This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Bone Dagger, The Circle, Creak, Cyhra, Dripping Decay, Godthrymm, Horrendous, Imperial Tide, Nott, Pyrkagion, Runespell, Skalmold, Spirit Adrift and Werewolves.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Bone Dagger are the creation of musician John Lund, who handles all the instruments on The Veil except lead guitars, which are performed by Braden Richey. This four-track EP is firmly in hard rock/metal, with some grunge coming along on “Hit And Run.” This six-minute tune is a standout that pushes Lund’s vocal range to its absolute limit and is bolstered by a strong solo from Richey.
The closing title track has an up-tempo snap that makes up for the awkward vocals/drums introduction. There are clunky moments like that on this release, though not to the point that it derails the project. The curiosity with Bone Dagger will be to see how Lund approaches a full-length when more songs and a longer length are in play.
The Circle – Of Awakening (AOP)
Germany’s The Circle (not to be confused with the Sammy Hagar/Jason Bohman project) deliver a crushing amalgam of melodic black metal, power metal, and progressive doom on their sophomore release, Of Awakening. Furious double-kick drum beats and guttural vocals combine with symphonic elements that recall the inventive blend of death and prog of Opeth before they morphed into Porcupine Tree, Jr.
Following the nine-minute opener, the title track slowly builds toward a majestic climax, with a virtuosic violin solo lending an exotic air in place of the expected shredding guitar solo. On “Afflux,” the shortest tune here, vocalist Asim Searah employs clean vocals, providing contrast to the typical guttural growl. Eschewing traditional song structures in favor of shifting textures, dynamics, and tempos, the record plays like the soundtrack to a nightmarish descent into self-discovery. The band describes themselves as “art metal,” but “symphonic black metal” more accurately captures their sonic hellscape.
Creak – Depth Perception (Prosthetic)
From Creak’s vantage point on Depth Perception, the world seems like a bastion of emotional instability as we silently deal with the traumas and hardships inflicted on us and our loved ones. For this outpouring of feelings, the group uses hardcore/metal with a nu-metal attitude. The bouncy breakdowns and noisy, charged-up riffs in the first and last third of the album falsely assumes that’s all there is to the band.
However, the middle of the album has them dipping into forlorn singing and toned-down instrumentation. This cumulates in the ballad “Left To Heaven,” which has a haziness to it that brings a dissociative quality to the song. It’s this part of Depth Perception where Creak slips out of their established safe zone to go into the unknown with great results.
Cyhra – The Vertigo Trigger (Nuclear Blast)
On their third album The Vertigo Trigger, the Swedish band Cyhra have expanded from a quartet to a quintet, adding live guitarist Marcus Sunesson (Engel, The Crown) as a permanent member of the lineup. Founding guitarist Jesper Stromblad (In Flames) is not playing live shows right now, but he was involved in the writing and recording of this album.
Cyrha’s modern melodic metal with plenty of groove is intact on The Vertigo Trigger. Tracks like “Live A Little” add electronic spice to the heavy guitars and catchy choruses, while numbers such as Too Old For Fairy Tales” andad “Buried Alive” are more traditional. Frontman Jake E shines on the ballad “The Voice You Need To Hear,” displaying both power and range. Even the album’s heaviest songs such as “Life Is A Hurricane” are still very accessible. There’s plenty of variety and an ample supply of hooks on The Vertigo Trigger.
Dripping Decay – Festering Grotesqueries (Satanik Royalty)
A death metal/grindcore act named Dripping Decay releasing an album titled Festering Grotesqueries succinctly describes this release more than a thousand words could. This has all the trappings of the genre, from the graphic lyrics of vomiting organs and rotting bodies to vocals from someone coughing up their intestines. Drummer Jason “The Machine” Borton lives up to his nickname with a frantic performance that adds an unorthodox frenzy to the music.
