This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Anvil, Bog Body, Cauchemar, Cave In, Luminous Vault, Mortal Thrall, Nattehimmel, Nova Luna, Oratory, Sadistic Ritual, Unbowed and Volturian.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anvil – Impact Is Imminent (AFM)
Anvil represent a master class in the power of perseverance. As documented in the 2008 film This Is Anvil, Steve “Lips” Kudlow and company inspired what became thrash metal yet received zero recognition. But as their latest release Impact is Imminent effectively demonstrates, if you’re passionate about something and willing to keep grinding away, extraordinary things are possible.
In this case, we’re not talking about commercial success, but entering your fourth decade bashing out headbanging anthems like the speedy “Ghost Shadow” or the massive, grinding “Shockwave,” should make any metalhead proud. Beefy guitar riffs abound and Robb Reiner’s double-bass pounding is still solid and inventive. Anvil’s Achilles’ Heel: “Lips’” somewhat limited vocal ability and lyrics that border on the sophomoric (see the pandemic-themed “Lockdown” – I guess someone was bound to rhyme “Covid-19” with “quarantine”). But off-kilter experiments like the metal/big band fusion of album-closer “Gomez” are both fun and unexpected.
Bog Body – Cryonic Crevasse Cult (Profound Lore)
Blackened doom duo Bog Body unleash their debut LP Cryonic Crevasse Cult upon the masses with sludge paced aplomb. The duo who only bring a bass and drums to the fray, have a lot going on during the album’s run, in terms of glacial pace and overall atmosphere. Opener “Paralytic Pit of Swallowed Graves” is a vile concoction with the bass feeling like its sound is oozing all over the listener with very little regard for their well-being, all while the drums are pounded into oblivion.
Bog Body’s rough edge is one that has return appeal, feeling unique in this style of music, being rooted in a very different riffing style entirely. They even break into a bit of a doomy groove on “The Temple of the Inevitable Flame”, like if Black Sabbath fell into a vat of glue. This is a great start for an up-and-coming extreme metal band, one with plenty of potential in terms of raw heaviness and innovative play style. Keep an eye on Bog Body.
Cauchemar – Rosa Mystica (Temple Of Mystery)
Canadian bringers of doom and occult Cauchemar have unveiled another act of darkness and evil. Rosa Mystica, like the band’s past works, is full of moments that combine the three worlds of occult, heavy and doom metal. In French, Cauchemar means nightmare, and this nightmare reminds its listeners of the ancient heritage to which Cauchemar owe.
Rosa Mystica is a cross between traditional heavy metal and doom metal, with lyrics that bring horror, occultism and dark supernatural phenomena to life in a single evil body before the eyes of the listener. Among heavy metal riffs and somber harmonies, Cauchemar deliberately incorporate touches of blues and folk rock to passionately recall everything that was heard during the rising age of occult rock. Rosa Mystica has a long way to go to be called a unique work of art or the band’s best work to date, but the heirs of Coven and Pagan Altar will delight you enough to eagerly follow the album to the end.
Cave In – Heavy Pendulum (Relapse)
After the death of Caleb Scofield in 2018, there was speculation that 2019’s Final Transmission might be Cave In‘s last album. They decided to carry on, and there still are contributions from Scofield on Heavy Pendulum. Nate Newton (Converge, Old Man Gloom) plays bass on the album. They also worked with producer Kurt Ballou for the first time since their 1998 debut.
It features some exceptionally catchy songs such as “Floating Skulls” with mostly melodic singing along with heavier tracks like “New Reality” and “Searchers Of Hell” with a more even mix of harsh and clean vocals. Cave In slow the pace on the title track and “Blinded By The Blaze.” The lyrics for the urgent “Amaranthine” came from a lyrics notebook Scofield’s wife gave to the band. The album wraps up with the 12 minute “Wavering Angel,” which starts quietly before ramping up the intensity. At 70 minutes it’s a bit long, but Heavy Pendulum maintains interest throughout with a varied collection of memorable songs.
Luminous Vault – Animate The Emptiness (Profound Lore)
If Nine Inch Nails, Godflesh and Ministry worked on a collaboration while having a rotating collection of black metal from around the world on in the background, something like Luminous Vault’s Animate The Emptiness would be the result. This is industrial music with pulsating electronics given a corpse paint makeover, though it keeps the tempos pretty level throughout. Only “Divine Transduction” has the drum programming set to “blast beats.”
Outside of that, it shuffles along with an uneasiness boosted by the mechanical underbelly. That part is as essential to Luminous Vault as any of the guitars or bass that are played. Animate The Emptiness is not traditional by any genre descriptions, but its dire moods come across sharply in a way that can only be found in black metal.
Mortal Thrall – A Path To Fire (Trepanation)
A Path To Fire is the story of Maria de los Dolores Lopez, a woman who was burned at the stake for heresy near the end of the Spanish Inquisition. Mortal Thrall handle this tale with fury,
encapsulating the rage many today will feel based on the abuse and indecencies she had to go through by people in power. It’s a suitable concept within the confines of black metal.
