This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Ceremony Of Silence, Cities Of Mars, Conjurer, Crown Of Autumn, Cultic, Eluveitie, Enterprise Earth, Exumer, Isotope, Latitudes, Lightfold, Musket Hawk, Periphery, Sataray, Seax, Solitude, Sworn Enemy and Waste Of Space Orchestra.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale. For more information about our writers, go here.
Ceremony of Silence – Outis (Willowtip)
A trip to Slovakia is where Ceremony of Silence take us with their Outis debut album. The European country has a vibrant underground death metal scene, as per the hundreds of bands that can be found on a search at Metal Archives, though few have broken into worldwide recognition. A record deal with Willowtip might help Ceremony of Silence, as well as their twisty music that offers death metal at a frantic click.
This pace dips and flows throughout, the clear sign of this being the instrumental “Upon the Shores of Death.” This track in the middle of the album allows for the duo that makes up Ceremony of Silence to flirt with ambient qualities in their punishing music. Everything, from its placement to its execution, is top notch and is one piece of many that the band executes with finesse on Outis.
Cities of Mars – The Horologist (Ripple)
Sweden’s Cities of Mars have a number of releases under their belt now, and while The Horologist is listed as their second album, their first was EP-length, making The Horologist their most ambitious outing in a number of ways. Most notably, it is a concept album about the fictional history of Mars.
The Horologist features some of the most outstanding riffs and arrangements of any music in this genre – which is a mix of prog, stoner, doom, and psychedelic rock. The music on these eight songs is fantastic, but unfortunately undermined by the subpar vocal performances. All band members are credited with vocals, but none do the music any favors. Cities of Mars are one singer away from being an incredible band.
Before we get to Sigils, you need to know this is not the Conjurer band from the U.K. who released Mire last year. These sludge mavens are from Indiana, and Sigils is their second album. While both bands are well-versed in the art of sludge, this Conjurer group lean more towards dense and doomy affairs rather than progressive numbers.
Sigils is a wall of molasses-thick riffs and bellowed vocals, seven songs of nastiness that effectively symbolize the current state of the world. There is talent in these compositions, although most of the time the band doesn’t elevate beyond most other sludge acts. Sigils is a fitting example of the doom/sludge genres, but not an album that particularly stands out.
Crown of Autumn – Byzantine Horizons (My Kingdom)
Italy’s Crown of Autumn have that grand melancholy vibe on their third full length Byzantine Horizons. They are interesting in that they exchange the vocal duties between male and female singers. This allows them to craft their atmosphere more convincingly and deliver their own vision to the world. The music is epic and features a good deal of instrumentation. The riffs are meaty and emotionally charged and have their impact greatly felt upon the listener. The music also features a folk feeling that makes the songs even more somber sounding.
There hasn’t been much of this type of music so far yet this year and thus it fills a huge void for the epic styles found here. The music is warm and glowing and has the proper melodies to draw the listener in for the long haul. It’s really tuneful music that you’ll want to sing along to. This is really one of the top albums of the year so far and should be heard by all. Crown of Autumn have found a sad, yet upbeat vibe all their own and you need to hear it.
Cultic – High Command (Eleventh Key)
Married couple Rebecca and Brian Magar understand the riddle of steel on Cultic’s chain-mailed debut, High Command. The battle scene on the cover art depicts the album’s concept, while the opening battle sounds on “The Conqueror” set the concept in motion. The plodding grooves of the rhythm section defines High Command. Rebecca Magar’s cymbal bashes mimic the clash of sharpened steel. She beats the album’s massive, continuous war march. Reese Harlacker’s bass has an iron-clad tangibility.
Brian Magar’s reverberated, delayed vocals are a wizardly enchantment. He has many Tom G. Warrior facets, but often assumes harsher tones. Guest vocalist, Jason Robison hits falsetto, King Diamond-type highs on several tracks including “Dark Riders” and “The Prowler.” Cultic are the equivalent of Celtic Frost on opium—slow, churning tempos nod to death/doom forerunners Winter and Mythic. It’s hard to deny the heaviness of High Command. Raw, barbaric, crude—High Command is a triumphant debut.
Eluveitie – Ategnatos (Nuclear Blast)
The Swiss folk/melodic death band Eluveitie have had a lot of lineup turnover in the past few years, but the lineup from 2017’s acoustic release Evocation II: Pantheon is intact for Ategnatos, their eighth studio album.
They set the tone with the opening title track, which has dramatic spoken word parts, folk elements, intense metal and soaring melodic sections. It’s a diverse album. Not only do their bring plenty of heavy death metal, there are tracks like “Ambiramus” and “Breathe) that are accessible and catchy, with Chrigel Glanzmann’s death growls taking a secondary role (and are totally absent on “Breathe”) to Fabeinne Erni’s melodic singing. Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe also makes an appearance, lending his vocals to “Worship.” It’s a bit long at 60 minutes, but the variety and quality of songwriting allows the album not to overstay its welcome.
