This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Backstabber, Blatant Disarray, Chainbreaker, Coltsblood, Crystal Lake, Diabolical, Endon, Euclidean, Hellnite, Kaleikr, Nomenclature Diablerie, Saor, Silvertung, Trauma, Un and The Wandering Ascetic.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Backstabber’s Conspiracy Theorist is a self-released album that makes one wonder how they haven’t been signed to any label yet. Their brutish death metal avoids the pitfalls many debut full-lengths from the genre fall into, as they express their grief and fervor at governmental entities and over-usage of technology with a vicious preciseness.
The depth of their musicianship comes out in several steady instrumentals that turn the volume down in favor of crafty bass guitar work and subdued guitar riffs. The closing title track encapsulates this the best, as its almost five minutes spent in a melodic purgatory, away from the hellfire that rises through a good portion of Conspiracy Theorist. Backstabber have on their hands the first essential death metal release of 2019.
Blatant Disarray – Ebon Path (Dirt)
There are thrash vibes on Ebon Path by Blatant Disarray, their third full length release. The band performs metal which could be considered speed metal, but by all means could still be considered thrash. The music has a lot of balls and brings a strong array of riffs to the table. The production is only alright, which really doesn’t do these songs justice. This is because there is some really interesting and worthwhile music on display here. The riffs form the backbone of the songs and they are strong and memorably written.
The songs here share much in common with thrash and I find them similarly written to ...And Justice for All by Metallica with a slightly less complexity. This simplicity allows the band to craft songs that remain ingrained in your brain within a fairly short running time. The songwriting is certainly memorable and feature the right amount of hooks. There isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before by other thrash bands, but is still a strong piece of thrash that deserves your attention.
Chainbreaker – Lethal Desire (Hells Headbangers)
Canadian crushers Chainbreaker let loose their debut on a label that they share with Midnight and they certainly fit Hells Headbangers’ typical pedigree. This is furious and in your face speed with nary a second to let the listeners catch their collective breaths; unless tracks like “Born Loud,” “Lethal Desire” and “Hellbound” weren’t subtle enough.
The barked vocals might be the only way for the vocalist to get his brief points across because the guitar lines’ fury know no bounds. For fans of fellow countrymen Razor, as well as the first two Venom albums; this album is a can’t miss return to classic, no frills Canadian speed metal glory.
Crystal Lake – Helix (SharpTone)
Crystal Lake‘s Helix is an outstanding, eclectic metal record, chock full of hearty growl vocals, overlays of powerful traditional singing, computerized synth-effects, chock ‘n gravel hard-ass guitar, tasteful drumming often quick as lightening and other times funkified, and an overall feel that is always surprising.
The songwriting on this record is superior. None of the songs are linear or predictable, and the changes never feel forced. My pick for the first single would be “+ 81,” as the groove is killer with an incredible bass and mix of rhythmic sounds that would rival any soundtrack in a major motion picture. Notable also are the tracks “Lost in Forever” for its alternative feel, “Outgrow,” for its mixed meter beat and diverse use of vocals, and “Just Confusing” for the amazing soft sell when everyone in the world is expecting the crush. “Aeon” is their first video. Watch it.
Diabolical – Eclipse (Indie)
Swedish death/black metal veterans Diabolical have generally taken their time between full-length releases. That’s the case for their sixth studio album Eclipse, which comes more than five years after Neogenesis.
The songs are painstakingly arranged, with a backing choir adding a cinematic atmosphere. Ominous blackened death metal with growling vocals is contrasted by melodic singing and the aforementioned choir. Though songs like “We Are Diabolical” and “Failure” are ambitious, they are also streamlined and focused. Tracks like “Hunter” are lengthier, but still engaging with a lot of ebb and flow. They obviously put the extended time between albums to good use, constructing a varied and appealing release.
Endon – Boy Meets Girl (Thrill Jockey)
With their new album Boy Meets Girl, the Japanese band Endon wanted to create a soundtrack to an imaginary horror film. It definitely fits the bill.
The album is chaotic and noisy, with tortured unintelligible screams from vocalist Taichi Nagura. Songs like the opening title track are mostly dissonant with moments of sludgy melody. “Doubts As A Source” goes from avant-garde to doom, while “Love Amnesia” has a catchy groove augmented by swirling electronics and shrieking vocals. Their experimental style incorporates genres ranging from metal to noise to hardcore. It’s an extreme album that takes some digging into to unravel and absorb the chaos within.
Euclidean – Quod Erat Faciendum (Division)
This might be cheating, but it doesn’t matter: Quod Erat Faciendum is Swiss quartet Euclidean’s debut album, that the band self-released electronically at the end of 2017. Now the album has been picked up by Division Records for physical release, and the world is a better place for it.
Euclidean’s take on progressive, blackened doom is stellar, and will appeal to fans of Cult of Luna, Neurosis, Panopticon, The Ocean, and much more. The eight songs here cover heady subject matter, as one might imagine with a band name and album title like this. Musicianship is stellar, and production and arrangements are meticulous, with layers upon layers of power and emotion revealing themselves through many listens. Quod Erat Faciendum is one of the best releases of this young year – if we can count it as such.
Hellnite – Midnight Terrors (Sliptrick)
Midnight Terrors has been in the works for five years, and is the work of Paolo Belmar, originally from Mexico but now based in Canada. Although the album was all recorded by Belmar, Hellnite are now a power/thrash trio. Perhaps taking the time to record contributions from the new members would have been a good idea.
