This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aborted, Anette Olzon, Dawn Fades, GWAR, Hawkwind, Inglorious, Lvcifyre, Mastiff, Pa Vesh En, Seven Spires and Zealot R.I.P.
Ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aborted – ManiaCult (Century Media)
The veteran Belgian death metal band Aborted have been around for more than a quarter century. They’ve had a lot of lineup changes over the years, with frontman Sven de Clauwe the only constant. For their eleventh full-length ManiaCult they have trimmed down from a quintet to a quartet.
Having one guitarist instead of two hasn’t affected their potent death metal approach. Suffocating brutality and throat shredding vocals are tempered by atmospherics and groove. Also adding to the diversity on this album are guest vocalists on four different tracks. They include Joe Badalato (Fit For An Autopsy), Flip Danielsson (Humanity’s Last Breath), Ryo Kinoshita (Crystal Lake) and Ben Duerr (Shadow Of Intent). Aborted are a well-oiled death metal machine that write songs that are technical and complex without sacrificing groove and melody.
Anette Olzon – Strong (Frontiers)
After five years in Nightwish, Anette Olzon has been part of a few different projects. Last year she released an album with Symphony X’s Russell Allen, and has also issued a couple of records with The Dark Element. It has been seven years since her debut solo album, and for her second effort Strong Olzon teamed up with Magnus Karlsson (Heart Healer, Primal Fear).
Strong has symphonic elements and is heavier than her debut. Things like harsh male vocals from Johan Husgafvel add to that heaviness. But the songs are also very melodic and catchy with a lot of hooks and singalong choruses. Songs like the uptempo “Parasite” and power ballad “Sad Lullaby” are radio ready and very memorable. Olzon has an expressive singing style and plenty of range that makes the songs even more compelling. Those who enjoyed the Olzon era of Nightwish should appreciate this album.
Dawn Fades – Ode (Metal Assault)
From Los Angeles, California, Dawn Fades once again have released an atmospheric and theatrical work. Ode, which in every way follows the doctrine of the band’s impressive self-titled debut album, once again takes the listener on an emotional and dramatic journey.
Opening with the epic song “Dearth,” Ode blends several sub-genres in a regular and precise way. Post metal is ridden on doom metal. Doom metal flows in the spirit of shoegaze; and with the advent of harsh vocals, it constantly adds black metal to the soul of the songs. These exchanges between clean and harsh vocals give the music a conversational and theatrical form. Every moment of Ode is full of multi-layered melodies and silky riffs that, when combined, create a deep, bleak and psychedelic perspective. Ode is noteworthy, following the ideas that have already been heard in many musical works. But Dawn Fades excitingly develop the same ideas enough to turn their latest album into an expressive work.
GWAR – Scumdogs Live (Pit)
There’s no shortage of GWAR material for the Bohabs this year. A few months back there was the acoustic EP The Disc With No Name, and now last year’s pay per view extravaganza Scumdogs Live is being released.
A lot of the GWAR experience is visual, so it’s appropriate this is being released on DVD in addition to CD. There’s a ton of bonus material on the DVD plus audio commentary from the band. The 15 song setlist includes all of 1990’s Scumdogs Of The Universe, though not in the original order, plus two songs from their 1988 debut Hell-O!. A tight musical set along with funny banter between songs makesScumdogs Live an enjoyable show.
Hawkwind- Somnia (Cherry Red)
I’ll admit that I write this review as a relative newcomer to space rock pioneers Hawkwind, a band from my list of, “I should listen to them at some point.” As a fan of contemporaries such as Pink Floyd, Captain Beyond, and sonic descendants the Flaming Lips, I expected their latest opus, Somnia, to be an out-of-this-world feast for the senses, and on that score, it does not disappoint.
However, fans of more traditional songcraft may find their minds wandering during 10-minute droning epics, like leadoff track “Insomnia.” True to their early-’70s aesthetic, traditional song structures take a backseat to a trippy vibe and headphone ear candy. But the sporadic blasts of hard rock crunch from “Strange Encounters” and choice cut “I Can’t Get You Off My Mind” reward the listener’s patience. Interesting side note: the vinyl version omits a few tracks and features a slightly different running order.
Inglorious – Heroine (Frontiers)
A mere seven months after the release of their fourth studio album, hard rock quartet Inglorious have used their pandemic-induced free time to record another album, Heroine, on which they pay homage to the women who have inspired them through 11 covers. From Tina Turner to Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Houston to Avril Lavigne, the repertoire on display here includes some of rock and pop’s most iconic voices, filtered through a modern hard rock lens.
