This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Cognitive, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Inhuman Architects, Mortyfear, Nothing Sacred, Ophidian I, Paradise Lost, Resurrection Kings, Severed Boy, Space Chaser, Times Of Gracee, Vouna, Weston Super Maim and Wizardthrone.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cognitive – Malevolent Thoughts Of A Hastened Extinction (Unique Leader)
If that cover art didn’t give it away, prepare yourself for one of 2021’s most brutal albums. Taking sonic cues from the likes of Dying Fetus and Origin, New Jersey death metallers Cognitive‘s fourth album Malevolent Thoughts Of A Hastened Extinction certainly delivers on that front.
Ingredients besides concussion-inducing heaviness are required to maintain interest though, and these folks acknowledge this, meshing groove, speed and most notably, technical prowess with class. Case in point is opener “Eniac,” which proves furious and riff-laden, but also infuses beefy grooves, a quality guitar solo and versatile vocal performance. Other standouts are “To Feed the Worms,” which echoes Despised Icon’s unhinged fury in spots; sickening shrieks of “Malevolent Thoughts” and downright crushing, yet dynamic “Arterial Red.” Already adept at infusing dissonant melodies and abstract time signatures, this tech-friendly crew have honed a few other songwriting tricks to complement their heavier than a bag of spanners on Jupiter approach.
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – A Cult That Worships A God Of Death (Learning Curve)
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy’s (TGLH) journey from one-man instrumental post-hardcore outfit to a buzzing trio that have shaken ceilings in oversees Japan is a warming one. Their new release A Cult That Worships A God Of Death is a testament to this very success.
On one hand, A Cult…, is the soundtrack to utter chaos – unbridled riffing, coarse shouts and distortion – but its two-faced presentation also finds footing in more elaborate and meditated compositions. Jumping from the savaging beatdown of “The Pastors Pockets,” for example, and into the unfurling grand title-tracks that soothes minds instead of melting them with crooning guitar lines and curious synth patterns; all bases are covered and covered well. It’s a two tone approach executed with the passion and intricacy reflective of a band with the critical acclaim and experience that TGLH carries in reams. TGLH continue to contribute to the genre’s pool of young blood and deserves to have their names screamed as loudly as they shout for us.
Inhuman Architects – Paradoxus (Vicious Instinct)
Deathcore today is all about how to get to the heaviest and most unnerving points of brutality. If the music does not reach that stage, it is the bands’ vocalists who take on this serious task. Sometimes both cases manifest that wild temperament. Inhuman Architects and their debut album Paradoxus really fall into this category.
Paradoxus is not just about deathcore. The dynamics of Inhuman Architects’ music on this album utilizes more than deathcore elements. The border between the two worlds of deathcore and brutal death metal is clear on the album, and they merge where the roar of the one should complement the other. Hence, a significant brutal death metal is formed in the meantime. Have fresh ideas happened in this album? Maybe not that much; but the songwriting, guitar tones and riffs, drumming and production are still noteworthy, and the voice and performance of Fábio Infante is utterly impressive. Paradoxus delights every deathcore audience, and to some it can go even further.
Mortyfear – My Dystopia (Inverse)
The Mortyfear that are involved with My Dystopia are radically different from the one that released their debut album God’s Skin 15 years ago. Not only is guitarist Tapio Laitila (now on the bass) the lone member to remain from that era, but their sound has gone from generic death/thrash to melodic death metal with gothic undertones. Keyboards accentuate this change, though the first few songs don’t use them properly. They have a cartoonish effect on “Circus Called Life” and distract from the roaring metal on “Jester’s Downfall.”
It isn’t until near the album’s halfway point where the shift in direction starts to gel, as the death metal is toned down, the melodic vocals take over, and the band experiments more with the gothic/electronic elements. My Dystopia may have little to do with the band that put out songs like “Kingdom Of Sperm,” but this album shows Mortyfear were smart for moving away from that.
Nothing Sacred – No Gods (Rockshots)
Though No Gods is Nothing Sacred’s second album, this Australian thrash group has roots dating back to the early 1980s. They made a minor splash in their home country with 1988’s Let Us Prey, but a canceled support slot with Megadeth and lineup upheavals doomed the band’s chances. No Gods gives Nothing Sacred another opportunity to make an impression on a new audience.
Unlike the rough production values and speed/thrash of their first album, No Gods sounds more with the current times. They still kick up the pace on songs like “Final Crime” and “Oracle” (both of which are tracks revisited from an unreleased album they worked on in the late ’80s), while packing the groove in on “Cult” and “Stoner.” The guitar leads are impeccable, but the lack of hooks in some of the songs and any sort of standout track makes No Gods a respectable, if underwhelming, comeback.
Ophidian I – Desolate (Season Of Mist)
After releasing their debut in 2012, members of the Icelandic tech death band Ophidian I focused on other projects. They regrouped with a new vocalist, John Olgeirsson (ex-Lord Of War), for their sophomore release Desolate.
The band’s technical skills are impressive with songs that are ever-shifting and displaying first-rate musicianship. In addition to the continual barrage of riffs and the brutality of the drums, Ophidian I inject melodic solos and some catchy sections into tracks like “Storm Aglow” and “Sequential Descent” that provide a respite from the extremity and make the songs more memorable. Moments like the acoustic intro to “Captive Infinity” also provide variety. There’s a lot going on in these 10 songs that fly by in less than 40 minutes that will sink in with repeated listens.
Paradise Lost – At The Mill (Nuclear Blast)
Paradise Lost‘s most recent album Obsidian was released last year in the midst of the pandemic. With touring shut down, like many bands Paradise Lost decided to do a livestream concert. That performance from November 2020 at a mill in Yorkshire was captured as the aptly titled At The Mill.
