This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include review of releases from Ascension Of The Watchers, Domination Campaign, Hardline, L.A. Guns, Lastima, Laurenne/Louhimo, The Lords Of Altamont, Mayhem, Midhaven, Musk Ox, Mutherload, Scattered Storm and Unendlich.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ascension Of The Watchers – Translations: Apocrypha Remixed (Cherry Red)
Late last year, Ascension Of The Watchers released Apocrypha, their first new album in eight years. Unable to tour in support of the record because of the pandemic, instead they worked with several different producers to create alternative versions of the tracks. The result is Translations: Apocrypha Remixed.
The original album is mainly gothic rock with industrial and alternative elements. And while the songs have been transformed into more danceable, club-friendly versions, the lengths haven’t been extended too much. They are also in a different order than the original album. It’s interesting to hear Burton C. Bell’s distinctive voice on electronica versions of the songs, but it fits pretty well. The 2CD version also includes the original album with a couple of bonus tracks.
Domination Campaign – Onward To Glory (Prosthetic)
Domination Campaign are an offshoot of Australian technical death metal luminaries Psycroptic, featuring vocalist Jason Peppiatt and guitarist Joe Haley. Onward To Glory, the group’s debut album, trades in technicality for streamlined punishment. Peppiatt does all the guitar and bass work in addition to vocals, and Haley puts his guitar aside for some drumsticks. With Psycroptic’s decades-long extremity in terms of pacing and delivery, Domination Campaign is almost subdued by comparison.
In this case, subdued still means a steady stream of acidic riffs and mortar fire percussion that fits the lyrical themes of warfare. “The Sniper’s Gaze” has a hoppy progression that stands out against the rest of the basic hammering of the other songs. At 30 minutes long, Onward To Glory is just the right length to sustain an approachable momentum.
Hardline – Heart, Mind And Soul (Frontiers)
Johnny Gioeli has been very prolific over the past few years, releasing albums with Axel Rudi Pell, Crush 40, Gioeli-Castronovo, a solo album and of course his longest running project Hardline. Life is the band’s seventh studio album.
It follows in the vein of their previous releases, delivering radio-friendly melodic hard rock. There are plenty of catchy songs such as the uptempo “If I Could I Would,” the power ballad “Heavenly” and the mid-paced “The Curse.” They amp up the heaviness and the nostalgia on “80’s Moment.” It’s a strong collection of songs, and Gioeli’s vocals are powerful and emotional, making for a well rounded hard rock album.
L.A. Guns – Cocked And Loaded Live (Frontiers)
L.A. Guns weren’t among the hair metal elite in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but they did have success. Two of their album went gold, and several of their songs got airplay on MTV. Last year they played a streaming show featuring their most successful album, 1989’s Cocked And Loaded.
This version of L.A. Guns includes Phil Lewis (vocals) and Tracii Guns (guitar), which played on the original album. (There’s another version of the band with two other members from the early days). They play the original album, which includes songs like “Rip And Tear,” “Never Enough” and “The Ballad Of Jayne” along with one track from 2017’s The Missing Piece. Lewis doesn’t even attempt all the high notes anymore, but still sings with swagger and attitude. It’s a fun blast from the past for fans who miss the glory days of ’80s metal.
Maldicion de Sangre, by Philadelphia’s Lastimà (pity, hurt, condolences) opens with a frantic blast beat, flanked by walls of tremolo-ed guitars and the cathartic howls of singer-guitarist Richie Devon. Fusing the raw angst of emo and the harsh abandon of blackgaze in a vitriolic condemnation of colonialism and exploitation, with solemn violin and piano passages lamenting the damage done, this EP has more to say in thirteen minutes than some bands have in an hour.
Despite these sharply contrasted peaks and valleys, the flow between them is impeccable. Violinist Thuy Nguyen’s carefully orchestrated harmonies dance around the black metal sections, guiding us through an emotional journey like a golden thread, while the rhythm section pounds away relentlessly. Fans of Deafheaven, Svalbard and Envy will want to listen to these two songs and keep this band under close watch.
Laurenne/Louhimo – The Reckoning (Frontiers)
Finnish vocalists Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast and Netta Laurenne from Smackbound are teaming up as Laurenne/Louhimo for The Reckoning. The lineup is rounded out by guitarist Nino Laurenne and drummer Sampo Haapaniemi.
Louhimo’s potent voice shines on uptempo songs like the title track and “Bitch Fire,” while Laurenne’s smoother voice is perfect for the ballad “Hurricane Love.” Most of the songs are classic/traditional metal with some forays into power metal and even a bit of hard rock. The songs are tight and laser focused, with the outlier being the 7 minute closer “Dancers Of Truth,” a dramatic and cinematic song. Louhimo and Laurenne sound good together, and the songs expertly utilize their skillsets for optimal results.
The Lords Of Altamont – Tune In, Turn On, Electrify (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Tune In, Turn On, Electrify is the L.A. garage rock outfit The Lords Of Altamont’s seventh album. They’ve been around for 22 years, but to be honest this is my first time listening to them. There is definitely some MC5 influence, as well as a freer, more hard-rocking Monster Magnet at times. What might set these guys apart from other sloppy hard rock acts is the presence of Jake Cavaliere’s organ, which blasts its way through most of the songs in compelling fashion.
