This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Apallic, Behemoth, Beyond Grace, Carnifex, Deformatory, Feral Lord, Lady Beast, Malison, Mysterizer, The Night Flight Orchestra, The Picturebooks, Portrait Rise To The Sky and Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Apallic – Edge Of Desolation (Kernkraftritter)
Edge Of Desolation, the second full-length from the German progressive death metal band Apallic, has a crushing weight that makes the riffs massive in their delivery. This is shown by a jackhammer type of style that has both finesse and power. The sound is punishing and bolstered by a huge production job that does the riffs justice. There is some melody involved as well, but a greater focus is placed on the bludgeoning aspect of the band. The amount of variety adds depth to their sound.
Apallic are consistently enthralling and never fail to pack a punch. On their second album they fully live up to their potential because they are able to blend sounds in an innovative fashion that always sounds fresh. If there is a downside to the band it lies in the vocals, which are not as interesting as the instruments involved. The guitar work and drumming are quite noteworthy and make everything more vibrant and colorful. On the whole, this is a recommended death metal album.
Behemoth – Sventevith (Storming Near The Baltic) (Metal Blade)
In 2021, Behemoth are one of extreme metal’s most well-known and successful bands. Back in 1995 they had released four demos and were pretty much unknown. Their introduction to most was the full-length Sventevith (Storming Near The Baltic), which is being reissued.
Only Nergal remains from that lineup, which played more straightforward black metal. It would take a while for their black/death sound to evolve. On Sventevith (Storming Near The Baltic), there are also folk elements, utilizing acoustic sections such as on the interlude “A Touch Of Nya.” Extremity is not in short supply, but even back then Behemoth understood the importance of dynamics, melody and variety. The 2021 edition of the album includes an unreleased track and seven live songs. It’s interesting to hear Behemoth’s evolution over the years, and they got off to a strong start with Sventevith (Storming Near The Baltic).
UK death metal crew Beyond Grace return with their second album Our Kingdom Undone, which follows up 2017’s Seekers. There are a lot of dynamics that make Beyond Grace a fun band to listen to. They vary their approach within the same songs, riffs wash off the listener, guitar solos, fat bass lines and vocalist Andy Walmsley does a great job of changing from guttural gruff vocals to the more intense shrieks. “Barmecide Feast” is a perfect example of all of these things.
“Hive Mind” introduces some spoken word sections to balance out the brutality and technicality all in one fell swoop. The title track closes out the album with a 12 minute swirling maelstrom of punishment for the listener. But if the rest of the album clicked with you, consider this track to be the encapsulation of who Beyond Grace and this album are: up and comers with a tight feel on the genre as a whole. Our Kingdom Undone is a solid modern death metal album with old school execution.
Carnifex – Graveside Confessions (Nuclear Blast)
SoCal deathcore destroyers Carnifex have been around for more than 15 years now, and pay homage to their early days on their eighth full-length Graveside Confessions.
Blastbeats and intense riffs drive the album, but the addition of atmospherics on songs like “Seven Souls” and the mellow instrumental “January Nights” give them more depth. And even though Scott Lewis’ vocals are aggressive and harsh, guitar melodies make for many surprisingly catchy moments. In addition to the 12 new songs, Carnifex revisit their 2005 debut album Dead In My Arms, re-recording three songs from that record. That makes for an album that’s 63 minutes, much longer than the typical Carnifex effort.
Five years after the release of the acclaimed Malediction, Deformatory are making a glorious comeback with their third studio album Inversion Of The Unseen Horizon. The Canadian duo have expanded the world of Malediction with an outstanding production and given the contemporary technical/brutal death metal structure a deeper perspective.
From the beginning to its very end, Inversion… is crushing and cruel. As much as the complexity and originality of the songwriting on this album is remarkable, it is the influential powerful performances of Neil Grandy on drums and Charlie Leduc on guitars and vocals that does not separate the album from the mood of savagery and destruction for a moment. Featuring Jon Levasseur (ex-Cryptopsy) on a track, Deformatory connect the worlds of Hate Eternal, Origin and Cryptopsy, and give birth to a rebellious monster whose roar resonates throughout the history of technical/brutal death metal. Inversion Of The Unseen Horizon consolidates Deformatory’s position as one of the finest acts in the Canadian metal scene.
Feral Lord – Purity Of Corruption (Vargheist)
Earlier this year, the tech death group Acausal Intrusion released their debut album. The same duo of Nythroth (vocals, guitar, bass) and Cave Ritual (drums) also have a black metal band Feral Lord. After an EP last year, they emerge with their full-length debut Purity Of Corruption.
From the opening track “Terrestrial Obstructions” Feral Lord shift tempos and textures, going from grooves to chaos and back again. Bludgeoning blastbeats are contrasted by melodic riffs and the usual harsh black metal style vocals. Even on songs like “Sinister Exultation” that are intense most of the way through, a doomy intro and brief respites make for songs that are varied and interesting. Though the musical style isn’t anything new, the way Feral Lord approach it is compelling.
Lady Beast – Omens (Reaper Metal)
If you’re looking for consistently strong traditional heavy metal, look no further than Lady Beast. These Pittsburgh vets have been hammering out quality NWOBHM (laced with plenty of ’70s influences) for over a decade, and Omens is a five-song EP that follows their fourth album, last year’s excellent The Vulture’s Amulet.
There’s no wheel being reinvented on Omens and that’s perfectly fine. Lady Beast have written four top-notch killer tunes and thrown in a raucous cover of Rainbow’s “Kill the King” to boot. The energy, riffs, arrangement, and production are all excellent, and of course Deb Levine kills it in the vocals department. Omens is an EP all of us need to own.
