Here are our final weekly reviews of 2022. Next week we’ll have the best of 2022 list. This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from After Lapse, Autumn’s Grief, Dead Meadow, Deathless Legacy, Dodsengel, Hellish, Mos Generator, Nigrum, Ritual Death, Shaam Larein, Woods Of Desolation and The Wring.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
After Lapse – Face The Storm (Frontiers)
The Spanish progressive metal band After Lapse was formed a few years ago by members of Delyrium. Their debut album is Face The Storm.
It kicks off with the mostly instrumental (except for some choir voices) “Thrive” that lays out their progressive tendencies. They blend progressive sections with accessible and melodic parts on tracks like “Where No One Cares” that have both extended instrumental parts and catchy hooks. They showcase their softer side on the ballad “Beyond The End.” Most songs are in the 5 to 6 minute range, which allows for varied compositions that don’t overstay their welcome. Vocalist Ruben Miranda has power and range, making Face The Storm an engaging and enjoyable debut.
Autumn’s Grief – Dead By The Dawn (Inverse)
Autumn’s Grief are a symphonic metal group that thrives in a melancholic state on Dead By The Dawn, their sophomore album following last year’s The Dead Don’t Smile. The year between releases doesn’t make for a significant evolution, though they are more dramatic with the orchestration on songs like the title track and “Hanging In Midair.”
They also smartly tone down the brutish mannerisms of their first album, as there isn’t anything on Dead By The Dawn as blunt as the blackened energy of a “We Will Kill Em All.” In fact, none of the songs on this album outright state a sort of violent agenda, as the lyrics tend to be contemplative and yearning in their forlornness. That’s to the band’s benefit, as it makes for a second album that resonates on a higher level.
Dead Meadow – Force Form Free (Blues Funeral)
Dead Meadow are a D.C.-based trio that have been together for nearly 25 years now. They specialize in a hypnotic sort of heavy psych style, and Force Form Free is their eighth album and sees them sticking to what they do best over the course of six songs and thirty-five minutes. The tunes are primarily instrumental, with guitarist Jason Simon providing rare vocals.
Five of the songs here are spacey, dreamy, psychedelic numbers that one can completely zone out to. Languid and dreamy, they are certainly crafted for listeners in a certain headspace. “Valmont’s Pad” is a mid-paced fuzzed-up rocker, relatively speaking, and closing track “Binah” features a middle eastern sound with bassist Steve Kille playing the sitar. All told, Force Form Free is a pleasing album that is well suited to chilling in the house.
Deathless Legacy – Mater Larvarum (Scarlet)
Few bands achieved much by merely aiming to headline their local pub, and horror-themed Italian metallers Deathless Legacy aren’t short on ambition. Mater Larvarum, their latest full-length straddles sub-genres, while featuring an over-arching concept located “in a world of feminine fierceness, creepy silences and shadows arising from the underground.” The group’s approach blends power metal, gothic, symphonic and prog-metal, punctuated by suitably atmospheric keyboards and orchestrations alongside the crunchy guitars.
They efficiently fuse these styles, and turbo-tonsilled frontwoman Steva belts out “The Coven” with real gusto. They can deploy an infectious hook; see “Moonless Night,” “Hollow” or “Queen of the Infernal Pantheon.” It’s an acquired taste, and there are pedestrian songs that quickly fall by the wayside due to weaker hooks and lack of sufficient variation in tempo. The concept itself is executed with conviction, although the odd lyric is cheesier than a mouse’s breakfast. It’s a shame the release date missed Halloween this year, but for fans of both metal and the occult, Deathless Legacy will possess just enough bite.
Dodsengel – Bab Al On (Debemur Morti)
The Norwegian black metal duo Dodsengel have been plying their trade for 15 years now. Bab Al On is the fifth studio album from Kark (vocals/guitar/bass) and Malach Adonai (drums).
They embrace traditional black metal with frantic blastbeats and icy riffs, but put their own spin on the style. There are some long songs, with several ranging from 8 to 11 minutes, but Dodsengel’s creativity keeps them engaging, with things such as acoustic guitars on “The Lamb Speaks” and atmospherics on “In The Heart Of The World.” Kark’s vocal performance is impressive, delivering a passionate variety of harsh vocals and even melodic crooning on “Dies Irae.” Black metal fans will find a lot to like on the dynamic Bab Al On.
Hellish – The Dance Of The Four Elemental Serpents (Dying Victims)
Chilean black thrash collective Hellish return with their third full length The Dance Of Four Elemental Serpents. With black thrash you know you are getting a no holds barred affair with plenty of flair thrown into the maelstrom on tracks like “Black Stones” and “Goddess Death.”
Things do slow down a bit on “Violent, Bloody & Cold” allowing for more of a gradual build towards the kinds of sound you expect to hear from Cristian Leon and company with bassist Cristopher Aravena making a name for himself, sounding like the best of thrash metal bassists from the genre’s salad days. For fans of the genre, the Chilean scene is a killer place to check out, and Hellish are among the area’s best with Critical Defiance, Suppression and Fuego Eterno among others. For a fine thrashing affair at just over half an hour you need this on repeat in your life from these South American assailants.
