This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters reviews include releases from Abraham, Advent Of Bedlam, Bad Wolves, Chrch, Dead Cross, Death Wheelers, Doomsday Outlaw, Follow The Cipher, Hegemone, Lords Of Black, Parkway Drive, Professor Black, Reverorum ib Malacht, Skinless, Wolves In The Throne Room and Zarraza.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Abraham – Look, Here Comes The Dark! (Pelagic)
On Look, Here Comes the Dark!, Lausanne, Switzerland’s Abraham begs you to rest yourself on craggy rocks and listen to the demons cry out from their dusty graves. It’s an album whose sound is closer to October Falls and Cult of Luna yet forges its own identity with explosions of sparks in a forge east of sludge on the other side of the shop where epics are crafted.
The album is the thunder of four factories determined to manufacture the indifferent end of life on earth. It is a conceptual cycle in four parts that bolts the boilerplate of nihilistic observation with crushing layers of melodic post metal. Psychedelic, hypnotic, expansive and in a track such as “Silent at Last,” Look, Here Comes the Dark! assumes its place among my albums of the year.
Advent of Bedlam – Human Portal Phenomenon (Horror Pain Gore Death)
Doing their best to emulate the diversity of their native rain forests, Costa Rica’s Advent of Bedlam offer up some seriously off-kilter and hard-hitting black/death metal with Human Portal Phenomenon, their third full-length record and their first in six years. It’s a furious and volatile potpourri, sometimes straight black, sometimes straight death, other times both, but always handled with care.
The black-death dynamic is on full display with searing tremolo riffing and dense surging chugs, while blasting snares share the stage with punishing double bass runs, guttural roars, and banshee-like screams. The atmosphere is dark and the pace unrelenting, but the band’s balancing act of discordancy and melody, in addition to the weirdo riffs and prominent bass-play, help elevate Human Portal Phenomenon high above the canopy.
Bad Wolves – Disobey (Eleven Seven)
Bad Wolves are a new band made up of veteran musicians. Their lineup includes vocalist Tommy Vext (Divine Heresy, Snot), guitarists Doc Coyle (ex-God Forbid) and Chris Cain (Bury Your Dead), bassist Kyle Konkiel (ex-In This Moment) and drummer John Boecklin (ex-DevilDriver).
Their full-length debut Disobey is a groove-laden album with plenty of heavy riffs and intensity on songs like the opener “Officer Down” and “Better The Devil” balanced with accessible hooks and melodies on radio friendly tracks such as “Remember When” and the ballad “Hear Me Now.” Elements of metalcore and a dash of prog mix with slick hard rock to add some variety. The combination of mass appeal radio songs and harder edged tracks should garner them a wide audience. The album includes a cover of “Zombie” by the Cranberries, whose singer Delores O’Riordan tragically died the day she was going to record vocals for this version.
Chrch – Light Will Consume Us All (Neurot)
Whether the light that will consume us, mentioned in the album title to Chrch’s second album, means a peaceful end or a blinding horror, the three gigantic songs makes the answer unclear. As an example, there’s the alluring vocals of Eva Rose against the sustainable weight each riff amasses behind it.
That sort of contrast is what gives Chrch their multifaceted musical identity. Songs that go 15 or 20 minutes need this in order to maintain attention, and the band is able to do so with genuine consistency. The death metal twist to closer “Aether” is another way Chrch keep the surprise factor around to the end.
Dead Cross – Dead Cross (Ipecac)
The album promotion process has changed significantly since the advent of social media. Months before an album is released, there are in-studio videos, multiple singles, lyric videos, videos and other types of promotion. Many artists have been rebelling against that norm in 2018, issuing “surprise” albums with no pre-promotion. The latest to do that are Dead Cross, issuing a self-titled four track EP.
It’s really a single, clocking in at just 13 minutes. Two of the songs are new, the other two remixes of tracks from last year’s full-length. Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo and company deliver catchy hardcore on “Skin Of A Redneck” while “My Perfect Prisoner” is heavier with more of a metal punk flavor. The other two tracks, as you’d expect being remixes, are heavily electronic. Dead Cross fans will be more than happy to spend the three bucks on this release.
