This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from 96 Bitter Beings, Aurora Borealis, Black Anvil, Black Mirrors, Devin Townsend, Funeral Harvest, Ingested, Legions Of The Night, Ninth Realm, R.A.M.B.O., Strycnos and Voivod.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
96 Bitter Beings – Synergy Restored (Nuclear Blast)
Synergy Restored is the second album from 96 Bitter Beings, formed by former CKY frontman Deron Miller. Like their 2018 debut, it continues the style that made CKY popular.
The band’s music straddles the line between hard rock and alt metal. There are heavy riffs to satisfy metalheads along with catchy hooks and choruses. Pretty much any of the 11 songs could be singles, but some of the especially memorable tracks include “Throw Yourself Inside,” “Slither Away” and opener “Vaudeville’s Revenge.” Those who grew up with CKY in the late ’90s/early ’00s will find plenty to enjoy with Synergy Restored, but so will fans of modern hard rock/metal.
Aurora Borealis – Prophecy Is The Mold In Which History Is Poured (Hammerheart)
Prophecy Is The Mold In Which History Is Poured is the eighth album from the veteran American black/death metal band Aurora Borealis. There are similarities to band like Melechesh with Middle Eastern stylings. The cascading guitar riffs are quite appealing in the hardcore fashion they are presented in. The overall feeling the album holds is effective and makes for a moody presence.
This album progresses nicely and makes its way towards a interesting climax. Aurora Borealis’ multi-faceted nature is compelling and shows the band flexing their muscles nicely. There is a good deal of variety present and the band always brings their most interesting foot forward. Fans of bands like Melechesh and Nocturnus will find a lot to like here. The cacophony created is really positive and shows a great determination on the part of the band.
Black Anvil – Regenesis (Season Of Mist)
USBM veterans Black Anvil took their time between albums. Their fifth full-length comes five years after As Was. The title Regenesis indicates a new beginning, and they do have a new record label.
Soundwise, Regenesis isn’t a dramatic change from Black Anvil’s previous albums, just the progression you’d expect from a creative band. It’s a dynamic album, shifting between intense black metal and very melodic moments, as well as a mix of harsh and clean vocals. Tracks like “8-bit Terror” are dark and menacing, but also extremely catchy. The rawness of their early days can be heard on songs such as “29,” while “NYC Nightmares” has a more modern approach. Regenesis is a well-rounded and engaging album that incorporates everything from punk to industrial in its black metal approach.
Black Mirrors – Tomorrow Will Be Without Us (Napalm)
Belgian rockers Black Mirrors emerged in 2017 with their debut EP, with their debut full-length not far behind. Their sophomore album is Tomorrow Will Be Without Us.
The band is inspired by ’90s grunge rock, combining that style with a modern hard rock approach. The result is songs with plenty of groove and punch along with accessible hooks. Vocalist Marcella Di Troia is a versatile vocalist that sings with both power and subtlety in a range of styles from blues to pop to grunge. She elevates songs like “Lost In Desert” and “Through The Eyes Of A Giant” to a higher level. Their genre is a crowded one, but Black Mirrors have the talent to stand out.
Devin Townsend – Lightwork (InsideOut)
Devin Townsend fans have been treated to a lot of releases over the past few years. There have been numerous EPs and live albums along with two studio albums last year. His latest album is Lightwork.
It’s not-as-heavy Devy, a collection of songs that are melodic and accessible, though certainly not simple. There are relatively straightforward numbers like “Equinox” and the catchy “Call Of The Void” with Townsend venturing into more progressive territory on songs like the spacey “Heartbreaker” and ten minute closer “Children Of God.” The intensity amps up a bit on the industrial-tinged “Dimensions,” with some harsh vocals contrasting the catchy melodies. Townsend albums are varied, creative, challenging and interesting, with Lightwork following that path.
Funeral Harvest – Redemptio (Signal Rex)
Featuring the members of Plog, Fides Inversa, Beyond Man and more, the international black metal act Funeral Harvest cast their first evil seeds in 2017. They spent a few more years for those seeds to become an infernal demon. Redemptio, their first studio album, is that infernal demon.
Redemptio is dark, ominous, and a full-fledged relentless Norwegian black metal record. You can call it raw, you can call it old school, you can call it modern black metal. The suffocating darkness of Redemptio has no boundaries and is as wide as the history of black metal. At the moment when you feel that it is the end of malevolence, suddenly they make the flame of Satan’s wickedness even more ablaze. Redemptio is a grand tribute to the sound of Northern black metal veterans, a magnificent ritual for those who love black metal severely satanic.
Ingested – Ashes Lie Still (Metal Blade)
The pandemic compelled many musicians to re-evaluate their lives and careers, and English metallers Ingested were no exception. Already well over a decade into their career at the time, the group took stock and slimmed down to a trio for Ashes Lie Still. Many bands perform best when they have something to prove, and Ingested are no different. Sitting somewhere between modern death metal and deathcore, there are more high-octane slams than WrestleMania weekend (“Tides of Glass” in particular delivers on this front).
