This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Abhoria, Advocacy, Cold In Berlin, Disconnected Souls, Kontact, Master, Metalite, Nature Of The Beast, Resin Tomb, Saxon, Sovereign, Verona On Venus and Wasp Mother.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Abhoria – Depths (Prosthetic)
The start of a new year is a great spot for any black metal group to release a new album, with the winter frost spreading fast over the Northern Hemisphere. Depths is the second album from Abhoria released in the early part of a year (their self-titled debut came out back in February 2022). They have turned down the temperature on their music even more, as if they were somewhere in Norway instead of the sunny skies of California where parts of the album were recorded.
Not even a short introduction track in “Emergence” is safe from a sonic bite, as new vocalist Ben Pitts snarls about the dying embers of hope in one’s life. There isn’t much refuge from Abhoria’s menacing delivery, though there’s an excellent mid-tempo level set in closer “Winter’s Embrace.” That one, like much of Depths, eventually finds an unstoppable pace that is the band’s cozy spot to be in.
Advocacy – The Path Of Decoherence (Uprising)
The road to Advocacy‘s full-length debut has been a long one. The Danish progsters formed back in 2015 and issued EPs in 2017 and 2020. The Path Of Decoherence is a complex effort, and amps up the heaviness a bit from their previous work.
After the tepid instrumental title track opens the album, things quickly improve with “Prayer For The Reckless.” The eight minute opus runs the gamut from straightforward groove to experimental sections to catchy melodies. Most songs on the album are in that six to eight minute range, allowing for plenty of twists and turns. There are jazzy moments in “Leap Of Faith,” introspective periods in “Star Formation” and brief harsh vocals inserted in tracks like “Unnamed” that contrast Søren Kjeldsen’s smooth melodic singing. There’s a lot to wrap your ears around with The Path Of Decoherence, a mature and well-rounded debut.
Cold In Berlin – The Body Is The Wound (New Heavy Sounds)
The London based quartet Cold In Berlin released Rituals Of Surrender in 2019. They follow that up with the four track EP The Body Is The Wound. It’s the first part of a multi-record project that will be followed by a full-length later this year. It brings together songs of loss and the idea that wounds can be growth, healing and a slow burn that fuels other fires.
The four songs range from heavy doom to catchy alt-rock with a little post punk and krautrock thrown in for good measure. “Found Out” is catchy and melodic, while “Dream One” is a slow build with atmospherics that add depth to the doom. “Spotlight” shifts from glacial doom to quicker and groovier moments, while closer “When Did You See Her Last” is urgent and heavy. Throughout The Body Is The Wound, Maya’s vocals are compelling, dynamic and varied.
“Cinematic metal” is what Disconnected Souls dub their music, and in the case of their long-winded debut album Fragments Of Consciousness, they completely embrace that philosophy. It doesn’t always work for them, like the chipmunk effects added to the vocals on “Loveless,” but they don’t set any limits on what their sound could be.
This is a metal record that is at its best when there is limited metal used. The synthpop of “Fragments,” the stripped-down piano work on “Petrichor,” and the danceable electronic pulsations of closing instrumental “Iyashikei” puts the emphasis on their cinematic side. Fragments Of Consciousness is bound to confuse listeners, which seems to be the way the band wants it to be. This confidence is appealing, if too scattershot for an hour-long album.
Kontact – Full Contact (Dying Victims)
Calgary’s Kontact are here to remind you that it isn’t just Quebec you should be thinking of when sci-fi meets heavy metal. Full Contact is the follow up to their excellent 2022 EP First Contact. Right from the outset of “Emperor of Dreams” you are treated to a robotic voice claiming that Kontact “comes in peace,” and then thrust deep into space on “Doppelganger.” It’s an interstellar voyage at mach speeds, offering more of a traditional metal take on some of the more bizarre song structures without them being thrash or prog oriented.
On “Heavy Leather” the band does their best to provide a unique sonic spin on classic metal, which feels more like something out of a Midnight song, complete with The Alien’s reptilian vocals chanting about a woman’s fascination with it. Kontact offer something different than traditional heavy metal and something different from Canada, making Full Contact a fun intro to the band and their wacky take on what is considered heavy metal music.
Master – Saints Dispelled (Hammerheart)
When it comes to Master, everything is as straightforward, sharp and clear as the nature of their music. One of the longest running pioneers of death/thrash metal show off their strength once again, in raising and protecting the flag of old school death/thrash metal. Their 15th studio album Saints Dispelled hammers another nail to strengthen it to its foundations.
Paul Speckmann, Master’s founder and mastermind, has put his innate, aggressive genius behind his band’s rebellious nature once again to create a merciless and unsettling album, delivering a savage musical piece that’s every bit as striking and venomous as expected. Saints Dispelled has brilliant punishing moments. It is filled with vehement riffs that are both fresh and old school, which the hardness of the golden era of death metal-fused old school thrash metal is emerged and reflected through its nature. That’s why it will keep you engaged even after you finish it.
Metalite – Expedition One (AFM)
The latest effort from the Swedish melodic power metal band Metalite is Expedition One. It’s a sci-fi concept album about life in the year 2055, with a group planning to transport mankind to a new planet. The underlying message is that humans always go for the easy way out, even when it’s not the best option.
