1. Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9
13 might be unlucky for some, but for Ozzy Osbourne it’s a magic number as he returns with an all-star guestlist for a follow up to 2020’s superb Ordinary Man. Working again with wunderkind producer Andrew Watt, Oz has rediscovered some of the manic energy that was perhaps lacking on the last record, guitarists ranging from Jeff Beck to Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Zakk Wydle and Tony Iommi all lending their considerable talents to a solid, triumphant outing on Patient Number 9.
2. Parkway Drive – Darker Still
Parkway Drive haven’t hid the fact they’ve been having a tough time of things lately. Forced to cancel a planned US tour to address personal relationships that were at fraying point and noticably enraged in an interview in this month’s Metal Hammer, the band even opened up that they had been seeking band therapy a la Metallica’s Some Kind Of Monster. Thankfully, Darker Still isn’t some St. Anger style misstep – it is a continuation of Parkway’s arena-sized ambitions, a Black Album style step-up worthy of the big leagues to which the Aussies now undoubtedly belong.
3. Stray From The Path – Euthanasia
“Are you in or in the way?” It’s a confrontational line on Needful Things, the opening track of Stray From The Path’s 10th album that sets their stall out early. Cocksure and full of swagger, Stray take their cues from Rage Against The Machine and their rage from the most aggro aspects of both hardcore and hip-hop, their latest offering every bit as incendiary – and current – as they were when they ruffled feathers with Goodnight Alt-Right.
4. Crippled Black Phoenix – Banefyre
Crippled Black Phoenix have always sounded as though they’re approaching the horizon of a vast, lush yet doomed landscape. If their latest pilgrimage is awash with signs of the endtimes, it surveys them with a captivating, weary grace. From Ghostland’s mantric procession, recalling Love Of Life-era Swans, through the rattled, post-punk undertow of The Reckoning to the hushed, hallowed awe of Everything Is Beautiful But Us and beyond, Banefyre is a chronicle of a world in its twilight state, revealing its most luminous details when it’s passed the point of no return.
5. Bloodbath – Survival Of The Sickest
The four-year wait for a new Bloodbath record always proves worth it when the death metal supergroup settle in and offer up massive dollops of the good stuff. Riffing on old school death metal but approaching it with a sense of fresh zeal, Bloodbath’s Survival Of The Sickest is yet more proof that its musicians are masters of their craft, guest appearances from Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway, Gorguts’ Luc Lemay and Morgoth’s Marc Grewe cementing the idea this band is effectively the most exclusive – and brilliant – death metal party on the planet.