This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Astronoid, Battlelore, Bleed From Within, Buried Realm, Crobot, GWAR, Hellevaerder, Killswitch Engage, Locust Grove, Lunar Chalice, Matsunaga Was Right, Origin, Seeking Sirens, Somnus Throne and Temple Of Void.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Astronoid – Radiant Bloom (3DOT)
Boston post-rock/shoegaze quartet Astronoid are back with Radiant Bloom, their third album and first since 2019’s self-titled effort. With the advantage (or curse) of not being able to tour the past couple of years, leader/multi-instrumentalist Brett Boland hunkered down and wrote like crazy. The nine songs that made the cut for Radiant Bloom are brimming with life.
Whether Astronoid are wowing us with the ethereal beauty of “Admin” or smacking us upside the head with the high speed blast (and blast beats) of “Sedative,” every song brings a sense of unrestrained joy to the proceedings. The washes of chords and keyboards back Boland’s whimsical vocals, while new drummer Matt St. Jean is equally comfortable laying back in the groove or hammering out the blast beats. Radiant Bloom is the perfect name for this irresistible set.
Battlelore – The Return Of The Shadow (Napalm)
After more than decade between studio albums, the Finnish Tolkien-inspired symphonic metal band Battlelore are back with their seventh studio album The Return Of The Shadow. The lineup from 2011’s Doombound is intact.
They pick right up where they left off, with bombastic Middle-earth themed songs driven by guitars and given depth by the symphonic atmosphere. Harsh vocals from Tomi Mykkänen and ethereal singing from Kaisa Jouhki provide balance and contrast. Tracks like “Firekeeper” and “Elvenking” keep the tempos moderate, though they do speed things up periodically. In addition to the nine song album, there’s a bonus EP with three songs written several years ago. It’s a strong return by Battlelore with a collection of songs that are varied and engaging.
Bleed From Within – Shrine (Nuclear Blast)
Having issued previous album Fracture during lockdown, Scottish metallers Bleed From Within have swiftly followed it with Shrine via a new label home. Pegged by some as the UK’s answer to Lamb of God, they’ve expanded beyond that template here. The metalcore foundation is punctuated by groove metal and thrash touches, as well as taking cues from the arena metal inclinations of Parkway Drive, Bury Tomorrow and While She Sleeps. They certainly don’t lack ambition, but then few bands ever achieved much by aiming to headline their local RSL or youth club.
The enlisting of a string quartet, as well as infusing of spoken word passages and keys adds a greater sense of atmosphere and occasion, while clean vocals are integrated in appropriate places. “Flesh And Stone” injects some proggy moments amid the aggression and chugging passages. Meanwhile, they haven’t skimped on the mosh-friendly moments and beatdowns sure to incite bruises and flailing limbs; see the chunky “Levitate”, “Stand Down” or groovy “Invisible Enemy.”
Shrine does feel somewhat tired as its second half wears on, but is punchy, heavy yet melodic fare that should solidify their status as key metal players in the UK.
Buried Realm‘s third album, a self-titled effort from the Colorado one-man melodic death project, resembles the work of Arch Enemy. It has the right aggressive flavor to make an impact. There is a lot of melody to go along with the aggression and make for a solid mixture. The album is heavy hitting and has a harsh nature. The guitars stand out as having a great deal of dissonance and the vocals are appropriate for the material.
It has a melodic death metal and metalcore sort of flavor that is very noticeable. Fans of bands like Arch Enemy will find a lot to like here and eat this up almost immediately. Songs like “The Iron Flame” stick out and make you headbang repeatedly. Buried Realm is a consistent collection of songs that will have an impact upon you. It makes for a solid melodic listening experience.
Crobot – Feel This (Mascot)
Crobot continue pushing ahead with a darker, heavier, yet no less groovy approach on their latest release Feel This. Occupying a similar modern hard rock space as contemporaries Halestorm, Alter Bridge, and to a lesser extent, Volbeat, Feel This is loaded with funked-out metal riffs and huge, memorable choruses. Helmed by producer Jay Ruston, notable for his work with Anthrax and the recently-released sophomore effort from Motor Sister, the sound here is thick and modern, helping off-set numerous ’90s references.
