This week’s reviews include releases from Beast In Black, Blaze Of Perdition, Dead Quiet, Hobosexual, Like Moths To Flames, Madam X, Niviane, Nomasta, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Scour and Until The Sky Dies.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Beast In Black – Berserker (Nuclear Blast)
Beast In Black were formed by guitarist Anton Kabanen after he left Battle Beast. He recruited Wardrum vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos along with guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen (ex-U.D.O./Amberian Dawn), bassist Mate Molnar (Wisdom) and drummer Sami Hänninen.
Their debut album Berserker is bombastic, melodic and atmospheric with elements of power, symphonic and traditional metal. Papadopolous is an excellent vocalist who sings with power and control and has an impressive range. The songs have a lot of atmosphere and depth, with some shredding guitar work. Some songs pack a little more punch than the typical power metal album, but there are plenty of accessible tracks as well.
Blaze of Perdition – Conscious Darkness (Agonia)
Poland’s Blaze of Perdition return with their fourth full-length Conscious Darkness, the follow up to the ravaging Near Death Revelations. Spanning 45 minutes, the four behemoth tracks capture the essence of Blaze of Perdition’s blackened philosophy of forward-thinking avant garde metal.
Standout track “Ashes Remain” is a 14 minute whirlwind journey through harsh aggressive black metal into melody and beautiful atmospheres, whereas “Weight of the Shadow” ventures down a more destructive path with rolling drum fills and lightning hits of blast beating fury. Conscious Darkness may not be as devastating as Near Death Revelations, but may be the better of the two thanks to its intelligently crafted and multi-layered tracks. Blaze of Perdition are on fire!
Dead Quiet – Grand Rites (Artoffact/Storming The Base)
Vancouver, Canada’s Dead Quiet have added a new member to the fold for their sophomore album Grand Rites. Former 3 Inches Of Blood guitarist/bassist/keyboardist/harsh vocalist Justin Hagberg comes aboard for keyboard duties.
They have a vintage sound, playing upbeat stoner metal with classic rock influences. When they slow the tempo, it sometimes has a classic rock flavor like on “Disgraced,” and more of a doom meets folk vibe on “Spiritual Abuse.” Kevin Keegan’s vocals run the gamut from a reserved croon to an aggressive singsong. With influences ranging from Sabbath to Pallbearer, it’s a wide ranging album spanning a variety of eras and styles.
Hobosexual – Monolith (Kitchentable)
The Seattle duo Hobosexual obviously don’t take themselves too seriously. With a band name that means someone who doesn’t care about their personal appearance (the opposite of a metrosexual) to a genre description of “hostile denim” and “mom jeans metal,” they have a healthy sense of humor.
Monolith has some ’60s psychedelic vibes, some ’70s arena rock swagger ala Led Zeppelin, a hint of ’80s hair metal and some touches of ’90s rock. Ben Harwood has a powerful set of pipes and a wide range that goes from a comfortable baritone to ear piercing falsetto. Goofy lyrics and serious musical chops make for an entertaining and engaging listen.
Like Moths to Flames – Dark Divine (Rise)
Dark Divine by Like Moths to Flames can be described as sweet and bad ass diversity. This metal/hardcore record is an exercise in dynamics, with excellent instrumentals, at times sounding like silk and at others, pure hard and heavy black iron.
The most distinct variety comes from vocalist Chris Roetter, who unleashes screams in the throaty style as effectively as in his electrifying high register. Moreover, his traditional vocal reflects pure emotion through a range that spans multiple octaves. It would have been advantageous to hear the guitars solo out front instead of being relegated to backing the vocal, but the intricate riffs and clever syncopation make this a superior record.
Madam X – Monstrocity (EMP)
Madam X were formed in the early ’80s by Maxine and Roxy Petrucci. Their debut album We Reserve The Right was released in 1984. After Roxy left to join Vixen, Sebastian Bach was briefly the vocalist, but they soon disbanded. 30 years later they reunited, and are finally releasing their sophomore album Monstrocity.
