This week’s reviews include releases from Argus, Cannabis Corpse, Crematory, Demon Eye, The Ditch And The Delta, Forged In Black, Hands Of Orlac, Helpless, High Spirits, Lynch Mob, Usnea and Wandering Midget.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Argus – From Fields of Fire (Cruz Del Sur)
Argus have been giving us quality metal releases for nearly ten years now, and From Fields of Fire is no exception. It’s been four years since we’ve heard from these purveyors of epic metal (after a blizzard of LPs and EPs), but the wait has been worth it, as we are greeted with superb production and performances from all band members – especially with great guitar work and heroic vocals.
One point that stands out on From Fields of Fire is the solid songwriting. There are a couple of numbers we could do without, but overall this is a well-written record, with a few top-notch epic cuts in “Devils of Your Time,” “Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors,” and “No Right to Grieve.” These guys write some excellent galloping numbers, and if doom-tinged epic metal is your thing, you’ll love this album.
Cannabis Corpse – Left Hand Pass (Season Of Mist)
Cannabis Corpse, the Virginia weed-themed death metal band, return with their fifth studio album Left Hand Pass. There have been a couple of lineup changes, but frontman Phil “Landphil” Hall (Municipal Waste) and his twin brother Josh “Hallhammer” Hall remain.
As with previous albums, their blazing riffs power lyrics blending horror fiction and marijuana, with song titles like “The 420th Crusade” and “In Battle There Is No Pot.” They play a potent strain of death metal with enough groove to get the joint jumping. No matter if you’re straight edge or Snoop Dogg, if it’s death metal you crave, Cannabis Corpse deliver the goods.
Crematory – Live Insurrection (Steamhammer/SPV)
The long-running German gothic metal band Crematory have released a few live albums and DVDs over the years. But with a few new members in the last few years, this seemed like a good time to release the DVD/CD Live Insurrection, recorded at the Bang Your Head festival.
Their latest album, 2016’s Monument, is strongly represented in the setlist, with four songs. The rest are taken from throughout their discography, going back to 1995’s Illusions for “Tears Of Time.” It’s a nice mix of past and present, the band sounds excellent, and the audio and video quality is good. Fans of the band will definitely want to check it out.
Demon Eye – Prophecies and Lies (Soulseller)
North Carolina’s Demon Eye have an interesting style, sort of a mashup of ’70s classic hard rock/proto metal, a steep dose of the occult, and a heaping of traditional doom – all with a definite Black Sabbath influence. It all coalesces nicely on Prophecies and Lies, their third full-length.
The album has a definite old-school sound about it, with dry instruments and slightly echo-y vocals. It suits the style perfectly, and on an album gushing with riffs, the band rumbles through doomy anthems with aplomb. Often retro bands miss the mark when paying homage to the past, but Demon Eye nail it here with their best album yet.
The Ditch and the Delta – Hives in Decline (Prosthetic)
Hives in Decline is the first full-length album from Salt Lake City sludge band The Ditch and the Delta. This was put out by the band a few months back, but Prosthetic Records picked it up after signing them for the re-release.
Crafty guitar leads wrap through brash songs that stampede like a herd of raging cattle. When they get on a proper tear (the title track and “Mud”), it’s an engagement worth taking part in. As with many debut albums, a few songs shine above the rest, though there isn’t a downright awful one among the bunch.
Forged in Black – Sinner Sanctorum (Self)
Forged in Black bring that classic punch to the forefront. There is certainly an echoing of the old guard of heavy metal that includes the likes of Crimson Glory and Judas Priest. The music is a traditional style and whether it is heavy metal or doom is up for debate. For me, it certainly leaned towards straight heavy metal and this is a style that isn’t performed much these days.
The songs on Sinner Sanctorum stay on a fairly narrow path. There really isn’t anything overly original to be found here, but the music is so good that you won’t care. The riffs are straight out of the old school book of guitar licks. They make for a fun head-banging experience and capture the listener’s attention nicely.
Hands of Orlac/The Wandering Midget – Split (Cruz Del Sur)
I really like Hands Of Orlac, with unearthly, haunting vocals and flute. These elements are still at the core of the band’s sound, but the lackluster presentation here wanders between painfully dry to somewhat cloying. When you are blessed with an excellent, theatrical vocalist put them front and center of the song, the mix is almost fighting itself in many places. They deliver a mini-album in the truest sense, enjoyable and complete despite it’s twenty five minute running time.
The Wandering Midget offer a thunderous contrast, one fifteen minute song. “Where We March The Vultures Follow” opens with a soundscape reminiscent of a long forgotten sword and sorcery movie followed by battalions of magnificent metal riffs and anthemic vocals. Very powerful, it brings a post-doom true metal sound that i thoroughly enjoyed.
Helpless – Debt (Holy Roar)
There’s music that requires deep concentration and a heightened perspective, and then there’s Helpless’ Debt, a nasty debut album with a purpose to bludgeon a listener with a mix of grind, hardcore, and death metal. Its immediacy is due to the band’s hyper-charged tempos, which are packaged into miniature sonic pieces.
That is, with the exception of the bass-led closer “Denied Sale,” which goes twice as long as the typical song, avoiding speed for its own kind of dignified fury. Barely longer than the average EP, Debt is a stealthy kill, in and out without so much as a “hello.”
High Spirits – Escape (High Roller)
We here at Heavy Music Headquarters like High Spirits – a lot. Their September 2016 album Motivator was on our “Best of September” list last year, and we were excited to hear the band would be releasing a short EP, Escape, this month. And short it is, with four songs over in a span of fourteen minutes.
But as one might expect, Chris Black and friends pack a ton of traditional metal goodness into those minutes, with three high-energy gems capped off with “Lonely Nights,” a song based loosely on the riff from the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” It might be hard to find Escape, though, as it’s looking to be limited to 1,000 vinyl copies. But if you can get it, grab it!
Lynch Mob – The Brotherhood (Rat Pak)
2017 has been a busy and productive year for guitarist George Lynch. Earlier in 2017 the latest KXM album with Doug Pinnick (Kings X) and Ray Luzier (Korn) was released, and in November the second Sweet and Lynch record, his collaboration with Stryper’s Michael Sweet, will be unveiled. His long running Lynch Mob are also releasing a new record, The Brotherhood.
The current lineup includes Lynch, vocalist Oni Logan, bassist Sean McNabb (Quiet Riot, Great White) and drummer Jimmy D’Anda (Bulletboys). Logan has a great voice, Lynch is an outstanding axeman and the band plays bluesy hard rock that’s aggressive but also melodic. It has a classic vibe, but enough modern touches to avoid sounding retro.
Usnea – Portals Into Futility (Relapse)
Long instrumental passages that build immense anticipation and an occasional proggy melody pulsate through Usnea’s third album, Portals Into Futility. Though recorded over the course of a single week this past February, there’s no apparent urgency in the band’s morbid delivery. Any outburst of rage is a deliberate attack on their doom/sludge metal.
There are some monsters on here, creaking to existence with little room for maneuvering. However, the group finds a way to streamline their songwriting, while still composing a 20-minute behemoth that’s their longest to date. By doing this, Usnea avoids any instance of dragging the pace downward.