This week’s heavy music reviews include releases from Elm Street, Exalt, Letters From The Fire, Serious Black, Steve ‘N Seagulls and Tardive Dyskinesia. The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Elm Street – Knock ‘Em Out…With A Metal Fist (Massacre)
Genre: Traditional Metal
Five years after their debut album, the Australian traditional metal band Elm Street return with Knock ‘Em Out… With A Metal Fist. Their melodic style is heavily influenced by ’80s metal, especially bands like Iron Maiden and Manowar.
The vocals of Ben Batres are an acquired taste. He has a potent set of pipes that have a wide range and also an edge that gives the songs more bite. He doesn’t hold back and gives a passionate performance. Like the ’80s, the album is a bit cheesy and corny, but also a lot of fun.
Exalt – The Shape You Took Before The Ache (Good Fight)
Genre: Metallic Hardcore
Exalt‘s third album The Shape You Took Before The Ache takes a minute to get up to speed, but once the Canadian band unleashes their brand of metallic hardcore, there’s no doubt you’re in for a pummeling.
They are equal opportunity crushers, able to blast along at warp speed, a more moderate mid-tempo groove, or a deliberate pace. There are plenty of catchy riffs and clever melodies, but the vocals are mostly harsh and aggressive. You’ll hear some melodic singing on “Worship” and album closer “I Dove Into The Sun” along with hardcore yells and screams. There are also some atmospheric touches throughout the album that do provide some variety, but also slow the record’s momentum.
Letters From The Fire – Worth The Pain (Sand Hill)
Genre: Hard Rock
The album’s best songs are the harder edged ones like “Control.” They have plenty of punch and melody and are in Kabazie’s wheelhouse. Her voice reminds me of Avril Lavigne with a little Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless), Jen Ledger (Skillet) and Hayley Williams (Paramore) mixed in. The songs are radio-friendly with big hooks and crystal clear production. There are several memorable songs along with a few that are more filler than killer.
Serious Black – Mirrorworld (AFM)
Genre: Power Metal
Serious Black are a relatively new band, but they are made up of veteran musicians. The lineup on their sophomore album Mirrorworld includes vocalist Urban Breed (Tad Morose), guitarists Bob Katsionis (Firewind) and Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge) and drummer Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody Of Fire).
Their experience is evident on the bombastic and catchy album. Breed has a potent voice, and the musicianship is top-notch. While they don’t stray far from the power metal template, Serious Black write memorable songs with a lot of variety.
Steve ‘N’ Seagulls – Brothers In Farms (Spinefarm)
The Finnish band Steve ‘N’ Seagulls are definitely not metal, but they play songs that may be of interest to metal and rock fans. The YouTube sensations are back with another batch of twangy cover songs (and one original track) on Brothers In Farms.
The album kicks off Iron Maiden’s “Aces High” replete with banjo and accordion. More than a novelty act, Steve ‘N’ Seagulls put their country/bluegrass flair into versions of songs by Metallica, Nightwish, Megadeth, Guns ‘N Roses, Nirvana, Offspring, Foo Fighters and more. They wrap up the proceedings with a rousing version of the Steppenwolf classic “Born To Be Wild.”
Tardive Dyskinesia – Harmonic Confusion (Playfalse)
Genre: Progressive Metal/Djent
The Greek quintet Tardive Dyskinesia display impressive musical chops on their latest album Harmonic Confusion. They play songs that have both complex, technical parts along with groovy prog sections.
They transition effortlessly between intense riffs with harsh vocals and mellower prog with melodic singing. The arrangements are intricate, and while things get self-indulgent at times, the songs are compelling enough to overcome a few lulls.