This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Big|Brave, Bodom After Midnight, Body Void, Capra, Crypts Of Despair, Dirty Honey, Hideous Divinity, Malformity, Miasma Theory, Motorhead, My Refuge, Noeta, Obsolete, Paysage D’Hiver, Sanction and Void Vator.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Big|Brave – Vital (Southern Lord)
For nearly ten years now, Montreal experimental post metal outfit Big|Brave have been sending shivers down our spines with their minimalist, elemental journeys. Now down to the core trio of Tasy Hudson, Mathieu Ball and Robin Wattie, the group offers up Vital, their fifth album. Focused as much on the space around the sound as the music itself, Vital proves to be a gripping, harrowing journey.
Think of a blend of Swans, Scott Walker, and Sunn O))), with Julie Christmas-like impassioned vocals. That’s where Big|Brave fall on the style meter. These songs are ponderous, deliberate, visceral, and monolithic, with crashing guitars and plaintive, emotional vocals. Big|Brave hit you with equal parts ferocity and fragility, making each song an edge-of-your-seat experience. Fans with patience and an ear for the oddness of the above-mentioned bands will love Vital.
Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood (Napalm)
Alexi Laiho sadly left the world in December 2020, after he finished work on his new band Bodom After Midnight’s debut EP Paint The Sky With Blood. The three songs were finally confirmed by his bandmates to be the only available material written and recorded by the band. But what does this EP tell us?
Bodom After Midnight and this three song EP, while retaining the Children of Bodom’s latter sound, is more like a purposeful return to the early days of COB. Symphonic-tinged power metal compositions are structured on melodic death metal basis. The album closes with the cover of Dissection’s classic song “Where Dead Angels Lie.” Paint The Sky With Blood is an overview of all the important musical stages of Children of Bodom and Laiho’s prolific life and is undeniably a part of COB’s legacy, a legacy that shines in the history of metal music forever, in memory of the beloved Wildchild.
Body Void – Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth (Prosthetic)
For their third full-length album Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth, the Vermont duo Body Void have signed with Prosthetic Records. They also recruited their touring bassist Entresol to help with electronics.
Though just four tracks, this is not an EP, with each song in the 12 to 13 minute range. Body Void start with doom and blend it a variety of other styles ranging from sludge to to noise to prog. They also shift tempos from glacial to uptempo and back again, though more frequent speed changes would help add variety on the lengthy arrangements. Still, they do a solid job maintaining interest from front to back.
Capra – In Transmission (Metal Blade)
Capra start their debut album In Transmission with a low-key intro in “[Exordium].” It’s the only moment on the entire album where the band is in a tense sort of calmness, which is easily displaced by the time the one-minute “Hollow Doll” bursts from its hibernation. It’s a striking way to come out of an intro track, and though it’s the shortest song on the album, Capra doesn’t refrain from a boiling mix of hardcore, punk, and death metal.
The band sticks to a consistent harried pace throughout In Transmission, though its running time of about 32 minutes makes it manageable. They seem to get faster as the album wears on, with closer “Samuraiah Carey” employing a blast beat-driven wrath that seems ready to implode on itself any second. Though only a few of these songs were recorded during the pandemic (a majority of the album being recorded in late 2019), it’s not impossible to imagine this being the byproduct of over a year of global panic and terror.
Crypts Of Despair – All Light Swallowed (Transcending Obscurity)
Transcending Obscurity Records have become a premiere death metal label, finding promising talent all across the globe. The India-based label went to Lithuania to spotlight Crypts Of Despair. All Light Swallowed, their second album and first on said label, encompasses aspects of old school and contemporary death metal. Crypts Of Despair temper brutality riffing and pummeling drums with technical dissonance.
Album opener “Being-Erased” is a good indicator of what to expect on All Light Swallowed. The group attack with drilling kick drums and buzzsaw guitars, but temper this with dissonant guitars. Chugging rhythms come into the fray to create a concrete backbone to the buzzing tones. Henri Mall continuously pumps his feet to maintain a sweltering tempo throughout the album. Dovydas Auglys, one-half of the guitar section, and bassist Simonas Jurkevicius switch between gutturally low vocals and a teeth-gnashing higher register. Blunt yet agile, All Light Swallowed should appeal to fans of Immolation and Gorguts.
