This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include albums from Brocelian, Burial In The Woods, Crown The Empire, Enforced, Falls Of Rauros, Hammerhands, Lingua Ignota, Mind Key, Plague Of Carcosa, Rogga Johansson, Sekkusu, Svadilfare, Vomit Angel and Wormed.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Brocelian – Guardians Of Brocéliande (Massacre)
After releasing their debut album in 2014, Brocelian took their time crafting Guardians Of Brocéliande. It’s the German symphonic metal band’s second full-length.
They utilize many of the genre’s usual elements, from operatic female vocals to cinematic arrangements. Violinist Kay C adds additional flair to tracks like “A Life For You.” Vocalist Susan Nato shifts from operatic to a more traditional rock style on songs such as “Speed Of Light” and “The Signs.” That gives the album diversity, but the arrangements keep everything cohesive. It’s also a brief album by symphonic metal standards, clocking in at just over 36 minutes.
Burial In The Woods – Church of Dagon (Rain Without End)
Church of Dagon is a precise title for one-man Bavarian black/doom outfit Burial in the Woods’ debut album. Churchy pipe organs permeate the album. This is not your average church, though. Here, The Cult of Dagon have gathered to praise ancient fish people. Dagon is a Lovecraftian concoction, whom the band devotes the first three tracks to.
The morbid church vibe is further explored through diabolical, liturgical-style clean vocals. Guitars range from long ring-outs to occasional black metal style tremolo and twisted harmonies. The atmosphere and harsh vocals give the album its black metal tag, but this is no blast fest. Burial in the Woods move with deliberation, often harmonizing ringing strings with ringing keys. Metal is no stranger to H.P. Lovecraft. Metallica certainly helped boost book sales from the long-deceased author, but few bands have created sonic realizations that fully capture the spirit of Lovecraft like Burial in the Woods have done with Church of Dagon.
Crown The Empire – Sudden Sky (Rise)
For their fourth album Sudden Sky, the Texas metalcore band Crown The Empire have downsized from a quintet to a quartet. When co-lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist David Escamilla exited, his duties were absorbed by the remaining members.
The album has some really catchy songs, with tracks like “20/20” “Blurry (out of place) ripe for radio airplay. They increase the intensity on songs such as “Red Pills” and “SEQU3NCE” by adding harsh vocals and heavier moments, but never losing sight of the hooks and melodies. There are also a couple of songs that miss the mark, but melodic metalcore fans will find plenty to enjoy with this album.
Enforced – At the Walls (War)
Enforced’s At the Walls is their debut album, comprised of their previous demos remixed and remastered plus two new songs. Considering this material was recorded over the course of three years, it doesn’t feel shoddy or awkwardly put together. If the listener didn’t know ahead of time, they would’ve been convinced these songs were recorded by the same lineup all at once.
The songs are of the crossover thrash variety, compacted into short and straight, raucous, mosh-inducing numbers. Integrity vocalist Dwid Hellion lends his recognizable yells to “Skinned Alive,” one of the recently recorded tunes. Enforced come from the same region as Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan, and while they aren’t party animals or political anarchists like those bands, they fit in with their violent tendencies.
Falls of Rauros – Patterns In Mythology (Gilead)
New England’s answer to American folk black metal, Falls of Rauros share the same wonderful aesthetics of nature, chaos, and beauty of fellow countrymen Panopticon and Nechochwen. Patterns In Mythology is their fifth full-length foray and it is a continued sonic evolution from 2017’s Vigilance Perennial, more passages that scale mountains and draw inspiration from nature.
The six tracks span just over 45 minutes, so it is more of a day trip than a weekend excursion and two of the tracks act as an opener and a palate cleanser before some of the more long-form pieces come together. This could be the album that helps to separate Falls from the folk pack.
The Canadian band Hammerhands have taken a bit of a different approach on their third album Model Citizen. The stylistic elements such as doom, sludge, stoner rock and noise are intact from their earlier releases, but things are more focused and streamlined.
There are no drawn-out soundscapes or songs in double digit lengths. Hammerhands do incorporate some avant-garde moments on songs like the opener “Pleasure Island” and “Too Many Rivers,” while songs such as “MAXIMUM Beta” are more straightforward with heavy riffs and hardcore style vocals. There are spoken word vocals at the beginning of “Do It Right” before downtuned guitars and a more passionate vocal style commences. There’s also yelling, singing, sing-song and other vocal styles throughout the record. Between the varied vocals and plethora of genres utilized, it’s an eclectic release, with the constant factor being the quality of the riffs.
Lingua Ignota – Caligula (Profound Lore)
Kristin Hayter is a classically trained musician and singer, and in the form of Lingua Ignota she gives a harrowing, avant-garde voice to survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. Caligula is her follow-up to 2017’s All Bitches Die (which was picked up and re-released by Profound Lore last year).
If you’ve been sitting back comfortably listening to the newest releases, that ends here. Caligula is seventy-two minutes of scathing, harrowing, frightful, enraged, and cathartic ear-lashing. Musically, Ignota can perhaps be most likened to Scott Walker or Swans, but on a far more visceral level. The orchestral arrangements range from noisy to sublime, but always engrossing, and vocally Hayter destroys us with everything from wrung croons to tortured, furious screams. Caligula is a hard album to absorb, but absolutely needs to be heard.
