Happy New Year and welcome to our first collection of reviews for 2022. This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Apes, Arise From Worms, At The Movies, Big Scenic Nowhere, Darkened, Deaf Club, Fit For An Autopsy, Hadal Maw, Ilium, King Bastard, Kontact, Magnum, Maule, Nocturnal Graves, Power Paladin, Pridelands, Seven Nines And Tens and Slowbleed.
Ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Apes – Lullabies For Eternal Sleep (Translation Loss)
It has been close to five years since Apes’ last release, the unnerving Lightless album, and this EP goes deeper down its depraved route. Meant to be heard as a singular piece, split into four tracks, Lullabies For Eternal Sleep somehow finds new ways for the band to produce uncomfortable music. This is due to noise interludes, intros and outros provided by Full Of Hell’s Dylan Walker and drummer Gabriel D’Amours. They bridge the gap between songs, as well as set a consistently unsavory tone.
The grueling closer “Sore,” which goes heavy on the noise, has to be the first track of 2022 to revel in its unpleasantness. Unlike the supercharged blackened grind of “Cornwall” and “No Will To Live,” this track slinks along with the kind of dejection only our current predicament can offer. The even-paced title track doesn’t break off into insanity like a lot of their longer songs do, another compelling example of the band’s expansion outside of their usual exploits.
Arise From Worms – Arise From Worms (Goremaster)
Arise From Worms are a death metal supergroup featuring Steve Tucker (vocals, Morbid Angel), Flo Mounier (drums, Cryptopsy, Vltimus) and Sonny Lombardozzi (guitar, ex-Incantation). Their debut EP Arise From Worms is not really what one would expect considering the brutality of the bands mentioned. Brutality is only a small part of their sound. Arise From Worms is all about shredding, technical death metal led by Lombardozzi’s virtuosic hands.
Tight, complex timing occurs throughout the EP. It’s a wonder Lombardozzi’s fingertips don’t burn off from algebraic equations he writes out on the fret board. Tucker reveals his chops, too, just listen to his solo on “Axes of the Voivode II” and combos with Mounier. The EP is short but packed full of technical, progressive, neoclassical (they cover Paganini) and jazzy playing. Dallas Toler-Wade (Narcotic Wasteland, ex-Nile) provides additional growls on “Living Sacrifice” and a guitar solo on “Axes of the Voivode II.” Yngwie Malmsteen eat your heart out!
At The Movies – The Soundtrack Of Your Life Vol. 1&2 (Atomic Fire)
At The Movies are a collective that celebrates their love for songs from movies. The band was started by Pretty Maids guitarist Chris Laney. The vocalists are Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) and Linnea Vistrom Egg (Therion), and the rest of the lineup includes members of King Diamond and HammerFall.
The band puts a hard rock and metal spin on songs from the ’80s on The Soundtrack Of Your Life Vol. 1 such as “Maniac,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Power Of Love” and “A View To A Kill.” Vol. 2 is covers of ’90s movie songs like “King Of Wishful Thinking,” “I Want It That Way” and “Crush.” This disc is new, while the ’80s one is a reissue. The songs on these albums were all big pop hits in addition to being featured in movies, so they should be familiar to fans of that era. It’s interesting to hear a harder edge on mainstream songs, making for a fun and nostalgic listen of albums from some talented musicians.
Big Scenic Nowhere – The Long Morrow (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Anyone looking for a desert rock supergroup need look no further than Big Scenic Nowhere, a band formed just a couple of years ago that has released a couple of EPs and now their second full-length, The Long Morrow. With a roster composed of members of Fu Manchu, Mos Generator, and Yawning Man, the pedigree is there for some compelling music.
The band members’ individual backgrounds can be heard on the whole album, with plenty of desert rock, stoner rock, and grunge permeating the songs, but the addition of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth) and Reeves Gabrels (The Cure, with some amazing guitar solos) for the monstrous title track is a stroke of brilliance, and makes The Long Morrow a worthy addition to all desert rock collections.
Darkened – Mourn The Dying Light (Edged Circle)
Darkened are an internationally based band with members from Sweden, the U.K. and Canada. The group includes former and current members of Bolt Thrower, Memoriam, Dismember, Grave, This Ending, A Canorous Quintet and more. While their 2020 debut Kingdom Of Decay rightfully garnered Bolt Thrower comparisons, Mourn The Dying Light EP shows the band finding their own style.
The two songs on Mourn The Dying Light are a mix of death metal and thrash. “Black Winter” opens the album with Cannibal Corpse-like guitar string bends. Other sections show the band bending strings to create dark harmonies as heard on the chorus lines of said track. These choruses relate more to Nile than Cannibal Corpse. “The Slime Runs Down Your Throat” has similar features to Swedish death metal, but barely comparable to Grave and Dismember. The vocals are deep but their lyrics recognizable. Although very brief, Mourn The Dying Light is a catchy EP with tasty harmonies and groove.
