This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Accuser, Chris Manning, Deathroll, Doro, In Malice’s Wake, Isolert, Katatonia, Lizzy Borden, Macabre, Megaton Sword, Of Feather And Bone, Periphery, Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons, Scalp, Soulburn, Volur and Ysgaroth.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Accuser – Accuser (Metal Blade)
German thrashers Accuser have been around since the mid-’80s. From 1987 through 1995 they released several albums, then there was a 15 year dry spell. But since 2010 they have been prolific, with their latest album, a self-titled effort, their twelfth studio album.
With the return of guitarist Rene Schutz, Accuser now have two members from the early days of the band, along with frontman Frank Thoms. Accuser has an old school thrash flavor, but it’s not a retro album. The band injects groove alongside the galloping riffs, giving the album variety. On tracks like “Phantom Graves” and “Lux In Tenebris” they are able to embrace the past while still moving forward. Songs such as “Be None The Wiser” and “Psychocision” incorporate melodic singing. There were a lot of ’80s Teutonic thrash bands, and Accuser are one that have managed to carry the torch into the 2020s.
Chris Manning – Destination (No Life Til Metal)
Chris Manning (Dvinity, The Zeppelin Project) is a Dallas guitarist and session musician. On Destination he teams up with vocalist Chris Hodges (Neptune Blue) for an album of hard rock/AOR songs.
There are a variety of different influences. “Get Me Out” has a bluesy feel, “Push” is a modern hard rocker, and “Start Over Now” featuring Bruce Kulick (KISS) has a classic vibe. Hodges is a versatile singer with a powerful set of tenor pipes. Manning is also a versatile player, incorporating a variety of approaches and having a large supply of memorable riffs. The album has a different feel than the typical cookie cutter radio-friendly hard rock release.
Deathroll – Into The Vortex (Self)
Deathroll’s first EP Into The Vortex has no frills, no lengthy guitar solos, and no ambient intros to set the stage. It’s three songs of ripping death metal focused on the riffs, with bouts of restraint letting the bass guitar punch some groove into the mix. It’s the quickest nine minutes of music you’ll hear this year.
The band includes drummer extraordinaire Kevin Talley, whose resume could fill up the rest of this review. To their credit, Deathroll doesn’t just have Talley play at 200 bpm the whole time, which he could’ve easily done. That would’ve made this EP straightforward, but their songwriting pushes beyond any limitations like that. Any great EP gives a listener the itch for more, and Deathroll accomplishes that with Into The Vortex.
Doro – Magic Diamonds: Best Of Rock, Ballads & Rare Treasures (Rare Diamonds)
The legendary Doro has put together a massive best-of collection, with Magic Diamonds: Best Of Rock, Ballads & Rare Treasures consisting of three CDs of 5 songs clocking in at nearly four hours. It’s also available on vinyl.
It includes classics like “All We Are” along with live tracks, covers and duets. There’s previously unreleased material and a re-recording of “Love Me In Black.” She covers Dio (“Egypt (The Chains Are On”), Metallica (“Nothing Else Matters”) and Judas Priest (“Breaking The Law” featuring Udo Dirkschneider). There are duets with fellow legends Lemmy, Pete Steele and Tarja Turunen. Magic Diamonds has a ton of quality material, from familiar songs to the “rare treasures,” and is a must-own for Doro fans.
In Malice’s Wake – The Blindness of Faith (Self)
A fiery inferno of a thrash album is offered up on The Blindness Of Faith, the fourth full-length release of In Malice’s Wake. The music is powerful and punishing in equal measures. There are lots of echoes of old Slayer, but a more modern focus gives the band a different kind of crunch. What we have here are musicians that come together as a tightly knit unit to produce a powerful release. The drumming is a high point, but the musicianship is very solid throughout and bolsters these songs to another level.
It all adds up to one of the most fun thrash releases of the year and one that is an absolute treat to listen to. Sure, the songs are fairly rudimentary, but they are so well performed you won’t care. The inferno of sounds is consistent throughout the entire album and leaves a blazing trail behind. Fans of Slayer’s earlier material will be right at home with these thrash titans and appreciate their sound immensely. This is really great thrash from start to finish and belongs in your collection.
Isolert – World In Ruins (Nihilistische KlangKunst)
Isolert are a fairly new entity in the Greek underground black metal scene. Forming in 2015, World In Ruins is their sophomore album. It is aggressive with a wide variety of vocal styles, a tale of destruction, a story of the end times.
