Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of March 1, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Blazar, Clarion Void, Firewind, Hands Of Goro, Lesbian Bed Death, Marble Ghosts, Ministry, Sentry, Sheer Mag, Suldusk and Zakk Sabbath.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Carbonized Records

Blazar – Fatal Cosmic Wound (Carbonized)

The Spanish band Blazar was formed in 2016 by members of bands such as Cruz, Silence Equals Death and Phobonoid. After an EP and a couple of splits, they are issuing their full-length debut, Fatal Cosmic Wound.

There are some brief instrumentals, but the four main songs on the album are epic in length, ranging from 9 to over 12 minutes. That gives their brand of funeral doom plenty of time to unfold. In addition to glacial, thick doom, Blazar also incorporate death metal and sludge into the mix. There is no shortage of variety when it comes to intensity, as songs like the title track and “Crystallized Oblivion” shift from heavy riffs to mellower sections and back again. There’s not as much variety in tempo, which ranges from slow to slower. Still, doom fans will find a lot to pique their interest on Fatal Cosmic Wound.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Lost Future Records

Clarion Void – Failure In Repetition (Lost Future)

Clarion Void’s music represents the boundless collision of sludge and black metal. The dark and blistering horizon that stares directly at the eyes of a decaying human being is transformed into a multidimensional creature. Failure In Repetition is Clarion Void’s second studio album, continuing the path the band started with Deafening Sounds Of Mortality a year ago.

Like its predecessor, Failure In Repetition is familiar sludge metal. Although the riffs will attract enough attention, and the album is concise in tone and running time, it does not contain extraordinary songwriting. For those who passionately follow sludge metal in any of its form and nature, it can be both an impressive and typical work of this genre, while the Lovecraftian atmosphere of Failure In Repetition brings madness and oblivion to the highest level of the human psyche in a labyrinthine abyss. It will be an impressive musical experience if you don’t raise your expectations high. Otherwise, you won’t be impressed.

Rating: 3
(Arash Khosronejad)

AFM Records

Firewind – Stand United (AFM)

The long-running Greek heavy/power metal band Firewind has been around for more than 25 years. Guitarist Gus G is the lone remaining original member. They’ve had numerous vocalists over the years, and their latest release Stand United is the second with Herbie Langhans (Avantasia, Radiant).

The album is packed with songs that are both heavy and catchy. Gus G’s guitar wizardry is front and center, but the songs have plenty of hooks and singalong choruses. There’s minimal filler, with some of the most memorable songs on the album being “Destiny Is Calling,” “Come Undone” and “Chains.” They also cover the ’80s hit single “Talking In Your Sleep” by The Romantics, giving it a metal sheen. Stand United is another quality album to add to Firewind’s impressive discography.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

BSP Records

Hands Of Goro – Hands Of Goro (BSP)

Hands Of Goro are looking to usher in the Third Wave of British Heavy Metal with their self-titled debut album. Their figurehead is the Prince of Shokan, a four-armed beast who has been alive for four thousand years. He gets his own song named after him as the opener, though it takes until the second song, “Demonizer,” for the band to bolt to life. From this point on, it’s all stupendous guitar solos and stomping riffs.

The group features current members of Slough Feg, Spirit Adrift and Nite, all acts that warp the foundation of traditional heavy metal. That’s also a trait of this album, as evident by the punky temper on “You Have No Face.” The instrumentation is the attraction, though “End To End” has a great chorus with gang vocals from the entire band. The record is missing a few more of those, though the impressive guitar work will be sufficient enough for most listeners.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Wormholedeath Records

Lesbian Bed Death – Midnight Lust (Wormholedeath)

After Lesbian Bed Death‘s induction of their new frontwoman JJ, a fair bit of U.K touring and a soft launch on Bandcamp in December 2023, these U.K based gothic punk infused metalheads have not lost their momentum leading up to the official release of their newest album Midnight Lust.

The album feels like a nice balance between power metal and a b-movie horror film, all while aesthetically fitting in with the rest of their work. Each song tells its own little story, with “Art of Terror” being a nice homage to the Terrifier movies. “Reykjavik Nights” is proof that good lyrics can take an already good song and make it even better. The blend of JJ’s vocals and The 69 Eyes style guitar riffs provided by Dan Peach and guest guitarist Steve Lethal make Midnight Lust a very enjoyable listen from start to end.

Rating: 4
(Dalton Husher)

Marble Ghosts – Marble Ghosts (Self)

Fans of 2000’s era hard rock, especially those who were listening to that music during the time period itself, will get the most out of Marble Ghosts’ self-titled debut EP. It’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where Breaking Benjamin, hot off the release of We Are Not Alone, would take this group out as an opening act. Same goes for someone like Alter Bridge when One Day Remains exploded off the success of single “Open Your Eyes.”

There’s vitriol behind opener “Old School,” with its blunt pushback against religious people attacking LGBTQ rights. The EP doesn’t again reach that level of discourse, though the band works with choruses capable of getting glued in a one’s ears. Marble Ghosts have a throwback sound without being stuck behind the times.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Nuclear Blast

Ministry – Hopeiumforthemasses (Nuclear Blast)

Industrial pioneers Ministry emerged in the Reagan era, and the seemingly indestructible Al Jourgensen has overcome a lot of obstacles to keep the band going for decades. Their sixteenth studio album Hopeiumforthemasses brings back the lineup from Moral Hygiene.

