This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Angra, Black Knife, Blazoner, Fuming Mouth, Green Lung, Insomnium, Manipulator, Mortuary Drape, Satan’s Fall, Serenity, Seventh Crystal, Sigir, Strigoi and Ufomammut.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Angra – Cycles Of Pain (Atomic Fire)
The long-running Brazilian prog/power band Angra have had a few different lineup era. The current crew has been together for nearly a decade, with Cycles Of Pain the third release from this incarnation, and the band’s tenth full-length overall. It has been 30 years since their debut Angels Cry, with guitarist Rafael Bittencourt having been there for all of them.
They continue the musical direction of their last several albums, a sound that’s classic without being retro. The arrangements are complex, with orchestrations, time signature changes and lengthy instrumental sections. The mostly five to six minute songs give plenty of room for the tracks to unfold with a lot of shifts and changes without wearing out their welcome. There’s plenty of variety on Cycles Of Pain, from the bombastic theatrics of “Dead Man On Display” to the South American flavor of “Vida Seca” that features Brazilian singer Lenine to the proggy “Faithless Sanctuary” to the mellow title track. Fabio Lione’s potent vocals and Angra’s musicianship make for another diverse and quality album.
Black Knife – Baby Eater Witch (Wise Blood)
Inspired by black metal, punk and horror movies, the Kentucky band Black Knife have been prolific in their seven year existence. Not only have they issued nine splits and EPs over that time frame, Baby Eater Witch is their third full-length.
The album flies by at warp speed, driven by thrashy riffs, a black metal vibe, punk attitude and horror inspired lyrics. Tracks like “Screaming From The Depths Of Hell” are dense and heavy, while songs such as “Killed By A Ghost” have more groove and melody. Their punk influences come to the forefront on songs like “Heavy Metal Punx From Hell.” The Halloween season is the perfect time to release the ghoulishly fun Baby Eater Witch.
Blazoner’s dream of an electric land on their debut album Escape To Electric Land involves hard rock/metal with a psychedelic slant. Electronics and ambience are gateways between songs, or in the case of opener “Electric Land” and closer “Full Stop,” sonic themes to tie the record together. All three members of the group are vocalists, each having a different, distinct method of singing/screaming.
The first half of Escape To Electric Land is all driving riffs and tight songwriting, while the second half of the album has longer songs with heightened jamming. Though these members have worked together in previous bands, this project only started in 2023, a breezy turnaround for well-seasoned musicians with a distinct focus.
Fuming Mouth – Last Day Of Sun (Nuclear Blast)
Fuming Mouth’s sophomore album Last Day Of Sun marks the long-awaited return for these Massachusetts maniacs, specifically vocalist/bassist Mark Whelan whose recent bout with cancer left the band and his life’s future very much in doubt. With the disease in remission, it allowed for Fuming Mouth to get back in the studio and put their collective thoughts to paper, leading to the powerful opener “Out of Time” which seems to reflect Whelan’s struggle with the persistence of time as it ticked towards potential oblivion, mixing Entombed’s guitar tone with some Pestilence for good measure. The chaos and dissonance on the track reflect the doom and gloom that tend to envelope someone whose life could very well be ending.
On “The Silence Beyond Life” there is a big reference to some of the emotionality of New England hardcore and the different feelings that it evokes, making for a marriage of different kinds of extremes, both in death and despair; a dichotomy that feels seldom explored. Overall the album’s themes of death go from the potential pain to also embracing the cold release and everything in between leading to an excellent and in depth conversation from beyond the grave.
Green Lung – This Heathen Land (Nuclear Blast)
Green Lung’s latest occult masterpiece, This Heathen Land, should’ve been released a week earlier, in time for All Hallow’s Eve. This ode to England’s pagan heritage brings the listener a uniquely British spin on witches, Satan, and ancient forest gods, delivered with both the utmost skill and sincerity, and a knowing wink. One almost expects the spoken word intro to conclude with, “O how they danced, the little people of Stonehenge.”
Green Lung expand on their equal parts doomy and groovy Sabbathian-swagger by embracing vintage swinging ‘60s keyboards on “Maxine (Witch Queen)” and recalling Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” on the acoustic stomp of “Songs of the Stones.” The crushing riffs and hooky melodicism of tracks like “The Ancient Ways” hew closer to the sound the band established on earlier releases, and taken as a whole, Green Lung have produced a strong contender for album of the year.
Insomnium – Songs Of The Dusk (Century Media)
Earlier this year, the Finnish melodic death metal band Insomnium released Anno 1696. It told tales of an era of witches, werewolves, superstition and bloodlust. Three of the songs that didn’t make the original album were included in some of the deluxe editions.
They are now being released as the standalone EP Songs Of The Dusk. They fit right in with Anno 1696 and don’t sound like leftovers or rejects. Opener “Flowers Of The Night” blends acoustic parts, orchestrations and Insomnium’s trademark melodeath, making for a varied and interesting track. “Stained In Red” follows a similar path, but has even heavier moments. The closing title track is nearly 10 minutes long, an epic and ambitious composition. It’s melodic at times, has a introspective interlude with clean vocals and gets heavy towards the end. Songs Of The Dusk is a worth companion and addition to Anno 1696.
Manipulator – Drawing Secret Circles (Wise Grind)
Manipulator are going all out for their latest album, Drawing Secret Circles, creating a whole multimedia universe behind it. A mobile video game, an accompanying record-long music video, a limited edition art book; the main musician behind this project, Andrew Notsch, puts a lot of background into 14 minutes of grindcore. There’s no point in even trying to divvy up the album by individual tracks, as the 20 songs are interwoven to the point that taking one of them out of the equation messes up the album’s flow.
