This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Afterbirth, Angelus Apatrida, Archangel, Dreamwell, Go Ahead And Die, Helgrindur, Lynch Mob, Night Ranger, Noitila, OWDWYR, Stomach, Temperance, Vertebra Atlantis and Within Temptation.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Afterbirth – In But Not Of (Willowtip)
Afterbirth are fearless in warping their brutal death metal with unexpected sounds for their third album, In But Not Of. This is the accumulation of everything the group has been working towards since their reunion in 2013 after almost 20 years apart. The band retains the gargled grunts and clanky rhythms, yet also uses synths and keyboards frequently along with expressive, soulful guitars.
The ever-shifting and distinct instrumentation done on “Hovering Human Head Drones” and “Time Enough Tomorrow” is excellent. It’s not about how fast they play but how they contort themselves to step beyond their brutal death metal ways. In But Not Of is an achievement, one that bands looking to step into their own should take copious notes on.
Angelus Apatrida – Aftermath (Century Media)
After their well-received 2021 self-titled album, Spanish thrashers Angelus Apatrida wasted no time in crafting its follow-up Aftermath, their eighth album. Their brand of thrash pays tribute to the old school while also incorporating modern influences. That includes some melodic singing alongside aggressive vocals on tracks like “Cold.”
AA bring aboard several guests, including Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta on the intense and aggressive “Snob.” There are a couple of outside the box collaborators as well, such as Spanish rapper Sho-Hai that adds an interesting flavor to the heavy thrash track “What Kills Us All.” Queensryche’s Todd La Torre sings on closer “Vultures And Butterflies,” which shifts back and forth from mellow to full metal mode. The nearly 9 minute epic “To Whom Is May Concern” is an album highlight with numerous ebbs and flows. With Aftermath keeps the momentum going from start to finish.
Archangel – Total Dark Sublime (Scarlet)
Metal with a punkish horror angle is Archangel’s way of life on Total Dark Sublime. What the band does with their first full-length is write catchy songs with dingy themes, hiding them behind gang chanted choruses and snappy tempos. Vocalist/guitarist Søren Crawack has a melodious voice, which is tapped into harmonies that many mainstream rock/metal groups would love to have.
“Blind Dragon” and “Sunslayer” are back-to-back punk-laced tracks in the middle of the album, two-minute bursts of snarky momentum. It may seem odd to have those alongside an ’80s-styled anthem like “Take My Soul” but Archangel deftly pulls off both metal and punk with a dash of hard rocking on Total Dark Sublime.
Dreamwell – In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You (Prosthetic)
The Rhode Island band Dreamwell formed a few years back and released their debut album in 2021. They have signed with Prosthetic Records for In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You. The lyrics explore navigating personal relationships with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Musically, Dreamwell span a few different genres from screamo to metalcore to post hardcore. The songs are often chaotic with harsh vocals that incorporate moments of melody. They shift easily from brief tracks like “Studying The Greats In Self Immolation” to longer songs like the six plus minute “It Will Hurt, And You Won’t Get To Be Surprised” that shifts from smooth melodic singing to fierce growls and screams with a doomy last part of the song. In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You is constantly shifting and changing with forays in many directions. The experiments don’t all work (the ambient “Reverberations Of A Sickly Wound” seems superfluous), but most are engaging.
Go Ahead and Die – Unhealthy Mechanisms (Nuclear Blast)
For mainstay Max Cavalera, heavy music isn’t just a personal calling, it’s a family business. Extreme metal is also a source of bonding across generations, as the patriarch joins forces with son Igor Amadeus Cavalera for Go Ahead and Die‘s second album, Unhealthy Mechanisms. These ten riff-loaded songs are about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the cranium, and true variety can be found wanting at times, but that’s precisely the point. The raw production values suit the feral nature of the material, which bridges the worlds of death metal, crust and grind. It’s akin to a playlist of early Sepultura, Death, Obituary, Discharge and Motörhead.
