Heavy Music Headquarters Album Reviews: Week of March 17, 2017

This week’s reviews include releases from Alunah, Apostate Viaticum, Ascended Dead, The Charm The Fury, Dodecahedron, Equilibrium, Fen, Fit For An Autopsy, King Of Asgard, Lantern, Mothership, Replacire, Saille and Without Waves.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Alunah - Solennial

Svart Records

Alunah – Solennial (Svart)

The British stoner/doom band Alunah‘s latest album Solennial gets off to an ethereal start. The opening track “The Dying Soil” is mellow and sparse, featuring Sophie Day’s vocals.

The guitars kick in after that, alternating between groovy riffs and heavier, doomy sections. While there are plenty of slow, heavy parts, they are broken up by faster stoner sections and some more melodic guitar tones. The contrast between ballads like “Petrichor” and heavier, lumbering tracks such as “Luigi’s Assembly” gives each more impact. Day’s voice doesn’t have a lot of heft and power, but her tone is clear and she sings with ample expressiveness.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Apostate Viaticum - Before The Gates Of Gomorrah

Invictus Productions

Apostate Viaticum – Before The Gates Of Gomorrah (Invictus)

The Irish band Apostate Viaticum’s debut album Before The Gates Of Gomorrah is a wanderer who walks among diverse metal genres, connecting them together to give a birth to an outstanding work of extreme death metal.

Before The Gates Of Gomorrah carries the striking power of Incantation-esque old school death metal merged with intense overtones of Swedish blackened death metal’s early years. That turns into the major plot of the album, resembling the sound of Necrophobic, Unanimated and Sacramentum to name a few. The mix of melodic guitar and the album’s resident brutality along with powerful musicianship and brilliant production make this one of 2017’s best debuts.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Ascended Dead - Abhorrent Manifestation

Dark Descent Records

Ascended Dead – Abhorrent Manifestation (Dark Descent)

Dark Descent Records’ latest find is San Diego’s Ascended Dead, an abrasive death metal outfit releasing Abhorrent Manifestation, their debut full-length. Abrasive is the key word here with very loud guitars, a deep production, and pummeling drums.

Vocalist JR has a rough delivery similar to Martin van Drunen, and a few riffs and solos evocative of early Slayer make some appearances, giving Ascended Dead a classic vibe. Most of the speed is of a blistering pace, though, and Ascended Dead’s obvious intent is to blow your head off. They succeed.

Rating: 3.5
(Dave Schalek)

The Charm The Fury - The Sick, Dumb & Happy

Nuclear Blast Records

The Charm The Fury – The Sick, Dumb & Happy (Nuclear Blast)

The Sick, Dumb & Happy is the sophomore album from the Dutch band The Charm The Fury. There’s certainly plenty of fury in the album, a pummeling and angry affair.

The vitriol is contrasted by catchy melodies and clever riffs. Vocalist Caroline Westendorp is a force of nature, able to deliver hostile screams and smooth melodic singing with equal aplomb. As far as genre goes, The Charm The Fury blend groove, ‘core and even a little twang on “Silent War” into an appealing and accessible package.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Dodecahedron - Kwintessens

Season Of Mist

Dodecahedron – Kwintessens (Season Of Mist)

Five years after their debut, the Dutch black metal band Dodecahedron return with Kwintessens. Their style has classic black metal elements, but they also embrace the avant-garde and experimental.

That makes for an album that’s ever-shifting and unpredictable. Dense and extreme parts give way to groovy instrumental breaks before blastbeats and oppressive atmospheres kick back in. An instrumental interlude halfway through has traditional structure, giving the listener a chance to regroup before the roller coaster begins anew. It is chaotic at times, but Dodecahedron’s skillful arrangements and musicianship always bring things back from the brink.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Equilibrium - Armageddon

Metalville Records

Equilibrium – Armageddon (Metalville)

After seeing a European release last year, Armageddon is being unleashed in North America. It’s the latest effort from the German Viking/folk metal band Equilibrium.

The songs have an epic quality to them with a lot of atmospherics, but the guttural vocals bring an edge and extremity to the proceedings. In addition to Robse Dahn’s growls, there are some screams and melodic vocals from other band members that give it a change of pace from time to time, as do the addition of folk instruments. They’ve got the darker songs down pat, but the upbeat tracks are hit and miss. While the joyous “Zum Horizont” gets it right, the cheesy keyboard line in “Born To Be Epic” is a miss.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Fen - Winter

Code666 Music

Fen – Winter (Code666)

Fen, London’s atmospheric black metal outfit, already have put out four albums which all complete each others’ voices and atmospheres. However, they needed a new compilation of sounds to lead their musical expedition to a more diverse, fitting dominion. Winter, Fen’s fifth album, travels that route.

Consisting of six lengthy songs which are mostly over ten minutes long and are chained together to tell a epic musical tale, Fen have given themselves enough time to deliver enchanting pieces which are created on dynamic songwriting and captivating atmospheres. Black metal stands as their main theme, meeting the bold presence of post-rock and progressive metal elements, making their music sound like Agalloch more than before. Winter is Fen’s most fascinating album to date. It’s a total masterwork of lamenting yet mesmerizing bleak soundscapes.

