This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Blood Red Throne, Cognizance, Corax B.M., Dead Poet Society, Dipygus, Dissimulator, Dripping Decay, Exocrine, The Gems, Hellman, Mountain Caller, Satyasena, Slower, Static-X and Vipassi.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Blood Red Throne – Nonagan (Soulseller)
The Norwegian death metal group Blood Red Throne have proven to be a consistent band and that continues with their eleventh full-length release Nonagon. They play an abrasive type of metal and bring loads of fun riffing to the plate. In terms of musicianship the guitars bring the chugging heaviness quite well and make an impact. The singing and drumming are more than sufficient and perform their parts rather well. Make no mistake – this is a guitar centered album and builds upon that aspect quite well.
The music is still similar to past albums and this brings things down a bit. Still, this is essential for fans of brutal death metal and just straightforward death metal. It has the right voltage of riffage to keep one satisfied. It never really descends into anything pointless and repetitive and keep the gruesome vision alive. Blood Red Throne are vets and know how to put together a solid work and they’ve done so here. Fans of bands like Morbid Angel should find something to like here. This band has matured really nicely and there is no better time to check them out.
Cognizance – Phantazein (Willowtip)
Originating in Leeds, UK, Cognizance are adept at crafting a sublime technical death metal album. Three years after the release of Upheaval, they celebrate their return with their third album Phantazin, another prominent effort which brings a special sonic exhibition to the fore once again.
Phantazein is striking, catchy and groovy technical death metal, whose progressive strains also stand out. While it becomes atmospheric in many moments, it institutionalizes its musical horizon in the soundscape of modern death metal in the strongest form. From David Diepold’s drumming to Alex Baillie and Apostolis Karydis’ riff exchanges, Chris Binns pounding bass tunes, and Henry Pryce’s performance, which is like a beast behind the microphone, all keep Phantazein at the same peak quality of the last two albums. The songwriting and performances are impressive and the production pushes the album to the point it needs to keep the listener excited until the end. Phantazein is a special work for the band’s new audience and a respectable work for Cognizance fans.
Corax B.M. – Pagana (The Circle)
Corax B.M. take the unusual step of using only bass guitars for all the guitar work on Pagana, which gives their pagan black metal a stifling crunch. The lyrics are in Greek, expressed by raspy wails and a female vocalist who whispers and sings alongside them. Opener “Angelos Eksodios ” and closer “Zophos” are the longest songs on this 30-minute record, allowing for gradual shifts into atmospheric notes from the jabs of blast beats.
It’s not often black metal can be deemed catchy, but Corax B.M. hit that feeling a few times on Pagana. The middle of the album, with its punctual compositions, has some great bass riffs that will illicit foot stomping if sitting down. The band have brought in a keyboardist for future live performances, which happened after this debut album was recorded and could have an interesting effect on future releases.
Dead Poet Society – Fission (Spinefarm)
Coming just a short two years after their popular second album -!-, Dead Poet Society seem to be slowly coming out of their growing pains. Though the tonal difference can feel a bit jarring, it’s hard to deny the fact that they put just as much emotion and feeling to this as they have previously.
Fission is a solid album. From start to end it is clear that the biggest influence was Muse. This influence stands out the most with tracks like “I hope you hate me’ and “Hurt.” “Tipping Point” stands out above the other songs as it provides a nice brief ballad that makes it stand out from the rest of the album. With just three albums under their belt it seems so far that Dead Poet Society are willing to experiment with the genre to get the sound they want.
Dipygus – Dipygus (Memento Mori)
Californian death metal crew Dipygus are back with their third album, a self-titled effort and one with a renewed energy and disgusting sounding lyrical content. Dipygus have never been shy with their samples bringing you to a state of nausea when juxtaposed with the music that is equally as vile. Dipygus are the real deal when it comes to visceral death metal.
Whether it be their continuing fascination with cryptids like Bigfoot (“The Ochopee Skunk Ape”) or a church massacre in Africa )“Monrovia, LR 1990”), Dipygus’ attention to detail here is no hold barred. The overall sound is rooted heavily is the darkest of death metal, with nary a shred of melodicism, instead opting for brute force as evidenced by another album cover adorned with our neolithic cousins. This is a solid death metal effort that properly marries the rudimentary sounds of the genre to equally distressing subject matter. Dipygus is a whole-body experience of death metal.
