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Heavy Music Headquarters Album Reviews: Week of February 28, 2020

This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Audrey Horne, Beneath The Massacre, Blaadpalt, Dark Fortress, Human Impulse, Kvaen, Loits, Neaera, Stallion, StarGazer, Today Is The Day, Tombs and Visceral Disgorge.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Napalm Records

Audrey Horne – Waiting For The Night (Napalm)

Norwegian hard rockers Audrey Horne now have six studio albums under their belt, giving them plenty of material to choose from for their first live album Waiting For The Night. The album was recorded in 2018 in their hometown of Bergen.

Six of the 16 songs are from 2018’s Blackout,with the rest taken from throughout their catalog. The band is tight, and the setlist is anthem after anthem, really engaging the crowd. In addition to the CD, there’s a bonus Blu-ray with 13 live tracks and several bonus features including a look at the band’s early days. There’s audio, there’s video, there are rarities, pretty much everything an Audrey Horne fan wants from a live release.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Century Media Records

Beneath The Massacre – Fearmonger (Century Media)

After releasing three albums, Canadian tech death/deathcore punishers Beneath The Massacre went on hiatus. Eight years after their last album, they are back with a new record, Fearmonger.

The brutality begins from the opening notes of “Rise Of The Fearmonger” and doesn’t abate. It’s a maelstrom of technicality, alternating chaos and groove. The extremity is constant, but Beneath The Massacre do shift tempos and intensities that injects some variety to the proceedings. The musicianship is impressive, with a potent performance from new drummer Anthony Barone. They don’t overstay their welcome, wreaking auditory havoc for only 30 minutes before “Tarnished Legacy” brings the album to a close.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Inverse Records

Blaadpalt – Sliced To Perfection (Inverse)

Blaadpalt’s Sliced To Perfection is straightforward death metal, though that’s not an automatic disqualifier for the group’s first album. The Finnish band is aware of their talent of mixing rawness and groove, with space for catchy riffs. They pop up in “Vlad” and “Stay Down,” with choruses that aren’t sung as much as relentlessly barked at a listener to make sure they won’t forget them.

With ten songs barely reaching 30 minutes, Sliced To Perfection is not a time waster, which is good since a reason these songs come off so well is their rigid structure. There’s no chance of padding, as the execution is aimed at maximum damage in the quickest time. A few guitar solos lighten up the mood, but not enough to downplay the violent urges of a “God Of Razorblade” or the horror story within “Corpse.”

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Century Media Records

Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World (Century Media)

German black metal veterans Dark Fortress are another band featured this week that took more time than usual between releases. There was a six year gap between Venereal Dawn and their latest album Spectres From The Old World.

Their brand of black metal is melodic at times while maintaining aggression and extremity. Tracks like “Coalescence” run the gamut from dense blastbeats to melodic guitar solos. “The Spider In The Web” is a highlight, with groovy riffs that transition to a mellow mid-section before the guitars resume. Tracks like “Pulling At Threads” and “Swan Song” insert some melodic singing that contrasts the ominous guitars and harsh vocals. Keyboards add atmosphere and depth throughout. It’s an extremely well rounded album, showcasing both old school black metal and more progressive, modern approaches to the genre while showing flashes of other styles as well.

Rating: 4.5
(Chad Bowar)

Human Impulse – Human Impulse (Self)

From Minneapolis, hardcore/punk trio Human Impulse have offered their debut self-titled EP as their first serious step in expressing their musical stance. Human Impulse is short, but it clearly and easily shows the band’s efforts to blend in hardcore with other genres.

While the listener may recognize this as a hardcore punk release, the album has strong streaks of metalcore and noise. And at some points, when the beat of the album drops a little, the mood of the music gets close to post metal and sludge. This is how Human Impulse’s musical world is expanding rapidly and adding significant dynamism to the album. The listener may not find many fresh ideas in this EP, but Human Impulse are absolutely trying to create a powerful and crushing work, and at the beginning of the road, they have emerged with power and elegance.

Rating: 3.5
(Arash Khosronejad)

Black Lion Records

Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre (Black Lion)

All songs on The Funeral Pyre are the creation of Jakob Björnfot, although Sebastian Ramstedt (Necrophobic, ex-Nifelheim) and Perra Karlsson (In Aeternum, Nominon, ex-Destroyer 666) and others make guest contributions. Kvaen play black metal, but there are moments of speed metal with pagan and Viking influences.

Kvaen’s debut album is thoroughly entrenched in the sound of Björnfot’s native country, Sweden. Emotional tremolo picking sets the long ships in motion for the southern shores on album opener “Revenge By Fire.” The track also has speed metal parts including a group chorus. “Revenge By Fire” sounds part Amon Amarth, part Nifelheim. The following track, “Yee Naaldlooshii” kicks in with pummeling drums and a change that recalls the string work of Naglfar. Dissection seem like a major influence. “As We Serve the Master’s Plan” is darkness in its purest form. The Funeral Pyre has enough fluidity, atmosphere, harmony, and speed to make it a Swedish extreme metal classic.

Rating: 4.5
(Darren Cowan)

Nuclear War Now! Productions

Loits – Ei kahetse midagi (Nuclear War Now!)

