This week’s reviews include releases from Abolishment Of Flesh, Ails, Evanescence, Gus G, Ivar Bjornson & Einar Selvik, Ghastly, Melvins, Mordor, A Perfect Circle, Ross The Boss, Stryper, Tesseract, Volster and Wild Hunt.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Abolishment of Flesh – The Inhuman Condition (Unholy Anarchy)
Ten years after changing their name from Abolishment to Abolishment of Flesh, the Texas death metal group has released their debut full-length, The Inhuman Condition. Having a decade to properly hone in their craft leans in the band’s favor, with 11 tracks of hyperactive dissonance.
The pairing of “Inhuman Anatomy” and “Reborn Abomination” start the album on a tear, with a later cut in the gloomy “The Suffering” putting the group’s lofty expectations out there. Even at around 45 minutes, the album’s middle sags under lengthier songs. It’s smart then to have glorious, enraged tunes bookend The Inhuman Condition to help prop it up.
Ails – The Unraveling (The Flenser)
After the beloved Bay Area black metal band Ludicra disbanded in 2011, most of the members (Ross Sewage, John Cobbett, Aesop Dekker) quickly focused on their other bands or joined new ones. It took a few years, but vocalist Laurie Shanaman and guitarist/vocalist Christy Cather have re-emerged with Ails, who are issuing their debut album The Unraveling.
It’s a great lineup, which also includes guitarist Sam Abend (Desolation), bassist Jason Miller (Phantom Limbs) and drummer Colby Byrn (One In The Chamber). Blending fierce black metal with melodic death, the lengthy songs twist and turn, displaying a variety of tempos and textures along with dueling harsh and melodic vocals. Even with the frequent shifts and musical diversity, it’s still a cohesive album. Some tracks have memorable riffs (“Dead Metaphors”), while others like “The Ruin” are intense and furious, but no less memorable. Ails is a worthy successor to Ludicra, delivering a powerful debut with The Unraveling.
Evanescence – Lost Whispers (Craft)
It has been a while since Evanescence released an album of new studio material, but fans have had releases to tide them over. Last year saw Synthesis, where the band played orchestral versions of past songs along with a couple of new tracks. Now the band is reissuing Lost Whispers in honor of Record Store Day.
It’s the first standalone vinyl release of the 2016 compilation of bonus tracks, b-sides and rarities. There’s a re-recording of “Even In Death” from their 2000 demo and “Missing” from their 2004 live album Anywhere But Home. The album also includes outtakes from Fallen and The Open Door along with four bonus tracks from the deluxe edition of Evanescence. Even though they are outtakes, there are still some quality songs, and since there are only 2,500 copies of the blue translucent vinyl, it will become a collector’s item.
Ghastly – Death Velour (20 Buck Spin)
Finland’s Ghastly are the latest in the line of Finnish death metal bands; a country most renowned for the mightily weird Demilich. Ghastly operate in the death/doom realm of the genre complete with dissonant chords and ample atmosphere.
Death Velour has several high points including “Whispers Through the Aether,” which combines furious riffs with a very spooky keyboard towards the end of the song. For a debut, however, the album does very little to separate itself from other bands in the genre. If death/doom is your thing, give Ghastly a spin, if not, look elsewhere for your fix of the macabre.
Gus G – Fearless (AFM)
Greek shredder Gus G, who founded Firewind twenty years ago, recently wrapped up an eight year stint playing with Ozzy Osbourne. That left him some time to record his latest solo album Fearless. After using a variety of vocalists on his previous two albums, this time around Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic) handles all the vocals and plays bass, with Will Hunt (Evanescence) on drums.
The songs are traditional/melodic metal with big hooks and singalong choruses. Ward, known more as a bass player, is a good singer with a decent range and plenty of power. Gus G’s guitar wizardry is front and center, especially on instrumentals such as the title track and “Thrill Of The Chase.” They cover the Dire Straits ’80s classic “Money For Nothing,” adding a beefier guitar sound, a slightly slower tempo and some lyrical alterations to add more modern references.
Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik – Hugsja (By Norse)
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik’s acclaimed collaboration on 2016’s A Piece for Mind & Mirror cleared the path to hear more from Enslaved’s Bjornson and Wardruna’s Selvik, two of the finest musicians of Norway’s recent modern music. Hugsjá, which can be translated to “mind’s power (to see further than the eyes can reach)”, is the band’s second album and is another haunting journey to Norway’s (and Scandinavia’s) history, folk tales, literatures and landscapes.
Hugsjá is an hour long album of progressive neofolk. It’s sound originated on Skuggsjá, their initial collaboration, and has merged with more post rock/atmospheric rock elements. The progressive side of the album is now bolder which resembles some of the mesmerizing tunes of ’60s and ’70s progressive folk bands. On a stronger side, a phenomenal, Rímur-like vocal performance by Selvik and his harmonies trading with his backing vocals team comes out as Hugsjá‘s greatest winner.
Melvins – Pinkus Abortion Technician (Ipecac)
Many bands are prolific in their early years, but then the pace of releases gradually slows. Not so with the Melvins. In the past five years alone they’ve issued six full-lengths, a live album and more than a dozen splits and EPs. Their latest is Pinkus Abortion Technician.
