This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aeviterne, Agathodaimon, Children Of The Sun, Crimson Tower, Dark Funeral, Dawn Of Ashes, Eric Wagner, Flames Of Fire, Grave Next Door, Hellbore, Moonlight Haze, Ritual Earth, SheWolf and Without Waves.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aeviterne – The Ailing Facade (Profound Lore)
Aeviterne aren’t exactly Flourishing 2.0, though the band features two former members of that group and its debut album, The Ailing Facade, positions itself as a spiritual successor to 2011’s The Sum Of All Fossils. Those who caught on to the shifty death metal Flourishing did a decade ago will be at ease with the unorthodox manner by which Aeviterne envision their music to be.
Their songs come off as free-form, not exactly improvised but constructed to manipulate within the fabrics of a sound that borders on avant-garde. They definitely sound like a death metal band, yet they don’t hold firm to any of its standard traits. The pairing of the instrumental title track and harrowing closer “Dream In Lies” is a magnificent 16-minute stretch that needs to be experienced, which is really the case for all of The Ailing Facade.
Agathodaimon – The Seven (Napalm)
German dark metal group Agathodaimon return after nearly a decade of inactivity. The Seven is indeed their seventh album. The group bears a dark metal tag because even they incorporate so much more than their black metal framework: gothic metal sections and even pop-flavored vocal hooks entwine with symphonic black metal.
Vocally, the album is very strong, moving between powerful blackened screams and impassioned clean voices. Often the harsh vocals are layered to make them more evil and the song fuller. The first three tracks “La Haine,” “Ain’t Death Grand and “Wolf Within” start the album on a great note. The middle of the album continues to get more and more melodic with down-tempos coming into the foray, but the group always return to black metal repertoire – fast drumming sections, tremolo licks and snarls. One could think of them as Germany’s answer to Dimmu Borgir or Cradle Of Filth, but there is so much that is genuinely Agathodaimon. A definite for the beauty-in-darkness crowd.
Children Of The Sün – Roots (The Sign)
Roots is Swedish collective Children Of The Sun’s second album, following 2019’s well-received Flowers. They are down to six members now, but still led by the fantastic Josefina Berglund Ekholm. The band’s original influences of Joplin, Hendrix, and other ’60s legends are still on ample display, but this time around tempered with more modern influences and songwriting.
Ekholm still sings the hell out of these songs; she is a vocal force to be reckoned with, and her backup singers add depth to every song. At times Roots lacks a bit of the spontaneity and charm of its predecessor, but there are still plenty of really strong songs here. The excellent rocker “Gaslighting,” the delicate “Eden,” the gospel-tinged “The Soul,” and “Roots” are all outstanding, and make Roots an album still worth picking up for fans of retro rock.
Crimson Tower – Aeternal Abyss (Morbid and Miserable)
The Brazilian band Crimson Tower formed a few years ago and issued some demos under their previous band name, and now emerge with their full-length debut Aeternal Abyss.
The songs are driven by heavy, doomy riffs. The sometimes muddy production gives the proceedings an old school vibe. While they follow a very well-worn musical path, Crimson Tower avoid sounding generic for a couple of reasons. One is that the riffs are memorable. The other is the pipes of vocalist/guitarist Stygis. He has a wide range, able to stay in the doom pocket, but also utilizing a higher register that along with quicker tempos, periodically move the band toward traditional metal. It’s a raw but effective debut.
Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse (Century Media)
As their career has advanced, the length of time between releases for Swedish black metallers Dark Funeral has increased. After two or three years between their first few releases, that stretched to more than six years between Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus and their previous album, 2016’s Where Shadows Forever Reign. Almost six years have elapsed since that album their latest opus, We Are The Apocalypse.
There are a new bassist and drummer for the album, and it’s the second Dark Funeral record for vocalist Heljarmadr. The lone remaining original member is guitarist Lord Ahriman. And while there aren’t a lot of musical surprises, the execution is flawless. They shift from mid-paced grooves to blazing fast dense and chaotic sections and back again. Dark Funeral have been a consistently good black black band for decades, and that continues with the potent We Are The Apocalypse, which was well worth the wait.
Dawn Of Ashes – Scars Of The Broken (Artoffact)
Although industrial metal has generally been the foundation of their music, Dawn Of Ashes and their music have evolved through a variety of metal genres. Over the past few years they have decided to follow the musical indicators of the industrial music of the ’90s, and their latest album Scars Of The Broken shows a strong commitment to it.
This recent transformation of music has brought them closer to the angles of experimental music than ever before. The nature of the songs has become highly cinematic, especially in the narrative and storytelling aspects. This is where the power of Scars Of The Broken lies: the construction of a horrendous post-apocalyptic image in the listener’s mental background. But when Dawn Of Ashes move away from cohesive and epic songs like “Bane of Your Existence” and “The Antidote” to playing with experimental/noise ideas, it wastes many moments of the album with pointless tunes. In this way, it mildly breaks that strong cinematic image. However, in the end, Scars Of The Broken embraces Dawn of Ashes fans.
Eric Wagner – In The Lonely Light Of Mourning (Cruz Del Sur)
Former Trouble frontman Eric Wagner had been working on a solo album for several years, collaborating with his ex-band mate, drummer Dave Snyder (Blackfinger). Other former members of Trouble and The Skull played on some of the album’s songs. He finished In The Lonely Light Of Mourning shortly before dying of complications from COVID-19 last year at the age of 62.
