This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Arkona, Boris & Uniform, Creeping Death, Diesomnia, Elder Devil, Memorrhage, Motorhead, Royal Thunder, Sammath, Sarmat, Trip The Wire and Vulture Industries.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Arkona – Kob’ (Napalm)
The long-running Russian pagan/folk metal band Arkona had a little longer gap than usual between albums. There was a five year span between Khram and their latest release Kob’, their ninth studio album.
After an overly long intro song featuring whispers and spoken word parts, the title track kicks in with potent riffs and Masha Scream’s blend of harsh vocals and melodic singing along with a mellow ambient section. That’s contrasted by the heaviness of the relentless “Ydi.” The album incorporates other genres as well, with the nearly ten minute “Mor” utilizing both acoustic guitars and black metal influences. Those shifts and changes make Kob’ a varied and interesting listen, adding another quality release to their impressive catalog.
Boris & Uniform – Bright New Disease (Sacred Bones)
When it comes to collaborations, few bands have done more than Boris. They released their first collaborative album (with Keiji Haino) back in 1998 and have done over 20 since then. Their latest is with the industrial band Uniform, who are no strangers to collaborations, having released a few albums with The Body.
The two bands toured together in 2019, with Uniform joining Boris for “Akuna no Uta” as part of the encore. That sowed the seeds for Bright New Disease. It’s an effective combination, with two bands incorporating genres from hardcore to d-beat to industrial to glam. There are dense aggressive songs like “No” along with synth driven tracks such as the new wave influenced “Narcotic Shadow.” As with most experiments, not all of them work, but the vast majority do. There’s constantly something new and interesting on Bright New Disease.
Creeping Death – Boundless Domain (MNRK Heavy)
Texans Creeping Death are nearly four years removed from their debut, which they are following up with Boundless Domain. Opening with the title track, vocalist Reese Alavi growls along as the drums pound away. The addition of second guitarist AJ Ross III adds a noticeable layer of complexity to their aural assault. The band recruited Cannibal Corpse frontman George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher for guest vocals on “Intestinal Wrap” as his unmistakable take on gutturals blends in well with their own death metal, ending with a sensational guitar solo to really send it home.
Creeping Death excel at writing death metal songs at the proper length without overstaying their welcome with only one track topping the 5-minute mark. They get in and get out without any issues with the next banger on deck. Boundless Domain adds some new layers of complexity but still stays true to what makes them a consistently entertaining death metal band. If you need death metal that’s directly to the point and still slays, look no further than this newest offering from Creeping Death.
Like many bands, Diesomnia were affected by the pandemic with regards to the release of their debut EP, Pray For The Flood. They spent years working on these six songs and were going to record them in 2020 only for the pandemic to get in the way of those plans. A few years later, they were able to regroup and put this together. Whether it would’ve been released on their original timeline or not, their heated death/thrash metal is appropriate anytime.
The title track is an explosive start that is matched by “A Cure For Weakness” and “Blood Red Sorrow.” This is a riff-focused release, with only “You Will Know Loss” playing around with guitar leads. That song is the greatest departure for the band, with a methodical tempo that doesn’t rely on being fast to be efficient. A few more tracks like that one will even out a full-length if one is to come soon.
Elder Devil – Everything Worth Loving (Prosthetic)
The music for Elder Devil‘s sophomore full-length Everything Worth Loving was completed over two years ago, but it took frontman Stephen Muir additional time to write the lyrics. Those lyrics are tinged with grief after his mother passed away.
That is contrasted by the album’s intense musical approach that mixes extreme styles such as grind, death and sludge into an aggressive concoction. Opener “Endless Need” has a relentless pace, while songs like “My Body Is An Earthen Shrine” have a more moderate pace without losing any of the brutality. With most songs in the two minute range, the extremity comes in short, sharp doses. The exception is the nearly five minute “Insomnia,” a deliberate and doomy number. While Everything Worth Loving is not for the faint of heart, there’s a surprising amount of subtlety amongst the cacophony.
Memorrhage – Memorrhage (Big Money Cybergrind)
Memorrhage is a tribute to the origins of nu-metal, the time in music that is either a dark period or a jumping off point to other types of metal, depending on the person (for this writer, it was the latter). Musician Garry Brents, with the assistance of an array of guests that could fill up a whole page of a CD booklet, clearly has a love for this style. Whether a fan or not, it’s hard to deny how accurate the music captures that time when DJ scratches replaced guitar solos and jumping around was the new moshing.
There’s a sci-fi concept in effect, and the pixel art cover looks like something from an indie cyberpunk video game, though it’s lost in all the distorted screams. Nu-metal is still going today with some modifications, though Memorrhage are stuck in the past for better or worse. This self-titled debut has a nostalgic curiosity for those enamored by late ‘90s/early ‘00s metal.
