Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of June 21, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from 96 Bitter Beings, Alcest, Ancient Entities, Anthropophagus Depravity, Assimilator, Black Veil Brides, Cavalera, Codex Mortis, King Bastard, Kittie, Portrait, Replacire, Sarke, Seven Spires, Spaceships Over Glasgow, Sumac, Vexing Hex and Voraath.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Nuclear Blast

96 Bitter Beings – Return To Hellview (Nuclear Blast)

Since leaving CKY, their founding guitarist/vocalist/primary songwriter Deron Miller has continued his legacy via Los Angeles rockers 96 Bitter Beings. However, on Return To Hellview he’s taken a look in the rearview mirror and re-recorded a series of CKY favorites. These versions of “Flesh Into Gear”, “Inhuman Creation Station” and “Shippensburg” boast a palpable, likeable energy.

Listening back to the catalogue, the songs do benefit from updated production values here, but may present a unique dichotomy for the faithful. Some may embrace having new versions to explore, but others enamored with the originals won’t accept anything else. While there are obvious modifications at times, Miller has acknowledged that many of the tweaks to these tracks represent details that were “not that important…things that I just wanted to fix that most listeners wouldn’t even notice.” So it may satisfy him artistically, but offers little new for many listeners.

Rating: 3
(Brendan Crabb)

Nuclear Blast

Alcest– Les Chants De L’Aurore (Nuclear Blast)

Les Chants De L’Aurore feels like previous Alcest albums, but this time, you’re experiencing it as a child, capturing the wonder of lost childhood. That’s what makes it different from Spiritual Instinct, for example. This album is ethereal and easy to listen to, unlike many metal albums. It’s a great album for introducing someone to less standard heavy music.

This release ventures into sonic experimentation more than previous Alcest albums, even becoming a bit drone-like in some tracks. However, the pace around the middle of the album suffers slightly, slowing down significantly. Nonetheless, Alcest have still crafted another interesting addition to their fascinating catalogue.

Rating: 3.5
(Carlos Tirado)

Ancient Entities – Echoes Of Annihilation (Self)

Ancient Entities are not just a random band name, but a state of mind on Echoes Of Annihilation. They go back in history to when Mayans and Aztecs reigned, where the idea of a person being tied to a stake and burned alive while wearing a flammable vest was not a plot point to a B-level horror film. Mummification, the burning of Roman civilization and sacrificial cannibalism are just some of the subjects explored with turbulent death metal.

The symphonic intro track “Cenote Sagrado” hints at an immersion into exotic sounds, but Ancient Entities doesn’t rise to that particular anticipation on the rest of Echoes Of Annihilation. Aside from some technical guitar work on songs like “Ritual Autopsy” and ”Wall Of War,” it’s prototypical death metal music. It’s easy to listen to, but hard to remember after listening to it.

Rating: 2.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Comatose Music

Anthropophagus Depravity – Demonic Paradise (Comatose)

Indonesia is not a country that comes to mind when death metal is brought up, and relative newcomers Anthropophagus Depravity and their latest album Demonic Paradise are looking to fix that.

Demonic Paradise is high octane brutality with no rests from start to end. “When the Darkthrone Reigns” does take a slight detour for an unsettling ambient tone, but the rest is quick before slamming right into the rest of the album with the follow up track “Pseudo Salvation.” With Pandu Herlambang’s vocal prowess at the helm and Eko Aryo Widodo’s brutal guitar riffs, Anthropophagus Depravity have the hallmarks of becoming a modern death metal legends at the current trajectory they are heading.

Rating: 3.5
(Dalton Husher)

Horror Pain Gore Death Productions

Assimilator – Expelled Into Suffering (Horror Pain Gore Death)

Assimilator go for a grimier sound on their Expelled Into Suffering EP, accentuating their death metal side more on this compared to their 2022 self-titled debut album. Everything, from the performances to the production, has a coating of raw crud. That works for and against them, as some of the transitions between tempos are clunky and there’s a looseness that doesn’t tie the EP together well.

Even with some of the flaws, it’s great to hear them going wild in a way their first album avoided. There are snapshots of inspired musicianship, like the furious bass intro to “Changeling” and the brash guitar solo in the title track. Assimilator appear to be embracing their nastier side with Expelled Into Suffering.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Spinefarm Records

Black Veil Brides – Bleeders (Spinefarm)

There are very few bands that are consistently good for as long as Black Veil Brides have been. The Bleeders EP is proof that they can do whatever they want, follow any creative path that pleases them, and it will still turn out a great piece of music. Bleeders is full of admiration for the strange; from Sweeney Todd to U2, this short glimpse of the band’s future in the shape of three new songs is a gift to outcasts everywhere. All it does is make you want more.

The three tracks (the title track, a Sweeney Todd cover, and a rendition of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”) are emphatic and lulling, and they bring with them a great promise – a promise that there’s more like this to come. Black Veil Brides have always been for the misfits, and Bleeders shows us that they are still capable of dishing out undeniable metal hits with unique pop culture influences. When the last song fades away, it leaves you wondering one thing: what is next for Black Veil Brides? We’ll find out soon enough. But for now, bleed it out.

