This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Acid Witch, Armed For Apocalypse, The Bobby Lees, Cloud Rat, Ellefson/Soto, Faceless Burial, Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners, Goatwhore, Incantation, Maraton, Parius, Ritual Dictates, Teramaze and Wednesday 13.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Acid Witch – Rot Among Us (Hells Headbangers)
With Halloween approaching, all the witches are gathering for the new Acid Witch album Rot Among Us. It’s their fourth proper and first since 2017’s Evil Sound Screamers. Complete with spooky samples and keyboard use which are Acid Witch staples, the title track makes ample use of these in conjunction with doom riffs and infernal incantations. “The Sleeper” features sections that seem like they would be pulled from dream sequences evoking nightmarish feelings while hearing the word “sleep” shouted from off in the distance.
As you can imagine with a band such as this, that a sense of humor is present and on “Evil Dad (Dad By Dawn)” you get exactly that. The song title and hearing witch-like voices chanting and singing the album’s title is pretty hilarious. Overall, Rot Among Us is a spooky affair with a flair for horror and doom that continues to go unmatched in today’s metal scene.
Armed For Apocalypse – Ritual Violence (Candlelight)
When you see a band’s name is Armed For Apocalypse and their album is titled Ritual Violence, there are certain expectations. There’s no shortage of extremity or brutality in the California sludge metal band’s first album in nearly a decade, and third overall.
The heaviness rarely subsides, but Armed For Apocalypse still manage to change things up by shifting tempos. Songs like “Frail” start as all out ragers, but ease back into a crushing midtempo pace. “Full Of Phlegm” crawls by at a glacial tempo. There are also short, two and three minute songs on Ritual Violence along with songs in the 5 minute range and the nearly seven minute closer “Eternally Broken.” It’s an effective mix of intense and groovy sludge.
The Bobby Lees – Bellevue (Ipecac)
When an album is released on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings, there’s a good chance it’s going to be interesting and unique. That’s the case with The Bobby Lee‘s latest album Bellevue. Frontwoman Sam Quartin once lived near New York’s Bellevue Mental Hospital, which inspired the album title.
Bellevue is a mix of hard rock, garage rock and punk. The songs are razor sharp and short. Many are fast and catchy, such as “Death Train” and The Bobby Lee’s change things up from time to time, such as on “Strange Days,” which features just Quartin and a sparse piano for the first half or so before it kicks in. Their style is inspired by bands like Sonic Youth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Blondie. It’s sometimes edgy and raw bordering and chaotic, other times more controlled and accessible, and always compelling.
Cloud Rat – Threshold (Artoffact)
Although Cloud Rat established their distinctive sound in early days of the band’s formation, it was 2019’s Pollinator that defined their name as a unique and insane band. Now, what we are witnessing in Threshold is a full-scale conquest, an enthralling work that will keep Cloud Rat under the spotlight.
Emotional and passionate, Threshold represents a personal interpretation of grindcore that thirsts to merge experimental music, thrash metal and melodic punk elements. With its madly dynamic and outstanding composition, production and performances, especially Madison Marshall on vocals, Threshold becomes a monstrous creature that does not rely on a single bit of peace, and its maddened roar breaks the chains and boundaries and spreads its rage in the air. Grindcore has always had madness and mania at its core, but what Cloud Rat have done here is a sensational piece of craftsmanship that can easily take that madness and mania to the next level.
Ellefson/Soto – Vacation In The Underworld (Rat Pak)
While he was in Megadeth, David Ellefson participated in quite a few collaborations and side projects. No longer a member of that band, he’s pursuing other opportunities, one of which is Ellefson/Soto. He has teamed up with legendary vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman, Sons Of Apollo) for Vacation In The Underworld. The band’s lineup is rounded out by guitarist/keyboardist Andy Martongelli (Arthemis) and drummer Paulo Caridi (Geoff Tate).
