This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Cloudburst, Create A Kill, Death Comes Calling, Defy The Curse, Deitus, Dirge, Dodsferd, Fall, The Heard, Hollow, Ice War, Last Union, Tor Marrock, Volbeat and Witching Hour.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cloudburst – Cloudburst (Samstrong)
Cloudburst’s self-titled sophomore album is an oddity all the way from the shores of Indonesia. Why is it odd? It’s metallic hardcore music with prog rock drumming, its abundant fills and crazed beats giving the music a reckless, improvisational feel. Then there’s the random sample of WWE’s Vince McMahon on “Eternal Gunfight,” a goofy inclusion followed by the somber acoustic interlude “Oral Staircase.”
This album is all over the place, sometimes landing its approach (the vicious thrash solo on “Crimson Mask”) and others barely making the mark (the copycat vocal ode to Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan on “Personal Golgotha”). The scattershot technique gives Cloudburst an inconsistency that is able to make its brighter moments more vivid.
Create A Kill – Summoned To Rise (Redefining Darkness)
Create A Kill are a new band formed by veteran drummers Gus Rios (Malevolent Creation, Gruesome) and Alex Marquez (Malevolent Creation, Cephalic Carnage, Solstice). Marquez handles the vocal duties on their debut effort Summoned To Rise.
It’s old school thrash with galloping riffs and death metal influences drawing inspiration from bands ranging from Slayer to Possessed to Dark Angel. There are numerous guests including Exhumed/Gruesome vocalist Matt Harvey, Possessed/Gruesome guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and Megedeth drummer Dirk Verbeuren. They rip through the album’s 11 tracks, which pay homage to the genre’s pioneers while incorporating their own twists.
Death Comes Crawling – Looking For Semblance (I, Voidhanger)
Death Comes Crawling is the newest project from musician Dis Pater, known in underground black metal circles as the man behind Midnight Odyssey and Dissvarth. Dis Pater has always showed an infatuation with synths in his music, so performing synthwave/electronic music with Death Comes Crawling is not an out-of-nowhere idea. Looking For Semblance has the potential for wider appeal than his other obtuse work.
Getting a release from I, Voidhanger Records is a good start to that happening, considering it was originally self-released last year by Dis Pater himself. This reissue includes one new song, “Their Chosen,” which fits in with the rest of the pulsating tunes. The lack of metal may be a turnoff to some, but it’s tough not to get some part of your body moving when the synths kick in.
Defy the Curse – Defy the Curse (Hammerheart)
Defy the Curse’s self-titled EP is the very first thing you are about to hear from this Dutch act which includes members of Collision and Legion of the Damned. Defy the Curse has five songs and is 15 minutes long, which is completely aggressive, brutal and filthy.
Defy the Curse’ debut EP is sounds like four guys having fun in their jam room and are very eager to write some songs which mostly are combinations of filthy death metal with crust and d-beat touches and of course a bit of grindcore. Although their music definitely will remind you of old school titans like Entombed, Gorefest or Bolt Thrower or newer acts like Hail of Bullets, Defy the Curse doesn’t bring or add anything new. But when you encounter a powerful performance, you listen to their music a bit more seriously, because Defy the Curse really deserves it. By the way, Wouter Wagemans is a monster behind the mic.
Deitus – Via Dolorosa (I, Voidhanger)
Deitus’s Via Dolorosa belongs to the section of black metal that messes around with conventional heavy metal, a fraught pairing that works under a symbiotic relationship. Though their methods are grounded in the forefathers of the genre, the climatic guitar solos and defined melodies push away from all that. It’s what bands like Watain and Dissection became known for, and Deitus lead in their direction without directly mimicking either band.
Even for those well-versed in the sounds of black metal, a cataclysmic song like “Malaise” has the power to blow a listener back off their heels. The sudden rush of force, with no warning, is a joyous ride. The title track and “Salvifici Doloris” doesn’t rush into this display of dominance, using lengthy intros to lead up to that show. December can sometimes be a dumping ground for metal albums, but Via Dolorosa is far from a lukewarm leftover.
Dirge – Lost Empyrean (Debemur Morti)
France’s Dirge have the atmospheric sludge genre down pat on Lost Empyrean, their seventh full length. The songs have a lot of weight and massive riffs. Right from the first track, the band lays down their pattern for bringing emotions to the listener. The album has a somewhat dark mood, but not too much so. It feels like a cross between bands like Cult of Luna and My Dying Bride. This is music that is creative, but manages to be good in a straightforward manner as well. The power of the riff takes over and makes these songs sound huge and epic.
There’s certainly a doomy vibe to the songs to go along with the sludge aspect and it makes for a more varied and interesting listen. Songs like the title track resonate with an intensity that is wonderful in its extreme nature. This is certainly an extreme metal release even though the music is moody and emotional. There is simply the crushing vibe that permeates everything and makes it as fiery as a possible. There is a dystopian vibe to the songs even though they have an uplifting aspect as well. Fans of the bands namechecked should find a lot to like with Dirge.
Dodsferd – Diseased Remnants Of A Dying World (Transcending Obscurity)
Greek black metal veterans Dodsferd don’t bring a lot of optimism or hope to the table on their tenth album Diseased Remnants Of A Dying World, nor would you expect them to.
The album gets off to a moderate start with “My Father, My Wrath!” that has instrumental sections with acoustic guitar and melodic singing. While the harsh vocals kick in on the second track “An Existence Without Purpose,” there are ample melodies to complement the icy riffs. The title track is a 16 minute epic that runs the gamut from crushing black metal to somber grooves to catchy riffs. The guitar work on the album is varied and memorable.
