This week’s reviews include releases from Devastation, Dimebag Darrell, Elvenking, Genus Ordinis Dei, Kohti Tuhoa, The Modern Age Slavery, Sect, Shakra, Stearica, Ubergang and Vardan.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Devastation – Dispensable Bloodshed (Vicre)
Chicago pioneers Devastation, who had a very brief career and disbanded back in 1987, performed a very vicious form of the thrash genre that had an influence on death metal. Dispensable Bloodshed a combination of demos and a 1987 EP. They had an influence on numerous extreme metal bands including Entombed, Death, At the Gates and many others. There is a raucous and raw flavor to the tracks with a lot of energy. However, the production here could use a lot of improvement (which is understandable for demos) and really hampers these tracks.
It all leads to a decent thrash collection, but nothing groundbreaking. The length of the album and demo songs themselves is short and to the point which is both a positive and a negative. It has an impact on the listener, but doesn’t leave too much of a lasting impression otherwise. The music is solid, but unspectacular. Dispensable Bloodshed is a raw thrash collection that has appeal to fans of Sodom and the like.
Dimebag Darrell – Dimevision Vol. 2: Roll With It Or Get Rolled Over (Metal Blade)
It’s hard to believe it has been nearly 13 years since Dimebag Darrell was shot and killed. Back in 2006 the first Dimevision DVD was released. More than a decade later, the latest installment Dimevision Vol. 2: Roll With It Or Get Rolled Over has been released.
In addition to the DVD portion of the collection, there is also a CD with five previously unreleased demos. There are a couple that are what you’d expect, bluesy and sometimes twangy rockers like “Twisted” and “Ain’t No Struggle.” The most surprising is “True,” a synth based ’80s pop song. Vol. 2 won’t be the last Dimevision release, with a lot more footage that’s still unused. Dimebag was a true original, and in addition to being able to hear previously unreleased songs from him, we also get to see behind the curtain into his larger than life personality.
Elvenking – Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire (AFM)
2017 is the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Italian power/folk metal band Elvenking. Only two of their six members are still around from their debut album, but their most recent albums have returned to that original sound. That’s also the case with their latest album, Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire.
The songs are catchy and memorable, and also infused with a lot of orchestral atmosphere. Folk elements are there as well, especially on tracks like “The One We Shall Follow” and “The Horned Ghost And The Sorcerer,” but soaring power metal takes the forefront as well. The album includes a couple of guest vocalists: Snowy Shaw (Dream Evil) and Angus Norder (Witchery). It’s a compelling combination of some throwback styles, but also more complex and modern styles.
Genus Ordinis Dei – Great Olden Dynasty (Eclipse)
The Italian symphonic death metal/deathcore band Genus Ordinis Dei originally self released their debut back in 2013. That album and 2014’s self-titled EP were picked up by a label and given wider release last year. Now, they’ve signed with Eclipse Records for their sophomore full-length, Great Olden Dynasty.
The production is excellent, expertly balancing the orchestral and metal elements. The songs are regal, incorporating both death growls and melodic singing. The arrangements have a lot of depth and atmosphere, while keeping the guitars front and center. The track “Salem” is one of the album’s best, featuring Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia, whose soaring vocals contrast the death metal growls.
Kohti Tuhoa – Pelon Neljäs Valtakunta (Southern Lord)
Kohti Tuhoa are a female fronted Finnish hardcore punk band that has a really no frills approach. Vocalist Helena’s shouted vocals have an interesting feel and sometimes you have to make sure you aren’t listening to Melt-Banana instead. The musicianship is also top notch with each pound of the drums being balanced out by fast and furious riffs and wild guitar solos.
Pelon Neljäs Valtakunta translates as “Fourth Kingdom of Fear” and you get the sense that the name fits within the confines of the ‘80s hardcore which their sound so heavily draws from. With support from the powerful Southern Lord, hopefully Kohti Tuhoa can make some strides across the pond this time around, because they deserve it.
