This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Bastard Grave, Dirge, Exelerate, Frozen Crown, Gorod, Isole, Judiciary, Läjä Äijälä and Albert Witchfinder, Periphery, Suicide Silence, Tribe Of Pazuzu and Weight Of Emptiness.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Bastard Grave – Vortex Of Disgust (Pulverised)
The Swedish death metal band Bastard Grave have not been very prolific during their thirteen years of activity, but their output is utterly impressive. It’s so impressive that every time they put out a new album, they easily excite death metal fans. Their third studio album, Vortex Of Disgust, is no exception.
Is it possible to be born in Sweden, play death metal, and not be influenced by the musical pioneers of your country? In some cases, yes, but Bastard Grave know how to delve into the roots of Swedish death metal. Massive resonant riffs and reverberating drums create a terrifying landscape and infernal vortex that cover the entire album with enormous destructive power. Vortex Of Disgust does not add a new perspective to today’s frantic world of death metal with the ghostly yet palpable presence of Grave and Entombed casting a shadow on the foundation of Bastard Grave’s music. But for the audience who cares about preserving the traditions of death metal elders, this is a more than satisfactory work.
Dirge – Dirge (Immersive Sounds)
Five years after their debut, the Indian sludge/doom metal band Dirge return with a self-titled effort. They say the goal of the record is to evoke emotions that lie at the core of discomfort, taking the listener on a journey that creates a sense of catharsis.
Dirge consists of four lengthy songs, each in the 9 to 12 minute range. Opener “Condemned” is driven by a catchy, repetitive riff and passionate harsh vocals. “Malignant” is more diverse, with a calm beginning that transforms into heavy sludge/doom, eases into tranquility and then cranks up the metal again. “Grief” has even more ebbs and flows. Throughout the album, Dirge shift smoothly between introspective post metal and heavy sludge. There are lulls here and there where some editing might be useful, but for the most part it remains compelling.
Exelerate – Exelerate (From The Vaults)
The journey to the Danish band Exelerate‘s debut full-length has been a lengthy one. They issued an EP in 2014, a single in 2016, and now in 2023 are unveiling Exelerate.
They have old school influences from a variety of genres. There are progressive moments reminiscent of bands like Dream Theater and thrashy parts from the Anthrax playbook. Stefan Jensen’s vocals are sometimes edgy, other times high pitched falsetto. They are able to write streamlined songs like “No Escape” along with more epic tracks like the shredtastic “Spawn Of Satan.” Exelerate moves between brisk thrash, heavy grooves and melodic choruses. The guitar work is impressive throughout, whether it be clever riffs, twin harmonies or flamboyant solos. Though their influences are familiar, Exelerate’s arrangements mix and match them to avoid being predictable.
Frozen Crown – Call Of The North (Scarlet)
For their fourth album Call Of The North (the second with the current lineup), the Italian power metal band Frozen Crown have upped the ante when it comes to variety. Shifts in tempo and intensity keep the listener on their toes.
That variety and versatility is evident from the opening title track. It shifts from traditional power metal to galloping speed metal to an acoustic interlude and back to bombastic. “Fire In The Sky” is catchy with a singalong chorus and interesting vocal harmonies. Singer Giada “Jade” Etro shows both power and subtlety throughout, epitomized on “Victorious,” with an acoustic beginning amping up to full power metal mode. Frozen Crown are able to be dramatic without devolving into cheesiness. That dynamic brand of heaviness and melody makes Call Of The North the band’s most well-rounded and entertaining album so far.
Now seven albums in, French bruisers Gorod have a fair handle on this technical death metal caper, as evidenced by latest barrage The Orb. Locked down tighter than the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, it’s an accomplished display. Perhaps inspired by countrymen Gojira’s world domination, there are slivers of accessibility amid the punishing grooves. Proggy touches of “We Are The Sun Gods” mesh with the dissonance of “Scale of Sorrows,” and more familiar tech-death of “Breeding Silence.”
The ambient, almost Opethian flavours of the title track prove an obvious standout; off-kilter synths and clean vocals neatly contrast the grooves. A cover of The Doors’ “Strange Days” ends proceedings. Jim Morrison’s charisma and the original’s moodiness is missed, and it does feel akin to a novelty aimed at boosting streaming numbers. It’s a brave choice that’s ultimately not a total disaster as the group injects some unique personality, but does conclude the record in jarring fashion. Music this brutal and proficient is an acquired taste, and after a period the bludgeoning may become numbing for some. But if you’re so inclined, this LP will be a must listen.
Isole – Anesidora (Hammerheart)
For the title of their latest album, the veteran Swedish doom metal band Isole venture into Greek and Roman mythology. Anesidora means “sender of gifts,” and was the epithet of several goddesses and mythological figures.
Over their now eight albums, Isole have developed their own recognizable style of doom. It’s deliberate, melodic and crisp with riffs that are heavy without getting too fuzzy. The songs on Anesidora are mostly in the 6 to 7 minute range, which gives them plenty of room to establish the song’s roadmap, finding the destination with a few detours but never losing their path. Daniel Brynste’s tenor vocals contrast nicely with the heavy riffs, with periodic harsh vocals on tracks like “Twisted Games” adding every more variety. For nearly 20 years Isole have been releasing consistently good albums, and you can add Anesidora to that impressive list.