The Death Wheelers – I Tread On Your Grave (RidingEasy)
I Tread On Your Grave is the debut album from down-and-dirty Canadian rockers The Death Wheelers. Ostensibly a soundtrack to an unreleased bikesploitation movie like those from the ’60s and ’70s (The Born Losers, The Wild Angels, etc), the album features eleven instrumental tracks, one of which is a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.”
Musically these guys have hit the nail on the head, delivering rowdy, sloppy garage-band proto metal that would be perfect for these kinds of movies. A lot of the songs feature corny spoken-word intros that are either pulled from old movies, or sound like they are. However, the ten original tracks here all start sounding the same, leaving us with an album that’s an interesting first listen but doesn’t a lot of staying power.
Doomsday Outlaw – Hard Times (Frontiers)
After their independently released 2016 debut drew a lot of accolades, the British hard rock band Doomsday Outlaw were snapped up by Frontiers Records. Hard Times is their sophomore release.
They play catchy, blues-tinged hard rock that’s straightforward and melodic. Frontman Phil Poole has a powerful set of pipes, with a little bit of Myles Kennedy influence. He sings with a lot of emotion and texture, and can also belt it out. Songs like “Over And Over” and “Bring It On Home” have both memorable riffs and melodies along with a singalong chorus while the ballad “Into The Light” shows a different side of the band. Doomsday Outlaw have the chops and the songs to appeal to hard rock fans.
Follow the Cipher – Follow the Cipher (Nuclear Blast)
Ken Kängström has been writing songs for Sabaton for a number of years now, but in 2014 decided to kick off his own project. Thus the Swedish power metal band Follow the Cipher was born. Featuring Kängström on guitar and Linda Toni Grahn on vocals, this is their debut album.
Musically, Follow the Cipher come across as your typical Euro-power band: upbeat, uptempo songs with plenty of keyboard flair and bigger-than-life guitar work. There’s also a cover of Sabaton’s “Carolus Rex.” Grahn’s vocals have a much more hard rock style to them rather than the usual operatic standards of female power metal vocalists, which is a refreshing change. Overall, though, the songs on Follow the Cipher don’t really offer anything new or compelling for the genre.
Hegemone – We Disappear (Debemur Morti)
We Disappear is the sophomore album from Polish quartet Hegemone, who double down on the churning, sludgy black metal of their Luminosity debut. A full-time keyboardist offers brooding atmospheric touches, though not by diminishing the outright force these songs dish out.
It’s not just force that drives this music, but also aspirations for grander sounds within the tempos and melody. The effort is there, though execution is lacking, with songs that don’t make the most of their excessive lengths. It’s no coincidence that the quality material on We Disappear comes from the instances of tighter compositions.
Lords of Black – Icons of the New Black (Frontiers)
The Spanish band Lords of Black perform a very distinctive form of power metal on Icons Of The New Days, their third full length album. Singer Ronnie Romero has performed with Rainbow as well and it shows nicely on this disc. This is very streamlined music that has an ear for melody. Lords Of Black have a bravado that is infectious and nice to hear. Their music has an uplifting feeling that is very welcoming and easy to absorb, making for an exciting listen that still has a lot of emotion. That brings the album up a notch from the norm.
The tunes here are addictive and have the right amount of atmosphere present. The music is somewhat unoriginal and has been done by other bands, but not necessarily much better than this. Primal Fear are a band that performs similar material and is at least as good as this, for example. Still, this album has a potency that is vibrant and full of life. It has just the right degree of power metal wrapped up in a traditional metal package. It comes recommended to fans of those genres.
Parkway Drive – Reverence (Epitaph)
15 years into their career, the Australian metalcore band Parkway Drive are coming off their most commercially successful album. Ire topped the chart in their home country, landed at number 29 in the U.S. and cracked the top 20 in several other countries. They try to keep the momentum going with Reverence, their sixth full-length.
