This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Bog Wizard, Dead War, Death Angel, Demonstealer, Doodswens, Genocide Pact, Ofermod, Of Mice & Men, Raibard, Rebreather, So Hideous, Unanimated, VHS and Ye Banished Privateers.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Born of the unholy union between Dungeons & Dragons, stoner doom metal and a solid dose of irreverent high fantasy, Miasmic Purple Smoke is the sophomore album from West Michigan riffers Bog Wizard. Alternating between fuzzy, smoke-laden riffs, crushing sludge and distant vocals emerging from a foggy mire, these 6 songs deal in high fantasy, satanic panic and other nerdy topics.
The production is muddy and purposefully lofi, which works well for the material, and the band is locked in cohesively, but the lack of clarity in the mix can be a drag. Opener “Barbaria” and closer the “Void Beckons” are highlights of the album, striking the perfect balance between storytelling and atmosphere, and packing memorable riffs, but the pacing suffers from excessive riff worship. All in all, Miasmic Purple Smoke is a very fun take on doom/stoner metal’s most endearing tropes.
Dead War – Grandfather Of War (Horror Pain Gore Death)
Grandfather Of War is the second EP from Dead War, coming five years after The Triumph Of Death EP. Lyrics pertain to warfare and mutilation, as bodies pile up and wars start with a single bullet. In these regards, the two releases share comparable DNA. It’s within the core music that this EP takes sizable steps forward. It’s more complete and furthers their seismic blackened death/thrash metal.
A few tunes, like the title track and “One Bullet Can Change The World,” fit snuggly into the “war metal” mantra with their scorching tempos. “Point Blank Penance” is a confident opener that somehow squeezes a guitar solo alongside a bass one in under two minutes. Grandfather Of War has a lot of horrors thematically behind it, but for avid fans of the genre, it’ll be a delight.
Death Angel – The Bastard Tracks (Nuclear Blast)
With the ability to tour in support of 2019’s Humanicide curtailed by the pandemic, thrashers Death Angel did a live streaming show in May of this year at San Francisco’s Great Music Hall. It is now being released as the CD/Blu-ray The Bastard Tracks.
For the 15 song set list, Death Angel brought out some songs never played live before along with some newer songs and other tracks from throughout their long career. There’s only one song from Humanicide, the closer “Alive And Screaming.” They play a couple songs from their second album, 1988’s Frolic Through The Park. There’s also a cover song, Black Sabbath’s “Falling Off The Edge Of The World.” The band sounds tight, and it’s an interesting collection of songs.
Demonstealer – The Holocene Termination (Demonstealer)
Sahil Makhija, aka Demonstealer, is in several bands including Demonic Resurrection and Solus Ex Infernis. He issued an EP last year under his solo project Demonstealer, and follows that up with another EP, the four track The Holocene Transmission.
It features numerous guest musicians, including Eugene Ryabchenko (Fleshgod Apocalypse), Anton Zhikharev (Gorgasm), Simon Schilling (Marduk), Robin Stone (The Amenta), and Jeff Hughell (Six Feet Under). The songs on the EP are death metal that incorporate other genres. The title track has thrash elements, and you’ll hear moments of black metal elsewhere. It’s an intense and extreme collection of songs, tempered by groove and some surprises such as guest vocals from Veronica Bordacchini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) on “What She Creates She Will Destroy.” It’s a potent EP that whets the appetite for the next Demonstealer full-length.
Doodswens – Lichtvrees (Svart)
Dutch black metal duo Doodswens have followed up their excellent 2019 self-titled demo with their first full-length release, Lichtvrees. The pair aren’t content with engaging in superfluous, annihilating tempos (though they get on a speed rush on occasion).
The proceedings are at their most potent when the songs work in a wider depth, as they do in the middle of the album with “Zwarte Staar” and “Eindzicht.” The guitars amble around less dissonant moments, fronting a gloomier mood that doesn’t rely on stock black metal cliches. However, Lichtvrees does rely a bit too much on interludes and shorter compositions that feel incomplete. They seem to be meant to inject a sinister ambience, yet comes off as fluff on an album that is already only about 35 minutes long. Cut them out and Lichtvrees becomes an effective extension of their demo.