Metalite deliver than concept in a 16 song, 67 minute opus. The tracks are streamlined and move the story along at a brisk pace. There are plenty of traditional bombastic power metal numbers along with electronic influences on tracks like “Blazing Skies” and “Hurricane” that add modern flourishes. Catchy melodies abound, especially on songs like “Take My Hand.” There are also ballads such as “New Generation” that give vocalist Erica Ohlsson a chance to belt it out. She is impressive throughout Expedition One. The album is a few songs too long, but is still a successful endeavor.
Nature Of The Beast – Radio Hauntings (Wormholedeath)
Since their 2019 founding, Nature Of The Beast have had quite the shaky start with several lineup changes leading up to the release of their debut album Radio Hauntings. The album feels more like an homage to classic horror movies than a modern metal album. The most notable of these references is a nice one pertaining to the vampire classic Lost Boys in the beginning of the track “Welcome to My World”.
Though the references are nice, it does bog down the pacing of the song and the album as a whole as well as adding unnecessary padding to the run time. “Trauma” would have to be the standout track due to the creepy yet on point piano opener. Nature Of The Beast have a solid start with Radio Hauntings. However, give them a couple more releases so that they can get even more into the groove of things.
Resin Tomb – Cerebral Purgatory (Transcending Obscurity)
The lineup for Resin Tomb includes three quarters of the Australian black metal/grindcore band Siberian Hell Sounds. After a couple of EPs, they emerge with Cerebral Purgatory, their full-length debut.
There’s no easing into things with an intro or interlude; the bludgeoning begins immediately with “Dysphoria.” Resin Tomb bring a variety of extreme styles to the table, ranging from death to grind to sludge. Tempos shift constantly, with songs like “Scalded” going from groovy death to moderate sludge, and tracks such as “Human Confetti” are sometimes chaotic, other times injecting melody and groove. Cerebral Purgatory gets in and out in less than a half hour, showcasing a diverse writing style and tight musicianship.
Saxon – Hell, Fire And Damnation (Silver Lining)
Saxon have released albums in six different decades, and are nearly as prolific now as they were in their youth. The NWOBHM legends have issued five studio albums, a couple live albums and multiple box sets over the past five plus years. Hell, Fire And Damnation is their latest studio album, and the first with new guitarist Brian Tatler (Diamond Head).
The iconic English actor Brian Blessed (Hamlet, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Flash Gordon) lends his dulcet tones to the opening title track. Saxon cover a wide range of historical topics this time around, with Biff Byford penning lyrics about Marie Antoinette, the Salem witch trials and the Battle Of Hastings. Musically, there are classic sounding NWOBHM like “Fire And Steel” alongside more moderately paced groovers such as “There’s Something In Roswell” and “Super Charger.” Byford’s voice is still in fine form, and with Hell, Fire And Damnation, Saxon have delivered an album packed with memorable songs and first-class musicianship, defying Father Time and showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Sovereign – Altered Realities (Dark Descent)
Thrash metal is not the first subgenre of metal to come to mind when you think of Norway, but Sovereign give you something different to think about. Their debut Altered Realities is a solid mix of death and thrash metal leaning a little heavier on the latter with the former taking over during the times where the riffs get the chance to reverberate through your skull. Opener “Altered Reality” lets the band flesh out their sound properly and while it isn’t all high-octane thrills, it helps set the tone for the rest of the album.
Without going off the rails, “Counter Tech” manages a slick groove while also throwing in some off-kilter harmonics to deepen the band’s overall sound. The song comes off like a herculean exercise in musicianship, feeling like a workout without it so technical, allowing for all parts to fall easily into place. Sovereign are a name to remember when it comes to new thrash bands and Altered Realities is one heck of a debut.
Longtime DevilDriver guitarist Mike Spreitzer has formed a new project, Verona On Venus. For their debut album Popular Delusions he handles vocals, guitar, bass and programming along with producing the record. His former DevilDriver bandmates Austin D’Amond plays drums on the album.
While some of the groove metal elements of Spreitzer’s main band are evident, the sound on this album expands into traditional and industrial territory. As you’d expect, the guitar work is excellent, but the vocals are also good, showing a lot of variety. Sometimes his voice is drenched in effects, which actually works well with the industrial vibes, but he can sing, evident on numbers like “The Bones Of Baby Dolls,” a cover of the Acid Bath song. There are certainly ’90s vibes on Popular Delusions, but plenty of modern stylings as well, making for a well-rounded debut for Verona On Venus.
Digital Pollution is the second EP from Massachusetts grindcore act Wasp Mother, a taut 10-minute release with breathless compositions and a sleight of hand with closer “Pale.” That one takes up over half the running time of the EP and shows the group’s affinity for death metal, hardcore and noise. It’s unlike anything the band has written to date and is a sign that there is more to them than sub-minute relays.
The lineup has gone from a trio to a quartet with Digital Pollution, as Jenny Mac is brought in to provide vocals alongside guitarist/vocalist Kevin Sigourney. Having both of them screaming and barking accentuates the swirling rampage of Wasp Mother. Though they do the ramped-up grindcore well, an outlier like “Pale” is where they flourish.