This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from 1000 Bone Cylinder Explosion, Alkuhamonian Kantaja, Big|Brave, The Body, Bummer, Charred, Doro, Enslaved, Full Of Hell, Hrom, Katatonia, Kryptos, Lavaborne, Snares Of Sixes and Wage War.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
1000 Bone Cylinder Explosion is the byproduct of Peter Hraur’s overactive sonic imagination, the Lor guitarist taking the reins on his own for the band’s debut album, Bind. Only his Lor bandmate, drummer Greg Bogart, helps out with any part of the creation of this release. Otherwise, it’s Hraur writing, performing, producing, and mixing everything. Unlike the folkish charm and progressive technicality of Lor, this band is more situated in a manic fusion of black, thrash and death metal.
That isn’t all the band have going on, as there are moments of levity or strangeness to break up the onslaught. The schizophrenic “Forte” packs an alluring intro, deft heaviness, and a mournful piano outro into under 90 seconds. “Aporia” almost goes full ska for a spell, just missing a vibrant horns section. Those that just want their heads torn off will get that with whiplash-inducing cuts like “Start” and “Glitch.” There is something for almost any metal fan on Bind.
Alkuharmonian Kantaja – Shadowy Peripherals (I, Voidhanger)
Alkuharmonian Kantaja put an avant-garde spin on black metal with Shadowy Peripherals, an album without strict limits. The vocals seamlessly jump between gothic croons and raspy terror, as if there’s a case of split personality going on in real time. There are parts of the album that could be considered “traditional,” yet there’s an air of unpredictability even when they band is in a feral mood. The omnipresent keyboards add some mystery to the proceedings, though never becoming a distraction.
The usage of cleaner guitar tones and submissive melodies are strong in the album’s second half, where the songs take a few minutes to rev up. The band doesn’t seem to be in any real hurry, though the manageable song lengths avoid the album from dragging. Anyone who keeps up with the releases from I, Voidhanger Records will understand why the label gravitated towards something as eccentric as Shadowy Peripherals.
The Body and Big|Brave – Leaving None But Small Birds (Thrill Jockey)
Not only is Portland extreme music duo The Body prolific (their most recent LP, I’ve Seen All I Need To See, came out in January), they also collaborate more than any other band I can think of. Leaving None But Small Birds is their eighth partnership, and first with Montreal experimental outfit Big|Brave, who just released the excellent Vital this past April.
If one relies on name checks to buy this album, disappointment will prevail. Leaving None But Small Birds is never extreme; rather, this is a delicate yet harrowing, emotional (at times emotionally devastating), and stark record. The songs here are reworkings of traditional folk songs, and if folk music was laced with drone and menace, this collaboration would be folk’s epitome. It’s not particularly heavy, but it sure does stick with you long after the final notes ring out.
Bummer – Dead Horse (Thrill Jockey)
Hailing from Kansas City, noise rock aficionados Bummer pull no punches on the short but sweet Dead Horse. It’s chock full of some of the most bizarre track titles of the year like “Quadruple ZZ Top,” “Magic Cruel Bus” and the spectacular “I Want to Punch Bruce Springsteen in the Dick.” On the aforementioned cock-knocking track, the band slows things down to a crawl with enough fat bass work to make Helmet blush, but with more The Jesus Lizard sensibility.
The shouted vocal styles give a bit of a hardcore vibe adding a touch of what made Unsane so integral to this scene over the course of their existence. Bummer really do an excellent job at delivering the mechanically inclined riffs you expect from noise rock with an excellent level of humor provided through the track titles. Clocking in at just under half an hour, Dead Horse is best played on repeat until unsuspecting listeners realize that Bummer are the boss and not the guy who is currently writhing on the floor.
Charred – Prayers Of Malediction (Horror Pain Gore Death)
Charred’s Prayers Of Malediction is a debut album that executes its death/thrash with some mosh-worthy riffage. There are crossover thrash mannerisms to songs like “Consumed By The Catacombs” and “Incantations Of The Pyromancer,” which seem dead set on getting circle pits moving. They sound genuinely pissed off on “Disseminating Hatred” and “The Means Of Destruction,” squeezing that attitude into under two minutes each.
Only a few tracks go near the three-minute mark, and it’s not a shocker that those songs are the ones that toy with some mid-tempo stomping. The guitars get to expand to more fleshed-out lead work, as some great solos pop in. Charred pack a lot of content into an album that doesn’t even reach 25 minutes, and they don’t waste that time on Prayers Of Malediction.
Doro – Triumph And Agony Live (Rare Diamonds)
When Warlock hit the big time in the late ‘80s with Triumph And Agony, female-fronted metal bands were about as common as sober Motley Crue shows. But despite what, at the time, had some obvious gimmick appeal, Doro’s legendary pipes helped elevate the original Triumph And Agony to classic power metal status. She recently performed the entire record live at the Sweden Rock Festival, and is now releasing it several formats as Triumph And Agony Live.
The tunes are performed out of order from the original, which makes sense considering she’d want to end with the closest thing Warlock had to a hit, earworm singalong “All We Are.” Otherwise, there’s not much here to differentiate from the studio version (unless you care which side of the audience can scream the loudest…). Though you can certainly hear the mileage on Doro’s voice, her distinctive wail still gets those goosebumps going.
Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds (Nuclear Blast)
The last year has been a good one for Enslaved fans. The full-length Utgard was released in October of 2020, and then in June of this year a box set of four live albums was issued. Now, they have recorded a four song EP, Caravans To The Outer Worlds.
