This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Abigail Williams, Anacrusis, Bolzer, Casket Huffer, Crusade Of Bards, The Deathtrip, Denner’s Inferno, Drift Into Black, Havohej, Infidel Reich, Leah, Ragnarok, Slayer, Spoil Engine, Tribulation, Vatican and Warsenal.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Abigail Williams – Walk Beyond The Dark (Blood)
Abigail Williams have never had the most sterling reputation in black metal circles, being called everything from posers to trend followers. It’s within reason to say that each of the band’s albums has had some sort of identity crisis, as if founder Ken Sorceron is still searching for what Abigail Williams is. Symphonic black metal? Atmospheric black metal? Kvlt black metal? All of the above?
Walk Beyond The Dark continues this search, hearkening back to the ambiance and lengthy tracks of Becoming, while throwing in some of the psychedelic grimness of The Accuser, with admirable gusto. Guest cellist Christopher Brown gets a meaty role in most of these songs, adding a forlorn classical touch to the bustling music. As with their entire discography, the question remains: is this what the future holds for Abigail Williams or is Walk Beyond The Dark another circular detour?
Anacrusis – Manic Impressions (Metal Blade)
Originally released in 1991, Manic Impressions was the third full-length release by progressive thrashers Anacrusis. Metal Blade reissued their first two albums, Suffering Hour and Reason on the same day in September to commemorate the band’s reformation earlier this year. Manic Impressions and Screams and Whispers hit retail outlets this week. All versions are bonus editions, and this edition contains demo tracks.
Fuzzy guitar tones add heft to the album’s progressive and melodic nature. Bass and guitar provide complimentary sounds, fading in and out (see “Paint a Picture”). The bass cuts clearly through the mix, and there is a plethora of bass solos. Overall, Manic Impressions finds a good balance between head-banging grooves, speed picking and shredding. The bass solos are excellent. Ken Nardi opts between faint singing and shrill, throat ripping. Manic Impressions is a strong record that was under heralded upon its initial release. Hopefully, Anacrusis will gain more recognition with this reissue.
Anacrusis – Screams and Whispers (Metal Blade)
Anacrusis were a critical favorite in the late ’80s and early ’90s, playing a progressive style of thrash metal. Timing was the main reason Anacrusis didn’t gain the popularity they deserved; by the time they sorted out production issues and fine-tuned their delivery, grunge was upon us, and they were thrust into the background, disbanding after their excellent fourth album, Screams and Whispers.
While their first two albums didn’t really hit the bullseye, Anacrusis came into their own on their second two. Screams and Whispers moves away a bit from the band’s thrash beginnings, adding more keyboards and melody to the songs, but also includes some of their best work, including “Sound the Alarm” and “Release.” Both of these albums are well worth adding to your collection.
Bölzer – Lese Majesty (Lightning & Sons)
Swiss death duo Bölzer return with their new mini-album Lese Majesty. Even though it contains only four tracks; there is still 30 minutes of music to be found. For those not familiar with them, Bölzer are a two-man show with guitars, vocals, and drums. No bass to be found. Sure, it’s weird not to hear any rhythmic bass lines, but in this instance it works.
This duo pounds away with powerful drumming patterns and distilled guitar work as the vocals growl away. That’s Bölzer at their best. I wish they’d stay away from the clean vocals and they are more of a distraction and not the best of qualities, and wish they would have shied away from it in the thundering blackness of nine minute opener “A Shepherd In Wolven Skin”. Clocking in at 12 minutes, closer “Ave Fluvius! Danu Be Praised” in steeped in doom akin to the best days of Asphyx, though it could have a cut down a minute or two. Could have done without the atmospheric, chanting interlude of “Æstivation”, but “Into The Temple Of Spears” keeps the pummeling tempos alive. Intriguing stuff; definitely worth a listen!
