This week’s reviews include releases from Apparition, Broken Cross, Death On Fire, Exalter, Genocide Pact, Oblivious, Ocean Of Grief, Spider Rockets, Vardan and W.A.S.P.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Apparition – The Awakening (Wormholedeath)
The British gothic metal band Apparition take their time when it comes to releasing records. There was a six year gap between their debut and second release, and six more between that one and their latest album The Awakening. They’ve had a lot of lineup changes, including the return of vocalist Fiona Creaby. She was in the band from 2006 to 2009, but never appeared on a studio album.
The songs are bombastic with plenty of guitar solos along with the requisite gothic atmosphere and more reserved sections. Creaby has a smooth tone and sings with a lot of emotion, and reminds me a bit of Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel. She generally sings in a reserved alto, but on tracks like “Dames Of Darkness” cranks up the power and range. Doing that more often would make for a much more dynamic release.
Broken Cross – Militant Misanthrope (Psychic Rebellion)
The Swedish band Broken Cross was founded by Extermination Temple’s Niklas Holm. They are not a death metal band, though, as their second full-length Militant Misanthrope shows.
It combines the melodies of traditional metal with the guitar wizardry of thrash and adds in elements of hardcore. The aggressive, harsh vocals contrast the accessible riffs and searing solos. Broken Cross’ punk side is on display in the raw feel of the production and the overall attitude, exemplified in the shoutalong chorus of the title track. It’s edgy, yet catchy, resting comfortably in the underground but with a clear path to the surface.
Death On Fire – Witch Hunter (Self)
Death on Fire is the solo project of musician Tim Kenefic, and a crafty form of melodic death metal is delivered with Witch Hunter. The rumbling bass drums and brittle screams are genre conventions, but the neoclassical shredding and occasional submersion into a math-y grindcore territory certainly stand out.
The unpolished production works for the album, even in the moments when the music feels like it’s a step behind. Kenefic’s vocals are the true mixed bag on Witch Hunter, as his harsh tones aren’t as sturdy as they should be to give the tortured lyrics their proper due.
Exalter – Persecution Automated (Transcending Obscurity)
The thrash metal scene in the Bay Area is well chronicled, as is the one in Germany. Those early ’80s bands spread their influence far and wide, including to Bangladesh. That’s where Exalter hail from. After a couple of EPs, Persecution Automated is their debut full-length.
Their old school sound draws influences from both the Teutonic and Bay Area cradles of thrash civilization. Their songs are simple yet catchy, with an ample supply of blazing uptempo riffs. And while they are skilled at that tempo, Exalter vary the pace, slowing down to more moderate territory before tromping on the gas again. That makes for a more diverse record. While there’s not a ton of originality here, their execution and enthusiasm make it a worthy homage to some of the genre’s greats.
Genocide Pact – Order of Torment (Relapse)
Genocide Pact are in a constant state of annihilation throughout their sophomore album, Order of Torment. With the doomsday clock inching closer to midnight every year, it’s a good idea to have Order of Torment on hand to welcome the inevitable end of humanity in style.
Witness the biting sting of feedback on “Ascendancy Absolved” or the subtle maneuver into death/doom on “Authoritarian Impulse” for proof of the band’s apocalyptic standing. Signing to a bigger label in Relapse has not stunted the sickly aura that was present on their Forged Through Domination debut.
Oblivious – När Isarna Sjunger (Gaphals)
If you listen just to Oblivious‘ music, you might think they are a ’70s band from somewhere in the southern part of the U.S. But once the Swedish lyrics kick in, it’s evident that’s not the case. När Isarna Sjunger (which Google translates to “When Ice Is Singing”) is the band’s fourth album.
The songs on the album have a vintage ’70s hard rock sound with tracks like “Fastet” delivering thick riffs and groovy solos. Tracks like “Nar Isarna Sjunger” venture into ballad territory. Their vocal harmonies are first-rate, adding depth and polish to the proto metal festivities. It’s a blast from the past, though the production helps it from sounding dated.
Ocean Of Grief – Nightfall’s Lament (Rain Without End)
With a band name like Ocean Of Grief, you know not to expect a lot of sunshine and lollipops. And with song titles such as “In Bleakness,” “Mourning Over Memories” and “Painting My Sorrow,” the expectations get even sadder and more morose.
The Greek band’s full-length debut Nightfall’s Lament is bleak and downcast, but there are moments of hope and light interspersed with the darkness. Their style blends the faster tempos of melodic death metal with the emotion and heft of doom to create an impactful album. The lengthy compositions (most in the 6 to 8 minute range) deliberately unfold with a lot of dynamics and atmosphere and a surprising amount of melody.
Spider Rockets – Along Came A Spider (P-Dog)
It’s been a minute since the last album from New Jersey rockers Spider Rockets. More than five years have elapsed since Bitten, as they make their return with Along Came A Spider.
Bouncy, uptempo hard rock glides along with sugar sweet melodies and aggressive guitars. Vocalist Helena Cos channels everyone from Gwen Stefani (No Doubt) to Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons) to Pat Benatar. They even cover Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.” Even though the vocals have an ’80s/’90s vibe, the music fits alongside today’s rock radio staples. The album was produced Dan Malsch, who also worked with the legendary Doro.
Vardan – Nostalgia – Archive Of Failures: Part IV, Part V and Part VI (Moribund)
The incredibly prolific Italian one-man black metal artist Vardan begins 2018 with three new albums. Last year he released five albums, three of them being the first part of the Nostalgia: Archive Of Failures series. He’s now unveiling the other three parts of the collection of new, unreleased material.
Part IV is three, lengthy, keyboard-centric tracks of bleak, Burzum influenced black metal. The three tracks on Part V are even longer, with “Nostalgia XIII” clocking in at more than 21 minutes. Cold guitars cut through the melancholy atmosphere and a more experimental approach. Part VI is three more songs of diverse black metal, ranging from mellow ambiance and melodic singing to harsh guitars and tormented vocals. No matter how many albums Vardan releases each year, the quality doesn’t seem to suffer, which is an impressive feat.
W.A.S.P. – ReIdolized (The Soundtrack to the Crimson Idol) (Napalm)
If you lost touch with your inner hair-metal child around 1993, you could be forgiven for thinking W.A.S.P. may have just withered away. But that’s not the case: Blackie Lawless and company have released a number of quality albums this millennium, the most recent being 2015’s Golgotha. While Lawless’s songwriting chops and voice may be as strong as ever, nothing has quite lived up to the band’s early output, and The Crimson Idol, a 1992 concept album about the rise and fall of a young rock star, was one of their best. ReIdolized is the 25th anniversary celebration of the album, complete with an hour-long accompanying video.
The album is as good as we remember, although somewhat over-drummed. The songs kick ass, Lawless sounds great, and the concept, although hokey, holds up throughout. The video isn’t much to write home about: it’s presented in a monochrome filter, with a huge dark vignette around it for the entirety, which makes it murky and distracting, but still interesting for those of us old enough to have enjoyed the album 25 years ago.
Album Rating: 4
Video Rating: 3