The annual Paganfest tour has become one of our favorite regular metal tours. Finland's Ensiferum is grounded heavily in orchestral folk metal, but maintains a galloping pace that keeps headbangers moving in the pit. Denmark's Tyr has more in common with Viking metal bands like Amon Amarth and has no orchestration or folk instruments to be found, but tales of journeys and battles from many years ago are common inspirations for both bands. There are no references to modern life to be found here, and we're okay with that.
Lightning Swords of Death
An unsuspecting soul listening to Lightning Swords of Death's newest album Baphometic Chaosium would swear that they hailed from the cold climates of Scandinavia. In fact, these black metal demons have been kicking around Los Angeles for a decade. Their attack steers clear of typical progressive overtones, however. Instead the group provides one of the most caustic listening experiences of 2013 so far by focusing on sheer darkness and unbridled brutality.
Sweden's Soilwork is one of the most consistently solid bands left from the late-'90s melodic-thrash wave. The group plays with their sound on their new double album The Living Infinite, with some slightly-proggy guitar work popping in here and there. Otherwise, the songs are still incredibly catchy and the vocals of Bjorn "Speed" Strid shine, whether it's a loud scream or a soft croon. There aren't many metal vocalists that can anchor this much material as well as he can and not wear out his welcome.
Sorcery was one of many Swedish bands in the early '90s putting out excellent death metal, anchored by a little bit of groove. Their debut album Bloodchilling Tales is considered by some to be a lost classic, and they broke up before releasing a follow-up. Thankfully, time healed any wounds and Sorcery regrouped this year for their second album, Arrival At Six. Age has not dulled the band's edge, and the kids could definitely learn a few lessons from this record.
Death To All
Last year's tribute to fallen Death founder Chuck Schuldiner featured an all-star cast of musicians from every era of the band's history. This year's installment is lesser in numbers, but not in talent: Paul Masvidal (guitar), Steve DiGeorgio (bass), and Sean Reinert (drums), who played on the group's 1991 classic Human. The album saw Death get more technical in their sound, adding an extra layer of atmosphere and musicianship to their already-innovative death metal.