This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Bottlekopf, Corey Taylor, The Defaced, Deserted Fear, Endtime, Hath, Izthmi, Kuolemanlaakso, Nord, Sanhedrin, Sylvaine, Troglodyte, Ty Tabor and Vio-Lence.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Bottlekopf – The Jokes Are Over (Wydawnictwo Muzyczne Psycho)
The Polish death ‘n roll band Bottlekopf released their debut back in 2014. Since then they have had some lineup changes, with vocalist/guitarist Marek “Chlosta” Szefer the lone remaining member from Absolutely Nothing. The trio’s sophomore album is The Jokes Are Over.
The album is packed with quality riffs and some compelling guitar solos. Songs like “Seven And A Half” and “Silent” are streamlined and direct, while the expand their sound a bit on lengthier tracks such as “Justice” and “Brainwash.” There’s ample groove and enough tempo changes to avoid monotony. The vocals are unique, a gruff type of melodic singing, but are effective for Bottlekopf’s style of music.
Corey Taylor – CMFB…Sides (Roadrunner)
In 2020 Corey Taylor released his solo album CMFT. He’s following that up with a 9 song EP CMFB…Sides. It consists of acoustic songs, covers and a live track. Taylor does acoustic renditions of “Halfway Down” and “Kansas” from CMFT along with an earnest live medley of the Stone Sour songs “Home” and “Zzyzx” dedicated to his wife. The rest of the EP is covers.
Taylor has proven to be a versatile singer, and that shows in his choice of songs. Opener “Holier Than Thou” is also on the Metallica tribute album The Metallica Blacklist. There’s the requisite KISS cover (“Got To Choose”) along with more surprising choices like John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band’s “On The Dark Side” and a stripped down version of Red Rider’s “Lunatic Fringe.” It’s an interesting collection of songs and there’s plenty of content for an EP.
The Defaced – Charlatans (Vicisolum)
The Defaced formed in the late ’90s, released three albums and disbanded in 2008. A few years ago guitarist Mattias Svensson played vocalist Jens Broman (ex-Darkane) some songs he wrote, giving the impetus for a reunion that resulted in their fourth album Charlatans.
The album has the groove metal elements of their earlier work while adding some progressive moments. Those elements are evident on songs like “Bleeding Ore” and “Celestial Display” and add variety. It’s a heavy album, driven by potent riffs and harsh vocals. But there’s also melodic singing and catchy choruses. That makes Charlatans a well-rounded album. There’s minimal filler in the record’s ten songs, and it’s a welcome return that meets or exceeds the quality of their earlier work.
Deserted Fear – Doomsday (Century Media)
In a year that appears stuffed with releases from melodic death metal’s major players, Deserted Fear will be vying for the attention of those who enjoy brutal, yet catchy gems. Dedicated listeners need not sleep on this German trio though, as album number five Doomsday loudly proclaims. They’re aren’t too many surprises for the seasoned fan of this style, but these songs are executed with conviction and aplomb.
Locked down tighter than the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, bruising riffs, melodic guitar lines, well-placed soundscapes and harsh vocals are cornerstones of their approach. There are some highlights here. “Fall From Grace” channels classic-sounding melo-death, and “Follow the Light That Blinds” delivers in both the aggression and hookiness stakes, while the title track closes proceedings in a fittingly crushing, yet memorable fashion that Amon Amarth would approve of. At just over 40 minutes in length the fat has also been trimmed, and Doomsday boasts rich production values. This record will tick most boxes for devotees of this enduring sub-genre.
Endtime – Impending Doom (Heavy Psych Sounds)
With a love for 1980s horror and a noisy take on doom metal, Endtime found the perfect name for their debut album in Impending Doom. The spooky cover art captures the band’s admiration for a great decade of horror, as does songs that seem like they would be perfect for the ending credits to a David Cronenberg or Dario Argento movie.
This is doom metal with the expressed intent to be as unwelcoming as it can be without getting to the point of being too difficult to listen to. “They Live” and “Living Graves” really get into the ’80s mood with their usage of keyboards, bringing an unholy presence with the organs in the latter. This album stays at or near one tempo the entire way through; a crushing one supported by jarring feedback. Impending Doom is the darker side of doom metal, where the unknown is part of the thrill.
Hath – All That Was Promised (Willowtip)
New Jersey-based blackened death metal band Hath are back for album number two, All That Was Promised, the follow up to Of Rot And Ruin which made some waves back in 2019. Hath sound absolutely massive, as their sound is built big which evolves into a larger beast on tracks like “Kenosis” bringing to mind the production that Behemoth had on The Satanist without eschewing the more progressive style that the band falls into.
Songs move along with a relative plod but are seemingly always busy and crushingly heavy. If you want the kind of modern death metal with a blackened slant, all while dragging a casket behind you, look no further than this solid sophomore effort from an up-and-coming band, one that’s smashing heads at an already prolific career pace.
Izthmi – Leaving This World, Leaving It All Behind (Satanik Royalty)
There’s a warmth to Izthmi’s sophomore album Leaving This World, Leaving It All Behind, even when the record is at its most dire. That may have been helped by the inclusion of producer Billy Anderson, who has a way of making black metal sound inviting. The band hasn’t done a complete shift between The Arrows Of Our Ways and this album but have polished the melodic essence of their sound.
The whole “progressive” side of the group has seen a larger focus too, with the transitions into it smoother than on their debut album. Pianos lend a sorrowful touch to a few of the interludes, which act as a resourceful break between each of the gigantic compositions that surround them. The growth of Izthmi on Leaving This World, Leaving It All Behind is one of a band appearing to become more assured of their songwriting.
