This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Ashbringer, Axioma, Birdflesh, Bloodred Hourglass, Bloody Hammers, Centrilia, Concrete Dream, Dreams In Fragments, He Is Legend, Holy Tide, Pestis Inferno, Majesty, The Projectionist, Tar Pit, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown and Yellow Eyes.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ashbringer – Absolution (Prosthetic)
When Ashbringer released Yūgen in 2016, they launched a different musical direction compared to their first album. With the release of Absolution, they have not only distanced themselves from the world of the first album, but have also separated themselves from the world of their second album. With Absolution, Ashbringer have redefined their music and have entered a new era that may change the future of the band forever.
Absolution is an hour long album, which is long, but they did it for one purpose: Making an epic journey through nature with raw, hyper dynamic, poetic songs which are filled with endless, massive tones of melodies. On Absolution, songs deal less with atmospheric black metal while retaining the term atmospheric. The songs show more traces of progressive/experimental music with the undeniable presence of jazz, blues and post-metal streaks. Absolution is the voice of nature and this is how nature talks to you.
Axioma – Crown (Translation Loss)
Axioma do a lot of things on their debut album Crown, but one thing they don’t do is resign themselves to being prototypical. The boundaries of death/black, doom, sludge, and post-metal all coexist together like a family of unruly brothers. It’s not uncommon to hear a blackened rage transition into pleasant-sounding guitars instantaneously. It keeps Crown in an exciting sonic state of unknown.
The more frantic pacing is largely in the first half, as Axioma toy with slower tempos on the back half of the album. This includes a beefed-up cover of Massive Attack’s “Angel,” taking the trip hop of the original and injecting a full syringe of heaviness into it. Bold decisions like this cover works to make Axioma’s musical flexibility visible.
Birdflesh – Extreme Graveyard Tornado (Everlasting Spew)
Swedish grinders Birdflesh have been part of a few splits over the past few years, but hadn’t released a full-length studio album since 2008. They have finally returned with Extreme Graveyard Tornado.
Their musical chops are fully intact, as is their sense of humor. That’s evident in song titles like “Botox Buttocks” and “Bite The Mullet.” They serve up their brand of grind in brief doses, with the 24 tracks ranging from 10 seconds to just over two minutes. They shift tempos from an ominous mid-tempo on tracks like “Milkshake Is Nice” to frantic, thrashy uptempo songs such as “Guacomolestation Of The Tacorpse.” Birdflesh deliver pummeling grindcore, taking the music very seriously, but adding levity to the lyrics.
Bloodred Hourglass – Godsend (Out of Line)
Finland’s Bloodred Hourglass perform a tribute to old school melodic death metal on their fourth full-length album Godsend. They sound similar to Finnish greats like Insomnium, but they seem to pay more homage to the early forefathers of the genre like Dark Tranquility and early In Flames. The album is modern sounding enough, but does pay tribute to the classics. The riffs are enveloping and difficult not to fall in love with. The music is both catchy and classy and makes for some of the best music from this genre heard so far this year.
It’s an abrasive album, but also has the right amount of melody. It’s nice to hear music like this and the similar Black Therapy album giving melodic death metal fans a reason to rejoice. The music is quite solidly performed with the vocals, guitars and drums all fitting into the bigger piece of puzzle and playing their parts well in the overall mix. This is a crushing album that melodic death metal fans will lap up without a second thought.
Bloody Hammers – The Summoning (Napalm)
It’s only appropriate that a gothic/horror-inspired band live in Transylvania. But in Bloody Hammers‘ case, it’s not Romania, but the county in North Carolina known more for waterfalls than Dracula. The duo of Anders Manga and Davallia’s latest album is The Summoning.
They blend hard rock with doom and gothic elements to create songs that are hooky and atmospheric. “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” is the opening track and lead single/video for a reason. It’s instantly memorable and one of the album’s best. “The Summoning” incorporates doomy riffs but keeps the tempo brisk while “The Beast Is Coming Out” slows down the pace and brings Davallia’s keyboards front and center. The album balances the creepy and the catchy extremely well.