Dirty Honey – Dirty Honey (Self)
Dirty Honey‘s career got off to an incredible start. Their debut single “When I’m Gone” became the first song from an unsigned band to top the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and the follow-up “Rolling 7s” made it to number three. Both of those were from their 2019 EP.
They elected to stay independent for their self-titled full-length debut. It’s also packed with a variety of potential singles such as opener “California Dreaming,” “Tied Up” and “Take My Hand.” Dirty Honey play bluesy hard rock with a ’70s vibe along with potent vocals from Marc Labelle that have plenty of power and range, but also a bit of an edge. They are influenced by bands like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Though the originality factor is not high, the quality factor of the songs is, and should keep the band’s momentum running in high gear.
Hideous Divinity – LV-426 (Century Media)
The Italian brutal/tech death metal band Hideous Divinity follow up 2019’s Simulacrum with the EP LV-426. It’s a three song concept album focusing on the point of view of Rebecca “Newt” Jorden from the movie Aliens.
Two of the songs are originals. “Acheron, Stream Of Woe” and “Chestburst” have the crushing death metal and harsh vocals you’d expect from Hideous Divinity. There are also atmospherics and melodic guitars that help temper the brutality. The EP closes with a cover of Coheed and Cambria’s “Delirium Trigger.” It’s the kind of cover that’s effective: a band putting it’s own style and spin on a song while keeping the original intact enough to still be recognizable. It’s only 16 minutes long, certainly not essential, but a nice stopgap for fans until the next full-length.
Malformity – Monumental Ruin (Unspeakable Axe)
The path to Malformity’s release of their debut album Monumental Ruin goes back to the early 1990’s when the Atlanta, Georgia death metal group initially formed. A few demos were put together before they broke up, and it would take decades until they reunited and started on the path to this album. Those expecting the years to tamp down their fury will quickly reverse those thoughts as soon as the barrage of “Perverse Apotheosis” hits after a short introduction track.
There are some nods to their past (“Lifeless Mindless” returns from an early demo), but Malformity doesn’t hold onto it with songs that border between old-school menace and modern polish. “Into Ruin” and “Immolated Archetype” break the mold with an infuse of eerie melodies, a show of growth that’s a good look for them. It helps to have tracks like this as a way to avoid the proceedings floundering for too long, useful for an album like Monumental Ruin that goes almost an hour (including two bonus tracks from their 2018 The Rapturous Unraveling single).
Miasma Theory – Miasma Theory (Shadowlit)
Miasma Theory cover a gem from Candlemass, “Under The Oak,” on their self-titled debut EP. That song, from group’s seminal Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, is a good barometer of what Miasma Theory are setting out to do on this EP. The four other songs outside of the cover have that epic doom metal aura, which makes sense considering members of Northern Crown (a band that also loves their epic music) are involved with this project.
The songs range from a gloomy ballad (“Together As One”) to a rough stomper that breaks off into an energetic middle complete with lively guitar solos (“Next Time, Last Time”). It’s done with love for the genre, and admiration for bands that came before them, like the previously mentioned Candlemass. The EP isn’t carving out a new path, but it will fill the need of those who like their metal to be a saga.
Motorhead – Louder Than Noise… Live In Berlin (Silver Lining)/Motorhead)
Since Lemmy’s death in 2015 there have been a several Motorhead reissues, live albums and other releases, and there will certainly be many more to come. The latest is Louder Than Noise… Live In Berlin.
Recorded in 2012 in front of 12,000 fans at Berlin’s Velodrome, the CD edition includes a bonus DVD. The 15 song set spans the band’s career, including newer (at the time) songs like “I Know How To Die” from 2010’s The World Is Yours along with Motorhead classics like “Killed By Death,” “Overkill” and of course, “Ace Of Spades.” It’s a rousing performance from Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee, and a testament to why the band had and still have a large and loyal following.
My Refuge – The Anger Is Never Over (Pride & Joy)
After their 2015 album was recorded using a traditional lineup, the Italian heavy/power metal band My Refuge went a different direction for the follow-up, The Anger Is Never Over. They used a different vocalist on every track along with several guest musicians.
