This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Abaddon Incarnate, Bong-Ra, Einherjer, Grave Bathers, H.E.A.T., Liminal Shroud, Shuriken Cadaveric Entwinement, Psycroptic, Savage Master, Soulfly, Stormbound and Toxik.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Abaddon Incarnate – The Wretched Sermon (Transcending Obscurity)
The Irish band Abaddon Incarnate have been around since the mid-’90s, but it had been a while since they released an album. The Wretched Sermon is their sixth studio album, and first since 2014’s Pessimist. It features the return of drummer Olan Parkinson after a nearly two decade absence.
They play death metal that’s fast and intense, adding to the brutality by incorporating grindcore into the mix. Atmospherics help add depth to the mostly brief songs. Many are in the two to three minute range, but they pack a lot into each song. There’s ample variety in intensity and tempo. The second half of the album features longer running times, including the nearly 7 minute “Isolation And Decay” that’s very dynamic, with a mellow beginning quickly becoming fast and intense before easing back. The Wretched Sermon in an impressive comeback for Abaddon Incarnate.
Bong-Ra – Meditations (Tartarus)
The one-man project Bong-Ra, masterminded by Jason Kohnen, has pushed boundaries over the years. Much of his music has been in the electronic genre, mixing in jazz and some metal. His latest effort Meditations brings doom metal back to the forefront.
It’s an experimental brand of the genre, with songs that are long and complex with minimal vocals. There are only four tracks on the record, but this is no EP, clocking in at nearly 40 minutes. Saxophone adds a jazz vibe and some melody on songs like “Courage” and “Wisdom.” Lyrically, it’s an homage to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations that was written nearly 2 thousand years ago about his life and ideas on the Stoic philosophy. The album constantly shifts and changes with interesting moments around every corner. Those who appreciate the avant-garde and experimental should enjoy Meditations.
Einherjer – Norse And Dangerous (Live… from the Land of Legends) (Napalm)
The Norwegian Viking metal band Einherjer have been plying their trade since 1993 and have released numerous studio albums including last year’s North Star. They hadn’t released a live album until now. Norse And Dangerous (Live… from the Land of Legends) was recorded in their hometown of Haugesund last year.
The 13 song set is a wide-ranging one. It includes three tracks from North Star and also a couple from their 1996 debut Dragons Of The North with the rest spanning their career. The songs flow really well, with Einherjer’s performance (especially from guitarists Ole Sonstabo and Tom Enge) spot on. Their hometown audience is appreciative, which appeared to inspire even more energy from the band. Norse And Dangerous (Live… from the Land of Legends) is an excellent representation of Einherjer’s discography and a rousing show.
Grave Bathers – Rock ‘N’ Roll Fetish (Seeing Red)
A listener won’t need any mind-altering substances for Grave Bathers’ debut album Rock ‘N’ Roll Fetish, as there’s enough dripping off it to get a contact high from. This is doom metal as shown through a psychedelic lens, with several song having trippy jams with involvement from everyone. This includes a 90-second drum break on “Brain Thief” and trade-off solos with all instruments on “Ape-like Thing.”
There’s a lot to unwind throughout Rock ‘N’ Roll Fetish’s 82 minutes. That sort of length may come off as daunting, and there’s definitely a few songs that don’t stack up as well as others, but the retro production and peppy performances keeps the proceedings in control. Grave Bathers doesn’t bother with easing a new audience in with their acid-laced sound, throwing everything they got into their first album.
H.E.A.T. – Force Majeure (earMusic)
The Swedish hard rock band H.E.A.T. have a different singer for their latest album Force Majeure, but it’s a familiar face (and voice). Original vocalist Kenny Leckremo, who appeared on the band’s first two albums, returns after an absence of about a decade.
H.E.A.T. play melodic hard rock with an ’80s vibe, though the production is modern. Pretty much every song on the album is a potential single, with big hooks and singalong choruses. There are a lot of upbeat, rousing tracks such as “Nationwide” and “Hollywood” along with more moderately paced songs like “Harder To Breathe” and ballads such as “One Of Us.” While a bit derivative, Force Majeure is still a well-written, catchy and enjoyable hard rock album.
Liminal Shroud – All Virtues Ablaze (Willowtip)
Liminal Shroud polish up their blustery black metal on All Virtues Ablaze, a sophomore album that improves upon their debut in several ways. The production values are better, the performances are sharper and the melodies stick out stronger. It’s about 15 minutes shorter than Through The False Narrows, which makes for a streamlined listen with no room to falter.
Though the track listing has four songs, it’s really three, with “Transmigration” split into two tracks to make up the album’s second half. Over the course of about 20 or so minutes, those parts encapsulate the marked development Liminal Shroud have gone through. They include low-key singing and a grim piano intro specific to the second part that hearkens back to the outro to “The Grotto” from their last album. These inclusions don’t dull the blackened savagery that flies from this Canadian trio.
