This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from All My Shadows, Avatar, Dead Soul Alliance, Hellripper, Owl, Sarpa, Siege Of Power, Spectral Souls, Telomyras, Tithe, Transatlantic, Ulthar and Winds Of Tragedy.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
All My Shadows – Eerie Monsters (Frontiers)
Vanden Plas members Stephan Lill (guitar) and Andy Kuntz (vocals) formed All My Shadows, recruiting their bandmate Andrea Lill for drums and rounding out the lineup with bassist Franky R. (Michael Schenker) and keyboardist Markus Teske.
While Vanden Plas play prog metal, All My Shadows’ debut Eerie Monsters is melodic hard rock. It’s relatively straightforward with influence from the genre’s ’80s glory days, though the production is modern. Lill has ample opportunity to showcase his soloing skills. Songs like “A Boy Without A Name” and “Devil’s Ride” are uptempo and catchy. They show versatility by incorporating ballads such as “Lifeforms” and “Farewell.” Side projects are formed to explore different musical territories, and All My Shadows show that hard rock is right up their alley.
Avatar – Dance Devil Dance (Black Waltz/Thirty Tigers)
Swedish modern metallers Avatar have been around for more than two decades, and have had success in both their native country and the U.S. They have had numerous songs on the American rock charts over the past decade, and that continues with their ninth studio album Dance Devil Dance.
Their blend of heavy guitars, memorable hooks, harsh vocals and melodic singing has been their pathway to building a loyal fanbase. That continues here, with “The Dirt I’m Buried In” already charting. There are several other potential singles, like the catchy “Gotta Wanna Riot” and the title track. They vary their approach to add even more variety, such as industrial elements on “Valley Of Disease” and mellow parts and spoken word sections on “Train.” Dance Devil Dance is another collection of memorable Avatar songs.
Dead Soul Alliance – Spiralling To Lunacy (Cryptorium 9)
Spiralling To Lunacy, the second album from the Canadian death metal band Dead Soul Alliance recalls Dissection and like-minded bands that have nefarious feeling to them. But make no mistake, this is not black metal, but rather a very heavy death metal affair. It has a cold feeling to it that is wondrous to behold. The title track “Spiralling to Lunacy” is catchy. All in all, this was a very fun album to listen to.
Overall, there is a lot to like with Spiralling To Lunacy as it crosses thunderous territories. It is a very consistent release across the board and stays fairly unique sounding throughout. The freshness of Dead Soul Alliance’s sound leads to a lot of enjoyment. It is a thoughtful release that goes through a consistent set of songs that with a little more adventurousness could be even better.
Hellripper – Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags (Peaceville)
Hailing from Scotland, Hellripper arrive with their third full-length, Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags. Hellripper, whose sole member James McBain draws influence from classic bands, and more recently Midnight and Tribulation. This speedy heavy/black metal affair isn’t afraid of melodicism, with opener “The Nuckelavee” being a perfect encapsulation of the album proper.
Seeing a song title like “Goat Vomit Nightmare” gives you an excellent idea of what is in store for you. Overt Satanism takes you at first glance but the rapid riffs make you pine for more. If you like scorching guitar playing on an album that praises Baal and takes no prisoners, then Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags is for you. This record is a ton of fun.
Owl – Geomancy (Lummox)
Nearly a decade has elapsed since the last Owl album. The Oakland, California outfit have a different bassist, but the rest of the lineup from 2014’s Screech is intact. They have been around since 2007, but Geomancy is only their third album.
Owl span a wide variety of styles. There are a lot of progressive elements, evident from the opener “Awaken The Mountain.” They bring in psychedelic influences on several other songs, such as the retro styled “”Runes.” Stoner rock, doom and good old fashioned rock and rock are also incorporated into Owl’s musical palette. There are a couple of epic length tracks, including the 12 minute “Shadow Of Ehe Catl.” Geomancy is an eclectic and engaging listen, and a welcome return for Owl.
Mauta Tala, the latest EP from Sarpa, has sole member David Baxter attempting a 26-plus minute track split into three parts. The opener and closer are double-digit juggernauts that each offer a unique side to the band, with an atmospheric interlude sandwiched between them. “Arcane Rites – Tohu Wa Bohu” holds tight to the black/death metal, saving any progressive qualities until its final few minutes when acoustics and keys are incorporated in.
These two are kept around during “Necropoleis Of The Nebulous Deserts” and blend right into “It Looms,” an appropriate title for a song that comes off as something mysterious hiding in the distance, readying its strike but not appearing desperate for the attack. Baxter puts all facets of Sarpa’s diverse sound on display in each part of Mauta Tala.
Siege Of Power – This Is Tomorrow (Metal Blade)
It’s difficult to avoid high expectations when one’s band features current/former members of Autopsy, Asphyx, and Hail Of Bullets, yet Siege Of Power did well with their 2018 debut, Warning Blast. Its death/thrash brevity masked the looming doom that hovered over some tracks, but with This Is Tomorrow, the band bends towards the uneasiness. It allows for a dynamic album, with developments that offer these rugged musicians a new way to press on.
The self-control shown in “Deeper Wounds” and the title track has an impact on the unhinged frenzy of “Force Fed Fear” and “The Devil’s Grasp.” Then there’s the shredding going on during the latter, a top-notch solo that stands out as the group doesn’t typically unleash the guitars like that. If Siege Of Power were going for a five-alarm fire on their debut album, they now want to burn the world down with that same flame on This Is Tomorrow.
