13 Under-the-Radar Metal Albums

2023-05-21

Sacred Reich promo photo.

Sacred Reich is among our under-the-radar metal albums – Story by Craig Maloney, photo by Stephanie Cabral

Here are 13 under-the-radar metal albums that need their time in the spotlight

Boatloads of albums are released each year. Some of them rise to the top of the list of everyone’s essential albums. But, some albums live within the shadows after their release.

It’s a shame to see such gems go unnoticed. Hence, here is a list of 13 albums that we think should haunt your playlists like ghosts that haven’t fulfilled their intended purpose. The list features albums from the 1990s to nearly today. Find Audio Ink Radio’s list of the best thrash metal bands of all time here.

13. Codo, “Strictly for the Ladies” (2013)

Musical duos in rock tend to be regarded more for their novelty than their musicality. Bands like In the Whale and The White Stripes, however, are notable exceptions. When looking at the cover for Codo’s “Strictly for the Ladies,” you might think that this band is just another novelty. This is a mistake. Codo is one of those bands that not only has an amazing sound, but riffs and lyrics that embed themselves into your brain. The songs don’t overstay their welcome and belie a false sense of simplicity. Yet, they have complex arrangements that never fail to satisfy.

12. Netra, “Ingrats” (2017)

“Urban Black Metal” graces the T-shirt that accompanied the release of this album, and that’s really an apt description. This album gives black metal a much needed trip in the musical blender, adding elements of trip-hop, jazz and a just a hint of post-metal. Rather than making a musical mess, this album manages to keep the lid on when needed and explode when required. This album benefits from repeated listens. After one listen, it keeps the listener in suspense for what comes next in such a way that they’ll want to listen again to make sure that’s what they heard.

11. Sacred Reich, “Independent” (1993)

Sacred Reich were one of the few bands to keep their sound through the 1990s. Unfortunately, this album got overlooked as derivative and uninspired when compared with “Ignorance,” “Surf Nicaragua” and “The American Way.” “Independent” is a darker, more introspective album than the in-your-face iterations of Sacred Reich’s previous catalog. But, it deserves to be ranked among their finest albums. At a time when bands like Anthrax, Metallica, Exodus and Nuclear Assault were tinkering with their sound to compete with grunge, Sacred Reich decided to release a groovier thrash album that cries out for a re-listen. There isn’t a Bandcamp link for this album, but the rest of Sacred Reich’s catalog is up there. You’ll find it above.

10. Petrychor, “Makrokosmos” (2014)

If the words “Berlin School Black Metal” don’t get your attention, then playing this album should do the trick. Combining Tangerine Dream-line sequences with haunting black metal is something the genre didn’t know that it needed, but it does. If you’re a black metal purist that believes electronics don’t belong in death metal, please drop those assumptions and give this a listen. This set features amazing song crafting by Tad Piecka and an album that takes the listener on a fantastic voyage to places both familiar and alien.

9. Trauma, “Imperfect Like a God” (2003)

This album was an impulse-download back on Usenet, but it was worth it, as it’s the cornerstone of this band. On it, there’s perfectly-crafted death metal that doesn’t let up for one moment. Few albums can maintain the sort of intensity that Trauma pulls off with no apparent effort in this album. This album is a little difficult to find online because the name clashes with bands that also share their name, but there’s no doubt who truly deserves to be first-and-foremost in that list of bands.

8. Deathstars, “Termination Bliss” (2005)

Deathstars’ “Termination Bliss” is an album that feels familiar, like an old friend. It’s an album that borrows heavily from the industrial rock that preceded it without falling into the trap of aping the genre. Whiplasher Bernadotte’s vocals transition between sultry and commanding without feeling contrived. The songwriting on this album doesn’t overstay its welcome, either, with songs that stay on target. “Blitzkrieg,” “Cyanide” and “The Last Ammunition” are the standout tracks on this album, but that’s akin to choosing your favorite child. Every one of these tracks could easily be your standout track. “Night Electric Night” seemed to put this band into an all-to-brief limelight, but “Termination Bliss” is the perfect lead-in for that album. The album showcases a band ready to whip the music industry into shape.

