This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Dokken, From The Depth, Gorgatron, Gutvoid, Hinayana, In Flames, Lynch Mob, Manticora, Necrot, Pain Of Salvation, Pig Destroyer, Psychoid, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Ulver and Venomous Concept.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Dokken – The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 (Silver Lining)
Dokken released their debut album Breaking The Chains in 1981 and would go on to have a string of successful releases, including three platinum albums. From the archives comes The Lost Songs: 1978-1981, 11 songs from the early days.
These tracks are rawer and more rock oriented than the slicker, pop metal of Dokken’s classic albums. There are also ballads such as “Day After Day” and “Rainbows.” The production quality on some is good, others like “Broken Heart” are pretty low-fi. There’s a reason these songs didn’t appear on any albums, but some are actually pretty good and show potential and Dokken’s songwriting skills. This is an album targeted directly at hardcore fans of the band.
From The Depth – Moments (Rockshot)
Having taken leaps and bounds from their days as a power metal cover band, From The Depth reach glorious, anthemic proportions on their first full-length of original material, Moments. Denoting pivotal moments in the band members’ personal lives, From The Depth match the audacious instrumentation with a consistently intimate lyrical narrative. It’s a thrilling yet touching venture from a very promising band.
From the Depth do power metal correctly, which involves a complete absence of restraint. The tracks are huge. Massive power chord and chug-heavy riffs (some of which even veer into modern thrash territory) join glammed-out frenzies of keyboards and orchestral notes bringing cinematics that serve as par for the power metal course. Throw in some welcoming vintage production aesthetics, impressive vocal chops courtesy of Raffaele “Raffo” Albanese and an arsenal of genuinely memorable hooks and you find an album that makes a case for itself in a bloated scene of copycats and misfires. I won’t claim that Moments is doing anything terribly original but it’s not a record that will be picked merely to scratch an itch for something cheesy and grandiose – it will be picked because its own merits warrant doing so.
Gorgatron – Pathogenic Automation (Blood Blast)
Though they take their name from an Aqua Teen Hunger Force character, and release their songs using humorous music videos, Gorgatron are no joke on Pathogenic Automation. Whatever light-hearted antics they engage in behind the scenes, their music is steeped in disdain and fury, a barrage of unrelenting death metal. That description isn’t hyperbole; for 40-plus minutes, the album is a consistent, exploding powder keg with limited exceptions.
A few well-placed guitar solos and atmospheric touches to “Impostor Syndrome” and closer “Pierced From All Angles” are the “breaks” provided by the band, but they aren’t long enough to get comfortable with. By the album’s last third, there’s a sameness that overcomes the songs. The closer helps Pathogenic Automation avoid ending with that feeling, but a few shorter, grindy cuts like they did on Inner Supremacy would’ve been useful.
Gutvoid – Astral Bestiary (Blood Harvest)
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Lovecraftian death metal band Gutvoid digitally released the Astral Bestiary EP in 2019, and now, a year later, it has been officially released as a physical copy by Blood Harvest.
Astral Bestiary is an EP of many death metal subgenres. According to the sound of the album, it can be said that the main concern of Gutvoid is to make songs and atmosphere that have a special look at old school death metal. Although the main foundation of this EP is based on the same theme, there are strong signs of progressive and melodic death metal in it. Even in some moments, Gutvoid expand what is being processed to psychedelic themes. Astral Bestiary is a short EP, but the musical events that take place in it are powerful and extensive; and it raises expectations for a significant future full length album.
Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic (Napalm)
Hinayana hail from the sun-scorched hills of Austin, Texas, but their hearts seem rooted in the misty moors of Finland. Their EP Death Of The Cosmic conveys a gloomy, death-doom sound in the vein of Swallow The Sun and Tales From The Thousand Lakes-era Amorphis. The follow up to their 2018 full-length Order Divine is rich in melody and atmosphere.