Casket Huffer – Filth Ouroboros (Hibernation Release)
Casket Huffer’s Filth Ouroboros dispels any notions of being capable of compassion or serenity right from the start with the mystifying intensity of opener “Altars Of Despondency.” Here is a group that offers no illusions of being anything other than bruisers with their war-like death metal, and not even a few songs that slow the tempos down can hide this. This is a noisy album, all feedback and shotgun-like percussion; done well, but tiring over the course of almost 45 minutes.
Filth Ouroboros is for the hardened listeners, the ones that put on a Portal album as a morning soundtrack and keep Deathspell Omega on a constant loop during the workday. Their idea of an “epic” is the combustible closer “Harrowing Mysticism,” which disintegrates into a static nightmare during its exhausting outro. Casket Huffer’s specialty on Filth Ouroboros is tortuous death metal.
Crusade Of Bards – Tales Of Bards & Beasts (Pride & Joy)
Europe has always been a hotbed for symphonic metal, and the Spanish group Crusade Of Bards are ready to throw their hat in the ring with their debut album Tales Of Bards & Beasts.
The songs are bombastic and cinematic, with instruments like the cello adding depth and atmosphere. Vocalist Captain Eleanor Tenebre utilizes both operatic soprano and a melodic alto. Guest vocalists include Firewind’s Henning Basse and Last Days Of Eden’s Lady Ani. The songs are meticulously arranged and cover a variety of mythological lyrical subjects from Ancient Greece to Sweden. It’s a solid debut, but Crusade Of Bards need to find a way to stand out in a crowded genre.
The Deathtrip – Demon Solar Totem (Profound Lore/Svart)
The black metal band The Deathtrip got their start more than a decade ago and released their debut album in 2014. After the exit of vocalist Aldrahn (Thorns, ex-Dodheimsgard), the band brought back their original vocalist Kvohst (Hexvessel, ex-Dodheimsgard) for their sophomore release Demon Solar Totem.
Old school black metal is the name of the game, with marginal production and lengthy songs. The riffs tend to be repetitive, but Kvohst’s vocal performance is dynamic. From rasps to rough singing to melodic crooning, he utilizes a variety of styles. Ambient sections on tracks like “Enter Spectral Realms” provide a respite from the extremity and add some diversity. The album wraps up with the 10 plus minute “Awaiting A New Maker,” which has a lot of ebbs and flows before ending quietly.
Denner’s Inferno – In Amber (Mighty)
Guitarist Michael Denner is famous for his efforts with King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. Denner’s Inferno is fronted by vocalist Chandler Mogel (Theater Of The Absurd). Denner’s work on their debut album In Amber is more bluesy and Sabbath sounding. The music has a nice groove to it that is a continuation of his early work with those very well-known outfits. Songs like “Taxman (Mr. Thief)” have memorable melodies that make them all the more distinguishable and enjoyable. The songs have an old school flavor that makes them endearing and approachable.
Though In Amber doesn’t reach the heights of his early work with Mercyful Fate, it is a reasonably enjoyable album that just doesn’t take enough chances even though it is fairly interesting. This leads to a very good recording that is slightly usurped by the classics that inspired it. The guitar riffs are addictive and the music is certainly catchy. This is one that fans of old school metal will definitely want to check out. Though it doesn’t do anything overly innovative, the quality of the musicianship and songwriting will certainly win you over.
Anthems From The Darkest Winter is the sophomore full-length recording by Drift Into Black, the project of former Grey Skies Fallen member Craig Rossi. Rossi plays all instruments and sings. The album title perfectly conveys Rossi’s somber feelings. He utilizes many of the facets heard in gothic doom including lush guitar melodies, down-tempos and churning mid-paces, clean and growled vocals, and somber keyboards.
“Below The Earth” features brooding guitar notes and a harsh/clean vocal dichotomy that reminiscent of My Dying Bride. Latter-era Tiamat and Moonspell come to mind in some sections, especially Tiamat on the guitar-strengthened cover of Pink Floyd’s “High Hopes.” Keyboards and clean vocals provide gloomy moods and atmosphere. “Washed Away” features a violin/piano combination steeped in sorrow, while this track and “The Ending of Silence” feature long vocal deliveries that stay in the mind like a wayward lover. Anthems From The Darkest Winter is an ideal companion to watch roses wither.
