This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters album reviews include releases from Age Total, Angelus Apatrida, Astora, Boozewa, Cult Of Luna, Everdawn, Felgrave, Korpiklaani, Mourners, Nightfall, The Ruins Of Beverast, Sarin, Sea Sleeper, Svn.Seeker, Todd La Torre and Transatlantic.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Age Total – Age Total (Soza/Collectif 5024)
Age Total are the product of a cooperation between two French bands, Greyfell and Endless Floods. Their self-titled debut album takes the sludgy power of the former and the drone-y pace of the latter and fuses it together naturally, as if they’ve been together for years. The album starts and ends with multifaceted doom-laden tunes, each pushing near and beyond 15 minutes. The time is spent cautiously, the anticipation for a crushing implosion not coming until the band is ready to let it out.
These songs could’ve been on Endless Floods’ fantastic last album, Circle The Gold, but a mucky song like “Metal” has Greyfell’s DNA all over it. The meandering “Carre” is the unfortunate misstep, an extended ambient track that plays up the noise without landing any evidence for its inclusion. As the second of four songs, the album is able to recover from it, marking a mostly successful experiment from Greyfell and Endless Floods.
Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida (Century Media)
Spanish thrashers Angelus Apatrida have been around for more than two decades now, and have maintained a stable lineup for most of that time. Their seventh album is a self-titled effort.
There aren’t many surprises on Angelus Apatrida, but everything is extremely well executed. The songs gallop along at a brisk pace, driven by memorable riffs, potent grooves and the singsong vocals of Guillermo Izquierdo. Opener “Indoctrinate” is one of the album’s best, heavy and catchy with top-notch guitar work. They change up the tempos to add some variety, from the blazing fast “Childhood’s End” to more mid-paced tracks such as “Through The Glass.” The 45 minute album flies by with minimal filler.
A death metal concept album inspired by the Darks Souls universe is an without a doubt an enticing prospect for many a metalhead. This is what Slovenian one-man-band Astora is offering us with their debut full length The First Flame. Drawing inspiration from many corners of the extreme metal world, this is a very ambitious album that doesn’t quite hit the mark.
The production feels amateurish at times, some transitions are jarring and the performances are often sloppy, which is not to say there aren’t great musical moments on this album. The heavy midsection of the record, especially “Perished” and “Sun Seeker” is full of bone-crushing riffs and there are brilliant melodies scattered throughout these 8 tunes. Overall, The First Flame is a record full of unrealized potential.
Members of stoner metal act Backwoods Payback have started a side project, the excellently-named Boozewa, and First Contact is their debut demo. Consisting of four songs, including a few instrumentals, the demo is a riffer’s delight, echoing through the minimalist production and live-in-the-studio feel with superior force. This trio plays as if they are up on a cramped stage inside a packed bar, extending their songs with fake-out outros and back-and-forth jamming that spotlights their tight chemistry.
Any demo worth its weight has a few goals in mind for a listener: get the band’s style across well, leave them anticipating more, and offer hints of what could be ahead. First Contact checks all three of these points for Boozewa, as their primitive sludge metal comes across as the kind of music that will work live without much compromise.
Cult of Luna – The Raging River (Red Creek)
Cult of Luna’s first release on their own newly-created label is a 38-minute EP, The Raging River, which is intended to serve as a bridge between 2019’s excellent A Dawn To Fear and future work. Four massive post metal tracks sandwich a short, sweet, and doomy interlude featuring a mesmerizing vocal from Mark Lanegan – yet another outstanding collaboration after 2016’s work with Julie Christmas.
Normally a song like the closing “Wave After Wave” would go down as the album’s best, with its marching rhythm, foreboding washes of guitars and keys, and ebb-and-flow arrangement, but Lanegan’s performance on “Inside of a Dream” lends the song such an ethereal quality that it is an instant classic. The Raging River is yet another superb Cult of Luna offering.
Everdawn – Cleopatra (Sensory)
Everdawn are a New Jersey-based symphonic metal band formerly known as Midnight Eternal. They’ve had some lineup changes for their second album Cleopatra, including the addition of Symphony X bassist Mike LePond.
