Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of March 8, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Arthouse Fatso, Besotten/Funerelic, The End Machine, Exhorder, Kelevra, Midnight, Myrath, Shadohm, Skeletal Remains, Slimelord, Sonata Arctica and Valhalla Awaits.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

HPGD Productions

Arthouse Fatso – Sycophantic Seizures: A Double Feature (HPGD)

Arthouse Fatso bring legendary actor/director/writer Orson Welles back from the grave to give him his next role as a figurehead in a grindcore band. Samples of his voice recordings bookend Sycophantic Seizures: A Double Feature, setting up the cinematic tour-de-force from the musician only known as The Director. With the drum programming working overtime, the music is cutthroat and unrelenting, parceled out in chunks that resemble film clips.

The weirder moments on the album are very effective, such as the “[Intermission]” that takes a movie theater staple and runs it through a bad LSD trip. The catchy solo on “Tweets Of The Sane” is a treat, as is the bass guitar breaks and gang chants on “Sycophantic Seizures.” Sycophantic Seizures: A Double Feature is tailor-made for the grindhouse audience.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Satanik Royalty Records

Besotten/Funerelic – Abyssal Synodality Split (Satanik Royalty)

Abyssal Synodality is a split EP between Besotten and Funerelic, two bands from Portland, Oregon that use death metal as a branching off point. In the case of Besotten, it’s a death/doom hybrid. For Funerelic, it’s in a blackened form. This is an example of a split benefiting a pair of up and comers, as each band has only released a demo up to this point.

Whichever side one listens to, as both bands get two songs each on Abyssal Synodality, it’s an exciting first look of rising talent. Their commonality, besides being located in the same city, is a methodical nastiness that isn’t tarnished by unnecessary overproduction. This split does its job, which is making the listener want to search for Besotten and Funerelic’s demos to get more of their unforgiving death metal.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Frontiers Music

The End Machine – The Quantum Phase (Frontiers)

The lineup of the heavy metal/hard rock band The End Machine has some well known members such as former Dokken members George Lynch (guitar) and Jeff Pilson (bass). For their third album The Quantum Phase they have a new singer. Warrant’s Robert Mason has departed, replaced by Giriish Pradham (Girish And The Chronicles, Joel Hoekstra’s 13).

The singer is new, but the music remains similar to previous releases. It’s radio-friendly hard rock/metal that balances heaviness and melody. There’s no shortage of catchy songs, such as “Black Hole Extinction,” “Hell Or High Water” and the ballad “Burning Man.” Pradham isn’t a household name, but he is a strong vocalist with plenty of range and power. Pilson also handles production duties, giving the band’s classic sound a modern sheen.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Nuclear Blast

Exhorder – Defectum Omnium (Nuclear Blast)

Defectum Omnium is Exhorder‘s second reunion album and fourth overall. This is the first album to feature former Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O’Brien, who brings with him a flair for the death metal he was well accustomed to playing, albeit with the underlying groove that Exhorder are famous for. Opener “Wrath of Prophecies” feels well entrenched in the sound of their earliest albums with a bit of southern metal tinge, much like their last album Mourn The Southern Skies. Vocalist Kyle Thomas remains as potent as ever singing some verses and shouting during others, allowing him to showcase his full range.

Throughout the album’s duration, the variety of ferocity and grooves shift in and out, allowing for its tendrils to properly dig in to your ear canals, having a hard time letting go on “Under The Gaslight” and “Divide and Conquer,” among others. If you’ve enjoyed the band’s reunion, you’ll find yourself right at home with Defectum Omnium, returning to the grooving and rollicking revival of their past.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Kelevra – Oneiric (Self)

Kelevra’s debut album Oneiric is an uproarious combination of progressive, groove and death metal. They released EPs back in 2014 and 2016 before a long wait leading up to this one. Where they have developed greatly in the time between those EPs and now is a melodic sensibility when the music reaches its aggressive apex. This usually leads to an illuminous guitar solo section, like on “Self-Extinct.”

Though not fully death metal, blast beats and curdling screams aren’t hard to find, though the band will sometimes wait all the way to the end of a song to tear them off. The shape-shifting nature of this album gives potency to the group in ways that their prior releases weren’t able to capture.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Metal Blade Records

Midnight – Hellish Expectations (Metal Blade)

Midnight’s sixth album Hellish Expectations brings the band back to their heathen and sexually depraved ways, all delivered with the strengths of both Venom and Motorhead. Clearly their importance plays well into heavy metal today. Lone recording member Athenar continues his vocal assault, sounding as gruff as ever on “Gash Scrape” and “Dungeon Lust,” all of this happening between lightning fast and catchy guitar work and general metallic debauchery.

At this stage of the game it’s surprising to see Midnight create the positive mindset that closing track “F.O.A.L.” establishes, but that’s par for the course in a way, humor wise. Delivering this record in 25 minutes, their shortest yet, is impressive because these songs have some serious firepower to them. Midnight continue to make some of the best riffing, speedy black heavy metal out there. They haven’t changed their attack, and if you already love the band, then your Hellish Expectations will have more than been met.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

earMusic

Myrath – Karma (earMusic)

The Tunisian progressive power metal band Myrath took a little longer than usual between albums. Their sixth album Karma comes almost exactly five years after Shehili. It’s their first album without longtime keyboardist Elyes Bouchoucha, who exited the band a few years ago. Producer Kevin Codfert handles those duties on the new album.