The album features one guitarist, but two bassists. Both Steven McDonald and Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers) play on the record, making it a basstravaganza. It’s a covers heavy album, featuring the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold You Hand,” Butthole Surfers “Moving To Florida” and a medley of the James Gang’s “Stop” and Butthole Surfers’ “Moving To Florida.” The album is packed with the Melvins’ trademark brand of left field stoner rock with forays into psychedelia and punk. More than 30 years into their career, the Melvins continue to bring fresh approaches while maintaining the sound they’ve perfected over the years.
Mordor – Darkness… (Pagan)
Twenty one years has passed since Mordor released their second album, The Earth, and though many of the bands from the 1990s death/doom scene have stepped away from that to some degree, Mordor dig their heels into it on Darkness… Four of the six original members of the band have returned to act as if only two years has passed between albums, instead of two decades.
Infernal War’s Pawel “Stormblast” Pietrzak, part of Mordor’s revamped rhythm section, impresses with his precise double bass drumming and uptempo jumps that give off a blackened flavor to Mordor’s music. As far as comebacks go, Darkness… is a good one.
A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant (BMG)
2018 could be a big year for Maynard James Keenan fans. It appears Tool may finally release a new album, and for the first time in 14 years there’s a new A Perfect Circle album. Billy Howerdel plays nearly all the instruments, with Keenan handling vocals on Eat The Elephant.
It’s a mellow album, with somber and reserved tracks like “Disillusioned,” the instrumental interlude “DLB” and “Feathers.” There are a few more intense and uptempo songs such as “The Doomed,” “Delicious” and the rousing “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish.” There are a lot of dynamics, emotion and depth, a definite grower of an album that slowly seeps into your subconscious rather than immediately burrowing its way in. While prog rock and alt rock are the dominant genres, there’s an undercurrent of influences of ’80s alternative/new wave bands such as Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode as well.
Ross The Boss – By Blood Sworn (AFM)
Since leaving Manowar back in 1989, Ross Friedman, aka Ross The Boss, has been involved in numerous bands including Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, Spinatras, Thunderboss and Death Dealer. And of course he founded punk legends The Dictators back in the early ’70s, and they lasted until the late ’00s. By Blood Sworn is the third album under the Ross The Boss moniker, and first since 2010.
Friedman is the only holdover, with the current lineup including vocalist Marc Lopes (Hellspeak), bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X) and drummer Lance Barnewold (Fate Breaks Down). The music is traditional metal with a lot of power metal influences, especially Lopes’ melodramatic vocals. There are plenty of guitar acrobatics and extended solos from Friedman. It’s sometimes over the top, but packed with memorable melodies and great guitar work.
Stryper – God Damn Evil (Frontiers)
Stryper frontman Michael Sweet has had a productive last couple years, releasing solo studio and live albums along with the second Sweet & Lynch record with guitarist George Lynch. His main band Stryper returns with their latest album God Damn Evil.
It has what you’d expect from a Stryper album: soaring anthems, huge choruses, uplifting lyrics and potent vocals from Sweet. There’s the requisite ballad “Can’t Live Without Your Love,” which is emotional without being cheesy. They straddle the line between hard rock and metal, with heavier songs like the title track, “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here” and “Own Up” pushing into metal territory. One surprise on the album is the opener “Take It To The Cross,” which features harsh vocals from Matt Bachand (Shadows Fall, Act Of Defiance). Stryper’s last few albums have been some of the best of their long career, with God Damn Evil another high caliber release.
Tesseract – Sonder (Kscope)
British djentlemen Tesseract return with their fourth full-length studio album Sonder. The band co-produced the album with Aiden O’Brien, who also worked on 2015’s Polaris.
Tesseract have delivered another dynamic and varied album. Mellow rock, trippy prog, heavy grooves and technical sections blend into a compelling whole. There are lengthy tracks like the nearly 7 minute “King” as well as more focused songs such as opener “Luminary.” Daniel Tompkins gives a diverse performance ranging from introspective crooning to powerful singing. It’s more organic sounding than previous albums, as they wanted to bring a more live element into the studio. The result is a blend of previous approaches into their most cohesive album to-date.
Volster – Perfect Storm (Rock of Angels)
The Swedish band Volster perform a high-octane form of hard rock that has a lot of killer vibes to it on their full-length debut Perfect Storm. There are some nice guitar riffs that raise a pulse on the part of the listener. The music is up-tempo and exciting, bringing forth passion and charisma. There is also a great deal of melody to be found that lends the band a very strong aura and gives them variety. Is there anything to fault here? Well, the songs are a little simplistic.
I think the style of listener for this album won’t care for this flaw, however, caring only more for the cavernous guitar riffs the band creates. Their music has flair and is very streamlined, ready made for rock radio. It’s certainly got the guitar riffs to represent the metal genre, however. Though the simplicity of Perfect Storm prevents it from being an outright classic, it is still a very addictive album.
Wild Hunt – Afterdream of the Reveller (Vendetta)
After the unfortunate death of Wild Hunt guitarist Drew Cook, years went by with little news from the band. Even this writer assumed that their excellent debut album Before the Plane of Angles would be a one-off. So imagine the surprise when word of Afterdream of the Reveller came to light.
What’s not surprising is the step up in quality between this album and their first one. No more songs go into the double digits, though a few come close. All the grief and hurt experienced in a great loss is channeled into angular black metal constantly on the move, sometimes away from the genre into worthwhile experimental terrain.