This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aethyrick, Ancient Settlers, Bhleg, Centinex, Evil Invaders, Eunoia, Incandescence, I Klatus, The Long Hunt, Lords Of The Trident, Misfire, Satan and Violet Blend.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aethyrick – Pilgrimage (The Sinister Flame)
The release of three studio albums in less than four years shows how Finnish black metal act Aethyrick have been prolific over the last few years. After their 2021 acclaimed album Apotheosis, Aethyrick have managed to complete their evil musical stronghold with their latest album Pilgrimage. But is this effort as successful as the previous ones?
In a quick answer is yes, Pilgrimage can be considered a successful album. But compared to what Aethyrick have done previously, it is a kind of a setback. Pilgrimage is more like a collection of previous albums’ leftovers. Yet even if Aethyrick were devoid of new ideas for their new album, it is still full of moments that keep it in the cycle of the band’s notable works. The subcutaneous sound of keyboards gives illusions and depth to the substructure of the songs, which is a big contributor to the album. Aethyrick win once again in maintaining their mysterious appearance, and for now, this is enough for them until the release of their next work.
Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse (Crusader)
If one was to judge Ancient Settlers’ Our Last Eclipse based on its first half, you would discover energetic melodic death metal that uses synths to bulk up the atmosphere. That would be fine enough to sputter out an adequate album, but the band clearly has higher achievements to reach for. Though they return to the melodeath sound on several other songs, only closer “Peregrination” fully goes all-in on it. Even then, its elongated outro is total 1980’s gothic/new wave.
The synths and electronics play a role throughout the album, giving off darkwave mannerisms on “Silent December” and “Memories.” It’s one of the ways Ancient Settlers subvert what they are expected to do. Same goes for the expanding song lengths, as it’s not unusual to them to go six and seven minutes without fanfare. Our Last Eclipse is a lively debut album from a group expanding the guidelines for what melodic death metal can be.
Bhleg – Fäghring (Nordvis)
A little over a year after issuing Ohdin, Bhleg return with their fourth full-length, Fäghring. It features instruments not typically heard on a metal album such as lyre, hurdy-gurdy, bullroarer and birch trumpet.
Though they incorporate those folk influences, Bhleg are a black metal band with icy riffs and harsh vocals. Their songs are lengthy, with three exceeding the 10 minute mark. On tracks like “Grönskande Gryning” they alternate intense black metal with folk sections, giving it an interesting ebb and flow. “Solvigd” is the outlier, a sparse and mellow track with ethereal female vocals. The chirping birds featured in the intro of several tracks gets old quickly, but overall it’s a wide ranging and compelling blend of black and folk metal.
Centinex – The Pestilence (Agonia)
When Chris Barnes opens his mouth about new death metal, he’s often right about many of the new bands. Often they are lesser imposters to the grand architects. Then there are the grand architects. Centinex are definitely an important band in the storied history of Swedish death metal. Now, the group return to their roots with an 4-song MLP The Pestilence.
Calling the album an MLP is an ode to the old school. The band said this was what everyone called mini-albums in the ‘80s, instead of calling it an EP. The album represents their current approach, but was heavily inspired by German thrash. There are a lot of great riffs on the record. From the tasty grooves of “Tremble in Fear” to the Sodom-like thrash that initiates “Armageddon,” complete with a furious drum attack. Centinex have solidified their own sound over the last thirty-plus-year history. The Pestilence is another solid addition to their discography.
Eunoia – Psyop Of The Year (Nefarious)
The disjointed nature of Eunoia’s debut album Psyop Of The Year is one of their endearing qualities, as well as one of their messier. They are able to be abrasive without being incomprehensible, though it may take a few songs before that is apparent. They go to the extreme with untamed pacing, barreling from grind to a tornado of percussion beats, all anchored by confrontational vocals.
The middle of the album holds a solid melodic center, where the noise is toned down slightly. Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t last as they lean into a blackened style at the end of the album, bringing the disorder back. Eunoia’s unconventional behavior on Psyop Of The Year isn’t for those wanting something safe or easy to get into.
Evil Invaders – Shattering Reflection (Napalm)
Five years have passed since the Belgian thrash/speed metal band Evil Invaders released a studio album, though they issued a live release in 2019. Shattering Reflection is their third full-length.
While there’s plenty of ’80s style thrash inspired by bands such as Slayer (“Sledgehammer Justice”), Shattering Reflection is more dynamic than Evil Invaders’ prior work. That gives songs like “Hissing In Crescendo” and “In Deepest Black” more depth and variety. Frontman Joe doesn’t sound like the typical thrash vocalist, with a traditional/power metal voice that has a lot of range, also giving the band a more distinctive sound. Shattering Reflection finds the band still paying homage to their influences, but establishing much more of their own style.
Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme (Profound Lore)
The Canadian duo Incandescence consists of vocalist Louis-Paul Gauvreau (The Unconscious Mind) and multi-instrumentalist Philippe Boucher. While Boucher is a member of death metal bands including Beyond Creation and Chthe’list, Incandescence are a black metal band.
