This week’s Heavy Music HQ album reviews include releases from All Hail The Yeti, Amon Amarth, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Artillery, Azusa, Chrome Division, Dire Peril, Esben And The Witch, Memphis May Fire, Mentor, Ravaged Spleen Outburst, Sigh, Skull Pit and Suidakra.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
All Hail The Yeti – Highway Crosses (Minus Head)
Highway Crosses is the third full-length from the southern California band All Hail The Yeti. It was produced by Grammy winner Warren Riker (Down, Korn, Crowbar).
All Hail The Yeti incorporate a lot of different styles into their sound. Songs like opener “Nuclear Dust” emphasize their metalcore side, while tracks such as “See You Never” are sludgier, groovier and more in the southern metal vein. They combine harsh and melodic vocals throughout, and the songs with a preponderance of singing are more memorable. After several intense and heavy songs, the album ends with “Felo De Se,” which is very melodic with singsong speaking/rapping instead of harsh yells.
Amon Amarth – The Pursuit Of Vikings: Live At Summer Breeze (Metal Blade)
It has been a while since the last Amon Amarth live release. 2006’s Wrath Of The Norsemen DVD included several different shows, including their set at the 2005 Summer Breeze festival. They revisit that German venue for their new DVD/CD The Pursuit Of Vikings: Live At Summer Breeze.
They actually played two sets at Summer Breeze 2017, and both are included. One was on a smaller stage and focused mostly on older and more obscure songs, the other was the headlining show on the main stage with full production. There’s a total of 30 songs from throughout their career going all the way back to their 1998 debut Once Sent From The Golden Hall. In addition to the nearly three hours of music, there’s also a lengthy documentary 25 Years In The Eye Of The Storm that chronicles their story. There’s a ton of a material that Amon Amarth fans will definitely want to add to their collection.
Anneke van Giersbergen – Symphonized (InsideOut)
Hard to believe Anneke van Giersbergen has been a solo artist nearly as long as she sang for The Gathering now, but it’s true. Between those two ventures, her newest band VUUR, and numerous collaborations, she’s got a ton of material to draw from here, on this live recording performed with the Residentie Orkest The Hague orchestra.
The eleven songs presented on Symphonized span all of van Giersbergen’s career, ranging from The Gathering’s 1999 album How to Measure a Planet to last year’s VUUR debut. Her voice is still amazing – honestly, she could sing a phone book and it would be stellar – and the classical arrangements put interesting twists on many of these songs. Fans of Anneke and The Gathering will find this to be a breath of fresh air.
Artillery – The Face Of Fear (Metal Blade)
Since reforming about a decade ago, Danish thrashers Artillery have been pretty prolific, issuing a new album every two years or so. The Face Of Fear is their ninth studio release.
In addition to galloping thrashers, Artillery change things up with songs like “Crossroads To Conspiracy” that begin with a groovier and more ominous vibe before kicking in and moderately paced groovers such as “New Rage.” In addition to the new track on the album, they go all the way back to their first demo in 1982 and re-record “Mind Of No Return.” Only two of the current members were with the band back then. They redo “Doctor Evil” from 2013’s Legions. When it comes to solid, well-executed thrash, Artillery deliver the goods.
Azusa – Heavy Yoke (Solid State)
Azusa are a new band with a lineup that includes former Dillinger Escape Plan bassist Liam Wilson, ex-Extol members Christer Espevoll (guitar) and David Husvik (drums) along with vocalist Eleni Zafiriadou of the indie pop duo Sea + Air.
As you may expect from their pedigree, Azusa’s debut album Heavy Yoke is eclectic and experimental (they refer to it as “Avant-Thrash”). The songs constantly shift and evolve, moving from harsh metal to ethereal rock. Dense, chaotic sections are balanced by mellow, progressive parts. Zafiriadou gives a varied performance that ranges from angry harsh vocals to angelic clean singing. Tracks like “Fine Lines” with all melodic singing are fairly accessible, while the vocal balance shifts toward uncleans on songs such as “Eternal Echo.” It’s an impressive debut that takes elements from the members’ past projects and creates their own style.
Chrome Division – One Last Ride (Nuclear Blast)
Back in 2004, Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath formed Chrome Division. After a fifteen or so year run, they have decided that their fifth album One Last Ride will be their swan song. Vocalist Shady Blue has departed, with original vocalist Eddie Guz (who sang on their first two records) returning for the finale.
After an acoustic intro, the biker metal kicks in with thick riffs, ample melodies and Guz’s edgy melodic singing. The songs are very catchy, while still packing a punch. Anthemic songs like “So Fragile” and “Back In Town” are what the band is known for. They do throw a bit of a curveball with “Walk Away In Shame,” which features guest vocals from the pop singer “Missela,” but she fits right in with Chrome Division’s style. The album flies by in less than 45 minutes, a strong ending if this does turn out to be their farewell album.
Dire Peril – The Extraterrestrial Compendium (Divembomb)
Jason Ashcroft (Helion Prime) formed the power metal band Dire Peril several years ago, and they have released a few EPs. He then recruited Judicator vocalist John Yelland for their full-length debut The Extraterrestrial Compendium.
The songs are power metal with thrash influences. They blend epic tracks like opener “Yautja (Hunter Culture)” with more streamlined songs such as “Roughnecks.” The arrangements have a lot of depth, but don’t neglect melodies and hooks. There are a couple of excellent guest vocal appearances: Brittney Slayes (Unleash The Archers) and Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon). Each song is about a different sci-fi movie, ranging from E.T. to Predator to Total Recall. It’s a little long at 65 minutes, but Dire Peril are able to maintain the listener’s interest throughout.
