This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from The Black Thunder, Born Of Osiris, Diabolizer, Drawn And Quartered, Enforce, Lord Of The Lost, Mannveira, Mondo Generator, Noctambulist, Sun Crow, Taake, Vanta and Year Of No Light.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
The Black Thunder – Into The Darkness (Defense)
The Black Thunder’s sophomore album Into The Darkness is derivative, uninteresting and, at times, sloppy; an effort that is miles behind their supposed experience. Having had a steady release of demos, EPs and a debut album since 2009, the Polish rock ‘n’ roll quartet aim to draw upon elements of the metal spectrum but ultimately fail to execute what would inevitably have been a less than enticing vision.
At a fleeting (audible) glance the diagnosis ailment is hazy. The production is to a standard reflective of their experience and the majority of Szczepan’s Brent Hinds impersonation works well with the band’s doom ‘n’ gloom M.O. This is where the praise ends, however. Gratingly uninspired riffs, sloppy editing, surface-level lyricism and rarely any direction in terms of songwriting; the list goes on. Perhaps a fitting choice for background noise but, unfortunately, that’s as far as The Black Thunder excel on this occasion.
Born Of Osiris – Angel Or Alien (Sumerian)
The Illinois progressive metalcore band Born Of Osiris‘ last album, 2019’s The Simulation was a streamlined 25 minutes. Their new record Angel Or Alien is more than twice that length.
The song lengths are still relatively streamlined, most in the four minute range, but there are 14 tracks. Born Of Osiris blend heavy sections and harsh vocals with melodic parts and clean singing, topped with atmospheric keyboards. It’s a catchy collection, with a lot of memorable songs such as “Waves,” “White Nile” and “Echobreather.” There’s plenty of variety and progressive moments. It’s not easy to write 14 quality songs, but there is minimal filler on Angel Or Alien.
Diabolizer – Khalkedonian Death (Everlasting Spew)
It took a while for Diabolizer‘s debut album to see the light of day. The Turkish death metal band formed back in 2012, but with members busy in other projects like Engulfed, Burial Invocation and Decaying Purity, the process was a deliberate one. After an EP in 2016, they emerge with Khalkedonian Death.
It’s a well-rounded effort, with Diabolizer’s brand of death metal covering all the bases. There are dense and bludgeoning blastbeat driven parts, groovy sections and enough melody to keep things interesting. They shift tempos from chaotic to mid-paced, and song titles like “Maelstroms Of Abhorrence” and “Sulphuric Vengeance” leave little question to what their approach is. Excellent musicianship and a diverse approach elevate Khalkedonian Death above the typical death metal release.
Drawn And Quartered – Congregation Pestilence (Krucyator)
Brutal death metal legends Drawn And Quartered are unstoppable when it comes to releasing blistering music. Three years after the release of the acclaimed The One Who Lurks, what follows in the continuation of the hideous world of that album is Congregation Pestilence. It’s 38 minutes of bestial death metal; where every spark of light dies.
Drawn And Quartered do not expend a single bit of energy to connect to the modern elements of death metal. This is where the insistence and resistance to the stability of old school death metal comes into play. Congregation Pestilence gloriously and powerfully connects itself to wide ranges of blast beats to slow burning death metal. In the midst of organized chaos of the drums, labyrinthine riffs and melodies are intertwined, and in this complexity, technical death metal emerges. It’s a clear picture of a dark and torturous art, as if you are looking at Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents or Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas. Remarkable songwriting and performances, notable production, and the intimidating voice of Herb Burke all lead Congregation Pestilence to be the band’s best work to date.
The Australian band Enforce took three years between their first and second albums, eight years between their second and third, and a full decade between their third and fourth record, Deep Blue. There have also been wholesale lineup changes, with vocalist/guitarist Guy Bell the lone remaining member from 2011’s Biblakill.
Enforce have an old school approach, with songs driven by thrashy riffs and plenty of solos. The aptly named “Thrash Attack” and “Metal United” have brisk paces, while other tracks are more mid-paced and groovy with some death metal influences. The guitar work from Bell and Paul Easson is excellent throughout, whether they are shredding or playing more subtle fills. While not reinventing the wheel, it’s an expertly executed journey down a well-traveled but enjoyable path.
Lord Of The Lost – Judas (Napalm)
Judas, the latest effort from the German gothic/industrial band Lord Of The Lost is an ambitious double album. The concept revolves around Judas Iscariot and the so-called Gospel Of Judas, a non-canonical Gnostic gospel consisting of conversations between Jesus and Judas.
While it is a compelling concept, it’s a daunting task to maintain interest over 24 songs and nearly two hours. And while there are a few lulls, Lord Of The Lost mostly succeed. There’s a lot of variety, from metallic industrial tracks to emotional gothic songs. Frontman Chris Harms’ baritone voice has a lot of gravitas and versatility. Backing choirs and periodic harsh vocals make the songs even more interesting as do elements such as a violin and organ on the somber “Death Is Just A Kiss Away” and female vocals on “Argent.” Judas is dramatic without devolving into melodramatics and the quality of the songwriting makes it much easier to stay engaged for the entire length of the double album.
