This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters album reviews include releases from Aphrodite, As Everything Unfolds, Avaland, Blue Ox, Bridge Burner, Fuoco Fatuo, Grimmreaper, Helstar, Ischemic, Karma Violens, Lord, Mythic Sunship, Obvurt, Plaguewielder, Sea Of Snakes, Steel Bearing Hand and Unflesh.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aphrodite – Orgasmic Glory (Fighter)
Aphrodite are a throwback to ’80s speed metal. The Canadian trio’s lineup includes vocalist Tanza Speed (Demona), guitarist/bassist/drummer Jo Steel (Ice War, Spectral Dance) and guitarist Yan Turbo (Colorsfade). Orgasmic Glory is their second album.
The eight tracks fly by in a blaze of galloping riffs and punk style vocals. The songs are uptempo and straightforward, driven by the guitars. Killer riffs and extended solos abound. Tracks like “Meadows Of Asphodel” dial back the pace and increase the groove, adding some variety. The vocals are somewhat incongruous to the music, but they give Aphrodite a distinctive sound.
As Everything Unfolds – Within Each Lies The Other (Long Branch)
As Everything Unfolds are one band that I’ve never had to keep a close eye on as their exponential rise in acclaim has made the post hardcore six-piece nigh impossible to miss. With the hype train set in action, it was only a matter of waiting for the band’s full-length debut, Within Each Lies The Other, to keep the band on steady tracks.
As fun as prognosticating can be, the band’s drip-feed of singles and promo material already built a solid image for the LP’s final vision and the finished article doesn’t disappoint. Within Each Lies The Other hits that golden sweet spot of melodic yet visceral, garnishing a backdrop of cinematic synth chords and guttural guitar chugs to the ever-shifting melodies of vocalist Charlie Rolfe. The band hurls earworm hook after earworm hook, commanding your attention and instilling that crucial replay value. There was never much doubt that Within Each Lies The Other would be as good as it is, but that confirmation is sure to add to the storm by which these rising legends have taken the scene.
Avaland – Theater of Sorcery (Rockshots)
France’s Avaland conjure up a number of fantastical images on their full-length metal opera debut Theater of Sorcery. While similar to Avantasia, this band is a little more streamlined and power metal sounding. The result is a very cheerful and upbeat collection of songs that is very memorable. The songs have a wonderful operatic fantasy flavor that makes them all the more appealing. As the title of the album suggests, the music very theatrical and pompous at times. It still remains regimented in solid songwriting and is a very crisp collection of songs.
Theater of Sorcery is a very fun romp into fantastical realms that rewards with memorable songs. It is also very consistent and manages to always keep your interest piqued. The band seems to have a lot of fun performing this music and you will enjoy listening to it. Add in guest appearances by members of the likes of Ralph Scheepers of Primal Fear and Zak Stevens of Savatage among others and you have a complete package.
The Minnesota band Blue Ox have been around since 2005 and released a couple albums in that era, but it has been a decade since their last release, Stray Dogs On Pity Party Island. They re-emerge with Holy Vore.
The album is constantly shifting in tempos, intensities and textures. Songs like “Imploding Lazarus” go from blazing fast intense metallic hardcore to glacial chugs. The arrangements range from groovy to chaotic, and the vocals are intense throughout. It’s a brief album, clocking it at around 20 minutes with not a bit of filler. They jam a lot of interesting moments into that short time, blending hardcore, d-beat and other styles.
Bridge Burner – Disempath (Hibernation Release)
“I don’t know how to live without constantly wanting to die,” Bridge Burner vocalist Ben C. Read screams multiple times on “Abyssal,” the final track from the band’s sophomore album, Disempath. This sort of discontent for one’s own being rings throughout the entire album, as the New Zealand-based group pumps up the vitriol with a fusion of death metal, hardcore, and crust/punk. Disempath is a nasty undertaking, condensed into under 30 minutes.
Though the aforementioned “Abyssal” is the band at its bleakest, the track displays musical depth, with its lengthy guitar-led break that tames their dissonant attributes. That kind of dexterity isn’t found on the bullrush tempos of “Separating Hand From Wrist” and the title track, which open the album with a one-two jab. Bridge Burner’s apathy and hatred on Disempath comes off as authentic.
Fuoco Fatuo – Obsidian Katabasis (Profound Lore)
On their last album, 2017’s Backwater, the Italian doom band Fuoco Fatuo moved more toward funeral doom, which continues on Obsidian Katabasis, their third full-length.
