This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Astralborne, Black Sorcery, Dead Heat, Eave, Eternal Rot, Girlschool, The Glorious Dead, Lowlife, Panzerchrist, Sevendust, Signs Of The Swarm, Thra, Tongues and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Astralborne – Across The Aeons (Prosthetic)
There are valid comparisons between Across The Aeons, Astralborne’s second album, and their debut, Eternity’s End. Both have an opening and closing instrumental driven by acoustic guitars, as well as another instrumental somewhere in the middle portion of their respective albums that highlights the skills of guitarist Derik Smith.
There’s a penultimate song in each that pushes their melodic death metal into a proggy frame, which is relevant with their albums speaking in terms of aeons and eternities. Cellist Kakophonix returns as a session musician with an expanded role, as he is prominently displayed on Across The Aeons. His interplay with the group, mainly when the acoustics take over, is a lovely partnership with much potency. A tasteful cover of In Flames’ “December Flower” is an appealing bonus as well.
Black Sorcery – Deciphering Torment Through Malediction (Eternal Death)
When it comes to black metal, Rhode Island is not the first state that comes to mind to have a metal scene. Formed from bands like Bog of the Infidel, Sangus and Nefarious, Black Sorcery take their place upon the two decades worth of black metal lineage.
Claiming to be “Crude and rude but not without a sense of regal refinement,” it is safe to say that is the best description of Deciphering Torment Through Malediction. Tracks like “Erinyes Slough” provide a nice brutal ride to songs such “Gasping for Light Under a Petrine Cross” that seem to provide a pinch of power metal sprinkled into the mix. Deciphering Torment Through Malediction is so far one of the stronger debut albums to come out this summer and their future looks nice and grim for them.
Dead Heat – Endless Torment (Tankcrimes/Triple B)
The ripping five track EP Endless Torment from California crossover cretins Dead Heat will help to put the collective metal populous on notice. The opening, titular track is flattening with the drums sounding particularly oppressive with wonderful shouts used to punctuate the overall flow of the song.
“Eyes of the Real” starts off slowly giving off some Power Trip vibes with the guitar leads being used to permeate some speed into the track before all hell breaks loose; being able to also turn on a dime and slow it all down before bringing it all to a close is a master class in the crossover aesthetic. Dead Heat are coming and there is no stopping their aural onslaught. Bow to your new masters as they will look back to Endless Torment as the time when they started to make a huge name for themselves. The grind and the torment are endless for these Ventura County villains.
Eave – Fervor (Bindrune)
The “fervor” coming from the new album from Eave isn’t one driven entirely by hatred, nor is it one given forcefully in a monotone manner. Their last album, Phantoms Made Permanent, had occasional moments like the latter that didn’t resonate well with this writer at the time of review back in 2020.
Fervor, on the other hand, is an upgrade, as the group instills shoegaze-like airiness into their determined black metal.
Most songs work around a section or two of levity that is usually fleeting, as they can’t stay too long away from their noisy side. The rhythm section does get their chance to shine in parts of “Bending The Light” and closer “Into Perdition.” Fervor gives Eave the blueprint to capitalize on after years of working to get to that point.
Eternal Rot – Moribound (Memento Mori//Godz Ov War)
Eternal Rot have the death metal thing all wrapped up on their third album Moribound. They perform a nasty style of the genre that is very rough around the edges. The music is grimy and features vocals that match the atmosphere appropriately. With such nasty riffs the band finds themselves digging a niche for themselves. This is a massive wall of noise with buzz-saw guitars and pounding drums.
There is a feeling that the band gets stuck in a rut and isn’t capable of overcoming it. This leads to a release that is pretty good, but there is the impression it could be better. The album cover of a man trying to ward off undead beings is appropriate for the style of music performed. Even with the aforementioned flaws, this is still a pretty good death metal album and will appeal to those who like things rough around the edges.