Enterprise Earth – Luciferous (eOne/Good Fight)
For their third album Luciferous, the Spokane, Washington deathcore troupe Enterprise Earth have hooked up with eOne and Good Fight Music, along with noted producer Jason Suecof (Trivium, The Black Dahlia Murder, Demon Hunter), which should garner them wider exposure.
While embracing deathcore tropes, Enterprise Earth also inject atmospheric elements and even some acoustic guitars on a few songs, including “We Are Immortal.” The songs are heavy and down-tuned with a combination of death metal growls and higher pitched screams. Most of the songs are focused and punishing, but they get more expansive on “Scars Of The Past” and the eight plus minute closer “There Is No Tomorrow.” Enterprise Earth continue to expand their musical boundaries, which should appeal to a wider audience than just deathcore fans.
Exumer – Hostile Defiance (Metal Blade)
Thirty-three years after Exumer released their debut, the underground gem Possessed By Fire, the band offers just their fifth full-length, Hostile Defiance, a conceptual album on mental illness. Each nightmarish scenario is realized through a balance of aggression, melody and catchy hooks.
Stylistically, the band play their vision of German thrash, heavy on modern Kreator. Mem V. Stein’s voice is similar in tone and aggression to Mille Petrozza, but without the range. “Trapper” exemplifies their ability to write a complete song with speed, groove, melody and strong chorus lines. Matthias Kassner’s double bass playing is of note, particularly on “Descent.” The group also play valid thrash metal interpretations of Entombed’s “Supposed to Rot” and Scorpions “He’s a Woman-She’s a Man.” Fans of early Exumer will balk at the clean production and harmonies of Hostile Defiance, fans of modern thrash will be enticed to bang their heads and sing the catchy chorus lines.
Isotope – Isotope (Carbonized)
Isotope’s self-titled album revolves around a combustible folly of hardcore punk. It rips from the opening track “Departed,” and hardly settles down, save for a mid-tempo romp in “Bloodied Dove of Peace.” With its emphasis on discernible riffs that don’t just rush by without warning, that song is a misnomer in a pack of wild beasts. Much of the album is a swing to the gut on repeat.
It’s a good thing that Isotope included a song like “Bloodied Dove of Peace,” as without it the album would go by quicker than its 24 minutes currently goes. The band went through turmoil getting this record made, including the recording studio they initially used flooding with raw sewage. Whether intentional or not, that chaos is rendered into this dangerous debut effort.
Latitudes – Part Island (Debemur Morti)
Since London, England’s sludge/post-metal act Latitudes added vocals to their music, many things have changed. Old Sunlight was the start of the new chapter and now Part Island has completed it. The vocals inspirations that Adam Symonds has taken from Nick Drake and Camel’s Andy Latimer have added a whole new dimension to Latitudes’ lamenting, bleak music.
Tons of extraordinary guitars riffs and melodies blend with acoustic guitar, the delicate sound of synth hiding in the underlying layers of music. Along with highly passionate vocal harmonies, it all makes a magnificent and epic symphony of human pain and darkest corners, which might even point to some of the UK’s current political situation. The ocean which began at Harbour of Tears ends up on Part Island. This is how Latitudes created their masterpiece.
Lightfold – Deathwalkers (Pitch Black)
Greek heavy proggers Lightfold have unveiled their second record, Deathwalkers: an existential concept album that explores the ideas of life, death, and pain. It attempts to paint a vivid picture in the listener’s mind, receiving support from numerous keyboard, synth, and female choral tracks. Unfortunately, much of their effort is wasted, largely due to the mediocre vocals of Martin Deathwalker. He fails to bring any passion or dynamism to the forefront, thus leaving the focal point underwhelming and disappointing.
While many of the songs fail to deliver any impact or impression, the rampant drums and ridiculous shredding keep Deathwalkers alive. Axeman Thanasis Labrakis adheres to no bounds and unleashes the fury of hell with every solo he lays down. With occasional prog elements tastefully mixed into the heavy metal base, the pieces of this record are either really good or really bad. There’s no middle ground.
Musket Hawk – Upside of Sick (Unholy Anarchy)
Baltimore three-piece Musket Hawk are locked and loaded with Upside of Sick, the band’s third full-length record of queasy, unkempt sludge. The term ‘grind’ comes up in press releases and social media blurbs, but the trio, in the strictest sense, seem to be sauntering away from their earlier sound and have adopted a style that, while certainly not lacking the occasional frantic swell, comes off as well-gnarled sludge with doses of groove-heavy stoner-doomery.
