This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Black Soul Horde, Bonded, Delphian, Eyes Wide Open, Kill City, Mesarthim, Screaming Shadows, Show-Ya, Suffocation, The Unity, Unleashed, Vertebra Atlantis and Vomit The Soul.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Black Soul Horde – Horrors From The Void (Vinyl Store)
Horrors From The Void is the third album from Greek epic/traditional metal act Black Soul Horde. Last year’s Land Of Demise was a top-notch take on the style of metal perfected by bands like Grand Magus and Eternal Champion, and on their latest the trio attempt to take things up a notch.
If the name-drops above don’t snag you, how about this: Black Soul Horde deftly meld the anthemic aggression of Judas Priest with the melodic gallops of Iron Maiden, and in doing so craft an album that may not be the most original of the year, but is one of the catchiest and most enthusiastic of 2021’s trad metal releases.
Bonded – Into Blackness (Century Media)
International thrash supergroup Bonded return Into Blackness, their second album in two years. Composed of members from Suicidal Angels and more recent Sodom endeavors, you know exactly what kind of thrash metal that you are in for. This is particularly the case on “Watch (While The World Burns)” with catchy choruses and plenty of flash and flourish from some guys in the business who definitely know what they’re doing.
This is the kind of an album that will strike a chord with fans of Overkill and Exodus too, seeing as their brutality over technicality is on full display. Vocalist Ingo Bajonczak does a wonderfully gruff job with his vocal delivery, giving a Steve “Zetro” Souza and Chuck Billy type of performance, especially if you need that vocal explosion on repeat during “Lilith (Queen of Blood).” This is thrash for thrash’s sake, they don’t need a reason, just man the neck braces, Bonded will take care of the rest.
Brothers Jason and Matthew Williams are behind the formation of Delphian, bringing drummer Kevin Talley and former Decapitated bassist Martin Rygiel along with them on Somnambulant Foregoer. Matthew handles the vocals while Jason is the guitarist, and the four musicians together craft demanding progressive/technical death metal. These nine songs are anchored by Talley, whose performance is attention grabbing. It’s not that the rest of the instrumentation is forgettable, but Talley leaves the major impression on this album.
The album explodes right from the start and doesn’t let off the gas often. Closer “Dimensions Disassociated” spends its first minute at a moderate pace, but that breaks off into turmoil afterwards. Forty-seven minutes is a bit much to spend in this maddening environment, though some nifty guitar work in the middle portion of Somnambulant Foregoer keeps the album from falling apart.
Eyes Wide Open – Through Life And Death (Arising Empire)
The Swedish band Eyes Wide Open have been around for a decade now. Through Life And Death is their fourth full-length release.
Their music straddles the line between metalcore and melodic death metal. There are influences of classic Swedish melodeath bands such as In Flames blended with modern ‘core styles. The songs are melodic, with a combination of harsh vocals and singing. The ratio varies from track to track, with songs like “Burn ‘Em” featuring mostly singing while others have harsh vocals for the verses and melodic singing choruses. Eyes Wide Open inject some symphonic and electronic elements as well, helping add even more variety to the proceedings.
Kill City – Last Man Standing (Music)
Upon first listen, no one would blame you for wondering which European country Kill City hail from, but you’d be dead wrong. As it turns out, South Americans have a pretty good knack for melodic power metal as well. Screaming out of Ecuador comes Last Man Standing, and if Helloween is your thing, this soaring, operatic vocals and majestic guitar work will transport you right back to the late 1980s.
I do have a minor quibble. Despite the professionalism and obvious knack for this genre, incorporating more stylistic cues from their Latin American origin would help elevate this collection above the pack. There are hints of this on “Emepazar De Nuevo” and closer “Sigue La Voz,” where simply being sung in Spanish gives them a more unique feel. But still, it’s an excellent listen and it will be fun to see where they take it from here.
Mesarthim – CLG J02182–05102 (Avantgarde)
CLG J02182-05102 is a galaxy cluster that contains some 60 galaxies, located about 9.6 billion light-years away in the constellation of Cetus. Australian cosmic atmospheric black metal act Mesarthim have formed the main theme of their new album around it. At a glance, CLG quickly becomes another pleasant work of Mesarthim, yet a controversial one to some.
Unlike the past, when electronic music was only a part of the atmosphere, this time Mesarthim took a step further and put catchy electronic/trance melodies at the forefront of the structure of the songs, and they easily separate the listeners from the boundaries of black metal. Windir’s “Journey to the End” is always an unexpected and, of course, clever example of electronic and black metal fusion, and Mesarthim have followed that path more fervently in CLG, where you can dance to some parts of the album. However, at some points, the dense use of electronic music also distracts the sound texture of the album from the unity.
Screaming Shadows – Legacy Of Stone (From The Vaults)
Guitarist Francesco Marras joined Tygers Of Pan Tang in 2020. He has also reactivated the heavy/power metal band Screaming Shadows, which hadn’t released an album in a decade. Their fifth album Legacy Of Stone features a couple of new members, including vocalist Alessandro Marras.
