This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Angellore, Anvil, Archon Angel, Black Royal, Brian Posehn, Diabulus In Musica, Ensnared, Faustian Pact, Godthrymm, Great American Ghost, Hollywood Undead, Izthmi, Kreator, Kvelertak and Psychotic Waltz.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Angellore – Rien Ne Devait Mourir (Finisterian Dead End)
After a more than four year gap between albums, the French atmospheric doom band Angellore are back with Rien Ne Devait Mourir, which translates to “Nothing Should Die.”
The album opens with the epic “A Romance Of Thorns,” clocking in at more than 19 minutes. Melancholy and deliberate, it includes clean female vocals, harsh male vocals and melodic male vocals along with lengthy instrumental sections. In addition to doom, there are also influences of gothic and folk. Long songs mix with more streamlined tracks like “Dreams (Along The Trail)” and “Blood For Lavinia.” Moody and delicate moments are contrasted with heavier sections to create a diverse musical palette.
Anvil – Legal at Last (AFM)
Canadian never-say-die metal trio Anvil return with their eighteenth album, Legal at Last, a title which, when combined with the artwork, is self-explanatory here in Canada. Apparently the legalization of marijuana is enough of a reason for these three to reconvene and crank out some quick and dirty old-school metal.
The Anvil formula has never shifted, so we know what to expect here. We are treated to a couple of above-average metallic numbers (“I’m Alive” and the bonus track “No Time”), a couple of real duds, and a majority of forgettable tunes that sound hastily recorded, complete with some awkward rhythms and very rough vocals. Legal at Last is not Anvil’s best work.
Archon Angel – Fallen (Frontiers)
Archon Angel are a new band featuring vocalist Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle). They have a strong power metal presence with that gleaming shine that many of the bands in the genre share. There is most definitely a heroic aspect to the songs, which gives them more presence.
The tunes have a positive vibe that is associated with the genre and shown quite nicely here. There is nothing overly original, but with pristine musical performances that lead to tight musicianship, there is a lot to like with this album. Overall, the songwriting is solid with many memorable moments and a pristine production adding to the reasons to check out Fallen. It is a solid power metal release with some heavy metal tendencies that make it even more interesting. Fans of bands like Kamelot will find a lot to like with Archon Angel and come back time and time again.
Black Royal – Firebride (Suicide)
Self-proclaimed death blues act Black Royal are purveyors of wonderfully sludgy metal from an uncommon place, Finland. This may be far removed from places like New Orleans, but you would have a hard time distinguishing this from some of the more brute force acts that call the area home.
“Coven” takes on an evil tone with evocations towards Satan highlighted in the lyrical content. String sections are added to give a sense of sadness to balance out the sheer chaos that takes place, both before and after. “All Them Witches” could be mistaken for bong-less Acid Witch as they lack just a little bit of that spooky factor, but the evil is all there. For a Baltic take on sludge metal, Black Royal will more than pique your interest.
Brian Posehn – Grandpa Metal (Megaforce)
Comedian/actor Brian Posehn (Big Bang Theory, The Devils Rejects) has previously released comedy albums that were mostly standup with a couple of songs. Grandpa Metal is almost all music, along with some interstitial bits and a phone call with Weird Al. Co-written mostly with Anthrax’s Scott Ian, the album features an impressive array of guests.
“1/4 Viking 3/4 Pussy” includes vocals by Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg, while Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump guests on “New Music Sucks.” The lyrics are funny and the music is memorable, giving it a lot more replay value than the typical comedy album. There are a couple cover songs as well. Chuck Billy (Testament), Steve “Zetro” Souza (Exodus) and the late Jill Janus (Huntress) metal up the ’80s pop classic “Take On Me.” Michael Starr (Steel Panther) and Corey Taylor (Slipknot) sing on “The Fox, What The Fox Say.” Posehn would be the first to tell you he’s not a singer, but his vocals are effective. Grandpa Metal will have you simultaneously laughing and banging your head.
