This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Ageless Summoning, Akercocke, Ancestral Blood, Bloodletter, Cadaver, Mizmor, Outer Heaven, Oxbow, Restraining Order, Somnuri, Thunder Horse and Viral Tyrant.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ageless Summoning – Corrupting The Entempled Plane (Dark Descent)
When a band name drops the Steve Tucker era of Morbid Angel and ‘90s Immolation as their guiding influences, as Ageless Summoning do on Corrupting The Entempled Plane, there’s going to be weird, esoteric themes present. That’s what this United Kingdom quintet are striving for, not only lyrically, but with guitars that are like the claws of demons dragging their victims to some sort of hellscape.
The album’s intrigue is from a song like the seven-and-a-half minute closer “Salvation In Ash,” which plays around with death/doom that eventually collapses under the force of an extended buzzsaw guitar solo. Ageless Summoning are able to invoke the mystical properties of a lot of great ‘90s death metal bands without resorting to formulaic compositions.
Akercocke – Decades Of Devil Worship (Peaceville)
There hasn’t been a lot of new material from the UK black/death metal band Akercocke over the past decade. 2017’s Renaissance In Extremis was their first album in ten years, and fans are still waiting for the follow-up. In the meantime, the band dug into their archives for the live album Decades Of Devil Worship.
It was recorded back in 2007 at the Underworld in London. The show, which is just over an hour long, features tracks from their 1999 debut Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene and 2001’s The Goat Of Mendes. Tracks from their debut like “Nadja” and “Justine” are razor-sharp and focused, while songs from their sophomore release such as “The Horns Of Baphomet” and “The Ceremony Of Nine Angles” are longer and more complex, though they’ve progressed a lot since then. A new album would be optimal, but in lieu of that, this blast from Akercocke’s past is an interesting take on songs from their early days.
Ancestral Blood – Forgotten Myths And Legends – Chapter 1 (Wormholedeath)
Following the traditional principles and keeping the flag of the black metal titans’ empire flying high has always been a point followed by many new bands. But for Ancestral Blood, who happened to be formed in the same historical moment of the late ’90s, is considered as a return to that golden age.
The first sparks of Ancestral Blood’s music were struck in the late ’90s, but a series of unexpected events disrupted the band’s activity. Their debut Forgotten Myths And Legends – Chapter 1 is a time traveler that takes its audience to more than two decades ago, and enthusiastically penetrates the roots of symphonic/melodic black metal. The album mightily fills the audience with joy and wonder, digging into the glorious era when Limbonic Art, Odium, Obtained Enslavement and Cradle of Filth released their finest works and recreates that glory. This is where Forgotten Myths… falls short of its own tone, but it is the masterful re-creation that makes Ancestral Blood’s effort so praiseworthy.
Bloodletter – A Different Kind Of Hell (Wise Blood)
Chicago’s Bloodletter abide by an admirable philosophy: any riff worth playing is worth harmonizing. Equal parts Slayer and Iron Maiden, with a melodic death metal core, Bloodletter blast out of the gate on A Different Kind Of Hell and never let up. Although, much as Jimmy Page understood how “light and shade” made Led Zeppelin’s heavy parts seem heavier, Bloodletter master the art of mixing up their breakneck pace with majestic, mammoth bridge riffs that create the impression that the fast parts get faster.
With no track exceeding the four minute mark, Bloodletter pack tracks like ”Blood is Life” and “The Last Tomb” chock full of their trademark elements. The album whizzes by in a blur of melodic riffs, harmonized solos, blast beats, and vocalist/guitarist Pete Carparelli’s howling rasp, noticeably improved over their previous release. Though short on variety, A Different Kind Of Hell is an exhilarating ride and a stellar example of a modern take on ’80s-style thrash.
Cadaver – The Age Of The Offended (Nuclear Blast)
It has been a challenging few years for Norwegian death metal veterans Cadaver. In addition to dealing with the pandemic, frontman Anders Odden fought and won a battle with cancer. For their latest album The Age Of The Offended, Odden and drummer Dirk Verberuren (Megadeth, Soilwork) were joined by guitarist Ronni Le Tekro (TNT). He was only supposed to play on the TNT cover “Deadly Metal,” but ended up doing the entire album. Bassist Eilert Solstad, who also played on Cadaver’s 1992 album …in Pains, guests on “Scum Of The Earth.”
The album title refers to how many in Odden’s generation feel about today’s social media era. There’s plenty of the band’s trademark old-school death metal, exemplified by tracks like “Dissolving Chaos” and “Death Revealed.” There are a few curveballs, like bringing in the same trombone player who played the intro for 1993’s Hallucinating Anxiety to also play in the intro for this album. Verbeuren is one of the best drummers in the business, and that’s evident throughout The Age Of The Offended. Odden and Le Tekro’s guitar work is also top-notch. This is only their sixth album in a 30 plus year career, but Cadaver make each one count, and that’s the case with the excellent The Age Of The Offended.
Mizmor – Prosaic (Profound Lore)
The one-man black/doom artist Mizmor has had a productive last few years. Since 2019 he has released a live album, the full-length Cairn, an EP, a compilation, and collaborations with Andrew Black and Thou. His latest release is Prosaic.
