Heavy Music HQ Album Reviews: Week of March 15, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aborted, Brat, DragonForce, Kilter/Andromeda Anarchia/Growlers Choir/Seven)Suns, Lords Of Black, Lutharo, Malsten, The Moor, Necrophobic, Shock Withdrawal, Udåd and Vltimas.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Nuclear Blast

Aborted – Vault Of Horrors (Nuclear Blast)

For their latest album Vault Of Horrors, veteran Belgian death metal crushers Aborted pay a visit to the cinema. Every song pays tribute to a cult classic horror movie such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Mist. There’s also a different guest vocalist on each song.

After a 30 second fairly mellow intro, the bludgeoning begins in earnest with “Dreadbringer,” which has a few twists and turns. Other numbers like “Condemned To Rot” and “Death Cult” are more direct, but still have some tempo and intensity changes. Some of the guest vocalists include Cryptopsy’s Matt McGachy, Despised Icon’s Alex Erian, Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Francesco Paoli and Ingested’s Jason Evans. Ken Bedene’s ferocious drumming drives the proceedings and the additional of all the guest vocalists adds some variety without detracting from the cohesiveness of the relentless Vault Of Horrors.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Prosthetic Records

Brat – Social Grace (Prosthetic)

Brat, New Orleans self-proclaimed purveyors of bimboviolence, have hit the scene and hard, plumbing the underground for a few years before dropping Social Grace, their first album. In true powerviolence fashion these tracks are hit and run affairs with a ton contained within, drawing favorable comparisons to Full Of Hell with a little less off the wall antics. A great example of what they do includes tracks like opener “Ego Death” and “Slow Heat.” The band knows how to crush on repeat. They can do that in two ways: blow the doors off the hinges or drag your face across swelteringly hot pavement. You don’t get to choose, you just do what you’re told.

Liz Selfish is a tour-de-force vocalist and makes her indelible mark on each of the tracks, with guitarist Brenner Moate not far behind. If you are looking for a new band to fill that crushing and fast void, with a little more than meets the eye, look no further than Brat. Social Grace is a fantastic and easily digestible lesson in extremity that will make its mark.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Napalm Records

DragonForce – Warp Speed Warriors (Napalm)

The era of Guitar Hero, gold records and Grammy nominations must seem like a lifetime ago for DragonForce. But to give the group their kudos, they’ve kept at it even as fads and public consciousness have drifted elsewhere. Warp Speed Warriors is their first album in five years. For the already initiated, there are few surprises here. The songs are, as expected, predominantly lightning-fast affairs with blistering, fret-melting guitar solos. Other boxes are ticked; the phones in the air ballad (“Kingdom of Steel”), video game fare (the Zelda-influenced “Power Of the Triforce”), and a danceable, catchy yet likely to be divisive ’80s-influenced cut (“Doomsday Party”).

There’s also a blindingly fast (naturally) and shreddy cover of “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version).” It’s a deft move to jump on the trending topic that is Tay Tay, and could net them rewards if it were to go viral via TikTok. Some arena-sized melodies hit the mark, while other hooks are less engaging amid the blast-beats and over-the-top synths. But the band unashamedly revel in the cheesier than a Kraft factory approach and sheer ridiculousness, accusations of self-parody be damned. The LP also contains bonus tracks featuring several alternative versions; Matt Heafy, Nita Strauss, Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd were enlisted. The results are a curious listen, if disposable.

Rating: 3
(Brendan Crabb)

Silent Pendulum Records

Kilter, Andromeda Anarchia, Growlers Choir, SEVEN)SUNS – La Suspendida (Silent Pendulum)

Opera, jazz and metal, a combination so bizarre in concept that it manages to work. Composed of New York based avant garde metal acts Kilter, Andromeda Anarchia, Growlers Choir and SEVEN)SUNS, La Suspendida combines the best of all these bands to create one singular piece.

La Suspendida is a rock opera in every sense of the word. The whole album tells the tale of María Elena and how after dying from tuberculosis she begins a journey to find acceptance in her death. From the opening “Overture” until the final notes of “Lullabye” everyone pulls their weight equally and nothing feels out of place nor does the almost hour-and-a-half run time feel like a slog. Andromeda Anarchia’s vocal prowess and range make for a powerful performance when backed with the haunting strings of SEVEN)SUNS. La Suspendida is a unique listen for any fan of either opera or metal.

Rating: 3.5
(Dalton Husher)

Frontiers Music

Lords Of Black – Mechanics Of Predacity (Frontiers)

The latest album from the Spanish heavy/power metal band Lords Of Black is Mechanics Of Predacity. The lyrics explore the nature of human predation, and how it can also bring out the counterforce of kindness and humanity. Vocalist Ronnie Romero is in numerous other bands and has released a few solo albums as well. There’s a reason he’s in high demand, with a voice that’s powerful and dynamic.

The songs on Mechanics Of Predacity are fairly long, most in the five minute range, which gives them time to develop. Lords Of Black songs are a good mix of complexity and catchiness, and this time around is no different. They always have an epic song or two on every album. This time it’s the 11 minute opus “A World That’s Departed,” which is dramatic with a lot of ebbs and flows and manages to stay engaging throughout. Over the years Lords Of Black’s output has been consistently good, and that continues with Mechanics Of Predacity.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Atomic Fire Records

Lutharo – Chasing Euphoria (Atomic Fire)

If Lutharo are trying to capture the feeling of joy on Chasing Euphoria, it’s being done at resounding speeds. Their melodic death/thrash metal paces itself like a kite in a hurricane, with vocals that range from shrieking falsettos to commanding screams and guitar solos determined to one up each other. Once the obligatory orchestration intro track “Gates Of Enchantment” winds down, it’s jittery acceleration most of the way through.

