Fall 2020 Album Preview: The Best Albums Heading Your Way This Fall
“Prepare for an onslaught of creative output!!”. That was the shred of positivity thrown around by music industry observers when the pandemic hit and artists were plucked from their tour buses and forced to stay at home and let their minds wander. This fall, we are beginning to be rewarded with the fruits of that downtime with a windfall of new albums along with some inspired live releases. Autumn 2020 has something for everyone who loves the musically, politically, or emotionally heavy.
PUBLIC ENEMY – WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE GRID GOES DOWN?
In times like these, with all these political and societal firestorms coming to a head, you look to Public Enemy for something to say. For three and a half decades, the maestros of the manifesto have thrown down hard New York breaks with even harder indictments of a deeply broken system. The group rose to prominence on Def Jam Records in the midst of Reagan and the first Bush’s America, a time when racially and economically marginalized groups were feeling the squeeze of a government intent on looting the last of what they had to enrich the yachting class. Somehow, we’ve now devolved beyond that to an America tearing itself apart at the seams, spurned on by the narcissist with despotic tendencies in the White House. Racial tensions are at a high not seen since the civil rights movement of the sixties and a giant swath of the population is financially unstable. If there was ever a time for a Public Enemy album, it’s now.
After a (potentially fabricated) spat in February over an appearance at a Bernie Sanders rally that allegedly split up the group, Public Enemy returned full force in June with Flavor Flav on the anti-Trump song “State of the Union (STFU)”, released appropriately on Juneteenth. The new album, featuring a reinvented version of their iconic anthem ‘Fight the Power 2020”, boasts a legendary lineup of guest appearances. Mike D and Ad-Rock (Beastie Boys), Cypress Hill, Run-DMC, Ice-T, Nas, YG, DJ Premier, George Clinton, Black Thought and Questlove (The Roots) and Rapsody all join in on what is sure to be a fiery takedown of the most appalling administration in modern history.
MARILYN MANSON – WE ARE CHAOS
Of course, it’s coming out on September 11th…
The king of controversy is set to release his eleventh full-length album. The born agitator has had some artistic ups and downs since his heyday in the 90s-early 2000s. 2007’s Eat Me Drink Me and 2015’s The Pale Emperor showed Manson reaching beyond his established niche to reinvent himself with songs like the Motown-tinged ‘Heart-Shaped Glasses’ or the dirt road dustup of the brilliant ‘Third Day of Seven Day Binge’. Between these albums, Manson rested on his laurels releasing albums rehashing the format of his most obvious work. Find a demented catchphrase or a sophomorically clever way to spell something and write a cliche-ridden “shock-rock” tune about it. There’s no shock left in shock alone, you have to dig deeper.
Of late, Manson has taken an interest in outlaw country recording ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’, a track famously done recently by Johnny Cash and a cover of ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ with producer Shooter Jennings. The latter collaboration would lead to Manson bringing in Jennings to produce his latest offering We Are Chaos. This all bodes well for an intriguing new Manson project. However, the first single did not exactly deliver the “dustup” quality we might have hoped from a Jennings-Manson collaboration. Instead, the title track seems to bend more towards Imagine Dragons than outlaw country. Manson’s insightful statement of the necessarily tumultuous state of human nature is undercut by a corny steady kick drum led verse and a “done a million times” chorus chord progression. It is undeniably catchy. Perhaps in context with the rest of the album, it will make sense as an emotional cornerstone that needs to be intentionally simple. We’ll see once we hear the rest of the record.
GREG PUCIATO – CHILD SOLDIER: CREATOR OF GOD
If it isn’t already abundantly clear, we’re pretty big fans of Greg Puciato here at I.M.P. We’ve featured several of his tracks in our Singles Roundups this year and the singer’s sadly disbanded former project The Dillinger Escape Plan often serves as a blazing example of what unbound musical creativity can accomplish. Before their finale at the end of 2017, Dillinger reigned as the masters of progressive mathcore. A punishing onslaught of riffs and limbs and polyrhythms all cut with the buzz saw power of Puciato’s indelible yell. Since then, the singer has expanded creatively with The Black Queen, an 80s goth-industrial inspired project that let him explore softer themes with his surprisingly endearing falsetto. Now, he is making a return to heavier fare with his solo debut.
With five singles already out, we have a pretty good idea of where this album sits. Without Ben Weinman saturating everything with his genius-level spastic riffery, Puciato has much more room to stretch out and find new melodies rather than having to jump in like double dutch, finding razor-thin openings in which to insert a scream. The rhythm section sits in a deep, deep pocket making these songs undeniably groovy. The lead single ‘Fire For Water’ offered a welcome return of Puciato’s classic sabre-toothed tiger growl with frenetic, albeit standard timed riffs. ‘Deep Set’ brought us back to the hard ride-snare drive of the grungy 90s. The latest single ‘A Pair of Questions’ leans much more towards his Black Queen output with synths and drums pulled straight from the 80s, veering into Depeche Mode territory. With such great, eclectic tracks out so far, Child Soldier is one of the most anticipated releases of the year…for us anyway.
DEFTONES – OHMS
Deftones found their lane and hit the gas. Since those days in the mid to late 90s, the group has found great success with their blend of dream-inducing shoegaze with ever-evolving heavy riffing under Chino’s panther-like growl. Diamond Eyes, Koi No Yokan, and Gore all garnered steady praise from critics and loyal devotion from their fans, if not hitting the same ubiquitous appeal as their breakthrough anthems.
