This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Allfather, Alter Bridge, Arabrot, Cauldron, Downpour, Infera Bruo, Korpiklaani, Krisiun, Metal Allegiance, Monstrosity, Nashville Pussy, Satan, Siege Of Power, Skyharbor, Suicidal Tendencies and Thou.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Allfather – And All Will Be Desolation (Rotting Throne)
On their sophomore album And There Will Be Desolation, British riff lords Allfather step up their game in all aspects. As to describing their style, that’s a bit trickier. Vocalist Tom Ballard says, “…the songs we write are really a distillation of all the music we love. That means we don’t fit easily into any particular genre, but we have found a way of putting our influences together and making coherent, memorable songs out of them.”
Those influences range from death metal to doom to sludge to hardcore. Tempos and intensities ebb and flow, but what’s consistent is the memorable riffs and grooves. Ragers like “Lord Betrayer” and “Jackal’s Night” fly by, while tracks like “By Sword, By Famine, By Plague take a more deliberate path. The album closes with the epic 11 plus minute “Lampedusa” (Italy’s southernmost island), which chronicles the refugee crisis in Europe. It starts as a doomy dirge and then picks up steam before a subdued ending. It’s a diverse and impressive album that will appeal to fans of numerous genres.
Alter Bridge – Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Napalm)
Alter Bridge do very well in North America, but are even more popular in Europe. That’s probably why all of their live albums have been recorded there. That’s also the case with their fourth live release, Live At The Royal Albert Hall, available on Blu-ray, DVD, CD and vinyl.
This time around Alter Bridge are backed by the 52-piece Parallax Orchestra. The 21 song setlist includes hits like “Addicted To Pain,” “Open Your Eyes” and “Ghosts Of Days Gone By” along with tracks from throughout their catalog, including songs like “Words Darker Than Their Wings” that they had never played live before. Adding orchestral arrangements gives the songs a different vibe and more depth, and Myles Kennedy’s soaring vocals fit really well in this setting. Even though AB have released a lot of live albums, this one is unique and one that fans of the band will appreciate.
Arabrot – Who Do You Love (Pelagic)
And now for something completely different. Norwegian art-rock/avant-garde troupe Arabrot’s eighth release, Who Do You Love, aims to take their discordant, abrasive sound and further elaborate on their plethora of sonic mismatches. Their last album, The Gospel, won considerable critical acclaim.
There is a jarring intensity to most of band leader Kjetil Nernes’ work, exemplified by his sneering, abrasive vocal delivery. Songs range from noisy bursts to plaintive odes (sung by his wife, Karin Park), and Arabrot are at their best when channeling their inner Swans on tracks such as the propulsive “Look Daggers” or “Uniform of a Killer.” Highly recommended for the more musically adventurous among us.
Cauldron – New Gods (The End/Dissonance)
Canada’s Cauldron yearn for the days of yore, when there was only “heavy metal” and no silly sub-genres or effete elitism. I’m talking about a time when bands like Judas Priest and Scorpions ruled the airwaves, and fans of Van Halen and Motorhead would stand next to each other in brotherhood.
New Gods is the power trio’s fifth full-length, and it’s a great blend of 1980-sounding heavy metal. Thick production highlights the taut songwriting. Cauldron come off as a heavier, but still very melodic, cousin of Ghost, with radio-friendly choruses and memorable songs. New Gods is a great record for fans of the times it seeks to emulate.
Generally after a band records an album, it is released a few months later. Not so with Downpour‘s self-titled debut. The band, whose lineup includes Brian Fair (Shadows Fall) and Derek Kirswell (Unearth) formed a few years back and recorded the album. But due to their schedules, they decided to wait and unveil it now.
Downpour has the metalcore, groove and New Wave of American Metal influences of the members’ other bands, but also blazes its own trail. It’s a diverse effort, giving Fair the opportunity to showcase a variety of vocal styles from screaming to singing. From the searing “Truth In Suffering” to the accessible but still heavy “Astral Projection” to the pit-worthy “Without The Fear,” they continually change things up. The album closes with “Mountain,” a cover of a song done originally by the female-fronted indie rock band Great Northern. Downpour’s take is melodic yet psychedelic. It’s an enjoyable debut and hopefully will be more than just a one-off.