The title track “Million Watts Electrified” is actually somewhat reminiscent of The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’,” with that raging organ. Tune In, Turn On, Electrify is good old-fashioned beer-drinking garage rock, and overall there are some fun, catchy, charismatic tracks here, but nothing that sets The Lords Of Altamont apart from the vast swathe of retro hard rock acts out there.
Marras – Endtime Sermon (Spread Evil)
There are a couple of Finnish bands with the moniker Marras. This is the black metal group that formed a few years ago and released their debut in 2019. The six-piece follows that up with Endtime Sermon.
Their brand of black metal combines several elements of the genre. They have rawness and blastbeats, but also inject melody into their songs. There are a few instrumental/spoken word interludes that are atmospheric and cinematic. From the brutality of the title track to the icy grandiosity of “My Cold Grave” to the epic closer “From The Soot Of Goahti,” it’s an album with a lot of variety that maintains interest from beginning to end.
Mayhem – Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando (Century Media)
Black metal legends Mayhem released Daemon in 2019. All the material from that session was not included on the album, resulting in the 7 track EP Atavistic Black Disorder/Kommando.
It opens with the previously unreleased “Voces Ab Alta,” which is a quality song, but didn’t fit on Daemon. There are also two songs that were on the limited edition CD, along with four cover songs. Mayhem decided to do four punk songs from Dead Kennedys, Discharge, Ramones and Rudimentary Peni. They even brought back former members Maniac on “Hellnation” and Messiah on “In Defense Of Our Future.” Punk certainly influenced black metal, and Mayhem put their own spin on these classic tracks. It’s a worthy stopgap for fans to enjoy while awaiting the next studio album.
It’s hard to believe Midhaven are just a trio. The Mumbai-based heavy prog outfit sound much bigger on Of The Lotus & The Thunderbolt, their second album and follow-up to 2014’s debut Spellbound. With crushing riffs, furious vocals, and a blistering delivery, they are not here to make friends or take prisoners. Drawing from bands as diverse as Neurosis and Tool and infusing those elements into their own concoction, Midhaven have put together a sneaky-good album.
This album might be brief (seven songs over thirty-five minutes), but Midhaven make every second count. Whether it is the post-hardcore attack of “Para Brahman” and “Codeman” or the more progressive, melodic numbers such as “The Immanent Efferfescence of Sorrow” or the epic “Zhitro,” the band establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. This is an album that will please fans of massive yet polished post-prog metal.
Musk Ox features members of Leprous, The Night Watch and others. Inheritance, their first album in seven years shows a nice subtle style with plenty of string orchestration. It has a vibrancy and makes its mark upon the listener.
There is a very classical feel to the songs that is highly addictive and resonates. Though rather short, the dynamics present in the songs are able to make their mark. It all adds up to a well-rounded release that is very pleasing to listen to. The sparse instrumentation makes things rather subtle, but there is an underscored power to the songs. This pretty piece of music is highly recommended listening.
Mütherload were formed from the remains of Canadian melodic death metal band Heaven Ablaze, which was active in the 2000’s before disbanding in 2013. This new group features most of the members from that earlier project, though their Ü EP strays more into a thrash/death/groove metal hybrid. The songs are also punchier, as the six tracks only fill up about 16 minutes of space. That’s thanks to two interludes that break up the EP, though for a release so short, only one was really needed.
In any case, the band makes the EP easy to get through, using the limited time to make a viable impression. A noisy guitar solo on “Iniquity” peps up the proceedings, one of the few instances where the band gets showy. Other moments where this happens, like the singing on closer “Lamia,” aren’t pulled off as well, as the meaty screams that dominate the rest of the EP are more effective. Ü is a rock-steady first release for Mütherload with glimpses of a worthy foundation set in place.
Scattered Storm – Oblivion (Blood Blast)
On their Oblivion EP, Scattered Storm give stomping grooves and bouncy breakdowns a cinematic flair, as electronics and orchestration add dimensions to their sound. Whether it’s the “2001: A Space Odyssey”-inspired ambient outro to “Kingslayer” or the mournful closing ballad “Scattered Storm,” the band doesn’t hesitate to offer different sides to their music, which is a commendable trait for a band in their infancy.
Those that just want to be crushed into submission will find it in hard-edged songs like “Aeon Flux” and “Necronomicon,” with vocalist Andre Acosta belting out some wild screams near the conclusion of the latter. His voice gets a rest from all the yelling on several tracks, putting on a solid showcase of his melodic range. That’s just another way Scattered Storm seem unwilling to stay put in a linear path on Oblivion.
Writing and recording an album during a pandemic is a challenge, but it is somewhat easier for a one-man project such as the black metal artist Unendlich. Mastermind Michael Connors handled almost all the instruments, with a little help on lead guitar on two tracks.
It’s a traditional black metal album, coming out of the box with the punishing “Wisdom Of Suffering.” While the vocals are harsh and there are dense and chaotic parts, Connors injects melodic guitar riffs into songs like “Space Of Decay” and “Into Abandonment.” The contrast between dissonance and catchiness is effective without being jarring. While Paradox Of A Broken World follows a well worn musical path, Unendlich’s songwriting chops makes for an album black metal fans can embrace.