This week’s reviews include releases from Black Royal, Byyrth, Drudkh, Ministry, Mormant De Snagov, Myles Kennedy, Nightwish, Pestilence, Three Days Grace, Towards Atlantis Lights, Twitching Tongues and Vile Creature.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Black Royal – Lightbringer (Suicide)
“Religion is obsolete/From Tyranny we are free,” Black Royal declare on “New World Order,” the penultimate song from Lightbringer, their debut album. This Finnish group banish away any and all God worshiping, a blunt message delivered as subtly as a spin kick to the face.
They don’t try to hide their anti-religion ideals behind symbolism or imagery, but their music, a stoner groove with a dash of sludgy deafness, is less straightforward. Soulful lead guitar playing and the occasional keyboard/acoustic passage brightens up the gloomy disposition, neither of which is enough to strain out the darkness coursing through Lightbringer.
Byyrth – Echoes From The Seven Caves Of Blood (Iron Bonehead)
A year after their debut, the California vampiric black metal band Byyrth re-emerge from the depths with Echoes From The Seven Caves Of Blood.
Their brand of black metal is raw and feral, but they also inject groove and melody along with a dose of punk rock swagger. Uptempo and chaotic tracks are contrasted by regal, mid-tempo songs such as “Vampyric War Children,” with guest vocals from Mutilation’s Meyhna’ch. He also lends his talents to the dissonant “Abhorrent Eons.” The album has plenty of variety and and old school vibe.
Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring) (Season Of Mist)
For the first several years of their career, the mysterious Ukrainian black metal band Drudkh would release an album per year. They continue to be prolific, issuing three splits since their last studio album in 2015. Their latest full-length is Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring).
Their brand of black metal is infused with folk and progressive elements and plenty of atmosphere. Lengthy instrumental sections showcase melody and beauty, which is contrasted by brutal and aggressive parts with harsh vocals. Songs in the nine minute range allow for the songs to develop and breathe, moving forward without meandering. The arrangements are creative with a lot of depth, sometimes mesmerizing and other times raw and biting. It’s an epic and passionate album, and at just 43 minutes doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Ministry – AmeriKKKant (Nuclear Blast)
There’s no disputing the influence of Ministry on industrial music. After a hiatus of nearly five years, Al Jourgensen has reactivated the band and recruited several new members along with holdovers such as bassist Tony Campos for AmeriKKKant.
Jourgensen has plenty to say about Trump, with the album featuring numerous clips of him speaking. There are some strong moments on the record, such as the thrashy “We’re Tired Of It,” but tracks like that are dragged down by several eight minute songs with too many audio clips and repetition and not enough memorable riffs. While the sentiment, emotion and lyrics will connect with many listeners, the quality of the music is not as compelling as the typical Ministry release.
Mormânt De Snagov – Depths Below Space And Existence (Pest)
Finland’s Mormânt De Snagov return with their most diverse album of their ten year career, complete with a new logo and attitude. Depths Below Space and Existence is the result of several testing years of setbacks and a whole heap of persistence from the four piece.
What is evident upon first spin is that this is very much the same Mormânt De Snagov with a more melodeath approach, or perhaps it’s just the polished production that makes them sound a little less ‘trve black.’ Nonetheless, their brutality and catchy moshpit riffage still remains. Standout tracks include the epic “Stories Untold” and the frenetic “Writhe Infinite.” Depths Below Space and Existence will surely pave the way for more interesting things to come.
Myles Kennedy – Year Of The Tiger (Napalm)
Myles Kennedy has one of most recognizable voices in music, and has had a lot of success fronting Alter Bridge and Slash’s band. His debut solo album Year Of The Tiger focuses on the death of his father when Kennedy was four years old.
The purpose of a solo record is to do something different than your main band, which Kennedy embraces. You won’t hear the slick, radio-friendly hard rock of his main bands. Year Of The Tiger is acoustic based with a lot of atmosphere, depth and emotion. “The Great Beyond” has strings and a lot of dynamics, while tracks like “Blind Faith” and “Ghost Of Shangri La” are straightforward with a little twang. There are elements of blues, folk and classic rock as well. Kennedy hits some high notes, but he utilizes his lower register much of the time. It’s a side of Kennedy that existing fans can appreciate, but will also expose his talents to an entirely different audience.
