This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include Axegrinder, Birds In Row, Bury Tomorrow, Firtan, Gioeli-Castronovo, Imperial Triumphant, Iron Hunter, Malsanctum, Mr. Big, Pound, Six Feet Under and Yawning Man.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Axegrinder – Satori (Rise Above)
The British thrash/crust band Axegrinder released their debut album in 1989 and disbanded a couple of years later. In 2015 vocalist Trev and guitarist Steve Alton decided to reform the band, resulting in Satori 29 years after The Rise Of The Serpent Men was issued.
Their brand of thrash/crust is deliberate and deadly, with heavy riffs moving the songs along at a moderate pace. The vocals are decidedly punk, especially on tracks like “Over.” The title track has some doom moments, while the closer “Too Far From Home” that features some female vocals, is one of the catchier tracks on the album. Three decades later the band are more mature, both musically and lyrically, but their punk roots still shine through.
Birds In Row – We Already Lost The World (Deathwish)
When You, Me & The Violence, Birds in Row’s first album was released in 2012, many called the album an absolute masterful piece of art which happened at the beginning of their career. But six years later, We Already Lost the World, the band’s second album, has changed the whole plot a bit.
After releasing bunch of EPs and splits and experimenting with new sounds and putting them through their music, Birds in Row have returned with We Already Lost The World, which is a quite gloomy and melancholic hardcore, following the path of the debut album. But some mild changes such as slow paced atmospheric jams in the middle of the songs have led the album to a more cinematic and dynamic set of songs. We Already Lost The World has brought an electrifying combination of dark hardcore with post-punk/post-hardcore elements, with lots of mournful melodies and themes, couple with an impressive visual art direction.
Bury Tomorrow – Black Flame (Music For Nations)
British metalcore veterans Bury Tomorrow return with Black Flame, their fifth studio album and first for Music For Nations. Like their previous releases, it’s an appealing combination of crushing heaviness and memorable melodies.
Their songwriting is razor sharp on this album, with little filler on the 10 tracks. Daniel Winter Bates’ harsh growls blend effortlessly with Jason Cameron’s smooth singing. They are balanced pretty equally, with songs such as “Black Flame” having both moshworthy and singalong sections. Breakdowns and searing solos keep the intensity high, with soaring melodies making things memorable. It’s a very balanced and well-executed metalcore album.
Firtan – Okeanos (AOP)
Okeanos is the second full-length from the German black metal band Firtan, who have also issued two EPs. The album was mixed and mastered by Empyrium/The Vision Bleak’s Markus Stock.
While delivering traditional black metal, Firtan change things up quite a bit as well. From acoustic guitar on opener “Seegang” to violin on “Purpur” and the use of choirs on songs such as “Uferlos,” the band constantly injects new elements into their songs. It’s a short album at 40 minutes, but includes some epic tracks including the nearly 10 minute closer “Siebente Letzte Einsamkeit” that ranges from quiet acoustic guitar to cutting black metal. It’s an album with a lot of depth and variety filled with songs that are both interesting and memorable.
Gioeli-Castronovo – Set The World On Fire (Frontiers)
It has been a quarter century since Johnny Gioeli and Deen Castronovo were both in Hardline. Castronovo went on to play with Bad English, Ozzy Osbourne, Journey and others, while Gioeli remains in Hardline along with singing for Axel Rudi Pell’s band.
While Castronovo is known as a drummer, he’s also a very good singer, with he and Gioeli sharing vocal duties on Set The World On Fire. The songs are melodic hard rock with ridiculously catchy choruses. There’s a definite Journey vibe to many of the tracks, especially on ballads like “Who I Am” and “Ride Of Your Life.” They cover the Lady Antebellum country hit “Need You Now,” which actually sounds pretty good as a melodic rock track. Gioeli and Castronovo both deliver excellent vocal performances, and the songs are memorable.
Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury (Gilead)
With Vile Luxury, Imperial Triumphant have stated that they are looking to capture the sounds of their home base, New York City, as they hear them. Judging by the immense, compacted noise the album produces, the city is in a lot more trouble than any of us could’ve anticipated.
The group further dives into an avant-garde technique to their antsy death/black metal. The macabre swing of a “Gotham Luxe” and jazzy percussion in “Mother Machine” are a few examples of the progression the band has been on since 2015’s Abyssal Gods. As an noted plus, Bloody Panda’s Yoshiko Ohara is one of several guest vocalists, her terrifying shrieks making the desire for a new Bloody Panda record stronger.
