This week’s reviews include releases from Adrenaline Rush, Ancient Ascendant, Coltsblood, Cryonic, Enslaved, Farsot, Les Discrets, Night Demon, Thunder, Vampire and Vomit Remnants.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Adrenaline Rush – Soul Survivor (Frontiers)
Their guitar driven sound has progressed a bit from their debut. There’s plenty of heaviness and melody, but the songwriting is slightly more complex. Vocalist Tave Wanning doesn’t have a ton of power or range, but is effective by singing with a lot of expression and varying styles. New axeman Sam Soderlindh is a good addition, bringing a variety of riffs and solos to the table. The band has a lot of ’80s influences, with a modern production keeping from sounding retro or dated.
Ancient Ascendant – Raise The Torch (Spinefarm/Candlelight)
Raise The Torch begins with a subdued intro, then the first proper song has an extended intro before the extremity kicks in. That sets the stage for the British band Ancient Ascendant‘s third full-length to incorporate a variety of approaches.
Death metal is the album’s foundation, with groovy riffs that embed themselves in your brain. They inject black metal elements as well along with good old fashioned rock and roll and even brief forays into prog on tracks like “Foreign Skies” and “Grasping The Torch.” Alex Butler gives an impressive performance, transitioning smoothly between death metal growls and black metal shrieks. Even though Ancient Ascendant explore numerous styles, tempos and intensities, it’s still a cohesive album.
Blackhearts Documentary (Soundview)
This week, in addition to the usual albums, we’re also including a documentary in the review mix. Blackhearts follows the stories of three different black metal musicians from around the globe who travel to Norway for a festival. The subjects of the documentary, some who are controversial, are definitely compelling.
There’s the only active black metal artist from Iran, a member of the Greek parliament who is part of the extreme right-wing party Golden Dawn and gets arrested, and a member of a Colombian band who goes to great lengths to ensure the trip to Norway happens. The characters are polarizing, but their stories are very interesting. Blackhearts is engaging for black metal fans, but other aspects of the film give it wider appeal as well. Watch a trailer for the movie at this location.
Coltsblood – Ascending into Shimmering Darkness (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
A few years since the release of their debut Into the Unfathomable Abyss, Liverpool’s Coltsblood have returned from the depths with a considerably far grimmer outlook on all things ground-level. Their second full-length record is Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, a grueling and agonizing work that hears less of the sludge/doom of old and much more of doomed funereal approach.
Over the course of five tracks, Coltsblood smother the listener with peals of howling guitars and cacophonous drumming. While blackish sludge still thrives, most notably on “Mortal Wound,” the more glacial, dirge-like epics that bookend the record stranglehold the experience. Despondent and wicked, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness lives and dies on its imbalances. Filling the void, or rather, summoning it, is no simple task, but Coltsblood do, ultimately, unleash the hammer of doom with a resounding wallop.
Cryonic Temple – Into The Glorious Battle (Scarlet)
Sweden’s power metal act Cryonic Temple have returned after a nine year layoff with their fifth release, Into The Glorious Battle. Armed with a brand new lineup led by new vocalist Mattias L., the release is their first concept record with the central theme centered on a futuristic society.
The material is drenched in classic power metal sensibilities like on “Man Of A Thousand Faces,” “Flying Over Snowy Fields” and “Mighty Eagle.” They also expand their sound and add more traditional metal into their sound. Vocalist Mattias is excellent as his range typically stays in a mid register and never is over the top. This is an outstanding return as they had lost their way on their previous outing.
Enslaved – Roadburn Live (Roadburn/By Norse)
In 2015, Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjornson curated the annual Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands. In addition to helping select the bands, his own group played, and that performance was captured for their first official live album Roadburn Live. Special editions are being released for Record Store Day, with a CD version available next month.
The eight song set includes mostly newer material from post-2000 albums such as In Times, Riitiir, Isa, Below The Lights and Monumension. For the first time ever on record, Enslaved do a cover song, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” And while Grutle Kjellson can’t hit Robert Plant’s notes, he has a more extreme approach. The album sounds excellent, and is a good snapshot of this era of Enslaved.