The songs are dramatic and bombastic with the symphonic elements adding depth and texture. There are progressive moments as well. Vocalist Alina Gavrilenko is able to switch between operatic soprano and a more traditional delivery. Thomas Vikstrom from Therion guests on “Your Majesty Sadness,” a power ballad that features strong individual performances along with some nice harmonies between the two vocalists. The North American symphonic metal scene is considerably smaller than Europe’s, but Everdawn show there are quality bands in the genre here.
Norway’s Felgrave perform a crushing type of doom metal on A Waning Light that is fairly slow moving. The music is as heavy as Electric Wizard, but much slower and more deliberate. Songs take a while to build up, but gain momentum as they progress. On their debut, Felgrave create a very niche sound that is very one of a kind.
From the opening track “Millenium Shroud,” the band has a very clear vision in mind. Along with being heavy, the music is also very bleak, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere. A Waning Light is different than other doom metal and thus creates its own aura. The music is fairly atmospheric and thus has a good deal going for it. It could be more exciting, but is an album that fans of the particular sound will enjoy greatly.
Korpiklaani – Jylhä (Nuclear Blast)
Finnish folksters Korpiklaani have developed a distinctive style in their nearly two decades of existence. That approach is fully intact on their eleventh full-length album Jylhä.
The band’s energetic blend of folk and heavy metal results in songs that are catchy, with traditional instruments sometimes augmenting, and other times driving the songs. The latter is the case on the memorable “Niemi,” while the former is true on tracks like “Mylly.” They are equally adept at uptempo humppa songs and slower, more folk-tinged tracks. At an hour in length, Jylhä is more than 10 minutes shorter than their last album, and is a stronger and slightly more streamlined effort than Kulkija.
Mourners – Act I: Tragedies (Personal)
Daniel Neagoe (of Clouds, ex-Eye of Solitude) has formed Mourners from the ashes of Eye of Solitude. Joined by Siebe Hermans (Eye of Solitude) and Mihai Dinuta (Clouds), Act I: Tragedies pictures the gloomy landscape of a funeral doom record that has many strong signs of the mentioned bands.
When it comes to funeral doom it’s all about long songs which are dominated by an extremely heavy atmosphere from start to finish. Mourners have done that, but with a little more dynamism, which has given a darker and epic depth to the album. Sometimes Act I approaches Gothic boundaries, and it expands the musical horizons of the album to the point that it takes the album out of a purely atmospheric and tense effort and gives the spirit of a narrator full of emotions and despair. For those looking for extreme and exotic funeral doom, this album does not have much to say, but for those who love funeral doom metal because of its sorrowful melodies and somber atmosphere, Act I: Tragedies will be an impressive work.
Nightfall – Macabre Sunsets (Season of Mist)
Season of Mist have reissued Macabre Sunsets, Nightfall’s sophomore album, originally released in 1993. It was a great year for Greek black metal as albums like Rotting Christ’s Thy Mighty Contract and Varathron’s His Majesty At The Swamp helped define the then budding Greek black metal sound. While not as highly lauded as the aforementioned albums, Macabre Sunsets still proved an important album for the Hellenic sound.
It bore many of the signs of definitive Greek black metal: palm-muted guitars, triumphant passages, melodic leads and atmosphere. It also has qualities unique to the scene including the doom-death sections, which work well with their somber lyrics. There are indications of death metal, too, such as the snarling/growling vocals that bring to mind Varathron. Atmospheric, progressive and majestic, Macabre Sunsets is a strong album, although slightly held back by a poor production.
The Ruins of Beverast – The Thule Grimoires (Ván)
The Ruins of Beverast return with The Thule Grimoires. The sixth album of this forward-thinking band from Germany is a continuation of Alexander von Meilenwald’s distinct vision. He crafts a unique style of black/death/goth metal with particular attention paid to atmosphere. Low-end guitars drone and churn in the primordial abyss. There are hints of funeral doom in the languid tempos and keys, but Meilenwald’s compositions are more progressive in scope than the average funeral doom band.