It’s a melodic album, combining NWOBHM, traditional metal and power metal. Marras has a powerful and versatile voice, a strong additon to the band. There are plenty of guitar solos and quality riffs. Songs like “Heaven Or Hell” and “Lost Child” are catchy with singalong choruses. There’s not a lot of innovation, but the execution is flawless. When it comes to the songwriting, most are engaging, with minimal filler.
Show-Ya – Showdown (Metalville)
Show-Ya may not be a household name in North America, but the Japanese all-female band has been around since 1981 and are very well-known in their home country. em>Showdown is their latest album, and first since 2017.
Their music is traditional metal/hard rock, with guitars augmented by a fairly large dose of keyboards, including keyboard solos on tracks such as “Never” alongside guitar solos. The legendary Doro guests on “Heavy Metal Feminity,” one of the album highlights. There are a lot of catchy songs such as “Kiss In The Riot,” “Thunder” and the soaring ballad “Don’t Runaway.” If you’re a fan of traditional metal, Show-Ya are a band well worth exploring.
Suffocation – Live In North America (Nuclear Blast)
Live In North America marks the end of an era for U.S. death metal progenitors Suffocation. Frank Mullen’s impenetrable, guttural vocals have helped define the sub-genre, and after a period whereby he had to forgo much of the group’s touring schedule due to work commitments, in 2019 he formally retired from Suffocation. This release captures that final hurrah, recorded during his last North American tour.
Mullen certainly didn’t call it a day due to having lost a step – he’s still in top-class form here; ditto his taut band-mates. This collection serves as a pseudo-career overview, even if such a concept seems superfluous in the age of streaming playlists. More recent material is referenced, but in this instance, fans largely wanted to hear the classics from the group’s early-to-mid ’90s period. They get an earful of them, these tracks bustling with blast-beats, technical riffage and more slams than WrestleMania weekend.
Suffocation have reiterated that they plan to continue being an active band. Live In North America is a solid swansong for Mullen, who’s enthusiastic, hand-chopping presence will be missed.
The Unity – The Devil You Know – Live (SPV/Steamhammer)
The heavy/power metal band The Unity has members with current and former members of bands such as Gamma Ray, Avantasia, Primal Fear, Rampage, Love.Might.Kill and Odd Dimension. After releasing three studio albums, including last year’s Pride, they are issuing their first live album The Devil You Know – Live.
Rather than being from one show, the live tracks from this album are collected from shows between 2017 and 2020. Just one of the songs is from Pride, with the rest of the dozen tracks from their 2017 self-titled debut and 2018’s Rise. The songs are tight and mostly faithful renditions of the studio versions. Frontman Jan Manenti has a voice with power and range that is showcased throughout the album. Even after just three albums, there are plenty of quality songs to keep fans engaged for all of The Devil You Know – Live.
Unleashed – No Sign Of Life (Napalm)
30 years have passed since Unleashed released their debut album Where No Life Dwells. Sweden’s originators of Viking death metal once again march into battle with their 14th full-length No Sign Of Life, the fifth chapter of Johnny Hedlund’s Odalheim tale. The album doesn’t betray Unleashed’s style, but modernizes their sound.
No Sign Of Life launches forth with a very modern guitar part that comes unexpectedly. “Where Can You Flee” includes a trademark galloping riff. There aren’t enough of those on this album. The rhythms aren’t as catchy as its predecessor Dawn Of The Nine. With the exception of the title track and “Tyr Wields The Sword, ” the album lacks the ferocious speed Unleashed fans are used to. It’s built more around modern grooves and harmonies. No Sign Of Life is a bit of a grower, but the modernization and focus on groove leave a dull gloss on Valhalla’s golden halls.
Vertebra Atlantis – Lustral Purge In Cerulean Bliss (I, Voidhanger)
Vertebra Atlantis is the new project from musician G.G., who has released a pair of fantastic records as Cosmic Putrefaction over the last two years. Lustral Purge In Cerulean Bliss takes on a more blackened approach to death metal, using synths to put a psychedelic spell over the album. The boiling rage from G.G. and drummer R.R., who share vocal duties, comes across in nail biters like “Spiritual Onset” and “Saw Thee Quietly Inurned.”
It’s in the two longest tracks, “Altopiano Celeste” and “The Hermit Strums A Mournful Dirge,” where the band’s experimental tastes come to fruition. The former is a stellar instrumental with a churning drive, and the latter keeps vocals to a minimum, emphasizing ambiance based around poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Duino Elegies.” The depth to Lustral Purge In Cerulean Bliss is not outright revealed, as it is hidden behind a brittle exterior.
Vomit The Soul – Cold (Unique Leader)
There are a surprising number of metal bands with the word “Vomit” in their name (over 170), mostly in the more extreme genres. The Italian brutal death group Vomit The Soul formed in 2000, released a couple albums and then split. After a decade’s absence, the trio has returned with two original members.
Cold is brutal and aggressive, but they incorporate plenty of groove into the mix. Vomit The Soul bring technical elements along with more chaotic sections. Shifting tempos also brings added diversity to the record. The vocals are hard to decipher death metal gurgles and growls. The songwriting is compelling, with interesting riffs and frequent shifts between extremity, technicality and groove. Cold is a welcome return that brutal death fans can embrace.