Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of April 5, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Destroyer Of Light, Diabolic Oath, Erra, Friends Of Hell, Funeral Leech, Greyhawk, Horndal, Ingested, Korpiklaani, Kosuke Hashida, Protosequence, Temple Of The Fuzz Witch and Witch Vomit.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.


Destroyer Of Light – Degradation Years (HFR)

Veteran Austin, Texas doomsters Destroyer Of Light have decided to go on what they are calling indefinite hiatus. But before they do, they are issuing their fifth full-length album Degradation Years and embarking on a tour this month.

Opener “Cruel World” is a tribute to the late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. In addition to the band’s trademark melodic doom, there are also hints of ’90s alternative. That’s not just the case with this song, but for many on the album. “Waiting For The End” blends introspective and mellow moments with heavier sections, as does the dynamic “Perception Of Time.” “Man With No Name” keeps a reserved vibe for nearly the entire track, while “Blind Faith” is raucous and streamlined and one of the album highlights. If Degradation Years is Destroyer Of Light’s swan song, they are going out on a high note.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Sentient Ruin

Diabolic Oath – Oracular Hexations (Sentient Ruin)

Returning to us just two short years after their EP Aischrolatreia, Portland black metal natives Diabolic Oath have stepped up their quality as well as their performance with their latest release Oracular Hexations.

Coming in strong with the brutal opening track “Rusted Madness Tethering Misbegotten Haruspices,” Diabolic Oath show that they mean business. The unholy alliance of the almost demonic vocals pairing up with the face melting guitars makes Oracular Hexations almost feel majestic and it is shown the strongest with “Gathering Hordes from the Outer Worlds.” Though it may seem like it may sound like another addition to the bottomless black metal catalogs, Diabolic Oath have managed to put their own subtle twist on it to appease the masses while forging their own identity.

Rating: 3.5
(Dalton Husher)


Erra – Cure (UNFD)

For their sixth album Cure, the Alabama progressive metalcore band Erra made a lineup change. Clint Tustin, who had been their touring guitarist since 2022, is now a permanent member. As on previous albums, Erra blend technicality and progressive elements with accessible melodies, with guitarist/clean vocalist Jesse Cash calling it the most “groove-centric” album they have made.

Tracks like “Rumor Of Light” and “Pale Iris” have heavy beginnings and harsh vocals before shifting to singalong choruses. Songs such as “Blue Reverie” and “Wave” take the opposite approach, easing in with the melodies before the aggression kicks in. “Past Life Persona” is more atmospheric, with mostly melodic singing and a lot of catchy sections. Erra do a nice job changing things up in terms of intensity and tempo, with atmosphere and progressive parts adding even more depth and variety to Cure.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Rise Above Records

Friends Of Hell – God Damned You To Hell (Rise Above)

Friends Of Hell’s sophomore album God Damned You To Hell has a revamped lineup. It features Hellbutcher (Nifelheim) on vocals and Beezeelbubth and Sprits (Mirror) on guitars. Band founder and drummer Tas Danazoglu and bassist Taneli Java are all that remained from the first album. In terms of the evil doom metal spells that the band has been able to conjure, nothing has changed on that front.

They provide slow doom dirges like the title track and “Gran Inquisidor” giving a particular kind of crushing that you expect from a band chock full of musicians who have more than been around the block. “Bringer of Evil” helps to keep it simple and has the band state their satanic ethos which is soaked in pure nihilism and melodic guitar solos to add a bit of Luciferian flair to the mix. If you need some new doom from some old dogs who don’t need to know any new tricks, God Damned You To Hell serves as a blackened beacon demanding to be heard, or else.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Carbonized Records

Funeral Leech – The Illusion Of Time (Carbonized)

Time can slip away from us in an instant, leaving us behind with barely a look back. Funeral Leech point this out on their sophomore album The Illusion Of Time, using death/doom as the instigator. The big inclusion to their sound this go around is synthesizers, which linger over sections of the record like a procession marching to its end. The band’s embrace of doom metal is more pronounced, with the tempos staying firm in that direction.

With that comes songs that are a touch longer than their debut, Death Meditation. They even get into funeral doom territory on the 11-minute closer “The Tower,” where each smack of the snare drum echoes like minutes being stripped off a clock. The synths get several minutes to themselves, including a protracted outro that ends The Illusion Of Time on a dour note. Funeral Leech wouldn’t have it any other way, as their exploits with death/doom persist in a meaningful way.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Fighter Records

Greyhawk – Thunderheart (Fighter)

Seattle-based heavy/power metal crew Greyhawk‘s sophomore effort Thunderheart is an impassioned cry that is evident from the opening riffs of “Spellstone.”. Ripping through fast riffing sections while sounding at times like Thundersteel era Riot and even newer acts like Visigoth and Traveler; soaring higher than heavy metal but finding a sweet spot between it and over the top power metal.

Things slow down significantly on “Ombria (City of the Night),” more of a midtempo affair with excellent guitar lines, including a fun solo showing that the band can diversify their mellifluous metallic palate. What follows is an epic journey that takes off but doesn’t fly overly close to the sun, making for a solid entry to their ever-growing catalog. Greyhawk are set to continue to carve their own course with forged steel and gallant guts. Thunderheart is here to rock out with fists pumping high in the air.

Rating: 3.5
(Tom Campagna)

Prosthetic Records

Horndal – Head Hammer Man (Prosthetic)

The Swedish band Horndal have been advocates for the working class, especially from their hometown which they named themselves after, but Head Hammer Man is the first to really focus on one particular person the whole way through. This person is Alrik Andersson, a union leader in the early 1900’s who was exiled from Horndal after a contentious workers strike and took up new roots in the U.S. The group takes his story very seriously, with vocalist/guitarist Henrik Levahn even writing a full-length book about him in conjunction with the album’s release.

