This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Act Of Impalement, All Out War, Blackwulf, Disinter, Dysmal, Fvnerals, Mithridatum, Rexoria, Russkaja, Sanguisugabogg, The Winery Dogs and Xandria.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Act of Impalement – Infernal Ordinance (Caligari)
2023 marks the second studio effort by American death metal trio Act Of Impalement, five years after their debut album, Perdition Cult. Infernal Ordinance is for the audience who are looking for the intersection of genres to discover the many sinister aspects of death metal.
Infernal Ordinance has allocated about half an hour of time to say its words directly and fatally; therefore, the album has the right timing to inject its poisonous bite into the listener’s body very quickly. The intersection of death metal with dark streaks of black metal, riding on doom metal shoulders creates a tense situation that arose from the most captivating moments of death metal in the early and mid-’90s. All this promises an album that, although it does not contain anything new, will please you enough with its monstrous awesomeness.
All Out War – Celestial Rot (Translation Loss)
The spirit of the underground courses through the veins of All Out War‘s five members. For 30 years, the New York outfit has been issuing vicious, uncompromising slabs of metallic hardcore, and new full-length Celestial Rot reiterates that these lads are definitely not mellowing with age. The group executes with ruthless efficiency – of the ten songs here, none reach the three-minute mark.
Slayer or Kreator-influenced speed and aggression is fused with the ferocity of Cro-Mags, alongside black metal (“Snake Legion”) and death metal (the title track, “Revel In Misery”) touches. They’re no less lyrically abrasive either – see the dark outlook of “Glorious Devastation,” and “Hideous Disdain” is a wonderfully bleak track title. As for thunderous mosh parts, there’s an abundance of those amid the thrashed-up attack, too. The dirt under the proverbial fingernails of the production values also suits their approach. About as subtle as a sledgehammer to the skull, the already initiated will know what they’re getting from All Out War – these bruisers aren’t going to do a U-Turn into a prog concept LP anytime soon.
Blackwulf – Thieves & Liars (Ripple)
If Blackwulf had it their way, they would surely wish they were performing in the presence of doom luminaries like Pentagram and Saint Vitus, as evident by the retro vibes all over Thieves & Liars. These guys are a throwback in the right way, honoring the legacy that came before them while leading the charge for a new generation that may not have the time to go digging backwards in music history.
The centerpiece of the album is the almost nine-minute “Psychonaut/Edge Of Light,” a two-faced opus that switches from boisterous stoner metal to a quaint acoustic jam. Its placement on Thieves & Liars is off — it works far better as a definitive closer than being the sixth out of nine songs — leading to a muted denouement that emphasizes their up-tempo side.
Disinter – Breaker Of Bones (Pest)
Breaker Of Bones from the Chicago band Disinter is a furious display of death metal fury. The blistering songs crush with their utter intensity, with the ten songs going by at lightning speed. Songs like “Assertation of Belief” will leave you breathless. The entirety of the album pushes speed boundaries, but isn’t overly creative.
Though relatively derivative in nature, Breaker Of Bones is performed nicely and is worthy of recommendation. Disinter’s first full-length since 2014 is a furious platter of death metal fury that will make you headbang. The musicianship is top notch and everything is produced in fine fashion. It has all the ingredients to be an excellent album, but comes up a bit short in terms of creativity.
Dysmal – Gates To Apperception (Apostasy)
During the pandemic, Burial Vault’s Tobias Schaub wrote an album, recorded most of the instruments himself, and recruited five different vocalists including his Burial Vault bandmate Raimund Ennenga. The result is Dysmal‘s debut Gates To Apperception.
It’s melodic death metal with some interesting compositional subtleties. The piano in the intro track “Memory Leak” reappears as a coda at the end of the otherwise intense “Emergent Perceptrons.” Most of the songs feature harsh vocals from the aforementioned variety of singers. There are periodic clean vocals on tracks like “Evolution Remnants” and “Hidden Layers,” all provided by Gitte Silze-Anderson that provide even more variety. Gates To Apperception is a quality debut, shifting smoothly between extremity and melody.
Fvnerals – Let The Earth Be Silent (Prophecy)
The doom duo Fvnerals have been around for a decade now and have shifted their base of operations a few times over the years from England to Scotland and now Belgium. Let The Earth Be Silent is their third full-length, and first since 2016.
Their brand of doom mixes in ambient and drone, making for a combination of crushing heaviness and mellower instrumental passages. They have both lengthy (7-8 minute) songs and shorter numbers. No matter the length, there are a lot of dynamics in each song along with atmospherics and glacial tempos. Tiffany Strom’s vocals are secondary on much of the album. The ambient “Annihilation” has spoken word vocals, with periodic singing on tracks like “For Horror Eats The Light.” Things unfold very slowly on Let The Earth Be Silent, but those with patience will be rewarded.
Mithridatum – Harrowing (Willowtip)
Mithridatum are comprised of musicians who have performed with bands such as The Faceless and Abhorrent. Harrowing is categorized as death/black metal yet burrowing deeper into its turbid inners finds an album that dodges any norms associated with that style of music. From a rhythmic perspective, this is a technical masterclass in unpredictability.
