This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Feuerschwanz, Flame Dear Flame, Grisly, Groza, Guhts, Lexi Layne, Lingua Ignota, Long Shadows Dawn, Night Ranger, Pray You Prey, Suncraft and Wald Krypta.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Feuerschwanz – Die letzte Schlacht (Napalm)
German medieval folksters Feuerschwanz have released a couple of live albums, but as with many live releases in the pandemic era, this is a bit different. Die letzte Schlacht (The Final Battle) is a virtual concert released on Blu-ray, DVD/CD, LP and digital.
There’s ample material. In addition to the virtual concert, the Blu-ray/DVD also includes documentary material plus a second disc that is another live performance with more than two hours of music performed at Abenberg Castle. The Die letzte Schlacht set is 20 songs (plus an intro) with material heavily weighted with songs from 2020’s Das Elfte Gebot. Eight of that album’s 11 songs are included, along with tracks from throughout the band’s career. It will have a lot of appeal for Feuerschwanz fans, with the Blu-ray giving the most bang for the buck.
Flame, Dear Flame – Aegis (Eisenwald)
After issuing an EP a couple of years ago, the German doom band Flame, Dear Flame have completed their full-length debut, Aegis. The seven tracks are divided into two larger songs. “The Millennial Heartbeat” has three parts, while “The Wolves And The Prioress” consists of four different sections.
While Flame, Dear Flame’s bread and butter is fuzzy doom metal, some songs on Aegis also have clean, rock style parts as well that mesh well with the doom sections. Those heavy riffs are also contrasted by the vocal style of Maren Lemke, who has an ethereal style. It works especially well on mellower songs like “The Wolves And The Prioress Part I,” and has enough power to cut through the denseness of the heavier songs. Aegis has a lot of ebbs and flows, a structure which makes for a compelling debut.
Grisly – Salting The Earth (Xtreem)
Grisly, who play death metal in the tradition of bands from their country such as Dismember, Carnage and Entombed, offer their sophomore album Salting The Earth. This style hardly comes as a surprise considering the band hails from Sweden and contains guitarist Rogga Johansson, whose resume of death metal groups is longer than this review, and ex-Paganizer bassist Dennis Blomberg.
Salting The Earth opens with the track “By Inferno’s Light,” which immediately casts shades of Dismember. Much like Matti Kärki of Dismember, the vocals are growled but the non-guttural, easy-to-understand variety. Guitar leads provide harmony over the gritty-toned rhythms. “Driver” has picking similar to Unleashed and death ‘n’ roll sections that recall Entombed. Instrumental piano-based instrumental “Skymningssonaten” and the acoustic guitar and semi-clean vocals on “Souls Last Caress” show diversity and melody. Salting The Earth hardly reinvents the wheel, but Grisly are more genuine and better than the hordes of Swedish revivalists.
Groza – The Redemptive End (AOP)
There’s no doubt of Groza‘s influences. Their band name is the same as Mgla’s 2008 debut, and their musical style on their 2018 album Unified In Void was similar to Mgla. But, on their second album The Redemptive End, the band has expanded their musical palette somewhat.
Melodic black metal with grandiose atmosphere is punctuated with angry, harsh vocals. On songs like “Elegance Of Irony,” moments of clean, post rock style music add even more contrast. The six tracks on the album are progressively longer, from the 3 minute “Sunken In Styx Part I: Submission” to the nearly 11 minute closer “Homewards.” While not innovative, Groza’s brand of black metal is well executed with quality songwriting and passionate performances.
Blood Feather is the first EP from Guhts, a band that deals in thick riffs and the kind of downbeat demeanor that bands like Neurosis and Cult Of Luna are perpetually stuck in. The hypnotic quality of the rhythm work is gripping from the start in opener “Eyes Open” as Amber Burns’ soulful vocals butt up against piercing screams echoing in the background. The band maintains a mid-tempo movement throughout all four songs on the EP, piling on the heaviness when needed.
The latter half of Blood Feather puts an emphasis on the atmospheric component of Guhts’ sound, with synths ever-present and expanded song lengths. Closer “The Forest” goes over 10 minutes as it progresses non-linearly, not holding tight to any particular structure beyond sweeping the music into a foreboding environment. Though the band members involved with Guhts are also a part of projects such as Witchkiss, Bask and Black Mountain Hunger, Blood Feather puts forth the idea that this release shouldn’t just be a one-off.
L.A. based Lexi Layne has teamed up with producer/guitarist/bassist Clint Fowler for her debut EP Sinner & Saint. She utilizes a few different approaches on the five song EP.
