This week’s reviews include releases from Ancst, Andrew W.K., Beorn’s Hall, Destroyer 666, Disembowel, Gatecreeper, Ilsa, Iron Reagan, Michael Schenker Fest, Purest Of Pain, Slugdge and Stone Broken.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ancst – Ghosts Of The Timeless Void (Lifeforce)
From Berlin, Germany, black metal/crust band Ancst have been on top of their game for most of their career (which dates back to 2011 and includes numerous EPs and splits and one previous full-length), even when they were experimenting with drone/ambient styles. On their second full-length album Ghosts Of The Timeless Void they’ve retained their throne of vigorous, violent and aggressive yet emotional crusty black metal.
While both sound similar, Ghosts Of The Timeless Void has gone further from their acclaimed debut album Moloch in a more creative and dynamic way, revolving around d-beat, hardcore fused fuzzy black metal songs. Melancholic riffs and sensational melodies are wrapped with frustration and anger, led by shouted vocals which frantically add an extreme wrath and emotions to the music. All of that makes Ghosts Of The Timeless Void Ancst’s most complete album to date.
Andrew W.K. – You’re Not Alone (Sony)
Andrew W.K.’s party mentality is a continuous maelstrom with no end in sight; however the last after party happens to have taken quite a long time. 9 years have passed since a proper album, but this is a return to the party antics most well remembered from The Wolf and the classic I Get Wet.
There are songs that lend themselves to his legacy such as the first two singles “Music Is Worth Living For” and “Ever Again.” The party does seem a bit subdued for an album that W.K. himself described as “pure unadulterated power.” There are big party moments on this disc, but the spoken word segments don’t really work any better than a small dose of his own Twitter account. The run time is close to an hour with some songs in serious need of an edit. This album doesn’t work as a whole, merely as parts. This might be a party you leave early.
Beorn’s Hall – Estuary (Naturmacht)
Just over a year after their debut, the American duo Beorn’s Hall return with Estuary. They say it was inspired by the landscape of their native New Hampshire.
The album blends peaceful and mellow acoustic folk with harsh black metal and groove laden death metal. The production hearkens back to the ’90s. The vocals range from melodic singing to aggressive growls and shrieks. They shift smoothly between styles, going from rousing folk to ominous black and back again. You hear this style more from European bands, but Beorn’s Hall show Americans can pull off pagan/folk/black metal, too.
Destroyer 666 – Call Of The Wild (Season Of Mist)
After 2016’s well-received Wildfire, their first album in seven years, Australian blackened thrash veterans Destroyer 666 return with the EP Call Of The Wild.
The four tracks clock in at 20 minutes. “Violence Is Golden” is anthemic and uptempo, a memorable track that’s the EP’s best. The blazing “Stone By Stone” and thrashtastic title track are exactly what you’d expect from the band, while the 7 minute closer “Trialed By Fire” gets off to a deliberate start before eventually kicking in and is the most varied song on the EP. Call Of The Wild is a solid effort that will satisfy fans as they await the band’s next full-length album.
Disembowel – Plagues and Ancient Rites (Iron Bonehead)
Released late last year on CD through Mushantufe Productions, Plagues and Ancient Rites, the full-length debut from Chilean death metal trio Disembowel, is now getting vinyl treatment courtesy of the grimy blokes over at Iron Bonehead Productions, and, well, the record fits seamlessly with the other evil offerings from said latter label.
Entrenched in yesteryear vibes, Disembowel’s debut is a rough and rudimentary effort that oozes with trademark South American blackened barbarism. The production is fittingly raw and the atmosphere grim, with fleeting melodic moments that are routinely buried beneath the malevolent onslaught. Repetitive riffs and bland solo work hurt Plagues and Ancient Rites, but there’s still plenty to enjoy for those who worship occult-ridden death metal.
Ilsa – Corpse Fortress (Relapse)
Underground D.C. death/doomsters Ilsa have been plying their trade for a decade, releasing several albums along with splits with bands such as Coffins and Hooded Menace. For their fifth album Corpse Fortress they have signed with Relapse Records, which should help raise their profile.
