This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from 10,000 Years, Alestorm, Belphegor, Candy, Darkane, Fallen Sanctuary, Mirror Queen, Paganizer, Philosophobia, Projected, Radian, Victorius and Werewolves.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
10,000 Years – III (Interstellar Smoke)
Almost a year to the day since 10,000 Years released their first studio album II, the stoner metal group have a new album ready with III. This one continues the story that began in 2020’s I EP, as a spaceship and its crew wander through Earth millenniums in the future after going through a rift in the space-time continuum. It’s total sci-fi worship, a perfect set piece for the smoky atmosphere this Swedish trio are clouded in.
Though little time has passed between II and III, this isn’t an album of half-baked ideas. There are several stunning points, including the outstanding minutes-long guitar solo in instrumental closer “To Suns Beyond” and the unrelenting pace of “Cult Axe.” These guys remain committed to their space-driven concept, making sure that the music matches the weightlessness of the cosmos.
Alestorm – Seventh Rum Of A Seventh Rum (Napalm)
Avast, ye filthy landlubbers! Alestorm return to the high seas of metal with another rollicking collection of heavy hitting sea-shanties. What at first glance seems like a one-joke shtick has become a bottomless wineskin of top-notch power metal, drunkenly wed to 1800’s seafaring folk melodies and instrumentation. Imagine a rum-soaked, peg-legged Sabaton and you’re in the neighborhood. In addition to the expected crushing riffs and synth-orchestral layers, Seventh Rum Of A Seventh Rum features hurdy-gurdy, violin, and several guest vocalists performing the non-English passages.
Lyrically, Alestorm sail from the historical seafaring tales of “Magellan’s Expedition” and “The Battle of Cape Fear River,” to the absurd disco metal of “P.A.R.T.Y.” to the downright obscene “Cannonball’. Toss is a couple lyrical detours to Hungary and Brazil for good measure, and Alestorm deliver a globe-trotting treasure trove of headbanging fun – occasionally silly, never less than supremely entertaining.
Belphegor – The Devils (Nuclear Blast)
In their 30 year career, Austrian death/black metal legends Belphegor have issued albums every two or three years. The gap between Totenritual and their twelfth studio album The Devils was five years, the longest they’ve had. But, they made it worth the wait.
Helmuth and Serpenth have developed a distinctive style over the years, creating a brutal blend of death metal and black metal. The balance of their lethal concoctions varies from song to song. Tracks like “Totentanz – Dance Macabre” bring black metal to the forefront while songs such as “Damnation – Höllensturz” deliver mid-paced death metal with some acoustic moments. It’s a streamlined album clocking in at 36 minutes with maximum variety and minimum filler. The Devils is the latest in a long line of excellent Belphegor albums.
Candy – Heaven Is Here (Relapse)
Candy return to follow up their 2018 blast of a debut Good To Feel with the next stage in their evolution, Heaven Is Here. It has everything from the fast and furious metallic hardcore of “Human Condition Above Human Opinion” to the doomy dirges of the title track. Elements of post-punk and industrial litter tracks like “Kinesthesia,” feeling like they could be a long-lost Ministry b-side, betwixt whatever Candy were feeling at the time.
You get a little bit of Cult Leader and Nails mixed with some noisy tracks including the 10 minute closer “Perverse.” Candy’s sound is hard to define and a flat-out blast to take in. Candy’s career trajectory feels like that of labelmates, Full of Hell with their workman and road dog mentality making sure all of their chaos clicks. They continue their unique career trend with Heaven Is Here, evolving in front of our eyes, showing you that maybe heaven isn’t quite what you’d imagined it to be, perhaps even worse.
Darkane – Inhuman Spirits (Massacre)
There’s a host of releases from Swedish melodic death metal heavyweights on the way (Arch Enemy, Soilwork, The Halo Effect, Amon Amarth) in 2022, but beating them to the punch is Darkane. Inhuman Spirits, their first album in nine years, arrives amid less fanfare, but nonetheless deserves attention. This LP nails the difficult balance between accessibility and authenticity, while retaining the complex delivery that has typically set Darkane apart from their peers. It also infuses a more prominent thrash edge.
The furious opening title track is akin to their classic sound, but feels fresh. It neatly captures the essence of Darkane – intricate riffage, pounding rhythms, a versatile vocal performance and orchestral flourishes. It also forms a sizeable one-two punch with the groove-laden death metal of “Awakening”. From there, the quality rarely if ever dips – cuts like “The Great Deceiver”, “Conspiracies Of The Flesh” and “Mansion Of Torture” pack hooks you won’t easily be able to shift from your cerebral cortex, but don’t feel too glossy or over-wrought. Inhuman Spirits may not boast the impact of Darkane’s 1999 classic Rusted Angel, but certainly doesn’t feel out of place alongside it in the group’s catalogue.
Fallen Sanctuary – Terranova (AFM)
Fallen Sanctuary were formed by Serenity/Warkings vocalist Georg Neuhauser and Temperance guitarist Marco Pastorino. The power metal band’s lineup is rounded out by Eternal Idol bassist Gabriele Gozzi and Temperance drummer Alfonso Mocerino.
Terranova nicely splits the difference between Serenity and Temperance’s styles. It’s melodic and bombastic, with songs jam packed with hooks and singalong choruses. The tracks are streamlined, all under five minutes, but still allow room for solos and instrumental breaks. The filler is minimal, with a lot of memorable songs such as “Now And Forever” and “Trail Of Destruction.” Most of the album consists of uptempo songs, but they add a couple ballads, providing even more variety. Terranova will appeal to both Serenity and Temperance fans.
