This week’s reviews include releases from Cellar Darling, Helfir, Madrost, MaidaVale, Mutation, Persecutory, Riot, Speedclaw, Stallion, Vintersorg, Witch Vomit and Ye Banished Privateers.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cellar Darling – This is the Sound (Nuclear Blast)
Born out of the departure of a trio of members from Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie, Cellar Darling have released their debut album, This is the Sound, and the title says it all. There was clearly a disagreement in overall style between these three and the other Eluvitie members.
Cellar Darling would still be considered folk metal, but the folk aspect is more of an effect here. This is very much an accessible metal album with hints of Lacuna Coil and The Gathering, and singer Anna Murphy (who is phenomenal, by the way) plays a mean hurdy-gurdy. Don’t let the folk metal label scare you off: this is a really good debut that deserves multiple listens.
Helfir – The Human Defeat (My Kingdom)
Helfir is the solo project of Italian musician Luca Mazzatta, who is the guitarist for the progressive death metal band Silvered. His latest solo effort The Human Defeat goes down a different musical path.
It’s a gothic album, combining quiet acoustic sections with gloomy metal. He’s an excellent guitarist, displaying great chops on tracks like “Tide.” The vocals are a mixed bag. His harsh delivery is good, with plenty of power and angst. The melodic vocals, while being on pitch and having decent dynamics, are very thin. It’s a morose and atmospheric album, and the songs that have mostly unclean vocals are the strongest.
Madrost teeter from progressive thrash to technical death metal with dynamic, headstrong enthusiasm on The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh. The group from California’s Orange County region have had a few prior albums to refine their merging of two comparable styles, which shows on these seven songs.
“No Future” retracts the usual authoritative vocal barks for dialed-in guitar harmonies and unwavering percussion, though Madrost are equally adept at an effortless onslaught on “The Silence in Ruins” and “Scorned.” Its bleak cover art is eye-catching, fully supported by the simmering rage of the music contained within.
MaidaVale – Tales of the Wicked West (The Sign)
Tales of the Wicked West just might be the worst album title of the year, but don’t let it put you off: this debut album from Swedish blues-rockers MaidaVale will cure all your ills if you thought the last Blues Pills album wasn’t bluesy and jammy enough. Maidavale are here to set things right.
Led by outstanding guitarist Sofia Strom and the unique vocal stylings of Matilda Roth, this young four piece will blow you away with stellar riffing, super laid-back feel, and excellent songwriting. Jams abound within the catchy tracks, and the eleven minute guitar-only instrumental that closes the album, “Heaven and Earth,” is a stunner.
Mutation – III: Dark Black (Undergroove)
Mutation were formed by Ginger Wildheart (The Wildhearts) a few years ago. Their latest release III: Dark Black was written by Wildheart and Scott Lee Andrews of Exit International.
The result is an album that’s chaotic and intense, almost unhinged at times, but also having traditional structure and melody in places. It’s a wild ride that’s hard to categorize, as they inject elements of everything from metal to industrial to punk to grind to rock. Along for that ride are numerous guests including Devin Townsend and Phil Campbell (Motorhead). It will take a few listens to figure it all out, but this is an interesting and rewarding album.
Persecutory – Towards The Ultimate Extinction (Godz Ov War)
After releasing an EP last year, Turkish crushers Persecutory emerge with their first full-length, Towards The Ultimate Extinction. It’s old school, from the production to pseudonyms like Tyrannic Profanator and Vulgargoat.
Their death metal attack rockets ahead at warp speed much of the time, thrashy riffs flying left and right as they add a blackened atmosphere. The vocals are diverse, utilizing everything from death growls to yells to grunts to screams. They slow down periodically giving the listener a brief respite before the chaos ensues anew. While rough and ragged in places, there’s a lot of potential and promise on display here as well.
Riot – Inishmore, Shine On and Sons Of Society (Metal Blade)
Riot formed back in the mid-’70s and the New York heavy/power metal band is best known for their early ’80s albums, especially 1981’s Fire Down Under. They are still around today as Riot V, with no original members. Metal Blade is reissuing some of their late ’90s albums.
