Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of June 7, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Amen Corner, Apocalyptica, Brazen Tongue, Candy, Deathwish, Dvrk, Evergrey, Holycide, Insect Ark, Noroth, Severe Torture, Thanatotherion and Umbra Vitae.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Hammerheart Records

Amen Corner – Written By The Devil (Hammerheart)

Amen Corner are masters at delivering an authentic black metal sound, and Written By The Devil is proof of this. Atmospheric and haunting, the album plays tense instrumentals reminiscent of the classics that pair harmoniously with lead vocalist Sucoth Benoth’s defiant roars. It feels like a final countdown, the sounds you hear close to death. The guitar and bass fight for dominance as the drums pump out a steady gut-punching beat in a way that’s reminiscent of a horror film soundtrack.

As the album progresses, the atmosphere becomes dire. We are seemingly given a message through the dismal attitude of the music; not everyone will survive. In Written By The Devil, Amen Corner take no prisoners. They deliver listeners an epic tale of death and destruction. But while it tries to pull out all the stops, the execution fails to impress. Slightly unremarkable, it is worth a listen, especially if you favor thrash-influenced, fast-paced black metal.

Rating: 3
(Ethan Wylan)

BMG Records

Apocalyptica – Apocalyptica Plays Metallica Vol. 2 (BMG)

Back in 1996 the Finnish group Apocalyptica emerged, a cello band playing instrumental Metallica covers. Over the years they branched out into writing original material, and they have even incorporated vocals on a few songs. Nearly 20 years after their debut, they revisit the band that helped put them on the map with Apocalyptica Plays Metallica Vol. 2.

It has everything you’ve come to expect from an Apocalyptica album: faithful renditions played in the band’s unique orchestral style with a lot of texture and dynamics that help make them even more compelling. This time around they cover Metallica tracks such as “Ride The Lightning,” “St. Anger,” and “Holier Than Thou.” Legendary drummer Dave Lombardo guests on “Blackened,” and two current members of Metallica also appear on the album. Bassist Rob Trujillo guests on “The Four Horsemen,” while Trujillo and vocalist James Hetfield lend their talents to “One.” Hetfield does spoken word instead of singing, giving the song an entirely different vibe.  The most surprising appearance is Cliff Burton, whose original bass line is part of “The Call Of Ktulu.” Apocalyptica Plays Metallica Vol. 2 is a fitting homage to the band, and the fact that Metallica has so much involvement in it gives it that extra stamp of approval.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Brazen Tongue – Of Crackling Embers & Sorrows Drowned (Self)

Brazen Tongue are a melodic death/thrash metal group scattered all over the world, harnessing the power of technology to get four musicians together that never share the same location for Of Crackling Embers & Sorrows Drowned. With how advanced recording software has gotten, piecing together compositions through file sharing is very easy nowadays. It’s making them comprehensive and engaging that bands can run into issues with, yet Brazen Tongue are effective with their acidic metal.

The vocals have a tinge of Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe to the harsh tones, yet the husky singing that appears on “Last Train From Myrdal” gives the quasi-ballad a rougher shape. That song, along with the double-digit length of “The Maddening Symmetries,” place the group in unfamiliar areas that they thrive in. These stand out better than the bashing bluntness of “The Weight of Self” and “Metaviral.”

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Relapse Records

Candy – It’s Inside You (Relapse)

Candy’s third full-length It’s Inside You is their most varied to date, with hardcore, metal and electronics on full display from start to finish. Opening with the short “eXistenZ,” Candy are able to showcase their brand of metallic hardcore, that being whatever the hell they want it to be; stop and go sections with almost nu metal sensibilities, especially on the bass and guitar riffs.

