Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of March 29, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Boundaries, Coffins, Coffin Storm, Darkestrah, Malphas, Max Boogie Overdrive, The Quill, Rage, Suffer, Waidelotte, While She Sleeps and Wristmeetrazor.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

3DOT Recordings

Boundaries – Death Is Little More (3Dot)

The title of BoundariesDeath Is Little More is taken from Dante’s Inferno. The Connecticut metallic hardcore band explores themes of life at its most difficult on their third album. It gets off an aggressive start with “Turning Hate Into Rage” with heavy riffs and all harsh vocals. The aggression rarely abates with a lot of chaotic moments and brutality that’s tempered with grooves and breakdowns.

There are moments of respite such as the outro of “Like Petals From A Storm” and “Cursed To Remember” and periodic melodic vocals that are not the syrupy sweet style of many bands in the genre. There are several guest vocalists including Alpha Wolf’s Lochie Keogh and Kublai Khan’s Matt Honeycutt. Marcus Vik (Invent Animate) guests on “Blame’s Burden,” one of the album’s best songs. For those who like their metalcore on the intense side, Death Is Little More will fit the bill nicely.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Relapse Records

Coffins – Sinister Oath (Relapse)

Japan’s leading death/doom export Coffins sixth album is Sinister Oath, their first since 2019’s Beyond The Circular Demise. The same four members of the band return, so the level of consistency here should come as no surprise. After an opening track the slow, deadly crawl of “Spontaneous Rot” brings to light their common flavor. Slow doomy dirges with midtempo riffing allow for Coffins to envelope you in their putrefaction. They can also do full bore death metal on “Forced Disorde,r” complete with gargled vocals and a penchant for something evil.

On “Chain” you get the sense that the band can lay down a tremendous groove within the context of this nefarious and malevolent collection. Coffins have no problem with leaning into whichever part of the death, doom, or death/doom genres without much notice to their approach and that level of surprise pays off in droves for listeners. Coffins will never disappoint, and Sinister Oath is the latest in their long line of designed discomfort; prepare to suffer.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Peaceville Records

Coffin Storm – Arcana Rising (Peaceville)

The Norwegian group Coffin Storm are a newly formed band, but their lineup is anything but inexperienced. The trio is fronted by Darkthrone’s legendary Fenriz alongside Apollyon (Aura Noir/ex-Immortal) and Bestial Tormentor (Lamented Souls/Omega). When they started, they assumed the music would be doom metal, and while Arcana Rising is anchored by that genre, they incorporate others as well.

That’s evident from the opening riffs of “Over Frozen Moors,” which have a distinct thrash vibe that eventually shift and slow to a more doomy influence. The title track, which was written 20 years ago, is the only purely doom number on the album. “Open The Gallows” injects classic metal into the mix, while traditional metal and thrash return on “Ceaseless Abandon.” Fenriz’s vocals are melodic with a dramatic approach that gives the tracks a throwback vibe. Arcana Rising is a well-done homage to classic bands like Candlemass, Paradise Lost, Pentagram and even Metallica.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Osmose Productions

Darkestrah – Nomad (Osmose)

The black/folk metal band Darkestrah originated in Kyrgyzstan a quarter century ago. Nearly eight years have elapsed since Turan, and their seventh album Nomad brings some lineup changes, including a new vocalist.

The songs are lengthy, most in the 9 minute range, giving Darkestrah plenty of opportunity for twists and turns. Tracks like “Kök-Oy” and “Quest For The Soul” shift from biting black metal with harsh vocals to more moderately paced folk influenced sections with melodic singing. “Destroyer Of Obstacles” has symphonic atmospheres giving it an epic feel. Nomad is a welcome comeback for Darkestrah, an interesting combination of bludgeoning heaviness and surprising subtleties.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

M-Theory Audio

Malphas – Portal (M-Theory)

Symphonic death/black metal band Malphas have “bigger is better” energy behind their sophomore album, Portal. More programmed orchestration, this time with an actual violinist on a few tracks; more bombastic songs that push the album near the hour mark; more backstory behind the creature the band is named after by going the prequel route. While Malphas were storming the gates of heaven on the group’s first album The 39th Spirit, here they are using their influence on men for financial and political improprieties.

Having the lyrics handy will help with investment in all the betrayal and social upheaval. Though the front and back sides of Portal are strong, the middle chunk lags as the band sets up the scenes that propels them to a fantastic ending. Going all-in on the symphonic grandeur was a smart strategy for Malphas, though one that could’ve had some cutting done to it.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Max Boogie Overdrive – Stoned Again (Self)

Blasting forth from the Los Angeles smog comes Max Boogie Overdrive and their debut album Stoned Again. Blending elements of early Rob Zombie and a Motorhead style vocal performance with just a dash of stoner metal, these elements come together to form a unique sound.

However, despite the unique blend of sub-genres and Jim Bacchi’s slick guitar riffs, Stoned Again ultimately sounds generic and too similar to their counterparts. “Freakazoid” is the one track that manages to stand out the most in this album due to the fact that it sounds like Rob Zombie had produced it. Max Boogie Overdrive’s Stoned Again is a solid start for the band, but some more time is going to be needed to help them stand out.

