This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Archangel A.D., Artas, At The Gates, Bloody Times, Born Of Osiris, Jinjer, Mo’ynoq, Nailed To Obscurity, A Swarm Of The Sun, (The True) Veiled, Tytus and Violblast.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Originally released digitally in June 2018, Archangel A.D.’s Warband is getting a physical release in time to start the new year. The group is unapologetic in repping the influence of the “Big 4” of thrash metal, with closer “Metal Horde” taking cues from Metallica’s seminal “Whiplash.” Snippets of the kind of riffs Megadeth and Anthrax wrote in the 1980s show up, though they never get into the kind of ramped-up insanity that Slayer did.
The snazzy instrumental “Enter the Temple” puts each band member’s lead skills in the mix, and the gloomy “Evil Dreams” teases a doomier side. Where Archangel A.D. miss is with the standard fare mid-tempo songs like “Unto the Evil,” which opens Warband with a stutter. That’s the misfire in what is otherwise a pleasing nod to the past.
It has been eight years since the last Artas album. For their third record Ora Et Gomorrha, the Austrian band decided to go the independent release route.
They utilize a variety of styles. The first proper track “Gegen Dich” has everything from thrash to melodic death to metalcore, along with lyrics in both German and English. “Nick und Brich” has an acoustic intro and progressive moments along with intense metal, while “Black Pinata” is catchy and accessible. The songs with more varied approaches are more effective than straightforward tracks, though they overstay their welcome a bit with the album clocking in at more than an hour in length.
At The Gates – With The Pantheons Blind (Century Media)
At The Gates’ digital EP With The Pantheons Blind follows last year’s vaunted To Drink From The Night Itself full-length recording. The Gothenburg, Sweden legends offer nothing new in terms of songwriting. The six-song EP merely expands the visions of previous works.
What makes these tracks stand out from their prior form is guest vocalists. Craft vocalist Mikael Nox Pettersson combines goblin shrieks with Tomas Lindberg’s usual tortured cries on “A Labyrinth of Tombs.” Per Boder of God Macabre brings lends “The Chasm” an school Swedish death flavor. Rob Miller of Amebix and Tau Cross appears on “Daggers Of Black Haze” and “The Mirror Black.” “Raped By The Light of Christ” is a re-recording of the track from sophomore album With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness. Some might be disappointed With The Pantheons Blind is not new material, but should make At The Gates connoisseurs happy.
The draw for Bloody Times and their sophomore album On a Mission was twofold: vocals provided by ex-Iced Earth frontman John Greely and axework courtesy Ross the Boss. Turns out five other guitarists also play on this album, although none with the pedigree of the Manowar founder.
On a Mission is a straightforward power/heavy metal album, with nine songs about fights, battles, and victories. Bloody Times are undoubtedly a talented band – the rhythm section holds its own with Ross the Boss – but the strength of the material is uneven, ranging from fist-pumping anthems (“Future Secret”) to cringe-worthy numbers stereotypical of the genre (“Until Blood Boils”), primarily due to Greely’s voice. Fans of Ross will tune in for his playing on an otherwise average release.
Born Of Osiris – The Simulation (Sumerian)
Since their last album, Born Of Osiris have had a lineup change. Longtime bassist David De Rocha exited last year, replaced by Nick Rossi of In Motives. The band’s latest effort is The Simulation.
On the cusp between an EP and a full-length, it clocks in at around 25 minutes. Born Of Osiris’ sound has shifted over the years from deathcore to more of a metalcore approach. Both styles and others are represented on this album, from the melodic opener “The Accursed” to the progressive/djent/death “Disconnectome” to the atmospheric and technical “Silence The Echo,” Born Of Osiris bring a lot of different styles to the table on this focused release.
Jinjer – Micro (Napalm)
They have been around for a decade, but the Ukrainian band Jinjer really broke through with their 2016 album King Of Everything, which led to some high profile tours, including their first appearance in North America on last year’s Cradle Of Filth trek. As they continue to work on their fourth full-length and with more touring coming up this year, they are issuing the EP Micro.
As on their previous releases, they blend numerous genres and styles into their own sound. “Dreadful Moments” is progressive and groovy, while “Teacher, Teacher!” has a nu-metal vibe and “Perennial” has both aggressive metal and subdued melodies. Harsh and melodic vocals from Tatiana Shmailyuk add diversity throughout. The 5 songs (including one instrumental) are a nice stopgap until their next full-length.
