This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters reviews include releases from The Amenta, Buried, Crystallion, Harakiri For The Sky, In Tormentata Quiete, Lake Of Tears, Lizzard, Malice Divine, Maudiir, Ricky Warwick, The Scalar Process, Suffering Hour, Temperance, Voidwomb, Wintereve and Xael.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
The Amenta – Revelator (Debemur Morti)
After an extended hiatus, Australian metallers The Amenta unleash their fourth LP Revelator, and pick up right where they left off, delivering another rage-filled assault on the senses. These nine tracks are not easy listening, and demand repeat listens to fully absorb. At the core of their sound is scathing death metal, albeit fused with industrial black metal fury, cinematic ambient/noise textures, treated violin and dread acoustics.
While heavier than a busload of Sumo wrestlers, amid the blast-beats and savage riffs there’s enough bleak melody and variance in mood and tempo to maintain interest. Vocalist Cain Cressall has upped his game, exploring assorted harsh and clean vocals en route to carving a distinctive style, while drummer Dave Haley’s (Psycroptic) pummeling performance is unsurprisingly first-rate. Standout tracks include the epic “Twined Towers,” unpredictable “Sere Money,” “Parasight Lost’s irresistible groove, and blackened brutality and atmospherics of “Psoriastasis.” In a scene filled with forgettable clones, The Amenta craft nihilistic and ugly, yet dynamic and forward-thinking extreme metal.
Buried – Oculus Rot (Brutal Mind)
Former members of Pyaemia, who released the well-regarded Cerebral Cereal in 2001, have come back together as Buried for a spiritual successor of sorts in Oculus Rot. Twenty years gone by has upped the production, as well as added some chunky groove to their sound, but this album can’t help but have echoes of their former band. They still get by on unfiltered brutality, without any signs that a few decades have passed.
The fact the band keeps Oculus Rot to under 35 minutes is an advantage, as this sort of caveman-like aggression can only get by on its brutish manners alone for so long. The lack of deviation between tracks works against the band in the album’s second half, though a pair of mid–tempo-leaning songs in “Paradise” and “Tenebrous Worm” infuse just enough change to their enraged death metal to end Oculus Rot well.
Crystallion – Heads Or Tails (Pride & Joy)
After 15 years and four albums, Crystallion vocalist Thomas Strubler exited the band, and was replaced by Kristina Berchtold. It’s a major shift vocally, but musically the band continues in a mostly traditional metal style with some hard rock and power metal influences.
The songs are straightforward and melodic, with lyrics that are simplistic bordering on trite. There are some catchy moments and strong guitar work throughout. Berchtold’s vocals are sometimes right in the pocket, showing power and range, but other times falter a bit. Tracks like “The King Is Rising” hit on all cylinders and showcase the band’s finest moments, but others sputter, making for an inconsistent album.
Harakiri For The Sky – Mӕre (AOP)
Going on ten years now, Austrian duo Harakiri For The Sky have been wowing fans with their wrenchingly emotional take on post black metal. The band writes long songs loaded with melody and atmosphere, along with agonizing black metal vocals. Here on their fifth album Mӕre, they do not deviate from the style that’s gotten them this far. As with 2018’s Arson, drumming is performed by Septicflesh’s Kerim Lechner, and a guest vocal from Gaerea on “Silver Needle – Golden Dawn” is also gripping.
Clocking in at a whopping 85 minutes, Mӕre is not for the faint of heart. Track after track of emotionally powerful blackened post metal will drain the listener. Highlight track “Sing for the Damage We’ve Done” features vocals from Alcest’s Neige, if one needs even more of a reason to check Mӕre out. Harakiri For The Sky feel like a band that’s always just on the cusp of releasing a masterpiece, and Mӕre once again flirts with greatness, falling just barely short. Another stellar release.
In Tormentata Quiete – Krononota (My Kingdom)
The Italian band In Tormentata Quiete have been around for more than 20 years now. Krononota, is the band’s fifth album, but the first for two thirds of their triple vocal attack.
