This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aggressive Perfector, Avslut, Bednja, Crusadist, Deivos, Gun, Misery Loves Co., Ofdrykkja, Prong, Red Death, Sartegos, Sun Of The Dying, Teeth, Unfathomable Ruination and Vesperith.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aggressive Perfector – Havoc At the Midnight Hour (Dying Victims)
Havoc At the Midnight Hour, the debut album by Manchester, England’s own Aggressive Perfector, is a harrowing opus dedicated to a genre well-known and well-suited to all that is metal: horror. Hearing the first track, “Onward to the Cemetery,” it is immediately apparent the lads in Aggressive Perfector worship at the altar of luminaries Slayer and Venom—even the banshee shriek of Tom Araya is closely matched here by vocalist Dan Holocausto—and the music shifts from thrash to traditional heavy metal in a honed expertise.
Corpses, ghouls, and guts are on grand display in gory detail here, with love and care that only a band with a true fondness for the subject matter could impart. The despicable slab of bloody carnage that is Havoc At the Midnight Hour follows in footsteps lain by the band’s 2016 EP, Satan’s Heavy Metal, managing to improve upon it in almost every aspect. Song structure and production being chief among them. All in all, a solid debut from a promising band.
Avslut – Tyranni (Osmose)
Swedish black metal bringers Avslut recently released a three song EP Förslavad, a year after releasing their acclaimed debut album Deceptis. Things are seemingly going forward very quickly at Avslut camp, because they have returned with their second album Tyranni, which is an impressive record once again.
To many listeners it may sounds that Tyranni and its creators are stuck in [Swedish] black metal routine and haven’t added anything special to the scene. But Avslut are following the infamous Swedish black metal cult and are properly carrying the torch. Tyranni is a blasting album with guitar riffs delivered from the depth of the frozen north and its cold melodies and atmosphere are waking the spirit of true black metal and keeping it alive and reckless. Astonishing guitar work on Tyranni have orchestrated an outstanding soundscape which will satisfy fans. Songs like “Dråp” and “Ändlöst slaveri” turn Tyranni to an absolute winner.
Bednja – Doline Su Ostale Iza Nas (Transcending Obscurity)
When mixing ingredients in food and drink, if you’re off by even a little bit you can destroy the quality final product. The same is true for music. On their debut album Doline Su Ostale Iza Nas, the Croatian band Bednja mix black metal and hardcore.
The musical chefs get the combination right, as somber black metal is topped with angry hardcore vocals. While this combination of styles has certainly been done before, Bednja’s take on the style is powerful and innovative. The six songs are lengthy, with a lot of ebbs and flows and ample time to develop their musical themes. Songs like “Povratak Kralja” inject atmosphere into the mix that gives them even more impact. The nearly 9 minute closing title track is a highlight, with heaviness shifting into atmospherics with a folky ending. A potent debut.
After a three song demo last year, Chicago’s Crusadist emerge with their debut full-length album The Unholy Grail. The record was produced by Chris Djurcic (Novembers Doom, Jungle Rot).
The quintet blend death metal grooves and thrash metal riffs into a lethal dose of extremity. The riffs are memorable and the musicianship is razor sharp. Jason Rak delivers a versatile performance on drums that are nice and high in the mix, equally adept at bombastic fills and bludgeoning blastbeats. The vocals are also diverse, with Shaun Albro bringing everything from deep deep metal growls to higher pitched black metal style rasps. Their combination of modern death and old school thrash topped with plenty of shredding guitar solos makes for a compelling debut.
Deivos – Casus Belli (Selfmadegod)
Polish crushers Deivos have been bringing their brand of tech death for more than two decades. Their latest dose of destruction is Casus Belli, the band’s sixth full-length.
The bludgeoning begins from the first note of the opening title track and rarely abates. They do add atmosphere and slower tempos to songs like “Parallel Gods” alongside blazers like “Victims” and “Achiever Of Nothing.” The latter is one of the album’s best, shifting back and forth from heavy and dense to groovy and melodic. It’s a streamlined effort at 36 minutes, wreaking maximum havoc in a relatively brief period of time.
