This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Atrocity, Black Star Riders, Deiquisitor, Dryad, Faithxtractor, Heroes And Monsters, Imperium Dekadenz, Laura Cox, Re-Buried, Tension Rising, Tribunal, Turbid North, Twilight Force and Walk In Darkness.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Atrocity – Okkult III (Massacre)
The German band Atrocity have explored a few different styles over their 35 year career. With 2013’s Okkult they returned to their early death metal sound, which they have continued on 2018’s Okkult II and their new album Okkult III.
Vocalist Alexander Krull has been the constant over the years, with drummer Joris Nijenhuis having been in the band since 2012. The other three members have joined since Okkult II. The new blood doesn’t affect the aggressive death metal approach. It’s fairly straightforward but well executed with quality riffs. There are also numerous guest appearances that add variety to songs like “Malicious Sukkubus” that features Leaves Eyes’ Elina Siirala and Cradle Of Filth’s Zoe Marie Federoff. It’s a strong end to the Okkult trilogy, and it will be interesting to hear where Atrocity go from here.
Black Star Riders – Wrong Side Of Paradise (Earache)
When Black Star Riders formed in 2012, the lineup was made up of Thin Lizzy members who wanted to record new material. Over the years the Thin Lizzy members gradually left the band, and with the exit of Scott Gorham in 2021, the only member left with Lizzy connections is frontman Ricky Warwick. For their fifth album Wrong Side Of Paradise the band’s lineup has been pared down to a quartet.
Even with the lineup changes, the band’s sound continues the classic bluesy hard rock style that has a Thin Lizzy vibe but also modern elements. Wrong Side Of Paradise is packed with catchy, memorable songs such as the title track, “Better Than Saturday Night” and “Riding Out The Storm.” There’s also a cover of the Osmonds’ “Crazy Horse,” a unique choice that’s a bit heavier than the original. With Warwick at the mic you know you’ll get a strong and eclectic vocal performance, and that’s the case with Wrong Side Of Paradise, another excellent BSR album.
Deiquisitor – Apotheosis (Extremely Rotten/Night Shroud)
Danish death metal titans Deiquisitor have stepped forward to celebrate the band’s 10th anniversary with their fourth studio album. Apotheosis, their latest expedition and intuition in the world of occultism, brings the band to a respectable position after the first ten years of their career.
Apotheosis is furious and sinister old school death metal. As much as it is deeply and undeniably influenced by Immolation, it contains a personal and admirable tone. This has now become the tradition of Deiquisitor’s sound. They know how to use heavy and reverberant atmosphere to enhance the menacing darkness of the album’s destructive evil sound. When the drums’ pounding blast beats ride on the complexities of riffs and the roars and growls of all three members of Deiquisitor are exchanged, Apotheosis is one of the most blasphemous yet enjoyable death metal albums.
Dryad – The Abyssal Plain (Prosthetic)
The deepest corners of the world’s oceans hide within them frightful creatures that mankind has yet to discover, and Dryad imagine what some of those might be on their debut album, The Abyssal Plain. These sea beasts are formed into existence with abrasive, crusted-over black and death metal. To add to the murky dread, synths are used for a low-fi horror film vibe.
Two vocalists shriek and grunt as if being mauled by a tentacle monster, and though it can be hard to piece together what they are saying without lyrics handy, their execution signals something unsavory afoot. A handful of atmospheric interludes offer something different. However, having five of them in a 13-song album may come off as excessive to some. This does make The Abyssal Plain suited for a front-to-back listen and not just broken up into various playlists.
Faithxtractor – Contempt For A Failed Dimension (Redefining Darkness)
The death metal duo Faithxtractor take their time between albums. There has been an approximate five year span between all four of their studio albums, including 2018’s Proverbial Lambs To The Ultimate Slaughter.
