This week’s reviews include releases from Aborted, Bison, Blind Guardian, Decapitated, Demon Head, Ether, Heresiarch, Kreator, Limbonic Art, Melvins, Misanthrope Monarch, M.O.D., Nekrokraft, Origin, River Black, Stone Sour and Tuesday The Sky.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aborted – Bathos (Century Media)
It happened over a period of albums, but Aborted’s 2016’s opus Retrogore completely entered the band to a more complicated, dynamic and modern sounding death metal realm. Bathos, their brand new two song EP, finds Aborted creating their music upon their typical technical death metal base, but expanding upon it.
You’ll hear some elements of deathcore here, especially on the title track, with blast beats, downtuned guitars and touches of breakdowns along with Sven de Caluwe’s usual low growls. Are the two drastically heavy songs an indication of a move in a different direction? We’ll have to wait for their next full-length to find out.
Bison – You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient (Pelagic)
Vancouver, Canada’s Bison are back with a vengeance on You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient, a seven-song album and their first with Shane Clark (former 3 Inches of Blood guitarist) on bass. While short by today’s standards, this is nearly 40 minutes of straight-up pounding metal that is sure to please most anyone who’s into aspects of Baroness, Neurosis and more.
Bison love to grab hold of a riff and pummel you over the head with it until you’re black and blue. Most of the songs featured extended riff-filled intros, lean arrangements, wicked solos, crushing rhythm and furious vocals. Strap your helmet on and crank this one.
Blind Guardian – Live Beyond The Spheres (Nuclear Blast)
It has been seven years since the last live album from German power metal veterans Blind Guardian. Instead of recording just one show, the band used songs from more than 10 different concerts during their 2015 European tour to compile Live Beyond The Spheres.
You’ll definitely get your money’s worth, as it’s a 3CD set of 22 songs clocking in at around two hours in length. Even though the tour was in support of 2015’s Beyond The Red Mirror, there are only three songs from the album included, with the rest distributed from throughout their career. Frontman Hansi Kursch gives an excellent performance, as do the rest of the band. And even though the songs are from different shows, the continuity is still there.
Decapitated – Anticult (Nuclear Blast)
When a band has been around for two decades, you generally know what to expect from a new album. And while the Polish death metal band Decapitated have released some quality albums over the years, they have really stepped it up with Anticult.
Their technical prowess has never been in doubt, and it is on full display here. But what takes Anticult to a higher level is the songwriting. In addition to blazing tempos and crushing riffs from Vogg, they vary the pace to add a lot of groove. The songs are focused and memorable with potent vocals from Rafał Piotrowski, and the production is top-notch. Decapitated have really raised the bar with Anticult, and add another to the list of outstanding death metal albums released in 2017.
Demon Head – Thunder on the Fields (The Sign)
Demon Head perform a very old school take on heavy metal. The vocals here are reminiscent of Danzig and have that deep and dark feel to them. The passages weave a very mature aura around the listener. This atmosphere is brought forward throughout the entirety of the tracks, which will appeal to fans of doom along with those of the adult flavored hard rock vibe the band maintains.
This is partially because of the very evil vibe that applies to listeners of those styles. The musicianship is solid here with guitars that burn under the morose vibe and vocals that perfectly catapult the remainder of the outfit. An old school aura is also present that will make classic metal listeners stand up and take notice.
Ether – There is Nothing Left for Me Here (Dead Truth)
There’s sludge metal that promises a good time, preferably under the influence, or has some groove to get bodies moving. Ether aren’t about any of that on There is Nothing Left for Me Here. Their brooding attitude and concrete-thick riffs develop into a state of heavy delirium.
Solemn acoustic jams and quaint violins provide an alternative to the sludgy degradation that loses its way before the album’s last few songs, though the latter is underutilized considering its appealing quality. The album title is no misnomer; there isn’t much left here except for obsessed fans of the genre.
Heresiarch – Death Ordinance (Dark Descent)
Heresiarch look to the distant future on Death Ordinance, where decades of nuclear warfare have ravaged our Earth back to a primitive era. This is what some may call “war metal,” a schizo take on death metal that aims for punishment over technicality.
The gathering charge of “Righteous Upsurgence” further the band’s apocalyptic vision, where bloodshed and lost innocence are the norm. As a mournful lead guitar pans over the vast emptiness left behind on “Desert of Ash,” the album fades into silence, a half-hearted eulogy to what was once our home.
Kreator – Reissues (Noise)
The legendary Noise Records has reissued Kreator‘s first four albums: 1985’s Endless Pain, 1986’s Pleasure To Kill, 1987’s Terrible Certainty and 1989’s Extreme Aggression. It’s amazing they released that many quality albums so close together.
The reissued versions have been remastered, and include extra tracks. Endless Pain has six demos, Pleasure To Kill adds the 1986 Flag Of Hate EP, Terrible Certainty has several live tracks and the 1988 EP Out Of The Dark…Into The Light and Extreme Aggression has an entire live show recorded in East Berlin in 1990. It’s enough material to make it worth buying these even if you have the originals, and a no-brainer if you still don’t own these classic thrash albums.
Limbonic Art – Spectre Abysm (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
Formed in 1993, the Norwegian symphonic black metal band Limbonic Art released several well-received albums before disbanding. They released a comeback album in 2007, but then guitarist Morfeus departed. 2010’s Phantasmagoria was essentially a Daemon solo album. After a seven year gap, Spectre Abysm is also Daemon’s brainchild.