Ei kahetse midagi was the debut album by Estonian black metal group Loits. Originally released in 2001, Nuclear War Now! have reissued the album. Lyrically, Loits are influenced by World War II and the guerrilla resistance movement of their country during and after the war against the Soviet Union occupation often called “The Forest Brothers.”

Musically, Loits are influenced by Norwegian black metal such as early incarnations of Satyricon, In The Woods and Ulver. The album has a militant, medieval swagger. Much of the album moves at mid-tempos, although there are some fast parts with blast beats and swift tremolo picking. Keyboard-generated sounds of wind, tin whistles and even xylophone offer atmosphere and interludes, although keys are a small part of the album. The small country of Estonia is not known for producing a lot of metal bands, but Loits’s Ei kahetse midagi is a hidden gem in the global black metal scene.

Rating: 3.5
(Darren Cowan)

Metal Blade Records

Neaera – Neaera (Metal Blade)

In music, rarely is a farewell tour the last we hear from a band. The German melodeath group Neaera called it a day in 2015 after six albums, but played a couple of shows in 2018, giving them the itch for a full fledged comeback. Their previous lineup is fully intact on Neaera.

Neaera sound energized, with biting vocals and cutting riffs. Tracks like “False Shepherds” have some black metal influences, while songs like “Resurrection Of Wrath” incorporate galloping thrash riffs. The melody in their melodic death metal comes from the guitars, as Benjamin Hilleke displays a variety of extreme vocal styles from guttural growls to higher pitched rasps. The catchiness of the riffs contrasting with the fiery vocals makes this a welcome comeback for Neaera.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

High Roller Records

Stallion – Slaves Of Time (High Roller)

There are a few different bands called Stallion. This is the German heavy/speed metal troupe who burst upon the scene in 2013. Slaves Of Time is their third full-length.

The songs are inspired by the old school, with blazing riffs and plenty of solos. Vocalist Pauly has a distinctive sound that has a little Udo Dirkschneider flavor but also a potent falsetto that’s evident on songs like “No Mercy.” The music on the album is pretty straightforward, but Stallion vary it up between blazing thrash and more mid-tempo tracks like “Time To Reload.” They tread a well-worn musical path, but the execution is top-notch.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Nuclear War Now! Productions

StarGazer – Gloat/Borne (Nuclear War Now!)

StarGazer play a very raw style of death metal that is mixed with black metal elements. The music is very primitive, containing the demo Gloat from 1996 and an early EP Borne from 1997. It must be said that the production values on this collection is far below the norm. Still, the band has reasonable songwriting to craft songs that are at least moderately catchy. The music is very straightforward and able to pull the listener in to a certain extent.

However, I can’t completely recommend this collection because the production is so poor that it’s hard to get excited about the music. With better sound quality, the riffing would be able to shine through a bit. However, it is brought down by the mixing and hence sounds rather generic and uninteresting. There are some nice riffs here and there, however and this saves this collection from being a complete miss. Only the most devoted of death and black metal fans will find something to like here.

Rating: 2.5
(Adam McAuley)

BMG Music

Today Is The Day – No Good To Anyone (BMG)

All the pain and trauma Today Is The Day’s Steve Austin went through the last six years—a horrific van accident, a bout of Lyme disease, to name a few—has been packed into No Good To Anyone, the band’s corrosive eleventh studio album. It must have been therapeutic for Austin to scream “I hate everyone” repeatedly on the opening title track, a seven-minute descent into the psyche of a man on the edge of darkness.

Though the album has a heightened sense of rage bubbling near the surface on “Burn In Hell” and “You’re All Gonna Die,” there’s understated solace in songs like the lush “Callie” and psychedelic “Rockets And Dreams.” Today Is The Day have always had multiple sides to their sound, and No Good To Anyone pushes those sides to extremes both harsh and mesmerizing.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Season Of Mist

Tombs – Monarchy Of Shadows (Season Of Mist)

Following up 2017’s The Grand Annihilation, Tombs return with the EP Monarchy Of Shadows. It finds mainman Mike Hill teaming up with Kalopsia members Matt Medeiros (guitar), Drew Murphy (bass) and Justin Spaeth (drums). Instead of Hill writing everything, it’s the first time there has been a collaboration between band members.

That collaboration is a fruitful one. The nearly eight minute opener “Monarchy Of Shadows” begins with an ominous keyboard intro before incorporating death and black metal and even a little goth. “Once Falls The Guillotine” has a sense of urgency while doomy riffs make an appearance on “Necro Alchemy. And though this is technically an EP, there is 35 minutes of material. The six songs venture into some new musical territory while remaining faithful to Tombs’ existing style.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Agonia Records

Visceral Disgorge – Ingesting Putridity (Agonia)

Visceral Disgorge’s 2011 debut album Ingesting Putridity received a strong backing from the brutal death metal community on its initial release. Almost a decade later, it is being re-released and remastered, putting the group’s grotesque early days back in view. Though the lyrics are next to impossible to understand, the content of songs like “Force Fed Shredded Genitalia” and “Ball Gagged And Gutted” are easily apparent.

The album has no shortage of shock value for those willing to read the lyrics, but most will be content with the slamming, chugging breakdowns. Its shortcomings are still obvious: songs that plod too long, lack of variety, and inaudible bass guitar. These don’t completely hinder the sheer, unbridled heaviness on tap, which is still Ingesting Putridity’s signature claim in 2020.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

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