Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of May 17, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Bat, Botanist, Cardiac Arrest, Duft, Elvellon, Gatecreeper, Goden, Hell:On, Jasta, Jinjer, Kerry King, Nobody, Nocturnus AD, Trails Of Anguish and Ufomammut.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Nuclear Blast

Bat – Under The Crooked Claw (Nuclear Blast)

Ryan Waste is a guitarist who needs no introduction for his work with Municipal Waste, but he really is able to spread his wings with speed metal urchins Bat. Their sophomore release Under The Crooked Claw is a continuation of his Dale Earnhardt-level need for speed. It doesn’t feel like the band has lost any of their bite in the eight years that have gone by since Wings Of Chains dropped and as was the case last time, Waste is joined by fellow Waste guitarist Nick Poulos as Waste assumes the vocal and bass roles on this album.

One listen to “Vampyre Lore” and “Rite For Exorcism” should give you the right idea about this album; fast and furious speed metal with an evil edge. If that alone doesn’t sell you on the quality of this album, they don’t really aim to change your mind. Under The Crooked Claw is blackened and speedy heavy metal that pulls no punches and beats you to a bloody pulp before you even know what happened.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Prophecy Productions

Botanist – Paleobotany (Prophecy)

Almost exactly a year after VIII: Selenotrope, the experimental post black metal troupe Botanist are releasing their latest album, Paleobotany. The only things consistent about Botanist are change and the quality of their albums.

After Selenotrope was fairly mellow, they amp up the heaviness a bit this time around, though there are still plenty of softer sections. The band’s trademark hammered dulcimer is front and center, along with a combination of harsh and melodic vocals. Botany’s songwriting is streamlined, with most of the songs clocking in around the 3 to 4 minute mark. A couple exceptions are the nearly six minute “Archaeamphora,” which alternates chaotic sections with reserved parts, and the 7 minute opus “Sigillaria” with all clean vocals. Botanist albums are always unique, challenging and interesting, and that’s the case with Paleobotany.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Hells Headbangers Records

Cardiac Arrest – The Stench Of Eternity (Hells Headbangers)

Cardiac Arrest have been known as one of the guardians of authentic old-school death metal for nearly three decades. Adam Scott, the band’s founder, mastermind, and the only remaining original member, has kept the band’s name alive in the underground death metal scene as one of the genre’s hallmarks. The band’s eighth album is nothing apart from this vibrant scene.

The Stench Of Eternity is a genuine death metal album reminiscent of classic gory death metal. There are not many complex blast beats, but the album still sounds raw, pounding, and brutal, a soundtrack to the scene of the walking dead mercilessly tearing their victim to pieces while their entrails are hanging. The Stench Of Eternity may not be considered one of Cardiac Arrest’s flagship works, but the 11-minute epic closer “From Civilized to Sadistic” makes this album a notable work, conquering new territory in the haunting universe of Cardiac Arrest’s horror-themed death metal.

Rating: 3.5
(Arash Khosronejad)

Scarlet Records

Duft – Altar Of Instant Gratification (Scarlet)

The deeper a listener gets into Duft’s debut album Altar Of Instant Gratification, the further their assumptions of the band gets distorted. It’s easy to be assured that a metallic hardcore sound is underway based on “Caved In,” the first real song after a short introduction track. That’s dashed by the thrashy “Dragged Across Concrete,” which even has a blast beat-centric breakdown.

Their music retains this shift throughout the 11 songs, not settling in with one style. If a sludgy head trip is wanted, “20th Century Doom” will deliver. A rush to the brain will result from “Scarfaced Blues.” Nifty guitar solos rip through closer “Only Dead Fish Follow The Stream,” something the band is calculated about using on the album. Altar Of Instant Gratification doesn’t live by its moniker, as Duft set their vision far higher than that simplistic goal.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Napalm Records

Elvellon – Ascending In Synergy (Napalm)

The German symphonic metal band Elvellon took their time between albums. Their full-length debut Until Dawn was released in 2018, followed by a live DVD in 2020. They have now signed with Napalm Records for their sophomore effort Ascending In Synergy.

