This week’s Heavy Music HQ album reviews include releases from Dark Sarah, Entry, Eremit, The Funeral Orchestra, God, Inisans, Khthoniik Cerviiks, Maggot Heart, Moonlight Desires, Mystras, Nuclear Winter, Rumahoy, Sepulchral Frost, Serene Dark, Thyrant and U.D.O.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Dark Sarah – Grim (Napalm)
For their fourth album Grim, the Finnish symphonic metal band Dark Sarah have signed with Napalm Records. That should help raise their profile, especially in Europe. The new album also begins a new fairytale-like lyrical storyline.
As with their previous albums, the songs are bombastic and cinematic with soprano vocals from Heidi Parvianen. Tracks like “The Chosen One” and “Illuminate” are very dramatic with lots of atmosphere, but don’t neglect the basics like hooks and melodies. Parvianen plays the protagonist Luna, but a couple of guests provide some variety. JP Leppaluoto (Northern Kings) has appeared on previous Dark Sarah albums, and returns as Wolf on “The Wolf and the Maiden.” Jasse Jatala brings the antagonist of the story to life on “Mork.” Grim has all the ingredients symphonic metal fans crave.
Entry – Detriment (Southern Lord)
Hardcore/punk has always been known for its conciseness, and it doesn’t get much more concise than Entry’s 15-minute debut, Detriment. Nine songs are done in less time than it takes to cook pasta; by the time the water in the pot is boiled, the group is already on their last song, “Demons.” That one is their idea of a “saga,” going over three minutes as the closer finishes the album on a venom-laced note.
Most of these songs are stuffed snugly into manageable pieces, leaving little opportunity to let it sink in. The brevity is to the album’s advantage, as it allows for another experience of the raging main riff to “Not Your Decision” or the bass-driven antics on “These Feelings.” Entry’s music is the kind that will thrive when performed live (whenever that can safely happen again).
Eremit – Desert of Ghouls (Transcending Obscurity)
German sludge/doom miscreants Eremit dropped their debut album just over a year ago, and it oozed with potential. Now here they are with Desert of Ghouls, a two-track, twenty-minute EP, to tide us over between long-players. I suspect we will see a lot of EPs this year due to the Covid-19 situation; bands need income, and without touring this is it. I for one rejoice in the EPs that are coming out this year.
Anyhow, what we have here in the eight-minute “Beheading the Innumerous” and the twelve-minute “City of Râsh-il-nûm” are songs that amp up the fuzz and really take the band’s songwriting a step further than their Carrier of Weight album. From tempo to arrangement to the riffs, both songs are a full step up from previous work. A full album of this quality of material would likely be list-worthy. Well done, Eremit.
The Funeral Orchestra – Negative Evocation Rites (Nuclear War Now!)
The Funeral Orchestra may hail from Gothenburg, Sweden, but don’t expect another At The Gates clone. In fact, their sound is more akin to the funeral doom of Finland. The band self-describes itself as apocalyptic minimalist doom, an apt depiction of Negative Evocation Rites.
Song lengths range from around eight minutes to nearly 13 minutes, not short by any means, but not overly long for this genre. As expected, the pace is slow with heaps of feedback and fuzzed out guitar tones. The drums, repetition and chanting vocals instill a dark shamanic vibe. Although the tempo is slow and droning, the band does pick up the pace on guitar, while the slow drums make it seem like they’re running in place. “Negations II” swells in intensity with horror-inducing keys and even a bit of marching drums. Fans of the genre will certainly enjoy the enveloping black electrifications of Negative Evocation Rites.
IV – Revelation is the fourth effort from the almighty God, an instrumental prog metal act. As you might expect, the inspiration behind God’s music is the Holy Bible.
Creating a compelling instrumental album is a challenge, especially when it’s as massive as this one: 22 tracks clocking in at a more than two hours. IV – Revelation is inspired by the 22 chapters of the Bible’s closing Book of Revelation. God utilizes a variety of electric and acoustic guitars along with three types of bass guitars and a hybrid to create a varied sonic palette. Songs like “Throne” and “War” are on the heavier end of the spectrum while tracks such as “Messiah” and “New Heaven, New Earth, New Jerusalem” have mellower moments. God needs to grant patience to the listener for such a lengthy release, but those who persevere will go on an interesting and varied instrumental journey from the bowels of “Hell” to the joys of “Eternity.” And, it’s available as name your price via Bandcamp.