Fall – The Dreamer of Tragedy (Self)
The Dreamer of Tragedy takes the melodic death metal stylings of Fall’s last album, The Insatiable Weakness, and amplifies it to a greater degree. There are no short and sweet songs to find here. Though it only has four of them, they go over 25 minutes all together. Whether that qualifies The Dreamer of Tragedy as an EP or LP, the collection put forth by Fall is loaded with enough unpredictable sonic pivots to fill either.
Melody is not a forbidden word for Fall, as confident singing and demanding screams are equal partners. They can get to the pure rampage of death metal as suddenly as they can placate the soul with a enlightening guitar riff. The delivery of each song is precise, and there is satisfaction in absorbing all the ideas Fall throw into The Dreamer of Tragedy.
The Heard – The Island (Despotz)
After the Swedish band Crucified Barbara split in 2016, guitarist Kiara Force, bassist Ida Evileye and drummer Nicki Wikkid formed The Heard, recruiting guitarist Skinny Disco (Deathstars) and vocalist Pepper Potemkin to form The Heard.
Their music is mostly hard rock/traditional metal with stoner/doom influences and a dark, psychedelic vibe. The album’s lyrics revolve around Haunted Island in the Baltic Sea where strange and unusual things happen. Upbeat, driving tracks like “Revenge Song” are the strongest, while mellower tracks sometimes meander.
Hollow – Between Eternities Of Darkness (Rockshots)
In the late ’90s the Swedish power/progressive metal band Hollow released two albums before disbanding due to frontman Andreas Stoltz suffering from tinnitus. Stoltz eventually re-emerged with Binary Creed in 2013, and now has resurrected Hollow as a solo project. Between Eternities Of Darkness is their first album since 1999.
The songs are soaring power metal with heavy guitars and singalong choruses along with some progressive moments. Stoltz is an excellent singer with a wide range and a lot of power whose style is very emotive and passionate. From catchy songs like “Fate Of The Jester” to the mellow ballad “Shadow World” to the arena rocker “The Road I’m On,” there’s ample variety and memorable songs.
Ice War – Manifest Destiny (Dying Victims)
Jo Capitalicide moved on from his former band Iron Dogs and formed Ice War back in 2015 and is the sole member of the band. While 2017’s self-titled Ice War showed some semblance of songwriting ability; Manifest Destiny is chock full of clumsy instrumentation, particularly the drums, which get absolutely swallowed whole on the track “Light Shine On.”
The track as a whole seems to have an idea as to where it is going, but the drums come in too fast and their mix is simply atrocious. With a plethora of great traditional metal bands in the fold, Ice War remains one to avoid until further notice.
Last Union – Twelve (Rock Of Angels)
Twelve is the debut album from the Italian band Last Union, whose lineup includes Symphony X bassist Mike LePond and ex-Helloween/ex-Masterplan drummer Uli Kusch. In addition to vocalist Elisa Scarpeccio, Dream Theater’s James LaBrie handles vocal duties on five of the albums’s 13 songs.
With some of the lineup’s pedigree you might expect a very progressive album, and while there are progressive elements, it’s more of a traditional metal release. While Scarpeccio is a more than capable vocalist, the addition of LaBrie on about half the tracks adds diversity, and of course his extensive contributions will draw more attention to the band. No matter who is singing, the songs are streamlined with minimal filler and maximum melody.
Tor Marrock – The Concept Of Self (Black Vulture)
The Welsh death/gothic metal band Tor Marrock take their time between albums. There was a six year span between their debut and second release, and now a five year time frame between that album and The Concept Of Self.
Tor Marrock incorporate gothic elements in intros and with atmosphere, and tracks like “The Dark In Your Eyes” are accessible with melodic vocals. There’s also plenty of death metal that’s straightforward and sometimes sloppy with harsh vocals. The relative rawness of the production gives the album a different vibe than most that incorporate gothic styles. It maintains an edge even while utilizing a lot of melody.
Volbeat – Let’s Boogie! Live From Telia Parken (Republic/Universal)
Volbeat hadn’t released a live album since 2011, and with their two must successful albums (2013’s Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies and 2016’s Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie) released since then, this seems like an ideal time for a new live effort. Let’s Boogie! Live From Telia Parken was recorded last year in their hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark.
The nearly 2.5 hour stadium show features 26 songs including all their hits along with a new song, “The Everlasting.” There are numerous guests including Danko Jones, Mille Petrozza (Kreator) and Barney Greenway (Napalm Death). Metallica drummer (and Denmark native) Lars Ulrich plays on “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood” and the “Enter Sandman” cover. Volbeat are a great live band, and that is captured very well on this release. It’s available in several configurations including Blu-ray/2CD, 2CD and 3LP vinyl.
Witching Hour – …And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon (Hells Headbangers)
German blackened thrashers Witching Hour return with album number three, …And Silent Grief Shadows the Passing Moon, their first with Hells Headbangers. Following in the footsteps of labelmates Midnight you get a great mix of the genres.
However, Witching Hour missed the memo for song editing, as the songs can drag on and even the album starts too slowly to gain proper momentum. This collection of six songs could be much more easily digested as a 30 minute album, yet it somehow makes it to 42 minutes. A solid album that doesn’t do anything new for the genre, but serves a last breath of what 2018 has to offer.