This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Anaal Nathrakh, Black Sabbath, Blitzkrieg, Brother Against Brother, Crypta, Dornenreich, Eremit, Go Ahead And Die, Hammer King, Living Dead Girl, Mammoth WVH, Mortal Device, This Ending and Witch Cross.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anaal Nathrakh – The Codex Necro (Metal Blade)
It has been almost 20 years since Anaal Nathrakh shocked listeners with their debut album The Codex Necro, and Metal Blade is celebrating this milestone by reissuing the album on CD and vinyl. There’s most likely a section of their fanbase that has never heard this album, getting into the band over their last few albums, so getting this back out in a wider release is great.
This album only hints at what the band would become decades down the road, as vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L. sticks to his menacing roar and the music is grim black metal with an industrialized backing. The Codex Necro holds up as a bestial display of brutality without compromise that was groundbreaking in 2001. The lack of any bonus material is disappointing though, as previous re-releases included live and demo tracks. Even then, for fans of physical media, this reissue is worth a buy for those that don’t already have it in their collection.
Black Sabbath – Sabotage (Rhino)
The 1975 release of Black Sabbath’s sixth album Sabotage came at a tumultuous time, as the band was involved in legal wrangling with their former manager. It’s not one of their most well known albums, and it charted lower and sold less than 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but it is a quality album.
The super deluxe edition of Sabotage has been newly remastered. The four disc collection also includes 16 live tracks from their 1975 tour in support of the album, 13 of which are previously unreleased. There’s also the single edit for “Am I Going Insane” and its b-side “Hole In The Sky.” The live show portion of the release will appeal to Sabbath fans, with both Sabotage material and some of their biggest hits. It’s an album well worth revisiting, and really holds up well over 45 years after its initial release.
Blitzkrieg – Theatre Of The Damned (Mighty)
Three reviews in a row of reissues this week. Nobody is more influential than Black Sabbath, but as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Blitzkrieg also had an impact. Earlier this year their 1985 debut was released, and now a later album, 2007’s Theatre Of The Damned is being reissued.
It’s a good album, featuring guitar driven traditional metal. The 11 songs (and one brief instrumental) are catchy and melodic. In addition to the CD release that includes two bonus tracks, it’s also available on vinyl for the first time. Reissuing some of their ’90s albums would have made more sense, but there could be roadblocks in making that happen, and Theatre Of The Damned is certainly worth checking out if you missed it the first time around.
Brother Against Brother – Brother Against Brother (Frontiers)
Two Brazilian vocalists have joined up to form Brother Against Brother. Sinistro’s Nando Fernandes is one of Brazil’s most popular rock/metal singers, and Renan Zonta fronts up-and-comers Electric Mob.
The songs on Brother Against Brother are melodic metal with catchy melodies and ample hooks. Zonta and Fernandes switch back and forth on lead vocals within each song, with some of the best moments coming when they harmonize. There’s also excellent guitar work throughout thanks to Swedish axeman Jonas Hornqvist. Keyboards add atmosphere and a different flavor to songs like “City Of Gold” and “Haunted Heart.” The singers each have their own unique style and sound, which complement each other very well on this album.
Crypta – Echoes Of The Soul (Napalm)
Crypta were formed by former Nervosa frontwoman Fernanda Lira. The lineup also includes another former Nervosa member along with ex members of Burning Witches and Hagbard.
Lima’s vocals add charisma to the band. Also, one can note a thrash-type Nervosa influence as they do not just sound like death metal. The songs are somewhat reminiscent of an older Bolt Thrower type of feel, though there is a modern flair to them as well. The songs tend to roll along at a mid-pace and not bring a lot of excitement or thrill to the table. However, this is still a very well written and performed death metal album. The songs have nice crunch to them and this is still a fairly high quality release. Fans of the genre would be recommended to check out Echoes Of The Soul.
Dornenreich – Du Wilde Liebe Sei (Prophecy)
It has been seven years since the last album from the Austrian folk troupe Dornenreich. Du Wilde Liebe Sei (You wild love be), is their ninth full-length.
The songs are dynamic and expressive, with the addition of instruments like the violin giving it a unique sound. It’s a mostly acoustic affair, but electric guitars make periodic appearances on songs such as “Dein Knochern Kosen.” It may be too mellow for some metal fans, but the songs are compelling and immersive. The album’s concept addresses the topic of love, with the lyrics in German. Dornenreich describe their style as “black arcane rock,” which is a pretty accurate take.
Eremit – Bearer Of Many Names (Transcending Obscurity)
Two years after their debut Carrier Of Weight, Germany’s Eremit return with a similarly-paced follow-up, Bearer Of Many Names. Once again comprised of three lengthy songs (29, 18, and 18 minutes) and featuring cover art from Mariusz Lewandowski, the band hopes to build on the potential displayed on Carrier Of Weight, and refine their take on the sludge/doom genres. For the most part, they succeed.
Lengthy song names accompany even lengthier tracks, so let’s just say the first song manages to keep us listening for half an hour by making use of some excellent dynamics, strong, patient arrangements, and thick production. The two shorter songs each have their own feel and sound, one built on a ponderous, sludgy mass, the other rife with primitive atmosphere, making Bearer Of Many Names an album that is engaging and varied start to end. This is a great next step for Eremit.
