This week’s reviews include releases from Blessthefall, Bruce Lamont, Coilguns, Eldritch, High Priest, Imperial Triumphant, L.A. Guns, Lenore S. Fingers, Maidavale, Memoriam, Mournful Congregation, Of Feather And Bone, Rites To Sedition and Rivers Of Nihil.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Blessthefall – Hard Feelings (Rise)
The veteran Arizona metalcore band Blessthefall return with their sixth studio album Hard Feelings. After a fair amount of turnover early on, their lineup has been consistent for many years now.
Their music is also consistent. They craft catchy songs that blend soaring melodies and singalong choruses with more intense moments and harsh vocals. Tracks like “Find Yourself” and “Sleepless In Phoenix” feature all clean vocals, but they are most effective on songs such as “Cutthroat” and “I’m Over Being Under(rated)” that incorporate both styles. Hard Feelings is a focused and streamlined album whose 35 minutes features little filler and a plethora of memorable metalcore songs.
Bruce Lamont – Broken Limbs Excite No Pity (War Crime)
Bruce Lamont is extremely prolific. He’s in numerous bands including Yakuza, Corrections House and Bloodiest along with guest appearances on many other albums. Seven years after his solo debut, Broken Limbs Excite No Pity treads a similar path as Feral Songs For The Epic Decline, but pushes in new directions as well.
Opener “Excite No Pity” is a 10 plus minute opus that blends drone and saxophone. It’s mellow for most of the running time, becoming more cacophonous towards the end. Lengthwise the remaining tracks are shorter, but no less creative. From the instrumental “8-9-3” to the folky “Maclean” to the spaghetti western “Goodbye Electric Sunday,” there’s something unique and interesting around every corner. It’s avant-garde stylings aren’t metal, but there are some intense moments along with the experimental and the acoustic.
Coilguns – Millennials (Hummus)
Recorded and produced back in January 2016 by Coilguns themselves, Millennials has this German four-piece putting a low-fi charm to their seething hardcore/noise sound. When the two merge into shock ambiance, a feedback-induced lull occurs, where the fuzzy electronics act as a gateway to the band’s twisted mentality.
Several of the later songs on the album brush aside vocals for an instrumental-only lean, creating their own soundtrack to a futuristic horror film. Short bursts like “Music Circus Clown Care” and “Wind Machines for Company” feel unfinished, unnecessary interludes that shake the album’s promising momentum.
Eldritch – Cracksleep (Scarlet)
Italy’s Eldritch have a very melodic sound that is a pleasure to behold on their eleventh full length, Cracksleep. The music is progressive in nature, but also has a number of guitar harmonies and power metal elements. These are tunes that have a heady quality and not only bring huge riffs, but also a thoughtful approach to the table. The result is an album that blends the best of progressive metal with power metal to the highest degree.
There is an undeniable catchiness, but the music is more complex than the typical band from that genre and this elevates the band’s sound. This is still not a perfect album as the music sounds too typical at times and one wishes it would be more original. This is a minor flaw and only detracts slightly from a very exciting release. Though the album is full of vibrant guitar moments that have power, when things calm down such as the beginning of “As the Night Crawls In,” is really affecting. Still the huge moments make for an impactful journey into the depths of Eldritch’s thoughts.
High Priests – Spinning (Triple Eye)
Spinning by High Priests is a record that lacks dynamics. The production is interesting from an instrumental perspective, as Mikey Alesi (guitar) mixes a garage sound with real crunch on the bottom end, but the vocals are lacking, often buried in the mix and rarely changing song to song.
In terms of the writing, quite often the riff is interesting, (as in “10 Years” and “More Than You Need”), yet linear, never evolving, and depending on breaks and stops that seem “inserted” rather than worked into the pulse. The solo sections are often filled with basic one to two-note repetitions (or nothing but simplistic rhythm patterning) that, while occasionally explosive, make no effective statement.
Imperial Triumphant – Inceste (Temple of Tortuous)
Originally released in 2016, Imperial Triumphant’s Inceste EP is getting a limited vinyl run (only 200 copies worldwide). Exclusive to the vinyl is four bonus tracks, ranging from vocal-only renditions of past songs to a Miles Davis bass cover to an avant-garde sonic descent into hell, complete with crying babies and warped tortured screams.
All of this may come off as overly eccentric, but that’s Imperial Triumphant’s deal; a cavernous meshing of death metal, black metal and jazz that’s free-formed and unapologetic. The bonus tracks aren’t worth a repurchase, but those who let Inceste slip by the first time should get on this.
L.A. Guns – Made In Milan (Frontiers)
L.A. Guns had a lot of success in the hair band era, releasing one platinum and two gold albums along with several singles that got plenty of radio and MTV play. There were two different versions of the band for a few years, and then finally frontman Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns reunited for 2017’s The Missing Peace. Their new live DVD/CD Made In Milan was recorded on the tour for that album.
The 14 song set only includes one song (“Speed”) from The Missing Peace, focusing instead on their catalog of hits. They blaze through crowd favorites like “Electric Gypsy,” “Sex Action” and “Never Enough” before closing with “The Ballad Of Jayne” and “Rip And Tear.” One song they didn’t play was “It’s Over Now.” Lewis and Guns have an unmistakable musical chemistry, and nearly three decades after their biggest hits, the band will still appeal to aging hair metal fans.