Rating: 4
(Arash Khosronejad)

Fit For An Autopsy - The Great Collapse

eOne Music/Good Fight Music

Fit For An Autopsy – The Great Collapse (eOne/Good Fight)

Deathcore stalwarts Fit For An Autopsy started expanding their sound with 2015’s Absolute Hope Absolute Hell, and that exploration continues on their latest effort, The Great Collapse.

You’ll hear plenty of intense deathcore along with more accessible and melodic influences and some sonic experimentation. With a triple guitar attack, there’s never a shortage of riffs, and drummer Josean Orta really shines this time around. The lyrics cast light on some of issues facing the world today, such as the refugee crisis and the environment. Guitarist/songwriter Wil Putney is an in-demand producer for other bands, and gives the album a full but crisp sound.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

King Of Asgard – Taudr

Trollmusic

King Of Asgard – Taudr (Trollmusic)

After the dissolution of Mithotyn in 2008, King of Asgard were formed by guitarist/vocalist Karl Beckman. They are influenced by the folk inspired black metal of Bathory combined with tales of Nordic mythology. Their latest release Taudr is only four original songs and a cover of a classic Mithotyn track. It barely clocks in at over thirty minutes and doesn’t contain any unnecessary excess.

King Of Asgard blur the line between being aggressive and melodic. The musical journey is epic, with grandiose melodies that soar. Beckman’s bark is vibrant and explosive. All four songs are seeped in lyrical themes, centered on death and rebirth. Taudr is another triumph in an already strong string of releases from these Norse Vikings.

(Released March 17th, 2017 on Trollmusic)

Rating: 4
(Dan Drago)

Lantern – II: Morphosis

Dark Descent Records

Lantern – II: Morphosis (Dark Descent)

The releases from Dark Descent Records are coming at a furious pace these days. Fresh off the presses is the second full-length album from Finland’s Lantern, one of the quirkier death metal acts currently dwelling in the underground. II: Morphosis picks up where 2013’s Below left off with off kilter riffs, bizarre, stop on a dime time changes and signatures, and a vaguely progressive vibe mixed in with the brutality.

The result is a bit of a head scratcher, an album that’s going to require an investment in time from the listener. Those looking for old school, simple death metal may want to look elsewhere, but Lantern have an ability to enhance their combination of quirkiness and brutality with excellent songwriting.

Rating: 4
(Dave Schalek)

Mothership – High Strangeness

Ripple Music

Mothership – High Strangeness (Ripple)

Texas-based stoner metal masters Mothership are back with their third album, High Strangeness. Over the years this trio has shown it has what it takes to make a mark in the saturated stoner/psychedelic genre. Their songs are well written and tightly performed, and always stocked with plenty of great ideas.

Perhaps oddly, High Strangeness starts off with the spaced-out instrumental title track before getting into the stoner-boogie riffs we love. Songs like “Ride the Sun,” “Crown of Lies” and “Speed Dealer” are the real thing, with a tasty mix of heaviness, fuzz, and spacy synths. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Rating: 4
(Mike Huck)

Replacire - Do Not Deviate

Season Of Mist

Replacire – Do Not Deviate (Season of Mist)

Replacire’s Do Not Deviate is a pristine mash-up of technical astuteness and progressive ideals. Their raging death metal bends to the whim of a group of polished musicians that throw out a bass solo quickie or a demonic groove with zero warning.

The surprising abundance of melodic vocals on a few songs, getting a lead spot on “Spider Song,” is not a ploy to divert from the strikingly bleak message or gain a few extra listeners. Their inclusion is a sign of a nonlinear mindset where each song has its own particular set of dynamics. Do Not Deviate is a largely successful second outing for Replacire.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Saille - Gnosis

Code666 Records

Saille – Gnosis (Code 666)

The Belgian band Saille have always been an ambitious group, both musically and lyrically. Their arrangements are complex and they tackle various lyrical concepts. That’s the case on their latest album Gnosis.

They play a cinematic brand of symphonic black metal that this time around is a bit more straightforward, but still has plenty of variety. The lyrics use history, mythology and fiction to explore the strife for knowledge and delve into various creation stories. Saille explore the bible story of the Tower of Babel in “Genesis 11, 1-9,” and spotlight the deity in Greek mythology who created mankind in “Prometheus.” Sometimes melodies and memorable riffs get lost in the symphonic shuffle, but this album’s atmospherics are not overshadowed by the songs.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Without Waves – Lunar

Prosthetic Records

Without Waves – Lunar (Prosthetic)

In the “name doesn’t fit the music” category we have Without Waves, whose music is anything but. It’s been impossible to pigeonhole these Chicago funsters since they came on the scene, and third album Lunar is no different. The seven-song album opens with two extreme hardcore cuts, and just when you think that’s what is in store the rest of the ride they switch things up completely, shifting into progressive, atmospheric, cleanly-sung offerings.

The transitions between songs can be jarring, and have you checking your playlist to see if you’re still listening to the same band. But the thing is, they pull it off on every song, whether it’s the hardcore of “Poetry in Putrid Air” or Deftones-tinged proggy alt-metal like “Never Know Quite Why.” Some more in-song transitions would be the next logical step. This is one band on my radar, though, for future releases.

Rating: 4
(Mike Huck)

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