And now we venture out to the farthest reaches of Rocktober with the straight-up heavy metal of Sumerlands. None of thrash metal’s punk instincts or black metal’s cultivated misanthropy here for the fence-sitters to fall back on — just the purest, Ozzy Ozzbourne Bark At The Moon-inspired anthems courtesy of a Philadelphia-based group who, by the looks of this awesome band photo, really DGAF whether or not their vintage sound is “back in style” yet. Hey, I gotta give a shout-out to metal lifer Phil Swanson in the shades and button-down shirt, pledging fealty to his chosen genre with humility and heart: “I’ll never be forsaken, you’re always by my side/Whenever I’m forsaken, always be there by my side,” he sings on “The Guardian.” Phil, from one 40-something to another, I salute you, brother.
On Sumerlands’ self-titled debut album, guitarist and producer Arthur Rizk pulls the band’s various elements together masterfully, starting with a wet tone on the guitars that adds a rough edge to the band’s melodic metal template. The songs are surprisingly concise and saturated with a maximum of catchy riffs, whiplash turnarounds, heartstopping breaks, and heroic solos. In this way, tracks like “Blind” get their point across immediately while revealing the band’s compositional flair gradually over repeated listens. The album concludes on a moody instrumental maybe out of sorts with the metal party, but of course we should have expected mystery from a band named after a Goth-rock deep cut. For real, people, we got ourselves a contender for metal album of the year!
Sumerlands is out now on Relapse Records.