Centrilia – In the Name of Nothing (233)
Huge riffs, massive breakdowns, and breakneck ferocity. Scottish metalcore newcomers Centrilia have come crashing out of the gates with some seriously heavy statements. Hell, even getting the famed Terry Dates (Slayer, Pantera, Slipknot) to produce your debut is a statement in and of itself. Needless to say, In The Name of Nothing is quite the debut.
Proving that they’re ready to play with the big boys, Centrilia masterfully create an organized rhythmic chaos that’ll appeal to the diehard extreme metalhead while also, occasionally, touching upon a more conventional, melodic sound, as in “The Fool on the Hill.” This is a debut that you won’t want to miss.
Concrete Dream – Concrete Dream (E-Train)
Music is very cyclical, with genres ebbing and flowing in popularity over the years. Rap rock/nu-metal had its heyday back in the early 2000s, but has always had a presence with plenty of bands still embracing it. The New Jersey band Concrete Dream utilize elements of those styles on their self-titled debut, but have other influences as well.
Rapped verses and singing choruses are backed by metal riffage. They also inject trap, EDM and post hardcore into the mix. Tracks like “Obey” and “Lip Kit” have a pretty even mix of rapping and singing, while songs such “Catch 22” amp up the electronic elements. Harsh vocals make their presence felt as well, such as on “Buckout Road.” This is a polarizing style, but those who appreciate the genre should enjoy Concrete Dream’s blend of catchy melodies, crunchy riffs and various vocal styles.
Dreams In Fragments – Reflections Of A Nightmare (Rockshots)
Symphonic metal bands with “beauty and the beast” vocals are legion, with the Swiss group Dreams In Fragments entering the fray with their debut album Reflections Of A Nightmare. Seraina Schopfer provides the singing, contrasted by Christian Geissmann (Majesty Of Silence, Proxima) adding growls.
He also adds melodic singing on songs such as “Nightchild,” which provides some variety. The songs are cinematic and atmospheric with arrangements that are varied but still relatively focused, with songs mostly in the 3 to 4 minute range. Schopfer can sound operatic at times, but also sings in a lower register. There’s plenty of bombast on the album, but they mix in more subtle, mellow moments for a well-rounded listening experience.
He Is Legend – White Bat (Spinefarm)
It’s a prolific week for North Carolina bands. While Bloody Hammers hail from the western part of the state, He Is Legend are based near the coast in Wilmington. White Bat is their sixth studio album. It was recorded in various parts of the country, with frontman Schuylar Croom venturing to L.A. to record the vocals.
He was inspired by the seedier side of the city of angels, creating the fictional killer that became the album title. “White Bat” is the opening track, with Croom incorporating some harsh vocals alongside melodic singing. Musically, He Is Legend are as diverse as ever, incorporating various styles. “When The Woods Were Young” is a straightforward hard rocker, “The Interloper” a ballad, and closer “Boogiewoman” heavy and sludgey. They paint with a broad palette, but the various colors blend into something distinctively He Is Legend.
Holy Tide – Aquila (My Kingdom)
Holy Tide are an international collective of musicians, with members from Italy, Brazil, the U.K., and guest musicians from a variety of other locales. Aquila is the band’s debut, composed by bassist Joe Caputo, and is a biblical concept album, covering everything from Genesis to Revelation.
Aquila is well produced and performed power metal, with plenty of solid riffs, great arrangements, and compelling vocals. There’s even a killer keyboard solo courtesy Don Airey on “The Shepherd’s Stone.” If there is a drawback to the album, it would be length: fourteen songs and seventy minutes does mean things go on a bit long. But overall, Holy Tide have created a very enjoyable power metal debut.
Majesty – Legends (Napalm)
After eight albums and more than twenty years in the metal scene, you’d expect a band to be able to pull off a decent album. Maybe not a best album or anything that hasn’t been heard before, but, still, decent. Such is not the case, though, in Majesty‘s ninth effort, Legends. Instead, the German heavy metal veterans manage to produce an amateurish pop metal letdown.