The Cavaleras share caustic vocal duties and trade caveman riffs, with standouts including the ferocious “Tumors” and punk-fuelled “Drug-O-Cop.” They’re flanked by drummer Johnny Valles, who pummels, blasts and D-Beats with purpose. After a brutal start to proceedings, the fury of “M.D.A. (Most Dangerous Animal)” kick-starts the record’s second half, which culminates in the title track; crust-laden death metal with a psychedelic edge that ultimately leads to one final beating. Father and son don’t seem too concerned with trends or subtlety; it’s all about making an unholy racket. And on that front, they’ve succeeded.
Helgrindur – Helgrindur (MDD)
Six years after Helgrindur‘s debut album Von Einst, they make their return with their long awaited second album Helgrindur. An intriguing blend of black, death, and pagan metal it almost blends itself into a new genre. With help from German heavyweights such as Wolfchant, Obscurity and Rosa, Helgrindur does what any good second album should do: build up from the previous album.
Drawing most of their song influences from German mythology and fairy tales, it’s almost as if Brothers Grimm themselves wrote the lyrics for this album. Each track for the most part follows your typical black metal rhythm but every now and then you’ll find a nice brutal melody section sprinkled in. Helgrindur could easily be a staple in the black/death metal scene especially with tracks like “Fernweh” and “Bergisches Land.”
Lynch Mob – Babylon (Frontiers)
George Lynch is a busy guy. Over the past several years, the one-time Dokken shredder released studio albums from a variety of projects, including KXM (with King’s X mainman dUg Pinnick and drummer Ray Luzier) and Sweet/Lynch with Stryper’s Michael Sweet. Lynch returns home with Babylon, a new record (and eighth overall) from his first post-Dokken project, Lynch Mob.
One constant with all these projects is Lynch’s instantly recognizable guitar tone. The clean, slightly-phased opening lick of “Erase” leaves no doubt who’s behind the guitar here. Much of the album features a breezy, ‘80s metal vibe with modern production, the riff on “I’m Ready” recalling Van Halen’s classic “Panama” with a slightly darker chorus. New singer Gabriel Colon bears a striking similarity to Myles Kennedy, with a hint of Axl Rose, adding an anthemic quality to another batch of solid, guitar-based rockers from Mr. Scary himself.
Night Ranger – 40 Years And A Night With The Contemporary Youth Orchestra (Frontiers)
Last year, veteran rockers Night Ranger did a show with Cleveland’s Contemporary Youth Orchestra, which is made up of Ohio musicians between the ages of 12 and 18. It was the band’s first time performing live with a symphonic orchestra, and the show was captured for 40 Years And A Night With The Contemporary Youth Orchestra, available on numerous configurations including CD, vinyl and Blu-ray.
The 11 song set covers their biggest hits alongside a couple of lesser known tracks like the title track from their 2014 album High Road.. It’s not surprising songs such as “Sing Me Away” and “Four In The Morning” work well with an orchestra. However, harder edged tracks like “(You Can Still) Rock In America” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” also sound good with symphonic moments. One of the highlights of the show is the ten minute rendition of “Night Ranger” from their debut album Dawn Patrol. They close with their biggest hit, “Sister Christian,” which brings down the house. Decades after their release, these songs stand the test of time, no matter how they are arranged.
Noitila – Langennut (Nordvis)
Finnish black metal group Noitila stick to the bare necessities in creating their debut album, Langennut. They recorded it in a family cabin, used furniture like a leather chair to supplement their instruments, and went out into nature to put down the acoustic guitars that are sprinkled in “Noitilaan” and the title track. They tap into the mysticism of the genre, hearkening back to the days of black magic and spiritual awakenings.
Evil is not just a figure in the shadows but an idea that is spread beyond the stars. That seems to be the band’s message, though considering the lyrics are in their native tongue, it’s up to interpretation for those unfamiliar with the language. With such a low-fi setup, Langennut is produced with an ear to the past that isn’t just a rehash of black metal’s legacy.
