This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Anzillu, Conjureth, Dismal, Dryad, Electric Mob, Freeroad, Giant Sleep, Girlschool, Ominous Scriptures, Oozing Wound, Steve Vai, Superterrestrial, Uriah Heep and The World Is Quiet Here.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anzillu – Ex Nihilo (M-Theory)
The Finnish group Anzillu are a new band, but its members have been in another bands in the scene such as Argent Void and Inkvisitor. Ex Nihilo is their debut album.
They mix a few different extreme metal styles. Slayer-esque thrash is at the forefront on many of their songs, with blazing riffs and brisk tempos on tracks like “Needles (On My Nerves)” and “The Cleansing Flame.” They also incorporate death metal groove and modern metal stylings on songs like “Discordia” and funky guitar tones on the intro to “Splinter In The Mind’s Eye.” Anzillu are able to bring something unique to each song while Ex Nihilo as a whole remains cohesive. That makes for a varied and promising debut.
Conjureth – The Parasitic Chambers (Memento Mori)
“Witchcraft is dead and discredited. Are you bent on reviving forgotten horrors?” This is how the evil sound of Conjureth’s second album The Parasitic Chambers begins. “How do we know sir? What is dead?” as it continues. Like their debut, this album is obedient to the classic form of death metal. Just as roaring, just as horrific. But when it comes to maturity in composition, the sophomore album seems to have taken a step forward.
The Parasitic Chambers is powerful and worthy of consideration for death metal fanatics. It is extremely exciting when it is influenced by Morbid Angel and early Vader, and it becomes respectable when it looks for signs of its personal tone in the middle of the roar of old school death metal. It is a wide field for Conjureth to examine and showcase their abilities to be brutal, to be technical, and to be wrathful, like The Blood on Satan’s Claw.
Dismal – Via Entis (Aural)
The Italian band Dismal have been around for more than a quarter century. Their early gothic/doom/black sound has shifted to a more neoclassical gothic style. Their sixth album Via Entis features new vocalist Caterina Accorsi.
The music on the album is very cinematic and atmospheric. Strings on tracks like “White Elixir, Red Elixir” add a different vibe, with a violin solo replacing the typical guitar solo. “All Is One” has some folk elements while “The Gathering Of The Dew” is a mellow piano ballad. There are some heavy moments on the album, but a lot of softer sections as well. Accorsi’s voice is rather ethereal, which adds to the album’s airy, gothic vibe. The arrangements are interesting, but a few more hooks and catchy moments would make things more memorable.
Dryad – The Abyssal Plain (Prosthetic)
Coming from the Iowa City, IA scene is Dryad, whose magical and oceanic themed style of black/death metal is ready to set the word ablaze. Their debut The Abyssal Plain has a soft intro which sees the band pivot to the more aggressive “Bottomfeeder” with all of its recording wards and low-fi feel, making fans of the early ‘90s bands like Nifelheim feel all too at home. Fans of horror will love the odes to Giallo and John Carpenter films with the band’s use of synths to keep the maelstrom from falling completely apart on “Brine Pool Aberration” among others.
“Hadal” serves as an appropriate interlude on The Abyssal Plain, making for a creepy bumper to even more of Dryad’s insanity; clearly cinematic in its approach. “Pompeii Worm” has a bit of a Darkthrone feel with its use of drums to counterbalance the guitar riffs, just missing a shouted woo, in lieu of a guitar solo. Dryad have a different take on the genre while remaining true to their identity. Expect to hear more from another premier and upcoming music scene from the Midwest.
Electric Mob – 2 Make U Cry & Dance (Frontiers)
Electric Mob frontman Renan Zonta has been keeping busy. In addition to his main band, he is part of Brother Against Brother and the supergroup Skills with Brad Gillis and Billy Sheehan that released their debut album last year. 2 Make U Cry & Dance is Electric Mob’s sophomore album.
