This week’s Heavy Music HQ album reviews include releases from Beheaded, Chaos Magic, Damage S.P.F., Demir Demirkan, Hate, Ingested, Jorn, Panzerfaust, Pinkish Black, Sadistic Ritual, Sandness, Sarcofago, Serpent Of Gnosis, Sweet Oblivion, Temple Koludra, Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, Winterwolf and Yawning Man.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Beheaded – Only Death Can Save You (Agonia)
Malta’s brutal death metal veterans Beheaded have attacked once again by providing an album full of rage and groove, both to create a stronger position for themselves and to reassure their fans once more. And by releasing their new album Only Death Can Save You, Beheaded have achieved this goal.
Beheaded are known as a group that uses technical death metal elements in their music. However, Only Death Can Save You has lesser technical death touches and it’s heavy and groovy guitar riffs have a tremendous presence throughout the album. The wicked vocal performance of Frank Calleja, as well as the powerful drumming of Davide Billia also have made the sound of the album wicked and savage. Though Only Death Can Save You is not the best work of Beheaded, their fans and brutal death metal admirers will surely be satisfied.
Chaos Magic – Furyborn (Frontiers)
Killer melodies? Crunchy guitar tones? Boundless attitude? Yup, it’s all here in the second installment of Chaos Magic: Furyborn. Moving away from the typical, Delain-esque symphonic sound of their debut, Furyborn instead attacks with a more aggressive yet accessible badassery, with some power metal and electronic elements thrown in. It’s all wrapped up neatly in a shiny, cleanly-mixed package, and can easily be enjoyed by both metalheads as well as the average mainstream listener.
The reason for this drastic difference in sound is due to the absence of Timo Tolkki (who also happens to have a new album out this week), who spearheaded Chaos Magic’s debut. This time around, Caterina Nix and Chilean musician Nasson have teamed up with numerous guest vocalists including Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund to bring out some of the best, ground-pounding melodic metal of the year.
Damage S.F.P. – Damage S.F.P. (Rockshots)
The origins of Damage S.F.P. go back to the early ’90s, when the Finnish thrashers recorded a few demos before breaking up. Decades later, this trio is releasing their self-titled debut, comprised of material written during their initial run together. Any fears of this album sounding dated are unnecessary, as these songs are fueled by a modern-sounding production that gives heft to their retro thrash mannerisms.
Though thrash is their specialty, they branch out into traditional metal (“In Termination”) and even grindcore at one point (“Grain Brain”). This jumping between genres keeps the album from getting stale or too much like a band trying to haphazardly live out their glory days again. Instead, this is a debut full-length that doesn’t come off as one, as Damage S.F.P. appear self-assured in their aggressive ways.
Turkish guitarist Demir Demirkan performs singer-songwriter metal that could be compared to the likes of Bruce Dickinson. There is a lot to like with Elysium in Ashes, Demirkan’s first album in English. The songs maintain a good groove and have a catchiness to them that is omnipresent. The songs are definitely underground sounding enough to have their place on this website. Strong guitars feature themselves in the foreground, even though the singing of Demirkan is quite wonderful to behold as well.
The album does a good job featuring songs that are accessible, yet have the bite to make them even more appealing. The songs are streamlined, while complex enough to be interesting. This is a seriously solid singer-songwriter album, but a bit too standard sounding to be particularly special, though it still manage to raise your pulse. I really enjoyed this work despite its fairly one dimensional nature.
Hate – Auric Gates Of Veles (Metal Blade)
The Polish death metal band Hate have been around since the early ’90s, delivering searing, angry death metal. Recently they have been exploring Slavonic mysticism in their music and lyrics, incorporating more black metal influences. That continues with Auric Gates Of Veles, their eleventh full-length.
Tracks like “Thriskhelion” have blastbeats and death metal grooves along with the aforementioned black metal influences. “Sovereign Sanctity” is an epic track with dense, extreme parts along with more moderately paced sections and a searing guitar solo towards the end of the track. Closer “Generation Sulphur” brings black metal to the forefront with galloping riffs and a raw feel. It’s refreshing that this far into their career Hate still are pushing boundaries and exploring different musical paths.
Ingested – The Call Of The Void (Unique Leader)
Manchester, England’s brutal death metal/deathcore act Ingested have returned with The Call of the Void EP, only a year after the release of the acclaimed The Level Above Human. This time they have freed a manic creature from the void which not only continues the successful path of their previous album, but opens up new horizons for the band.
Ingested still maintain their position of addressing their brutal musical components, but on this new EP they have entered into boundaries that have reconstructed their musical structure and made it sound more dynamic. From dealing with progressive music to being melodic, groovy and atmospheric, Ingested are still slamming at most of this EP’s moments, but they direct their path to the way that completes the portrait of the previous album and sets up a new framework for the band and its future.