Ash Thomas handles vocals, guitars and drums, with Zdenka Prado on bass. Faithxtractor’s brand of death metal is intense with the typical growling vocals, but this isn’t by-the-numbers death metal. Thomas’ guitar work is excellent with a plethora of potent riffs and some searing solos. While the heaviness rarely wanes, there are a lot of tempo shifts and never a dull moment. The album closes with a cover of Sepultura’s “EotD,” which fits in well with what Faithxtractor are doing on the rest of the album.
Heroes And Monsters – Heroes And Monsters (Frontiers)
The three members of Heroes And Monsters all boast sufficiently packed resumes that would land them just about any gig they desired within the hard rock world. Meanwhile, for the moment they’ve joined forces. Led by lead vocalist/bassist Todd Kerns (Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators) their self-titled debut is a respectable opening salvo, if one that rarely reaches any grand heights.
The trio’s sound infuses a series of influences, such as a Guns N’ Roses-like swagger (“Locked And Loaded”), grunge (“Blame”) and AC/DC (“Break Me (I’m Yours)”), while an energetic cover of Sweet’s “Set Me Free” is further indicative of their collective mindset. The group does possess a certain chemistry; Kerns embraces the frontman role, Stef Burns cranks out crunchy riffs and frantic solos, while drummer Will Hunt (Evanescence, Black Label Society) ably holds down the fort. There are catchy hooks to be found, and a likeable enthusiasm, but perhaps not enough truly knockout cuts. There’s also some filler, or flavorless songs that don’t really establish an identity. Heroes And Monsters aren’t reinvigorating the scene, but they aren’t doing it any harm either.
Imperium Dekadenz – Into Sorrow Evermore (Napalm)
The German black metal band Imperium Dekadenz have been around for nearly 20 years now. The duo’s seventh studio album is Into Sorrow Evermore, coming four years after When We Are Forgotten.
With the album title, it’s not surprising the lyrical approach the songs take revolve around topics such as depression, death and desperation. Imperium Dekadenz are inspired by classic Norwegian black metal, but they also incorporate atmospherics that contrast the icy riffs and blastbeats. There are unexpected moments, like the mellow piano intro and outro on “Aurora” and the surprisingly catchy “Elysian Fields.” Into Sorrow Evermore has a lot of those moments, making for a varied and engaging black metal album.
Laura Cox – Head Above Water (earMusic)
French guitarist Laura Cox became a YouTube sensation with her covers of blues and rock classics, which led to her forming a band to write and record original music. Head Above Water is her third album.
Bluesy guitar is front and center throughout the album, which is jammed with excellent riffs and solos. The opening title track is good musically, but the vocals don’t have much edge or grit. That also the case on a couple other songs. But, on tracks like “So Long,” Cox sings with passion and a lot more power. That continues on songs like “Set Me Free” and the twangy ballad “Old Soul.” There are a couple other country style songs along with harder rock-edged numbers like “Fever.” Cox shows a lot of different sides and styles on Head Above Water.
Re-Buried – Repulsive Nature (Translation Loss)
When reviewing countless albums over the course of a year, it’s easy to take for granted something like cover art. That’s why a provocative cover like Re-Buried’s Repulsive Nature, with its hand-painted depiction of a melted face, draws attention to just how striking a good cover can be. It’s even better when that said cover accurately represents the no-frills, grounded death metal within.
Though there are songs where aggression is the driving factor (“Planetary Obliteration” and the title track), the band knows that tweaking tempos is key as well. There’s a chunkiness to the riffs on “Infinite Suffering,” and closer “Rancid Womb” briefly handles softer guitar tones before elevating the monstrous moods. Thirty minutes is all Re-Buried need on their debut album to sonically recreate the gory cover art.
Tension Rising – The Last Judgement (Death By Metal)
After a symphonic styled intro, Tension Rising settle into their signature style on The Last Judgement. The band plays a brash and modern style of progressive metal. The songs are energetic and nicely produced, but still don’t have a lasting impact upon the listener. The chunky riffs are very powerful, but don’t really draw you in. Though it somewhat lacks an identity, there is still quite a bit of fun to be derived from the songs.