As is the case with a lot of death/grind, the album is kept moving at a brisk pace. There’s the obligatory intro and outro tracks that offer a semblance of atmosphere, and “Watching You Rot” and “Limitless Sacrifice” tease the idea of a groovier pace being utilized. It’s maybe one or two songs too long at 14 tracks, but Dripping Decay’s sheer audacious energy keeps Festering Grotesqueries from sinking into a puddle of pus.
Godthrymm – Distortions (Profound Lore)
Returning for their sophomore album Distortions are Godthrymm, complete with two former members of My Dying Bride and Solstice. The approach here is far less gothic and much more epic. Opening with an 11 minute monster in “As Titans” is a gutsy move, one that helps establish the band’s foothold on your emotions and ears for the next hour. With emotions running high next to the sheer grandiosity of the track, this is more than enough to garner the praise that this album rightfully deserves.
Godthrymm can also cut down their concept on a track like “Devils,” giving you more of what you expect from an early Paradise Lost and Candlemass with a lot of darker themes overall. With “Obsess and Regress” there are touches of the ethereal from Catherine Glencross’ vocals juxtaposed against those of her husband Hamish, who has an early ‘90s doom flair about his own vocal style. Distortions is an incredibly dense and well thought out album with twists and turns throughout. For fans of epic doom with gothic flair from some well-versed musicians you can’t do it any better.
Horrendous – Ontological Mysterium (Season Of Mist)
The Philadelphia death metal band Horrendous‘ fifth album Ontological Mysterium arrives five years after Idol. They finished the writing quite a while ago, but thanks to the pandemic had to push back the recording process.
Horrendous’ approach to death metal is progressive and ambitious. Their songwriting blends dense, technical sections with groovy and melodic parts. They are equally comfortable composing lengthy songs like the 7 plus minute “Chrysopoeia (The Archeology Of Dawn)” and streamlined tracks such as “Neon Leviathan” that are half that length. The band says their inspiration was the bombastic spirit of metal from the ’80s and early ’90s, and while there are some of those classic melodic vibes, tracks like “Exeg(en)esis” drift more into experimental territory. That balance of styles makes Ontological Mysterium another notable addition to the Horrendous catalog.
Imperial Tide – Existence In Crisis (Mascot)
Hailing from Sin City and the City of Angels, these band of friends are slamming their way to the scene with their debut six song EP Existence In Crisis. Drawing their inspirations from Knocked Loose and Code Orange, Imperial Tide prove that punk is not dead; it is alive and well today.
Coming red hot out the gate with “King of the Gutter,” you can tell that they do not hold their punches and maintain the intense energy through the whole EP. On each of these six tracks you can feel the raw emotion and the feeling of this all being sung from the heart, like with “Off the Leash.” For a debut EP, Imperial Tide could not have a more solid start than this.
Nott – Hiraeth (Silent Pendulum)
Nott claw into a sordid view of death/doom metal with Hiraeth, their first album with drummer Julia Geaman. For almost a decade, musician Tyler Campbell has kept Nott as a solo project until Geaman was brought on after the release of 2018’s The Wretched Sounds. As a duo, the devouring bleakness of previous work is omnipresent, a suppression of positivity that disintegrates into something bordering on catastrophic.
The band teases a listener with bouts of ambient melodies breaking up the bleak heaviness. Its airy quality is stifled by the inevitable retreat into a maniacal state, though its abrupt shift is a continuous surprise even when one expects it to happen. Hiraeth finds solace in turmoil, drawing creative strength from the darkest places.
Pyrkagion – The Katechon And The Unending Fire (Cestrum Nocturnum)
Take the bassists from both Bell Witch and Hissing, add a drummer who has dabbled in everything from grindcore to death/black metal, and that’s how Pyrkagion were created. Oh, and the two bassists decided to play guitar as well. Also, their music is spread across a 25-minute track split in two. That’s what has led to The Katechon And The Unending Fire EP.
