This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Animals As Leaders, Bloodgate, Bomber, Capricorn, Chaos Invocation, Crystal Viper, Desolate Shrine, Eucharist, Killing Joke, Kontusion, Michael Romeo, MWWB and Nite.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Animals As Leaders – Parrhesia (Sumerian)
It has been a while since we’ve heard from the instrumental prog/djent trio Animals As Leaders. Parrhesia is their fifth studio album, following up 2016’s The Madness Of Many. The word parrhesia means “to speak boldly or freely,” and though they don’t do it with lyrics, AAL certainly do so with their music.
Their technical prowess is unquestioned, with first-class musicianship on display throughout the album. The songs have various textures and intensities, with tracks like “Red Miso” starting out mellow and relatively sparse, becoming more intense and complex later in the song. Others such as “Monomyth” are ultra progressive throughout. The ethereal “Asahi” comes at the album’s halfway point, providing a straightforward respite before the prog kicks back in. As with previous AAL records, Parrhesia doesn’t have a lot of hooks, but compelling arrangements help maintain interest from start to finish.
For their second album, Solace In Mourning, Bloodgate have redesigned the blackened thrash metal of their previous releases to give it some flexibility. While they toyed around with their tempos in 2018’s Ambush And Destroy, this record has them doing it more efficiently so it’s not as much of a blur gone by. It’s still a quick listen though, with 11 tracks barely crossing 25 minutes.
They shred out on bite-sized tunes like “Tombs Vacant Of Mortal Decay” and “Mirror Of Flesh,” while expanding their riff collection to include hardcore/punk-inspired breakdowns on “Death On The Horizon” and “Withering.” The nondescript shrieking adds the “black metal” side to the group, as does the roaring rage early on in “Curse Of The Wizards Staff.” Solace In Mourning is a good way to enter Bloodgate’s maddening world.
Bomber – Nocturnal Creatures (Napalm)
After issuing an EP back in 2017, the Swedish band Bomber emerge with Nocturnal Creatures, their full-length debut. Motorhead’s Bomber was released in 1979, and this Bomber hearken back to that era of classic hard rock/heavy metal.
The songs are catchy and melodic with plenty of guitar solos. Songs like “Fever Eyes” are in the rock vein, while tracks such as “The Tiger” are a bit more intense and land in the traditional metal category. There are some ’70s throwbacks as well. Anton Skold’s vocals are smooth with ample range and texture. While there’s not a lot of originality, Nocturnal Creatures pays homage to a great era of hard rock and heavy metal with a collection of enjoyable songs.
Capricorn – For The Restless (Wild Kingdom)
Capricorn are from Sweden, but their influences are American classic rock artists such as Bob Seger, Tom Petty and Jackson Browne. For The Restless is their second album.
The album keeps the pace fast, the songs streamlined and the hooks memorable. It’s jam packed with radio friendly hard rock tracks such as “Long Gone Heroes,” “Revolution Boogie” and “It Ain’t Me.” They do change things up from time to time, such as on the ballad “Hold On Hold Out.” For The Restless is good time retro rock with not an ounce of filler in it’s 10 song, less than 30 minute run time.
Chaos Invocation – Devil, Stone & Man (W.T.C.)
Chaos Invocation always have something sensational in their music. The sinister look of a demonic force whose shadow is cast on the nature of songs. Their fourth studio album Devil, Stone & Man is a continuation of that ominous and scorching tradition.
Devil, Stone & Man is appalling yet intense. It starts fiercely from its very beginning, with somber melodies set in the path of sorrowful riffs. What is heard in the general view is the coldness of a black metal album, but the melodic feelings that the album takes on makes the songs more inclusive and emotional. Devil, Stone & Man is filled with the pure moments that you would expect from a black metal record with remarkable compositions and powerful performances. Just like its title which sounds poetic, the whole album is demonic poetry.
Crystal Viper – The Last Axeman (Listenable)
The Polish heavy/power metal band Crystal Viper released The Cult last year. Unable to tour because of the pandemic, they decided to hunker down and record even more material. The result is The Last Axeman. It’s being called an EP, but there’s plenty of material with eight songs clocking in at more than 35 minutes.
It includes the brand new song “In The Haunted Chapel,” a soaring rocker that like the songs from The Cult is inspired by an H.P. Lovecraft story. They re-recorded the title track, which originally appeared on their 2007 debut and did a couple of cover songs: Diamond Head’s “It’s Electric” and Aria’s “Ulitsa Roz.” The other four songs are stripped down versions of tracks from The Cult recorded live in studio. While not essential, it’s a collection Crystal Viper fans will certainly enjoy.
Desolate Shrine – Fires Of The Dying World (Dark Descent)
Though it’s been almost five years since Desolate Shrine’s last album, they haven’t undergone any sort of dramatic transformation on Fires Of The Dying World. Their unsettling Finnish death metal remains so, as do atmospheric touches like acoustic guitars and keyboards. It’s a recipe the group has perfected over the last decade, so hearing a new Desolate Shrine record is comfort food for dedicated fans.
