This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include Cage Fight, Cartilage, Cavernlight, Demiricous, Graham Bonnet Band, Hexicon, Jungle Rot, Miscreation, Moonlight Sorcery, Moon Tooth, The Pineapple Thief, Virgin Idol and Visions Of Atlantis.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cage Fight – Cage Fight (Candlelight)
Cage Fight were started by TesseracT guitarist James Monteith and bassist Jon Reid to have fun and release some frustration paying tribute to bands like Terror, Slayer and Hatebreed. They decided to make it a proper band, bringing on vocalist Rachel Aspe and drummer Nick Plews for their self-titled debut.
Blazing thrash and slower paced hardcore are straight from the playbook of those aforementioned bands. The songs are heavy and focused, packing maximum riffage and anger into 2 and 3 minute chunks. Aspe’s potent vocals address lyrical topics ranging from the political to the personal. Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad guests on “Eating Me Alive.” It’s a cathartic album inspired by some of hardcore’s legendary bands, delivering passion, emotion and quality songs.
Cartilage – The Deader The Better (Creator-Destructor)
Cartilage play up their love of horror movies on The Deader The Better. From the keyboard intro that sounds like it was ripped from a low-budget, early 1980s splatter film to the nods to underground film favorites like 1986’s Chopping Mall, the group festers this admiration into punctual death grind. They adore gore-drenched theatrics, which is obvious with song titles like “Mallet Wielding Maniac” and “Cellar Full Of Stiffs.”
Compared to their 2017 debut Dialect Of The Dead, The Deader The Better spruces up their sound without messing too much with the flagrant violent outbursts. The six-and-a-half minute “The Casket Crawler Catastrophe” pushes their sound outward with its lengthy second half, featuring a ripping guitar solo and an extended outro of synthesized terror. It’s proof that Cartilage have more behind their grindy death metal.
Cavernlight – As I Cast Ruin Upon The Lens That Reveals My Every Flaw (Translation Loss)
Cavernlight have always been situated within mournful surroundings with their sludge/doom metal, yet As I Cast Ruin Upon The Lens That Reveals My Every Flaw does so without having to turn the volume up all the time.
A soft piano layered on top of a sample of a woman speaking about her hopelessness resonates as deeply as any agonizing scream. Having a pair of harsh vocalists does reach its apex on closer “To Reconcile A Virulent Life,” as they rant over each other in a masterful bout of madness. There is a sense that Cavernlight wanted their second album to be viewed under the lens of a whole body of work, as there are songs like “Prelude” and “A Shimmering View” that play with spoken word and ambience. There’s a successful step taken by the band to expand their base sound and not fall back on what they’ve done previously.
Demiricous – III: Chaotic Lethal (Post.)
The Indianapolis thrash/death metal band Demiricous emerged in the mid-’00s, releasing a couple of albums on Metal Blade before disbanding. They got back together a few years ago, and are back with a new label and a new album, III: Chaotic Lethal.
It’s an apt title, as the extremity begins from the opener “Unconditional Hate.” They alternate between blazing thrash pacing and more moderate death metal grooves. Demiricous are able to balance bludgeoning heaviness and ample melody on songs like “Terminal Future” and “Choke.” Most of the songs are relatively streamlined, save for the 9 minute closer “Faith Crime” that has numerous shifts in tempo and intensity. III: Chaotic Letal is a strong return after a gap of 15 years between albums.
Graham Bonnet Band – Day Out In Nowhere (Frontiers)
At an age where most musicians are retired, Graham Bonnet is busier than ever. He did a Michael Schenker Fest record in 2019, a reunion album with Alcatrazz in 2020 and continues to release album with the Graham Bonnet Band, including their latest effort Day Out In Nowhere.
It’s a melodic hard rock record with driving guitars and soaring choruses. At age 74 Bonnet’s pipes are still in fine shape, and hitting high notes on tracks like “Twelve Steps To Heaven.” The album features several guest appearances including his former Rainbow bandmate Don Airey, guitarist Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore), drummer John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie) and guitarist Roy Z (Halford, Bruce Dickinson). The song quality declines slightly on the album’s second half, but overall there are a lot of memorable hard rock songs on Day Out In Nowhere.
Hexicon – Leave It All Behind (Asunder)
Leave It All Behind is the debut from the California band Hexicon. This album has a slight alternative flair to go along with a stoner outlook. The entire affair recalls Mastodon with a greater stoner vibe. It has the right ingredients to make for an interesting well-rounded album.
It could press on the gas more at times, but the music is certainly fast-paced enough. The guitar riffs are punchy and make their mark and would be even better with additional innovation. This is still an effective stoner/alternative album that has enough meaty length to be appealing. Fans of the genre will find a lot to like here and will appreciate the variety present on the record.
Jungle Rot – A Call To Arms (Unique Leader)
For more than a quarter century, Wisconsin death metal stalwarts Jungle Rot have been plying their trade. There have been a couple changes since their 2018 self-titled album. They have a new drummer, Spencer Syphers, and are now on Unique Leader Records.