Deaf Club – Productive Disruption (Three One G)
After an EP last year, Deaf Club return with Productive Disruption. The band is fronted by Justin Pearson (The Locust, Dead Cross) with the lineup including members of groups such as ACxDC, Weak Flesh and Run With The Hunted.
Deaf Club encompass a variety of genres from hardcore to grind to crust. The 14 songs on Productive Disruption are brief and focused, with the longest track just over two minutes. Sometimes chaotic and dissonant, other times catchy and groovy, the album blazes by at a brisk tempo. Fierce vocals are tempered by brief instrumental breaks. It’s a cathartic blast of extremity that accomplishes its purpose in just over 20 minutes, but you’ll want to hit repeat on this one.
Fit For An Autopsy – Oh What The Future Holds (Nuclear Blast)
New Jersey deathcore veterans Fit For An Autopsy kick of 2022 in a crushing manner with their sixth full-length Oh What The Future Holds. Being off the road due to the pandemic gave them some extra time to write, resulting in their longest album and some new directions.
FFAA bring plenty of intensity and temper that with melody in both the guitars and vocals. That’s evident on songs such as “Far From Heaven” and “Two Towers.” The arrangements give the songs room to breathe, twist and turn in various directions while remaining cohesive. Joe Badolato gives a potent vocal performance that helps elevate the songs. The band has an added advantage of having one of metal’s most in-demand producers as a member. Wil Putney crafts a sound that showcases the band’s versatile blend of extremity and melody.
Hadal Maw – Oblique Order (Blighttown)
“After seething and conjuring during the COVID-19 lock-downs, Hadal Maw are now set to return with their most vicious material to date,” the press release reads. Usually such PR fodder is eye-rollingly overblown, but it feels apt in this instance. On the Oblique Order EP, this Melbourne mob unleashes four new, menacing death metal tracks.
The follow-up to 2018’s strong Charlatan EP, this effort is crushingly heavy, while retaining a sense of atmosphere and dissonance that’s also fused with technical proficiency. The end result will be an acquired taste, but for extreme metal enthusiasts it’ll be plenty appetizing. Frontman Sam Dillon delivers with vein-popping ferocity, and he’s joined on the title track by guest vocalists including Karina Utomo (High Tension), only heightening the intensity.
Since its inception, power metal has defiantly been the sub-genre that refuses to die. It wears its lack of coolness like a badge of honor, but for the already initiated that’s part of the charm. Quantum Evolution Event, the latest EP from Australian act Ilium doesn’t offer any real surprises, but will satisfy said melodic metal devotees.
On these five cuts, mainstays Jason Hodges and Adam Smith are flanked by accomplished campaigners, LORD main-man ‘Lord’ Tim Grose (vocals, production) and that band’s former drummer Tim Yatras. From the opening title track onwards, aided by some catchy as flypaper hooks and tasty twin leads, it’s a mood that’s celebratory, not stale. All involved tackle the supernatural and sci-fi themes with relish, while thrash riffs, proggy inflections and symphonic flourishes throughout accentuate the sense of occasion. This doesn’t feel like a release created by committee to land on playlists, but a collective collaborating on a common passion.
King Bastard’s trippy debut album, It Came From The Void, throws acid-washed clothes over traditional doom metal for a psychedelic frenzy. The album is largely instrumental save for some samples and shrieking during an unexpected black metal-inspired section of “Psychosis (In A Vacuum).” The band seems content on jamming out like the last 50 years of music have never happened.
Space is where the band sets the album, as they head into the cosmos for a journey ripe with peril. Over half of the six songs are at least seven minutes each, with expansive lead parts from every instrument, including a saxophone solo near the conclusion of “Kepler-452b” (also known as Earth’s “cousin” planet, 1,400 light years away). It Came From The Void requires a listener to be in a certain frame of mind, whether with or without substances involved, to gets its full spatial effect.
Kontact – First Contact (Temple Of Mystery)
If nothing else, the pandemic has given musicians ample time to collaborate with like-minded individuals they might not otherwise have the time to work with. This has often resulted in pretty engrossing releases over the past year, and Calgary upstarts Kontact aim to please us with First Contact, a five-song EP.
Kontact are a collaboration between members of Traveler, Blackrat, and others, and they aim to bring a punk-laden attitude to ’80s metal. Fans of Traveler in particular will note the similarity in album covers and overall musical style, with the unrefined but enthusiastic vocals giving the songs a bit of Voivod feel. We may want another Traveler album, but First Contact is an entertaining diversion.
Magnum – The Monster Roars (SPV/Steamhammer)
The British hard rock band Magnum are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band in 2022. Two original members remain: vocalist Bob Catley and guitarist Tony Clarkin, while the other three have been in the band between two and six years. The Monster Roars is their 22nd studio album.
