This week’s reviews include releases from Astral Doors, Bereft, Body Count, Demon Hunter, Falls Of Rauros, Gruesome, Heretoir, Isis, Memoriam, Slugdge, Spacetrucker and Windswept.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Astral Doors – Black Eyed Children (Metalville)
The dual guitars provide solid riffs and some shredding solos. Jocke Roberg’s keyboards are an important piece of the puzzle, adding atmosphere when needed, but also moving front and center from time to time. Nils Patrik Johansson has a powerful voice that sounds a lot like Ronnie James Dio. Memorable songs, pristine production and top-notch musicianship make for another solid release from an underrated band.
Bereft – Lands (Prosthetic)
For the better part of 45 minutes, Bereft exhaust every doom-laced trick they possess on their intimidating new album, Lands. Songs plead for attention, each riff echoing above the atmospheric muck, calling out for open-minded ears. When the group retreats into black metal, it adds an element of suspense, their usage infrequent enough to remain exciting.
This spontaneous, tempo ripping is heavily present in the thrilling closer “Waning Light,” one of the only songs to make strong use of its lengthy running time. The other three songs don’t have the same level of success, most notably the diminishing results of opening track “We Wept.”
Body Count – Bloodlust (Century Media)
The guitar work from founding member Ernie C and relative newcomer Juan Of The Dead is excellent, laying down memorable riffs. Ice-T’s politically charged lyrics are especially relevant, with tracks like “No Lives Matter” and “Civil War” touching on hot-button issues. There are several guests on the album, including Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe and Soulfly/Cavalera Conspiracy’s Max Cavalera. The interplay between Ice-T and Cavalera on “All Love Is Lost” makes it one of the best songs on the record. Body Count also put their spin on the Slayer classic “Reign In Blood.”
Demon Hunter – Outlive (Solid State)
The opening track “Trying Times” sets the lyrical table for Demon Hunter‘s latest album Outlive, which chronicles some of the challenges, successes and struggles they have faced over the past few years in their personal lives.
The band has been increasingly successful, both in the Christian and mainstream metal world. That will continue with this album, which is jam packed with anthemic radio-friendly tracks that also have a lot of depth. Harder edged metallic songs like “One Less” are balanced by active rock singles such as “Cold Winter Sun.” Vocalist Ryan Clark gives a diverse performance, effortlessly transitioning from angry and edgy to earnest and accessible.
Falls Of Rauros – Vigilance Perennial (Bindrune)
Portland, Maine’s Falls Of Rauros play folk/black metal in an American grand tradition, and sit comfortably alongside other, similarly themed acts such as Obsequiae and Panopticon. Bindrune Recordings is the home of Falls Of Rauros, and this blend of atmospheric folk/black metal with themes that celebrate a primeval sense of nature is what the label is known for. Vigilance Perennial is very well produced, written, and executed by a veteran band of now four full-length albums.
Vigilance Perennial is a seamless blend of harsh tones with rasps, thin guitars, and a variety of tempos forming the backbone of the music, but Falls Of Rauros also include plenty of atmospheric, quieter interludes evocative of the great forests of New England. These quiet moments mesh quite nicely with the harshness, giving the music an epic sweep.
Gruesome – Fragments Of Psyche (Relapse)
The band Death were one of extreme metal’s most influential, and Gruesome are doing their best to keep flying the flag for Death. Fragments Of Psyche is an EP with a new track, a cover and some demos.
The new song “Fragments Of Psyche” is a potent slab of death metal with guest drums from former Death skinsman Sean Reinert. They cover Death’s “Choke On It” from 1988’s Leprosy, and there are also five demos of songs from Gruesome’s 2015 full-length debut Savage Land. As fans await more new material, this is a decent stopgap EP.
Heretoir – The Circle (Northern Silence)
From Ausburg, Germany, Heretoir rushed out a record just 6 years after their self-titled debut. Heavily inspired by existence and Katatonia, The Circle‘s eleven tracks are full of slowly-evolving string pads and vocal layers that exude a load of mystery between vamps into humongous black introspection. Track 7, “Exhale,” is stellar and makes for a sharp-cornered bookend to the earlier “Inhale.”
The album is a flowing bump and grind between clean guitar breaks and dynamic hollering from the bleak pits. The album gets wearisome with all its quiet breaks and loud bigness, yet in its best passages, it announces an achievement in metallic art which begs only for patience.
Isis – Live VII (Ipecac)
It’s hard to believe it has been about eight years since Isis‘ final studio album Wavering Radiant. The band lives on, though, with the latest in a series of live releases. Live VII was recorded at a 2010 show in Melbourne, Australia.
Five of the nine tracks in their set are from Wavering Radiant. The songs translate really well into the live environment, very dynamic and also very engaging. With songs mostly ranging from 7 to 10 minutes that can be challenging, but Isis don’t have any problem maintaining a compelling presence throughout. They have now released more live albums (7) than studio albums (5).
Memoriam – For The Fallen (Nuclear Blast)
The breakup of Bolt Thrower after the tragic death of drummer Martin Kearns hit the metal community pretty hard. Bolt Thrower are one of the greatest death metal bands of all time. Any comparison made to Bolt Thrower by any subsequent bands formed by former members is unfair. Enter Memoriam, a death metal band formed by vocalist Karl Willetts. Like you, I was quite hopeful that Memoriam would be a quality death metal band regardless of Bolt Thrower’s legacy. Unfortunately, Memoriam’s debut falls short.
For The Fallen is a rather boring, chunky, mid-paced death metal album that just sounds tired. The songwriting is poor, Willetts’ vocals lack any sense of forcefulness or ferocity, and For The Fallen is utterly forgettable. There aren’t any interesting riffs, arrangements, tempo variations, etc. that you would expect from a scene veteran such as Willetts, and For The Fallen sounds horribly by the numbers. This is the disappointment of the year thus far.
Slugdge – The Cosmic Cornucopia (Willowtip)
You’ve heard of sludge metal, but have you heard of slug metal? The UK’s Slugdge have the metallic edge of Anaal Nathrakh, but with songs about slugs. Their song titles are even famous metal songs but with their favorite gastropods being omnipresent. Highlight titles include “Eyehatesalt,” “Lettuce Prey,” and “Salters of Madness.”
The Cosmic Cornucopia is actually the collection of their first 3 albums: 2013’s Born of Slime, 2014’s Gastronomicon and 2015’s Dim and Slime Ridden Kingdoms. So if you need your fix of the heavy stuff with a flair for the odd lyrical themes, give Slugdge a spin, although if they could go below 33 RPM, they totally would.
Launch Sequence is the debut album from St. Louis stoners Spacetrucker. The opening track has one of the more memorable and odd song titles you’ll see in “New Pubes.”
The trio plays thick stoner rock/metal with heavy riffs and psychedelic influences that pay homage to genre greats like Black Sabbath. From groovy instrumentals like “Giza” to upbeat jams such as “Sleeper,” Spacetrucker vary their tempos and textures for a trippy blast from the past that’s an enjoyable trip down a well-traveled musical road.
Windswept – The Great Cold Steppe (Season of Mist)
Windswept’s debut The Great Cold Steppe features the involvement of three-fourths of Ukrainian black metal icons Drudkh. Drudkh member Thurios sits this project out, leaving guitarist Roman Saenko to take on the underplayed vocal work.
was written and recorded in three days with no rehearsals, partially improvised. For such a tight window, the album doesn’t sound rushed. The references to blizzards, chilly winds, and bottomless abysses are reflected in the nonstop pace the band holds steady. Windswept are a much more menacing creation than anything Drudkh has put out in years.