Live albums without an audience have to be very challenging for the band, not having that energy to feed off, but Paradise Lost pull it off well. The 16 song set includes three from Obsidian, with the rest of the tracks a mix from throughout their career. They go all the way back to 1991’s Gothic, and also play material from more recent albums like 2017’s Medusa and 2915’s The Plague Within. At The Mill is available in a variety of formats including CD/ Blu-ray and vinyl.
Resurrection Kings – Skygazer (Frontiers)
Skygazer is the second album from Resurrection Kings, whose lineup includes vocalist Chas West (Bonham, Foreigner, Lynch Mob), guitarist/bassist Craig Goldy (Dio, Dream Child) and drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio).
Their sound straddles the line between hard rock and heavy metal, with melodic songs that run the gamut from rousing and upbeat to mid-tempo groove to power ballad. West has a bluesy and expressive style, giving the songs an emotional edge. There are influences of Goldy and Appice’s former band Dio along with ’70s bands like Led Zeppelin. The impeccable production and catchy songs make for an enjoyable hard rock album.
Severed Boy – Tragic Encounters (Caligari)
Misanthropic duo Severed Boy release their debut work Tragic Encounters. Conjured during the quarantine, a project that evokes both the tragedy of our times as well as their own personal reflections. A lot is covered within the 20 minutes provided, all encapsulated within sludge and doom riffs and overall misery. Think of this as Eyehategod but with emphasis on death and black metal themes to set the tone to be a particular brand of bleak.
Opening with their self-titled track, Severed Boy showcase exactly as stated above, a perfect opening to their aural onslaught. “Pooling” comes next and lets the death/doom loose perhaps in a way to have the listener go mad especially when sandwiched between the potent opener and the ambient drone of “Agony and Despair.” It’s a powerful debut born out of the need to cope and share the misery within, to match the violent visions outside.
Space Chaser – Give Us Life (Metal Blade)
Thrash has been around since the early ’80s, with multiple generations of bands embracing the genre over the years. One of the newer generation of thrashers is Germany’s Space Chaser, who have been around for about a decade now. Give Us Life is their third full-length.
The production is modern, and Space Chaser pay homage to thrash’s pioneers along with trying to push in different directions. There are influences of punk, hardcore and even death metal in their music. Their lyrical approach is varied, with lighthearted songs like “Army Of Awesomeness” contrasted by songs with lyrics inspired by physics and the works of Carl Sagan. Space Chaser manage to stay true to the genre’s foundations while adding in some modern touches.
Times Of Grace – Songs Of Loss And Separation (Wicked Good/ADA)
About a decade ago Times Of Grace emerged, a partnership between Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz and vocalist Jesse Leach, who at the time had been out of KsE for several years. Even though they are Killswitch bandmates again, they decided to resurrect Times Of Grace for a second album, Songs Of Loss And Separation.
It’s an opportunity for them to explore different musical styles, and the approach of this album is evident from the title. They tackle heavy topics like absence and grief, with both Leach and Dutkiewicz handling vocal duties. Even though the topics are morose at times, the songs are melodic and catchy. There’s a lot of melodic singing, with songs like “Far From Heavenless” adding in periodic harsh vocals. It’s a foray that scratches a different musical itch than their main band, giving them the freedom to travel down different musical roads. And while some end up being dead ends, the majority are a smooth ride.
Vouna – Atropos (Profound Lore)
Yianna Bekris, the lone member of Vouna, takes the band’s second album Atropos further into both black and doom metal without sacrificing any of the atmospheric traits prevalent on their 2018 self-titled debut. This album is almost twice as long as the last, justifying its expansion by doubling down on the downbeat gloom. Only “What Once Was Reprise” offers any solace, an acoustic-driven interlude that serves as the middle ground between four behemoths.
The increased presence of black metal is one of the bigger steps taken, including a guest vocal spot from Wolves In The Throne Room’s Nathan Weaver on “Vanish.” Bekris’ vocals mostly remain ethereal and smooth, even in the throes of mayhem. Instruments like the harp, piano, and synths keep Atropos tied to Vouna’s past, while signaling that their earlier work was only the beginning of Bekris’ vision for the band.
Weston Super Maim – 180-Degree Murder (Dark Trail)
180-Degree Murder, the debut EP from Weston Super Maim, is two tracks spread out across 15 minutes, but they might as well be part of one whole composition. The opening title song seamlessly flows right into “We Need To Talk About Heaven,” with a mellow guitar melody acting as a gateway between both of them. On either side of that gateway is a manic slice of progressive/technical death metal, chugging alongside the likes of Meshuggah and Periphery.
Vocalist Seth Detrick sells the tale of a man whose embrace of the world’s negativity leads to the extinction of mankind with conviction, seething through lines like “I have showered in your bile/Slipping on your fat.” It’s not a pleasant story, and Tom Stevens, who handles all the instrumental work, gives a performance that spans from psychotic to chilling. The two of them together give 180-Degree Murder the proper conviction a sinister concept like this should have.
Wizardthrone – Hypercube Necrodimensions (Napalm)
Wizardthrone are a new band made up of members of established groups such as Alestorm, Gloryhammer and Nekrogoblin. Their debut album Hypercube Necrodimensions has the classical flair of groups like Emperor material within a slightly more harsh context. The music is theatrical and interesting, but still rooted in more primitive black metal style types.
It uses keys and such to make things more compelling, making the overall experience immersive, but one that leaves you wanting more. Though the songwriting is solid, it is fairly rudimentary. It has a carnival type of flavor that is very appealing and lends credence to the band. Though the atmosphere is pronounced, the album still sometimes comes across as rather bland. This is a recommended release for black metal fans that has the potential to open things up into more interesting dimensions on future releases.