This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Accidental President, Black Altar, Black Funeral, Boris, Bury Tomorrow, Convocation, Dead Tree Seeds, Enshadowed, Gramma Vedetta, Hellbender, Isaurian, Kirkebrann, Poltergeist, Sickening Horror, Torrefy and Vampire.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
After five years of lineup changes and obstacles overcome, Australian hard rockers Accidental President emerge with their self-titled debut album.
Accidental President has the guitar driven melodies you’d expect from hard rock, but they also incorporate some goth and metal influences into their music. Vocalist Bethany Neville has some similarities in style to The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen, but brings her own approach to the table on tracks like “100 Days” and the ballad “Last Breath.” Their songs are longer than usual for the genre and while the riffs are potent and arrangements diverse, additional hooks like on the catchy “The King Is Dead” would make for a more memorable listen.
Black Altar/Kirkebrann – Deus Inversus (Odium)
The Polish black metal outfit Black Altar have not released a full-length album since 2008 and the Norwegian band Kirkebrann hasn’t released one since 2013. The two bands team up for the split release Deus Inversus.
Black Altar kick off the proceedings with three tracks, one being a short instrumental. They play black metal that’s blistering and heavy that also packs a potent groove and some melodic moments. Both “Deus Inversus” and “Ancient Warlust” are excellent tracks. Kirkebrann supply three songs that are jam packed with memorable riffs and a rawer sound and close out the proceedings with a surprisingly catchy acoustic instrumental. Both bands hold up their end of the bargain and hopefully will lead to new full-lengths from each in the not too distant future.
Black Funeral – Scourge Of Lemashtu (Iron Bonehead)
Black Funeral crept out of the shadows way back in 1993, which makes them one of the earliest USBM bands. Their debut Vampyr-Throne of the Beast, released via Full Moon Productions, is a classic album of grim proportions. 25 years after that release, Black Funeral mastermind Michael Ford, aka Akhtya Nachttoter, returns to create more sonic black magic with Scourge of Lemashtu.
With Scourge of Lemashtu, Nachttoter continues the occult and vampyric themes of past efforts. Magical ambiance summons demons from the Ancient Near East. The production is cold and distant like a Victrola record. Various soundscapes and organ add theatrical mysticism and horror. Wailing voices and hand percussion also realize the Middle Eastern settings. The guitars are of the mid-tempo, icy variety. The vocals are bleak and harsh, yet understandable. Scourge of Lemashtu is the gateway to the Mesopotamian underworld.
The prolific and eclectic Japanese band Boris generally have multiple releases per year, whether it be standalone full-lengths, collaborations or live albums. After a collaboration with Z.O.A. earlier this year following three albums an EP and a compilation in 2019, they are self-releasing NO.
The album kicks off with the relatively straightforward instrumental “Genesis” before launching into a diverse collection of songs from the punk-influenced “Anti-Gone” to the noisey “Temple Of Hatred” to the chaotic “Fundamental Error,” a cover of a song from Japanese hardcore punk legends Gudon. There are a lot of blazing fast tracks along with glacially slow numbers like “Zerkalo.” Boris’ music is always interesting, pushing boundaries and constantly shifting, and no matter how many albums they release per year the quality always remains high.
Bury Tomorrow – Cannibal (Music For Nations/Sony)
I’d like to think that I’m slowly eroding the wall of prejudice that I’ve maintained against metalcore for a while now and, while it hasn’t exactly dealt the final blow, Bury Tomorrow’s 2020 effort Cannibal hasn’t sent me running back to my comfort zone.