Much like their excellent last album Lake Drinker, the blend of sludge metal, hardcore, and melodic death metal puts a fine point on the overarching concept. For songs with subject matters about grim realities, Horndal have found a space where it can be expressed with catchy tones. They use horns, pianos, organ and samples from Andersson himself as well as his granddaughter to unseal a story that was lost for decades.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Metal Blade Records

Ingested – The Tide Of Death And Fractured Dreams (Metal Blade)

UK death dealers Ingested have been prolific in their nearly two decades of existence. Their creative output has increased even more over the past few years, with The Tide Of Death And Fractured Dreams their fourth full-length in less than four years.

The pace at which Ingested create new material has not diluted its quality. Ingested songs are always technically impressive with creative arrangements and impeccable musicianship. What helps set them apart from their tech death brethren is the injection of melody and groove. That includes some melodic singing, such as on “In Nothingness” that features Chimaira’s Mark Hunter. Sylosis’ Josh Middleton guests on the groovy “Expect To Fail.” The instrumental “Numinous” is about halfway through the album, starting out mellow but getting more intense and providing a clever launch pad for the record’s second half. The Tide Of Death And Fractured Dreams continues Ingested’s roll of quality albums, with a more upbeat approach than 2022’s Ashes Lie Still.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Nuclear Blast

Korpiklaani – Rankarumpu (Nuclear Blast)

For their twelfth studio album Rankarumpu, Finnish folksters Korpiklaani wanted to get closer to the approach of their early albums. That meant fast tempos and Jonne Jarvela writing the majority of the lyrics for the first time in quite a while.

Most of the songs have that brisk tempo with guitars and folk instruments driving the proceedings. The songwriting is streamlined this time around, with most songs in the three minute range, and only two exceeding the four minute mark. While Korpiklaani have a long established template for their music, they still change things up from time to time. That includes slowing down the proceedings on “Viikatelintu.” In addition to Finnish themes and mythology, the band’s penchant for more lighthearted topics like partying and going to the sauna (“Saunaan”). Rankarumpu is another fun and enjoyable Korpiklaani album.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Horror Pain Gore Death Productions

Kosuke Hashida – Justifiable Homicide (Horror Pain Gore Death)

Kosuke Hashida is a guitarist from Tokyo, Japan who has ventured out to create a grindcore project under the same name. The opening title cut of Justifiable Homicide doesn’t even take a second to start up, throwing one immediately into the buzzing guitars and stampeding drums as if we’re joining Hashida mid-performance.

The middle portion of the album not only has the longest songs, but some warranted variety in approach. “Psychotic Depression” has slick bass guitar breaks, while the stomping bounce to “Killing Is Your Business” revels in its hardcore influences. Even with these sidetracks, it’s apparent with a closer like “Nakano Grind City” that Justifiable Homicide lives for the grind.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Lacerated Enemy Records

Protosequence – Bestiary (Lacerated Enemy)

Protosequence were patient in getting to the point of releasing their debut album, Bestiary. Ten years have gone by since their formation, with three EPs over that time exerting their technical death metal capabilities. When it came time for a full-length to be conceived, the group kept away any unwarranted flourishes from past material — acoustic breaks, singing, keyboards — to streamline their head-spinning music.

Streamline doesn’t equate to simplifying, as Bestiary is full of dazzling instrumentation held together by an array of harsh vocal styles. Many of the seven songs employ a degree of melodic insight, though there’s a lingering sense of impending unease from the seismic percussion work. The eight-and-a-half minute “Baroness,” which is split into two parts, is a good representation of Protosequence’s gratifying take on tech death.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Ripple Music

Temple Of The Fuzz Witch – Apotheosis (Ripple)

Will there be no end to the combining and re-combining of metal subgenres? Though I hate to admit it, Apotheosis, the first full-length release from Detroit’s aptly named Temple Of The Fuzz Witch, the term “blackened doom” absolutely applies. With vocalist Noah Bruner’s tortured, death-inspired growls complementing grinding tempos and wah-wah drenched leads, this band lives up to the genre’s moniker.

Fuzzed-out from the get-go, the crunchy bass lick that opens “A Call to Prey” sets the tone for what follows, something between the torment of vintage Trouble and the down-tuned sludge of Kyuss. Bursts of thrash metal riffing and Bruner’s occasional dips into clean vocals that recall Mastodon’s Brann Dailor, such as on “Nepahlin” and the swinging “Bow Down,” provide welcome contrast. Things start to drag a little near the end with the droning “Apostate,” but the overall effort is simultaneously brutal and groovy.

Rating: 3.5
(Gino Sigismondi)

20 Buck Spin

Witch Vomit – Funeral Sanctum (20 Buck Spin)

A genre like death metal has proven over the years that brevity can work to one’s advantage. Thirty minutes is more than enough time to capture the evil mischief of a band like Witch Vomit on their latest album, Funeral Sanctum. They’ve had two prior albums that held to this standard as well, though this record punches up the atmospheric front. Two guitar-focused instrumentals, acting as an introduction and interlude, add suitable bleakness to the rest of the rippers.

Though it’s still early in 2024, songs like “Blood Of Abomination” and “Endarkened Spirits” will no doubt be remembered later on in the year for their prickly riffs that warrant excessive thrashing about. They mix that in with the calculating menace of the title track and “Serpentine Shadows.” For Witch Vomit, a half-hour is a lifeline to a world of desolation.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

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