The songs are given plenty of time to develop with a lot of atmospherics and symphonic elements along with traditional black metal. There’s a varied blend of regal, mid-tempo groove along with dense, oppressive black metal. And even though the songs themselves are fairly lengthy, there are fewer of them, clocking in at more than 20 minutes shorter than their last release. It’s addition by subtraction, allowing more focus on seven diverse and expertly arranged songs.
Melvins – A Walk With Love & Death (Ipecac)
Okay, this is a weird one. A Walk With Love & Death is the first double album seminal punk/metal vets the Melvins have ever released. The first album, Death, is standard Melvins fare, while the second platter, Love, is supposedly the score to a film the band is making.
Death delivers with nine solid songs in typical Melvins style, and while none of the songs immediately stand out, none are groaners either. Love is where things go completely off the rails, with fourteen cuts that are nothing more than cacophonous messes of noise and effects, much like the weird segues Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention used to hit us with. Without the film there’s no point, and thus the rating you see below.
Following an EP in 2014 Germany’s Misanthrope Monarch unleash their debut full-length Regress To The Saturnine Chapter. This is timeless old school death metal with labyrinthine riffage, bouncing catchy grooves and thrash aggression. Intro “Usurping The Throne” plays on those pacy thrash rhythms while more assaulting tracks like “Crushing The Unbeliever” and “The Brotherhood of Destruction” kick up the dust with their more ground shaking straight up death metal with pounding blast beats and raw nerve-shredding chugs and riffs.
The album’s high point though comes in form of instrumental “Black Sirens Lurking,” a beautifully moving atmospheric interlude, grandiose and emotive. It shows a more prog metal mellowness that is a very welcome addition to an impressive debut.
M.O.D. – Busted, Broke & American (Megaforce)
Billy Milano may be in his 50s and a grandfather, but he still has plenty of anger and passion, which is evident on M.O.D.‘s latest album Busted, Broke & American. It has been a decade since the last Method Of Destruction album, and Milano has brought aboard a completely new lineup for this release.
The album is combustible collection of hardcore, punk and thrash. Bookended by a brief quote from President Eisenhower and a lengthy speech from President Kennedy, the songs in between are compact doses of raucous hardcore, galloping thrash and Milano’s unfiltered take on the world. The album flies by in a whirlwind of riffs, groove and attitude, with the 5 plus minute Kennedy speech by far the longest track on the disc.
Nekrokraft – Will O’ Wisp (The Sign)
On Will O’ Wisp, blackened thrashers Nekrokraft “kill in the name of Satan” and are “reborn in hellfire.” To do all of this, the Swedish group rasp out dire warnings in bite-sized chunks, with only one song going over four minutes. That one, “Forestlurker,” just so happens to be the slowest paced tune on the album, with prominent organ and spooky FX effects.
That song is also about a creature on the hunt for a woman’s virginity. Sufficient to say, the lyrics are not high-brow, with two lines on “Hellfire” rhyming hell and smell being the most abhorrent example.
Origin – Unparalleled Universe (Nuclear Blast/Agonia)
There’s not a lot of subtlety in an Origin album, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some variety amongst the skull-crushing brutality. That’s the case with their seventh studio album Unparalleled Universe.
Extremity reigns supreme, with drummer John Longstreth’s rolling fills, blastbeats and creativity laying a strong foundation. The tempos tend to be breakneck, but Origin periodically dial things back for a brief respite before the barrage begins anew. Vocalist Jason Keyser’s delivery ranges from guttural growls to raging shrieks, adding to the cacophony. If you like your death metal on the technical and brutal side, you can’t go wrong with Origin.
River Black – River Black (Season of Mist)
River Black, featuring members of Burnt By The Sun, Revocation and Municipal Waste, comes in twelve short, sharp shocks. They are a wickedly tight aggressive band with an impassioned vocal delivery to match the fierce instrumentation, yet, with a strong sense of melody throughout.
Although there are a ton of influences on display, none dominate their sound, you are left with real sense of a great band emerging with River Black. I really like this album, but, there are so many great ideas vying for the listeners attention, this band is crying out for more time in the studio to develop their uniqueness and a presentation to carry forward their more progressive moments.
Stone Sour – Hydrograd (Roadrunner)
Hydrograd is a major league hard rock album in a minor league metal time. The pros have shown up, taken over the studio and put a hard rock schooling on the part-timers and wannabes. In a package of fifteen songs, a dozen are worthwhile, four of which clear the fences. Corey Taylor and his supergroup-in-self-denial rip out the heart of mediocrity for the six songs that follow the WTF-fest of “YSIF.”
Each track from “Taipai Person/Allah Tea” to the stellar “Song #3” to the radio cheeseburger of “Fabuless” and it’s shameless yet ballsy use of Rolling Stones lyrics, stone-cold fact gets steam-hammered home that that this is as good as the major market gets. Except for the bizarre inclusion of the country fart-fit “St. Marie” that proves the adage, “Why did you slap that on there? Because we can,” the album is a perfect Spotify and Octane fastball.
Tuesday the Sky – Drift (InsideOut)
Tuesday the Sky is essentially a Jim Matheos solo album. Hot on the heels of last year’s fantastic Fates Warning album Theories of Flight, Matheos had some material that didn’t fit on that disc but deserved further exploration. The result is Drift. Matheos handles guitar and bass, and gets some assistance from OSI bandmate Kevin Moore, drummer Lloyd Hanney, and some non-verbal vocals from Anna Williams.
Matheos is a master of tone, and Drift is no exception. Ten instrumental tracks that are heavy on tone and feel rather than virtuosity, with much more in common with OSI than Fates Warning. Drift is a pleasure to listen to, much like old Brian Eno albums.