As you’d expect, In The Lonely Light Of Mourning is a doom album with thick riffs and Wagner’s instantly recognizable vocals. There are some changes of pace, such as orchestral backing on “If You Lost It All” and clean guitars on much of the mellow title track. It’s a good combination of what Wagner did so well for decades along with some new explorations. Wagner was already a doom metal legend, and this album only solidifies that legacy.
Power/heavy metal with Christian themes and a vocalist who has an uncanny resemblance to Ronnie James Dio is a formula for a lukewarm debut from Flames Of Fire. It’s apparent the band wants the listener to have flashbacks to the heavy metal of yesteryear, without realizing that most of it is still easy to find online. There is love for the past in these songs, and the title track and “Soldiers Of The King” come closest to achieving the goal of anthemic fist-raisers.
But to get to those is to wade through uneventful cuts that drift away from memory as soon as they are over. There’s a clear high scale the group want to rise to, with the orchestral opener/closer and the nearly 10-minute “Solution” that is the definition of “dragged out.” Flames Of Fire has its moments but is better to cherry-pick favorites from instead of enduring the whole album.
Grave Next Door – Sanctified Heathen (Black Doomba)
It can be challenging for some bands to recreate their studio albums in a live setting, but that won’t be a problem with Grave Next Door’s Sanctified Heathen. This stoner metal group keeps their production sparse, as these songs sound like they were recorded in a basement over the course of a few weekends. It may sour the ears of those wanting something more pristine, but this method accentuates the distorted guitar solos and fuzzy riffs.
Some of the best ones are saved for closer “Nuclear Winter,” a chunky instrumental that lets the trio jam out in real time. There are some awkward transitions in songs like “Witch Head,” but that’s something that can be fine-tuned on whatever stages the band will perform on. Sanctified Heathen is a good documentation of what Grave Next Door bring in a dimly-lit club or rowdy bar setting.
The essential part of Hellbore’s debut album Panopticon is tectonic technical death metal, done with all the pageantry and proficiency that style of music is known for. That’s not all the album has to offer though, as the group incorporates progressive components such as orchestration and a 20-minute, three-part title track. That track takes up almost the entire second half of Panopticon, as they weave through a saga that didn’t seem imaginable back in 2019 when they released Holy Sadist.
Even when their sound tones down the excess in favor of uncompromised tech death on “Necrocracy,” melodic vocals peek through. Hellbore’s willingness to try out anything has its high points (the jazzy interlude in “Terror Eyes”) and some lesser moments (the title track, while commendable, is too lofty to hit a perfect landing). Still, it can be said that Panopticon is never dull, as the band isn’t content to be another rudimentary tech death project.
Moonlight Haze – Animus (Scarlet)
Animus is album number three for the Italian symphonic power metal band Moonlight Haze. They have made impressive strides in their songwriting from 2020’s Lunaris.
While the songs on the album are bombastic and atmospheric with the trappings of power metal, they have the catchiness of pop/rock songs. Vocalist Chiara Tricarico has a smooth, accessible delivery that she uses most of the time, but is also able to belt it out when needed. There’s minimal filler and the songs flow together well, with mostly uptempo paces, periodically slowing down and injecting some variety. With each album Moonlight Haze are moving up in the ranks in the symphonic power metal genre.
Ritual Earth – MMXX (Iodine)
MMXX has a doomy feel to it that is absolutely crushing. The riffs evoke both a stoner and doom aspect. An ethereal effect is drawn upon by the music and it carries to the listener’s thoughts. This has a sedative effect as the album impacts upon you in a calming manner. Philadelphia’s Ritual Earth have made a psychedelic debut album.
Though rather short, there is certainly an ability of the album to exert its effect upon you with the gripping manner it evokes. It thus rotates between commanding and laid back sections. It has the appropriate amount of crushing riffs to move you into a higher realm of thought. With a little more innovation, the band could be even more effective. As it stands, they are an interesting doom outfit that manages to move the listener.
SheWolf – SheWolf (Frontiers)
Greek singer Angel Wolf-Black (Vivaldi Metal Project, Bare Infinity) fronts the new band SheWolf, with the rest of the band known only by their pseudonyms (The Hunter, The Predator, The Alpha).
Their self-titled debut album is a mix of power and symphonic metal with a few folk influences. Songs like “Welcome To The Pack” have anthemic choruses with symphonic atmosphere. Driving, uptempo songs are tempered by ballads such as “Home” and “Nothing Is Forever.” Wolf-Black has an excellent voice, but is hamstrung by overly busy arrangements on a few tracks. Others, like “Safe In The Dark” are better balanced. The best songs are the ones where she’s at the forefront, not the symphonic elements.
Without Waves – Comedian (Prosthetic)
Five years after their last album, Chicago experimentalists Without Waves deliver their latest genre-defying collection Comedian. The title signifies that even in difficult topics, humor can be found.
What can be found on this album is a melange of genres. It’s a heavy combination of progressive and experimental with forays into numerous other styles. Many songs epitomize controlled chaos, with tracks like “algorithm” sometimes careening at a breakneck pace, other times easing back into a moderate groove. There are downright catchy moments, such as “Set & Setting, and “Day 15” that contrast heavier and denser parts. It’s a constantly shifting album with something interesting around every corner, yet manages to remain cohesive, an impressive feat.