This week’s reviews include releases from Anthrax, Art Of Anarchy, Cut Up, Deletere, Illimitable Dolor, Night Ranger, North, Season Of Arrows, Strange Karma and Venenum.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anthrax – For All Kings 7-Inch Box Set (Megaforce)
A little more than a year after the release of For All Kings, Anthrax are unveiling a limited edition box set. It includes ten 7-inch vinyl discs of different colors.
The 20 tracks in the set are the original 11 songs from the album along with demos of six tracks. In addition there are covers of Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” and White Stripes’ “Black Math” plus the previously unreleased in North America song “Vice Of The People.” It’s a great looking collection with more than just the original album that Anthrax vinyl aficionados and completists will want to check out.
Art Of Anarchy – The Madness (Century Media)
The Madness is the first Art Of Anarchy album to feature Scott Stapp (Creed) on vocals, replacing the late Scott Weiland. The rest of the lineup includes guitarist Bumblefoot (ex-Guns ‘N Roses), bassist John Moyer (Disturbed) and the twin Votta brothers Jon (guitar) and Vince (drums).
They play straightforward, accessible hard rock packed with catchy melodies and singalong choruses. They vary things up, going from more metallic tracks to active rock singles to power ballads. There’s a ’90s vibe from time to time, but most of the time it’s very modern. Art Of Anarchy sound more like Shinedown than Creed or GNR, with Stapp rebounding from some personal issues and delivering a strong performance.
Cut Up – Wherever They May Rot (Metal Blade)
Cut Up are back with their sophomore album Wherever They May Rot. The Swedish quartet has stepped up their game from their debut, with sharper songwriting making for a much more memorable effort.
Their brand of death metal is extreme, but the groove cuts through the blastbeats and harsh vocals that are just a little high in the mix. It’s a streamlined album, breezing by in under 40 minutes. The gory lyrics are exemplified in song titles like “Behead The Dead,” “Raped By The Blade” and “Master Dissector.” But the most apt song title for this album is the penultimate track “Cranium Crusher.”
Délétere – Per Aspera Ad Pestilentiam (Sepulchral)
Quebec’s Délétere employ just the right combination of grimness, melody, and icy atmosphere in their delivery. Early second wave black metal is the template, as is the case with many other Quebecois black metal outfits on Sepulchral Productions. Délétere deliver a solid effort with Per Aspera Ad Pestilentiam, a five song EP clocking in at about 27 minutes,
The vibe is straight out of the early 1990s as the icy atmosphere is the key. Délétere also smartly add some melody with a few keyboards, but the emphasis is on grimness with low-fi guitars, rasps, and a varied tempo. Although not very original, Délétere are a nice throwback to the early days of straightforward black metal.
Illimitable Dolor – Illimitable Dolor (Transcending Obscurity)
The Australian band Illimitable Dolor was formed by several members of The Slow Death to pay tribute to their late vocalist, Gregg Williamson, who passed away in December of 2014.
Their self-titled debut album is plodding death/doom with heavy riffs and an oppressive, melancholy atmosphere. There are only four tracks, with each one clocking in between 9 and 12 minutes. They unfold slowly, with lengthy instrumental passages, ebbs and flows of intensity and harsh yet emotional vocals from Stuart Prickett. The band channeled their grief into a cathartic and moving album.
Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up (Frontiers)
Night Ranger are an ’80s band that have aged very gracefully. Unlike some of their contemporaries that rest on their laurels, Night Ranger have continued to release new albums. Though their platinum selling days are decades in the past, Night Ranger’s recent output is strong. That’s the case with their latest release Don’t Let Up.
Original members Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy remain, and still know how to write memorable, radio-friendly hard rockers. In a different era “Somehow Someway” and “Running Out Of Time” would have been radio hits, and there are numerous excellent songs on the album. I’ve been listening to Night Ranger since Dawn Patrol, and if you liked them then, you’ll still like them now, as they show no signs of slowing down.
North – Transmissions: Live in Bucharest (Prosthetic)
Tucson, Arizona’s North swing the needle south on the compass of despair and then toward Polaris with immersive atmospherica. Originally instrumental, the trio now anchors its gorgeous star-beds of sound on bassist\vocalist Evan Leek. He shouts in minor melodies with a voice roughened by habanero shakes. Evan howls like a lone mad man in the center of an abandoned parking lot.
Transmissions: Live In Bucharest is based on actual events that took place at their gig in Hungary. It’s an honest attempt to make a live record with minimal after-the-fact overdubs. The lead track, ‘Light the Way,’ sounds authentic, and puts you in the cheap seats. It has a cavernous sound which either deters or heightens, per your judgement, the epic exercise in clouds gone gray with heart-breaking anger.
Season Of Arrows – Give It To The Mountain (Argonauta)
After originally being scheduled for release last year, Nashville doomsters Season Of Arrows switched record labels, causing their debut album Give It To The Mountain to be pushed back a few months.
They change up tempos and textures from deliberate doom to uptempo stoner metal. At times the riffs drive the songs, while others have vocals front and center. Stormie Wakefield is a versatile vocalist, delivering both mellow and ethereal singing and powerhouse belting. While their style is nothing new, they insert subtle twists and elements that give it their own spin.
Strange Karma – Cold Blooded (Self)
The Australian band Strange Karma have been around for a few years, and their latest release is the vinyl only Cold Blooded.
Strange Karma can get things cranked up to a hard rock frenzy, but most of the album is more moderate and melodic. Frontman Martin Strange has a powerful and dynamic voice, channeling everyone from Robert Plant to Freddie Mercury. The songs have a classic rock vibe, but the production is crisp and modern. Compact radio friendly tracks are contrasted by songs like the album closer “Dreams,” an 8 plus minute opus with a progressive flair and cinematic atmosphere.
Venenum – Trance Of Death (The Ajna Offensive)
Nearly six years after their debut EP, the German death metal band Venenum re-emerge with Trance Of Death, their first full-length.
It’s an impressive and dynamic effort. Brutal death metal ebbs into cinematic and mellow sections before the extremity resumes. The riffs are sometimes groovy, other times icy weapons. The second half of the album consists of the three part epic “Trance of Death,” with the three movements taking the listener on a sonic journey even more diverse than the record’s first half. Trance Of Death is an ambitious album that’s enjoyable upon first listen and digs its tendrils deeper into your cortex with each subsequent spin.