Malison – Death’s Embrace (Metal Assault)
Like Carnifex, who were reviewed earlier in this column, Malison also hail from San Diego, California. But geography is all they have in common with Carnifex. The band’s second album Death’s Embrace blends traditional, power metal and neoclassical.
The songs are melodic with clean vocals. And while Malison can certainly shred, the more traditional riffs are solid as well. The arrangements have ample variety, with acoustic moments on “M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction)” and “Death’s Embrace.” They embrace thrash on “Lifehunt” with a nod to Anthrax. And while the songs are technically strong and well-played, a few more catchy hooks would make them even more memorable.
Mysterizer – The Holy War 1095 (Rockshots)
The Finnish heavy/power metal band Mysterizer have had some turnover since their 2019 full-length debut. The Holy War 1095 finds them with three new members.
The album title may lead to the assumption that this is a concept album, but it is not. The title track does tell the story of that war, but other lyrical topics run the gamut from Julius Caesar to witch hunts to Covid-19. Frontman Tomi Kurtti has some Bruce Dickinson elements in his style, and displays plenty of power and range. Mysterizer write songs that are epic and dramatic, but also have catchy hooks. There’s not a ton of originality here, but the execution is excellent.
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic II (Nuclear Blast)
It’s been posited that the majority of high-profile metal musicians are unadulterated rock ‘n’ rollers at their core. Case in point – Soilwork and Arch Enemy personnel having a blast in The Night Flight Orchestra. The band’s prolific nature – Aeromantic II’s their fourth album released since 2017 – would seem to reiterate this sentiment.
These days an eight-person outfit bolstered by a new keyboardist and backing singers, the Swedes have their schtick down-pat. It’s a love letter to the ’80s, a melange of classic rock influences, accentuated by accomplished musicianship and hooks catchier than flypaper. Bjorn “Speed” Strid, among metal’s most versatile voices, revels in belting out downright catchy “Midnight Marvelous” and “Burn For Me”, groovy, danceable “Chardonnay Nights” and pseudo-proggy “Amber Through A Window”. His cohorts are clearly in on the fun, too, and the joy is infectious. There are loving nudge-and-a-winks to the era’s tropes, but this isn’t a form of mockery. The results are akin to curating a Spotify playlist of your favorite AOR artists. But you can save time and just listen to this album instead.
The Picturebooks – The Major Minor Collective (Century Media)
Germany’s The Picturebooks come across like a filthier, heavier Black Keys. The latest in a parade of guitar/drum duos (poor bass players!), dating back to the White Stripes and up through Crown Lands, The Picturebooks have created something unique with The Major Minor Collective by melding the talents of several vocalists from across the modern rock spectrum to their bottom heavy, bluesy grind.
Right from the start, lead track “Here’s To Magic” lets you know you’re in for something unique, with Refused singer Dennis Lyxzén screeching “testify” on the chorus like a deranged Zack de la Rocha. An appearance by Blues Pills’ Elin Larrsen is another highlight, but Lzzy Hale’s guest spot on “Rebel” steals the show – as would a guest appearance from Halestorm’s mistress of metal on pretty much anything she touches – memorable, grooving, and electrifying.
Portrait – At One With None (Metal Blade)
Sweden’s Portrait have been pounding out modern heavy metal for fifteen years now, and At One With None is their fifth album. Aside from adding a full-time bass player to the band, not much has changed since 2017’s Burn The World; the band still cranks out energetic, epic metal influenced more than a little by Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Judas Priest, and more.
At One With None is loaded with gripping material – there’s not a weak track in sight. Musically the band is tight as ever, with plenty of great guitar harmonies and taut arrangements. Per Lengstedt continues to shine on the vocals, channeling his inner King Diamond to great effect. If it wasn’t for the harsh production (everything seems to vie for the same high frequencies) and overly loud mastering, both of which make listening to the entire album at high volume exhausting, Portrait would have a killer album on their hands.
Rise To The Sky – Per Aspera Ad Astra (GS)
After making quite a splash on the underground scene in early 2021 with their album Let Me Drown With You, Chilean death-doom one-man-project Rise To The Sky is releasing yet another full length album. Written immediately after the death of the songwriter’s father, Per Aspera Ad Astra (Latin for “through hardship to the stars”) is an exploration of the earliest moments of grief.
The album comprises seven songs, dominated by crashing waves of mournful guitars and guttural screams, with some sparse clean vocals. Gentle interludes of acoustic guitar and strings offer moments of solemn repose here and there. The production is meticulous, and tastefully shrouded behind a veil of reverb that creates a cold, austere soundscape. Per Aspera’s greatest strength is also it’s one salient flaw: by maintaining such an impeccable atmosphere, the album blurs into a single slab of sadness, without any standout hook. Nonetheless, this is a great album to get lost in while you reflect on the fleeting nature of life.
Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf – Doomsday Deferred (Black Doomba)
For three decades, Tommy Stewart was a member of the thrash band Hallows Eve. In 2015 he started a doom band. He handles vocals and bass, with Eric Vogt on drums. Doomsday Deferred is Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf‘s third full-length.
While thick, sludgy riffs are a constant throughout the album, though from the bass, the band does change up tempos. “Two Trog Yomp” has a brisk pace, as does the instrumental “Madness For Two,” while “Not Prey To Yourself” has the more typical plodding doom pace. Their minimalist approach to doom is an interesting one, eschewing a wall of sound for a rhythm section driven one. That gives tracks like “Indiscriminant Trepidation” a proggy flair. There are a couple compositions that meander, but the majority work well.