This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Cailleach Calling, Dead Lord, Edge Of Forever, E-L-R, Ghost, Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate, Konvent, Mamorlis, Messa, New Horizon, Pestilength, Pillaging Villagers, Threads Of Fate and Wolves At The Gate.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation (Debemur Morti)
The California black metal band Cailleach Calling were formed last year by Dawn Of Ouroboros members Chelsea Murphy (vocals) and Tony Thomas (guitar/bass/synth). They recruited drummer Yuri Kononov (ex-White Ward) for their debut album Dreams Of Fragmentation.
There are just four songs on the album, but this is not an EP, as it clocks in at around 40 minutes. Cailleach Calling’s brand of black metal is atmospheric and dynamic with progressive moments. “Bound By Neon” has a mellow beginning before the intensity kicks in, but the non-metal style makes another reprise. “Cascading Waves” is sparse and dreamy with some melodic singing for its first 9 minutes or so, with black metal coming to the forefront for the rest of the 15 minute song. The vocals could definitely be louder in the mix, but Dreams Of Fragmentation is an intriguing and wide-ranging debut.
Dead Lord – Dystopia (Century Media)
Coming from Sweden are Dead Lord complete with artwork reminiscent of Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak that feels all too intentional. The EP’s title track has plenty of melody about it, feeling nowhere near as negative as the music sounds with vocalist Hakim Krim channeling a similar nasal style to the late Phil Lynott throughout the six tracks.
None of the songs overstay their welcome and are played with aplomb and the right kind of bombast you would expect from a retro rocking band in 2022. Dead Lord have certainly only increased their international profile with this solid little EP between albums.
Edge Of Forever – The Days Of Future Past – The Remasters (Frontiers)
The Italian heavy metal/hard rock band Edge Of Forever released three albums between 2004 and 2009, took a ten year hiatus between releases, and resumed in 2019. In January they issued their fifth album Seminole. Now their first three records are being reissued in the 3CD set The Days Of Future Past – The Remasters.
Edge Of Forever play polished, catchy traditional metal/hard rock, evident on Feeding The Fire (2004), Let The Demon Rock ‘N’ Roll (2005) and Another Paradise (2009). On the first two albums, Bob Harris (ex-Axe) is the vocalist, with keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio handling them since then. All three albums are good, with catchy songs and minimal filler, definitely worth picking up if you missed them the first time around.
E-L-R – Vexier (Prophecy)
Swiss band E-L-R return with their sophomore effort Vexier, one chock full of the otherworldly nature of shoegaze juxtaposed against a doom landscape. These long form compositions form movements with
two of the tracks topping the 12 minute mark. “Opitate The Sun” evokes a combination of Kylesa’s doom against the ethereal sounds of distant vocals as well as the variety present on a SubRosa track.
This album seems to reveal more on each listen with ample levels of subtlety peeling back layers of riffs and swirling levels of celestial complexity. “Three Winds,” while still an 8 minute track, is a lot more direct than the previous song. Riffs open this track, not needing an introduction as the listener is still awash in the atmosphere. If you are fan of the bands that thrive in the ability to build themselves up over the course of fully fleshed out tracks in the vein of Cult Of Luna and Neurosis among others, then E-L-R might just be your new favorite band.
Ghost – Impera (Loma Vista)
When they arrived on the scene with 2010’s Opus Eponymous, Ghost were a mysterious, anonymous band. That veil of secrecy has been lifted, with the band rising to the upper echelon of metal/hard rock. That continues with their fifth album Impera. It has already spawned their fourth mainstream rock number one song, “Hunter’s Moon.”
The album is packed with radio-friendly, ultra-catchy hard rock songs. You’ll be singing along to tracks like “Spillways” and “Watcher In The Sky” after only a listen or two. But Ghost always bring something new to the party on each album. “Twenties” has an orchestral beginning and a cinematic atmosphere driven by some heavy guitar riffs. If you weren’t a Ghost fan before, Impera probably won’t convert you, but those who enjoy Tobias Forge and company’s previous albums will find plenty to enjoy, with another collection of memorable songs.
Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate – Hell, CA (Golden Robot)
An entire book could be written about overlooked, late-period “hair metal” masterpieces – great albums that got lost in the shuffle due to the alt-rock takeover. Love/Hate qualify, and I’m just as guilty as any rock fan of slagging them off as a Guns N’ Roses wannabe, two years too late to care. But lo and behold, here we are some 30 years on and they’re still kicking out innovative, sleazy-yet-smart anthems like the ten tracks found on Hell, CA (granted, now as Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate).
Opener “One Hot Minute” serves as exhibit A in Love/Hate’s role as the missing link between GN’R and Jane’s Addiction – the staccato guitar riff recalling the latter’s “Stop” without the psychedelic middle section. The gentle acoustic intro to “Gonna Take You Higher” gives way to a groovy, grinding riff that perfectly captures the essence of this record. Pearl’s strained rasp may not to everyone’s taste, but suits the vibe here perfectly.
Konvent – Call Down The Sun (Napalm)
The Danish quartet Konvent emerged in 2020 with Puritan Masochism, which blended death, doom and black metal. The styles are similar on the follow-up Call Down The Sun, but with a few new twists.