Motorhead – Live At Montreaux Jazz Festival ’07 (BMG)
Since Lemmy’s death in 2015, there have been more than 20 Motorhead releases, including reissues, live albums, EPs, box sets and compilations. The latest addition to live album canon is Live At Montreaux Jazz Festival ’07. The festival is known for its diverse lineups, with Motorhead on the heavy end of its spectrum.
After Lemmy’s trademark greeting “We are Motorhead and we play rock and roll,” the band kicks off the 19 song set with “Snaggletooth.” At the time of the show, 2006’s Kiss Of Death was their most current album, and they play a couple tracks from it along with a diverse setlist that included the Thin Lizzy cover “Rosalie.” They also played the staples fans expect, closing with “Ace Of Spades” and “Overkill.” Motorhead were a live force to be reckoned with, evident on Live At Montreaux Jazz Festival ’07. If you own some or all of the other 25 plus Motorhead live albums this certainly isn’t essential, but it is enjoyable.
Royal Thunder – Rebuilding The Mountain (Spinefarm)
Calling it quits after 2017’s excellent Wick, Royal Thunder reconnected with original drummer Evan Diprima in 2020 and forged on as a three piece. Rebuilding The Mountain picks up right where they left off, combining the grinding tempos of doom metal with psychedelic, swirling, Soundgarden-esque guitars and singer/bassist Mlny Parsonz’ soulful, spine-chilling vocal delivery.
The most overlooked vocalist in modern rock, not “underrated,” because no one who’s heard her Janis Joplin-meets-Chris Cornell belting will ever discount it, Parsonz positively soars on lead single “The Knife.” She exorcizes her demons through the larynx-shredding vocal delivery on “The King” or the plaintive melancholy of “Live To Live.” Royal Thunder take a more focused and concise songwriting approach (only two songs break the five minute mark, and most are under four), creating their most cathartic yet accessible release to date, and a must-listen for 2023.
Sammath – Grebbeberg (Hammerheart)
The Dutch black metal band Sammath have been around for nearly 30 years, releasing their debut back in 1999 after several demos. Frontman Jan Kruitwagen is the lone remaining original member, but bassist Ruud Nillesen has been in the band for over 20 years now. Grebbeberg is their seventh album.
The lyrical theme of the album is the World War II Battle Of The Grebbeberg, where a great-uncle of Kruitwagen’s was killed. While the storyline is set in the Netherlands in 1940, the music is ’90s Scandinavian black metal with a modern production. The songs are dense and intense, with the genre’s trademark blastbeats and vocals. While there aren’t a lot of dynamics, Sammath do change up tempos to avoid monotony on Grebbeberg.
Sarmat – Determined To Strike (I, Voidhanger)
Progressive/technical death metal has had association with jazz dating back to Atheist and Cynic in the early 1990s. Sarmat take that way further on their debut album, Determined To Strike, which is as much jazz fusion as it is death metal. The trumpet is a lead instrument with the same importance as the guitar, though it takes a few songs for it to come into play. Once it does, it’s like the album evolves into its truest form.
This is the same band that earlier this year decided that their first official release should be a 17-minute improvised song recorded live in the studio, so they know what they are doing. When a piano comes in alongside the trumpet in the middle of closer “Disturbing Advances,” a listener will wonder how it took so long for a band to execute jazz in death metal as well as Sarmat does.
Trip The Wire, a hard rock group from Seattle, Washington, lay on the anthems with their self-titled debut album. They want each chorus to be infectious, the guitar solos to have a bombastic flair, and the ballads to hit extra hard in the feels. On those particular counts, they pull it off. When the vocals and guitar perform a back-and-forth melody on “Maybe Next Time,” it’s cheesy in a charming way.
Acoustic guitars are involved in a few songs, like the early moments of “The Fire” and throughout emotional closer “Step Nine.” The latter, based on the perils of addiction, has a wonderful guitar solo section at the end that lasts almost two minutes. The album is not strictly a serious take on hard rock though, with mentions of hurricane love giving the usual themes of relationships a twisted interpretation.
Vulture Industries – Ghosts From The Past (Dark Essence)
It has been a while since we’ve heard from the veteran Norwegian prog/avant-garde troupe Vulture Industries. Stranger Times was released in 2017, and due to family issues and the pandemic, it took six years for their fifth full-length Ghosts From The Past to come to fruition.
Gothic elements are at the forefront of the album. The songs are melodic and accessible, with Bjornar Nilsen singing in a robust baritone on tracks like “This Hell Is Mine.” On tracks like the uptempo “Saturn Devouring His Young” and the dramatic “Not By Blood, But By Words,” he uses a more varied vocal approach. Vulture Industries’ avant-garde tendencies are most evident on the epic 9 minute closer “Tyrants Weep Alone.” Ghosts From The Past finds Vulture Industries dredging up their demons, and their angst and sorrow makes for an engaging listen.