This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Advent Sorrow, Anacrusis, Car Bomb, Creeping Death, DragonForce, High Command, Horror God, Howling Giant, Mortem, Netherbird, Of Mice & Men, Sempiternal Dusk, Slash, Steel Panther, Wednesday 13 and Wreck-Defy.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Advent Sorrow – Kali Yuga Crown (Werewolf)
Kali Yuga Crown is the sophomore full-length by Australian black metal outfit Advent Sorrow. The album exudes an overall bleakness. From the faint keys to the cold guitar harmonies, Advent Sorrow deliver loads of sadness and isolation. Medium to slow tempos seem best suited for bands playing depressive/suicidal black metal (DSBM), which Advent Sorrow follow, but also break out with speed. The tremolo picking is at the forefront of the album’s cold and distant mood.
Where much of their sound wallows in despondency, there are elements of apparent torture and violence, most notably in the vocals. The vocals are diverse from a lower, almost death metal voice to the tortured cries and even some clean vocals, which are utilized in tandem with piano keys and sharp tremolo picking at the end of “Spearhead.” Kali Yuga Crown goes beyond the normal minimalism of a DSBM album, resulting in something grander, more refined, and vicious.
Anacrusis – Suffering Hour and Reason (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. The band is reuniting now, and Metal Blade has seen fit to reissue all four of their albums. This week sees their first two, Suffering Hour and Reason, while the final two will be released in November. Each has been cleaned up to a degree, and augmented with demo tracks.
Anacrusis’ debut Suffering Hour was recorded by the band on a shoestring budget, and it shows. The sound quality is poor, and Kenn Nardi was still working out his vocal delivery. The songwriting is inconsistent, but the hint of progressive thrash the band eventually perfected is evident throughout. The band’s sophomore album Reason was an incremental step forward. Production was slightly improved, and the songs are tighter. Nardi’s catlike screams are still prevalent and dated here, but you can hear the band starting to figure out where they want to go, especially on tracks like “Wrong.” While neither album really stands the test of time, they’re both worth grabbing if you’re into the band, or simply looking to get into the roots of progressive thrash metal.
When a band’s name is Car Bomb you might not expect a lot of subtlety, but the NYC group defy expectations. Mordial is their fourth album, and like their earlier work, is ever-shifting.
Car Bomb shift between heavy technical riffs, melodic sections and atmospherics. They aren’t afraid to push in new directions, either. Dissonance, melody, brutality and groove make an appearance in nearly every song. Guest vocals from Bent Knee’s Courtney Swain on “Xoxoy” give it a dreamy feel while “Blackened Battery” amps up the shredding guitars. The constant changes make for an unpredictable album, but also a satisfying one.
Creeping Death – Wretched Illusions (eOne)
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Creeping Death is the name of a Metallica cover band playing three sets a night at a dive bar, but this Creeping Death are Texas death metal through and through. Their debut album, Wretched Illusions, packs in the groove along with the searing riffs. This is a riff fan’s dream, with ones on songs like the title track that can bring about a reaction of arm swinging and head banging.
But it’s not just the riffs that get the body moving. The drum work of Lincoln Mullins is a display of expert blasting. When his performance becomes unhinged provides the album with some of its most devious moments. The several years before recording Wretched Illusions Creeping Death spent writing and recording demos and EPs. allowing them to finalize their sound in a successful way.
DragonForce – Extreme Power Metal (Metal Blade)
Since they emerged on the scene in the early 2000s, DragonForce‘s music has been described by many as extreme power metal, so it’s only appropriate they use it as an album title. Extreme Power Metal is their eighth studio effort, and the fourth for frontman Marc Hudson.
It follows closely in the path of previous efforts, with galloping riffs, soaring vocals and shredding guitars from Sam Totman and Herman Li. 2017’s Reaching Into Infinity was a bit long, and this time they streamline it back to under an hour in length. It’s packed with catchy anthems such as “Highway To Oblivion” and “Heart Demolition.” The last track is cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, given the full power metal treatment. DragonForce’s legion of fans should be well pleased with Extreme Power Metal.
