This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Anticosm, Bastard Grave, Cemican, Cerebral Rot, Conjurer, Dialith, Hellvetron, Killswitch Engage, Pijin, The Price, Reign In Blood, Repent, Shock Narcotic, Tarchon Fist and Twilight Force.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anticosm – The Call Of The Void (Hell Kill Destroy)
After recording their first two albums as a five piece, New Jersey blackened thrashers Anticosm pared down to a quartet for The Call Of The Void, though they have since added another axeman. The lineup for the album includes the three founding members along with new bassist Tom Wilson.
Anticosm seamlessly blend galloping thrash with icy black metal on tracks that are sometimes dense and oppressive, other times groovy. Kirill Kovalevsky’s harsh vocals are in more of a death metal style with some hardcore/thrash moments, but they are very effective. Many songs have a breakneck pace, like “Scorched Earth,” while tracks like “Fall Asleep” are slower and more expansive. The biggest change of pace is the title track that begins with 90 seconds of peaceful acoustic guitar before the thrash kicks in. Memorable riffs and an ominous edge give The Call Of The Void plenty of bite.
Bastard Grave – Diorama of Human Suffering (Pulverised)
This is Bastard Grave. They are from Sweden and they play death metal. This introduction easily describes all things about this band. Bastard Grave released their first album What Lies Beyond in 2015.And now, after four years, they have assembled nine new songs to form their new album, Diorama of Human Suffering.
On What Lies Beyond, Bastard Grave borrowed countless prominent components from Swedish death metal masters. And now, Diorama of Human Suffering perfectly reflects the history and golden age of Swedish death metal. It is an evil child which was born from the music of Dismember and Entombed. Although Bastard Grave’s music doesn’t go anywhere new, crushing guitar riffs mingled with the feral voice of Rickard, which echoes throughout the album, shows that these sons of Swedish old school death metal have kept the flame alive.
Cemican – In Ohtli Teoyohtica In Miquiztli (M-Theory)
The Mexican band Cemican have a unique sound that they have dubbed Aztec metal. In Ohtli Teoyohtica In Miquiztli is their first album in seven years, and third overall. Their lyrics incorporate some of the legends and mythologies of ancient Mexican culture, and they also utilize traditional instruments that give their music a folk flavor.
Heavy guitars and harsh vocals mix with folk instruments that inject melody into the extremity. “Itlach In Mictlantecuhtli” has thrash influences, while the folk is front and center on “Cuando Los Muertos Suspiran (Mihcailhuitl)” and “Luna Desmembrada” that features some female vocals. Cemican have played alongside groups like Eluveitie and Korpiklaani, and fans of those types of bands should appreciate Cemican’s distinctive style and aesthetic.
Cerebral Rot – Odious Descent Into Decay (20 Buck Spin)
Cerebral Rot’s Odious Descent Into Decay continues the hot streak label 20 Buck Spin is on this summer with their death metal releases, following album-of-the-year contenders from Tomb Mold, Immortal Bird, and Superstition. The album sounds like it was recorded with equipment buried in liquified remains, its muddy textures providing ample grit to what is already a contentious sonic undertaking.
The line between unbridled death metal and gloomy death/doom is distorted, as Cerebral Rot hop back and forth with a few of the former tracks stopped in place by a lengthy latter one. It creates an album that isn’t situated in a particular way long enough to lose its gruesome effect. The band makes a hell of a striking impression with their first album.
Traces of symphonic, power, progressive, and heavy metal clash for attention on Dialith’s debut album, Extinction Six. The album is structured as a soundtrack for an as-of-yet unproduced film, with heavy usage of orchestration and anthemic songwriting. Vocalist Krista Sion uses an operatic range to add heft to each word sung, giving ballad-esque songs like “The Wraith” an air of legitimacy.