Since their 2012 debut The Union of Crowns, Bury Tomorrow have amassed a loyal legion of core-heads for their rambunctious interpretation of the metalcore formula. Cannibal brings little to offer in terms of nuance for their followers, but enough to keep necks sore for the next few years. The album soars highest when harsh vocalist Daniel Winter-Bates is given the limelight to flex those fluctuating growls over the groove-driven ensemble on tracks like “Choke,” “Gods and Machines” and “The Agonist.” Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and breakdowns. There is the odd track that flies beneath the radar (“The Grey (VIXI), “Imposter”) and Jason Cameron’s clean vocals will often grind tracks to a halt, killing the momentum to flaunt some fairly underwhelming hooks. Perfect, it may not be, but Bury Tomorrow have done just enough to avoid the pitfall of irrelevancy.
Convocation – Ashes Coalesce (Everlasting Spew)
Ashes Coalesce is the second album from the Finnish doom/death duo Convocation, whose lineup features Dark Buddha’s Marko Neuman on vocals and Desolate Shrine’s Lauri Laaksonen handling all the instruments.
It has the downtuned riffs and plodding pace you’d expect from doom along with atmospherics and mellower moments. The four tracks are lengthy, ranging from 8 to more than 13 minutes long. They unfold deliberately, going from airy lightness to stifling oppression and back again. Harsh vocals dominate the proceedings, but brief melodic singing rears its head on “Misery Form.” The intriguing album closes with the relatively mellow instrumental “Portal Closed.”
Dead Tree Seeds – Push The Button (Music)
If old-school thrash metal is your thing, look no further than France’s Dead Tree Seeds. These guys tear pages right out of the books of Slayer, Exodus, and more, and on their second full-length (seven years after their debut) Push The Button they do just that, pushing every button they can find on their way to delivering full-throttle mayhem.
No wheels were reinvented in the making of this album, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the hell out of Push The Button. The album delivers chunky, neck-breaking riffs and manic vocals, and the production brings us back to the ’80s scene in a very authentic, aggressive way. It is clear Dead Tree Seeds love what they are doing here, and the enjoyment is contagious. This is an album that is a blast to play at full volume.
Enshadowed – Stare Into The Abyss (Odium)
The Greek black metal band Enshadowed have been around for more than 20 years, but their output has been relatively sparse. Stare Into The Abyss is just their fourth full-length, and first since 2013.
Their style is more Nordic than Hellenic, with tremolo picking, blast beats and high pitched vocals. Songs like “Beyond The Knowledge Of Truth” are fast and dense, but periodically shift tempos to avoid monotony. Tracks like “Blackened Mouth Of Despair” are more moderately paced. There’s a rawness to Enshadowed’s sound, but the production is not low-fi. It’s old school and not groundbreaking in any way, but it is a well-executed and enjoyable slab of black metal.
EPs may be the thing for 2020. With bands forced to hunker down for months on end, touring is out of the question and getting together for recording has been equally impossible. Thus we are seeing some bands, such as London stoner rock trio Gramma Vedetta, packaging and dropping EPs for us, in an effort to get something to market for the fans.
A.C.I.D. Compliant is a sweet little four-song offering, comprised of three songs recorded late last year, and a fourth, “A Lucid Dream (Lockdown Blues),” recorded during the pandemic. The first track is a hard-rocking and very catchy anthem, while the next two are more swampy, grimy songs, and the fourth is the ninety-second theme song to the Dumb and Dumbest music industry podcast, “Everything is Terrible and the House is on Fire.” All together, it’s a short, fun romp that will tide fans over until the next full-length.
Hellbender – American Nightmare (No Life Til Metal)
There have been a few different bands named Hellbender over the years. This one hails from California, recently added D.R.I. drummer Rob Rampy to their lineup and has been around for nearly a decade. American Nightmare is their third release.
Their style blends classic metal and groove metal into a sound that has melody and hooks but also edge and aggression. They cite influences of everyone from Iron Maiden to Hatebreed to Lamb Of God. Dollar Bill’s vocals are hardcore style speaking/yelling. The eight tracks blaze by in a little more than a half hour, with songs such as “Born Dead” and “End Of Days” having a nice mix of heaviness and catchy riffs.
