This week’s reviews include releases from Acephalix, Archspire, Big|Brave, Counterparts, Faces Of The Bog, Implore, King Parrot, Process Of Guilt, Sons Of Texas, Ufomammut, Upcdownc, Urarv and Wayland.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Acephalix – Decreation (20 Buck Spin)
Bay area death machine Acephalix reformed to massive amounts of praise after their sophomore album Deathless Master left a mark back in 2012. Enter 2017 and Decreation, a formidable album that toes the line of pure HM-2 pedal worship, but also finds a wonderful balance between fat chainsaw riffs and slick punk jams.
The songs are surprisingly long with the shortest around four minutres and the longest clocking in short of 7 minutes, but Acephalix rarely let that be a detriment to their spot on style. Each song on here hits a particular stride so it’s hard to pick individuals, since this whole thing rips throughout the duration. This is likely their best work, and in a year chock full of quality death metal, Acephalix have asserted themselves near the top of the pack.
Archspire – Relentless Mutation (Season Of Mist)
When it comes to Archspire, the first thing that draws you in is their top-notch musicianship. They play insane ultra technical driven pieces which have sent the term of technical death metal to a whole new level. After three years of hitting the road and jamming new material, Archspire are back with Relentless Mutation, their third full length.
Relentless Mutation is melodic yet brutal, while both guitarists are having fun with their seven and eight strings instruments and trading complicated jazzy melodies with the bassist. Although the pieces tend to sound similar, the album dynamism absolutely helps its hyperactivity, making it an enjoyable release. If you are looking for classic death metal, Relentless Mutation isn’t a good choice; but if you are seeking lunatic technical death metal, this album is a must listen.
Big|Brave – Ardor (Southern Lord)
Some artists are more difficult to categorize than others, and Montreal’s Big|Brave explore many different sonic styles on their third album, Ardor.
The three songs on the album are lengthy, diverse and epic. You’ll hear doom, drone, ambient and other styles, held together and driven forward by the ethereal vocals of Robin Wattie, who channels everyone from Bjork to Dolores O’Riordan. Opening track “Sound” moves as a moderate pace, while “Lull” slows down to a glacial speed. The 14 plus minute closer “Borer” runs the gamut from dense doom to serene drone. It’s a varied and compelling album that’s challenging but ultimately very rewarding.
Counterparts – You’re Not You Anymore (Pure Noise)
Canadian hardcore bruisers Counterparts spent their summer on the Warped Tour, and are now unleashing their third full-length, You’re Not You Anymore.
They do a nice job blending intense, galloping riffs with catchy and melodic parts. The vocals are mainly hardcore barks with plenty of passion. The songs are brief and focused, most between two and three minutes long. Even with those compact lengths, Counterparts shift tempos and intensities to add more variety.
Faces of the Bog – Ego Death (DHU)
Chicago’s Faces of the Bog have concocted a humongous doom metal album in their full-length debut Ego Death. With strong elements of sludge and stoner metal, the record balances the gritty and pissed with the hazy and patient. Guitars wail and chug, vocals drone and roar, drums and bass soothe and then smash; the ingredients are all here, but the brightest aspect, the psychedelia, is only offered in flashes.
While the rougher, angrier portions of Ego Death are certainly serviceable, the record’s more hypnotic moments ultimately steal the show. Like Tool meets Neurosis, the band is adept at building rhythm and alien atmosphere, but they also become victims to stagnation on the longer tracks that simply aren’t as effective. However, in the end, the record is a winner, and Faces of the Bog are saturated with promise.
Implore – Subjugate (Century Media)
After a split and EP last year, Implore have signed with Century Media for their sophomore full-length, Subjugate. The German crushers deliver an extreme blend of grind, blackened death and crust.
They blend brief and brutal doses of grind like the 50 second “Loathe” and “Boundary” with groovier, death metal oriented tracks. They show versatility on songs like “Disconnected From Ourselves,” going from crushing heaviness to a blazing guitar solo. But no matter if they are playing dense grind or head bobbing death metal, there’s a well of anger Implore draw from to give each song a sharp edge.
King Parrot – Ugly Produce (Housecore)
Melbourne maniacs King Parrot have been dishing out their punk fueled grind for a long time now and their constant tour schedule has likely led to a quick turnaround and their third album Ugly Produce. The song titles tell the tale of a band that manages to be directly involved or around some pretty awful goings on. “Piss Wreck,” “Disgrace Yourself” and “Spooking the Animals” come to mind in this regard.
Unlike many grind bands, there is not much if any discernible death metal influence in the mix here; this is a strictly punk fueled beast. Like previous King Parrot releases, this is just a fun and silly album at times when you hear phrases a father might tell their son as song titles like “Ten Pounds of Shit In a Five Pound Bag” and how they shout and spew the title over and again, just make for a fun listen. Nothing too deep here kids, just a raucous good time.
