This week’s reviews include releases from Angelwings, Blazon Rite, Crescent, The Day Of The Beast, Demon Incarnate, Eye Of Purgatory, Fear Factory, Heavy Temple, Pharoah, Social Disorder, Terra Odium, Timo Tolkki’s Avalon and Wanderer.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Angelwings – Primordium (Pride & Joy)
Hailing from Gibraltar, Angelwings started by playing Nightwish covers, then quickly began writing their own symphonic material. After issuing their debut in 2017, they return with Primordium.
There have been a few lineup changes, but vocalist Divi Cano remains. Her style is smooth, and she has power and range. She hits the high notes on some tracks, but generally sings in a lower register. Periodic male harsh vocals add contrast. There are upbeat, bombastic songs along with ballads like “Sail Away,” giving the album a nice ebb and flow. The symphonic arrangements have depth without overpowering the riffs and melodies, with the proggy keyboards a nice touch on “Changes.”
Blazon Rite – Endless Halls Of Golden Totem (Gates Of Hell)
The world Blazon Rite imagine on their Endless Halls Of Golden Totem debut album is one of medieval pageantry, where knights lay down justice with their swords and figures are cloaked in shadows behind castle walls. It’s a setting explored thousands of times before, and while the band doesn’t necessarily do anything new with it, they still commit to these tales that take place almost a millennium ago with sincerity.
The music takes on a traditional heavy/power metal energy, with ripping guitar solos and a galloping rhythm underbelly. Synths are employed on a few songs, though their neutered sound is a determent to its effect. The title track includes a jaunty acoustic break midway through, an unexpected inclusion that the band pulls off well. More of that would’ve helped boost the otherwise workmanlike execution of Endless Halls Of Golden Totem.
Crescent – Carving The Fires Of Akhet (Listenable)
Egyptian blood has run thick within the metal stream in recent years and Crescent’s fire and fury of blackened death metal have been one of the stronger currents. However, their newest effort Carving the Fires of Akhet finds itself dragged beneath the surface by its own weight.
Let it be known that Carving the Fires of Akhet is no sloppy affair. The third installment in the Crescent discography boasts harsh tremolos and Egypt-inspired lyricism with stellar production and a striking cover – but the band quickly loses footing. Tracks range from around 5-8 minutes each and the LP’s most heinous crime is wasting the runtime with uninspired songwriting. Songs find little structure, riffs suffer from severe copycat syndrome and the vocal efforts rarely do enough to keep the gods appeased. Cresent remain wound tight on a technical perspective, and the production package really does give the album’s hardest riffs a proper punch, but in this case, the band’s talents go mostly unfulfilled.
The Day Of the Beast – Indisputably Carnivorous (Prosthetic)
Over their nearly fifteen year career, The Day Of the Beast have examined a variety of production methods to challenge the sound variations of thrash metal genre. Their fourth album Indisputably Carnivorous represents the band entering a new realm of composing and experiencing more modern production.
At a glance, Indisputably Carnivorous straddles the line of American and European thrash metal, especially Teutonic thrash. TDOTB have always used black metal to spice up their thrash riffs. But on this album, it is the presence of death metal elements that stands out in some moments. Both production and songwriting try to keep the band connected to old school thrash, but at the same time they show a thirst for connection to the modern aspects of thrash metal. Inspired by the old and new tunes of Destruction and Exodus, Indisputably Carnivorous breathes the air of groovy blackened thrash metal, and that’s a lot of fun and rage.
Demon Incarnate – Leaves Of Zaqqum (Metalville)
After a series of full-length and demo releases, the German band Demon Incarnate comes to a fully realized sound with Leaves Of Zaqqum. These are really epic and wonderful doom songs that have been toiled over for a long time. The vocals of Lisa Healy give the songs an ethereal quality, but the significant riffs also give the songs some power. This is certainly a refined sound that is very colorful and poignant.
The songs are packed with intensity and feature a wistful vibe because of the vocals. The collection of songs as a whole is passionately performed. A little more originality would take them to the next level. As it stands, this is a strong doom release and Demon Incarnate have the charisma to make an impact. I look forward to seeing them develop even more on future releases.
Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse (Transcending Obscurity)
Eye Of Purgatory are an all-star death metal project featuring the prolific Rogga Johansson (Massacre, Megascavenger) on vocals and guitar. After handling all instruments on their 2018 debut, Johannson brings aboard Jeramie Kling (Venom Inc.) on bass and Taylor Nordberg (Ribspreader) for lead guitar, drum and keyboard duties.
The Lighthouse is old school Swedish death metal that blends extremity and intensity with melodic moments. Acoustic moments in “Carved In A Stone Bleeding” and “They Silently Await” nicely contrast bludgeoning blastbeats and intense riffs. They shift expertly between chaos and groove, with impressive musicianship from all three members. Being a Rogga Johansson fan can be expensive, since he seemingly releases a new album every few weeks, but Eye Of Purgatory will hit the spot for fans of Swedish death metal.
Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum (Nuclear Blast)
Fear Factory‘s place in metal history is secure. Pioneering industrial metal albums such as Demanufacture and Obsolete are touchstones of the genre. Their latest album Aggression Continuum was years in the making, hampered by behind-the-scenes legal disputes and the acrimonious departure of vocalist Burton C. Bell.
Though the drama threatened to overshadow the music, once you hit play on Aggression Continuum, that all recedes and the classic Fear Factory sound comes to the forefront. Their trademark style is intact with metallic riffs and a combination of harsh and melodic vocals from Bell. That’s evident from the opener “Recode” along with other aggressive songs like the title track and “Fuel Injected Suicide Machine.” Tracks like the more accessible “Monolith” show a slightly different approach and add some variety. If Aggression Continuum is the swan song for this era of Fear Factory, it’s an impressive one.
