Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of April 19, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Ater, Atrae Bilis, Balance Of Power, Engulfed, Folterkammer, Homecoming, Melvins, Selbst, Tomorrow’s Rain, Uragh and The Wraith.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Ater – Somber (Self)

Ater (which means dark and gloomy in Latin) are a well-traveled band. After starting in Chile nearly 15 years, they relocated to Los Angeles and released their debut album in 2018. Frontman Feroz lived in Mexico City during the pandemic, which is where their latest album Somber was created.

The album lives up to its title in attitude and approach. Musically it’s a blend of death metal with groove, black and even some progressive moments. There are lengthy instrumental sections, heavy downtuned riffs and mostly harsh vocals. Tempos lean toward the slow side, picking up only periodically. “Ignis Immortalis” is an outlier, with melodic singing and a more accessible vibe. “Saeculi Fine” also injects a mellow section, making for a more interesting approach. Somber is a solid extreme metal album with ample musical variety.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Atrae Bilis – Aumicide (20 Buck Spin)

Atrae Bilis craft an exoskeleton of sci-fi horror on Aumicide, oozing its tech death through the steel cracks. Guitarist David Stepanavicius has a vocabulary that will make thesaurus enthusiasts cackle in delight, with verbiage like “Brined in a stygian haze, a ruptured peritoneum globs a viscous sac” and “A psychosomatic ingress, the hridayam throbs a lymphatic tar.” Vocalist Jordan Berglund gargles and roars these lines with conviction, not letting the lyrics turn into something cartoonish.

Aumicide shows slight evolution of the group’s riff-centric onslaught with subdued tones and screeching guitar leads. There’s no expansion into full-blown soloing, though their riff game is so strong it’s hardly missed. While “Inward To Abraxas” and “Excruciate Incarnate” have them reaching for loftier heights, “Through The Hologram’s Cervix” is two minutes of auditory slaughter. Atrae Bilis won’t ever fully escape their maniacal side even in the face of expansion.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Massacre Records

Balance Of Power – Fresh From The Abyss (Massacre)

The UK power/prog band Balance Of Power emerged in the mid-’90s and quickly released five albums between 1997 and 2003. Fast forward 20 years and the band is finally releasing a new album. Bassist Tony Ritchie and drummer Lionel Hicks are the only members remaining from their glory days.

New vocalist Hazel Jade gives the band a very different sound. Her voice is in the rock vein, a contrast to the traditional power metal style of longtime vocalist Lance King. The songs are more direct and streamlined, with most in the four to five minute range. Jade’s vocals are powerful and textured that fit well with the heavier approach of the album. Her talents are especially showcased on the closing epic “One More Time Around The Sun.” Fresh From The Abyss is a step in a new direction for Balance Of Power, though many fans of their early albums will be happy to come along for the ride.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Dark Descent Records

Engulfed – Unearthly Litanies Of Despair (Dark Descent)

The metal music scene in Turkey has grown significantly over the past 20 years, and if it has not become one of the most influential, it has undoubtedly become one of the most powerful and impressive scenes. Hailing from Istanbul, Engulfed are releasing their second studio album Unearthly Litanies Of Despair, which builds on the strength of their first album and past EPs, while pushing boundaries ahead.

Unearthly Litanies Of Despair is one of those wrathful death metal albums that mercilessly attacks its listeners. It knows how to fuse the lethal turbulence of old-school death metal with its modern elements, turning its musical horizons into a ruthless creature whose destructive power is borrowed from the formidable, powerful foundations of the band’s pounding nature. Unearthly Litanies Of Despair is an intimidating collection of songs that obsessively collects and reimagines the most exciting indicators of classic death metal to create a ferocious, remarkable work that stands apart from the current, tedious trends in the death metal genre.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Century Media Records

Folterkammer – Weibermacht (Century Media)

Andromeda Anarchia appeared on Imperial Triumphant’s 2018 album Vile Luxury, and in that same time frame Folterkammer were founded, with the lineup including Imperial Triumphant guitarist Zachary Ezrin. Their 2020 debut Die Lederpredigt was a unique combination of black and operatic metal.

Four years later they have signed with Century Media Records for their sophomore effort Weibermacht. Black metal is expertly blended with classical and baroque to create a unique and compelling musical palette. Anarchia is a powerhouse vocalist who is extremely versatile, displaying glass-shattering operatic soprano alongside melodic singing, harsh growls and spoken word, often using all those styles in a single track, such as “Die Unterwerfung.” The lyrics are in German, except for the closer, a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs.” Folterkammer are not your typical symphonic black metal band, with Weibermacht showing a unique approach and flawless execution.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Copper Feast Records

Homecoming – Those We Knew (Copper Feast)

Those We Knew is progressive metal in a sense that it looks beyond the narrow lines that genres form themselves in, as Homecoming define what it means to be forward-thinking. The sophomore album from this French foursome is a stunning blend of so many different sounds that it’s amazing they can put it all together in such a comprehensive manner. Even with the shortest song being over seven minutes long, the consumption of the record is far easier than expected.

