This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Arsis, Audiotopsy, Graven, The Heretics Fork, Kraanium, Lifelost, Mother Feather, Seventh Dimension, Steven Wilson, Temtris, Ursa and Witherfall.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Arsis – Visitant (Nuclear Blast/Agonia)
Arsis emerged in the early 2000s and quickly drew attention for their brand of death metal that blends melody and technicality. Vocalist/guitarist James Malone is the lone remaining original member as they return with Visitant, their first album in more than five and a half years.
Working with veteran producer Mark Lewis (Cannibal Corpse, Whitechapel), Arsis deliver songs with both memorable hooks and crushing riffs. Easily shifting between melody and technicality, they also incorporate other influences such as thrash and black metal. The lyrics were inspired by horror films, with opener “Tricking The Gods” focusing on werewolves. The album ends with “His Eyes,” a cover of a track from the Australian new wave band Pseudo Echo’s 1984 debut that gets the death metal treatment. Visitant is a welcome return.
Audiotopsy – The Real Now (Megaforce)
The Real Now is the second album from Audiotopsy, whose lineup includes former Mudvayne members Greg Tribbett (guitar) and Matt McDonough (drums) along with Skrape vocalist Billy Keeton and bassist Perry Stern.
Like their debut, it’s a combination of hard rock, grunge and alt metal. There are some quality songs, such as “Fade Away” and “What Am I?” that have memorable riffs and compelling arrangements. However, there’s also a considerable amount of filler, which may be understandable if an album is an hour long, but The Real Now is only 8 songs clocking in at around 30 minutes. While the musicianship is excellent, the songwriting depth isn’t as strong as their 2015 debut.
Graven – Heirs of Discord (Negative Grade)
It’s understandable if someone assumes that Graven’s Heirs of Discord EP is going to be a raucous affair based on the opener “A Failed Mask.” Its blackened hardcore is a jarring way to start this EP, and sets up the promise of rancorous noise ahead. While that is the case, there’s also a solemn side to the group, as they incorporate sludgy death metal into the fray.
This side of Graven is one they make work, though the nine-minute “Thieves of Rotted Ilk” is a stretch too far for them to handle. The following track “Backwards to Oblivion” does far better with a few less minutes behind it. Add in an admirable cover of the classic 1996 Human Remains song “Human” to close out Heirs of Discord, and Graven find themselves with a solid EP.
The Heretics Fork – Tormentore (P2)
The Heretics Fork keep a veil over every personal aspect of the musicians involved with Tormentore. The only detail they reveal is a preference for brutal death metal. The members? Unknown. Their place of residence? Unknown. They don’t even have a proper website to link to, which is almost unheard of in 2018. All this mystery gives the band a tangible mystique, though that doesn’t translate to their underwhelming songwriting.
The band does get across the absolute nasty nature of these songs with a show of force, as they crush and maim for almost 30 minutes without hesitation. Brutal death metal can wear a listener out, and Tormentore is not exempt from this. The persistent clanky snare drums (which are far louder than they need to be in the mix), unintelligible grunts, and simplistic riffs do no favors for Tormentore, and by the end, it’s like one song on repeat that gets less and less tolerable.
Kraanium – Slamchosis (Comatose)
A decade removed from their full-length debut and slam merchants Kraanium — once restricted to Norway, now international — have returned with their fifth studio album in Slamchosis, an unrelenting salvo of chunky, viscera-draped brutal death metal, and their first release since the 2017 passing of founding member and vocalist Martin Funderud.
Led forward by Martin’s twin brother, guitarist Mats Funderud, Kraanium sport an entire new roster of musicians from their 2015 effort Chronicles of Perversion. Akin to their latest split with Analepsy, Slamchosis is an uber-produced wrecking ball of bowel-blowing extremity that slam acolytes will devour greedily. Sanguine Jon Zig artwork and multiple samples from Netflix serial killer show Mindhunter make this a cannot-miss BDM outing.
Lifelost – Dialogues From Beyond (Transcending Obscurity)
Phlegeton is a member of as few different bands, including the tech death group Wormed. Lifelost is his newly formed black metal solo project, handling all instruments and vocals on the debut Dialogues From Beyond.
More of an EP in length (23 minutes), Phelegeton incorporates a lot of atmosphere into the songs that are sometimes dense and oppressive, other times incorporating melodic elements. Shifts in tempo and intensity keep things interesting. While the ethos is old school, the production is more modern. Songs like “Released From Life” have cold, icy riffs and low-pitched growls buried deep in the mix. The streamlined songs fly by, compelling the listener to hit the replay button to absorb them again.
