Heavy Music Headquarters Album Reviews: Week of February 7, 2020

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Delain, Drapsnatt, Envy, Goblinsmoker, Ironflame, Karg, Krosis, Nightfear, Revoltons, Serpent Noir, Sepultura, Seven Planets, Svart Crown and Sylosis.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Napalm Records

Delain – Apocalypse & Chill (Napalm)

On their last couple albums, the Dutch symphonic metal band Delain have blended more pop sensibilities into the mix, and that’s also the case on their latest effort, Apocalypse & Chill.

The symphonic bombast is fully intact on songs like “Burning Bridges” and “To Live Is To Die” along with catchy choruses and ample hooks. They also use synths in different ways. Delain do a really good job keeping the songs heavy while injecting maximum melody. Charlotte Wessels is front and center most of the time, but on tracks like the opener “One Second” the male harsh and melodic vocals add variety. Yannis Papadopolous from Beast In Black guests on the soaring “Vengeance.” There are also ballads like the sparse “Ghost House Heart” and “The Greatest Escape.” Lyrically they shift things as well, looking both outward and inward. Apocalypse & Chill pushes Delain forward, but still brings along their existing fans.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Nordvis Produktion

Drapsnatt – I Denna Skog (Nordvis)

I Denna Skog is the re-release of Drapsnatt’s 2009 debut album, one of three the group released in their time together before disbanding in 2016. Sung in their native Swedish, the album has the hallmarks of the atmospheric side of the genre: the emotive melodic vocals, stark keyboards lending an icy glaze to the music, and occasional bouts of ambiance. All of these are effectively incorporated into traditional black metal.

After over a decade, I Denna Skog still retains its ability to be both lush and stark. This album began a period of a few years where their output was contained to, which saw the band mold their sound further into darker terrain. Maybe those will get a well-deserve reissue as well, allowing a new audience to get a chance to hear it like I Denna Skog does.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Pelagic Records

Envy – The Fallen Crimson (Pelagic)

When I grabbed the latest release from Japanese post-metal outfit Envy, I had no idea they had been around for nearly thirty years. The Fallen Crimson is the band’s seventh album, and first since 2015. The band’s mix of post-hardcore, shoegaze, post-rock, and more is enticing, and they totally pull it off.

The highlight of The Fallen Crimson is Tetsuya Fukagawa’s amazing vocal performance, as he effortlessly shifts from screaming to ethereal wistfulness throughout. And the music keeps pace, at all times pristine and immaculate, moving from airy, glistening shoegaze to crushing heaviness. Those of you (like me) who haven’t heard Envy before need to get on The Fallen Crimson.

Rating: 4
(Mike Huck)

Sludgelord Records

Goblinsmoker – A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (Sludgelord)

Dope smoking never looked as dark as Goblinsmoker’s A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze. The English act’s second EP blends down-tempos and highly distorted guitars of modern stoner/doom with the atmosphere and “goblin” shrieks of black metal. This mixing of sub-genres is one of the things that make them stand apart from the ever widening stoner/doom fold.

A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze offers simplistic compositions. They find a riff and play it to death. Most of the songs on the 3-song EP consist of just a couple riffs. “Smoked in Darkness” starts with a light rhythm that takes a heavy turn, while still maintaining the same rhythm. “Let Them Rot” moves thick and slow like pouring syrup over pancakes, but really pushes the pace near the end. Even though much of the album is on repeat, the riffs are catchy and hit very hard. Turn this album up loud to get the best effect.

Rating: 3.5
(Darren Cowan)

Divebomb Records

Ironflame – Blood Red Victory (Divebomb)

Ohio’s answer to the recent resurgence of traditional heavy metal, Ironflame enter the ring with their third full length, Blood Red Victory. Songs of battle, swords, and honor are what populate this disc and it sounds like what you would think; large European-styled choruses, excellent guitar solos and great driving riffs.

As you listen to “Honor Bound” and “Seekers of the Blade” you get the sense of battle acumen that the band possesses, with very upbeat tempos, providing the listener with a mental image of what is taking place on the battlefield. Certainly more in line with the power metal side of NWOTHM, Ironflame compare favorably to Visigoth. This is a fun record that will keep you wanting more from this very busy band.

Rating: 3.5
(Tom Campagna)

AOP Records

Karg – Traktat (AOP)

J.J. of Harakiri For The Sky founded Karg back in 2006. Though a full band is put together for live shows, J.J. handles everything but drums for the albums. Traktat is Karg’s latest. Most of the lyrics are written in a dialect spoken near Austria’s Tennen Mountains.

The music encompasses a lot of different styles. It could be categorized as post-black, while also utilizing everything from atmsopheric black to shoegaze to grunge to post-rock. The vibe is melancholy, but the lengthy tracks (most range from 7 to 11 minutes long) also have extreme and intense sections that contrast the mellower and more introspective parts. Clocking in at around 80 minutes, it’s a lot to absorb, but the compositions are compelling and diverse and mostly able to maintain interest save for a few lulls here and there.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Unique Leader Records

Krosis – A Memoir Of Free Will (Unique Leader)

With A Memoir Of Free Will, Krosis have done what any band should do with a sophomore album; take the seeds planted by their debut and let them blossom into something vibrant and fruitful. It’s a major step up, not only in execution, but in scope. The group pushes what they call “progressive deathcore” through technical, slam, and symphonic styles to formulate a sound that’s part groove, part precision, and part aspirational.

