This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aephanemer, Daxma, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Eldritch, Godless, The Lurking Fear, Navian, Nyt Liv, Plebeian Grandstand, Solar Cross, Swallow The Sun, Theatres Des Vampires, Tower, Vaulted and W.E.B.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aephanemer – A Dream Of Wilderness (Napalm Records)
On A Dream Of Wilderness, Aephanemer fulfill their vision of creating and exciting sonic landscape. The French band’s third album is a nice follow-up to 2019;s Prokopton. There is more melodic death metal with a folk influence to be found on this album. It is very vibrant and colorful with hardly any moments that drag. The production is crisp and lets the instruments shine through.
The melodicism of the release is nice and crafts a listenable experience. Recent releases by the likes of Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium have created a high bar for the genre, and these songs don’t quite have that impact. This is still a pretty strong melodic death metal release that has all the right ingredients to maintain your attention.
Daxma – Unmarked Boxes (Blues Funeral)
Daxma’s assured sophomore album Unmarked Boxes maintains the band’s firm grasp on emotional, atmospheric doom metal. The line between coarseness and tranquility constantly shifts, allowing for combustible music. Violin and piano provide an orchestral weight, which is a blessing when a majority of the songs are either close to or over 10 minutes long.
Two shorter instrumentals offer a respite, dialing back the percussion and letting the guitars lead the path through the dusk. That’s not to say the gloominess is left behind, as it floats over the six tracks, unable to be shaken off. Being able to be in that sort of headspace for almost an hour without it becoming unbearable is a feat Daxma land, creating ethereal scenes in Unmarked Boxes that are like the calm after a vicious storm.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Noktvrn (Season Of Mist)
The German black metal band Der Weg Einer Freiheit issued a live EP last year and a full-length live album in 2019. It has been four years since their last studio effort, with Noktvrn their fifth full-length.
The album uses a fair amount of runway before taking off, with a two minute opening interlude, and another couple minutes of instrumental intro on “Monument” before the black metal finally kicks in. The songs are lengthy, with hefty doses of traditional black metal shifting to avant-garde and progressive sections. “Immortal” is mellow with melodic singing for more than half the song before heavier elements take the forefront. Closer “Haven” is also mellow and melodic. The longest song on the album is the 11 minute “Gegen das Licht,” which also begins with several minutes of mellowness prior to grandiose black metal. There are a few lulls, but Noktvrn is a wide-ranging and diverse album, with Der Weg Einer Freiheit making those transitions smoothly and effectively.
Eldritch – Eos (Scarlet)
The Italian power/progressive metal band Eldritch are marking 30 years since the release of their debut demo. Their twelfth full-length Eos features the return of keyboardist Oleg Smirnoff, who left the band after 1998’s El Nino. They now have three original members in the current lineup, along with vocalist Terence Holler and guitarist/main songwriting Eugene Simone.
Eldritch are able to compose songs that are melodic and catchy with a few progressive moments such as “Failure Of Faith” and “No Obscurity.” Some harsh vocals add variety to tracks like “The Cry Of A Nation,” while the progressive side of the band is emphasize on lengthier songs like “Sunken Dreams.” Holler is in fine form, showing power and range along with a dynamic delivery. Even though they’ve been around for a long time, Eldritch still fly under the radar, at least in North America, and are a band that prog fans should definitely check out.
States Of Chaos has Godless taking the short-fused death metal of their first two EPs and executing it with greater urgency. The tempos are quicker, as the band breezes through nine songs in under 30 minutes. Another step up comes in the guitar department, as the solos are tighter and more frequent compared to their EPs. Their progression between the releases they have to date is apparent, making small steps towards their truest form.
The interlude “Descent,” awkwardly placed in the first half of the album, is the loneliest bit of filler. Otherwise, Godless are hell bent on creating as much anarchy as possible in the short time they have allotted to themselves. States Of Chaos is an uncompromising, fast-paced debut album from a group just starting to hit their stride.