“Fire, Ash, Blood” kicks off the album with a rhythm akin to their native Greece (think Kwir), but overall the album alludes more to Scandinavia. Much of the album is fast with many blast beats, but there is a mellifluous quality to the guitars reminiscent of Dissection and Naglfar. Guitars bleed melodically on “Staring At A Path Towards Nowhere.” The title track features haunting female choirs. The vocals are diverse with a mix of stratosphere-scraping screams, yells, growls and Tom G. Warrior-style grunts. World In Ruins is solid second showing by one of the best new bands in a scene that continues to produce quality artists.
Katatonia – Dead Air (Peaceville)
City Burials, Katatonia‘s first album in four years, was released in April, as concerts were being shut down across the world. The band streamed a live show in May from Studio Grondahl in Stockholm, which is being released as Dead Air.
The 20 song set includes three tracks from City Burials along with songs voted on by their fans. The majority of the songs are from the past 15 years or so. 2006’s The Great Cold Distance is well represented with six songs. Seeing a live show with no fans might have seemed odd a year ago, but in 2020 it has become the norm. Katatonia’s performance on Dead Air is excellent, with their emotional brand of music translating well to this format. Hopefully we’ll be able to see bands live again soon, but in the meantime albums like this one provide that live connection.
Lizzy Borden – Best Of Lizzy Borden, Vol. 2 (Metal Blade)
Back in 1994 Lizzy Borden released their first greatest hits album, after four studio albums. More than a quarter century later Borden has only released three additional albums, which are drawn from for Best Of Lizzy Borden, Vol. 2.
The 14 tracks include songs from 2000’s Deal With The Devil, 2007’s Appointment With Death and 2018’s My Midnight Things. There are also two newly recorded covers: Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You” and Ramones’ “Pet Sematary.” While the early days were more memorable and commercially successful, Borden’s recent material is also good, with underrated songs like the catchy “Tomorrow Never Comes” and “Lovin’ You Is Murder.” For those who missed Lizzy Borden’s 2000s albums, this is a nice representation of that era.
Macabre – Carnival Of Killers (Nuclear Blast)
After nearly a decade, Macabre are back with more death metal minstrel tales of serial killers in the form of Carnival Of Killers. The power trio incorporates a variety of not just metal styles, but genres from all over the musical spectrum. Expect more twisted, metallic takes on childhood ditties.
The stench of dead boys in John Wayne Gacy’s house is adapted to the Slinky toy jingle. “The Wheels on the Bug” is a happy stalker song about Ted Bundy’s Volkswagen Bug set to a metalized version of the nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus.” “Them Dry Bones” adjusts the nursery rhyme “Dry Bones” to late 19th century killer H.H. Holmes selling human bones. “Now it’s Time to Pay,” a song about Timothy McVeigh, alludes to the death/grind insanity of Sinister Slaughter. Those who love the quirky catchiness that is Macabre will revel in Carnival Of Killers.
Megaton Sword – Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire (Dying Victims)
Megaton Sword are a new band out of Switzerland, but you’d never guess it listening to their debut full-length. Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire is heavy, epic metal that sounds as though it’s being played by seasoned vets. These guys could slot right into a concert lineup with the likes of Manowar and Manilla Road if this was 1983, or Atlantean Kodex today.
Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire is one of the most heroic metal albums we will hear this year. In your face production, dramatic vocals, crushing riffs, and a pummeling rhythm section bring all eight songs into stark focus. This album is the very definition of anthemic, with each song coaxing fists even higher into the sky, and heads banging even harder.
Of Feather And Bone –Sulfuric Disintegration (Profound Lore)
More of a refinement than a major leap ahead, Sulfuric Disintegration has Of Feather And Bone raise the ante of their bestial death metal thanks to a beefier production and a svelte 30-minute running time. The trio maintain a peak level of intensity from opener “Regurginated Communion” on, keeping the attack going with the exception of the wrenching mid-tempo beatdown in the center of “Noctemnania.”
Those who heard the band’s last album, 2018’s equally brutal Bestial Hymns Of Perversion, will quickly adjust to the punishing nature of Sulfuric Disintegration. First-time listeners may need a song or two to get accustomed to the onslaught, but it gets easier as the album wears on. Of Feather And Bone have evolved quite a bit since their hardcore punk days, and Sulfuric Disintegration is the best representation of their sonic devastation to date.