The last part is apparent on the opener and closer that bookend the album, both of which push the group as far as they’ve gone musically up to this point in their young career. Riffs that appear in one show up in the other, especially in the multi-tiered title track that spans almost 11 minutes. There’s no fear in mixing up their content, from the brutal slam of “Battles Are Won Within” to the passionate bass guitar work in the dynamic instrumental “Questions Of A Holistic Divine.”

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Fighter Records

Nightfear – Apocalypse (Fighter)

What can be found on Apocalypse, the third album from the Spanish band Nightfear, is a very fiery form of power metal. The riffs are impassioned and showcase a band that is really having fun. Nightfear forgo the cheesiness widely associated with the genre for a more heavy nature that is greatly moving and nicely paced.

Though it’s not overly original, there are so many good instrumental segments that this is easy to forgive and simply enjoy the power metal on display. There is also a slight traditional metal influence to the music, and this is what makes it so intense. The music could still be improved and made more interesting, but this is a highly respectable power metal release. Fans of the genre should find a lot to appreciate here.

Rating: 3.5

(Adam McAuley)

Sleaszy Rider Records

Revoltons – Underwater Bells Pt. 2: October 9, 1963 Act 1 (Sleaszy Rider)

It has been eight years since the last album from the Italian power metal band Revoltons. They have been around since 1991, but Underwater Bells Pt. 2: October 9, 1963 Act 1 is just their fifth full-length. The album details the tragedy of October 9, 1963 when The Vajont dam in the Alps was overwhelmed by a tidal wave, destroying several towns and resulting in over 2,500 deaths.

Revolton’s brand of power metal incorporates elements of thrash and prog to create songs that have creative arrangements along with substantial melodies. Prog is evident on songs like “Slowmotion Apocalypse” while they show a softer approach on ballads such as “The Powerless Wrath.” There are numerous guests including Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden) and Alessia Scoletti (Temperance) that add even more variety to the proceedings.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

WTC Productions

Serpent Noir – Death Clan OD (WTC)

Serpent Noir’s newest album Death Clan OD is a step forward. A band that became more known to black metal fans with their acclaimed 2015 album Erotomysticism have now released an album that, if not extended the band’s musical boundaries, has certainly strengthened their position in Greece’s underground music.

Unlike Erotomysticism, which was focused more on ambiance and atmospheric compositions, Death Clan OD has a more ambitious look at mid-’90s, familiar black metal music. Dealing with mysticism and occultism as before, the album has a clever approach to Scandinavian black metal. There are countless woeful melodies throughout the album, blending in with the equally passionate riffs, which in the end create a vehement and intensive atmosphere. Death Clan OD takes a different, stronger and more independent path than two previous albums, and Serpent Noir seem to have found a reliable place to expand their musical journey.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Nuclear Blast

Sepultura – Quadra (Nuclear Blast)

The Derrick Green era of Sepultura has now lasted for more than 20 years and nine studio albums. Guitarist Andreas Kisser and bassist Paulo Jr. have been in the band for over 30 years, with the newest member Eloy Casagrande approaching a decade behind the kit. For their latest release Quadra, the band took a unique approach to the songs.

Based on Quadrivium, which are four arts (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy), the 12 songs on Quadra are divided into four groups of three tracks. They hearken back to their classic thrash metal sound, revisit the percussion and rhythms of the Roots era, do some experimenting and bring forth melodic songs. The result is a wide-ranging album that embraces the past and moves toward the future. From the intense thrash of “Last Time” to the groove of “Ali” to the progressive leanings of the instrumental “The Pentagram” to the melodic closer “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering” featuring guest vocals from Emmily Barreto, there’s something for fans of all eras of Sepultura.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Small Stone Records

Seven Planets – Explorer (Small Stone)

Six years in the making, Explorer is the third album from West Virginia’s Seven Planets. The instrumental psych/stoner/blues quartet endured a lot of setbacks and challenges in putting Explorer together, but have managed to deliver eight fun songs over thirty-seven minutes despite staring down cancer and dealing with the departure of their bass player.

Stylistically, Seven Planets bridge the gaps between stoner, psychedelic blues, boogie, and classic rock. The band is tight and rocks hard, with some excellent guitar tones. The songs on Explorer may not have a ton of staying power, but they rock in their own right, and will be a great soundtrack to summer barbeques in a few months.

Rating: 3
(Mike Huck)

Century Media Records

Svart Crown – Wolves Among The Ashes (Century Media)

The French band Svart Crown‘s new album Wolves Among The Ashes sees the return of guitarist Clement Flandrois and drummer Nicolas “Ranko” Muller after an absence of a few years, and the addition of bassist Julien Negro.

The band’s blackened death style is evident on songs like “Thermageddon,” but they break the typical extreme metal mold on tracks such as “Down To Nowhere” with its clean vocals and trippy vibe. Groove takes the forefront on “Exoria” before numerous twists and turns from intense to mellow and back again. This lineup jells very well, able to expertly shift between disparate styles while still managing to keep things grounded and cohesive.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Nuclear Blast

Sylosis – Cycle Of Suffering (Nuclear Blast)

In the aftermath of the release of 2015’s Dormant Heart, Sylosis announced they were going on indefinite hiatus. That ended up being about four years, as they re-emerge with a new bassist (Conor Marshall) and a new album, Cycle Of Suffering.

Frontman Josh Middleton wanted to be more free in the writing process this time around, resulting in a record that stays true to Sylosis’ sound while expanding it. “Arms Like A Noose” has an acoustic intro and interlude contrasted by pummeling modern metal. “Calcified” has a lot of melody, especially in the chorus, along with plenty of intensity and aggression. The most unique song on the album is the epic closer “Abandon” with ethereal melodic singing and harsh vocals. It’s a worthy and welcome comeback for Sylosis.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

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