Mo’ynoq is a city in the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, once thriving as a sea port until the recession of the Aral Sea caused the port to dry up. Like the abandoned ships left behind in the sultry sands, the North Carolina band of the same name leave a haunting impression with the black metal stylings of their Dreaming in a Dead Language debut album.
Ghostly remnants can be felt in the solemn piano interlude “Doomed to Endure,” though the spirits the band unleashes on the other songs remain unsettled. The second half of the album explores the outer limits of the genre, as the band’s growth is evident. They get more confident as the album goes on, a trait that pushes Dreaming in a Dead Language away from the typical.
Nailed To Obscurity – Black Frost (Nuclear Blast)
For their fourth album, the German band Nailed To Obscurity have signed with Nuclear Blast, which should increase their global profile. Like 2017’s King Delusion, Black Frost was produced by V. Santura (Tryptykon, Dark Fortress).
Though they take their name from a Hate Eternal song, Nailed To Obscurity’s brand of death metal is much more melodic and has some doom influences. The songs on the album are lengthy (most in the 7 to 8 minute range) and are slow builds. Songs like the opening title track and “The Aberrant Host” have both harsh vocals and melodic singing along with extended instrumental passages, while clean vocals are front and center on “The Resonance.” The pacing is generally slow to moderate, though they do pick up the tempo from time to time.
A Swarm of the Sun – The Woods (Version Studio)
The music A Swarm of the Sun perform is subtle in a post rock type of way. There is a very gentle buildup in these songs that leads to a vibrant climax. The music has enough weight to make the transition to the heavier portions smooth and seamless. It’s hard to characterize this music as metal even though it does get rather loud at times. Although The Woods is mostly post-rock, there are enough louder moments to make this worthy of review on this website. There is a very haunting atmosphere that gives them presence and style. However, the rather laid back atmosphere is appropriate, but also leads to the only flaw of the album.
Some of the songs lack a sense of urgency that the best metal holds. It’s a little too relaxed for me, but there definitely is quality music to be found here. The songs begin softly, but build up into something larger and grander in scope. If one can get over the lack of impact this album has, it is quite a spectacle to behold. Given that this is only the third full length of the band, they have plenty of room for growth and to make their songs more consistently enjoyable. As it stands, this is quality post music with a nice build up.
(The True) Veiled – In Blinding Presence (Into Endless Chaos)
With other bands already named Veiled (including the U.S. black metal group), the German outfit decided to add (The True) to their moniker. After an EP last year, (The True) Veiled‘s full-length debut is In Blinding Presence.
Their brand of black metal is dark and dissonant, sometimes repetitive and other times delving into chaos. They are equally comfortable with short burst of extremity like “The Healing Hour” and “Selfchasm” as they are with more fleshed out and extended compositions such as “Triunity” and the nearly 11 minute closer “Bringer Of Lambency.” You’ll hear a lot of early Norwegian black metal influences in their sound.
Tytus – Rain After Drought (Fighter)
Power/thrash/traditional metallers Tytus come to us by way of Italy, and Rain After Drought is the foursome’s second album. With stage names like Ilija Riffmeister and Mark Simon Hell, you know what we should in theory be in store for: a good time by way of ’80s-style metal.
For the most part, Tytus deliver in spades. The band drinks deeply from the well of Killers-era Iron Maiden, with dueling guitars harmonizing to great effect and galloping, riff-fueled anthems. While the back half of the album doesn’t quite maintain the pacing or stick in our heads like the front half, Rain After Drought is a solid second effort from a talented and charismatic band, and well worth picking up by fans of the styles mentioned.
Violblast – Theater Of Despair (Hostile)
For nearly forty years thrash has been going strong, with no letup in sight. Most of the genre’s pioneers are still going strong, and a couple of generations of newer bands have followed in their footsteps. Violblast hail from Spain, and Theater Of Despair is their second full-length.
The influence of earlier bands are evident in their sound, especially Bay Area groups like Slayer and Death Angel, but Violblast try to incorporate some modern touches as well. That’s most evident in mid-tempo tracks like “New Orphans Elegy,” which includes some melodic singing. The uptempo songs like the galloping “Prevail” and the blazing “Painless” have more of an old school vibe.