This week’s reviews include releases from Casket Robbery, Eagleheart, Eluveitie, End Of Green, Funeralglade, Janet Gardner, KMFDM, Phylactery, Sons Of Crom, Thy Art Is Murder and Void Ritual.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Casket Robbery – The Ascension (Self)
It was just a year ago when Casket Robbery released their debut album Evolution of Evil, which wasn’t a strong enough first step to make Casket Robbery be recognized as elite death metal newcomers. But now a year later, Casket Robbery’s new EP The Ascensionis an appropriate title, changing the face of the band’s music and pushing it forward to new ground.
The EP sounds less flat, filled with heavier tunes that infuse heavy touches of hardcore and groove metal. This combination has granted an impressive depth to Casket Robbery’s music. From mid-tempo drumming to occasional blast beats, solid guitar riffs and improved vocals, The Ascension delivers a potent, absorbing dose of Casket Robbery’s improved sound.
Eagleheart – Reverse (Scarlet)
After six years between albums, the Czech power metal band Eagleheart return with Reverse. They once again worked with producer Roland Grapow from Masterplan.
Utilizing three vocalists helps add variety and some nice harmonies. The arrangements are very dense, with a lot of atmospherics. The dual guitar attack helps add heaviness, with some impressive solos throughout. They nice balance bombastic power metal with smoother and more subdued moments. Whatever momentum they may have lost with the extended time between albums they quickly regain, with a record packed with quality songs and an excellent production job from Grapow.
Eluveitie – Evocation II: Pantheon (Nuclear Blast)
The Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie have had wholesale lineup changes, with numerous new members. Several former members formed Cellar Darling, whose debut was released earlier this year. Frontman Chrigel Glanzmann is the lone remaining original member.
Their latest album Evocation II: The Pantheon is the sequel to 2009’s Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion. Like the first one, Evocation II is mostly acoustic and fairly mellow with only a few more rousing, uptempo tracks. There are a lot of instrumentals, with melodic female vocals dominating and Glanzmann mostly on the sidelines vocally. While it’s well-played and emotional, the songs themselves aren’t that compelling.
End of Green – Void Estate (Napalm)
There is a distinctive dreariness present to the music here. It leads to a very passionate display of metal music bliss, however. The songs on Void Estate have a powerful, yet subtle and all-encompassing vibe that will win you over easily. The music conveys the gothic atmosphere that Paradise Lost has created to a perfect degree and with originality.
End Of Green mix that sound with a number of different shades to create something compelling and different, however. The morose atmosphere is always front and center and creates the foreboding nature the band maintains. This is certainly not upbeat music, but it’s very well done for the gentle type of music that it portrays. You would be well advised to tread these murky waters with End Of Green.
Funeralglade – May The Funeral Begin (Inverse)
May The Funeral Begin is the first EP from the Finnish group Funeralglade, of which all band members are still teenagers. Their youth translates into bountiful energy, but on the flip side, shows their inexperience in composing songs. The first few songs are clunky, as if they’re throwing as much in as they can without regard for structure or tone.
It gets smoother from that point on. Their concoction of melodic death metal, deathcore and symphonic black metal meshes together better on the EP’s second half. Tighter musicianship, shorter songs, and more emphasis on guitar leads/harmonies are where the real promise for Funeralglade is found.
Janet Gardner – Janet Gardner (Pavement)
In the late ’80s/early ’90s Vixen had a few radio hits and a couple successful albums, but like most bands of that genre, were eclipsed by the rise of grunge in the ’90s. Vixen are still performing, though they haven’t released a new album in more than a decade. Lead singer Janet Gardner is now releasing her first solo album.
Teaming up with her husband, producer/songwriter Justin James (Tyketto, Staind, Collective Soul), Gardner delivers songs that are catchy and melodic. Some could have been hits back in the day while others are very modern. Tracks like the opener “Rat Hole” and “Hippycrite” are edgier with more of a bluesy swagger than Vixen, while some of the more melodic and mid-tempo tracks hearken back to the ’80s. There are also some ’70s vibes on some of the tracks. It’s a nice blend of styles that will appeal to Vixen fans, but Janet Gardner also pushes into new musical frontiers and shows her versatility.
KMFDM – Hell Yeah (earMusic)
Back in June, fans got a taste of new KMFDM material with the EP Yeah. A couple months later the full album Hell Yeah is being released, the prolific German industrial band’s 20th studio album.
KMFDM were pioneers in blending dance and metal/hard rock when they emerged more than three decades ago. That blend continues. Tracks such as “Total State Machine” and “Burning Brain” are the most metal oriented on the record, with most of the others more in the dance/pop realm. They follow their tried and true template, but inject a few new twists to keep things fresh.
Phylactery – Necromancy Enthroned (Unspeakable Axe)
Phylactery’s debut album, Necromancy Enthroned, can be sold with one phrase: it doesn’t waste time. If it’s a thrashing death metal experience a listener wants, Phylactery do the job. Ask any more of them, and a look of bewilderment will be the response.
They know how to play fast, how to wedge themselves into a skin-crawling sort of environment, and how to fuel an annihilation of melody. All of that is well and good, except that it wears out when song nine sounds like song five, which has the familiar tone of song two. Necromancy Enthroned is a background ripper, but not much beyond that.
Sons of Crom – The Black Tower (Nordvis/Bindrune)
Call it grandiose or ambitious or the cringe-worthy “epic,” but even that overused last term is a great baseline for what Sons of Crom do with their heavy Viking metal on The Black Tower. Stringed orchestral instruments signal the call for battle, swelling and raising the tension as the Swedish duo sing, wail and growl commands.
Though demanding attention on the harsh “In Fire Reborn,” they also let their guard down on the sublime “Legacy” and even get a catchy chorus in on “Black Wings Up High.” The Black Tower continues in the same excellent direction as their last album, Riddle of Steel.
Thy Art Is Murder – Dear Desolation (Nuclear Blast)
After their 2015 album Holy War, Thy Art Is Murder frontman CJ McMahon exited the band. After dealing with some personal issues, he ended up returning for their fourth full-length Dear Desolation. It’s also the first album for bassist Kevin Butler.
Despite the turmoil, Thy Is Murder don’t miss a step when it comes to delivering blistering deathcore. Mid-tempo grooves alternate with bludgeoning blastbeats and a passionate delivery from McMahon, making for an album that blends the deliberate and ominous with the chaotic and extreme. At a concise 38 minutes, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome, and adds numerous pit-worthy anthems to their canon.
Void Ritual – Heretical Wisdom (Throats/Tridroid)
Void Ritual is the one-man project of Daniel Jackson, formerly of Ancestral Oath. With debut full length Heretical Wisdom, Jackson plays to the strengths of traditional Nordic-style black metal while injecting a heap of personality into this commendable release.
“The Flood” opens with gentle acoustics until harsh stings puncture the peaceful ambiance, finally going full-throttle into ice blasting drumming and simple yet captivating tremolo riffs. “Dead In Blackest Night” is a no holds old school breathtaker. Unrelenting and crammed with godly fury, it rips by with primal blasting and crashes, allowing a brief reprieve mid way only to come back with more venom. A truly stunning debut lit with the fire of the most grim of metal!