Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of May 31, 2024

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Adversarial, The Antikaroshi, Four Stroke Baron, Graywave, Hellbutcher, House By The Cemetary, Nemus Anima, Nightrage, Rhapsody Of Fire, Semuta, SIG:AR:TYR, Supermodel Taxidermy, Swampbeast, Thou, Vredehammer and Wormwood.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Dark Descent Records

Adversarial – Solitude With The Eternal (Dark Descent)

It’s been almost ten years since Adversarial released an album, but as far as Solitude With The Eternal goes, it may have well been just a week ago. Their caustic black/death metal hasn’t lost any of its fertility, as this trio stifles hope from every angle. Their fondness for expansive song titles continues, with “Beware The Howling Darkness On Thine Left Shoulder” and “Death Is An Advisor In The Woods Of The Devil” being personal favorites.

They do pace themselves a bit on “Crushed Into The Kingdom Of Darkness” and vocalist/guitarist C.S. lays on the guitar solos, not a common feature to their music, for “Merging Within The Destroyer.” Having the tracks side-by-side to start the album’s second half may give off the impression the fury has ceased, yet they make sure to end Solitude With The Eternal with some of their most assertive material.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Exile On Mainstream Records

The Antikaroshi – L’inertie Polaire (Exile On Mainstream)

Aiming to pick up where they last left off five years ago with their 2019 album Extract. Transform. Debase., the German trio The Antikaroshi bring us its successor album L’inertie Polaire. Named after French philosopher Paul Virilio’s book of the same name, it is back to back high energy with no opportunities to slow down until the end.

The whole album gives off a feeling of what if System Of A Down were just a few decibels heavier, and tracks like “Sticky Hands” and “Gravity” showcase this question. However, despite the thought- provoking lyrics and Andre Pautz’s jazz infused drum solos, L’inertie Polaire doesn’t quite hit the same mark as their last album in terms of diversity between tracks, but it is still a good listen.

Rating: 3
(Dalton Husher)

Four Stroke Baron

Four Stroke Baron – Data Diamond (Prosthetic)

The original plan for what turned out to be Four Stroke Baron‘s fourth album was to record two EPs: one heavy, one electronic. The Reno, Nevada duo ended up making a full-length, with Data Diamond embracing both styles (and more).

Four Stroke Baron span numerous genres. At times they sound like an ’80s new wave band, then they’ll shift into a heavy, avant-garde/prog style, and then morph into industrial/electronica. The result is somewhat hit and miss. Tracks like “The Witch” and “People In My Image” are catchy and compelling, while songs such as “Open The World” don’t really go anywhere. There’s a lot to like with Data Diamond, with something unpredictable around every corner, but there are a few misfires.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Church Road Records

Graywave – Dancing In The Dust (Church Road)

The UK group Greywave started as a solo project for Jess Webberley, but has expanded into a trio. Their debut EP was released in 2021, followed by another one the following year. Dancing In The Dust is another EP, with six songs clocking in at around 25 minutes.

Graywave’s style blends atmosphere and heavy riffs with Webberley’s ethereal vocals, a hybrid of shoegaze, grunge and post rock. The songs generally move at a moderate pace, shifting intensities. “Blur Into One” is the EP’s catchiest and most accessible track, with a compelling blend of light and darkness. The closing title track is another highlight, with memorable melodies and gothic influences. Dancing In The Dust is long enough for Graywave to display their full arsenal while whetting the appetite for their next release, which will hopefully be a full-length.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Metal Blade Records

Hellbutcher – Hellbutcher (Metal Blade)

The Swedish black metal band Nifelheim had a 30 plus year run before calling it a day. Vocalist Per “Hellbutcher” Gustavsson has now formed the band Hellbutcher, recruiting his former bandmate Devastator (drums). The resume of the rest of the lineup includes bands such as Unleashed, Necrophobic, Gaahl’s Wyrd and Mordant.

While Hellbutcher has similarities to Nifelheim, they forge their own path. While black metal is the foundation for Hellbutcher, they incorporate a lot of thrash and traditional metal into the mix. “Violent Destruction” moves at a brisk pace with Motorhead influences and a killer guitar solo. “Hordes Of The Horned God” shifts from epic to down and dirty and back again, while “Inferno’s Rage” lives up to its title with a relentless pace and intensity. With Hellbutcher’s pedigree, it’s not surprising the quality of their self-titled debut is high, and should appeal not only to Nifelheim fans but a wider swath of metal aficionados.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Pulverised Records

House By The Cemetary – The Mortuary Hauntings (Pulverised)

What a treat. Perfectly catered to death metal fans with an affinity for horror, The Mortuary Hauntings is House By The Cemetary’s second record, and an impressive one at that. The electric energy densely packed into their musicality makes this a hit. The vocals stand out as especially excellent; they match the ambient violence occurring from the emphasized drum beats and ecstatic guitars from the legendary Rogga Johansson in a way that felt refreshing.

