This week’s Heavy Music HQ album reviews include releases from Aenigmatum, Annihilus, Chamber Of Unlight, The Cold Stares, Destruction, Eyes Of Perdition, Fleshbore, Gost, Imperial Slaughter, Jack Russell’s Great White, Lorna Shore, Qrixkuor, Sepultura, Spirit Breaker, Unreqvited and Vaelmyst.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Portland based death metal collective Aenigmatum are putting out their sophomore album Deconsecrate, their first for 20 Buck Spin. “Forged From Bedlam” appears as a wonderfully heavy track on first listen, chock full of black metal influences with melodic leanings, very much in the Dissection vein. The flourish with which this track finishes is a fine example of beauty in sonic excess, not that it needs to be heavy, it just marries the death and black metal sides of this band very well.
“Undaunted Hereafter” is a bit of a coming out party for bassist Brian Rush, with his sound coming through very high in the mix, reminding me of players like Steve DiGiorgio whose technical skill is still widely renowned throughout extreme music. Kelly McLaughlin and Eli Lundgren’s axework is stellar as are McLaughlin’s pipes all complemented well by Pierce Williams manning the skins. This album is a fun combination of styles from the past, a great amalgam of sounds fully fleshed out on the longer tracks such as “Larker, Sanguine Phantom”. Aenigmatum are a band to watch.
Annihilus – Follow A Song From The Sky (Federal Prisoner)
The Chicago one-man black metal project Annihilus has been prolific since getting started in 2019, already issuing a demo, a couple EPs and a full-length. Follow A Song From The Sky is the second full-length from Luca Cimarusti, whose background is in the punk scene.
Some of punk’s chaos is evident in the album, along with the usual black metal elements. Icy, stark sections are contrasted by dense and extreme parts on songs like “Twist Ending.” There are some guests on the album, including solos from Racetraitor’s Dan Binaei and Pelican’s Trevor de Brauw. Sick/Tired’s vocalist Ryan Wichmann guests on “Draw The Beast.” Closer “Song From The Sky” has a different vibe, with a doomy pace and spoken word vocals. Follow A Song From The Sky is an ambitious album with interesting musical forays outside its black metal core.
Chamber Of Unlight – Realm Of The Night (Werewolf)
Chamber Of Unlight have stepped forward while carrying the powerful look of classic black metal. Corpsepaint, bullet belts and nailed gauntlets, what Finnish black metal bands generally adhere to. Comprised of members of Deathchain, Ajattara and Trollheims Grott, Chamber Of Unlight have brought their debut album Realm Of The Night to life, by penetrating the roots of Scandinavian black metal.
The album brings 39 minutes of tireless and tempestuous tunes out of the hearts of ’90s symphonic black metal veterans. From Emperor and early …and Oceans, to Limbonic Art and Odium, Realm Of The Night is an evocative collection of old school black metal. The melodies that blend in with keyboards create stirring symphonic and epic aspects, taking the cold and dark visage of the songs to the familiar realms that the big black metal names of the ’90s conquered. However, Chamber Of Unlight find their own musical character. Realm Of The Night is an honorable and splendid album.
The Cold Stares – Heavy Shoes (Mascot)
The Cold Stares are a duo from Indiana that have been around for a while. Heavy Shoes is their fifth album. Their bread and butter is bluesy hard rock, both in style and in song titles (“Prosecution Blues,” “Election Blues”).
Tracks like “40 Dead Men” keep the pace brisk, while grooves move to the forefront on moderately paced songs such as “Take This Body From Me.” The song “In The Night Time,” inspired by St. Augustine Florida, is augmented by keyboards that give it a retro feel. The Cold Stares also incorporate styles like garage rock and desert rock. Frontman Chris Tapp has an expressive style that brings the songs’ lyrics to life, taking the listener on an interesting musical journey.
Destruction – Live Attack (Napalm)
During the pandemic there have been a greater number than usual of live releases. Some were shows recorded pre-pandemic, others were live streams during the pandemic. Destruction‘s Live Attack is the latter.
Available in Blu-ray/2CD, vinyl and digital, Live Attack consists of 22 songs clocking in at nearly two hours. The Blu-ray also includes behind the scenes footage. The setlist includes classics like “Thrash Till Death, “Total Desaster” and “Mad Butcher” along with four songs from their most recent studio album, 2019’s Born To Perish. It’s their second live album in two years, but Destruction have a strong live presence and their fans will enjoy the wide ranging set list of Live Attack.
Incendiary Truths is the debut EP from the Las Vegas death metal quartet Eyes Of Perdition. Inspired by bands like Despised Icon, there are some hardcore influences in their death metal approach.
