This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Anarkhon, The Answer, Choir, Downfall Of Gaia, Foretoken, Kamelot, Kruelty, Night Demon, Phantom Elite, RPWL, Theory Of A Deadman and Úlfúð.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anarkhon – Obiasot Dwybat Ptnotun (Debemur Morti)
On their last album, the veteran Brazilian death band Anarkhon began writing longer songs, though the album length remained under 40 minutes. On their fifth full-length Obiasot Dwybat Ptnotun, everything is longer, including the song titles.
The added length gives Anarkhon more opportunity for variety, and they take advantage of that on tracks like “Levitating Among Unspeakable Cosmic Anomalies,” going from dense extremity to airier, groovier sections. The record’s longest track, the 8 plus minute “The Devourer Of Eons Manipulates The Inanimated Puppet Called Man,” has a mellow beginning and gradually becomes more intense. The guttural vocals are unintelligible and act more as an additional instrument. There are some lulls in Obiasot Dwybat Ptnotun and a song or two on the 54 minute album could have been excised, but there are a lot of compelling moments that death metal fans will appreciate.
The Answer – Sundowners (Golden Robot)
After a seven-year hiatus, Northern Ireland rockers The Answer are issuing new LP Sundowners, fittingly with a St Patrick’s Day release date. Needless to say, the album offers several songs with rousing, beers-aloft choruses custom-built for live crowds. The six-minute title track – with its Doors-esque moodiness and psychedelic elements – that opens the record perhaps isn’t a totally accurate summation of what follows, but hits the mark.
Their rock sound also infuses touches of blues, country and gospel, punctuated by singer Cormac Neeson, whose soulful, smoky voice channels a distinctly classic rock style. Standout moments include AC/DC-inflected “Livin’ On The Line,” ballad “No Salvation,” energetic “ Oh Cherry” and the fuzzy overtones of “Blood Brother’s swagger-filled stomp. The latter two are tunes you could happily sing along to in the car like no one’s listening. At times the melodies and songs overall can feel interchangeable. Perhaps there’s a great EP located within this full-length’s tracklisting, in addition to a couple of worthwhile cuts that could’ve been saved for later. Regardless, The Answer aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they’re keeping it turning.
Choir – Songs For A Tarnished World (Self)
Choir is a one-man project from a musician of the same name who handles every aspect of Songs For A Tarnished World, from the instrumentation to the production to the design of the artwork. All from the hands of a person consumed by cruelty, not from some benevolent creature or imaginary deity, but from a population surrounded by violence and malnourishment. This reality heightens the band’s blackened doom metal, as the entire album feels constructed in the midst of a menacing hellscape.
There’s an inescapable dread that shadows this album, even when the sound goes purely into black metal as it does on “Mouths Trapped In Concrete.” Nothing shakes this off, and Choir doesn’t want to interject any hint of doing so. Dejection is the reward for entering the numb world of Songs For A Tarnished World, which is done in a way jarring to the senses.
Downfall Of Gaia – Silhouettes Of Disgust (Metal Blade)
Downfall Of Gaia founding guitarist Peter Wolff left the band after 2014’s Aeon Unveils The Thrones Of Decay. Two albums were released in his absence, but he has returned for the band’s latest release Silhouettes Of Disgust.
The band has always used a varied musical palette, and that continues. Not only do they shift tempos and intensities throughout, they incorporate genres ranging from black metal to sludge to crust to post metal. The challenge is making those disparate parts come together in a cohesive whole, and tracks like “The Whir Of Flies” and “Bodies As Driftwood” do just that. Downfall Of Gaia use synths for the first time on Silhouettes Of Disgust, giving depth to tracks like “While Bloodsprings Become Rivers.” “Eyes To Burning Skies” features vocals from This Is Oblivion’s Lulu Black, giving the first half of the song a mellow vibe before harsh vocals and extremity kick in. Unexpected and well-executed moments like that make for a compelling and engaging listen.
Foretoken – Triumphs (Prosthetic)
There’s a leaner direction taken with the songwriting on Foretoken’s second album, Triumphs, as the songs are tightened up and there are no more double-digit behemoths to overcome. Their symphonic death/black metal is still intact, with a melodic tone logged way deep inside its core. The group brings back drummer Hannes Grossmann as a studio musician, and this is one of his most demanding performances to date.
This is a more ravenous release than Ruin, and it’s not until eight tracks in with “A Tyrant Rises As Titans Fall” (featuring guest work from The Black Dahlia Murder guitarist Brandon Ellis) that the duo eases up, and by then the album is almost done, with only an effective cover of Naglfar’s “I Am Vengeance” to go. The fury that surrounds Triumphs is one that pushes Foretoken further into the void.
Kamelot – The Awakening (Napalm)
The long-running American symphonic metal band Kamelot took more time than usual between albums. There was a five year gap between The Shadow Theory and their latest opus, The Awakening. It’s the first studio album for drummer Alex Landenburg (Mekong Delta, ex-Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), who joined the band in 2019.
The arrangements on The Awakening showcase the catchy hooks and melodies with symphonic elements that augment the songs without overwhelming them. There are bombastic power metal numbers like “Eventide” alongside quieter songs such as the folk influenced “Midsummer’s Eve.” Kamelot keep things streamlined, with most tracks in the four minute range. The dramatic “Opus Of The Night (Ghost Requiem)” is the record’s longest at just shy of six minutes. The album features guest appearances as well, most notably Ad Infinitum’s Melissa Bonny on the vocally varied “New Babylon” that in addition to Tommy Karevik’s singing also has harsh vocals. Kamelot made The Awakening worth the wait, an eclectic album packed with memorable songs.
