This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aseitas, Decrepid, Devastator, Ensiferum, Inter Arma, Kingnomad, Lantern, Michael Grant & The Assassins, Nodus Tollens, Osyron, Rebel Wizard, Sail, Shining Black, Skeleton, Static-X, Trial and Voivod.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aseitas – False Peace (Lizard Brain)
Coming off like the spawn of jagged death metal and airy prog rock, False Peace has Aseitas raising the abrasiveness for their sophomore album. The feedback and noise of the title track is a stark opener, matched by the sonic calamity brought out over the next four or so songs. It’s effectively jarring, yet the band doesn’t maximize their return until the expansive second half of False Peace.
In this section, the band enables the prog-influenced side of their music. There are songs that go 10 minutes, 14 minutes, even a few seconds over 16; all expansive and majestic without filtering out the caustic nature of the early parts of the album. Expressive guitar solos, somber piano work, and a jazzy closing instrumental are a few of the ways Aseitas fleshes out their death metal. False Peace takes the bleakness of their self-titled debut album and amps it up times 20.
Decrepid – Endless Sea Of Graves (Xtreem)
Britain’s Decrepid started as a thrash band, but now play death metal, as one could assume by their name. Endless Sea of Graves is a death metal album with hints of thrash. Decrepid play in the vein of such bands as Vader, Grave, Malevolent Creation, Bolt Thrower and Cannibal Corpse.
Their guitar solos are superb. Just listen to the twisting, serpentine fret play of “Phobos Descent.” This solo flies in between speakers while the rhythm sections pounces. “Plagued By Mortality” is a bruising number bringing to mind the string play of Deicide and Vader. “Per Maleficium” features old school death metal drum play before hyper blasting took over. The string manipulations and drumming remind of Cannibal Corpse. The 14-minute track has a couple of slow, doomy sections (a theme found throughout the album), but the group keep the track moving with several tempo changes. Endless Sea Of Graves is not the most original album, but Decrepid do it skillfully.
Devastator – Baptised in Blasphemy (Clobber)
If you’re a riff-eating demon but have little time to hail Satan, then Baptised in Blasphemy by Devastator is the fast-food Necronomicon for you. At 25-minutes across seven tracks, Baptised in Blasphemy is a crash-course of Luciferian mayhem made to order. Like an alternate dimension where Airbourne plays black metal, we shoot off at 666mph into the abyss with “Howling Night”’s distorted, yet upbeat, grooves where headbanging comes through obligation, not choice.
From here, the tracklist unsurprisingly wears its inverted cross proudly atop the battle jacket but Devastator find no issue in going beyond their blackened thrash label. The death metal delivery on the latter end of “Hail Death” or the nod to power metal flair with “Spiritual Warfare”’s operatic guitar harmonics – it gestures beyond a by-the-numbers black/thrash ritual. As is generally the case down in hell, it’s not all perfect. The title track awards an ungodly amount of time to a shakily performed solo, and the mixing will occasionally smother a riff here and there. I realize that imperfect production is a black metal mainstay, but it’s oddly inconsistent. Playing devil’s advocate aside, it’s an acerbic and refreshingly joyous outing to the pits of hell.
Ensiferum – Thalassic (Metal Blade)
Finnish folksters Ensiferum have been around for more than two decades, but there is one thing they haven’t done until now: release an album built around a theme. Their eighth full-length revolves around the sea and water, with the title Thalassic an ancient Greek word meaning “of or related to seas.”
The album opens with an orchestral instrumental, but the album overall doesn’t have quite as many symphonic elements as their previous work. The most notable symphonic-based song is the epic “Cold Northland (Vainamoinen Part III).” What it does have is rousing, folk-tinged melodic death anthem like “Andromeda” and “Run From The Crushing Tide.” Those are balanced with mellower tracks like “One With The Sea” that relies exclusively on melodic vocals and “Midsummer Magic” that’s the folkiest song on the album. Thalassic is another varied release from Ensiferum that follows their traditional template while still forging ahead.
Inter Arma – Garbers Days Revisited (Relapse)
On their first covers album Garbers Days Revisited, Inter Arma put their own spin on eight songs from across a range of genres. There are some straightforward choices (Venom’s “In League With Satan”) and some unusual takes (a blackened version of Neil Young’s “Southern Man”). The band put a heightened stance on Nine Inch Nails’ “March Of The Pigs” and rocks out with a version of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream” that’s arguably better than the original.