Girlschool – WTFortyfive? (Silver Lining)
NWOBHM legends Girlschool are going strong, with WTFortyfive? their first studio album since 2015’s Guilty As Sin. Their current lineup includes original members Kim McAuliffe (vocals, guitar) and Denise Dufort (drums) along with longtime guitarist Jackie Chambers and bassist Tracey Lamb, who returned to the band a few years ago after a nearly 20 year absence.
WTFortyfive? is classic Girlschool, streamlined mostly uptempo, guitar driven traditional metal with singalong choruses and catchy melodies. There are a lot of memorable tracks on the album such as the punky “Up To No Good,” the great harmonies on “Invisible Killer” and the gritty “Are You Ready” featuring Alcatrazz guitarist Joe Stump. The album closes with a cover of Motorhead’s “Born To Raise Hell.” In addition to Motorhead’s Phil Campbell, the track also features Saxon’s Biff Byford and Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan. WTFortyfive? follows a well worn path and finds Girlschool still in fine form after 45 years.
The Glorious Dead – Cemetery Paths (Bindrune)
Cemetery Paths is exactly what death metal worshippers The Glorious Dead needed to do after their humdrum debut album, Into Lifeless Shrines. This record is 10 minutes shorter, kicks up the tempos on a regular basis and incorporates slight atmospheric touches on songs like “Semita Cineris” and “Cemetery Path.”
Those may seem like small upgrades, but they invigorate every aspect of their sound. From the increased presence of guitar solos to morbid songwriting, there are improvements across the board. That’s what a listener wants to hear from a band, a way ahead by taking what worked and capitalizing on that. The Glorious Dead are able to turn the knob up on their ferocity, on their moodiness, on their groove, to get Cemetery Paths to where they should’ve been from the start.
Lowlife – Leader Of A New Generation (Earache)
Viennese hardcore outfit Lowlife unleash their Austrian assault upon the masses with their new record Leader Of A New Generation. What comes across most with Lowlife is their oppressively heavy guitars that border upon beatdown hardcore which is a genre they defend as VSHC (Vienna Style Hardcore). Opener “Hardcore Is The Reason” is a great encapsulation, not only of their sound but as a general ethos of the band as well.
On “Born To Follow” riffs rain upon unsuspecting listeners while shouted lyrics give everything the added weight before the riffs come back slower to bludgeon you into submission. The effectiveness of this genre tends to lose the listener with a 47-minute run time which feels a bit bloated considering the style of music, but Lowlife have enough to get you to the finish line. This is solid hardcore from a band attempting to make an international name for themselves.
Panzerchrist – Last Of A Kind (Emanzipation)
The long-running Danish blackened death metal band Panzerchrist have undergone a complete overhaul since their last album ten years ago. Bassist/keyboardist Panzergeneral is lone remaining member from the band’s early days, though guitarist Frederik O’Carroll has rejoined the band after a 17 year absence. The new members are vocalist Sonja Rosenlund Ahl (Arsenic Addict), guitarist Danny Bo Pedersen (Arsenic Addict) and drummer Danni Jelsgaard (Svartsot).
They hit the ground running with the fast and intense “Turn The Rack.” Things slow down on the 8 minute title track with intense black metal style vocals from Ahl. The longest song on the album is followed by the shortest, the just over 90 second “The Fires On Gallows Hill” that brings death metal to the forefront. The production, while not low-fi, gives the songs a gritty edge. Last Of A Kind is a welcome return for Panzerchrist, and for those who want to explore their early material, the band’s 2003 album Room Service is being reissued on vinyl this week.
Sevendust – Truth Killer (Napalm)
It isn’t dumb luck that enables a hard rock band to survive long enough to release 14 albums; Sevendust‘s work ethic has knocked out records on a prolific basis and cultivated a loyal following. Truth Killer is one of their better efforts in recent times, although it’s not sans formulaic or forgettable moments. At times in the past, their nu-metalised riffing style seemed so tired someone should have let them rest, but the strong production on this LP welcomingly affords the guitars a little more room to breathe. Lajon Witherspoon’s smooth, passionate croon does its best to elevate the melodies amid rumbling grooves and electronic elements, lending a soulfness and emotional heft to “Superficial Drug” and “Leave Hell Behind.”
