This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Bacterial Husk, Dokken, Doro, Glacier Eater, Gravesend, In This Moment, Martyrdoom, Malokarpatan, Oerheks, Sevendust, Shadowspawn, Venom, Wayfarer and Witching.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
To Bacterial Husk, humanity has caused irreversible damage to nature, evident by the name of their debut album, Anthropogenic Ruin. Chemicals seep into the land, spores are unleashed into the air, rot has taken over our brains; everything the band sees as happening around us in a vision of the future that may be more realistic than we think.
It’s up to their toxic death metal to drive that message, which involves multiple vocalists grunting and sneering as if they themselves are trapped in this illusionary wasteland. The bass guitar takes over the early parts of “Enshrined Gravitational Aberration” and “Cesarean-Born Constellations” as Bacterial Husk work the grooves in. Anthropogenic Ruin is efficient death metal that sees nothing but terror ahead for us.
Dokken – Heaven Comes Down (Silver Lining)
If you’re like me, you obsess over things like how many original members are required for a band to still be the same band? Further complicating matters is when the band’s moniker happens to be the lead singer’s name, as is the case with Dokken’s thirteenth release, Heaven Comes Down. Original shredder George Lynch departed long ago, but now with drummer “Wild” Mick Brown retired, little remains of the band’s best-loved incarnation.
Never known as a particularly aggressive vocalist, without his once soaring upper register, most of Dokken’s melodies stay grounded in a lower range that lacks energy, undermining the driving riffs on highlights “Is It Me or You?” and “Over The Mountain.” Guitarist Jon Levin is a talented player, but sounds neither similar enough to Lynch to recall the band’s heydey, nor distinctive enough to bring something new to the table, leaving this record well-executed but ultimately unremarkable.
Doro – Conqueress – Forever Strong And Proud (Nuclear Blast)
It has been 40 years since Warlock formed, and since that time, Doro Pesch has become one of metal’s most beloved and iconic singers. Her solo career started in 1989, and since then has released more than a dozen studio albums along with numerous EPs, live albums and compilations. She follows up 2018’s double album Forever Warriors, Forever United with Conqueress – Forever Strong And Proud.
It includes classic Doro songs that are melodic and aggressive with her instantly recognizable vocals. Tracks like “Fire In The Sky” and “Rise” are anthemic and catchy. There’s some variety as well, such as the symphonic tinged ballad “Fels in der Bruening” that combines English and German lyrics. She recruited fellow legend Rob Halford to collaborate on the classic priest track “Living After Midnight,” and he also returns for the album closer, a cover of the Bonnie Tyler ’80s hit “Total Eclipse Of The Heart.” “Bond Unending” is a duet with Sammy Amara of the German rock band Broilers that’s accessible and radio-friendly. In addition to the 15 track album, there are 5 bonus tracks that include a cover of the Metallica song “The Four Horsemen.” Conqueress – Forever Strong And Proud has everything listeners want and expect from a Doro album, and even though it’s 20 songs clocking in at more than 76 minutes, there’s minimal filler.
Glacier Eater – Tempest (Glacier)
Glacier Eater vocalists/guitarists Keith Welch and Ryan Hansen fill the band’s second album Tempest with towering harmonies and dexterous solos. It only takes a few seconds into opener “Exodus” for this to be fully realized, as the first minute and a half is loaded with enough leads to tire out any expert air guitarist. Their trade-off battle at the end of “Homeward” is thrilling and caps the album off on a high.
This sort of guitar work emphasizes a melodic pull to their death/thrash metal. At only 30 minutes, Tempest gets to the point. There are some new quirks to their sound, like the singing during the acoustic-led “Grief,” but Glacier Eater floor it for much of the album and leave dust behind in their wake.
Gravesend – Gowanus Death Stomp (20 Buck Spin)
Opening to the vile sounds of flies buzzing feels more than appropriate considering the depths that NYC’s Gravesend typically plumb, adding in the sounds of arguing and dissonant noise, allowing for the darkness factor to be well-established by the time “11414” starts. The band’s sound is rooted in speedy death metal with vocals shouted over crushing riffs and occasionally slowing things down to a crawl, like sewage moving through the pipes of the 5 boroughs on “Even A Worm Will Turn.”
