This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from The Absence, Buckcherry, Cathexis, The CEO, Cerebral Rot, Deathchant, Devin Townsend, Electric Haze, Hellish Form, Lacuna Coil, Light The Torch, Lucifer’s Hammer, Motorhead, Pestilence, Tommy Concrete and Urne.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
The Absence – Coffinized (M-Theory)
After going eight years without releasing an album, the Florida melodic death band The Absence re-emerged in 2018 with A Gift For The Obsessed and several new members. That lineup is mostly intact for Coffinized, with guitarist Joey Concepcion only on four of the tracks.
The band hits on all cylinders on this album. There’s plenty of crushing death metal with some thrashy moments that’s balanced by melodic moments. Things like the brief acoustic solo in “Choirs Of Sickness” are interesting touches. The Absence bring a lot of creativity to the Gothenburg melodeath template along with well-written songs. As on the previous album, guitarist Taylor Nordberg and drummer Jeramie Kling handled production duties, giving it a more dynamic sound that most albums in the genre.
Buckcherry – Hellbound (Round Hill)
When breakthrough hit “Lit Up” registered in 1999, Buckcherry‘s primal, AC/DC-inspired swagger was refreshing amid a hard rock environment smothered by bloated nu-metal and faceless post-grunge. As Hellbound arrives, nine records and a series of personnel changes into their career, trends have come, gone and returned.
Their cocksure ethos remains though, the California mob providing the aural equivalent of an evening of fast cars and heavy boozing in strip clubs. While there are few if any surprises, and a few lazy riffs and lyrics, the strike rate of hits to misses is up from 2019’s Warpaint. The title track channels Bon Scott-era AC/DC, “Gun” references Aerosmith and “No More Lies” brings the funk. “The Way” continues the group’s balladeering tradition, although there’s blatant nods to previous hit “Sorry.” Buckcherry have their bluesy shtick down pat, flying the flag for hard rock fans whose idea of a balanced meal on a night out is a beer in each hand. Hellbound offers several cuts that will garner inclusion in the group’s “best of”–style Spotify playlists.
Cathexis – Untethered Abyss (Willowtip)
Cathexis put a technical bent on their winding death metal throughout Untethered Abyss, an album that doesn’t rely on conventional song structures as a crutch. These songs flow like rocky river rapids, its bumps and shakes keeping the music from becoming stagnant in those waters. Each guitarist gets his own side of the mix, which gives the album that feeling of those from the genre’s early days where you could tell the guitars apart.
That sort of distinction is missing from a lot of modern albums, so it’s nice to hear a band like Cathexis embrace it. Their songs are never one thing for long; they may be blasting off for a few seconds before putting the breaks on that for a more sinister mid-tempo pace. Coupled that with keeping the album to a comfortable 35 minutes, and Untethered Abyss turns out to be well-crafted death metal.
The CEO – Redemption (Rat Pak)
The CEO are a new Georgia hard rock band whose lineup includes Sevendust bassist Vince Hornsby. That connection led them to work with Michael “Elvis” Baskette, one of the genre’s best-known producers who has worked with everyone from Slash to Alter Bridge to Trivium, and of course Sevendust.
Redemption consists of mostly uptempo, catchy hard rock songs that are still heavy. The tracks are memorable with many potential radio singles such as “Twin Flame,” “The Storm” and “Beginning & The End.” They show their softer side on the ballad “Black Hearts.” You’ll hear an Ozzy influence in singer Mack Mullins’ voice, which makes sense since he has fronted an Ozzy tribute band, but he brings his own style to the table as well. Redemption is a mature and polished debut.
Cerebral Rot – Excretion Of Mortality (20 Buck Spin)
Seattle based death squad Cerebral Rot are here to push their brand of purulence on their sophomore effort Excretion of Mortality. They play generally long form death metal without it being in the progressive vein. The self-titled opener and closer “Crowning the Disgustulent (Breed of Repugnance)” combine for 18 minutes of vile decomposition.
The darkness provided by Cerebral Rot is matched in recent years by labelmates Fetid, vintage Autopsy and Danish denizens of the deplorable Undergang. There are flashes of technical flourish, but you will have to wait out the grime and enjoy it while it lasts because it’s gone in a flash. In general this is gross music by a gross band steeped in their own malodor, fouling up death metal for the rest of us and I am here for it.
Deathchant – Waste (RidingEasy)
Waste, the sophomore album from the L.A. band Deathchant is a very fun loving type of album with a fuzzy type of bliss that is extremely hard to ignore. The groovy songs roll along at a nice pace and have a stoner metal vibe. It has catchy melodies that are difficult to get out of your mind, though i t’s not particularly innovative.