High Command – Beyond The Wall Of Desolation (Southern Lord)
With the all the fury of the crossover thrash greats of yore like Leeway, Cro-Mags, and D.R.I., High Command issue their statement for New England thrash to reign supreme. Beyond the Wall of Desolation is easily the most powerful thrash record released since Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic and sounds deeply influenced by them too.
Blasting down the door with “Inexorable Darkness” and frequently taking no prisoners from here on out, High Command are setting the bar awfully high for themselves. Gritty vocals, violent speeds and pure anger set this one apart from the pack. Prepare your necks, this one is gonna hurt. You can’t thrash harder if you tried.
Horror God – Cursed Seeds (Lavadome)
Cursed Seeds is the third full-length recording by the Russian death metal band Horror God. The band have garnered comparisons to Deathspell Omega due to their odd rhythms. Complex timing is a major component of Cursed Seeds, often bringing to mind masters of technical death metal, Gorguts. Horror God won’t shy from that comparison. They even bring in Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts and Dysrhythmia to play a solo on “They Were Behind the Barbed Wire.”
Immolation are another band listeners may compare to the group. This comparison comes through their low-end, mid-pace rumbles and Max “Shaman” Stepanov’s voice. Stepanov isn’t confined to one key, though. His pitch can shift to an even lower, growling octave. Lyrics are easy to hear. For this reason, “Age of Madness” is one of the more memorable tracks on the album. Cursed Seeds is dissonant, complex and avant-garde, but one will find plenty of hooks to keep the record from being lost in a maze of polyrhythms.
Howling Giant – The Space Between Worlds (Blues Funeral)
After a trio of EPs over the past few years, Nashville’s Howling Giant emerge with their debut full-length, The Space Between Worlds.
Their lyrical themes embrace a lot of sci-fi topics, while their music blends stoner/doom and psychedelic rock. Tracks like “Nomad” move at a deliberate pace, emphasizing their doom side, while songs such as “Cybermancer And The Doomsday Express” have a quick tempo and psych/stoner is at the forefront. There are also some unexpected moments, such as the acoustic instrumental “Ghosts In The Well.” It’s a promising debut with a lot of variety and creative arrangements.
Mortem – Ravnsvart (Peaceville)
30 years after releasing the Slow Death demo, Mortem’s debut full-length finally sees the darkness. Ravnsvart shows the band moving away from the death metal of the demo for something more expected among current and former members of coveted Norwegian black metal acts Thorns, Arcturus, Mayhem, 1349 and Satyricon.
Mortem 2019 sound as if Steinar Johnsen resurrected material written for Arcturus in the early ‘90s. Garm’s mystifying voice is not here, though; Marius Vold’s voice is pure grimness suited for the hell-bound lyrical themes. Although Arcturus’ sound is in the forefront, listeners may hear a tinge of Emperor on “Truly Damned” and a bit of Bathory swagger and guitar solos on “Demon Shadow.” Hellhammer’s drums are brilliant, providing thunder to the billowing storm cloud sound of the keys. 30 years is a long time, but Ravnsvart is every bit worth the wait. It is mandatory listening for any fan of symphonic black metal.
Netherbird – Into the Vast Uncharted (Eisenwald)
Sweden’s Netherbird show a strong similarity to Dissection on Into the Vast Uncharted, their fifth full-length album. There is enough melody here to fill up the speakers with bliss. The songs are catchy and powerful and make their presence felt quite nicely. Though fairly short in time, the album is allowed to have its impact felt over the short running time with solid songwriting that takes center stage. This is definitely moody music and it has a nice grasp of dynamics for maximum impact. Also, ex-Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson adds some vibrant moments to the disc with his drumming.
The song “Eventide Evangel” is a standout with its use of acoustics to back up a fun listen. This is one of the best albums from the melodic black metal genre I’ve heard in a while and it continues to remain interesting over the course of the entire album. The amount of melody found on the album is perfect for the genre and shows a band firing on all cylinders. Into the Vast Uncharted has compelling songwriting, puts riffing at the center of the music and succeeds quite nicely.
Of Mice & Men – earthandsky (Rise)
After the departure of frontman Austin Carlile in 2016, bassist Aaron Pauley took over all vocal duties in Of Mice & Men and the band pared down to a quartet. They released Defy last year and quickly return with earthandsky, their sixth studio album.
