Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of April 26, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Accept, ACxDC, Black Tusk, Clearxcut, Deicide, Full Of Hell, Hacavitz, Inter Arma, Lee Aaron, Pentagram, Pestilence, Stormborn and Tygers Of Pan Tang.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Napalm Records

Accept – Humanoid (Napalm)

Classic bands enjoying late-career triumphs owe a debt of gratitude to their young fans who grew up to be hot producers. Just like Andrew Watt recently coaxed two killer efforts out of Ozzy, Humanoid’s producer/guitarist Andy Sneap, who also manned the boards for two excellent releases from Judas Priest, has worked his magic for German legends Accept since 2010.

Leadoff track, the hard-driving “Diving Into Sin,” kicks things off with some eerie sitar that recalls Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam,” with long-term Udo-replacement Mark Tornillo bringing that snarling yowl Accept fans expect. The sole original member, Wolf Hoffman’s riffs are solid as ever, especially on the neck-wrecking bridge of the title track. Lyrically, things get a little silly on the chest-beating “Man Up” and AC/DC pastiche “Straight Up Jack,” but “Southside of Hell” brings the album to an epic, vintage speed metal conclusion.

Rating: 4
(Gino Sigismondi)

Prosthetic Records

ACxDC – G.O.A.T. (Prosthetic)

Antichrist Demoncore (ACxDC for short) return with their highly anticipated follow-up to 2020’s Satan Is King with their third album G.O.A.T.. It’s the first time they feature guest contributions including members of Undeath and No/Mas among others. Right out of the gate the album is a high-octane experience that brings together the best of hardcore, punk and some excellent grooves on tracks like “Boxed In” before we can even remind you about the fact that most people would be quick to tag them as a powerviolence band; ACxDC are more than just that.

In true ACxDC fashion is the album’s length, which just missed the 25-minute mark, all while beating your head in with vicious riffs. “Mortality Salience” is chock full of them and balanced with grooves and shouted vocals allowing you to bob your head in between getting your face ripped off. With more variety and musicality than ever, G.O.A.T. is ACxDC’s best album to date.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Season Of Mist

Black Tusk – The Way Forward (Season of Mist)

Southern sludgy punk posse Black Tusk are back after six years to give us The Way Forward. The sounds vary right from the first two tracks: “Out of Grasp” is a real burner with shouted vocals and follow-up “Brushfire” is a slower song that feels just as much like Black Tusk as the prior song. After a series of sub-three minute movers, “Breath of Life” arrives to shake that up. Beginning with a fat riff, the song opens up and lets this Savannah crew properly blast through with gritty guitars and a sense of more refined purpose at this midpoint in the run time.

It is worth noting that this is the band’s first album as a four piece, adding Chris Adams on second guitar shortly after the release of T.C.B.T. and his presence is felt throughout this LP. Black Tusk continue to shine with short form sludge bursts that heavily lean on hardcore punk structures allowing them to be one of the very best at the style. After nearly 20 years Black Tusk aren’t looking back; instead they are focused on The Way Forward, another notch in their belt and perhaps their best album yet.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Lifeforce Records

ClearxCut – Age Of Grief (Lifeforce)

ClearxCut’s hardcore/metalcore on Age Of Grief is passionate in supporting a straight edge vegan lifestyle. They don’t shame a listener into following them, but lay out their values to promote the end of animal cruelty. While their beliefs have stayed the same their entire career, their music has undergone a transformation, from punky hardcore to an emphasis on a metalized form.

This is noticed on “Putrefaction,” which starts out hot with ClearxCut laying on the aggression. It’s a nice counter to the lengthy acoustic outro that precedes it on “Privilege.” There are a few parts on Age Of Grief that seem like groundwork that doesn’t take off, like the abbreviated closer “The Eternal Demise.” They haven’t lost their hardcore ways, but have fixed on a metal mindset for a largely gratifying record.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Reigning Phoenix Music

Deicide – Banished By Sin (Reigning Phoenix)

Deicide certainly haven’t been shy of courting controversy. But it was still a little odd that, of all matters, it was Banished By Sin’s AI artwork that riled up so many folks. There are times when the music on this LP could’ve almost been AI created, such is its familiar feel for diehards. However, devotees of blasphemous brutality likely won’t be bothered by that, especially given, as indicated by single “Sever The Tongue,” the echoes of classic era Deicide throughout the album.

