This week’s reviews include releases from Bastardhammer, Daniel Cavanagh, Enslaved, Exhumed, Hallatar, L.A. Guns, Mork, MyChildren MyBride, Narcotic Wasteland, Revolution Saints, Samael, Spectral Voice and Violation Wound.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Bastardhammer/Violation Wound – Split (HPGD)
Opening up this split is the UK’s Bastardhammer, who are crusty, ugly and in places laugh out loud funny. if anyone who has lived on our sceptered isle can keep a straight face as Bastardhammer plow gleefully through “Wankerfight” or “Punch In The Face,” it’s probably because they are singing about you, not to you. In many ways it’s an excellent and disturbing glimpse into 21st century English culture, aggression, both passive and active, self loathing and a black sense of humor.
And then Violation Wound, featuring death metal legend Chris Reifert (ex-Death and Autopsy), return with a short sharp shock of vicious hardcore. This is outstanding in its field, tight and to the point as it should be with a no flab, vicious, cathartic delivery throughout. They tip their hat to early Cro Mags, D.R.I. and a ton of other old school bands without losing their individuality. Split albums are notoriously uneven, but this a great ride throughout.
Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome (Kscope)
Just four months ago, prog-rock stalwarts Anathema released The Optimist, an album we enjoyed the heck out of here. Daniel Cavanagh is the lead creative force behind Anathema, and Monochrome is his first solo effort. As one might expect, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and most of Monochrome’s songs would fit right in on the next Anathema release.
Cavanagh plays most of the instruments and supplies most of the vocals, along with Anneke Van Giersbergen. The pieces range from moody, piano-driven dirges and ballads (“The Exorcist”) to expansive, hypnotic prog epics (“The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours”), all with Cavanagh’s trademark emotional, heartfelt lyrics. Fans of Anathema will love this effort.
Enslaved – E (Nuclear Blast)
When it comes to combining extremity with creativity, few do it better than Enslaved. They keep getting more progressive, but still incorporate those heavy elements. After having a stable lineup for the past dozen years, things have changed on their latest album E.
Hakon Vinje has taken over for Herbrand Larsen on keyboards and clean vocals. They don’t miss a beat, as Vinje handles both duties very well. For some bands, opening with the longest track might seem risky, but it makes sense for Enslaved, with the eleven minute “Storm Son” setting the pace for all the diverse elements yet to come. From the relatively straightforward and catchy “The River’s Mouth” to the more subdued “Feathers Of Eolh” to the epic closer “Hiindsight,” Enslaved weave complex and progressive elements into a cohesive and extremely appealing whole.
Exhumed – Death Revenge (Relapse)
Exhumed return with Death Revenge, their first album in four years. The band finds themselves in the cross between Carcass’ Necroticism and Heartwork as the mix of vile and virtuosity goes hand in hand. Matt Harvey and crew make this effort a fine one with bassist Ross Sewage making his presence felt here as he did with Ghoul’s latest effort; a veritable Bill Steer to Harvey’s Jeff Walker. This brand of self-proclaimed gore metal is all the more wrapped up in a delightful package which includes album artwork that would make Lucio Fulci blush.
The album also follows a loose concept of a series of murders in Scotland during the 1820’s. Why not traverse history to find more inspiration? What more do you need to know? Exhumed have delivered during a year chock full of amazing death metal, showing their decomposing grip on the genre is as strong as ever.
Hallatar – No Stars Upon the Bridge (Svart)
Hallatar came to be in an interesting and tragic manner. Last year Trees of Eternity released an excellent album, but singer Aleah Starbridge passed away prior to its release. Guitarist Juha Raivio recruited Amorphis singer Tomi Joutsen and HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to assist in recording No Stars Upon the Bridge, a memorial of sorts to Starbridge.
The record comes across as a sorrowful funeral dirge, with heart-rending vocals. The music is ponderous and majestic, while the vocals – clean, harsh, blackened, you name it, all styles show up – at first seem to be the weak point, but when taken in context to the material they make sense. The highlight is an appearance from Starbridge on album closer “Dreams Burn Down,” showing again that she was a light that left us too soon.
L.A. Guns – The Missing Peace (Frontiers)
L.A. Guns had quite a bit of success in the hair metal era, including one platinum and two gold records and hit singles like “The Ballad Of Jayne” and “It’s Over Now.” There was an eventual schism and two competing bands using the name. Frontman Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns have buried the hatchet and are teaming up for their first album together in 15 years.
The Missing Peace shows the creative chemistry between Lewis and Guns. The album is packed with bluesy hard rock songs with big hooks, singalong choruses and great guitar work. It wouldn’t be an L.A. Guns album without a power ballad or two, with the twangy “Christine” and the melancholy “The Flood Is The Fault Of The Rain” filling those slots. With their history it’s hard to say how long this version of the band will last, but this album effectively captures their past glory while exploring some modern territory.
