This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aborted Fetus, Aether Realm, Bornwithhair, Demolizer, Eskimo Callboy, Ghoulhouse, Ihsahn, Korgull The Exterminator, Lifvsleda, Mastodon, Messiah, Skeletal Remains, Skillet, Tomorrow’s Rain and Winter’s Verge.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aborted Fetus – Pyramids Of Damnation (Comatose)
There’s no shortage of brutality on Pyramids Of Damnation, the seventh album from Russian death dealers Aborted Fetus. The band has had a fair share of lineup changes over their two decades, and this is the first Aborted Fetus album for drummer Alexey Melyukhin.
And while tracks like “Earth’s Bloody Punishment” have the bludgeoning you’d expect, there are also progressive moments and some nice grooves. There are unexpected moments, such as the Middle Eastern flavored acoustic intro to “Queen’s Prophecy” before the intensity and Igor’s gutturals kick in. “Tombs Of Damnation” is an an instrumental that goes from cinematic to acoustic and also . The last proper song is also one of the album’s most impressive. Clocking in at seven minutes, “Pharoah Of Firstborn’s Execution” delivers plenty of aggression without losing any momentum. 66 minutes is a hefty dose of death metal, and though some pruning may have been prudent, it’s still a potent death metal album.
Aether Realm – Tarot (Napalm)
I always try to cover landmark reissues whenever the chance arises as – due to my relative inexperience in heavy music – I’m often exposed to art that I simply didn’t know I wanted. Enter Aether Realm’s Tarot. The sophomore LP from this coalescence of U.S. thrashing riffs, death, verging on black metal growls and European power styled orchestration was to be the record that pushed them firmly into the realms of veneration; and the band are finally coming good on their promise for its re-release with the added track “The Magician.”
Tarot emerged in 2017 so there’s no need for a big remastering overhaul, it suffices enough to have some slick new cover art, an extended runtime and another good excuse to give the 70+ minutes of awe and beauty some more well-deserved gushing. For those already acquainted with the record’s intrepid odysseys and ruthless bangers then this may be your years’ savior, but for the uninformed, this stands as a perfect starting point to introduce yourself to Aether Realm.
Smoleńska is avant-garde music that is very different from the norm. Songs are often long and feature an apocalyptic feel that is somewhat gripping. The problem is that the songs are too subtle and tend to fly by without much immersion on the part of the listener.
Seeing as the band is still young, they certainly have the chance to make their music more gripping. There is a lot to like here with solid musicianship, it’s just that the songs come off a little dry. Given time, this project could be developed into something altogether compelling and cutting edge.
Demolizer – Thrashmageddon (Mighty)
Demolizer truly are new school thrash metal. Technically, the Danish group started in 2018 (changed their name from Radtskaffen) and play a style of thrash culled from the new era of thrash. Thrashmageddon is their debut LP. While their sound is nourished by acts such as Havok and Municipal Waste, they also reference the old guard such as Metallica, Slayer and Exodus.
“Copenhagen Burning” kicks off the album with fuzzy, ominous chords. There is a long build before speed kicks in with Slayer South of Heaven type riffing. Benjamin Radtleff’s vocals straddle the line here between death growls and raspy thrash vocals. He keeps the thrash style through most of the album. The group utilize gang chants throughout the album. The album is fairly fast and vicious, but “Until the Day I Die” and “Lost in Torment” feature melodic, clean guitar tones. Thrashmageddon is for hardcore thrashers who bang their heads indiscriminately to new and old school bands.
Eskimo Callboy – MMXX (Century Media)
The German metalcore band Eskimo Callboy follow up last year’s full-length Rehab with the six song EP MMXX. It’s the debut of new singer Nico Sallach (To The Rats and Wolves).
Their music is very electronics-heavy with some techno moments along with catchy melodies and the typical ‘core combination of harsh and melodic vocals. It gets off to a strong start with the memorable “Hypa Hypa” and equally bouncy “Hate/Love.” The rest of the songs don’t quite reach those heights, but are effective nonetheless. Eskimo Callboy’s blend of intense metal and danceable grooves with a dose of humor has garnered them a growing fan base that should be satisfied by this beginning of a new chapter.
