This week’s album reviews include releases from Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters, Dead By April, Extremity, Fuoco Fatuo, Harlott, Hellkeeper, Message From Sylvia, The Obsessed, Possession, Through Fire, Trial and Virulent Depravity.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters – Bad Habits (Self)
Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters hail from Cardiff, South Wales. Bad Habits is the hard rock band’s debut, which was produced by Nick Brine (The Darkness).
The band has an old school vibe, less polished than the typical radio-friendly hard rock band, but still plenty melodic and accessible. Beth Blade’s vocals have a definite Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) influence, but there’s some punk style and attitude as well. The songs are straightforward and simple, but also very catchy. The album was crowdfunded and self-released, but a record label and bigger stages look to be in their future.
Dead By April – Worlds Collide (Spinefarm)
There have been some changes for the veteran Swedish metalcore band Dead By April since their last album. Their clean vocalist and drummer exited. Marcus Rosell was brought aboard to handle the drum duties, and guitarist Pontus Hjelm took over the clean singing.
He does an excellent job on Worlds Collide, a typical metalcore collection of infectious melodies and intense metal. Their radio-friendly, industrial-tinged brand of ‘core has a lot of commercial potential. Guitars are contrasted and augmented by synths. For the closing ballad “For Every Step” they bring in 68 year old Swedish legend Tommy Korberg to handle all the vocals. It’s a bit odd, but he has a great set of pipes, and the song is good.
Extremity – Extremely Fucking Dead (20 Buck Spin)
Though it’s nice to hear death metal that tests the boundaries, sometimes a person just wants a record with no gimmicks or any kind of shady experimentation. Enter Extremity, a Bay Area group with members from bands including Vastum, VHOL, and Cretin. Their debut release breaks the genre down to its necessary essence and leaves the rest of the filler aside.
Trade-off grunts and screams echo through the soulless pursuit of aural annihilation, never letting off an ounce of rejuvenation. Extremely Fucking Dead is extremely awesome death metal from musicians that know how to perform it with bitter malice and gleeful menace.
Fuoco Fatuo – Backwater (Profound Lore)
Good luck expecting to break through Fuoco Fatuo’s second album Backwater in a short time, because the band won’t allow it. They don’t make it easy with opaque death/doom, each of the four songs averaging 15 minutes in length.
Save for inspired double bass drumming, though with a spotty presence, this album is firmly kept in a crippling sort of first gear. Its aim is the furthest regions from positivity, concerned with the abundance of nothingness around us. It’s not always a joy, but Backwater holds firm in its uncompromising form of darkness.
Harlott – Extinction (Metal Blade)
After conquering their home country of Australia, Harlott were able to tour in Europe in support of their last album, and with their third full-length record Extinction are ready to make more noise in North America.
Their old-school brand of thrash has a lot of Slayer influences. And while there are plenty of galloping riffs and Araya-esque vocals, Harlott change things up periodically with more expansive and dynamic sections, like on the five-minute “The Penitent.” It’s certainly derivative, but a well-executed and played slab of extremity that thrash fans should enjoy.
Hellkeeper – A World Within Flesh (Self)
Hellkeeper’s A World Within Flesh is NY hardcore twisted with abhorrent screams and a penchant for whirling static. These guys are pissed off; at you, at me, at the world around them. They aren’t subtle about it either, but that bluntness is appropriate against the backdrop of active feedback the lyrics are surrounded by.
The band is not above throwing out unusual ideas, like the catchy melodic vocals on “Threadbare” or the lifeless choir of tortured voices chanting “Submit to this life” over and over on “Species.” These little nuances give A World Within Flesh justification beyond a standard blackened hardcore sound.
Message From Sylvia – Message From Sylvia (Concrete)
Message From Sylvia are a new band formed by the Lopez-Smith brothers Dane (guitar), Isaac (bass) and Zachary (drums) following the demise of First Decree. They teamed up with Matthew Nevitt (DoryDrive) for the release of their self-titled debut.
