This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters album reviews include releases from Cryptosis, Decline Of The I, The Drowned God, Hound, Memoriam, The Quill, Sanguisugabogg, Shiva The Destructor, Silent Winter, Smith/Kotzen, Wythersake and Yawning Sons.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm (Century Media)
After recording a couple of albums as Distillator, the Dutch thrash trio expanded their musical horizons, and are issuing Bionic Swarm as Cryptosis. It’s their full-length debut, following a split EP with Vektor earlier this year.
It’s a diverse album, exploring several genres including progressive thrash, melodic death and symphonic. The arrangements are creative, mixing technicality with atmosphere and extremity. Innovative prog devolves to crushing, simple metal and then shifts to something else. It’s dynamic, with tracks like “Ausbruch Nach Innen” having some softer moments to contrast some of the brutality. It’s an expert blend of old school sensibilities and a modern approach, and a very compelling debut.
Decline Of The I – Johannes (Agonia)
Johannes is the fourth album by French post black metal act Decline Of The I. The band’s first three albums were inspired by French surgeon and neurologist Henri Laborit. This album is based on the works of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. It’s a moody, textured album to go with the cerebral topic. Johannes mixes lush soundscapes with black metal aggression. Although there are moments of speed, the album undulates sharply in action.
As expected from a post black metal album, Decline Of The I combine black metal with a wider range of influences including ambient, jazz and post-rock. There are moments of dissonance, while other parts are more complex and layered. The vocals range from black metal shrieks to heavenly choirs. Johannes is an intelligent, non-typical black metal album. I like Decline Of The I’s soundscapes, but the album drones on too much and I prefer more traditional black metal without post-rock characteristics.
The Drowned God – Pale Home (Solid State)
Pale Home is the third album from the Philadelphia blackgaze band The Drowned God. There’s a common lyrical thread in their albums, following a character facing love, loss and depression. This album finds that character swallowed by paranoia in a purgatory afterlife.
The songs are aggressive and jagged, sometimes approaching chaos, but dialing things back letting melody rise to the forefront before diving back into the maelstrom. The vocals are mainly cathartic hardcore style yells. Mellower sections on songs like “Awake In The Mourning” and “Near Spanish Lake” give the more extreme moments even more impact, plus show the band’s versatility and dynamism.
Hound – I Know My Enemies (Metalville)
Hound were formed in the 2010s, but their music is inspired by artists from a couple generations prior. The German band’s sophomore full-length I Know My Enemies embraces ’70s style hard rock.
The band isn’t limited to that style, adding in trippy psychedelic moments on opener “Sleep In Thunder,” and showcasing blues, punk and funk elsewhere on the album. The strongest songs keep the tempo moving the riffs flowing, such as the urgent “All Of Us” and “Without A Sound.” There are several catchy songs, but a few stretch out a bit longer than needed. Still, there are many more hits than misses on an album that fans of retro rock should enjoy.
Memoriam – To The End (Reaper)
Memoriam are nearly five years old, but they seem to have been around for more than three decades because what happens in their music is a continuation of what seems to have ended in Bolt Thrower but hasn’t. With three albums under their belts, Memoriam have brought To The End to remind us what the true sound of old school death metal is like.
By maintaining the simplicity of the facade and spirit, Memoriam have moved towards groovier and more striking songs. “Onwards into Battle” opens the album to a real battlefield of guitar riffs. And the gloom of the doomy and sorrowful “Each Step (One Closer to the Grave)” moves the album forward emotionally, as “As My Heart Grows Cold” closes the album’s eyes to death. The storytelling is just epic, while the songwriting also has become more emotional, darker and more melodic. The production and mixing of Russ Russell has also helped Memoriam to prepare a more successful and cohesive work than its predecessors. Memoriam have shown their might in To The End.
The Quill – Earthrise (Metalville)
Sweden’s The Quill have that stoner feel that bands like Spiritual Beggars and Kyuss possess. There is a heavy reliance on psychedelic sounds and this makes the band exciting. The focus on the power of the guitar riff is apparent and leads to a very pleasing listen, though Earthrise doesn’t have a ton of originality.
The overall vibe is very hallucinogenic and this makes it all the more appealing. Many of the tracks on the disc are strong but none of them stand out in particular. This all leads to a fun album that adds to the band’s legacy. Fans of stoner metal style may find a lot to like here. With a more original slant the band could be even more successful.