Nightwish – Decades (Nuclear Blast)
When it comes to symphonic metal, Nightwish are the standard bearers. The Finnish band has achieved worldwide success, and even with switching vocalists a few different times did not miss a beat. Decades is a compilation that includes songs from throughout their history, featuring Tarja Turunen, Anette Olzon and current singer Floor Jansen.
Clocking in at a whopping 2 hours and 20 minutes, the double album has an interesting track listing. It kicks off with the 24 minute “The Greatest Show On Earth” from 2015’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful and the 14 minute “The Poet And The Pendulum” from 2007’s Dark Passion Play. Songs like that are mixed with some of their well-known tracks such as “Wish I Had An Angel,” “Amaranth,” “Storytime” and “Nemo.” So no matter which era of Nightwish is your favorite, you’ll find something to like on this compilation.
Pestilence – Hadeon (Hammerheart)
Dutch legends Pestilence nicely cover the old school death metal genre to perfection. The songs on their seventh full-length Hadeon have the classic Pestilence riffs down pat and down to a science. There is a very discordant aspect to the band that makes them appealing and is hard to describe. The riffs have a strange sort of appeal that really shines through and makes for a classic sound.
Even though the music is very appealing, it still is very similar to what the band has done in the past and doesn’t really offer anything new. Still, the music has that undeniable Pestilence aspect that is one of a kind and neat to behold. The album bleeds the true death metal sound and this is very appropriate. So, in the end, Hadeon is yet another enjoyable Pestilence album.
Three Days Grace – Outsider (RCA)
Canadian rockers Three Days Grace are one of the genre’s most successful acts, with three platinum albums and a dozen chart topping mainstream rock singles. They didn’t miss a beat when new singer Matt Walst joined the band for 2015’s Human, which landed at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, and that momentum continues on Outsider, their sixth album.
It’s packed with radio ready singles, with “The Mountain” already climbing the charts. From the bombastic “Villain I’m Not” to the earnest “Right Left Wrong” to the ballad “Nothing To Lose But You,” there’s a plethora of potential chart toppers. For 15 years, going back to their first single “I Hate Everything About You,” Three Days Grace have been one of hard rock’s most consistent bands, writing countless memorable songs with little to no filler. That’s also the case with Outsider.
Towards Atlantis Lights – Dust Of Aeons (Transcending Obscurity)
Towards Atlantis Lights is a new band with veteran members from bands such as Pantheist, Aphonic Threnody and Void Of Silence. Their debut album Dust Of Aeons combines the melancholy desperation of funeral doom with elements of ’90s death/doom.
The album opens with the 30 minute “The Bunker Of Life.” It’s an audacious choice to open a debut album with such a lengthy track, but they pull it off. It’s a slow build, blending melodic singing and death growls with a lot of ebbs and flows. Tracks like that and the 16 minute “Alexandria’s Library” sit side by side with shorter tracks. Dust Of Aeons is an ambitious album with a lot of dynamics and emotion.
Twitching Tongues – Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred (Metal Blade)
Man oh man are Twitching Tongues a perplexing band. If a genre list including stoner, alternative, groove and metalcore isn’t unclear enough, the direction the LA-based quintet take on their fourth full-length release Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred is just as likely to have you scratching your head in befuddlement. A consistent hardcore-punk vibe, replete with ample gang-shouting, blends with stonerized riffs and a penchant for writing some pretty catchy refrains. But does it work?
Yes and no and then sort of. There’s a scent of Mastodon, especially in the clean vocal and acoustic parts, and the groove and breakdowns scattered throughout keep things decidedly…young. Gaining Purpose… is certainly hard-hitting, thanks in large part to the production and Taylor Young’s pummeling drums, but it’s the slower, more patient songs, like “Kill For You” or “Long Gone,” that ultimately steal the show. A grower, methinks, and certainly worth exploring.
Vile Creature – Cast of Static and Smoke (Halo of Flies)
Cast of Static and Smoke begins with a soft-spoken narrator lamenting over the planet’s devastation, as a timid guitar riff plays over her harsh words. This world building is torn apart by the unforgiving feedback that eventually gushes out of the Canadian doom/sludge duo Vile Creature on their sophomore album.
Though the narrator returns several times on the album, and the story of a group of machines gaining free will over their human overlords is intriguing, the concept does not supersede the turbulent sounds coming from these four songs. Lyrics are howled with pauses between each word, letting the full effect of this blunt, futuristic yarn take over.