This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Astralium, Ceremony, Concrete Winds, Crobot, The Dead Daisies, Eva Bartok, Frantic Amber, Freedom Call, Helvetets Port, Isole, Lagerstein, Meth., Sorcery, and Uniform & The Body.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Astralium – Land of Eternal Dreams (Rockshots)
Formed in 2014 by frontwoman Roberta Pappalardo and bass player Giuseppe Pappalardo, Astralium are fresh out of Italy, the land of symphonic metal. Land of Eternal Dreams is the band’s debut, marking their official entrance onto the metal scene. The band manages to produce a bright, unique sound and, while some of their influences are vividly apparent at times (Nightwish, Amberian Dawn and even Hans Zimmer), they do a great job at maintaining originality.
Featuring a handful of guest musicians, such as Tommy Johansson (Majestica, Sabaton), Land of Eternal Dreams has a wide arsenal of tools to pick from. However, the strongest aspect of the album is its songwriting. Each song is dynamic, expressive, and offers something new. Additionally, a variety of moods and time signatures are explored, allowing for a completely diverse experience. Complete with epic orchestrations that give the guitars and vocals plenty of breathing room, Astralium strike a solid balance in this must-listen debut.
Ceremony – In The Spirit World Now (Relapse)
If the opening synths are any indication, this is an album that was born too late. In The Spirit World Now‘s sound is steeped in a heavy influence of Joy Division, and even when the song’s tone appears upbeat, the lyrics say otherwise. The post-punk motif of The Cure is omnipresent in Ceremony‘s sound, but the driving guitar and especially the heavy bass paint a lipstick smiley face of an album chock full of depressive themes.
“Further I Was” is a song that sounds like it could have been used as a transition for a John Hughes movie and I mean that as a compliment. There is authenticity in taking a sound from the past and making it yours. If you’re a metal fan, maybe this would be an album you wouldn’t have known about without label recognition (I wouldn’t have), but Relapse has struck gold again by going outside the mold.
Concrete Winds – Primitive Force (Sepulchral Voice)
Fans of the departed Vorum will find themselves right at home with Concrete Winds, a band formed from the aforementioned Finnish faction. Primitive Force is rudimentary aggression like that of black metal forebearers Sarcofago and Sepultura’s earlies iterations and in general could be bestowed the bestial adjective.
As one would expect, this is thrashy and raw with barely a BPM spared. They market themselves as aggressive noise torment and that is a fair description, them even add another layer to their sound on “Tyrant Pulse” with quick riffing balanced on a plodding battery, but not enough to save the album from being more than a blip on the riotous radar.
Crobot – Motherbrain (Mascot)
Pennsylvania hard rockers Crobot have been around for nearly a decade now, delivering music that’s heavy and groovy, but also accessible. Motherbrain is their fourth album, and first for Mascot Records.
Crobot deliver songs that are gritty yet catchy, evident right out of the gate with “Burn” and “Keep Me Down.” Frontman Brandon Yeagley, who also adds harmonica to some of the tracks, has a delivery that’s sometimes smooth and melodic, other times edgier and more intense. All those styles are evident on “Gasoline,” one of the album’s slower tracks. Motherbrain is a bit darker than their previous releases, but still has a varied sound that incorporates rock, metal, grunge, blues and even a little funk. It’s their most cohesive and well-rounded album to-date.
The Dead Daisies – Locked And Loaded (Spitfire)
After four studio albums and a live release, the Australian/American collective The Dead Daisies are issuing a covers album, Locked And Loaded, that pays homage to their classic rock roots. The band’s current lineup includes vocalist John Corabi (Motley Crue), guitarists Doug Aldrich (Dio, Whitesnake) and David Lowy, bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders) and drummer Deen Castronovo (Journey, Hardline).
The album is an interesting mix of lesser known tracks like Alex Harvey’s “Midnight Moses” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Evil” to more standard fare like the Beatles’ “Revolution” and Rolling Stones’ “Bitch.” The Dead Daisies put their own bluesy, hard rock spin on the songs, mostly avoiding karaoke versions. It works well on songs like CCR’s “Fortunate Son.” Seven out of the ten songs are studio version, while three are live renditions, the strongest being Deep Purple’s “Highway Star.” While not essential, it’s a fun collection of classic tracks fans of the band will enjoy.
Eva Bartok – Eva Bartok (Self)
Eva Bartok are not a female solo artist, they are a trio from Wales named after the British-Hungarian actress who starred in the influential Italian film Blood And Black Lace.
Their self-titled four track EP is a blend of punk, metal and noise. It’s abrasive, angry and chaotic, with moments of melody evident on tracks like “Mexico.” Their lyrics address topics ranging from mental health to the dark side fallout of politics. It’s a brief album, clocking in at just over ten minutes, a promising introduction that should appeal to fans of bands like Converge and Glassjaw.
Frantic Amber – Bellatrix (GMR)
Bellatrix is the second album from the Swedish melodic death metal band Frantic Amber. The album title translates to “female warrior” in Latin, and is a concept record about warrior women throughout history.
Frantic Amber explore a variety of styles on the album. “Scorched Earth” is an intense, traditional death metal track, while melodic death is at the forefront of songs like “Lagartha.” The melody comes from the guitars, as Elizabeth Andrews’ vocals are harsh growls. The most unique song on the album is “Joshitai,” which features traditional Japanese music alongside metal as it tells the story of a female samurai. Atmospheric intros on several tracks provide some quieter moments before the brutality kicks in. The album ends with the cinematic “The Black Knight,” showing yet another side to a very versatile band.