Because of this, it’s hard to pick out any particular highlights since the majority of the tunes are under a minute each. Noise interludes and sample-laden instrumentals pile on the manic inner struggle that this record instigates. Drawing Secret Circles’ scattershot nature is to its advantage, even if it doesn’t always make for the most comprehensible experience.
Mortuary Drape – Black Mirror (Peaceville)
Almost nine years to the day since their excellent Spiritual Independence was released, Mortuary Drape unveil their sixth album Black Mirror. The Drape are well known for their contributions to Italian black metal, laced with evil and at times employing some of the best bass lines in the genre’s history. “The Secret Lost” and “Into The Oblivion” are some of the shorter songs on the album but they’re a great encapsulation of what the band does well, summon evil from beneath their cloaks and rip fantastic guitar work fairly making the assertion that they are the Mediterranean answer to Mercyful Fate.
By today’s genre standards, Mortuary Drape’s sound fits neatly into a traditional heavy metal structure, with black metal riffs and themes, solos and the aforementioned bass playing are just an added bonus. For fans of second wave black metal with a little bit of the first wave’s heavy metal structure, this album has it all for you. Black Mirror is the latest in a line of their releases that will leave you wondering why this band is Italy’s best kept secret. Open the tomb at your own risk!
Satan’s Fall – Destination Destruction (Steamhammer/SPV)
There are bands that have something deep to say, and there are bands that just want to have fun and shred out some guitar solos and falsettos. Then there’s Satan’s Fall, who actually do both on their Destination Destruction album. With bustling heavy/speed metal that happens to cover the decline of human civilization, the group’s second record makes extinction more fun that it would be.
They try out anthemic material on the middling “Monster’s Ball” and “Dark Star,” but their forte is throwing down fast riffs and resounding gang chants. For those that still purchase physical media, the CD version of Destination Destruction features two covers: the theme song to a German TV soap opera and a joyful take on the theme song to the Power Rangers TV show, “Go Go Power Rangers.”
Serenity – Nemesis AD (Napalm)
For their latest album Nemesis AD, the Austrian symphonic power metal band Serenity have a lineup change. Guitarist Marco Pastorino is a member of numerous other bands including Temperance, Virtual Symmetry and Fallen Sanctuary, and now adds Serenity to his resume.
The subject matter of the new album is based on the German painter Albrecht Dürer. The music is Serenity’s typical dynamic brand of symphonic power metal. Songs go from reserved to bombastic and back again. And while some albums of this style can overstay their welcomes, Serenity keep it at a streamlined 45 minutes, maximizing the melodies and minimizing filler. There are numerous catchy songs like “Ritter, Tod und Teufel (Knightfall)” and “Nemesis.” The album’s centerpiece is the epic “Reflections (of AD).” With a mellow beginning, a lot of memorable melodies and symphonic atmosphere, it maintains interest throughout. While Nemesis AD doesn’t necessarily break a lot of new ground, the execution is flawless.
Seventh Crystal – Infinity (Frontiers)
In a scene where everyone is pining for who can be the most brutal, Seventh Crystal come to us with a nice simple early 2000’s rock style. This short EP serves as more of a continuation from their earlier released Wonderland album.
For an EP this feels like it should have been added on to Wonderland instead of being released on its own. Each of these five songs stand out for various reasons; like “Ready Set Go!” having a nice blend of high octane performances separated with brief moments of slow piano solos and “Silence” incorporating a good usage of synths. With harmonious instrumentation mixed with Kristian Fyhr’s powerful vocals, Infinity feels like a modern take on the older classics.
Sigir – Rainmaker (Gramophone)
The melodic death metal band Sigir‘s first album, Rainmaker, is near the top of the aggression scale, bordering on black metal. It’s in the crafty guitar solos where the “melodic” designation becomes obvious, especially on the songs that go over seven minutes. These tunes have extended soulful screeches into the atmosphere, going on until it seems they have nowhere else to go, only to find new ways to keep moving.
There’s also an emphasis on orchestration, which adds a riveting spark to their sound. “Depraved” plays up this component well, bolstered by tempos that hold back any wild tendencies. Sigir makes sure to let those out very often, an obvious trait of the cut-throat title track and “The Offering.” Rainmaker is a ferocious debut with symphonic class.
Strigoi – Bathed In A Black Sun (Season Of Mist)
Strigoi, formed by Paradise Lost guitarist Greg Macintosh a few years ago, released their second album Viscera in 2022. They are following it up with the 5 song EP Bathed In A Black Sun.
The material on the EP is taken from the Viscera recording sessions. Some are previously unreleased, while the intense “The Grotesque” and groovy “A Spear Of Perfect Grief” were issued as 7 inches with Viscera‘s special edition vinyl. “The Construct Of Misery,” with a long intro and brief barrage of vocals, was a Decibel Magazine flexi-disc. The title track is ominous death metal, while “Beautiful Stigmata” blazes by in just over 40 seconds. Bathed In A Black Sun certainly isn’t essential, but Strigoi fans will definitely be interested in this material.
Ufomammut – Crookhead (Supernatural Cat)
This is popular week for EP releases, as you’ve seen throughout these reviews. We’re covering one more EP, Ufomammut‘s Crookhead. The three song release follows the Italian psychedelic/doom band’s 2022’s full-length Fenice.
These three new songs continue the vibe of that album, using vocal effects and having a more experimental vibe while still incorporating their usual downtuned doomy riffage. The 9 minute opening title track runs the gamut of all of that, the meat and potatoes of the heavy guitars and the garnish of the vocal effects and experimental forays. “Supernova” brings the fuzz at the beginning, with a mellow interlude mid-song followed by more thunderous doom. “Vibrhate” wraps up the EP with catchy riffs and spacey interludes. It’s a nice appetizer for their next album that’s due in 2024.