There isn’t anything overly futuristic about the sound, but Deathchant manage to create a great deal of excitement with their music. There is a vibrancy to the music that makes it highly appealing. It is simple yet effective and has that grooviness to make one come back for more. It has an old school flavor that is combined with a newer vibe that is appealing. Recommended to stoner fans and those of the band Baroness.
Devin Townsend – Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine (InsideOut)
During the pandemic, many artists played streaming shows since they were unable to tour. The second installment of Devin Townsend‘s Devolution series is Galactic Quarantine, which aired originally in September of last year.
The 15 song, approximately 80 minute show includes material from throughout Townsend’s career. His most recent studio release, 2019’s Empath is represented by “Spirits Will Collide,” and there are tracks from albums such as 2007’s Ziltoid The Omniscient, 2009’s Addicted and 2000’s The Physicist. It’s a wide ranging sample of Townsend’s eclectic career. Devolution Series #1 was acoustic and showcased a lot of Townsend’s banter and wit in between songs, while this one is much more focused on the music.
Electric Haze – Get In Line (Idle North)
Images of ’70s and ’80s classic rock bands will pass through the heads of listeners as they play Electric Haze’s debut album, Get In Line. The Swedish group clearly has respect for that era of music, though their half-baked execution lumps them in with other second-tier groups that rose up to try to mimic the success of the more well-known acts during that time.
The screechy vocals on the upbeat songs doesn’t help their case, grating on the nerves whenever they are employed. When restraint is used, the band is more in the zone, like on the tender acoustic-led ballad “Cavern Of Pain” or the wonderful closer “Cryin’” that goes into full psychedelic mode in its outro. Get In Line isn’t a complete wash, but it doesn’t add anything that wasn’t already said four decades ago.
Hellish Form – Remains (Translation Loss)
There’s tangible agony sweeping through Hellish Form’s Remains, its funeral doom lurch stifling any periodic moments of hope. These four songs echo suffering through riffs soaked with feedback, burying the churning shrieks in the background to lament over loss and depression. The ever-present usage of synths gives the album significant depth, accentuating the downbeat attitude of the duo.
There are even times, like in the intro to “Another World” and the middle of “Ache,” where the synths take over as the lead instrument. Its presence in the latter gives off a chilly aura to a song that drives forward lines like “I float in darkness/Lost in the sea/Of your dreams and memories.” There are no hidden messages on this album; everything being expressed by lyricist Willow Ryan is laid out in the open.
Lacuna Coil – Live From The Apocalypse (Century Media)
Lacuna Coil‘s latest studio album Black Anima was released in October of 2019, which didn’t give them much time to tour before the pandemic hit. In September they did a livestream event that is being released as Live From The Apocalypse, which is available in CD, DVD, LP and digital configurations.
The show focuses on Black Anima, playing every song from that album (though not in track order), along with the bonus tracks from the record and an Amazon exclusive single “Bad Things” that was released during that period. Even though there’s no audience, Lacuna Coil provide their own energy, and there’s plenty of passion from vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro. Playing a few of their greatest hits at the end of the set may have given this release wider appeal, but fans of the band will enjoy the snapshot of Black Anima.
Light The Torch – You Will Be The Death Of Me (Nuclear Blast)
After releasing a couple of albums under The Devil You Know moniker, the trio of vocalist Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage), guitarist Francesco Artusato (All Shall Perish) and bassist Ryan Wombacher (Bleeding Through) changed their moniker to Light The Torch for 2018’s Revival. Their latest is You Will Be The Death Of Me, which features Whitechapel’s Alex Rudinger on drums.
Jones’ vocal prowess elevates everything he is a part of. He delivers passionate and varied performances on tracks like “Let Me Fall Apart” and the catchy “Wilting In The Light.” Light The Torch expertly shift between bludgeoning metalcore/alt metal and soaring melodies. Subtle touches like the atmospherics on “I Hate Myself” give the songs more depth. The album closes with a metallic cover of the ’80s pop song “Sign Your Name,” done originally by Terrence Trent D’Arby.
Lucifer’s Hammer – The Trip (High Roller)
There is always something fascinating about Chilean heavy metal act Lucifer’s Hammer when their wholehearted efforts to follow and revive NWOBHM tradition become apparent to listeners. Lucifer’s Hammer’s third studio album The Trip takes the listener on a journey into the fantastic years of the early ’80s, when heavy metal was entering a completely new era.
Lucifer’s Hammer named their band after a Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle science-fiction, dark fantasy novel of the same name, so the semantic nature of the band’s lyrics are largely determined, also with an emphatic look on occultism. Musically they do not intend to align themselves with the modern elements of heavy metal, and they embrace the old school with the utmost sincerity and precision. Even if they haven’t added anything new to the NWOBHM, the reincarnation of pioneers of the genre like Angel With and Satan in The Trip fills the album with the glorious energy of old school heavy metal tunes.