Infera Bruo – Cerement (Prosthetic)
Infera Bruo have had my complete attention since their 2013 debut, Desolate Unknown. Their perpetual uprise in the heavily-saturated U.S. black metal market should be attributed to their affinity for angling their music away from traditional aspects. Melodic vocals, acoustic guitars and mood-enhancing synths are tools that Infera Bruo make the most out of.
This continues with their third album, Cerement, which has the band on a new label, but with the same enthusiasm for a sonic head trip. There’s a refinement to their music that has been slowly developing over the last number of years. They’ve never been a “speed for speed’s sake” sort of band, which is why the fiery “Scorne” is a welcomed surprise. Cerement is structured as a full experience, where its meaningful effect comes through in its completion.
Korpiklaani – Kulkija (Nuclear Blast)
In the period between 2002 and 2012, Finnish folksters Korpiklaani released nine studio albums, churning out about one record per year. They have now slowed down a bit, with three years between Manala and 2015’s Noita, and another three years before their latest opus Kulkija.
Their style remains the same: rousing humppa and drinking songs combined with mellower and more folk-oriented tracks. While they have done some English songs in the past, this album is in Finnish, with Jonne Jarvela’s distinctive vocal style. While the increased type between albums left them time to write more material, it’s a mixed blessing. The 14 tracks come in at a bloated 71 minutes, with more filler than usual. Still, there are plenty of catchy songs that will satisfy fans.
Krisiun – Scourge Of The Enthroned (Century Media)
Krisiun are known for their hard hitting and ominous style, where their music flies across old school and modern death metal borders and their thirst of keeping the true image of death metal alive is quite admirable, which has gained them proper respect and reputation. Now Krisiun have returned to unleash Scourge of the Enthroned, 38 minutes of demonic death metal.
Scourge of the Enthroned is another crossroads of where brutal and technical death metal collide. A menacing collision comes from the Kolesne family which awakens the force of demons. Despite of some overproduction issues which cause some confusing chaotic parts and makes it indistinguishable, powerful performances by all three members of the band once again create the furious death metal we expect to hear from Krisiun.
Metal Allegiance – Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty (Nuclear Blast)
The all-star collective Metal Allegiance return with their second full-length album Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty, following their 2015 debut and 2016 covers EP. Mark Menghi is the main songwriter, with the rest of the lineup including Alex Skolnick (Testament), David Ellefson (Megadeth) and Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Sons Of Apollo). The vocals are handled by a rotating cast of guests.
There are some repeat appearances from the first album, such as Mastodon’s Troy Sanders and Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda. The music is traditional metal with thrash and groove influences. There are both harsh vocals from people like Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad, Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg and Soulfly’s Max Cavalera and melodic vocals from Accept’s Mark Tornillo, Sanders and Nightwish’s Floor Jansen. The talent pool on this album is very high caliber, with a lot of quality performances. Not every song is a home run, but there’s not a swing and a miss to be found.
Monstrosity – The Passage Of Existence (Metal Blade)
Monstrosity’s The Passage of Existence is pure death metal perfection. This is a massive blast blowing from the past and its indestructible substance will reign forever throughout the death metal realm.
Containing 12 songs and spanning up to 50 minutes, The Passage of Existence portrays a grand landscape of modern death metal whose roots are merged with context and elements of old fashioned death metal. Releasing an epic album like this after an 11 year absence can clearly explain the powerful history of Monstrosity. Along with sharp production and mixing, The Passage of Existence is brilliantly written and strongly performed by one of the most consistent names in death metal history. Millennium and In Dark Purity are considered Monstrosity’s classics. You can add this one to that list..
Nashville Pussy – Pleased To Eat You (earMusic)
Nashville Pussy have been around for 20 years now, delivering sleazy, bluesy hard rock. It has been a few years since they have released a new album, with Pleased To Eat You their first studio record of new material since 2014’s Up The Dosage.
They have signed to a new record label (earMusic), but their sound remains the same. Catchy hard rock songs are driven by the memorable riffs and searing solos of Ruyter Suys, with entertaining lyrics from Blaine Cartwright that mix humor, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Standout tracks include “Go Home And Die,” the AC/DC-flavored “One Bad Mother” and the groovy “Endless Ride.” You know exactly what you’re going to get with a Nashville Pussy album, and they deliver the goods.
