This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Blackbird Angels, Conquer Divide, Cryptopsy, Domkraft, Evilon, Hiems, Kvelertak, Sleep Maps, Tired Minds, Triskelyon, Uada and We Do Not Belong Here.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Blackbird Angels – Solsorte (Frontiers)
Longtime friends Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) and Todd Kerns (Slash) have been wanting to make an album together for a while. During the pandemic when their main bands weren’t able to tour, they were finally able to do it. The result is Solsorte.
It’s influenced by ’70s hard rock, but the production is modern. Guns’ guitar prowess is well known, so it’s not a surprise that the album is packed with catchy riffs. What may surprise people are Kern’s vocals. He’s not at the level of bandmate Myles Kennedy, who is one of the best singers in the business, but Kerns has an excellent voice, which he also showed on Heroes And Monsters’ self-titled debut album earlier this year. He shows plenty of range on tracks like “Mine (All Mine)” and dynamics on songs such as the ballads “Worth The Wait” and “On And On Over And Over.” Along with drummer Adam Hamilton, Guns and Kerns have created a fun hard rock record in Solsorte.
Conquer Divide – Slow Burn (Mascot)
Back in 2015 the international hard rock/metalcore band Conquer Divide released their debut album. They took a break for a couple of years before regrouping and releasing a couple of singles in 2020 and 2021. They have a new record label, a new drummer and finally, a new album, Slow Burn.
Like their debut, it was produced by Joey Sturgis (The Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandria). It also features a combination of Kiarely Taylor’s singing and Janel Duarte’s harsh vocals. Tracks like “Paralyzed” and “Afterthought.wav” are fairly balanced between the two, while songs such as “Over It” and “Playing W/Fire” have Taylor front and center. The tracks with all or mostly clean singing of course are more accessible and radio friendly, but Conquer Divide’s best songs are the ones where both showcase their talents. Slow Burn is a welcome return that’s packed with varied and memorable songs.
Cryptopsy – As Gomorrah Burns (Nuclear Blast)
Returning with their first new album in 11 years are Cryptopsy, the Quebecois brutal death metal band that are nearly synonymous with the genre itself. Their eighth full-length As Gomorrah Burns blasts out of the gate with “Lascivious Undivine,” a song chock full of the heaviness of Matt McGachy’s vocals and modern production techniques giving this latest iteration of Cryptopsy some much appreciated oomph.
Each song is as lean and muscular as their classic None So Vile. Not a second is wasted on this effort which just tops half an hour; there is no fat left to trim. “Godless Deceiver” is a great lesson in exactly what machine-like drummer Flo Mournier has been doing for such a long time; pacing the band through a minefield worth of obtrusive heaviness, the addition of Christian Donaldson’s soloing here is just a bonus. As Gomorrah Burns is easily the best effort in the Matt McGachy era of the band and their best since Once Was Not. Brutal death metal fans have waited a long time for this record, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Domkraft – Sonic Moons (Magnetic Eye)
The Swedish psychedelic sludge trio Domkraft emerged in 2015, and been pretty prolific. Sonic Moons is their fourth studio album, but they have also released a couple EPs, splits and a live album during that time frame.
Sonic Moon builds on the template of 2021’s Seeds, with thick riffs and a 9 plus minute opener (“Whispers”) and closer (“The Big Chill”). The rest of the songs are in the 4 to 7 minute range, still giving them plenty of room to explore and shift tempos and textures. Songs like “Stellar Winds” have dense and chaotic parts along with slower and more sparse sections. Martin Wegeland’s vocals are sometimes smooth, other times more intense and harsh. Sometimes they are fairly low in the mix, and other times take center stage. In addition to sludge, doom and psych, Domkraft add more heavy rock moments on Sonic Moons.
A Warrior’s Way, the second full-length from the Swedish band Evilon features a melodic death metal flavor that is not unlike Amon Amarth. It is a strong effort that has the appropriate amount of bravado with very melodic riffs and cascading vocals. In fact, the musicianship on the album is strong, a very solid effort of melodic death metal that is epic enough to appreciate. It the right blend of elements to keep the listener occupied. Right from the opener “Yggdrasil” the listener is kept up to attention.
If there is a flaw to be found it is in how the album sounds too similar to Amon Amarth. There is a lot of high-quality melodic death metal to enjoy here, however. The band is tight and strong performers of the style. They make good use the time constraints to maximize performance. This is indeed solid stuff and fans of bands like Amon Amarth and Amorphis should find a lot to like with A Warrior’s Way, a highly enjoyable work that should be appreciated by many.
Hiems – Stranger In A Wasteland (Agonia)
After an absence of 14 years, the Italian one-man black metal project Hiems has returned with Stranger In A Wasteland. Mainman Alessandro “Algol” Comerio has been involved in numerous other bands over the years such as Forgotten Tomb and The True Endless and now returns to his roots.