Motorhead – No Sleep Til Hammersmith (BMG)
By 1981 Motorhead had released five albums, with 1980’s Ace Of Spades their most successful, landing in the UK top 5 with the title track also cracking the singles chart. Their live album No Sleep Til Hammersmith sent them to the stratosphere, topping the UK album chart (the band’s only number one album).
It remains one of the seminal live albums in rock/metal history, and on its 40th anniversary is getting the box set treatment. It includes a remastered version of the original album that features classic tracks like “Ace Of Spades,” “Overkill” and “Bomber.” There are also a couple of bonus tracks and three previously unreleased soundcheck recordings. In addition, there are the three full UK concerts recorded in March of 1981 that made up No Sleep Til Hammersmith. Those three, never before released in their entirety, have identical set lists, except for “Iron Horse,” which was added to one of the shows. The box set also includes other goodies such as concert posters and a reproduction tour pass. It will set you back about $60, but Motorhead fans it’s well worth the price.
Pestilence – Exitivm (Agonia)
Dutch death metal forerunners Pestilence return with their ninth album Exitivm. Band originator Patrick Mameli returns to the fold with a new lineup of veterans. Exitivm is a mix of old school death metal riffs and modern, progressive complexity. Effects and symphonic elements add spacey atmosphere and cinematic qualities to intros and interludes.
Following the grandiose intro “In Omnibvs,” the group bring some of their best riffs on “Morbvs Propagationem.” Technical brilliance is on display from tempo changes to graceful guitar solos and Michiel van der Plicht’s (ex-God Dethroned) swift kick drums. Keys and slides work in tandem as heard on “Immortvos” and “Sempiternvs.” From massive grooves on “Inficiat” to more fluid fret play, Memeli and Rutger van Noordenburg’s guitar play is infectiously memorable. Mameli created a big production that makes sure to includes a strong bass presence by Joost van der Graaf’s (ex-Dex Scented). Exitivm is another exciting chapter in Pestilence’s storied history.
Tommy Concrete – Hexenzirkel (Trepanation)
Despite opening with a 17 minute epic, Tommy Concrete‘s Hexenzirkel immediately captures one’s attention without relent with catchy choruses and wild musical explorations. Fusing the ponderous riffs of doom metal, the conceptual ambition of progressive metal and dashes of many other styles into a cohesive whole, this record depicts Concrete’s reckoning with psychosis in the middle of lockdown.
Written chronologically, the lyrics are heavy, cathartic and witty, and drive home the narrative with a distinct charm. The coven of guest vocalists is a highlight of the record, and Brian Ramage’s production fits the diverse songwriting perfectly. Second song “Practice for the Apocalypse” – with it’s raving train-of-consciousness closing verses – might be the most interesting use of rapped vocals in a prog metal context so far. We might all be eaten by the sun someday, but in the meantime, there are albums like this one to soothe the dread.
Urne – Serpent & Spirit (Candlelight)
Hailing from London, England, Urne have brought the world their debut Serpent & Spirit, whose cover indicates that we should probably be expecting a melancholic doom metal album. But what happens inside is one of the most exciting musical offerings of the year.
By combining various genres from doom to sludge metal, from post-hardcore to stoner metal, and from groove metal to progressive metalcore, Urne have created a vast, massive and voluminous soundscape. Serpent & Spirit is constructed of lengthy songs that give the band enough time and space to start a festival of riffs and melodies, giving a transcendental power to the sound and dynamism of this soundscape. Such a merger transforms Serpent & Spirit into a creative and significant work without the slightest bit of chaos or confusion. It’s a clever and powerfully performed effort that seems to indicate a redefinition of post-metal genre by Urne.
Various Artists – Black Waves Of Adrenochrome – The Sisters Of Mercy Tribute (Metalville)
The Sisters Of Mercy are a UK band that was very influential in the gothic scene back in the ’80s. Though they are still around touring today, they only released three studio albums, the last one in 1990. The most successful was 1987’s Floodland, which cracked the UK top 10. Artists in a variety of genres are paying tribute to the band on Black Waves Of Adrenochrome.
On the metal side of the coin there are artists such as Atrocity, Paradise Lost, Cradle Of Filth, Kreator and Crematory. They each put their own spin on Sisters Of Mercy songs. The aggressive vocals of Dani Filth give “No Time To Cry” a different vibe, as does the “beauty and the beast” vocals from the German band Deadlock on “Temple Of Love.” It’s interesting to hear black, death and thrash metal bands cover the gothic style of Sisters Of Mercy.