The title track kicks off the EP with lush keyboards. Guitar harmonies are subtle in foggy atmosphere. “Cold Conception” features a guest appearance by the late Nature Ganganbaigal who plays the morin khuur, a traditional Mongolian bowed instrument. The clean guitar tones and divine keys make “Yet Here I Wait Forever” a sorrowful instrumental. Toni Toivonen of Hanging Garden joins in on the wall of sound on “In Sacred Delusion.” Death Of The Cosmic is a despondently beautiful album with a sound rarely tapped into in Texas, much less the U.S.A.
In Flames – Clayman 20th Anniversary Edition (Nuclear Blast)
In the year 2000, In Flames released their fifth album, Clayman. Considered by most to be in the upper echelon of their catalog, the album was the final one to showcase the band’s original melodeath sound. It included some memorable songs such as “Only For The Weak.”
The 20th anniversary edition of Clayman includes remastered versions of the original 11 tracks on the album along with a new instrumental and re-recordings of four songs. Those reflect the current sound of the band, giving them a more mainstream and melodic sound. Those who yearn for In Flames’ early days may find the re-recordings an abomination, while those who prefer the current era of the band will be more likely to enjoy the modern reinterpretations.
Lynch Mob – Wicked Sensation Reimagined (Rat Pak)
Not sure if it’s fate, coincidence or planning that both Dokken and Lynch Mob have albums released this week. Dokken’s was early material, and Lynch Mob are revisiting their 1990 debut album with their current lineup. Both singer Oni Logan and guitarist George Lynch were on the original version of Wicked Sensation.
While some immediately dismiss re-recorded albums, Lynch Mob did make an effort to inject some different things into the mix on Wicked Sensation Reimagined. They take new approaches and rework some things, with varying results. “Wicked Sensation” is funkier, while “River Of Love” has a sparser arrangement. Interestingly enough, half of the songs are shorter than the originals, and half are longer. While the original album is far superior, there are some interesting new twists in the re-recorded version.
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live (ViciSolum)
Two years ago Danish power metal outfit Manticora dropped a surprisingly strong album in our laps. To Kill To Live To Kill was the highly-regarded first part of a two-part concept album based upon a novel written by singer Lars Larsen. Now here’s the conclusion, To Live To Kill To Live, which picks up right where the last one ended, both in story and quality.
If part one was up your alley, you will love this installment, which is definitely Manticora’s strongest album to date and one of the best power metal records of 2020. The band have upped their game in every regard here – songwriting, performances, production, and even Larsen’s vocals have had their edges slightly honed. Touches of thrash and progressive metal round out what is an excellent album – one sure to grace a few year-end lists.
Necrot – Mortal (Tankcrimes)
Necrot’s debut album Blood Offerings was an under-the-radar death metal highlight of 2017, and their second album Mortal could follow suit this year. It’s a small improvement on an already stellar sound, expanding their melodic reach with longer guitar solos and tempo variety that suits songs that go as long as eight minutes. That’s the case with the ambitious closing title track, which depicts the cycle a dying person goes through as their last breaths fade into nothing.
That’s a more peaceful end compared to the visual horror dished out on “Dying Life,” with the first line growled out being, “Skinned alive, show me your entrails. Remove the flesh.” That’s an outlier compared to the other songs, which approaches the wicked elements death metal is known for with cerebral tension, without overtly gory mannerisms. Mortal is a refinement of the unforgiving music Necrot already had a grasp of on Blood Offerings
Pain Of Salvation – Panther (InsideOut)
After the release of 2017’s In The Passing Light Of Day, Swedish progsters Pain Of Salvation saw the departure of guitarist Ragnar Zolberg and the return of Johan Hallgren, who had been in the band from 1998 to 2011. After the recording of their latest album Panther, bassist Gustaf Hielm announced his departure from the band.