Hiems’ brand of black metal has a lot of groove and catchy riffs along with Algol’s harsh but very understandable vocals that add extremity to the proceedings. Tracks like “Master Of Lies” follow the traditional black metal template, while songs such as the catchy “March” and “Better Off Dead” are more in the black ‘n roll style. Inno’s Elisabetta Marchetti guests on the title track, with her ethereal style contrasting Algol’s aggressive approach. It would be nice to have her on the entire song instead of just towards the end, though. Stranger In A Wasteland is a welcome return for Hiems, and hopefully he’ll get the next album done in a more timely manner.
Kvelertak – Endling (Rise)
Kvelertak’s fifth album Endling picks up where 2020’s Splid left off. While the latter album marked a new beginning, Endling is part of a continued sense of evolution for a band. Starting with opener “Krøterveg Te Helvete”’s slow start for half the track, you get a taste of their punk influenced delivery melded with the black metal of their homeland Norway. Fans of classic Turbonegro will rock out to these tunes with aplomb. The guitars litter the landscape of Endling on most of these tracks, each serving a different purpose to form a complete whole.
“Døgeniktens Kvad” sees the band introduce some new instrumentation with what appears to be a banjo, bringing with it an underlying riff that comes back into the fray throughout the duration of this track. The title track has a bit of emotive riffing going for it, all while maintaining the band’s inimitable ability to play fun and fast music; tugging on your heartstrings all while rocking out, even closing with what feels like a Brian May infused solo. Endling is more of what you expect from Kvelertak with some new wrinkles thrown into the familiar formula to keep you guessing, and for that fans should be thankful.
Sleep Maps – Reclaim Chaos (Lost Future)
Sleep Maps have changed in both sound and physical location over their decade long existence. Starting as a New York based instrumental post rock group, they are now based in northern California. For their latest album Reclaim Chaos they have added vocalist David Kegg.
The result is an album in the post metal genre with a lot of atmosphere, but also increased heaviness. Elements of genres like sludge emerge on songs like “Shattered Generation,” which features mostly harsh vocals in its first two thirds and melodic singing towards the end. “Follow The Signal” flips the script, with a mellow beginning and subdued singing that increases its pace and intensity. “Isolationists” is an instrumental that revisits the band’s earlier days, while closer “Kill The World” is also mostly instrumental. Reclaim Chaos is a diverse post metal album.
Tired Minds – The Body Is A Burden (Art As Catharsis)
From the country that gave us Parkway Drive, Tired Minds return after six years of touring to give us The Body Is A Burden, a five track EP of raw emotion and energy. Coming in at just over fifteen minutes, the time feels well used and is quick to the point.
Aside from the clearly brutal vocals and matching guitar riffs, it can easily be misconstrued for any other hardcore metal bands. “Spit To Cud” and the title track do their best to separate themselves from the rest of the album, but outside of that, it all sounds a bit the same. The Body Is A Burden is a nice addition to the Australian hardcore scene, but there are still some things that could be done to separate them from their contemporaries.
Triskelyon – Artificial Insanity (Moribund)
Less than a year after their full-length debut, the Canadian band Triskelyon have already completed their second album, Artificial Insanity. This time around, founding guitarist Geoff Waye (Category VI) brings in even more guest vocalists than on their debut.
Pete Healey (Marshall Law), Amanda Jackman (Category VI), Des Mason (Within The Realm), Ellim and Marlee Ryley (Hyperia) all return, this time joined by Armin Kamal (Infrared), Dale Drew (Sea Dogs), Raul Alvarez (Dark Order) and more. The music is power metal blended with thrash, making for songs that are bombastic, rifftastic and catchy. There’s minimal filler and maximum melody on the record, which closes with a cover of Platinum Blonde’s “It Doesn’t Really Matter.” Even with so many vocalists, the album still manages to sound cohesive.
Uada – Crepuscule Natura (Eisenwald)
Uada became one of the most controversial U.S. black metal bands active in the scene from day one. After Ceremonial Castings disbanded in 2014, the band’s mastermind, Jake Superchi started Uada and they quickly rose to fame with their debut Devoid Of Light. Their fourth studio album, Crepuscule Natura, once again represents Uada’s tenacity and steadfastness in creating a remarkable work.
If Crepuscule Natura has nothing more than the previous three albums, it certainly has nothing less, and it can easily be placed next to their magnificence and splendor. Melodies rooted in NWOBHM strongly appear, and in the middle of the whipping blast of black metal, Uada expand the uproarious yet noble sound of the album. Blackened heavy metal now celebrates its presence in the sonic fabric of Uada. Therefore, in the end, what is revealed is that the album has new soundscapes that are independent of the band’s musical background in many moments; however, the reflection of Djinn surrounds Crepuscule Natura with power.
As a name, We Do Not Belong Here could be both a commentary about how the trio feels about their place in society and a warning to a potential listener of the eccentricities of Strange To Cope In Today’s World. The members are involved in other bands that play everything from emo to blackened death metal, and with this EP, it’s as if the group decided to take all the unique kinds of music they love to perform and smack it together like a Play-Doh concoction.
It’s black metal until it wants to be hardcore until it decides to go full screamo, usually all within the same song. Strange To Cope In Today’s World is not meant to be sonically pinned down, which will likely lead to a variety of responses that may betray how wonderfully offbeat this first release from We Do Not Belong Here is.