Of course, this dish is made with the most rancid ingredients found. The use of two vocalists trading growls and screams at each other is one of those trademark elements that isn’t forced. There’s no reason to reinvent when what they have is still potent. There are enough little surprises, like the lush gloom from acoustics on “The Silent God” and the bleak piano melody on closer “The Furnace Of Hope,” to make Fires Of The Dying World stand out against their extensive discography.
Eucharist – I Am The Void (Helter Skelter/Regain)
Sweden have been major contributors of quality records in this short time in 2022. Due to space constraints, I won’t detail these albums, but I will list one of the front runners. Eucharist’s new album I Am The Void is certainly my favorite to come out of Sweden this year, and will definitely make my year-end album list.
What makes album so great? For one, it blends genres. One can’t tell if this is a melodic black metal album or a melodic death album. Like listening early At The Gates or Dissection, it straddles the fence between melodic death and black metal. I Am The Void takes some of the best elements both offer and comes up with a classic ‘90s Swedish album release in 2022. The length of over an one hour and seventeen minutes may be difficult for a full listen. I found it easier to digest in chunks. Eucharist have always been under the radar. Hopefully, I Am The Void really pushes them near the forefront. It’s arguably the best album of their long career.
Killing Joke – Lord Of Chaos (Spinefarm)
They have been around since the late ’70s, and while they are certainly well-known and have had plenty of success, I still think Killing Joke are underrated and underappreciated. They have influenced bands in numerous genres from punk to industrial to metal to electronic to gothic.
Their latest release is the four song EP Lord Of Chaos, their first new studio material in seven years. There are two new songs: the driving hard rocker “Lord Of Chaos” and the dynamic “Total” that goes from pop to rock to metal and back again. The other two songs are remixes of songs from their last studio album, 2015’s Pylon. The two new songs whet the appetite for that album’s long awaited full-length follow-up.
The self-titled debut EP from Kontusion is death metal untainted by contemporary thoughts or spruced-up production. The guitar feedback rumbles like a stampede of bulls, the deep grunts fit the music even when they are hard to comprehend and the band’s savage streak remains fluent. The front half of the four-track EP has the more complex songwriting, each song going over five minutes as they delight in the suffering (titles like “Unrelenting Pain” and “Rotting With Sickness” make this clear).
The second half is the focused assault, cutting the song lengths down while losing none of their butchery. “Charred Remains,” as well as “Rotting With Sickness,” utilize icy synths to stamp the terror-like aura that looms over this EP. The duo of Kontusion have played in Repulsion, Iron Reagan, and Mammoth Grinder, to name a few, and this band is bleaker than those groups have ever gotten.
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Pt. 2 (InsideOut)
It took nearly four years, but we finally have the followup to Michael Romeo’s amazing War Of The Worlds, Pt. 1. If you don’t recall, we loved that album, and I ranked it as the second-best prog album of 2018. John DeServio returns on bass and John Macaluso on drums, but the excellent Rick Castellano has been replaced by journeyman Dino Jelusick on vocals. How will this affect Pt. 2?
Well, the change in vocalists is certainly not detrimental to the overall excellence of Pt. 2. While Jelusick is lacking that certain je ne sais quoi that Castellano has, he performs admirably, bringing plenty of power and drama to the songs. And the songs? Almost as strong as Pt. 1. We get plenty of cinematic score music, tons of prog-power, intricate riffing, and neoclassical solos. In other words, this is another superb Michael Romeo release, just a slight step down from the first one.
MWWB – The Harvest (New Heavy Sounds)
After issuing three full-lengths as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, the UK sludge/doom band has slimmed down the band name to MWWB. The release of their latest album The Harvest was delayed a year due to the severe Covid-related stroke suffered by guitarist Dave Davies.
This album goes in more progressive and experimental directions than their previous releases. It works really well, with songs that are cinematic and atmospheric but still have the thick riffs MWWB are known for. There are influences of both Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath on The Harvest. Songs like the instrumental “Interstellar Wrecking” emphasize the psychedelic vibe, while tracks such as “Logic Bomb” bring doom front and center. Jessica Ball’s vocals are ethereal and dynamic, the perfect contrast to the heavy guitars. Their name is now shorter, but MWWB’s music is more expansive than ever.
Nite – Voices Of The Kronian Moon (Season Of Mist)
San Francisco’s Nite are returning with plenty of more heavy metal of the blackened variety on sophomore album Voices Of The Kronian Moon. Tracks like “Kronian Moon” are chock full of traditional heavy elements, from riffs to atmosphere that can be twisted on a dime, making for a somewhat sudden and sinister experience.
The growled vocal approach courtesy of Van Labrakis makes for a gruff experience, providing a different kind of edge that can be an x-factor for the band. This in conjunction with the guitar harmonics on “Last Scorpion” sets the perfect mood for Nite. Fans of the black n’ roll stylings of Tribulation, In Solitude and Cloak will feel right at home with Nite.