Driving guitars, industrial atmospheres and politically charged lyrics drive the album. “Just Stop Oil” has memorable riffs and is one of the heavier tracks on the record. “Aryan Embarrassment” (with guest Jello Biafra) has a more moderate tempo and a doomy vibe while “TV Song” has thrashy riffs and a frantic pace. Closer “Ricky’s Hand” eschews the guitar sound and revisits the synthpop styling of their ’80s heyday. Hopeiumforthemasses doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but the execution is flawless and Jourgensen still has a lot to say.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

High Roller Records

Sentry – Sentry (High Roller)

Manilla Road guitarist Mark Shelton passed away in 2018, and the remaining members held a tribute show at the 2019 Keep It True Festival. Those members have formed a new band Sentry, adding guitarist Kalli Coldsmith (Abandoned, Jameson Raid) to the lineup. After an EP last year, they emerge with their self-titled full-length debut.

While Sentry has a lot of similarities to Manilla Road, Coldsmith wrote most of the material and produced the album, which gives them a slightly different approach. It’s traditional metal with prominent guitars and big hooks. They took four years to construct the album, and it shows with interesting arrangements and ample variety. “Awakening” amps up the tempo and has a thrash feel, while doom is the prevalent style in “Funeral.” From streamlined tracks like the under four minute opener “Dark Matter” to the nearly 9 minute closing Candlemass cover “Incarnation Of Evil,” Sentry honor the legacy of Manilla Road while making their own path forward.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Napalm Records

Suldusk – Anthesis (Napalm)

The Australian blackgaze/dark folk outfit Suldusk released their debut album in 2019. Emily Highfield was the sole member, but for their sophomore album Anthesis it is now a full band. That has expanded not only their membership, but also their sound.

The acoustic, folky parts are still there, but Suldusk add heaviness and extremity to many of the tracks, with the lyrics exploring themes of grief and acceptance. After the etheral opener “Astraeus,” the black metal kicks in with “Vardalet,” with harsh vocals and melodic singing. It’s followed by “Crowns Of Esper,” the mellowest song on the album. The heaviness and combination of harsh and clean vocals return on tracks like “Crystalline” and the title track. Highfield’s vocals are outstanding, shifting from throat-shredding screams to reserved crooning at the drop of a hat. Anthesis is a very dynamic album whose mellow moments are just as compelling as the extreme ones.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Third Man Records

Sheer Mag – Playing Favorites (Third Man)

Fun loving Philadelphians Sheer Mag‘s third full-length album is Playing Favorites. Trying to describe Sheer Mag can be difficult; they are able to throw together simple rock melodies, ones that are reminiscent of AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and even Huey Lewis and The News without adding too much fluff, creating something new without having to reinvent the world.

Vocalist Tina Halladay is a tour-de-force in and of herself, case in point on “Eat It and Beat It” she commands your attention against a backdrop of pop laden guitar riffs courtesy of Matt Palmer and Kyle Seely; primed to be blasting out of your car stereo this summer. The guitars are exceptional in their simplicity seeing as how in rock today they can get a bit out of hand, yet Sheer Mag continues to do a lot of the little things exceptionally well. If you remember the days of yore, riding in the car with your parents, blasting radio rock with a little bit more oomph, then Sheer Mag may well be your favorite new band in 2024. Guitar harmonies act as time machines to yesteryear where the radio was dominated by rock anthems, powerful vocalists and simple, but effective riffs. Playing Favorites is one of the most accessible rock albums out there today.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Wax Donut Records

Various Artists – New Wave Donut (Wax Donut)

In the late ’70s/early ’80s, a new genre was spawned out of the ashes of punk, called new wave. New Wave Donut pays tribute to that era, having punk and metal bands cover new wave songs, turning the poppy originals into something heavier and more extreme.

The bands on the compilation aren’t household names, and the artists covered are a combination of well-known and more obscure new wave artists. Naw do a noisy, chaotic version of OMD’s “Electricity,” while Bovine Nightmares’ rendition of Eurythmics’ “Here Comes The Rain Again” starts off slow and gothic before becoming more metal. Glose’s interpretation of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” remains fairly true to the original, but with a punkier attitude. Popular artists including Gary Numan, Ministry and Siouxsie And The Banshees also get the cover treatment along with lesser-known groups like Suburban Lawns and Theatre Of Sheep. It’s an interesting mix of styles and songs, with the variety of quality you’d expect from a compilation, but I wish it was more than 8 songs.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Magnetic Eye Records

Zakk Sabbath – Doomed Forever Forever Doomed (Magnetic Eye)

What better way to score brownie points with your boss than release a double-album’s worth of covers of his famous, former band? On Doomed Forever Forever Doomed, Zakk Sabbath (Black Label Society main man Zakk Wylde, alongside bassist Blasko and drummer Joey Castillo), deliver nearly note-for-note renditions of every track from Black Sabbath’s pioneering Paranoid and Master of Reality.

Wylde’s voice bears an uncanny resemblance to Ozzy, right down to the “all right now!” on “Sweet Leaf,” and he accurately recreates Tony Iommi’s signature licks, colored by his distinctive, meaty pinch harmonics. “Planet Caravan” is one of the more distinctive takes, adding some chilling guitar solos and less murkiness. Tributes like this are always difficult to judge, however. The playing is stellar and the sound quality top notch, but with vibe and arrangements that hew this close to the original versions, it’s difficult for it to rise above a cool curiosity.

Rating: 3
(Gino Sigismondi)

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