This week’s Heavy Music HQ album reviews include releases from 10:13, Ancient Bards, Ars Magna Umbrae, Carnal Forge, Dodsfall, Entheogen, Gorgon, Hecate Enthroned, Incite, Insanity Alert, Jetboy, King Diamond, Puppy, The Sabbathian, Secret Rule, Starbreaker, Swallow The Sun, Tygers Of Pan Tang and Ulvdalir.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
It’s not often a black metal band starts their album off with an acoustic guitar and harmonica combo, but 10:13 aren’t going for typical with Results of an Iron Age. The product of musician Neil Carter, 10:13’s debut album is a strange creature. An avant-garde trip fueled by nightmares, there is a seismic bent away from the genre much of the time, besides the unpolished production values and occasional hellfire riff.
Vocals are nonexistent for extended periods, as Carter sets the album’s eerie mood using unnerving keyboards (with help from keyboardist Derek Sherinian on a few songs) and a mindset of a classical composer arranging his ultimate sonata. The offbeat nature of the entire proceedings will make Results of an Iron Age a tough record to embrace, yet its freeform delivery is its greatest strength.
Ancient Bards – Origine: The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2 (Limb)
Origine: The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2 is the sequel to Ancient Bards’ 2010 debut album The Alliance of the Kings (The Black Crystal Sword Saga Pt.I). The Italian symphonic metal band returns with grand symphonies and choirs, virtuoso speed and high pitch vocals.
Daniele Mazza orchestrates the grandiose symphonies and choirs to help tell the story cinematically. In addition to playing scales at warped speed, guitarist Simone Bertozzi even growls. At the helm is the band’s shining star, Sara Squadrani. Bombastic and over the top describe Origine: The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2. The length of the title alone is outrageous, like a Balsagoth title. At nearly fifteen-minutes long,” The Great Divide” is a lesson on making musical sagas. The record’s only drawback is Squadrani’s voice is almost too perfect and sometimes sounds out of place on a metal record. One could call her the “Celine Dion” of metal.
Ars Magna Umbrae – Lunar Ascension (I, Voidhanger)
Ars Magna Umbrae dabble in the occult with their black metal on Lunar Ascension. The product of a Polish musician who goes by the initials K.M., the band belongs in the same subcategory of the genre that groups like Nightbringer are a part of: black metal with a vision towards the sky. None of the songs take up an overabundance of time, though one of the longest songs happens to be the instrumental title track, so progressive tendencies do sink in.
That otherworldly title track, along with the somber “A Whisper from the Void” interlude, put the solid musicianship on the spot. In fact, the vocals seem to be secondary in many of these songs, as K.M. seems content to play around with stripped-down guitar riffs. The traditional components of black metal are there, for those concerned Lunar Ascension deviates too far from it, but Ars Magna Umbrae is a project set to soar above the norm.
Carnal Forge – Gun to Mouth Salvation (ViciSolum)
Carnal Forge bring the intensity to the table with their newest release and seventh full length, Gun to Mouth Salvation. Scathing riffs hit the pedal to the metal. Their music combines thrash with death metal, but has a melodic death metal focus as well. The merging of different genres plays to Carnal Forge’s advantage, though are relatively straightforward in nature. The rather narrow approach to metal music creates a number of memorable moments.
Songs like “Aftermath” make their impact felt without relying on needless complexities. The music has a spark and really is full of energy and charisma. This is some of the most potent music I’ve heard in some time. That the band manages to keep up the intensity is impressive and speaks to their ability as songwriters. The songs are brilliantly constructed in their simplicity and bring a similar quality to the Carcass album Heartwork. Carnal Forge’s name derives from a song from that album, so the comparison is appropriate. This is vicious and consistently entertaining music.
Dodsfall – Døden Skal Ikke Vente (Osmose)
It has been four years since the last album from the Norwegian black metal band Dodsfall. Returning is vocalist/guitarist/bassist Ishtar along with new drummer Telal (Astaroth, Troll) for the band’s fifth full-length, Døden Skal Ikke Vente.
The album is mostly traditional black metal with typical tremolo riffing, but Dodsfall throw in some classic metal influences with some twin guitar harmonies. They also change up the pace, with tracks like “Svarta Drömmar” going from urgent to mid-paced to slow before picking up the pace again. Those shifts in tempo, along with some acoustic moments, makes for more variety than the typical black metal release.
Entheogen – Without Veil, Nor Self (I, Voidhanger)
The mystique surrounding Entheogen’s Without Veil, Nor Self puts their systemic black metal on a different level, one pushed by murky undertones and a demanding pace. Just keeping up with the rhythmic work is an enormous task, as drummer Jack Blackburn plays his instrument like it’s on fire and he’s trying to put it out with his fists. Entheogen thrive as the rampage thickens.
In fact, it isn’t until the dynamic closer “Pall” when the band allows themselves space to stretch their tired limbs. The second half of this ten-minute juggernaut expands their sound into melodic directions, which comes off as a coda to the pandemonium that came before it. It’s a fine way to end Without Veil, Nor Self, and proves that Entheogen have ambitions beyond punching through their music with primal rage.
