This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include reviews of releases from Blind Equation, Corey Taylor, Danko Jones, Electric Boys, Fabricant, Fire Down Below, Gridlink, Mayhem, Shining, TesseracT, Thy Art Is Murder and Vrajitor’s Tenebrarium.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Blind Equation – Death Awaits (Prosthetic)
Imagine taking the soundtrack to a NES-era Final Fantasy video game and contorting it into the confines of grindcore and that becomes Blind Equation’s self-proclaimed “cybergrind” on Death Awaits. Keyboards and programming take the place of guitars, though the band’s second album wisely moves beyond the one-minute speedruns their previous releases were laced with.
Songs like “Warmth” and “The Last Glimpse Of Me” uses keys to invoke a lingering dread that supports the dreary lyrical content. Blind Equation are an outlet as a way for the members to tackle internal strife and depression. Those that get disturbed by mentions of suicidal thoughts and other sort of dark inner musings will find Death Awaits to be a lot to handle. There isn’t much light at the end of this record; this is a morbid dance party bathed in turmoil and stress.
Corey Taylor – CMF2 (Decibel Cooper)
Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor issued his first solo album CMFT in 2020, with last year’s CMFB…Sides including b-sides, covers, live and acoustic tracks. Like his initial solo effort, CMF2 is a varied and diverse collection.
He puts on his metal hat for heavier songs like “Post Traumatic Blues” that combine harsh and melodic vocals. There are catchy, hard rock numbers such as “Talk Sick” and the anthemic “We Are The Rest” alongside laid-back ballads like “Breath Of Fresh Smoke” and “Sorry Me.” The album flows well, giving an ebb and flow between tempos and intensities. There’s minimal filler in the 13 songs, and unlike many albums that are front loaded with the best songs, CMF2 doesn’t lose any momentum, with strong tracks like “Punchline” and the biting “All I Want Is Hate” towards the end of the record. Taylor is influenced by a lot of different styles and that’s evident on his solo records.
Danko Jones – Electric Sounds (AFM)
You’ve got to admire Danko Jones‘ work ethic, consistency and dedication to the riff. Electric Sounds is the Canadian hard rock trio’s 11th full-length, and there’s never a lengthy gap between visits to the studio. They aren’t an outfit renowned for surprises either, but this is a band that knows its audience, and knows it well. The current line-up has established a strong chemistry, and that’s apparent here again. A few guest spots, such as an energetic guitar solo from Daniel Dekay (Exciter) on the title track add a little extra spice.
The mid-tempo crunch of “Guess Who’s Back” sets the tone, with its Gene Simmons-sized tongue-in-cheek and catchy as flypaper hooks. It’s been said you have to be pretty smart to play this dumb, and it works. Electric Sounds is perhaps a little faster a record overall when compared to some recent affairs, but the expected bases are covered, including songs about women and rocking out, plenty of swagger, and no ballads. “Eye for an Eye” channels a love of the Misfits, while “Stiff Competition” and “I Like It” reference their garage-punk roots. There’s also the obligatory, tailor-made for live shows cut, the infectious “Shake Your City.” These lads are rock music lifers, and that passion remains tangible despite the familiarity. Hell, they’re probably already working on album number 12.
Electric Boys – Grand Explosivos (Mighty)
Three plus decades after their formation, Swedish funky hard rockers Electric Boys are still going strong. They took a hiatus after their initial ’80s and early ’90s heyday, with their current incarnation reforming in 2009. Grand Explosivos is their eighth studio album.
After going in a more serious direction lyricwise with 2021’s pandemic album Upside Down, Electric Boys get back to their more light-hearted approach with this record. It’s packed with funky grooves and memorable melodies that would have made for a lot of hit singles back in the day. The catchy “Better Safe Than Sober,” the bluesy “And The Band Played On – Part 1” and the melodic rocker “Missed Her By A Minute” are some highlights of another enjoyable record that EB fans old and new can appreciate.
Fabricant – Drudge To The Thicket (Profound Lore)
Fabricant have not rushed out their debut album Drudge To The Thicket, with their last significant release being a split with the defunct Apocryphon in 2013. Before that was a fantastic demo in 2010 that signaled a mind-bending take on death metal. One of the songs from that era, the title track to this album, is brought back, retaining its jagged tempos and ominous synths. At times, it’s as if the band is turning the genre upside down and inside out to deconstruct it on a molecular level.
Then again, they also keep it rooted to the building blocks with an unadorned fluidity. There’s technical pride in the musicianship, with bass solos and seismic drum fills keeping the album fresh. Though it’s been an almost 13-year journey to get to this release, Fabricant put on a death metal clinic with Drudge To The Thicket that doesn’t feel ordinary.
Fire Down Below – Low Desert Surf Club (Ripple)
Five years after their critically acclaimed Hymn Of The Cosmic Man, the Belgian stoner/desert metal/rock outfit Fire Down Below take a different approach with Low Desert Surf Club. For the first time, they worked with an outside producer, Elder and Delving frontman Nick DiSalvo.
The power of the riff compels them and drives the album, evident from the opener “Cocaine Hippo” that has a minute long intro before the vocals kick in. Fire Down Below vary their approach between uptempo stoner rock tracks like “California” and heavier, more metal songs such as “Airwolf.” “Surf Queen” has a throwback vintage vibe, utilizing a classic surf rock guitar tone for much of the track along with fuzzier, heavy sections, making the 7 minute song fly by. The album closes with the 16 minute epic “Mantra,” which is mostly instrumental save for a groovy middle section and spoken word vocals at the end of the track repeating the phrase “This the start of something new.” Stoner rock and metal fans will find plenty to like with Low Desert Surf Club.