Havohej – Table of Uncreation (Hells Headbangers)
After releasing Rotting Incarnation of God via Profantica, Paul Ledney offers something much more primitive through his sole creation, Havohej. Table of Uncreation is a black metal album in atmosphere only. Guitars are minimal and seldom heard. This is purely a harsh experimental album. The electronic soundscapes are heavily distorted and sound as if you’re getting too close to the sun. No light exists here, though, just a burning darkness. Imagine various dimensions opening and closing.
Ledney’s voice is guttural to the point that it approaches levels of his former band, Incantation. The album moves at a funeral doom pace with simple, yet hypnotic drum beats. Table of Uncreation is more structured than a noise album, but more noisy and minimal than the average black/death album. It’s primitive and harsh. It’s also very repetitive and minimalist to the point of becoming boring after a couple tracks.
Infidel Reich – Reichenstein (Helter Skelter)
Infidel Reich are a new band, but its members have decades of experience. The lineup includes Acheron’s Vincent Crowley on vocals along with guitarist Tony Brookhuis (ex-Asphyx) and drummer Bob Bagchus (Siege Of Power, ex-Asphyx). After an EP in 2017, Reichenstein is their full-length debut.
Old school death metal is the predominant genre, but Infidel Reich also inject elements of thrash and punk. There’s groove galore, with tracks like “Killing Culture” having a surprising amount of catchiness, while the thrash influences move to the forefront on songs such as “Gunzilla’s Stand.” A slew of guest vocalists ranging from Kam Lee (Massacre) to Scott Reigel (Brutality) to Mike Browning (Nocturnus AD) and several others appear on “Hymn To Victory.” It’s an album that’s raw and loose, with the veteran lineup providing a lot of variety.
Celtic goddess Leah is ringing in the joy of the Christmas with her new holiday-themed album Ancient Winter. Before we get into the nitty gritty of this gentle snowfall, it’s important to note this isn’t metal nor rock, but Leah has enough cred to warrant coverage! This is an album steeped in Celtic, medieval sounds, along with some Middle Eastern influences to boot. Listeners should take note that Nightwish’s Troy Donockley, Cellar Darling’s Anna Murphy, and Eluveitie’s Shir-Ran Yinon all lend their talents to this journey.
Composed of five original tracks and three traditional medieval tracks, Leah’s passionate, relaxing vocals shine throughout. Of particular delight is the Egyptian bounce of “Light Of The World”, the somber, reflective “Redemption”, and the inspirational, beautiful, and atmospheric “Upon Your Destiny.” Closing the proceedings are the three traditional medieval songs, “Gaudete,” “Puer Natus” and “Noel Novuelet” and each have melodies easy to latch to and catchy vocal parts. This isn’t for everybody, but for the open minded, give it a shot!
Ragnarok – Non Debellicata (Agonia)
The Norwegian black metal band Ragnarok have been around since the genre’s heydey in the ’90s, though frontman Jontho is the only remaining original member. After being the drummer for two decades, he shifted to vocals on 2016’s Psychopathology. The band’s ninth full-length is Non Debellicata.
Ragnarok embrace the genre’s typical elements of blastbeats and icy guitar riffs topped with harsh vocals, but tracks like “The Great Destroyer” and “Asphyxiation” inject slower tempos and groove alongside the extremity. They aren’t reinventing the wheel, but Ragnarok deliver traditional black metal with sinister skill and sharp songwriting chops.
Slayer – The Repentless Killogy (Nuclear Blast)
With Slayer wrapping up their final tour, the band is issuing The Relentless Killogy. The Blu-ray includes a short film followed by a live show. There are also two CD and two-disc vinyl editions that include the 2017 concert filmed at the Los Angeles Forum.