Inisans/Sepulchral Frost – Death Fire Darkness (Helter Skelter/Regain)
Death Fire Darkness is a short split between two newcomers from Sweden. Inisans play unhinged death metal with odes to early Morbid Angel, Unleashed and Entombed. Sepulchral Frost play death/doom with thrashing tendencies.
“Holocaust Winds” shows Inisans start the album on fire with battering drums, monstrous, reverberated vocals and buzz-saw guitars. The guitar solos are wild and chaotic with a generous amount of whammy bar. There is a slowdown near the midway point that brings to mind Entombed’s “Left Hand Path” song. “Circle of the Serpent” is every bit as frenzied as its predecessor with the Morbid Angel-esque whammy starting in the opening seconds. Sepulchral Frost’s lone track “Blessed By Fire” finds a good balance between thrashing speed and trudging doom metal harmonies. The song title refrain is repeated through both speeding and slow passages, making it very memorable. Death Fire Darkness is a short but impressive showing of Sweden’s up-and-coming talent.
Khthoniik Cerviiks – Æequiizoiikum (Iron Bonehead)
What we have with Æequiizoiikum is a fairly raw hybrid of death and black metal. There are similarities that can be drawn between Khthoniik Cerviiks and the likes of bands such as Destroyer 666, but they are minor. The sound is bare bones with a rather primitive, yet very evil feel. The songwriting on the German band’s second full-length album is solid and makes for an atmospheric take on metal. There is also a degree of dissonance to be found to make the music more multi-dimensional.
If the band decided to stick to either the black or death metal genre, they would be more interesting, as the songs on here are somewhat stale. Still, one must give the band credit for portraying their fairly evil vision appropriately and with a signature style. The somewhat catchy approach wins out over a generic sound to make for a reasonably entertaining listen.
Maggot Heart – Mercy Machine (Rapid Eye)
Guitarist Linnea Olsson (ex-The Oath, ex-Beastmilk) formed Maggot Heart a few years ago, where she handles both guitar and vocal duties. They released their full-length debut in 2018, and are following that up with Mercy Machine.
The songs blend hard rock and punk into a catchy yet edgy album. Tracks like “Sex Breath” emphasize the more chaotic punk side of the spectrum while songs such as “Gutter Feeling” are smoother and more in the rock vein. There are numerous other genres utilized on the album from noise to prog to alt rock. It’s an intriguing mix of rawness and dissonance with hooks and melodies.
Moonlight Desires – At The Movies (Infamous Butcher)
Back in the ’80s movie soundtracks spawned tons of hit songs and sold millions of copies. The Canadian band Moonlight Desires, who specialize in turning ’80s pop songs into guitar-driven songs, turn to classic ’80s movie songs for the four track EP At The Movies.
They rock up Peter Cetera’s schmaltzy “Glory Of Love,” adding some heft without losing the hooks. Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes” from Dirty Dancing trades the sultriness of the original for earnestness, while the cheesy “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” adds heavy guitars and still keeps the whimsy of Cyndi Lauper’s version. Closer “Don’t You Forget About Me” from The Breakfast Club picks up the tempo a bit while remaining relatively true to the original. It’s a fun blast from the past that will appeal to those of us who saw those movies in the theater when they were originally released along with the younger generation who discovered them via streaming services or cable TV.
Mystras – Castles Conquered And Reclaimed (I, Voidhanger)
Spectral Lore’s Ayloss has been a busy man the first half of 2020. Just this past March, Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum put out a fantastic split album together. Now Ayloss has a new project, Mystras, and a debut album for it, Castles Conquered And Reclaimed. The album maintains the lucid black metal of his main project, though instead of the universe and philosophy being the subjects, it’s the little-known figures from the Middle Ages.
Mystras put the attention on the peasants rising up against the nobility, or unsung heroes taking from the rich to give to the desolate. The album is split between tunes of rousing fury and appropriate interludes; usually a rendition of some 14th century folk song featuring guest musicians playing instruments like the flute or yayli tanbur. Ayloss uses Mystras to put an effective twist on black metal with Castles Conquered And Reclaimed.