Though the vocals are slightly low in the mix, having the lyrics on hand is useful to getting the full, essential story. Keyboards infuse an understated atmosphere, not acting as a disturbance in the whirling spectacle. Most of A Path To Fire is kept at a rolling boil, though spots of less extreme guitar work in the album’s second half keeps it from being one-dimensional.
Nattehimmel – The Night Sky Beckons (Hammerheart)
The Norwegian group Nattehimmmel are a new band, but the names of many of their members will recognizable to black metal fans. It was founded by Christian (guitar) and Christopher (bass) Botteri, formerly of Green Carnation and In The Woods. James Fogarty (Ewigkeit, Old Forest), whose In The Woods tenure briefly overlapped with the Botteri brothers, is the vocalist and keyboardist.
The Night Sky Beckons is Nattehimmel’s three song demo. It’s black metal played with a variety intensities, though tempos remain moderate. Opener “Astrologer” is slow paced, heading into doom territory at times, with mostly melodic singing and brief harsh vocals. “Mountain Of The Northern Kings” has similar ebbs and flows, while the intensity ratchets up on the closing title track with plenty of blastbeats, but the melodic singing keeps it accessible. It’s an intriguing beginning, whetting the appetite for what the full-length they are working on will bring.
Nova Luna – Nova Vita (Pride & Joy)
Nova Vita (which translates to “new life”) is the debut from the Italian band Nova Luna. It features guest appearances from artists such as Reb Beach (Whitesnake), Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats) and Mistheria (Vivaldi Metal Project).
The album’s overarching style is melodic metal. There are plenty of modern influences along with hints of classic hard rock. There are also influences of Japanese culture and music on a couple of songs. Tracks like “Over Machines” have heavy guitars along with a singalong chorus. “Save You (This Time)” has both progressive sections and eighties style extended guitar solos. There are mellower songs as well, such as “World Of Truth” and “Morning Stars.” The production is pristine, sometimes overly so, but the songs are good, making for a promising debut.
Oratory doesn’t put much studio polish on the three songs that make up their Inner Pyre EP. It’s raw without being unwelcoming, a musty haze that floats like the stale odor of decay. There’s a sludgy component to their bleak death metal, with tempos that don’t nearly break out the way some may expect to. That works to the band’s advantage on “Capitulation Genuflect” and the title track, which is less acid bath and more poisonous drip.
Closer “It Takes A Toll” is simplistic to a fault, its only lyric being the song title repeated. The scaled down guitars during the outro are a different side to Oratory up to that point, though it makes up almost half of the song’s three-and-a-half minutes. It’s a modest end to an EP that stomps in its presence swiftly from the beginning.
Sadistic Ritual – The Enigma, Boundless (Prosthetic)
It took Georgia thrashers Sadistic Ritual a decade to release their first full-length album, 2019’s Visionaire Of Death. They return with The Enigma, Boundless, another intense batch of thrash.
While they have the blazing riffs and flashy guitar solos the genre is known for, Sadistic Ritual are able to amp up the heaviness more than many thanks to the potent drumming of Joe Sweat and vocals that delve into death metal territory. Tracks like “Maelstrom Of Consciousness” show Sadistic Ritual’s ability to shift from controlled chaos to smooth grooves and back again. Guitarist Alex Parra also produced the album, doing a good job showcasing the band’s dynamic sound. For those who like their thrash on the extreme side, The Enigma, Boundless fits the bill nicely.
Five years after their last album, the Canadian melodic death/black metal band Unbowed are issuing their third album Colour The Soul. It’s their first album with new drummer Cory Hofing (Crimson Shadows).
The band’s diverse approach is evident from the opener “Hero Lux” that transitions from dense black metal to groovy death to an acoustic interlude and has both harsh and singing vocals. “As I Step Mountains Sway” is a keyboard driven instrumental straight out of a church service or old time horror movie. “Home” has the most melodic singing on the record, balanced by some harsh vocals. Finntroll’s Mathias “Vreth” Lillmans guests on the mid tempo “Umbra Cruciata.” There’s no shortage of variety on Colour The Soul, and though not everything works perfectly, it’s an effective album.
Volturian – Red Dragon (Scarlet)
Red Dragon, the second album from the Italian band Volturian, was lyrically and aesthetically inspired by the Thomas Harris novel of the same name. That’s where the character of Hannibal Lecter of Silence Of The Lambs fame first appeared.
While there are symphonic elements to Volturian’s sound, they also incorporate electronics that add a modern sensibility to some of the tracks. Federica Lanna has a smooth, pop/rock delivery that also adds to the contemporary feel. Bombastic guitars and ample hooks are the core of most of the tracks. “Torn Asunder” is a pure pop song, eschewing guitars for electronics. Volturian have a wide range of influences from Lacuna Coil to Roxette that make Red Dragon a very melodic and accessible album.