This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters reviews include releases from Baest, Black Sabbath, Dreamshade, Haenesy, The Harvest Trail, The Hyena Kill, Mork, Nixil, No Terror In The Bang, Stormtide, Sullen, Terror, Witherfall and Wolf King.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Baest – Necro Sapiens (Century Media)
Since inking a deal with heavyweight label Century Media to issue their debut, Danish mob Baest (“beast” or “brute” in their native language) have been prolific if nothing else. Necro Sapiens is their third full-length gory death metal outing since 2018. This is a group with the spirit of the underground coursing through its veins. There aren’t surprises or intriguing new spins on the well-worn death metal sound, but it’s certainly a more than serviceable listen with nods to the likes of Dismember and Bloodbath.
Aiding their cause is a heavy but crisp production job, and a vocalist in Simon Olsen who enunciates with welcome clarity without sacrificing ferocity. “Towers of Suffocation”s bare-knuckled attack proves memorable, including a bruising riff that’s among the album’s finest moments. The rollicking title track packs a hefty groove, there’s traces of Entombed apparent throughout “Genesis” and the brilliantly titled “Sea of Vomit” offers further catchy moments. Baest aren’t reinvigorating the scene, but they aren’t doing it any harm either.
Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell (Rhino/Warner Brothers)
At the end of last year there was a reissue of Black Sabbath’s Vol 4. Now, two Ronnie James Dio-era Sabbath studio albums are being reissued. One is 1980’s Mob Rules. It includes classic songs like “Neon Knights,” “Children Of The Sea” and the title track.
In addition to being newly remastered, this edition of Heaven And Hell includes additional material. There’s a previously unreleased on CD mono edit of “Lady Evil” and a couple of live songs that were originally b-sides. There are eight other live tracks, four recorded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1980 and four from London recorded at the end of 1981 and beginning of 1982. The original album is a classic, and to have live versions alongside the studio songs is a nice addition.
Black Sabbath – Mob Rules (Rhino/Warner Brothers)
Also being reissued is 1982’s Mob Rules, the second Sabbath album fronted by Ronnie James Dio. While not quite living up to the standards set by Heaven And Hell, Mob Rules has a lot of excellent songs as well, especially “The Mob Rules.”
The bonus material for this reissue is more extensive than Heaven And Hell‘s. There’s a new mix of “The Mob Rules,” the Heavy Metal soundtrack version of that song, and a live version of “Die Young,” originally released as a b-side. There are more songs from the London show, along with an entire concert recorded in Portland, Oregon in 1982. It includes some Ozzy-era tracks such as “War Pigs,” “Iron Man” and “Paranoid.” Overall, both reissues will appeal to Sabbath fans, with this one having better bonus material.
Fusing the ferocious melodies of modern metalcore with the rap and electronic infused bounce of Linkin Park’s nu-metal, Dreamshade deliver the Carl Sagan-inspired Pale Blue Dot. While the album deals in heavy themes like anxiety, social isolation, and the unraveling of solidarity brought forth by social media, it does so in an upbeat, determined stride. These are not songs that wallow in their negativity, instead channeling into resolve, through energetic riffs and anthemic vocals, both shouted and sung.
While some songs (“A Place We Called Home”) feel like pop tunes dressed up with metal drumming and guitar work, heavy-hitters “Lightbringers” and “Elephant” show the band are not losing their edge. This is not an groundbreaking album by any means, but it is the sound of a band maturing and writing for the big stage they have their eyes set on. With hooks like these, we can say Dreamshade are a band to reckon with.
Hænesy – Garabontzia (Purity Through Fire)
Hungarian black metal entity Hænesy return with their second album, Garabontzia. The Budapest-based band play a post black metal style. Their sound features dense, layered textures with one guitar heavily encased in effects, which lends a dreamy ambiance. This guitar provides the rhythm, while a second guitar of cleaner tone chimes melodically.