The title of their fourth album Le Coeur De L’Homme translates to “The Heart Of Man.” Their brand of black metal follows the traditional template, but Incandescence write songs with wide emotional arcs. There are moments of beauty, sorrow and melody countered by brutality, anger and extremity. Those texture differences coupled with shifts in tempo make Le Coeur De L’Homme a varied listen that maintains interest from start to finish.
I Klatus – Targeted (Dead Sage)
With their lineup also part of bands such as Lair Of The Minotaur, Bury The Machines and Serpent Crown, the Chicago trio I Klatus tend to take several years between releases. Their fifth album Targeted comes five years after Nagual Sun.
I Klatus don’t play typical sludge/doom. While they incorporate downtuned riffs and deliberate tempos, there’s also a lot of atmosphere and some surprising forays. That’s evident on opener “Solstice Of Wind” that features Helen Money on cello and guest vocals from Valentina Levchenko. Synths are front and center on “Dance With The Skulls In Church” while the closing title track moves back and forth from mellowness to extremity. I Klatus accomplish a lot in just five songs clocking in at under 30 minutes.
Threshold Wanderer, the second full-length from the Pittsburgh trio The Long Hunt is an interesting instrumental endeavor. It has an enormous riffing vibe to it which leads to a consistent collection of songs that rarely miss the mark. The powerful guitar riffs draw it along a nice pace, rarely faltering as the heroic vibe rings it ever forward.
There are some lulls to the songs that holds them up slightly, especially when it comes to pacing. Still, the instrumental sections are interesting enough to make everything even out in the long run. The whole endeavor carries a nice amount of weight to it. It has the right mount of material and never lets go of its grasp. Threshold Wanderer is a nicely conceived and executed instrumental album.
Their new release The Offering is also the first concept album from the long-running Wisconsin power metal band Lords Of The Trident. It’s also the first time they worked with legendary producer Jacob Hansen, who did the mixing and mastering.
It’s an ambitious album that gets off to a strong start with “Legend,” a soaring and melodic track that showcases the potent vocals of Fang VanWrathenstein. The band stretches themselves musically with some complex and technical moments, but they don’t skimp on the hooks, groove or guitar solos. It could probably be a song or two shorter, but The Offering has all the grandiosity and musicianship you need from a good power metal album.
Misfire – Sympathy For The Ignorant (MNRK Heavy)
Sympathy For The Ignorant is the combustible debut album from Misfire, a trio of thrashers from Chicago. The group keeps the thrash metal playbook very close by, making sure that they hit all the marks. Musically, they aim for darker sights in their compositions, making sure the grooves hit sharply and the uptick in tempos compress the air out of the album. There’s an even mix of these contrasts, so the band has what a listener would want depending on their mood for destruction.
Bassist/vocalist Sean Coogan gets some added recognition for the prominence of his instrument throughout Sympathy For The Ignorant. It leads off several songs, bounces in and out with a carefree attitude and keeps the back end when the guitar solos go off, which happens a lot. If a well-executed guitar solo is one’s preference, there’s at least one or two per song that will satisfy that hunger. Misfire doesn’t step far away from the playbook, but they do a great job with crafting a sturdy thrash album.
Satan – Earth Infernal (Metal Blade)
Few metal bands have enjoyed as critically-acclaimed resurgence as Satan, the NWOBHM thrash pioneers. After two strong albums in the 1980s we had to wait 26 years for their third. Now here they are with Earth Infernal, their sixth overall and fourth since their 2013 comeback. And much like the three prior albums, this one is excellent.
Much like 2018’s Cruel Magic, Earth Infernal (an album dealing predominantly with themes of global warming and generations pillaging the earth) is refreshingly sloppy compared to today’s overdubbed and quantized standards. The raw drums, not-quite-tight rhythms, and one-take vocals bring much-needed authenticity to bear. Of course, it helps that Satan write superb material, and the songs here are a touch faster than those on Cruel Magic but just as strong. Satan continue to wow today’s audiences with some of the truest old-school metal out there.
Violet Blend – Demons (Eclipse)
Demons is the second album from the Italian alt-metal/hard rock band Violet Blend. It was produced by the prolific Alessandro Del Vecchio (Jorn, Edge Of Forever, Hardline).
The album has plenty of radio-ready hard rock singles such as opener “Rock DJ” and “Among All These Fools.” Vocalist Giada Celeste Chelli sings with power and emotion, and has similarities to Evanescence’s Amy Lee, especially on tracks like “Only Happy When I’m Drunk” and “Morning.” The most interesting song is the metalized version of the aria “La Donna Mobile” from the opera Rigoletto. The ballad “Muoio in un Bicchiere” is also out of the box, as is the dynamic “Smell Like The Hospitals.” More unique songs like that and fewer by-the-numbers hard rock tracks would make the band stand out more in a very crowded genre.