Then there’s the cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” that has been making the pre-release rounds. Prince was notorious for his hatred of bands covering his songs, and this take on his 1984 classic wouldn’t change his mind. Recorded after a long drinking session with minimal studio changes, it’s the kind of late-night performance that takes until morning to realize what you’ve done. Inter Arma know this and has embraced it, pulling off the end to Garbers Days Revisited with an obvious wink.
Kingnomad – Sagan Om Rymden (Ripple)
Kingnomad perform an interesting twist on the stoner genre with their third full-length release Sagan Om Rymden. The musical references range from Kyuss to The Jimi Hendrix Experience and other bands that have used a fuzzy sound to their advantage. The album is fairly subtle, but uses its mood to make itself powerful.
Guitar riffs are gentle and use the aforementioned fuzz sound to create a very esoteric musical landscape. The songwriting is solid and leads to catchy songs that make you feel like you are traversing a desert plain. One can’t help but get entranced in the psychedelic nature of the album and keep coming back for multiple listens. Fans of the bands mentioned here will find a lot to like with this release for certain.
Lantern – Dimensions (Dark Descent)
Dimensions is the third full length by the Finnish black/death ensemble Lantern. The album follows their Lost Paragraph EP from last year. Dimensions features a lot of stop-and-start tempos and complex timing. There are huge tempo swings from isolated instrumentals to speed bursts.
The guitar tones and stop-and-start rhythms are reminiscent of early Tiamat. The outer space themes and guitar shredding bring to mind Nocturnus. St. Belial and Cruciatus’s guitars sound hollow and reverberated, which feels like being sucked into a black hole. “Strange Nebula” features shredding solos over some of the fastest tempos of the album. J. Noisehunter’s creates weird effects such as pick slide on “Monolithic Abysmal Dimensions.” Vocally, Necrophilos’s tones aren’t very growly. His tones are akin to Matti Karki from Dismember. The buzzy guitar tones and frequent harmonization, complexity of rhythms and Necrophilos’s “clean” growls make Dimensions a unique and intriguing album.
Michael Grant & The Assassins – Always The Villain (Frontiers)
Michael Grant was the touring guitarist for L.A. Guns for several years and appeared on one album with them. Prior to that he was part of Endeverafter. While Michael Grant & The Assassins sounds like a large collective, Always The Villain features Grant on vocals and all instruments, with a little help on drums on about half the tracks.
It’s not an ’80s hair band album, it’s radio ready hard rock that nicely balances modern elements with some classic flavor. Tracks like “Barrel Of A Gun” and “Gimme Salvation” are upbeat and anthemic while songs such as “Killing Me Slowly” and “Break Me With U” slow down the tempo. No matter the pace, the songs are melodic and hook-laden, and Grant is an excellent vocalist.
Nodus Tollens – Melancholic Waters Ablaze with the Fires of Loss (Trepnation/Pacific Threnodies)
After a split earlier this year with Crown Of Asteria, the Indiana one-man depressive/atmospheric black metal project Nodus Tollens emerge with their full-length debut Melancholic Waters Ablaze with the Fires of Loss.
That’s exactly the type of title you’d expect from depressive black metal, and the music is similarly downcast. However, moments of light do shine through the darkness. Most of the songs on the album are long, ranging from 8 to 10 minutes. Lengthy quiet and mellow passages are punctuated by intense black metal. Vocals are buried deep in the mix. And while many tracks maintain interest throughout, some like the mellow 8 minute instrumental “Ursa Minora” could use some trimming.
For their third album Foundation, the progressive metal band Osyron delve into Canadian history. The Alberta based group explores topics ranging from colonization to warfare to the mistreatment of Aboriginal people.
The album clocks in at around 30 minutes, straddling the line between EP and full-length. There are relatively focused tracks like the four minute “The Ones Below” along with more epic songs like the eight plus minute “Foundations.” From acoustic to symphonic, each song has plenty of twists and turns with potent vocals and compelling arrangements that showcase Osyron’s instrumental prowess. They also include their version of the Canadian national anthem.
Rebel Wizard – Magickal Mystical Indifference (Prosthetic)
After releasing 5 EPs in 2015, the Australian one-man project Rebel Wizard has slowed his output a little, but is still churning out at least one new release per year. Magickal Mystical Indifference is the latest release from mastermind Bob Nekrosov.
