This week’s reviews include releases from Atoll, Black Sabbath, The Body, Conan, Death Toll 80k, Destruction, Full Of Hell, Godflesh, Lady Beast, The Obsession, Sacred Shrines, Skillet, Sweet & Lynch, Tarja, Tyfon’s Doom and Wolf Counsel.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Atoll – Fallout Frenzy (Gore House)
Getting straight to the point: Phoenix-based slam unit Atoll are not reinventing the brutal death metal paradigm. Their second full-length record, Fallout Frenzy, doesn’t seek crazy time signatures or utilize some esoteric narrative; the record consists of 10 tracks of modern brutality, bulked up and pissed off and heavier than a radioactive rhinoceros.
The sextet deliver the goods in the swollen vein of Abominable Putridity or Devourment, relying on a punishing mid-paced tempo, effectively ugly solos, and a burly-meets-demonic vocal assault. Synonymy occurs, but impressive tracks like “Global Wyrming,” “The Dripping Dead,” and “Full Gruntal Nudity” proffer moments that suggest that Atoll may be turning a gore-splattered corner.
Black Sabbath – The End (Eagle Vision)
In February of this year, Black Sabbath played a farewell show in their hometown of Birmingham, England. That was captured for The End. There are different configurations available, including a double CD, Blu-ray/DVD and a deluxe box set.
The setlist includes their trademark songs like “War Pigs,” “Snowblind,” “Black Sabbath,” “Iron Man” and show closer “Iron Man.” There are no songs from their last album, 2013’s 13. It’s an emotional performance from metal’s founding fathers, and whether or not it really is The End remains to be seen. The absence of Bill Ward is a shame, though Tommy Clufetos does a fine job on drums. The DVD editions also include a bonus CD called The Angelic Sessions, which are five songs recorded in the studio after the farewell show that were not included in the concert. They include “Sweet Leaf” and “Changes,” among others.
The Body and Full Of Hell – Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light (Thrill Jockey)
After last year’s One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, The Body and Full Of Hell join forces once again for Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light.
The two combine electronica and noise with industrial and even hip-hop elements. Sometimes it’s chaotic and disjointed like on “Our Love Conducted With Shields Aloft,” other times groovy and almost danceable, such as “Master’s Story.” Electronics are much more front and center this time around, with metal elements still there, but pushed into the background. It’s an unusual and experimental album, and a collaboration that has been interesting and effective.
Conan – Man Is Myth: Early Demos (Napalm)
Man Is Myth: Early Demos looks back to Liverpool, England’s cavemen doom bringers Conan, unearthing earlier versions of some of the band’s famous works, which were recorded from 2006 to 2012. While you can listen to two alternate takes of “Satsumo” or a shorter version of “Gravity Chasm” before it turned to an eight minute song, you can feel the atmosphere around the band’s jamming in their rehearsal room.
Man is Myth doesn’t offer fresh things, mostly dealing with the band’s known stuff but it is more distorted and rawer which transcends the band’s unique heavy tunes. On the brighter side, the epic “Domed Iron Boss” comes up as the previously unreleased song which will definitely please Conan fans.
Death Toll 80K – Step Down (Svart)
As a band, what do you do when it’s been six years since your last album? If the answer is “Release an album shorter than your last one by almost ten minutes,” then you might be a grindcore band. Death Toll 80K are one such band, and Step Down is one such album.
In what would constitute as an EP in most genres, Step Down is a series of battering jams equipped with murky death metal vibes that could only come from a band residing in Finland. Its hard to mess up a good grind song, but it’s even harder to do that 17 times in a row, as Death Toll 80K do on Step Down.
Destruction – Thrash Anthem II (Nuclear Blast)
Ten years after the first installment, Teutonic titans Destruction have re-recorded another batch of classic tracks for Thrash Anthems II. Funded through PledgeMusic and released to backers this summer, fans had a voice in picking which songs would be included on the album, which has no repeats from Thrash Anthems.
Revisiting songs from three decades ago is a double-edged sword. While the band’s technical chops are far superior today, the rawness of the originals was part of their charm. But on songs like “The Ritual” from Infernal Overkill and “United By Hatred” from Eternal Devastation they retain the edginess. The album closes with a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ punk classic “Holidays In Cambodia.” Though not essential, it’s an interesting collection of one of thrash’s pioneers going back to their roots.
Godflesh – Post Self (Avalanche)
After an extended hiatus, industrial metal pioneers Godflesh returned with a new album A World Lit Only By Fire in 2014. The duo of Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green follow that up with Post Self.
As the title suggests, there are some “post” influences in the album. They draw from early industrial and post punk styles, but infuse metal into the equation as well. Droning beats are topped with interesting guitar riffs on tracks like “No Body,” while songs like “Mirror Of Finite Light” inject Joy Division influences into the mix. Godflesh are able to masterfully blend cold and clinical industrial with warmer and emotional electronica and rock to create a wide ranging and vibrant musical palette.
Lady Beast – Vicious Breed (Cruz Del Sur)
Vicious Breed is the second album from American East Coast outfit Lady Beast. This is traditional metal in the vein of early Iron Maiden, with twin guitars, galloping anthems, and intricate riffing – all capped off with the powerful vocals of Deborah Levine.
