Thought it would be cool today to compile a list for you of the best 15 bands we feel who are on the way up and are on the verge of or already doing incredible things for the metal, rock, industrial , punk or underground community in general. The criteria is that they can only have up to two albums out under the project name, thus some pretty important bands like, for example, Incendiary, Oathbreaker , Auroch, Yellow Eyes or Junius alas at this point have enough releases to not be considered as “new”. This list is a matter of opinion based on bands we feel are making great work, big waves and/or changing things for the better! It also aims to cover a wide variety, so you will not find all fifteen as death metal bands because that would not be representative of the scene as a whole.
The list contains new faces, old friends in very new projects and more. The fact that most of the choices ended up American bands was not intentional, just who is exciting us the most right now. It is all about great music and people who don’t have that many albums under their belt yet for the amount of buzz they are getting for the band (haha, Gridfailure would be on here but Dave already is cranking out releases by the boatload, for example) as well as the power of their accomplishments.
Anyhow, with no further ado, let’s focus on some positive movers and shakers here in the now frontier.
. 1 – King Woman
The bold and brave, wade into the fray haunting alt rock meets doom of King Woman is arguably the most exciting thing happening in metal right now. They released the best album of 2017 so far in February , the band’s full length debut Created In The Image Of Suffering, and continue to prove on stages around the Seven Kingdoms that passion and purpose ought to be primary over calculated marketing. The band is a total revelation.
. 2 – Ustalost This solo project from Yellow Eyes guitarist Will Skarstad is on a very fresh trip, dark and synth enhanced black metal but not “symphonic”. It is more like an odd soundtrack to a very immersive but fantasy battle as you fall into an ancient book full of emotional roller coasters. The Spoor Of Vipers, which has tracks simply named by number, is nothing short of boundary pushing and proves that not all music to come out of Brooklyn is over hyped. Just plain brilliant.
. 3 – Power Trip Power Trip from TX may have won a lot more fans on tour with Anthrax but the group are die hard AF even when it aint on a big package tour. Their latest Nightmare Logic (out on Southern Lord) is sure to win top accolades from many outlets this year as the band assume poised to almost single handedly bring cross-over back to the top of the metal heap status. For once a band with a huge fucking buzz couldn’t deserve it more and they somehow managed to top their fierce as heck debut with an even better record. “Executioner’s Tax” remains the best metal single and fastest pit starter of the year! It would make an old folks home want to circle pit!
. 4 – Memoriam Alumni from Bolt Thrower, Benediction and Life Denied unite in a new project to show the world the proper way it is done, and with solid, much needed leftist political leanings in the current rising climate of disgusting fascism. But are they any good? Did you not ready the prior sentence when I said Bolt Thrower? It’s fucking Karl Willetts, of course it is on point, duh! Honestly, this band feels kind of too good to be true. We’re actually not worthy. Thankfully they are doing it for themselves first and foremost cuz I am pretty sure most humans suck too much these days to deserve such unadulterated death metal glory. \m/
. 5 – Cliterati This PDX band make music perfect for activism or partying, insight and rage filled anthems that motivate rather than weigh you down. Ami Lawless and her latest crew have already shared the stage with Ghoul, Connoisseur and others as they attack everything from the current horrible President to religious bigotry on the regular. Think crust punk meets the best aspects of Bolt Thrower (as if there are any bad aspects) and you are on the right track. They have a new deal with Tank Crimes and are one of the most important bands right now in a big way as the ugliness of the patriarchy reaches new lows.
. 6 – Vowws It is no secret we think industrial Australian/L.A. pop rock duo Vowws are the fucking shit (they also can get gothy at times but don’t like that limiting tag). The band make some of the freshest music around and continue to surprise and thrill with highly memorable songwriting, a no fucks given attitude and general synergy missing in so many bands. Fresh off a killer tour with White Lies, the group recently guested on a collaborative song with Walking Bombs called “Intolerance” , their team-up track with Gary Numan “Losing Myself In You” kicks off the new Devil’s Domain soundtrack and they have a new single out “Heartbreaker” that is their most driving, catchy and addictive song to date.
. 7 – Wear Your Wounds
This solo project of sorts finds Jacob Bannon from Converge joined by guest musicians Kurt Ballou (Converge), Mike McKenzie (The Red Chord, Stomach Earth, Unraveller), Chris Maggio (Sleigh Bells, Trap Them, Coliseum), and Sean Martin (Hatebreed, Cage, Kid Cudi, Twitching Tongues). It is much more introspective, at times tribal and discordant than Converge while also embracing moments of beautiful melody. A batch of European current dates with Crippled Black Phoenix and Chelsea Wolfe will make this project more well known, but we hope Jacob continues it down the road and adds to his already impressive list of bonafides.