It’s not until closer “Freedom Of The Night” that Lutharo let up from their amped-up attitude. This is where lovely guitar harmonies, prominent bass work and eloquent melodic vocals take hold. It’s a great finish to Chasing Euphoria, which starts to slip a bit on the back end until some booming orchestration gives fresh dimensions to the music.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Svart Records

Malsten – The Haunting Of Silvåkra Mill – Rites Of Passage (Svart)

The Haunting Of Silvåkra Mill – Rites Of Passage is a continuation of the grim story Malsten started four years ago on their debut album. Murder, morbid dreams, a shadowy figure in the night, hauntings from all sides; this sort of spookiness is best told under the candlelight of doom metal. The riffs are crushing and the vocals offer cries of lamentation, offering a passage for listeners to get swept up in.

Malsten have worked to make their music more theatrical on this record, with multiple interludes utilizing keyboards and vocals alone. These brief sidetracks are positioned to break up the four main tracks that run between eight and eleven minutes. According to the band’s website, this album comprises chapters four through ten of the story, signaling that their unsettling tale may have more pages left to go.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Inertial Music

The Moor – Ombra (Inertial)

The Italian progressive death metal band The Moor have been around for 15 years now. They take their time between albums, with six years elapsing between their 2012 debut and Jupiter’s Immigrants, and another six years between that one and their latest release Ombra.

The symphonic intro sets the stage for songs that are progressive, heavy and varied. Frontman Enrico “Ukka” Longhin mixes death growls with smooth, melodic singing. His clean vocals are especially impressive. There are plenty of instrumental breaks and tempo shifts throughout the album. It’s a very dynamic album, with heaviness, melody and atmosphere an integral part of each composition. That’s elevated by the production of the legendary Fredrik Nordstrom (At The Gates, Soilwork). The Moor have flown under the radar, especially in North America, but for fans of progressive melodic death Ombra is well worth exploring.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Century Media Records

Necrophobic – In The Twilight Grey (Century Media)

Necrophobic, one of Sweden’s black/death metal titans, have set to ignite the most burning flames from the darkest dungeons of hell once again with their tenth studio album. In The Twilight Grey, another ghastly Necrophobic opus, confirms that the band is still grounded in a startlingly sinister foundation.

56 minutes is enough for Necrophobic to show off their reign over black/death metal, but they expose the listener to the hellish unrest even more than they need. Although the album cover, designed by Thyrfing’s Jens Rydén, follows a different picture than Necrophobic’s trademarked landscapes, the album keeps pace with the band’s most significant moments. In The Twilight Grey is brilliant, sensational, and haunting. The title track displays a hair-raising soundscape that elevates the evil spirit of both the band and the album. It shows a picture of Necrophobic still leaning like an almighty on their wicked throne, and they have no intention of taking off their infernal robes.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Brutal Panda Records

Shock Withdrawal – The Dismal Advance (Brutal Panda)

Nihilism and grindcore go together like macaroni and cheese, a tasty concoction with deadly results in great amounts. That’s why the genre keeps the music to-the-point, which Shock Withdrawal maintain with their debut album, The Dismal Advance. Thirteen songs sweep across 21 minutes, with the two-minute mark being reached on just three of those tunes. Ninety seconds is all they typically need to churn out volatile sounds.

The second half of the record introduces potent grooves inspired by death metal, while “No Closure” finishes out on a sludgy note. No matter the tempos, the drums are set to nonstop movement that avoids being too outlandish. Shock Withdrawal fit their absolute hatred for humanity into a tidy deathgrind package.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Peaceville Records

Udåd – Udåd (Peaceville)

Thomas Eriksen formed Mork 20 years ago and has released numerous full-lengths, EPs and splits under that moniker. While Mork is still black metal, its music has gotten more complex and elaborate over the years. Eriksen decided to form another one-man project, with Udåd having a more primal and direct approach paying homage to the early days of the genre.

The production is rawer on their self-titled debut, as are the songs. When it comes to tempo, only a few really crank it up, such as “Den Virklelige Apokryf.” The rest are more moderately paced, but without a loss of extremity. There are some non-metal moments, such as on “Antropofagens Hunger,” that make it more than the usual old school black metal album. Eriksen’s vocal approach on Udåd is also different than Mork. He uses a shouting scream, which helps bolster the intensity of the songs. Udåd is a departure from Eriksen’s recent work, and he says Mork and Udåd is now the yin and yang within his black metal journey.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Season Of Mist

Vltimas – Epic (Season Of Mist)

Vltimas got lumped into the “supergroup” label on their first album, Something Wicked Marches In, but Epic is their chance to step away from that. All the primary names are still here, including vocalist David Vincent, guitarist Rune (Blasphemer) Eriksen, and drummer Flo Mounier, as their sound expands beyond being a blackened death metal monstrosity.

Vincent’s recognizable growls are sharply defined, as is his gruff melodic wails that get some attention. The guitar solos are more prominent and Mounier shows restraint while still being a technical savant. If their debut album was them testing their capabilities together, Epic is Vltimas at full confidence in their chemistry, not being held back by what they’ve done with other groups.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

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