This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Atavist, Aversio Humanitatis, Beyond The Black, Carrion Vael, Constellatia, Cro-Mags, Eye Of Nix, Greyhawk, Miea, Operus, Sinister, Sxperion, Vile Creature and Withering Surface.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Atavist – III: Absolution (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
After disbanding in 2007, the UK death/doom band Atavist resumed activities a few years ago and have re-emerged with their third album III: Absolution. The lineup includes Winterfylleth frontman Chris Naughton, who handles guitar duties with Toby Bradshaw (ex-They Are Cowards) on vocals.
Epic is the way to describe the album’s four tracks that range in length from just under 10 to nearly 18 minutes. There are a lot of quiet, atmospheric sections that alternate with the heavy death/doom parts. Prominent strings on tracks like the opener “Loss” and closer “Absolution” add even more variety and emotion. With its plodding pace, somber subject matter and hefty track lengths, it’s an album that requires patience to fully absorb, and that patience will be rewarded. It’s a welcome comeback that’s cathartic and able to connect with listeners on multiple levels.
Aversio Humanitatis – Behold The Silent Dwellers (Debemur Morti)
The Spanish black metal band Aversio Humanitatis released their debut full-length back in 2011, and have only released a couple of splits and an EP since then. They return with their sophomore full-length Behold The Silent Dwellers.
Aversio Humanitatis’ brand of black metal is not unrelenting brutality. There are ebbs and flows where intense, blastbeat driven black metal eases up and becomes atmospheric and psychedelic. Tracks like “The Weaver Of Tendons” and “The Wanderer Of Abstract Paths” also incorporate some memorable riffs alongside the atmospherics and heaviness. Songs in the 5 to 6 minute area are given plenty of room to develop, shift and unfold without overstaying their welcome. There’s plenty for fans of black and atmospheric black metal to sink their teeth into.
Beyond The Black – Hørizøns (Napalm)
Hørizøns is the fourth album from the German symphonic metal band Beyond The Black. Some songs stick to a more traditional style, but tracks like “Misery” and “Golden Pariahs” are very pop oriented with electronic elements and catchy hooks, and that’s the main direction of the album.
Another band that’s managed to mix symphonic metal and pop/rock effectively is Amaranthe, whose Elize Ryd guests on the accessible “Wounded Healer.” Vocalist Jennifer Haben moves smoothly between styles, with periodic male vocals providing some variety. Beyond The Black have moved in an even more commercial direction while maintaining some metal elements. They’ve trimmed the album back a couple tracks from 2018’s Heart Of The Hurricane, a wise decision that cuts down on filler with a strong collection of songs.
Carrion Vael – God Killer (HPGD)
Hailing from Richmond, Indiana, Carrion Vael have returned with their second album God Killer, to complement the musical sound of the first album and strengthen its foundations. But how successful have Carrion Vael really been in strengthening it?
Perhaps the most important feature of God Killer is the powerful and influential performance of the band members, accompanied by a strong production, which helps the structural components of the songs be heard in a thrilling way. All songs are focused on modern melodic death metal, and among the complex thrash metal-tinged guitar riffs the two guitarists trade with each other, the all-technical guitar solos energize the nature of the rhythms. In the matter of songwriting, however, it is possible that in a general view, God Killer will not offer fresh and original points, but without a doubt, fans of bands like Inferi and The Black Dahlia Murder will absolutely enjoy it.
Constellatia – The Language Of Limbs (Season Of Mist)
Originally released late last year, Constellatia’s debut album The Language Of Limbs is being re-released by Season Of Mist. It makes sense why a label like theirs would want to pick up an album as beautifully harsh as this one. They take an emotive front with their black metal, using clean-sounding guitars and female vocalists on multiple tracks to prop up the hyper speed tempos held together by drummer Lawrence Jaeger.
It may be surprising to call these songs tight, considering that the shortest of the four is over six minutes, but the band has a steady focus that is unwavering. Even when they go off in an atmospheric style, with lush guitars pulling back on the black metal, it’s all to serve the ethereal ambiance. This ambiance surrounds everything, basking the nastiest aspects of their sound in an luminous glow.
Cro-Mags – In The Beginning (Mission Two)
Formed in 1980, Cro-Mags blended thrash and hardcore into some influential albums, most notably 1986’s The Age Of Quarrel. After burning brightly in the ’80s and early ’90s they hadn’t released a full-length since 2000. While vocalist/bassist Harley Flanagan is the lone original member, the rest of the lineup’s history with the band dates back to the ’90s.
In The Beginning delivers that classic Cro-Mags sound with blazing riffs and ample attitude, but also incorporates numerous other influences with something different around every corner. Lean and mean tracks like the 92 second “Drag You Under” and the razor sharp “From The Grave” are balanced with longer songs like “No One’s Coming” and the nearly 6 minute instrumental “Between Wars.” While it will certainly appeal to fans of early Cro-Mags, the band remains relevant enough to attract a new generation of hardcore fans who hopefully won’t have to wait another 20 years for a new album.
Eye of Nix – Ligeia (Magnetic Eye)
Eye of Nix perform a weird mixture of genres on their third full-length release, Ligeia. There is a progressive edge to be found, but there are also strong nods to doom and post-metal. The entirety of the sound is jarring and finds a nice niche in an area where no band has occupied before. The band is somewhat similar to Neurosis and SubRosa, but comes off more subtle and unsure of its structure than those bands.