Their music is straightforward traditional metal with ample hooks and catchy choruses. Tracks such as “Like A Bullet” and “The Reason” are radio ready. Soto’s vocal performance, as you’d expect, is excellent. There are several memorable songs that expertly blend heaviness and accessibility. There are also a few filler songs that don’t really move the needle. Vacation In The Underworld is a solid debut from a group of talented musicians.
Faceless Burial – At The Foothills Of Deliration (Dark Descent)
At The Foothills Of Deliration the third full-length from Australian death dealers Faceless Burial. It shows the band firing on all cylinders and crafting something pummeling and intelligent at the same time. The music is tight throughout and this leads to a solid recording, though it feels somewhat generic, even when compared to its predecessor.
Still, the performances stand out and make this another belter of an album from Faceless Burial and a good indicator of the band’s future. This is heavy in a really positive fashion. People going into the album expecting it to be revolutionary will be disappointed, but those looking for a solid death metal showcase will be gladly justified. There really is a whole lot to like here and it is shown through the focus of the band’s efforts.
Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners – Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners (Wicked Cool)
Ginger’s namesake band, The Wildhearts, stood out from the hard rock pack of the early 1990s by mashing up heavenly Beatle-esque melodies and gorgeous harmonies with bone-crushing Metallica-ish riffs and the reckless abandon of NOFX. Two recent releases by the reunited original band have been critical successes, but the apparent return of intraband squabbles may have contributed to Ginger wandering over to this rootsy/Americana-ish side project, Ginger Wildheart & The Sinners.
On their self-titled debut, take the above description, but swap in Bruce Springsteen and the Georgia Satellites in place of Metallica and NOFX. Ginger’s uncanny melodic sense is carried over successfully in the hooky “Footsteps In The Sand,” which also drips with gorgeous harmonies. But the drunken drawl of “Lately Always,” while hummable in its own right, is a long way from The Wildhearts bruising crunch. It’s a fine listen, but far from “heavy.”
Goatwhore – Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven (Metal Blade)
NOLA extreme metal masters Goatwhore are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Their eighth full-length Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven comes five years after Vengeful Ascension, the longest gap between albums in their career.
It’s also the longest album of their career, though at 47 minutes isn’t exactly bloated. They deliver a combination of black, death and thrash metal that’s sometimes dense and crushing, other times groovier and more melodic. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises, though Goatwhore always manage to throw something different into the mix, such as cinematic moments in the title track and the dynamic closer “And I Was Delivered From the Wound Of Perdition.” Fierce vocals from Ben Falgoust and Sammy Duet and Goatwhore’s masterful mix of genres makes Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven another strong addition to their impressive body of work.
Incantation – Tricennial Of Blasphemy (Relapse)
Death metal pioneers Incantation have been around since the late ’80s. They’ve had a bunch of lineup changes over the years, with frontman John McEntee the lone remaining original member. Their latest studio album was 2020’s Sect Of Vile Divinities. Now they are going to the vaults, celebrating 30 years of releasing albums with the three disc rarities collection Tricennial Of Blasphemy.
The material covers a wide span of the band’s career. It includes a demo version of “Impending Diabolical Conquest” with vocals from Mortician’s Will Rahmer. The first two songs on the compilation are previously unreleased, with the others taken from a variety of sources ranging from a Decibel flexi disc to soundtracks to compilations. There are also seven live songs, recorded between 2010 and 2014. Incantation fans will enjoy digging into the 31 tracks in the collection while looking forward to the next three decades.
Maraton – Unseen Color (Indie)
Prog, rock, and pop form a tight bond on Maraton’s second album, Unseen Color. These three merge into an entity that allows for variations from song to song, not beholden to a specific genre. Their last album had a noisier execution, leaning close to metal at points. On Unseen Color, the group takes a more melodic route.