. 8 – Spirit Adrift With just an EP and a full length out, Nate Garrett’s Spirit Adrift project became one of the most popular metal acts on Bandcamp, helped support the growing tent of strong modern doom bands with melodic vocals that also includes acts like Pallbearer, Below and others, and became a viable outlet for Garrett’s ongoing quest to grow as a person. Watching that journey and, heck, listening to it has been very inspiring for many people. We can’t wait for album number two and now Nate has a whole band backing him! While he also plays in the hella popular, rad and extreme tour doggin’ band Gatecreeper, his Spirit Adrift project is one of the most important frontier projects for metal.
. 9 – Succumb Succumb blew my mind when I first heard them, as aggressive and shockingly dark as Portal or Grave Miasma but with very uncharacteristic death metal vocals courtesy of Cheri Musrasrik. She sounds more like a punk singer who fell down a well with an armload of seditious pamphlets on rebellion than a gore obsessed low belching basement dweller like you may be used to. Usually your Patti Smith types are more vocal about being influenced by Jean Genet than death metal singers but Cheri breaks the stereotypes. Formed by friends who share a common love for Canadian death metal, war metal, and 1990’s Napalm Death, the group manage to mine the familiar while striking out on their own with terrifying results. Some of the most savage death metal to come out in awhile but not in a “try to be the most brutal” way. Nothing is affectation.
. 10 – Isenordal A neo folk and doom hybrid who add significantly more weight to the idea of Cascadian metal as a sub movement, this is def a band to check out and watch this year. Their new release Shores Of Mourning could appeal to fans of the more atmospheric (non ambient) side of Wolves In The Throne Room or the dour melodic guitar brooding of Shores Of Null mixed with sad strings, harsh vocals and battle metal parts that call to mind Viking-era Bathory. They have a slew of April dates coming up with the killer likes of Badr Vogu, Necroscythe, Barghest and many more. Hoping to keep hearing about this band as the songwriting is really there.
. 11 – Dreadlords The bluesy Dreadlords remind that Robert Johnson and, heck, Nick Cave had and have more shadows in their heads and hell hounds on their trails than all the rip off Slayer bands in existence. We could not be more excited for this months April 28th release Reapers. It is certain to compliment walking barefoot on train tracks sipping on bourbon while life falls to dust around you perfectly. Also, like Royal Thunder or Panopticon, it is just great to hear bands in the rock and metal underground bringing in some classic roots sounds in a fresh way.
. 12 – Blacktop Mojo This band of Texans are by far the most commercial band on this list and their inclusion will make some kvlt types scoff. But not so fast. This independent group may rock wolf shirts in a perhaps unironic manner in their promo shot (which I think is awesome), but they have managed to really get a wide body of people fired up about hard rock again in a very discouraging current climate. The metal and rock scene has to have room for all kinds of genres and that includes bands with the ability to crossover and reach the mainstream. This band is working their ass off to connect with a fan base and focus hard on quality, if traditional, hard rock songwriting with influences ranging from classic, to southern rock to 00’s big radio rock hits. Their Burn The Ships release is bringing many fans back to the rock fold and they have done it from the ground up, harder and harder these days.
. 13 – Sundressed What is a super catchy pop rock band from AZ doing on this list? A listen to their overflowing with quality songs full length debut A Little Less Put Together ought to convince anyone but the most stone hearted that this could be THE next great emo / pop rock/ punk / indie band. I don’t mean in the worst and most cloying tendencies of those genres, either. These are songs that get you invested in the story with heart on sleeve complete conviction. Perhaps it is a result of how, like Nate Garrett’s Spirit Adrift, Sundressed was initially created, in part, to help vocalist & songwriter Trevor Hedges maintain sobriety. As a result, even songs with some simpler lyrics like “Until We’ve Got Nothing” come off as genuinely happy to be experiencing life, something we all could use more of these days. You can imagine anyone from fans of Joyce Manor to The Get Up Kids to Taking Back Sunday eating this up. But really anyone who likes catchy, earnest rock should find something to enjoy. They really could be the next big thing with the right push.
. 14 – Giraffe Tongue Orchestra
GTO may feature vets from Alice In Chains, Mastodon and Dillinger, but they are cutting loose and having fun here while collaborating and expanding their boundaries in a way that sometimes has annoyed old school fans when they do it in their regular bands, hahaha. I for one don’t mind as much as long as the songwriting is good and there is always some crazy DEP riffs, sludgy AIC with cool acoustic parts and at least some tortured screaming still on some Mastodon records, but it is nice to just enjoy GTO on its own merits. Their music so far has been fun as hell. “Crucifixion” in particular fucking rules and it is awesome to hear William DuVall get a chance to shine in his own right without the heavy mantle of the late, great Layne.
.15 – Bask This Asheville, NC band keep growing stronger through the bond building of touring and writing. Their friendship has led to some thrilling, Americana influenced semi-sludgy metal that also crosses over briefly at times into indie rock territory without becoming trite. New album Ramble Beyond is another slow burn jammer that is perfect for feeling better any time of the year. Not bad for album number two. Oh, did we mention the Andrew Schneider mix on the new one is incredible?