This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Big Business, Bloodphemy, Devil’s Gun, Diesear, Hath, Inferi, Inter Arma, Ketzer, Mist Of Misery, Neolithic, Omenfilth, Sludgehammer, Suldusk, Theories, Tronos, Undead Prophecies and Valence.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Big Business – The Beast You Are (Joyful Noise)
L.A. based sludgesters Big Business are back with their sixth full-length, The Beast You Are. The duo of Jared Warren and Coady Willis bring the heavy riffage you’d expect along with some punk influences and a large dose of melody.
They have written a batch of songs that are not only heavy, but also catchy. Tracks like the opener “Abominal Snowman” and “People Behave” are instantly memorable, while numbers like “The Moor You Know” aren’t as immediately accessible, but will grow on the listener. Brief interludes like the drum heavy “We Can Swarm” and the dreamy “We’ll Take The Good Package” are effective musical sorbets between the sludgey main courses.
Bloodphemy – In Cold Blood (Black Lion)
Dutch death metal troupe Bloodphemy seem obsessed with blood. It’s in their name. It’s in the title of both full-lengths (they named the debut Bloodlines). Sophomore album In Cold Blood spills it. Brutal death metal is their implement for the bloodletting. Chainsaw churning guitar tones carve flesh like a Dismember album cover. Chugging, muted guitars create grooves in abundance, and the drums blast as one would expect. Guttural vocals harmonize with screams.
Bits of American death metal such as Deicide and Morbid Angel collide with Dutch influences such as Pestilence and Sinister. Sinister seems the closest band for comparison. “Mental Atrophy” contains some Cannibal Corpse-like string work. In Cold Blood is an obvious nod to the old school, but the production isn’t weak like so many early ‘90s Florida bands. In Cold Blood will probably fly under the radar of most publications, but the band should be honored for keeping The Netherland’s respected death metal tradition alive.
Devil’s Gun – Sing For The Chaos (Sound Pollution)
The Swedish band Devil’s Gun formed back in 2012, experimented with their sound, and emerged with their debut a few years ago. Sing For The Chaos is their sophomore release.
Vocalist Joakim Hermansson is an Udo Dirkschneider clone, and the band’s sound has that ’80s traditional style of Accept, though the production is modern. The songs are completely derivative, but they are well executed with some excellent guitar work. The songs cover the typical metal topics, though I’m not sure what inspired “Alligator F–k House.” It’s a fun homage to metal’s classic era, especially if you’re into early Accept.
Diesear – BloodRed Inferno (eOne)
BloodRed Inferno is the first album from Taiwan’s Diesear in six years, and the first to receive a worldwide release. The band is heavily influenced by Swedish melodic death metal, but they incorporate some other elements as well.
Their songs are dense and heavy with guttural death vocals. They shift from deliberate paced and ominous death to soaring and fast parts with memorable melodies and some savage guitar solos. The guitar work throughout is excellent. Moments like the acoustic intro to “Endless Dolour” provide contrast before the bludgeoning resumes. Deathcore and black metal influences also separate Diesear from the typical melodeath outfit.
Hath – Of Rot And Ruin (Willowtip)
After releasing their debut EP Hive back in 2015, Hath are back with their first full length record, Of Rot and Ruin. It totally displays how things are getting way more serious and more powerful in Hath’s camp.
In the first encounter with the Hath’s music, it’s hard to identify a specific genre for the band, especially when it comes to Of Rot and Ruin. Hath have merged elements from Opeth and Edge of Sanity to Gorguts and Demilich. The band try to create a staggering technical/avant-garde monster by making 6 to 9 minute long songs, accompanied by hundreds of melodies that are interwoven with the songs that make the songs structures more complicated. The effort, which carefully written and crafted by Hath, has made Of Rot and Ruin one of the most important albums this year.
Inferi – End of an Era | Rebirth (The Artisan Era)
Tech-death titans Inferi have unleashed a full re-recording of their second record, End of an Era, which was originally released in 2009. Aside from a new lineup (with guitarist Malcolm Pugh as the only remaining former member), End of an Era | Rebirth is complete with a more refined production quality, cleaner riffs, and more mature rhythm section parts.