It’s a maturation in progress, as lovely tunes like the symphonic “A Body Of Your Own” or the understated intro to opener “In Syzygy” weren’t a common sight before. Keys add an electronic bounce to Unseen Color, guaranteed to translate to a flowing energy of jumping bodies in a packed venue. With lyrics inspired by everything from geometry to the works of German author Franz Kafka, Maraton are able to make what would be traditional songs about heartache and pain profound.
Parius – The Signal Heard Throughout Space (Willowtip)
Parius have gone full prog with The Signal Heard Throughout Space, an hour-long opus about a captain who searches for the source of a distress call out in space. The captain’s ship is named “Cygnus-1,” a not-too-subtle nod to Rush and the two books of “Cygnus X-1.” This is the group’s first real attempt at progressive metal, their previous releases being focused on melodic death metal.
It’s as if Parius were formed and purposed to be this iteration all along, as this is a mesmerizing release that reinvents their sound in unexpected ways. Bringing in a full-time keyboardist emphasizes this sonic transformation, as well as vocalist Louis Thierry singing for a majority of the album instead of snarling his way through like in the past (though some of that still comes out on occasion). The Signal Heard Throughout Space goes all in on prog metal for one of the best albums of 2022.
Ritual Dictates – No Great Loss (Artoffact)
In just two years, Ritual Dictates have gone from quirky death metal to brooding gothic metal with No Great Loss. They haven’t gotten rid of the death metal, as evident by “Burn The Widow” and the final minutes of “Succumbing To The Ravages of Age.” However, with regards to that second song, it starts out as an acoustic ballad with mournful singing. The group definitely have put all their creative efforts into gothic gloom with their sophomore album, one that has a bit of a latter-day Ulver atmosphere to it.
“Aqua Tofana,” which features excellent vocals from Unleash The Archers’ Brittney Slayes, could’ve fit in somewhere on The Assassination Of Julius Caesar. No Great Loss is likely to be as divisive as that album was, yet just like that one, Ritual Dictates prove to be more interesting the further they step away from their original sound.
Teramaze – Flight Of The Wounded (Wells)
It has been a prolific last few years for the veteran Australian progressive metal band Teramaze. After issuing albums in 2019 and 2020 followed by two new records last year, they are back with Flight Of The Wounded. After a rotating cast of singers over the years, founding guitarist Dean Wells also assumed vocal duties beginning with 2020’s I Wonder.
He has proven to be more than serviceable as a lead singer, with an emotional delivery along with plenty of power and range. The songs on Flight Of The Wounded are meticulously arranged with a lot of atmospheric keyboards. The album opens with the ambitious 11 minute title track that blends memorable melodies with progressive forays and lengthy instrumental sections. Most of the tracks are lengthy, but have enough ebb and flow to maintain interest throughout. The production is crisp, the songs well-written and the musicianship flawless, making Flight Of The Wounded another top-notch Teramaze release.
Wednesday 13 – Horrifier (Napalm)
There’s plenty to like about Wednesday 13. The horror-punk mainstay’s work ethic, both in the studio and on the road is admirable. He’s a blast to interview, too. Which is why it’s been disappointing that outside of fleeting moments of quality, the former Murderdolls vocalist’s solo endeavors haven’t consistently hit the mark. Horrifier has its moments, and contains some of his heaviest material, but doesn’t really buck this trend.
His ninth full-length straddles metal, punk, glam and rock in a groovy manner diehards will be well-accustomed to. There’s also the trademark nods to his horror movie fandom, such as Halloween-inspired effort “Return to Haddonfield.” There’s plenty of energy apparent in “Exhume and Devour” and “You’re So Hideous.” Several songs lack any real catchiness or distinctive qualities though; “Good Day To Be A Bad Guy’s main hook isn’t strong enough to justify its seemingly endless repetition. However, Horrifier closes with the strikingly heartfelt “The Other Side,” which Wednesday penned about the sudden loss of his mother, and also Murderdolls bandmate Joey Jordison. Fans of the scene’s number one ghoul-scout will happily sink their teeth into this LP, but it seems unlikely to win any new converts to the cause.