This week’s reviews include releases from Ancestors, Chuggernaut, Etherius, Imperialist, Leeched, Lords Of The Trident, Manes, Mob Rules, Nonpoint, Nothing, Sear Bliss and Wilson.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ancestors – Suspended In Reflections (Pelagic)
It has been six years since the last Ancestors album. The L.A. progressive doom band has reduced their lineup from a quintet to a trio, with guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga, keyboardist Jason Watkins and drummer Daniel Pouliot remaining.
Their fourth full-length Suspended In Reflections is slow and introspective. There are heavy riffs along with extended atmospheric instrumental sections that give it a progressive vibe. The six tracks range from shorter, focused songs like “Release” to longer and more developed tracks such as “Lying In The Grass” and “The Warm Glow.” The vocals are mostly melodic and accessible with some harsher deliveries, and there’s a lot of depth to the arrangements. There are some aggressive sections, but the majority is on the mellower side.
Chuggernaut – Kodiak (Self)
The five song EP Kodiak is the second extended play from Boston’s Chuggernaut, and the first with vocalist David Benites. The band explore a few different styles on the release.
Groove abounds, with catchy riffs throughout the album. The texture of the songs ranges from hard rock to doom to traditional metal. Opener “Stranglehold” (not a Ted Nugent cover) blends rawness and accessibility very well, with a strong performance from Benites. “Control Burn” edges into groove metal territory while “Disposable Monuments” leans toward doom. Chuggernaut display ample variety while maintaining a cohesive sound.
Etherius – Thread of Life (Self)
New Jersey’s Etherius just came into being last year. The brainchild of the former rhythm guitarist for Angel Vivaldi, Jay Tarantino wanted to strike out on his own, and is doing so with this instrumental neoclassical progressive metal quartet. Thread of Life is the band’s debut EP, and wears influences from Megadeth to Yngwie Malmsteen.
At five songs and 20 minutes, there’s not a lot of time for monkeying around, and Etherius get right to work with four short (for progressive music) and sweet shred-fests, only changing things up with the slower-paced closer, “Lament.” There’s a lot of talent here, making me look forward to a full length from Tarantino with hopefully much more variety in the songwriting.
Imperialist – Cipher (Transcending Obscurity)
After issuing an EP a few years ago, the California black metal band Imperialist emerge with Cipher, their full-length debut.
The album takes a while to get going, with an intro track and two minutes of instrumental music on “The Singularity” before the vocals kick in, but then blasts off with upbeat tempos and a sci-fi lyrical theme. Traditional black metal is augmented by some thrashy sections on songs like “Umbra Tempest” and the galloping “Chronochasm.” They nicely blend European and American styles. You can hear influences of old school bands, but Imperialist also inject some modern touches to avoid sounding retro.
Leeched – You Took The Sun When You Left (Prosthetic)
Leeched begin their debut album You Took The Sun When You Left with a trio of under-two-minute aggressors bent on the systematic beatdown of the five senses. The hunger for chaos drips from the lips of an oppressed voice, their entire selves languishing under a cloud of dust and grime. Incendiary feedback is enhanced with an industrialized tone giving the drums a well-suited hollowness.
Those opening three songs give way to an open range stretched beyond the lengths of typical hardcore music. They do get a little too obtuse for their own good (the largely-instrumental “Born In Sand” is a drag and having two minutes of buzzing guitars ends “Harrow The Pastures” in an overbearing mess), but Leeched have gotten down the sonic equivalent of an unsettling chill one gets from walking down a dark road in the middle of nowhere.
Lords Of The Trident – Shadows From The Past (Junko Johnson)
Wisconsin power metallers Lords Of The Trident embrace the genre’s conventions with medieval costumes and goofy pseudonyms like Fang VonWrathenstein. They’ve also developed a strong fanbase, which helped them crowdfund their latest album Shadows From The Past.
The songs have soaring melodies and singalong choruses. VonWrathenstein has strong voice with a lot of power and range and a distinctive sound. Brittney Slayes from Unleash The Archer guests on “Burn It Down (With Fire),” one of the record’s catchiest songs. Axemen Asian Metal and Baron Tauren Helleshaar have a lot of shredding solos throughout the album along with a solid batch of riffs. Shadows From The Past is a fun and well-executed power metal album.