There are hints of good songs and solid guitar work buried within Midnight Terrors, but those nuggets can be hard to find. It is easy to tell that these songs were recorded at different times, in different places, with some sounding clean and crisp, while must are muddled and confused. And Belmar’s muttered vocals come off as though recorded to a laptop through a podcast mic, with no quality control at all, making the entire album a chore to get through. Hopefully the band’s next effort has a bit more spit and polish to it.
Kaleikr – Heart of Lead (Debemur Morti)
Icelandic black metal has become a style of music all its own in recent years, in the same way that Swedish death metal and Norwegian black metal are categorized. There’s something about Iceland that brings out a chilly, yet serene, side of the genre. Kaleikr are no different in this regard on their debut album, Heart of Lead. Previously known as Draugsol, who put out a commendable first album of their own back in 2017, Kaleikr are a spiritual continuation of that band.
Kaleikr certainly have nowhere to be anytime soon, evident by the unhurried lengths of most of these songs. Opener “Beheld at Sunrise” spends its first half in a progressive frame, with viola and piano being the main instruments driving the song, before showing any of its blackened traits. The band keep the listener at arm’s distance, settling them in for a frost-bitten experience marked by moments of bliss.
Nomenclature Diablerie – 888 (Nuclear War Now!)
Some cool but long forgotten gems will be reissued and see the light again after nearly three decades. Nomenclature Diablerie‘s 888 demo will be available again, this time with better quality, and it’s great to hear these original old-school tunes again.
Originally recorded and released in 1988, Aussie Lovecraftians Nomenclature Diablerie’s 888 is pure evil, morbid and vigorous. It has musical elements of bands such as Sepultura, Sarcófago and Possessed’s early releases, which we know as seminal death/thrash metal. Songwriting on “Lovecraft” and “Premature Cremation” is pretty solid and these two songs totally display the true feelings and energy of an era which was the birthplace of the underground metal scene. 888 is short but it is pure, thrilling and alive.
Saor – Forgotten Paths (Avantgarde)
The Scottish group Saor is helmed by Andy Marshall, who handles vocals, guitar and bass. Forgotten Paths is their fourth album. There’s a session drummer along with some guest musicians that add a unique flavor with instruments like violin and bagpipes.
Saor blend folk with atmospheric black and traditional Scottish songs. The tracks are lengthy, slowly unfolding and shifting. The opening title track is sometimes peaceful and serene, sometimes grandiose and other times heavy and extreme. It also includes a guest appearance by Neige from Alcest. “Bron” has some of the album’s heaviest moments, but also some memorable melodies. There are three 10 plus minute songs, along with an ending 5 minute atmospheric piano based instrumental. Saor have a unique style that both folk and black metal fans can appreciate.
Silvertung – But, At What Cost??! (Thermal)
After an acoustic album in 2017, Maryland hard rockers Silvertung are fully electric on But, At What Cost??!. Like 2016’s Out Of The Box, it was produced by Steven Wright (Slipknot, Mars Volta).
It’s either a long EP or a short LP, with the seven tracks clocking in at less than 25 minutes. They write songs that are heavy but also jam packed with melody and hooks. “Feel Inhuman” is a soaring rocker, while “World Gone Mad” is more somber, with some memorable riffage. There are plenty of songs ripe for radio airplay, and while the genre is a crowded one, Silvertung have been around for a while and have the chops to succeed.
Trauma – As The World Dies (Pure Steel)
There are a ton of bands named Trauma. This is the Bay Area traditional/thrash metal band whose lineup once include Cliff Burton and disbanded in the mid-’80s after their debut album, then reformed in 2013. Their current lineup includes original members Donny Hillier (vocals) and Kris Gustofson (drums) along with ex-Testament bassist Greg Christian, Dublin Death Patrol guitarist Steve Robello and ex-Danzig axeman Joe Fraulob.
The songs are old-school with searing dual guitars and potent vocals from Hillier, whose seems to have as much power and range as ever. From ragers like “From Here To Hell” and “Gun To Your Head” to groovier numbers such as the title track, they change things up enough to avoid monotony. There’s not a lot of originality, but this crew of veterans execute things flawlessly.
Two excellent bands from opposite sides of the globe team up here to release an intriguing doom metal split. Un hail from Seattle, and just five months ago released their excellent album Sentiment, while the U.K.’s Coltsblood put out Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness back in 2017. I’m unsure how these bands hooked up for this collaboration, but the results are well worth it.
Both bands favor the stylings of plodding, meticulously arranged doom on these two 21-minute songs, but with slight differences. While Coltsblood infuse their song with black metal and blastbeats, Un take their death doom to subsonic depths. Both songs are thoroughly engrossing and would be stellar contributions to full-length albums, making this split a real bonus for fans of either band, or death doom/blackened doom in general
The Wandering Ascetic – Crimson (Transcending Obscurity)
Hailing from Singapore, The Wandering Ascetic formed back in 2011 and released an EP in 2013. Crimson is their full-length debut. The band’s lineup includes two members of Rudra, who have been around since the early ’90s.
Though they share a vocalist, The Wandering Ascetic’s sound is different than Rudra’s. It’s blackened death with ample grooves and some memorable guitar work. Kathir’s death metal style vocals are very understandable, but still aggressive. Subtle elements like a bass intro on “The Gods Bleed!” add variety, though the tempos tend to be fairly similar.