7. Deep Space Destructors, “II” (2012)

Desert and space-rock has almost become a cliche of itself. Deep Space Destructors are keenly aware of this. Rather than letting the genre define them, they toy with the edges and conventions to make something that is both familiar and novel. “II” features haunting harmonies and The Sword-like awareness of the genre they’re playing in. It feels like an album that could have been made in the 1980s and yesterday without feeling like hyper-aware pastiche. Plus, the artwork on this album is an absolute thing of beauty.

6. Atlantis Chronicles, “Barton’s Odyssey” (2016)

Another concept album? In this economy? Again, we ask your indulgence, for this album doesn’t commit the ultimate sin of making the listener think of better albums they could be listening to. Instead, this album weaves the metalcore vocals reminiscent of bands such as Chimaira with majestic clean vocals and meaty technical death metal that doesn’t disappoint. The album is chock-full of songs without a moment of filler. There’s also an instrumental version of the album that doesn’t disappoint. I won’t spoil the concept of the album, but the narration paints the story of Chris Barton and his titular Odyssey. Immerse yourself in this ocean of amazing music.

5. Saigon Kick, “Saigon Kick” (1991)

Saigon Kick’s self-titled album is usually overshadowed by the more radio-friendly album, “The Lizard.” This is a mistake, as this album shows a band ready to take on the conventions of rock music and mix things up. The riffs are heavy without being burdensome, and the vocal harmonies hint at other bands without flat-out copying them. Tracks such as “Suzy” conjure up a bit of funk, while “What You Say” and “What Do You Do” are straight-ahead rockers. This album definitely paved the way for “The Lizard,” but it still holds up on its own.

4. Lizzy Borden, “Deal With the Devil” (2000)

Lizzy Borden has been a mainstay in the hair-metal genre for decades. After the classic “Visual Lies” he hibernated the band during the turbulent and rock-unfriendly decade of grunge. Then, he rehydrated one of his most powerful incarnations. The album is understated, as though it were still waking up from its slumber. But, these songs bore into the listener’s brain and take up residence upon first listen. Singers, though, should note that Lizzy’s incredible vocal range makes these songs an absolute challenge to sing along. But, that’s hardly the fault of Lizzy Borden, who continues to defy both expectations and pigeon-holing.

3. Die So Fluid, “The World is Too Big for One Lifetime” (2010)

Die So Fluid is a band that has existed in the peripheral vision of rock music. The band was formed through the ashes of Feline but in many ways transcends their beginnings. “The World is Too Big for One Lifetime” is their 2014 album, and it showcases their talents in an 11-track masterpiece. Grog’s vocals are spot-on, ranging from the soaring vocals of Geddy Lee to the understated purring of a cat ready to pounce. The musicianship on the album is very mature with every note feeling as though it was lovingly crafted and strung together with care and precision. It’s an absolute classic.

2. Mithras, “On Strange Loops” (2016)

“On Strange Loops” is Mithras’ most recent album, and it’s a masterpiece of songwriting and musical fusion. It’s also a loose concept album, but in the good way. The album weaves through common themes in a hypnotic dance between intense death metal and haunting interludes. The album is a journey that rewards repeat listens.

1. Devastation, “Idolatry” (1991)

The first two Devastation albums set the pathway for this album, and what an album it is. This is a perfect album, where not even one note is worth changing. On it, crushing thrash metal mixes with early 1990s death metal in a potent concoction. It boasts absolute precision, stellar riffs and drumming that never leaves one’s brain. The vocals are also pitch-perfect. This album is an absolute classic of the genre that more folks should know about. Of all the suggestions on this list, please listen to this album.

About the guest writer: Craig Maloney is the host of the currently on hiatus Open Metalcast Podcast, which is available at https://openmetalcast.com. He is a life-long music fan, listening to not only metal but classical, jazz, electronic and more. When he’s not haunting music stores looking for new music, he enjoys game design, programming computers and talking about music at length to the bemusement of others. Learn more at Craig’s website at https://decafbad.net.

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Posted by Audio Ink Radio Staff | Features, Metal, Music