This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from An Autumn For Crippled Children, Balragoth, Blight House, Chupacabra, Crypta, Dead Neanderthals, Devin Townsend, Dymna Lotva, Konvolted, Mammoth WVH, Moose Cult, Tumulation and Urne.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
An Autumn For Crippled Children – Closure (Prosthetic)
Fans of the Dutch atmospheric black/shoegaze band An Autumn For Crippled Children never have to wait long for new material. Closure is their tenth full-length in the past 13 years, and they’ve issued several EPs an a couple compilations during that time as well.
Atmosphere and melody are front and center on the album, though it doesn’t lack in heaviness. The moods of the songs shift from introspective on tracks like the wistful “I See You..But Never Clearly” to heavier and more aggressive on songs such as “Where Pain Begins.” Vocals on the album are fairly sparse to begin with, and when they appear are buried deep in the mix, part of the atmosphere instead of driving the songs. That does bring the complexity and variety of the arrangements to the forefront.
For Balrogath, they only needed a year after their debut album Arcane Sacrifice to put together a new release, the EP We Bring Calamity. These three songs are seeped in fantasy lore, tiptoeing between the eccentrics of power metal and the menacing aura of death metal. It’s a merger that isn’t as common as it could be in music, and the group makes this thrilling with explosive guitar solos and vocals that range from passionate highs to sneering lows.
These tunes could have fit onto Arcane Sacrifice, making We Bring Calamity more of an expansion pack. Eighteen minutes of this is compact compared to the almost hour-long length of their first album. Balrogath are keeping themselves busy with their second release in two years, as they appear to have plenty of ideas to work with.
Blight House – Blight The Way (Syrup Moose)
Five years after their debut full-length Summer Camp Sex Party Massacre, the Rhode Island death/grind duo Blight House deliver another dose of brutality and a twisted sense of humor with their self-described “gross death metal.”
The music is generally uptempo and groovy, with moments of chaos and intensity. The lyrical topics range from the disturbing to the humorous, with a lot of clever song titles such as “Dismembers Only,” “Bible-Belt Baby Buffet” and “Florida Man Hails Satan.” The duo of Frank Lloyd Blight and Frank Owen Gorey have some help from Sabbath Assembly guitarist Ron Varod on “Too Ugly To Live, Too Dumb To Die.” For those who like their death metal on the gory side, Blight The Way will fit the bill.
Chupacabra are to-the-point with their thrash metal on their debut EP, Fortified With Ashes. There are no games, no preludes or wistful pauses, no long-form introductions: it’s 14 minutes of 100 percent unaltered thrashing. This is a reminder of just how primal the genre can be, alluding to the days where bands were putting out scorchers like this release left and right. It’s not anything ardent fans of the music haven’t heard yet, but it’s difficult not to get all in on it.
That extends to the rambunctious guitar soloing, which bows at the foot of the shredder. They try to put on a different face with the mid-tempo start to “F. T. T. D.” but they quickly give that up and revert back into their anarchic ways. Fortified With Ashes is a volatile way for Chupacabra to make their entrance into the world of thrash metal.
Crypta – Shades Of Sorrow (Napalm)
Formed by a couple of former members of Nervosa, the Brazilian death metal band Crypta issued their well received debut in 2021. Their new album is the first for guitarist Jessica di Falchi (Burn Incorporated, Iron Ladies).
The opening interlude “The Aftermath” eases into the album before the brutality begins on “Dark Clouds.” Aggressive riffs and Fernanda Lira’s harsh vocals are contrasted by catchy guitar melodies on tracks like “Poisonous Apathy” and “Trial Of Traitors.” There is a lot of variety on the album, such as the dark “Lullaby For The Forsaken” and the deliberate and destructive “Agents Of Chaos.” di Falchi and Taina Bergamaschi’s guitar work throughout the album is impressive, a big step forward from their debut. Lira’s vocals are varied and potent, and Luana Dametto’s thunderous drums are the backbone of the album. With Shades Of Sorrow, Crypta are staking their claim as one of death metal’s bands on the rise.
Dead Neanderthals – Specters (Utech)
In an industry where people are attempting to mimic one another, very few attempt to strive to test the norm. Specters does just that. The latest album by Dutch metal duo Dead Neanderthals and featuring Skeletonwitch founder Scott Hedrick, this two song album is 36 minutes of pure metal.
Each of the two songs is unique enough that they do not sound like one long repetitive song. “Necrology” is more of a blend of power and black metal whereas “Banishment” is more of a power metal and grindcore blend that dovetails into a power ballad in the last four minutes. With the lack of vocals, Specters makes up for in slick guitar riffs and clean and simple drums. For their fifth album it seems that they’ve hit their stride and crafted their own identity with Specters.
Devin Townsend – Devolution Series #3 – Empath Live In America (InsideOut)
In 2020 Devin Townsend embarked on the Empath Live In America Tour, a “free-form” type of show with not even a setlist, making every show different and unique. Unfortunately it was cut short due to the pandemic, but has been documented for posterity as part of Devolution series.