This is a project slowly brewing for years, dating back to 2019, and it’s a long form take on traditional black metal. Its justification for such a daunting composition is met by the band’s innate skill to keep the EP from falling into monotonous disarray. The tempos evolve regularly, and the move from bass to guitar seems to be a prime motivator. Pyrkagion came out of nowhere with The Katechon And The Unending Fire, yet is one that shouldn’t be ignored.
Runespell – Shores Of Nastrond (Iron Bonehead)
Shores Of Nastrond, the fifth full-length from the Australian black metal band Runespell has some highly Agalloch-like vibes. It features a folk-like nature with songs that are melodic, but also features a harsh vibe that points them more towards black metal. The vocals are raspy, but fit the music nicely. The guitars are harsh and blend in with the music well. The entire work is finely-tuned epic style black metal of a high order.
Runespell’s experience is on full display as they traverse these tracks. As far as a pagan black metal goes, Shores Of Nastrond is very enticing indeed. The band has a grasp on the cold and evil style they’re performing. In addition to those comparisons to Agalloch, this band is more black metal than that, and might also be compared to the likes of Primordial.
Skálmöld – Ýdalir (Napalm)
Icelandic Viking/folk metal veterans Skálmöld had been releasing an album every two years since their 2010 debut Baldur. This time around, there was a five year span between Sorgir and their latest opus Ýdalir.
The lyrics are based on Icelandic sagas and Norse mythology, and the music has a lot of variety. The centerpiece of the title track is a lengthy guitar solo, along with a combination of harsh and melodic vocals. “Urður” is pretty intense all the way through, while “Verðandi” has a bombastic beginning before mellowing out. They close with the 11 minute epic “Ullur,” which unfolds deliberately and shifts intensities and vocal styles. Ýdalir is intriguing blend of heavy death metal and melodic folk metal, making for an engaging listening experience.
Spirit Adrift – Ghost At The Gallows (Century Media)
Opening to the sounds of nature, Spirit Adrift’s fifth album Ghost At The Gallows continues their sonic evolution as they build towards their bombastic, guitar-driven approach on “Give Her The River.” The band led by vocalist/guitarist Nate Garrett and now a three-piece, picks up right where they left off with 2020’s Enlightened In Eternity, adding plenty of grandeur to their songs with a twin guitar attack being a new addition. “Barn Burner” and “Hanged Man’s Revenge” take a more simplistic approach allowing for the individual musicians to get their say on those tracks without it being too much. Generally strong rockers are what you expect from Spirit Adrift and those two songs are no exception.
Garrett and company are able to vary their songs between slow and somber to speedy and melodic while managing to stick the landing with a complex number like “Siren of the South” and still have more left in the tank for this album. The title tracks closes out this fifth chapter properly, a fitting cross section of what helps to make Spirit Adrift one of the most solid hard rocking acts out there. Leaving no stone unturned, Ghost At The Gallows is another solid example of what this band brings to the table with each successive album.
Werewolves – My Enemies Look And Sound Like Me (Prosthetic)
Some artists boast of “maturing” musically and thematically as their career progresses. Not so death metallers Werewolves, whose aural violence on My Enemies Look And Sound Like Me is still proudly bustling with caveman riffs and a sizeable dose of swearing. If that cover art didn’t give it away, prepare yourself for one of the most crushing albums of the year. Werewolves are certainly a prolific outfit – this is their fourth full-length since forming in 2019. Led by The Berzerker and Psycroptic personnel, they haven’t missed a (blast) beat in the brief period between releases.
The crew’s agenda, since day one, has seemingly been to clobber listeners senseless with brutality and speed. Oh, and perhaps offend a few folks who unwittingly stumble upon their fare. Standouts include the blistering, yet groovy title track, and scathing “Neanderhell,” while blackened “Destroyer of Worlds” welcomingly (albeit briefly) slows down the pace but continues to spit bile the entire time. It’s not a record to suit every taste and mood, and variety isn’t high on the agenda. But if it’s musical experimentation you’re after, that last Tool LP won’t listen to itself.