Backed by a hefty production, the band’s punky, razorous, fast-forward mentality mucks it up with a mixture of big riffs and bone-rattling drums. The roar-scream vocal tandem is apt when Musket Hawk switch their gears and aggression, sounding all the better when idling into a tune like “Dios Mio,” the sure-fire album winner, which coughs up a legit Church of Misery-style banger, a stratagem that will hopefully trend into album number four.
Periphery – Periphery IV: Hail Stan (3DOT)
For their latest album Periphery IV: Hail Stan (which is actually their sixth studio album), the djentlemen of Periphery formed their own label, 3DOT Recordings.
That gives them complete creative freedom, which they embrace by opening the album with the 16 minute opus “Reptile” that runs the gamut from peaceful atmospherics to soaring melodies to intense metalcore. There’s plenty of heaviness along with a choir and string section that adds depth and texture. From the crushing “Blood Eagle” to the radio friendly “It’s Only Smiles” to the electronic-tinged “Crush,” Periphery are able to incorporate numerous styles, tempos and intensities while maintaining a cohesive feel, which is not an easy feat.
Sataray – Nocturnum (Scry)
Sataray’s Nocturnum has enough dreary ambient music to fill a listener’s quota for an entire month. Some may think of this as nothing more than background noise, but the musician known as Sataray puts an unhinged frame of perspective into the cold-hearted synths and multitracked vocals. The vocals have a psychotic sense of direction, as screams, whispers, and moans all come together like a counterpart soundtrack to the video game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
Like all ambient music, this isn’t metal in the traditional sense of the definition, but it is heavy in its own way. The themes, while not outright expressed in clear form, are expressed with the weight of a vile slab of death metal. One will have to be in a certain mood to enjoy Nocturnum, but the same can be said for ambient as a genre.
Seax – Fallout Rituals (Shadow Kingdom)
Old school speed freaks Seax return in 2019 with that 1985 fervor and their fourth proper album, Fallout Rituals. If Exciter and more recent albums from Evil Invaders were up your alley, then these Boston area bruisers may be your next favorite band.
High pitched vocals from Carmine Blades look to balance out the out and out speed provided here on the opening 1-2 punch of “Fallout” and “Rituals.” The guitarists weave in intricate riffs and never slow the intensity to below an 11. If you are looking for that ever elusive shot of adrenaline in your day, you may well need Fallout Rituals to get you through an upcoming apocalypse.
Solitude – Reach for the Sky (Mighty)
In more than twenty years of rocking, Solitude (one of Japan’s premier classic metal outfits) have only released two full length records. Their second, Reach for the Sky, was originally released in 2015, but they’ve decided to unleash it once again due to widespread success and acclaim.
Musically, there’s nothing new to see here. Solitude accomplish their goal of pounding out rough, heavy, old school riffage that pays homage to the likes of Motörhead and Saxon. The vocals are gritty but ultimately uninspired, with repetitive melodies that just float on top of the thrashing of the rhythm section. Shingo Ida is the clear highlight of the band; he never fails to explode into guitar solo madness and he fills the sound to the brim with his endless chugging. If you’re looking for no-frills heavy metal, you’ll like Reach for the Sky.
Sworn Enemy – Gamechanger (M-Theory)
It has been nearly five years since the last Sworn Enemy full-length as the metallic hardcore veterans return with a vengeance on Gamechangers. Their sixth album was produced by Machine Head’s Robb Flynn.
Sworn Enemy’s style is simple but effective: pummeling hardcore, groovy guitar riffs and passionate vocals from Sal Lococo. The album flies by in 37 minutes, driven by Matt Garzilli and Jeff Cummings’ meaty riffage and searing solos on tracks like “Seeds Of Hate” and “The Consequence.” They change things up from time to time, like the acoustic intro on “Coming Done” before the groove kicks in. They stay in their lane, but incorporate enough variety to keep things fresh. The band’s loyal fan base will be well pleased with Gamechanger.
Waste Of Space Orchestra – Syntheosis (Svart)
Syntheosis began as a commissioned piece for the annual Roadburn Festival, performed live in April 2018 by Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising. The ten piece combo was christened Waste Of Space Orchestra, and this is a studio recording of that performance.
It’s an expansive dose of doom, drone and psychedelia, an hour long trip telling the story of three beings and their search for knowledge. With three vocalists and a plethora of musicians, it’s a complex wall of sound with arrangements that are sometimes heavy, other times atmospheric and always intricate. Relatively streamlined songs like “Seeker’s Reflection” are augmented by extended and engaging epics like “Journey To The Center Of Mass” and the title track. The two bands merge, and out of that collaboration comes an entirely new creation that combines each band into a unique whole that’s even stronger than their individual parts.