This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Botis, Carnal Tomb, Children Of The Sun, Desecresy, Faithsedge, Gates To The Morning, Genocide Shrines, Hatriot, Heresiarch, Lacrimas Profundere, Lordi, Serpents Athirst, Shades Of Deep Water, Silence In The Snow, Sinheresy, Thief, Til All Is One, Trepanation, VHS and Wormwood.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Philadelphia’s blackened thrash aberration Botis deliver a razor-sharp, tightly-focused debut with the self-released scorcher, Grand Abominations. An amalgamation of black metal, thrash and mathcore permeates Grand Abominations, and Botis weave each style into the other seamlessly and creatively, so as to never sound unconvincing or contrived.
From the ice pick guitars of album opener “Descent” to the staccato drum and bass of “Rodente” to the infernal gallop of “The Magus,” the members of Botis prove over and again to be masters of their chosen form of dark song craft. Also, in true DIY fashion, Grand Abominations is one-hundred percent self-produced, and was engineered by vocalist Peter Hruar. In other words, it’s pretty Kvlt.
Carnal Tomb – Abhorrent Veneration (Testimony)
When Rotten Remains was released in 2016, it was obvious that Carnal Tomb would gain a solid foothold on Germany’s death metal scene. It was dynamic, vigorous and groovy which had deep roots in old school death metal. Three years later Carnal Tomb have come up with Abhorrent Veneration, which tales a slightly different path, but still retains the feelings of their debut album.
Carnal Tomb have created a remarkable balance between the fast and slow parts of death metal music on Abhorrent Veneration, and this will make listeners feel the vibes of old Incantation and Grave. Guitar solos have a rich presence and in some parts they become one of the main features, as what happens in “Dissonant Incubation.” All instruments have passed through an echo filter, which has made Carnal Tomb’s music sound more traditional than before. Abhorrent Veneration is a worthwhile piece of work, with many standout moments which should not be missed.
Children of the Sun – Flowers (The Sign)
Summer is made for feel-good, breezy, free-spirited rock ‘n roll. At least, that’s what Swedish eight-piece Children of the Sun would have you believe, and with their debut album Flowers they aim to press all the right buttons. Taking inspiration from Janis, Jimi, and Woodstock in general, and coating the tunes in a modern veneer, Children of the Sun succeed.
Throwaway intro track notwithstanding, Flowers is chock full of fantastically written and performed psychedelic, poppy rock. A tremendous rhythm section backs authentic keyboards and the occasional searing guitar solo. All of this is fronted by incredible vocal work from Josefina Berglund Ekholm and friends. Flowers is a fantastic album for hot summer days.
Desecresy – Towards Nebulae (Xtreem)
After releasing several albums as a duo, this is the second Desecresy album with Tommi Gronqvist handling all instruments and vocals. He truly is a one man band, also taking care of production and even the album artwork.
His brand of death metal is brutal, but atmospheric parts provide some mellower moments alongside crushing riffs and flailing drums. The vocals are low-pitched gurgles buried deep in the mix. The production is fairly low-fi at times, but some tracks have a crisper sound. Guitar solos on songs like “Sediments Of Blood” are an interesting respite from the bludgeoning. Towards Nebulae draws from ’90s death metal, but Gronqvist adds his own twists as well.
Faithsedge – Bleed For Passion (Scarlet)
Bleed For Passion is the fourth album from the California melodic metal/hard rock troupe Faithsedge. The band has been around for a decade and has members who were or are in bands including Stryper, Dokken, Mr. Big, Jorn and Hardline.
Faithsedge play classic, straightforward, melodic metal/hard rock with a crunchy edge and singalong choruses. The songs are catchy, and the production has improved from their last album. Back in the day, tracks like “Acceptance” and “Sky” would have had radio potential, and while they are certainly inspired by the ’80s and early ’90s, are not completely retro. A couple filler tracks and vocals that are hit and miss bring the quality down a bit, but there are still plenty of enjoyable songs on the album.
The U.S. always seems to be at the forefront of experimental metal or anything with the word “post” in it. So, it should come as no surprise that Jersey-based progressive/post black metallers Gates To The Morning have released a dynamic debut in Return to Earth. Ahead of its acoustic intro, we encounter diverse passages from haunting to reflective to hopeful. “Freezing the Sundials” highlights these changes the most, touching all of these and more through its seven minutes.