The album commands fearsome technicality and heavy guitar melodies on top of the insanity that is the tempo, making for an intense, but coherent, musical experience. Spencer Moore’s blast beats are easily some of the best and Steve Boiser spews some nasty shrieks and growls. It goes without saying that this is an all-around improvement to an already killer record. Fans of both balls-to-the-wall death metal and melodic death metal such as Exmortus will get a kick out of this.
Inter Arma – Sulphur English (Relapse)
Inter Arma’s excellent Paradise Gallows album came out in 2016, and not surprisingly ended up on a ton of year-end lists. Inexplicably, this has caused the band to give people the proverbial middle finger here, presumably for trying to pigeon-hole them into a purely sludge or doom genre. In fact, the band is far more multifaceted than that, and they prove it here on Sulphur English. Black metal, death metal, prog, post metal, and more, it’s all here in one vast and furious package.
The album seethes and groans under immense weight through blackened post-metal tracks like “A Waxen Sea,” but also offers far more. “Howling Lands” is a furious and primitive percussive blast, while “Stillness” is an introspective acoustic doom cut, and “The Atavist’s Meridian” is a complex, progressive animal full of jazz-inspired drumming and multiple time changes. Sulphur English tops Paradise Gallows in rage, fury, heaviness, and breadth of scope, and is sure to once again grace many year-end lists: I don’t know what that will do to the band’s mindset for their next album.
Ketzer – Cloud Collider (Metal Blade)
The German band Ketzer began as a blackened thrash group, but by their third album, 2016’s Starless, they added post metal elements that received a mixed response. Their sound continues to evolve on Cloud Collider.
Quick tempos and galloping riffs are present on tracks like “Walls,” while “The Wind Brings Them Horses” has a more moderate pace and some semi-melodic singing. Absu’s Proscriptor McGovern makes an appearance on “No Stories Left,” one of the album’s strongest songs. “This Knife Won’t Stay Clean Today” is surprisingly anthemic, while closer “Light Dies Last” has a more epic vibe. It’s a notable step up from Starless, a diverse album embracing a few different genres.
Mist of Misery – Unalterable (Black Lion)
Consisting of 14 tracks over the duration of two discs, Unalterable is perfect for a raining day marathon of atmospheric black metal. Early Dimmu Borgir come to mind when making comparisons—one the band can’t deny as shown on the “StormblÂst” cover. Dimmu created similar material before becoming commercially accessible.
Mist of Misery build each song on a musical theme played repeated with subtle changes like drum tempos, or the addition of piano or keys. The band has a DSBM tag (Depressive Suicidal Black Metal), and the album recording presents stark isolationism. There are speed bursts, but the atmospheric components keep the album in a constant state of slow flotation. It’s one of those metal albums tranquil enough for sleeping—the atmosphere and repetition spellbinds. Dim the lights, fire up the candles and pour a glass of wine to soak in Unalterable’s insular melancholy.
Neolithic – Neolithic (Self)
Maryland’s Neolithic return after a short turnaround between EPs and their self-titled five track EP is a powerful beast. Hardcore and sludge take turns being the focus of the band, it is often that they will change styles from song to song hitting a fine balance between All Pigs Must Die and Neurosis.
The 1–2 punch of “Myopia” and “War Discordance” gives you exactly what Neolithic do best, vary styles without sacrificing the intensity for even one second. With this only being their second release you would think the band were together for a long time, yet have only been at this for a little over a year. Neolithic are a band to keep an eye on, they will be a major player in the underground for years to come.
Omenfilth – Devourer Of The Seven Moons (Eternal Death)
Less than a year after 2018’s Hymns Of Diabolical Treachery full-length and a compilation where they contributed four songs, the Philippines-based black metal quartet Omenfilth are issuing Devourer Of The Seven Moons.
There’s an EP worth of new songs, plus a cover of Vulcano’s “Bloody Vengeance” and a couple of live versions of songs from Hymns Of Diabolical Treachery. It’s straightforward black metal with icy guitars and lyrical themes about ancient Filipino mythology. Peaceful interludes like the instrumental title track contrast with the intensity and rawness of the rest of the album. The live songs are especially low-fi.
Sludgehammer – Antechamber (Self)
There’s a nihilist streak in the minds of Sludgehammer, though get a few drinks in them and they’ll abandon it for the prospects of a good time. That’s the clash running through their sophomore album, Antechamber. Their pervasive death metal wallows in misery, but when the groove hits, the party starts. One vocalist sings as if he wants the whole world to listen, while a second vocalist growls out his frustration as if he’s six inches from your face.