1997’s Inishmore, the 1998 live album Shine On and 1999’s Sons Of Society include bonus tracks, demos and other rarities. This era of the band was fronted by Mike DiMeo and included drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Halford) along with founding guitarist Mark Reale. It wasn’t the classic Riot lineup, but it was a strong one, and these albums are well worth revisiting.
Speedclaw – Iron Speed (Shadow Kingdom)
Speedclaw are referred to as the “Croatian force of nature” by the label. Well, that’s pretty close to the mark. On the EP Iron Speed, the band wears their influences on their sleeve coming over like a steroidal blitzkrieg with a roaring thrash metal vocal. The presentation is clear, if a little flat, but allows us to benefit from the razor sharp guitars and powerful, articulate bass and drumming.
It all comes together best on “Razarac” and the NWOBHM style romp “Mistress of the Night.” From the authentically stark artwork to the last note of their take on Exciter’s “Heavy Metal Maniac,” this is old school metal of distinction. In the swarm of ’80s metal revivalism, Speedclaw stand out for the vicious delivery and excellent songwriting. Can’t wait for the full length album.
Stallion – From The Dead (High Roller)
Stallion are a relatively new band, but would have fit in well in the early ’80s speed metal scene. The German group’s second full-length is From The Dead.
The songs are melodic, but with an edge. Their dual-guitar attack features plenty of solos and aggressive riffs. They like to keep the tempo moving at a rapid pace, but periodically easing back into moderate grooves helps add diversity. Vocalist Pauly has a good set of pipes and a high-pitched delivery that’s a bit of an acquired taste. They borrow from a variety of speed, traditional and even hair bands, but Stallion manage to carve their own path.
Vintersorg – Till Fjalls Del II (Napalm)
Nearly 20 years after their debut album Till Fjalls, Vintersorg return to their roots with a sequel: Till Fjalls Del II. While the original was a streamlined 40 minutes, the sequel is a double disc extravaganza clocking in at more than 75 minutes.
Lyrically, Vintersorg’s approach is back to the Viking/folk metal basics, but musically they have evolved over the past two decades. The songwriting has more depth and texture now, so they are able to capture the vibe of the original but improve upon it. Ample atmospherics and Vintersorg’s blend of harsh and melodic vocals makes for a compelling release. It’s a challenge to hold a listener’s interest for well over an hour, but they manage it with ease.
Witch Vomit – Poisoned Blood (20 Buck Spin)
A little over a year after releasing their full-length debut A Scream from the Tomb Below, Witch Vomit have compiled enough material to full up an EP with Poisoned Blood. Though their name sounds like the results of an all-night drinking marathon with Angel Witch on in the background, their morbid death metal has serious intent.
Cries of torture and pain introduce the EP before sinking into gory depravity, where circles of blood and accursed temples pass for thoughtful lyrical musings. It promises nothing more than twenty minutes of sonic turbulence which, while not boundary pushing, offers a primal release without having to succumb to physical violence.
Ye Banished Privateers – First Night Back in Port (Napalm)
Those uninterested by the bouncy lure of pirate ditties ought to give First Night Back in Port, the third full-length release from Swedish crew Ye Banished Privateers, a careful batch of spins. Unabashedly silly but undeniably impressive, words like rock or metal are of no use on First Night. This is highly ambitious and highly authentic high seas pirate music made for drinking, fighting, fornicating, and well, all other things pirates do so well.
It’s strength in numbers with Ye Banished Privateers, a crew that consists of some 30 multi-talented musicians. Backed by a fulsome production and a host of strong singers and creative lyricists, the album feels and sounds like a legit musical soundtrack, cinematic in scope and bursting with tavern-filling anthems and sweet, occasionally sanguine melody. This reviewer does not call himself a fan of pirate music, but there’s no denying the realism and enthusiasm of First Night Back in Port.