The band doesn’t do anything to break molds, but they churn through their ’80s-inspired songs with talent and conviction. There are a few missteps along the way, but anthems such as “The Way” and “Lone Hunter” are absolute rockers, sure to please any fans of NWOBHM, and “Every Giant Shall Fall” could be taken straight off of Iron Maiden’s Killers album.
The Obsessed – The Obsessed (Relapse)
Proto metal progenitors The Obsessed dropped Sacred on us earlier this year, an excellent comeback album that hinted at their low-fi, rumbling past. Now Relapse is reissuing their self-titled debut album, along with a plethora of other goodies all adding up to nearly two dozen tracks.
The album itself is essential for any curator of doom or proto metal. Songs like “Tombstone Highway” and “Red Disaster” are underground classics, and Wino’s vocals are in fine form. The extras are sonic disasters, sounding like worn-out cassettes played through a telephone at times, but completists will love the 1984 Concrete Cancer demo (this actually was a cassette) as well as the 1985 concert recording.
Sacred Shrines – Come Down From The Mountain (Rogue Wave)
Sacred Shrines, from Brisbane, perform a psychedelic form of rock. There is a strong groove associated with these tracks. This leads to an album that has the right amount of gyrations to make an impression upon the listener. The tunes here are certainly soulful and contain the right amount of energy to bring the house down. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of a pulse to make them even more entertaining.
They are stuck in a rut of being moderately enjoyable rock tunes. There isn’t enough impact to be fully immersed in the songs, though it did resonate strongly with me. There is still enough enjoyment to be had from these songs as they rollick along at a nice pace. The psychedelic aspect adds to the overall enjoyment to be had here as it makes the songs fuzzier in a positive kind of way.
Skillet – Unleashed Beyond (Atlantic)
When it was released last year, Skillet‘s Unleashed rocked to number three on the album chart and spawned six singles, including the chart-topping “Feel Invincible.” Unleashed Beyond includes the original album plus eight additional tracks.
There are some excellent previously unreleased songs such as “Breaking Free” that features ex-Flyleaf vocalist Lacey Sturm and the uplifting “Brave.” There are also a couple of remixes, including a slowed down “Feel Invincible” and the version of “Stars” that’s in the movie The Shack. With so much quality new material it’s a worthwhile acquisition for Skillet fans, even if you already have the original edition of the album.
Sweet & Lynch – Unified (Frontiers)
Unified is the second album from Stryper frontman Michael Sweet and Lynch Mob/ex-Dokken axeman George Lynch. Their lineup is rounded out by fellow veteran rock musicians James Lomenzo (ex-White Lion, ex-Megadeth) and Brian Tichy (ex-Whitesnake).
The album follows closely in the footsteps of their debut, featuring hard charging rockers with soaring hooks, Sweet’s powerful vocals and plenty of guitar wizardry from Lynch. There’s ample variety, with arena rockers tempered by more intimate tracks, and the requisite ballad “Bridge Of Broken Lies.” With so many one off “supergroup” projects, it’s nice to see Sweet & Lynch back for round two, further developing their chemistry and delivering another album fans of ’80s rock can sink their teeth into.
Tarja – From Spirits And Ghosts (earMusic)
Christmas season is quickly approaching, what some describe as “the most wonderful time of the year.” Holiday music is usually peppy and upbeat, but Tarja Turunen takes a different approach on From Spirits And Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas).
Tarja takes classic Christmas songs and gives them a darker and more gothic vibe. It’s interesting to hear festive tracks like “Deck The Halls” and “Feliz Navidad” turned into a slow and slightly ominous dirges. Other songs like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” keep the original sentiment and stay pretty true to the traditional arrangement as well. Tarja has written one original track, “Together,” which fits alongside the other songs very well. The songs are very well arranged with a cinematic atmosphere and Tarja’s voice is mesmerizing, and if you like your Christmas songs on the gothic and morose side, this will fit the bill perfectly.
Tyfon’s Doom – Emperor’s Path (Gates of Hell)
Tyfon’s Doom’s full-length debut album Emperor’s Path has guitar solos. A lot of guitar solos. Every song starts with one, or ends with one, or has one going throughout an entire song (as is the case with the “Strange Aeons” interlude), all of which are designed for the air guitar hero in all of us.
Of course there are riffs and vocals and percussion and verses and choruses and other musical elements, and they are all fine, but it’s the solos that will catch a listener’s ear. Nothing wrong with a heavy metal record in 2017 that knows what it’s good at, and loads as much of it into an album as possible.
Wolf Counsel – Age Of Madness/Reign Of Chaos (Czar Of Bullets)
Zurich’s Wolf Counsel bring us their next chapter and it is heavy. It has all the trappings of the old time doom sound, but collects a nicely varied collection of songs together, showing real growth from last years Ironclad. The very dry monotone mix works against them for much of the album, but the songs shine through despite this.
“WolvenEarth” is a fabulous opener. The slow crawling beast with a haunting vocal is possibly the most appealing song on the album, it comes on like if Down were jamming with All About Eve, maybe. Their songwriting has become stronger and more confident from album to album so far, but, he most exciting part of Wolf Counsel’s latest offering is the prospect of what they do next. Age of Madness/ Reign of Chaos is a very good album, hopefully they can blow us all away next time.