Ghoulhouse – Rigor Mortis Intermezzo (HPGD)
Wombbath’s Haken Stuvemark is in a few different bands, but he’s an amateur compared to Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Ribspreader, Megascavenger, etc.), who seems to be in dozens of bands simultaneously. They have formed Ghoulhouse, and their debut album Rigor Mortis Intermezzo is inspired by bands like Repulsion and Exhumed.
Their brand of death metal is old school and raw with vocals buried deep in the mix. Blend in some crust and grind and you have an album that’s brutal and gory, exemplified with song titles like “Rotten Flesh Ballet” and “Zombified And Berserk.” The tracks are compact weapons, inflicting maximum carnage in the span of two or three minutes. The outliers are the cheesy synth based interlude “Ghoulhouse Theme” that gives the listener a brief respite before diving back into the muck and the similar closer “Decomposition Beat.”
Ihsahn – Pharos (Candlelight)
Pharos is the second EP released by Ihsahn this year. Telemark, which was issued in February, saw him return to his black metal roots. Like that release, Pharos consists of three originals and two covers, but is sonically the polar opposite.
These five songs are mellow and melodic, firmly in the pop/rock pantheon with some progressive touches. “Spectre At The Feast” has depth and complexity topped with sugary hooks and choruses while the title track is introspective bridged with symphonic sections. Leprous singer Einar Solberg provides the vocals on on the A-Ha cover “Manhattan Skyline,” with the other cover the trippy alt-rock band Portishead’s “Roads.” Ihsahn refuses to be pigeonholed and wants to explore numerous styles, and while Pharos won’t appeal to those looking for another black metal release, it’s a well constructed EP of accessible pop/rock.
Korgull The Exterminator – Sharpen Your Spikes (Xtreem)
Named after a Voivod song, Korgull The Exterminator was started in 2004 by Joe Bastard. He created the group to add a thrashy complement to the black metal he was already playing in his one-man group, Akerbeltz. Sharpen Your Spikes reveals the Spanish band’s black/thrash style in the vein of legendary acts such as Desaster, Destroyer 666 and Aura Noir.
The album’s pace is frenetic with constant pounding drums. The speed picking stands out on songs like the title track. The album runs at a fast meter, but there are touches of melody as heard on the acoustic intro “Campanades a Morts” and the melodic lead that opens “Firing Squad.” The vocals are easy to understand and of the shrieking sort with even some high-pitch wails. “The Black Goat of the Woods” has some of the more memorable repeated vocal lines. “Battle Ram” has a martial feel with galloping rhythms. Sharpen Your Spikes impales boring black metal and tedious thrash.
Lifvsleda – Det Besegade Lifvet (Shadow/Regain)
Lifvsleda are from Sweden, but the spirit of their music encompasses all elements of the Nordic black metal scene. After the release of their first EP Manifest MMXIX in 2019, Lifvsleda explore the meaning of death in the main theme of the lyrics in Det Besegade Lifvet, with more vigor and passion.
On Det Besegade Lifvet, Lifvsleda keep the sound of raw black metal a few steps ahead of modern black metal. As a result, the original sound of the album generally comes from the early days of Nordic underground black metal. While the undeniable strong influences of Sorhin and Arckanum are evident on this album, the cold, dark, and melancholic nature of the northern forests is rippled through the trollish vocals, striking melodies and simple yet dynamic structure of the songs. And this eventually, as the album title declares, defeats life and leads us to the creation of a considerable work that could easily represent the unique image of the Swedish black metal empire.
Mastodon – Medium Rarities (Reprise)
As Mastodon work on the follow-up to 2017’s Emperor Of Sand, they are issuing a collection of b-sides, covers, instrumentals, soundtrack contributions and live tracks. Medium Rarities also includes a new song, “Fallen Torches.”
