This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Cadaveric Incubator, Caliban, Dordeduh, Grave Miasma, Grief Collector, Millstone, Myles Kennedy, Per Wiberg, Scar Of The Sun, Seventh Crystal, Siniestro, Sour Times, Subterranean Masquerade, Sunbomb and Zombi.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cadaveric Incubator – Nightmare Necropolis (Hells Headbangers)
Four years after the release of their first album Sermons Of The Devouring Dead, and the release of two splits with Festerday and Axeslaughter, Finnish death metal act Cadaveric Incubator are back with their second album Nightmare Necropolis to take what they had created on their first album to a new level of brutality.
In the early minutes of the album, the song “Blood Lust”, one of the highlights of the album, defines the whole character of the album, which is inspired by the early Cannibal Corpse, early Carcass and Autopsy. Nightmare Necropolis touches on all the features of old school death metal. Grindcore plays a more important role this time around as the savage temperament is further enhanced on this album. In half an hour, Nightmare Necropolis does what it has to do, as an allegiance to titans of grindcore/death metal.
Caliban – Zeitgeister (Century Media)
Inspired by a Rammstein cover they recorded, German metalcore mob Caliban opted to recreate and update tracks from their back catalogue – this time in their native tongue – for Zeitgeister. There’s also a new cut (“nICHts”) added for completists. The songs cover most bases from the first decade or so of their career, from strong early works like 2001’s Vent to a period whereby they pursued wider success with an Americanized sound.
Aggressive vocals (with occasional clean singing and guest rapping), scathing guitars and thunderous beatdowns define their sound here. While they’ve never truly broken through into metalcore’s A-Team, bruising cuts like “Intoleranz” resonate. The decision to sing in German may draw attention, but once the novelty factor wanes, it’s uncertain whether fans will return to these versions, or stick to the originals. It’s all over in less than 35 minutes, but it can be difficult to escape the belief that while Caliban are having fun here, Zeitgeister could lack long-term appeal.
Dordeduh – Har (Prophecy)
Nine years after their debut, the Romanian band Dordeduh return with Har. They were founded by two former members of Negura Bunget (vocalist/guitarist Hupogrammos and guitarist/keyboardist Sol Far).
Their first album was atmospheric folk/black metal, and while Har has those elements, Dordeduh expand their sound this time around with an avant-garde approach that incorporates everything from gothic to prog to electronic. The album opens with the 12 minute “Timpul Intilor,” which showcases all the aforementioned musical styles along with both harsh and melodic vocals. Whether epic in length or more streamlined, each song is compelling with numerous twists and turns. Catchy melodies devolve into extreme sections and progressive forays and back again, making for an eclectic album that maintains engagement throughout, even though it’s more than an hour long. The wait for a new Dordeduh album was a long one, but well worth it.
Grave Miasma – Abyss Of Wrathful Deities (Dark Descent)
London based blackened/death metal band Grave Miasma return with their second album Abyss Of Wrathful Deities, their first in nearly eight years. Their take on the genre is a dark one with plenty of tremolo picked lines on opener “Guardians of Death” among others. Ample atmosphere is on display.
This is long form death metal, which save for a brief interlude track, no song is shorter than six minutes long. That’s plenty of time for Grave Miasma to dig their claws into you as you swirl in the dark depths of their “Ancestral Waters.” Each track is deliberately crafted to get the most out of their material with overall song structure being top notch. With enough time it is clear that Abyss Of Wrathful Deities is one of the year’s best extreme metal albums that reveals more and more upon each rewarding return listen. Plus, that album art is superb.
Grief Collector – En Delirium (Petrichor)
Ex-Candlemass/Solitude Aeturnus singer Robert Lowe joins ex-members of Signs of Reign and Among The Serpents to form Grief Collector. En Delirium is the Minneapolis-based power trio’s debut full-length album. Fans of Lowe’s previous bands will delight in the band’s doomy sound. In addition to an epic and traditional doom sound, En Delirium contains catchy, sludgy groove sections.
