This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Alcatrazz, Cardiac Arrest, Dee Snider, Disavowed, Draghkar, Drouth, Dystopia A.D., Imperial Triumphant, Lionheart, Pale Horseman, Septicflesh, Soulrot, Thundermother, Valgrind and Warkings.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Alcatrazz – Born Innocent (Silver Lining)
Alcatrazz, fronted by Graham Bonnet (Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group), released three albums in the ’80s. Their frequently changing lineup included some virtuoso guitarists including Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. Born Innocent is their first studio album since 1986, with a lineup that includes three original members (Bonnet, keyboardist Jimmy Waldo and bassist Gary Shea) along with guitarist Joe Stump (Exorcism, Raven Lord) and drummer Mark Benquechea.
At age 72, Bonnet’s pipes are still strong. The music is straightforward traditional metal/hard rock with soaring melodies and big hooks. Potent guitars are at the heart of Alcatrazz’s music, and Stump fits in perfectly with an ample supply of creative riffs and searing solos. A few decades ago songs like “Finn McCool” and “Dirty Like The City” would have had plenty of exposure on MTV. They were underrated in their heyday, and this comeback record will hopefully give both the new album and their back catalog some well deserved attention.
Cardiac Arrest – The Day That Death Prevailed (Memento Mori)
Cardiac Arrest hail from Chicago, a city with one of the longest and strongest death metal scenes in North America. Macabre, Broken Hope and Master all hail from the Windy City. Cardiac Arrest have left their own bloody print on the death metal underground. The Day That Death Prevailed marks the band’s 23rd year of existence.
The production is excellent. Guitars, drums, bass and vocals all sound loud and upfront, but don’t overpower one another. The guitars are like a chainsaw slinging viscera, while the drums will bash heads into walls. The vocals are brutal yet decipherable. “Sodomite” exemplifies the bands ability to seamlessly shift tempos from pure speed into chunky grind parts. “Plague Ridden Destiny” shows the band downshift into diabolic doom. Inferno crackling bass solos appear during “Naegleric Outbreak” and “Up From Oblivion.” The Day That Death Prevailed isn’t fancy or pretty, it’s a blunt force, aural concussion.
Dee Snider – For The Love Of Metal Live (Napalm)
In 2018, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider released For The Love Of Metal, his fourth solo album. For The Love Of Metal Live is a DVD/CD that captures performances from several festivals around the world.
Snider performs both solo material and Twisted Sister classics like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” along with AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell.” There’s also a brand new song, “Prove Me Wrong.” It’s uptempo and heavy that incorporates both modern and classic styles. In addition to the live material, the DVD/Blu-ray has interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and other material. Snider is one of hard rock/metal’s most iconic frontmen, especially in a live setting. He commands the stage, and the live versions of these songs are potent and energetic.
Disavowed – Revocation Of The Fallen (Brutal Mind)
Disavowed’s last album was released 13 years ago, so when they announced that they would return with a new album in 2020, they delighted their fans. Revocation Of The Fallen, Disavowed’s third album, reminds us how these Dutch brutal death metal titans master the making of brutal and groovy music.
Revocation Of The Fallen reveals the narrow line between the world of brutal and technical death metal. This album is a violent storm of voluminous and complex riffs. As it passes from one riff to another, technical touches turn this transition into a destructive driving force. Also, what the album shows is the ultimate expertise of all five members of Disavowed, who with dazzling performances turn this monstrous, violent storm into a fascinating scene. 13 years of absence may be a long time, but it seems Disavowed used this to renovate their music, recording their best album to date.
Draghkar – At The Crossroads Of Infinity (Unspeakable Axe)
After some demos, splits and EPs, SoCal death merchants Draghkar emerge with their first full-length album, At The Crossroads Of Infinity. They’ve had almost a complete lineup overhaul since their 2018 EP The Endless Howling Abyss, with guitarist Brandon Corsair the lone remaining holdover from that release.
Their approach on this album is more polished than their earlier work, but still has plenty of rawness and aggression. In addition to death metal, the band incorporates elements of genres including black metal and thrash to add even more variety. New vocalist Daniel Butler is a strong addition, a proven commodity who is also in Vastum and Acephalix. From uptempo chaotic tracks like “Beyond Despair, The Dawn Of Rebirth” to varied, shifting songs like “An Erosion Of The Eternal Soul,” Draghkar have made a quantum leap on this album.
Drouth – Excerpts From A Dread Liturgy (Translation Loss)
It may only take 40 minutes to get through Drouth’s sophomore album, Excerpts From A Dread Liturgy, but the group doesn’t make it easy. The album has mammoths disguised as cheetahs, effortlessly gliding through seven-to-nine minute songs while holding the infinite weight of gloom on its back. There’s pieces of doom and crust in their DNA, but it’s overpowered by unswerving black metal.
“A Drowning In Sunlight” is a pulse-heightening opener, throwing Excerpts From A Dread Liturgy into disarray early on. Bookending the album is the immediacy of “A Crown Of Asphodels,” which doesn’t languish in its blistering tempo. The punishment doesn’t relent in-between those songs, though the first few minutes of “O Time Thy Pyramids – An Unfinished Nightmare” play up an unsetting mood with muted guitar work.