The 74 year old Catley still sounds great, smoothly delivering Magnum’s melodic and catchy songs. They aren’t reinventing the wheel, but small things like the piano at the end of “Remember” help add variety. The band shifts between uptempo rockers, mid-paced songs and ballads. They know how to write memorable songs, and there’s minimal filler on The Monster Roars. Hardcore fans might want to grab the limited box set, which includes three bonus tracks including an unreleased song from the mid-’70s.
Maule – Maule (Gates Of Hell)
Vancouver metal crew Maule are here with their self-titled debut, with plenty of heavy metal thunder. The band themselves play a style akin to what you hear from the NWOTHM bands in recent with plenty of Thin Lizzy roots and Slough Feg level execution.
Right from the beginning of the album I get vibes of Traveler with vocalist Jakob Weel showcasing his range while the riffs behind him are fast and furious. This is the kind of album that gets thrown in the tape deck, windows down with the car kicked into full throttle. Fans of Haunt and their fellow countrymen Freeways will thoroughly enjoy this fine debut by a new and upcoming band.
Nocturnal Graves – An Outlaw’s Stand (Season Of Mist)
Australian blackened thrash by way of death metal crew Nocturnal Graves are dropping their fourth proper album An Outlaw’s Stand, an album that fits the particular scene and genre like a glove, drawing comparisons to Destroyer 666 among others.
“Command For Conflict” is a good display of the band firing off rapid fire riffs, while the drums pound off in the distance. Nocturnal Graves does a good job of allowing for break between sections of songs, allowing for the atmosphere to consume you before going full bore once again. If you want an album that does a great job of encapsulating three different subgenres and making them into bite sized portions of both the explosive and at times the atmospheric, give An Outlaw’s Stand a proper spin. This is the kind of energy you need to kick off a new year.
Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel (Atomic Fire)
Power Paladin is a name that generates expectations of dueling lead guitars, glorious falsetto and galloping rhythms, and it’s exactly what the Icelandic six-piece deliver on their debut album With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel. Along these nine tracks, the band covers all the hallmarks of second wave power metal (think Edguy, Rhapsody and Hammerfall) while spinning tall tales of high fantasy prowess.
In doing so, the band displays impressive mastery, elevated by pristine production value and a knack for catchy songwriting, but fly a bit too close to their influences to create a distinct identity. Full of little nods to classic power metal and nerd culture (including silly wizard voice overs and a stealthy homage to the Legend of Zelda), With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel is a superbly fun listen that executes the power metal formula almost perfectly.
Pridelands – Light Bends (SharpTone)
After releasing a couple of EPs, the Australian metalcore band Pridelands emerge with their full-length debut Light Bends. They took a few years to write and record the album, allowing them to refine and focus the songs.
Driven by memorable riffs, each song has shifts in tempo and intensity that makes it more compelling. Dense and chaotic section ease into mellower parts before ratcheting the intensity back up. There’s a pretty equal balance of harsh vocals and melodic singing. Even the ballad “Safer Here” injects unclean vocals into the mix. Light Bends is a moody and dynamic debut, and Pridelands are a band metalcore fans will want to keep an eye (and ear) on.
Seven Nines And Tens – Over Opiated In A Forest Of Whispering Speakers (Willowtip)
Seven Nines And Tens started out as an instrumental group on their debut, Habitat 67, before going into post-rock/prog rock with Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Slums. With their third album, Over Opiated In A Forest Of Whispering Speakers, the band heads in a more conventional style. Vocals are now prevalent and the songs are shorter while retaining their proggy tendencies.
Seven Nines And Tens have gone through several incarnations, but vocalist/guitarist David Cotton remains the constant. Listening to all three albums in succession puts in sharp focus the sonic shifts over the last 10 years. With all the movement, it’s tough to know if this is the sound the band will land on moving forward or continue to evolve. If they stick with this, they’ll be working from bountiful roots.
Slowbleed – A Blazing Sun, The Fiery Dawn (Creator-Destructor)
Slowbleed throw a listener off on A Blazing Sun, The Fiery Dawn with the neoclassical shredding in opener “Aurora.” This short instrumental doesn’t prepare for the meaty hardcore and death metal blend the band is all about. The guitar work does emphasis some nifty leads outside of “Aurora,” like the extended intro to “Driven By Fire” that puts the solos in primary focus.
The aforementioned “Driven By Fire” also displays a new side to the group, with its simmering pace and brief usage of melodic vocals. That’s followed up by the soulful acoustic interlude “Diliculum” leading into the blazing closer “Graves (Pours Of Earth),” which has some of the fastest tempos on the whole album. This trio that ends A Blazing Sun, The Fiery Dawn puts a multidimensional focus on Slowbleed, and the album is better for doing so.