While it does carry a lot of emotion, Return to Earth suffers from a couple issues, the most prominent of which is the drum mix. There’s a ton of room to make them punchier (and the music would be all the better for it) but we’re left with an atmosphere that is always too airy to carry its intended weight. Additionally, there’s a lot of excess, and you could easily shave its run time down by ten minutes and have a much more concise record. Despite a few errors in judgement, though, this is a very solid album and a strong debut for a band in such a unique space.
Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness (Massacre)
After a five year absence, Bay Area thrashers Hatriot have returned with their third album From Days Unto Darkness. The lineup now only includes two Souzas, as vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza (Exodus) has stepped away. His son Cody adds vocal duties in addition to bass, with Nick Souza returning on drums.
Hatriot songs are longer than the usual thrash ripper (several tracks are in the 6 to 7 minute range), giving them time to explore a variety of textures and approaches. From ominous mid-paced songs like the title track to galloping blazers like “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed,” there’s plenty of variety. In the vocal department Cody has some big shoes to fill, but meets or exceeds expectations with a style that sometimes channels his dad and other times reaches in different directions. Hatriot sound energized and don’t miss a beat.
Lacrimas Profundere – Bleeding The Stars (SPV/Oblivion)
In their quarter century history, the German band Lacrimas Profundere have had a lot of turnover. The constant has been guitarist Oliver Schmid. For their latest opus Bleeding The Stars they have a new vocalist, Julian Larre. Drummer Dominik Scholz, who was previously in the band from 2010 to 2013.
Larre is a versatile singer, able to sing the baritone, gothic style the band has become known for. He also provides harsh vocals that hearken back to Lacrimas Profundere’s early death/doom days on tracks like “The Kingdom Solicitude,” which bounces from mellow goth to aggressive metal. While the mood throughout is melancholy, they vary tempos, going from a glacial pace on tracks such as “I Knew And Will Forever Know” to uptempo on songs like “Father Of Fate.” Larre gives the band a burst of new inspiration while they still maintain the signature sound fans have come to know and love.
Lordi – Recordead Live – Sextourcism In Z7 (AFM)
On the heels of last years Sexorcism album, Finnish hard rockers Lordi are unleashing what they are calling their first official live DVD, Recordead Live – Sextourcism In Z7. It was recorded in Pratteln, Switzerland in November of last year.
With Lordi’s costumes, masks and stage show an important part of their aesthetic, a live DVD is right in their wheelhouse. The DVD includes 25 songs, and the double CD has 20. They play songs from throughout their career, going all the way back to their 2002 debut Get Heavy. It’s an entertaining set with a wide ranging collection of songs. As you’d expect from a live release, there are some missed notes, but that’s part of the charm. The DVD has a lot of bonus material, including a tour diary and every video the band has made, including a rarity filmed back in 1994.
Serpents Athirst/Genocide Shrines/Trepanation/Heresiarch – Scorn Coalescence (Cyclopean Eye)
Scorn Coalescence is a split between four bands from two countries: Sri Lanka (Serpents Athirst, Genocide Shrines) and New Zealand (Heresiarch and Trepanation). Serpents Athirst appear first with “Poisoning the Seven.” This track begins with a groove that might appear on UFC programming, but the black metal tempo change makes this the best of the bunch. Genocide Shrines’ “All And/Or Nothing” has its own groove, but more in line with death metal, which the song fully relates. The bass is upfront and the vocals are heavily reverberated and dryly howled.
Trepanation play raw grind/war metal. On “B/H/T” they switch between growls and shrieks. The riffs are sulfuric, gritty, and roll like an asphalt pull scraper. Heresiarch’s “Dread Prophecy” relates a black/death sound similar Genocide Shrine complete with a dual vocal style and a doomy atmosphere. Scorn Coalescence doesn’t offer much in terms of new sounds, but unearths extreme bands from distant shores.
Shades Of Deep Water – Death’s Threshold (Dunkelheit)
Six years after his debut, the one man Finnish funeral doom project known as Shades Of Deep Waters returns with Death’s Threshold. It’s just over 40 minutes long, with one song broken up into four segments.
Deliberate and mournful, the album shifts from repetitive heavy, morose riffs to quieter classical influenced sections. The vocals are few and far between, death growls buried deep in the mix. While the four parts of “Death’s Threshold” tie together seamlessly, each track has it’s own flavor of sadness. Part 2 is the strongest section, with powerful emotion and atmosphere along with the most memorable riffs, but the entire album is one funeral doom aficionados will appreciate.
