This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Hanoi Rocks, Heathen Kings, Incendiary, Inherus, Khanate, Nattverd, Pandrador, Raven, Sirenia, Under Attack, Vexing and Vomitory.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Hanoi Rocks – The Days We Spent Underground: 1981-1984 (Cherry Red)
Finnish glam rockers Hanoi Rocks formed in 1979, and issued a new studio album per year from 1981 to 1984. In 1984 drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley was killed, and shortly after, the band broke up. They have reunited a few times over the years, and frontman Michael Monroe went on to a successful solo career.
The Days We Spent Underground: 1981-1984 is a collection of Hanoi Rocks’ first four studio albums (Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks; Oriental Beat; Self Destruction Blues and Back To Mystery City along with the 1983 live album All Those Wasted Years. They didn’t garner a huge amount of commercial success in the U.S., but they influenced bands such as Guns N’ Roses and Skid Row. Hanoi Rocks are well worth exploring by fans of glam rock/metal. Back To Mystery City is probably their best album, but all of the material on The Days We Spent Underground: 1981-1984 is excellent.
Boasting comparisons to heavy metal giants Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, Heathen Kings definitely make good on these comparisons. Taking their name from the Tolkien universe, these British newcomers are not afraid to let the music do the talking.
As far as debut albums go, it is a classic metal fan’s dream come true. With a strong start with “In The Hall of The Kings,” each song is a hand crafted adventure from start to end. Their Tolkien inspiration comes in strong with the end track “A Song For Denethor” which would make any Lord of the Rings fan excited. With vocals reminiscent of Bruce Dickinson and the instrumentation to match, Heathen Kings have a strong and headbanging filled future ahead of them.
Incendiary – Change The Way You Think About Pain (Closed Casket)
Long Island hardcore crew Incendiary return with their fourth full-length, Change The Way You Think About Pain. The sounds of early NYHC are mixed together heavily with what we know now as metalcore, all while vocalist Brendan Garrone bounces behind the mic on opener “Bite The Hook.” With “Echo of Nothing” the band uses a good balance between breakdown and drums to lay down an atmosphere that’s pretty scary, taking no prisoners before the riffs get fatter and bludgeon the listener down once and for all closing out to the refrain of “Every window deserves a brick.”
Incendiary do a great job of keeping their hardcore attack violent while also allowing for the background effects and riff section to build all around. Their sound creates the sensation of being walled in to experience this fully, never being able to fully avoid what’s coming around the corner. Change The Way You Think About Pain is yet another standout hardcore album in 2023.
Inherus – Beholden (Hypnotic Dirge)
It takes a full hour to listen to Inherus’ debut album Beholden, and this gigantic record isn’t one to take lightly. Five of the six songs are at least ten minutes long (or a few seconds away from that distinction) and only closer “Lie To The Angels” kicks into a higher gear with the death metal-inspired break in its latter half. The harsh vocals come into the forefront during this section, a jarring counterpoint to the crisp melodies from vocalist Beth Gladding.
The group’s expansive guitar solos and extra instrumentation with synths and mandolins gives justification to extravagant song lengths. As a doom metal album, these songs have to be given attention to pick up on the little things they do well. Inherus are already hard at work on their second album, as Beholden appears to be just a creative starting point.
Khanate – To Be Cruel (Sacred Bones)
The New York drone/doom band Khanate emerged in the early 2000s and released three well-received albums, the one being 2009’s Clean Hands Go Foul. Since then their members have been in numerous other bands. But out of the blue, they surprise released To Be Cruel and announced their previous albums are now available on streaming services.
The album is only three songs, but this is no EP. Each track is in the 20 minute range. Khanate picked up right where they left off more than a decade ago, with songs that combine lengthy drone sections with crushing doom parts. Opener “Like A Poisoned Dog” moves at a glacial pace, with extended instrumental parts broken by Alan Dubin’s throat-shredding screams. “It Wants To Fly” treads a similar path, with Dubin incorporating spoken word vocals that add an ominous vibe to the track. Closer “To Be Cruel” has a mellow beginning before the cacophony kicks in. To Be Cruel is a challenging listen, and is certainly not for everyone, but those who enjoyed Khanate’s first three albums should certainly appreciate this one.
Nattverd – I Helvetes Forakt (Soulseller)
I Helvetes Forakt, Nattverd’s fourth album, genuinely represents the true sound of Norwegian black metal. Although the album feeds part of the power of its vital organs from the elements of modern black metal, what really gives the album immense strength is the observance of the fundamental principles of classic black metal.
I Helvetes Forakt is monstrous. It is reckless and wastes no time in creating a soundscape as vast and terrorizing yet ethereal as the darkness of the Norwegian woods and its deadly blizzards. It is like drops of fresh blood splattered on the whiteness of snow; it is equally impressive and shocking. Haunting melodies incorporated with attacking riffs draw the eyes to the dark image of an incarnated devil, sitting on the throne of blood and evil. I Helvetes Forakt is an impressive form of an ominous black metal that can engage the mind of its audience for a long time, and is Nattverd’s best album to date.