Mos Generator – Time//Wounds (Music Abuse)
Washington state rock veterans Mos Generator return with Time//Wounds, their tenth album. The power trio of Tony Reed (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Jono Garrett (drums), and Sean Booth (bass) have always delivered stripped-down stoner infused hard rock, and this time around is no different, with 44 minutes of music that is at times catchy, hypnotic, laid-back, or all three.
Reed also sings and plays bass for Big Scenic Nowhere, who released a pretty good album late last year, and it’s great to hear another strong album from his main band this time around. Lead single “Aja-Minor” is a pretty cool number that really showcases the band’s strengths, but they truly shine on the fifteen minute epic closing track “Until We Meet Again,” a song that not once feels overly long. Time//Wounds is a welcome addition to Mos Generator’s discography.
Nigrum – Elevenfold Tail (Into Endless Chaos)
Nigrum were originally formed in Mexico, and then moved to Sweden, where they established their growth platform. Nigrum’s first studio album, Elevenfold Tail, dives into the vicious and frostbitten world of Scandinavian black metal in a very expressive way.
Blood, bullet belts and spiked gauntlets all paint a hostile image of Nigrum, drawing die-hard black metal fans to Elevenfold Tail with even more enthusiasm; where the cold landscapes of Northern Europe, evil tales and the eerie grip of the Scandinavian black metal scene sit on the sound and verbal layers of the album. This is why it makes the audience fall in love with it without any trouble. However, nothing unique happens in Elevenfold Tail and it is only the creation of a seductive image and devotion to the world of Scandinavian black metal, especially the Swedish scene, which makes the band’s effort look respectable.
Ritual Death – Ritual Death (Shadow/Regain)
After releasing couple of EPs (one of which is also named Ritual Death), splits and a compilation, Norwegian black metal band Ritual Death, featuring the members of Dark Sonority and Funeral Harvest, have released their debut album, which again bears the same name as the band.
The message of Ritual Death is clear and explicit in the intertextual space of its music, like what the band’s music has always been. With the underlying yet strong influences the band took from death metal, the album gets closer and closer to the blackening evil malevolence that it has as its goal. However, they know how to keep their connection with the roots of Norwegian black metal intact throughout the album. In the battle of owning the true Norwegian black metal title, Ritual Death and their debut album will undoubtedly win it, with no harm.
Shaam Larein – Sticka en Kniv I Världen (Svart)
The title of the Swedish band Shaam Larein‘s latest album Sticka en Kniv I Världen translates to “stick a knife in to the world.” Their second album explores a variety of styles and genres.
It can be generally described as heavy rock, incorporating everything from doom to gothic to avant-garde to black to post punk. There will be comparisons to artists like Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, but Shaam Larein (named after the band’s singer) have their own style. Larein is an engaging and dynamic vocalist whose voice works equally on heavy tracks like “Flesh Of Gold” as well as mellower songs such as “I Have No Face” and the retro tinged”Caress My Thoughts.” There’s plenty of experimentation on the album, and most works pretty well, which makes for interesting surprises around every musical corner.
Woods Of Desolation – The Falling Tide (Season Of Mist)
It has been a while since we’ve heard from the Australian black metal project Woods Of Desolation. Eight years after the very well received As The Stars, they have signed with Season Of Mist for their fourth full-length The Falling Tide. For the album, founder D. has teamed up with drummer/keyboardist Vlad (Drudkh).
Their style of black metal is very atmospheric. Some melodic vocals give songs like “Far From Here” more accessibility, while tracks like “Illumination” are more intense but still have catchy sections. There’s an instrumental “The Passing” that’s not black metal at all, leading into the majestic closer “Anew.” The Falling Tide has a lot of ebbs and flows, mixing traditional, atmospheric and post black metal into an interesting whole. Let’s hope there’s not as long of a gap between this and their next album.
The Wring – Spectra (Wormholedeath)
The Wring are led by guitarist Don Dewulf, who uses session musicians to bring his songs into existence. For the band’s third album Spectra, the big name many prog fans will recognize is drummer Marco Minnemann, who gives his usual amazing performance. Though there are several tunes in vein of a heavier side of prog, like “Sins” and “The Prince,” this isn’t straight-laced metal as a whole. There’s a King Crimson/Genesis mood to much of this record.
Coming just a year after their last album Project Cipher, Spectra has enough distinction to be more than just a “Part 2” of that release. There’s more usage of keys, a great acoustic intro to “Tin Man” and a memorable instrumental in “The Wolf” that gives all the members their just due. Dewulf could’ve made all the songs focused on himself, but it’s hard to do that when someone like Minnemann is the backbone, and Dewulf doesn’t try to diminish the capable musicians he surrounds himself with.
Hey guys, I want to thank Dan M for his review of my album ‘Spectra’. I appreciate the kind words and understanding of what I am trying to do. \m/