This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Cruciamentum, Gnaw Their Tongues, Headshot, Helga, A Hill To Die Upon, Hitten, Laang, Lillian Axe, Master’s Call, Rainburn, Sadism and Swords Of Dis.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cruciamentum – Obsidian Refractions (Profound Lore)
Eight years is a long time in the death metal scene, and that’s exactly how long Cruciamentum have been without a new LP since 2015’s Charnel Passages. Their second full-length album Obsidian Refractions clearly remembers as this vile death metal crew references the former’s album title as its opening track. The lead song lumbers through death metal passages and soars through solos surrounded by drums that stop on a dime and announce the sudden changes that allow for this beast to swirl into a metallic maelstrom. Vocalist C.E. plumbs the depths of death searching for his violent voice, one that manifests evil with each new syllable formed.
The middle four tracks help Cruciamentum further entrench themselves into the sounds from beyond, making for big blasts from the battery, ethereal sounds from beyond and crushing riffs make for an all-encompassing experience for the listener. They never let you sit idle for too long, enveloping you in fear and recklessness. All of this culminates in the massive closer “Drowned,” which takes all of the previous elements and leaves nothing to the imagination over the course of 10 minutes. Obsidian Refractions is the oppressive sound of all that you know crashing around you, letting pure evil take hold. This is death metal for death metal’s sake.
Gnaw Their Tongues – The Cessation Of Suffering (Consouling Sounds)
Over the past nearly two decades, Dutch experimentalists Gnaw Their Tongues, a one man band helmed by Mories, have been prolific, issuing numerous splits and EPs along with studio albums. They had released something every year since 2006 until breaking that streak last year. The Cessation Of Suffering is their third release this year (following splits with Deha and Sator), and their tenth studio album.
Gnaw Their Tongues’ style is encompassed in the opening interlude that blends soothing chants with dissonant, irritating noise. Described as their bleakest album ever, The Cessation Of Suffering is sometimes chaotic and cacophonous, other times more atmospheric, a combination of black metal, noise and electronics. No groovy guitar solos or hooky choruses here, just walls of noise and auditory experiments, but Mories manages to keep things compelling, from the drama of the title track to the industrial bombast of “Met Huid En Haar.” An acquired taste for sure, but for those who like their metal noisy and experimental, The Cessation Of Suffering will hit the spot.
Headshot – …Makes Us Survive! (MDD)
As a part of their thirty year anniversary, it seems quite fitting that German thrash veterans Headshot gift us with this nice collection of remasters from their first two albums, 1995’s Brain At Risk and 1999’s Emotional Overload. This comes hot off the heels of their most recent sixth album Eyes Of The Guardian, their first new album in eleven years.
Joining Headshot in 2008, front woman Daniela Karrer has made these past fifteen years quite remarkable and brings her own style to each of these Headshot classics. Each one of these newly remastered tracks feels fresh and modern all while still keeping elements of their original counterparts. “Day of the Dead” and “In my Mind” have benefited the most from this treatment. Karrer’s newly recorded vocals are what really set these remakes apart from their original recordings.
Helga – Wrapped In Mist (Season Of Mist)
Singer/songwriter Helga Gabriel has released a few EPs under the Helga moniker, a folk/pop dreaminess hiding crafty shadows underneath. The darkness gets to peek its head often on Helga’s debut album, Wrapped In Mist. Death and melancholy are lifted by airy melodies, her soothing voice switching between English and Swedish lyrics. There’s a black metal influence in “Farväl,” where the singing is replaced with tortured screams.
There are several cool parts like that on here, where the band accompanying Helga either goes into full prog mode or brings out a series of riffs that would make Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt perk up. Wrapped In Mist doesn’t lose the folk though, as cellos, violins, and pianos class up a riveting record.
A Hill To Die Upon – The Black Nativity (Rottweiler)
The path A Hill to Die Upon have taken on The Black Nativity is more independent and different compared to their previous works in such a way that the album has separated its spirit from the sound of the early years of the band. On The Black Nativity, which is more of a conceptual piece, there are a few signs of blasting blackened death metal roar that was unabashedly overturning everything.
Instead, folk, psychedelic and progressive strains show themselves in a clear way in many moments; but in a general perspective, this multi-genre intervention has fueled several splits in AHTDU’s sonic nature and seems to have undermined the cohesion in the overall shape of the band’s recent musical journey. However, it has paved the way for AHTDU to conquer new horizons in creating albums with multi-genre, multilayered music, with avant-garde/progressive metal approach. The Black Nativity has the potential to receive a big no from the band’s fans, while it also surprises many others.
Hitten – While Passion Lasts (High Roller)
Earlier this year, Hitten revisited their early days, issuing a re-recorded version of their 2014 debut album First Strike With The Devil. They follow that up with the new studio album While Passion Lasts, their fifth.
Hitten are inspired by glam/hair metal bands of the ’80s and early ’90s ranging from Dokken to Queensryche. While Passion Lasts is packed with melodic hard rock/metal songs that would have fit perfectly in that era. Big hooks, singalong choruses and guitar solos abound on tracks like “Blood From A Stone” and “Dark Stalker.” While the songs are derivative, they are well executed, so break out the Aqua Net and acid washed jeans and party like it’s 1989.
