This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from 1476, Bloodbound, Fen, Feuerschwanz, Jaodae, Lockjaw, Nita Strauss, Ophidian Memory, Putridity, Rockin’ Engine, Snuffed On Sight and Winterage.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
1476 – In Exile (Prophecy)
Originally founded by Salem, Massachusetts natives Robb Kavjian and Neil DeRosa, 1476 are coming off a six year gap between their 2017 album Our Season Draws Near and their latest effort In Exile. Describing themselves as wayward occult rock, you can see the strong inspiration to the famous occult hotspot.
Best described as a blend of power metal and punk rock, it makes this eleven track album a surprisingly smooth listen from start to end. “Lost in Exile” does what any good first track should do, it hooks you in and keeps you engaged. Supporting tracks like “Tristesse in Exile” and “Where Kings Fall” offer more grim yet mellow moments in between heavier songs such as “When Comes the Dawn.” If you like a little more punk to your metal, then 1476 may fit your niche.
Bloodbound – Tales From The North (AFM)
The latest release from the long-running Swedish power metal band Bloodbound is a concept album. Tales From The North explores various Viking legends and myths, culminating in the battle of 1066, which marked the end of the Viking era.
From the opening title track, the album is packed with soaring, bombastic power metal songs that are melodic and catchy. They also incorporate folk instruments that fit with the album’s concept on songs like “The Raven’s Cry.” They keep most of the tracks at a brisk pace, which gives the album a lot of energy but makes for a bit less variety. Still, there are a lot memorable moments and excellent musicianship on Tales From The North.
Fen – Monuments To Absence (Lupus Lounge)
On recent albums, the UK atmospheric black metal band Fen have explored a lot of post black elements. On their seventh album Monuments To Absence, their first in four years, they return to the more aggressive style of their early work.
The lyrics on the album have to do with anger, hopelessness and despair, which is also reflected in the music. That’s evident from opener “Scouring Ignorance,” and tracks like “To Silence And Abyss We Reach.” Fen still incorporate a lot of atmospherics, and continue to inject post metal parts into their songwriting, just not as often as albums like The Dead Light. That results in a very well-rounded album, and with many songs in the 9 minute range (the shortest track is 6 and a half minutes), there are plenty of ebbs and flows and stylistic shifts. The combination of intensity and complexity makes Monuments To Absence a really engaging listen.
Feuerschwanz – Fegefeuer (Napalm)
German folksters Feuerschwanz have been issuing a lot of material recently. In just the past four years there has been three compilations, a live album, a box set, a split, a collaboration and a few studio albums. Fegefeuer is their latest release and eleventh studio album.
Over their past few albums, Feuerschwanz have emphasized the “metal” in folk metal, with heavier guitars and soaring melodies. That continues here, with rousing numbers like the party anthem “Berzerkermode” and the groovy “Die Horde.” Riffs and melodies are augmented by the band’s trademark folk instruments and German lyrics, giving it a distinctive sound. Guest vocals from Eluveitie’s Fabienne Erni give “Bastard von Asgard” an even more eclectic feel. In addition to the new material, some configurations of Fegefeuer also include the bonus album Live In Wacken 2022.
Jaodae – Nest Of Veins (Black Throne)
Instrumental music comes in all forms and shapes. In the case of Jaodae, it’s riff-y progressive metal on their second album, Nest Of Veins. Progressive doesn’t mean keyboard solos or virtuoso guitar shredding (though closer “Tree Of Ténéré” has a great guitar solo near its conclusion), but a mentality of openness to any and all musical forms.
They can do a loose interpretation of a Spanish medieval jam, as they do with their take on the Cantiga de Santa Maria #166 on “Cantiga 166,” and it isn’t cumbersome. If they want to throw some horns on a track, like opener “Lobotomite,” they’ll do it. If they want to go into full head banger mode, “Bog Body” and “The Sirens Of Titan” do the job. Nest Of Veins is a much more dynamic album than their 2019 debut Cast In Ash, and puts their growth as composers into view.
According to the bio on Lockjaw’s official website, they started creating music way back in 1998, releasing EPs around their local Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas scene. Those EPs are not available digitally at the ,moment, as far as this writer could tell, essentially making their debut album Relentless the first real glimpse of this quintet.
What they give us is searing metal that has a firm melodic hold deeper than what may appear on the surface. Though there are harsh vocal takes, much of the album has crisp singing throughout. A chorus in a snappy cut like “Devil In Disguise” is made infectious when sung in a clear tone. There are the stocky breakdowns and grooved out riffs to get feet moving, yet they may be stopped in place with the bountiful guitar solos on “Living In My Head” and the title track. Lockjaw have tapped into music that lands in the fruitful spot between tuneful and dangerous.