Nuclear Winter – Stormscapes (MMD)
Nuclear Winter are a project helmed by Zimbabwean musician Gary Stautmeister, who handles all instrumental work on the band’s latest EP, Stormscapes. It’s being released less than a year after debut album, Night Shift, and has the one-man outfit refining its melodic death metal template. Stautmeister uses symphonic accompaniment to smooth out the sharp tones of his screams and icy guitar riffs.
He mixes his harsh vocals with dynamic singing, no more so obvious than in his cheeky rendition of notorious showtune “New York, New York.” It’s given a metalized upgrade, but at heart, it’s the same gem Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli made famous over 40 years ago. This kind of unusual choice in a cover song points to a musician that doesn’t need to be serious 100 percent of the time to get himself over.
Rumahoy – Time II: Party (Napalm)
In a time of a global pandemic and all the other problems the world is facing, it’s nice to have music as an escape. And what better way to escape than by swashbuckling through the seven seas with a little pirate metal? Captain Yarrface and the rest of his North Carolina crew in Rumahoy return with their sophomore album Time II: Party.
The lyrics are as cheesy as you’d expect, but the music is rousing, uptempo folk metal. Grab some grog with “Time To Party” or if you prefer a buccaneer IPA, check out “The Beer From My Town Is Better Than Yours.” And you know there ain’t no party like a “Poop Deck Party” because a poop deck party don’t stop. Those who don’t appreciate Rumahoy’s brand of corny pirate metal will be directed to walk the plank, while fans of the band will consider the album to be a treasure chest full of gold dubloons.
If an hour or so of blackened death metal with a symphonic edge is on one’s agenda for the day, a listener could do a lot worse than Serene Dark’s Enantiodromia. That may seem like faint praise, but this Canadian band has their delivery down well. The group brought in current Suffocation drummer Eric Morotti as a session player, and his workmanlike execution yields a bounty of air-drumming moments.
That workmanlike mentality filters through all avenues of the album, from the solid lead guitar work to the respectable, if humdrum, shrieks. The inclusion of classical-sounding keyboards and orchestral passages alleviate tendencies for songs to use up too much time. This is an album that could’ve used some clipping to better keep the vicious pace strong all the way.
Thyrant – Katabasis (Indie)
Thyrant claim that they’re not a death metal band, not a thrash metal band, nor a black metal band but what they certainly are, with their sophomore release Katabasis, is twisted, disquieting with a penchant for the ethereal. Though they may not fall between the lines of any single sub-genre, elements of death metal, black metal and doom metal permeate through Katabasis’ divergent tracklist.
Grand opener “Face the Thyrant” unloads its mammoth-sized riffs to usher in the 8-minute surge of hypnotic loops, howling cries, clean chorus passages and the occasional blend of the progressive. Thyrant ensure to translate this less direct attitude to songwriting across the remaining seven tracks with multiple instrumental interludes which, despite lacking a proper sense of direction, serve to make Katabasis’ more explosive moments a tad punchier. Despite the odd track wobbling under its own weight, the sheer number of unexpected turns and well-executed styles keeps Katabasis a solid jack of its many trades.
U.D.O. – We Are One (AFM)
Generally you know what to expect from a new album from the long-running German band U.D.O. They definitely diverge from that path on their latest album We Are One. It’s a collaboration with the Musikkorps der Bundeswehr (Concert Band Of The German Armed Forces), who they have played shows with in the past.
The 15 songs were composed by members of both groups, adding a 60 piece orchestra to U.D.O.’s bombastic metal. The distinctive sound of Udo Dirkschneider accompanied by brass and atmospheric strings actually works well. Songs like the title track and “Future Is The Reason Why” are anthemic, but have a lot more depth thanks to the orchestra and backing choir. Female vocals are front and center on the Udo-less “Blindfold (The Last Defender),” and there are some instrumental and semi-instrumental tracks that also do not feature Dirkschneider. They tackle current issues in the lyrics, such as climate change and pollution. There may be too many orchestral elements for some fans, but it’s an album that shows a different side of U.D.O. and is a nice change of pace for the band.