Heavy Temple – Lupi Amoris (Magnetic Eye)
For a band that has already made such a name for themselves on the touring circuit for such a long time, Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple (formed in 2012) have released a surprisingly small amount of original material. This restraint shows on their debut album Lupi Amori, which is a lean and powerful 33 minutes affair.
Inspired by Angela Carter’s feminist retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood, the album weaves a compelling story of female sexual empowerment and liberation, sitting atop equally empowered riffs. While the instrumentals are solid, striking the right balance between psychedelia, progginess and traditional heaviness, this album is at it’s best when High Priestess Nighthawk’s vocals soar above the songs in all their splendor. Heavy Temple didn’t reinvent the wheel, far from it, but the performances are tight, the production delightfully fuzzy, and the hooks will grab your attention throughout. Don’t sleep on this album.
Pharaoh – The Powers That Be (Cruz Del Sur)
After a nine-year hiatus from the studio, Pharaoh return with their fifth album The Powers That Be. Pharaoh members have played in numerous bands including Dawnbringer, Superchrist, Nachtmystium and Control Denied. Some of their sound recalls Iron Maiden, but overall the quartet create a unique brand of melodic power metal.
Matt Johnsen’s shredding, melodic guitar leads define the album. Rich, acoustic melodies appear on “When The World Was Mine,” “Dying Sun” and the dark ballad “Waiting to Drown.” However, the album isn’t just built on melody. There are speed metal moments throughout including the title track, “Will We Rise” and “Ride to Hell.” Bassist Chris Kerns and drummer Chris Black brilliantly fill in the gaps during stop-and-start motions. Tim Aymar has a smooth vocal execution. “Lost in the Waves” has some of the album’s catchiest vocal harmonies. The Powers That Be is another remarkable effort from one of America’s best power metal bands!
Social Disorder – Love 2 Be Hated (AFM)
Social Disorder are a new band started by Wolfpakk/Killer Bee’s Anders “LA” Ronnblom. He recruited Swedish newcomer Thomas Nordin for vocals, and also had numerous guest musicians on their debut album Love 2 Be Hated including Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Whitesnake), Jeff Duncan (Armored Saint) and Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate).
It’s an album that straddles the line between traditional metal and hard rock, bringing catchy melodies to the table along with ample guitars. Nordin is an excellent discovery, whose classic style and wide range fits the material very well. While most songs are pretty straightforward, a bluesy vibe on “Sail Away” and the reserved ballad “The One” show different sides of the band. There’s not a ton of originality, but it is very well executed.
Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra (Frontiers)
Terra Odium are a new prog band, but have some experienced members who were in bands such as Spiral Architect, Borknagar and Manitou. Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death, Autopsy) is the band’s bassist.
In addition to their progressive tendencies, Terra Odium add symphonic and atmospheric elements to the mix. The result is an album that’s cinematic and dramatic. The songs are given plenty of room for the band to do their thing, with lengths mostly in seven minute range. The album’s centerpiece is the nearly 12 minute “The Thorn,” with several shifts in speed and intensity. They show their versatility on the mellow and mostly acoustic “It Was Not Death.” Prog fans will find a lot to like with Ne Plus Ultra.
Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – The Enigma Birth (Frontiers)
For his Avalon project, Finnish guitarist/producer Timo Tolkki (ex-Stratovarius) uses various vocalists. The Enigma Birth is Timo Tolkki’s Avalon‘s fourth album, with another varied batch of singers.
Dream Theater’s James LaBrie brings his distinctive vocal style to “Beautiful Lie” while Marina La Torraca adds her dulcet tones to a couple of tracks. The song style range from traditional to symphonic to power metal. There are some interesting collaborations, such as Jake E (ex-Amaranthe) and Brittney Slayes (Unleash The Archers) on the ballad “The Fire And The Sinner.” “Dreaming” with Rhapsody/Angra’s Fabio Lione is dramatic and symphonic. Using the same band and songwriters makes for consistency, while adding the different vocals provides the variety.
Various Artists – Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack (Loma Vista)
Dark Nights: Death Metal is from DC Comics, and is the sequel to Dark Nights: Metal. The soundtrack was executive producer by Tyler Bates (Guardians Of The Galaxy, watchmen), and includes artists from a variety of genres.
Most of the songs are inspired by the comic, such as Mastodon’s opener “Forged By Neron” and Chelsea Wolfe’s “Diana,” which is about the human who transforms into Wonder Woman. Others who appear on the soundtrack include Chino Moreno (Deftones), Rise Against, Carach Angren and Greg Puciato (ex-Dillinger Escape Plan). One of the highlights is the collaboration between Black Veil Brides’ Andy Biersack and In This Moment’s Maria Brink on “Meet Me In The Fire.” There’s also a song from Grey Daze, with vocals from the late Chester Bennington. Fans of the comic will connect most deeply with this, but you don’t have to know anything about it to enjoy this excellent collection of songs.
Wanderer – Liberation From A Brutalist Existence (Entelodon)
After a series of EPs dating back to 2014, Wanderer have put together a debut album in Liberation From A Brutalist Existence. With its 10 tracks barely passing the 23-minute mark, the move to a full-length format hasn’t resorted to taking unnecessary advantage of the space. The group deftly passes through a toxic stew of nihilistic grind (“Mind Leash”) and gritty hardcore (“Marionette”), while at times putting both on the spot (“Bourn”).
The album’s brevity is its strength, as it keeps the proceedings from dragging on too long. Only one song, closer “Contented,” approaches any sort of unbearable length, though the blur of guitars at the end keeps the tension going. Wanderer’s music isn’t what one would call “pleasant,” but there is something compelling tucked within its negativity.