Farsot – Fail-Lure (Lupus Lounge)
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the German black metal band Farsot. A couple of early tracks appeared on last year’s Samhain Celebration compilation, but 2011 was their last studio album. Fail-Lure is a welcome return.
Their third studio album was inspired by the late ’90s film Drowning By Numbers. It’s an ambitious album, blending experimental and avant-garde parts with traditional black metal. The vocals reflect that, with the usual raspy style in places, but also mesmerizing melodic singing. The songs themselves are lengthy, in the 6 to 9 minute range, but the album itself is under 50 minutes. That’s an ideal length, giving the listener a chance to fully absorb the complexities of the extremely well-written and performed music without the fatigue of an hour plus long album.
Les Discrets – Prédateurs (Prophecy)
Les Discrets is a one Frenchman art project and blackgaze band. Le disrcet Fursy Teyssier, a digital member of seminal French bands Alcest and Amoseurs is a on again and off again auteur. Prédateurs, their third studio album and first in more than five years, shares little with the albums of those bands. It is a dark slice of jazzy disconnection from the human heart.
It’s slim connection to metal is that valley of dim vision where Woe and Lantlos leave echoes. Prédateurs is a collection of petrochemically thickened despair. No track stands out. It is the feeling that lingers, uncomfortably beyond its welcome.
Night Demon – Darkness Remains (Century Media)
Falling under the category of New Wave of British Metal revival acts, California’s Night Demon are here with their second album, Darkness Remains, just two years after their debut, Curse of the Damned. Darkness Remains features old-school galloping anthems, modern production, clean old-school vocals and catchy songwriting.
The ’80s metal influences are clear throughout Darkness Remains, and perhaps the biggest similarity musically is Iron Maiden. In fact, Night Demon even penned a song for this album called “Maiden Hell,” and while it comes off as more of a nod to Motorhead, the lyrics are a definite nod to old Maiden albums. All told, Night Demon are a quality retro-metal act, and if you love the galloping Iron Maiden songs, you’ll enjoy Darkness Remains.
Thunder – Rip It Up (earMusic)
The veteran British band Thunder have broken up and reunited a few times over the years. The current incarnation of the group got back together in 2011 and released an album in 2015. Rip It Up is their eleventh studio release.
Like their previous albums, Rip It Up is packed with catchy, bluesy hard rockers. There are also slower tracks like the ballad “Right From The Start.” Vocalist Danny Bowes’ instantly recognizable voice is in fine form, his range fully intact. While it follows the band’s past albums pretty closely, there are enough differences and nuances that give it its own identity. Thunder have always been very successful in their home country and Japan, but haven’t made as much of an impact in North America. So if they have escaped your radar, they are well worth checking out.
Vampire – With Primeval Force (Century Media)
Swedish death thrashers Vampire return with the proper follow up to their 2014 self-titled debut. A very impressive output with plenty of riffs and powerful guitar work sets them apart from a whole list of pretenders of the genre. With Primeval Force finds the band matching fury with their own brand of melody. “He Who Speaks” in particular feels like it would have been something out of the European and South American extreme music scenes in the late ‘80s; almost like a more tightly woven Morbid Visions era of Sepultura.
Powerful tracks like “Metamorfosis” have a main driving riff that is equal parts melody and finger shredding; another example of Vampire excels at. The appropriate and spooky nature of the music and Vampire’s ability to piece together a Frankenstein’s monster of musicality, atmosphere and pure adrenaline is quite admirable. It should garner them more fans along the way. For a death thrash band who plays it a bit differently, look no further than this sophomore release.
Vomit Remnants – Hyper Groove Brutality (Unique Leader)
Hyper Groove Brutality comes from Vomit Remnants, a band that might draw more question marks than excitement from this generation of listeners. It’s been over a decade since the Japanese death metal outfit put out any new material, not to mention their last full-length came out before the Y2K scare.
For the few that have been eagerly waiting, they’ll get the same brutal groove shown off on Supreme Entity. That groove is all the band’s got, and even oddball sidetracks like random jazzy guitar solos and jingles from children’s toys doesn’t allow them to escape from metal purgatory.