This week’s reviews include releases from Akercocke, Alpha Tiger, Bobaflex, Canyon Of The Skull, Crimfall, Eden’s Curse, Korpiklaani, Leng T’che, Morbid Evils, Mordatorium, Neurosis, and Ruby The Hatchet.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Akercocke – Renaissance In Extremis (Peaceville)
The British progressive black/death metal band Akercocke have reunited. Their current lineup includes vocalist/guitarist Jason Mendonca and drummer David Gray, who have been with the band since the beginning. Guitarist Paul Scanlan, who was in the group from 1997 to 2003 returns, and the newest member is bassist Nathanael Underwood (ex-Dam).
Renaissance In Extremis is their first album in a decade, and a welcome return. They blend black/death metal with melodic and progressive parts, mixing in hints of numerous other genres as well. Each track balances straightforward brutality with creativity and exploration and a combination of melodic singing and harsh vocals. In the hands of lesser talent, the constantly shifting styles might be awkward, but Akercocke seamlessly ride the waves from accessibility to extremity.
Alpha Tiger – Alpha Tiger (Steamhammer/SPV)
Alpha Tiger perform power metal that has a harsher edge. This eliminates some of the cheesiness that is readily available in these types of albums. There are still the high-pitched vocals present, but the album foregoes some lighthearted melodies for some that are more impactful. Still, Alpha Tiger doesn’t do anything overly original that would lead it to stick out from the pack.
Despite this, the riffs are really moving and get the juices flowing nicely. The band manages to balance melody with heft leading to a balanced recording overall. There is also an old school feeling to the tracks that elevates them above the norm. On the whole, there are many good points to this album and it’s certainly a grower with time.
Bobaflex – Eloquent Demons (Thermal)
West Virginia hard rockers Bobaflex have persevered for two decades, overcoming the vagaries of the music industry and record labels to keep making music on their own terms. Eloquent Demons is their eighth studio album.
They deliver radio-friendly rock, sometimes with a gritty edge and other times with a smoother sheen. The triple guitar/vocal attack of Marty and Sean McCoy and Dave Tipple brings plenty of guitar crunch along with some excellent vocal harmonies. Bobaflex also cover the Pink Floyd track “Hey You,” keeping the original’s psychedelic vibe but adding a rock flavor. While fitting in with the legions of hard rock bands, Bobaflex have developed their own style that helps set them apart from the masses.
After the release of their self-titled 2015 debut album, Texan doom duo Canyon of the Skull opted to cut the track listing in half for their sophomore effort, The Desert Winter. So instead of two long songs, now you just get one really long song. The result, well, it’s kind of like bringing a Triple Fat Goose coat to Death Valley.
The 37-minute song is a droning and hypnotic affair that relies heavily on its simplistic, hammering chords and organic, seemingly one-take recording. After several listens, it’s difficult not to think that these Texans may have recorded this album on a whim. Sure, the last third of the album is enjoyable, even cohesive, but the overall effect feels rushed and oddly uninspired. All this coming from a guy who really enjoyed their debut.
Crimfall – Amain (Metal Blade)
It has been a while since we’ve heard from the Finnish band Crimfall. Since 2011’s The Writ Of Sword a couple members departed and later returned, and they have now reconvened for their third full-length, Amain.
Crimfall’s style is very cinematic, with a lot of symphonic and atmospheric elements creating a grandiose sound. They also inject Viking and folk influences. Vocalist Mikko Hakkinen’s harsh growls and Helena Haaparanta’s emotional and dynamic melodic singing work well together. The album is anchored by the four part opus “Ten Winters Apart,” with the epic closer “Until Falls The Rain” another highlight.
Eden’s Curse – Eden’s Curse Revisited (AFM)
Ten years ago, Eden’s Curse released their self-titled debut album. They’ve had quite a few lineup changes then, with only guitarist Thorsten Kohne and bassist Paul Logue remaining from that album. They have decided to re-record the album with their current lineup.
Eden’s Curse Revisited also includes a DVD of the recording of the 2014 album Live With The Curse. The purpose of this album seems to be to showcase current vocalist Nikola Mijic. He has a different style than Michael Eden, but adapts well to the material and adds a new perspective and dimension to the songs. Whether this album was needed is certainly debatable, especially coming less than a year after their last studio album, but the performance is solid.
