This week’s reviews include releases from Annihilation, Down ‘N’ Outz, Evergrey, Ieschure, Ignis Haereticum, Imperialist, Jess And The Ancient Ones, Mausoleum, Operation: Mindcrime, Scars Of Solitude, Sorxe, Subrosa and Warrior Soul.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Annihilation – The Undivided Wholeness of All Things (Nice to Eat You)
When a band names their album The Undivided Wholeness of All Things, there could be an expectation of something profound on the horizon. To their credit, Annihilation put a spin on the brutal style they’re entrenched in. Longer songs, some of which take a progressive/tech death leap, are bountiful.
This bounty may be plentiful, but there’s a reason why a lot of other bands that perform this type of music keep the proceedings brief; it gets rudimentary when stretched too thin. Annihilation hit this wall enough times, stifling songs like “M.A.S.S.” and “Omniverse.”
Down ‘N’ Outz – The Further Live Adventures Of… (Frontiers)
Back in 2009 Down ‘N’ Outz were formed by Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, several members of the Quireboys, Ronnie Garrity from Raw Glory and drummer Phil Martini to play rare songs related to Mott The Hoople. Their two studio albums (2010’s My ReGeneration and 2014’s The Further Adventures Of…) are being reissued, along with the DVD/CD The Further Live Adventures Of…
You won’t hear “All The Young Dudes,” but there are two discs worth of other Mott The Hoople, Ian Hunter and British Lions tracks. Many of the songs aren’t that well-known, but tracks like British Lions’ “One More Chance To Run,” Ian Hunter’s “England Rocks” and Mott The Hoople’s “Storm” are all excellent songs. The DVD and 2CD track listings are the same. Elliott and company sound like they are having a blast playing these songs that were very influential to them and many other bands that would follow.
Evergrey – The Dark Discovery and Solitude Dominance Tragedy (AFM)
The Swedish band Evergrey have been around for more than 20 years, but have really started picking up momentum recently, with their last couple of albums some of the best received of their career. Their first two albums were released on small labels, and are now getting the reissue treatment from AFM Records.
1998’s The Dark Discovery and 1999’s Solitude Dominance Tragedy have been remastered and each includes one additional bonus track. Going all the way back to the beginning, Evergrey’s current style was already evident. They were a bit heavier then, and though the songwriting was good, they hadn’t developed the dynamics and emotion they would display on later albums. There’s quite a bit of development between their first two records, even with the short time frame in between. This is also the first time these albums are available on vinyl.
Ieschure – The Shadow (Iron Bonehead)
One man black metal projects have been around for decades and are very common. There aren’t nearly as many one woman black metal projects like Ieschure. Formed by Ukrainian Lilita Arndt in 2016, The Shadow is her debut release.
Bookended by an instrumental intro and outro, the songs are raw and low-fi. Old school black metal with feral vocals is augmented by melody and atmosphere. It’s a dynamic release, with dense, fast parts contrasted by deliberate, regal sections. Several songs such as “Condemned To Death” have ethereal melodic vocals along with harsh barks and spoken word. The production is primitive, but the songs are excellent. It’s an intriguing debut.
Ignis Haereticum – Autocognition Of Light (Goathorned)
Colombian occult black metal duo Ignis Haereticum follow 2014’s Luciferian Gnosis with their much anticipated sophomore full-length release Autocognition Of Light. The South Americans deliver six tracks of dark mid-paced (un)orthodox black metal imbued with the mystical.
Opener “Glorious Wounds” is a concoction of magickal darkness with its myriads of mid-blasting and creeping atonal guitar work conjuring up comparisons to Deathspell Omega and setting the tone for the songs to come. Ignis Haereticum’s sound falls neatly into that genre of experimental wizardry of scything angular guitars and irregular beats that so harshly and purely bring life to many of the arcane doctrines that shroud this genre in so much brilliance. Ignis Haereticum have joined the sacred circle. Let there be light!
Imperialist – Cipher (Self)
Imperialist’s Cipher are a sci-fi take on black metal, the coldness of deep space and vast emptiness of what lies beyond our universe, vehemently tailored to the caustic sounds of the genre. This group may not have a record label for support, but they do have Abigail Williams/The Faceless singer Ken Sorceron to master their debut album.
That kind of name helping out is big for Imperialist, who favor the melodic side of black metal with discernible riffs and a range of pace that isn’t just stuck at high velocity. There’s much to get behind a band with a quality release such as Cipher.
Jess and the Ancient Ones – The Horse and Other Weird Tales (Svart)
Just in time for the holiday season, Finland’s masters of ’60s occult rock Jess and the Ancient Ones bestow their third album on us. The Horse and Other Weird Tales picks up where 2015’s even longer-titled Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes leaves off: namely, with a ton of psychedelia and cult movie sound clips.