For a first album, Dialith show no signs of taking it easy, utilizing every trick they know to give Extinction Six major distinction. The band reaches higher than they should in places—the cinematic closing track throws everything from a choir to an extended orchestral outro into 17 indulgent minutes—but the willingness to attempt to go so high is commendable.
Hellvetron – Trident of Tartarean Gateways (Iron Bonehead)
Hellvetron perform a raw type of black metal that is difficult to categorize on Trident of Tartarean Gateways, their second full-length release. The music is epic to a certain extent, but still contains that true black metal feeling that holds it back from being truly heroic sounding. The music is also doomy, which lends it an even greater variety overall. The music is somewhat under-produced for my liking with a raw sound. There is an evil vibe with the band and it helps them push these songs along without them becoming overly dull.
The album seems to plod along at a fairly slow pace and doesn’t throw anything particularly interesting at you. The evil feeling does elevate things slightly and gives the band credibility. In the hands of a big fan of this genre, this album would probably get a higher score than I’m giving it. To my ears this didn’t have anything particularly thrilling to offer, even though the songwriting is solid.
Killswitch Engage – Atonement (Metal Blade)
For their eighth studio album Atonement, metalcore stalwarts Killswitch Engage have switched labels, signing with Metal Blade Records. As with previous albums, production duties were handled by guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz.
Though they stay within the confines of their established sound, the songwriting and execution are razor sharp. Crushing metal is contrasted by catchy melodies. Frontman Jesse Leach has one of the most passionate deliveries in the business, and his melodic singing is on point. There are a couple of guests on the record. The band’s former vocalist Howard Jones appears on “The Signal Fire” while Testament’s Chuck Billy brings the extremity on “Crownless King.” From more accessible tracks like “As Sure As The Sun Will Rise” to more brutal numbers such as “Bite The Hand That Feeds,” this is a varied album that will hit the sweet spot for Killswitch fans.
Pijn & Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands (Holy Roar)
Curse These Metal Hands is a collaboration between members of Pijn and Conjurer, two promising UK bands. They combine forces for a post metal/atmospheric experience with a triple-guitar approach and an admiration for the “slow burn.” Save for a stocky two-minute bruiser in “Endeavour,” the other three songs have nothing but time to shave off as the groups lean into spacey instrumental passages.
That’s not to say vocals are ignored; in fact, all five musicians involved (two from Conjurer and three from Pijn) get vocal credits on Curse These Metal Hands. The draw to the album, however, is moments like all the guitars harmonizing at the end of “Sunday” and the way the intro to opener “High Spirits” is packed with so much tension its eventual release becomes cathartic. Curse These Metal Hands should raise the profile of these rising bands.
The Price – A Second Chance To Rise (Gravitron)
The Price is the solo project of Italian musician Marco Barusso. After being in other bands and working on the production side for bands such as Lacuna Coil, HIM and Thirty Seconds To Mars, A Second Chance To Rise is his debut.
He handles vocals and guitar on the album, which is modern melodic metal. The songs have the punch of metal with the melody and hooks of hard rock. Tracks like “Tears Roll Down” and “My Escape” are memorable and radio-friendly. “Lilith” has more edge and grit in both the music and vocals, but doesn’t skimp on the hooks. There are some ballad-esque sections in some of the songs, but none that you can fire up the lighters or cell phones for the duration. This is a quality debut with strong songs and good production.
Reign In Blood – Missa Pro Defunctis (Iron Bonehead)
Reign In Blood’s Missa Pro Defunctis is not a typical black metal album. Although it contains plenty of the trimmings—tremolo picking, blasting drums, atmosphere, the vocals are not the standard, raspy variety. Demon Raise’s voice sounds like a German thrash version of Attila from Mayhem. The semi-clean vocals and ritual component on “Invoke the Shapeless Ones” and the title track result in memorable refrain.