The band’s songwriting is dynamic. Opener “Unbound” has both bombastic symphonic metal and softer sections. Orchestral elements are especially prominent on tracks like “A Vagabond’s Heart” and “Oceans Of Treason” while guitars get more exposure on songs such as “A Legacy Divine.” Vocalist Nele Messerschmidt shows a wide range, from quiet alto to full-throated soprano. The ballad “Last Of Our Kind” really showcases her varied approach. Ascending In Synergyis probably about a song too long, but symphonic metal fans will find a lot to like with this record.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Nuclear Blast

Gatecreeper – Dark Superstition (Nuclear Blast)

Arizona’s Gatecreeper have been at this death metal caper for a decade-plus now. They’ve crammed plenty of activity into that period, issuing a series of EPs and splits in between albums. Their third full-length Dark Superstition actually arrives after a five-year gap between LPs. Their first release for heavyweight label Nuclear Blast runs for a taut less than 40 minutes. It’s aggressive, yet hook-filled – see the bruising “Masterpiece of Chaos” and “Caught in the Treads.” And it’s bustling with variety, with a more melodic bent to many of the cuts.

“Dead Star’s riffage offers a strong nod to early In Flames. On the Swedish front, Dismember are a reference point; the group’s drummer/songwriter Fred Estby flew to the U.S. to work with Gatecreeper in pre-production. Entombed’s death ‘n’ roll is also a key source of inspiration. Meanwhile, “The Black Curtain”’s intro could’ve been lifted from a mid-’90s Paradise Lost record, and there’s gothic overtones within “Flesh Habit”. The production appropriately retains some dirt under the proverbial fingernails, thanks to Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Gatecreeper’s self-described “stadium death metal” appears set to reach a wider audience without compromising its potent attack.

Rating: 4
(Brendan Crabb)

Svart Records

Goden – Vale Of The Fallen (Svart)

Though featuring members of the death/doom group Winter, Goden remain its own separate, recognizable entity on Vale Of The Fallen. There’s still the mysticism and solitude here from their Beyond Darkness debut album, but with a welcomed reduced runtime. The “Manifestation” spoken word interludes that inflated their first album have been contained to one track, though four minutes of it may be too much for many.

Vale Of The Fallen wisely invests more creative space for violinist Margaret Murphy and keyboardist Tony Pinnisi, coming together for two wonderful instrumentals in “The Divine” and “The Requiem.” The low hum of noise during the ambient song “Rings Of Saturn” puts the middle of the album in a lull. As far as actual death/doom goes, the riffs of guitarist Stephen Flam are reliant in conjuring the bleakness of those early Winter recordings.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Archivist Records

Hell:On – Shaman (Archivist)

It is nice to see that despite current world issues that there is still room for metal. Originally slated for a 2022 release date, Ukrainian death metalers Hell:On have managed to bring forth their sixth studio album Shaman to the light safely.

Shaman continues on the same path stylistically that Hell:On have been known for. The extra use of Asian style instrumentation gives the album a more The Hu feel, and it shows in tracks like “What Steppes Dream About” and “I am the Path.” The subtle use of Mongolian throat singing when paired with the not so subtle and Oleksandr Baev’s brutal vocals blends together surprisingly well and gives a nice contrast. Hell:On have shown that even in the face of adversity, there is still time to produce good music.

Rating: 3.5
(Dalton Husher)

Perseverance Media Group

Jasta – …And Jasta For All (Perseverance)

As Hatebreed fans wait for the follow-up for 2020’s Weight Of The False Self, frontman Jamey Jasta is issuing his latest solo album …And Jasta For All. The title and artwork are an homage to Metallica, with Jasta‘s solo material thrashier than his main band.

Jasta brings aboard numerous thrash legends to guest on the album. Testament’s Chuck Billy adds some melody to contrast Jasta’s hardcore barks on “Create The Now,” while Exodus’ Steve “Zetro” Souza appears on the galloping “Assimilation Agenda.” Anthrax axeman Scott Ian plays on “R.M.P.C.,” with other guitar guests including Joey Conception (Arch Enemy) and Phil Demmel (Vio-lence, Machine Head). …And Jasta For All doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but blazes through ten songs in a cloud of dust and killer riffs.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Napalm Records

Jinjer – Live In Los Angeles (Napalm)

Jinjer released a live album following their 2019 record Macro. They are doing the same in the aftermath of 2021’s Wallflowers. Live In Los Angeles was recorded in December 2022 at the Wiltern. It’s available in numerous configurations, including DVD/CD, vinyl and digital.