In Tormentata Quiete’s sound is varied. The songs are lengthy, ranging from 6 to 10 minutes, giving them the opportunity to showcase a lot of different styles. They manage to blend symphonic, black, folk, progressive and avant-garde into a cohesive package. There are heavy and dense moments, and sax-laden mellower sections. It’s a concept album, with Italian lyrics, but even if you aren’t able to follow what they are singing about, the music is compelling throughout.
Lake of Tears – Ominous (AFM)
After a decade-long hiatus, Sweden’s masters of dark melody, Lake of Tears, return with Ominous. The album is an existential nightmare based on Daniel Brennare’s personal hardships. Nature themes as heard on the incredible “Forever Autumn” song seem shelved; however, Ominous reflects musical elements heard throughout the band’s career including gothic metal, doom metal and prog rock.
While the album isn’t deprived of upbeat moments, with stoner doom passages nodding to early works, it has a telling title that relates its dark melodic framework. Acoustic and bluesy leads have a Pink Floyd quality—especially on “Cosmic Sailor.” Downtrodden paces, gloomy harmonies and somber violin ingeniously reflect the album’s morbidity. Opener “At The Destination” is a bit of an anomaly with its upbeat, futuristic electronics. Perhaps, these journeys into outer space are an attempt to leave a reality of misery? Superbly gloomy, Ominous does relays intense feelings of solitude and impeding doom.
Lizzard – Eroded (Pelagic)
One never knows what will come in from Pelagic Records, home of The Ocean, amongst others. Usually it’s pretty experimental, often post metal and other adventurous niche sounds. But in the case of Lizzard, a French trio releasing their fourth album Eroded, what we get is actually a rather melodic, slightly progressive take on alternative metal.
That’s no dig at all on Lizzard. The band reels off song after catchy, riffy, groovy song, featuring possible influences ranging from Soundgarden and Karnivool to, dare I say, Lenny Kravitz. Some of the most complex and entrancing drumming of the year propels these 11 songs, and coupled with plenty of earworm melodies and charismatic vocals, Eroded is an alt-metal winner with some progressive twists.
Malice Divine – Malice Divine (Self)
Musician Ric Galvez knows his way around a guitar, but Malice Divine’s self-titled debut also shows that he can also write entertaining compositions. Galvez handles all the guitar work and vocals, bringing in session drummer Dylan Gowan to help formulate his melodic death/black metal. Those knowledgeable of Dissection and late ’80s/early ’90s Bathory will understand the ramped-up complexity of Malice Divine, as songs reach over six minutes on average.
Galvez has a degree in music, and this education is apparent with the classical tint of the acoustic and lead electric playing. For an album that reaches close to an hour long, there isn’t any of the tedium that can plague other albums of this style. His crisp, raspy vocals are effective, though often outmatched by the instrumental work. While he’s been a bit player in other bands before, Malice Divine gives Galvez the worthy opportunity to be out on his own.
Maudiir – La Part Du Diable (Self)
Maudiir put on carefree, almost jovial blackened thrash metal on their La Part Du Diable EP. It may seem weird to label black/thrash music “jovial,” but these five songs are catchy, upbeat, and full of moments that will make a listener grin. Witness the high-flying bass lead on “Spirit Of Sulfur,” which extends for a good 20 seconds because it needs that much time to handle its awesomeness, or the spirited instrumental break on “The Slumber” with a free-wheeling guitar solo.
Of course, the themes behind the EP are stone-faced serious, with allusions to the dangers of technology, religion and environmental issues. They are delivered with a distinguishable rasp that makes each word clear and immediate. The man behind this project, who goes by the initial “F,” seems to want to head in a more progressive direction moving forward, which is a wise move if more releases like La Part Du Diable are coming.
Ricky Warwick – When Life Was Hard And Fast (Nuclear Blast)
In addition to being the frontman of Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders, Ricky Warwick has released numerous solo albums over the years. When Life Was Hard And Fast is his first solo effort since 2015’s Stairwell Troubadour. Keith Nelson (ex-Buckcherry) produces and co-wrote many of the songs.