From grim, occult practices to guitar harmonies with a large bass sound to cement chunky passages, the band produces sound compositions. “Dawn Of A Dying Soul” features old school black metal string play, but harmonized guitars, groove and brief guitar solos expand their sound. Whammy bars, string bends and the isolated drums that beckon the title track (think “Night will come and I will follow”), recall a sparse connection to Slayer. The band name will lure Slayer fans, while Missa Pro Defunctis will guide them into new dimensions of darkness.
Repent – Condemned To Fail (High Roller)
Germany’s Repent bring a no-nonsense attitude on their fourth album, Condemned To Fail. Even though their debut was released in 2000, these thrashers are by no means newcomers to the scene, having formed in 1992 and had two demo outputs prior to their debut full-length. It’d be naturally easy to think they are going to have musical similarities to their Teutonic brethren like Kreator and Sodom, but Repent’s style resides firmly in the Bay Area.
In fact there’s a distinct Exodus vibe from these guys, especially in the opener “Pride Of Creation.” Repent keep the proceedings at a fast and thrashing pace, with melody to be damned; except for the curveball outro to “Hypocrite’s Tears” and the refreshing twin leads to “Scientific Ideals.” Vocalist Jürgen “Eumel” Aumann barks with a swift shout mostly akin to Kreator’s Mille Petrozza; dealing pissed off odes with a pessimistic look at society. Perhaps the best way to sum up the Repent experience is the bouncy rhythm of Exodus with Kreator vocals and that should be able to please any thrash metal fan.
Shock Narcotic – I Have Seen The Future And It Doesn’t Work (Housecore)
Detroit grinders Shock Narcotic are a new band, but their members have been around the block a time or two. Their lineup includes vocalist Shawn Knight (Child Bile), guitarist Jeff Tuttle (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), bassist Don Slater (Battlecross) and drummer Zach Gibson (ex-The Black Dahlia Murder).
I Have Seen The Future And It Doesn’t Work finds the band bludgeoning and blazing their way through 14 tracks in around 20 minutes. Knight shouts, growls and screams his way through compact songs that max out at just over two minutes. Some, like “Erratic Smearing Vitals” are relatively chaotic, while others such as “Seed Shooters” are more straightforward. “As Good As Gone” is downright catchy. Brutality abounds, but its the melody and groove that will motivate the listener to hit the replay button. With their pedigree, it’s not surprising Shock Narcotic hit the ground running.
Tarchon Fist – Apocalypse (Pride & Joy)
It has been a few years since the Italian band Tarchon Fist released a full-length. While they issued an EP a couple years ago, 2013’s Heavy Metal Black Force was their last full-length. Their new release Apocalypse is their first concept album, a story based on the dualism of human beings.
Male and female spoken word parts on the opener “Prologue To Apocalypse” set the stage for the concept, which kicks in with “Clash Of The Gods.” It’s traditional metal with an epic flavor. Vocalist Mirco “Ramon” Ramondo has a dramatic style and a wide range influenced by singers like Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson, with an album of this type right in his wheelhouse. Most songs are uptempo with plenty of guitar wizardry, but the album concludes on a mellow note with the ballad “My Destiny.” Individually the songs are good, and everything ties together nicely.
Twilight Force – Dawn Of The Dragonstar (Nuclear Blast)
The third album from the Swedish symphonic power metal band Twilight Force is their first with new vocalist Allyon (Lione/Conti, ex-Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody). He has plenty of experience in the genre, which is evident on Dawn Of The Dragonstar.
The arrangements are cinematic and dramatic, with backing choruses and symphonic elements providing ample depth. Allyon shows a wide range and sings with a lot of passion. It’s a dynamic album, with songs like “Long Live The King” and “Winds Of Wisdom” having ebbs and flows. The album ends on a high note with the 12 minute closer “Blade Of Immortal Steel” that has some lengthy solos and encapsulates everything the album embodies. It’s ambitious release that checks all the symphonic power metal boxes, going over the top from time to time, but always managing to rein things in and stick the landing.