Satan –Cruel Magic (Metal Blade)
A major metal comeback this decade has been the reemergence of NWOBHM luminaries Satan. Though the group has been known by several other names (Blind Fury, Pariah), their classic 1983 debut Court in the Act had been their legacy up until they reunited in 2011 with that album’s lineup. With a string of excellent albums since then, Cruel Magic further points to the unquestionable fact that Satan have not yet lost their renewed momentum.
Cruel Magic doesn’t have the surprise factor that Life Sentence did, or the confidence from that album’s success that Atom by Atom had, but it does have consistency on its side. Vocalist Brian Ross has a range few men from the NWOBHM era still possess, his commanding shrieks a mainstay alongside rapid-fire guitar harmonies, losing little of their long-standing luster. The album is further justification that there has to be some sort of fountain of youth Satan have been tapping into.
Siege of Power- Warning Blast (Metal Blade)
Death metal has decades of undead life behind it, and there’s been plenty of “whoa” lineups that have been formed, but it’s not common to see original members of Autopsy and Asphyx together in the same band. That’s what Siege of Power does, getting titans of death metal together along with members of the defunct Hail of Bullets.
Warning Blast is just as its name proclaims, a shot to the sky influenced by the bands the members have been a part of, along with groups like Stormtroopers of Death. The hype comes not only from who is involved, but the fact that the 18 songs (and 2 bonus tracks) were recorded in a few hours with music/lyrics written on the spot. That kind of dysfunctional songwriting could be a mess if done by amateurs, but Siege of Power use its vast expertise to make Warning Blast a deafening statement.
Skyharbor – Sunshine Dust (eOne)
The sweet harmonies on Sunshine Dust are very pleasant to listen to and a highlight of Skyharbor‘s third full length album. The music is very melodic and has a nice feel to it, straddling the line between rock and metal. The easiest comparison for me is Periphery, particularly that band’s clean sung moments. India’s Skyharbor are similarly easy to digest, but aren’t afraid to bring more progressive stylings to the forefront as well.
The entirety of the disc struck a chord with me with how well balanced it was. The music is thoughtful, yet very accessible and makes for a well-rounded listen. The songs are always melodic and easy to become attached to. The entire affair is memorable and classy. Those fearing a more mainstream aspect to the band should fret not as they add enough complexity to avoid any limitations. This is the perfect remedy for those looking for a Periphery like release this year. Sunshine Dust comes highly recommended.
Suicidal Tendencies – Still Cyco Punk After All These Years (Suicidal)
Back in 1996 Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir released the solo album Lost My Brain! (Once Again) under the Cyco Miko moniker. More than 20 years later, he decided to re-record it with the current Suicidal lineup, which includes legendary drummer Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer).
The songs hold up pretty well more than 20 years later. These arrangements are more focused and polished than the originals, but Muir’s passion and fire is still evident. The musicianship is also a step above, especially on tracks like “All Kinda Crazy.” It’s not a complete re-recording, as two tracks from the original are omitted, but there’s also the previously unreleased “Sippin’ From The Insanitea.” Whether you missed it the first time around, or want to compare this version to the original, it’s a worthy, though not essential, album.
Thou – Magus (Sacred Bones)
As if sludge was trucked in from a local bayou, Thou raise up from its Baton Rouge, Louisiana home to pour layer after layer on to each of the tracks of its latest muckfest, Magus. Slower than a jazz funeral through the streets, laden with plodding intervals that melt into profound riffs that underscore the emotional coffee-grinder vocals from Bryan Funck, Magus is as personal and immediate as sludge doom metal gets.
Though Thou stay rigid in the enhanced sludge of its own making, the monotonic clash against the soar of some great riff lines makes the album a connoisseur’s banquet or a casual listener’s piecemeal indulgence. This is not a feast to wolf down in one sitting, rather it’s best to take the sludgy pace for its namesake and savor the steam of the swamp and the sound of personal doom crying from the shadows between the Tupelo trees. ‘Inward’ and ‘Sovereign Self’ are standout tracks that bend the lyrics away from usual grind and strive to have immediacy. In the NOLA night, Thou is as haunting as the cry of a bayou crane.