Gridlink – Coronet Juniper (Willowtip)
It appeared that Gridlink were done for good after their momentous 2014 album Longhena, but nine years later they bring their technical grindcore back with Coronet Juniper. The record sonically pulls from all three of their other albums to make an album that feels like a compilation of their evolution. If one thing hasn’t changed, it’s the horrifying shrieks of vocalist Jon Chang, which have strengthened since his days with Discordance Axis.
Their music sets the standards for what a grindcore band can do within a minute, gliding to the limit with an understated melodic touch. “Ocean Vertigo” and “Revenant Orchard” highlight the dexterity of the instrumentation with raucous drum fills and atypical grindy riffs. It’s hard to top a modern classic like Longhena, but Coronet Juniper comes close with its uncharacteristic design.
Mayhem – Daemonic Rites (Century Media)
Norwegian black metal pioneers Mayhem released their most recent studio album Daemon in 2019, followed by an EP in 2021. Daemonic Rites is a live album documenting that era, along with classics from their catalog.
The 16 song (plus intro) set list includes three tracks from Daemon and “Voces ab Alta” from the Atavistic Black Disorder EP. They also play a few songs from their legendary 1994 album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The current lineup of Attila Csihar (vocals), Teloch (guitar), Ghul (guitar), Necrobutcher (bass) and Hellhammer (drums) pay homage to the early songs with the passion of that era bolstered by decades of experience that has sharpened their musicianship. Daemonic Rites captures a wide ranging show from the genre’s most iconic band.
Shining – Shining (Napalm)
There are multiple bands named Shining. This is the Swedish black metal group fronted by the controversial Niklas Kvarforth. The band has undergone a lot of lineup changes since 2018’s X: Varg Utan Flock with Kvarforth and guitarist Peter Emanuel Huss the only remaining members from that album. Among the new members on their self-titled album are drummer Nicholas Barker (Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir) and Mayhem guitarist Charles Hedger, aka Ghul.
Shining is an ambitious album that stretches the boundaries of black metal. While tracks like “Allt För Döden” have that classic Shining vibe, songs like opener “Avsändare Okänd” and “Fidelis Ad Morthem” incorporate prog and rock elements into the mix. Most of the album’s six songs are lengthy, in the 8 to 11 minute range, with the instrumental piano based “Attahundratjugo” the shortest song on the record. It’s followed by closer “Den Permanenta Sömnen Kallar” a heavy, black metal track. With Shining, the band’s strong new lineup expertly balances maintaining their trademark sound while still moving things forward musically and creatively.
TesseracT – War Of Being (Kscope)
TesseracT‘s last album, 2018’s Sonder, clocked in at a sleek 36 minutes. For the follow-up War Of Being the veteran British progsters went in the opposite direction: an hour plus long concept album about the war within oneself.
As you’d expect from a TesseracT album, there are plenty of twists and turns and ample variety. Opener “Natural Disaster” is the most djenty song on the album, an engaging heavy number. “Echoes” is atmospheric yet catchy, as is “The Grey.” The centerpiece of the album is the 11 minute title track that shifts between djent, ambient parts and atmospheric rock. The album closes on a strong note with “Burder” and “Sacrifice.” War Of Being is an ambitious album, and though there is some filler and a song or two could have been excised, TesseracT’s songwriting, musicianship and outstanding vocals from Daniel Tompkins make it a fulfilling listen.
Thy Art Is Murder – Godlike (Human Warfare)
Perhaps the most crushing band to reach the upper tier of the Australian charts, Thy Art Is Murder haven’t toned down the heaviness on Godlike. However, their sixth album does offer a few welcome change-ups. It presents concussion-inducing brutality delivered by a band tighter than a miser’s wallet. The record benefits from its streamlined nature; at ten tracks and 40 minutes the fat has been trimmed from a death metal attack bristling with blasts and breakdowns. They have a well-established formula that’s efficiently adhered to for much of the record. The core elements of the opening one-two of “Destroyer Of Dreams” and “Blood Throne” will be familiar to their existing audience.
There’s some welcome modifications, though. The record overall is a little groovier, and greater emphasis on atmospherics – some of it black metal-esque – adds more depth and nuance. The textured darkness of “Everything Unwanted” infuses melancholy and melody, with clean guitar flourishes heightening this sensibility, but without sacrificing intensity. And electronics-infused closer “Bermuda” is brooding, but also explosive in its dynamics and execution. Throughout the record, CJ McMahon’s bowel-loosening growl does lack some variation though. If the band is to continue exploring new avenues, perhaps he can broaden his approach with them. Godlike isn’t reinventing modern extreme metal, but will satisfy existing fans while also suggesting a more intriguing creative future for Thy Art Is Murder.
Vrajitor’s Tenebrarium – E.N.L.D. (Avantgarde)
The Finnish sure love to think outside the box with their music. Coming from the mastermind behind similar projects like Old Sorcery and Warmoon Lord, Vrajitor seems to have taken the best of both of these projects and blended them into Tenebrarium.
Though a well crafted album, E.N.L.D. is metal in the loosest terms. This is in more of the dungeon synth style with a melodic metal undertone; such as the case with “Et Mors Pallida Venebit.” The use of organs and sparse vocals throughout the album lend a dark melodic tone when paired alongside with the traditional metal instrumentation. “Black Frog” and “Volante Castrum” both give nods to Warmoon Lord and are more of the traditional metal experience one would expect. From start to end it is quite the listen to and worth it if one is looking for something a bit different.