The poppy sound itself isn’t what turns me off of this album; it’s the execution. Rather than using the simplistic song structure and melodies to make something fun and catchy, Majesty miss the mark entirely and instead deliver a repetitive, simplistic, and predictable album. Between the late ’00s autotuned ballad “Words of Silence” and the impossibly disastrous chorus of “Burn the Bridges,” Legends’ only shred of hope is in its guitar solos.
Pestis Inferos – Beyond the Veil of Light (Self)
The EP Beyond the Veil of Light from black metal group Pestis Inferos was recorded live in the studio by a trio of pissed-off musicians from Syracuse, New York. With names like The Pale Horse and Llord Diabolus, the group leans heavily into the theatrics the genre is known for. It’s all here: promo shots of members in corpse paint holding torches in the woods, cover art that looks like a Satanist is tripping on acid, and song titles like “From Throne to Funeral.”
Beyond the Veil of Light is a “what you hear is what you get” if a listener is even slightly aware of what black metal is all about. That’s not to say Pestis Inferos doesn’t do it well, because they do. It’s just that the band pulls their ideas from established acts like Dark Funeral, though there is room for them to blossom out into their own come full-length album time.
The Projectionist – Visits From The Nighthag Part 2 (Appalachian Noise)
Lörd Matzigkeitus likes to keep busy. He’s a member of several bands, with The Black Sorcery issuing an album earlier this year, Sartoraaus releasing an EP last year along with The L.A.R.V.A.E. Group releasing a full-length in 2018. Following Part 1 last year, the second half of The Projectionist‘s ambitious black metal opera concludes with Visits From The Nighthag Part 2.
The music is sometimes cold and icy, other times more epic and cinematic. The variety of vocal styles is engaging, as Lörd Matzigkeitus provides the voices of most of the characters utilizing different rasps, spoken word parts and screams, with Aven Haunts as the Nighthag. It’s epic in scope with the multiple characters and lengthy tracks like the nearly 10 minute “The Globe Theater” along with shorter songs like the searing “Blitzkrieg Craft” and urgent “Bandages Over Boards.” Fans of The Projectionist’s black metal opera style have a lot to look forward to, with a planned six opera cycle.
Tar Pit – Tomb of Doom (Ordo MCM)
Both the band name and album name are bang-on in this case. Tar Pit’s quick (five song, forty minute) debut album Tomb of Doom is an old-school release to the core. The Portland, Oregon quartet (there were five members when the album was recorded) clearly adore bands such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass, and Trouble.
If those bands resonate with you, Tomb of Doom will be up your alley. It’s raw proto-doom, featuring engaging – and at times, messy – performances all around, with plenty of down-tuned energy and lo-fi, fuzz-drenched guitars over throbbing drum and bass lines. While not exactly original, Tar Pit show potential within their genre of choice. I’m looking forward to what comes next from these guys.
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Truth And Lies (Snakefarm)
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown have had the opportunity to open for some of music’s biggest names including AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses. That’s great exposure for an up-and-coming band, as they continue to develop their own fan base with their third album Truth And Lies.
There are plenty of arena-ready rockers on the album, such as the opener “Shock And Awe” and “Drive Me Mad,” but the band explore other styles as well, from the bluesy “Ride” to the introspective “Shape I’m In” to the grunge-flavored “Eye To Eye” to the southern stylings of “Trouble.” Top-notch guitar work and memorable songs make this album an appealing one for rock fans, whether it be hard rock, classic rock, blues rock or all of the above.
Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling (Gilead)
Field recordings that Yellow Eyes vocalist/guitarist Will Skarstad brought back with him from his time in Eastern Europe tie the band’s fifth album, Rare Field Ceiling, together. An old Russian folk tune is mournfully sung in a recording used for the intro to instrumental closer “Maritime Flare.” Guitar improvisation from Krallice vocalist/guitarist Mick Barr ends the first half of the album on “Light Delusion Curtain.”
Those field recordings are supplemented by the icy black metal the group has been entrenched in for the last decade. It’s in a manner familiar to those who have listened to their last few albums, though their music hasn’t lost its edge. Rare Field Ceiling can be taken at face value—as a primal barnburner—or a dive into a region of the world with a rich culture through the lens of black metal.