Rain City Drive
In 2019, the Californian band formerly known as Slaves (US) were in the middle of a European tour when they sacked their singer for addiction related issues. Wasting no time, they hired friend-of-a-friend Matt McAndrew, a contestant on the US version of The Voice, as an emergency stand-in. It was a daunting task for the singer, who hopped on a plane from LA to the UK without knowing the band’s music and had to make up lyrics onstage on the fly.
“Those type of things always pay off big if they work out,” he smiles. “And in this case, it’s been really great.” The band had performed under their previous moniker for seven years, but with Matt on the mic and a new energy in the camp, they felt it was time for a rebrand. Following the release of their 2020 album, To Better Days, the band changed their name to Rain City Drive, a homage to the perennially overcast skies of Manchester, where the current line-up played their first gig together.
“Changing a name can be a tricky thing to do,” continues Matt. “It could have crashed and burned, but it didn’t. I’m thinking of it as a new band. We wanted something the five of us could really take ownership of and that represented us.”
The quintet’s latest, self-titled record sees them head in a more melody-driven direction, fusing slick pop sensibilities with searing metal influences to create a sound that’s ready to blow the roof off arenas.
“Right before I did The Voice, I saw Bring Me The Horizon touring Sempiternal,” recalls Matt. “I loved that record, how they fused the heavy stuff with anthemic songwriting. We’re trying to write rock music as though it’s still the biggest genre. We want to write songs that could appeal to the masses… although maybe they have a little more distortion in them!” Dannii Leivers
For Fans Of: Bring Me The Horizon, Bad Omens, Modern Error
Sounds Like: Metal, pop and R’n’B collide to form skyscrapersized anthems
Listen To: Blood Runs Cold
Given what they’ve achieved with their debut album, you could be forgiven for thinking some mysterious feat of witchcraft helped haul Defacing God fully formed from the fertile Scandinavian soil.
Sadly, the reality is more prosaic: they formed in 2015 and have spent the years since experimenting, finding and honing a sound that expertly splices scything melodeath, craggy black metal and magnificent classical pomp.
“I had a clear vision that this should be all or nothing,” explains vocalist Sandie ‘The Lilith’ Gjørtz. “Doing things half-assed is a complete waste of time to me.” While this tale of craft and graft might disappoint those hoping for devilish pacts, there’s still plenty of mystery pumping through their veins.
“We try to pull listeners into a dark universe of obscure myths, folklore and ancient stories,” says Sandie. “The album draw parallels to the ancient, but also the present world where many people still have to fight for freedom and justice. A world where there are still people being oppressed and held down because of their gender, ethnicity or personal conviction.”
Central to the album is the defiant figure of Lilith – the pre-Eve figure banished from Eden for not kowtowing to Adam. “Lilith is actually not a person as such to me,” explains Sandie. “In reality, ‘she’ is more a philosophy. ‘She’ is the way I see the world, the way I act and interact. For me, ‘she’ stands for independence, female power and empowerment. ‘She’ stands for rebellion, strong opinions and sisterhood. Always be a Lilith!” Alex Deller
Sounds Like: Carefully layered heavy metal dividing its time between cold-blooded savagery and sweeping cinematic orchestration
For Fans Of: At The Gates, Dimmu Borgir, Septicflesh
Listen To: Echoes From Fulda
With a name like ‘Hoaxed’, it’s appropriate that this Oregon-based, dark rock two-piece aren’t entirely what they seem on first impressions. “I want to write music that people need to think about. I never want to write music that’s easy to spoon feed,” proclaims vocalist/guitarist Kat Keo.
Formed in 2020, Kat and drummer Kim Coffel garnered attention with their self-titled 2021 EP of shadowy, contemplative gloom, and signed to Relapse Records that same year. Two Shadows, their debut album, tiptoes across stoner and gothic rock through to sparkling shoegaze, and is transfused with the muddied, rain-ridden landscapes of their hometown of Portland and the “dark magic”-infused tales of the American South. “It’s just easier to write gloomy things where the weather fosters that type of attitude,” says Kim.
On Two Shadows, which doubles up as the name of the ghoulish fictional town the album explores, each song tells its own story. “It’s not exactly Hell, but it’s some other weird world,” says Kim. “It all ties back to life and reality. It addresses our ideas, fears, anxieties and the problems that you’re maybe trying to escape from.”
Enchanting and inescapably dark, it pulls upon the macabre, exploring stories of witch prosecutions, folklore and murder. “It’s very powerful,” says Kat, speaking of their esoteric element. “I’m somewhat scared to mess with it, because I think there’s some danger behind it. That’s very intriguing.” Liz Scarlett
Sounds like: A midnight excursion into a haunted forest
For fans of: Blackwater Holylight, Chelsea Wolfe, Unto Others
Listen to: The Call
“I want us to be the most pissed-off, heavy band possible.” Spite’s frontman, Darius Tehrani, has a vision. The Californians fourth record, Dedication To Flesh, takes the established deathcore template and adds even more hardcore bite. “It’s a clean slate for us,” he explains. “But still very much Spite.”
When people listen to Dedication To Flesh, Darius wants the music to come screeching out of the speakers and grab people by the throat. From the brutalising breakdowns of Crumble or Made To Please to the slamming Caved In and short – but certainly not sweet – Hangman, with its off-kilter riff and Darius’s voracious howl, the album is all about offering catharsis. “Lyrically, it’s full of depression, anxiety and shit that fuels that kind of anger and rage,” says the singer. “Something you can release when you listen.”
But as pissed off and heavy as they are, Spite still have lofty ambitions: they want to conquer the world. “I want Spite to be a household name, like Slipknot, or Slayer,” declares Darius. “This album is our footprint in the face of the music scene.” Will Marshall
Sounds Like: Running face-first through a wall of emotion
For Fans Of: Suicide Silence, Chelsea Grin, Lorna Shore
Listen To: Caved In
For some in metal, pop will always be a dirty word. Not so for Joey Varela, the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist behind VRSTY, a solo project that juxtaposes chunky, arena rock riffs with slinky r’n’b, and vivid, ultra-polished pop – think Bring Me The Horizon meets Asking Alexandria… via the Weeknd.
“I have always been interested in the pop world,” he enthuses over Zoom from his Brooklyn home. “I grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra exclusively, and as I got older, I got into Usher, Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys, NSync. I love pop music, but I also love playing guitar and when I play guitar, I write heavy. So I was like, ‘OK I’ll write heavy stuff, but I’ll stick my little pop tunes over it.’”
It makes sense that Joey’s gateway into metal was Killswitch Engage’s chorus-led riffery – their firey, metallic influence can be heard all over VRSTY’s snarling debut single, Risen. But since then, his vision for the band (he is joined by bandmates during live performances), has expanded into a much bigger, slicker and melodic beast.
In 2021 he covered Lil Nas X’s MONTERO, while his debut album, Welcome Home – which also pulls from smooth r’n’b on We, Always and country on Soul – is proof that metal and pop are more natural bedfellows than many might think.
“I was in bands before this that didn’t work out because I wasn’t allowed to do what I wanted,” he explains. “In pop and rap music, it feels like everyone just wants to work with everyone else, but in metal, it’s very separate. I don’t care about genre. I just want to write good music and have fun performing it. You can literally do whatever you want, good music is good music and that’s it. That’s all it should be.” Dannii Leivers
Sounds Like: A mutant R’n’B/ metal sensation waiting to happen
For Fans Of: Bring Me The Horizon, Issues, The Weeknd
Listen To: Closer