Their 11th studio album Call To Arms is the latest in a long line of quality records. Dave Matrise’s biting harsh vocals are contrasted by guitars that are groovy and melodic. Songs like “Asymmetric Warfare” and “Death Squad” pack a wallop along with having memorable riffs that maintain interest throughout. They aren’t reinventing the wheel with Call To Arms, but Jungle Rot’s songwriting and flawless execution make them one of death metal’s most potent bands.
Moonlight Sorcery – Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity (Avantgarde)
In the mid-1990s, the European black metal scene witnessed the rise of the symphonic black metal wave, which affected the scene for many years. The rise of bands such as Emperor and Limbonic Art provided a new definition of black metal to its audience; and now, Moonlight Sorcery inherit it about three decades later. Their first EP Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity,is all about reviving and preserving that wave.
Piercing… is short, but its features make it an appreciable work, and can be considered an extremely solid start. The symphonic layers are dissolved in the context of the music, and it is at this point that the album’s extensive guitar solos play an important role in processing the symphonic layers and the meaning of being melodic, giving the album’s frostbitten atmosphere an immersive warmth. With the band’s impressive composition and performance, Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity can easily provide Moonlight Sorcery a glorious path to shine on the underground black metal scene for many years to come if they follow it intently.
Moon Tooth – Phototroph (Pure Noise)
Ten years into their careers, Long Island prog metal quartet Moon Tooth drop their third album, Phototroph. 2019’s Crux was a fabulous release, a rare album (in this genre) that managed to be both entertaining and complex at once. Phototroph manages to carry on that tradition by serving up eleven frenetic yet catchy tracks.
Moon Tooth strut their stuff across the entire album, brilliantly offsetting progressive tendencies with plenty of swagger and groove. Nick Lee (who also plays for Riot V) can shred with the best of them, and John Carbone’s unique vocals work perfectly. “Alpha Howl” and the title track are super gems, with the only near miss on the album being “The Conduit.” Aside from that track and the absolutely brickwalled master (a horrific DR4, for those into that sort of thing), Phototroph is a blast.
Miscreation – Miscreation MMXXI (Self)
Canadian death metal group Miscreation put up a shifty front on their Miscreation MMXXI EP. Comprised of three tracks simply labeled by Roman numerals, the release is a teaser for an eight chapter full-length the band will eventually release.
Cryptopsy guitarist Christian Donaldson recorded all the instrumentation, mixed and mastered the EP, which is suitable considering how there are definitely hints of that long-standing group in Miscreation’s precise technical performance. Miscreation MMXXI opens and closes in the same combative stance, its unhinged movement keeping the songs from growing stale. A well-placed melodic guitar solo brightens up “VI” and “IV,” though “II” compensates with a mosh-friendly ending. With these songs not being in any particular order, it’ll be intriguing to see how Miscreation work in the context of a concept album with cohesive storytelling in the mix.
The Pineapple Thief – Give It Back (Kscope)
Prog rock veterans The Pineapple Thief released the studio album Versions Of The Truth in 2020. For their latest record Give It Back they decided to revisit and re-record older songs.
The dozen songs originally appeared on albums such as 2006’s Little Man, 2008’s Tightly Unwound and 2012’s All The Wars. While Bruce Soord, Jon Sykes and Steve Kitch appeared on those albums, drummer Gavin Harrison did not. But these aren’t just the same songs recorded with a different drummer. The band re-arranges the songs and even wrote some new sections, giving them a different vibe. Some are subtle, others more dramatic. Hardcore fans will enjoy comparing the originals to these newly revamped versions, but more casual Pineapple Thief listener might not be as interested in delving into this album.
Virgin Idol – Virgin Idol (Self)
Veedersburg, Indiana is home to the new trio known as Virgin Idol, and this is their self-titled debut. The band style themselves after ’80s stalwarts such as Judas Priest, Metal Church, and especially King Diamond – or at least they aim to. Their success in this regard is up for debate.
Virgin Idol has a few good song ideas, but for the most part comes across as a very rough demo. Production is awful; there is no bottom end to speak of, and the lead guitar tone is abysmal on nearly every song. This all makes bassist J.R. Preston’s vocals stand out even more, and that’s not a good thing. His take on King Diamond is an unending screech. “Junji” is the album’s best song, because all it is is a guitar solo that reminds one of the late Gary Moore. Beyond this, listeners will be hard-pressed to find many redeeming qualities.
Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates (Napalm)
After 2013’s Ethera, the Austrian symphonic power metal band Visions Of Atlantis underwent some lineup changes and took five years between that record and The Deep & The Dark. Since then they have been very productive, issuing live albums in 2019 and 2020 along with 2019’s studio album Wanderers. Their latest opus is Pirates.
While still following the musical template of past albums, Visions Of Atlantis expand in new directions as well, constructing more complex and dynamic songs. They manage to do that without skimping on hooks and atmosphere. The vocals are varied, with Clementine Delauney injecting operatic parts along with traditional singing, while Michele Guaitoli has a more traditional power metal style voice. Flutes and bagpipes provided by Feuerschwanz’s Ben Metzner on a few songs give them even more diversity. Pirates is bombastic and dramatic with songs that have depth and catchiness, hitting the sweet spot of symphonic power metal.