Add a progressive background that fills the entire release and one has a very interesting album. The band is always forward thinking and cutting edge, but sometimes held back by strange moments that bog the album down. Still, the music is very dynamic and changes all the time to create a great overall concoction. The post-metal aspect of the band is more interesting than its somewhat doom-oriented vibe, but regardless, Ligeia is an invigorating album that is well worth checking out.
Greyhawk – Keepers of the Flame (Fighter)
Infectious. That’s the first word that comes to mind when listening to Keepers Of The Flame, the debut album of Seattle’s Greyhawk. This classic metal quintet released an exciting EP, Ride Out, a year and a half ago, and aim to keep the momentum going with eleven anthems steeped in high fantasy lore – as you would expect from a band with that name.
From a modern perspective, one might compare Greyhawk to Visigoth, or from days gone by Dio. Either way, we are treated to some of the cheesiest, most over-the-top performances of the year, equal parts classic/power metal with a nice dose of speed metal to boot, and a wonderful, cheekily charismatic vocal performance that demands you keep on listening. Keepers Of The Flame is a deceptively entertaining album.
MIEA – Chaos and Perfections (Slovak Metal Army)
Prague four-piece MIEA are back their second album, Chaos and Perfections. The band’s style is a unique blend of hard rock, post rock, and metal; equal parts riffs and atmosphere. Heck, at times a sense of doom even creeps into the band’s music. This time around, the band welcomes new members on guitar and bass.
The changes in members doesn’t hurt MIEA. Musically, the songs are strong, well-written, and varying in styles and tempo, making for an engaging listen, from the rolling catchiness of “Once Again” to the anthemic “Heavy in My Bones.” At times Miki Hank’s vocals edge towards a frantic, out of control tone, and the ten-minute slow instrumental groove of “Comfort of Nothing” is a bit much, but overall Chaos and Perfections is an engaging and well-performed album.
Operus – Score Of Nightmares (Pride & Joy)
The Canadian symphonic metal band Operus are relatively new, but their members are experienced musicians who have been in bands including Annihilator, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Vital Remains and Panzerfaust. Score Of Nightmares is their second full-length.
Frontman David Michael Moote has a theatrical background and has a very melodramatic delivery that’s dynamic and emotional while keeping the cheese factor to a minimum. The musicianship is top-notch and the songs are skillfully arranged and performed, but could use a few more hooks that would make for a more memorable album. There are some standouts like “Where Falcons Fly” and “The Mirror,” along with some that are technically sound but don’t grab the listener.
Sinister – Deformation of the Holy Realm (Massacre)
Sinister helped lay the foundation for the Netherlands death metal scene. More than 30 years have passed and the band is still running strong with Deformation of the Holy Realm. As the title suggests, the album is built around anti-Christian/Satanic themes. While the band mostly play death metal, one will also find church-related music. These musical themes like organs, classical intros and liturgical, clean singing add theatrics, diversity and enliven to their lyrical themes.
Even with the church theatrics, Deformation of the Holy Realm is a death metal album, through and through. Adrie Kloosterwaard’s voice is disgustingly dry and guttural. Toep Duin’s drumming is sharp with precise tempo shifts/fills. Guitarist Michael Grall creates old school brutality with hints of melodic death metal fret play (listen to “Apostles of the Weak.”) He also pulls off wicked solos. Deformation of the Holy Realm is a vicious album in a long line of excellent releases.
Sxuperion – Omniscient Pulse (Bloody Mountain)
Sxuperion is the solo project of Matthew, the drummer of Valdur, Weverin, Garden of Hesperides and other bands. Matthew lists Sxuperion as his name for his this project. In Garden of Hesperides, he uses the pseudonym Vasara and his identity is mysterious. Sxusperian’s fifth album, Omniscient Pulse has a sound that is mysterious in its own right.
Omniscient Pulse has cosmic themes with spacey music to match those themes. The album deals with deep sleep and alternate realities. Sxuperion relate these ideas through atmospheric death metal. The mix is low and guitars are covered in grime. He has a howling voice that is very hard to discern what he’s saying, which makes it more of an instrument. The drums are fast with a lot of cymbal play. Lines often repeat for a trance-like effect. Guitar melodies/effects and keyboards create disharmonic themes and bleak ambiance. Omniscient Pulse is a dreamy album with filthy, tar-enveloped atmosphere.
Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! (Prosthetic)
Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is at once both the bleakest and most optimistic album of Vile Creature’s burgeoning career. The first half of the album falls under the former, with a pair of 11-plus minute doom titans. Each snare hit sounds like a stick of dynamite going off, as acid-drenched guitar riffs echo into the shadows. Their crushing execution blankets these songs in a threatening undertone.
All of this menace fades into the sublime two-part title track, which are the best songs the band has written to date. A choir composed of vocalist Laurel Minnes and her band, Minuscule, accompany members KW and Vic as a beacon of motivation in a time of uncertainty. People throw the word out “beautiful” a lot, but there are points during this title track where that’s the only word that can suffice. It’s a stirring finish to a fantastic third album from Vile Creature.
Withering Surface – Meet Your Maker (Mighty)
The Danish band Withering Surface aren’t as well-known as some of their Swedish contemporaries that also got their start in the mid-’90s, but definitely made their mark in the genre, especially in their native country. After a 15 year break, the band reunited for Meet Your Maker, their first new release since 2004 and fifth full-length.
The album has the classic European melodic death metal sound that’s both heavy and catchy. They amp up the intensity on “Alone” and “Leaves In The Stream” while injecting melody, and are also able to pull off ballads like “I’ll Soon Be Gone,” a duet between frontman Michael H. Andersen and his 19 year old daughter. Fans of bands like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity will appreciate what Withering Surface are doing, flying the flag for classic melodeath.