Dissimulator – Lower Form Resistance (20 Buck Spin)
Dissimulator are a new project from members of Chthe’ilist and Atramentus (both bands that need to release new material ASAP) that has the trio on point with a technical death/thrash metal sound with Lower Form Resistance. This is the kind of music that was coming out of the evolving thrash movement of the late ’80s/early ’90s, where bands like Coroner and Voivod were testing how far the genre could step from its humble roots.
Robotic effects on the gruff vocals in a few songs add a mechanical essence, as technology comes to rule us all. The group goes farther vocally, employing singing on the excellent closing title track, which is split between sharp instrumental work and uncontained hostility. Lower Form Resistance is an exciting debut album from musicians that continue to step through any boundaries in their way.
Dripping Decay – Ripping Remains (Satanik Royalty)
If it seems like it was just a few months ago that this writer discussed the death metal group Dripping Decay, that’s because it was just about six months ago that they put out their seismic debut album, Festering Grotesqueries. It didn’t take them much time to put together an EP worth of material with Ripping Remains, which contains five new songs and an uproarious take on Halloween’s “Trick Or Treat.”
A cover of an obscure 1980’s speed metal song from a band out of Detroit may seem an odd choice, but it gives the EP a sense of loose fun as guitarist “Maniac” Neil Smith solos his fingers off. Coming so close off the release of their first record, Ripping Remains is a good companion piece, with them getting doomy on “Lead To Kill” and going full-on grind with “Emanating Necrosis” and the title track.
Exocrine – Legend (Season Of Mist)
The French progressive death metal band Exocrine have been around for a little more than a decade, and have been prolific since their 2015 debut Unreal Existence. Legend is their sixth album.
Exocrine’s musicianship, as on previous albums, is outstanding. Their compositions are relatively streamlined, but pack a lot into four or so minutes. “Legend” contrasts heavy tech-death with progressive moments and even a trumpet to add variety. And while the technicality is impressive, Exocrine also inject melody into their songwriting, giving tracks like “Life” brief moments of catchiness. The longest song on the album is the six plus minute “By The Light Of The Pyre,” with a cinematic intro setting the stage for an epic number. Legend continues Exocrine’s string of quality albums.
The Gems – Phoenix (Napalm)
After an acrimonious parting with Thundermother, vocalist Guernica Mancini, guitarist/bassist Mona “Demona” Lindgren and drummer Emlee Johansson quickly formed The Gems. The opening interlude “Aurora” declares the new beginning with lyrics such as “In the face of misfortune/we rise up again/just like a phoenix.”
Phoenix is bluesy hard rock with big grooves, earworm melodies and singalong choruses. Rousing, uptempo songs like “Domino,” “Force Of Nature” and “Silver Tongue” power the album, but The Gems change things up from time to time. There’s violin on the instrumental “Maria’s Song,” an acoustic version of the crunchy rocker “Like A Phoenix,” and Mancini shows her versatility on the ballad “Ease Your Pain.” Her vocals throughout are potent and varied. With chemistry developed in their previous band, The Gems hit the ground running with Phoenix.
Hellman – Born, Suffering, Death (Black Lodge)
Hellman are a trio from Chile who are unapologetic fans of the death & roll style of music on Born, Suffering, Death. A faithful cover of Entombed’s “Out Of Hand,” as well as a nod to Motorhead on “Unnecessary Consuming,” are just one of many ways Hellman show this off. That latter track has savory bass guitar leads, punched up by an extended drum solo in the middle of its three minutes.
An ominous synth introduction to opener “The 4th Power” may signal to some that a haunting is ahead, but then the band throws that aside for slithering riffage. The closest the band gets away from its fast and loose mentality is a slower lurch in the middle of “Silent Genocide.” Otherwise, this debut from Hellman is a well-conditioned take on death ‘n’ roll.
Mountain Caller – Chronicle II: Hypergenesis (Church Road)
The UK trio Mountain Caller emerged in 2020 with Chronicle I: The Truthseeker, and the instrumental album drew comparisons to bands like Pelican and Elder. That was followed by the Chronicle: Prologue EP in 2021. Guitarist Claire Simson, bassist El Reeve and drummer Max Maxwell’s second full-length is Chronicle II: Hypergenesis.