Diabulus In Musica – Euphonic Entropy (Napalm)
There was a more time than usual between albums for the Spanish symphonic power metal band Diabulus In Musica as vocalist Zuberoa Aznarez and her husband keyboardist Gorka Elso had their second child. That experience also inspired some of the lyrics on the band’s fifth album Euphonic Entropy.
Soaring melodies and larger than life symphonic arrangements shape the album. Driving guitars mix well with the atmosphere on tracks like “Race To Equilibrium” and “Nuevo Rumbo” that feature both traditional and operatic vocals along with harsh growls. The catchy “Otoi” includes vocals in the Basque language. Euphonic Entropy is an ambitious effort that balances grandiose arrangements and bombast with good old-fashioned hooks and melodies.
Ensnared – Inimicus Generis Humani (Invictus)
Taking the other left hand path is Swedish death metal duo Ensnared, who, on their sophomore effort Inimicus Generis Humani, continue to shun the Sunlight Sound in favor of something found creeping the Gothenburg gutters. Ugly, bestial, and oppressive, the band’s latest delivers death metal done dirty with harsh riffs and pot-pan drumming to create an impressively inhospitable atmosphere.
Unlike the trudging and chugging and chainsaw-buzzing of other Swedish death metal acts, Ensnared stay rooted in a primordial realm where thrash and black metal routinely share the stage, with the band’s slower, more progressive interludes offering nice respite. The result can be frenetic, furious, and sometimes quite fun, but the constant bombardment of blasts and gnarled vocals ensure that Ensnared remain affixed to the fringe.
Faustian Pact – Outojen Tornien Varjoissa (Werewolf)
13 years and three demos later, Faustian Pact have recorded their debut LP, Outojen Tornien Varjoissa. From the icy guitars to the shimmering keyboards, the Finnish trio’s first full offering is loaded with atmosphere. The ten tracks of cold, battle-ready black metal is comparable to Abigor.
Female vocals are an aspect apparent from the first notes on “Saastainen valo lintutornissa.” A female voice narrates in the band’s native tongue, lending this track a story quality before the croaking vocals come into the mix. Synthetic flutes, alluring female vocals and some of the best riffs on the album instill “Kuulas musta aika” with a regal, medieval quality. “Keihäsrinta” features cold guitar tones and fast drums. The kettle drums on “Viimeisen tyrannin silmä” and “Yön viittojen saleissa” thump a resounding battle cry. Even though Outojen Tornien Varjoissa is sung entirely in Finnish, the music and vocal patterns Faustian Pact create are hard to forget.
Godthrymm – Reflections (Profound Lore)
Reflections is the full-length debut album from the doom power trio, Godthrymm. Originally a duo of ex-My Dying Bride members Hamish Glencross (vocals/guitars, also ex-Solstice) and Shaun Taylor-Steels (drums, also ex-Anathema), bassist Bob Crolla was brought in upon completion of the debut to round out the band. Old-fashioned – and heavy – doom is the order of the day, and Godthrymm execute their plan in strong fashion.
While the music on Reflections is by no means original for the genre, the songwriting is strong and these songs are very well-played. The ace in the hole for Godthrymm is Glencross’s powerful, emotive vocals, which drip with emotions from mourning to rage. What the album lacks in originality it more than makes up for with wonderful production and performances, and is a welcome addition to the doom metal genre.
Great American Ghost – Power Through Terror (eOne)
Boston metallic hardcore punishers Great American Ghost haven’t been around all that long, but it’s evident they have appreciation for the old school. Power Through Terror is their third album, and first for eOne.
They bring pummeling riffs, anger and aggression throughout. Tracks like “Prison Of Hate” have a brisk pace, while songs such as “Altar Of Snakes” are more deliberate in their destruction. The potency is somewhat diluted by periodic melodic singing, but those are few and far between. The vast majority of the vocals are angry and intense, making Power Through Terror a potent and cathartic listen.