House By The Cemetary doesn’t try too hard to be gory and loud, it just comes naturally to them. Their music is almost soft in a small way – not overly fast and aggressive to emphasize the extremity of the genre, but so authentically death metal in a way that feels more subtle. Fans of classic slashers will find anthem after anthem of gruesome intensity with incredible vocals that set a guttural tone. The Mortuary Hauntings is quite outstanding; it speaks to the aggressive horror fan that lives within every death metal listener and tells them a tale of gore and torment – check it out.

Rating: 4
(Ethan Wylan)

Nemus Anima – The God Of Forest (Self)

There is something to be said about the impeccable effort it takes to construct a one-man band in the way Nemus Anima has. Refusing to play live and only existing within the studio, this Finnish black metal artist is full of equal parts terror and rage. The overall sound of The God Of Forest is classic black metal – with throaty vocals playing overtop a dismal, fast paced instrumental atmosphere, it is perfectly mediocre in its generic sound.

That is not to say that the record is bad by any means, just that it simply did not hold my attention. The skill is there; this album is expertly constructed and maintains a decently hellish atmosphere with its consistently draining drum beats and frantic guitar playing. But that is all I can really say. There isn’t anything pulling the listener in and it lacks character. Perhaps other listeners will find something I didn’t within this record, and I truly hope they do.

Rating: 3
(Ethan Wylan)

Despotz Records

Nightrage – Remains Of A Dead World (Despotz)

Greek/Swedish outfit Nightrage have typically struggled to maintain a solid lineup, and rarely attained a profile beyond mid-tier status within the heavy music world. But they’ve been reliable purveyors of melodic death metal, and Remains of A Dead World is their tenth full-length. The end result is an unapologetically melo-death record – there are no U-Turns into hip-hop or jazz fusion.

There aren’t really any surprises for the seasoned devotee of the style, but it ticks most of the necessary boxes, from thrashy passages and riffs tougher than a two-dollar steak to fleet-fingered guitar solos. New singer Konstantinos Togas tackles the task with relish, capably executing both harsh and clean vocals. “A Throne Of Melancholy” and Gothenburg metal write large “Persevere Through Adversity” are hook-laden affairs. There’s a whiff of Edge of Sanity apparent in “Deadliest Sin”, while the title track is a brutal affair that also bristles with ethereal melodies. Some bands just don’t get the breaks, regardless of the consistent quality of their output. But Nightrage haven’t let that deter them.

Rating: 3.5
(Brendan Crabb)

AFM Records

Rhapsody Of Fire – Challenge The Wind (AFM)

The Italian symphonic metal band Rhapsody Of Fire have now been around for more than 30 years in one form or another. There have been numerous lineup changes over the years, with the constant being keyboardist Alex Starapoli. Challenge The Wind is the second Rhapsody Of Fire album with the current lineup, and the band’s fifteenth overall.

It has all the elements you want and expect from a ROF album: soaring melodies, intricate symphonic atmospheres and plenty of guitars. The lyrical concept continues that of the last two albums, focusing on the development of the individual and recognizing your own self. What your won’t find on Challenge The Wind is a ballad. Rhapsody Of Fire keep the pedal to the metal throughout. The centerpiece of the album is the 16 minute epic “Vanquished By Shadows,” an eclectic number that encompasses the band’s arsenal in one package. While certainly not groundbreaking, Challenge The Wind is another well-executed and enjoyable Rhapsody Of Fire album.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Semuta – Glacial Erratic (Self)

Semuta were originally conceived as a solo project of Benjamin Caragol during the early days of the pandemic in 2020. After releasing a self-titled EP that same year, he brought in drummer Ben Stoller to complete the band, which leads to their debut album, Glacial Erratic. The group lands somewhere between sludge metal, progressive rock, and hardcore with their fluid arrangements.

Even though there are beefy riffs and turbulent percussion within these five songs, Caragol utilizes singing instead of the expected gruff tones. He has a good range too, never getting too overly theatrical. Stoller is the real get for the group though, as his drumming is stellar throughout. Semuta doesn’t shy away from the more tuneful side of metal on Glacial Erratic.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Hammerheart Records

SIG:AR:TYR – Citadel Of Stars (Hammerheart)

SIG:AR:TYR are back after an eight year absence. Citadel Of Stars is an atmospheric album that starts slowly but intensifies as it progresses, splitting into dense and foggy sections, followed by more direct, action-packed moments. The album is thematically cohesive, maintaining a consistent vibe throughout.