It’s a fruitful collaboration, as the album has a plethora of potential singles. “Heart Of War” has already climbed into the rock charts, with “Right Here And Now” headed that way. They are equally adept at intense hard rock, memorable arena rock or soaring power ballads. Both Nevitt and the Lopez-Smiths have had some success with previous bands, but this combination could be the one that takes them to the next level.
The Obsessed – Sacred (Relapse)
If the band name The Obsessed doesn’t grab you right away, that’s understandable: the band hasn’t released an album in more than twenty years. Legendary singer Scott “Wino” Weinrich disbanded the group to join Saint Vitus, but now The Obsessed are back with Sacred, an album that pays homage to the band’s doom roots without drowning in nostalgia.
The doomiest cut here is opening track “Sodden Jackal,” which was actually a single in 1983. After this, we are treated to some great-sounding metal, with pounding drums, some of the chunkiest riffs and sweetest guitar tones around, and of course Wino’s trademark gritty, back-of-the-throat vocals. The only drawback to Sacred is its length. 14 songs is a bit much, and the band runs out of steam on several cuts. That being said, it’s still a great album and well worth picking up.
Possession – Exorkizein (Invictus/Iron Bonehead)
After releasing a demo and a couple EPs over the past few years, the Belgian band Possession have undergone some lineup changes for their full-length debut Exorkizein. That includes bassist V.Viriakh moving to vocals.
The concept of the album is an interesting one, focusing on Gabriele Amorth, the last-known chief exorcist of the Vatican who died last year. That story combined with a varied musical approach makes for a compelling release. Possession combine fierce black and death metal with atmospheric parts and some downtuned doom. Sometimes chaotic and unsettled, other times ominous and deliberate, the end result is a powerful album.
Through Fire – Breathe (Sumerian)
Omaha, Nebraska isn’t known as a musical hotbed, but the Midwestern town has some quality bands. One of them is Through Fire. The hard rockers are issuing a deluxe edition of last year’s Breathe.
The singles “Stronger” and “Breathe” received plenty of airplay, and this edition includes acoustic versions of both in addition to the original tracks. There’s also a cover of Christina Perri’s “Jar Of Hearts.” While the two singles are highlights, there are numerous other memorable and infectious rockers on the record. The album flew under the radar on its initial release, so if you’re a fan of bands like Shinedown and missed Breathe the first time around, the deluxe edition is well worth exploring.
Trial – Motherless (Metal Blade)
Sweden’s Trial are back with their third album, Motherless. The band plays a form of metal that can be hard to pin down, but influences sound like they include Iron Maiden and early Queensryche. Trial’s goal on Motherless is to create something unique, but aside from the final three songs on the album, they fail.
There are two big problems with Motherless. First, the band tries to go off in too many directions, resulting in a lack of cohesiveness throughout. Some bands can pull that off, but the songwriting here is too weak. The bigger problem, though, is singer Linus Johansson. His singing is mostly unintelligible, and his upper register sounds like nails on a chalkboard and is used far too often. Back to the drawing board for these guys.
Virulent Depravity – Fruit of the Poisoned Tree (The Artisan Era)
How much tech is too much tech? If your answer is ‘there’s no such thing,’ then Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, the full-length debut from Tennessee’s Virulent Depravity, shall prove to be a righteously enjoyable time. Comprised of brainchild Colin Butler, Malcolm Pugh, and Svart Crown drummer Kevin Paradis, the trio proffers a mesmerizing display of fretboard acrobatics and off-world melodies and song structures. It’s all meant to be cold and calculating and evil and simply in-your-face, and on all those accounts, it succeeds.
Where Fruit of the Poisoned Tree ultimately branches off in the wrong direction is in its sheer zeal to overwhelm. The deluge of weird notes and smacking drums, while sporadically impressive, become lost in the fog and results in a very familiar and repetitive listen, despite Virulent Depravity’s abundance of clever ideas. Some will love, others will align in the neutral zone with this reviewer. Fans of Necrophagist, Archspire, and Spawn of Possession, get on board.