Heavy Music Headquarters Album Reviews: Week of March 30, 2018

This week’s reviews include releases by Augury, Barren Earth, Critical Mess, Eagle Twin, Hexed, Johansson & Speckmann, Leechfeast, Lychgate, Napalm Death and Red Sun Rising.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Augury - Illusive Golden Age
The Artisan Era

Augury – Illusive Golden Age (The Artisan Era)

It’s a risky move to not releasing a new album in eleven years, which is how long it has been for Augury since the Canadians released their acclaimed sophomore album Fragmentary Evidence. But that album was groundbreaking enough to keep the band’s name alive forever. Now by releasing Illusive Golden Age, Augury have returned powerfully to reclaim the title as one of the pioneers of progressive death metal.

Songs on Illusive Golden Age are smartly constructed to give enough space to both high ranges of vocals and extensive instrumental parts, letting the band members expose their stellar ability of playing their instruments. Complicated hyper dynamic pieces which all are written and performed by outstanding musicians lead the listener to discover indefinite musical elements in the song structures. It was worth the wait to hear another brilliant album from Augury.

Rating: 4.5
(Arash Khosronejad)

Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Century Media Records

Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages (Century Media)

Finland’s Barren Earth bring more melodic moments on their fourth full length A Complex of Cages. For those not in the know, this band is made up of members from Hamferd, Kreator, Moonsorrow and Amorphis. The music is huge in nature and makes a great impact upon the listener. The songs form a gorgeous tapestry that is wondrous to behold. The mixture of heavier moments and softer sections has rarely been done better than it has here and there are many chances for the music to be as adventurous as possible.

The overall dynamics the band employs are always interesting and make for an exciting listen. Songs like the 10 minute “Solitude Path” are long, but full of energy. This is certainly another interesting addition to the band’s library. The music is starting to sound similar to previous recordings, but hopefully the band puts more progressive elements into the mixture as they have here to make them consistently more compelling. As it stands, the entertaining concoction will be enough to please their current fans and expose a whole new legion of metal lovers to their wares.

Rating: 4
(Adam McAuley)

Critical Mess - Human Praey
Metalville Records

Critical Mess – Human Praey (Metalville)

With Cripper set to call it a day, vocalist Britta Görtz has joined the German death metal band Critical Mess for the album Human Praey.

The songs have an old school vibe, as Critical Mess vary tempos from deliberate on tracks like “Feasting” to rocket-fueled on songs like the thrashy “Gluttony.” Critical Mess, while remaining rooted in the old school, inject modern and technical elements as well. The dual guitars from Elmo and Marco explore many different facets and textures. Görtz’s vocals are potent and aggressive. Melody and groove alternate with crushing riffs and frantic blastbeats for a well-rounded and varied slab of extremity.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Eagle Twin - The Thundering Heard
Southern Lord Recordings

Eagle Twin – The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn) (Southern Lord)

Eagle Twin play it loose with their song structures on The Thundering Heard, as guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley tears off extensive solos with limited vocals getting in the way. There’s an improvisational flow to their musicianship, as if the duo put “instrumental break” in their lyric notes and just went with it in the studio live.

That can sometimes lead to acid flashbacks to the days of prog rock’s mindless noodling, but Eagle Twin are far from that. The thrill of hearing yet another wild guitar solo is palpable, and the pair’s sharp chemistry has enough give and take to keep the thrill alive.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Hexed - Netherworld
Vicisolum Productions

Hexed – Netherworld (Vicisolum)

After issuing an EP last year, the Swedish melodic metal band Hexed emerge with Netherworld, their debut full-length. They are fronted by Tina Gunnarson, a powerhouse vocalist.

