This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Box, Cirkus Prutz, Contemplator, Crystal Gates, Funeral Chic, Krisiun, Lathe, Raptore, Reeking Aura, Scary Hours, Sedimentum, and Voivod.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Box – Cherry Blossoms At Night (Miserable Pyre Of Secrets)
Musician Andrew Stromstad isn’t lacking in the ambition department on Cherry Blossoms At Night, his first album under the Box moniker. Many will be deceived by opener “Succumb,” a two-and-a-half minute thrasher that appears to gear up for fireworks ahead. Instead, it goes completely the opposite, with new wave and gothic/industrial sounds the focus. There are still glimpses of metal, like the hyperactive blast beats on “Pulse,” but by the album’s halfway point, things are far away from the impression “Succumb” gives off.
Cherry Blossoms At Night can’t help but be scattershot from this sort of decision-making, though it pushes boundaries hard in an admirable way. When Stromstad unleashes glammy falsettos on “Lifetaker” and “Liberate,” it somehow works. When the former song goes into a death metal-inspired break that’s like Cannibal Corpse mixed with Andrew W.K., it pays off. This is one of the stranger albums of 2022, which makes it a curiosity from that alone.
Cirkus Prütz – Blues Revolution (Metalville)
Sweden’s Cirkus Prütz have one goal: to bring the good times of hard-rocking blues to the masses. Blues Revolution is the four-piece’s third album, and all the predictable influences are here – Howlin’ Wolf, ZZ Top, Muddy Waters – along with a couple one might not think of: hints of QOTSA and the Ramones can also be picked up on.
Cirkus Prütz don’t try to reinvent any wheels here. Blues Revolution is a straightforward affair, loaded with catchy blues numbers both fast and slow, sleazy and moody. Each arrangement is predictable in terms of the blues genre, but well executed. Fans of acts like George Thorogood, ZZ Top, and others will no doubt enjoy this album.
Contemplator – Morphose (Nefarious)
The genesis of Contemplator dates back over a decade, yet Morphose is only the band’s second full-length album. It took almost six years for the band to follow-up their debut Sonance, as they hold tighter to an orchestrated slant to their instrumental progressive metal. It’s apparent they are as influenced by trailblazers like Genesis and King Crimson as they are by groups like Dream Theater and Fates Warning. Even without vocals, these songs have deep hooks to them.
This includes the lush classical introduction to opener “Rite Of Shards” and the accordion break in the middle of “Hollowing The Flame.” To their credit, Contemplator doesn’t need the orchestration to hit back, as the fiery bass solos on almost every song do the job. Morphose is high-level instrumental music that is equal parts bombastic and sublime.
Crystal Gates – Torment & Wonder: The Ways Of The Lonely Ones (Wormholedeath)
The symphonic power metal band Crystal Gates have been around for nearly a decade, forming in Uruguay and now based in Latvia. After releasing an EP back in 2015, they finally emerge with their debut full-length Torment & Wonder: The Ways Of The Lonely Ones.
Carolina Perez has an operatic style voice, though she balances that style with traditional singing. The songs are bombastic with a lot of atmosphere, and also very catchy. Tracks like “Alive For The Journey” and the ballad “A Lonely Dreamer’s Wish” have memorable melodies. Crystal Gates also venture into epic territory with “The Stars Temple” and 12 minute closer “Torment & Wonder.” The production gives the songs an expansive yet pristine sound, making Torment & Wonder: The Ways Of The Lonely Ones a quality debut.
Funeral Chic – Roman Candle (Prosthetic)
Four years ago the North Carolina band Funeral Chic released Superstition. In the time since then, both their lineup and sound has undergone some changes, with Roman Candle their third full-length.
They’ve dialed back the powerviolence and this time around take inspiration from bands like The Stooges and the New York Dolls. Lyrically they also incorporate more personal topics and not as many political ones. There are some brisk tempos with a thrash influence, but also several mid-paced groovy numbers such as “Ain’t Goin Nowhere” and “Born To Kill.” There’s even a sax solo on “Last Line Blues.” Funeral Chic bring impressive riffs to the table with gruff vocals adding passion and edge. They wrap up the record with a cover of Roky Erickson’s “Two Headed Dog.” Their blend of hardcore, metal and punk works well on Roman Candle.
Krisiun – Mortem Solis (Century Media)
The legendary Krisiun are one of South America’s longest running and best known death metal bands. The Brazilian trio has been around since 1990, and Mortem Solis which translates to “death of the sun,” is their twelfth studio album.
Having played together for more than three decades, the chemistry between Alex Camargo (vocals/bass), Moyses Kolesne (guitar) and Max Kolesne (drums) is evident in both the album’s musicianship and songwriting. The songs are heavy and brutal, with Krisiun injecting melodies that make tracks like “Serpent Messiah” memorable. They move smoothly between groove and chaos on songs such as “Necronomical,” while they keep their foot on the accelerator on “Tomb Of The Nameless.” The songs on Mortem Solis have plenty of twists and turns, making it another in a long like of compelling Krisiun albums.
Lathe – Tongue Of Silver (Grimoire/APT 66)
Instrumental drone/doom may bring up thoughts of bands like Earth and Sunn O))), but Lathe’s Tongue Of Sliver is instrumental music if it was materialized in a ramshackle cabin somewhere in the middle of the Southwestern desert. A listener can almost taste the sand in their mouths as this trio from Baltimore, Maryland takes a trip to a place devoid of any common amenities.
