Heavy Music HQ Album Reviews: Week of June 4, 2021

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Atreyu, Boss Keloid, Desaster, Eternal Struggle, Eyes, Fluids, Graveripper, Hannes Grossman, Inhuman Condition, Lycanthro, Red Fang, Rhapsody Of Fire, Rise Against, Seputus and Shun.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Spinefarm Records

Atreyu – Baptize (Spinefarm)

Vocalist Alex Varkatzas exited Atreyu last year. Now, more than two decades in, the remaining members enter a new era on Baptize. Drummer Brandon Saller is now focusing on singing after previously sharing lead vocals with Varkatzas. As expected, this LP sits at the more accessible end of heavy music’s spectrum. There are 15 tracks, none of which reach the four-minute mark, while musically Baptize fuses metalcore, arena rock and pop/punk.

Hook-laden, mosh-pleasing cuts like “Catastrophe” and “Underrated” tick the boxes for fans, but feel like strict adherence to formula. Melodic “Dead Weight” is so saccharine it’ll give you a stomach ache, while elsewhere guest spots from Travis Barker, Jacoby Shaddix and Matt Heafy add star power, but little else of real consequence. Atreyu have a well-defined, albeit safe and sanitized sound that’s served them well, and at times prove capable of crafting hooks so large they could catch Moby Dick. Whether their following accepts this new incarnation remains to be seen.

Rating: 2.5
(Brendan Crabb)

Ripple Music

Boss Keloid – Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple)

Boss Keloid‘s last album, 2018’s Melted On The Inch, was an honorable mention on our Best of 2018 albums list, so the anticipation for their latest release Family The Smiling Thrush was high. Over the years Boss Keloid’s sound has evolved and expanded from stoner/doom. While that style is still there, they have really expanded their progressive approach, and this is their proggiest album to-date.

They boldly open with the album’s longest track, the 9 minute “Orang Of Noyn.” On songs such as “Gentle Clovis” and “Hats The Mandrill” they display a masterful blend of groovy riffs, progressive forays and memorable melodies. This is album that’s both catchy and creative, immediately accessible but also displaying depth that unfolds more and more upon multiple listens. Family The Smiling Thrush is diverse and dynamic, appealing to fans of numerous genres.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Metal Blade Records

Desaster – Churches Without Saints (Metal Blade)

Following their 2016 release The Oath Of An Iron Ritual, German black thrashers Desaster return with Churches Without Saints. Drummer Hont takes over for Tormentor without changing the group’s signature sound. The new album further develops the sound created on their 2000 effort Tyrants Of The Nether World.

Churches Without Saints is another album blending old school thrash with second wave black metal. Although not as obvious as earlier efforts, there is still “a touch of medieval darkness,” mostly on the triumphant “Endless Awakening.” Said track and “Aus Asche” end the album with a bit of melody. “Failing Trinity” and “Hellputua” are two of the thrashier songs, replete with neck-snapping speed picking. “Sadistic Salvation” and “Primordial Obscurity” bring black metal malevolence, replete with hell-hammering drums. Desaster have stepped down a rung since Sataniac took over for Okkulto on vocals in 2001, but Sataniac gets the job done and Churches Without Saints shows continuity in sound.

Rating: 3.5
(Darren Cowan)

Upstate Records

Eternal Struggle – Year Of The Gun (Upstate)

Eternal Struggle’s debut album Year Of The Gun is a nod to old-school hardcore all the way from Israel. There’s a bit of a crossover thrash vibe on “Point One,” and the double bass drumming that runs roughshod throughout “Modern Slave” is the closest the album gets to a metallic hardcore sound. But then they throw a wicked breakdown into a song like “Pride Kills” and a listener can imagine the aerial moves that will occur in the pits during a live show.

The band got the attention of former Madball guitarist Brian “Mitts” Daniels, who produced Year Of The Gun. Having someone with over a decade and a half of experience performing with a seminal band like Madball seems to have rubbed off on the album, as these songs really fit into the hardcore mold without coming off as overproduced. Eternal Struggle take their aim at abuse of power and corruption with an unapologetic middle finger in the air on Year Of The Gun.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

GMR Music

Eyes – Perfect Vision 20/20 (GMR)

The Swedish band Eyes includes members of Aces High, who released a few albums in the ’90s and early ’00s. Over the past few years they have issued a couple of EPs, with their latest Perfect Vision 20/20 a full-length release.

