This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters reviews include Atrocity, Burial Invocation, Converge, Devin Townsend Project, Great Electric Quest, Guns N’ Roses, Kielkropf, Kissin’ Dynamite, Kontinuum, Lucifer, MaterDea, Mortuary Drape, Runespell and Secret Cutter.
Atrocity – Okkult II (Massacre)
In 2013 German death metal veterans Atrocity released Okkult, and five years later return with the sequel Okkult II. Alexander Krull and company deliver impeccably produced but still aggressive and intense death metal.
Opener “Master Of Darkness” has a cinematic flair with choral background singers along with some shredding guitar work. Tracks like “Shadowtaker” are more straightforward and crushing, while they increase the groove factor on songs such as “Spell Of Blood.” A couple guest vocalists appear on the album. Entombed A.D.’s LG Petrov lends his talents to the punishing “Devil’s Covenant” while Marc Grewe (ex-Morgoth) appears on “Gates To Oblivion,” another cinematic track with choral backing. Okkult II is well-executed death metal with enough variety to keep the listener engaged throughout.
Burial Invocation – Abiogenesis (Dark Descent)
Burial Invocation’s debut album, Abiogenesis, comes after years of inactivity following an EP released in 2010. Whatever it was that brought the group back, it seemed to be with a mind towards a higher vision of death metal. This vision has a scale that weighs on a progressive flair that doesn’t welcome the casual listener in easily.
These songs contort over an expansive formula of sideways death metal, with an exception made for closer “Tenebrous Horizons,” a suitable retreat into a bonfire acoustic jam. There’s little foresight into where any of these songs are going to go, and Burial Invocation play along with the unforeseen expectations. Questions are pondered that lead to open-ended answers. Where will this guitar solo lead? How did this melodic guitar riff get here? And why can’t I wait to replay this album?
Converge – Beautiful Ruin (Epitaph/Deathwish)
Converge released The Dusk In Us last November. Their ninth studio album did well commercially and was listed on numerous Best of 2017 lists. Without any advance fanfare, the band has released Beautiful Ruin, a four song EP of songs from The Dusk In Us sessions.
The four tracks are anything but throwaways. They are short, but razor-sharp and focused. Opener “Permanent Blue” is the longest of the bunch at just under 2 and a half minutes, combining semi-melodic spoken word and biting harsh vocals from Jacob Bannon. The three other tracks are all around 90 seconds long, potent bursts of hardcore fury. The whole EP is under 7 minutes long, but it packs a wallop and is well worth checking out.
Devin Townsend Project – Ocean Machine – Live At The Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv (InsideOut)
Last September, Devin Townsend Project went to Bulgaria to perform Townsend’s formative Ocean Machine record in full, as well as fan-requested tracks with backing from the Orchestra of Plovdiv State Opera. This live album is a flawless snapshot of that night, where the celebration of a 20-year cult classic was alongside a classical take on Townsend’s past.
The show is split in two, with the first half being the orchestra set and the second half being all Ocean Machine. A delightfully devious rendition of “Bad Devil” and the first full live performance of Infinity B-side “Om” highlight the songs done with the orchestra. Bassist John “Squid” Harder, who performed on Ocean Machine, helps Townsend give this timeless album its just due. Though Devin Townsend Project is no more, this live album is a stellar closing chapter to a fruitful era of music for Townsend.
Great Electric Quest – Chapter II (Totem Cat)
As you can probably guess from the title, Chapter II is the second full-length from San Diego’s Great Electric Quest. They blend hard rock with doom and psychedelic flavors.
They change things up often. Opener “Seeker Of The Flame” has a throwback psychedelic rock vibe, while “Of Earth I” features extended drum solos. “Of Earth II” is packed with catchy riffs, while “Anubis” is more deliberate and doomy. The vocals have a unique flair and are a bit of an acquired taste, but give Great Electric Quest an even more distinctive sound. It’s an eclectic album, and while everything doesn’t work, there’s enough to draw the attention of psych and doom fans.
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction: Locked N’ Loaded Edition (Universal)
31 years after its release, Guns N’ Roses‘ debut Appetite For Destruction is in the pantheon of the greatest rock albums of all time. The band was dangerous and edgy, even though their songs had massive commercial success. They also had a huge influence on bands to follow. To commemorate that seminal album, several different reissue configurations are available. There’s the one CD remaster, 2CD deluxe edition, 2LP vinyl edition, the 4CD/1 Blu-ray Super Deluxe edition and a massive Locked N’ Loaded edition box set.
The Super Deluxe edition includes the remastered version of Appetite For Destruction along with a disc of b-sides and EPs. The EPs and b-sides have been available in the past, but there’s also two discs of the previously unreleased 1986 Sound City Session. It has songs from Appetite, songs that would appear on later albums such as “November Rain,” and songs first seeing the light of day now. The Blu-ray includes music and videos. Superfans with a lot of extra cash can also buy the Locked N’ Loaded edition with everything mentioned above plus exclusive collectibles and a lot of other goodies that’s priced at $999. Most can’t afford that, but the 2CD edition for $20 is within most people’s budgets. The Super Deluxe edition is also pricey at $179, but the previously unreleased material and Blu-ray will make it one many will want to own.
Kielkropf – Ignorance is Bliss (Sludgelord)
Kielkropf is German for “changeling,” but the mix of sludge and doom the Austrian band goes for doesn’t really change much. These fellows have been around for five years now, and Ignorance is Bliss is their second album – or is it? At four songs and 23 minutes, this is just an EP.