Opener “Dominate” blends industrial/electronic elements in the vein of bands like In This Moment with atmospheric, European influences. “Self Sabotage” is more straightforward metal/hard rock with some male harsh vocals, while “Bloodless” is sparser with pop and progressive stylings and the title track is pop/rock with a darker vibe. It will be interesting to hear if she decides to hone in on a specific style on a future full-length or if she will keep things diverse and eclectic like on this EP.
Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready (Sargent House)
Lingua Ignota‘s 2019 album Caligula drew a lot of critical praise. It garnered many year end list placements, including Decibel’s number two album of 2019. That increases the anticipation for Kristin Hayter’s latest work, Sinner Get Ready.
While not metal in terms of the musical style, the album’s emotional impact hits hard. Churchlike organs on some of the tracks provide a familiar and comfortable background (and suit the lyrical topics) that’s contrasted by Hayter’s passionate vocals that incorporate a variety of emotions from anger to resignation to sadness to serenity. “Many Hands” has a chaotic vibe, “Pennsylvania Furnace” is a piano based ballad, and “Repent Now Confess Now” blends folk and spiritual influences. It’s an eclectic and compelling album driven by Hayter’s moving vocals.
Long Shadows Dawn – Isle Of Wrath (Frontiers)
Long Shadows Dawn are a new band formed by veteran vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Alcatrazz) and Swedish guitarist Emil Norberg (Persuader). Norberg also produced the band’s self-titled debut.
Their musical style is hard rock, with catchy melodies and plenty of guitars. Influences of both the ’70s and ’80s can be heard on songs like “Raging Silence” and “Hell Hath No Fury.” “Star Riders” has progressive moments, and there’s also a little power metal in Long Shadows Dawn’s musical arsenal. White’s vocal prowess is well known, with his range and expressive delivery on full display on this album. Norberg isn’t as well known, but he provides a lot of quality riffs and well performed solos. They display chemistry that belies the fact that this is their debut.
Night Ranger – ATBPO (Frontiers)
80’s hard rock heavy hitters Night Ranger keep the flame alive with ATBPO (And the Band Played On), their twelfth studio album and first in four years. The band (still led by core members Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy, and Brad Gillis) have always had a knack for writing catchy hard rock songs, and on ATBPO they aim to continue that trend.
While their multi-platinum days may be behind them, Night Ranger still have the songwriting chops to deliver a number of infectiously fun rockers, particularly the high-energy numbers, complete with stellar guitar solos and hook-laden choruses. Much like Lee Aaron’s new album last month, ATBPO is a fun and competent release that fans of the band will thoroughly enjoy.
Pray U Prey – The Omega Kill (Selfmadegod)
Pray U Prey’s first album, 2017’s Figure The 8, was malicious crusty death/grind stunted by its bloated track listing, 16 songs spread over 40 minutes. For their sophomore release The Omega Kill, the group remedies this by keeping the album to 12 songs and under 30 minutes. This kind of pruning makes their burly approach more attainable, allowing the album to flow in a manner that doesn’t push the listener into exhaustion.
Though the grind is strong on tracks like “Veils Of The Mind” and “Internal External,” it’s the torturous fade out of “Active Suppression” and the chugging breakdown in “Living Library” that get the ears antsy. A few bumps along the way, including a formless instrumental flatly named “Instrumental,” seem like half-finished ideas, but The Omega Kill still finds its way back to a feral trip.
Suncraft – Flat Earth Rider (All Good Clean)
Norway’s Suncraft are relatively new to the scene, and Flat Earth Rider is the stoner rock quartet’s debut album. These guys take the jammy vibes of Elder and add a healthy dollop of sludge and groove to the proceedings. At only six songs and 37 minutes in length, the band has to get to the point and hold our attention quickly here, and they succeed in doing so differently in each song.
Flat Earth Rider moves between progressive jams and straight-ahead pounders, with a dynamic vocal performance and a number of memorable riffs and arrangements. From the massive riffs of “Adaptation” to the extended, almost blackened, album closer “Bridges to Nowhere,” Suncraft demonstrate plenty of potential on this debut.
Wald Krypta – Possessed By Nothingness (Eternal Death)
Wald Krypta have been active since 2016, and what the band has remained faithful to ever since, especially in their latest work Possessed By Nothingness, is portraying an obscured, wicked and melancholic visage of black metal. So what could be more profound than attaching their musical spirit to renowned masters of raw black metal?
With strong inspirations from Mütiilation to early Burzum, Possessed By Nothingness is immersed in a vicious, blackened sound that rises from the darkest underworlds; and this is enough to describe the evil image of Wald Krypta’s music. It is dark, dreary, harsh yet melodic, and as before, nothing is polished in the context of its songs. The album is like a rotting body, but it still screams until its last breath. If you you’re not a fan of raw black metal, you can easily skip this album; but for those who like black metal raw and sorrowful, Possessed By Nothingness is an impressive work.