It’s an album of hard rock/AOR songs that have a classic vibe but with modern production. There’s a nice combination of uptempo rockers along some some ballads such as “This Is Us.” The music is catchy and accessible, but has some bite to it as well. It’s certainly not a unique approach, but it’s very well-executed with some quality songs that fans of melodic rock can appreciate.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Hells Headbangers Records

Fluids – Not Dark Yet (Hells Headbangers)

“This is the last video, I’m going to make. That is all my blood. [hysterically laughs] Isn’t that f–king crazy?” Fluids’ third album Not Dark Yet begins with an audio snippet of a young man describing a horrific event. Isn’t that enough to quickly show us the explicit brutal nature of the album?

Not Dark Yet is relentless and attacking. From down-tempo to mid-tempo, to savage blast beats, Fluids showcase their raw, distorted slam-fused brutal death metal once again. Programmed drums continue to keep Fluids’ music close to Mortician, paying tribute to brutal death/goregrind veterans. And also the use of synthesizers slightly turns the essence of the album to an experimental cyber-tinged grindcore record, which also displays Fluids attempt to follow the atmospheres of ‘70s and ‘80s horror movies’ scores. Not Dark Yet is pure madness.

Rating: 3.5
(Arash Khosronejad)

Wise Blood Records

Graveripper – Radiated Remains (Wise Blood)

After emerging with their debut EP last year, the Indiana band Graveripper are following that up with another EP, the six track Radiated Remains.

Graveripper are a blackened thrash band, with their influences both European and Bay Area. You can hear inspiration of thrash bands like Kreator and Exodus along with groups like Venom. Tracks like “All Life Decays” have a moderate tempo where black metal influences are more pronounced, while speed/thrash is at the forefront on uptempo tracks such as “Atoms Divide.” The harsh vocals add even more extremity to the mix. It’s a potent EP, whetting the appetite to see what they can do on a full-length.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Hannes Grossmann – To Where The Light Retreats (Self)

Drummer Hannes Grossman‘s latest solo album To Where The Light Retreats shares much in common with some of his other projects, namely Obscura and Alkaloid, in delivery and execution. The songs have a progressive aspect, but don’t forget to pummel at the correct time. This new album, his fourth full-length, is appropriate as it gives a slightly new direction from what he has done in the past.

The album gets off to a strong start, but does tend to lose some steam. There is precise technical riffing in bundles and a great display of showmanship, but this isn’t really different from past works from Obscura, for example. On the whole, To Where The Light Retreats gets a large recommendation to fans of Grossman’s previous material.

Rating: 3.5
(Adam McAuley)

Listenable Insanity Records

Inhuman Condition – Rat God (Listenable Insanity)

Inhuman Condition are a new band, but all three members were in Massacre, and they have an impressive extreme metal pedigree. Jeramie Kling (Venom Inc., The Absence) handles vocals and drums, Terry Butler (Obituary, Death) plays bass, and Taylor Nordberg (The Absence, Goregang) is the guitarist.

Another former Massacre member, Rick Ross provides three guest solos, and Cannibal Corpse’s Paul Mazzurkiewicz supplied some lyrics/vocal patterns. The music on the album is death metal with thrash influences, alternating between quick tempos and a groovier pace. The shifting tempos add variety, and Nordberg supplies a lot of memorable riffs. With their backgrounds, it’s no surprise that Rat God is a fully realized and expertly executed debut.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Alone Records

Lycanthro – Mark Of The Wolf (Alone)

Mark Of The Wolf is a record that could, if found in a used record store three years from now could almost be mistaken for a lost NWOBHM album from 1987. As such, Lycanthro’s first album exemplifies the best and worst of this style of old-school melodic metal.

The performances, especially those of vocalist James Delbridge and recording drummer Nathan Shuman are dynamic and lively, if sometimes a bit loose. The lyrics are full of clichés and tropes, but also evoke nostalgic memories of the notebooks one filled in high school with their dreams of heavy metal grandeur, and the riffs and melodies are good and cheesy enough to sell us on the whole package. Although there are a few awkward guitar solos that don’t connect at all with the music under them and some jarring transitions, notably on “Fallen Angel’s Prayer”, Mark Of The Wolf is a decent, earnest effort that is still generally enjoyable.