Sara Helena Nørregaard’s melodic riffs are contrasted by the harsh vocals of Rikke Emilie List. The tempos are generally slow to mid-paced, with tracks like the glacial “In The Soot” bringing doom to the forefront. Death metal is the dominant style on faster songs such as “Grains.” The outlier is closer “Harena,” which adds violin and cello on top of the heavy guitars to give it an epic feel. Call Down The Sun is a step up from their debut, with better developed songs and more variety.
Mamorlis’ second album Sturdy As An Oak puts their doom-laden heavy metal in a fantasy setting, embedding folk melodies into songs like “Over The Border.” That one has an intro and outro verse from traditional Australian lyrics, which is an effective world building technique. The group has a scale to their music that rivals the Lord Of The Rings film trilogy, even on a shorter tune like “The Kurgan.”
Compared to their first album, Sturdy As An Oak has more frantic movements, with quicker tempos throughout. They also strive for lofty expectations on the slightly overambitious 11-minute closer “Journeys of Acquisition/Gor,” though it is saved by an extended outro with solos from every member of the band. The main sticking point to the album is drummer/vocalist Alex Noce, whose high-pitched singing and prevalent falsettos will be an acquired taste for many.
Messa – Close (Svart)
We love to force sub-genres on metal bands, but if there is one band that defies pigeonholing it is Italy’s Messa. Their third album Close further reinforces this fact. Messa blend doom, psych, occult, blues, jazz, black metal, discordant noise, and most everything else under the sun to create a unique and uniquely breathtaking concoction.
Although they have evolved continuously from one album to the next, one thing is still certain: it is impossible to turn off Close once you start listening. The band continues to refine its songwriting, and with the amazing Sara nailing every vocal line, we are mesmerized from start to finish. Close is 65 minutes long, but with killer tracks such as the raging/ethereal “Dark Horse” and the Mediterranean-tinged “Pilgrim,” it sure flies by. One of the year’s must-own releases.
New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods (Frontiers)
New Horizon was formed by multi-instrumentalist Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.). The original plan was to have several different vocalists on their debut album Gate of The Gods. But after his former bandmate Erik Gronwall recorded a couple of songs, he was invited to become the sole vocalist.
The album is inspired by Tee’s love of classic heavy and power metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Helloween and HammerFall. Those influences are evident on the album, with songs that have soaring melodies and plenty of instrumental breaks. Guests such as Dragonforce’s Sam Totman fortify the musicianship even more. The songs on Gate Of The Gods are melodic and memorable, delivered with passion without going over the top. It’s an enjoyable power metal debut from a band whose chemistry is evident.
Pestilength – Basom Gryphos (Nuclear Winter/Sentient Ruin)
Basom Gryphos is Pestilength’s second studio album after releasing Eilatik in 2020. It can be considered as a successful effort that has been effective to complete the world of the debut album.
In some ways it may seem that Basom Gryphos does not bring much with it, and is devoid of elements that make it a special work. But the manifestation of the album’s vibrant spirit makes sense when you listen to it several times. Basom Gryphos doesn’t put much on the table, but the album’s success is in their Incantation/Immolation-themed death/doom metal combination, with strong touches of black metal. It creates a dark, horrific and evil scene, reigning all over its ominous spirit. It’s an effort that ultimately allows Pestilength to score the points needed for an effective work.
Workers rising up against their cruel bosses; it’s a tale that’s been told for centuries, from those striking for better working conditions to peasants fighting back tyrants. For Pillaging Villagers’ self-titled debut album, it’s the underclass going to war against the hierarchy across thrashy folk-styled songs. Though the subject matter can be harsh, the music keeps an upbeat tempo that could almost be joyful if it wasn’t for all the violence going on.
There’s a sense of pride when those being held down start rising up and making gains in the second half of the album. This is also where the catchiest songs come in, with gang chants on “Burn The Monastery” and “Smash The Factory” helping out. Most of these songs are in the two-to-three minute range, save for the bulky “The Crisis,” which tells a compelling enough story on its own to make its over eight minutes manageable. Pillaging Villagers is thrash with a message, one that values uprising against the elite class.
Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light (Layered Reality)
Threads Of Fate tackle death from all angles on The Cold Embrace Of The Light. There’s the uncertainty that comes from it, the horror of the unknown and the peace of taking the next step into whatever the afterlife contains. All of these perspectives are expressed through bountiful orchestration and broad vocal ranges that can soar as mightily as they can scream daggers at the listener.
There’s a blackened edge on a few songs, including “The Horrors Within,” which has the band throwing their most cinematic song in the center of the album. Compare that to the piano-led closing ballad “Ashes” that strips away the metal for an exhibit of Jon Pyres’ vocal prowess. The Cold Embrace Of The Light takes on a grim topic without diluting its seriousness.
Wolves At The Gate – Eulogies (Solid State)
The Ohio metalcore/post hardcore band Wolves At The Gate have been around for 15 years now, and have been releasing albums for a decade. Their fifth full-length is Eulogies.
Potent harsh vocals are contrasted by melodic singing vocals. They are pretty balanced between the two styles on a lot of songs. Tracks like “Lights & Fire” and “No Tomorrow” spotlight melodic vocals, making them more accessible. But the strongest songs are the ones that feature both styles, like “Stop The Bleeding” and “Deadweight.” Like their previous albums, Eulogies should have success on both the Christian and secular charts. Its songs are streamlined and varied, with a quality production from guitarist Joey Alarcon and guitarist/clean vocalist Stephen Cobucci.