This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Amberian Dawn, Binary Order, Celestial Season, Dystopia A.D., Grava, Imha Tarikat, Mick’s Jaguar, Nihilist Death Cult, Obvurt and Shining Wizard.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Amberian Dawn – Take A Chance – A Metal Tribute To ABBA (Napalm)
On their last album, 2020’s Looking For You, the Finnish symphonic power metal band Amberian Dawn covered the ABBA song “Lay All Your Love On Me.” Apparently it went so well they decided to do an entire album of them, resulting in
Vocalist Capri does a good job channeling Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The band metals up the pop songs, but there are plenty of synths to keep them very accessible. The track listing combines some of ABBA’s big hits like “Super Trouper,” “SOS” and “Mamma Mia” with some lesser known tracks. They stayed away from ABBA’s monster hits like “Dancing Queen” and “Take A Chance On Me.” I’m not sure the world needs an album of metalized ABBA songs, but it’s a fun listen.
Binary Order – Messages From the Deep (Self)
The latest release from the veteran UK industrial project Binary Order is Messages From The Deep and showcases a good degree of electronic sounds. The riffing on the album is sharp and abrasive, but at times more subtle as well. This approach displays a band at the height of their powers, though there’s not a lot of innovation.
It’s inspired by cyberpunk and sci-fi such as Dune and Blade Runner, with lyrics examining social and political unrest. This is an industrial album made to appeal to the masses, with clever melodies and atmosphere. While there are plenty of accessible parts on Messages From the Deep, it is really the heavy moments on the disc that are the most appealing. On the whole, the album is a bit of a mixed bag, but it keeps up a pretty consistent level of quality.
Celestial Season – Mysterium II (Burning World)
After not releasing material for two decades, the Dutch doom/death band Celestial Season re-emerged with 2020’s The Secret Teachings. They have kept up a prolific pace, issuing Mysterium I in April, and now comes Mysterium II, the second installment of a planned trilogy.
On this album, the 7 piece band focuses more on their melancholy side. The tempos are slow, with tracks like “Tomorrow Mourning” injecting catchy solos amongst the dirge-like riffs. Violin and cello add atmosphere throughout, but are at the forefront on songs such as “Our Nocturnal Love” and closer “Pictures Of Endless Beauty Copper Sunset.” Celestial Season blend shorter songs with 7 to 9 minute epic numbers, and though the songs are somber and fairly mellow, they are still engaging.
Dystopia A.D. – Doomsday Psalm (Self)
New Jersey progressive death metal duo Dystopia A.D. are dropping their second full-length album, Doomsday Psalm. The pair (Aki Shishido on lead guitar, and Chris Whitby on pretty much everything else) draw from numerous subgenres here, from the atmospheric and melodic side of things to the pure death metal assault side, all to strong effect.
Dystopia A.D. blast through the eight-song, forty-minute set with plenty of passion and talent, culminating in the excellent closing track “Howl of Barghest,” a song that perfectly displays the band’s ability to seamlessly blend plenty of influences, including in this instance some folk percussion. Doomsday Psalm is a strong, powerful album of prog-death with plenty of melodic and brutal moments.
Grava – Weight Of A God (Aesthetic Death)
From Copenhagen, Denmark, sludge metal band Grava are set to release Weight Of A God, their debut album. Its musical perspective divides its listeners into two groups: those who easily fall in love with the album’s tune and those who seek to discover creative points in the album’s undertones, which is a bit invalid.
At a time when sludge metal is more celebrated and trendy than ever, and in merging with other genres of metal, this all-over-awesome and crushing sludgy creature discovers new strains of its destructive power. Grava take the easy way out when they tunnel their music to the classic standards of this genre. Compared to common sludge metal songs that are generally long, Grava concisely yet passionately establish the overall musical direction on short but atmospheric and dissonant songs that see hardcore inflammation flowing in their blood. This is where Weight Of A God succeeds in attracting the audience as a pure dense sludge metal album.