It’s truly an international effort, with musicians from 14 countries participating. The vocalists are obscure, with Headcrusher’s Kike Valderrama probably the best known, and he’s not exactly a household name. Still, there are some impressive vocal performances, such as Fernando Neri on “The Last To Die” and Arthur Pessoa on the title track. Even though there are so many different vocalists, the music is consistent, keeping things more cohesive than you might expect. The songs are catchy, and a good showcase for a lot of singers people might not be familiar with.
Noeta – Elm (Prophecy)
Drawing its emotional core from Sylvia Plath’s eponymous poem, Elm is Norwegian dark folk group Noêta‘s sophomore album. Singer-songwriter Êlea sings of heartbreak, despair, loss and finitude, draped in ndris’ gossamer arrangements. Firmly rooted in folk sounds, these eight mournful and sometimes sinister songs create a soothing, contemplative atmosphere.
Êlea’s vocal performance is controlled and subdued, which is not to say that it isn’t potent; there is virtuosity in her restraint and poise. While the intricately layered production complements the slow moving melodies and open structures very well, it stays in similar territory throughout the record, blurring the lines between songs. Elm is the perfect mood music for a pensive rainy afternoon, although not a very memorable work.
Obsolete – Animate//Isolate (Unspeakable Axe)
The immediate aspect of Animate//Isolate that people will be drawn to is the mesmerizing drum work, which is saying a lot considering the load of talent each musician brings to this album. Obsolete’s rhythm section never stays in one tempo long enough to become comfortable, with fills stacked over fills until it seems like the album is ready to combust. A frantic performance like this fits the jumpy nature of their death/thrash metal.
This leads to a snazzy dual guitar harmony at the end of “Silent Freeway” or the multitude of solos coming from the early moments of “The Fog.” With songwriting that avoids unnecessary filler, Animate//Isolate is meant for maximum moshing. With just a 2018 EP to their name up to this point, Obsolete have managed to put together a supercharged, entertaining debut album.
Paysage D’Hiver – Geister (Kunsthall)
Though Geister is only the second full-length from Paysage D’Hiver, there’s no shortage of material from the Swiss one man black metal project. There have been around 15 demos, splits, EPs and compilations dating back to the late ’90s.
Geister, which translates to “Ghosts,” is old school black metal influenced by early Scandinavian bands. There are icy atmospherics at the beginning of pretty much every song, ranging from a few seconds to half a minute before the dense black metal kicks in. The tempos range from mid paced to chaotic, and vary from track to track. The raspy, shrieky vocals from Wintherr are low in the mix. Those who like their black metal raw and old school will appreciate Paysage D’Hiver’s approach.
Sanction – The Overview Effect (Self)
Sanction’s The Overview Effect puts existential themes inside of progressive death metal for a spacey take on the genre. Sanction have been around since the late 2000s but are only now releasing their first album. The band’s lyricist, guitarist/bassist Shane Leadbeater, uses samples of speeches from people like Dr. Carl Sagan and Frank White to flesh out the album’s concept of a person’s worldview changing from seeing Earth from space.
This is highly technical music, with flashy playing that doesn’t go too heavy on the leads. Riffs are key on this album, and the writing is complex even on the songs that go two or three minutes. There are bits of other well-known bands in here — a little Cynic here, some Atheist there, a Death nod somewhere else — but the long road the band took to get to The Overview Effect wasn’t a wasted one.
Void Vator – Great Fear Rising (Ripple)
Los Angeles’ Void Vator formed in 2014, and since then have released some EPs and splits. Great Fear Rising is their first full-length recording, and it clocks in at a svelte 33 minutes over 9 songs. Short and sweet, but don’t let that fool you. The music here is full-on metal, what we in the biz might refer to as New Wave of Traditional American Heavy Metal. It’s fast, fun, and furious.
Taking their queue from bands as diverse as Metallica and The Ramones, with a touch of Power Trip and maybe even a little Motorhead (see “McGyver’s Mullet”), Void Vator deliver a dynamite album that never stops pounding the listener with riffs and hooks. Great Fear Rising goes for the jugular on every exuberant track, and hits every time. Top it off with modern, aggressive production and you have one of the most enthusiastic and infectious debut albums of the year.