Spectral Souls – Towards Extinction (Hammerheart)
The Peruvian death metal group Spectral Souls are a relatively new group, but their musical leanings focus on the past, in the death metal heyday of the late ’80s and ’90s. Towards Extinction is their debut album.
It’s obvious Spectral Souls members have listened to a lot of Death, Obituary and Pestilence albums, which are some of their major influences. The songs on Towards Extinction don’t break any new ground, but they are well executed. The riffs are solid, the solos excellent and the extremity ample. They crank up the pace on tracks like “No Hope For Humanity” while keeping a more moderate speed on “Cristal Generation.” The title track, a piano based interlude, is a nice respite before the brutality kicks back in. Towards Extinction is a nice homage to the genre’s greats.
There’s no need for every band to reinvent a music genre, but the good ones know how to use what came before them and make it exciting enough to ignore obvious nods to the past. That’s the thin space Telomyras land on their self-titled debut EP, as they engage their love of heavy metal of all eras. The vocals are majestic, the guitar solos flow like a rapid on a curved river and the bass is plump in the center of the action.
“First Blood” and “Throne Of Ruin” tease melodic happenings, but the group doesn’t stay in that headspace for long before bringing the metal back. No song feels incomplete or a skeleton of a better song, as Telomyras have put their best material forward on this EP. This is a release that starts at a high mark and stays there for its entirety.
Tithe – Inverse Rapture (Profound Lore)
Tithe have positioned themselves in the past as death/grind patrons with a sludgy soul, but they decommission that soul on Inverse Rapture and replace it with blinding hatred. The sustained ferocity of the trio is breathlessly executed, as if they are using their sophomore album as a coping mechanism in a twisted therapy session. Whether a song is two minutes or seven minutes, the group bullrushes through it without stopping to savor their massacre.
There are glimpses of their old soul on “Parasite” and “Killing Tree,” as the tempos de-escalate momentarily before the powder keg goes off again. Tithe’s dedication to antagonistic methods gives off dissonant energy that’s easily swept up into. Even at a slick half-hour, Inverse Rapture may prove to be too exhausting except for the most stalwart death/grind fanatics.
Transatlantic – The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia (InsideOut)
In 2021 the prog supergroup Transatlantic (Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt and Pete Trewavas) released The Absolute Universe. The last stop on the tour to promote that album was recorded and filmed, and the result is The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia.
The band plays The Ultimate Edition version of The Absolute Universe that combines the original with a companion piece. They also vary the arrangements on some of the songs, giving them a different feel. That on its own is a concert length performance for most bands, but Transatlantic take a quick break and come back with another set of songs from throughout their catalog. The show clocks in a more than three hours. Transatlantic take a long time between albums, so The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia is a great way for fans to enjoy the band as they patiently await the group’s next opus.
Ulthar – Anthronomicon (20 Buck Spin)
Ulthar’s Anthronomicon is the first of two albums being released on the same day, and follows a similar trajectory to their previous records Cosmovore and Providence in terms of structure and song length. The juxtaposition of death metal riffs and the hail of black metal tremolo picking and atmosphere help opener “Cephalophore” come into form. Co-vocalists Steve Peacock and Shelby Lermo’s deliveries are the perfect buoy between the two styles as evidenced by their performance on “Fractional Fortress,” growling and rasping their collective way through the track with ease.
“Flesh Propulsion” plods along at the outset before diving headlong into the extreme with a lot of credit given to drummer Justin Ennis and Lermo’s guitar work. The riffs are large and all-encompassing, but that’s the kind of music Ulthar have made their own. The listener has no space with which to breathe and that’s just the way the band likes it.
Ulthar – Helionomicon (20 Buck Spin)
The concurrent release of Anthronomicon and Helionomicon is a curious decision, but Ulthar doesn’t always do things the same way twice. Featuring two 20 minute epics is a deviation from the band’s norm, but you’d be hard pressed to think it’s a different band. The first movement “Helionomicon” blasts down the door with a military-like sense of urgency, giving way at times to death metal dirges that slow the album to a glacial pace allowing for Ulthar to spread out their cosmic chaos.
The second piece “Anthronomicon” is similar in scope to its predecessor, but takes a little while to properly develop its air of uniqueness. About a quarter of the way through you feel as though you have slipped into space and as the music begins its aural ascent you hurtle back down to earth and may even crash through the surface. Seeing as both subgenres to whose gospel Ulthar subscribe have an air of immense intensity, it only makes sense they succeed in their attempt at long form tracks. Ulthar make extreme music with immeasurable ingenuity.
Winds Of Tragedy – Hating Life (Meuse)
If you’re looking for a pick me up, you definitely want to stay away from Winds Of Tragedy‘s sophomore album Hating Life. As you can guess from the title, it’s a descent into the abyss of depressive black metal.
The brainchild of Chilean Sergio Gonzalez Catalan, Winds Of Tragedy explore his grief and pain. The songs on Hating Life are sometimes dense and oppressive moving at a chaotic pace, while other tracks are slower and atmospheric with more melodic tendencies. “I Choose To Die” falls in the latter category, while “Living A Lie” is the former. Catalan doesn’t overstay is welcome, with the seven songs clocking in at about 35 minutes. It’s an emotional and cathartic musical journey that aficionados of depressive black metal should find engaging.