This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Burned In Effigy, Bye Bye Tsunami, Celeste, Deeper Graves, Depleted Uranium, Evergrey, Generation Kill, Gloves Off, Lawnmower Deth, Milquetoast, Ravenous Death, The Risen Dread, Sarcasm, Sartori and Silhouette.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Burned In Effigy started out instrumental on their 2017 EP Terrestrial, before bringing in vocals for their debut album Rex Mortem. The shell of many of these songs come from the EP, as now a death metal roar bursts into their technical instrumentation. The bombastic guitar soloing on “Vendetta” puts a showmanship quality on the spot.
The spirited guitar work isn’t just confined to those two tracks but a staple throughout the album’s 32 minutes. “Artorias” and “Atlas” play up a sentimental side to the band, though the vocals remain callous even in these melodies. Rex Mortem does share qualities with other groups of this nature, such as The Black Dahlia Murder and The Human Abstract, but their superb musical ability keeps the album away from listless comparisons.
Bye Bye Tsunami – Bye Bye Tsunami (Nefarious)
Bye Bye Tsunami’s eponymous debut EP could create a new genre type called “future jazz,” with a focus on experimental noise that is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not really for many people, as songs like “J-Pop Love Banana Murder” and “Holdin’ Banana Spiders Through The Folds Of Time/Space” are more of an endurance run than any low-fi black metal in existence.
There is some loose structure here, with the trio of musicians using rhythmic and woodwind instruments (no guitars to be heard) along with electronics to unleash volatile music that aims at unconventional standards. There’s some wonderful chemistry between the members on “Proteo” and “Red Bible” that makes their irregular sound just welcoming enough. Their uniqueness isn’t in doubt, with a whole new instrument, a flaubosax, played on this EP, and that could make it a curiosity for any open-minded listener.
Celeste – Assassine(s) (Nuclear Blast)
The French black metal band Celeste were pretty prolific early in their career, but more and more time has been elapsing between released lately. Assassine(s) is their sixth full-length, and first since 2017. They have also signed with Nuclear Blast for this album.
Celeste inject avant-garde and post moments into their songwriting, sending traditional black metal structures in interesting directions. On songs like “De tes yeux bleus perlés” the riffs are heavy with an oppressive atmosphere, while tracks such as “Il a tant rêvé d’elles” are more deliberate in pace and give more room to breathe. They change things up with the dynamic instrumental “(A)” that ebbs and flows with some cinematic moments. Celeste don’t overstay their welcome, bringing the album in at about 40 minutes. It’s a strong return from a talented band.
Deeper Graves – The Colossal Sleep (Disorder)
Deeper Graves is a solo project of musician Jeff Wilson, a mainstay in underground metal who was involved in no less than two albums released last year (excellent ones from Contrition and Chrome Waves). Wilson embraces his admiration of shoegaze, post-punk and gothic on The Colossal Sleep. This album is the second one under the Deeper Graves moniker, coming off of 2020’s bleak Open Roads, and this one doesn’t lose much of the downbeat overtones of the last album.
There is a stronger emphasis on the guitar work, toning back the synth/orchestral components that were prevalent on Open Roads. The Colossal Sleep is sonically heavy without falling into the metal genre. The rhythmic trance of “Escape Velocity” and “Corridors” has an entrancing effect, one that avoids dissipating. With how quickly Wilson followed up Deeper Graves’ debut with The Colossal Sleep, this project appears to be as vital to him as anything else he’s currently a part of.
Though Origins is the second full-length album from Depleted Uranium, it’s actually more of a prequel to their 2018 self-titled debut. It was originally recorded back in the summer of 2010 over the course of one night, done in one take live. That recording was remixed and mastered for this release, though it still retains its roughness. This is a way to experience an early form of the group before they went into elaborate math metal.
The songs are mainly within grind/punk/hardcore, with most of the songs either around or under two minutes. It’s the bonus track for the CD release, “Percentages,” that is the closest starting point leading to their eventual first album. That track was actually recorded back in 2008, which adds an interesting factoid to an album that isn’t so much the next step for Depleted Uranium as it is an unearthed time capsule.