Jorn – Live On Death Road (Frontiers)
Last year, Jorn Lande headlined the 2018 Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, Italy. That performance has been captured on DVD/2CD release Live On Death Road. While the concert was played in the aftermath of the release of 2017’s Life On Death Road, the 16 songs only include one from that album.
The set is more of a career spanning one, including lesser known tracks from early albums and plenty of covers. Ozzy’s “Shot In The Dark,” Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like The Wind” and Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark” are among the covers in the set. They mix well with Jorn songs such as “Bring Heavy Rock To The Land” and “Lonely Are The Brave.” Lande has a powerful voice, and is in fine form during this show that’s a good combination of crowd pleasers and lesser known but quality songs.
Panzerfaust – The Suns of Perdition Chapter 1: War, Horrid War (Eisenwald)
Canadian black metal group Panzerfaust stare into mankind’s self-imposed abyss on The Suns of Perdition Chapter 1: War, Horrid War. Authoritarian blights in the form of religious radicalism and theocracy are among the subjects tackled on the album. It moves by slow tempos, and the guitars are dissonant. If the guitar style were different, this could be a doom album.
The tempo may seem languid, but the group is quite dynamic—even if the changes are subtle—building and layering each track. The atmosphere (and drums), particularly in the layers of voices, is what makes this a strong record. “The Decapitator’s Prayer” shows the band at their best, combing heavy aggression in the vein of Polish heavyweights Behemoth and Hate with eerie atmosphere through real recordings of Islamic prayer, a touchy subject. The Suns of Perdition Chapter 1: War, Horrid War is a suitable vehicle for addressing this controversial topic.
Pinkish Black – Concept Unification (Relapse)
Texas twosome Pinkish Black return with Concept Unification, their fourth album proper. It is an all-encompassing full length that hits on many different styles of music; from the slow goth march of “Until” to the lush and brooding doom landscapes of “Dial Tone” to “Petit Mal” and its frenzied opening that gives way to mid-tempo keyboards and drums.
This can be a difficult album to digest in one sitting and requires repeat listens to truly understand the excellent use of atmosphere on display here. If variety is the spice of life, you’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive release than Concept Unification. An album with a more appropriate title does not exist.
Sadistic Ritual – Visionaire of Death (Boris/Unspeakable Axe)
Sadistic Ritual came into existence over a decade ago, and only now have they released a debut album with Visionaire of Death. A sizable collection of EPs, demos, and live albums are all that stand between their formation and this album. Those years were spent building songs with their thrash/black sound that has a bit of Absu DNA thrown in. This makes for a furious debut that never wavers on its murderous intent.
The opening title track rattles the senses as the caustic riffs take over. Visionaire of Death is an album where the band will catch you with an unexpected riff that’ll get the body moving without realizing it. Though they can throw out one-minute scorchers like “Death Shriek,” they can also go for a grander scale, as they do on the ambitious closer “Cerebral Sacrifice.” Sadistic Ritual are a band to keep an eye on as shining up-and-comers in the thrash game.
Sandness – Untamed (Rockshot)
There is a real need for bands like Sandness, as much of metal in general has been defined lately by rather faceless super-mechanics with military precision, hyper speed-riffs, and gargantuan loudness. Moreover, the growl vocal is cool, but has become rather generic in many of these platforms. On Untamed, Sandness attempt to bring us back to an ’80s-influenced melodic, fun, sleazy sort of rock that would inspire us to dance on the bed again and sing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush.
Newsflash: they are not “sleazy.” They are, unfortunately, rather “safe.” The vocals are good. The drumming is worthy. The guitar is produced well and the platform solos are professionally executed (for all but the occasional lack of transitions between licks). The problem is that “proficient” doesn’t always spell “rock group,” at least the type we want to see headlining theaters and blowing our doors off. I liked the record. I can’t remember any songs from it.
Sarcófago – Crust (Greyhaze)
Crust is a reissue of the final Sarcófago recording first pressed in 2000. The EP consists of just four songs at just over 11 minutes in duration. Wagner Antichrist’s highly modified vocals squash the idea of any lyrical clarification, and serve more of an atmospheric purpose than narrating stories. A drum machine sets a sweltering tempo that may not be humanly possible, and the guitars follow suit.
Quick solos, often the whammy bar variety, further add to the horror show vibe. “F.O.M.B.M. (Fuck Off the Melodic Black Metal!)” is a commentary on the growing commercialism of black metal at the end of the ‘90s. Crust is a very straightforward album that lives up to the above sentiment of bucking the mainstream. The only issue is the vocals. The illegible voice becomes more of an instrument than a purveyor of lyrics. To be fair, though, these lyrics aren’t exactly suited for holding hands and singing Christmas carols.
