This week’s reviews include releases from Aeon Winds, An Isolated Mind, Batushka, Brand Of Sacrifice, Bullet, Burial Remains, Celestial Grave, Dekadent, False, Freighter, Glasya, Graham Bonnet Band, Gyze, Hyvmine, Immortal Bird, Kafka, Kryptos, Sacri Monti, Seraph In Trevail, Torche, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody, Under A Full Moon, Visionatica and Wear Your Wounds.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aeon Winds – Stormveiled (Avantgarde)
The Slovakian band Aeon Winds have been around for more than a decade, issuing numerous splits, EPs and a full-length back in 2012. Stormveiled is their second full-length.
It’s an atmospheric album, with passages of peaceful serenity that are contrasted by intense black metal. They’ve assembled an impressive roster of guest musicians, getting contributions from Mortiis on “Beyound All Empty Places,” Morfeus (ex-Limbonic Art) on “Of Times Forgotten” and Dis Pater (Midnight Odyssey) on several tracks. The arrangements are very engaging, with a lot of ebbs and flows. Sometimes crushing, other times mellow, it’s constantly changing and compelling album.
An Isolated Mind – I’m Losing Myself (I, Voidhanger)
Musician Kameron Bogges came up with An Isolated Mind’s debut album, I’m Losing Myself, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a stint in a psychiatric hospital. Mental health is a major topic of this album, making the manic nature of these songs understandable. This had to be a very personal album for Bogges to work on; one that he not only wrote, recorded, and produced himself, but also did the cover art.
While there are some strains of typical black and death metal, it’s usually fazed out by synths and ambiance. There’s a fair amount of instrumental/ambient material on here, notably on the last 25 minutes of the hour-long I’m Losing Myself. It’s an uncomfortable listen at times, but one that encapsulates what Bogges must have been going through as he came to grips with his disorder.
Batushka – Hospodi (Metal Blade)
Batushka made a stir in the black metal community with their 2015 album Litourgiya, but things behind the scenes have been strained since. Hospodi is the new Batushka album, except that it’s not the only new Batushka album. Two founding members of the original band split up, sued each other, and are now running their own separate entities under the same name. This Batushka album, Hospodi, is not from the same band that released Panihida two months ago.
But let’s leave the technicalities to the court system; what’s important is how Hospodi came out from this turmoil. The answer is, about as well as expected. Unorthodox black metal is still in play, with heavy use of chanting and samples like bells and chimes. There’s a rock-ish tint to the usual blackened folly, which differentiates Hospodi from Litourgiya.
Brand of Sacrifice – God Hand (Unique Leader)
Brand of Sacrifice’s God Hand is a tale of two sides: one a punishing spectacle of brutal death metal, while the other gives that sound a cinematic boost. It’s a case where one overshadows the other, in this case being the latter side. Brand of Sacrifice play to those that can’t get enough of breakdowns, to the point that when there aren’t any, they wonder, “When’s the next breakdown?”
That’s why their incorporation of symphonic elements on the second half of God Hand brings new depth to what is standard-fare music prior. The anger is still tangible, but it’s given dimensions instead of being bashed over our heads. God Hand’s lasting curiosity is what Brand of Sacrifice could do if they go for the bombastic delivery instead of the sledgehammer approach.
Bullet – Live (SPV/Steamhammer)
The Swedish traditional metal/hard rock band Bullet play straightforward and direct music, so it makes sense that their first live release is called simply Live. It was recorded in 2017 and 2018.
Bullet’s energetic style gives even more life to the songs, driven by Hell Hofer’s distinctive high-pitched vocals. The 18 songs on the 2CD collection are taken from throughout their six album discography, going back to their 2006 debut Heading For The Top. Their latest album, 2018’s Dust To Gold, is well represented, with five tracks in the set. There’s plenty of material, it’s a diverse collection, and Bullet fans will be well satisfied with Live.
Burial Remains – Trinity of Deception (Transcending Obscurity)
In the history of metal music, we always remember the Netherlands as the home of great death metal bands. Gorefest, Pestilence, Asphyx and Sinister are among the acts that have shaped the Dutch metal scene. And now Burial Remains have risen up to keep the old school death metal flame alive.
Consisting of members from Fleshcrawl, Disintegrate and Grim Fate, Burial Remains came up with completely old school appearance. From the album cover to the logo and the music, all of their components are clearly rooted in classical death metal music. You might not find a new thing in their music, because Trinity of Deception does not go beyond old school death metal familiar elements and routine motifs, but with its short running time, delivers seven powerful songs of crust-fused unpolished death metal.