The Modern Age Slavery – Stygian (Innerstrength)
The Modern Age Slavery have been a well-hidden gem in death metal for years, releasing sonically suffocating music with powerhouse grooves as support. Stygian is more of this style, which is nowhere near a negative aspect, though there’s an added influence of symphonic components to give off a touch of dark atmosphere.
Still, this is a forceful death metal album by design, with levity being self-contained to the stock introduction track. The group continues their streak of including one cover song per album with a vicious performance of Pantera’s “Sandblasted Skin.”
Sect – No Cure For Death (Southern Lord)
Sect, a vegan straight edge hardcore supergroup band, thrilled the hardcore scene with their debut self titled album in 2016. Now, just a year after that, they come up with brand new pieces of pure blistering crusty hardcore. No Cure for Death, Sect’s second full length is nothing short of how the band started to smash moshpits with their debut album.
From midpaced sludgy pieces like “Reality’s Wake” and “Avoidance Ritual” to faster, blasting songs like “Stripes” and “Least Resistance” Sect haven’t just stood on the hardcore ground, they have mixed in elements of crust, powerviolence and grindcore, moving forward with filthy and chaotic hardcore. No Cure for Death is short, frantic and brilliant.
Shakra – Snakes & Ladders (AFM)
Swiss rockers Shakra gave us a really solid album two years ago in High Noon, a comeback of sorts featuring Mark Fox back on vocals. Snakes & Ladders aims to up the ante on that outing, delivering twelve more tracks that carry on in the same tradition the band has been known for: namely, solid metal in the vein of Krokus.
While Krokus is always going to be a comparison here, Shakra may have more in common with Danish metallers Pretty Maids. They write simple, catchy songs that would sound great on the radio, with great riffs, driving beats, and Fox’s smoky vocals. While Snakes & Ladders isn’t leaps beyond High Noon, it will satisfy anyone who loves ’80s-inspired metal.
Stearica – 20 Yrs. (Monotreme)
To celebrate 20 years of playing together, the Italian instrumental post rock trio Stearica are releasing the 20 minute and 20 second track “20 Yrs.”
The song is a slow build, kicking in about six minutes into the track with a middle eastern flavor and mesmerizing riffs. Halfway through the song is a surprise: vocals. Franz Goria from the band Fluxus injects some brief singing, which is a nice change of pace. The song winds to an end from there, slowing in tempo and intensity, until all that’s left is saxophone. The song is experimental in places, traditional in others, and manages to maintain the listener’s attention throughout.
Ubergang – Zeichen Der Zeit (Demons Run Amok)
Their style and aesthetic is straight out of the ’80s, but Ubergang have only been around for a few years. The German crossover thrash/hardcore crew’s debut album is Zeichen Der Zeit, which translates to “Signs Of The Times.”
They play short, focused bursts of crossover with plenty of gang vocals. The riffs are heavy but melodic, and they do a good job changing up tempos from mid-paced to galloping. The lyrics are in German, but the passion they deliver them with is universal. Fans of old school crossover bands should enjoy Ubergang, with Zeichen Der Zeit flying by in around 30 minutes.
Vardan – Nostalgia: Archive Of Failures Parts I, II and III (Moribund)
The amount of material released by the Italian one man black metal project Vardan in the past few years is staggering. The prolific musician released nine full-lengths and a couple of splits in 2015, and this year has released two albums. Now comes the first three of a six album collection of previously unreleased material.
Nostalgia: Archive Of Failures Part I has five tracks of traditional black metal, while Part II takes a slightly different approach. There are just two songs, each clocking in at over 20 minutes. They are more epic and atmospheric than the first album, and out of the three, this is the strongest. Part III also has two epic tracks, and is similar to the second album. Look for parts four through six in January of next year. While the album title may imply that these previously unreleased songs were failures, that’s definitely not the case.