Esben and the Witch – Nowhere (Season Of Mist)
If occult-flavored post-rock is your thing, you’re probably already a fan of Berlin-by-way-of-Britain’s Esben and the Witch. Nowhere is the trio’s fifth record in eight years, and a slight changeup from 2016’s Older Terrors. Where that album featured four epic-length tracks, on Nowhere we have six songs in the five-to-seven minute range.
Esben and the Witch craft music that is at the same time captivating and disturbing, primarily due to Rachel Davies’ bewitching vocals. On Nowhere, her voice ranges from angelic to off-kilter and harrowing, and the music provided by Thomas Fisher and Daniel Copeland keeps pace with Davies, offering an enticing mix of doom and post-metal, with plenty of intrigue and dynamics throughout.
Memphis May Fire – Broken (Rise)
Texas metalcore mavens Memphis May Fire have had quite a bit of commercial success, with their most successful album being 2014’s Unconditional, which debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 album chart. Broken is their sixth full-length studio album, and was recorded as a four-piece.
It’s jam packed with potential hit singles, beginning with the opening song “The Old Me.” More moderately paced songs like “Sell My Soul” and “Heavy Is The Weight” add variety among upbeat tracks such as “Who I Am” and “Over It.” Producer Kane Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach) puts the melodies and hooks front and center, but leaves some rough edges. From soaring ballads to arena ready rockers, Memphis May Fire deliver another album ripe for mainstream success.
Mentor – Cults, Crypts and Corpses (Pagan)
Long-time listeners won’t be getting much in the way of innovation on Mentor‘s sophomore outing Cults, Crypts and Corpses, but the Polish black/thrash/hardcore quartet aren’t really the kind of band who needs innovation in order to call a record successful. Is it brutal? Yes. Is it bombastic? Yes. Is it entertaining? Yes. Ten tracks without filler clocking in at 30 minutes. The lyrics are about witches, crypts, serial killers and Satan. Simply put, rock‘n’roll with the devil in the background.” What more could anyone ask for?
The musicianship and production are top-notch. Some might even argue the production is too clean for the down and dirty subject matter presented, but that’s purely subjective. The most interesting aspect of Cults, Crypts and Corpses—and what really shines here—are the vocals. They’re passionate and varied throughout, from guttural screams to wraith-like screeches. Mentor are a band one hopes is around for quite some time. Even if their third record ends up sounding like the previous two, it will still be a welcome addition to their discography. Sometimes it is best not to fiddle with what works, and this most definitely works.
Ravaged Spleen Outburst – The Church Of Anemia (Self)
Ravaged Spleen Outburst’s debut EP Lymph Node was released a couple months ago. You couldn’t count on it as a strong first step, as it was a bit immature and uncertain in the use of electronic elements to give the music a cybergrind influenceunder the manner of brutal death metal. But this Serbian one man act now has wrapped up things and has put it on more trusted path on the full-length debut The Church of Anemia.
It goes everywhere, yet it doesn’t sound unfocused. A. Đ. as the main man behind this band experiences many elements from technical to brutal death metal and has mashed them up with many touches of melodic, progressive death, djent and heavy breakdowns. This album clearly shows how A. Đ. is having fun with his music and has shaped and played it in any way he is interested. That’s where you realize the potential of hearing something massive and [more] interesting. The Church of Anemia is short, but it is impressive.
Sigh – Heir To Despair (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
Sigh’s discography is a very unique one; each album is a cornucopia of oddities and the avant-garde. Certainly if other strange bands like The Meads of Asphodel or Mr. Bungle are in your playlist, then Sigh should also be. Heir to Despair is album number 11 and keeps in line with their last few albums, though this one comes off as les abrasive than previous efforts.
Notable highlights include the wonderful flute on “Hands of the String Puller;” another talent of frontman Mirai Kawashima’s. Metal everyman Phil Anselmo even lends his vocals to “Homo Homini Lupus,” which feels very much like a radio single. Sigh wanted to go a traditional Japanese route on the album, even writing most of the lyrics in Japanese; something Sigh had intentionally not embraced in the past. Right from the campy album art, you really never know what you’re going to get with Sigh and they like to keep it that way.
Skull Pit – Skull Pit (Metal Blade)
Skull Pit is the the pairing of Mem V. Stein, vocalist for German thrashers Exumer, and Tatsu Mikami, bass player for Japan doomsters Church of Misery. Being friends for years, the two decided to try and create music together during their main bands’ downtime. Skull Pit is the result, ostensibly an homage to the NWOBHM.
On paper, this collaboration shouldn’t work. Church of Misery and Exumer are on the polar opposite sides of the metal spectrum, but to a degree the music does work. Skull Pit leans closer to Exumer to be sure, although not nearly as fast. Stein and Mikami set out to create a Motorhead-inspired album, and this is certainly raw and unbridled, with plenty of attitude. It’s extremely rough around the edges, and uneven in quality, but interesting nonetheless.
Suidakra – Cimbric Yarns (AFM)
The long running German band Suidakra usually combine melodic death with Celtic and folk elements. On their latest album Cimbric Yarns they take melodeath completely out of the equation, delivering an acoustic album.
And while it is acoustic, Suidakra bring different styles to the arrangements. Songs like “Birth And Despair” are fairly straightforward, while tracks such as “Serpentine Origins” and “A Day And Forever” have a more classical vibe with strings courtesy of New Model Army’s Shir-Ran Yinon. There are both male and female vocals, while the lyrical concept continues the theme of 2016’s Realms Of Odoric. It’s an interesting change of pace, and Suidakra pull it off well.