This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Annihilator, Bloodywood, Boguslaw Balcerak’s Crylord, Bunuel, Circa Arcana, Dagoba, Embryonic Autopsy, Glasya, Lunar Blood, Maentra, Matt Pike, Pyrrhic Salvation and Star One.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Annihilator – Metal II (earMusic)
Annihilator‘s Metal album was released in 2007. It featured vocals from Dave Padden and drums by Mike Mangini and of course guitar and bass from Jeff Waters. There were also tons of guest appearances. Metal II is part re-recording, part reissue. The vocals and drums have been re-recorded by Stu Block (Into Eternity, ex-Iced Earth) and Dave Lombardo (Dead Cross, Fantomas, ex-Slayer), while the original guest appearances remain.
Some of the guests include the late Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom), Steve “Lips” Kudlow (Anvil), Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy) and Corey Beaulieu (Trivium). There’s one additional song included, a cover of Van Halen’s “Romeo’s Delight.” It’s an interesting way to approaching a reissue, cobbling together old and new. It didn’t get great reviews when it was released, but the songs hold up fairly well. Block and Lombardo do a good job, and while Metal II is certainly not essential, it’s something Annihilator fans may be interested in checking out.
Bloodywood spice up the dated sounds of groove and nu metal on Rakshak with a folksy angle, using traditional Indian instruments and ample use of a flute on songs like “Aaj” and “Jee Veerey.” Those influences are more relevant than the spitfire rapping over rugged riffs and clunky lines that reference things like WWE being fake, as if it were 2002 all over again. Then there’s the Linkin Park-esque melodies that push this album further back in time.
Rakshak isn’t a total misfire, as the Hindi/Punjabi choruses have their hooks whether one is familiar with the language or not and the woodwind accompaniment is a fresh take. There seems to be a revival of sorts for this style of music, so those who yearn for the days where rap metal was at its height will be into Bloodywood and their debut album.
Boguslaw Balcerak’s Crylord – Human Heredity (Pride & Joy)
Human Heredity is Bogulaw Balcerak’s Crylord‘s third album, and first since 2014. Balcerak handles guitars, bass and keyboards while Jeremiasz Baum is the drummer. The vocals are done by a rotating cast of guests.
Out of the 11 songs, four are sung by David Akesson (Qantice) and three by Goran Erdman. Other guest vocalists include Rick Altzi (Masterplan, Herman Frank), Ryan Beck, Jota Fortihno and Tim “Ripper” Owens. The songs are power metal with plenty of shredding from Balcerak along with some progressive moments. The Akesson songs tend to be the strongest, with Ripper’s “Wolf At The Gates” actually one of the weakest tracks. Even with a plethora of vocalists, it manages to sound cohesive.
Buñuel – Killers Like Us (Profound Lore)
Buñuel are a band with three Italian members along with Oxbow vocalist Eugene Robinson. Killers Like Us concludes the trilogy that also includes 2016’s A Resting Place For Strangers and 2018’s The Easy Way Out.
Categorizing Buñuel’s style is challenging, as they incorporate a lot of different genres. Post hardcore, noise, punk and avant-garde are all part of their sound. Tracks like “When God Used A Rope” have catchy riffs and a lot of straightforward sections, while songs such as the doomy “When We Talk” are more experimental. Robinson’s distinctive vocal style fits Buñuel perfectly, making songs that are already avant-garde even more unique.
Bridget Viginti is a nice melding of the emo and hardcore styles. The 5 song EP shows Circa Arcana performing at the top of their abilities. Bridget Viginti is a nice showcase of some hardcore influenced tracks that are given an injection of melody. Still, there could be more interesting elements injected into the songs.
The songs are accessible enough, but are limited as well. There are sing-along moments to be found here and they blend in nicely. There is catchiness and it leads to memorability. However, the band sound similar to countless other groups in the genre, making it difficult to stand out among the crowd. But fans of metalcore will find something to like with Bridget Viginti and should find themselves singing along to these tracks in no time.
Dagoba – By Night (Napalm)
The French band Dagoba have been through a lot of changes since their last album, 2017’s Black Nova. They have had some lineup changes and are on a new record label for their eighth studio album By Night.
Vocalist Shawter, the lone original member, shows a lot of versatility on songs like “The Hunt,” shifting from aggressive growls to smooth melodic singing. Dagoba have a modern approach that utilizes electronic elements for depth and texture while letting the groove drive the songs. Things like female vocals on the poppy “On The Run” contrast heavier songs like “Nightclub.” 25 years after their formation Dagoba continue to move forward with each album, incorporating different approaches to their core sound.
Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined (Massacre)
Embryonic Autopsy infuse cosmic body horror themes into their snappy death metal on Prophecies Of The Conjoined. A concept album about human-alien hybrids that take over the world, the loose story is just a device for lyrics about genetic manipulation. The music is a bit more conventional, its less-than-hidden desire to revert the genre back to the early days coming through in its brutish nature and guest guitar solos from the likes of James Murphy and Suffocation’s Terrance Hobbs.