They’ve become one of metalcore’s stalwart bands, and that continues. Intense metal and harsh vocals from Pauley alternate with smooth, radio-friendly singing. They are able to write songs like “As We Suffocate” and “Taste Of Regret” that are both memorable and mosh-worthy. They also bring the extremity on the crushing “Mushroom Cloud” which utilizes spoken word along with screaming. They know how to craft a quality metalcore song, which is evident on this album, which has minimal filler.
Sempiternal Dusk – Cenotaph Of Defectuous Creation (Dark Descent)
Five years after their crushing self-titled debut, Sempiternal Dusk have issued another array of shattering tunes with Cenotaph Of Defectuous Creation. The group consistently lands in the excellent spot between the fortified toxicity of doom metal and the maddening tempos of death metal that the subgenre excels in. Depictions of hellfire and torture are grunted out like the musings of a crazy man, with stark imagery present in lines like “Groping severed limbs/Undulating pustules of flesh.”
All this death and violence is delivered with a production that retains a crisp, yet murky, interior. The lone hitch is with the minute long “Beneath The Emblems Of Death,” which comes off as an unfinished track that they had to cut short. That’s not enough to bring Cenotaph Of Defectuous Creation down to anything less than a marvel.
Slash – Living The Dream Tour (Eagle Vision)
Last year, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators released Living The Dream. One of the stops on the tour supporting the album was at London’s legendary Hammersmith Apollo. That was recorded, giving us the 2CD/Blu-ray Living The Dream Tour.
The two-hour, 22 song set includes tracks from all four of Slash’s albums. Living The Dream is well-represented, with seven songs. The band’s past hits are all on display as well, from “Anastasia” to “World On Fire” to “You’re A Lie.” Kennedy is one of the best singers in the business, and he commands the stage. Previous Slash live albums had a fair amount of Guns N’ Roses material, but with plenty of their own material now, “Nightrain” is the only GNR song during the set. In addition to the concert, the Blu-ray also includes a documentary and behind the scenes footage. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators are a great live band, and this collection is a good representation of their catalog so far.
Steel Panther have carved out a niche over the past decade or so with their take on ’80s hair metal, skillfully played but tongue in cheek with humorous and definitely non politically correct lyrics. They continue that on their latest opus, Heavy Metal Rules.
Frontman Michael Starr’s pipes are first class, and Satchel knows how to shred. Songs like “Let’s Get High,” “I’m Not Your Bitch” and the title track are instantly memorable, with a wink and nod to the heyday of big hair. Those easily offended will want to skip this one, but those who grew up listening to Sunset Strip bands and have a juvenile sense of humor will enjoy Steel Panther’s retro glam.
Wednesday 13 – Necrophaze (Nuclear Blast)
Wednesday 13 has been around since the ’90s, first in bands like Frankenstein Drag Queen From Planet 13 and Murderdolls, and then fronting his namesake band. Necrophaze is Wednesday 13’s eighth studio album.
Inspired by horror movies, serial killers and his own experience with night terrors, Necrophaze is a ghoulish mix of goth and horror. It’s dramatic and cinematic with a lot of atmosphere, but still driven by catchy riffs. Guests include the one and only Alice Cooper, along with Stone Sour’s Roy Mayorga. Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia sings on “Monster,” and the album ends with a cover of W.A.S.P.’s “Animal,” featuring an appearance from Alexi Laiho from Children Of Bodom. Sometimes somber and creepy, other times more humorous and light hearted, Necrophaze is a well-rounded and enjoyable album.
Wreck-Defy – Remnants Of Pain (Inverse)
The second album from thrashers Wreck-Defy, Remnants Of Pain, has guitarist and founding member Matt Hanchuck with a new lineup of notable musicians. This includes former Testament bassist Greg Christian and former Annihilator vocalist Aaron Randall. Randall, who has kept out of the metal public eye since his stint with that band in the early ‘90s, returns with a gruff performance full of hostility that may surprises those that only know him from his work on Set the World on Fire.
This hostility fits in with the throwback thrash on “Blackened Cloth” and “Killing The Children.” It’s less successful in the ballad-y tunes, where the band soften their sound to divided results. Hanchuck’s great solos save the uneven spots, and it’s cool to have Randall back in the metal scene (though a few of his vocal lines awkwardly seem out of step with the music).