Matt Johnson launches the album with engaging guitar riffs on “Corridors.” His chords range from mid-paced chugging grooves to harmonious leads to dark, ringing sections. He pulls double duty, playing bass and guitar. Some tracks such as “Knee Deep in Devils” and “Scorned Hearth” highlight his bass. The latter song’s bass has a Steve Harris feel. Melody is a major facet of the album, especially on its second half. Sorrow and mental anguish are lyrical themes perfectly conveyed in Lowe’s potent voice. En Delirium marks another amazing chapter in Robert Lowe’s legendary career.
Millstone – Isle (Self)
Siberian group Millstone combine groove, thrash and death metal on their debut album Isle, a style which makes up its typical sound by being done with efficiency. With songs hovering around three to four minutes, the band is able to say what they need without indulging any of them to excess. Out of the three genres mentioned before, death metal is probably the least represented, though a few well-timed blast beats-centric sections raise the pulse considerably.
The lead guitar work is very capable, providing effective solos on songs like “One-Way Ticket” and “The War Of Fools.” With one guitarist in the band, the group doesn’t overload the rhythm tracks on top of them, and the bass guitar gets some attention too. Deviation between songs is minimal, though a calmer start to closer “Progressor” is a momentary retreat from the punishment. On Isle, Millstone avoid the kind of learning curves that can come in creating a debut record.
Myles Kennedy – The Ides Of March (Napalm)
Myles Kennedy‘s 2018 solo debut was an introspective and diverse release exploring the death of his father back in 1974. The Ides Of March has more of the rock influences the Alter Bridge/Slash singer is known for than Year Of The Tiger while still exploring other styles.
Tracks like the opener “Get Along” and “Wake Me When It’s Over” have a rock vibe, while songs like “In Stride” are bluesier. There are mellow tracks as well along with twangy country influenced songs like “Moonshot.” What ties the various styles together is Kennedy’s vocals. He has one of rock’s most distinctive voices, able to sing with both power/range and emotion. It’s a dynamic album that showcases both Kennedy’s vocal prowess and his songwriting ability.
Per Wiberg – All Is Well In The Land Of The Living, But For The Rest Of Us…Lights Out (Despotz)
Per Wiberg has played in keyboards in numerous bands such as Opeth, Spiritual Beggars and Candlemass, but plays several other instruments as well. He plays all instruments except drums and also handles the vocals on his latest solo effort, the EP All Is Well In The Land Of The Living, But For The Rest Of Us…Lights Out.
The four songs on the EP are all included in the lengthy album title. Prog rock is the dominant style on the EP, with alt rock moving to the forefront on “In The Land Of The Living,” the catchiest and most accessible song on the album that still has plenty of progressive parts. “But For The Rest Of Us…” is mostly ambient, while the closer “Lights Out” has some heavy moments. When it comes to singing, Wiberg has a reserved style that fits well with the music.
Scar Of The Sun – Inertia (Napalm)
For their third album Inertia, the Greek band Scar Of The Sun have signed with Napalm Records. They take their time with new releases, coming five years after In Flood, which came five years after their debut.
An overarching description of Scar Of The Sun’s style is modern metal, but digging a little deeper they have a lot of melodic death elements along with gothic, groove and progressive influences. Tracks like “I Am The Circle” are catchy and melodic, but injecting periodic harsh vocals adds some edge. “Oxygen” is mellow and atmospheric and sounds like Katatonia while closer “Anastasis” has a lot of heavy sections. Scar Of The Sun show a lot of different sides on the album, both musically and vocally.
Seventh Crystal – Delirium (Frontiers)
Swedish melodic rockers Seventh Crystal know how to create expectations (the press release sure does hype them up), but seem to have forgotten they have to live up to them. Citing Max Martin and Cheiron Studios as influences, the quintet’s debut, Delirium, is an extremely polished affair, with a production that puts each player on a shining pedestal.