Gravesend continue to balance out the all-out speed war with slowed down sections of pained doom dirges making for a short album that checks off many different extreme boxes during its 36-minute runtime. Understanding the dirty needle New York underbelly of yesteryear and present day as well, Gravesend leave no stone unturned when it comes to lyrical and sonic inspiration for Gowanus Death Stomp. Providing not just an aural experience, but also a sense of feeling the sludgy depths of the largest city in America, Gravesend have continued to perfect an accompaniment for you.
In This Moment – Godmode (BMG)
Over the past decade or so In This Moment has climbed into metal’s upper echelon, thanks to their compelling theatrical live shows and numerous rock radio hits such as “Blood,” “Sick Like Me” and “Roots.” Godmode is their eighth studio album.
It follows the path they’ve forged over the past several albums: industrial-tinged alt metal with Maria Brink’s varied vocals that range from melodic croons to throat shredding screams. Tracks like “Sanctify Me” tilt the balance toward harsh vocals, but most songs emphasize melodic singing with a few harsh moments sprinkled in. Ice Nine Kills vocalist Spencer Charnas guests on “Damaged,” which has varied vocals from both Charnas and Brink and is one of the album’s more compelling tracks. Closer “I Would Die For You” (not a Prince cover) is also a highlight, showcasing the many facets of In This Moment. If you enjoyed the band’s last few albums, Godmode should hit the spot nicely.
Malokarpatan – Vertumnus Caesar (Invictus)
Slovakian stalwarts Malokarpatan are back with their signature classic heavy metal blended with the black metal and traditional European folk music on Vertumnus Caesar, their fourth album. Three years removed from the critically lauded Krupinské Ohne, this curious quartet has not lost a step including all manner of sounds on this album, including the genres mentioned before and even adding in sections of synths and medieval harpsichords to great effect on the album’s first proper song “Koár postupuje temnomodrými dálavami na juhozápad.”
The album’s title track opens to a booming voice leading into second wave black metal vocals and enough synths to make Mortiis blush. The heavy metal majesty and riffs of “Vovnútri chlácholivého útoita kunstkamru” show just how well Malokarpatan have curated this album, never knowing where the next burst of something different is going to come from. There is just so much contained within these eight tracks it almost feels like cheapening the album by explaining the surprises that are in store around every corner on this album. Vertumnus Caesar is one of the year’s most diverse and the band’s best album to date.
Martyrdoom – As Torment Prevails (Memento Mori)
the second full-length of the band Martyrdoom, As Torment Prevails succeeds where many other death/doom albums fail. It has the right swagger to impress in the doom stakes, but is also punishing enough to satisfy death metal fans. It is a doomy death metal platter that brings in elements from both genres. The musicianship is solid with nice harsh guitars and drumming with a hollow feeling that is appealing. The vocals are growled and feature a good amount of impact. The musicianship makes the album stand out.
The death metal aspect of the band doesn’t seem to be as strong as the doom one even though the album moves really fast. Still, the concoction is an interesting one and rarely lets up. This is indeed a fun listen that splices genres effectively. The musicianship of the album elevates it to higher planes, overcoming some generic moments in the songwriting department. The entire affair is a fun romp that ends with a cover of Autopsy’s “In The Grip Of Winter.” Those looking for a compelling blend of doom and death metal should look no further than As Torment Prevails.
Oerheks – Valkengebed (Amor Fati)
From Kaggevinne, Belgium, with a focus on Flemish folklore, Oerheks create a musical world as vast and rich as the region’s history. Oerheks present their third demo, Valkengebed, which has only two songs, but with a time of more than 25 minutes, it reaches the highest point of a remarkable atmospheric black metal opus.
Valkengebed is extremely beautiful. Every bit of its moments is filled with a highly dramatic and sublime narrative atmosphere, in a way that the riffs and melodies speak eloquently, adding a spiritual journey to the boundless poetry of the two songs. Valkengebed is where Flemish folklore steps on a theatrical stage that is designed with meticulous details, accompanied by a reverberant orchestrations of raw and atmospheric black metal in combination with each other, which leads to one of the best musical achievements of the year.