Mind Key – MKIII: Aliens In Wonderland (Frontiers)
A decade after their last album, the Italian progressive metal band Mind Key return with MKIII: Aliens In Wonderland, which you probably guessed by the title is their third release. There have also been a couple of lineup changes since their last release.
Vocalist Aurelio Fierro, Jr. returns, and his performance helps give the band a distinctive sound. He sings melodically, but can croon very smoothly or give the vocals a rougher edge, which provides some variety. The songs are typical prog, with most songs in the 5 to 6 minute range. Keyboards provide atmosphere throughout, moving front and center periodically. “Hate At First Sight” incorporates some classical flavor and acoustic parts along with heavy guitar, while the “Oblivion” begins in an understated manner before kicking into full power ballad mode. Mind Key balance melodies and progressive forays very well.
Plague of Carcosa – Ocean is More Ancient Than the Mountains (Sludgelord)
Chicago’s Plague of Carcosa formed in 2016, but they have yet to release an actual album. Their history is a bit odd for such a young group: leader Eric Zann has released two solo efforts (an EP and a 70-minute song), and as a trio the band has a few more songs floating about out there.
Ocean is More Ancient Than the Mountains is the band’s first EP as a duo, and pays homage to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos through two instrumental sludge tracks. Both songs are solid, superior-sounding efforts, but 18 minutes and two songs barely whets the appetite, and the replay factor of these songs is somewhat limited. There’s enough skill here, though, to make us wait eagerly for a full-length album.
Rogga Johansson – Entrance to the Otherwhere (Transcending Obscurity)
Swedish death metal in the style of early Entombed has been done to death, but Rogga Johansson does a pretty good job of it. Having been involved with many death metal bands over his 30 year career, Johansson has his own particular take on the subgenre with his band’s second full-length Entrance to Otherwhere. This is an effective take on the genre with solid songwriting that makes it different from his other well known acts like Paganizer. There is definitely an old school feeling to these songs and this style is appropriate for someone that has been around for so long.
There is a nice crunch to these riffs, though the music does have a bit of a tendency to sound generic. This is not to say that that Johansson doesn’t have his own identity, it’s just hard to find differences in this music when compared to other Entombed inspired works or some of the other acts he’s been involved with. There are some interesting moments like on “When the Otherwhere Opens,” but much of the music sounds similar to past endeavors. It’s still a quality album from one of metal’s most prolific artists, who released eight albums in 2018.
Sekkusu – Satyromania (HPGD)
After a couple of demos and an EP, the Detroit band Sekkusu emerge with their full-length debut release Satyromania.
The album begins with a calm, acoustic intro before the mayhem kicks in about a minute in and doesn’t abate. Sekkusu play thrash/speed metal with a lot of punk influences. Glimpses of death metal also appear from time to time. The songs are fast and raw, with most lasting two minutes or less. Guitars are at the forefront on tracks like “Overcharger,” with angry vocals, minimal production and a dangerous vibe. They bounce from chaos to groove and back again. The album flies by in under 25 minutes, leaving destruction and devastation in its wake.
Svadilfare – Fortapte Roetter (Naturmacht)
After issuing three albums in less than three years, there was a four year gap, but now the Norwegian one-man black metal artist Svadilfare is issuing Fortapte Roetter, his fourth album.
Ildsint Svartmunin, who also released an album under the Stygg moniker in 2017, plays an atmospheric style of black metal. Icy riffs are augmented by both harsh and singing vocals. The arrangements have a lot of ebbs and flows, with fairly lengthy songs in the 5 to 7 minute range. Tracks like “Brutalt Fortalt” have regal sections, frantic parts, and serene moments. “Hordalands Skimmer” is probably the most traditional black metal song, with a lot of intensity and the typical guitar sound, though brief singing towards the end adds variety. The latter part of “Vemodig Farvel” is almost a rock song, with a lot of singing. Svadilfare has delivered an album that follows the black metal template, but also incorporates some musical surprises.
Vomit Angel – Imprint of Extinction (Iron Bonehead)
If you want to describe the music of Danish death metal/grindcore trio Vomit Angel, there’s only one word for it: sick! After their first EP, Sadomatic Evil, which was released in 2016, Vomit Angel are back again with their first full length album, Imprint of Extinction, and yeah, this is still as sick as before!
Imprint of Extinction seems like you’re listening to one of the lost GG Allin’s cassette tapes that was recorded during The Suicide Sessions. It is raw, unpolished, filthy death metal. Its grindcore influences are now a bit milder, yet hearable and resident. Imprint of Extinction will be an enjoyable release for the ones who are looking for obscure sick stuff, especially those who are looking for cowbell in death metal!
Wormed – Metaportal (Season Of Mist)
The Spanish sci-fi brutal/tech death metal band Wormed are following up their well-received 2016 full-length Krighsu with the EP Metaportal. It’s their first release with new drummer V. Kazar.
The four songs on the EP are crushingly heavy, but with the dexterity and musicianship you’d expect from Wormed. “Cryptoubiquity” has some groovy moments and spacey atmospherics along with the bludgeoning drums and punishing riffs, while “Bionic Relic” has some impressive technical sections. Closer “E-Xsystem:/CE” has the most varied arrangement on the EP. It’s a quality collection of songs as fans await the band’s next full-length.