Hollywood Undead – New Empire, Vol. 1 (Dove & Grenade/BMG)
L.A. nu metal veterans Hollywood Undead wrote a lot of music for their latest release, which will be divided into two parts. New Empire, Vol. 1 includes nine songs, with the other half coming soon.
As on previous albums they blend rap with catchy hard rock, emphasizing the rock (except on “Killin It”) while adding electronic atmosphere. There are numerous singalong tracks like the infectious “Heart Of A Champion” and “Enemy.” Kellin Quinn from Sleeping With Sirens guests on the groovy “Upside Down,” with Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden guesting on the accessible “Second Chances.” With platinum and gold albums on their resume, Hollywood Undead have built a substantial fan base, who will be pleased with the album.
Izthmi – The Arrows Of Our Ways (Within The Mind)
As a debut album, The Arrows Of Our Ways isn’t just a taste test of what’s to come from Izthmi, but a fully envisioned concept on display. It’s full of menace and fraught with darkness that bellows from every syllable uttered by ravenous vocalist Jakob Keizer, who also handles the synths used during a few of the interludes. Their blackened doom has a progressive stance, with acoustics and melodic lead guitars making appearances.
It’s all of these working in tandem at once, as they do on the title track and “A Shout That Bursts Through The Silence Of Unmeaning,” where the group finds their right spot. The band keeps the album from falling into repetition by varying the tempos, which is useful with songs that average six to eight minutes. Because of this, Izthmi’s songwriting on The Arrows Of Our Ways flourishes instead of meanders.
Kreator – London Apocalypticon – Live At The Roundhouse (Nuclear Blast)
Thrash legends Kreator have released quite a few live albums over the years, including Live Antichrist in 2017 and Live At Dynamo Open Air 1998 last year. London Apocalypticon – Live At The Roundhouse was recorded in December of 2018. Available on CD, Blu-ray and vinyl, some editions include two additional live shows.
The London gig was in support of 2017’s Gods Of Violence, and the 17 song set includes five tracks from that album. The rest of the concert draws from throughout their history, including classics like the title tracks from 1986’s Pleasure To Kill and 2001’s Violent Revolution. Mille Petrozza and company are still going strong after more than three decades, which is evident when you watch or listen to London Apocalypticon – Live At The Roundhouse.
Kvelertak – Splid (Rise)
Kvelertak have always been a superbly fun band, especially on their debut and most of their follow up Meir. Their fourth album Splid sees the band with new front man Ivar Nikolaisen, who also was a guest on their 2010 self-titled debut. “Rogaland” opens the record with a distant guitar riff and gives way to a raucous good time, one that Kvelertak have made their staple, especially during their must-see live shows, complete with gang vocals.
“Crack of Doom” has a simple refrain and main riff that gets you excited every time it enters the fray, basically a figurative kick in the pants as a reminder that thing ain’t quieting down any time soon. Sometimes albums get overlooked due to their sheer simplicity. Splid may be that on the surface, but you would be a fool to deny yourself a punk metal wet dream delivered at high speed. Do you remember fun? Because Kvelertak do, it’s their stock in trade.
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void (InsideOut)
California progsters Psychotic Waltz released several albums before disbanding in 1997. They reunited in 2010, but it took a decade for new material to emerge in the form of God-Shaped Void. The 2020 version of the band includes all five members that appeared on their first three records, including vocalist Devon Graves, known then as Buddy Lackey.
The album isn’t a clone of their earlier material, but a natural progression. Songs like opener “Devils And Angels” and “Back To Black” blend hooks and catchy choruses with complexity and progressive interludes. “The Fallen” is a relatively straightforward ballad that’s a nice change of pace before the prog resumes. Graves is a compelling vocalist, and the band’s musicianship is top-notch. The band took several years to write and record the album, allowing the songs to be shaped, honed and perfected. It’s a welcome return for an influential band.