This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from A Fitting Revenge, Greg Puciato, Haunt, Hulder, Ironflame, A Lie Nation, Massacre, Protector, Shinedown, Thirteen Gods, Thun and Tuscoma.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Five years after their debut, Rochester New York’s A Fitting Revenge return with Omnipresence. The band mixes a variety of genres with sci-fi based lyrics, and every song title on the album starts with “The.”
The dominant style on Omnipresence is melodic death metal. Those melodies come from the guitars, as the vocals are harsh throughout. There are are also elements of tech death and metalcore with touches of thrash here and there. A Fitting Revenge are continually shifting tempos and intensities, going from blazing extremity to moderately paced grooves. The instrumental “The Reprieve” lives up to its title, providing a brief moment of serenity before the metal kicks back in. It’s a diverse and engaging death metal album.
Greg Puciato – Mirrorcell (Federal Prisoner)
Best known as the vocalist for trailblazers The Dillinger Escape Plan, Greg Puciato has also done time with Killer Be Killed and The Black Queen. Here on his second solo album Mirrorcell, Puciato hones in on his personal style with a focused collection of songs on which he sing and plays all instruments except drums.
From the ferocity of “Reality Spiral” to the morose “Never Wanted That” to the languid, electronic “We,” Puciato displays a deft songwriting touch. His vocals are in prime shape here, from hushed whispers to all-out hardcore screams, and his keyboard and guitar work is perfectly suited to the material. All told, this makes Mirrorcell a very satisfying sophomore release that seems to be bringing out the best of Greg Puciato.
Haunt – Windows Of Your Heart (Iron Grip/Church)
Haunt is the traditional heavy metal project of Trevor William Church (Beastmaker). Windows Of Your Heart is his seventh album in just five years – this guy is prolific! This album is more reality-based rather than swords & sorcery, and centers on Church’s feelings for his newborn son. Church’s voice is like a mix of Ozzy and Perry Farrell, and his rough around the edges delivery will be charming to some, and too loose for others.
As with every Haunt record, there are a number of gems (“Mercenaries,” “Father Time,” “No Control” and more) and a number of “filler” songs (Church himself says the album is based on a few songs written for playing live). Despite this misgiving, Windows Of Your Heart is a fun romp through fields of traditional metal, and fans of the band (and other similar acts such as Dawnbringer) will definitely enjoy it.
Hulder – The Eternal Fanfare (20 Buck Spin)
Hulder, the Hungarian black metal entity by way of Washington state return with The Eternal Fanfare EP. It’s fresh off their full-length debut Godslastering: Hymns Of A Forlorn Peasantry which made waves last year. Hulder on record is a one-woman project and what you expect is something melancholic, medieval, with a flair for some of black metal’s earliest iterations.
Opening with a 3-minute intro, Hulder then goes full bore into “Burden of Flesh and Bone,” feeling as though she is riding into battle betwixt the galloping drums and sheer speed at which the music is being played. Hulder’s ability to draw beauty from such harsh music helps separate her from the pack in using some of the things that set bands like Immortal and Emperor apart from their contemporaries. The Eternal Fanfare is a good place to whet your appetite between full length albums, as Hulder’s star will only continue to shine brighter over time.
Ironflame – Where Madness Dwells (High Roller)
Andrew D’Cagna is in several bands in numerous genres. Nechochwen is folk/black metal, Brimstone Coven play occult rock/doom metal, and he has been in death metal bands as well. Ironflame are traditional/power metal, and Where Madness Dwells is their fourth album.
The band’s most obvious influence is Iron Maiden, with D’Cagna channeling Bruce Dickinson. There are also similarities to bands such as Dio and Helloween. The songs on Where Madness Dwells are melodic and anthemic, and there’s plenty of shredding guitar riffs and solos. Songs in the 5 minute range give plenty of room for instrumental breaks while the choruses soak into the listener’s brain. There’s not a lot of originality, but the execution and songwriting make it an album fans of classic metal can enjoy.
A Lie Nation – Sociopathology (Inverse)
It’s taken about a dozen years since their formation, but A Lie Nation have finally put out their first album, Sociopathology. Building off the melodic black/death metal from their two previous EPs, 2015’s Human Waves and 2017’s Begin Hate, the group lands in that snug space between unmitigated rage and understated harmony. Some songs stick to one approach, like the furious opener “Ihmisen Projektio,” while many find solace in both, like the acoustic guitars and singing in “Conclusion Of A Thought” leading to points of chunky brutality.
“Nothing Has A Meaning” is a showcase for some nifty guitar soloing, a strategy that isn’t overused on Sociopathology. A Lie Nation appears to know what is needed, not having to be too flashy with their instrumentation unless it suits the song. Though they do bolt into wild tempos, their ability to counter that with a softer touch makes this album more palatable than other black/death bands that take the melodic route.