Manes – Slow Motion Death Sequence (Debemur Morti)
Manes began their career in the early ’90s as a bitter black metal band from Norway a la Immortal and Darkthrone, but they’ve abandoned that sound over the years to a more electronic/experimental pop deal. Manes in 2018 are not the same Manes from 1995; the only member to still be in the band from that time period is guitarist Tor-Helge Cern Skei.
If the previous paragraph wasn’t clear enough, Slow Motion Death Sequence is not a metal album. The tempos can get squirrelly, but electronic muscle and appealing choruses are the prime motivators on this album. Lovely melodies on songs like “Last Resort” and “Night Vision” provide Manes the support in their deviation from their original style.
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn (SPV/Steamhammer)
German power metal vets Mob Rules are back with their ninth studio album in their 24-year career, Beast Reborn. Having bestowed quality albums upon us since 1994, Beast Reborn is no different. In fact, it’s hard to throw a ‘different’ album out in the power metal genre.
Mob Rules’ style is a bit like a cross between Edguy and Iron Maiden, with plenty of anthems and galloping harmonies. “War of Currents” is very Maiden-esque, in a good way, as are a few other songs. However, at nearly an hour of playing time there’s a bit too much on Beast Reborn. A couple of songs shorter and we’d have had a burner of an album on our hands. Regardless, this is still a quality power metal offering.
Nonpoint – X (Spinefarm)
Nonpoint have been prolific over their two decade existence, releasing a new album basically every two years. They maintain that pace with their tenth album X, even after taking a year off.
Their style of hard rock/nu-metal is melodic and memorable, but also aggressive. Frontman Elias Soriano sings, screams and raps, providing a lot of variety. There are several potential singles, such as “Chaos And Earthquakes,” “Fix This” and “Passive Aggressive.” The album follows the musical template of their recent releases, with their songwriting chops sharpening on each new album. It’s a focused album with minimal filler, the ten tracks clocking in at under 40 minutes. It will satisfy longtime fans while continuing to attract new listeners.
Nothing – Dancing On The Blacktop (Relapse)
A languid, less anthemic album than Philly’s volume-busting Nothing‘s last offering, Tired of Tomorrow, the shoegaze clobber has given way to a traditional slowgaze ocean of quadrupled guitars and an introspective attitude on Dancing On The Blacktop.. Nothing is less polarizing than Deafheaven when metalheads ask themselves, “Is this metal or… whuh?”
Perception is poison when patience is too high a price to pay, but Dancing On The Blacktop deserves a few spins more than usual. The album is worth it, unless atonality and thunderburping is the only kind of metal that fits your bill. Nothing know how to fill the ones and zeros with glass-shard guitars just as well as any noisecore band, but grace is the drug in their sound. “Blues Line Baby” and “Hail on the Palace Pier” are the winners on this 43-minute statement of hard atmosphere, world-weary vocals, melody honed to round out the political stains and a valued addition to Nothing’s catalog, with or without Nick Bassett.
Sear Bliss – Letters From the Edge (Hammerheart)
Hungary’s Sear Bliss perform black metal of the highest order on Letters From the Edge, their eighth full-length. Sear Bliss have an appropriately grim atomsphere, but it is also uplifting and makes the listener cheer with excitement. The music has a dense mood that shifts and turns numerous times within their beautiful song structures. Just see “Seven Strings” for a deep listen that has the right amount of atmosphere present. This band is really firing on all cylinders and give us music similar to Aenaon. The comparison is appropriate because both bands partake in a great deal of experimentation.
The album is infinitely interesting and raises a pulse at every corner. I was impressed on how original the band was able to make themselves sound and it leads them to having their own unique niche within the black metal genre. This is really classy stuff and worth a listen for all those that want more atmosphere in their usual black metal approach. Though the album is evil sounding, it is held in check by the moody portions of the band leading to a well-rounded release.
Wilson – Tasty Nasty (Red)
Detroit hard rockers Wilson take a different approach on their third album Tasty Nasty. They have a new record label (Red Music) and decided to lighten up lyrically and draw on ’90s party rock influences like Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth.
They incorporate nu-metal sounds, such as on the Limp Bizkit-esque “Wrong Side Of History,” but alt rock is the dominant style. They let their sense of humor shine through on “Like A Baller” and the rocker “Act My Age” that sounds similar to Blink 182. While their brand of party rock has some charm, there are a few missteps like “Spanish Coffee.” Whether Wilson fans will embrace a ’90s party rock album remains to be seen, but it’s evident the band had fun creating it.