There are death metal influences as well, especially with Milo Angeloni’s harsh vocals. The way the album is sequenced is interesting, alternative three lengthy 13 to 17 minute tracks with instrumentals. These are not brief interludes, but full fledged songs around four to five minutes long. The final one, “III,” is mellow and introspective, bringing the record to a somber close. It’s a slow but compelling trip through downtuned riffs and creative arrangements.
Grimmreaper are not lacking in drive on their debut album The Tragedy Of Being, though that doesn’t equate to a flawless product. The band is a one-person effort, as Logan Grimm handles all the instrumental and vocal work. This album is an example of a solo artist having too much leeway in his music, obvious in the scattershot 10-minute instrumental title track and the thinly stretched opener “Mind’s Mirrors Meshing Together.”
Even when the band takes an idea too far past its comfort point, there’s inspiring guitar work and vocal showmanship to keep the album afloat. A gleeful cover of Babymetal’s “Road Of Resistance” is great, and the groove behind “Resent” is worth bouncing along to. Culling its inspiration from bands like Meshuggah and Dragonforce, Grimmreaper show viable potential on The Tragedy Of Being.
Helstar – Clad In Black (Massacre)
My last experience with Helstar would have been in the late ’80s, with Album Name. Since then I’ve paid these veterans little attention, which was a mistake. The band have been cranking out respectable old-school American power metal for the past fifteen years, led by the inimitable James Rivera. Their last album was 2016’s Vampiro, which is presented in its entirety here again on Disc 2.
Disc 1, Clad In Black, is sort of the new stuff, featuring a single and b-side issued back in 2020 (“Black Wings of Solitude” and Black Sabbath’s “After All (The Dead)”) along with two other original songs plus covers of Accept’s “Restless and Wild” and Judas Priest’s “Sinner.” The entire package is a gloriously enthusiastic American power metal journey, with Rivera wailing away in his trademark style and the band firing on all cylinders. If you don’t have Vampiro, Clad In Black is a worthy addition to any power metal collection.
From the long lockdowns that marked Canada’s 2020, death-doom mongers Ischemic emerge with a cathartic self-titled album. Entirely self-produced by the band (even down to the artwork) this four song, 51 minute descent into the proverbial abyss is full of massive ponderous riffs, interrupted by serene moments of ambiance and furious assaults of black metal. These diverging influences are woven tightly together, without any jarring or superfluous transition.
Lyrically, Ischemic is a bleak and pain-fueled affair, with sparse moments of hopeful existentialism. “Existence drags me down again” screams vocalist Isabelle Tazbir in opening “single” Scabs, conjuring the successive waves of rage, helplessness and resolve that characterized the past 12 months. They might think humanity is doomed and that there is no light, but with such a powerful record on their hands, Ischemic’s future is glowing brightly on the horizon.
The Greek band Karma Violens have been around for nearly two decades now, but their output has been modest. Mount Of The Congregation is their fourth full-length album.
It’s not your typical thrash/death album. In addition to heavy riffs and harsh vocals, there are interesting atmospherics such as female choral vocals on “Embrace” and an extended keyboard part on “One Way Journey.” They blend mid-paced death metal grooves and galloping thrash riffs, adding blackened elements to the mix. Along with strong guitar work, the album features an impressive performance from drummer Thodoris. It should appeal to fans of thrash, death and extreme metal in general.
Lord – Undercovers Vol. 1 (Dominus)
Between Lord and their previous incarnation as Dungeon, these Australian melodic metallers have a lengthy history of issuing cover versions. Undercovers Vol. 1 collates many of them, as well as new recordings. Tracks from heavyweights like Maiden, Priest, Pantera and Helloween appear, executed with considerable aplomb, precision and respect, but welcomingly, without always selecting the more obvious cuts from those artists.
Overall, Undercovers… bridges the worlds of traditional metal, thrash, hard rock, arena rock and pop as if they belong together. In lesser hands, such a broad palette could be an unadulterated mess, but it works. An earnest version of Savage Garden’s “To The Moon and Back” affords the song a new lease of life, and won approval from that group’s frontman Darren Hayes. Another winner is a take on The Police’s “Message in a Bottle,” which surpasses Machine Head’s, while they succeed at making Kylie Minogue’s monster hit “On a Night Like This” their own. Meanwhile, a live capturing of Metallica’s “Creeping Death” bristles with energy. The end result is a diverse, engaging playlist that will yield repeat listens.
Mythic Sunship – Wildfire (Tee Pee)
Wildfire is Copenhagen-based Mythic Sunship’s sixth album, and second we’ve reviewed here. Their last album, Another Shape Of Psychedelic Music, was chock full of crazy playing amid some very spaced-out arrangements and I’ve revisited it on a number of occasions over the last couple of years, making Wildfire one of the albums I was looking forward to early this year.