Rating: 3
(Dalton Husher)

Metalville Records

The Quill – Wheel Of Illusion (Metalville)

Swedish heavy rockers The Quill have been at it for 11 albums now, and while they’re not a household name are certainly respected. And if you like your riffs with a chaser of melody, these lads have you covered on Wheel Of Illusion. The title track comes out of the gate with a doom-laden atmosphere and Sabbath-like groove (the latter in particular a recurring theme throughout the record). The group is unapologetically committed to the cause of ‘70s hard rock; alongside the obvious Sabbath influence there are nods to Zeppelin, Deep Purple and the NWOBHM. Meanwhile, vintage keyboards add a further whiff of authenticity.

Turbo-tonsilled singer Magnus Ekwall’s soulful melodies prove fitting for more conventional classic rock and stoner fare, or psychedelic flourishes of “Hawks and Hounds” and nearly eight-minute bluesy closer “Wild Mustang.” This is clearly a band that recognizes the value of a killer riff that you can build a song around – “Elephant Head” and “Liber” are both cases in point. Wheel Of Illusion at times feels like a time machine trek back to 1975 in the best way possible, but it also manages to elude creative redundancy and still feel fresh.

Rating: 4
(Brendan Crabb)

Steamhammer/SPV Records

Rage – Afterlifelines (Steamhammer/SPV)

The German power metal band Rage has been very prolific in their nearly 40 years of existence. They have issued a new studio album every year or two along with numerous EPs, splits, compilations and live albums. Their 26th studio album Afterlifelines is one of their most ambitious.

It’s a double album. The first record, Afterlife, is what you’d expect from a typical Rage album: potent riffs, catchy melodies and Peavy Wagner’s trademark vocals. The songs on the second album Lifelines add orchestration, with strings and piano adding depth to the arrangements while not sacrificing any heaviness. They have done that in the past on albums like Lingua Mortis, but the execution on this one is spot on. Even with more than 90 minutes of material there’s minimal filler. Afterlife is a solid Rage album, Lifelines an excellent one, and the total Afterlifelines experience is one fans of the band should embrace.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Wise Blood Records

Suffer – Grand Canvas Of The Aesthete (Wise Blood)

The death metal band Suffer were one of the first extreme metal groups in my home state of South Dakota when they formed back in the late ’80s. They issued several demos in the ’90s but didn’t release their full-length debut until 2015. Frontman C.R. Petit and bassist Jason Ellsworth have been busy with Angerot and Empty Throne, but found the time to record Suffer’s second album Grand Canvas Of The Aesthete.

Their inspirations are classic death metal bands like Carcass, Asphyx and Immolation. The songs on Grand Canvas Of The Aesthete are fairly straightforward and brutal, well-executed and written with clever grooves and moments of melody. They change up tempos and intensities to avoid monotony, and the production emphasizes the heaviness without being muddy. Highlights include “Plentiful.Copious.Bountiful” and the rifftastic “Carnal Flesh Parade.”

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Debemur Morti Productions

Waidelotte – Celestial Shrine (Debemur Morti)

Waidelotte were formed by Soen bassist Oleksii “Zlatoyar” Kobel. Their debut album Celestial Shrine is an ambitious effort that explores numerous genres ranging from prog to folk to melodic death to black metal.

It’s a dynamic and constantly shifting album. Tracks like “Todestrieb” deliver both brutal black/death metal and mellow folk with instruments like the hurdy-gurdy. The title track incorporates bandura and tsymbaly, not your typical metal instruments. The album ends with the 8 plus minute ambient song “Dissolving” featuring Solar Kollapse that goes on way too long and doesn’t really add much to the proceedings. A lot of Celestial Shrine is engaging, along with a few lulls, but overall Waidelotte show a lot of promise.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Spinefarm Records

While She Sleeps – Self Hell (Spinefarm)

In a musical landscape where lineup changes are constant, a few bands defy that construct. British metalcore veterans While She Sleeps have had just one member change in their nearly 20 years together, and have had the same lineup since 2009. Even with that consistency, the band still wants to push in new directions, which is evident on their sixth studio album Self Hell.

This time around they brought in influences from bands of their youth ranging from Aphex Twin to Radiohead to Placebo to AFI. That resulted in a wider range of instruments, especially vintage synths to bring in some of those Britpop influences. The songs on Self Hell combine modern stylings with those classic sounds. Songs like the title track are catchy and radio-friendly, while numbers such as “Leave Me Alone” are more aggressive. Guests like Fin Power and Alex Taylor (Malevolence) bring even more variety to the album. It sounds like While She Sleeps had a good time making Self Hell, and their fans should find similar joy in listening to it.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Prosthetic Records

Wristmeetrazor – Degeneration (Prosthetic)

With a provocative name and ties to metalcore/screamo, Wristmeetrazor have been steadily adding industrial/nu-metal to their sound. Degeneration has an uptick in aggression, with closer “Greatest Love Offering In The History of the World” and opener “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead” taking on a thrash metal angle in spots. The singing has been pulled back too, only getting a lead position in the gothic-tinged hidden track after the closer.

“DogdayGod” brings in electronics for techno action in the verses, which goes to war with the antagonistic guitar-heavy choruses. For most bands, a 50-second tune like “Culled And Forgotten” would be an interlude, but to Wristmeetrazor, it’s a challenge to jam in furious blast beating. Degeneration is another step in the band’s burgeoning evolution of contemporizing sounds from two decades ago.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

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