Celestial Grave – Secular Flesh (Iron Bonehead)
Secular Flesh is the first full-length from Finland’s Celestial Grave. The group’s style recalls fellow Finnish black metal artists, but the atmosphere and DSBM spirit allows the group to stand apart. Tremolo-picked guitars relate this quality in black metal, but the band doesn’t overkill the technique. Vocals vary from screams, narrations and pain filled cries and lie low in the mix creating a howling-wind effect.
There is a wretched agony in the vocals that can be mournful or menacing. Near the one-minute mark of the title track, the band deconstructs buzzing, dissonant guitars into a nightmarish soundscape containing numerous dimensions including hand bells, transcendental voices and a faint preview of the catchy, menacing riff that defines the song. “Gasping from Lips of Night” and ten-minute closer “Calamitous Love” delve deeper into states of depression. From memorable riffs to production values and varied, oft-tortured vocals, Secular Flesh is a mesmerizing album from beginning to end.
Dekadent – The Nemean Ordeal (Dusktone)
I’m coming in blind to atmospheric black metal act Dekadent, having stumbled upon them during a Bandcamp binge. But it turns out this Slovenian act has been around since 2005, and The Nemean Ordeal is their fifth album. Black metal is the band’s foundation, but atop that they bring a vast array of styles to the table, from classical music to ambient soundscapes, to acts such as Ihsahn and Emperor.
That’s an ambitious amalgamation of styles, and for the most part Dekadent pull it off, with epic, majestic songcraft that clearly pushes boundaries and commands multiple listens. Music this broad in scope demands stellar production, though, and throughout The Nemean Ordeal I found myself straining to hear everything that was happening. This is a strong enough album to make me dig into the band’s archives, but to take their act to the next level some modern production techniques would be a huge benefit.
False – Portent (Gilead)
During the nine-year activity of the American black metal band False, they have not released much music, but with a general look at what they have already published, we find that this band has a great deal of success: finding harmony among the resident chaos and dissonance in their music. After the success of the first album which was simply called Untitled, the band returns with another striking attempt, Portent and it delivers the heritage of the first album in a new color.
On Portent, the band have come to a position that we have heard less in their previous work. They have reached a balance of chaos and order in their music. The songs are as epic and long as before, and vocalist Rachel offers the same real-life, passionate performance once again. The other members of the band trade enigmatic guitar riffs and melodies more than ever. The songs have become more dynamic and in many moments False’s music enters progressive music territory. Portent is exactly the type of record to help re-inspire the modern black metal scene.
Freighter’s first album in over a decade, The Den, packs a heap of technical chaos into under half an hour. The music bulldozes through tempos without wondering if the listener will be able to keep up with it all. Vocalist/guitarist Travis Andrews yells out lyrics, somehow finding time to take a breath between lines, and there’s humor underneath songs with titles like “Presto Change-o” and “Hot Car Death Dad.”
With the album being so brief, the band makes what could be lengthy excursions into bite-sized sonic nuggets. They do more in three minutes than others do in twice that, which makes repeated listens a good way to catch all the different things they do (keyboards, sound effects). The Den is a schizoid version of progressive metal performed with a deft hand.
Glasya – Heaven’s Demise (Pride & Joy)
Heaven’s Demise is the debut album of symphonic newcomers Glasya. Formed with the goal of creating a more cinematic symphonic experience, the album is fun but ultimately fails to reach its potential.
On the surface, this is a very listenable album; there’re a lot of different parts to hear, the songs range from exciting to emotional, and the guitar solos are sick. However, upon closer musical inspection, Heaven’s Demise has a few core isues. Most obviously, there is a distracting degree of Nightwish influence at play, with the intro of “The Last Dying Sun” being a near-duplicate of “Storytime”‘s intro. Additionally, a lot of the section changes don’t transition well and are, at times, jarring. With a bit more streamlining and more originality, Glasya could certainly achieve greatness.
Graham Bonnet Band – Live In Tokyo 2017 (Frontiers)
The Graham Bonnet Band is a relatively recent outfit, having formed in 2015 and releasing two albums. However, Graham Bonnet has been around for a long time, fronting bands ranging from Rainbow to Alcatrazz to Impellitteri to MSG. He’s currently part of Michael Schenker Fest.
Live In Tokyo 2017 includes songs from their 2016 debut album The Book along with tracks from Bonnet’s other bands. There’s Rainbow’s “Since You’ve Been Gone,” Michael Schenker Band’s “Assault Attack” and Impellitteri’s “Stand In Line.” The 71 year old Bonnet is still in fine form, and this is a good sampling of songs both old and new.