Judiciary – Flesh + Blood (Closed Casket)
From deep in the heart of Texas (Lubbock, to be exact), Judiciary bring the extremity and groove on their sophomore full-length Flesh + Blood. It was made with an all-star production team: Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Cavalera Conspiracy) producing and Wil Putney (Norma Jean, Terror) doing the mixing and mastering.
Influenced by bands like Slayer and Machine Head, Judiciary combine the intensity and heaviness of thrash with the groove and attitude of hardcore. Openers “Flesh” and “Blood” establish the template of crushing riffs and throat shredding vocals. There are surprises such as the subdued Middle Eastern flavored intro of “Paradigm Piercer” along with guest appearances from Knocked Loose’s Bryan Garris on “Stronger Than Though” and God’s Hate’s Brody King on “Temple.” It’s not overly original, but Flesh + Blood flies by in just over 30 minutes with minimal filler and maximum destruction.
Läjä Äijälä and Albert Witchfinder – Ordeal & Triumph (Svart)
Ordeal & Triumph is the second album by the duo of Läjä Äijälä (Terveet Kadet, Death Trip) and Albert Witchfinder (Reverend Bizarre, Opium Warlords). Äijälä provides the soundscape while Witchfinder’s vocals run the gamut from crooning to spoken word.
The album is experimental, though slightly more accessible than their debut. Droning electronic background makes parts of the opener “Phobos, Including Electric, Matrix, Them and Foetus” cinematic, with a dramatic monologue from Witchfinder bookended by singing. The three songs are each around 20 minutes, meandering between ambient dreamscapes and brief moments of heaviness. It’s certainly not for everybody, but the adventurous and patient listener who enjoys the avant-garde and electronica may find Ordeal & Triumph an intriguing listen.
Periphery – Djent Is Not A Genre (3DOT)
For their seventh album Periphery V (the Juggernaut albums weren’t numbered), Periphery give a wink and nod to the style in which they are considered a pioneering band, titling it Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre.
The writing period for the album was longer than usual, which allowed them to expand their already wide musical horizons. That’s evident from opener “Wildfire,” which includes a sax solo from Shining’s Jurgen Munkeby. “Atropos” starts out ultra-catchy with singing from Spencer Sotelo and then turns heavier and more progressive with harsh vocals. “Silhouette” is a straightforward pop song with all melodic singing, and “Dying Star” is also very accessible. Periphery are able to dip a toe in the mainstream, and then veer off into progland on dynamic and varied songs like “Zagreus” that ends on a symphonic and cinematic note. Even on songs that push to 11 and 12 minutes, Periphery’s creativity keeps things interesting with minimal self-indulgence. A 70 minute album in lesser hands could have become monotonous, but Periphery rarely fail to deliver the goods, and Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre is no exception.
Suicide Silence – Remember… You Must Die (Century Media)
Deathcore pioneers Suicide Silence have been around for more than two decades now. Remember… You Must Die is the fourth album of the Eddie Hermida era and the band’s seventh overall.
2020’s Become The Hunter was a return to form for the band after their polarizing 2017 self-titled effort. Remember… You Must Die is a continuation of Become The Hunter with bludgeoning riffs, brutal breakdowns and throat-shredding vocals. Suicide Silence are able to blend catchy moments with extremity on songs like “Kill Forever.” The most interesting song on the album is closer “Full Void” that’s sometimes dense and chaotic, other times groovy and melodic with a lengthy instrumental section. The grizzled veterans of deathcore have not lost any passion or energy and their musical chops continue to sharpen. Longtime fans should be well pleased with Remember… You Must Die.
In 2018, Nick Sagias (ex-Pestilence, ex-Soulstorm, and ex-Overthrow) founded Tribe Of Pazuzu with an approach to preserve the roots of blackened death metal. Their two EPs, Heretical Uprising and King Of All Demons, which were released in 2019 and 2020 respectively, showcased Sagias’ eloquence in creating relentless, furious death metal.
Now, Tribe Of Pazuzu’s first full length Blasphemous Prophecies in 30 minutes inflicts that relentless death metal on the body of the listener like the venomous bite of an infernal serpent. Blasphemous Prophecies is formidable and cruel. Although at moments you may find it monotonous, and you wish to encounter more dynamics in the songwriting, in the end it succeeds as a memorable work. Featuring Luc Lemay, Jorgen Sandstrom and Christian Donaldson, Sagias links his music to the darkest and wildest corners of old school death metal, with palpable streaks of black metal. In the absence of Angelcorpse and Vital Remains, he strongly continues the way of roaring, sacrilegious death metal.
Weight Of Emptiness – Withered Paradogma (Sliptrick)
Withered Paradogma, the third full-length from the Chilean band Weight Of Emptiness, has a brooding mood to it. There is a very heavy undercurrent to what the band does. The songs wander on through various stages, and the aggression ramps up a couple of notches and showcases the band’s skill. There are a lot of varied tempos that constantly make the music interesting. The sound is a post-metal one that is likened to more progressive outings at times.
The overall sound has depth, but if Weight Of Emptiness would step outside of their scope occasionally, it would be even more interesting. It has solid production values and musical performances across the board. By the time “Oblivion Collector” rolls around, we have a good vision of the band’s sound that is interesting and thoughtful. Withered Paradogma will get multiple replays from vigilant fans, a consistent album that remains enjoyable all the way through.