This week’s reviews include releases from Angel Vivaldi, Autograph, Decatur, Disciples Of Babylon, Dreadnought, Fireball Ministry, The Great Discord, Haemorrhage, Necrovorous, Nocturnal Rites, Panzer, Primitive Man, Spirit Adrift and Spotlights.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Virtuoso guitarist Angel Vivaldi has a penchant for the dramatic, and his sixth album em>Synapse is no different. An instrumental concept album, Synapse features eight songs intended to symbolize eight different brain chemicals, hormones or structures. Guest appearances here include Gus G, Nita Strauss and Oli Hebert.
The result is an engaging variety of well-written songs featuring some stellar guitar solos, from lightning-fast (“Adrenaline”) to pensive (“Noradrenaline”). Much of the work comes off as overly bombastic and self-aggrandizing, but isn’t that the point of metal guitar solos? Vivaldi has produced an album that will attract many a guitar aficionado.
Autograph – Get Off Your Ass (EMP)
Autograph are best known for the song “Turn Up The Radio” from their 1984 debut Sign In Please. They released a couple more albums before disbanding in 1989. In 2013 they reunited, with their new album Get Off Your Ass consisting of original members Steve Lynch (guitar) and Randy Rand (bass) along with new members Simon Daniels (vocals) and Marc Wieland (drums).
The music is pretty similar to their original era: radio-friendly hard rock with big hooks and singalong choruses. There are no keyboards these days, and their sound is a little more modern. Daniels does a fine job, but reuniting without original vocalist Steve Plunkett won’t have the same appeal. The album closes with a live version of “Turn Up The Radio” done by the current lineup. Obviously they have to play that song live, but including it on a album of their first new material in a long time doesn’t seem like the right move.
Badder Than Brooklyn is the debut album from Toronto’s Decatur. What lured me into this album was the fact that Gojira’s Joe Duplantier produced it in his Brooklyn studio. The similarities to Gojira are immediate: musically this is a precise, hammering outing. Vocals are in the same style as bands like Pantera and Lamb of God. More important than the styles, though, is the songwriting chops, and Decatur have those.
Decatur say they wanted to create an honest metal album, avoiding clichés like downtuning, breakdowns, and growls. They’ve succeeded here, with ten fast, aggressive tracks that are full of groove and riffs – not particularly original, but well-written and well-played without a doubt. Badder Than Brooklyn is a solid debut album of modern metal that’s worth seeking out.
Disciples of Babylon – The Rise and Fall of Babylon (Symbiotic Records)
There is a very stripped down rock sound to be found on The Rise And Fall Of Babylon from Hollywood rockers Disciples Of Babylon. It really has a catchy element to it that has mainstream radio written all over it. The music has the passion to belong in the stoner doom genre even though it is more mainstream than that. The guitar riffs are somewhat addictive and the singing is not the greatest I’ve ever heard from mainstream rock, but accompanies these tracks well.
The song “Lift” stands out with its nice chorus section. The issue with The Rise and Fall of Babylon is that this has all been heard before. The band has enough passion and focus to make this album stand out from the pack and resonate clearly, though it does get a bit mired in the typical mainstream rock formula. This is a rock album with the proper amount of emotion, but it seems a little underwhelming overall.
Dreadnought – A Wake In Sacred Waves (Sailor)
Denver’s Dreadnought have brought us A Wake In Sacred Waves, their third full length, this time taking their elemental cues from water. Initially I found the album to be so dense as to make it difficult to listen to, a second listen and it all made so much more sense than before.
Captivating, train of thought compositions with mandolin, flute and saxophone combine with the standard blast beats, guitars and keys. It all seems so ambitious on paper, yet it never comes over as anything other than natural, fluid. This is prog as it should be, not the forced avant-garde nonsense that too many bands bring to the turntable. Dreadnought’s strengths are in their musical vision, not their instrumental abilities. Go and listen. Then listen again.
Fireball Ministry – Remember The Story (Cleopatra)
In today’s short attention span world, seven years is an eternity. That’s how long it has been since Fireball Ministry‘s last album. They return with Remember The Story, which includes their newest member Scott Reeder (Kyuss) on bass.
It’s a welcome return, with fuzzed out riffs and a beefy bottom end. Some tracks are uptempo with hard rock at the forefront, while others are groove heavy with a more stoner/psychedelic vibe. “Back On Earth” is one of the catchiest songs on the album, made even better with plenty of cowbell. Fireball Ministry masterfully mix styles of the ’70s and ’80s with modern hard rock to create an appealing sound that’s both classic and timeless.
The Great Discord – The Rabbit Hole (The Sign)
Sweden’s The Great Discord are a self-described progressive death pop band, which sounds both confusing and intriguing. The Rabbit Hole is the band’s second album, and as one might guess it is based on the Alice in Wonderland story. The band mixes the aforementioned genres in stellar fashion, as one might expect from musicians who have played with ITD, Ghost and PG. Lost to name a few.
