original CD issue of the album as “The Biggest Sell-out in True Doom”. Go figure.