Mastodon – Cold Dark Place (Reprise)
Earlier this year Mastodon released Emperor Of Sand. Their new four song EP Cold Dark Place includes one track from those sessions and three from 2014’s Once More ‘Round The Sun.
Opener “North Side Star” has a slow and twangy beginning, then transforms into prog mode with a couple of tasty guitar solos. “Blue Walsh” has a psychedelic vibe, while the closing title track is somber and bleak before ramping up toward the end. The EP’s highlight is “Toe To Toes,” a catchy and energetic song with single potential. It’s nice to hear new (to us) Mastodon material so soon, and this is a solid collection of songs.
Process of Guilt – Black Earth (Bleak/Division)
Black Earth, the latest from the Portuguese band Process Of Guilt, certainly has an industrial vibe to it. There is the pulse pounding rhythm created by the percussion that provides the background for the tunes. The music lays a scorching inferno of a backdrop for the entire affair. These are songs that have a post feel to them, but are undeniably similar to Godflesh and bands of that ilk.
There is a smaller debt given to the likes of Neurosis. but this is certainly an album that makes no mistake about its industrial nature. The soundscapes are fiery and lay waste to everything in their path. Though relatively short in length, the five songs found here are more than enough time for this band to showcase their style of music to the planet. This comes recommended to fans of the name-checked bands.
Sons Of Texas – Forged By Fortitude (Razor & Tie)
Sons OF Texas proudly represent the Lone Star state on their sophomore album Forged By Fortitude. Working with producer Josh Wilbur (Lamb of God), they’ve upped their game in all aspects.
You’ll hear influences of Pantera in their groove-heavy sound along with elements of hard rock, grunge and blues. The songs are heavy and melodic, with thick riffs and singalong choruses. Vocalist Mark Morales is able to sing relatively smoothly at times (especially on the mid-paced “Cast In Stone), but also utilizes an edgier, gruffer sound. The twangiest track is the southern fried ballad “Turnin’ The Page,” while the closer “Slam With The Lights On,” is a bluesy, tongue in cheek sex tale.
Ufomammut – 8 (Neurot)
The Italian sludge/doom trio Ufomammut deliver 8 songs on 8, which of course is their eighth full-length album. They took a different approach to recording this album, using their live sound engineer and recording live together in the same room.
The result is an album that doesn’t stray far from their previously established style, but is a bit more straightforward while remaining cohesive and displays more of the live energy. For the first time in a while there are no songs longer than 10 minutes, but Ufomammut still like to mix shorter tracks (3 to 4 minutes) with more epic compositions. It all blends expertly into one extended piece, a psychedelic trip of fuzzed out bliss.
The British instrumental troupe Upcdownc have been plying their trade for nearly two decades, but I, Awake is their first album as a trio. It’s a concept record exploring the transitions between sleep and waking life.
There are a lot of horror elements with urgent guitars and atmospheric synths alongside lengthy mellow and peaceful sections. Most of the songs are separated into multiple parts, with one section being heavy while the others are generally more ethereal and experimental. The album ends with the 15 minute opus “Black Dracula,” that twists and turns between serene parts, driving doom, feedback-laden experimentation and some spoken word parts. Instrumental albums usually have limited appeal, but this is a well-crafted and interesting album that explores everything from sludge to prog.
Urarv – Aurum (Svart)
Urarv’s Aurum is a strange creation, a black metal album that doesn’t want anything to do with the methods or techniques of that particular genre. All those inclusions—the ill-tempered blast beats and violent riffs—serve as the catalyst for the unusual tempos and raving vocals.
And these vocals are something else. A scattershot design of preacher-like ramblings, demanding howls, and a few screechy falsettos are what Aldrahn (of Thorns and Dodheimsgard fame) works with. Knowing Aldrahn’s involvement and what he’s done in the past makes all the odd songwriting quirks a bit more believable.
Wayland – Rinse & Repeat (Mighty Loud/InGrooves)
Named after their Michigan hometown, hard rockers Wayland have been around for a few years. They’ve released an EP, several singles and have done a lot of live shows. Rinse & Repeat is their full-length debut.
They write songs chock full of hooks and infectious melodies, backed by guitars of varying intensity. Some like “All Rise” are straight ahead rock, while others like the single “Through The Fire” amp up the heaviness into hard rock territory. Tracks like “Shopping For A Savior” draw on bluesy influences, while they show their twangy side on the acoustic “Follow.” Wayland are a versatile band who blend a lot of styles into an accessible and enjoyable debut album.