All of the songs hover between the six- and eight-minute mark, as Mithridatum are set on the freedom of sonic exploration. The truest appeal to Harrowing is wondering where they intend to go. They pull a fast one on the listener in closer “The Passageway,” abruptly cutting off at its end as if severing the lifeline to their isolated den.
Rexoria – Imperial Dawn (Black Lodge)
After issuing an EP or full-length every year for several years, the Swedish quartet Rexoria took four years between Ice Breaker and their latest effort Imperial Dawn.
It straddles the line between traditional metal and hard rock, with songs that are streamlined, bombastic and melodic. Most are uptempo and anthemic with catchy choruses. Keyboards are sometimes atmospheric, but on tracks like “The New Revelation” provide a modern vibe. While most songs have the potential to be singles, the cream of the crop includes “Paradigm,” the heavy and urgent “Rage And Madness” and the soaring “Light Up The Sky.” Vocalist Frida Ohlin gives a versatile performance, sometimes smooth and other times edgy. Imperial Dawn has minimal filler for maximum enjoyment and exceeded my expectations.
Russkaja – Turbo Polka Party (Napalm)
Everybody’s favorite metal party polka band are back. The latest effort from the Austrian group Russkaja is Turbo Polka Party. It’s another dose of their raucous mix of metal, ska, polka and punk.
While much of the album is party music with a sense of humor, opener “No Borders” is a call for peace and they are selling a “No Borders” shirt to benefit people who have fled Ukraine. The songs on the album have metal’s heaviness with ska and polka instrumentation. Skindred’s Benji Webbe guests on the reggae influenced “Vozdukh” while the German/Spanish language song “Senales” features dance act Le Fly. Their tuba infused version of Wham’s “Last Christmas” is also included. While not everybody’s cup of tea, Russkaja albums are a fun and danceable guilty pleasure, and Turbo Polka Party is no exception.
Sanguisugabogg – Homicidal Ecstasy (Century Media)
Returning with album number two are Sanguisugabogg with their new and nasty Homicidal Ecstasy. Opening with “Black Market Vasectomy,” you’ll notice that the Cody Davidson’s drums have been toned down substantially from 2021’s Tortured Whole, allowing for the vile violence to make its way through in a much less campy way. The guitar tone is completely disgusting on “Face Ripped Off,” allowing for the feeling of despair to come through for the listener, evoking some of the sounds that have continued to fuel themselves and state contemporaries, 200 Stab Wounds. Devin Swank and crew haven’t gotten soft.
Homicidal Ecstasy is a musical maturation process, but not a move towards becoming the most serious band, especially with song titles like “Testicular Rot,” “Hungry For Your Insides” and “Necrosexual Deviant” rearing their ugly heads, but that’s just who Sanguisugabogg are. They’re the basement venue dwelling virulence that gained sentience, with the sole purpose to create some of the obscenest music you’ve ever heard. This is the album where it all congeals into the sanguine supremacy that they’ve sought to achieve since their inception. Homicidal Ecstasy redefines repugnance in 2023; the ‘Bogg have taken it to another level.
The Winery Dogs – III (Three Dog)
Remember when supergroups were a rare thing that more often than not ended up underwhelming? It’s fascinating how the last decade has seen musicians from the ’80s and ’90s reconfigure themselves into multiple different projects, often with surprising results. One of the earliest and most satisfying, The Winery Dogs, finds half of Mr. Big (Richie
Kotzen replaced Paul Gilbert for one album in that supergroup) join ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy for
their aptly-named, shred-tastic third album, III.
Wrapped up in this chops fest are some surprisingly memorable tunes, as evidenced on lead singles “Xanadu” and “Mad World.” The exotic stomp of “Pharaoh” mixes things up and features some jaw-dropping bass runs from Billy Sheehan. Most surprising is the range and soulfulness of Ritchie Kotzen’s voice, somewhat reminiscent of Chris Cornell, and loads better than most modern guitar heroes. Most importantly, the fun these guys are having shines through the entire album.
Xandria – The Wonders Still Awaiting (Napalm)
The long-running German symphonic band Xandria have had wholesale lineup changes on their latest album The Wonders Still Awaiting. Guitarist/keyboardist Marco Heubaum is the lone remaining member from 2017’s Theater Of Dimensions.
Even with the lineup overhaul, Xandria follow a similar musical path to the one they have been following the past 20 years, but are taking it to a new level. They pull out all the stops this time around, working with a 40 piece classical choir that adds depth and atmosphere. Subway To Sally’s Ally Storch provides violin and cello. The addition of vocalist Ambre Vourvahis also allows them to expand their horizons. She has the chops to sing smoothly and melodically, belt out operatic vocals and inject death metal growls. She even wrote Greek lyrics for the epic 9 minute closer “Asteria.” Primal Fear’s Ralf Scheepers guests on “You’ll Never Be Our God.” The new lineup has provided a shot in the arm for Xandria, with The Wonders Still Awaiting packed with interesting arrangements and excellent performances.