Garabontzia opens with slow, tranquil notes on “Fate of the Depth.” While the album is very tranquil, this part is slow and lulling. A faster transition ensues as the drums push the pace, while keeping the tranquil vibe. There is an ebb and flow throughout the album with slight changes such as moments of acoustic guitar. Vocals are hidden in the mix and I’m not entirely sure there are lyrics except for the spoken part on “Létrontás.” Garabontzia is mesmerizing in its ethereal textures. It’s a good album for slumbering, which coupled with repetition can be a good or bad thing depending on one’s mood.
From Perth, Australia, and featuring the members of Claim the Throne and Red Descending, The Harvest Trail do what was memorable in the ’90s melodic death metal scene. What is happening in Instinct, their debut album is established in the roots of the loudest and most ferocious tunes of the pioneers of this genre.
Instinct does not rest for a moment. The Harvest Trail have borrowed a lot of influence from The Haunted, Soilwork and Arch Enemy, and these influences reach a pure degree of creativity with what is summed up in brilliant musicianship. Highly dynamic compositions are accompanied by endless melodies that penetrate into the heart of the intertwined thrash and death metal riffs. Instinct is a notable and resonant start for The Harvest Trail, but if you are expecting to hear an album with fresh and unique ideas, this album won’t satisfy you. But if you want to get back to the golden age of melodic death metal, this album will delight you to death.
The Hyena Kill – A Disconnect (APF)
Manchester four-piece The Hyena Kill enter the fray this week with their third full-length release, A Disconnect. The band, led by Steven Dobb on guitar/vocals, Lorna Blundell on drums, Sam Jones on guitar and Charlie Seisay on bass, wear their influences on their sleeves on these ten songs. One can hear hints of Dead Letter Circus, a touch of Nirvana, a smidge of Tool, and a lot of Deftones. And by a lot, I mean a lot.
Such rampant fanboyism would normally be a huge problem, but The Hyena Kill write such great songs that this is forgivable. “Passive Disconnect,” “Witness,” and “Incision” are all songs that have vaulted to the top of my “Best of 2021” playlist. The atmospherics, dynamics, and emotion are all unapologetically Deftones-based, but with songwriting chops like this, The Hyena Kill own it, and have put out a pretty sweet album.
Mork – Katedralen (Peaceville)
While there’s a full lineup that plays live, when it comes to studio recording, the Norwegian black metal act Mork is the purview of Thomas Eriksen. On the heels of an EP last year comes their fifth full-length, Katedralen.
While there’s an old school vibe to the album, tracks like “Svartmalt” have a moderate tempo and plenty of groove. The song includes a guest appearance from Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto. There are a couple other guest spots. One is Kampfar’s Dolk on “Fodt Til A Herske,” the other is Skepticim keyboardist Eero Poyry on the closing song “De Fortape Sjelers Kathedral,” which transforms from fast, raging black metal to doomy atmospherics over the last few minutes. It’s a well rounded album that fans of classic Norwegian black metal can appreciate.
Going by the mission statement on their Bandcamp page, Nixil’s goal with All Knots Untied was to take black metal into a place free of boundaries, while maintaining its true potential. With that kind of mindset, the expectation for Nixil’s debut album could be inflated. While they don’t make an album that’ll change any foundations, All Knots Untied is a satisfying appeal to the transformative side of black metal.
With songs over six minutes each on average, Nixil aren’t going the fast food route with their music. This is carefully crafted and meant for those who want a stimulating effect added to the ruckus. No track is built purely for speed, nor is one built to lumber in a mid-tempo abyss. Both are given equal weight, allowing Nixil to stay true to their ideals by keeping All Knots Untied engaged in multi-dimensional songwriting.
No Terror In The Bang – Eclosion (M&O)
The French band No Terror In The Bang play an alternative form of metal that is quite innovative and energetic. They channel the charisma of bands like Faith No More into their sound. Very wired passages alternate with lighter ones to form an alternative palette. The music is led by vocalist Sofia Bortoluzzi in a position very different from the norm, trying to make the sound stick out as much as possible.