Gun – R3l0aded (Silver Lining)
Scottish hard rockers Gun emerged on the scene in 1989 with the hit single “Better Days.” They issued a few albums before splitting in 1997. They reunited a decade or so later. There have been a lot of member changes over the years, with only a couple members remaining from their heyday.
R3l0aded is a two disc set. The first album is a compilation of singles from throughout their career. The second disc is cover songs, including their version of Cameo’s “Word Up” that was a top 10 hit in the UK in 1994. They picked an eclectic mix of songs to cover, ranging from classic artists like the Clash, Stevie Wonder and Iggy Pop to more modern acts like Rihanna and Hozier. Gun put a hard rock spin on the songs, making it more interesting than the typical covers release. Fans of the band will dig the combination of their best known tracks along with the cover songs.
Misery Loves Co. – Zero (Black Lodge)
Misery Loves Co. have a nice industrial flourish to their music, bringing a groove that is undeniable and makes for a thrilling recording. The veteran band reunited in 2016, with Zero their first album since 2000. This is music that has similarities to Godflesh, but maintains its own flavor as well. There are various electronic beats added to the guitars to make them more impactful and this is very much appreciated. Though there really isn’t any standout characteristic to the music, there is enough interesting musicianship to hold your attention throughout the length of these tracks.
It all adds up to a fun recording that sets the proper mood at any moment. Zero isn’t perfect and suffers from some repetition of ideas that could have been trimmed out, but there is just so much to like here that this is just a minor quibble. After such a long layoff it is impressive that the band returned with music that is so powerful. Fans of industrial will be greatly pleased with what’s to be found here. Even the cover of Garbage’s “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” is successful.
Ofdrykkja – Gryningsvisor (AOP)
If you’re looking for an upbeat album for your next party, you probably don’t want to go with Gryningsvisor, the third album from the Swedish trio Ofdrykkja. The album’s title translates to “Ballads At Dawn.”
As morose and melancholy as their brand of folk tinged atmospheric black metal is, this album is actually more optimistic than their first two. Their members have overcome some personal issues, resulting in a more positive lyrical outlook. Tracks like “Swallowed By The Night” are quiet and reflective with guest vocals provided by Miranda Samuelsson alongside harsh whispers from Pessimisten. While not extreme by any means, there are some emotionally intense moments on songs like “Koldvisa” and “Grey.”
Prong – Age of Defiance (SPV/Steamhammer)
Age of Defiance is a five-song EP from veteran metal act Prong. The EP consists of two new tracks and three live cuts. Two of the live selections, “Cut Rate” and “Another Worldly Device” appeared on their breakout album Cleansing. Prong are celebrating the 25th anniversary of this album with a tour, so it makes sense these tracks appear here, even though the tracks were recorded on a headlining tour at Berlin club Huxleys Neue Welt in 2015.
As far as the new tracks go, the title track has a modern Prong feel. The guitars are groovy and chunky. They sound like he recorded on a seven or eight-string guitar. The second track, “The End of Sanity” is very thrashy. Both tracks feature strong chorus lines, something Tommy Victor has always had a penchant for. “Rude Awakening” has especially powerful words. The five tracks provide a good historical perspective of Prong.
Red Death – Sickness Divine (Century Media)
Washington, D.C.’s Red Death aim to fill a void where Prong, Corrosion of Conformity, and ’80s Metallica used to live. Think of their brand of music as bully thrash – listening to this makes you want to hit things, or steal lunch money or something. Sickness Divine is the band’s third album.
The ten songs (and one bonus track, a cover of Misfits’ “Death Comes Ripping”) follow the same mold as the bands mentioned above – blistering, short thrash, longer more epic numbers with eerie clean intros, and everything in between. The taut musicianship is augmented by Chad Troncale’s aggressive vocals, giving us a truly enjoyable slab of meaner-than-hell ’80s thrash that all fans of the genre should jump on.