Gorgon – The Veil of Darkness (Osmose)
Most conversations about French black metal do not begin with Gorgon, yet French black metal began with Gorgon. The group nears four decades of releases with The Veil of Darkness. They (he) may hail from France, but much of the music points northward to Sweden to satanic titans Marduk, Dark Funeral and Naglfar. The speed and attitude is completely in your face, punching you in the nose from the first blasphemous proclamation, “your god is dead!” on “Stil Six Six Six.”
Sole member Christophe Chatelet provides all tortured screams, fiery picking and quick beats. While Chatlet is most dangerous at his fastest, mid-paced segments on “Border of the Forest” and “Our Crusade” allow the listener to take a breath. The group has changed quite a bit since then. The Veil of Darkness sounds slick compared to their earlier material. Don’t let that fool you. It’s a straightforward, middle-finger-to-the-universe black metal album.
Hecate Enthroned – Embrace Of The Godless Aeon (M-Theory)
The UK black/death metal band Hecate Enthroned have been around for more than two decades, and since the turn of the century have taken quite a bit of time between albums. There was a nine year span between 2004’s Redimus and 2013’s Virulent Rapture, with another five plus year span until their latest release, Embrace Of The Godless Aeon.
It’s their first with vocalist Joe Stamps (Child Of Ash), who joined the band a few years ago. It also includes vocals from Sarah Jezebel Diva (ex-Cradle Of Filth) on a few tracks. The songs are symphonic and complex with a lot of depth and atmosphere, which contrasts nicely with the extremity of the black and death metal. The strongest tracks utilize both vocalists, such as the epic “Goddess Of Dark Misfits” and the epic closer “Erebus And Terror.”
Incite – Built To Destroy (Minus Head)
There are a lot of Cavaleras making metal music, with Richie fronting Incite. They went through a lot of lineup changes in their early years, but have maintained their current membership for over five years. Built To Destroy is their fifth album.
Incite are all about the groove, with menacing riffs and plenty of low end. Tracks like “Ruthless Ways” and “Resistance” are both catchy and mosh-worthy. The album includes a couple of guest vocal appearances, including Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein and Six Feet Under’s Chris Barnes. Steve Evetts (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Sepultura) returns as a producer, giving the album a crisp and full sound. The band manages to mature musically without sacrificing any aggression or passion.
Insanity Alert – 666-Pack (Season of Mist)
Austrian alcoholics Insanity Alert have almost as much of an insatiable hunger for hops as Trappist do, but these guys have far less subtlety in their favor, much like Municipal Waste. Everything here is chock full of hilarity and ABV. Vocalist Heavy Kevy sounds like an inebriated Jello Biafra with plenty of punk fervor to support his manic ranting and chanting.
Insert songs about video games(“8 Bit Brutality”), crappy pop music (“Windmilli Vanilli”) and the fast and furious (“I Come, I Fuck Shit Up, I Leave”) leave the listener completely trashed after the biggest kegger 2019 has to offer. If you enjoy fun songs about doing fun and stupid things, you will have the absolute time of your life with 666-Pack. Just don’t narc out on this party, ok?
Jetboy – Born To Fly (Frontiers)
Fans of ’80s hard rock might remember the name Jetboy. They signed to a major label and released a couple of albums, but never had a lot of commercial success and disbanded. They eventually reunited and have released a few more albums over the years. The current lineup includes original members Mickey Finn (vocals), Billy Rowe (guitar) and Fernie Rod (guitar) along with former Faster Pussycat bassist Eric Stacy and drummer Al Serranto. Born To Fly is their new album.
The songs have a classic, bluesy sound without being retro. They are mostly uptempo and catchy, such as “Old Dog New Tricks” and “All Over Again” along with ballads like “The Way That You Move Me.” Having played the ’80s festival circuit for quite a while now, more people may be aware of Jetboy these days than back in the day, though new material from ’80s bands is always a tough sell.
King Diamond – Songs For The Dead Live (Metal Blade)
It has been more than a decade since the last King Diamond studio album (2007’s Give Me Your Soul…Please). While fans patiently await new material, there’s a new live collection Songs For The Dead Live.
The 2DVD/CD collection includes sets recorded in Philadelphia in 2015 and at Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium in 2016. The two shows include the exact same 18 songs, but one being a club show and the other a festival gives them a different vibe. The Philadelphia show, while having ample theatricality, is more intimate. King Diamond’s trademark falsetto is still powerful as he sings classic tracks like “Halloween,” “Welcome Home” and “Melissa.” Long live the king!
Puppy – The Goat (Spinefarm)
Taken at their strange name alone, you have no idea what to expect from the UK’s Puppy. What you get is an album that feels like it should have been released in the early ‘90s with guitars that almost belong on Helmet’s Meantime coupled with vocals that are more pop-oriented than you would think to accompany this disc.