Evergrey – Live: Before The Aftermath (AFM)
It has been a while since Evergrey‘s last live release. They issued A Night To Remember back in 2005. They have recorded several albums since then, so it’s a good time for their second live release. The Blu-ray/2CD Live: Before The Aftermath was recorded in their hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. It was live streamed at the time, but unlike a lot of pandemic concerts, there was also a live audience.
Though they have plenty of great melodies and atmospherics, Evergrey’s heaviness comes through a bit more in a live setting. The 16 song, nearly two hour set covers a wide swath of the band’s career. There are no songs from 2021’s Escape Of The Phoenix, but 2019’s The Atlantic is well represented. They go back to the early days with songs like “Solitude Within” from 1999’s Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy. The band sounds great during this show, with Tom Englund in outstanding form. Live: Before The Aftermath captures a band firing on all cylinders.
Generation Kill – MKUltra (Blood Blast)
Generation Kill were formed as a side project by Rob Dukes when he was in Exodus, and they released their debut in 2008. Another album followed in 2013. Nearly a decade has passed, Dukes hasn’t been in Exodus for several years, and the band is issuing their third album MKUltra.
Old school thrash is the name of the game on this album, with galloping riffs and brisk tempos. They periodically slow the pace on tracks such as “Evil Eye,” which gives them a more ominous vibe. There’s excellent guitar work throughout, and Generation Kill brings aboard some high profile axemen to raise the level even higher. Dukes’ former bandmate Gary Holt guests on opener “Never Relent,” while other guests include Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth). MKUltra doesn’t break much new musical ground (nor does it aim to), but it’s a well-executed and enjoyable slab of thrash.
Gloves Off – Life…And Everything After (Upstate)
Life…And Everything After, the latest album from Bucks County, Pennsylvania’s Gloves Off, is incredibly heavy. The gist of their music is that Gloves Off play hardcore, and this has to be heavy and pounding enough. But does all this heaviness emanate from pure hardcore?
Gloves Off know where to insanely drive their music, so that Life…And Everything After does not rest for a moment. Metalcore aside, in many moments of the album you can feel the sludge-decorated, black metal-fused riffs, while the album also incorporates dark hardcore, post-hardcore and post-metal aspects. This is where it becomes an emotional work. While the dynamics are palpable throughout the album, the only thing you wish to hear on Gloves Off’s next album is they enter more personal and unique musical boundaries, with more fresh ideas in songwriting; something that is very evident in the potential of the band. But in the end, Life…And Everything After is crushing and it is good enough to set up a stronger future for Gloves Off.
Lawnmower Deth – Blunt Cutters (Dissonance)
Lawnmower Deth formed in the late ’80s and released their debut album Ooh Crikey It’s…Lawnmower Deth in 1990. The album had a cult, punk/thrash appeal, but the band only released two more albums and then called it a day. Now the English crossover band has recorded Blunt Cutters, their first album since 1994. While having their own personality, one could compare them to crossover bands such as D.R.I. and S.O.D.
Lawnmower Deth keep their music fun and funny. I’m not sure if they’re making fun of themselves or older people into metal, but “Into The Pit” describes a “geriatric” mosh pit. This humorous side brings to mind Gwar and The Dead Milkmen. The album has a lot of good riffs including “Raise Your Snails,” which features raging thrash metal chords. Fat bass lines, swift picking and rousing gang choruses show Lawnmower Deth still have it even after being away from recording for a few decades.
Milquetoast – Caterwaul (Wise Blood)
The Indiana trio Milquetoast are the exact opposite of their band name. Anything but timid or meek, their debut album Caterwaul is raucous, outgoing and in your face.
They embrace a variety of genres on the album. Their aesthetic and approach is punk, but the music also injects elements of hardcore, metal, hard rock, sludge, doom and grunge. “Recognize” has a slower tempo and thicker riffs, while “Fake News” is more chaotic and “Stoner Safari” bring groove front and center. The production is raw, which fits Milquetoast’s style. It’s a diverse and raucous debut.