Nita Strauss – The Call Of The Void (Sumerian)
Nita Strauss is the real deal – a first-rate guitarist with a distinctive style, not to mention both metal credentials and rock star presence. The Alice Cooper (who features on this record) and Demi Lovato axe-slinger has leaned on her musical skill, songwriting nous and iPhone contacts list for new solo endeavor The Call Of The Void. It equally blends tracks featuring guest vocalists alongside divebombing instrumental affairs. The instrumental tracks bristle with bruising riffs and fleet-fingered solos, but also restrained moments. These cuts will appeal to aspiring players, although some will understandably yield limited repeat listens among the non-muso crowd. Shred-fest “Summer Storm” and more melodic, almost Metallica-esque drama of “Scorched” will be perhaps the most palatable for the masses.
The hook-laden metal of “The Wolf You Feed” is a standout, enabling Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz to showcase her vocal versatility. “Victorious” (featuring Dorothy) is infectious arena-rock, if a little too cheesy. As an unashamed In Flames fangirl, there’s a tangible energy to Strauss’ playing on “The Golden Trail” as she revels in enlisting Anders Fridén’s trademark style. And Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale is incapable of phoning it in; note her turbo-tonsilled contribution to catchy “Through The Noise.” A radio-rock, metal and instrumental playlist rolled into one, The Call Of The Void is more coherent than that meshing of genres may suggest. Will it enable Strauss to become a legitimate crossover/mainstream star? It could well happen.
It hasn’t been long since the formation of Ophidian Memory, but over the past three years, Blake Lamoureux, the mastermind behind this one-man death metal band, has been prolific, releasing a noteworthy work each year. Our Shattered Garden is the newest admirable effort by Ophidian Memory to further open the band’s musical boundaries. Their music, especially on Our Shattered Garden, is heavily influenced by contemporary American death metal.
Even when in some moments it is reminiscent of European death metal bands, it points to those that heavily emulate American death metal. Ophidian Memory use melody not to institutionalize the world of melodic death, but to add depth to its soundscape and contextual dynamics. Therefore, along with the brutality that resides in the album, there are the subtle use of melodies that give it a progressive nature. Our Shattered Garden is not overly distinctive, but it is a commendable album from a musician who is very young but utterly talented, already shaping his future brilliance.
Putridity – Greedy Gory Gluttony (Willowtip)
The EP Greed Gory Gluttony from the Italian band Putridity features a straightforward death metal assault that is very appealing. The five songs on their first release since 2015 rip and tear through their runtimes. The buzzsaw guitars and furious drumming sounds similar to other albums of the style, leading to a feeling of déjà vu.
Their cover of Cannibal Corpse’s “Ecstasy In Decay” does add some variety to the proceedings. Still, it sounds too much the same after a while and tend to repeat themselves. This is certainly a good enough collection of songs even if it doesn’t surprise you in any way. Fans of band like Cannibal Corpse would be advised to seek out this EP.
Rockin’ Engine have gone from embracing the excesses of heavy metal to succumbing to terrors both real and fictional on their latest EP, Altered By Evil. Lyrics about scary films and serial killers require music that can match up to those seedy subjects, which the band does with a shift to groove/thrash metal. This energizes all the members, who attack these songs as if they are themselves thrusted into the middle of these unsavory environments.
Vocalist/guitarist Steve O Leff is the ceremonial leader to this dramatic mayhem, whether from the perspective of a murderer on “Psycho Path” or the literal ringleader to a psychopathic band of killers on “Carnival Of Evil.” For those with knowledge of all things horror, half of the enjoyment to Altered By Evil is figuring out what each song is about.
Snuffed On Sight – Smoke (Maggot Stomp/Creator Destructor)
Self-proclaimed “Bay Area dummy death metal,” Snuffed On Sight release their first LP Smoke. A relatively short (15 minute) shot in the arm, Smoke is very upfront with the kinds of stupid shenanigans the band is up to, from reggae horns to overblown grunts. There is no doubt that the band is having fun here, but this is the kind of music that feels as though it is better experienced live. That way at least the visual accompaniment can distract you from the music.
“Time 2 Dip” is the perfect encapsulation of Snuffed’s stupidity and if you love it, then the rest of the record is for you, unfortunately that’s not the case for me. If you want this style played out better, listen to Sanguisugabogg. Take this for what it is, one of the dumbest records I have ever heard.
Winterage – Nekyia (Scarlet)
The Italian symphonic power metal band Winterage took six years between their debut and second album. They were much quicker this time around, with their third full-length Nekyia coming just two years after The Inheritance Of Beauty.
It’s their most dramatic and cinematic album so far. The symphonic elements are front and center, augmented by heavy guitars. There’s a variety of vocal styles as well, from male melodic singing to female operatic vocals. Even with all that’s going on in the arrangements, Winterage keep the song lengths reasonable, with most in the five minute range. That, along with ample dynamics and variety on tracks like “Numen” and “Dark Enchantment” should keep Winterage fans enthralled with Nekyia.