Covering such impressive singers is a daunting challenge, but one which frontman Nathan James accomplishes with aplomb. With a few exceptions, like “Barracuda” and “Bring Me To Life,” his powerful and agile tenor voice is the star of the show, especially on “Midnight Sky,” “Queen of the Night” and “Uninvited.” The arrangements and guitar work are excellent, and the solos feel like they always belonged on the original song. Overall, this record is a pleasant journey through rock and pop history, with a few dull passages and plenty of choice moments.
Lvcifyre – The Broken Seal (Dark Descent)
The Broken Seal, the third full-length from the UK band Lvcifyre, is a very abrasive black metal attack that makes its mark upon you with its brutal approach. The mixture of black and death metal is effective and shows a band at their peak. Although the style is powerful, it lacks melody, and this leads to a sort of one-dimensional release.
Though there is a mixture of styles, it is still a rather straightforward album overall. The music could be made more organic and natural sounding as it somewhat raw in its approach. This style leads to a release that is punishing at times, but also relatively dull as well, which could be bolstered with dynamics. The rather brutish approach is sustained through the length of the release and never indicates anything overly interesting. As such, this is a mildly appealing release that is too harsh and static to be truly fulfilling. If the band added more dynamics they would be more interesting.
Mastiff – Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth (eOne)
Mastiff hail from the UK, bringing the heavy via their own brand of slow sludge combined with pummeling hardcore. Leave Me The Ashes Of The Earth is the band’s third album proper and their first for eOne, giving them more exposure than they have had before. “The Hiss” serves as a long and slow intro before “Fail” brings you to the level of speed the band properly operates at, think Eyehategod with elements of High On Fire, played at furious speeds which have a tendency to crash to a halt.
“Repulse” is a well-oiled hardcore machine of a song capable of toppling an entire planet, like Crowbar levels of heavy if most of it was spent dragging unwilling bodies behind it at a snail’s pace. Most of the album is able to keep listeners guessing with the amount of tempo changes between tracks, but it certainly is about as heavy as it gets for an album. Hardcore, sludge, doom, on constant shuffle, even blended together well. Mastiff, much like the animal they take their name from, are large and powerful and there is no guesswork required.
Pa Vesh En – Maniac Manifest (Iron Bonehead)
Since emerging in 2017, the Belarusian band Pa Vesh En has been mysterious, eschewing social media, and also prolific. They have released a couple demos, three EPs, and now their third full-length Maniac Manifest.
While the depressive black metal style remains on Maniac Manifest, elements of traditional black metal are more prominent this time around. The production is murky, with vocals buried deep in the mix. There are some impressive guitar riffs, especially on songs like “Chamber Of The Rotten Flesh,” as chaos and groove ebb and flow. Pa Vesh En alternate lengthy songs such as the seven plus minute “In the Wood Of Hanged Men” with more streamlined tracks. Those who like their black metal on the raw side, but with some melody, should appreciate Pa Vesh En.
Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery (Frontiers)
After issuing their sophomore album last year, it’s a quick turnaround for the Boston symphonic metal band Seven Spires for their new record Gods Of Debauchery. There was no shortage of creativity, as there are 16 tracks on the album that clocks in at about an hour.
Seven Spires’ arrangements are symphonic, but they also incorporate everything from black to death metal. Adrienne Cowan gives another impressive vocal performance, shifting smoothly from mainstream sounding melodic singing to death metal growls and higher pitched rasps. Songs like “Ghost Of Yesterday” and “Dare To Live” emphasize singing, with only a few growls, while the ratio of harsh vocals is higher on songs such as “Gods Amongst Men.” There are also a few songs with exclusively melodic singing. The centerpiece of the album is the 10 plus minute “This God Is Dead.” While the album could have benefitted from some streamlining, it shows Seven Spires’ musicianship, songwriting chops and versatility.
Zealot R.I.P. – The Extinction Of You (Three One G)
The lineup of Zealot R.I.P. includes some extreme metal veterans such as Pig Destroyer’s Blake Harrison, Darkest Hour’s Mike Schleibaum, Battery’s Jason Hamacher and Fairweather’s Peter Tsouras. They released an EP in 2019, and their latest is The Extinction Of You.
The seven songs clock in at just 15 minutes or so, but leave an impact. They blend metal and hardcore, shifting from uptempo songs like the title track to more deliberate, crushing numbers such as “Worship The Serpent.” The best song title is “Magnetic Field Of Dreams,” which incorporates some thrashy moments, as does “Ambush Predator.” After six short songs the album closes with the nearly six minute “Covered In Flies,” that has some doomy sections along with dense, chaotic parts. Zealot R.I.P. don’t overstay their welcome, wreaking maximum havoc in a brief amount of time, leaving the listener wanting more.