Skill-wise Mythic Sunship do not disappoint, with as much progressive psychedelia on this album as their last, complete with a dizzying rhythm section, frenetic guitar work, and more insane saxophone wailing. Unfortunately, this time around none of the songs really set themselves apart from the others, resulting in a 44-minute wall of unrelenting chaos. It’s still an entertaining romp, but without the staying power of its predecessor.
Obvurt – The Beginning (Brutal Mind)
With a title of The Beginning, it’s no surprise that this release is Obvurt’s debut EP. The death metal group is direct with their messaging, from a closing instrumental titled “The End” to a track matter-of-factly named “Obverted.” The group, headed by vocalist/guitarist Philippe Drouin, also includes Cattle Decapitation/Cryptopsy bassist Olivier Pinard and ex-Gorod drummer Samuel Santiago. That level of experience on the rhythm end bolsters the group’s succinct style of death metal.
Save for a showy guest guitar solo from Michael Angelo Batio on “Obverted,” much of Obvurt’s music is grounded in gritty riffs. There’s no room in these compositions to trail off from that, though, in the form of an EP, it’s effective. Drouin getting the musicians involved that he did elevates The Beginning above something more than another scrap to add to the burgeoning pile of up-and-comers.
Plaguewielder – Covenant Death (Disorder)
The Ohio blackened sludge band Plaguewielder brought aboard Jeff Wilson (Chrome Waves, Deeper Graves) to record, mix and master their third album Covenant Death. Wilson also plays bass and synth on the record and provides additional guitars, as does Cryptic Abuse’s Steve Lehocky.
While the album is heavy and aggressive, Plaguewielder inject some catchy melodies into the mix as well, sometimes in the chorus, other times as instrumental sections. Bryce Seditz has a variety of vocal styles, from harsh yells to melodic singing. The melodic singing has an edge to it, which really works on songs like “A Death That Knows No End.” The band has really upped their game on this album, especially in the songwriting department.
Sea Of Snakes – World On Fire (Metal Assault)
Sea Of Snakes may hail from California, but their stoner metal is raised Southern style on their World On Fire EP. Five tracks are entrenched in fried grooves and fuzzy guitar solos, taking their notes from greats like Corrosion of Conformity and Down.
There’s hardly a point where the band eases up, except for the mellow intro to the agile “Fear Behind The Stare.” At almost six minutes, it’s the centerpiece of this release, building off the previous three songs to fuse them all into one spiffy heavy metal tune. World On Fire isn’t locked into one tempo the whole way through, but the band seems to prefer a stomping sort of pace. That makes the points where the forward momentum picks up, as it does in closer “Drink Your Teeth,” more palpable. This debut from Sea Of Snakes has the right kind of foot-tapping charm with glum undertones.
Steel Bearing Hand – Slay In Hell (Carbonized)
There’s no sophomore slump for Steel Bearing Hand. These Texans come out with guns blazing on Slay In Hell. Their mix of thrash and death metal is familiar, but the way they piece together every section is fresh, distinctive and utterly catchy. Songs of demons and wizards come to life through influences such as Slayer, Celtic Frost and Autopsy.
“Command Of The Infernal Exarch” kicks off the album with break-neck thrashing speed. The vocals first appear in shrieking blackness. “Lich Gate” follows with growling, death metal savagery. The bass clap is audible. Drums push the speed with blast beats and furious fills. Guitar solos add shred and evil effects. “Til Death And Beyond” opens in a fashion recalling the early days of Mercyful Fate and Slayer. “Tombspawn” and twelve-minute closer “Ensanguined” showcase groove and death-doom elements, bringing to mind Morbid Angel and Autopsy. Slay In Hell is a riff factory that will keep fists and heads banging!
For their sophomore full-length Inhumation, the New Hampshire death metal band Unflesh have had wholesale lineup changes. Vocalist/guitarist Ryan Beevers remains, and joining the band are his former Solium Fatalis bandmate Jeff Saltzman (drums) and ex-Excrecor bassist Orin Hubbard.
Unflesh’s brand of death metal is sometimes technical, other times melodic, and has some blackened and progressive elements as well. The songs are fairly lengthy for death metal, with the closer “Dehumanized Legion” cracking the nine minute mark, making room for shifts in tempo and texture while staying cohesive overall. It’s an impressive leap forward from their debut, with songs that are not only technically impressive, but also memorable.