Massacre – Mythos (Nuclear Blast)
Florida death metal legends Massacre took seven years between Back From Beyond and last year’s Resurgence. Less then a year after that album they are issued a four song EP Mythos.
It’s vintage Massacre, delivering the old school death metal you know and love. Opener “Behind The Serpent’s Curse” features Cadaver vocalist Anders Odden, while “The Dunwich Horror” shifts back and forth from uptempo chaos to midpaced grooves. There are also tempo shifts in “The Mythos That Lovecraft Built” and closer “The Thing On The Doorstep,” which features some of the EP’s heaviest moments and some of its catchiest. No big surprises here, just well-played old school death metal from one of the genre’s pioneers.
Protector – Excessive Outburst Of Depravity (High Roller)
The German thrash/death metal band Protector emerged in the mid-’80s, releasing four full-lengths before a long gap between albums. They resumed issuing new material in 2013, with Excessive Outburst Of Depravity their eighth studio album.
Frontman Martin Missy is lone holdover from the band’s early days, but the rest of the lineup has been together for over a decade. Excessive Outburst Of Depravity is driven by fast-paced thrash riffs and mostly fast tempos. They do moderate from time to time on songs like “Open Skies And Endless Seas” and “Shackled By Total Control.” Missy’s death growls provide the extremity, but there’s also plenty of melody to be found on the album. It covers a variety of lyrical topics past and present, from the World War II inspired “Referat IV B 4” to the coronavirus themed “Pandemic Misery.”
Shinedown – Planet Zero (Atlantic)
Shinedown are one of hard rock’s most successful bands, with several platinum albums and the most number one singles on Billboard’s mainstream rock chart of any artist. The title track from their latest album Planet Zero was their eighteenth chart-topper.
There are numerous other potential hit singles on the album, which shines a spotlight on current issues ranging from our ideological divide to cancel culture to the toxicity of social media. Shinedown’s blend of thoughtful lyrics and irresistible hooks has attracted a legion of loyal fans. In addition to the earworm choruses, there are plenty of heavy moments on songs like “No Sleep Tonight” and “Clueless And Dramatic” along with ballads such as “Dysfunctional You” and “A Symptom Of Being Human” and pop-oriented numbers like “Sure Is Fun.” Brief instrumental interludes between several songs interrupt the album’s flow and could easily be excised, but Planet Zero is jam-packed with memorable songs that will maintain their place as one of the genre’s elite bands.
The starting point of Thirteen Goats and their debut album Servants Of The Outer Dark is death metal, but it doesn’t remain tied to it. They explore all types, including tech death and melodic death metal, and even genres outside of that like thrash, groove, and doom metal. Each song brings out a unique side to the band, whether it’s the politically charged “Prisoner’s Anthem” or the body horror of “Sub-Being.”
The gore isn’t ignored either, with bodies being cooked up on “Through The Meat Grinder…The Recipe” and heads being blown up on “Vacuum-Induced Head Explosion.” Many of these lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, though going from a song talking about concentration camps to one about a creature made from body parts can be jarring.
Thun – II (Eat Lead And Die)
Thun’s second album II continues the tale of the fight against the enemy of environmentalism; corporations who put profits above everything in the name of greed. To describe this, the group stomps their way through a doom/death metal hybrid. The notable musician involved is Nile vocalist/guitarist Karl Sanders, who provides lead guitar on the whole album. This isn’t just one or two short solos either; his presence is key, as his recognizable guitar tones can be heard everywhere.
Though “Where All Truths Lie” and “Final Cut” deftly maneuver through death and doom, the rumbling “I Have Failed You” sticks mainly to the former. Drummer James Knoerl deserves special recognition for his wonderful performance, which was a highlight of their debut album and remains so on II. This is music with a message, one that has its sights set on the future of this planet.
Tuscoma – Gu-cci (Landmine)
Tuscoma started out as blackened hardcore, yet they’ve been steadily pushing into shoegaze-infused black metal as their years together have gone on. Gu-cci still retains a bit of their hardcore style, but it’s less pronounced than it was back on their debut album Arkhitecturenominus. Their last album, Discourse, flexed the group’s melodic muscles; however, Gu-cci doesn’t do this as much, taking on a vigorous charge that stays on track.
Fourteen-minute closer “Aris Dazed” pushes Tuscoma’s songwriting in a way that emphases the development taken over the last three albums. There’s no shortage of ambition from this New Zealand-based trio, which Gu-cci takes and runs with by finding a way to pulverize without becoming atonal or soulless.