If you balance out the other side of the first two tracks, namely “Short Circuit,” you get a much more different approach, a slower and more deliberate plodding section of guitars that bludgeon the listener into submission before giving way to electronic sounds that help to transition to the next track. You can’t predict all the twists and turns on this record. Hardcore has become so much more than it once was and with recent albums from Jesus Piece, Gel and Never Ending Game, Candy clearly got the message to continue to up the ante. It’s Inside You might be the most varied hardcore album you have ever heard.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Beer City Records

Deathwish – The Fourth Horseman (Beer City)

Hailing from the cheese state, there is nothing cheesy about Wisconsin thrash metallers Deathwish giving us their first album in seven years, The Fourth Horseman. Blurring the line between thrash, punk rock and a sprinkle of rock-n roll, The Fourth Horseman turns out to be on par with their earlier works.

“Aces and Eights” and “Edge of the Knife” showcase Deathwish’s trademark Motorhead inspired drums and the primarily punk infused vocals. The Fourth Horseman serves as a continuation from where they had left off with Unleashing Hell. The consistent improvements and willingness to adapt and try something new while also sticking with the style they know best is what helps Deathwish to stand out.

Rating: 3.5
(Dalton Husher)

Season Of Mist

Dvrk – Infinite Reminiscence (Season Of Mist)

Dvrk put their own spin on deathcore by incorporating EDM into the chugging breakdowns on their debut EP Infinite Reminiscence, and boy are there a lot of them on this 18-minute release. When someone thinks of deathcore’s shakiest tendencies, this is the kind of music that is on the short list. Most of the songs are structured around these breakdowns, usually punctuated by electronic fiddling or bassy programmed beats.

“Paco” does try to be more emotional leaning with its piano and mournful atmosphere, letting Dvrk show faint signs of doing something different within the genre. Their music will resonate better in a crowd that just wants to windmill kick and swing their arms around, but a studio setting doesn’t capture that kinetic energy well.

Rating: 2.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Napalm Records

Evergrey – Theories Of Emptiness (Napalm)

Tom S. Englund has been very prolific over the past few years. His other bands Redemption and Silent Skies both released new albums in 2023. His main project Evergrey is not taking any time off either, with Theories Of Emptiness their third album since 2021, and they also issued a live album and a compilation during that time frame.

The frequency of Evergrey albums has not diminished the quality of the material. Theories Of Emptiness is a diverse effort, blending heavy aggressive tracks like “Misfortune” and “Say” with mellower numbers such as “Ghost Of My Hero.” Most of the songs have both aggressive and melancholy moments. One of the album highlights is “Cold Dreams,” blending Englund’s smooth melodic vocals with harsh vocals from Katatonia’s Jonas Renske and backing vocals from Englund’s daughter Salina. It’s easy to take Evergrey for granted, as they continually deliver albums that pack an emotional punch and are also catchy and memorable. Theories Of Emptiness follows that path, the latest in a long line of high-quality albums from Evergrey.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Xtreem Music

Holycide – Towards Idiocracy (Xtreem)

The 2006 Mike Judge movie Idiocracy was satirical, but it turns out many of its predictions were eerily accurate. Spanish thrashers Holycide aren’t impressed with the current state of the world, with their third album Towards Idiocracy exploring lyrical themes of A.I., power and technology.

Their brand of old school thrash doesn’t break any new ground, but it is flawlessly executed. Potent riffs and aggressive vocals from Dave Rotten (Avulsed) propel songs like “Remote Control” and “Power Corrupts,” which barrel along at maximum speed. They slow the pace down slightly on tracks like “Angry For Nothing” but without any reduction in aggression. Holycide cover Atrophy’s “Chemical Dependency,” doing a little more polished version of the 1988 song while leaving plenty of rawness. There’s nothing subtle about Towards Idiocracy, neither musically nor lyrically, but sometimes to get your message across that’s exactly what you have to do.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Debemur Morti Productions

Insect Ark – Raw Blood Singing (Debemur Morti)

The experimental band Insect Ark have been around since 2011. Dana Schechter (Swans) has been there from the beginning, and for their fourth full-length Raw Blood Singing, drummer Tim Wyskida (Khanate) has joined the fold.