This band has an unabashed love of all things Doors, never more obvious than aptly-named opener “Death is the Doors.” Writhing keyboards snake their way through most of the upbeat, trippy songs, and at a meager 9 songs and 31 minutes, the only thing holding this album back from being a 2017 classic is a weakening of the songs towards the end, but that’s a minor quibble that is overcome by excellent performances, especially Jess’s vocals.
Mausoleum – Cadaveric Displays From The Funeral (HPGD)
The Pennsylvania band Mausoleum play a gore soaked brand of death metal featuring lyrics about zombies, graveyards and other gruesome subjects. Cadaveric Displays From The Funeral is a compilation that collects much of their recorded work.
The double disc set includes both their studio albums (2003’s Cadaveric Displays Of Ghoulish Ghastliness and 2011’s Back From The Funeral) along with a 2014 live album. There are other goodies as well, including a demo version of “Radioactive Resurrection,” a cover of Impetigo’s “Intense Mortification” and some previously unreleased live tracks. There’s a ton of material clocking in at more than two hours, good for both those discovering the band and those who are already fans.
Operation: Mindcrime – The New Reality (Frontiers)
The New Reality is the third installment in Operation: Mindcrime‘s trilogy, following last year’s Resurrection. Former Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate once again collaborated with guitarist Kelly Gray, who co-produced, mixed and mastered. Gray produced some Queensryche records as well, and has worked with Tate for a while. Others on the album include bassist John Moyer (Disturbed), drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC, Dio) and drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake).
The first two installments of the trilogy received mixed reviews, and this one follows a similar musical path. It’s prog rock/metal (more progressive than Queensryche), with a lot of jazzy elements, with songs like “It Was Always You” and the title track including saxophone. Tate has a distinctive voice, and generally sings in a middle register, periodically reaching higher notes. It’s a talented musical ensemble, and like the previous two records, the quality songs are offset by too much filler.
Scars of Solitude – Deformation (Inverse)
Scars of Solitude, from Finland, play a melancholy form of metal to the utmost capacity. There is a great deal of emotion poured into these tracks and it shows from the beginning of Deformation. The music has a tone of despair that is highly appreciable. Right from the opening notes of “Remain Here,” the band establishes their downtrodden sound in fine fashion.
The style of performance here is not far from Sentenced and creates a similar atmosphere to the best of that band. The music has the proper mood to match what the listener is feeling and this is brought through strongly. The music could have been more original, but the atmosphere generated by Scars Of Solitude is enough to overlook this small flaw. Deformation is a solid piece of work.
Sorxe – Matter & Void (Prosthetic)
Phoenix-based quartet Sorxe are seeking higher planes of existence with their second full-length release, Matter & Void. The heights they reach are indeed commendable, but the six tracks found therein, largely comprised of stoner-doom riffs and segments of quasi-experimental, quasi-post psych doom, vary between the ethereal and the mundane.
Sludgy shouts and odd nu-metal-meets-grunge cleans add a definite uniqueness that suggests that the band are still checking inventory in the vocal department. But Sorxe show great patience throughout, and they likewise prove that they can bash heavy when called upon, ala opener “Hypnotizer” or the closing moments of “The Endless Chasm.” The psych parts are well done, but they occasionally feel like an afterthought. A robust offering that needs a bit more focus.
SubRosa – Subdued: Live At Roadburn
Sometimes it takes years between the time a live album is recorded and released. It’s refreshing to see SubRosa releasing their first live effort Subdued: Live At Roadburn 2017 only a few months after it was recorded.
Their set selection is not typical for a festival setting. As the title indicates, they play mellow and subdued tracks, and they don’t play a single song from their latest album, 2016’s For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages. It’s an unusual approach, but it works. Rebecca Vernon’s mystical vocals backed mostly with violins creates an atmospheric, intimate atmosphere. The harmonies on tracks like “The Inheritance” and the sparse “The Mirror” are exquisite. The set ends with a 14 minute version of the epic “No Safe Harbor,” closing out a powerful and emotional performance.
Warrior Soul – Back on the Lash (Livewire/Cargo)
Folks might remember Warrior Soul from the early ’90s, just before grunge kicked in. A sleaze metal band with Kory Clarke (also sang for Trouble) on the mic, these guys put out a couple of decent albums stoked by the fires of socio-political commentary before regressing into the sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll themes and lifestyle, something which Clarke is immensely proud of.
Nothing has changed here on Back on the Lash. All the songs here deal with drinking and strippers, Clarke’s voice is completely shot, making Lemmy sound like Sinatra, and aside from one great song (“Thrill Seeker”) the material is lukewarm at best. While the subject matter makes most bands look like nuns, the songs and performances are forgettable.