Technical death metal from the gaze of a classical composer is what OWDWYR do on Receptor. Guitarist Paul Plumeri handles all the writing from a musical standpoint, and he seamlessly adapts various songs from other composers such as Arvo Pärt and Heitor Villa-Lobos. Most of this is done with minimal use of actual orchestration, the closer “The Sputtering Torch” being a main exception.
The band employed various musicians to lay down the drums, including Benighted’s Kevin Paradis and Imperial Triumphant’s Kenny Grohowski. Even with the drummer switching every song or two, there’s a cohesion in their breathless performances. At 15 songs, Receptor has a few too many for this style of music, but using instruments like saxophones helps keep the album lively.
Stomach – Parasite (Hibernation Release)
There’s a song on Stomach’s debut album Parasite called “Tooth Decay” that sounds like a drill being stabbed into the roof of a person’s mouth. The guitar feedback generated in “Ocular Migraine” may lead to a physical manifestation of this condition. The eight-minute “Midnight In Pain” is agonizing, each note being equally painful.
This is sludge metal in its most unbearable form. There are full songs with little to no drums or even riffs, just driven by bitter static. Then, to mess with a listener, they will go into powerviolence mode for a handful of seconds before getting back to the disarray. Parasite is not meant to be a comfy record, as its abrasive core values stand out as authentic.
Temperance – Hermitage – Daruma’s Eyes Pt. 2 (Napalm)
On their seventh album Hermitage – Daruma’s Eyes Pt. 2, the Italian symphonic power metal band Temperance have a couple of new members. American singer Kristin Starkey assumes vocal duties alongside Michele Guaitoli, with Marco Saccetto the band’s new drummer.
Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen is the album’s narrator (and also sings on “No Return”), with the protagonist in another era after finding the Japanese doll Daruma. The songs are dramatic with complex arrangements packed with symphonic elements and atmosphere. There are ballads like “A Hero Reborn,” bombastic power metal tracks such as “No Return” and soaring melodic songs like “Darkness Is Just A Drawing.” Guaitoli’s vocals are dynamic and powerful, with Starkey fitting in well. Symphonic power metal fans will find plenty to enjoy with Hermitage – Daruma’s Eyes Pt. 2.
Vertebra Atlantis – A Dialogue With The Eeriest Sublime (I, Voidhanger)
A Dialogue With The Eeriest Sublime has Vertebra Atlantis’ death/black metal going further into symphonic areas, with synths and orchestration more common than on their debut album, Lustral Purge In Cerulean Bliss. The closing title track is a major departure for the band; a wonderful half acoustic/half electric ballad featuring melodic vocals from two guest singers.
They haven’t abandoned their remorseless sound with all these additional tweaks, but it is counterbalanced by the presence of flutes on “Desperately Ablaze, From The Lowest Lair” and the grand piano work in the first part of instrumental “Cupio Dissolvi.” That one eventually breaks off into a demanding finale, which is the give and take Vertebra Atlantis expertly manage on A Dialogue With The Eeriest Sublime.
Over the years Within Temptation have really diversified their sound. Beginning as a traditional symphonic metal band, recent releases have found them exploring more modern stylings. They have complete creative freedom on their latest album Bleed Out, deciding to go the independent route.
Lyrically they are more overtly political than ever, tackling subjects ranging from the war in Ukraine to abortion to women fighting for their rights in Iran. Musically there’s still plenty of symphonic bombast on songs like “Wireless” and “Worth Dying For” that also have modern electronic moments. There are radio-friendly tracks like “Entertan You,” “The Purge” and “Shed My Skin” that are melodic and catchy but still heavy. Sharon den Adel’s instantly recognizable vocals display emotion, power and range throughout. One of the more impressive things about Bleed Out is the lack of filler. There’s not a weak song on the album, making it another in the long line of quality Within Temptation releases.