Korpiklaani – Live At Masters Of Rock (Nuclear Blast)
As a band well known for their rousing live shows, it was odd that Finnish folksters Korpiklaani had never released a live show. After nine studio records, the humpaa heroes are finally unleashing Live At Masters Of Rock. The DVD/2CD collection includes their 2016 set at the Masters Of Rock festival in the Czech Republic.
The 18 song set includes a couple of songs from their latest album, 2015’s Noita, with the rest spanning their discography all the way back to their 2003 debut Spirit Of The Forest. A 2014 concert is also included. There is some duplication in the songs, but there are enough difference to make it worthwhile. The joy, fun and heavy drinking of a Korpiklaani live show come through loud and clear on Live At Masters Of Rock.
Leng Tch’e – Razorgrind (Season of Mist)
Belgian grinders Leng Tch’e have waited a whole seven years to try to top their previous effort, 2010’s Hypomanic, and after a first listen it’s clear it was worth the wait. New album Razorgrind, the second full-length to feature current vocalist Serge Kasongo, is a triumphant return to glory days power and an injection of personality.
This is grindcore made to push through the crowd to the front of the queue to make itself known as more than a generic blast-and-done release. Brutal and caustic yet progressive and doom-laden, there’s an abundance of moments to talk about. From the rabid snarl of “Cibus” and its welcome clean vocal passage to the rebellious kick of punky “AnarChristic” there’s plenty of reasons to join Leng Tch’e’s expanding mosh pit.
Morbid Evils – Deceases (Svart)
Morbid Evils are fronted by Rotten Sound vocalist Keijo Niinimaa, who switches riled-up grindcore for simmering death/doom. Deceases is divided into six parts, each song being labeled as a “case.” These cases have titles like “Murder” and “Death Breath,” which is enough proof of the album’s malicious intent.
The dread that bellows up from this music is not something studio fakery can recreate; it only emerges from a place of pure terror. This fear materializes in the opening minute of case one and never dissipates. Massive dedication to this mentality by Morbid Evils equates to Deceases’ appeal.
There’s a space for the kind of unpolished, underproduced death metal Mordatorium settle into on Obsessed With Death. Its imperfections are charming, as if we’re sitting on the side watching this duo during band practice. The timing isn’t perfect, and it isn’t crystal-clear sound quality, but the fluid energy is apparent.
There’s a handful of cool ideas, riffs that conjure up memories of days long gone, but that doesn’t automatically mean something essential is produced. It’s one thing to feel like being part of a band’s rehearsal, and it’s another to take that and make it into a dynamic studio album.
Neurosis – The Word As Law (Neurot)
A monumental record to many and just a mediocre release to others, post-metal/sludge masters and men of many genres, Neurosis’ second album, The Word As Law was released 27 years ago. While previous reissues included several bonus tracks, this edition does not, but the original eight tracks have been completely remastered. Re-released via the band’s own label, The Word As Law looks back to Neurosis’ early years, before the band completely shaped their unique, charismatic sound.
The Word As Law depicts how they started to give hardcore punk a new shape, giving birth to their future experimental post-hardcore/metal/sludge music. The re-release reveals how much more polished and lucid the band’s material became. But most importantly, their new generation of fans will understand how Neurosis’ early years sounded before they conquered the world with their groundbreaking releases.
Ruby The Hatchet – Planetary Space Child (Tee Pee)
Philly psych rockers Ruby The Hatchet lean more uptempo and less occult than the typical band in the increasingly crowded genre of female fronted retro stoner/doom bands. Planetary Space Child is their latest album.
It’s chock full of groovy organ melodies and thick riffs that burrow deep into your brain. The ethereal vocals of Jillian Taylor give a little polish to the down and dirty guitar sound. Their retro vibed songs are catchy and dynamic, slowing down to a doomy crawl once in a while, but generally motoring along at a mid to fast tempo. Whether you’re stone cold sober or under the influence of one substance or another, this album is an interesting trip.