Genocide Pact – Genocide Pact (Relapse)
For Genocide Pact’s third album, they go the eponymous route. That doesn’t signify that this is a whole new direction or some great misdirect away from the nihilistic death metal the group have been entrenched in for close to a decade. The album was recorded without a click track, giving the songs a less sterile feeling and toughening up their sound. Though they still occupy the grooviest parts of the genre, there’s also an uptick in tenacity on “Deprive / Degrade” and “Barbaric Regression.”
It displays the band’s flexibility when the album can have one of the shortest songs they’ve ever recorded in “Deprive/Degrade” alongside the longest one they’ve ever done with closer “Industrial Obedience.” That song goes full death/doom, using over six minutes to messily strip the soul from a listener. As the album fades into a wave of torturous feedback, Genocide Pact have encapsulated the disaster that was 2021 into this recording.
Ofermod – Mysterium Iniquitatis (Regain)
Ofermod are a prime example of pure evil Swedish black metal, and this evil pervades the band’s musical history. Ofermod are highlighting the ominous side of their music one more time on their new album Mysterium Iniquitatis. It’s 48 minutes of pure orthodox black metal revealing the chaotic sanctity of Lucifer in the darkest part of its heart.
Mysterium Iniquitatis both follows Ofermod’s previous musical routine and seeks new paths. This is why it is in a stronger position compared to the band’s previous albums. But on the other hand, while the band attempts to extend their nature of songwriting to new horizons, its musical appearance does not seek new directions, either in terms of sound and production. But even so, Mysterium Iniquitatis is engaging and impressive. Its power of storytelling is strong and the passion of preaching is influential. “Poraios De Rejectis” is a forceful statement that describes everything. Mysterium Iniquitatis has its identity on its name; it speaks of the mystery of iniquity.
Of Mice & Men – Echo (SharpTone)
Of Mice & Men released the EP Timeless in February, followed by another EP Bloom in May. They are issuing yet another EP Ad Infinitum this week. All three EPs are compiled into Echo, their seventh full-length album.
It’s the third album with Aaron Pauley handling all lead vocal duties, and it’s his strongest performance so far. The songs are typical metalcore that alternate heaviness and melody along with contrasting singing and screaming vocals. It’s a good mix of brutality and catchiness. The last batch of songs includes three originals and the cover song “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills & Nash. It’s an interesting choice, and Of Mice & Men give it a modern sound with effect laden vocals.
Rebreather – The Line, Its Width, And The War Drone (Aqualamb)
After more than a decade between full-length releases, the Ohio sludge/doom band Rebreather have returned with a new album. The Line, Its Width, And The War Drone is their fifth full-length, and first since 2008’s Sunflower, though they did release an EP in 2018.
Heavy guitars drive Rebreather’s music, with fuzzy riffs and the bass nice and high in the mix. They alternate between up-tempo sludgey songs like “Sick Sick Sick” and “Choke On It” and slower, doomier tracks such as “Silent H” and “Residual Madness.” Frayle guests on “Drown,” and the delicate female vocals add an interesting twist. Their cover of Porno For Pyros’ “Pets,” originally released last year as part of Aqualamb’s Covid Cover Series, is also included. After 20 years, Rebreather are still at the top of their game.
Boston prog-rock trio Raibard don’t like to be pigeonholed into any specific genres. On their second outing, Dark Realm Of The Daylight, the band draws from plenty of modern and not-so-modern influences, from ’60s folk-rock to this millennium’s alternative rock in a “we’ll play what we feel like” fashion.
Daniel Gil is the guitarist and vocalist for Raibard, and his vocals certainly give the band a late ’60s/early ’70s vibe, at times reminding one of Ian Anderson or Greg Lake. Songs range from the light prog rock of opening track “Angel of the Clockwork” to the acoustic singer-songwriter style of “Visions of You” to the mystical “Eternal Rise,” which features Michele Morgan on vocals. Dark Realm Of The Daylight is an eclectic album with plenty of variety, strong musicianship, and some interesting songs.