The entire display is a carnival of sounds that never fails to be strange. However, it is still relatively simplistic and verges on commercial tendencies at times. However, the band manages to keep your attention with their oddness and be different enough to constantly hold you over. No Terror In The Bang will appeal to fans of an alternative style of metal or even rock.
Stormtide – A Throne Of Hollow Fire (Metal Hell)
Five years after their full-length debut, the Australian symphonic death/folk band Stormtide return with A Throne Of Hollow Fire. This time around, keyboardist Reuben Stone also handles the vocal duties.
While harsh vocals give the songs a dose of extremity, as do blastbeats, the symphonic arrangements also give the tracks an epic and grandiose vibe. Stormtide also add folk to the mix, helping give the album a unique style. Folk is at the forefront on the rousing “One Last Pint,” while symphonic elements drive “Eternal Fire.” They expertly vary the genre recipe from song to song, making for an interesting record.
Sullen – Nodus Tollens – Act 1: Oblivion (Blood Blast)
Though Portuguese progressive metal group Sullen put an “Act 1” in their latest album, Nodus Tollens – Act 1: Oblivion, it doesn’t feel incomplete. Like what Between The Buried And Me did with their Automata albums, Sullen wraps up the album tightly and without leaving loose ends. Whether there will be an act two or not, Sullen have crafted a complete experience that avoids the pitfalls of the genre, like overindulgent instrumental work or bloated songs.
In 33 minutes, Sullen says what they need to, expressing a concept around questioning one’s reality and place in the world. The impassioned singing is complimented by harsher tones on a few songs, close to the vein of melodic death metal. Nodus Tollens – Act 1: Oblivion is an accessible form of progressive metal that doesn’t take a listener’s time for granted.
California hardcore bruisers Terror are approaching two decades as a band, without losing any of their intensity or emotion. Trapped In A World finds the band revisiting songs from their first two albums that featured former guitarist Todd Jones (Nails), who will be producing their next album of original material.
The 12 tracks include five from their 2003 EP Lowest Of The Low and seven from 2004’s One With The Underdogs. Nearly 20 years later the band’s musical chops are obviously better, but the force and fury they play with has not abated, nor has Scott Vogel’s passionate vocal delivery. While not essential, it’s an interesting throwback to Terror’s early days, flying by in 24 minutes and whetting the appetite for their next full-length.
Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn (Century Media)
Unquestionably, Witherfall are one of the most talented bands around. Jake Dreyer is an amazing guitarist, Joseph Michael has the perfect pipes for this over-the-top prog-power metal, and new drummer Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats, and more) is an ace in the hole. Heck, even Anthony Crawford shines with some sweet fretless bass licks. Curse Of Autumn is the band’s third album, and features some stellar material.
However, it also features a number of questionable decisions. While “The Last Scar” is an amazing track (as are a handful of other dynamic, aggressive cuts), there are a few songs here that feel unfinished – including the 90-second title track. As well, epic song “…And They All Blew Away” loses its way in the middle, although it does come back strong. All told, Curse Of Autumn showcases an immensely talented band that seems to be just a couple more brilliant songs away from a masterpiece.
Wolf King – The Path Of Wrath (Prosthetic)
The Bay Area blackened hardcore band Wolf King are issuing The Path Of Wrath, which focuses and refines the path embarked upon with 2018’s Loyal To The Soil.
They shift easily from mid-paced grooves laced with doom on songs like “Wandering Soul” to driving hardcore on tracks such as “Beholder.” There are unexpected moments as well, such as the contrast between mellowness and aggression on “The Oath” and “Grief Expression.” Wolf King shows versatility on the album, incorporating a lot of shifts, twists and turns into nearly every track, making for a compelling blackened hardcore release.