Ohms, like any of their albums, comes highly anticipated. The band has reunited with Terry Date, the producer who worked with them on their first four albums including the widely lauded Around The Fur and White Pony albums. The title track is our first glimpse of what the band has in store for us in 2020 and it shows that they have brought their A-game once again. A pirate siege intro gives way to the band’s signature wall of sound with a sweetened pre-chorus building to Chino’s assertive chorus “Time will change this!”. Not the instantaneous earworm of their most iconic hits but a track that definitely grows on you ten-fold with each listen. This band has one consistently impressive body of work.
ZAKK SABBATH – VERTIGO
Tribute albums are a dime a dozen, sometimes given out for free attached to a copy of Mojo magazine. Usually just a platform for bands who can only write mediocre material to piggyback their success on the back of more skilled songwriters. So what makes Vertigo special??
Zakk Sabbath is the Black Sabbath tribute outfit led by Ozzy’s primary guitarist over the last three decades Zakk Wylde. Needless to say, the man has played countless Sabbath tunes alongside the original Price of Darkness himself. Wylde is joined by former Rob Zombie bassist Blasko and mental tub-smacker formerly of Queens of the Stone Age and currently with The Bronx, Joey Castillo. The power trio (and I mean POWER trio) elevate Sabbath tunes to a new level of heavy while remaining unequivocally faithful to the source material. The group’s live show is the ideal Sabbath show. The group plays most of the classics that you’d expect from an actual Sabbath show but also peppering in metalhead favourite album tracks that would be skipped over by Ozzy and co. to make sure every FM radio staple was played. All this with a savage virility coming from the mad devotion of these players to the music that shaped them.
Vertigo covers the iconic 1969 Black Sabbath album in its entirety and will only be available as a physical release (CD/Vinyl) just as god intended. Expect Wylde and the boys to take those songs that birthed a genre and a way of life and make them deeper, darker, and heavier. Satan’s sitting there, he’s smiling.
NICK CAVE – IDIOT PRAYER
In the wake of the tragic death of his son, Nick Cave released the undeniably haunting Ghosteen which was filled with songs that had a heavenly air of Eden mixed with the heavy stone of grief. In this situation, most of us would recuse ourselves from life to try to deal with our grief in seclusion. However, the ever-asserting artist in Cave compelled him to not only tour but engage in a hybrid solo show/speaking tour where he would answer questions from the audience and perform his songs adapted for just himself and his black grand piano. The shows on his “Conversations with…” tour varied night to night according to the questions brought up by the audience but a common thread was always grief.
These events were church services for the secular, giving the audience the chance to share their own pain and perhaps get a glimmer of an answer from Cave on how to deal with it. The versions of his songs that he performed amidst these Q&As were complied and performed as a one time concert at Alexandra Palace in London.
Sat at a stunning Fazioli grand piano, in the middle of a gorgeously lit empty space, Cave regaled viewers with songs that spanned his career in a manner which was likely close to how they were conceived, just a voice and some keys. Emotionally fraught ballads from his latest album alongside reimaginings of Grinderman and Bad Seeds goth rock anthems. Adapted versions of songs like ‘Palaces of Montezuma’, ‘Jubilee Street’, ‘Higgs Boson Blues’, ‘The Mercy Seat’, and ‘Papa Won’t Leave You Henry’ show the songs in a new light with the added weight of the moment. Sorely missing and needed was a rendition of the scratch-an-optimist classic ‘People Ain’t No Good’. You’ll just have to grab his live album from KCRW to enjoy that.
PALLBEARER – FORGOTTEN DAYS
2017’s Heartless was a progressive doom masterpiece. Pummelling subterranean dives mixed with soaring guitar harmonies and expansive vocal layers. So far in 2020, the band has released two tracks off of their upcoming album Forgotten Days. From what we can gather from these preview tracks the band stands poised to deliver another massive record with the vocals finding 80s metal glory while the riffs remain powerfully sludgy yet extremely melodic.
GOJIRA – TBA
Groove metal masters Gojira have returned with a new single ‘Another World’ ahead of an album to be released this fall. The French technical death metal heroes have become the gold standard for the genre over the past decade with monstrously vicious yet airtight albums and a legendary pyro-filled live concert experience. The group was set to take that show to the masses opening for Deftones this summer, a tour which has been rescheduled for 2021. The chance to experience them live again can’t come soon enough. ‘Another World’ sits in a much looser, almost rock groove. The drums sit in a deep pocket. Duplantier’s vocals are densely layered with cathedral reverb and sweeping delay trails making them larger than life. A nimble techy section opens up to a grand expansive bridge. It appears with this record Gojira have invested in writing great songs, rather than just a collection of pummeling riffs (which are a great fucking time too).
EMMA RUTH RUNDLE & THOU – MAY OUR CHAMBERS BE FULL
She’s a post-rock/psych-folk singer and guitarist of multiple Californian groups bringing her Chelsea Wolfe-like delivery to her various spacious sonic projects. They’re a crushing doom outfit who beyond their own impressive output, also delivered one of the best Nirvana cover albums earlier this year, taking Cobain’s songs to new sludgy depths. Together they found a hybrid that is both powerful and beautiful. Haunting singing leads to blood-curdling screams. The lead single ‘Ancestral Recall’ teases a very successful collaboration.
KILLER BE KILLED – RELUCTANT HERO
Rounding out this roundup is entry #2 from former Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato, this time in the form of the triumphant return of his supergroup Killer Be Killed. The union of groove metal forces includes Sepultura/Soulfly shredder Max Cavalera, Converge drummer Ben Koller, and Mastodon bassist Troy Sanders who trades off vocal bursts with Puciato. The latest single ‘Deconstructing Self-Destruction’ brings the same heavy thrash as their 2014 self-titled debut record but with Sanders and Puciato finding new ways to use their voices making it sound less like skipping between Mastodon and Dillinger songs and more like a proper two-headed beast. The debut was an intriguing novelty, this new single is the real deal.