Gyze – Asian Chaos (Out Of Line)
Asian Chaos is the fourth studio album from the Japanese band Gyze. Their profile has been steadily increasing as they’ve played numerous festivals and toured with bands such as DragonForce and Children Of Bodom.
Their sound incorporates traditional Japanese music, especially evident on the opening instrumental “Far Eastern Land.” Tracks like “Asian Chaos” and “Dragon Calling” have speed and power metal influences with harsh vocals. The songs are melodic with plenty of guitar wizardry in the vein of DragonForce, whose vocalist Marc Hudson guests on “The Rising Dragon.” While they are certainly influenced by other power/speed metal bands, Gyze have enough unique elements to set themselves apart from the crowd.
Hyvmine – Retalition (Seek and Strike)
The music on Hyvmine’s Retaliation is certainly heavy enough and this much is identifiable right from the get go. The L.A. prog-influenced band’s music is also more interesting than the average hard rock record with a bunch of intricacies to the songs. On Retaliation, the band pushes for a very convincing breed of hard rock that is punctuated by a strong production job. The songs are certainly more underground sounding than a typical rock release as well.
Hyvmine have a punch to them that is undeniable. They usually have a really sweet sounding aspect that ingrains in your memory banks and makes you want to listen to them again. The music is just huge and addicting in nature and makes you want to listen additional times to soak in the catchiness of the tracks. The songs are constructed in a fashion that is different from any hard rock I’ve heard, though there is a slight grunge and nu metal influence. This was a fulfilling and immersive experience.
Immortal Bird – Thrive on Neglect (20 Buck Spin)
To thrive on neglect, as Immortal Bird proclaim on the album title to their second album, means to blossom in a state of isolation. While the band is not alone in their portrayal of death metal with a dash of blackened grind, they seem to revel in the surrounding despair. It’s been about four years since the group’s Empress/Abscess debut full-length, and this time has sharpened what was already a honed-in sound.
There are real gains made from the songwriting, with the band playing around with technical rhythm leads (“House of Anhedonia”), poignant melodies (“Avolition”), and explosive guitar work (the solo at the end of “Stumbling Toward Catharsis”). All of this is held in place by vocalist Rae Amitay’s performance, a self-induced tearing of her vocal cords with every phrase bellowed out. Thrive on Neglect is another successful notch on the growing resume of Immortal Bird.
Kafka – Kafka (WOOAAARGH)
My affection for the writings of Franz Kafka led me to this album, the self-titled debut of Greek four piece Kafka, but the band’s description nearly scared me off. Anti-fascist atmospheric blackened hardcore is not a genre mix I would consider in my wheelhouse, but once this six-song, 27-minute album took off, my worries were allayed.
The hardcore aspect of Kafka is primarily limited to the torn-throat vocals. Musically, this is a clean and varied record, loaded with glistening guitar movements, growling bass, and diverse drumming – almost more of a post-metal performance than blackened hardcore. The music on Kafka draws you in for multiple listens, and the album’s brevity leaves us wanting more. Kafka are a band to watch out for.
Kryptos – Afterburner (AFM)
Hailing from Bangalore, India, Kryptos have been around for over twenty years, and Afterburner is their fifth album. Forged in the furnace of old-school metal such as Judas Priest, Accept, and Iron Maiden, these vets know how to thrash and bang their way through a set.
And thrash and bang they do, with eight fast-paced songs that feel like they’ve been pulled straight out of 1983. Musically, the combination of muscular metallic riffs and belligerent thrash is intoxicating, and many of these songs feel like instant classics. Nolan Lewis’s harsh vocal approach (certainly influenced a little by Udo Dirkschneider) works in a couple of songs, but overall detracts from the excellence of the music. Vocals of the clean variety would add a much needed dimension to an otherwise stellar offering.
Sacri Monti – Waiting Room For The Magic Hour (Tee Pee)
Waiting Room for the Magic Hour is the second full-length for the San Diego psychedelic rock band Sacri Monti. They have a highly fuzzed out sound that recalls the likes of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream even though it has a more metallic sound than those bands. The result is a euphoric mix of sounds that creates a very interesting musical flavor. All of the instruments come together to create something special that has the proper amount of psychedelia mixed in.
Things really get off to a nice note on “Fear and Fire” where there is an epic build up that is simply marvelous, but there are also more subtle moments on the album. The songs are nice, but could be more compellingly arranged to smack the listener over the head. Still, there is so much good going on that this is only a small flaw in the greater picture. Sacri Monti have successfully mined an early era of rock for a more modern audience and succeeded nicely.