Like Cairn, this album consists of four lengthy songs, but this one is more than 15 minutes longer than that one. Even on nearly 15 minute tracks like opener “Only An Expanse,” A.L.N. is able to maintain interest as the music shifts from brisk black metal to glacial doom and back again. “No Place To Arrive” takes the opposite approach, starting off with a crushing, deliberate pace before briefly amping up the intensity, throwing in an acoustic section, and then cranking the metal back up. Prosaic is a dynamic album, one of those where each listen reveals something new.
Outer Heaven – Infinite Psychic Depths (Relapse)
Infinite Psychic Depths featuring more of Outer Heaven‘s universe, spanning extraterrestrial death metal which picks up right where Realms Of Eternal Decay left off five years ago. “Soul Remnants” is a marvel with so many intricacies flying around at warp speed. It can be easy to miss each volley the band is launching at you; this is death metal played with technical aplomb and purpose.
“Drained of Life” fires out of the gate with chugging riffs that spiral out of control, only leveling out to help vocalist Austin Haines conjure up more interstellar insanity while you travel the cosmos. It should come as no surprise that Outer Heaven test the boundaries of human perception and that comes across with each sweeping section of stellar strikes on the fretboard. Fans of Nucleus, middle era Pestilence and Blood Incantation needn’t look any further than Outer Heaven for their next level of Infinite Psychic Depth, one of the best death metal albums of 2023.
Oxbow – Love’s Holiday (Ipecac)
San Francisco experimentalists Oxbow have been doing their thing since the late ’80s, creating a diverse and unique catalog. They are one of those bands that have a rabid fan base and critics love, though they haven’t had a ton of commercial success. Frontman Eugene Robinson is also a journalist, having contributed to numerous publications over the years, including Decibel and Revolver. The band’s latest album, and first in six years, is Love’s Holiday.
Categorizing Oxbow has always been difficult, and that’s the case here. This time around there’s a lot of orchestration on the album. The ballad “Lovely Murk” includes guest vocals from Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota), while a 15 person choir adds depth and atmosphere to tracks like “Gunwale” and “All Gone.” There also more chaotic songs like “Dead Ahead,” and songs such as “Icy White & Crystalline” that have some heaviness, but most of the songs on Love’s Holiday are fairly reserved and mellow. No matter the tempo or intensity of a song, Robinson’s dynamic vocals are always engaging. This is another interesting addition to Oxbow’s impressive body of work.
Restraining Order – Locked In Time (Triple B)
Modern day hardcore punk revivalists Restraining Order‘s sophomore effort Locked In Time is the long awaited follow-up to 2018’s This World Is Too Much. Restraining Order get a lot out of their music in short order with 12 tracks just under 22 minutes. There is a lot to love with infinitely replayable, bite-sized tracks.
“Left Unsaid” is a raucous jam that is sure to set off an unsuspecting crowd with guitar solos and pounding drums. “Inmates” has serious Minor Threat sensibilities about it with the former band’s stop and go attack on full display here. “Another Better Day” and the title track continue their excellent melodic approach to their songwriting with the latter of which hitting some acoustic sections and some Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. thrown in for good measure. This all helps to fully flesh out this album’s surprising amount of depth when compared to its relative brevity. Locked In Time is one of the best punk albums of 2023 so far.
Somnuri – Desiderium (MNRK Heavy)
There’s a sense with Somnuri’s third album Desiderium that the Brooklyn, New York-based sludge metal group have become the best version of themselves. They haven’t sounded as amped up before as they do on the seething duo of “Pale Eyes” and “What A Way To Go,” which are the shortest gut-punching songs the band have ever written.
Desiderium have plenty of anger driving its riffs, yet vocalist/guitarist Justin Sherrell also has a great singing voice that he doesn’t ignore. It’s this duality of melody and rage that Somnuri has nailed down after years of being on the cusp of getting there. If there was a release that would break this band out into the greater masses, Desiderium should be their golden ticket.
Thunder Horse – After The Fall (Ripple)
After The Fall, the third album from the Texas band Thunder Horse, features a doom-laden feeling that lays a smack down on the listener. The entirety of the album is a solid vision of what a new doom release should aspire to sound like.
Songs like the title track are very easy to digest and lead to a certain euphoria. While not the most original sounding doom ever, it does manage to sound a bit different than the typical genre release. The ethereal guitars are very pleasing and make up a good portion of the musicianship. This brings the guitar riffs on a higher plane and manages to be quality doom through and through. It’s an album you’ll be coming back to time and time again. Fans of bands like Paradise Lost and Cathedral will find something to like here.
Viral Tyrant – Vultures Like You (Ripple)
Viral Tyrant’s Vultures Like You begins with “The Felling Of The Doom Tree,” an ingenious name that signifies exactly what their debut album is all about. This 10-minute starter is a portrait of the song title in real time. Such an immense song has to be maintained by flexible songwriting, which the group does with a thrashier break on “Beloved And Beheaded” and a guitar soloing binge on “Vosturan.”
A big set piece to Vultures Like You is the expansive instrumental, “The Great Traverse,” which sets a nice picture of a group traveling through an endless forest with no sights on an exit. Guitarist Eric Wallace and bassist Casey Martin both take vocal duties on the record, leading to a visceral duet on closer “Blunt Force And Sheer Ignorance” that amplifies the group’s stout doom metal.