Tracks such as “The Tundra Shines” and “Polar Hiss Hysteria” have a lulling effect in the droning rhythms, but moments of speed will catch the listener by surprise. There is an eastern-world quality to the female vocals in “Anchoress of Furs,” further adding to the album’s exotic flavor. The Thule Grimoires demands attention because the songs are often long, but patience will pay off as the atmosphere and idiosyncrasies are magical, which results in an intellectually and imaginatively fulfilling experience.
Sarin – You Can’t Go Back (Prosthetic)
The Canadian post metal quartet Sarin have signed with Prosthetic Records for the release of their third full-length album You Can’t Go Back. That should give them wider exposure.
It’s a compact album, clocking in at 35 minutes, but the songs are expansive. They ebb and flow between dense metal and mellower moments. The centerpiece of You Can’t Go Back is the eight minute “When You Melt,” shifting tempos and intensities, showcasing all facets of the band except the vocals, which only make a brief appearance. The arrangements are creative, but the potent riffs hold everything together and make for more catchy moments than you might expect from a post metal album. It also strikes an emotional chord that creates a strong connection with the listener.
Sea Sleeper – Nostophobia (Metal Assault)
Nostophobia, the name of Sea Sleeper’s debut album, is the fear or dislike of returning home. This home can be under the ground, across multiple dimensions, below the surface of the ocean; its meaning is not confined to human sight for Sea Sleeper. The band mentions bands like Mastodon and Gojira as influences, though there’s also a tense blackened cloud over their progressive death metal on songs like “Salt” and “Coffin Salesman.”
The group isn’t stringent with melodic vocals on most songs, which clash with the raspy barks and gruff screams also prevalent. There’s some crisp instrumental work too, especially in the lengthier “Mountain Carver” and “Far More Than Sustenance Now.” Those that just want a quick sonic smack will also find it in much of Nostophobia’s second half. Sea Sleeper’s Nostophobia is not one to overlook.
When a band’s bio proclaims their new release “tackles the concept of death through various ways,” it’s readily apparent you haven’t found the soundtrack to that next house party (remember those?). But while Means To An End, the debut EP from Svn.Seeker isn’t going to bother any charts, it indicates they’ll be one to watch for the melodic death metal inclined.
You can often play “spot the influence” throughout the Connecticut outfit’s offering, which consists of five tracks including an intro. At the Gates and Behemoth, as well as American exponents Arsis and The Black Dahlia Murder are touchstones within a sound that also infuses black metal and thrash. There’s a fresh-faced enthusiasm, not to mention tasty melodies and technical guitar work that goes some way towards compensating for the more familiar moments. This inaugural release screams more “potential” than “essential,” but at this stage of their career, that’s a positive result.
Todd La Torre – Rejoice In The Suffering (Rat Pak)
Queensryche frontman Todd La Torre made productive use of downtime during the pandemic, finishing his debut solo album Rejoice In The Suffering. He worked with longtime collaborator Craig Blackwell and producer Chris “Zeuss” Harris (Hatebreed, Soulfly).
The whole idea of a solo album is to step outside the confines of your main project and explore different directions. That’s what La Torre has done. Rejoice In The Suffering is heavier and more straightforward than Queensryche, with songs that have a lot of bite, but don’t skimp on melodies. There are a couple songs reminiscent of Queensryche, but even those are given different twists. La Torre’s vocal chops are well documented, and they are on full display with a variety of styles and approaches throughout the album.
Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe (InsideOut)
For their fifth album The Absolute Universe, the prog supergroup Transatlantic (Neal Norse, Roine Stolt, Pete Trawavas and Mike Portnoy) did something a little different. There are two different versions. Forevermore is a double album, and The Breath Of Life is a single album, but it’s not an edited version of the longer one. Some song titles are the same, but changes have been made in arrangements and approaches. There’s also an ultimate edition with both versions.
It’s musically diverse, and with all members doing some singing, it’s also vocally diverse. For those who want their prog a little more focused, The Breath Of Life fits the bill with shorter and catchier tracks that still span a variety of approaches. Forevermore is more expansive, featuring lengthy songs like the nine minute “The World We Used To Know” and the epic closer “Love Made A Way.” Both albums are good, and serve different purposes. There’s usually a large gap between Transatlantic albums (it has been seven years since Kaleidoscope), so it’s nice to have ample material to tide fans over until the next release.