Rating: 4
(Ethan Wylan)

Nuclear Blast

Cavalera – Schizophrenia (Nuclear Blast)

Last year Max and Iggor Cavalera revisited their days in Sepultura, re-recording the classic albums Morbid Visions and Bestial Devastation. The brothers are delving into the Sepultura catalog again, this time re-recording 1987’s Schizophrenia. They round out the lineup with another Cavalera, bassist Igor Amadeus Cavalera, along with Pig Destroyer guitarist Travis Stone.

Three plus decades later, their musicianship is more skilled, so technically the playing is better. Also, the production is superior to the original. However, it’s impossible to recapture the passion of youth, the moment in time, the chemistry between the original band members. Still, it’s fun to hear Max and Iggor, now in their 50s, playing seminal songs like “From The Past Comes The Storms” and “To The Wall.” It’s great an album like Schizophrenia is getting the attention it deserves, and Cavalera fans should enjoy the 2024 edition of the record.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Black Lion Records

Codex Mortis – Tales Of Woe (Black Lion)

A malevolent soul being trapped in the body of an unwilling host is an apt concept for Codex MortisTales Of Woe. The death/black metal group’s last album, What Befalls Of Tainted Souls, was a fantastic debut back in 2021 that didn’t make the waves it should have. Tales Of Woe is a leaner record, cutting the running time down by 15 minutes compared to What Befalls Of Tainted Souls in a move of quality assurance.

Quality is what a listener will get from this Dutch group, as they are compelled to decimate with all the resources they have. They do have the foresight to get creative by trying out piano-based intro/outros on “Chosen” and “Fire Screams And Death.” Tales Of Woe is so well-paced that it seems over far sooner than it should, which is a high compliment.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

King Bastard – From Whence They Came (Self)

King Bastard trade one infinite space for another on their sophomore album, From Whence They Came. While the endless stretch of outer space was the subject of their first album, It Came From The Void, this record breaks into the very fabrics of time itself. Over the course of four songs, the group traces the existence of humanity in all its barbaric forms. With this comes an emphasis pf what they call “cavemen riffs” compared to the floaty psychedelic jams from their previous release.

The vocals are kept to a minimum on most of From Whence They Came, saved mainly for opener “Knuckle Dragger” and closer “The Dawn Of Man.” Samples take the place of vocals on the other songs. The music has been pared back as well, with no saxophone or heavy synth usage. Percussive instruments set a tribalistic mood on the opener and are brought back occasionally throughout the album. King Bastard are able to traverse across millenniums to find humans haven’t evolved as much as we all think we have.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Sumerian Records

Kittie – Fire (Sumerian)

After the Kittie documentary Origins/Evolutions was released, it sparked optimism the band might reunite and release new material. It took a few more years, but 13 years after I’ve Failed You, Morgan Lander (vocals), Mercedes Lander (drums), Tara McLeod (guitars) and Ivy Vujic (bass) have returned with Fire.

The ten songs are streamlined alternative metal with minimal filler. They are packed with heavy grooves, catchy melodies and diverse vocals from Morgan Lander that shift from melodic crooning to throat-shredding growls. The album flows well between hard hitting metal songs like “Eyes Wide Open” and “Grime” and more accessible numbers such as “Falter” and “Are You Entertained.” The production from Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains) perfectly captures the variety and dynamics on the album. Fire is a welcome comeback, with Kittie recapturing their past glory while showcasing new elements that move them forward.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Metal Blade Records

Portrait – The Host (Metal Blade)

For their latest album The Host, veteran Swedish metallers Portrait are back to a two guitar attack. It’s the first album for Karl Gustafsson, who joined the group in 2021, who along with founding member Christian Lindell are the engine that propels the record.

For nearly two decades Portrait have been delivering traditional metal that’s heavy and melodic, and that doesn’t change here. There are plenty of memorable songs such as the rousing “The Sacrament,” the ballad “One Last Kiss” and the rollicking “Sound The Horn.” The musicianship is tight throughout, and Per Lengstedt’s distinctive high-pitched vocals are on point. And while The Host is ambitious, it’s also 75 minutes long, and could have used some editing. It does end on a high note with the 11 minute epic “The Passions Of Sophia.”

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Season Of Mist

Replacire – The Center That Cannot Hold (Season Of Mist)

The Boston tech death band Replacire don’t rush their albums. There was a five year span between their 2012 debut The Human Burden and Do Not Deviate. Seven years after that album, and with some lineup changes, they are finally ready to unleash their third record The Center That Cannot Hold.