The Goat is a very different album and really offers a lot of heavy and something different for all listeners. Album opener “Black Hole” is a mid-tempo and then the band fires off headlong into “Vengeance,” which is faster paced and shows off more of the metallic edge that Puppy bring to the fray in different tracks. Fans looking for a different and fresh take on hard rock in 2019 owe it to themselves to see what these innovators have put out.
The Sabbathian – Latum Alterum (Svart)
A foreboding atmosphere is The Sabbathian’s specialty on Latum Alterum, as the tempos aim away from blinding momentum and towards well-paced heaviness. By doing this, the band makes moments when they cut loose, like on “Embrace the Dark,” a standout spectacle. That doesn’t happen much though, which makes songs that go six to seven minutes on average being built on Anette Uvaas Guldbrandsen’s captivating vocals.
Her range doesn’t aim for the stars or astound at every turn, but Latum Alterum isn’t the kind of album that needs an operatic showstopper. Guldbrandsen’s grounded performance is suited for the tightly-wound doom metal. The album is not immediate in its effects, which makes this debut from The Sabbathian one that requires finesse to sink in.
Secret Rule – The 7 Endless (Pride & Joy)
The 7 Endless is the fourth full-length from the Italian band Secret Rule. It’s a concept record inspired by characters created by Neil Gaiman for the comic book The Sandman.
Secret Rule play melodic metal with heavy guitars and electronic elements that are sometimes symphonic, other times more atmospheric. Vocalist Angela Di Vincenzo utilizes a few different styles, from a traditional symphonic/power metal delivery with a lot of vibrato to a lower register casual pop style that sounds a bit like Belinda Carlisle (GoGos). The songs have ample depth and complexity, but are relatively streamlined with most in the four minute range. Tracks like “Desire” and “Destiny” are very cinematic, while songs such as “Hidden Into…” and “Delirium” are more straightforward and accessible.
Starbreaker – Dysphoria (Frontiers)
Starbreaker, featuring former TNT front man Tony Harnell and guitar wizard Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear and Allen/Lande) have put together a fine metal album by most standards. Dysphoria contains superior guitar work, excellent vocals at times, and some solid songwriting. In all, Karlsson never disappoints, unleashing blistering leads and a sound that is ultimately satisfying. Harnell is a gifted vocalist, yet best in his middle range.
In terms of straight composition, while trying to seem diverse with both driving metal songs and ballads, the former is far more effective. This band is best rocking the house, while the soft sell seems more like a parody of ’80s metal, the melodies uncomfortable at times, as if the band didn’t know where to go and settled, hoping Karlsson would bail them out with a riff fortifying the given song with “integrity.” Mostly good stuff here, some of it a reach.
Swallow the Sun – When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light (Century Media)
When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light marks two decades of melodic death/doom for Swallow the Sun. Melody is a major on factor on this recording. Clean vocal and guitar harmonies, keys and violins offer bliss only to fall into the abyss of maddening screams and growls.
Much of the atmosphere creates a backdrop for majestic voices. Violins and rich vocals sway “The Crimson Crown.” The title track’s atmosphere is transcendent. There is even a sense of awe rather than fear in the blackened chorus. Listen a little further for the mood to morph “into the dark.” “Upon the waters” features one of the darker, heavier guitars.
When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is great for what it is. It’s not a guitar-driven record, the guitar seems more aligned with the prevailing atmosphere. This should not detract from the overall effectiveness of the album’s melodies and atmosphere.
Tygers Of Pan Tang – Hellbound Spellbound ’81 (Mighty)
NWOBHM pioneers Tygers Of Pan Tang are still around today and plan to record a new album this year, though guitarist Robb Weir is the lone remaining original member. Their heydey was in the early ’80s, which is exactly when their newly released live album Hellbound Spellbound ’81 was recorded.
Originally recorded by the legendary Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest), it has been remixed and remastered, upgrading the sound quality from its original 2001 release (under the title Live At Nottingham Rock City). This edition is available in numerous configurations including a limited edition box set. The 15 song setlist includes tracks from 1980’s Wild Cat and 1981’s Spellbound, including “All Or Nothing” and “Euthanasia.” It’s a good opportunity for NWOBHM fans to hear one of the genre’s more underrated acts, especially during this era when John Sykes (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Blue Murder) was one of their guitarists.
Ulvdalir – …of Death Eternal (Iron Bonehead)
Along with label mates Khashm, who share members, Ulvdalir are members of the inner circle of True Ingrian Black Metal Death. The Russian group’s fourth full-length album …of Death Eternal is a nod to old school black metal. It summons the undead spirits of early Norwegian classics laid down by Enslaved, Satyricon and Emperor.
Except for dissonant guitar-string ring outs placed throughout the album, the record moves at a frantic pace, especially the drums. The group shows they’re more than just a fast, evil black metal band; they are also technically sound. Just listen to the guitar solo on the first track “Awakening” or the bass solo on “Black Flame of Will.” The riffs are cold as a Russian snowflake in December. Echoing voices and haunting interludes make the album quite frightening. …of Death Eternal will not disappoint fans or collectors of Eastern European black metal.