The short film combines a violent, brutal and gory storyline with a trilogy of Slayer music videos. The movie’s cast includes Danny Trejo, Jessica Pimental and Bill Moseley. The live set includes 21 songs with Slayer playing songs from throughout their career including staples like “Raining Blood,” “South Of Heaven” and “Angel Of Death.” The movie is one Slayer fans will enjoy, and the concert shows that even in the twilight of their career, the band is razor sharp and still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
Spoil Engine – Renaissance Noire (Arising Empire)
Renaissance Noire is the fifth album from the Belgian outfit Spoil Engine, and the second to feature vocalist Iris Goessens.
They have a modern sound, utilizing elements of melodic death metal, thrash and metalcore. You’ll hear influences of everybody from Lamb Of God to Arch Enemy to early In Flames. Tracks like “Riot” and “Warzone” featuring mostly harsh vocals from Goessens, while melodic singing is more prevalent on songs such as “Medicine” and the ballad “Golden Cage.” Spoil Engine use dynamics effectively, creating a compelling ebb and flow. The songs are melodic and memorable, alternating pummeling riffs and searing guitar solos. There’s also an appearance from Carcass’ Jeff Walker on “The Hallow.”
Terminus – A Single Point of Light (Cruz Del Sur)
Northern Ireland’s Terminus play a welcome brand of epic/heroic metal. A Single Point of Light is the pair’s second release. Pair? Yes – David Gillespie plays all instruments, and James Beattie sings. Terminus base their sound on the early NWOBHM as well as most any other style of metal that was coming to fruition in the early ’80s. In other words, heavy metal, plain and simple.
The seven songs here are chock full of tasty riffs and soaring, galloping rhythms, with more than enough variety and skill to stand out from the crowd. At times the arrangements are a bit bare-bones, and Beattie reaches a bit farther than he should vocally, but overall A Single Point of Light is a highly enjoyable heavy metal release.
Tribulation – Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern (Metal Blade)
With four studio albums and several EPs under their belt, Tribulation now have plenty of material for a live album. Their debut live release Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden and includes a DVD and two CDs.
The 17 songs do not include any material from their 2009 debut The Horror, but 2013’s The Formulas Of Death, 2015’s The Children Of The Night and 2018’s Down Below are well represented. The set begins with Down Below being played in its entirety. Tribulation’s performance is tight, and fans will appreciate the combination of classic material and being able to hear Down Below front to back.
Vatican – Sole Impulse (1126)
My first encounter with Vatican was Ache of Eternity back in 2017. But what led me to pursue their music more seriously goes back to the band’s performance at This is Hardcore fest earlier this year. Vatican are a band consisting of passionate, hardworking, talented lunatics. They’re fresh blood, and you can clearly hear that in their new album Sole Impulse.
Vatican [and Sole Impulse] are introduced as hardcore or metalcore. But there’s more going on. Sole Impulse features streaks of mathcore elements in the midst of its classic hardcore structure while Vatican take a brief look at using familiar components of thrash and groove metal. “Cyanide Divinity” even features hip-hop fused vocal lines. On Sole Impulse, Vatican seek to integrate different genres of ‘core music and that’s why it is a stunningly dynamic album. Vatican didn’t want to remain on hardcore ground, so they’ve reached a wider world with a heavy, chaotic album, with impressive performances by all five members of the band.
Warsenal – Feast Your Eyes (Svart)
If an indication of an album’s impression was based on an album cover alone, Warsenal’s Feast Your Eyes would be a positive one. Its provocative depiction of a woman getting her eyes stabbed out by a masked assailant isn’t exactly nuanced, considering the name of the album, but it will seer its mark on those who gaze at it. Too bad the music can’t do the same.
This Canadian trio has the gruesome imagery down both artistically and lyrically, though the speed/thrash metal hybrid performed is limp in execution. When a band names a song “Lords Of Rifftown,” that would indicate an array of knock-out riffs ahead, which isn’t the case with Feast Your Eyes. Competency is the key word to Warsenal’s sophomore album.