Pain Of Salvation take a varied approach on Panther. “Accelerator” is in the more traditional progressive vein, while “Unfuture” blends modern elements with classic sections. “Restless Boy” is the most avant-garde track on the record, with the ballad “Wait” showcasing Daniel Gildenlow’s vocals. The outlier on the album is the title track, with spoken word/rap vocals mixed in with singing along with a lot of industrial/electronic elements. The album closes with the epic 13 minute “Icon,” with a lengthy instrumental intro and a lot of ebbs and flows. It’s another strong album from one of prog’s heavyweights.
Pig Destroyer – The Octagonal Stairway (Relapse)
In 2018, Pig Destroyer released the full-length Head Cage, which came six years after their previous LP. The Octagonal Stairway is a six song EP.
The songs range in length from 45 seconds (“News Channel 6”) to more than 11 minutes (“Sound Walker”). No matter the length, Pig Destroyer’s bludgeoning style drives the mostly grindcore-infused tracks. From the galloping riffs of “The Cavalry” to the groovier “Cameraman,” the songs are extreme but memorable. The aforementioned “Sound Walker” is the EP’s most unusual track, more in the ambient/electronic/experimental vein than metal. And at 25 minutes, this EP is only five minutes shorter than Head Cage.
Psychoid – Thrash Attack (Music)
Psychoid’s Thrash Attack, a re-release of the French band’s 2018 debut album, is a blazing showcase of thrash goodness. Taking a page from Havok, the sound is modern enough, but still has its throwbacks to the older days. It has a nice mechanical sound that is fairly pleasing for the thrash style. The tracks cruise by and blister you with machine-gun riffing and cool solos.
Since the new Havok album was released this year, it’s hard not to compare this album to that one. The music of Havok is a little more vibrant, but not really technically more proficient. Both are strong thrash works that give good tidings to the year for music from the genre. Thrash Attack is an album fans of the genre should definitely check out. This is tight and well-played thrash that never lets the pedal off the metal.
Hard rockers the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus rocketed upon the scene with their 2006 debut Don’t You Fake It, which went platinum and spawned the hit single “Face Down.” They released their fifth full-length The Awakening in 2018 and follow that up with the six song EP The Emergency.
They’ve had a lot of success on Christian radio over the years (where they’ve had numerous number one singles), and are played on mainstream rock radio as well. The songs on this EP are as universal, catchy and memorable as ever. From mid-tempo songs like “A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Called L.A.” to more urgent numbers such as “Is This The Real World,” it’s a collection of melodic and enjoyable songs as fans anxiously await their next full-length.
Ulver – Flowers of Evil (House of Mythology)
Ulver have been the very definition of metamorphosis. These Norwegians began life as a black metal band, and have evolved over the last near-thirty years into a lush electronica-pop act. If you enjoyed 2017’s superb album The Assassination of Julius Caesar, chances are there will be a lot for you to dig into on Flowers of Evil, the band’s latest release.
The same feel from Julius Caesar is resident on Flowers of Evil, albeit with a few less chances taken, or left turns made. The music here is more straightforward late eighties dark synth pop, lush and immaculate, almost sterile. A number of tracks are highly alluring, though (“Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers” being this writer’s favorite), and they make Flowers of Evil an easy album to listen to – not heavy or metal, but fun regardless.
Venomous Concept – Politics Versus The Erection (Season of Mist)
A hardcore supergroup by way of their grinding pasts, Venomous Concept again rise for their fourth album, Politics Versus The Erection. Fronted by former Brutal Truth vocalist Kevin Sharp, Venomous Concept blast through just over half an hour of pissed off songs with a political consciousness.
Backed by Napalm Death’s Shane Embury and Danny Herrera and flanked by John Cooke of Corrupt Moral Altar, this is a master class in showing their love for music that isn’t exactly metal, but it is certainly its own kind of extreme. Herrera’s d-beats on “Septic Mind” take one back to the early ’80s and hardcore’s heyday and some of the guitar lines could be considered a bit of a more stripped down version of more recent Napalm Death efforts. Of special note are the hilarious song titles like the title track and the excellent reference to It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s “Mantis Toboggan.” If you need to fight through the pain of this pandemic with a mixture of anger and humor, look no further than Politics Versus The Erection.