Lenore S. Fingers – All Things Lost On Earth (My Kingdom)
Four years after their debut, the strangely named Lenore S. Fingers return with All Things Lost On Earth. The Italian gothic metal band’s sophomore release also features Anna Murphy (Cellar Darling, ex-Eluveitie) on keyboards and hurdy-gurdy.
Their melancholy goth is sometimes sparse and reserved, other times soaring and bombastic. Vocalist Federica Lenore Catalano has an earnest delivery and a flawless tone. She doesn’t have a four octave range, but brings power and emotion that grips the listener. The songs have plenty of variety, incorporating acoustic and electric sections that give the album ebbs and flows that keep things interesting.
Maidavale – Madness Is Too Pure (The Sign)
Sweden’s Maidavale first appeared on my radar two years ago, with their promising debut Tales of the Wicked West. It was a riff-heavy, well written, underappreciated blues-rock gem. This time around the band have moved even further back in time, invoking heavy doses of krautrock and ’60s psychedelia not unlike fellow Swedes Goat.
Slinky bass grooves, sinuous guitar lines, and the hypnotic vocals of Matilda Roth all add up to a fascinating album that is hard to stop listening to. From the hallucinatory jam of “Another Dimension” to the churning groove of “Dark Clouds” and beyond, Madness Is Too Pure is an entrancing journey down rabbit holes often mined by retro-styled bands, but rarely pulled off this well.
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil (Nuclear Blast)
Bolt Thrower’s remaining members returned only a year ago following the death of drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns with Memoriam, a new band aimed at remembering what came before it and also to move forward. For the Fallen hit hard initially after release, but by the end of the year so much death metal had been released that it became an afterthought.
The Silent Vigil is this iteration’s second album and the quick turnaround is about the most interesting thing about it. The quality of the songs is lacking, the pace of the album is too repetitive and the overall effect is that of boredom and laziness on the behalf of the band. There really isn’t much here, which is both disappointing and surprising from a brain trust that had nary a clunker in their entire discography before this. Easily my most disappointing release of 2018 to date.
Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (20 Buck Spin)
Australian funeral doom crew Mournful Congregation return after seven years with their fifth album The Incubus of Karma. It picks up right where its predecessor The Book of Kings left off with a crawling pace and chock full of mercurial atmosphere. The album takes on a somber tone on the title track, which isn’t a doom song at all. It is paced by drums, acoustic guitars and a flowing harmonic melody.
This is in between two tracks that together top a half an hour of sullen, sad and downright depressing beauty. “Whispering Spiritscapes” is a powerful introduction to the band as they drag their casket eternally along this mortal coil. If you even had a thought about exploring funeral doom metal then this is a perfect time to start listening. Mournful Congregation have crafted an album that typifies what the subgenre is all about and will be a tough one to forget as 2018 moves along.
Nightmarer – Cacophony Of Terror (Season Of Mist)
After an EP in 2016, the Florida death metal band Nightmarer unleash their full-length debut Cacophony Of Terror. Though a new band, their lineup is a veteran one whose current and former groups include Gigan, The Ocean and War From A Harlot’s Mouth.
While crushing at times, Cacophony Of Terror also injects groove and mellower moments. The tempos are generally deliberate, with tracks like “Bleach” slowly obliterating everything in sight. They do speed things up slightly from time to time on songs like “Skinner” and throw in blastbeats for additional intensity, but Nightmarer take their time with their aural assault. While the pace is slower, the results are no less lethal.
Of Feather and Bone – Bestial Hymns of Perversion (Profound Lore)
For Of Feather and Bone on their second album, Bestial Hymns of Perversion, there is no mercy given to those unprepared for the war charge of death metal the trio precipitates. There’s an intent to maim on these seven songs, as if they know we are nearing our end days as a species and want to give a final nasty gift to us all.
And that gift is a rebuttal of all the polished, homogenized music clogging up the genre. It’s a swarm of buzzing guitars and gravelly screams that never back away from the horrors they impose on a listener.
Rites To Sedition – Ancestral Blood (Self)
Formed about five years ago, the Charlotte, North Carolina black metal quintet Rites To Sedition are issuing their debut album Ancestral Blood.
Their brand of black metal is melodic and epic. Most songs range from 7 to 11 minutes in length broken up by short instrumental and ambient pieces. They call their style “triumphant melodic black metal,” which describes it pretty well. Each track is a slow build blending aggression, melodic guitars, harsh vocals and atmosphere. Even though the songs are long, there’s ample variety that maintains the listener’s attention. It’s an impressive debut that should draw some label attention.
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade)
Don’t be fooled by Rivers of Nihil’s frequently used tech-death genre tag, because while the quintet does play a particularly precise brand of death metal, these Keystone State metal-heads are plumbing the proggy depths on their third full-length record in Where Owls Know My Name, and subsequently joining the ever-growing 2018 roster of bands employing horns (sax in this case) on their albums.
Rivers of Nihil continue to play a robust and mechanical form of death metal while adding a greater sense of accessibility with said saxophone work, clean vocals, and a noticeable increase in hooky songwriting. Not everything works here—there’s an evenness present that keeps Where Owls Know My Name from elevating into the next stratosphere, one likely inherent to the mechanical assault—but the effort is palpable, the musicianship, helped by a mean production, shines throughout, and Jake Dieffenbach’s vocals are both comprehensible and ferocious. Everyone could use a little “Subtle Change.”