The songs are mostly hard rock, with guest guitar solos by axemen such as Thunder’s Luke Morley and Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor. Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot provides backing vocals on the opening title track, while Guns ‘N Roses’ Dizzy Reed adds keyboards to several tracks. Warwick’s youngest daughter sings on the acoustic ballad “Time Don’t Seem To Matter.” It’s an album that’s accessible and varied, with Warwick exploring a plethora of lyrical and musical roads with nary an ounce of filler.
The Scalar Process – Coagulative Matter (Transcending Obscurity)
On their debut album The Scalar Process, the French band The Scalar Process augment technical death metal with other styles. The album features guest appearances from members of groups such as Fallujah, Kardashev and Virulent Depravity.
Aggressive and technical sections shift in surprising directions, such as a progressive guitar solo on “Cosmic Flow” or a piano solo on the epic, 11 minute title track. Instead of nonstop tech death, The Scalar Process incorporate atmospherics and tempo shifts that help add depth and variety. And while there is definitely room for growth and improvement, it is an impressive debut from a band that should have a bright future.
Suffering Hour – The Cyclic Reckoning (Profound Lore)
For Suffering Hour, the four years between their debut album In Passing Ascension and their latest album The Cyclic Reckoning has come with a purposeful evolution in their black/death metal. Their 2019 single-track EP Dwell was the first sign of this, taking their whirling music and driving it over 18 minutes. This album continues that with a momentous closer in “The Foundations Of Servitude” that goes almost as long as that EP.
The songwriting as a whole has undergone some renovations, with a concerted effort to inject a melodic bent to the fierce sonic undertaking. A few of these songs are longer than the ones on In Passing Ascension, though it never feels forced. While layering some atmospheric elements, Suffering Hour doesn’t lose any of its hostile nature on The Cyclic Reckoning.
Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue (Napalm)
The Melodies of Green and Blue EP is a vibrant and fun effort that builds on Temperance‘s previous output of five full-length releases. There are acoustic versions of six songs from last year’s Viridian along with two brand new tracks.
The songs show a great deal of passion. Everything is very catchy and memorable and worth multiple spins. The playing is gorgeous and shows a great deal of focus on the acoustic guitars themselves. This was an unexpected treat and though it is far from perfect, comes with a recommendation. Though somewhat simple, the EP offers a nice change of pace from the band’s usual symphonic landscape.
Vøidwomb – Altars Of Cosmic Devotion (Iron Bonehead)
Vøidwomb are a new Portuguese blackened death metal quintet, and their debut EP is an impressive and significant start. Altars Of Cosmic Devotion is a great collection of ideas that revolves around injecting black metal into every bit of death metal pillars and giving birth to a vicious creature.
Altars Of Cosmic Devotion is a 17 minute long EP and it may seem like there is not enough time for the band to get the songs to the point of musical coherence. But Vøidwomb did it with intelligence. They incorporate dynamism and intensity into one frame, which is why in such a short period of time they form the confluence of two metal genres. With noble performances, producing massive guitar riffs, wicked melodies and a toxic atmosphere, Altars Of Cosmic Devotion turns into a striking statement from Vøidwomb.
Wintereve – October Dark (HPGD)
Originally self-released last year, the French band Wintereve‘s second album October Dark is being issued by Horror Pain Gore Death.
It’s melancholy gothic doom/death, combining melodic female vocals and male growls. Downtuned riffs are soaked in atmosphere. The pace is generally slow, but tracks like “Sea Of Suffering” speed up a bit, avoiding monotony. They also explore different intensities, going from mellow to dense and back again. The melodic vocals are the emotional style you’d expect from gothic metal, with the growls adding some edge. And while the arrangements are good, a few more hooks would make for an even more memorable album.
Xael – Bloodtide Rising (Pavement)
The lineup for the North Carolina sci-fi death metal band Xael includes Nile bassist Brad Parris and The Reticent’s Chris Hathcock. Bloodtide Rising is their second album.
Symphonic elements provide an epic and dramatic feel that contrasts the bludgeoning death metal. Another contrast is periodic melodic singing alongside typical death metal growls. It’s also a much more dynamic album than the usual death metal release, with things like an unexpected piano break on “The Waste Of Dreadrift” and operatic female vocals on “Dark World Mirrors.” It’s an album with a lot of ebbs and flows, leading the listener down many musical paths that make for a compelling listen.