This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Casket Robbery, Constellatia, Epica, He Is Legend, Kampfar, Last In Line, Leatherwolf, MMXX, Munroe’s Thunder, Vittra, Void Moon and Warkings.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Casket Robbery – Rituals Of Death (Blood Blast)
Through a revolving door of musicians and six years between albums comes Rituals Of Death, the second full-length from brutal death metal group Casket Robbery. Guitarist Cory Scheider has been the constant throughout the band’s decade-long career, and the musicians he surrounds himself with happily support the horrors of decaying bodies and reanimation detailed. Their groove-infused sound doesn’t ignore the chugging or crushing breakdowns to ramp up the wickedness.
“Worm Food” and “Return To The Sky” are some of the faster cuts on Rituals Of Death, where Casket Robbery acts as one in their seedy acts. There’s a focus to these songs that wasn’t always there on their 2016 debut LP Evolution Of Evil, and it’s apparent they didn’t want to pad the album out more than the 32 minutes it takes up. This is sharp death metal that brings exactly what fans expect from this nasty style of music.
Constellatia – Magisterial Romance (Season Of Mist)
The South African band Constellatia was formed by Wildernessking’s Keenan Oates and Crow Black Sky’s Gideon Lamprecht. They issued their debut in 2020, and after signing with Season Of Mist follow it up with Magisterial Romance.
Their brand of black metal is sometimes extreme, other times melodic and atmospheric. Elements of prog and post metal are added to give Constellatia their own unique sound. The album’s four tracks are in the 9 to 11 minute range, diversely arranged with a lot of ebbs and flows. Guest vocals from Honeymoan’s Alison Rachel on “Adorn” add to that variety. It’s a dynamic record, shifting between beauty and destruction, grabbing and holding the listener’s attention no matter how long the songs are.
Epica – The Alchemy Project (Atomic Fire)
Since releasing their latest studio album Omega last year, Epica have issued two live albums, a box set and multiple EPs. They continue a prolific period with the 7 track EP The Alchemy Project.
It’s a collaborative project, writing and recording the songs with numerous guest musicians. That leads to a varied sounding release. There’s the symphonic metal you’d expect on songs like “The Great Tribulation” featuring Fleshgod Apocalypse. There are also directions you may not expect, such as the proggy “Wake The World” with Phil Lanzon and Tommy Kareveik and the reserved “Sirens Of Blood And Water” that features Charlotte Wessels (ex-Delain) and Myrkur alongside Simone Simons. With God Dethroned and Sven de Caluwe (Aborted) lending their talents to “Human Devastation,” it’s not surprising it’s the most brutal and intense song Epica have recorded. The Alchemy Project is an interesting collection with Epica stretching their musical boundaries.
He Is Legend – Endless Hallway (Spinefarm)
North Carolina’s He Is Legend have been around for nearly two decades now. They still have three original members, with Endless Hallway their seventh studio album.
Over the years the band’s sound has straddled that line between hard rock and heavy metal. Endless Hallway edges into the metal column, with a lot of aggression and heaviness. He Is Legend manage to do that without sacrificing melodies and hooks, with numerous catchy tracks such as “Lifeless Lemonade” and “Sour.” While not quite reaching the heights of 2019’s White Bat, there is a lot to like about Endless Hallway with a wide variety of quality songs.
Kampfar – Til klovers takt (Indie)
Ever since Norwegian black metal veterans Kampfar re-formed their musical anatomy in 2011 with their acclaimed album Mare, it’s as if they’ve reinvented themselves. This path gradually expanded and developed during the last decade until it became the high point of the band’s music. Til klovers takt, Kampfar’s latest full length, once again depicts their mastery in creating a passionate and artistic work.
Til klovers takt is a continuation of the glorious and storytelling path that Kampfar have established over the past decade. Black metal is not only the medium to convey the concept of black metal and the pagan messages, but is a vessel to connect the listener to the endless world of Norse folk history and mythology, by carefully crafted illustration of its tales. This is made possible by brilliant and dynamic songwriting and equally impressive performances by the band members. It seems Kampfar won’t go astray, as Til klovers takt proves.
Last In Line – A Day In The Life (earMusic)
After the death of Ronnie James Dio, Last In Line were formed by former Dio members Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice, with vocals from Andrew Freeman (Lynch Mob). After Bain’s death, Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy) took over bass duties. Their second album was released in 2019, and as they work on the third record, the EP A Day In The Life is being issued.
The four song effort leads off with the title track, a hard rock/metal version of the classic Beatles song. Last In Line put their own spin on it and it works well as an arena rocker. There’s also a new song, “Hurricane Orlagh,” an uptempo and catchy anthem. The EP is rounded out by live versions of “Devil In Me” from their debut Heavy Crown and “Give Up The Ghost” from II. Fans now have some new material to hold them over as they await the next Last In Line full-length.