Ravenous Death – Visions From The Netherworld (Memento Mori)
If that cover art didn’t give it away, prepare yourself for one of 2022’s most brutal and uncompromising albums. For many, Visions From The Netherworld, the second full-length slab of “ominous rotten death metal” from Mexican outfit Ravenous Death will be about as digestible as razor blades.
Ravenous Death faithfully take cues from Vomitory, both sonically and otherwise – one of their songs even inspired the band’s name. The likes of Grave, Vader and early Cannibal Corpse are also touchstones during this admittedly overlong hour-plus running time. The sheer speed and vocal gurgle of “Path of the Spawn Dogs” aside, a genuine sense of menace and moodiness permeates “The Ascending Chasm”, but the group doesn’t possess sufficient songwriting tricks to sustain the duration. A number of songs lack a distinctive identity, and raw production values also mean certain nuances get lost in the shuffle. The energy expended and hefty grooves somewhat compensate, though. By record’s end the bludgeoning may become numbing for some, but if you’re in the mood for straight-ahead extremity, Visions From The Netherworld will tick most boxes.
The Risen Dread – Night Hag (Wormholedeath)
The Risen Dread‘s Night Hag has a rollicking flavor that combines thrash with death metal in an effective fashion. This brings to mind Roots-era Sepultura. The album’s groove-oriented nature is simplistic enough, but still brings an impact. It shows a band operating at a reasonable amount of their total potential. This is an enjoyable, but far from perfect exercise in groove metal that has catchy songs and an accessible approach.
The songs pound their ideas into your mind in an appropriate manner. Riffs are chunky, yet accessible enough and make a great impact upon the listener. All in all, this is a fairly good release of groove metal that could have been improved if it was more compelling. There isn’t anything overly innovative to be found here, but this is an enjoyable listen nonetheless.
Sarcasm – Stellar Stream Obscured (Hammerheart)
The Swedish death metal band Sarcasm have had a lot of twists and turns in their career. They formed back in 1990 and issued numerous demos, but never a proper album. A mid-’90s reunion didn’t last long, but they finally re-emerged in 2015 and have now released several albums. Stellar Stream Obscured is their fourth full-length.
Sarcasm bring an old school approach to their music, blending brutal moments with glimpses of melody. Tracks like “Ancient Visitors” have heavy death metal riffs and vocals, but also an ambient interlude with spoken word vocals. The piano based intro of “Apocalyptic Serenity” contrasts the heaviness that follows. Closer “Let Us Descend” is cinematic at the beginning, crushing at the end. Songwriting like that makes Stellar Stream Obscured more dynamic and diverse than the typical death metal album.
Sartori – Dragon’s Fire (Rockshots)
Dragon’s Fire is the debut album from the neoclassical power metal band Sartori. The band is named after guitarist Andy Sartori, who is also the main songwriter.
There is plenty of shredding on the album along with melodic, hook-driven songs. Vocalist Scott Board has a powerful set of pipes and a wide range, and sounds a bit like Geoff Tate. Songs like “One Distant Heart” and “From Hell To Heaven” are catchy with singalong choruses. There are a couple of instrumentals as well to further showcase Sartori’s shredding ability. At 30 minutes, the album is either a long EP or short full-length, but Sartori are off to a promising start.
Silhouette – Les Retranchements (Antiq)
Somewhere between Alcest, Myrkur and DSBM, French newcomers Silhouette have created a delightful mixture of black metal on their first album Les Retranchements. Crystalline guitars and brooding orchestration make up a vast portion of the run time, giving way to walls of distorted guitars and frantic blast beats in the climaxes. The production is clear, yet shrouded in reverb, which tames the characteristic edge of black metal under a dreamlike veil.
At only 31:38, this is a brisk affair, and the songs flow seamlessly into each other, almost blurring into a single monumental piece. This flow is reinforced by the common themes explored throughout the album’s lyrics: The inexorable passing of time, the primal beauty of nature and the despair inherent to the human condition. Les Retranchements is a very strong debut that plays on its melodic sensibilities to create a powerful emotional statement.