Serpent Of Gnosis – As I Drink From The Infinite Well Of Inebriation (1126)
It has been five years since the last Job For A Cowboy album. Frontman Jonny Davy has emerged as part of the new project Serpent Of Gnosis, whose members also include JFAC guitarists Al Glassman and Tony Sannicandro along with the Black Dahlia Murder bassist Max Lavelle and Goratory drummer Darren Cesca.
Their debut album As I Drink From The Infinite Well Of Inebriation is an extreme dose of death metal and grindcore. Most of the tracks are brief bursts of destruction clocking in at least than two minutes. However, tracks like “Cognivity” are lengthier and emphasize the death metal side of the band with groovy riffs and greater glimpses of melody. Songs such as “A Mask Of Lucidity” and “Entrenched Euphoria” are bludgeoning and dense with a fast tempo. The lyrics explore the effects of addiction. The ten tracks blaze by in just over 20 minutes. It’s an impressive debut, and hopefully will be more than just a one-off.
Sweet Oblivion – Sweet Oblivion (Frontiers)
Crafted by DGM mastermind Simone Mularoni and featuring Geoff Tate, the brand new melodic metal project Sweet Oblivion has finally come to fruition. Although, despite their promises of delivering a glorious tribute to the golden era of Queensryche, the project falls way short and instead treads more closely to the footprints of Tate’s ill-fated Operation: Mindcrime. Sweet Oblivion isn’t necessarily bad, but it is, for the most part, bland.
There are some good parts, like a few of the intro riffs and the solo sections, but the simplistic melodies and identical song structures water the whole thing down so much that it barely manages to stay afloat. Only two of its ten songs break free of the monotony of the album: the opener, “True Colors,” and “The Deceiver,” which is actually a really good track. As a fan of pretty much all of Mularoni’s work, I had high hopes, but was ultimately left disappointed by such a forgettable album.
Temple Koludra – Seven! Sirens! To A Lost Archetype (Transcending Obscurity)
After a couple of EPs, the mysterious German band Temple Koludra have emerged with their full-length debut, the unusually titled Seven! Sirens! To A Lost Archetype.
Temple Koludra combine black metal with ambient sections and death metal to create songs that are lengthy, varied and dynamic. There’s a lot of atmosphere that leans toward grandiose and cinematic. Eastern influences are also incorporated throughout, including on tracks like “Namarupa.” They smoothly shift from bludgeoning blastbeats to moderate grooves to meandering soundscapes. Even with songs in the 9 to 12 minute range, they manage to maintain interest throughout with compelling songwriting and constantly shifting styles.
Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – Return To Eden (Frontiers)
After releasing their first two albums a year apart, there was a five year span between Timo Tolkki’s Avalon‘s second album and their new opus Return To Eden. Like the first two albums, Tolkki (Ring Of Fire, ex-Stratovarius) brought aboard numerous guests to handle the vocal duties on the metal opera.
The songs are symphonic power metal with ample atmosphere and creative arrangements, but are relatively focused and stay mainly in the 4 to 5 minute range. They are catchy and melodic, staying mostly in the power metal pocket, but incorporating a few other genres as well. The combination of male and female vocalists creates a lot of variety. The most recognizable singer is Anneke Van Giersbergen, with Mariangela Demurtas (Tristania) also giving a strong performance. The male vocalists are Todd Michael Hall (Harlet, Riot V), Zak Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle) and Eduard Hovinga (Mother Of Sin). Even with so many different singers, the album manages to stay cohesive.
Winterwolf – Lycanthropic Metal of Death (Svart)
Winterwolf guitarist Corpse and guitarist/vocalist Abomanitor have a history that goes beyond this band, also being involved together with Deathchain, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and Demilich at some point in their respective careers. This history comes into play on Winterwolf’s second album, Lycanthropic Metal of Death, which is their first full-length album since 2009’s Cycle of the Werewolf. The time between albums hasn’t hindered their abrasive, old-school approach to death metal.
Considering members of this group have been involved in the genre dating back to the early ’90s, the phrase “old-school” is relevant here when it’s being performed by people with first-hand experience of that era of death metal. It’s a treat to hear Abomanitor’s vile gurgles again (considering his notable project Demilich may never release another album), even if they are just background vocals. Lycanthropic Metal of Death checks off all the points that any Finnish death metal fanatic would want.
Yawning Man – Macedonian Lines (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Yawning Man have been around for twenty-three years now, and are sometimes referred to as the creators of the desert-rock sound. Bands such as Kyuss and Fu Manchu cite them as influences, and their “generator” parties were legendary. Macedonian Lines follows hot on the heels of last fall’s The Revolt Against Tired Noises.
Macedonian Lines continues the vibe of past efforts, with slow, easy-going jams ranging from three to seven minutes in length. Laid-back is the order of the day here: these six songs definitely need to be listened to with the correct amount of haze in the room. While there isn’t any poor material here, none of the songs do more than invoke a feeling of contentment. If that’s your trip, Yawning Man are your band.