Pandrador – Seiðr (Pagan)
Polish death metal unit Pandrador look to Nordic traditions and stories on their second album, Seiðr. The band takes us to the afterlife in “Helferdast” for a conversation involving the being that runs the place, while the title track tells of practitioners of magic with an eye to the future. Whatever mystical figures or gods are in the band’s peripheral, they are supported by bustling music that can have a shellshock effect with its sheer fury.
This is a trait continued on from their 2020 debut Ov Rituals, Ov Ancestors, Ov Destiny, though Seiðr isn’t as brute in manner as their first album. There are attempts, however brief they may be, for theatrics to match the subject matter. Whether that be orchestration/synths or less demanding guitar work, it gives these Nordic themes the gravitas warranted.
Raven – Faster Than The Speed Of Light (Hear No Evil)
Next month, NWOBHM legends Raven will be releasing their latest studio album All Hell’s Breaking Loose. In the meantime, fans can enjoy the three disc collection Faster Than The Speed Of Light, which includes a couple of live shows and a covers album.
Live At The Inferno was recorded in the band’s heyday of 1984 and features material from classic albums like Rock Until You Drop and All For One. Destroy All Monsters: Live In Japan was recorded in 1995. The overlap between the two shows is minimal, with only a few songs in both sets. Party Killers: The Covers Album finds Raven covering a diverse group of artists ranging from Deep Purple to Status Quo to Queen to David Bowie. Though not essential, longtime Raven fans will find plenty to like with Faster Than The Speed Of Light.
Sirenia – 1977 (Napalm)
As you can probably garner from the title, the latest album from the veteran Norwegian symphonic/gothic metal band Sirenia is designed to pay homage to the music of the ’70s. 1977 also gives a nod to ’80s and ’90s styles, while keeping that symphonic metal base.
Opener “Deadlight” is very catchy, with a bit of a disco vibe along with piano and strings adding symphonic elements to a poppy track. The synth heavy “The Setting Darkness” would have been right at home in the mid-’90s, and the album closes with a symphonic cover of Tanita Tikaram’s 1988 pop song “Twist In My Sobriety.” There are also songs reminiscent of recent Sirenia albums such as “A Thousand Scars.” No matter whether it’s heavy symphonic metal or pop/rock, Emmanuelle Zoldan’s expressive vocals fit the bill perfectly. While 1977 has plenty of the symphonic metal Sirenia fans expect, their foray into some pop/rock stylings is an interesting twist.
Under Attack – Fury Of The Thunder God (Lake Of Fire)
Fury Of The Thunder God is the sonic equivalent of a plate of nachos overflowing with queso, cheesy in both the best and worst ways. Complexity is not a strong suit of Under Attack, which isn’t needed with songs about axe men, thunder gods and snipers. That last one may seem out of place with the other two, but the band isn’t trying to be deep with these lyrics. This is an album aiming to be anthemic that should’ve had more anthems in it.
The title track is the closest the group gets to finding a signature one, its rhythm-based verses and simple main guitar riff a superb tribute to ’80s heavy metal. More of that would’ve been nice, as many of the songs just fly by without much to go back to. There are blazing guitar solos and gang chants, yet they seem to hold back, too. Songs like the title track and “Meatgrinder” are glimpses of what Fury Of The Thunder God could’ve been if Under Attack cut loose more often.
Vexing – Grand Reproach (Ordovician)
Vexing designate themselves as progressive sludge metal on their debut album Grand Reproach, which in this case means atmospheric sludge with a touch of death metal shadowed by ambient sensibilities. The record may not come off that way based on the assertive opener “The Mold,” but those progressive tendencies eat away at “Vanquishing Light” and “Small Black Flame.” Those two tracks may remind listeners of a group like Inter Arma.
“Howling” has churning electronics as a piano slowly plays in the background. This bleakness extends itself into “Blunderbuss,” where their death metal ways are out in front. Vexing doesn’t stop throwing twists out even with closer “Red Skies,” a fast-paced closer that ends Grand Reproach in a way that is meant to get a rise out of someone.
Vomitory – All Heads Are Gonna Roll (Metal Blade)
Sweden slaughter cult Vomitory are back with their ninth album All Heads Are Gonna Roll their first in 12 years. You get a massive slab of death metal chock full of your favorite chainsaw riffs that are quite meaty and easily digestible, giving the album’s opener and title track serious legs to stand on. On “Ode to the Meat Saw” the riffs roll all over the listener making for a truly visceral experience as the guitar acts as the blade with the teeth shredding through unsuspecting eardrums.
The not so subtle “Piece By Stinking Piece” broadcasts Vomitory’s need for proper bloodshed, with the latter half of the song being sped through like a machete through bone, their pace quickening with each successive riff. Vomitory have made a long career of levelling heads and taking names and rest assured All Heads Are Gonna Roll in 2023.