Heavy Music HQ Reviews: Week of September 22, 2023

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Acausal Intrusion, Bekor Quilish, Death Dealer Union, Final Gasp, Freya, Haurun, Hexvessel, Kerrigan, Melan Selas, Mercenary, The Moth and Necrotted.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

I, Voidhanger Records

Acausal Intrusion – Panpsychism (I, Voidhanger)

Dissonant, avant-garde and technical in the most detailed musical basis, Acausal Intrusion have moved towards creating one of the most dread-inducing death metal albums of the year. Only a year after the release of the acclaimed album Seeping Evocation, Acausal Intrusion did not spend much time writing a new album, while the stage and all its details were still ready to receive the performance of a new horror show from the band.

Panpsychism benefits from a strong morbid psychedelic design, a Lovecraftian atmosphere that is heavily relies on a chaotic discourse. Philosophical themes focus on the statement that the mind is a fundamental and pervasive feature of reality. And this dialogue takes a surprising form when Acausal Intrusion bring it to the sublime region of death metal and philosophy with the lethal and chaotic dynamics of their music. On Panpsychism, Acausal Intrusion push the boundaries of wonder and ambition to present their best work to date, at the height of maturity in musicianship and creating a work of darkening madness.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

I, Voidhanger Records

Bekor Qilish – The Flesh Of A New God (I, Voidhanger)

“The Earth has been abandoned/Left to rot in its isolation/Worshipped by double-headed beings,” utters vocalist Andrea Bruzzone on “Defaced Background,” the opener to Bekor Qilish’s second album, The Flesh Of A New God. This stark message gets bleaker as ash and decayed flesh casts over what once was a lively mass of land. Bruzzone brings in a group of session musicians, including Hideous Divinity drummer Giulio Galati, as a backing band for his avant-garde death/black metal.

This is in contrast to the group’s last album, Throes Of Death From The Dreamed Nihilism, which was mainly performed by Bruzzone alone with a few guest spots for drums and guitar solos. Bruzzone sticks to just vocals and keyboards this time, as a progressive bent is given to the music with synth leads, saxophone, and technical musicianship, especially with the bass guitar. With two instrumentals and longer songs, Bruzzone is embracing an innovative side to the group’s feral extreme metal.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Napalm Records

Death Dealer Union – Initiation (Napalm)

The L.A. heavy metal/hard rock band Death Dealer Union formed in 2019, issued a couple of singles last year, had some lineup changes, and emerge with their debut album Initiation. The band is fronted by Infected Rain’s Lena Scissorhands.

DDU have a modern sound that straddles the line between traditional metal and hard rock with some forays into alt metal and other genres. “Mythos” has a ’90s flavor with an emphasis on harsh vocals while tracks like the melodic, uptempo “The Integument” have single potential. Scissorhands vocals shift between melodic crooning and biting unclean vocals. Most songs have a fairly even balance between the two styles, and she even has a fair amount of harsh vocals on the ballad “Love Me When I’m Ugly.” Initiation is a varied and dynamic debut.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Relapse Records

Final Gasp – Mourning Moon (Relapse)

Just in time for Halloween is the debut album by Final Gasp. Mourning Moon is an album with automatic staying power with a combination of death rock, punk and gothy vibes. Opener “Climax Infinity” is a great combination of all those influences, never really moving beyond midtempo, but allowing for the different yet crucially important parts of their sound to sink in. “Botched Ritual” has all manner of tremendous atmosphere that the biggest fans of TSOL’s Dance With Me and classic era Danzig can get behind. The shouted lyrics make it a bit different, but the overall sound checks off those boxes.

Final Gasp blazes through shorter songs like “Blood and Sulfur” and “Unnatural Law,” whose pounding drums serve as an essential accompaniment to the overall track. The title track has an enduring sense of eeriness about it while never straying too far from their sonic center of death rock and punk, straddling the line in a masterful way. If you need one new album to add to your seasonal playlist this spooky season, Mourning Moon is that album; a great start for an up and coming band.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Upstate Records

Freya – Fight As One (Upstate)

It seems fitting that the New York metallic hardcore legends Freya would return to their roots to commemorate the twentieth anniversary release of their first album As The Last Light Drains. After a slight detour with their 2016 album Grim, Fight As One is right on par with what we have known them for.

Featuring some of the genre’s most iconic vocalists such as Freddy Cricien of Madball, Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Scott Vogel of Terror all lending their brutal vocals, it makes Fight As One good clean hardcore fun from start to end. “1000 Yard Stare” and “Flames of War” both demonstrate how Freya have not lost their touch and continue to put the same effort and energy that they had twenty years ago.

Rating: 4
(Dalton Husher)

Small Stone Recordings

Haurun – Wilting Within (Small Stone)

Haurun’s psychedelic take on doom metal, Wilting Within, is like walking through a misty mountaintop in the thick of the dusk hours. They are reserved in their technique, at least initially, with soothing guitars and drifty vocals. That’s broken by a switch into a looming heaviness that retains a bluesy tone within the guitar leads. All the songs are structured this way, usually starting out at a zero in terms of intensity and ramping up over time.