So Hideous – None But A Pure Heart Can Sing (Silent Pendulum)
A new album from So Hideous was never a given, as the group went on hiatus shortly after the release of 2015’s Laurestine. Yet, six years later, None But A Pure Heart Can Sing is here to remind us that this group’s transformative music is still as important. The cinematic qualities of their songwriting are at peak performance on their third album, with “The Emerald Pearl” sounding like a soul tune from a lost country film, its trumpet and saxophone solos kicking up metaphorical dust clouds.
It’s also understated how genuinely beautiful this album sounds, especially when the orchestration is in control on “Intermezzo” and “From Now (Til the Time We’re Still).” Even when the band’s blackened heart takes charge, fury hasn’t been this blissful in a long time. None But A Pure Heart Can Sing is a marvelous album to close out the year with.
Unanimated – Victory In Blood (Century Media)
Formed in 1988, Unanimated were one of the bands that brought melody to death and black metal in Sweden. They released two influential albums in the ‘90s, but went to the wayside and didn’t release another album until 2009. Because of inactivity, the group didn’t become a high profile melodeath/black metal act like Dissection. Now, the band issue their fourth album Victory In Blood.
Victory In Blood retains the tenets of Unimated’s balanced, extreme metal attack. The transition from “Scepter of Vengeance” to “Chaos Ascends” exemplifies the group’s ability to shift from being fast and aggressive to atmospheric and melodic. Keys and acoustic guitar mark ominous melodies on the latter track. “With a Cold Embrace” serves a similar purpose and features impassioned clean vocals. “The Golden Dawn of Murder” sounds similar to Dismember, which may be due to bassist Richard Cabeza who is known for being a member of Dismember. Black-n-roll groove offers another dimension to Unanimated’s melodic death/black metal style.
Various Artists – Back In Black [Redux] (Magnetic Eye)
Back In Black is one of hard rock’s most iconic albums, as they band overcame the loss of vocalist Bon Scott with an incredible collection of songs and a great performance from Brian Johnson. Magnetic Eye Records is releasing a couple of AC/DC tributes this week. One is Best Of AC/DC [Redux], the other is Back In Black [Redux].
The quality of covers varies. The most effective ones utilize the strengths of the covering band and don’t just do karaoke versions of the songs. That includes Red Fang’s “Hells Bells” and Besverjelsen’s doomy, slower paced rendition of the title track. Udo Dirkschneider, singing with Howling Giant, adds his distinctive vocals to “Shoot To Thrill.” One that varies considerably from the original is Jakethehawk featuring Patrick Waters version of “You Shook Me All Night Long.” It’s an eclectic and fun collection of tributes, but still pales in comparison to the original.
VHS – I Heard They Suck… Blood (Wise Blood)
Thunder Bay thrashers of the death variety VHS play death metal chock full of everything from horror samples to The Simpsons and even cult classic The Monster Squad on their latest album I Heard They Suck… Blood.
Fans of Impaled and Frightmare will appreciate the atmosphere with the samples acting as the glue within and between tracks, never losing the lack of seriousness. VHS do their thing and very clearly have fun in doing so. Opening with Krusty The Klown and featuring The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad, “Horror of Dracula” menaces along before slowing to a doom-like crawl before jumping back into the manic pace of the song evoking Exhumed in a very good way. VHS’s first full-length assault is a solid one and perhaps with enough time they will continue to carve out their full bore for gore niche even more.
Ye Banished Privateers – A Pirate Stole My Christmas (Napalm)
Avast, ye scurvy dogs! The Yule be upon us once again, and ye hard won silver best be spent on treasures such as this – a swashbuckling collection of holiday standards plundered and spat back out by Ye Banished Privateers. On their latest opus, A Pirate Stole My Christmas, Sweden’s buccaneers douse familiar melodies in copious yars of rum and seawater, and ne’er a more sacreligious twist be felled upon such beloved favorites.
“O Cannonball” torpedoes “O Tannenbaum,” while a youthful percussionist gets tossed out on his drunk arse in “Little Rummer Boy.” “Deck and Hull” leaves no reason to be jolly, with “all the world in flames before us,” and the lowest scallywag needs all the angels on high in “Drawn and Quartered.” But be forewarned, though your ears may yearn for something more metal in sound, there is none more metal in spirit than such salty sea dogs as these.