Occasional blast-beats comprise the death part of the equation, while the song arrangements and performances do have a certain progressive bent to them. Vocalist Fia Kempe does a great job with the songs, and one might suppose that’s where the pop element comes in. No matter how you cut it, though, The Rabbit Hole is a catchy album full of great songs, and metal fans in general will enjoy the whole thing.
Haemorrhage – We Are The Gore (Relapse)
Spanish splatter hounds Haemorrhage pick up their bloody scalpels after 6 years since Hospital Carnage and if you know anything about them they draw right from Carcass’ 1989-era playbook. We Are The Gore does not tread any new ground, but it doesn’t have to, truth in advertising is where it’s at.
Guitar solos fly around with fat death metal riffs to surround them. The songs are short and sweet and require many repeat listens to get the juice out of each and every riff. This cadaveric catastrophe of a band has aged marvelously with the only decay to be noticed is the pungent perfume within their lyrics.
Necrovorous – Plains of Decay (Dark Descent)
Necrovorous’ Plains of Decay has a rancidity trailing it constantly, from the bile-soaked vocals to the dagger-like riffs that tear through each of these 10 songs. The stench never wavers, further decaying as the album goes on. Gore and misery are the message these guys from Greece push out.
What Necrovorous get right is the necessary push and pull of variety. The maddening tempos of a song like “Red Moon Rabies” is held in check by the foreboding likes of a “Lost in a Burning Charnel Ground.” It’s enough to make what is standard death metal a touch more listenable.
Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix (AFM)
Phoenix is an appropriate title for the latest album from Nocturnal Rites, who have risen from the ashes after a ten year absence. The Swedish power metal band return mostly intact, with one change being the addition of guitarist Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry, Kaipa) to the lineup.
The time away served them well, as the songwriting on Phoenix is a step up from 2010’s The 8th Sin. They balance heaviness and accessibility with a diverse collection of songs. Soaring melodies are contrasted by ominous guitars and augmented by atmospheric parts. Jonny Lindqvist is a versatile vocalist, singing with an edge on the heavier parts and a melodic croon on mellower tracks like “Phoenix Flames.” It’s a strong return to form that their fans will appreciate and a new generation of power metal fans can discover.
Panzer – The Fatal Command (Nuclear Blast)
Panzer were formed by Destruction frontman Schmier along with former Accept members Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann and released their debut album in 2014. Frank has exited, replaced by the guitar duo of V.O. Pulver (Pulver, Poltergeist) and Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall).
They play a straightforward style of metal with some thrash influences. It’s more accessible than Destruction, but a little edgier than Accept. The dual guitars give this album an added dimension and a bit more variety. Schmier’s biting vocals are unmistakable and effective. Panzer is a side project, but they do have good chemistry and quality songs, so hopefully they’ll be able to keep releasing albums as their schedules permit.
Primitive Man – Caustic (Relapse)
Denver’s Primitive Man are a force to be reckoned with, a sound to struggle to understand and the summation of all your fears. Seriously, Caustic and its predecessor Scorn are two of the scariest records ever recorded. From the opener “My Will” to “Victim” to “Disfigured” this album wants you to feel uncomfortable from start to finish and Primitive Man definitely accomplish this task.
You are never given even a second to collect yourself before this nearly 80 minutes dirge into darkness is over. Doom riffs and gruff vocals plod along and become gallops at different times, but Primitive Man are all about gross atmosphere. If you are looking for something different this year, Caustic is about as on the nose of an album title you will find to make you feel all gross inside.
Spirit Adrift – Curse of Conception (20 Buck Spin)
It was only a year ago that Spirit Adrift put out an impressive pair of releases with debut EP Behind – Beyond and the Chained to Oblivion full-length. Most bands could get a few years’ mileage out of all that material, yet here we are in late 2017 and the group already has another album ready with Curse of Conception.
This one is still in the vein of doom metal, though charged-up guitar solos have a thrash interior. Shorter songs allow for a more focused experience, a directness that wasn’t as prevalent on their previous album.
Spotlights – Seismic (Ipecac)
Spotlights are the Brooklyn-based husband wife duo Mario and Sarah Quintero. Their debut album led to touring opportunities with bands like Deftones, and after an EP last year return with their sophomore full-length Seismic. It was produced by Aaron Harris (Isis/Palms), who also plays drums on several tracks.
They blend thick sludge with dreamy and ethereal shoegaze. Some songs like “Learn To Breathe” are almost exclusively sludge, while others are a blend of styles. They both handle vocal duties, which is most effective when they sing together. The album opens and closes with lengthy instrumentals, which works well. The opening title track shows the variety that is to come, while the closer “The Hope Of A Storm” is a very mellow song that winds things down on a quiet note.