The metal scene in Denver has been raging for decades, but in recent years, some of the Mile High City's heaviest acts have been making an impact outside of Colorado, bringing national attention to the local scene. Below, listed alphabetically, are ten of the best bands that shaped Denver metal in 2016.
In 2016, Dark Descent Records in Colorado Springs released Starspawn, the latest offering of necrotic death doom from Denver's Blood Incantation. With a name evoking horror author H.P. Lovecraft's work, Blood Incantation combines heaviness with intricate melodies and a soaring, expansive dynamic to create music you might expect to be playing as Lovecraft's Great Old Ones devour the universe.
Call of the Void has caught the attention of an international audience for years for its masterful synthesis of grindcore and heavy progressive metal. AYFKM (short for “Are You Fucking Kidding Me”), the band's 2016 EP, is its strongest offering to date, with its musical brutality in sharp focus. It's not like Call of the Void was lacking in the sonic outrage department before, but with this EP, the band retooled its vocabulary to go heavier and deeper.
The instrumental metal band Cult of the Lost Cause has always showcased diverse musical roots from both inside and outside metal, which is one reason that its music conveys such a broad emotional range. With 2016's Contritions, Cult of the Lost Cause tightened its songwriting and perfectly combined its keen sense of atmosphere and rhythm with a knack for finely nuanced, heavy riffs.
Folk metal, transcendental metal — whatever label one might drop on Dreadnought, its imaginative music is a combination of doom and progressive rock's proclivity for storytelling. In 2017, Dreadnought will be working with Andy Patterson in Salt Lake City, whose recording talents have helped SubRosa, Call of the Void and Abrams bring power to their own records. Expect Dreadnought's album, as of now untitled, to drop in early summer.
The first Khemmis record, 2015's Absolution, was already surprisingly refined and sophisticated for a debut effort. For 2016's Hunted, Khemmis stretched its gift for melodic doom songwriting to epic proportions with a set of five songs that evoke the experience of riding with Norse heroes into battle against evil forces. It's that capacity to stir the imagination with indisputably tasteful heavy songcraft that has garnered Khemmis great critical acclaim outside Colorado.
Morgue Whore sounds like it took black-metal roots and Slayer and crafted something with the mysteriousness and bluntness of the former and the aggression and dark melodies of the latter to make something that sounds vicious and shockingly heavy. The band's self-titled debut album, released in 2016, helped establish Morgue Whore as one of the most interesting metal bands from Colorado.
There is something strikingly retro-thrash about Necropanther's music and presentation. Yet it sounds like an original band from the first wave of thrash in the ’80s rather than a cheap imitator. Necropanther's self-titled debut is a dystopian science-fiction novel in album form, and reminiscent of mid-’8os death metal like early Autopsy in the best way.
While Neverkenezzard is reminiscent of a doom/sludge band, there's something off-kilter about its use of sound and unusual rhythms. Because of that, the group's music is more like Melvins-esque sludge punk or even Meshuggah's technical metal. Neverkenezzard's 2016 debut Never Say... is a trip into unusual territories for heavy music: a mashup of Mike Patton's harder rock songs with John Zorn's avant-garde stylings.
Primitive Man has put Denver doom on the map with its aggressive national and international touring in the last few years, including shows at prestigious events like Roadburn Festival, Netherlands Deathfest and Maryland Deathfest. In the last two years, Primitive Man has mainly put out split releases with some of the bandmembers' friends. Expect a new record from this veteran deathgrind juggernaut later in 2017.
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Space in Time long ago pulled an interesting trick: making retro heavy music that didn't sound like offerings from a tribute band. On 2016's self-titled EP, the first with vocalist Suzanne Magnuson, the group pushed its keyboard-driven metal, inspired by ’70s hard-rock bands Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, into a more psychedelic-rock realm than it had on previous records.