Tongue Of Sliver has broader influences than just drone/doom throughout its eight songs. “Rodeo Fumes” forms into blackened noise near its end, while “Cauliflower” puts the lead guitar on the spot with consistent soloing throughout its six minutes. Using instruments like slide guitars and organs gives Lathe tools to welcome in experimental values.
Raptore – Blackfire (Dying Victims)
It has been a while since we’ve heard from Raptore. Originally forming in Argentina a decade ago, they are now based in Spain with vocalist/guitarist Nico Cattoni the lone remaining original member. They issued their debut back in 2016, and after a 5 way split album in 2020, they are issuing their sophomore full-length Blackfire.
Raptore open the album with “Triumphal March To Hell,” with an intriguing piano based opening before the speed metal kicks in. And while speed metal is a big part of their sound, they also moderate the pace to a more traditional metal style on songs such as “Prisoner Of The Night” and “Phoenix.” That keeps things interesting, as does the barrage of quality guitar riffs. There are throwbacks to the ’80s as well as modern influences on Blackfire.
Reeking Aura – Blood And Bonemeal (Profound Lore)
Blood And Bonemeal is the debut for NY/NJ death metal collective Reeking Aura featuring a lineup boasting members of Buckshot Facelift and Artificial Brain including their recently departed frontman Will Smith. As opposed to his former band or even Afterbirth, Reeking Aura are a bit more traditional with their approach to death metal, not afraid to get down, dirty, and slow on songs like their title track.
“Seed The Size Of A Spider’s Eye” pummels along as the drums of Sam Shereck beat you down and the three-guitar attack featuring Ryan Lipynsky, Terrell Grannum, and Rick Habeeb finish off the listener with aplomb. While some of the earlier tracks keep it simple, the Demilich inspired word vomit of “A Vegetative Mush That Melts Among The Shelves Lined With Meats Of Indeterminate Origin” features some of Smith’s greatest growls on the record, complete with sounding like an absolute whirlwind when the guitarists go full bore. With a solid debut, Reeking Aura leave a great mark and if this is a sign of what’s to come after Blood And Bonemeal, expect more chaos and slaughter than just this.
Scary Hours – Symptoms Of Modern Hegemony (Self)
Scary Hours is a one-man metallic hardcore act from northern New Jersey, helmed by Ryan Struc, who based on his sheer volume of releases, must be a busy man. He has been churning out stream of consciousness politically charged music, in an era where there is a new boogey man lurking around every corner; something that must be hard to keep track of.
Symptoms Of Modern Hegemony is one of the few collections of his that could be considered a full length, one that channels a good amount of DC hardcore, NYHC, and more modern melodic hardcore; a true amalgam of styles. Early highlights include album opener “Suffer Peacefully” and “Secular Grace.” The album is broken up by an interlude called “Daily Grime” before heading back into the variety of styles employed here by Struck that continues to grow. “Behind” is another solid more modern sounding punk song continuing the album’s trek through the last four decades. If you need a hardcore history lesson in a little over half-an-hour, have a listen to Symptoms Of Modern Hegemony.
Sedimentum – Suppuration Morphogénésiaque (Me Saco Un Ojo/Memento Mori)
Sedimentum first emerged from the Quebec underground with a demo issued in 2019. After splits with Phobophilic and Total Isolation, they are releasing their full-length debut Suppuration Morphogénésiaque.
They play old school death metal, sometimes playing mid-paced ominous songs (“Excrétions Basaltiques”) and other times amping up the extremity for a more chaotic vibe (“Funestes Manifestations”). The harsh vocals are fairly deep in the mix, making the riffs and atmosphere more prominent. They don’t overstay their welcome, with the album clocking in at under 40 minutes. While Suppuration Morphogénésiaque isn’t overly innovative, it is well executed, which death metal fans will appreciate.
Suffering Sights – When Sanity Becomes Insanity (Dying Victims)
When Sanity Becomes Insanity from the Chilean band Suffering Sights brings a death/thrash flavor to the table. The album sounds a good deal like Sepultura in their early stages. The main idea is that the band has a mean demeanor and comes across as harsh in nature. The songs feature the crunch of thrash with the evilness of death metal, though there is some level of being generic.
The band subverts this by throwing in some versatility to the mix. Songs have that same brooding quality of early Sepultura and this makes them stand out. With a little effort in trying to be unique, Suffering Sights could separate themselves from the pack even more. They have the right nature to make a name for themselves, and songs like “Hypocrite” stand out and give the album punch.
Voivod – Forgotten In Space Box Set (BMG)
The influence of Canadian legends Voivod cannot be understated. Their progressive approach helped move metal in a different direction in the ’80s. Some of their early Noise Records era albums are collected in the six disc box set Forgotten In Space.
Included in the set are 1986’s Rrrröööaaarrr, 1987’s Killing Technology and 1988’s Dimension Hatröss. There’s also a disc of Dimension Hatröss demos and the live show No Speed Limit Weekend ’86. The final disc is a DVD that includes a mini documentary, a concert from 1985 and previously unseen 1987 concert. The list price is around $50, which isn’t bad for that amount of material. The LP box set is considerably pricier, but also includes a 40 page book of photos and interviews along with a USB drive with MP3 audio of all the albums. There have been other reissues of early Voivod albums, but this is a nice collection that will appeal to both hardcore fans of the band and those who want to explore Voivod’s catalog.