Go Ahead And Die – Go Ahead And Die (Nuclear Blast)
Music has always been a family affair for Max Cavalera, from playing with his brother Igor in Sepultura back in the day to collaborating with his sons over the past several years. His latest project is Go Ahead And Die with his son Igor Amadeus and drummer Zach Coleman (Khemmis).
The band plays old school death/thrash with influences of punk and grind, with Max and Igor splitting vocal duties. With song titles like “Truckload Full Of Bodies,” “Punisher” and “Worth Less Than Piss,” there’s not a lot of subtlety here. There are a lot of punishing riffs, vicious vocals and production that suits the extremity of the music. There are some intense, chaotic sections along with groovier parts. It is not a happy album, but I’m sure being able to work with his son made Max a happy man.
Hammer King – Hammer King (Napalm)
German power metallers Hammer King, fronted by Titan Fox V (ex-Ross The Boss) return with their fourth album, a self-titled effort. It’s rousing power metal in the vein of their previous releases.
The lyrics tell tales of mythology, battles and gods with music that’s melodic and heavy. Fox has a wide range, and sings with power and conviction. From the call and response of “Baptized By The Hammer” to the ballad “King Of Kings,” the songs are catchy and varied. “Hammerschlag” features guest appearances from Tankard vocalist Gerre and others. Hammer King deliver the goods without overstaying their welcome, with the album clocking in at less than 45 minutes.
Living Dead Girl is the project of Molly Rennick, a Canadian singer with a poppy take on metal on Exorcism. Four years in the making, this debut album is a confident start for the band that straddles between in-your-face and infectious. Much of this back and forth is anchored by Rennick’s manic performance, as she flips in and out of rattling screams and soulful singing.
Exorcism doesn’t skimp on upbeat choruses, with the title track and “Poltergeist” being some of the best ones. A song like “Worship Me” sits right on the edge of being too aggressive for mainstream consumption without going over, and there are a few others that keep hostility at the forefront. It’s never enough to scare away modern metal fans, and the anthemic closer “Stronger” shows the band in a different, yet intriguing, light.
Mammoth WVH – Mammoth WVH (EX1)
Music fans have watched Wolfgang Van Halen grow up. As a teenager he joined his dad and uncle’s band, and then was part of Tremonti for a few years. Now 30 years old, he is unveiling the solo project Mammoth WVH, where he plays all instruments and sings. It’s an impressive debut, with the leadoff single “Distance,” a tribute to his late father Eddie, topping the Mainstream Rock chart.
Mammoth WVH is jam packed with radio friendly hard rock. Songs like “Horribly Right” and “Don’t Back Down” pack a punch but still have singalong choruses. “Circles” and “Think It Over” are mellower. Van Halen plays all the instruments very well, with of course the highest expectations being the guitar parts. There are a lot of memorable riffs, and he shreds a bit on tracks such as “You’re To Blame” and “Mammoth.” And while not a vocal powerhouse, his singing is effective and serves the songs well. There are not a lot of surprises, but Mammoth WVH has minimal filler and a lot of well-written and played hard rock songs.
Arizona’s Mortal Device close the loop with Chapter Three, the final EP in a series that began last March. The first two releases showcased a band with plenty of solid ideas, great chemistry, and ample talent. Here on Chapter Three they turn up both the volume and the aggression, delivering their three heaviest (and best-sounding) songs of the eleven these Chapters have to offer.
While all three songs are strong, heavy, and catchy, the clear winner is “Wall of Hate,” which features some stellar guest vocals from Tulin Howey (Empire of Desire). “Your Disease” is a heavier version of Chapter One’s opening track, and “Stages” manages to blend metallic riffs with pop-like vocal melodies to sweet effect. Chapter Three is the band’s strongest release, and when combined with the first two EPs we’ve got the equivalent of a very compelling full-length album (which is what we hope is next for Mortal Device).
This Ending – Needles Of Rust (Black Lion)
This Ending formed in 2005 out of the ashes of A Canorous Quintet, a pioneer of Swedish melodeath. Before returning under the new name, members had joined other bands including October Tide and Amon Amarth. Former Amon Amarth member Fredrik Andersson was one of those members. Andersson left This Ending, but his songwriting influence is felt on This Ending’s fourth album Needles Of Rust.
With Andersson’s fingerprints on the product one would expect to hear similarities to Amon Amarth, which rings true on “Annihilate” and the chugging “A New Plight.” The intro to the title track brings to mind Dark Tranquillity. Anticipate hearing signature Swedish melodeath fret work. As expected from this style, the group create melodic intros and breaks that create large dynamics when the distortion and pounding drums come in. Emotional riffs meet unrelenting speed as heard on “My Open Wound” and “Devastate.” Needles Of Rust is another solid album from an under-the-radar melodeath band.
Witch Cross – Angel Of Death (High Roller)
Famed Danish classic heavy metal band Witch Cross are back with their third album Angel Of Death, their first since 2013’s Axe To Grind. Mostly known for their explosive debut Fit For Fight, a heavy metal debut that very few bands could match, longtime fans might have felt something was missing on their most recent release.
This is the second album with vocalist Kevin Moore, who sounds very different than Alex Savage did on their debut and overall the band has changed their approach, reserving some bombast for more sections of slow melodic play. Mike Wlad remains the sole original member, with his guitar lines giving tracks like “Evil Eye” and the title track some extra oomph. If you want to check out what the band has been up to in the more recent 30 plus years, this is a solid entry for older fans, but nonessential for those that were perfectly content with their 1984 classic.