Ilsa’s triple guitar attack is equally adept at plodding doom with syrupy thick riffs and quicker paced sludge/death. Some tracks like “Prosector” incorporate both approaches. No matter the pace, the heaviness never abates. Songs such as “Ruckenfigur” have catchy guitar parts, but the aggressive vocals add extremity. The seven minute dirge “Drums Of The Dark Gods” brings the proceedings to a deliberate and destructive close.
Iron Reagan/Gatecreeper – Split (Relapse)
Though Iron Reagan and Gatecreeper occupy separate music genres, they fit together well on this split album. Iron Reagan’s mosh-worthy crossover thrash and Gatecreeper’s cataclysmic death metal get equal time in a quest to simultaneously excite and disgust.
Which band does a better job will depend on a person’s particular taste in metal. Gatecreeper’s songs are more conceptualized, with a lengthy intro track that acts as a first course for the three-course meal of rotting riffs. Iron Reagan’s contributions have a fun vibe behind them, though with the occasional serious lyric or two.
Michael Schenker Fest – Resurrection (Nuclear Blast)
Legendary guitarist Michael Schenker has played in a lot of different bands over the years ranging from Scorpions to UFO to Michael Schenker Group to McAuley Schenker Group. His latest project Michael Schenker Fest brings together four vocalists from various Schenker projects: MSG’s Gary Barden and Graham Bonnet, McAuley Schenker Group’s Robin McAuley and Temple Of Rock’s Doogie White.
With so many vocalists, it’s a diverse sounding effort with a base of melodic hard rock. Each singer brings something different to the table. In addition to singing lead on separate tracks, all four singers come together on two songs: “Warrior” and album closer “The Last Supper.” And though the vocalists are front and center, Schenker gets his moment in the spotlight on the instrumental “Salvation.” There’s also a guest appearance from Metallica’s Kirk Hammett on the opening track “Heart And Soul.”
Purest Of Pain were formed a decade or so ago by Delain guitarist Marel Bechtold. They released an EP back in 2011, and are now unveiling their full-length debut Solipsis. Their vocalist is former Karmaflow frontman J.D. Kaye.
Genrewise, Purest Of Pain are melodic death metal with elements of metalcore and groove metal. There’s even some thrash on “Momentum.” Technical sections are contrasted by ample melody and atmosphere. The fourteen track have a wide variety of lengths. There are compact songs like “The Pragmatic” and “The Sleep Of Reason” that are under two minutes alongside more epic tracks such as the six plus minute “Terra Nil.” They are at their best on guitar driven groove-oriented songs, but some ‘core elements dilute the album’s effectiveness.
Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology (Willowtip)
Slugdge perform a very vicious form of metal that has a lot of energy. Their music isn’t completely death metal, but it still has a presence to it that is very forceful. There is an undercurrent of strong metal riffs that is the background of the music. The drums are cascading and also have a huge presence within the context of the songs. The overall sense of the instruments is very heavy and forms a nice backbone for the tunes. The tone of the album is in the spirit of sludge metal, but it has more of a death metal influence than that and it is more adventurous than both genres.
It is thus difficult to put a genre tag on the band because they traverse genres so effortlessly. The heaviness of the band is omnipresent, however, and makes its effect known upon the listener on songs like the hugely impactful “The Spectral Burrows.” Though they are huge in nature, there is still evidence that Slugdge could be slightly more progressive. Still, this is a very cool metal album that will appeal to a wide variety of metal listeners.
Stone Broken – Ain’t Always Easy (Spinefarm)
Ain’t Always Easy is the second full-length from Stone Broken. They’ve had some success in their native U.K. and have now signed with Spinefarm Records to try to make a worldwide impact.
The album is packed with radio-friendly hard rock songs (“Home” deserves to be a huge hit). There are hooks galore and a plethora of singalong choruses backed with heaviness and swagger. There’s a lot to like. My only concern is that they don’t have a very distinctive identity, sounding similar to a lot of other rock radio staples like Shinedown, Seether and other chart toppers. The ingredients for success are there, it’s a matter of cutting through the clutter and continuing to build their fan base.