This is due to the band’s exquisite songwriting, which can expertly transition from a chunky grunge riff to zippy blast beating before switching up to an alluring melody. Their idea of an interlude is a nine-minute instrumental, a ballsy move that they know they can pull off. Those We Knew is one of those albums that may go underappreciated in 2024, but will deserve all the acclaim it’ll get.

Rating: 4.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Ipecac Recordings

Melvins – Tarantula Heart (Ipecac)

40 years into their career, the creative juices are flowing stronger than ever for the Melvins. Their latest album Tarantula Heart has dual drummers: Dale Crover and Ministry/Soulfly’s Ray Mayorga. Frontman Buzz Osborne used those drum parts to write the songs on the album. The addition of We Are The Asteroid guitarist Gary Chester also injects a fresh perspective.

Looking at the track list, with only five songs you might think this in an EP, but opener “Pain Equals Funny” is a 19 minute opus running the gamut from rock to punk to psychedelic to prog. The dual drum creativity is front and center on songs like “Working The Ditch,” which eases into a catchy groove after an avant-garde beginning. “She’s Got Weird Arms” is just as strange as you’d imagine from the title while the chaos ratchets up on “Allergic To Food.” The Melvins are national treasures who are still hitting on all cylinders with Tarantula Heart.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Debemur Morti Productions

Selbst – Despondency Chord Progressions (Debemur Morti)

After a live album last year, the black metal project Selbst are issuing their third studio album Despondency Chord Progressions. This time around, mainman N has recruited Jonathan Heredia (Aversio Humanitatis, Thirteen Bled Promises) to play session drums.

The songs are given plenty of time to unfold, with Selbst injecting dynamics and variety into each track. “When True Loneliness Is Experienced” starts with a couple minutes of prog rock before becoming more extreme. An extended guitar solo adds melody to “Third World Wretchedness” while “Between Seclusion and Obsession” is mostly acoustic. The twists and turns on Despondency Chord Progressions make for something new and surprising around every musical corner, resulting in a very compelling and engaging album.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

AOP Records

Tomorrow’s Rain – Ovdan (AOP)

Yishai Sweartz, vocalist for the Israeli doom/gothic metal band Tomorrow’s Rain, is lucky to be alive. Just over a year ago he suffered a major heart attack that resulted in open heart surgery and a lengthy recovery period. The band’s second album is Ovdan, which is Hebrew for “loss.”

The songs are theatrical with Sweartz’s baritone vocals giving them that gothic vibe. Periodic harsh vocals add diversity and a death metal influence. Opener “Roads” starts mellow with prominent saxophone and melodic singing before the extremity takes over. It features guest appearances from Dark Funeral’s Andreas Vingback and Sol Invictus’ Tony Wakeford. There’s a plethora of guests on the album, including Mayhem’s Attila Csihar on the dramatic “Muaka” and Mercyful Fate/King Diamond’s Michael Denner on the groovy “Turn Around.” Ovdan has the moroseness you expect from gothic albums, but also unexpected moments that add to its charm.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Uragh – Maelstrom (Self)

Uragh get kudos for going big with their debut album, Maelstrom. There may not be another one put out this year where a band follows up a nine-minute groover with an interlude track consisting of lyrics whispered in Irish Gaelic. This, along with excellent singing from vocalist Craig Murphy in several songs, adds a fresh scent to a sound that stubbornly creaks between alternative, groove, and prog metal.

The second half of Maelstrom has the group taking creative leaps as multiple songs creep near double-digit lengths. Tracks like “Capsize” and “Mo Dhia Maith” feature superb bass guitar work and some instrumental jamming. It takes about 20 minutes for Maelstrom to get interesting, but wading through it lands on some compelling material.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Seeing Red Records

The Wraith – Ghost March (Seeing Red)

After their 2019 debut album release Gloom Ballet and a good bit of touring, L.A based deathrockers The Wraith came back to us with not only new frontman Harley Mace, but their second album Ghost March.

From the opening drum solo of “Requiem of The Damned,” Ghost March sets itself apart from their debut in terms of astounding production quality and haunting instrumentation. Combining styles of The 69 Eyes and modern era Misfits, The Wraith invoke a dark melodicism that easily grips your attention and keeps it. Mace’s powerful vocals draw the whole album together and give it a modern ’80s feel. If this is the direction The Wraith are heading, then it is one that they should stay on.

Rating: 4
(Dalton Husher)

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