There are 12 tracks here, none of which reach the four-minute mark, and the whole affair displays all the subtlety of a wolf on steroids. Frontman Glen Benton’s layered vocals lead the way, bridging the trademark gurgle, roar and high screams. But he’s often overshadowed by the record’s MVPs – Steve Asheim’s dexterous drumming and the guitar solos, which boast a ‘90s Deicide approach. There’s a lack of variety and dynamics at times, but highlights are there. Black metal-infused “Faithless” is the pick, while the groove-laden title track resonates, and “Doomed To Die” is a paint-peeling maelstrom. There are few surprises from Satan’s house band. Irrespective, it seems you just can’t kill Deicide.

Rating: 3
(Brendan Crabb)

Closed Casket Activities

Full Of Hell – Coagulated Bliss (Closed Casket Activities)

Coagulated Bliss is Full Of Hell’s sixth album and first since 2021’s Garden Of Burning Apparitions. During those almost three years the band continued to hone their craft and continue to be one of extreme music’s most varied entities. From the odd sounds used at the beginning of “Half Life Changelings” to the high-octane assault of “Transmuting Chemical Burns” or even the punk drive of the title track, all of your favorite Full Of Hell sounds are here and used to greater effect than their most recent albums.

Some of Full Of Hell’s best work comes in the form of a long track amongst the scattered pieces of bite-sized chaos. This time around that track is “Bleeding Horizon,” which starts out with hummed feedback which gives way to doomy riffs and pained vocals, taking up most of the six minute runtime before rounding itself out as a truly sludge/doom affair. “Schizoid Rupture” and “Vacuous Dose” end with a flurry of riffs that could surprise fans and is another reason that Full Of Hell feels fully realized on this new album. Coagulated Bliss is the sound of Full of Hell achieving noisy nirvana.

Rating: 4.5
(Tom Campagna)

Moribund Records

Hacavitz – Muerte (Moribund)

It has been a while since we’ve heard from the Mexican blackened death metal band Hacavitz. Nex Nihil was released back in 2017, and now nearly seven years later they make a welcome return with their sixth album Muerte.

Hacavitz like to write long songs, and that continues here. Opener “Muerte Primera” begins with symphonic atmosphere before the extremity kicks in. There’s plenty of brutality, but they also inject ample melody and groove to make the songs memorable. Catchy riffs contrast with intense vocals on tracks like “Hiaretikos Nicte” that sees plenty of twists and turns over its 9 minutes. “Voivodvz” has a mellow intro with some operatic singing for a minute or so before kicking in. The album closes with the nearly 11 minute epic “Conticinium,” a dynamic and atmospheric number. Muerte is the latest in a long line of quality Hacavitz albums, and hopefully it won’t take them as long for the next one.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Relapse Records

Inter Arma – New Heaven (Relapse)

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma have taken a significant step forward with their latest album, New Heaven. They seem to have incorporated everything they have done so far into a new experimental musical experience, with a structure that is becoming progressive, abstract and adventuresome.

Inter Arma’s usual tone, which combines sludge, black metal, and post-metal, is still evident in New Heaven. However, this time the band present a darker, more dissonant, and more startling image of a horizon that is full of desolation, isolation, agony, and tales of challenges and survival. That’s why the image Inter Arma chose, a photograph by National Geographic photographer Louie Palu, fits well on the album cover; depicting a ranger standing in front of the unknown, contemplating facing the wilderness. Inter Arma’s interpretation added to the real background of the image makes the album a resounding and magnificent work. New Heaven is a prodigious opportunity to explore new perspectives of the band and oneself.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Metalville Records

Lee Aaron – Tattoo Me (Metalville)

During her long career, Canadian singer Lee Aaron has released a bunch of rock albums, and has also ventured into other genres like jazz and blues. One thing she hadn’t done is a covers album, until now. Tattoo Me started with artists Aaron was influenced by as a youth, but quickly expanded into songs from the ’90 and ’00s as well.