There are four proper songs and an intro, and in a short 15 minutes or so, Eyes Of Perdition run the gamut of tempos and intensities. “For Natty Light” is deliberate and groovy, while “Ruled By Pluto” increases the pace and the intensity. Closer “When Deeply Ingrained Traumas Spill Forth” shifts between grooves and chaos. Vocalist Lindsay O is versatile as well, incorporating low pitched growls and higher pitched yells. They are off to a promising start, with quality songs and strong musicianship.
Fleshbore – Embers Gathering (Innerstrength)
What’s never in doubt on Fleshbore’s debut album Embers Gathering is the technical chops of the musicians involved, especially bassist Cole Daniels. A good metal band knows how to accentuate the bass guitar, which sometimes can be lost in the mix, and Fleshbore does this well with the instrument getting substantial lead time. That’s not to belittle the guitar work on this album, which gets to be extravagant in the way tech death gets on songs like “Cynicism” and the title track.
Fleshbore have gotten away from the inflated lengths and extended interludes that were on their earlier releases, making Embers Gathering a smoother listen. It does run into that unfortunate position of the music becoming slightly indistinguishable by the album’s sputtering second half. Its 32-minute runtime keeps the album from dipping too far down, and the core elements of Fleshbore are sturdy enough to maintain some sense of vitality.
Gost – Rites Of Love And Reverence (Century Media)
Occultism and horror have always been prominent themes in Gost’s music. Rites Of Love And Reverence is no exception, as it draws on the horrible stories of witch hunt to construct an equally harrowing and seductive album. From the first moments of the album, Gost weaves an intricate gothic soundscape, which is then obliterated by “Bound By The Horror” and its crushing bass line and orchestra hits.
This musical shapeshifting is a defining feature of these ten songs, with elements of industrial, goth rock, post-punk, synthwave and black metal alternating in rapid succession, while still being glued together by occult imagery and adept songwriting and production. The vocals and lyrics are often forgettable and don’t add or detract much from the experience, while some songs overstay their welcome a bit, but this is a compelling and artfully crafted record that will please synthwave and metal fans alike.
Imperial Slaughter – …Vile Slobs (Horror Pain Death Gore)
On the surface, Imperial Slaughter’s …Vile Slobs checks off all of the grindcore requirements. There are 17 songs packed into under 20 minutes, a pace that stays in immolation mode and lyrics that succinctly tear down humanity. All of that is solid enough on its own. However, it takes more than checking off a tired list to stand above the fray. Most debut albums struggle to achieve this, but …Vile Slobs uses a multilayered vocal assault and a few unexpected turns to become an essential listen.
There isn’t just one vocalist on this album, as everyone seems to get in on the fun. Harmonies, trade-offs, even just straight screaming in agony goes on during the course of this album. They give props to punk/grind luminaries with their cover of Disrupt’s “Solidarity” and utilize a saxophone on the grindy jazz-fusion closer “Trondheim Slime,” the best use of a sax in the genre since Napalm Death’s “Everyday Pox.” …Vile Slobs is over in a flash, but Imperial Slaughter makes it so enthralling that it’s easy to put on repeat.
Jack Russell’s Great White – Great Zeppelin II (Deadline)
My teenage son introduced me to the phrase “Discount Led Zeppelin.” He was referring to Greta Van Fleet, but it’s an apt description for the latest from Jack Russell’s Great White, Great Zeppelin II. Russell is in fine voice here, his band plays with steady professionalism, but those hoping for a new spin on Zeppelin standards best look elsewhere.
Kudos for tackling a few less obvious choices: “The Rover” and “Houses of the Holy” among the less-covered deep cuts in the Zep catalog. Tacking the oft-forgotten “Living Loving Maid” onto “Heartbreaker” is a nice touch, but including John Bonham’s signature solo “Moby Dick” is stretching things a bit. Fans of Jack Russel; and his love for all things Zeppelin will likely enjoy this well-constructed but fairly unremarkable collection. Those looking for a more dynamic and authentic take would be better served with Zeppelin’s own “Celebration Day” that documents the 2009 reunion.
Lorna Shore – …and I Return To Nothingness (Century Media)
Long has the damned name of deathcore awaited a champion to relieve it of its stigma. Lorna Shore have done well for such cause since their debut EP in 2010 and their latest morsel of madness, the EP …and I Return To Nothingness, is another leap forward for metal’s black sheep.