Psycroptic – Divine Council (Prosthetic)
Over the years, Psycroptic have maintained their status as an outstanding cult death metal band and they’ve never wasted a moment experimenting with various sounds and productions in their music. Now, four years after As The Kingdom Drowns, Psycroptic have set to return to the peak that they conquered 10 years ago with 2012’s The Inherited Repression.
Their 2020 EP The Watcher Of All was perhaps a learning experience for Psycroptic in terms of production, recording and mixing. The echoes of those voluminous and resonating sounds can now be heard eloquently in Divine Council. It can easily be considered as a spectacular and memorable work in Psycroptic’s career, as the songwriting is incredibly dynamic and intense, connecting the world of technical death metal to the new frontiers of extreme metal. Also all the members of the band, especially the Haley brothers, show a stunning aspects of their musicianship and performance. Psycroptic’s best since The Inherited Repression, Divine Council is djentier, groovier and more diverse than a typical technical death metal album.
Savage Master – Those Who Hunt At Night (Shadow Kingdom)
Kentucky trad metallers Savage Master, featuring Adam Neal’s powerful guitar work and the inimitable Stacey Savage on vocals, return with album number four Those Who Hunt At Night. Very much steeped in the sound of yore, Savage Master obey no masters themselves while Savage herself owes a good debt to female forbearers in bands like Acid, Bitch and the great Doro of Warlock. Considering the sheer amount of heavy metal bands that exist in the scene, getting a foothold can be difficult for bands such as these, however being the same four piece since 2016 certainly helps to solidify their sound and they are a well-oiled machine.
“Eyes Behind The Stars” and “Spirit of Death” put Savage on display, buoying the rest of the band as they begin their metallic ascent with a sound over 40 years old, but still packs that primordial punch. Savage Master are an excellent example of a band taking this style and making it completely theirs, one that if conveyed well, would be can’t miss content live. Catch them on tour with ACxDC and Eyehategod this fall. Those Who Hunt At Night is a great time to catch this band firing on all cylinders.
Shuriken Cadaveric Entwinement – Constructing The Cataclysm (Comatose)
The North Carolina death metal due Shuriken Cadeveric Entwinement take their time between records. Their debut was issued in 2007, with their sophomore effort released in 2013, and now in 2022 comes their new album Constructing The Cataclysm.
The lyrics are about the history and mythology of the Japanese samurai, but the music is old fashioned U.S. death metal. The riffs are heavy, production crisp, with a good combination of lower and higher pitched death metal growls. Jordan Varela handles all instruments, and his performance on drums is especially notable with creative fills and potent double bass. Sound effects and brief moments of Japanese music on songs like “Insidious Spiritual Incarceration” and “Tribunal Of The Oni” make the concept more compelling. It’s quality death metal, and hopefully they’ll get the next album out a bit more quickly.
Soulfly – Totem (Nuclear Blast)
After last year’s exit of longtime guitarist Marc Rizzo, Soulfly‘s latest album Totem was recorded as a trio. Frontman Max Cavalera picked up some of the guitar duties, but there are guest guitarists as well including Chris Ulsh (Power Trip) and John Powers (Eternal Champion). Producer Arthur Rizk also played some guitar on the album.
Speaking of guest appearances, Obituary’s John Tardy is on “Scouring The Vile,” a song about confronting cancer. The album follows in the path of previous Soulfly efforts, combining groove, death and thrash metal and topped with Cavalera’s trademark vocals. There are ominous mid-paced numbers like “The Damage Done” alongside brisker songs like the title track. It’s a relatively streamlined album except for “Totem” and the 9 plus minute closer “Spirit Animal,” a diverse song with some melodic singing towards the end. Totem is a welcome addition to the long line of quality Soulfly albums.
December, the debut album from the Israeli band Stormbound, showcases a great degree of symphonic styles. There is a usage of keyboards and other elements to make this style come to life. From tracks like “Altar of Innocence” one can gleam some of these symphonic aspects quite clearly along with a speed metal aspect. There is also a rousing element to these songs that makes them uplifting.
The main issue with the album lies in how it doesn’t do anything incredibly well and thus comes across slightly standard sounding. It is still a fairly successful attempt at displaying symphonic styles and should be appreciated in such a fashion. Fans of bands such as Epica should find a great deal to like here. Stormbound do the female-fronted symphonic metal thing rather well.
Toxik – Dis Morta (Massacre)
One of the most prominent technical thrash metal bands of the late ‘80s which also featured the likes of Realm, Heathen, and Artillery; Toxik return with their first full-length since 1989’s Think This. The band, which has released a few EPs including the excellent Breaking Class in recent years, is back with Dis Morta showcasing founding member Josh Christian’s guitar pyrotechnics while Ron Iglesias does an excellent job of recapturing the unique vocal style of the genre on the title track and “Feeding Frenzy,” for example.
“Power” is a strong example of what this style of metal sounds like when it is fully fleshed out, all the instruments being played at an expert level and the vocals soaring over the entire song. Toxik sound excellent considering how long it has been since they have produced this much new music and we are happy to have them back. Technical thrash that sounds fresh and fun with lyrical themes that are complex, that’s what Dis Morta is all about.