This week’s reviews include releases from Beastmaker, Danzig, Illustrations, Mark Slaughter, Miss May I, Nitrogods, Norse, Norska, Solstafir and Suffering Hour.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Beastmaker – Inside The Skull (Rise Above)
Doom metal is a tried and true genre with multiple sub-genres cluttering up the playlists of fans; Beastmaker return to the roots of the genre, with nearly 50 years of riffs to use as inspiration. Inside The Skull is the band’s sophomore release and it shows a more focused approach than their debut Lusus Naturae that was released last year. The band has been quite busy honing their chops.
A slow pace is where you find Beastmaker for most of the album. It feels like an authentic UK doom band from 1970, even though they are American and from California. The hardest hitting songs are all over the album such as “Sick Sick Demon,” “Evil One” and “Of God’s Creation.” The songs in general range from really good to great. If Beastmaker continue to make strides this fast as a band, their third album could be an all time classic.
Danzig – Black Laden Crown (Evilive/Nuclear Blast)
Danzig released the covers album Skeletons a couple years ago, but it has been seven years since his last record of original material. Black Laden Crown was recorded over the span of a few years, and is an uneven effort.
Opening with the dirge-like title track is an interesting choice, as it lacks energy until the very end of the song, but has the Danzig vibe. “Eyes Ripping Fire” and the single “Devil On Hwy 9” amp up the intensity and are much more memorable. Danzig’s distinctive voice is in fine form throughout, but the subpar production drags down the proceedings somewhat. There are plenty of high points on the record, but a couple misfires as well.
Illustrations – Acts of God (Self)
Acts of God initially moves in an illusory manner, its bitter surface masking a translucent design. Illustrations are crusty, hardcore punks with love for the early years of death metal, and this blossoms into outright contentious music. These guys have rage and use this album as a platform to release it without causing physical harm (besides ringing ears).
Within all that rage is a dynamic spirit, letting saxophonist Bruce Lamont perform on a few tracks and even going for a subdued vibe on “Chains of Reality.” Illustrations stretch their creative luck in the album’s bland final third, which spoils an otherwise riveting sophomore effort.
Mark Slaughter – Halfway There (EMP)
Mark Slaughter always had one of the most potent and unique voices in hard rock/metal, going back to his days fronting the Vinnie Vincent Invasion and of course as the singer for Slaughter. Halfway There is his second solo album, and first for David Ellefson’s EMP Label Group.
Slaughter handles all the guitar work on the album in addition to singing, and there’s some impressive shredding. The songs combine an ’80s sensibility with modern hard rock influences. There are plenty of hooks and singalong choruses. Slaughter’s vocals are mostly midrange, but every once in a while he ventures into his upper register and can still hit the high notes. It’s an album that will appeal to Slaughter fans, but has a more mature and varied approach than during his hair metal heydey.
Miss May I – Shadows Inside (SharpTone)
Miss May I’s Levi Benton says the “Shadows Inside” speaks of going to lighter space, away from the darkness inhabiting the corners of our souls. Light and dark is a dynamic as old as man’s first attempts to use symbolism to communicate feelings. Ohio’s Miss May I take it metalcore lamp into the shaded night by releasing Shadows Inside and honors the ancient dynamic while obliterating it with songs like ‘Never Let Me Stay’ and ‘Crawl.’
Few metalcore bands this side of Killswitch Engage can produce a Shadows Inside with unforced dynamics in a genre devoid of dynamic range. Shadows Inside is a diary entry written with a Bic pen and brass knuckles.
Nitrogods – Roadkill BBQ (SPV/Steamhammer)
Roadkill BBQ is a goofy name for an album, which is just fine for German metal trio Nitrogods. Reportedly named after an incident in which singer/bassist Oimel ran over a squirrel, it shows the band don’t take themselves very seriously. And that’s a good thing, because Roadkill BBQ is not a serious record.
This is a gritty rock album along the lines of Motorhead, with scrappy, at times engaging songs and vocals that are gravelly even by Lemmy’s standards. Joined by a couple of metal vets who played in Primal Fear many years ago, Nitrogods attempt to pay homage to bands like Status Quo and ZZ Top, among others. It’s a decent attempt at party rock, with a couple memorable songs, but overall not a lot of replay value.
Norse – The Divine Light Of A New Sun (Transcending Obscurity)
The Australian black metal duo Norse are back with a new full-length album The Divine Light Of A New Sun. It’s the first full-length for vocalist ADR, who also appeared on 2014’s Pest EP.
The album has plenty of straightforward intense black metal with harsh vocals. Many tracks end with instrumental interludes that are moderately paced and much mellower. There are also experimental moments that show Norse’s more unique approach to the genre. Norse’s creative blending of traditional and non-traditional styles gives them a distinctive identity.
Norska – Too Many Winters (Brutal Panda)
Six years after their self-titled debut, the Portland, Oregon doom/sludge quintet Norska (which includes YOB bassist Aaron Rieseberg) return with Too Many Winters.
The album runs the gamut from urgent and chaotic sludge to deliberate doom with moments of prog and psychedelia. The songs are lengthy, with frequent shifts in tempo, style and intensity. Vocalist Jim Lowder delivers an impressive performance that’s sometimes frantic and high pitched, other times melodic and reserved. He even utilizes a gothic baritone on the title track. Too Many Winters is unpredictable, sometimes unsettling, sometimes groovy, other times soothing, but always enjoyable.
Solstafir – Berdreyminn (Season Of Mist)
Solstafir‘s sound has evolved over the course of their two decade career, with the Icelandic band’s style in the post metal vein these days. Their latest album Berdreyminn is their first with new drummer Hallgrímur Jón Hallgrímsson.
The album has plenty of catchy melodies along with more experimental parts. Lengthy instrumental sections give the lengthy songs room to breathe, but don’t meander aimlessly. Each track takes time to develop, building drama and anticipation in a cinematic atmosphere. Vocalist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason has an emotional delivery and style that connects with the listener even if you don’t understand the Icelandic lyrics. Berdreyminn
Suffering Hour – In Passing Ascension (Blood Harvest)
While the opening track “Insufferable Scorn” could lead Suffering Hour’s In Passing Ascension to be labeled as just another downtempo ritualistic death metal record, the band quickly changes the direction of the album to a more diverse type of blackened death metal.
Suffering Hour’s debut full length In Passing Ascension is a vast battlefield for them to examine the musical touches from the classics like The Chasm and Demilich to Funebrarum and Dead Congregation. With slight but tangible presence of avant-garde death structures and the collision of death metal growls and black metal screams, In Passing Ascension with its thick reverberant atmosphere is an enormous debut from Suffering Hour.