Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of May 10, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Anette Olzon, Beautiful Skeletons, Belushi Speed Ball, Coldborn, Darkness Everywhere, Dødsferd, Freedom Call, Knocked Loose, Paradox Rift, Six Feet Under, Svneatr and Unleash The Archers.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Frontiers Music

Anette Olzon – Rapture (Frontiers)

For her third solo album Rapture, Anette Olzon (The Dark Element, ex-Nightwish) brings back the lineup from 2021’s Strong. That includes guitarist Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Free Fall), who also handles production duties along with Olzon.

The songs are in the vein of the last album: bombastic symphonic power metal with soaring melodies and Olzon’s smooth vocals. There’s no shortage of catchy songs, with the title track one of the album’s most memorable. The uplifting “Arise” and the ballad “Hear My Song” are other highlights. Olzon delivers a varied and skillful vocal performance, with harsh vocals from Johan Husgafvel adding some variety. There aren’t a lot of big surprises with Rapture, but the songwriting is first-class and the execution flawless.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Wormholedeath Records

Beautiful Skeletons – Temperance (Wormholedeath)

This year so far has shown us that the Pacific Northwest states have come to play and Washington based rockers Beautiful Skeletons are just another addition with their second EP Temperance. This marks a more experimental direction while sticking to the similar style of their previous EP Vegvisir.

“Letter to a Narcissist” and “Only Zuul” kick this EP off nicely, giving new drummer Huwy Williams a chance to show off for a bit. The energy stays consistent from start to end and does not overdo it with effects or jarring tonal changes. With a total runtime of less than 30 minutes, Temperance is a nice quick listen but in the end it leaves a feeling that there should be more to it.

Rating: 3
(Dalton Husher)

Belushi Speed Ball – Stellkira (Self)

Kentucky crossover thrashers Belushi Speed Ball keep the party going on their third full-length album Stellkira. Their musicianship is serious, but as on previous albums, their sense of humor is front and center.

That’s evident right off the bat with opener “My Favorite Color Is Pizza.” BSB’s combination of quality riffs and some amusing song topics makes the album fly by. Most tracks are compact, with “Get To The Point” barely over a minute, which is appropriate. “The Adventures Of Rick And Mortarian” is Stellkira‘s longest song at just over four minutes. There are some changes of pace, like the death metal vocals on “Glass Bones and Paper Skin IV,” but the majority of the album is what Belushi Speed Ball fans expect and enjoy.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Final Sacrifice Records

Coldborn – The Unwritten Pages Of Death (Final Sacrifice)

When it comes to Coldborn’s The Unwritten Pages Of Death, atmosphere is key. With a fiery introduction this one-man black metal band whisks you away with throaty growls and fast paced, doom-like instrumentals. The construction of each track is akin to classic Norwegian black metal in a way – the Mayhem-eqsue sound seeps into your psyche, bringing you to a painted picture that is grim, final and almost grotesque.

I found the instrumentals to be excellent; incredibly clear and haunting. This album speaks its mind, it is a delicious piece of work for any fan of the genre. Above all else, the drums stood out to me. Something about the repetitive lurches and quick tempo changes had me feeling the existentialist nature of the album’s atmosphere to the furthest extent. After an eight year music hiatus, Coldborn are ready to liven their audience with a killer atmosphere, telling a great tale of death and dying.

Rating: 4
(Ethan Wylan)

Creator-Destructor Records

Darkness Everywhere – To Conquer Eternal Damnation (Creator-Destructor)

Much like their debut EP The Seventh Circle, Darkness Everywhere’s first album To Conquer Eternal Damnation is a pitch-perfect ode to ’90s melodic death metal. The difference between the two releases is that this one raises the excitement factor with appealing guitar solos that are worthy of air guitaring to. Besides a quaint acoustic interlude in “A Dreaded Eclipse” midway through, the record sears through ten songs in a brisk 27 minutes.

The brevity is a positive attribute to the album, as this sort of charged-up music can’t maintain its hold for much longer than that. Outside of the aforementioned interlude, To Conquer Eternal Damnation has the locked-in guitar harmonies, gruff growls, and unrelenting drumming to give listeners flashbacks to the peak days of At The Gates and In Flames. Darkness Everywhere turn to their inspirations in a way that revers them without coming across as parody.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Hypnotic Dirge Records

Dødsferd – Wrath (Hypnotic Dirge)

For over two decades, Greek black metal band Dødsferd have meticulously crafted a potent blend of cold, misanthropic, dark, and hateful music, all the while infusing it with a haunting melodic undertone. Their twelfth studio album Wrath is a testament to this, a sonic journey that plunges listeners into the depths of decadent human life.

Wrath, as its name suggests, is a testament to rebellion and defiance. It echoes the call for lost and deviated justice, and screams the degeneration and deterioration of human sanity. The songwriting, a hallmark of Dødsferd’s strength, is focused on the structure of Scandinavian black metal, using its raw atmosphere to convey the message of the fall of man from the high level of humanity to the abyss of madness and filth. The songs are still quite long but not boring, which allow the band to expand the gloomy darkness of the album, a skill that Dødsferd have mastered. The CD and vinyl version includes the song “Back to My Homeland…,” a notable yet eccentric addition that will shock you.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Steamhammer/SPV Records

Freedom Call – Silver Romance (Steamhammer/SPV)

German power metal titans Freedom Call just marked 25 years as a band, which makes Silver Romance a fitting title for their eleventh studio album. It’s their first new album in five years, and also features the return of drummer Ramy Ali after a five year absence.