The 15 song setlist includes six from Wallflowers. The rest are fairly evenly distributed among their earlier releases. The set flows well, and the band is tight. Tatiana Shmayluk is very impressive on Jinjer’s albums, but in a live setting takes it to an even higher level. She is a force of nature, shifting seamlessly between harsh growls and melodic singing. She also thanks the fans for standing with the band’s native Ukraine before “Home Back.” Jinjer fans will enjoy Live In Los Angeles with its wide-ranging setlist in a show that captures a band hitting on all cylinders.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Reigning Phoenix Music

Kerry King – From Hell I Rise (Reigning Phoenix)

Five years after Slayer’s farewell tour, the band is reuniting for a few live shows. However, it’s unlikely there will be any new Slayer music in the future, so it’s up to guitarist Kerry King to carry the torch. He has put together an impressive lineup for his solo band, featuring vocalist Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), guitarist Phil Demmel (Machine Head, Vio-lence), bassist Kyle Sanders (HellYeah) and his former Slayer bandmate Paul Bostaph on drums.

A couple of the tracks on the band’s debut album From Hell I Rise are from the sessions of Slayer’s final album, 2015’s Repentless, and the rest were written over the past few years. Even as he approaches 60, Kerry King has lost no passion or intensity. The album is full of anger, vitriol and aggression. As you’d expect, it’s very Slayer-esque, but there are subtle differences and changes. King and Demmel’s guitar work is flawless, but the real surprise is Osegueda. His vocal chops are well known and respected from his decades in Death Angel, but on this album he brings even more intensity. His delivery is fierce throughout, especially on tracks like “Residue” and “Trophies Of The Tyrant.” From Hell I Rise continues Slayer’s legacy while establishing a new and powerful entity.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

End My Life Records/Tragedy Productions

Nobody – Despair Is Where My Thoughts Swim (End My Life/Tragedy)

With Despair Is Where My Thoughts Swim, Ohio metal band Nobody prove themselves as an artist to watch for in the DSBM scene. Their first full studio album is full of dismal, solemn instrumentals with lonely vocals that frequently change in style. Initially I wasn’t the biggest fan of the vocals – I found them to be slightly out of place. But as the album progresses and the style rotates, I grew used to the whiny shrieking.

The production of the album overall is clear and decisive in the album’s message, but I found tracks three, four, and nine to be the standouts. “In This Emptiness” in particular stood out as representative of the band’s general sound. As you listen to each track and grow more acquainted with the band’s depressing atmosphere, Nobody introduce you to graphic sounds with despairing undertones that are worth the listen. If you like DSBM, keep an eye on this band for sure…

Rating: 3.5
(Ethan Wylan)

Profound Lore Records

Nocturnus AD – Unicursal (Profound Lore)

Nocturnus AD have a long trajectory. It could even be said that they were pioneers in mixing thrash metal with space themes and ambiance. With Unicursal, the room for exploration continues towards new directions. There is more than just ’80s metal vibes in this album; there’s also a sincere desire to evolve. Nocturnus AD have always had an idiosyncratic approach to their music, and Unicursal is no exception.

Those who love strange approaches will find this album interesting and engaging. However, it’s also true that some of the ideas explored here might feel rather unfitting for the types of riffs and song structures Nocturnus AD are pursuing. Overall, it’s an intriguing listening experience, even if it might alienate some fans.

Rating: 3
(Carlos Tirado)

Hessian Firm

Trails Of Anguish – Scathed Gaping Misery (Hessian Firm)

Scathed Gaping Misery is a collection of two EPs from black metal group Trails Of Anguish. 2002’s Relentless Abhorrence Of Misery’s Grievance and 2003’s Scarred Memento stand as the only recorded material the band produced, which is packaged together here. Their music is unruly, pressed at a warped speed that gets across the blurring effect the genre is associated with. Anguish is a suitable emotion to name this band after, as it is most prevalent throughout.

With these EPs being readily available digitally, Scathed Gaping Misery is a way to get a physical copy of EPs long out of print. There are two new tracks at the end, though they are more a loose series of ideas and riffs cobbled together than anything complete. With some of them dating back to 2003, it’s a short glimpse into where the band could be, and may one day still be heading.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Neurot Recordings

Ufomammut – Hidden (Neurot)

After a five year gap between 8 and Fenice, Italian psych sludge/doomsters Ufomammut were a little more prompt this time around. Only two years after Fenice, they deliver their eleventh full-length Hidden.

The trio is equally comfortable writing long opuses and more streamlined songs. There’s a combination of both on Hidden. Opener “Crookhead” meanders through thick sludge, mellow psych and heavy doom over its ten minutes. “Mausoleum” is another epic that twists and turns between styles and approaches. More focused tracks like “Spidher” and “Leeched” still have plenty of variety when it comes to intensity and tempo. Ufomammut never seem to run out of quality riffs, and Hidden is another album jam-packed with them.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.