Mork – Eremittens Dal (Peaceville)
Mork are not from Ork, but Norway, the brainchild of Thomas Eriksen, who handles vocals and all instruments in the studio. For their third album Eremittens Dal they have signed with Peaceville Records.
They pay homage to the classic era of Norwegian black metal, and have the respect of some of the genre’s pioneers. Their last album featured vocals from Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto, and this time around Dimmu Borgir’s Silenoz contributes vocals to two tracks. 1349 bassist Seidemann also guests. The songs have the feel of old school black metal with cold riffs and simple production. There’s plenty of variety, from stately mid-tempo songs to oppressive, blastbeat driven songs played at warp speed. It’s a little groovier than you might expect, injecting some originality alongside the homage to the genre’s past.
MyChildren MyBride – Vicious World (eOne/Good Fight)
It has been more than five years since we’ve had a new album from Alabama metalcore mavens MyChildren MyBride. They’ve had a couple of lineup changes since then, but the core of vocalist Matthew Hasting and guitarist Robert Bloomfield is intact on Vicious World, their fourth studio record.
You’ll hear the usual metalcore tropes like harsh and melodic vocals, but MyChildren MyBride push into numerous other sonic territories ranging from metal to punk to pop to hardcore to electronica. Some tracks like “Thorns” are aggressive and ominous, while others like the instrumental “The Fountain” are more delicate and introspective , and songs like “KeviAr emphasize the electronics with a Korn vibe. They are at their strongest when the guitars are heavy and the electronics augment the songs, rather than vice-versa.
Narcotic Wasteland – Delirium Tremens (Megaforce)
When Narcotic Wasteland self released their debut album in 2014, it was a side project of Dallas Toler-Wade. Now that he has exited Nile, it is now his primary focus. Delirium Tremens, released on Megaforce Records, finds them stepping things up in all areas.
That starts with the production, done by Grammy winner Neil Kernon, who also produced several Nile albums. The music is very technical, with a lot of guitar wizardry from Toler-Wade and Ed Rhone. It’s death metal, but you’ll hear flashes of thrash from time to time. New drummer Phil Cancilla is impressive as well, driving some songs along at warp speed while adding creative fills to the more moderately paced tracks. Most of the record is bludgeoning and brutal, but the acoustic instrumental “In Memoriam” provides a brief respite, while “Bleed And Swell” slows down the tempo and increases the melody. With all the great death metal released this year, don’t let this one slip under your radar.
Revolution Saints – Light in the Dark (Frontiers)
Light In The Dark is the second album from supergroup Revolution Saints featuring Deen Castronovo (Journey) on drums and vocals, Jack Blades (Night Ranger) on bass and vocals and Doug Aldrich (Dio, Whitesnake) on guitar. They perform a feel good style of hard rock that is very addictive to the ear. There is a distinctive traditional vibe to the music, though it does not fall within that metal subgenre. It is certainly a very pure album, which is how it has a great impact upon the listener. The music is stripped down and very authentic sounding.
Though an album like this falls outside the metal arena, there are enough groovy guitar riffs to warrant its spot on this website. While I find this music hard rock oriented, it is fairly difficult to find a specific comparison point within that genre for the band, though you can certainly hear some Journey influences. There is an uplifting aspect to the band that permeates everything they do. Light in the Dark is an album that is very content with the fun approach it brings to the table.
Samael – Hegemony (Napalm)
More than six years after Lex Mundi, Swiss legends Samael finally return with a new album. Hegemony is their eleventh studio album, and first with new bassist Drop.
Their style of industrial black metal is not cold and sterile. Samael incorporate a lot of symphonic elements and atmospherics that give the songs depth and character. There’s plenty of intensity as well, with heavy guitars and harsh vocals from Vorph. One of the more interesting tracks on the album is their cover of the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.” The industrial and cinematic elements along with the unclean vocals give it a whole different vibe from the original. Fans had to be patient while this album gestated, but it was worth the wait.
Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing (Dark Descent)
After a few years of demos and splits, Spectral Voice’s bold debut album Eroded Corridors of Unbeing is finally among us. Its menacing charm is the product of a bunch of dudes from Colorado absorbing masses of Finnish death/doom metal.
The term “necrotic doom” is one the group uses frequently, with their band’s homepage using the term in the URL. The rotting flesh of these songs is what drives the tempos mad, keeps the mood heightened, and the threat of disintegration real. It’s unusual for a band to be this distinctive with their style on their first album, but Spectral Voice masterfully pull it off.