The album starts with a Five Finger Death Punch-esque spoken word part before the metalcore kicks in. “Wishing Well’s” catchy melodies are contrasted by Winston McCall’s harsh vocal style. There are melodic vocals as well, such as on “Prey” and “Shadow Boxing.” The spoken word vocals return on the subdued “Cemetery Bloom,” which adds diversity to the proceedings. “Chronos” is their longest song to-date (6:20), but with beefy riffs and plenty of melody it doesn’t drag. The closer “The Colour Of Leaving” is melancholy and mellow with all melodic singing and an ending spoken word monologue. This is Parkway Drive’s most mature album with a lot of different styles on display, but fans may find the softer and more accessible tracks polarizing.
Professor Black – You Bastard! (Ektro)
Professor Black is no stranger to the metal scene. His role in the highly regarded bands Dawnbringer and High Spirits has earned him many accolades. For the first time he has released an EP under his own moniker, You Bastard!.
Filled with the same energy and memorable melodies as his previous bands, the songs are centered on no frills rock and roll with incredible vocal hooks. His range isn’t that large but his vocals are one of a kind, which makes him instantly identifiable. All six songs create a perfect blend of arena rock, punk and metal that continues to show Black’s pension for crafting a brilliant song.
Reverorum ib Malacht – Im Ra Distare Summum Soveris Seris Vas Innoble (Annapurna)
Less than a year after their previous album, the Swedish black metal band Reverorum ib Malacht return with Im Ra Distare Summum Soveris Seris Vas Innoble, their fourth album.
Musically, Reverorum ib Malacht play an ambient style of black metal with extended instrumental sections. It’s dense and extreme in parts, while also injecting regal and more subdued sections in songs such as “Cloud Of Unknowing” and the instrumental “E va um da.” They describe themselves as the sole practitioners of Roman Catholic black metal, tackling theological and liturgical subjects. It’s an enigmatic album not easily absorbed that won’t be every black metal fan’s cup of tea, but those willing to explore may find an unexpected reward.
Skinless – Savagery (Relapse)
Long running brutal death metal machine Skinless return with their first album in three years, Savagery. While their previous album Only the Ruthless Remain was a fairly uneven affair; Savagery makes up for this by hitting the ground running and bludgeoning all in its path for its duration, which also includes a stellar cover of Crowbar’s “High Rate Extinction.”
The album’s title track sets the tone that you get throughout the album: muddied riffs, psychotic screams from beyond and drums that absolutely sound like they will explode if they keep progressing at that rate. Brutal death metal is a genre known for being technical, however not overtly so, Skinless do this in their guitar solos, which break up the meat and potatoes death metal and offer some flash within this aural muck. A solid death metal album and a really fun affair overall, Savagery is for all death metal fans.
Wolves In The Throne Room – Live At Roadburn 2008 (Roadburn)
Nathan Weaver asks, “Can you turn lights down more?” which is how Wolves in the Throne Room started their nearly hour long set at Roadburn festival in 2008. It’s also the way WITTR’s music opens the door to more charming, electrifying effective meanings. A decade after it was recorded, Live At Roadburn 2008 is being reissued.
With four songs mostly chosen from their first two records, WITTR have offered a stunning performance at one of the world’s finest music festivals, with gigantic walls of sounds and mesmerizing atmospheres which stand way more forward than the sound of their studio albums. Undoubtedly WITTR’s Live at Roadburn 2008 can be marked as the band’s successful step in making a strong statement to their outstanding music.
Zarraza – Necroshiva (Self)
The first place one would try to seek out a promising new thrash metal band would probably not be the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, yet that’s where Zarraza’s Necroshiva originates. In a country with limited metal bands (Metal Archives has the number somewhere around 45), Zarraza break through with the twisted groove they bring to their thrash.
Songs like “Shadows” and “More Than Hate” are driven ahead by scorching riffs that evoke bands generations removed from Zarraza. There’s clear inspiration behind these songs, and though they don’t break through with a defining anthemic track, Necroshiva leaves possibilities that transcends their humble roots.