Sartegos – O Sangue Da Noite (Blood Harvest/I, Voidhanger)
We’re reviewing a lot of debut full-lengths this week, including O Sangue Da Noite from Sartegos. They have been around for nearly a decade, issuing demos, EPs and splits before finally unleashing their first full-length.
After a cinematic intro, the bludgeoning begins with ominous blackened death metal. The lyrics are in Galician (Galicia is an autonomous community in northwest Spain), with references to folklore and myths of that area. The songs are dense and heavy, but the guitar riffs add some melody to the brutality. Tracks like “Solpor dos Misterios” shift from chaotic to groovy and back again. It’s a compelling and varied debut.
Sun Of The Dying – The Earth Is Silent (AOP)
The Earth Is Silent is the second album from the Spanish death/doom band Sun Of The Dying. It’s the first for vocalist Eduardo Guillo (In Verso).
As are countless death/doom bands over the past few decades, Sun Of The Dying are influenced by the forefathers of the genre such as Paradise Lost and and My Dying Bride. They also inject modern influences and are not a retro band. The songs on the album are somber, but catchy. There are both harsh and melodic vocals, giving songs like “A Dying Light” and “A Cold Unnamed Fear” a varied sound. They also do a nice job changing up textures, with tracks like “When The Morning Came” very mellow and reserved in parts, heavier and aggressive in others. It’s a well-rounded album that death/doom fans of any era can appreciate.
Teeth – The Curse Of Entropy (Translation Loss)
Teeth’s The Curse Of Entropy is a shot of caffeine given intravenously, a grind-infused death metal ripper that’s a step away from their doomier debut album, Unremittance. That release had a more deliberate approach that has now transformed into a primal bludgeoning. Songs like “Enlever” and “Dread” are blasted apart in two minutes or less like a race against a nuclear mushroom cloud.
There’s an understated guest spot from Gorguts vocalist Luc Lemay on “Husk” to add some death metal royalty to the album, but the band prove to be fine on their own with a devastating sound capable of aural anarchy. Attempts to temper their anger, like on the closing minutes of “Vessel,” are fleeting. Teeth are in their element with the bitter energy prevalent on The Curse Of Entropy.
Unfathomable Ruination – Enraged & Unbound (Willowtip)
Unfathomable Ruination’s 2016 Finitude was one of the best brutal death metal albums of that year. It depicted the band’s enormous power of making an album full of complicated structures, with highly technical and groovy pieces. Now, three years later, Unfathomable Ruination have returned with Enraged & Unbound, which is a great follow up to Finitude.
The band show their passion to reimagine classic brutal death metal tunes such as Malevolent Creation and Suffocation and integrate them with modern technical pieces, and Enraged & Unbound is nothing short of that. Songs are heavy, dynamic and chaotic. Enraged & Unbound is mostly focused on brutality and those strong touches of technical death metal are a little bit milder now. Still, old fashioned songwriting and production have given classic tunes to the album, and more important than that, it’s Unfathomable Ruination’s performances which are madly impressive.
Vesperith – Vesperith (Svart)
Vesperith is the project of musician Sariina Tani, and this self-titled debut is experimental/ambient in the context of a black metal setting. With Oranssi Pazuzu’s Jun-His present as co-producer, Tani can bolster the psychedelic dreaminess of the synths against a raucous frame. Her voice can go from pitch-perfect highs to raspy lows, and she uses both distinctions to grand effect.
Like much of experimental/ambiance, the value a listener gets from an album like this one will vary. A song like “Valohämärä” has a jazzier side to it, which aligns nicely with a cruel tyrant in “Fractal Flesh.” Each of these six songs have at least a few strong ideas to them, though the need for lengths that almost reach double-digits at times proves to be the album’s big shortfall.