Isaurian mix a number of genres effectively on their full-length debut Chains of Blue. One can hear the doom of Khemmis or Pallbearer combined with the shoegaze of Alcest and the post metal of Cult of Luna. While this might seem somewhat complicated, the album is actually rather straightforward sounding. It has that doom element scattered throughout the majority of the release, but then puts the brakes on for the last couple of songs, “With Solace” and the closing title track.
This leads to a varied album that climaxes towards the end of the release. The songs usually have catchier portions and those that are more from the left field. The resulting sound is unique, but doesn’t quite live up to some of the bands I’ve compared them to because it is not as strong as a whole. It’s also weird sounding at times with the shoegaze and post metal influences present. Still, this was a very enjoyable listen that got better the more time spent with the release. Fans of doom, post metal and shoegaze will find something to like here for certain.
Poltergeist – Feather Of Truth (Massacre)
Switzerland’s Poltergeist began their thrashing career in 1985. Like so many thrash bands, they broke up in the ‘90s, only to resurface later on in 2013. Their fifth full length Feather of Truth is a mix of nostalgia and modernity, original members and newcomers.
Comparatively, Feather of Truth brings to mind modern Kreator, Testament and Havok. The harmonies and gallops on “The Godz of the Seven Rays” are reminiscent of modern Kreator. Longtime vocalist André Grieder had a brief stint in Destruction, so comparing Poltergeist to Destruction has its merits. “Saturday Night’s Allright for Rockin’” is a bangin’ thrash anthem complete with a punky bass guitar/drum combo in the beginning. Reto Crola shows serious chops on his drum fills at the beginning of the title track, which transitions beautifully into a melodic lead. Feather Of Truth is a hidden gem in the global thrash scene that deserves to be unearthed.
Sickening Horror – Chaos Revamped (Pathologically Explicit)
After George Kollias left the band in 2007, not a bit of Sickening Horror’s ability or strength diminished, and their eighteen-year strong presence makes them one of the most prominent death metal bands from Greece. Chaos Revamped is their fourth studio album, to showcase their power to make dynamic and vigorous pieces once again.
If Sickening Horror went experimental on Overflow and occasionally utilized avant-garde touches on that album, Chaos Revamped is their return to the traditional context of technical death metal. However, their attempt to establish a modern interface on this album is obvious, as the songs are more melodic and groovier than anything they’ve done before. In many moments Sickening Horror strongly play with the ideas of progressive death metal. Although the album may not be their finest album to date, the fresh tone of Chaos Revamped is admirable and will undoubtedly be remembered. As the album title says, they’ve revamped their chaotic musical realm.
Torrefy have no desire for commercial appeal with their blackened thrash metal on Life Is Bad. These songs are mini-epics all on their own, spanning anywhere from five to nine minutes. Each song stubbornly holds to an array of raspy bellows, fret-melting solos, and kick-to-the-face tempos. The group’s instrumental proficiency is top-notch, making the lengthy running times tolerable.
That’s important since Life Is Bad takes almost 65 minutes to reach its conclusion. That’s a lot of thrashing, and the album has a bit of a throwback to when bands like Heathen and Dark Angel were crossing past the limits of thrash metal. Torrefy doesn’t nail it quite like those bands did, but their willingness to not settle for quick results is admirable.
Vampire – Rex (Century Media)
Each of Vampire‘s albums has been a solid step forward, and the Swedish death/thrash metal band continues on that path for their third full-length Rex.
On tracks like “Wiru-Akka,” Vampire expertly blend the galloping riffs of thrash, the groove and intensity of death and the melodies of traditional metal. There are a multitude of tempo and style shifts. Just when you think a song is going exclusively down the death metal path, they’ll bust out a killer guitar solo, or when a track seems like it’s barreling down the thrash road they’ll pump the brakes and increase the groove. The shifts are seamless, keeping it cohesive no matter which style is front and center.