“Dance With The Dead” sparkles with layered percussion that amplifies the groovier elements Crobot are known for, segueing into the Alice In Chains-ish “Holy Ghost,” complete with wah-wah licks and twisted vocal harmonies. Similarly, the prominent bass riff that opens “Never Break Me” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Faith No More record. Overall, a solid listen for those who like strong melodies and a dose of funk with their metal.
GWAR – The New Dark Ages (Pit)
It has been five years since the last GWAR studio album, but there has been no shortage of material from the band. They issued a live anthology in 2019, a live album in 2021, and an EP in 2021. The New Dark Ages is their latest album.
Its lyrical themes explore the Duoverse with tales of good versus evil. The storyline is interesting, with plenty of the humor GWAR fans expect. There are several songs that will find their way into the band’s always memorable live shows, such as the rollicking “Berserker Mode” and rifftastic “The Cutter.” However, a few tracks on the overly long (66 minute) album should have been excised. Still, there are plenty of enjoyable moments and entertaining songs to keep GWAR fans satiated.
After a couple of demos and a split issued over the past few years, the Dutch black metal band Hellevaerder emerge with their full-length debut In de nevel van afgunst. The album’s lyrics are Dutch, as you can probably gather from the title.
While Hellevaerder embrace black metal tropes like blast beats and icy riffs, there are introspective and progressive moments that provide contrast to the extremity. Miranda Visser’s vocals are raw and passionate. They are able to shift tempos from deliberate and grandiose to fast and chaotic. The production has the grit and grime black metal requires without losing the subtleties of the songs. In de nevel van afgunst is a promising debut.
Killswitch Engage – Live At The Palladium (Metal Blade)
During the pandemic when live shows were paused, many bands did streaming shows. In August of 2021, Killswitch Engage took to the stage of the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts for a special streaming performance. They performed both their 2000 self-titled debut and latest release, 2019’s Atonement in their entirety. 4 of the 5 band members span both eras.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition to hear material from opposite ends of Killswitch’s career. They start with Atonement, which spawned two top 10 rock hits in “Unleashed” and “The Signal Fire.” The songs from their self-titled debut such as “Vide Intra” and “Rusted Embrace” have the fierceness of the original era, but 20 years later sound tighter because the band members are better musicians today than in 2000. Live At The Palladium is both a blast from the past and a band still clicking on all cylinders.
The Battle Of Locust is the debut from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s Locust Grove. They are labeled as a hard rock band, but are heavier than most in that genre, incorporating traditional and groove metal.
The songs, though heavy, are still melodic with plenty of hooks. The vocals are mostly clean singing, but periodic harsh vocals on songs such as the title track and “These Hands” add even more bite. They show their mellower side on ballads like “Bluebird” and “Hard To Change.” Locust Grove are influenced by bands as varied as Shinedown, Pantera and Alice In Chains. Their sound is intense enough to be on the same bill as metal bands, and accessible enough to play with hard rock groups, making them appealing to a wide variety of heavy music fans.
Lunar Chalice – Transcendentia: The Shadow Pilgrimage (Iron Bonehead)
Lunar Chalice’s first album Transcendentia: The Shadow Pilgrimage begins with a quote from the 1960 horror movie The City of the Dead: “I have made my pact with thee, O Lucifer! Hear me, hear me!” and this quote lays the groundwork for the evil spirit of the album. Transcendentia perfectly represents the German black metal world and relies heavily on its dark and sinister throne.
Transcendentia engages and immerses its listeners in the concentration of this endless ominous darkness. The operatic tenor vocals, which accompanies the lead singer, put the album at the center of a demonic ritual. This is why the album’s landscape changes from mere black metal to the scenes from supernatural occult horror movies of the sixties. In the meantime, the sound designs and the use of church organ also help to create this cinematic landscape. Transcendentia: The Shadow Pilgrimage is enjoyable. Although sometimes, especially in the middle of the album, it sounds a bit monotonous, its horrific theatrical atmosphere is still able to enchant the audience.