That’s probably a good thing, though. While the songs themselves sound good musically, and have some fine moments scattered throughout, vocalist Jerry (yes, the band prefers to go by single names) drags the whole thing down with a subpar, at times laughable performance. He tries his hardest to sound tough, but in today’s musical climate his efforts sound dated, and thus Ignorance is Bliss does as well.
Kissin’ Dynamite – Ecstasy (Metal Blade)
I picked Ecstasy, Kissin’ Dynamite’s sixth album, for one reason only: to hate it. Bad band name, cheesy cover art, hilarious promo pictures and silly song titles had this one looking like a Steel Panther clone. Boy, was I wrong. If these Germans had released Ecstasy in 1988, it would have sold millions of copies.
It’s a bona fide hair metal hit machine, loaded with anthems, ballads (one of which, “Still Around,” has the best lyric of the year: “I’ve always kept this Journey record, that we heard on repeat. I never could have dreamed it better, than my first car’s back seat,”) and, especially from singer Hannes, a ton of tousled hair. Ecstasy is a guilty pleasure for sure, but so enjoyable I honestly had a hard time not replaying it more than I should have.
Kontinuum – No Need To Reason (Season Of Mist)
On their first two albums, Iceland’s Kontinuum have been categorized as progressive post black metal. On their third album No Need To Reason the progressive and the post parts are still accurate, but black metal has faded into the background.
The songs on the album are melodic and melancholy, paying homage to ’80s new wave, gothic rock and darkwave. Songs like “Warm Blood” are a more urgent and chaotic without sacrificing melody and hooks, while tracks such as “Neuron” are downright mellow. That’s contrasted by “No Need To Reason,” which incorporates some harsh vocals alongside melodic singing. Those moments are few and far between, with much of the record in the somber, post rock vein.
Lucifer – Lucifer II (Century Media)
Johanna Sadonis’ Lucifer returns with a new album and a completely new lineup. Tough to top Gaz Jennings’ (ex-Cathedral) on guitar to add those groovy doom/stoner riffs, but on Lucifer II Swedish god Nicke Andersson takes on the role he has with The Hellacopters and delivers some exhilarating and powerful passages on album opener “California Sun,” which fits within his current comfort zone.
Sadonis’ vocal performance is powerful as always as this time machine of a band recalls a time before heavy metal and just flat out rocks. The album does slow at points, which highlights the vocal performance. However, there is always an emphasis on ramping up the speed on tracks like “Aton” and “Faux Pharaoh.” This is a fun summer album perfect for long drives with the sun setting in the background with the windows down. Turn it up to 11.
MaterDea – Pyaneta (Rockshots)
MaterDea perform a symphonic take on the metal genre that resonates strongly with the listener on their fifth full length Pyaneta. There is a candy coated aspect to the band that makes them stand out and have the impact they do. The songs are bombastic and make their mark with the overall vibe of the band. It should be noted that this is very positive music with an upbeat tone. The Italian origin of the band might make you think they’re a power metal outfit, but there is more at play than just that.
There is a flair to the band that makes them transcend genres and simply function as a symphonic outfit. Though the instrumentation is fairly straight forward, there is enough stuff going on to make this a complex enough listen. I wish the band would have a darker feel to them and the music is almost too light at times, but this is one of the only things that’s a flaw of the band. In terms of musicianship they are really tight and perform their instruments quite well. This is a fairly strong release of symphonic music.
Mortuary Drape – Necromantic Doom Returns (Iron Tyrant)
Enigmatic Italian black metal legends Mortuary Drape are putting out their demos from the late ‘80s that would later become parts of their classic albums All The Witches Dance and Secret Suidara as part of Necromantic Doom Returns.
Those two albums are currently unavailable from the band’s Bandcamp page, so if you want to hear the band in its rawest form, this collection is for you. The quality is best reserved for the live tracks which close out the set. However, Mortuary Drape’s ever present high in the mix bass is lost on the demo recordings and robs the band of some its unique appeal. If you know a tape trader seek out the original LPs, otherwise this can suffice in the interim.
Runespell – Order Of Vengeance (Iron Bonehead)
It may just be my perception, but it seems like there aren’t as many one man black metal bands as there were a decade ago. Everything has its ebbs and flows, so perhaps we’re in for a resurgence. One of those acts is Australia’s Runespell, helmed by Nightwolf (Eternum, Blood Stronghold), who returns with Order Of Vengeance less than a year after his debut.
His style of black metal is melancholy, with a bit more aggression compared to last year’s debut. Some tracks are epic, like the nearly 10 minute opener “Retribution In Iron” and the grandiose “Wolf.Axis.” Others are more focused. Nightwolf’s vocals are understandable and lower pitched than the typical black metal rasp, and there’s even a bit of singing on a couple tracks. The production is a step above low-fi, but still pretty muddy.
Secret Cutter – Quantum Eraser (Deathwish/Holy Roar)
Secret Cutter are not the first band to smash sludge metal and grindcore together, but Quantum Eraser proves that they are doing it better than a lot of other bands. Their second album is heavier than the former, though the wildcat percussion has a presence throughout, notably on the drum solo that makes up the instrumental “Delayed Choice.”
Distorted screeches come across like SOS transmissions, their discovery being superimposed onto the trio’s soul-incinerating music. Like their 2014 debut, the group compacts their material into under half an hour, a breezy listen with no downtime. Even when it seems like they are going to take it easy, as with the few melodic notes on the intro to “Oblivion,” it’s just a false promise.