Aaron covers songs from the ’60s like “The Pusher” (Steppenwolf, Nina Symone) and Led Zeppelin’s “What Is And What Never Should Be” along with ’70s tracks such as Alice Cooper’s “Is It My Body,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” and Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” The song most in her wheelhouse is Heart’s “Even It Up.” Aaron explores ’90s grunge with Hole’s “Malibu,” ’90s Britpop with Elastica’s “Connection” and ’00s alt rock with Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl.” The arrangements are pretty close to the originals, but Aaron’s potent vocals give them an interesting twist. While Tattoo Me isn’t essential, it certainly is entertaining.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Listenable Records

Pentagram (Chile) – Eternal Life Of Madness (Listenable)

Most readers may associate Pentagram with the influential doom band, yet all the way in Chile, there’s another Pentagram that have kept the flag waving for thrash/death metal. Eternal Life Of Madness is only their second album, with their career going through fits of stop-and-go movement following two underground demos in 1987. The group have not modernized their sound in any way, as if they are in suspended animation as young men back in 1985 listening to Slayer’s Hell Awaits for the first time.

This perspective is one matched by rebellious rompers like “The Portal” and “Devourer Of Life,” though when stretched to almost an hour becomes laborious. The sludgy-turned-thrasher closer “No One Shall Survive” notwithstanding, the album is taken down by a bumpy second half. Their dedication to staying true to the beginnings of thrash/death for as long as they have is hindered by excessive quantity.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Agonia Records

Pestilence – Levels Of Perception (Agonia)

The Dutch band Pestilence emerged in the late ’80s with a combination of death and thrash metal before developing a more progressive sound. They released a few albums before splitting in 1994. More than a decade later they reformed and have released numerous other albums including 2021’s Exitivm. They took a different approach on their latest effort Levels Of Perception, re-recording songs from throughout their catalog.

Recording with the current lineup and incorporating subtle changes to the arrangements gives these songs a bit of a different vibe from the originals. The time frame of the songs goes all the way back to 1989 with “Ovt Of The Body” “Dehydrated” from Consvming Impulse. There’s also the classic “Twisted Truth” from 1991’s Testimony Of The Ancients. Redoing some their early material is an interesting exercise, but re-recording two songs from their most recent album doesn’t make a lot of sense. Passionate Pestilence fans may find Levels Of Perception intriguing, but it won’t have much of a wide appeal.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Rockshots Records

Stormborn – Zenith (Rockshots)

Like a British phoenix rising from the ashes, Stormborn have reinvented themselves with Zenith, their latest melodic metal delight. Taking their love for the classics and the titans before them, Stormborn have crafted a unique love letter to the genre.

Zenith manages to combine the lyrical prowess of Dio and with the vigorous head banging energy of Iron Maiden to make a truly powerful album. “Land of the Servant King” does the job right as an explosive opener track and progressively gets more intense. Even the moody instrumentals like “The Unending Light” do not suck the energy out from the rest of the tracks. Even after such a long break, it is clear that Stormborn still have every ounce of energy and passion they had back in 2012. This fresh take has opened up a lot of doors, and it will be interesting to see the direction they take.

Rating: 4.5
(Dalton Husher)

Mighty Music

Tygers Of Pan Tang – Live Blood (Mighty)

The influential NWOBHM band Tygers Of Pan Tang got their start in the late ’70s. There have been numerous lineup changes and a hiatus or two, but more than 40 years later they continue to persevere. They follow up last year’s Bloodlines with Live Blood, which was recorded last summer.

The current lineup, which includes founding guitarist Robb Weir and longtime vocalist Jacopo “Jack” Meille, sounds great. The 15 song setlist covers the band’s last few albums, showing their recent material is strong and works well in a live setting. Tygers Of Pan Tang also go back to their early days with tracks from some of their classic albums like Wild Cat, Spellbound, Crazy Nights and The Cage. The band has released a few live albums over the years, with Live Blood giving an excellent representation of this era of Tygers Of Pan Tang with a combination of classic and modern songs.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

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