The Lurking Fear – Death, Madness, Horror, Decay (Century Media)
The Lurking Fear return with Death, Madness, Horror, Decay, their second album of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Featuring members of At The Gates, The Haunted, and God Macabre, The Lurking Fear again flex old school Swedish death metal. The album is loud with dangerous, distorted guitar tones that will erase your face. Guitar harmonies occur throughout, as expected from these Gothenburg veterans.
“Abysmal Slime” reveals a sound that falls somewhere into the abyss of At The Gates and God Macabre. “Death Reborn” follows with scorching speed and decapitating riffs. Adrian Erlandsson maintains a fast and furious beat throughout the album. The intro on “Abysmal Slime” and outro on “Leech of Aeons” usher in and out the album with necessary cinematic horror. The biggest drawback is Tomas Lindberg’s voice sounds weathered. However, his phrasing is brilliant and it doesn’t impact the recording enough to take away from its catchiness.
Navian – Cosmos (Indie)
There are instrumental bands in every genre of metal, but the style that most seamlessly lends itself to the approach is prog. After an EP, the Norwegian progressive trio Navian emerge with their full-length debut Cosmos.
Writing songs without vocals means the arrangements have to be even more compelling. Variety is not a problem for Navian, as they inject styles such as jazz and pop alongside prog metal. Technically impressive parts and complexity abound, but Cosmos also has some memorable melodies and hooks. There are a few less than compelling moments, like an elevator music section in “Ghost Stories,” but most of the songs, from the uptempo “Temple” to the shredding “Duchess” featuring Mats Haugen from Circus Maximus draw the listener in.
Nyt Liv – Den Døde Sol (Indisciplinarian)
Scandinavian hardcore has always been a fun subsection, chock full of melody at times, genre bending at other times. It is always a rewarding listen and discovering bands like Refused, Turbonegro, and Martyrdod is just part of the adventure. Nyt Liv are a new find, one that also thrive on melody being used in their fast and furious attack. Den Døde Sol is an album that could easily accompany Kvelertak’s Splid from last year and hang with it in lockstep. If opener “Givet Op” doesn’t strike that chord with you, something is amiss.
Clocking in at just over half an hour, Den Døde Sol is a total shot in the arm, played expertly by a group who clearly knows what they are doing. For a band whose name means new life, it surely gives that feeling to listeners, ample energy and heaviness perfectly balanced with a hardcore heart. Nyt Liv should be on your radar, especially if melodic hardcore is something that you crave.
Plebeian Grandstand – Rien ne suffit (Debemur Morti)
It has been five years since the French avant-garde black metal band Plebeian Grandstand released an album. Rien ne suffit (Nothing is enough) is the group’s fourth full-length.
They incorporate a multitude of styles. Opener “Masse critique” has a hardcore sensibility and vocal style, while tracks like “À droite du démiurge, à gauche du néant” are more in the black metal vein. Electronica, noise and industrial are other styles you’ll hear on the album. Plebeian Grandstand are constantly shifting tempos and intensities and moving in unexpected directions, like the cinematic mostly instrumental “Espoir nuit naufrage.” It’s sometimes chaotic, other times experimental, but never dull. While certainly a challenging listen at times, Rien ne suffit has a lot of depth and intrigue.
Solar Cross – Echoes Of The Eternal Word (Transcending)
Solar Cross are the product of Finnish brothers Lauri, Harri and Jarmo Pikka, the latter two being former members of melodic death metal group Omnium Gatherum. Echoes Of The Eternal Word strays into a proggy terrain with its death/thrash metal.
The acoustic-driven opening instrumental “Kaukomieli” leads into “Jatuli,” keeping the acoustics around for background support. Melodic vocals show up in the drawn-out closer “Golden, Crowned and Pure,” though they are better used in the singalong chorus to “Mother Of Wolves.” The essence of this group has a raucous core, as songs like “Bloodstreams” and “From Secret Source” proudly show off a fertile blend of ill-mannered thrash metal and snarling death metal. Echoes Of The Eternal Word is uneven at points, though the brothers are willing to commit to an experimental side without hesitation.
Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers (Century Media)
Moonflowers is a dark and dreadful journey through depressive thought patterns, disappointment and loss that sees Finnish death doom stalwarts Swallow The Sun delve into the heavier side of their sound, all the while exploring an alternate universe of sorrowful chamber music on the accompanying “classical versions” album. There is no respite from the doom, only calmer throughs between the crests of heaviness.
Frontman Jaani Peuhu alternates between brooding baritone and guttural growls, and the guitars follows suit, switching between clean arpeggios, plodding chugs and churning riffs. The production is exquisite, with lush layers of synthesizers, strings and back vocals enriching most songs, and a massive drum and bass sound that fills the space created by the slow tempi. Cammie Gilbert from Oceans of Slumbers guests on “All Hallows’ Grieve” to great effect. This is a perfect album for those early winter nights.
Theatres Des Vampires – In Nomine Sanguinis (Scarlet)
For more than 25 years, the Italian band Theatres Des Vampires have embraced the gothic and vampiric. While their early material blended in black metal, their recent output including their latest effort In Nomine Sanguinis has traded that for electronic.
Sonya Scarlet’s vocal delivery is very poppy at times, but also has a darker and more aggressive vibe when needed, such as on “The Bride Of Corinth.” The songs are atmospheric, with things like a choir on the title track helping add variety. There are some catchy moments (such as “Golden Cage”), but a few more hooks would make the album even more memorable. It closes with “Till The Last Drop Of Blood,” a re-recording of a song from 2001’s Bloody Lunatic Asylum. The pop culture fascination with vampires has abated somewhat, but will always be there.
Tower – Shock To The System (Cruz Del Sur)
New York quartet Tower return with Shock To The System, five years after their debut. The band takes influences from doom metal’s epic feel to classic rock’s sensibility to the raw, punky feel of ’80s speed metal and fuses them all into one deceptively alluring potion of high-energy classic metal.
Tower are unquestionably dominated by the powerhouse vocals of Sarabeth Linden, whose voice is quite simply amazing. Once past the killer vocals, though, we hear a band that clicks on all cylinders on songs loaded with catchy hooks, strong harmonies, and sweet solos. Tower sound like close cousins of fellow classic metal veterans Traveler and that’s not a bad comparison at all – for either band. Shock To The System is one of the best classic metal albums of the year.
Vaulted’s move into death metal has been a slow turn over the years, as it initially wasn’t more than just flavoring to their metallic hardcore. Now, with Left In Despair, the ratio of death metal to hardcore skews to the former. There are still pieces of their past selves on this album, though it’s all filtered through a grimmer lens.
There are attempts to freshen their sound, like the springy guitar leads on “Endless” and the bass and electric guitar harmonizing during the title track, though it’s not as typical as it should be. The barrage of gruff barks, toxic riffs and grim mannerisms can be a bit much for a single sitting. Left In Despair is an appropriate evolution of Vaulted’s sound, with some room for fine-tuning.
W.E.B. – Colosseum (Metal Blade)
On their fifth full-length album Colosseum, the Greek symphonic metal band W.E.B. have undergone some changes. They have a new rhythm section, adding bassist Hel Pyre and drummer Nikitas Mandolas.
Pyre’s soprano backing vocals give a different twist to songs like “Murder Of Crows.” The album expertly blends extreme metal with epic orchestrations. It’s their shortest and most focused effort. It clocks in at under 40 minutes, and there’s only one song longer than five minutes. They ratchet up the intensity on the blastbeat laden “Dominus Maleficarum” while tracks such as “Exaudi Luciferi” have a slower pace. The production hampers it from sounding even more grandiose, but Colosseum is an effective and enjoyable symphonic metal album.