Leatherwolf – Kill The Hunted (N.I.L.8)
Over the course of a few albums in the late ’80s Leatherwolf attempted to stand out from the pack by employing a trio of classically trained guitarists. After the obligatory hiatus when grunge took over, the band released World Asylum in 2006 (and redid it the following year). Fast forward fifteen more years and the band – or a version of it, at least – is here with Kill The Hunted. The only original member is drummer Dean Roberts, with others in tow having joined between 2011 and this year.
If trying to compare Kill The Hunted to Leatherwolf’s ’80s output, it’s not that similar. This is a heavier album, lacking in the neo-classical guitar stylings. Keith Adamiak does a fair job on the mic, and the trio of Rob Math, Luke Man and Wayne Findlay are solid guitarists, but there aren’t many memorable tracks here. Kill The Hunted is a competent record, but it made me go back and spin their self-titled ’87 album instead.
MMXX – Sacred Cargo (Candlelight)
MMXX were formed by current and former members of Daylight Dies and The Foreshadowing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The draw to their debut album Sacred Cargo is all the outside vocalists they utilize. Dan Swano, Aaron Stainthorpe, Mikko Kotamaki; these are just a few of the musicians who contribute their recognizable voices. Fans of doom/death metal will be thrilled at who else is involved, as this is a who’s who of belters with decades of experience.
Even though there are over half a dozen singers on Sacred Cargo, it never comes off as disjointed. Like a doom/death take on the Probot project Dave Grohl created back in the early 2000’s, each song is tailored to the strengths of each guest vocalist. MMXX are able to do something new in doom/death by bringing together top-tier talent from all over the world in a unified front.
Munroe’s Thunder – The Black Watch (RFL)
Veteran vocalist Ronny Munroe (Metal Church, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Vicious Rumors) has formed Munroe’s Thunder. The subject matter on their debut album The Black Watch is loosely based on his family history, as some of his ancestors were part of the black watch who guarded Mary Queen Of Scots back in the 1500’s.
There’s a combination of soaring, uptempo power metal numbers such as “Awaken The Fire” and “Dead Man’s War” along with ballads like “Babbington Mary” and “Thirty Years War.” Munroe’s pipes are in fine form, and with his power and range handles any tempo of song with style and flair. There are plenty of Iron Maiden influences on The Black Watch along with other ’80s traditional/power metal bands. The concept of the album is interesting, and the songs are varied.
Vittra start with a melodic death metal foundation on Blasphemy Blues, eventually laying thrash and black metal on top of that. It can be seen how a band like The Haunted, which Vittra does a rendition of that band’s “Undead” as a bonus track, could hold sway on them, though they have much more of a blackened heart. Closer “Sommarfödd” is the most obvious example, its guest vocals from singer Anna Brygård unable to dissuade their wrathful ways.
The album grows in interest with each passing song, as Vittra use acoustic guitars on “Satmara,” multiple bass guitar breaks, and silky-smooth guitar solos coming up every few minutes. It’s when the lines between melo death, black, and thrash become less separate where Blasphemy Blues gets to shine.
Void Moon – Waste Of Mind (Obelisk Polaris)
Waste Of Mind is a 20 minute single song EP by Swedish doomsters Void Moon. It begins in Candlemass-type fashion and changes eventually. The riffs are typical traditional doom metal fare and wind up making only a moderate impact. The track goes through a subtle portion and ends up sounding slightly more inspired and provides variety before returning to more traditional sounding doom again.
It’s a solid song, though there are no portions that severely raise your pulse and lead you to a higher plane. It stays pretty standard sounding and never really elevates to anything higher. Though the concept of one lengthy song is interesting, the execution is a bit of a disappointment and there is the feeling it could have been made more compelling. This makes Waste Of Mind a mildly interesting piece of doom metal, but is not as compelling as their last full-length, 2020’s The Autumn Throne.
Warkings – Morgana (Napalm)
The international power metal troupe Warkings go by monikers like The Tribune and The Crusader, playing the characters of mighty warriors from the realm of the dead. In reality, it’s a side project of members of bands such as Serenity and Watch Me Bleed. For their fourth album, they’ve brought aboard Morgana le Fay to provide vocals on several tracks on the appropriately named Morgana.
Her growls provide an edge to melodic songs such as “Monsters” and “Heart Of Rage.” The arrangements have a lot of symphonic elements and atmosphere along with driving guitars. There are catchy singalong songs such as “To The King” along with more intense tracks like “Immortal.” It’s a step up from last year’s Revolution thanks to better songs and the addition of le Fay, giving Morgana an interesting twist.