Periphery – Live In London (Self)
After six studio albums and a couple EPs, the djentlemen of Periphery are issuing their first live album. Live In London was recorded in November of 2019, as they toured in support of Periphery IV: Hail Stan.
There are only 10 songs in the set, but with the length of Periphery songs (including the 18 minute opener “Reptile”), the show lasts for more than 70 minutes. Half of the songs are from Hail Stan and three are from 2016’s Periphery III: Select Difficulty. They pull off the complex arrangements smoothly with a display of first-rate musicianship. There are so many shifts and changes in a Periphery song that length is secondary. They are able to hold the audience’s interest throughout on their albums and in concert.
Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons – We’re The Bastards (Nuclear Blast)
We’re The Bastards is the second full-length from Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, which features the former Motorhead guitarist, his three sons and ex-Attack Attack vocalist Neil Starr.
Their music has elements of Motorhead, especially evident on uptempo tracks like “Animals,” but they also mix in modern groove metal elements on songs such as “Bite My Tongue” and “Lie To Me.” “Destroyed” is in the punk vein, while album closer “Waves” is a radio-friendly ballad. Starr’s vocals are mostly smooth and melodic, but he’s able to inject edge and grit when needed. Campbell’s guitar drives the proceedings, and his sons are excellent musicians as well.
Scalp –Domestic Extremity (Creator-Destructor)
Scalp hate bigots, fascists, police, you, me, and the guy down the block on their debut album, Domestic Extremity. The unsightly cover art, a human face stripped of skin and bleeding out in agony, is not creative license, but a stamped warning of what one will experience while subjected to their feedback-laced anarchy. Their vital combination of hardcore, crust, and grind speaks to development beyond a discography that consists of one demo up to this point.
There’s an ease in how ruthless they are in one-minute songs like “No Hope” and “Christian Leech,” then turn around and throw an extended drum solo into a song of the same length in “Indigent Botulin.” That’s a move a band like Agoraphobic Nosebleed would do, which is the right way to go for Scalp. The crawling pace of a “Crouch” and “Depleted Mass” has its share of gloomy theatrics, which broadens Domestic Extremity’s appeal.
Soulburn – Noa’s D’ark (Century Media)
Soulburn were formed in 1996 after the temporary demise of Asphyx, and released their debut album in 1998. They regrouped in 2014 with guitarist Eric Daniels the lone returning member from their debut, bringing aboard Legion Of The Damned’s Twan van Geel on vocals. Noa’s D’ark is their fourth album.
It’s a varied blend of death, doom and black metal. That’s evident from the 7 plus minute opening track “The Morgue Of Hope,” which shifts from plodding doom to groovy death to intense black and even mixes in some mellow moments. Shorter songs like “Assailed By Cosmic Lightning” and “Triumphant One” are more straightforward, but by no means simple. Creative arrangements and plenty of diversity make Noa’s D’ark a compelling listen.
Völur – Death Cult (Prophecy)
It has been three years since Völur’s last album, and in that time bassist Lucas Gadke and violinist Laura Bates (both also sing) have welcomed Justin Ruppel into the fold on drums. Death Cult is the Canadian trio’s third album, and first with this lineup. As with previous material, the focus is on long dirge-like laments, almost pagan in nature, but with plenty going on for three instruments.
Featuring vocals ranging from ceremonial to demonic and some amazing musicianship on both violin and bass, supported by powerful drumming, Death Cult is another excellent release from Völur. The band eschews guitar in favor of violin and incorporates moments of jazz and avant-garde into their thick, plodding backdrop, giving them a unique sound in the genre. The towering “Freyjan Death Cult” is the band’s career high water mark to date.
Ysgaroth – Storm Over A Black Sea (Self)
Ysgaroth doesn’t lack drive on their debut album, Storm Over A Black Sea. Meshing black metal, progressive melodies, a thrashy charge, and sludgy groove, the band seems intent on being more than another generic metal act. If that’s what they were going for, they passed the test, though not without hitches. Their aspirations get the better of them many times, with awkward transitions between their mellow and aggressive sides, like Opeth’s early work (Orchid and Morningrise).
This becomes apparent in “Altar Of Scars” and “Deluge.” Even though the latter goes north of 15 minutes, it’s the stronger of the two due to the multitude of transitions into proggier territory with standout bass guitar work. The former stays one-note for almost 12 minutes, which shows the unfortunate excess of their songwriting. Storm Over A Black Sea can’t be faulted for the heights it tries to reach, but Ysgaroth doesn’t get there for long enough.