Brought kicking and screaming to life by Mariusz Lewandowski’s unmistakable artwork, …and I Return To Nothingness is as much a visual experience as it is an aural one. Loyal patrons should fear not of the arrival of new vocalist Will Ramos as in just three throat-ripping tracks, Lorna Shore swiftly resume their mixture of bombastic beatdowns and power metal levels of cinematics that fronted 2020’s Immortal. Ramos fits right at home at the helm. While each track boasts the expected musical proficiency and ominous production – giving this EP real feelings of dread – they shine brightest in their relative catchiness with triumphant and abyssal hooks; something the sub-genre desperately needed. With no sign of touching the brakes, Lorna Shore continue to make a great case for a, perhaps, over-hated sub-genre with plenty of riffs, blast beats and blerrghs as the righteous remedy.
Qrixkuor – Poison Palinopsia (Dark Descent)
If a death metal band wants to make an impression in an overstuffed music market, having a debut album of two songs that are about 25 minutes each is a way to get ears on it. This is what Qrixkuor does on Poison Palinopsia, a sonic marathon that rewards those with the endurance to handle what amounts to a continuous piece of music.
One listen is not nearly enough to grasp the denseness Qrixkuor are going for on this album, which they succeed in, whether one is able to handle it or not. Picking out any specific highlights on Poison Palinopsia is tough. It all fits like some horror show puzzle, its pieces forming a portrait of graphic terror. Death metal can already be tough for the uninitiated to get into, but Qrixkuor seem to be relishing in its obtrusive design on Poison Palinopsia.
Sepultura – SepulQuarta (Nuclear Blast)
Within a few weeks of Brazilian thrash veterans Sepultura releasing Quadra last February, COVID-19 turned the world upside down. Stuck in lockdown, the band was unable to tour in support of the album. Therefore, from these terrible circumstances, SepulQuarta, a live release with a difference was born. The group enlisted friends and colleagues worldwide for this pandemic project, which took place throughout 2020. From the safety of their homes, the likes of David Ellefson, Scott Ian, Devin Townsend and Matt Heafy recorded a Sepultura track with the band.
Several key touchstones from the Cavalera era are referenced, but Derrick Green’s time fronting Sepultura also gets its due. Under-appreciated gems like “Mask,” “Sepulnation” (featuring a typically energetic Danko Jones) and “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering” (with a soulfully haunting Emmily Barreto) are standouts. It’s raw, aggressive and all the cooped up musicians involved revel in the opportunity. SepulQuarta is far from essential, but as a pseudo-career retrospective and attempt to create something worthwhile from a period that’s crippled the music industry, the endeavor has merit.
Spirit Breaker – Cura Nata (Solid State)
The Michigan metalcore band Spirit Breaker have signed with Solid State Records for their latest release Cura Nata. It’s an impactful album, both musically and lyrically.
Spirit Breaker utilize the usual metalcore tropes like breakdowns and shifts between harsh and melodic vocals, but also bring in progressive and experimental sections that gives the album depth. The vocals are passionate and emotional, with songs like “A Cure For Wellness” and “Holopresence” keeping the harsh vocals at the forefront. Other songs such as “Garden Of Clouds” have more of an equal division between singing and screaming. Cura Nata strikes an effective balance between brutality, melody and atmosphere.
Unreqvited – Beautiful Ghosts (Prophecy)
On their latest album Beautiful Ghosts, Ottawa, Ontario’s Unreqvited demonstrate a shoegaze and post type of style. This is shown by ethereal moments that make the music rich in nature. There is an interweaving series of rhythms that shows the one-man band incorporating thought to his sound.
The music is complex enough to be inventive, but simple enough to be effective. Though the music is largely instrumental, it has enough variety to be different than that genre. This is shown through dynamic shifts that give Unreqvited personality and style, even though the lack of vocals affects the texture of the songs. All in all, this was a fulfilling release with a great amount of depth to it. I foresee Unreqvited doing even more interesting things in the future as they continue to develop.
Vaelmyst are newcomers to the melodic death metal world. The Los Angeles-based group formed in 2017, released the Earthly Wounds EP a year later, and now present their debut, full-length album Secrypts Of The Egochasm. Vaelmyst play a style of melodic death metal comparable to bands from the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Michael Amott of Carcass and Arch Enemy fame seems to be a major inspiration in their guitar sound.
Carcass’s Heartwork and latter efforts comes to mind mid-way through the album on “Ghoulish Delight.” Some of the lead work throughout the album also seems influenced by Amott’s style. Leads and harmonies are a major facet of their music. The group do a fine job injecting melodies over the top of heavy rhythms. “Into the Egochasm” provides a melodic interlude, a method utilized often by bands of this ilk. Secrypts Of The Egochasm is a fine showing, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of the bands Vaelmyst emulate.