The album title is awkward, but the songs are smooth, groovy and melodic hard rock. It’s packed with radio-friendly numbers, with songs like “By The Name” and the ballad “4 Letters” especially catchy. Zonta appeared on the Brazilian version of The Voice, and he has a great set of pipes. He sings with both power and range and is able to inject subtlety and emotion when needed. 2 Make U Cry & Dance is bluesy hard rock that has some retro influences but still sounds modern.
Freeroad – Do What You Feel! (Dying Victims)
Hailing from Monterrey, Mexico are retro rockers Freeroad who sound like they belong to the same primordial ooze that spawned Wishbone Ash, UFO and Thin Lizzy among others, skewed a bit closer to the early ‘70s. Opening with the title track, the band is doing exactly what they set out to do, adding a layer of authenticity to their sound. The guitar lines are fresh and melodic, with soaring solos and pounding drums, this is a perfect example of a band picking a lane and absolutely hitting the nail on the head.
Even slower songs like “Nature of Change” strike a chord with Alejandro Velazco’s vocals soaring while giving the guitar lines a rest. Do What You Feel! is a perfect encapsulation of a particular era played to near perfection from an area of the world that you wouldn’t expect. Fans of retro rock and riffs in general have a lot to like here.
Giant Sleep – Grounded To The Sky (Czar of Crickets)
Grounded To The Sky, the third album from the Swiss/German band Giant Sleep, brings a huge stoner groove to the table. The songs feature big chops that have the ability to pull you in, a monstrous stoner platter that features Tool-like trance-induced portions. The result is a psychedelic effect upon the listener. Embracing more of those kind of elements would make things even stronger. This is a well produced record with a calming mood, but there is a certain energy to these tracks as well.
The overall feeling the album gives off is one of psychedelia. This leads to a fun listen that is mostly positive in nature with only a few flaws. Things come to a nice closure on “Elixir,” a gentle and kind song to end the album. The feeling is a nice finish to the rest of the material. Grounded To The Sky is full of fun stoner grooves and is a treat for fans of the genre. It is a genuinely enjoyable time overall with very much to enjoy.
Girlschool – The School Report: 1978-2008 (Cherry Red)
Countless band that were part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the late ’70s and early ’80s quickly disappeared. There were bands from that era that have had staying power, and you can count the pioneering Girlschool among them. For those who want to dive into their long career, the five disc compilation The School Report: 1978-2008 is a perfect starting point.
The collection includes over 100 songs. The first disc covers 1979 to 1983, spanning their initial three albums. 1983 to 1988 is included in the second disc, while 1992 forward is included on the third disc. In addition, there’s a collectionf of singles and b-sides along with an ultra rare live show from 1978 when they were still called Painted Lady. The School Report: 1978-2008 is a must own for any Girlschool fan, and a great place to get a wide overview of material from the very beginning through 2008’s Legacy album. There’s also an interesting essay from author and NWOBHM expert John Tucker.
Ominous Scriptures – Rituals Of Mass Self-Ignition (Willowtip)
Muscular, brutal death metal is uncovered on Ominous Scriptures’ third album, Rituals Of Mass Self-Ignition. This is a fully realized take on the genre for the band, which has more depth to it than their previous records. On those releases, it was all about how noisy and relentless they could be, relying too much on drawn-out samples. They’ve gotten better about limiting them, as they embrace more usage of guitar solos and groovier tempos to make the songs more complete.
There are no left turns on Rituals Of Mass Self-Ignition, as brutal death metal is what a listener gets for almost 30 minutes. Closer “Codex Rescriptus” has a measured start that doesn’t erupt for a while, proof that they have evolved from a single focus on how fast they can perform. Blasphemy is what the group thrives on, and this style of music makes that attitude legit.
Oozing Wound – We Cater To Cowards (Thrill Jockey)
The Chicago thrash trio Oozing Wound have had a slightly longer gap between each album. They went from one year between their 2013 debut and Earth Suck; about two years between that one and Whatever Forever; approximately three between that and High Anxiety; and now almost four years later they emerge with their fifth album We Cater To Cowards.