Townsend describes it as a “raw and off kilter performance” that he’s thrilled to have documented. The hour long set has an eclectic mix of songs, opening with “Evermore” from 2019’s Empath. They play the Devin Townsend Project’s “Supercrush!” from 2009’s Addicted, “March Of The Poozers” from DTP’s Ziltoid The Omniscient and close with “Kingdom” from 2012’s Epicloud. There’s even a Strapping Young Lad track: “Love?” from 2005’s Alien. Devolution Series #3 – Empath Live In America, like all Devin Townsend shows, is engaging, compelling and enjoyable.
Dymna Lotva – The Land Under The Black Wings: Blood (Prophecy)
There has been a lot of personal upheaval for the duo Dymna Lotva, who hail from Belarus. After supporting protests against the county’s dictator, the band’s concerts were banned and vocalist Nokt Aeon had to flee the country to avoid arrest. She and Jauhien Charkasau had planned to go to Ukraine, but after war broke out there they ended up in Poland.
The Land Under The Black Wings: Blood is the second part of the trilogy that began with 2016’s The Land Under The Black Wings: Swamp. Their brand of post black metal is melancholy with elements of doom and traditional music. Tracks like “Death Kisses Your Eyes” have harsh black metal sections along with mellow, ambient parts and whispered vocals. Guest vocals from Absence Of Life’s Forfadt and a girl’s choir give a different sound to “Ashes,” as does the addition of saxophones to “Freedom” and “Hell.” At 72 minutes, there’s a lot to absorb, but Dymna Lotva’s dynamic and eclectic approach keep things compelling throughout.
Konvolted – Human Reification (Sliptrick)
Human Reification, the debut from Konvolted, is a very rough around the edges thrash release. The songs have a good deal of movement in different directions and a modern vibe. The songs have a groove to them that is appealing. The musicianship is very solid with good guitar playing that is groovy and drumming that forms the backbone of the music.
There is certainly a somewhat one-dimensional feeling to the album. It goes by without one greatly noticing what is going on. This is exciting enough, but there is a feeling that if the band could push the envelope even more, it would elevate it. The tunes just come up a little short in their excitement level. Human Reification is good thrash/groove metal, but lacks the push to make it truly great.
Mammoth WVH – Mammoth II (BMG)
Though unfair to judge the offspring of the defining rock guitarist of the 1980s against his famous parent, comparisons are inevitable. Wisely, the sophomore release from Wolfgang Van Halen’s Mammoth WVH, the aptly named Mammoth II features a darker, more modern sound when compared to his father’s good-time party metal. WVH treads similar territory to the kind of heavy, melodic anthems as contemporaries Altar Bridge and Halestorm, with shades of the “I can do it all” ethos Dave Grohl brought to early Foo Fighters.
Opening with the darkly heavy “Right?”, II combines a more sarcastic worldview with blistering guitar solos courtesy of that famous DNA. “Optimist” features a crunchy, Tool-like bass riff and Miles Kennedy-influenced melodicism, contrasting nicely with the breezier pop metal of “I’m Alright.” Though not exactly remaking the world of rock music as we know it (an unrealistic expectation for anyone), Mammoth WVH deliver an infectious blast of modern hard rock.
England seems to be bursting at the seams this year with newcomers, and Moose Cult are no exception. Coming onto the scene with their self-titled debut album, Moose Cult show that they are not scared to put their own twist on this genre.
Tracks like “The Blood of Dead Idealists” and “No, Really” sound as if Judas Priest decided to pivot more into death metal, while songs such as “Dire Logic” and “Two Sides to Every Folly” provide a more traditional experience. Each of these seven tracks is unique and stands out as equal. Moose Cult a strong and promising start for the band and hopefully they can keep this momentum.
Tumulation – Haunted Funeral Creations (Hammerheart)
A couple of years ago, members of the San Diego death metal band Conjureth decided to form another group to focus on ’90s inspired death/doom and switching up instruments and roles. After self-releasing a demo at the beginning of the year, Tumulation signed with Hammerheart Records for their debut album Haunted Funeral Creations.
The four songs that were on their demo are the last four tracks on the album, alongside four new compositions. They transition smoothly from uptempo death metal to slower, doomy sections on tracks like “Astral Sickness” and “Rites Of Contemporary Misery.” Unlike some of the ’90s death/doom bands they are inspired by, Tumulation’s vocals are all harsh, giving the songs even more bite. They aren’t breaking any new ground here, nor are they meaning to, but they are able to skillfully emulate that classic era of death/doom metal.
Urne – A Feast On Sorrow (Candlelight)
For some bands, it takes a few songs to become absorbed in an album, while others never get there. For Urne’s A Feast On Sorrow, it only takes under a minute to become infatuated with their second album. That’s when the opener “The Flood Came Rushing In” becomes a thrashy treat, though the record moves between that, sludge, and, in special circumstances, black/death to maximize unpredictability.
Their debut album Serpent & Spirit got the attention of Gojira’s Joe Duplantier, who came onboard to produce A Feast On Sorrow. It’s apparent what he sees in this band to be this hands-on, as their metamorphosis is shown on two 11-minute opuses, “A Stumble Of Words” and “The Long Goodbye/Where Do The Memories Go?” The two mark the current songwriting pinnacle of their career, with the latter having an outstanding ending section with Celtic ties. Urne have put out a must-listen metal album of 2023 in A Feast On Sorrow.