This week’s reviews include releases from The Crown, Deconstructing Sequence, Earthless, Godthrymm, Myrkraverk, On Thorns I Lay, Paradise Lost, Rivers Of Nihil, Susperia and Therion.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
The Crown – Cobra Speed Venom (Metal Blade)
The last album from veteran Swedish crushers The Crown (2015’s Death Is Not Dead) featured the return of vocalist Johan Lindstrand and received mixed response. They bounce back with Cobra Speed Venom.
It’s appropriate that the word speed is in the title, because The Crown put the pedal to the floor for much of the album. Bludgeoning drums (courtesy of new drummer Henrik Axelsson) and razor sharp death metal riffs are augmented by thrashy solos on blazing tracks such as “Iron Crown,” the title track and “Necrohammer.” They ease up periodically into a more moderate pace on songs such as “We Avenge,” which helps add variety. It’s a compelling combination of old school chops infused with some contemporary extremity.
Deconstructing Sequence – Cosmic Progression… (Via Nocturna)
Space is the frontier Deconstructing Sequence look to cross into on their debut album Cosmic Progression: An Agonizing Journey Through Oddities Of Space. After two EPs of sci-fi death metal, this album continues to explore the sky above in the aftermath of this planet’s annihilation. Told through a mixture of spoken word communications, growls and computerized messages, the band have the concept firmly in place.
Their songs have an avant-garde motion to them, bouncing through industrial and electronic ideas with a schizo perspective that can be hard to hold down. With song lengths exceeding six minutes a regular occurrence, Deconstructing Sequence make the listener put in the work to enjoy their outer space escapades.
Earthless – Black Heaven (Nuclear Blast)
The California psychedelic trio Earthless have been known as a mostly instrumental band over their first four albums. That changes on their latest release, Black Heaven. Only two of the six tracks are instrumentals, and one of those is under two minutes long.
Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell handles the vocals, and does it well. He has a soulful voice with plenty of power and versatility. After the rousing opener “Gifted By The Wind,” things get a bit trippier on “End To End” before it kicks in about halfway through. The two instrumentals are back to back, with the brief “Volt Rush” leading into the epic title track, that’s nearly 9 minutes of fuzzy, groovy goodness. The deliberately paced “Sudden End” closes the proceedings. Earthless have found a good balance of their trademark spacey instrumentals and traditional songs that still feature plenty of instrumental sections.
Godthrymm – A Grand Reclamation (Transcending)
The British doom group Godthrymm are a new band, but their members are very experienced. The lineup includes vocalist/guitarist Hamish Glencross (Vallenfyre, ex-My Dying Bride) guitarist Chaz Netherwood (ex-Solstice), bassist Rich Mumford (Malediction) and drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels (My Dying Bride). A Grand Reclamation is their debut EP.
The four tracks blend epic doom with thick, dense riffs along with mellow, airier sections. They vary the tempos as well, from plodding to groovy. Glencross’ vocal style is very dramatic, sometimes crossing the line into melodramatic. There are three proper songs, clocking in between 7 and 8 minutes along with a closing acoustic instrumental. It will be interesting to see if this is a one-off, or turns into a more permanent arrangement.
Myrkraverk – Naer Døden (Blut & Eisen)
The Norwegian black metal duo Myrkraverk released EPs in 2009 and 2011, and now emerge with their full-length debut album Naer Døden. Handling vocals and all instruments except drums is Infamroth, a veteran of numerous other bands including Throne Of Katarsis.
The album is old school black metal, cold and icy with regal midtempo tracks, dense traditional black metal songs and surprising moments like the acoustic based “Natasatan.” They also lined up some impressive guest vocalists including Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto, Enslaved’s Grutle Kjellson and Taake/Gorgoroth’s Hoest. It gives even more black metal credibility to a release that had plenty to begin with.
On Thorns I Lay – Aegean Sorrow (Alone)
Aegean Sorrow, the eighth album from Greek veterans On Thorns I Lay, is very depressing and sorrowful in nature. It tears at the heartstrings and provides a nice background that has a gloomy atmosphere. The music is similar in nature to My Dying Bride, although it doesn’t feature violins so prominently. It also has a Draconian vibe to it. This leads to music that is built upon the despondent nature of the guitar riff, used along with keyboards to craft this gloomy aura.
The tunes here are so downtrodden that you’ll feel the pain of the music. Aegean Sorrow is still a very tender release and features a welcoming vibe, dense and atmospheric, but it still could be even more interesting with the use of further instruments. The somewhat one dimensional aspect of the band is a small flaw as you will be absorbed by the beauty of these tracks.
Paradise Lost – Host (Nuclear Blast)
“From Host through to Believe in Nothing, we didn’t really kind of know where we were going. We were really in a dilemma.” This quote from Nick Holmes clearly explains Paradise Lost’s situation at that time of their career, when one of the pioneers of gothic/death doom metal controversially went electronic.
But, by giving it a proper shot and looking deep into it, Host (originally released in 1999) comes out as it is as somber and tenebrous as Paradise Lost’s previous albums which are more pleasant to metal fans. But Host’s multiple layers of keyboards, string arrangements and programming along with Holmes’ all melodic, bleak vocals offer a thoughtful, deep, Kraftwerk/Depeche Mode mash up which sounds like the band somehow successfully reinvented their music for a short period of time. The reissued version has been remastered, with the album being pressed on vinyl for the first time.
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade)
It’s a thrill when you can witness a metal band actually progress in real time, album to album, as Rivers of Nihil have done over the course of their first two. Their third album, Where Owls Know My Name, is a marvel, their expertly-crafted tech death a branching point into everything from jazz to electronic.
It all fits into the band’s vision for this album, an ode to the season of fall, which they serve as a reawakening of what once was. There are risks taken—saxophones and distorted melodic vocals a la Cynic used on several songs—and all seek to stamp Rivers of Nihil as a daring group evolving the way they want to.
Susperia – The Lyricist (Agonia)
After a nine year span between albums, the Norwegian band Susperia are back with a new record, The Lyricist, and a new vocalist, Bernt “Dagon” Fjellestad. The rest of the lineup, who have been in bands ranging from Dimmu Borgir to Old Man’s Child, return.
The songs have plenty of melody, but also hearken back to their black metal roots. They infuse thrash elements into the uptempo tracks, which are augmented by black metal atmosphere. Dagon has an expressive melodic voice that also has ample power. Harsh vocals are sprinkled in as well, giving edge and aggression to the proceedings. It’s an interesting combination of traditional melodic metal and ominous blackened thrash.
Therion – Blood Of The Dragon (Stygian Crypt)
Symphonic metal maestros Therion recently released the three hour rock opera Beloved Antichrist. Now comes a two disc compilation Blood Of The Dragon. It’s an interesting concept with the first disc being cover songs Therion have done over the years and the second disc is bands covering Therion songs.
There are some interesting cover songs that Therion have recorded, including Metallica’s “Fight Fire With Fire,” Thin Lizzy’s “Southbound,” Mercyful Fate’s “Black Funeral” (with guest Messiah Marcolin of Candlemass) and Judas Priest’s “The Green Manalishi.” The second disc has 16 tracks, a mixed bag of known and unknown bands with their renditions of Therion songs. Mare Infinitum, Theosophy and Frozen Ocean are some of the artists participating. A cover and tribute album in one package is a unique idea, though the covers are more compelling.