Mannveira – Vitahringur (Dark Descent)
Icelandic black metal group Mannveira have released their debut album Vitahringur after an extended period with no new music. The group originally started out as mainly a solo project before expanding into a full band leading up to this album. Riffs covered in frosty tones keep to what the genre is all about, yet there’s a melodic pull that wipes away the ice chips. It’s a seamless transition the band executes throughout these five songs.
Every song has that moment black metal fans are familiar with when the blur effect kicks in, as all the instruments seem to be locked in towards infinity. Even at this stage, something like the bass guitar can be made out in the mix, so it’s never so blurry as to be indistinguishable. Compared to how impenetrable a lot of this style of music can be, Vitahringur is just accessible enough to reel in those normally hesitant about black metal.
Mondo Generator – Live At Bronson (Heavy Psych Sounds)
In early 2020, Mondo Generator were touring Europe in support of their latest album F–k It. Just before the pandemic shut down touring for the foreseeable future, they played a show in Ravenna, Italy. That show was captured for posterity and is being released as Live At Bronson.
The band tears through 18 songs of desert punk with force and emotion. The tracklist focuses heavily on F–k It, with seven songs taken from that album along with songs from throughout the band’s lengthy history. They go all the way back to their 2000 debut Cocaine Rodeo for “13th Floor” and “Shawnette Jackson.” Nick Oliveri and company bring a heavier and looser approach to the live setting, giving them a boost of energy. It’s been a while since the band has released a live album, and this is an excellent representation of this era of the band.
Noctambulist – The Barren Form (Willowtip)
Noctambulist’s The Barren Form morphs technical death metal with black metal, taking the tightness of the former and the dissonance of the latter into consideration and throwing it all into songs that go anywhere from six to twelve minutes. These lengths are justified with the usage of mysterious, ambient outros to most of the songs, acting as a cleanser from the devastation that precedes it.
Some may find these go on for a bit too long (“Infinitesimal” has one that goes almost four minutes), but they tie these songs together and maintain the stark atmosphere in a way a band like The Ruins Of Beverast did in their early work. Dreadnought vocalist Kelly Schilling adds guest vocals to “Engulfed,” integrating herself well into Noctambulist’s anarchic state of affairs on The Barren Form.
Sun Crow – Quest For Oblivion (Ripple)
Sun Crow’s charming, doomy debut Quest For Oblivion originally came out independently late last year and is now seeing a release via Ripple Music this summer. The foursome from Seattle, Washington loads up on the groove, bouncing through extravagant compositions for an album that skids past the 70-minute mark by its end. The band makes it easy to engage in with shredding guitar solos and rhythmic exuberance.
They do pick up the pace on the thrilling “Nothing Behind,” but mainly stick to a thunderous, bluesy mid-tempo on the rest of the album. Closer “Titans” experiments with cleaner guitar tones, though it’s not stuck to for long. Sun Crow get plenty of mileage out of sharp feedback, rumbling bass, and soulful vocals on Quest For Oblivion to justify its massive length.
Taake – Avvik (Dark Essence)
In 2020, Norwegian black metal veterans Taake had several songs that didn’t quite fit into their recent albums, so they decided to issue three split 10 inch vinyl releases with Whoredom Rife, Deathcult and Helheim on different labels.
Those songs have been collected on CD as Avvik, which translates to “anomaly” or “deviation.” The six songs from the splits have been remixed and remastered. In addition, the Sisters Of Mercy cover “Heartland” is slightly longer with saxophone courtesy of Sigh’s Dr. Mikannibal. There’s also an acoustic version of “Nattestid ser Porten vid I” from their 1999 debut. While not essential for the typical black metal fan, Taake fans will be very interested in this collection.
The Hungarian duo Vanta brings forth doomy and sludgy songs to the forefront on their debut release Zero Kelvin. There is a slow buildup to the songs before they eventually reach their climax. The sludgy sound with heavy bass usage permeates the album.
Zero Kelvin roles along at a nice pace with some stoner type moments that add to the mix. The songs are fairly standard sounding with very little innovation present. This leads to a fun experience that feels like it could be so much more. For a sludgy, stoner style, this is still an impressive release that could still use some refining.
Year Of No Light – Consolamentum (Pelagic)
Breaking an eight year long silence is always a fraught affair, but on their thunderous new album Consolamentum, French post-metal septet Year Of No Light simply picked up where they left off. Working with the same team as on 2013’s Tocsin, the band explores deeper into the gnostic and mournful themes of their previous works.
While this record doesn’t stray from the typical post-metal instrumentation and composition at all, it combines all the genre’s element in seamless and thoughtful fashion. This creates mesmerizing ebbs and flows of crushing sorrow and fleeting hope. “Réalgar” is the perfect example of this balance between fuzzy dirges and aerial melody. There is a physicality to these five songs, all of which were recorded live in the studio, that encapsulates the cathartic erasure of self that happens when surrounded with the massive sonic onslaught of a post-metal show. While we wait for these to happen again, this is the next best thing.