Hexed play traditional metal with a lot melody and hooks and a few progressive tendencies. The guitar attack is varied, ranging from driving and heavy riffs to more accessible sections. Gunnarsson delivers an impressive performance. She has a wide range, both vocally and emotionally. She’s able to deliver soft and subdued parts, then switch to an aggressive and heavier style. Strategically placed male vocals, including guest appearances from Therion’s Thomas Vikstrom on “Exhaling Life” and Tad Morose’s Ronny Hemlin on album closer “Remake My Soul” add some spice to the proceedings.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Johansson & Speckmann - From The Mouths Of Madness
Soulseller Records

Johansson & Speckmann – From The Mouths Of Madness (Soulseller)

Death metal veterans Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Severed Limbs, Ribspreader) and Paul Speckmann (Master, Abomination) enjoyed collaborating on a track for the first Megascavenger album so much they decided to record a whole album together. That turned into a proper (and prolific) band, with From The Mouth Of Madness the fourth album from Johansson & Speckmann in just five years.

Like their previous work, From The Mouth Of Madness is straightforward, old school death metal with ominous grooves. Johansson provides a variety of riffage ranging from galloping uptempo tracks to mid-tempo stomps while Speckmann supplies his unique vocal style. The 9 songs clock in at just over 30 minutes, another focused and enjoyable effort from what has become a very fruitful collaboration.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Leechfeast - Neon Crosses
Dry Cough Records

Leechfeast – Neon Crosses (Dry Cough)

The URL for Leechfeast’s Facebook page ends with the word antispeed, a relatable self-description of the band’s music on Neon Crosses. This album is as slow as a group can get without going drone. It snakes along with no attempt to push into an uncomfortable tempo.

Their imposing stature is admirable, but it gets watered down with the occasional lifeless melodic vocals and a blatant ripoff of the outro to The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” used at the end of “Halogen.” At under 40 minutes, Neon Crosses is short and inoffensive enough to avoid becoming a nuisance.

Rating: 2.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Lychgate - The Contagion In Nine Steps
Blood Music

Lychgate – The Contagion In Nine Steps (Blood)

The British black metal band Lychgate, whose members also play in bands such as Acherontas and Ancient Ascendant, have received praise for their first two albums. That will continue with their latest release, The Contagion In Nine Steps.

The concept explores crowd psychology and is drawn from works including Stanislaw Lem, Plato and Hegel. Musically, Lychgate have a lot of avant-garde tendencies combined with black metal. The tracks are lengthy with a lot of ebbs and flows as they continually shift tempos and intensities. For example, “Hither Comes The Swarm” starts in a slow, mellow and subdued fashion before intensifying halfway through and then easing up again. They vary vocal styles throughout as well, combining harsh vocals with melodic singing and spoken word. Lychgate have developed a unique and compelling style.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Napalm Death - Coded Smears And Other Uncommon Slurs
Century Media Records

Napalm Death – Coded Smears And Other Uncommon Slurs (Century Media)

As fans patiently await the follow-up to Napalm Death‘s 2015 studio album Apex Predator – Easy Meat, the band is releasing another compilation. While 2016’s The Best Of Napalm Death was a traditional collection, Coded Smears And More Uncommon Slurs is more interesting, a two disc compilation of rarities and covers from 2004 to 2016.

There’s a plethora of material, with 31 songs clocking in at more than 90 minutes. There are Japan only bonus tracks,songs from split EPs with Heaven Shall Burn, Voivoid, Converge and more along with cover songs. Those include Sacrilege’s “Lifeline,” Despair’s “Outconditioned” and Cardiacs’ “To Go Off And Things.” Not just a bunch of throwaways, there are a lot of quality songs here that makes this a worthwhile effort that Napalm Death fans will want to check out.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Red Sun Rising - Thread
Razor & Tie

Red Sun Rising – Thread (Razor & Tie)

After kicking around for almost a decade and independently releasing a couple of albums, Ohio hard rockers Red Sun Rising broke through with 2015’s Polyester Zeal. It spawned the number one rock tracks “The Otherside” and “Emotionless.” They try to keep the momentum going with Thread.

Produced by Matt Hyde (Deftones, AFI), there’s no shortage of radio friendly songs on the album. Opener “Fascination” is mediocre, but things quickly improve. Lead single “Deathwish” is another chart-climber while “Left For Dead” is extremely catchy. RSR vary their style, avoiding the formulaic approach of so many in their genre. Ballads like “Stealing Life” are contrasted by poppier songs such as “Lonely Girl” and bombastic tracks like “Clarity.” A lot of variety and wall to wall memorable songs make the album one that mainstream rock fans will appreciate.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

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