Matsunaga Was Right – Born In Wire (Horror Pain Gore Death)
If Botchamania on regular rotation and yelling “Jesus” in public like the wrestler Zandig in the middle of a tirade is part of a listener’s life, then Matsunaga Was Right might be the right grindcore band to latch onto. Musically, Born In Wire is a monsoon of noise, with 15 songs barely passing seven minutes. The band know their audience; the deathmatch seekers, the ones trading clips of indie wrestlers online, those who will gladly watch a match with piranhas involved.
They will mark out to samples like commentator Joey Styles shocked at Sabu being stuck in barbed wire, while getting amusement out of song titles like “Matsuhausen: Very Nice, Very Danger” and “It’s Still Real To Me Dammit.” A niche section of metalheads will find some value deep within Born In Wire’s incomprehensible dissonance.
Origin – Chaosmos (Nuclear Blast/Agonia)
2022 is the 25th anniversary of the formation of American death metal crushers Origin. They took a bit longer between albums this time around thanks to the pandemic, with five years elapsing between Unparalleled Universe and their new record Chaosmos.
Origin’s technical chops are on full display with some intricate guitar work from Paul Ryan and an impressive performance from drummer John Longstreth. The tempos constantly vary, both within songs and from track to track. Chaos gives way to grooves before the brutality begins anew. It’s a nice mix of focused songs like the title track along with lengthier numbers such as “Decolonizer.” The album wraps up with the 11 plus minute opus “Heat Death,” intense most of the way through before easing up toward the end. When it comes to tech death bands, Origin are among the elite, and prove it with Chaosmos.
Departing Ways, the debut EP from metalcore group Seeking Sirens, doesn’t let melody slip from the agenda. This is undoubtedly an antagonistic sound, with massive screams bouncing off of meaty guitar riffs. Yet, that isn’t where the release’s strong points are. It’s when the singing takes over, as it does on ballad-esque “Surface,” that the band begins to spread out into more comfortable surroundings.
That’s the main song that puts the singing on the spot, though it does appear in the choruses on most of the other tunes on Departing Ways. Some instances of programming and electronics give off a modern touch; however, not to the point of distraction. The EP is an effective beginning for Seeking Sirens, leaving it open as to how they will take this well-established sound and make it more distinctive.
Somnus Throne – Nemesis Lately (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Somnus Throne emerge from the bong smoke with their sophomore album Nemesis Lately, a trippy treat for those that love the fuzzier side of doom metal. Their self-titled debut tended to meander through hazy repetition, which they work to avoid the second time around. Trimming down the double-length songs from their last record makes for less burnout and more engagement with their searing guitar solos and simmering jams.
Opener “Snake Eyes” pushes the pace upwards immediately, something they waited to do until the final song on their first full-length. Though they don’t get caught in a speed trap often, the urgency remains. There’s an excellent usage of acoustic guitars on closer “Calm Is The Devil,” which is the mellow vibes in the midst of an acid trip. Nemesis Lately has Somnus Throne rein in their stoner doom without losing any of its high.
Temple Of Void – Summoning The Slayer (Relapse)
Detroit doom metal veterans Temple Of Void are here with album number four Summoning The Slayer, their first proper LP for Relapse Records. Having built a reputation for themselves as a modern death doom institution, Temple Of Void bring crushing riffs, but are not afraid to mix in some melody and beauty betwixt pummeling passages such as on “Deathtouch.”
The song lengths vary greatly from 8 minute epics to sub 4minute tracks like “Hex, Curse, Conjuration.” The latter is able to carry the same level of heft as the rest of the album’s 6 tracks, but do so in a more bite-sized manner. Temple Of Void have made one of the best death doom albums of the year with Summoning The Slayer, a slowly conjured slab of riffs, songwriting, and destruction, all delivered at a snail’s pace.