It has been a while since the last Kuolemanlaakso album. The band, fronted by Swallow The Sun’s Mikko Kotamaki, last released a record in 2016. Kuusumu is their fourth album, and as on their other albums, they worked with producer V. Santura (Triptykon, Dark Fortress).
The lyrical focus of the album goes back to the year 535, the beginning of a global cooling period that led to a climate crisis that was exacerbated by bubonic plague that swept across Europe beginning in 341. The songs are heavy and bombastic, combining death and doom metal. “Katkeruuden malja” features Lotta Ruutiainen (Luna Kills), and is a melancholy song inspired by grief and misery. “Surusta meri suolainen” starts out mellow and reserved before the intensity ratchets up. The vocals are generally potent harsh growls, with some melodic singing sprinkled in. The arrangements on Kuusumu are compelling, adding atmosphere and depth to the heaviness and memorable riffs.
Nord – Machine Blood (Inverse)
The Danish band Nord mix alternative metal and some thrash influences on Machine Blood. It is a highly-addictive metal platter that grooves along at a nice pace and has a good flow. There is an undeniable accessibility to the tracks along with crunchy riffs. It is the combination of styles that makes the band so effective and stylish.
There is a very cool feeling to the tunes that lends them credibility. If there is a flaw this album it is in the fact that Nord could have been more innovative and could be pushing themselves in more interesting directions. Still, this is an fun collection of songs that mixes genres effectively. Fans of a number of metal styles should find something to like.
Sanhedrin – Lights On (Metal Blade)
Traditional metal trio Sanhedrin are onto their third album, Lights On, comprised of eight songs that harken back to the straightforward metal glory days of the ’80s. Led by bassist/vocalist Erica Stoltz, the band throws pretention to the wind to focus on a cohesive-sounding yet disparate set, from all-out rockers to more subdued and patient work.
Sanhedrin doesn’t hit the mark on every track – a few songs come off as trad metal by numbers – but when they do (the title track, “Hero’s End,” and the stellar “Change Takes Forever” in particular, which features the best chorus of the year so far) they really knock it out of the park. A few more songs of this caliber and the band would be onto something.
Sylvaine – Nova (Season Of Mist)
Nova is the latest release from Sylvaine, the one-woman blackgaze project helmed by Kathrine Shepard. It’s an album of contrasts. It opens with the ethereal choral title track before erupting into black metal.
There are lengthy tracks such as the nearly 10 minute “Mono Aware” that ebb and flow with shifts from subdued melodies with reserved singing to intense black metal with powerful shrieks. There are non-metal songs such as “Nowhere, Still Somewhere” that could be categorized as shoegaze. “I Close My Eyes So I Can See” is the album’s most accessible song, with mostly clean vocals augmented by a brief harsh section. The dreamy “Everything Must Come To An End” features violin and cello. Nova is a dynamic album that showcases a wide range of musical and vocal styles.
Troglodyte – The Hierarchical Ecological Succession: Welcome To The Food Chain (Blood Blast)
Death metal bands use a variety of inspirations for their lyrics. The Missouri group Troglodyte pay homage to all things Bigfoot. Their latest album The Hierarchical Ecological Succession: Welcome To The Food Chain is their first studio record since 2015, and features the first studio appearance by bassist Mike Flores (Origin).
Troglodyte’s music is intense death metal pumped full of groove. Their musicianship is top-notch, but with song titles like “Sasquashed” and “Found Guilty In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit For Shooting A Man Wearing A Bigfoot Costume,” you know they have a sense of humor as well. The album features several guest appearances, including GWAR’s Pustulus Maximus and Exhumed’s Ross Sewage. While their sound is fairly typical death metal, Troglodyte’s lyrical approach helps set them apart.
Ty Tabor – Shades (Rat Pak)
The latest solo album from King’s X guitarist Ty Tabor comes packed with lush, layered but heavy riffage and instantly memorable melodies. Sadly, much of Tabor’s best work results from personal tragedy (Ice Cycles, the third release from Platypus, and his 2020 album Safety were both created in the wake of divorce). Shades was conceived after his father’s recent passing.
Despite its tragic origin, Shades benefits from Tabor’s ability to craft emotive, uplifting songs by employing the layered, Beatle-esque vocal harmonies so common on King’s X records. Opener “Come Home” features more aggressive singing than usual and a classic Tabor solo. The slow and heavy “Your Fantasy” seamlessly transitions into an atmospheric outro that recalls “Cigarettes” from King’s X’s classic Dogman, while the melancholy “Best Day In A While” deals most directly with his father’s death. Only complaint: a fantastic effort that makes you wish that much harder for the new King’s X record!
Vio-Lence – Let The World Burn (Metal Blade)
Almost three decades separate the Let The World Burn EP and Nothing To Gain, the last album Vio-Lence released back in 1993. Any new material is going to be analyzed against the rest of their discography, especially Eternal Nightmare, a pinnacle of underground thrash that still slays today. It’s then reassuring to know that not only do the five songs on this EP match up to their past, but they qualify as some of the best the band have ever written.
The production may bring this music to a modern time, yet the EP is firmly placed in the mindset of brash 20-something thrashers who want to cause mayhem. Very few bands from that era can capture the sort of spirited drive that Vio-Lence does on Let The World Burn. Keeping it contained to an EP was a genius move, as that makes this an addicting teaser that will make a listener want more.