Like previous releases, this one blends black metal with more melodic genres like thrash, NWOBHM, power and traditional metal. The contrast between the catchy melodies and intense vocals makes for a unique and compelling album. The song titles remain bizarre (“While Light Of Divine Awe Smelling Of Sweat And Sex” and “Urination Of Vapidity On Consciousness”) while the music shreds and crushes. One of the few artists who appeals to both those who appreciate spandex and corpsepaint.
Sail, the quartet formerly known as Husk, play a delightfully melodic and emotional brand of stoner/sludge metal on their latest single, “Mannequin.” In relation to their 2017 LP Slumbersong and their 2019 EP Starve, the song follows a distinct trend, with Sail dialing in on their progressive tendencies and vocal harmonies, an aural pathway likewise traversed by two other bands they sound quite similar to: Baroness and Mastodon.
The song really is excellent—heavy, catchy, reflectively arranged—in fact, it’s so good, the band opted to accompany it with two other versions: a very enjoyable synthwave remix (to cater to the current cool) and a director’s cut of sorts, which, two-and-a-half minutes longer, adds some more psych riffery and soloing. As a standalone single, “Mannequin” serves as a terrific tease.
Skeleton – Skeleton (20 Buck Spin)
When you think black metal meets punk, you may think of Venom or Midnight, but Skeleton are a bit more than just that. This group of Austin assailants pummel you with catchy riffs that take you from the icy fjords and can drop you within death metal and thrash within a moment’s notice.
The opening title track in particular is a perfect theme song to what they are capable of. The music on Skeleton changes on a dime and with 11 songs in under a half an hour it begs to be repeated again and again, giving way to a surprising amount of nuance contained within this diminutive disc. This is one of the most excellent debut albums of 2020 and one that surely puts Skeleton on the map.
Shining Black – Shining Black (Frontiers)
Shining Black are a new band featuring vocalist Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Royal Hunt) and four members of the Italian progressive/power metal band Labyrinth including guitarist Olaf Thorsen.
The band’s self-titled debut album is melodic metal with songs that are more straightforward and restrained than Labyrinth. Boals’ pipes are unquestioned, singing with both power and emotion. Tracks like “Boogeyman” that allow him to use all facets of his voice are the strongest. Slick and polished with impressive musicianship, Shining Black has plenty of good songs, but stays comfortably within the mainstream and doesn’t break much new ground.
Static-X – Project Regeneration Vol. 1 (Otsego)
Static-X released Cult Of Static in 2009, and frontman Wayne Static passed away in 2014. Project Regeneration Vol. 1 is the first of two planned releases featuring Static’s final vocal performances. The lineup is the same as on their 1999 debut Wisconsin Death Trip: bassist Tony Campos, guitarist Koichi Fukuda and drummer Ken Jay.
The songs are vintage Static-X combining heavy guitars with industrial/electronic elements and catchy melodies. Tracks like “Hollow” and “Something Of My Own” are riff-driven while songs such as “My Destruction” rely more on electronics without sacrificing the guitar crunch. Ministry’s Al Jourgensen guests on the album closer “Dead Souls.” Cobbling the songs together must have been challenging, and the band did an excellent job of combining old and new into a compelling album, with part two on the way.
Trial label their music “dystopian thrash metal,” which is an on-the-mark description of their debut EP, 1. With machine-like percussion providing sterile beats, there’s an industrial tinge to their throwback guitar riffs. The vocals are almost spoken to the listener instead of sung, as vocalist INTERIM_VOID (both members of Trial use aliases) laments about humanity’s liars and thieves. It takes a song or two to really engage with what Trial is going for on this EP.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of metal fans are drawn to 1. It’s not traditional thrash metal; it’s not typical industrial; it’s got a hint of hardcore and noise, but not enough to win favor with those fan bases. The songs are capable enough, though they can’t sustain the 20 minutes the EP takes up. This EP has no hint of “underground breakout” in it, yet at least does something different within the confines of thrash metal.
Voivod – The End of Dormancy (Century Media)
“The End of Dormancy” is one of the coolest songs Canadian legends Voivod have written in recent years. What could make it even cooler? Maybe adding an intricate horn section. That’s what the band has done here on this sweet little EP, The End of Dormancy, a three-song platter well worth checking out.
Side 1 of this 12” single offering is the “Metal Section” version of “The End of Dormancy,” a song that maintains is heavy groove and quirky arrangement with the assistance of a full brass section. Two live tracks accompany this rework, including this same song as well as “The Unknown Knows” from the excellent 1989 album Nothingface.