Frontman Chris Bay is the lone remaining original member, and he wrote most of the songs on the album. It gets off to a fast and heavy start with the title track and the dramatic “Symphony Of Avalon.” Things are a bit more moderately paced after that. One of the more intriguing songs is “Blue Giant,” written by guitarist Lars Rettkowitz. It’s a bit more melancholy than the typical Freedom Call song, but the hooks and solos are right in the band’s sweet spot. While certainly not a dramatic departure, Silver Romance shows that a quarter century in, Freedom Call’s creative well still runs deep.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Pure Noise Records

Knocked Loose – You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To (Pure Noise)

Kentucky’s Knocked Loose need no introduction to the hardcore community, as their second album A Different Shade Of Blue has become legendary since its 2019 release. You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To is the follow up and when compared to its predecessor is a fairly bite-sized affair with only three songs topping three minutes and album opener “Thirst” being under two.

“Suffocate” features singer Poppy’s contributions which fit well within the constructs of Knocked Loose’s wild and furious pace, giving a different sound that melds well with main man Bryan Garris as the song gets taken over by the powerful drumming of Kevin Kaine. With now three albums to their credit, Knocked Loose doesn’t sound any less angry, but with a landscape absolutely littered with quality hardcore acts, this album doesn’t feel like one the proper follow-up to A Different Shade Of Blue. It’s a good record, but nothing like the legendary album that preceded it or near the level of the young and hungry bands out there today.

Rating: 3
(Tom Campagna)

Paradox Rift – Ensnared (Self)

Take meaty grooves, mold it into a death metal roast, and sprinkle some technicality on top and what comes out of the oven is Paradox Rift’s Ensnared. This debut album comes from a foursome based out of Cleveland, Ohio, dwelling into the confines of darkness with their dreary, pulsating rhythms. This was something they workshopped on their self-titled EP, settling it in just in time for their first full-length.

One thing Ensnared has over their last EP is when they turn on the thrusters, kicking up gravel in the face on “Grave-Snuggler” and “Loathsome.” For a group that doesn’t typically go very fast, these songs are bursts of smoldering air. The latter song, in particular, captures every sonic aspect of Paradox Rift, from the melodic guitars in the intro to the stable grooves. There are a few sub–two-minute cuts in “Prophet Of Grievances” and “Lantern” that don’t land strongly, but Ensnared has enough beyond that to gratify listeners who prefer their death metal thick and crushing.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Metal Blade Records

Six Feet Under – Killing For Revenge (Metal Blade)

Six Feet Under marked 30 years as a band last year. Frontman Chris Barnes is the lone remaining original member, with the current lineup being together for about seven years. Their latest effort, and first since 2020, is Killing For Revenge.

With recent albums receiving less than stellar reviews, expectations aren’t exactly sky high for this one. Guitarists Jack Owen (Cannibal Corpse, Deicide) and Ray Suhy (Cannabis Corpse) carry the heaviest load. They bring some quality riffs to the table. SFU crank up the tempos on several songs on this album, adding welcome variety. Barnes’ vocals are improved from Nightmares Of The Decomposed. There are a few gems on Killing For Revenge such as “Know-Nothing Ingrate” and “When The Moon Goes Down In Blood,” but also too many filler songs and a mediocre cover of Nazareth’s “Hair Of The Dog.”

Rating: 2.5
(Chad Bowar)

Prosthetic Records

Svneatr – Never Return (Prosthetic)

Svneatr have been diving further into progressive tendencies with their Canadian black metal from album to album, with Never Return embracing a less combative side of the music. Acoustic guitars strum away on several songs, bassist Shawn Hillman adds in some cello and contrabass, and closer “Reaper Of The Universe” uses a choir effect at its end. Then there is the singing sprinkled throughout, which admittedly doesn’t resonate as well as the raspy screams do.

They haven’t lost touch with their angrier selves, as Never Return has as many of their most extreme moments as it does their most progressive ones. There are points where it feels like they are teetering on the edge of blurring apart, yet they know when to bring in a magnetic guitar solo or melodic interlude to keep the songs on track. Svneatr keep expanding on their imaginative sound with their third album.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Napalm Records

Unleash The Archers – Phantoma (Napalm)

Vancouver’s Unleash The Archers and their brand of power metal have reached album number six with Phantoma, an album recorded in the seclusion of pandemic life with very little positive happening within the dystopian world in which it takes place. The story here is about a sentient AI who sees the world from behind a computer screen and upon escaping the confines of the machine promptly has the rose-tinted glasses of a social media driven understanding of mankind destroyed; seeing the world as one with self-contained glass biomes and complete desolation lying between them on this desert-like planet.

Brittney Slayes’ high-flying vocals help to paint the picture of the AI for which the album is named on the title track of sorts “Ph4/NT0mA” as she pines for a life beyond her computer. The guitar work combined with futuristic keyboards conveys the overall feeling quite well. “Gods In Decay” and closer “Blood Empress” are powerful in their delivery, especially the latter as the titular character goes through an existential crisis. Slayes does a great job of emotionally driving home the point of the album one last time. Phantoma is a great power metal concept album and one of the best so far in 2024.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

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