Rating: 3
(Étienne Vézina)

Relapse Records

Red Fang – Arrows (Relapse)

It has been nearly five years since Red Fang‘s last full-length, though the Portland band has released three standalone singles over the past few years. Arrows is their fourth full-length album.

It follows in the stoner rock/metal path of previous releases, with thick riffs and catchy singles like the title track and “My Disaster.” There are also heavier tracks like “Unreal Estate” and “Days Collide” that still have plenty of melody. Tempos range from the plodding doom of “Dr. Owl” to uptempo tracks like “Two High.” The production seems a little rawer than the last album, providing some extra bite. It has everything Red Fang fans are looking for, another consistent and enjoyable addition to their impressive catalog.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

AFM Records

Rhapsody Of Fire – I’ll Be Your Hero (AFM)

It’s being called an EP, but I’ll Be Your Hero is eight songs and about 40 minutes long, though it is shorter than Rhapsody Of Fire‘s usual hour plus full-lengths.

The EP includes one new song from the Italian symphonic power metal veterans, the soaring title track. The rest of the songs are a mishmash of live tracks, bonus songs and four versions of “The Wind, The Rain And The Moon” from 2019’s The Eighth Mountain. There’s the original English version, plus previous unreleased renditions in Italian, Spanish and French. While certainly not essential, the new single is excellent, and the rest of the material will hold interest for Rhapsody Of Fire completists.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Loma Vista Recordings

Rise Against – Nowhere Generation (Loma Vista)

Punk legends Rise Against wear two decades of experience and nine LPs on their belts and, despite no change from their M.O of chunky riffs and political discourse, Nowhere Generation is a kind reflection on these aging icons of rebellion. Their ninth full-length won’t be pushing any envelopes but it’s a snappy and well-crafted dose of ‘stick it to the man’ that’s hard to disagree with.

Once hailed as one of the most important punk bands on the planet by Kerrang!, the Chicago quartet are predictable in their manner of attack, but Nowhere Generation’s performances and production values remain convincing enough to pick it off the ground. With a championing voice for the disenchanted youth of today, vocalist Tim McIlrath’s suitably impassioned delivery steals the show and gives highlight tracks like “The Numbers” and “Broken Dreams” believable righteous indignation that makes the album’s spotty songwriting more forgivable. It won’t be the album to change lives or start movements, but Nowhere Generation is a perfect bite size piece of catharsis that almost anyone could raise a fist to.

Rating: 3
(Alex Mace)

Willowtip Records

Seputus – Phantom Indigo (Willowtip)

Seputus are comprised of three-fourths of the members from Pyrrhon, who themselves released an excellent album Abscess Time last year during the worldwide lockdown. Not ready to rest up and recharge, this project gives us the treat of more spastic death metal with Phantom Indigo. Listeners of Pyrrhon will see some apt comparisons in Seputus, though there’s a bit more of a twisted psychedelic vibe to these songs that on the whole reach close to or above double-digits, save for the directness of instrumental “The Forgetting Curve.”

There’s a bit of an Pyrrhon reunion on “Tautology,” as guitarist Dylan DiLella contributes a solo to the song. Artificial Brain’s Dan Gargiulo also shows up for a majestic solo on “The Learned Response,” and a few other musicians contribute solos to the album. They provide a recharge from the unconventional compositions of drummer/guitarist Stephen Schwegler, who revels in obtuse behavior. Phantom Indigo is as perplexing of an album as anything these guys have done in their other projects, which means that it’s just as highly effective.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Small Stone Records

Shun – Shun (Small Stone)

Shun’s self-titled debut album has a slight edge dug into their rock sound, though its distorted temper never shifts the focus away from the rousing guitar harmonies and appealing grooves. They do get heavy, but it’s not inaccessible, as there’s a consistent melodic undertaking to all the songs. The band will put that to the side on occasion, notably on the album’s penultimate track, “Heese.”

The album hits the mark when the instruments get to breathe and go off in a jam-like direction on “At Most” and “Machina.” The lengthier approach lets the bass guitar stand out and gives the band a chance to rachet up the tension without having to rush through it. Recorded during the pandemic at the band members’ houses, in garages, bedrooms, and personal studios, Shun’s first album is a capable rocker with tightly executed songwriting.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

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