Iron Hunter – Mankind Resistance (Fighter)
Traditional ’80s metal rears its head in the form of Iron Hunter, a brand new act out of Spain, and their debut recording, Mankind Resistance. If you are into bands like Iron Maiden and Helloween, this might be your cup of tea. Epic subject matter and twin guitars are heavily featured.
Musically, Mankind Resistance hits the mark more often than not, with galloping anthems and hard-charging epic songs dominating this 35-minute album. Where they need to improve is vocally, though, as singer Emi Ramirez comes off as quite amateur. There are a few guest vocalists, but they can’t overcome the lack of skill Ramirez presents. Iron Hunter are a good singer away from being an effective traditional metal act.
Malsanctum – Malsanctum (Iron Bonehead)
After issuing a demo back in 2015, the Canadian band Malsanctum return with their full-length debut, a self-titled effort. There are just three tracks on the album, but it clocks in at around 45 minutes.
Malsanctum blend a few different styles on the album, including ambient, noise, funeral doom and black. The songs ebb and flow, with extended mellow and gentle parts contrasted more intense and chaotic sections. The album wraps up with the epic, nearly 24 minute “The Shattered Spirit,” which gets off to a glacially slow start, industrial clatter accenting the riffs, plodding along at a deliberate pace with acoustic guitar parts adding variety. While not for everyone, those who appreciate ambient and funeral doom may find something to sink their teeth into.
Mr. Big – Live From Milan (Frontiers)
Mr. Big deliver on Live From Milan. Eric Martin is stellar. Billy Sheehan, especially on the third track, second CD, demonstrates the very best in ornate bass solo work, and Paul Gilbert is a legend on guitar, proving again his mastery and virtuosity. Racer X fans will be happy with this effort.
This record also has a sentimental appeal, being that drummer Pat Torpey died in early 2018 from Parkinson’s and appears posthumously here along with replacement Matt Starr. The best song on the record is “Addicted to That Rush,” though fans will enjoy all the old hits. Sound and execution are mostly top-notch, though the background vocals are lacking at times, muddy and unevenly produced.
Pound – Pound (Silent Pendulum)
Pound are a pretty unique concept: Ryan Schutte on a 9-string baritone guitar and David Stickney on the drums, and that’s it. The pair channel their love of grind and doom into a technically dizzying display of mathcore and djent. To the progressive or technically-minded among us, this self-titled debut will be an enticing draw, and for the most part dazzlingly played.
The drawback with Pound is the sense of sameness that quickly takes over. The eight songs take just over half an hour to get through, but in truth I had a hard time discerning one song from the next. While the style is both enticing and effective, Pound need to drastically step up in the variety department. If they can, their next album might be a doozy.
Six Feet Under – Unburied (Metal Blade)
The promotion of albums these days begins months in advance of actual release, with countless social media posts, in studio videos, audio tracks, lyric videos and music videos. Rebelling against this trend, several bands recently have issued albums with little or no advance notice. Six Feet Under decided to go this route with Unburied, a collection of previously unreleased material.
The digital only album features nine songs from the sessions for 2012’s Undead, 2013’s Unborn and 2017’s Torment. Even in the demo stage, the songs have Six Feet Under’s potent vibe, and some of them, such as “Midnight In Hell” and “Possessed” would have made worthy additions to albums. Others, though, were best left on the cutting room floor. This one’s for hardcore fans only, tiding them over until the band’s next full-length.
Yawning Man – The Revolt Against Tired Noises (Heavy Psych Sounds)
La Quinta, California’s Yawning Man prove in its latest album that so-called stoner rock is one of few vibrant areas in today’s metal. With stunners such as those released by Sleep and Yob, Yawning Man add The Revolt Against Tired Noises to the same dispensary of legal greatness. Not to be hidden in the same canyon echoes as stage mates, Kyuss, the band comes out of the hills with a record that is exhilarating and original in tone.
Its undeniable that the sound of the record is purposely lo-fi and treble-challenged, but once the ear becomes accustomed, it makes sense. It was recorded in a room filled with the densest layers of smoke. With the first tub-thump of the snare, it is obvious that Yawning Man wanted the melt of the music, not the sting. Eight tracks of hempy goodness, with “Catamaran,” “Grant’s Heart” and the awesome “Violent Lights” untying the knots of the soul with a mellow touch. The guitar work is a combination of familiarity, with the genius to work it. This is music to travel to, not necessarily in a physical vehicle.