The first four songs fire off so rapidly that when the band slows into a groovier tempo akin to the band Nile on “Upon The Mayan Throne,” its measured execution is a good shock. They don’t try to replicate that much further, though the acoustic instrumental “Recombination Sequence Complete” is a low-key end to the album. Prophecies Of The Conjoined is mostly as advertised; a half-hour slice of bitter death metal.
Glasya – Attarghan (Scarlet)
The Portuguese cinematic symphonic band Glasya emerged in 2019 with their debut album Heaven’s Demise. Their follow-up Attarghan is an even more ambitious and lengthier concept album.
The album flows well, delivering the concept with clarity and conviction, helped by narration. The songs are melodic and feature the soprano vocals of Eduarda Soeiro. Harsh male vocals on a few tracks provide contrast. Chaos Magic’s Caterina Nix guests on the mid-paced “First Taste Of Freedom.” The band’s songwriting has improved from their debut, though the cinematic elements sometimes overwhelm the riffs and melodies. And at 66 minutes, it’s two or three songs too long. Still, there’s plenty for symphonic metal fans to enjoy.
Lunar Blood – Twilight Insurgency (Pulverised)
New Jersey death metal by way of hardcore collective Lunar Blood unleash their brutally heavy debut album Twilight Insurgency upon the masses with cohesive might. “Purified Rot” is a powerful opener, one that establishes the band’s ability to punish the listener at every tempo shift, evoking a lot of what made d-beat such a force to be reckoned with. Vocalist Jake Kruger sounds massive behind the mic, with large growls bellowing throughout the majority of the tracks.
Lunar Blood get the most out of their riffs as well as out of their minutes, clocking in under half an hour, making for the perfect repeat experience. This allows the listener to peel back a layer to find the nuances of this baneful beast in short order. If you enjoy Disfear and Black Breath, then Lunar Blood deserve to “Wrath March” their way onto that playlist.
Kundalini Rising is the debut album from death industrialists Maentra, which includes Origin founder Paul Ryan on bass and vocals. He and guitarist Rudy Pina work in tangent with their howls and screams, forming a toxic symphony with their voices as the lead instruments. Pina also handles electronics, used throughout most of the album and a primary role in the various outros that conclude these songs.
These outros are not tiny either, with some taking up over a minute each of various samples and instrumental bits. The main bulk of the music is ripping death metal with those electronics providing jagged noises to boost up the aggressiveness. There’s a spiritual energy to Kundalini Rising that tries to search for enlightenment, though in a darker setting than one bathed in illumination.
Matt Pike – Pike Vs. The Automaton (MNRK Heavy)
Matt Pike has been in bands since the ’80s, most notably Sleep and High On Fire. After all this time, the pandemic led Pike to write and record his debut solo album Pike Vs. The Automaton. It was produced by longtime collaborator Billy Anderson and features drums by Jon Reid (Lord Dying) along with several guest appearances.
With Pike’s musical background, you knew Pike Vs. The Automaton wasn’t going to be a smooth jazz album, and it features a lot of sludge and doom. However, there’s much more than that. The blazing “Throat Cobra” has some of the best riffs on the album, while songs like “Trapped In A Midcave” are slower and more introspective. Pike explores different musical styles on tracks such as “Land,” an acoustic based, twangy number with guest guitarist Brent Hinds (Mastodon), and the dense and chaotic “Alien Slut Mum.” The album closes with the 11 plus minute epic “Leaving The Wars Of Woe,” delivering an interesting and varied musical experience.
There are many death metal bands whose music is labeled as avant-garde/technical death metal because its structure is completely covered with odd time signatures and complex riffs, and in addition, heavy atmosphere prevails the music. Death metal trio Pyrrhic Salvation are one of those bands.
Featuring the members of Carcinomic and Veilburner, Pyrrhic Salvation’s debut EP Manifestum I is a challenging and debatable work. It doesn’t focus solely on technical aspects of death metal, although that is its main concern. The combination of black metal elements makes Manifestum I look like a chaotic and inflamed soundscape. A more appropriate production would make this musical outlook more effective, and to consciously cover up the shortcomings of the composition or the performances. However, Manifestum I fulfills expectations and leaves an effect on its listeners. Ulcerate and Immolation fans should enjoy Pyrrhic Salvation’s debut EP.
Star One – Revel In Time (InsideOut)
It has been a dozen years since Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) last released a Star One album. He took a different approach to the band’s third album. Instead of having the same four vocalists each singing parts in every song, Revel In Time features a different vocalist on each song. Lucassen went even further, recording a second disc of the same songs, but with different singers.
Each Star One album is a concept record revolving around movies. This time around it draws inspiration from films about the manipulation of time. The four singers from the first two Star One albums (Floor Jansen, Russell Allen, Damian Wilson and Dan Swano) make an appearance along with Brittney Slayes, Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Lynn Turner and others. Lucassen sings lead on the alternate version of “Today Is Yesterday.” The songs are progressive metal with plenty of instrumental breaks. Like all Lucassen albums, Revel In Time is ambitious, with the quality of the musicianship, the memorable songs and getting two versions of each song making it another strong release in his impressive catalog.