The two vocalists duel and mesh in a striking partnership, especially on a song like “Balance of Life.” A duality begins to split out of Antechamber, which keeps the music on point, but also muddles the message at times. When one song says, “The image of your true redemption’s been torn to shredded mess of ash and flesh” and the next one offers, “Break out the whiskey bottle, it’s time to f**kin’ rage,” it can be hard to know which the band takes seriously.
Suldusk – Lunar Falls (Northern Silence)
Suldusk started with musician Emily Highfield putting up solo songs on Soundcloud a few years back, which led to her recruiting a full band to help with Suldusk’s debut album, Lunar Falls. Led by acoustic guitars and Highfield’s enchanting voice, the album has a folksier edge than anything typically metal. There’s a blackened mystique to songs like “Eleos” and “Sovran Shrines,” but black metal purists will scoff at this the way they do for artists like Myrkur.
Not to say Myrkur and Suldusk are one and the same. Suldusk are sneakier with their black metal on Lunar Falls, with the crisp production and prevalent acoustic compositions hiding vicious elements. It’s a package with far-reaching appeal, though it’ll probably relate better to those open to music that isn’t piercing your ears every second.
Theories – Vessel (Corpse Flower)
Theories have taken everything that has happened around them the last four years, all the unease in our society and uncertainty as to what our species’ future will be, and channeled these emotions into Vessel. This is somehow a much angrier album than their debut, Regression, which is quite a feat given the constant aggression that flowed through that one. A triple-vocal attack gives Vessel an unhinged perspective that isn’t held back.
The song lengths are slightly expanded upon, which Theories can do while retaining a feverish pace. The constant “pounding over the head” technique can be worn thin if done incorrectly, though the band is able to largely avoid this pitfall. And when it seems like they’ll get into the rut, they pull out a surprise, like the false finish on closer “Hollow” that returns supercharged.
Tronos – Celestial Mechanics (Century Media)
Tronos are a heavy metal supergroup of sorts. It’s the brainchild of Shane Embury (Napalm Death, and about 20 other bands) and producer Russ Russell, both of whom provide vocals and guitars on Celestial Mechanics. The pair are joined by drummer Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork, Megadeth) and a plethora of guests, including Faith No More’s Billy Gould, Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, and Voivod’s Snake.
It’s a diverse list of guests, and Embury and Russell pack in a wide variety of styles on these nine tracks (also included is a top-notch cover of Black Sabbath’s “Johnny Blade”). From driving metal to psychedelic avant-garde weirdness, Celestial Mechanics is best described as eccentric. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, the tracks are engaging and bold.
Undead Prophecies – Sempiternal Void (Listenable)
Undead Prophecies play an old school form of death metal on their second full length release Sempiternal Void. This style is highly reminiscent of early Death, but in a more modern setting, leading to a larger than life sound. The riffs are monstrous and bring a huge amount of crunch to the table. The songwriting is pretty solid and backs up these riffs quite well. There is definitely an old school vibe and it bleeds through every element of the performances.
The vocals are of the old Obituary and Death sort and are nice and deep sounding. The guitars are punishing and huge sounding, but still have a nod to old school sounds. The drumming is appropriate for the mix and adds character to the recording. There is nothing very original as the music echoes the bands name-checked. Still, it does a nice job of separating itself from the pack with efficient riffing and is an exciting recording.
Valence – Cognitive Dissidents (Self)
Cognitive Dissidents is a perfect example of instrumental prog done right. Valence‘s second record to date, it’s a fun, bouncy, shred-driven ride that’s stylistically closer to jam/jazz fusion than straight up prog. Regardless of genre, you can tell that these guys absolutely love what they’re doing, and they’re damn good at it. The drumming is some of the best I’ve heard in a band like this and, to top it off, the dynamic songs manage to display heavy grooves, found in “Walrus,” and more laid back, inquisitive moments as in “Prelude: Parlance of Our Time.”
There’s nothing that isn’t great about this album; it’s flawlessly fluid and effortlessly natural. The only thing keeping it from scoring higher is the lack of exceptional “wow” moments. Valence clearly work best as a team effort, but one or two mesmerizing breakdowns, showstopping solos, or even solis would have gone a long way.