Unfortunately, their time in the limelight is spent regurgitating one trite cliché after the other, as they go from arena rock choruses about “when we were young” to sappy ballads about vague feelings of alienation. On some songs, like “Delirium” or “Say What You Need To Say” it seems like everything is about to fall into place, that the songwriting will finally live up to frontman Kristian Fyhr’s voice and the gorgeous production, but we’re always met with another tired metaphor, another boilerplate riff, another sterile solo. There’s a profound lack of substance to this album that even the superb performances cannot salvage.
Siniestro – Vortexx (Black Lodge)
Siniestro’s sophomore album Vortexx elevates the bitter death/thrash/punk of their earlier works while stepping out into loftier songwriting in a few spots. The band is no stranger to doing the latter before, but the acoustic intro on “Blod Eld Död” and the ever-present organ in the background during the final half of “Anti Human Commando” help justify those song’s ballooning lengths of eight to ten minutes.
Those with a preference for shorter fare will find plenty of that on Vortexx, whether it’s the punkish pace of “Den Svartaste Flamman Och Renaste Hat” or the sinister grooves of “Buried In The Bog.” Vortexx is a powerful effort, though the band’s decision the end the album with a five-minute organ outro that’s four minutes too long is an inexplicable creative choice.
Sour Times – The 11th Hour (Self)
When the line “Burn this motherf–ker down” is screamed out in “Burn,” the closer to Sour Times’ The 11th Hour, the band is not offering it as a suggestion. They want to cause anarchy, and the chugging breakdowns afterwards punctuates that point. That may sound like any other hardcore song ever made, yet the album surprises with some unexpected depth. That includes a solemn piano intro on “Rage Motivator,” moments of actual singing on several songs, and the chilled-out vibes of the instrumental “Interlude.”
Sour Times doesn’t stick to one avenue, having different takes on what could’ve been standard-fare hardcore/metal music. Usually, this reviewer’s complaint is that an album goes too long, but this is one of the few that could’ve used a couple more tracks. At a slim 27 minutes, The 11th Hour doesn’t reach its full potential enough.
Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever (Sensory)
Mountain Fever, the fourth full-length album from Subterranean Masquerade shows the band becoming even more adventurous. Songs are playful and feature a good array of dynamics. Some songs contain a middle-eastern flair. The band has always been pushing the envelope and they go in even further directions this time around. The down side is that they sound less consistent and streamlined than before.
The collection of songs is eclectic and manages to hold your attention, though they tend to be scattered compared to the earlier albums like Suspended Animation Dreams. There is still a lot to like with these compositions as they show a band evolving and finding new ground. Mountain Fever shows progression and is thus another appealing entry to the band’s catalogue. Fans of Subterranean Masquerade should not hesitate to jump on board.
Sunbomb – Evil And Divine (Frontiers)
The last several years have been the most prolific of Michael Sweet’s career. In addition to albums with his main band Stryper, he has released solo material and collaborated with artists such as George Lynch. His latest project is Sunbomb with guitarist Tracii Guns.
Though expectations of a slick hard rock album might be the case from these two artists, that is definitely not the case. It’s a metal record, with upbeat traditional metal tracks like “Life” and “No Tomorrow” along with slower, doom-influenced songs such as “Take Me Away” and “World Gone Wrong.” No matter what the style is, Sweet’s vocals sound great, and they really work well on the doomier tracks. Guns, who wrote all the music, brings a lot of memorable riffs to the table. Sweet and Guns (along with bassist Mitch Davis and drummer Adam Hamilton) mesh really well.
Zombi – Liquid Crystal (Relapse)
Less than a year after 2020, their first album in five years, the instrumental duo Zombi return with the five song EP Liquid Crystal. And though it is technically an EP, there’s ample material, as it clocks in at just over 30 minutes.
Instrumental albums certainly aren’t up everybody’s alley, but fans of the genre know Zombi deliver the goods. The arrangements are dynamic, having a lot of atmosphere along with quality melodies. The centerpiece of the EP is the 11 minute “Turning Points,” which takes its time developing, creating tension and anticipation. They close on a high note with the groovy, synth-laden “Black Forest.”