Mother Feather – Constellation Baby (Metal Blade)
Constellation Baby is the second full-length from New York rockers Mother Feather, who describe their music as “pop cock rock.” They may not be the type of band typically signed to Metal Blade Records, but Mother Feather are a very talented group.
It’s a varied album with influences of everything from hard rock to ’70s glam rock to ’90s alternative to punk. Ann Courtney is a charismatic frontwoman with a lot of versatility, bringing the swagger on the uptempo “Snakebite” while having a more straightforward delivery on the opening hard rocker “Red Hot Metal.” “Desert Island” is very poppy and accessible, the title track has a Cowboy Junkies vibe and “Shake Your Magic 8 Ball” is a danceable rocker. While not a metal record, this will have appeal to fans of other heavy (and not so heavy) genres.
Seventh Dimension – The Corrupted Lullaby (Self)
Seventh Dimension have come up with ambitious material on their double length concept album The Corrupted Lullaby. This is the Swedish progressive/power metal band’s third full length, a very adventurous venture with long songs and an epic approach. The music is similar to the likes of Queensryche and Fates Warning. The songs are a little cheesier and overly indulgent, yet the songwriting is pretty good and makes for a positive listen.
There is a good deal of material to absorb here, but the very upbeat recording makes one want to listen to more and more. The band is able to become subtle, as seen from the track “Scent of a Rose”, even though most of the music here is at a driving pace. The result is a vibrant and colorful listen. I still think the album is a little overly ambitious and a more condensed release would have improved things. Still, this is quality progressive metal and that is always a good thing. It is very melodic and epic in equal measure .
Steven Wilson – Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall (Eagle Rock)
Home Invasion is Steven Wilson’s tour supporting last year’s solo effort, To the Bone. In March, Wilson played a series of shows at the Royal Albert Hall, the results of which come to us in the form of this DVD/Blu-Ray. As one might expect, the audio and video of the concert are impeccable, with Wilson and his band delivering excellent performances.
To the Bone is heavily represented here, with nine of its tracks making the cut. Wilson and his crack band also play a few other solo cuts as well as a half-dozen Porcupine Tree songs dating as far back as 1999’s Stupid Dream. All told, including the bonus features of a Steven Wilson interview and a handful of soundcheck songs, Home Invasion is a must-have for fans of Wilson and Porcupine Tree.
Temtris – Rapture (Battlegod)
Temtris may not be a household name in North America, but the Australian traditional metal group has been around for nearly 20 years. Rapture is their fifth album.
Their music is heavy and bombastic, driven by guitarists Anthony Fox and Anthony Hoffman. Songs like “Flames Of Defiance” are straightforward and catchy, with powerful vocals from Genevieve Rodda. And while their style is traditional metal, it’s not retro sounding. Tracks such as “Wings Of Death” have some alt metal elements with brief male harsh vocals. The beginning of “Serpent” has an acoustic middle-eastern vibe before the metal kicks in, and the band shows their softer side on the ballad “Carry You.” It’s a well rounded and well performed album that trad metal fans will enjoy.
Ursa – Abyss Between the Stars (Blood)
The three members of Ursa are also involved with Cormorant, and that band’s DNA is sprinkled all over Abyss Between the Stars. Ursa, however, lean into the traditional doom metal a lot more than the harsher characteristics of Cormorant. This debut album is a smoky delight, as a world of wizards and creatures and huge mountains is meticulously crafted.
These tales are backed by a deliberate pace, riddled with extended screeching guitar solos and locked-in rhythm performances. A harsher bark occasionally rears out, but the group mainly sticks to melodic wails that fits well into the band’s music. Same goes for the pounding double bass drumming, which is held to specific points of clashing momentum. Abyss Between the Stars has these Cormorant members trying something a bit less grounded in reality to wonderful effect.
Witherfall – A Prelude To Sorrow (Century Media)
Witherfall‘s lineup includes former White Wizzard members Joseph Michael (vocals) and Jake Dreyer (guitar). The title of their second album A Prelude To Sorrow is inspired by the initials of Adam Paul Sagan, their late drummer who succumbed to cancer in 2016.
Their progressive power metal songs can be epic and complex, such as 11 plus minute opuses “We Are Nothing” and “Vintage.” They also change things up on tracks like the mellow acoustic-based “Maridians Visitation.” While technically impressive, Witherfall also bring emotion and passion to their music, which makes it resonate more deeply with the listener. There is some streamlining that could be done, such as cutting the interlude “The Call,” but Witherfall still keep things compelling throughout.