Oozing Wound’s sense of humor has always been evident, but they also address real world issues in their songs. Their brand of thrash has a raw, punky influence with elements of noise as well. Tracks such as “Hypnic Jerk” can be dense and choatic while songs like “Total Existence Failure” have ample groove. The instrumental “Crypto Fash” is an interesting change of pace with its combination of bold brass and grungy bass. There’s something unique around every corner, with no dull moments on We Cater To Cowards.
Steve Vai – Vai/Gash (Favored Nations)
Recorded during a two-week burst in 1991, Steve Vai shelved Vai/Gash, touted as his “biker rock” album, following the death of singer John “Gash” Sombrotto in 1998. The most striking thing here is how straightforward the guitar playing is. Considering he tracked it right after “Steve Vai-ing” all over Whitesnake’s Slip Of The Tongue and his own magnum opus, Passion And Warfare, one might be forgiven for thinking this was somebody else. But there’s no mistaking the beefy rhythm guitar tone on lead-off track “In The Wind,” despite the absence of his usual rubbery guitar antics.
Our definitions of what constitutes “biker rock” may differ, but the AOR-smooth “She Saved My Life Tonight” doesn’t exactly scream Hell’s Angels and Harleys. The overall feel recalls Vai’s one-off with Alcatrazz, Disturbing The Peace, more so than his wacky antics with David Lee Roth or Zappa-esque solo shred-fests. A fascinating curio, but likely appealing to completists only.
Superterrestrial – The Fathomless Decay (Self)
Celestial black metal mingles with synths on Superterrestrial’s The Fathomless Decay. Following two albums released in 2018 and 2019, there was a pause between those and this third album, though the well-composed music here isn’t a far cry from what they were doing some years back. The synths emerge in these songs as if they are the last ray of hope in the center of desolation.
Slender tunes “Solar Constant” and “Planetesimal” don’t fill up too much time, while those with a meaty atmosphere like “Periastron” and “Heliacal Rising” lets the band work more out of an ambient nature. Keeping an even-handedness between these is how The Fathomless Decay keeps the intergalactic setting from sucking all the life out of the proceedings.
Uriah Heep – Chaos & Colour (Silver Lining)
British hard rockers Uriah Heep have been around for more than 50 years, having formed back in 1969. They have had a lot of lineup changes over the years, with guitarist Mick Box the lone remaining original member. Vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboardist Phil Lanzon have been in the band for nearly 30 years. Chaos & Colour is the band’s 25th studio album and first in five years.
Once again working with producer Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Amon Amarth), Uriah Heep continue the momentum from Living The Dream. Their brand of progressive hard rock sounds as fresh and vibrant as ever on songs like “Silver Sunlight” and the psychedelic “Age Of Changes.” The bands shifts smoothly from fairly straightforward tracks like “Hurricane” to more epic songs like “One Nation, One Sun” and album highlight “You’ll Never Be Alone.” Those that have been along for the ride for decades will enjoy Chaos & Colour, and a whole new generation of fans can appreciate the band, who show no signs of slowing down.
The World Is Quiet Here – Zon (Silent Pendulum)
Zon is a 66-minute track divided into nine parts, each flowing into the next to make for a lofty piece of music. This isn’t a surprise from The World Is Quiet Here, a group that spent over 50 minutes on an album called Prologue. There’s an enormous story they want to tell, and it’s going to take more than one album to do so. The scope is wide and they mostly live up to it, weaving through progressive death metal with large melodic implications.
Between The Buried And Me’s Colors had to have a small influence on the band, as there are moments like closer “Impetus I: Torrid Sands” that invoke memories of that classic album. Vocalist Lou Kelly puts all of himself in every note, deeply crooning and shredding his vocal cords with beastly screams. Zon lacks immediate gratification, yet those who bury themselves deep in it will pick up on how uncompromised their vision is.