Sevendust – Seven Of Sevendust (BMG)
Sevendust emerged in 1997 with their self-titled debut album, which went gold, and they have been going strong ever since. Their fourteenth studio album Truth Killer was released earlier this year. Now, the box set Seven Of Sevendust, as you can probably garner from the title, collects seven of their albums.
The band’s first four albums were issued on TVT Records, and this set starts with their fifth album Next, which was released in 2005. It also includes Alpha (2007), Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow (2008), Cold Day Memory (2010), Black Out The Sun (2013), Time Travelers & Bonfires (2014) and Kill The Flaw (2015). And while Sevendust’s first three albums were the most commercially successful, the era covered in this box set has a lot of quality albums such as Cold Day Memory and Alpha. Seven Of Sevendust is a good collection, and an opportunity to acquire half of the band’s studio albums in one fell swoop.
Shadowspawn – Blasphemica (Emanzipation)
It’s only been two short years since Shadowspawn‘s 2021 album The Biology Of Disbelief and these Danes have graced us with another brutal headbanger of an album. Featuring new drummer Lukas Meier from The Petulant, Shadowspawn have not missed a beat and have easily picked up where they had left off.
A definite no frills album from start to end, it checks all the boxes for hardcore death metal fans while incorporating an almost power metal twist, all the while maintaining their signature groovy yet intense theme. With standout tracks like “Desert Serpent” and “Vanity of the Wicked” it is hard not to enjoy the sheer effort that Shadowspawn have put into their work.
Venom – Live From Hammersmith Odeon Theatre (Cherry Red)
In 1985 Venom released Possessed, their fourth album, adding to their legendary canon of Welcome To Hell, Black Metal and At War With Satan. So by the time they played the Hammersmith Odeon in October of 1985, they had a lot of potent material to work with. That show is chronicled on the CD/DVD re-release Live From Hammersmith Odeon Theatre.
For this show the band’s classic lineup of Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon was still intact. Venom’s brand of raw, chaotic but catchy metal is evident from opener “Too Loud (For The Crowd)” from “Possessed.” They proceed to tear through 15 songs (including a bass solo by Cronos) in just under an hour, with highlights including the blazing “Black Metal,” the ominous “Countess Bathory” and closer “Witching Hour” from their debut album. It’s nice to have both the CD and DVD versions available together, and Live From Hammersmith Odeon Theatre is a show that Venom fans will definitely want to have in their collection, as it shows one of metal’s most influential bands at their peak.
Wayfarer – American Gothic (Profound Lore)
With the climate of the USBM movement being of such varying degrees and considering the rich history and fabled tales of the Western US, it’s no surprise that a band like Wayfarer eventually made their way onto the scene. Ten years of clad-in-black, romantic yet violent, pure outlaw black metal. Wayfarer’s highly-anticipated new album American Gothic is their fifth full-length.
A sinister ambience to absorb, heartwarming melodic sequences to savor and that telltale Western twang that calls to mind images of stallions in full stride under the cool glow of pale moon over canyon and sacred bonfires ablaze in the desert night. Each epic album cut alive and pulsating with newfound energy: black and bold, dramatic and visual from the opener “The Thousand Tombs of Western Promise” that lays down the thunder of a thousand horses trampling the plains with every dominating cadence and full-attention-demanding guitar riff, to the midway point in the stunning mood piece “A High Plains Eulogy” with its dreamlike lulls, all the way through to the blackened psychedelia of the closing track, “False Constellation.” American Gothic is an unforgettable black metal experience.
Witching – Incendium (Translation Loss)
The sludgy thickness of Witching’s earlier work has been overtaken by a greater focus on death/black metal on Incendium. They’ve always incorporated that seedier component to their music, but not in the quantities present on this album. The unassuming intros to “Last You, Fell From Divinity” and “Prowling Oblivion” hide this away until the listener believes they are getting a quaint ballad, which is the exact point the band goes off-course into lunacy.
The sludge hasn’t been completely wiped away, as “From Beneath” and “Damnation” lets vocalist Jacqui Powell take a break from raspy screaming for forlorn singing backed by subdued instrumentation. Witching have a firm hand in the meshing of so many different genres on Incendium, a challenging feat to pull off.