Kruelty – Untopia (Profound Lore)
Kruelty intensify their metallic hardcore on their second album, Untopia. Looking at their discography, it’s apparent how prolific they are, with a bounty of splits, EPs and singles that have made their six or so years together seem like double that. This constant churning out of material has effectively shaped their death/doom metal and hardcore into a stew with a bitter bite.
None of the seven songs on Untopia follow what would be conceived as predictable songwriting, with Kruelty adding in breakdowns when they want, like the crushing one at the end of “Manufactured Insanity,” and retro caustic riffs that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1990s. While it may not have the same devastating effect their debut A Dying Truth did, their sophomore full-length is refinement of a deafening force.
Night Demon – Outsider (Century Media)
Night Demon return with Outsider, their third album and first in nearly six years. After a spacey intro you are introduced to the title track by Jarvis Leatherby’s excellent vocals leading this three piece into battle while he is flanked as usual by drummer Dusty Squires and guitarist/keyboardist Armand John Anthony. “Outsider” is an excellent introduction to this version of Night Demon, becoming a more fully realized band with each new release; the melodic sensibility and heaviness never detract from one another.
Tracks like “Rebirth” and “Escape From Beyond” are great examples of how to do trad metal in 2023, not needing to break the mold, but still managing to make the sound their own. The latter track absolutely crushes the chorus before the supremely heavy riffs rain down upon the listener. Closing out the album is the band’s longest song to date, “The Wrath.” It’s a melodic track with as much grandiosity as the band can muster, a song that can properly set them apart from their traditional metal peers. It is an all-encompassing performance with the members firing on all cylinders. Outsider is Night Demon’s best album to date, a metallic tour-de-force that sets the bar high for their next full-length foray.
Phantom Elite – Blue Blood (Frontiers)
On Phantom Elite‘s third album Blue Blood, the international trio of vocalist Marina La Torraca (Exit Eden, Avantasia), bassist/guitarist/keyboardist Max van Esch and drummer Joeri Warmerdam (Civil Discourse) deliver another dose of varied modern metal.
Opener “Skin Of My Teeth” has industrial moments and a bit of an In This Moment vibe with some brief harsh vocals. “This Sick World” is funky and accessible, while “Birdcage” is laid back with a poppy vibe. There’s a lot of variety on Blue Blood, from the heaviness of “Apex” to the soaring melodies of “Daydark.” Most of the symphonic and progressive influences of previous efforts have been surpassed by a more polished and modern approach, but it can still be found on tracks like the epic title track. Phantom Elite continue to evolve, with Blue Blood their most interesting collection of songs so far.
RPWL – Crime Scene (Gentle Art Of Music)
After 2019’s Tales From Outer Space, the veteran German prog band RPWL return to earth with a darker lyrical approach on their eighth studio album Crime Scene. It focuses on the darker side of human behavior.
The smooth vocals and peppy tempo on “Red Rose” contrast the song’s subject matter. The album’s centerpiece is the nearly 13 minute “King Of The World,” with plenty of old school prog showcasing RPWL’s musical chops along with ethereal Pink Floyd-esque vocals in between. Closer “Another Life Beyond Control” is more urgent, with some heavier sections and a memorable guitar solo. In their quarter century as a band, RPWL have established their own approach to prog, with Crime Scene following down that path while showing they have a few new tricks up their sleeve.
Theory Of A Deadman – Dinosaur (Roadrunner)
Canadian hard rockers Theory Of A Deadman have had a lot of success over their nearly 25 year career. That includes platinum albums and chart topping singles like “Bad Girlfriend,” “Rx (Medicate)” and “History Of Violence.” The band journeyed to Sweden to record their latest album Dinosaur at Atlantis Studios, made famous by ABBA.
The album is jam packed with catchy potential singles, with the opening title track already landing in the top 10. “Medusa (Stone)” is groovy and midpaced, while “Get In Line” is bombastic with a memorable chorus. They show their softer side with “Sideways” and “Head In The Clouds.” The most interesting song on the album is “Two Of Us (Stuck),” that takes the chorus of the classic “Just The Two Of Us” and adds new verses that contrast that message of the original. This album show Theory Of A Deadman are definitely not dinosaurs, able to continue to write hit songs like they have for the past two decades.
Úlfúð – Of Existential Distortion (Dark Descent)
Black/death metal covered in a hardened sheet of ice is what Icelandic group Úlfúð encapsulate into their debut album, Of Existential Distortion. It has a brisk nature, though like the aurora borealis that flashes across the night sky regularly during Iceland’s winter season, there’s a grace to it all. They don’t plod away on repetitive riffs or only focus on increasing tempos, as there’s delicacy in the alignment between black and death metal.
“An Elegy To A Paradise Out Of Reach” is not just a great song title, but a grand eight-minute journey that doesn’t rush things, cumulating in a gripping guitar solo. “Where Strange Lights Dance” and “Leviathan Dreams” are able to be discerned among the blurring guitars, with a production that doesn’t fall victim to dulling their sound. Though Úlfúð means animosity/hostility, Of Existential Distortion is not that to the point of being undesirable or impenetrable.