While past releases have been instrumental, Schechter adds vocals this time around. They are most prominent on tracks like “Youth Body Swayed,” while the music does the talking on songs such as the mellow “Cleaven Hearted” and the noisy “Inverted Whirlpool.” It’s impossible to pigeonhole Insect Ark, as they constantly shift styles and genres, exploring everything from doom to goth to noise to avant-garde. Raw Blood Singing is unpredictable and dynamic, and Schechter’s vocals are excellent.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Carbonized Records

Noroth – Sacrificial Solace (Carbonized)

Noroth pray at the altar of the almighty riff on Sacrificial Solace, the band’s blustery third stab at stripped-down death metal. There’s no unnecessary flair added to these eight songs; just 22 or so minutes of potent riffage. After their last album Harbinger tried out some elaborate material that cumulated in the six-minute “Flayed Bodies,” Sacrificial Solace reverts back to the unkempt rage of their It Dwells Amongst Us debut LP.

This is a record that begins in a nasty mood and doesn’t let up, even on restrained moments in “Pleading Depths” and “Poisoned Ashes.” Those two tunes exercise a doomy pace to the guitars, though it’s never long enough to get a listener to believe a permanent change is coming. For Noroth, death metal is grimy and the riffs should follow suit.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Season Of Mist

Severe Torture – Torn From The Jaws Of Death (Season Of Mist)

After a long hiatus, Dutch death metal pioneers Severe Torture have emerged from the shadows, their return heralded by the thunderous sounds of Torn From The Jaws Of Death. This album, released after a 14-year silence, is a testimony to their unwavering commitment to brutal death metal, a genre they continue to hold in their hands and hearts.

While Severe Torture delivered a stunning EP in 2022 and hinted at a greater comeback two years ago, the actual spectacle unfolds on this album. Torn From The Jaws Of Death is the joy of experiencing a full-fledged influential masterpiece. Unmerciful death metal, always rooted in brutality, is now immersed in the undeniable presence of technical death metal and slight strains of black metal. The production and performance on this album elevates the band’s composition, showcasing how a modern day old-school-tinged superior brutal death metal album should sound like. The badge of being the band’s best album to date gleams proudly on Torn From The Jaws Of Death’s chest.

Rating: 4.5
(Arash Khosronejad)

I, Voidhanger Records

Thanatotherion – Alienation Manifesto (I, Voidhanger)

Thanatotherion gather strength from the vengeful drive of blackened thrash metal on Alienation Manifesto, a debut album that is a considerable show of force for the duo. The band was originally named Naughtskeid, a solo project of musician Ominous Droning (aka Ulthar guitarist/vocalist Shelby Lermo) that dabbled in Satanic, low-fi black metal. For this iteration, he brings in Black Fu–ing Cancer drummer J. Bursese for this fluid take on seedy thrash metal.

There’s still that past blasphemy left over, though with more of a sci-fi spin. With most of the album on its toes with furious tempos, it was a wise idea to include two interludes, “Orb” and “Lament.” They use keyboards and noise as a means to retain a creepy front without being caught in a funnel of riffs. The tiring 12-minute closer “Codex Crepusculum” is the lone misfire in an entertaining first effort from Thanatotherion.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Deathwish Inc.

Umbra Vitae – Light Of Death (Deathwish)

Light Of Death is the second album from the death metal band Umbra Vitae, who are fronted by Converge’s Jacob Bannon. The lineup also includes members who are or have been in bands such as The Red Chord, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Twitching Tongues, Hatebreed and Job For A Cowboy.

While there is plenty of traditional death metal, Umbra Vitae don’t stick exclusively to that. Opener “Leave Of Absence” starts with violins before the extremity kicks in. Tracks like “Belief Is Obsolete” and “Past Tense” are packed with grooves, while songs such as “Reality In Retrograde” and “Twenty-Twenty Vision” are more chaotic and frantic. “Velvet Black” is an outlier, with melodic vocals and a more traditional metal vibe in its first half before the harsh vocals and death metal vibes kick in. “Cause & Effect” is another interesting composition, with an acoustic intro that shifts into one of the record’s heavier numbers. With the pedigree of Umbra Vitae’s members, it’s no surprise Light Of Death is a varied and compelling album.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

One Response

  1. bobsala

    2 weeks ago

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