Recorded last year, “Fallen Torches” is vintage Mastodon, mixing heaviness, melodies and guest vocals from longtime collaborator Scott Kelly (Neurosis). The covers range from The Flaming Lips’ “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” to Butthole Surfers’ “Atlanta” to Metallica’s “Orion.” There are live versions of tracks such as “Crystal Skull” from 2006’s Blood Mountain and “Iron Tusk” from 2004’s Leviathan. You’ll also get “White Walker” from Game Of Thrones and “Cut You Up With A Linoleum Knife” from Aqua Teen Hunger Force along with several instrumentals. There’s a wide variety of material, making Medium Rarities more intriguing than the typical album of this type.
Messiah – Fracmont (High Roller)
Swiss slayers Messiah return with Fracmont, their first full length since 1994. The lineup reformed in 2017 and is the very same as the one that recorded their classic 1991 album Choir of Horrors, so you know the quality of the record is going to be there.
“Morte Al Dente” has a solid foundation of thrashing riffs as well as creating a great atmosphere amongst the chaos. This is very same band in sound as the one from the mid-’80s and early ’90s but with modern production and polish. If you needed some classic sounding death thrash with a more mid-tempo progression look no further than Fracmont.
Skeletal Remains – The Entombment of Chaos (Century Media)
The Entombment of Chaos is an album that continues to push Skeletal Remains’ death metal beyond the mere adoration of old school stalwarts like Pestilence and Morbid Angel (at least in album naming scheme).
They blast the doors down on “Illusive Divinity” that’s chock full of crushing riffs and even some leads that would make Andy LaRocque blush. Once again to let death metal fans know how serious they are, legendary death metal artist Dan Seagrave was called in to give a great visual accompaniment to the very real auditory chaos contained within. “Enshrined In Agony” could have been an interlude on a Cynic or Death album as it showcases some excellent melodic playing to break up the chaos. Death metal in 2020 with a flair for the forefathers does not get much better than this.
Skillet – Victorious: The Aftermath (Atlantic)
Just over a year ago Skillet released their tenth album Victorious. It landed in the top 20 and spawned several radio hits such as “Legendary” and “Save Me.” Victorious: The Aftermath has the original album’s twelve songs plus eight additional tracks.
Three are unreleased songs. “Dead Man Walking” is a catchy rocker in the vein of “Monster,” “Sick And Empty” is more moderately paced while “Dreaming Of Eden” is a soaring ballad. The rest of the album is reimagined tracks from Victorious. “Legendary” is remixed, while “Reach,” “Victorious,” “Save Me” and “Terrify The Dark” are stripped down. Even if you own the original album, there’s plenty of additional material that fans will want to hear.
Tomorrow’s Rain – Hollow (AOP)
Hollow is the debut album from the Israeli band Tomorrow’s Rain, but the band’s roots go back quite a ways. The lineup includes former members of bands such as Distorted, Nail Within and Salem.
Tomorrow’s Rain play doom metal with songs that are lengthy and deliberate. One of the unique things about the album is that every song except one features guest musicians. Aaron Stainthorpe lends his vocals to the morose “Fear,” while both Moonspell’s Fernando Ribeiro and Swallow The Sun’s Mikko Kotamaki appear on “Misery Rain,” one the album’s best. Other guests include Orphaned Land’s Kobi Farhi, who is on three songs, Rotting Christ’s Sakis Tolis, Nevermore/Arch Enemy’s Jeff Loomis and more. The album has a pretty cohesive sound even with so many guests, though the star power tends to overshadow a talented band.
Winter’s Verge – The Ballad Of James Tig (Pride & Joy)
Winter’s Verge are a long-running power metal band from Cyprus. They have two new guitarists on their latest opus, The Ballad Of James Tig. The band’s music takes place within a mythological realm called Tiberon.
The concept of this album, as you can probably guess from the title, involves James Tig. He’s a man who lost his family at sea as a young boy and is on a quest to find a legendary sea monster who he believes killed his family. The songs are dramatic and dynamic with ample atmosphere and symphonic elements. Tracks like “A Thousand Souls” are bold and melodic while songs such as “Timeless” are more reserved and mellower. Female vocals are provided by Magic Of The North’s Teodora Stoyanova Freya. There’s a lot of variety, and while it gets melodramatic at times, it’s still a compelling power metal release.