Sanguisugabogg – Tortured Whole (Century Media)
Ohio based death metal crew Sanguisugabogg deliver their debut album Tortured Whole chock full of murder, porn and overall depravity. While some bands today are trying to push borders with technical aplomb, Sanguisugabogg push the envelope with tracks like “Menstrual Envy,” “Tortured Whole,” and “Felching Filth” which just so happens to be of 4:20 running time. Also try spelling their band name correctly, even once.
This is death metal meant to push boundaries in the same way that b-horror movies have, if you’ve seen their music videos before, it will make more sense. The music is generally a slow march with Cody Davidson’s drums very high in the mix, and vocalist Devin Swank making his presence known on each and every song with his deep growls. This is down and dirty death metal for the sake being death metal.
Shiva The Destructor – Find The Others (Robustfellow)
Shiva The Destructor have been around since 2012, but Find The Others is the Ukrainian group’s debut full-length album. They play psychedelic, progressive music with extended instrumental breaks.
In an unusual choice, the band opens the album with the nine minute instrumental “Benares,” and vocals don’t appear until more three minutes into the second track “Hydronaut.” The five songs are all lengthy, ranging from 7 to 11 minutes. It’s a mellow and deliberate trip through the psychedelic and progressive rock landscape that the patient prog fan should appreciate.
Silent Winter – Empire Of Sins (Pride & Joy)
The Greek power metal band Silent Winter‘s history dates back to the mid-’90s, when they issued a couple of demo tapes. They reformed a few years ago and released their full-length debut. They follow that up with Empire Of Sins.
Their brand of power is bombastic and grandiose, with a varied vocal performance from Mike Livas (Timo Tolkki). He shows a wide range and showcases an ear-splitting falsetto from time to time. The songs are most up-tempo with a rousing vibe and plenty of catchy choruses. They also cover Belinda Carlisle’s “Leave A Light On,” turning ’80s pop into soaring power metal. Silent Winter follow the power metal template pretty closely, but the execution is excellent, elevating the level of quality.
Smith/Kotzen – Smith/Kotzen (BMG)
Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) and Richie Kotzen (The Winery Dogs) have known each other for a while, and started writing together a couple years ago. They share vocal, guitar and bass duties on their self-titled debut, with Kotzen also playing drums on several tracks.
Smith/Kotzen is a hard rock album with memorable riffs and catchy melodies. Some songs are pretty straightforward, while others taking a bluesier or R&B approach. With two axemen of this magnitude, the guitars are front and center as you’d expect. Kotzen has been a frontman and is comfortable behind the mic, but Smith also does an excellent job singing. It’s an opportunity for them to embrace their love of classic and blues rock, and there’s not an ounce of filler on the album’s nine tracks. The chemistry between Smith and Kotzen is evident, with shared influences and different approaches fusing together in a cohesive album.
Wythersake – Antiquity (Scarlet)
Wythersake’s debut album Antiquity relies on the symphonic part of their sound as keyboards, orchestration and choirs saturate every minute of this album. For a first full-length, Wythersake have a firm vision of their music, which is one that reaches as high as they can grab. With the exception of a quick intro track and an interlude two-thirds of the way through, no song is under five minutes on Antiquity.
With this aspect in play, the band loads up on the kind of majestic sonic traits a symphonic death/black metal should employ, like towering guitar solos and bombastic songwriting. The roaring barks are complimented by solid melodic singing, keeping the vocals away from monotony. Wythersake doesn’t deviate much from song to song on Antiquity, but what they have on here is engaging enough to avoid tripping over their own ambition.
Yawning Sons – Sky Island (Ripple)
Born in the last decade as a collaboration between UK post-rockers Sons of Alpha Centauri and desert rockers Yawning Man, Yawning Sons aim to take the strengths of both bands and stew them into a tasty concoction of progressively-tinged hazy rock tunes. Sky Island is the band’s second album, and features contributions from the aforementioned acts as well as Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and Orquesta del Desierto.
The eight songs on Sky Island are laid back and languorous, a comforting and feel-good session that feels like being wrapped in a down comforter in front of a campfire. From the hypnotic drive of “Adrenaline Rush” to the slow reverb-laden glide of “Limitless Artifact,” Yawning Sons take us to our comfortable place and let us hang out worry-free for 46 minutes.