The opening title track is extremely diverse, going from icy black metal to dreamy prog and featuring both harsh and clean vocals along with electronic elements. “Ruun II – The Epitaph” also features clean singing and a lot of acoustic guitar. The other two tracks are instrumentals. The title track is head and shoulders above the other three songs, making the EP an enjoyable listen for hardcore fans, but certainly not essential.
Full Of Hell – Garden Of Burning Apparitions (Relapse)
Full Of Hell return with their follow up to 2019’s lauded Weeping Choir. This raucous wreck of noise, powerviolence, death metal etc. has always been the right mixture of all its components without leaning too heavily in one direction. Garden Of Burning Apparitions is just a smidge over the 20 minute mark, putting them firmly in line with other powerviolence bands worth a mention like Spazz and Weekend Nachos, to name a few.
Missing from this album, however, are the monstrous tracks that Trumpeting Ecstasy and Weeping Choir both possessed, namely “At the Cauldron’s Bottom” and “Armory of Broken Glass” both of which saw Full Of Hell push the harsh noise elements aside briefly and allow for something beautiful to take place. You still get the excellent quick hits like “Eroding Shell,” “All Bells Ringing” and “Guided Blight,” but it ultimately feels like it is lacking something big to bring it all home this time around.
Hrom’s Legends of Powerheart: Pt. 2 has been out since 2019, but it’s only now being released on vinyl. Drawing heavily on the tropes of speed and power metal, these 11 songs are full of energy and anthemic melodies. The songwriting, albeit cliché, never feels tired or forced. Lyrically, the album depicts the struggles of Powerheart against cosmic beasts, wizards, and tyrants in a hostile future.
It’s all the cheesy fun you’d expect out of a traditional power metal album. The guitar work is good, with classic twin harmonized leads and pedal-point riffs alternating with frantic soli. The powerful vocals are both the strong point of the album and one of its salient flaws, mostly due to some pretty strained moments and a couple of uncanny back vocals that sound completely removed from the mix. Overall, Legends of Powerheart: Pt. 2 is a fun record that lovers of power metal will enjoy.
Katatonia – Mnemosynean (Peaceville)
Having been around for 30 years and releasing a dozen studio albums, Katatonia have accumulated numerous b-sides and rarities. Those, along with some other goodies, are collected in the double disc Mnemosynean.
The material spans Katatonia’s career. The first disc consists of bonus tracks from The Great Cold Distance, Night Is The New Day, Dead End Kings and Fall Of Hearts. The second disc has more bonus tracks from albums and EPs plus some remixes. The quality of the songs varies, but there are a lot of excellent tracks such as “Sistere,” “Ashen,” “Wait Outside” and “Help Me Disappear.” It’s a comprehensive compilation, and Katatonia fans will appreciate that they are all available in one convenient collection.
Kryptos – Force Of Danger (AFM)
Force Of Danger, the sixth full-length release from the Indian band Kryptos, features a nice traditional flavor. It highly recalls the likes of Traveller and other such bands from the genre.
There is a primal energy that reminds me of early Iron Maiden and is blistering. Nolan Lewis’ vocals are actually not very high-pitched and sort of grimy, but suit the music quite well. The guitars are energetic and lack a bit of bite to them, and more complex song structures could make things more interesting. The sound is still fun and shows a nod to past greats. It is a consistent and high-quality collection of songs, making for an enjoyable listen.
Lavaborne – Black Winged Gods (Wise Blood)
The Indianapolis, Indiana band Lavaborne are issuing their full-length debut album Black Winged Gods four years after they emerged with a self-released demo.
Lavaborne are inspired by the early days of metal, incorporating elements of NWOBHM, power and doom metal. Their influences are bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Candlemass and Black Sabbath. While the music is similar to those groups, the vocals are not. Chris Latta has a baritone voice, though he does stretch to reach some higher notes in places. The pace of the songs is generally uptempo, with some mid-paced groove sections. Slow tempos are scarcer, but they bring the doom on the first half of “Prove Your Worth” before speeding up. Black Winged Gods is not a completely retro sounding album, with some modern influences injected, but overall it has a classic vibe.
Snares Of Sixes – MoonBladder (Nefarious)
Snares Of Sixes is the solo project of ex-Agalloch bassist Jason Walton, who has spent the years since their dissolution working with other bands such as Khorada and Sculptured. MoonBladder, comprised of a single track lasting almost 30 minutes, veers away from metal into an ambient/experimental category. Long passages of electronics are mixed in with field recordings and other low-key instrumentation, making for a non-linear experience with limited vocals (reserved for the final few minutes).
The song stays in first gear for its entirety, hinting on some sort of push ahead at times, like a rumbling drum line that appears halfway through only to disappear just as quickly. Walton gathered an impressive collection of collaborators to help him, including members of Kayo Dot and Dreadnought, and his vision is never compromised. MoonBladder has its intricacies that become clearer after a few listens but getting to the point of hearing this in full that much is a challenge.
Wage War – Manic (Fearless)
The Florida metalcore band Wage War have been around for a about a decade and have been releasing albums for five. Manic is their fourth studio record, and like the previous three, has a one-word title.
They have a modern sound, blending electronics with heavy guitars and a blend of screaming and singing vocals. While most songs alternate the two vocal styles, “High Horse” has all harsh vocals, but some of the catchiest riffs on the record. The ballad “Never Said Goodbye” is the album’s most accessible and radio-ready song. The title track is a little different, utilizing a hip-hop vibe in parts of the song alongside the intensity. Manic is more varied than the typical metalcore album.