Aside from the hyper-aggressive pummelling, driven by a diet of groovy riffs, fast drumming, and guttural vocals, there are moments of genuine atmosphere, such as “Scratch the Vein.” The title track, inspired by a family tragedy, infuses a haunting edge accentuated by guest vocals from Julia Frau. Other appearances beef up proceedings. Aborted vocalist Sven De Caluwe drops by on suitably crushing “From Hollow Words,” a collaboration worthy of the two acts. Trivium’s Matt Heafy also lends an extra edge to the ethereal, yet punishing “All I’ve Lost.” Ashes Lie Still ought to consolidate Ingested’s status as one of modern extreme metal’s more exciting hopes.
Legions Of The Night – Hell (Pride & Joy)
The German band Legions Of The Night were formed during the pandemic by vocalist Henning Basse (Firewind, Metalium), guitarist/bassist Jens Faber (Dawn Of Destiny, Malefistum) and drummer Philipp Bock (Dawn Of Destiny). A year after their debut, they return with Hell.
The band shares a love of Savatage, which can be heard in their heavy/power metal approach, but they bring their own style to the table. The arrangements are bombastic, with symphonic elements bringing depth to many of the tracks. Basse is an excellent vocalist whose versatility and range is one of the album’s strengths. There are uptempo numbers along with soaring ballads such as “The Memory Remains.” Appropriately enough, the album closes with a cover of the Savatage song “When The Crowds Are Gone.” It’s a bit long, but Hell still manages to be engaging throughout.
Ninth Realm – A Fate Unbroken (Mercenary Press)
There are no positive vibes to pick up from Ninth Realm’s debut album, A Fate Unbroken, a seething take on crossover thrash metal. Even the obligatory instrumental opener is ominous in its synth-laden discharge. There’s a cloud of dread over songs like “Armageddon’s Howl” and the title track, as the band heads towards it while everyone else runs away.
Though thrash metal is their power source, Ninth Realm include hardcore and heavy metal in their music. There are several songs with smooth guitar harmonies that could’ve come straight out of 1984, and they can catch themselves in a charged groove tailored to be inflamed by a circling mosh pit. A Fate Unbroken may have an ill intent behind its lyrical approach, but its thrashy kickback will put grins on faces.
R.A.M.B.O. – Defy Extinction (Relapse)
Philly hardcore veterans R.A.M.B.O. return for the first time since their initial run from 1999-2007 with a full-length LP Defy Extinction. This is fast and furious punk played with the metallic edge of bands like Integrity and Municipal Waste. The 1-2 punch of “River of Birds” and “Who Let the Sheepdogs Out” has heaviness and hilarity in excess, while the latter has an excellent breakdown towards the end. Vocalist Tony Croasdale’s street punk aesthetic works on “Authorities > Authority” in a surprisingly melodic way while he shouts over the top of the song adding more to this circus-like mix of punk styles.
Nary a subject matter is left uncovered by the band including the outro spoken section “Youtube Disasters” about amassing misinformation and acting like an expert on several subjects. The whole package is an amorphous punk band finding a style and delivering it for a song or two and shifting gears to do it all again albeit in a different style. Defy Extinction is the most fun punk rock album of 2022.
Strychnos – A Mother’s Curse (Dark Descent)
The origins of Strychnos dates back to the late 1990s, with various demos and EPs released on and off over the last 25 years. A Mother’s Curse is the Danish group’s first full-length album, a well-aged take on black/death metal that doesn’t sacrifice mood in favor of bludgeoning recklessness. That is helped by songs that span as far as the seven-minute mark, which lets the band edge towards heightened outrage more slowly.
“Horror Sacred Torture Divine” and “Regiments Of The Betrayed” do an excellent job at this, and their back-to-back place in the center of the album is an ingenious move. No song goes into pure overdrive, though opener “Traumer” sets off a wicked course without taking any shortcuts. It’s been a long road for Strychnos to release A Mother’s Curse, but those decades strengthened their vicious resolve.
Voivod – Ultraman (Century Media)
After releasing their latest full-length Synchro Anarchy in February, Canadian legends Voivod return with the EP Ultraman.
It’s a tribute to the Ultraman TV series themes, with some vocals in Japanese, others in English. The three tracks on the digital version clock in at barely more than two minutes. It’s rounded out by two live tracks, “Overreaction” and “Voivod” from 2018’s Return To Morgoth 35th anniversary show. The vinyl edition has more content, with numerous variations of the themes. Voivod covering a TV theme is a complete novelty, more worth posting on social media than making an actual release, but the two live tracks make it a little more worthwhile.