Grimfist Ghouls of Grandeur

That cover art had me cowered in a corner, expecting crappy Tolkien-inspired goth rock, so the straight-up thrash/death that Norway's Grimfist specialise in was a pleasant surprise. And these guys do a good job of it, given that it's a member of Wurdulak and an ex-member of Immortal. Speedy, razor-sharp thrash is the main influence here, but with a nice amount of modern death metal influence as well. Nothing new, but very well done, sure to incite pits the world over. And this band knows what most death metal bands of today don't — the clear, punchy and natural production is the key here, bringing the whole thing home in a sonically pleasing fashion. (Candlelight)