Imha Tarikat – Hearts Unchained – At War With A Passionless World (Lupus Lounge)
Hearts Unchained – At War With A Passionless World is the third album from the German black metal project Imha Tarikat. Kerem Yilmaz writes the songs and plays all instruments except drums on the record.
The world seems even more passionless compared to the ferocity Yilmaz injects into the album. That extremity is offset by some very melodic riffs on songs such as “Radical Righteousness” and “Touch Of Mercy.” Dense, blastbeat driven intensity is broken up by catchy moments. The dichotomy between brutality and beauty is evident throughout, with beauty coming to the forefront in places like the interlude “Birth Of Grandeur.” With each new release, Imha Tarikat are showing versatility and creativity, a band well worth investigating for black metal fans.
Mick’s Jaguar – Salvation (Tee Pee/Totem Cat)
Originally formed as a Rolling Stones cover band to play a New Year’s Eve party, Brooklyn’s Mick Jaguar ended up writing original material, resulting in their 2018 debut Fame And Fortune. Four years later they made their triumphant return with Salvation.
From hard rock to punk to classic rock, Mick’s Jaguar cover a variety of bases on the album. “Handshake Deals” is a simple but catchy punk track, while “Man Down” and “Molotov Children” have ’70s guitar rock vibes given edge by John Martin’s vocals. Guitarist Grace Hollaender handles lead vocals on closer “Georgian Pine.” The songs are streamlined and ready made to sing along to while moshing. The ten songs fly by in about a half hour, incorporating varied influences ranging from Thin Lizzy to the Sex Pistols. Salvation is a fun and boisterous blast from the past.
Nihilist Death Cult – Death To All Tyrants (Self)
Nihilist Death Cult only need 14 minutes to bash skulls in with their punky death/grind on Death To All Tyrants. Any more than that would’ve been overkill, as the band’s potency is based on how quickly they can get in and out of any situation. Any songs that go over 90 seconds (and that’s only about half of them) justify their “extension” with hair-raising guitar solos that bolt out like they are running a 100-meter sprint.
Their sound is a mix of snappy hardcore punk and seismic death metal, with a whiff of grindcore. The group rails against the media on a lot of these, asking us to get out of their manipulation and think for ourselves. They aren’t preachy about it, nor do they pick a political side. If the message isn’t in a listener’s interest, they’ll still get an album that doesn’t skimp on the jolting riffs.
Obvurt – Triumph Beyond Adversity (Unique Leader)
After a 2016 car accident, Philippe Drouin (Unbreakable Hatred) was unable to play guitar due to an injury to his right hand. He then taught himself to play left-handed, with thousands of hours of practice and help from Michael Angelo Batio. He then formed Obvurt, with the trio issuing their debut EP last year.
Triumph Beyond Adversity is an appropriate title for their full-length debut, with a spoken word intro shedding more light on Drouin’s history before the death metal kicks in. The songs are complex and constantly shifting, with bludgeoning drums and wave after wave of guitar riffs. The songs shift from chaos to groove and even some mellow sections on tracks like “Invisible Enemy,” making for plenty of variety. The musicianship is impressive, but Obvurt inject melody into the songs, making them more than just something to appreciate, but something to enjoy.
Shining Wizard – Tournament Of Death (Horror Pain Gore Death)
One thing this writer learned in 2022 is that there is apparently a community for professional wrestling-themed grindcore, with Shining Wizard being the second band covered this year after Matsunaga Was Right. Both bands are signed to Horror Pain Gore Death Productions too, so one label is at least trying to capitalize on this niche market. They both also mix wrestling samples in with the incensed grinding, as well as hide their identities (Shining Wizard do it with lucha-related names).
Tournament Of Death, the second EP from Shining Wizard, stands apart from Matsunaga Was Right’s Born In Wire by crafting songs that go longer than a minute and have more than one speed. Opener “Gutwrench” has a death/grind pace to it, letting some groove snake its way in, as does “Deadly Flower.” The back half of the release is all unrelentless grindcore though, blazing through three songs in about six minutes to restore the natural disorder that is a staple of professional wrestling.