The sounds of summer!

From Metallica to Manson, PLUS Liz Phair, it’s gonna be one rockin’ season!
Every summer needs a soundtrack. But this year’s could be a little louder than usual, if the number of hard-rockin’ albums due over the next few weeks is anything to go by. Here’s a guide to the best of the season. As always, dates are subject to change, so don’t blame me if they do.
Metallica – St. Anger (Warner, June 10) – It’s been six years since their last studio album, but Metallica have hardly been idle. They’ve spent most of that time sabotaging their career. First, they alienated fans and came off like spoiled whiners by killing Napster. Then singer James Hetfield went into rehab and they lost bassist Jason Newsted. Now, finally, they’ve picked up the pieces and put them together into St. Anger. Featuring ex-Ozzy bassist Robert Trujillo and produced by Bob Rock, this 11-track disc is the most important record of Metallica’s career. If it’s great, they could reclaim their throne. But if they don’t smack it out of the park, it’s over.
Limp Bizkit – Bipolar (Universal, June/July) – Speaking of make-or-break discs, this fourth studio release from rap-metal mainstays Limp Bizkit has its share of hurdles. First and foremost is the loss of guitarist Wes Borland, who absconded with most of the group’s musical credibility and coolness after 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water. Which leaves us with nakedly ambitious singer Fred Durst, whose recent fling with Britney Spears can only leave you wondering which of them has worse taste.
Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (EMI, June 10) – If you’re a real fan, you’ve probably already heard this. Or have you? Radiohead now say the tunes that famously landed on the Web a few weeks back were rough mixes and works in progress and not the finished product. Well, a few of the tunes — which hew closer to the angular post-rock of Kid A than the lulling whale music of Amnesiac — sounded pretty finished to us. Either way, the truth is that no matter what Radiohead comes out with, we — and a few million others — are going to want to hear it anyway.
Turbonegro – Scandinavian Leather (Epitaph, May 6) – These randy Norwegian sleaze-rockers are quite possibly the greatest band that ever lived. At least, they’re the greatest band most North Americans have never heard. Get up to speed when the boys release their sixth CD Scandinavian Leather, which offers another flawless amalgam of black eyeliner, chainsaw guitars, sailor suits, Cheap Trick licks, hedonism and song titles like Wipe it Til it Bleeds. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Deftones – Deftones (Warner, May 20) – It’s been three years since these California rap-rockers broke through with their third album White Pony. Now we’ll finally get to see what singer-guitarist Chino Moreno and co. do for an encore with this self-titled 11-song followup. At least we know there’s no chance of a sophomore slump.
Sam Roberts – We Were Born in a Flame (Universal, June 3) – A couple of years ago, Canadian pop-rocker Sam Roberts was a mover. In that short time, he’s gone from hauling couches up stairs to climbing the charts, thanks to the surprising success of his debut EP, The Inhuman Condition. Here’s the full-length followup that could take him to even greater heights. Looks like he’s still a mover.
The New Pornographers – Electric Version (Mint, May 6) – These Vancouver popsters seduced the indie scene with 2000’s Mass Romantic and its infectious single Letter From an Occupant. Now, the outfit comprised of current and former members of Zumpano, Destroyer and Thee Evaporators — and let us not forget sultry country songbird Neko Case — return with a sophomore CD of jangle and melody.
Led Zeppelin – How the West Was Won & Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner, May 27) – Sure, it’s been a long time since they rock ‘n’ rolled. But Ledheads aren’t likely to mind once they get ahold of two simultaneous upcoming sets — How the West Was Won, a three-CD set of previously unissued live material, and a live Led Zep DVD. Both will be available for Father’s Day. What a coincidence.
Steely Dan – Everything Must Go (Warner, June 10) – Walter Becker and Donald Fagen took two decades to follow up Gaucho with 2000’s Two Against Nature. Hope they weren’t rushed by recording Everything Must Go in just three short years.
Marilyn Manson – Golden Age of Grotesque (Universal, May 13) – Granted, nowadays Marilyn Manson about as scary as last year’s Halloween costume, but at least you know he’s not going to do a duet with Lionel Richie.
Liz Phair – Liz Phair (EMI, June 24) – Former indie-rock queenie Liz assimilates with the machine, collaborating with Avril Lavigne hitmakers The Matrix for this CD.
3 Doors Down – Away From the Sun (Universal)
Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All (EMI)
Blur – Think Tank (EMI)
Foxy Brown – The Fever (Universal)
Jack Johnson – On and On (Universal)
Randy – Welfare Problems (Epitaph)
Lillix – Falling Up Hill (Warner)
Third Eye Blind – Out of the Vein (Warner)
Beyonce Knowles – Dangerously in Love (Sony)
Busta Rhymes – I Know What You Want (BMG)
Less Than Jake – Anthem (Warner)
Macy Gray – The Trouble With Being Myself (Sony)
Powerman 5000 – Transform (Universal)
Staind – 14 Shades of Grey (Warner)
Annie Lennox – Bare (BMG)
Dave Gahan – Paper Monsters (Warner)
Eels – Shootenanny (Universal)
Gordon Downie – Battle of the Nudes (Maple)
Jewel – 0304 (Warner, June 3)
Stereophonics – You Gotta Go There to Come Back (BMG)
Sugar Ray – In the Pursuit of Leisure (Warner)
Type O Negative – The Dream is Dead (Universal)
Michelle Branch – Hotel Paper (Warner)
The Locust – Plague Soundscapes (Epitaph)