Dynamics and diversity are Mountain Caller’s forte. The songs on the album are generally in the five to seven minute range, allowing plenty of space for sonic exploration. Tracks like “The Archivist” shift from mellow prog rock to heavy sludge/doom and back again. “Into The Woods” is a highlight, showcasing post rock/metal, doom, psychedelic rock and more. And while it’s a mostly instrumental album, Reeve’s excellent vocals on “Dead Language” add another dimension to the band’s sound. While instrumental music isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, Mountain Caller’s songwriting and musicianship make Chronicle II: Hypergenesis an engaging and memorable album.
Satyasena – Satyasena (Sympatry)
Several years ago drummer Pej Mon (Secret Chief 3, Ghoul) decided to learn vocals and guitar and began writing an album. After honing his skills, those demos eventually became Satyasana‘s self-titled debut album. While Mon handled vocals, guitar and drum duties on Satyasana, three different bassists (including High On Fire’s Jeff Matz) and keyboardist Kareem Joseph Karam (The Locus) also contributed.
The album careens from style to style, with the common thread being the intensity and passion of the music and vocals. Satyasena falls under the heavy rock umbrella, injecting everything from psych rock to sludge to doom to punk to noise. Tracks like “Ancestral” shift from smooth grooves to frenzied chaos and back. Catchy riffs drive “South Node,” which moves at a brisk pace. A tasty bass riff gets “Vibrational Hydration” moving before it kicks in. Mon’s vocals are varied, from traditional singing to yells and spoken word. Satyasena is able to run the gamut of numerous genres while remaining cohesive.
Slower – Slower (Heavy Psych Sounds)
What would happen if you took Slayer songs and slowed them down to sludge/doom metal? That’s the vision behind Slower’s self-titled debut, which takes five of their cuts, both well-known and deep, and cuts the tempos in half. An ingenious idea, it’s a surprise it hasn’t been done more often. It helps having band members with experience in this style, as they are involved with other projects such as Monolord, Fu Manchu, and Year Of The Cobra.
“Dead Skin Mask” and “South Of Heaven” are logical choices to warp into sludgy delights, but who would think of taking a wicked scorcher like “The Antichrist” or “Blood Red” and do the same thing? When a song originally under three minutes is stretched to over eight, like “The Antichrist” is, it’s a whole different experience. That’s the appeal of Slower, taking established favorites and contorting them into something original.
Static-X – Project Regeneration Volume 2 (Otsego)
The ugly dissolution of Static-X’s original incarnation is well-documented, as is the tragedy of frontman Wayne Static’s death in 2014. As the remaining members forge ahead, Project: Regeneration Vol. 2 features the last of Static’s songs and vocal performances. Some may view any criticism of this project as churlish. But to be blunt, while they were among heavy music’s biggest names in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, the band’s Prong-meets-Ministry sound wasn’t remotely original. However, it’s an industrialized brand of nu-metal that sold in droves.
These songs are lovingly and respectfully crafted, filled with pulsating beats, samples and the occasional incisive hook, but overall, their fare remains largely one-dimensional as ever. There are visceral thrills to be found amid the repetition and formula; Korn-influenced “Black Star”, “Run For Your Life” seems tailor-made to stir up mosh-pits, and “Disco Otsego” is highly danceable. Meanwhile, “Stay Alive” features some pointedly autobiographical lyrics from Static. The LP was produced by current vocalist/guitarist Xer0; kudos, as his work packs a sonic gut-punch. Even a glance at YouTube comments will reinforce the polarizing response to the group continuing under the Static-X moniker. But while there are shortcomings apparent, those seeking familiarity and nostalgia will embrace this.
Vipassi – Lightless (Season Of Mist)
Vipassi’s instrumental music on Lightless approaches progressive metal from multiple fronts, from contentious action to blissful reflection. It’s done with a better hand than their promising EP, Sunyata, which felt as if they were at the cusp of putting it all together. While the heavenly choir from that release is mostly missing on Lightless, the sonic complexity of these songs is boosted.
There are amazing performances all around, including warm fretless bass tones on “Phainesthai” and “Ruination Glow.” Vipassi counter their ripping death metal tempos with synth-laden melodies that let drummer Daniel Presland flex his abilities. Lightless runs deep with expertly crafted musicianship that doesn’t veer into overindulgence.