Opener “I Might Let the Devil Win” is one of the few genuine curveballs here; a melancholic slow-burner with piano, glitchy beats and an almost NIN-like moody sensibility. Other highlights include “Won’t Stop the Bleeding,” boasting one of the record’s catchier choruses, alongside suitably heavy yet hook-laden riffage and a quality guitar solo. “Sick Mouth” is urgent and bruisingly heavy, yet memorable, and boasts an intensity and dynamics well-suited to live shows. The dozen tracks do start to feel interchangeable after a while. There’s not much variation and a little filler. It’s difficult to see Truth Killer winning many new fans to the fold, but Sevendust will continue to be honest with their audience.
Signs Of The Swarm – Amongst The Low & Empty (Century Media)
The Pittsburgh deathcore band Signs Of The Swarm have had a couple of lineup changes since 2021’s Absolvere. Their fifth album Amongst The Low & Empty is the debut of bassist Michael Cassese (Sterlizing The Deceased) and guitarist Carl Schulz (Great American Ghost).
Their pummeling deathcore is an intense as ever, but this time around they made an effort to incorporate other heavy styles ranging from death to djent and even a hint of industrial. They add some groove to tracks like “Tower Of Torsos” and “DREAMKILLER,” which gives the album a bit more melody and a welcome respite from the constant barrage of brutality. Trivium’s Matt Heafy guests on “The Witch Beckons,” a dense number that goes from fast to glacial in pace. Amongst The Low & Empty is Signs Of The Swarm’s most varied work to-date.
Thra – Forged In Chaotic Spew (Translation Loss)
There are bands that release “aggressive” music that can be convincing enough to make one believe that there are legit emotions in play, and then there’s a group like Thra that seem surrounded in rage every waking moment. How else can their debut album, Forged In Chaotic Spew, be this authentically menacing? Their misanthropic sludge is lathered in sharp feedback and blackened death metal.
Any peeks of melody that were present in their 2021 single “Clairvoyant” are long gone, as the group wallows in their cosmic vomit and toxic flesh. There’s a two-part ambient track “Terror Vessel” that offers relief if the idea of that to someone is looming uneasiness. Their hostility feels legitimate, and they don’t offer a path forward from that, preferring to let the darkness consume them at any cost.
Tongues – Formlose Stjerner (I, Voidhanger)
Tongues begin at the end with their second album, Formlose Stjerner. The finality of the world we inhabit is the starting point for the group on opener “Elder Fire” and it doesn’t get uplifting from there. Formlose Stjerner (English translation being “formless stars”) channels their death/doom/black metal mix into four songs, three of which are between seven and eight minutes long and a closing title track pushing past 15 minutes.
This expansion isn’t new for the band, but they exhaust all their means to reach out to a spiritual realm that’s untouchable. Unlike 2017’s Hreilia, there are no ambient sidetracks for a listener to escape to. When they maintain a feverish pace for the entirety of “Awake In The Macrochasm,” it becomes a powerful draw to gravitate towards. That speaks for much of Formlose Stjerner, even when the track lengths are expanded.
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Slaughter On First Avenue (Rise Above)
As Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats fans patiently await the follow-up to 2018’s Wasteland, the band is releasing their first live album. The title of Slaughter On First Avenue refers to the legendary Minneapolis venue made famous by Prince. The album consists of songs from shows there in 2019 and 2022.
The band is known for their potent live shows, and that is evident on the nearly 90 minute, 14 song release. The set spans the band’s career, with songs from every album starting with their 2010 debut Volume 1. There’s a fairly even distribution of songs, with four tracks from Wasteland. There are no studio tricks to polish the songs or fix mistakes. The shows are raw and energetic, with the band’s blend of doom and psychedelic rock hitting on all cylinders. Slaughter On First Avenue is a worthy snapshot of the band’s live prowess.