Symphonic black metal as frosty as Seraph In Travail perform on their second album, Lest They Feed Upon Your Soul, usually comes from the peak of a Norwegian mountain top, not the city of brotherly love. Yet Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is where this band resides, though their hearts are an ocean away. The album has a classical touch, incorporating choirs, stringed instruments, piano, and female vocals to give these songs gravitas.
However, all the accompaniment in the world doesn’t blunt the edge of the band’s taut black metal. It’s all worn-down territory for long-time listeners of the genre—throaty rasps, grandiose guitar solos, songs that average seven minutes—but Seraph In Travail get enough creaky life out of it. Lest They Feed Upon Your Soul is an avalanche of darkness wrapped in a nuanced package.
Torche – Admission (Relapse)
It may sound weird, but I’ve always thought of Torche as a cross between Fu Manchu and the Beach Boys. Their combination of fuzzy riffs and catchy vocal lines is unique in metal, and makes them hard to pin down to any single genre – stoner, doom, sludge, just plain rock, or all the above? Admission is the band’s fifth album, and first with longtime bassist Jon Nuñez switching over to guitar.
Right away Torche show us that things haven’t changed. Most of the songs on Admission are short and to the point, built around a single simple riff, with lyrics that reflect singer Steve Brooks’ darker side. There are a handful of true Torche gems here (“Admission,” “Reminder,” and “Changes Come”), and only a couple of forgettable tracks, making Admission a strong addition to the band’s catalog.
There have been a lot of incarnations of Rhapsody over the years. They started as Rhapsody, then changed to Rhapsody Of Fire, which is still around and released an album earlier this year. Guitarist Luca Turilli split off to form Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody in 2011. That was disbanded last year as Turilli reunited with vocalist Fabio Lione to form Turilli/Lione Rhapsody.
It might be hard to keep track of all the versions of the group, but the music on Zero Gravity (Rebirth And Evolution) is vintage Rhapsody, albeit with some new twists. It’s symphonic power metal that’s very cinematic and grandiose. Turilli and Lione have a chemistry that’s evident on the album, with songs that have a lot of depth and complexity, but also ample melody and hooks. Choral vocals and guest appearances from singers like Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd on “D.N.A. (Demon And Angel)” adds even more diversity. A cover of Josh Groban’s “Oceano” closes out the proceedings, which works well with the Rhapsody symphonic influences. Turilli/Lione Rhapsody expertly balance their classic sound with pushing ahead in new directions.
…Under A Full Moon – Our Riches (Tridroid)
…Under A Full Moon seem to have an endless flow of ideas. Having formed only two years ago, Our Riches marks the tenth official release for the band composed of members from the United States and Norway. Normally, the term “extreme metal” refers to fast music, but Our Riches is the polar opposite.
The album moves through ringing chords with subtle changes. There is subtly in the dynamics found through the use of lulling keyboards and the caustic death metal that follows. The vocals lie low in the mix like a volcano’s cavernous beginning. It’s difficult to discern any lyric, but apparently much of this album presents anti-Capitalism sentiments. There is a pervading sense of despair and sorrow in the album. Our Riches will not appeal to the average metal fan. It takes a true fan of severe down-tempo music to appreciate it…and a generous turn of the volume knob.
Visionatica – Enigma Fire (Frontiers)
Tired of the same, mono-melodic, female-fronted symphonic metal sound? Then you’ll probably want to skip this one. The sophomore effort of the German outfit Visionatica, Enigma Fire is too straightforward for its own good. There’s no real sense of dynamism here, except for some mood and tempo changes, and the melodies and structure are painfully conforming to the genre’s norm.
That isn’t to say it’s all bad; there are some gems to be found, like the solo section of “Into the Fallen Roma” and there are some Mediterranean flavors tastefully mixed in as well. Despite this, however, the uninspired songwriting and weak lead vocals bring Enigma Fire down enough to make one listen more than enough.
Wear Your Wounds – Rust On The Gates Of Heaven (Deathwish)
Originally started as a solo project for Converge frontman Jacob Bannon, Wear Your Wounds evolved into a collective, and is now a proper band featuring Mike McKenzie (The Red Chord), Adam McGrath (Cave In), Sean Martin (Twitching Tongues) and Chris Maggio (ex-Trap Them). Their latest album Rust On The Gates Of Heaven also includes collaborations with Ben Chisholm (Chelsea Wolfe) and Gared O’Donnell (Planes Mistaken For Stars).
The album gets off to an extremely mellow start with the opening “Mercifully.” The title track continues the reserved nature before increasing in intensity about halfway through. The rest of the album is a mix of introspective rock and some more intense numbers such as “Brittle Pillar.” The whole idea of a side project is to explore different musical directions than your main band, and that’s exactly what Bannon and company have done with this record.