They play traditional metal/hard rock with heavy riffs and arena ready melodies. Some of the tracks are fairly straightforward, while others have a groovier vibe. In addition to the songs written for this record, Madam X reprise “High In High School” from their debut album. A couple generations later the sentiment still applies. Their musicianship is tighter, which you’d expect, and Bret Kaiser’s potent voice has held up very well.
Niviane – The Druid King (Pitch Black)
The typical power metal flair overtakes The Druid King from Sacramento, California band Niviane, but there is certainly a traditional vibe there as well. The music has a Judas Priest aura from the Painkiller era mixed with a power metal sound quite effectively. It is rousing in nature and brings about a great response from the listener. The whole thing is complemented by solid vocals from Norman Skinner that somewhat recall those of Matt Barlow in their lower register.
There is a certain amount of bravado associated with this style of music and Niviane have it in the forefront. The music is certainly uplifting in nature and this comes through in spades. It has some of the cheesiness of the power metal style, but manages to maintain the quality of many albums from the traditional metal genre and the better ones of the power metal genre. Altogether the album could use a bit more of a standout characteristic, but is fairly effective power metal.
Nomasta – House Of The Tiger King (Hyde and Seek)
The British trio Nomasta includes two members of the now disbanded noise rock band Canaya (guitarist/vocalist Owen Wilson and drummer Andy Richards). Their debut album is House Of The Tiger King.
It’s definitely not noise rock. There’s a lot of Mastodon in their DNA along with touches of Red Fang, Motorhead and Kvelertak, but they have a heavier side as well. They are able to tune it down and crank it up with doomy riffs and harsh vocals. They easily bounce from chaotic and frantic sections to thick, melodic grooves.
Psychedelic Witchcraft – Sound Of The Wind (Listenable)
Sound Of The Wind is fun, warm fuzzy stoner rock but left me a little unsatisfied after a few plays. It is dressed in beautiful artwork, hits a ton of super fashionable markers, and sounds crisp and clear for the most part. Psychedelic Witchcraft certainly can can play, special mention for Ricardo Giuffre and his super authentic yet still progressive bass playing.
There is no doubt that vocalist Virginia Monti has a great voice, stronger than ever on this release, but I want to hear much stronger songwriting from a band with this kind of potential. “Sin of Mine” is an outstanding hard rocker that shows the classy nature of the band. The bands that they wish to emulate would have been very edgy in their time, this record comes over as an over conservative take on sixties psych and seventies hard rock. Psychedelic Witchcraft it may be, but there’s not enough magic to make this vital.
Scour – Red (Housecore)
After last year’s Grey, the supergroup Scour return with another EP, Red. Fronted by Philip Anselmo, the lineup also includes guitarists Chase Fraser (Animosity) and Derek Engemann (Cattle Decapitation), bassist John Jarvis (Pig Destroyer) and new drummer Adam Jarvis (Pig Destroyer, Misery Index).
Red combines dense, searing black metal seasoned with elements of grind. The songs are compact and potent, adding atmosphere to the brutality. Slower tempo songs like “Bleak” are contrasted by blazing fast tracks such as “Piles” and there’s even a spooky instrumental. The six tracks clock in at just over 15 minutes of extremity. The musicianship is impressive, and even though the music isn’t exceedingly original, it really packs a wallop.
Until The Sky Dies – The Year Zero Blueprint (Cimmerian Shade)
Until The Sky Dies‘ The Year Zero Blueprint is a lifeless attempt at “avant-garde” metal with none of the style or substance. There have been Norwegian black metal demos with better production values than this debut album, which sounds like every song was done in one take, mistakes and all.
The album is split into eight parts, each song being labeled with a roman numeral, an easy way to remember which songs to avoid. The quirky synths and oddball vocals in “VI” is the most interesting part of this album, which is like saying waiting in line at the post office is preferred over being stuck in a traffic jam.