They’ve got the tech part of tech death down pat, with complex song structures and top-notch musicianship. Replicare also don’t neglect grooves and melody, injecting it in various doses depending on the song. They are at their best when balancing the technical wizardry with good old death metal, such as on tracks like “Living Hell” and “The Ghost In The Mirror.” Death growls are the typical vocals, but melodic singing on songs like “Drag Yourself Along The Earth” and “Hoard The Trauma Like Wealth” add even more diversity. The Center That Cannot Hold is a welcome return that tech death aficionados should embrace.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Soulseller Records

Sarke – Endo Feight (Soulseller)

Imagine a band reshaping their musical perspective with a clever change of direction for a broader, and more striking soundscapes. For Sarke it started with their acclaimed 2017 album Viige Urh. With a few compositional tweaks, they gradually distanced themselves from black metal and began embracing progressive metal/rock elements. The once dominant sounds of Darkthrone and Celtic Frost began to fade, making room for echoes of their compatriots, Audrey Horne, Ihsahn, and more.

Now, we are presented with Sarke’s eighth album, Endo Feight. Black metal still resonates at its core, but not in the typical form. The songs, mostly composed in mid-tempo, create a vast canvas for the dramatic processing of the atmosphere and its intricate details. Now, with a more pronounced presence, the keyboards play a pivotal role in adding a theatrical touch to the songs, and Nocturno Culto’s voice, a pillar of the composition and texture, adds a unique thrills to the songs. Endo Feight is a testament to Sarke’s sonic evolution and a remarkable addition to their career.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Frontiers Music

Seven Spires – A Fortress Called Home (Frontiers)

A Fortress Called Home is the fourth studio album from the Boston symphonic metal band Seven Spires. Lyrically it deals with the walls that people build around themselves. Musically, it’s in the same vein as their previous albums. The songs are meticulously arranged with a lot of dynamics, atmosphere and depth.

Tracks like “Songs Upon Wine-Stained Tongues” and “Where Sorrows Bear My Name” shift from bombastic symphonic metal with harsh vocals to introspective and mellow with melodic singing and back again. Songs such as “Portrait Of Us” and “Emerald Necklace” are more straightforward with predominantly melodic singing from Adrienne Cowan. They move in a different direction with “Love’s Souvenir,” which shifts from an accessible pop song to full symphonic metal bombast. A Fortress Called Home has four fewer songs and is about 15 minutes shorter than Gods Of Debauchery, making it more streamlined but still an expansive and varied listen.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Spaceships Over Glasgow – Blutmond (Self)

What do you get when you take Wolves in The Throne Room and make them a one man black metal outfit from Canada? You get Spaceships Over Glasgow, a solo endeavor by Robbie Janzen and his debut album Blutmond.

For this being a one man act it is honestly quite impressive the level of effort and time it took to record and produce Blutmond. The album checks off the usual black metal hallmarks from guitars to vocals and it stands out the most with “Reykjavik.” For Blutmond to be the debut album as well, he is on a good start. However, the one big issue that could be worked on over time is how the vocals tend to overpower and take away from the quite impressive instrumentation.

Rating: 3
(Dalton Husher)

Thrill Jockey Records

Sumac – The Healer (Thrill Jockey)

No other band in metal evokes anxiety like Sumac, a group that explores ideas most bands wouldn’t dare to touch. The Healer starts where their previous albums left off and delves into deeper sonic exploration, without ever losing sight that this is still an extremely heavy and challenging album.

Sumac’s musical complexity is undeniable, but I want to emphasize the range of emotions they evoke. Forget formulas; Sumac defy traditional metal. The Healer is long and complicated. If you seek Sumac’s chaotic aggression, this isn’t for you. This is an exercise in restraint and impressive catharsis. If you love post-metal and sludge but want it to break from the norm, this is it!

Rating: 4
(Carlos Tirado)

Wise Blood Records

Vexing Hex – Solve Et Coagula (Wise Blood)

With Solve Et Coagula, Illinois based occultists Vexing Hex rise from the depths to deliver some darkness with a pop sheen in a “we put the ABBA in Black Sabbath” kind of way. Right from the outset of “Into The Night” you get similar sonic sensibilities to bands like Ghost but not limited to that as there are electronic elements and nearly sounds of new wave and goth to make this a more interesting package.

“Besmirched” comes at you, guns blazing and is one of the most direct songs that Solve Et Coagula has to offer. Vexing Hex make for a varied and fun listen, especially if you thought your satanism was lacking in hooks and general variety. Solve Et Coagula is efficiently evil, never doing to much within one realm, but instead spreading their wings to wreak havoc on all those who oppose their bubble gum blasphemy.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Exitus Stratagem Records

Voraath – Vol 1: The Hymn Of The Hunters (Exitus Stratagem)

Voraath’s Vol 1: The Hymn Of The Hunters, their first full-length release, involves creatures from different dimensions, mystical keys and dangerous battles, all taking place in the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains. With almost an hour of material, and having the prefix of Vol 1 on it, the band are clearly not skimping on their vision. Their blackened death metal is fitted with symphonic keys and acoustic guitars.

Their reach does exceed itself at points, with some songs resonating better than others. “The Barrens,” “Dirge Colony,” and “Sirenhead” make a strong impression on the first playthrough, though others do pop up as well with more time spent with the record. Inconsistency can be a weakness, but Voraath’s sheer desire to go big on Vol 1: The Hymn Of The Hunters is admirable.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

One Response

  1. bobsala

    1 month ago

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