That’s an effective move on a song like the 11-minute closer “Soil,” as the slow burn is given attention in the first five minutes and maximizes the punchy second half it transitions into. Haurun are great at that dexterity, where they are able to get a listener to be swayed into a lull before kickstarting into weighty doom. There’s no rushing through Wilting Within, a debut album that’s a trip without getting too tripped up in its own hazy buzz.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Svart Records

Hexvessel – Polar Veil (Svart)

Hexvessel frontman Mat “Kvohst” McNerney is or has been in bands of numerous genres ranging from black metal to post punk. Those diverse influences have been reflected in Hexvessel’s work, including on their latest release, Polar Veil.

It takes a different approach than 2020’s Kindred, with the album title aptly describing the focus on icy riffs and a bleaker soundscape. It’s heavier and more black metal oriented, with blackgaze and post black stylings. The album’s pace is generally slow, with tracks like “Listen To The River” plodding at a glacial speed. The atmospheric “The Tundra Is Awake” picks up a bit toward the end of the track, and “Eternal Meadow” has some moments of urgency, but generally Hexvessel let things play out in a measured, deliberate manner. McNerney’s vocals add a gothic sensibility to the songs, adding to the morose feeling of Polar Veil.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

High Roller Records

Kerrigan – Bloodmoon (High Roller)

Kerrigan began in a rehearsal space with two members of the German funeral doom group Lone Wanderer jamming out on heavy metal ideas that wouldn’t fit the glum stature of their main project. Following a 2020 demo, the duo worked on gathering enough songs for their first full-length, Bloodmoon. Their gaze lies on the NWOBHM movement, with twin guitar leads and fantasy/sci-fi lyrics.

There’s speed metal in the band’s DNA on “Forces Of Night” and “Pull The Trigger,” while they soak in some glam with the sleazy riffs on “Hold The Banner.” Jonas Weber, who plays guitars in Lone Wanderer and in this band, tries out singing on this project as well to mixed results. It never actively brings the album down, but they don’t have that power one would like to hear from a heavy metal vocalist. This weak point is saved by capable music that shows the group’s appreciation for classic metal.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

The Circle Music

Melan Selas – Zephyrean Hymns (The Circle)

Melan Selas are a two-piece black metal band from Greece searching for a higher plane of existence on Zephyrean Hymns. The cover art, an aerial shot of a forest that goes out acres beyond human sight, sets the picture for the frigid tones of the music, all performed by musician D.K. Vocalist Astraea mainly uses a raspy howl, though also sets the harshness back for spoken word passages and even some pristine singing on “Wanderer.”

That track, with its acoustics and synths, is a folksy backdrop that’s unlike anything the group has done up to this point (that being two prior EPs and a full-length). It gets a prime spot on Zephyrean Hymns as the second-to-last number leading to the methodical closer “Ancient Scrolls.” There’s a broad set of tempos used, as only “Trumpets Of War” is a straight speedster, which works to give the album flexibility in what becomes a breezy listen.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

NoiseArt Records

Mercenary – Soundtrack For The End Times (NoiseArt)

The Danish melodic death metal band Mercenary emerged in the late ’90s and issued several album over the following 15 years. A decade after their last album Through Our Darkest Days they have returned with Soundtrack For The End Times.

They pick right up where they left off, with songs that balance extremity and aggression with catchy melodies. That’s evident from the opener “Burning In Reverse” with a singalong chorus augmented by harsh vocals. “Anthem For The Anxious” inserts some atmospheric keyboards while “Black Blood Soil” begins as the album’s heaviest song before easing back into a more moderate and melodic approach. Trivium’s Matt Heafy guests on “Heart Of The Numb,” another potent number with impeccable production. During their heyday Mercenary were one of the more respected bands in their genre, and it’s great to have them back and sounding as good as ever after a long absence.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Exile On Mainstream

The Moth – Frost (Exile On Mainstream)

The German doom metal trio The Moth took a little longer between albums three and four than previous records. There has been a nearly six year gap between Hysteria and Frost. They’re also on a new record label.

Their brand of doom is fairly straightforward, with the fuzzy riffs you’d expect from the genre, but The Moth are known for also injecting pop hooks, describing themselves as doom sludge pop or Kim Wilde-meet-Bolt Thrower. The combination of raw riffs and Cecile Ash’s accessible vocals is compelling. They shift easily between concise songs like “Battlefield” and more sprawling, extended tracks such as they nearly seven minute title track that begins with slow doom before kicking into sludge mode with ebbs and flows in pace and intensity. From front to back, Frost is an engaging listen.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Reaper Entertainment

Necrotted – Imperium (Reaper)

On their latest album Imperium, the German death metal/deathcore outfit Necrotted continue the lyrical concept of dystopian and socio-political themes from their previous album Operation: Mental Castration.

Their musicianship is impressive, with drummer Markus Braun anchoring the proceedings with a thunderous performance. And while there is plenty of bludgeoning along with intense vocals, Necrotted vary the proceedings, adding things like a mellow outro to “Reich der Gier” and a brief guitar solo on “Round X: Freedom V Security” that provide reprieves from constant brutality. “Ignorance Is Fear” features guest vocals from Abbie Falls’ Tomas Klar and Defocus’ Simon Muller. There’s not an ounce of filler on the album, with the 9 tracks coming in at just over 30 minutes.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

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