What stands out is the exceptional guitar work, which contrasts beautifully with the album’s overall atmosphere. However, the album has some typical atmospheric black metal issues, such as overly long repetitive riffs and muddy production during faster segments, which can make it difficult to listen to. Despite these flaws, Citadel Of Stars is a worthy successor to Northern, reminding listeners of the inevitable return of dark times.

Rating: 3.5
(Carlos Tirado)

Punishment 18 Records

Supermodel Taxidermy – At What Cost (Punishment 18)

Supermodel Taxidermy blur the lines of musicality with their latest genre-bending record At What Cost. The Canadian group blends skate punk with elements of thrash into a lethal concoction that slaps you in the face as it runs by. The atmosphere they create is explosive; a mix of punk rock energy with thrash level instrumentals. Their sound is reminiscent of Bad Brains or Minor Threat, but with a harsher bite.

The amount of authentic punk energy Supermodel Taxidermy crammed into this record is almost unbelievable, and when combined with the instrumental elements of thrash, its tone is almost deadly. Energetic and emphatic, the band’s raw mix of chaotic energies serves them well on this record. There is no real lull in energy at any point within this record, proving that if Supermodel Taxidermy can do anything, it’s bring in the heat.

Rating: 3.5
(Ethan Wylan)

Translation Loss Records

Swampbeast – Offering Of Chaos, Lamenting In The Blood Of Man (Translation Loss)

Offering Of Chaos, Lamenting In The Blood Of Man has Swampbeast in a death metal mood, formulating their second album around that style, with bits of black metal appearing too. Their grindy side is not as prevalent as in the past, save for some inspired whiplashing in “Brand Of Heresy” and “Fate Relinquished.” There’s an emphasis on songs with a wider reach into all different tempos, including “Impetuous Black Pyre” and “Deathscourged Blade Of Consecration.”

With this comes longer compositions, including the almost six-minute “Bestial Sanctuary,” which has the fiercest guitar solo on the album. They try to add in some sinister soundscapes with keys and ominous guitars in the overlong “Incantations Of The Tarnished” instrumental, though they are at their sharpest when they are in a destructive headspace. When in this mode, Swampbeast are at their most primal.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Sacred Bones Records

Thou – Umbilical (Sacred Bones)

Sludge/doom purveyors Thou have been quiet for nearly six years upon the release of Umbilical, their sixth full-length. Known for their heavy, groove-laden and misery-soaked approach, Thou are a unique band. Vocalist Bryan Funck’s vocal style is reminiscent of Mike IX Williams of Eyehategod, but these are different bands, with more walls of guitar feedback, making their three guitar, one bass attack feel like a military assault.

The 1-2 punch of “Narcissist’s Prayer” and “Emotional Terrorist” makes for an oppressive drone doom experience and the latter has thick grooves that help make for a varied and continually heavy and varied front. Fans of Thou will appreciate the album’s heft as well as its more bite-sized length when compared to other full-length albums from this Baton Rouge-based battery. Umbilical is absolutely thick and grimy in all the ways you expect from a Thou release, one of their most consistent albums to date.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Indie Recordings

Vredehammer – God Slayer (Indie)

The lineup on Norwegian black/death metal band Vredehammer albums has shrunk over the years. After three musicians participated in 2020’s Viporous, for their fourth album God Slayer it’s just main man Per Valla handling vocals, guitars, keyboards and bass, with Nils “Dominator” Fjellstrom (Odium, Dark Funeral) on drums.

The songwriting on the album is stellar. Dense black metal shifts into groovier sections, mixing in death and thrash. The riffs are memorable, and although the vocals are extreme, Vredehammer manage to inject melody into the proceedings as well. The songs are streamlined, with minimal filler and a svelte 40 minute run time. From the crushing title track to the majestic “The Dragons Burn” to the rifftastic “Product Human Slave,” God Slayer delivers the extreme metal goods. The album isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and is well worth checking out.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Black Lodge Records

Wormwood – The Star (Black Lodge)

The designation of “melodic black metal” that Wormwood tend to receive is just the beginning of how rich an album like The Star is. Sure, there are jagged raspy growls and bitter tremolo-picked riffs, but they act as more of a transition between the progressive guitar work of “Stjärnfall” or the gentle acoustic melodies in “Ro.” Both of those songs are substantial inclusions to songwriting that defies the hallmarks of black metal.

There’s been a decrease in their folksy side, with violins only making a real mark on the jaunty “Suffer Existence.” Female vocals do appear in a few tunes as a distinction from the unforgiving snarling. That snarl is tamed in the early moments of “Ro” with wonderful harmonic male and female singing. The Star is yet another fantastic representation of the stretchiness of melodic black metal.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

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