Silence in the Snow – Levitation Chamber (Prophecy)
Imagine a walk down an empty road surrounded by trees in the aftermath of a snowstorm: the calmness, the serenity, and the enchantment of fresh snow untouched. Now add Silence in the Snow’s Levitation Chamber to that mix and it makes for a tranquil trek. That’s because Levitation Chambermakes the listener succumb to its tranquility, with a pace that never hurries along.
This is a mixed bag for Silence in the Snow. It’s easy to get swept up in the lighter touch these songs have, and Levitation Chamber is a pleasant enough listen, but the album doesn’t go out of its way to command attention. It’s like that nature walk in the snow; what looked serene a minute in seems customary 35 minutes later.
Sinheresy – Out Of Connection (Scarlet)
The Italian band Sinheresy features dual vocalists in Cecilia Petrini and Stefano Sain. Their third album Out Of Connection sees their sound evolve a bit, embracing modern metal.
The songs incorporate electronic elements alongside metal riffs and catchy choruses. They are slick and melodic, very well suited for rock radio. While the title track emphasizes those electronic flourishes, songs like “Zero One” and “Facts, Words, Sand, Stone” keep the guitars front and center with the electronics adding atmosphere. Ballads like “Absolution” add variety. Sinheresy are obviously influenced by bands like Lacuna Coil and Amaranthe, but manage to carve their own niche in the melodic metal pantheon.
Thief – Map of Lost Keys (Prophecy)
Botanist is a rather interesting black metal band, favoring the dulcimer over traditional electric guitar. Dylan Neal was one of Botanist’s dulcimer players, and Thief is his project. Map of Lost Keys is his second album, and combines diverse influences such as Gregorian chants and Christian vocal music into an electronic tapestry.
There are no hints of black metal in Map of Lost Keys. Rather, Neal takes the influences above and applies them to a sonic palette that is at times atmospheric, menacing, experimental, and groovy. Map of Lost Keys isn’t metal, and probably won’t appeal to fans of Botanist if they’re looking for that connection, but it’s an interesting and compelling album full of captivating ideas.
Los Angeles-based trio Til All is One are dropping their debut album, Vindicta, this week. The band takes its cue from a wide range of bands and genres, nu-metal to jazz, Alice in Chains to Faith No More, to more bluesy offerings. They’re aiming for a wide-ranging but unique sound, but it just might be too much to pull off all at once.
Too often on Vindicta the nu-metal side of the band is at the forefront, and it’s a rather generic, heard-it-before sound. However, when TAIO allow themselves to spread out and dip into other genre pools, they write some excellent songs. The slick, jazzy vibe of “The Virus” and the eerie Tool-like, yet accessible vibe of “No Consolation” are standout tracks. More like that and we would have something magical on our hands. TAIO have the potential to pull off something cool on their next outing.
VHS – We’re Gonna Need Some Bigger Riffs (HPGD)
In their relatively brief existence, the Canadian trio VHS have been prolific. Since 2015 they’ve released three EPs, been part of four splits, and We’re Gonna Need Some Bigger Riffs is their third full-length.
VHS blend death, grind and thrash with a hint of ’80s and a large pinch of humor to create a musical concoction that’s brutal, catchy and entertaining. From 15 second bursts like “Zombie Vs. Shark” to thrashy songs like “Let’s Get Gruesome” to groovier tracks like “Oozing, Bubbling, Black Mass,” they have all the bases covered. A couple of high profile guests lend their talents to the proceedings, with Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad on “Rooting For The Villain” and Exumed/Gruesome’s Matt Harvey on “Death And Carnage Coming In Waves.” It’s a half hour of great riffs, memorable songs, some throwback moments and plenty of extremity.
Wormwood – Nattarvet (Black Lodge)
Sweden’s Wormwood perform an epic take on melodic black metal that has some definite folk tendencies. They have some experience in their ranks with members having performed live with established acts like Manegarm and Draconian. This adds to the amount of textures the band uses as they become entranced in their songs. They are able to create quite a wall of sounds considering that Nattarvet is only their second full-length release. There are echoes of bands like Enslaved to be heard in the rhythms the band creates.
There is a good amount of dynamics present in the songs and this makes them interesting. The music has a melodic edge, but it is also somewhat raw. This leads to a balanced release that also has a ton of depth. The music can be harsh enough, but it becomes most interesting when it takes subtle turns. Several of the tracks demonstrate this use of variety for maximum potential. This was a compelling album to listen to, coming to an exciting close with “The Isolationist.”