Freedom Call – M.E.T.A.L. (SPV/Steamhammer)
The German power metal band Freedom Call are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Vocalist/guitarist Chris Bay is the lone remaining original member, with a couple of lineup changes on their tenth studio album M.E.T.A.L.
The band doesn’t stray far from its trademark sound of soaring choruses and melodic guitars. The title track is cheesy, but undeniably catchy as they are “standing tall for heavy metal.” The songs are rousing and upbeat, jam packed with singalong choruses and ample atmosphere. From the seafaring tale “Sail Away” to the invitation to “Fly With Us,” Bay’s potent vocals and the memorable songs make for a memorable journey, no matter your mode of transportation.
Helvetets Port – From Life To Death (High Roller)
Clad in leather and steel, Sweden’s Helvetets Port have returned from a 10 year layoff with their new album From Life To Death. These guys ooze ‘80s traditional heavy metal from their look all the way down to the band member names, like vocalist Witchfinder, bassist Inquisitor, and guitarist K. Lightning.
Utilizing an Egyptian motif in the artwork and a couple of tracks, there is a certain medieval flare to the band that hearkens to an earlier time when NWOBHM bands were spreading in the early ‘80s and detailing events of battle and war. Witchfinder serves as the perfect commander with a voice similar to a Sanctuary-esque Warrel Dane. There are many cookers to take delight in, like the raucous tempo changes to “Ruled With An Iron Hand” or the fist-pumping chants to “Die To Stay Alive”. With a more dignified approach to heavy metal, Helvetets Port have a more reserved tenor in their music unlike their fellow countrymen Enforcer and RAM, who throw out a frenzied bunch of riffs at the listener. A different taste, but still great. Highly recommended!
Isole – Dystopia (Hammerheart)
Isole are firmly entrenched in the Candlemass camp of old school doom glory. They manage to carve out quite an identity on their seventh full-length album Dystopia. The riffs are huge and epic sounding and bring the album to life. The band crush it and deliver thrilling doom around every corner. This really is one for fans of the old sound of the genre and it brings the style to a modern audience quite effectively.
The songs have the ability to sound the same and a little outdated, which is unfortunate, but these are only small flaws in the greater scheme of things. Songs like “Forged By Fear” are exciting doom efforts and along the lines of Candlemass’ The Door to Doom album from earlier this year. The result is one of the better releases of the style I’ve heard in some time. There is certainly a passion to perform the songs no matter how derivative they are. Fans of the doom genre have a strong album to hear with Dystopia and shouldn’t miss out.
Lagerstein – 25/7 (Kegstand)
Take a musical journey to the land down under to join the best flying pirate-themed folk metal band in the southern hemisphere: Lagerstein. If alcohol, parties or fun are things that interest you, then you’ll get a kick out of 25/7, which is the band’s third album so far. It’s full of booze-fueled shanties that are conducted by guitars, accordions, keyboards, violins and even horns. Needless to say, it’s an interesting ride.
From the light, reggae rocker “Pina Colada Paradise” to the ultra-piratey “Dig Bury Drink” to the straight banger “Wench My Thirst” (which also features the best damn sax solo I’ve heard in a metal song possibly ever), there’s a surprising amount of variety for an album like this. If you’re a fan of the likes of Alestorm or Blodiga Skald you should check this one out, lest ye be forced to walk the plank!
Meth. – Mother Of Red Light (Prosthetic)
On Mother Of Red Light, Meth. can strike terror with their blast beats and hyperactive riffs on one song, then offer a reprieve with lush ambiance on the next. The six-piece follow no set ground rules on their music, as they transcend genre boundaries to make something experimental, yet hard to pinpoint.
There are patience-testing decisions, like the minutes of feedback/noise in closer “The Walls, They Whisper” and the largely instrumental “Psalm Of Life” that uses its seven minutes to build itself up with no concern for someone’s attention span. Mother Of Red Light is the kind of debut album that will have loyal listeners latch onto it, while others scratch their heads in confusion.
Sorcery – Necessary Excess of Violence (Xtreem)
Starting in 1986, Sorcery are arguably the earliest death metal band to originate in Sweden. The band released their debut, Bloodchilling Tales in 1991, and then disbanded in ’97. The rest of their full-length catalog came out in the last decade. Necessary Excess of Violence is purely Swedish compared to the death/thrash sound of the debut. The guitar follows Entombed’s maxed out guitar pedals advent.
Sorcery resemble Dismember’s chord play. There are clear melodic death tendencies, again an aspect Dismember perfected. “The Darkest Part of You” could have been on a Johan Liiva-led Arch Enemy record. Ola Malmström’s voice is not too growly, which again brings to mind Dismember/Arch Enemy. For this reason, his lyrics are easily understandable and memorable. “Where We Were Born We Will Demise” is one of the catchiest songs on the album. From the saw-blade guitar tones and ultra-catchy fret work to the vocal refrain, Necessary Excess of Violence is a modern Swedish death classic.
Uniform & The Body – Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back (Sacred Bones)
Last year’s collaboration between Uniform and The Body, Metal Wounds Not Healing, turned out so well they decided to do it again. The result is Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back.
About 12 minutes longer than last year’s effort, this album also combines industrial, noise and general weirdness. Electronic elements are at the forefront, with synths and samples driving the music. Tracks like “Not Good Enough” are relatively sparse, while songs such as “Vacancy” are a bit more dense. The vocals from Chip King and Michael Berdan are generally abrasive, but the music can be downright danceable. You’ll hear influences of everyone from Ministry to Swans to Merzbow, but Uniform & The Body have once again created something unique.