Chad’s Heavy Music Reviews: Week of September 30, 2016

This week’s reviews include releases from The Agonist, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Epica, Insomnium, Kryptos, Noctem, Skiltron and Winterfylleth. The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Napalm Records
Napalm Records

The Agonist – Five (Napalm)

Genre: Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore

Vocalist Vicky Psarakis made her The Agonist debut on last year’s Eye Of Providence, and delivers an even stronger performance on Five.

She transitions effortlessly between throat-shredding screams and smooth melodic singing. There are some catchy choruses and singalong moments on the album along with numerous brutal and extreme sections. It’s mostly melodeath with a few ‘core moments sprinkled in. It wraps up with a cover of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church,” which has an entirely different vibe when metalized.

Rating: 3.5

Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band - Tao Of The Devil
Napalm Records

Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band – Tao Of The Devil (Napalm)

Genre: Stoner/Desert Rock

Former Kyuss and Vista Chino member Brant Bjork is back with Tao Of The Devil, the second album under the moniker Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band.

After an acoustic intro, the thick doom riffs kick in on opener “The Gree Heen.” There are also faster, ’70s influenced tracks like “Humble Pie.” While there are plenty of expansive moments and jams, the album is more streamlined than 2014’s Black Power Flower. Bjork and company do a nice job blending stoner, desert rock and retro vibes into their own buzzworthy concoction.

Rating: 3.5

Epica - The Holographic Principle
Nuclear Blast Records

Epica – The Holographic Principle (Nuclear Blast)

Genre: Symphonic Metal

Even though their music has complex arrangements and a lot of moving parts, the Dutch band Epica have been pretty prolific, releasing a new album every two years or so along with a few live albums, EPs and splits. The Holographic Principle, which explores the concept of virtual reality, is their eighth full-length studio release.

Like their previous efforts it’s an album that’s bombastic and ambitious with a lot of orchestral elements augmented by heavy guitar. Simone Simons has a powerful and versatile voice, able to switch from an emotional alto croon to a powerful operatic soprano in the blink of an eye. Male harsh vocals help add some diversity. The album is cinematic and expansive, with melodies that aren’t overshadowed by everything else going on in the songs. At 72 minutes, it’s a bit long, but Epica manage to maintain interest throughout.

Rating: 4

Century Media Records
Century Media Records

Insomnium – Winter’s Gate (Century Media)

Genre: Melodic Death Metal

The hook for the Finnish band Insomnium‘s latest album Winter’s Gate is that it is one continuous 40 minute song. In our short attention span world, that’s definitely against the grain.

Musically, however, the album is in the mold of Insomnium’s previous work. They play dynamic melodic death metal, and those dynamics and diversity are what make Winter’s Gate work. There are plenty of ebbs and flows as tempos and intensities shift back and forth. There are some ambient parts that act as breaks between sections, even though the music doesn’t stop. While the one continuous track is a bit of a gimmick, Insomnium’s music is anything but.

Rating: 3.5

Kryptos - Burn Up The Night
AFM Records

Kryptos – Burn Up The Night (AFM)

Genre: Heavy Metal

Like the Olympics, every four years we can expect an album from the Indian band Kryptos. After releasing records in 2004, 2008 and 2012, it’s time for their latest opus Burn Up The Night.

They are influenced by classic bands with a lot of melody like Maiden and Priest, but also by those with a little more intensity like Kreator and Coroner. The result are songs that are packed with twin guitars and memorable hooks, but also harsh vocals that provide a bit of an edge. It’s an appealing homage to the old school.

Rating: 3

Noctem - Haeresis
Prosthetic Records

Noctem – Haeresis (Prosthetic)

Genre: Black Metal

For their latest album Haeresis, the Spanish extreme horde Noctem have signed with Prosthetic Records. The lyrical content of the record delves into some of the darker history of their home country.

Mixing frantic black metal with elements of death and thrash makes for a punishing but ever-shifting album. Dense blastbeats ease into death metal grooves, which speed up into galloping thrash. There are even some acoustic moments, like on the intro to “The Submission Discipline,” which quickly amps up into an ominous crusher. The heaviness of the album is unquestionable, but there are also some surprising subtleties mixed in with the devastation.

Rating: 3.5

Trollzorn Records
Trollzorn Records

Skiltron – Legacy Of Blood (Trollzorn)

Genre: Celtic Folk Metal

When you see the genre of an album as Celtic folk metal, you might assume the band will be from Europe. Not so with Skiltron. The long-running Argentine band’s fifth full-length is Legacy Of Blood.

Soaring guitars mix with traditional instruments like bagpipes and tin whistles. It’s a rousing blend of folk and power metal that’s highly melodic and memorable. New vocalist Martin McManus provides consistency after their last album used a handful of guest singers like Korpiklanni’s Jonne Jarvela. With an affinity for Scottish history and a gift for writing catchy songs, Skiltron are well worth checking out by those who like their folk metal with a little Celtic flavor.

Rating: 3.5

Winterfylleth - The Dark Hereafter
Candlelight/Spinefarm Records

Winterfylleth – The Dark Hereafter (Candlelight/Spinefarm)

Genre: Black Metal

The British black metal band Winterfylleth have had a lineup change since their last album. Longtime artwork collaborator Dan Capp is now also their guitarist. The Dark Hereafter is the band’s shortest album, clocking in at around 40 minutes. Their last three efforts have each been longer than an hour in length.

The shortened length works well. The band’s brand of black metal is sometimes dark and oppressive, other times more melodic and expansive. Their varied styles and approaches are on full display, ranging from the focused title track to the vicious “Pariah’s Path” to the epic and somber “Green Cathedral.” Over the past several years Winterfylleth have established themselves as a unique and talented band, and that continues on this album.

Rating: 4

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