The musicianship is relatively impressive with cascading guitar riffs and solid drum pounding. Songs like ”Famine” have a heavy progressive feeling, but are drowned out by the relative indifference of the band. The outfit would be better served fleshing their songs out in the future for a more open-ended effect. As it stands, the self-described “apocalyptic concept album” is a fairly effective modern progressive effort that excites at times.
Tribunal – The Weight Of Remembrance (20 Buck Spin)
Canadian doom duo Tribunal’s debut The Weight Of Remembrance is prone to bring about feeling of gothic doom from years past. It features ethereal vocals from Soren Mourne, who also provides the album with the grace of somber cello sections in conjunction with Etienne Flinn, who brings about a sinister sound on vocals, providing an excellent dichotomy to Mourne’s beauty. Think My Dying Bride with two vocalists, staying the course with ample atmosphere.
The opening track “Initiation” feels like an appropriate title as it showcases the band’s immense and untapped talents for the masses that will gather at their aural altar. For fans looking to start their 2023 with the proper balance of elegance and darkness, look no further than this debut, for it feels like the first in a series of progressively heavy and somber music.
Turbid North – The Decline (Self)
Turbid North have come quite a ways over the last 13 years since the technical/progressive death metal of Orogeny. While hints of that remain on The Decline, as well as some blunt grindcore, stretches of this album could be categorized as either space rock or stoner metal. These two were tinkered with on their last album, 2015’s Eyes Alive, and the band came back from a hiatus going more in that direction. It leads to a wildly varied album that never stays in one lane for long.
Sometimes, it switches them in the middle of a single song, as evident by “Drown In Agony.” This one begins as a strenuous, grim slapper before ending with a proggy shift and melodic singing, and that’s all within three-and-a-half minutes. The group keeps that sort of genre jumping from being too scattershot, though they stumble with the overlong nine-minute instrumental “A Dying Earth.” The Decline has Turbid North still uncovering their true intents but getting closer to their ultimate destination.
Twilight Force – At The Heart Of Wintervale (Nuclear Blast)
I used to describe stoner/doom legends The Sword as what happens when a band spends too much time in their parents’ basement smoking pot, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and listening to Black Sabbath (note, this isn’t a bad thing!). Twilight Force come from a similar place, but exchange Sabbath and pot for Sabaton and Red Bull.
The band treads familiar ground on At The Heart Of Wintervale, their fourth foray into speedy power metal epics, complete with the familiar tropes of soaring melodies, majestic orchestral flourishes, and the most sweep-picked guitar arpeggios this side of Yngwie. However, Twilight Force appear to be borrowing from Tobias Forge’s playbook, attempting to lure casual listeners with the pop-metal earworm “Dragonborn,” which sits comfortably alongside traditional speedy workouts like lead-off track “Twilight Force” and mini-epics like the 10-minute “Highland of the Elder Dragon.” Ultimately, it’s incredibly silly and tremendous fun.
Walk In Darkness – Leaves Rolling In Time (Beyond The Storm)
Nicoletta Rosellini fronts numerous projects. She’s the singer for the triple vocal trio The Erinyes who released their debut last year. Her longest running project is Kalidia, who have been around for more than a dozen years. She’s also the vocalist for the Italian symphonic/gothic group Walk In Darkness, whose fourth album is Leaves Rolling In Time.
The concept album has the cinematic and dramatic approach typical of the genre, with songs that are melodic with plenty of atmosphere. Rosellini is versatile, able to sing delicately when needed but also able to belt it out. Growling vocals add variety to the title track. The songs are well-written and flow well. The individual songs on Leaves Rolling In Time are complex and relatively long, most in the 5 to 6 minute range, but they don’t overstay their welcome, with the album clocking in at under 50 minutes. And that’s with an unnecessary alternate version of “No Oxygen In The West” that adds some male vocals.