Laang – Riluo (Talheim)
The Taiwanese black metal band Laang (whose name translates to “cold”) emerged in 2018 with an EP and debut length, and followed that up in 2021. Their latest album Riluo covers a grim subject, the experience of dying and the feelings of detachment from life and others as one copes with trauma. It’s based on the personal experience of frontman Haitao Yang, who was shot in the head during a carjacking.
Laang’s brand of black metal is melodic and atmospheric with symphonic elements, with the edge provided by harsh vocals. “Liuxue de Taiyang” is uptempo and grandiose, “Zhemo” is bombastic and urgent while the closing title track is somber and more deliberate with some melodic singing. The symphonic and folk elements provide texture and depth without overshadowing the metal approach of the songs. Riluo has plenty of ebbs and flows and ample variety that keeps things compelling from beginning to end.
Lillian Axe – The Box – Volume One: Resurrection (Cherry Red)
The New Orleans band Lillian Axe formed in the early ’80s and released their self-titled debut album (which was produced by Ratt’s Robbin Crosby) in 1988, which was quickly followed up by 1989’s Love And War. They disbanded in 1995 after four albums, but reunited a few years later and have issued several more records, including their latest last year. Their first two albums were reissued a few years ago, and now comes a massive box set covering 1992 to 2009.
The Box – Volume One: Resurrection is seven discs of material, the first half of collections of the band’s recorded works. It starts with 1992’s Poetic Justice with bonus material that includes five demos from Love And War. 1993’s Psychochizophrenia has demos and unreleased tracks, with 2007’s Waters Rising adding two demos to the original album. The box set also features 2009’s Sad Day On Planet Earth and Steve Blaze’s 2004 solo album Random Acts Of Blindness. There’s also the double live record Live 2002, whose second disc is augmented with numerous demos and acoustic tracks. The Box – Volume One: Resurrection is the mother lode for Lillian Axe fans, an extensive collection of material from the band’s early and middle period of activity.
Master’s Call – A Journey For The Damned (Fireflash)
The UK death/black metal band Master’s Call formed a decade ago, and after the release of their debut EP in 2019 had developed momentum and were invited to play numerous festivals, but then the pandemic stopped things in their tracks. After some lineup changes they have completed their full-length debut A Journey For The Damned.
Their influences span black metal, death metal and even classic metal bands, which is reflected in their sound. There’s plenty of extremity and aggression throughout, but Master’s Call add things like symphonic atmosphere in “Beyond The Gates” and “Damnation’s Black Winds” for a change of pace. Grooves and melodies on tracks such as “Into The Abyss Once More” are contrasted by harsh vocals and brutality. Songs in the five to six minute range give plenty of room to explore their varied approaches, a worthy debut that bodes well for a promising future for Master’s Call.
Vignettes, the second full-length from the Indian band Rainburn, has a heavy prog rock feeling. Across songs like “Love Probably” we get a good idea of what the band sounds like and the variation they bring to the table. They are on the heavy side for prog rock and bring with them a thoughtful element as well. The album’s lyrical theme is life in a metropolis.
The entire album is an interesting one with plenty to offer, a mixture of complexity and accessibility. The musicianship is solid with rollicking guitars that shift depending on the song and jazzy drumming. The album is over relatively quickly and one wishes the band had expanded on their horizons more. Still, this is intelligent music as it is and carries across positive vibes, leaving the listener with a big smile. There is simply so much ear candy to be had here that one must be overjoyed listening to it. As far as prog rock albums go, this is solid for sure.
Sadism – Obscurans (Hammerheart)
The Chilean band Sadism were at the forefront of the rise of extreme metal in South America. Formed in 1988, they issued their debut Tribulated Bells in 1992 and have been going strong ever since. Three plus decades later Sadism are releasing their tenth studio album Obscurans.
They deliver straightforward mid-paced old school death metal on tracks like “One Your Knees” and “Parousia.” They also crank up the tempos and add thrash influences on songs such as “Exsanguination” and “Lower Astral Entities.” The blend of death and thrash helps things from becoming predictable and adds diversity to the proceedings. Vocalist Ricardo Roberts (one of two original members along with drummer Juan Pablo Donoso) has a potent and passionate delivery, and the band’s musicianship is razor sharp. Even though they have been around for a long time, Sadism are still under the radar for many, especially in North America. Obscurans is a strong addition to an already impressive body of work.
Swords Of Dis – Melencolia (I, Voidhanger)
Almost twice as long as their 2013 debut album Tides Of Malediction, Melencolia is a daunting attempt by Swords Of Dis to swell up their doom/black metal. Seventy minutes is what the duo are requesting from a listener, and they don’t make it easy with opener “Orison,” an expanded intro track made up of Latin chanting and riffs that build to a crescendo. They weave through the mournful stylings of doom, all surrounded by a mix of melodic and harsh vocals, both male and female.
A decade between albums, with only 2021’s Cor Mundum Crea In Me, Sanctum Ignis EP being released during that time, seems to have given Swords Of Dis a new perspective. The aggression is more pronounced on Melencolia, and not even orchestral accompaniment or usage of acoustic guitars and piano waters that down. One has to be absolute in their dedication to the group’s deepening occultist vision.