Keyboards and orchestrations are an important part of Myrath’s sound, and they remain front and center. They have a consistent sound, but manage to add variety as well. “Candles Cry” is groovy and melodic while “Let It Go” is more cinematic and dramatic.  “Words Are Falling” is a very modern and contemporary track that’s extremely catchy. The economy of Myrath’s songwriting is also impressive. They are able to keep song lengths in the four minute range while giving them an epic feel with numerous twists and turns. Karma is another powerful and memorable Myrath album.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Selfmadegod Records

Shadohm – Through Darkness Towards Enlightenment (Selfmadegod)

The catalyst for Shadohm was drummer Paweł Jaroszewicz, a well-versed musician who has had stints in groups like Vader, Decapitated and Antigama. Through Darkness Towards Enlightenment is nothing in the vein of those acts, forming off of progressive metal of a Meshuggah variety. Jaroszewicz, along with other fellow members of the Polish metal scene, locate the right amount of melody and punch with their debut effort.

The grooves are strong with this one, bouncing a listener from wall to wall with reckless glee. Out of that, words are screamed out and crooned to us in fair equality. The album title is split between the opener and closer, with “Through Darkness” coming off as the definitive sonic statement for what’s to come and “Towards Enlightenment” offering solace in its emotive singing and gloomy riffs.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Century Media Records

Skeletal Remains – Fragments Of The Ageless (Century Media)

Fragments Of The Ageless is Skeletal Remains‘ first album since 2020 as they return to the crushing death metal that they have never been shy about embracing. They lumber through tracks like “Cybernetic Harvest” and “Forever In Sufferance,” dragging their collective caskets through the underworld, before barnburners of a guitar solo bring the songs to epic climaxes, returning to their flesh-ripping sonic assault without taking a breath.

Skeletal Remains have been at this for a long time and their style of bludgeoning death metal hasn’t dulled. They are still a strong band with ample talent. They take a leap of faith in what feels like an ode to the eternal Chuck Schuldiner and his latter Death material with “Unmerciful,” where they can almost be seen as borderline progressive, a very different side of the band. Fragments Of The Ageless is a solid death metal entry.

Rating: 3.5
(Tom Campagna)

20 Buck Spin

Slimelord – Chytridiomycosis Relinquished (20 Buck Spin)

Slimelord crawl through primordial ooze for their transcendent death/doom metal on Chytridiomycosis Relinquished. Progressive flourishes are given from the fretless bass guitar and field recordings, as well as appealing guitar solos and a stirring closing instrumental in “Heroic Demise.” There’s been a long move towards this sound, thanks to three prior EPs that have allowed the group to coordinate where they wanted to head leading to this debut album.

It takes a deft songwriting hand to funnel out seven and eight-minute jams that aren’t a burden to digest, especially in a genre where being relentless is the norm. Death metal can always use bands like Slimelord that, in the spirit of a Morbus Chron or Edge Of Sanity, don’t trap themselves into limits on their creative spirit.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Atomic Fire Records

Sonata Arctica – Clear Cold Beyond (Atomic Fire)

After releasing a pair of acoustic albums in 2022 and doing a subsequent acoustic tour, Finnish power metal veterans Sonata Arctica return to full metal mode. They are marking 25 years since their debut album Ecliptica set them on a course that resulted in their ascension that resulted in them becoming one of the genre’s most beloved bands. Clear Cold Beyond is their latest opus.

It’s a return to heavier songs, with a concerted effort to write music that’s faster and heavier than some recent releases. That approach is evident from opener “First In Line,” a soaring number that’s urgent and melodic. “California” starts out even faster before injecting some poppy moments and a more moderate tempo. “Shah Mat” is atmospheric, while “Dark Empath” has an epic feel. The album flows well from big bombastic power metal to more reserved songs and back again. Sonata Arctica sound rejuvenated on Clear Cold Beyond, a diverse collection of songs that capture the band’s trademark sound, while also pushing in new directions.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Valhalla Awaits – Perdition (Self)

What happens when you combine former members of Revoker, Buffalo Summer and The Black Out? You get Valhalla Awaits, a relatively new hard rock collective hailing from Wales. Their third EP Perdition serves as more of the same technically while telling new stories lyrically.

The opening track “Door of No Return” starts the EP on a grim note describing the Bunce Island, Sierra Leone slave trade. “We Remain” picks the mood up slightly with a story of perseverance and endurance. As with their previous EPs, Rhys Carter and Chriss Green’s slick guitar riffs backing up Andrew Hunt’s ever powerful vocals make the emotional storytelling of Perdition all the more powerful. Hopes are high for a future album with a more full length experience.

Rating: 3.5
(Dalton Husher)

One Response

  1. bobsala

    1 month ago

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