This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Beast In Black, Blodskam, Critical Defiance, Downfall Of Gaia, Herman Frank, John Diva & The Rockets Of Love, Maestus, Malamorte, Meslamtaea, A Novelist, Ribozyme, Rosy Vista, The Scars In Pneuma and Yerusalem.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Beast In Black – From Hell With Love (Nuclear Blast)
After leaving Battle Beast in 2015, guitarist Anton Kabanen formed Beast In Black. From Hell With Love is the Finnish heavy/power metal band’s second album, and first with new drummer Atte Palokangas (Agonizer, Thunderstone).
The album explores similar musical pathways as their debut, with potent melodies and soaring choruses. You’ll hear ’80s influences, but it’s not a retro release. Tracks like “Cry Out For A Hero” are memorable and catchy. Vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos has a sound that’s higher pitched than the usual trad/power metal singer influenced by everyone ranging from Udo Dirkschneider to King Diamond. He belts it out when needed, and also is able to reign it in on ballads like “Oceandeep.” The use of electronic elements provides added atmosphere and uniqueness without being overbearing.
Blodskam – La-Bas (Suicide)
The Swedish black metal duo Blodskam first formed way back in 1998 by brothers Aghora and Dodfodd, but they disbanded without releasing anything. They reformed a few years ago, issued a demo in 2016, and now are releasing their debut album La-Bas.
They play traditional black metal with the usual lyrical tropes. They do vary tempos and textures, with dense and fast tracks like “God In A Straitjacket” and “Routines” contrasted by more deliberate and melodic songs such as “My Home.” The six tracks breeze by in just over a half hour. While not innovative, the songs are well-written and executed with enough variety to keep things interesting.
Critical Defiance – Misconception (Unspeakable Axe)
The diabolical energy from Chilean thrash group Critical Defiance rouses Misconception out into a worldwide audience. These guys are unconcerned with catering to those used to polished riffs and precise musicianship. If they want to start a song with two minutes of solos, they’ll do it. If they want a punchy instrumental with prominent bass guitar leads, no one is going to stop them.
This passionate attitude is what drives Misconception over the point of typical. Much of the album gets by on the elixir of youth, as these four guys play without concerns for formulaic songwriting. Besides the occasional clean guitar passage, Critical Defiance keep their heads down and runs right at the listener with their blistering thrash. It’s a method that sets the band’s debut album up for acclaim.
Downfall Of Gaia – Ethic Of Radical Finitude (Metal Blade)
Over their decade-long career, the German band Downfall Of Gaia have incorporated a variety of styles and genres into their music, resulting in diverse and unique releases. That’s also the case with Ethic Of Radical Finitude, their fifth full-length.
This time around Downfall Of Gaia utilize clean vocals for the first time, though Dominik Goncalves dos Reis’ harsh vocals dominate the proceedings. The songs are very dynamic, with elements of black metal, sludge, post black and crust. Songs like “We Pursue The Serpent Of Time” have passages that are mellow and relaxed alongside urgent and extreme black metal. There are six tracks (one being an opening instrumental) that are lengthy with a lot of ebbs and flows. It’s an extremely compelling and diverse album that will appeal to black and post black metal fans.
Herman Frank – Fight The Fear (AFM)
Guitarist Herman Frank has been in several different bands over the years, including a few separate stints in Accept that ended in 2014. His solo career dates back in 2009, with Fight The Fear his fourth solo effort. His band includes Masterplan vocalist Rick Altzi.
The album is traditional metal with a dual guitar attack of Frank and Heiko Schroder. As you’d expect, there are plenty of quality guitar solos. The songs range from upbeat numbers like “Fear” and “Sinners” to more mid-paced and ominous tracks such as “Terror” and even a ballad (“Lost In Heaven”). Altzi sings with a lot of range and power, and is able to add some grit and edge along with soaring melodies. It’s an appealing combination that doesn’t wear out its welcome, even on an album more than an hour long.
John Diva & The Rockets Of Love – Mama Said Rock Is Dead (SPV/Steamhammer)
Parody bands are a dime a dozen: what sets one apart from another is the songwriting. John Diva & The Rockets Of Love look just like bands such as Steel Panther (in other words, a cross between Poison and Guns N Roses), or in this case the characters from Blades of Glory, but Diva’s purported involvement with big acts like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and Kiss gives the band an air of legitimacy.
Mama Said Rock Is Dead can be aptly described as a lost Poison album. The songs are sleazy, sexy, hard-rocking anthems that, for the most part, sound great and will have partying fans cheering with their lighter apps held high. It’s unclear what sort of replay value these retro-hair band albums have, but John Diva & the Rockets of Love have provided the first guilty pleasure of 2019.
Maestus – Deliquesce (Code666)
The Pacific Northwest has produced its fair share of doom bands, some of which truly shine brighter than the rest. Maestus have that quality and are one of the better offerings to emerge from the dark and rainy region in recent years. Formed in 2013 by Stephen Parker, formerly of Pillorian, Maestus’ sophomore album is Deliquesce.
Maestus, in the original Latin, references a state of mourning. Deliquesce, a sprawling 50-minute black doom opus, explores this theme with melancholy mastery. Monolithic guitars and bass mesh perfectly with delicate piano and keyboard melodies. The vocals go from guttural to raspy, oftentimes overlapping, and the drums sound massive. If quality production matters to you, you will not be disappointed. Maestus, in almost every way, have crafted a near-perfect record with Deliquesce.