Mirror Queen – Inviolate (Tee Pee)
New York rockers Mirror Queen have been around for more than a decade. It has been a few years since their last release, but they took advantage of time off the road during the pandemic to write and record their fourth album Inviolate.
While the production on the album sounds modern, the band’s influences are from the classic era of hard rock and metal. You’ll hear elements of ’60s rock, ’70s prog and psych and a bit of early ’80s NWOBHM. Mirror Queen blend lengthy tracks like the 7 plus “Sea Of Tranquility” with more focused numbers such as the rollicking “A Rider On The Rain.” Inviolate is a trip through a variety of musical eras that still manages to stay cohesive.
Paganizer – Beyond The Macabre (Transcending Obscurity)
It has been a couple months since we’ve reviewed an album featuring the prolific Rogga Johansson, who seems to have a new record with one of his numerous projects every few weeks. Paganizer is one his longest running bands, having formed back in 1998.
There have been a ton of Paganizer releases over the past few years, with a dozen or so live albums, EPs, compilations and splits since 2019’s The Tower Of The Morbid. Paganizer’s latest album Beyond The Macabre delivers top-notch death metal. There are old school moments along with some modern influences and a variety of tempos and intensities. Tracks like “Meatpacker” bring the brutality, while songs such as “Raving Rhymes Of Rot” have more groove and melody. Closing track “Unpeaceful End” features Bolt Thrower’s Karl Willets. Beyond The Macabre doesn’t provide many surprises, just quality death metal from one of the genre’s legendary bands.
Philosophobia – Philosophobia (Sensory)
Philosophobia are being touted as former Pain Of Salvation bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw’s return to progressive metal, the genre he became attached to thanks to his almost-decade long association with his previous band. While he has performed in other prog metal groups since his departure, this self-titled effort really brings out the Pain Of Salvation vibes in a few ways. The chief one is vocalist Domenik Papaemmanouil, who sounds so much like Daniel Gildenlöw that it borders on outright imitation.
Supposedly, a good chunk of this album was written way back in 2007. Progressive metal is the kind of music where someone could write a song 15 years ago and release it today and it would fit in at either point in time. The performance from all musicians is top-notch, though Philosophobia’s intent seems to be to avoid taking any major chances.
Projected – Hypoxia (Rat Pak)
The supergroup Projected seem to gather every five years or so to record a new album. Their lineup is made up of members from high profile heavy music bands. They are fronted by Sevendust’s John Connolly, who also plays guitar. The rest of the lineup is Tremonti’s Eric “Erock” Friedman (guitar), Sevendust’s Vinnie Hornsby (bass) and Alter Bridge’s Scott Phillips (drums).
Sevendust’s Morgan Rose co-wrote a couple of songs on Hypoxia, the band’s third album. There are a couple heavier songs such as “Dead Weight” along with accessible, hard rock tracks like “Stain” and “Scars.” Their main bands have had countless radio hits, so it’s no surprise that Hypoxia has a plethora of songs deserving of airplay. Not only are Projected’s members all old friends, they have all previously worked with producer Elvis Baskette, and that chemistry and comfort level is evident on this record.
Radian – Discordian (Elburno)
There’s a thick covering of grit and mold on Radian’s doom/sludge metal throughout Discordian, though they wipe some of that off on occasion for a tenser atmosphere. These parts bring in synths and forlorn melodies, both from the guitars and vocals, that never lessen the dull pain that seeps from these six songs. Opener “The Discordian” crackles with wrath, its two-and-a-half minutes coming off much shorter than that. The rest of the album puts a firm hold on raising the tempos beyond a sweaty shuffle.
Discordian is not a fundamental transition away from what Radian set out to do on their debut album Chapters, yet this one is a refined take that doesn’t draw itself out as much as songs like “Stonier” did. This kind of gruff sludge metal isn’t in short supply, yet it still has a certain rawness that makes it authentic in its stark portrayal of humanity’s complex emotional states.
Victorius – Dinosaur Warfare Pt. 2 – The Great Ninja War (Napalm)
The German power metal band Victorius like dinosaurs and ninjas. They followed up 2018’s EP Dinosaur Warfare – Legend Of The Power Saurus with 2020’s Space Ninjas From Hell. Their new album Dinosaur Warfare Pt. 2 – The Great Ninja War combines both.
It’s as cheesy as you’d expect, but the over the top lyrics and symphonic power metal songs are still entertaining. There are plenty of catchy moments on tracks like “Mighty Magic Mammoth” and “Katana Kingdom Rising” with the band’s impressive musicianship given plenty of room to shine. The arrangements are cinematic and dramatic, the perfect backdrop for the album’s epic tale. Magic mammoths, laser dinosaurs, space ninjas and power metal; what more do you need?
Werewolves – From The Cave To The Grave (Prosthetic)
Since 2020, the Australian technical death metal act Werewolves have released one album each year to become a tireless band in no time. What attracts the most attention is that their music always sounds gigantic; just like their third and newest album From The Cave To The Grave. All are bulky, wicked and furious.
Werewolves integrate black metal touches into the structure of brutal-tinged technical death metal, creating an appalling soundscape. And this technicality has been observed to the extent that it does not add abstract complexities to the album, so that Werewolves can add groove to their music layers. The stunning production of the album brings the dynamics of the songs to the highest levels of listening experience, while the subtle sounds of musical instruments attack its audience in detail. Werewolves have expanded their musical power with From The Cave To The Grave to become one of the most prominent bands of the underground’s scene.