Malamorte – Hell For All (Rockshots)
Hell For All is the second album release since Rome’s Malamorte changed from black metal to heavy metal. One thing has remained the same: Satan. Old Nick is by their side on most of their song and album titles. The album shows elements of King Diamond. Other parts are more aligned with early thrash and speed metal. Scattered remnants of black metal also remain.
Hell For All features the occasional theatrical skit and part. Album intro “Advent” hails the coming of the Anti-Christ with horns and demonic noises. “Satan’s Slave” hypnotizes the listener with repeated chants “Satan is my Master!” and “Satan!” the latter part complete with LaVeyan organs. Satan’s name is involved probably a hundred times throughout the record. The album is serious, but there is a B-horror film vibe that’s cheesy and awesome at the same time. However listeners feel about the record, one thing is for certain: thou shalt know thy name, “Satan!”
Meslamtaea – Niets En Niemendal (Heidens Hart)
The Dutch band Meslamtaea perform a very traditional form of black metal on Niets En Niemendal, their second full length release, and first in 14 years. There is a conventional tone similar to what Drudkh play, but the music here is much more raw and simplistic. It can also be compared to the more harsh parts of Panopticon’s music. This album was alright sounding to me, but lacked enough melody to really bring a huge impact. Instead, we’re left with an album that has a good tempo and some strong riffs, but nothing particularly special to showcase.
It’s a work that brings a grim black metal focus and rarely diverges from this style to become somewhat repetitive sounding. The instruments are fairly competently performed, but nothing more than that. An array of thick black metal riffs only have so much impact because the production is only reasonable at best. The guitars are still the standout element with the shouted vocals being a slightly less memorable portion. This is certainly competently performed and it doesn’t overstay its length at a fairly short album length, but it lacks that extra dimension to really draw you in.
Back in 2015 when A Novelist released their first album Portraits, the high potential was clear and it was predicted to hear something bigger in the future. Folie, A Novelist’s brand new album, has fulfilled expectations.
Folie is nearly an hour long, which you might think is a bit long and it will lose you and may get you bored, but A Novelist have prepared a whole narrative, hyper dynamic record which have perfectly blended many elements from retro progressive rock to technical melodic death metal, with outstanding performance. It is not accurate to call A Novelist a progressive death metal band, because just by calling them a progressive [death] act, the band and their music have not been properly introduced. A Novelist have transcended their own path with Folie which will be remembered as the band’s milestone.
Ribozyme – Argute (Indie)
Though they have been around for more than two decades, Norwegian hard rockers Ribozyme might be unfamiliar to North American fans. For their latest album Argute they have expanded from a trio to a quartet.
Ribozyme combine radio friendly rock with progressive elements, and keep it within the confines of 3 to 4 minute songs. They bring both melody and creativity to the table, shifting between catchy choruses and proggy sections. The prog ratio is higher on songs like “”Tied To The Grid,” while tracks like “Coerced” are more straightforward. Their sweet spot is a fairly equal balance between the two, like on “Plasma” or “Sonic Wealth.”
Rosy Vista – Unbelievable (SPV/Steamhammer)
Rosy Vista’s claim to fame was being Germany’s first female hard rock band, back in the late ’80s. However, circumstances were such that they were only able to release an EP and a couple of singles in that time. Well, 35 years later three of the original members are back with their debut album, Unbelievable.
The twelve songs on Unbelievable consist of six all-new tunes, five rerecorded songs from their 1985 EP, and a cover of “Born to be Wild.” It’s clear these women have not been resting on their laurels all this time: their musical chops are excellent and Andrea Schwarz owns the mic. Unbelievable is a solid debut, and Rosy Vista should be proud of these hard-rocking results. Hopefully they stick around for a second album.
The Scars In Pneuma – The Path Of Seven Sorrows (Promethean Fire/Kolony)
A couple of years ago The Scars In Pneuma started as a one-man black metal project, but quickly evolved into a trio. The Italian band’s debut album is The Path Of Seven Sorrows.
Their style of black metal is melodic, with arrangements that are complex and atmospheric. Though extreme, there is a tinge of melancholy. They shift between shorter, more focused tracks like “Dark Horizons Ahead” and lengthier, more epic songs such as “The Glorious Empire Of Sand.” The vocals are death metal style growls, with some clean female vocals providing variety on songs like “Souls Are Burning.” They frequently change things up, which makes for a more compelling listen.
Yeruselem – The Sublime (Debemur Morti)
Vindsval and W.D. Feld are best known as the founders of Blut Aus Nord, the shape-shifting black metal group that has subverted genre standards for decades, and their involvement with this new project Yeruselem continues in the same regard. On The Sublime, the duo put an industrial/electronica sheen over their metal roots. With the wordless singing, programmed beats, and mechanical rumblings, the album is a collection of dark hymns worshiping the fires of a distant past.
Yeruselem meddle in the repetition of life, as these songs get into comfortable trappings unconcerned with conventional progression. The experience will either be too daunting for the listener, or so absorbing that they’ll get lost without realizing The Sublime is almost over; a product of the album’s running time of under 40 minutes.