The latest EP from melodic death metal band Dystopia A.D., Rise Of The Merciless has musician Chris Whitby join up with guitarist Aki Shishido. Shishido had an impressive solo on “The March” off the band’s debut album, Designing Ruin, so more of his superior virtuosity is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s the dazzling guitar solos that resonate the strongest with this EP.
Whitby handles everything else, and his vision makes it evident that he doesn’t want Dystopia A.D. to be just another death metal band. He incorporates acoustic guitars into several songs, and his vocals stretch into melodic tones, to uneven results. Some of the ideas are better realized than others, but as an EP, Rise Of The Merciless is the perfect length for what Dystopia A.D. strived for.
Imperial Triumphant – Alphaville (Century Media)
After an array of EPs and three full-length albums, avant-garde trio Imperial Triumphant issue their first release through Century Media and fourth overall, Alphaville. There is nothing normal about the album, but some of the musical themes include atmosphere, orchestration, jazz components and tech-death brutality.
Eerie sci-fi noises usher in the album on “Rotted Futures.” These noises shimmer but progressively become louder before the clunk of the bass and drums come in. The rhythm section is very important on Alphaville. The bass is upfront and often takes lead, cutting through the chaotic din of the drums. Organs and other orchestral elements create twisted interludes as heard on the end of “Rotted Futures.” “Transmission to Mercury” features a jazz opening with brass that appears during the death metal moments. The Voivod cover “Experiment” fits well for the band’s technical style. Whether it’s bewildering fast crescendos, chunky grooves, trippy effects, oddly timed death metal or peculiar orchestrations, Alphaville will keep listeners guessing what comes next.
Lionheart – The Reality of Miracles (Metalville)
Do you want to listen to Def Leppard? Iron Maiden? Or perhaps some UFO or MSG? Well, then my advice would be to do just that and not put yourself through Lionheart’s latest full-length album, The Reality Of Miracles, unless you want a watered-down broth of some of ’80s hard rock’s most worn tropes.
Arising from hibernation since the late 1980s, the hard rock quintet that shares its DNA with Tygers of Pan Tang, Iron Maiden, MSG, UFO and Shy, have refused to mold with time, the timeless sounds of ’80s hard rock embedded deeply into each of the album’s 13 tracks. This wouldn’t be such a crime if the aim was pure nostalgia bait, but the result is a record that severely lacks identity. Performances are adequate and production is tight throughout, but Lionheart leave a frustrating feeling of redundancy. It is true that tracks like “Thine is the Kingdom” holds a catchy hook and that “Behind the Wall” touts great melodies, but what scarce merit found in these tracks is delivered in heaps by Lionheart’s superior influences.
There is a good amount of combination between the doom and sludge genres at play on Pale Horseman‘s fifth full-length For Dust Thou Art. The Chicago band manages to make this amalgam of sounds their own. There are hints of Pallbearer in the doom sound, which result in huge riffs. There are also more sludge type moments on the disc that recall the likes of Mastodon. The songs groove along at a medium tempo and manage to raise your pulse time and time again.
The songwriting is solid and the production crisp, making the songs even more appealing. A small flaw to be found lies in the fact that the songs sound very similar, leading the band to sound somewhat generic. Regardless of this, the music hits most of the right notes and delivers the goods. The heaviness and punch of Pale Horseman make them a force to be reckoned with. Add in a slightly more dynamic sound and we might have something truly special on our hands. As it stands, For Dust Thou Art is an appealing piece of doom combined with sludge.
Septicflesh – Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX (Season Of Mist)
As Septicflesh fans await the follow-up to 2017’s Codex Omega, the Greek symphonic death metal band is issuing Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX, a Blu-ray/2CD of their 2019 show in Mexico City. It’s a massive production, including over 100 musicians from the Symphonic Experience Orchestra, the Enharmonia Vocalis Choir and the National University Of Mexico Children’s And Youth Choir.
It’s the perfect setting for Septicflesh’s epic compositions, and the band and orchestra blend extremely well. Neither overshadows the other, with a seamless mix of extreme metal and symphonic elements. The 14 songs draw heavily from Codex Omega, with five tracks from that release. Four songs are from 2008’s Communion. The 80 minute show flies by with excellent performances by everyone, making for a unique release that Septicflesh fans will want to add to their collection.
Soulrot – Victims of Spiritual Warfare (Memento Mori)
Chilean death metal unit Soulrot bring death metal by way of a heavy Swedish influence. The buzzsaw tones are felt all throughout Victims of Spiritual Warfare with the slow doomy dirges reminiscent of some of the heaviest parts of Left Hand Path.
“Nihilisitic Automata” and “I, Master” showcase some of the best riffs on the album and work well by interweaving different tempos amongst the chaos with excellent shifts by way of a stop/start mentality part way through the song; a literal shifting of gears. This album is a relative quick hit at just under 40 minutes, allowing for multiple doses of death.
Thundermother – Heat Wave (AFM)
Swedish hard rockers Thundermother have signed with AFM Records for their fourth album, Heat Wave. It’s the second release with the current lineup of vocalist Guernica Mancini, guitarist Filippa Nassil (the lone remaining original member), bassist Majsan Lindberg and drummer Emlee Johansson.
Like their other albums, Heat Wave delivers bluesy hard rock with anthemic choruses and driving guitars. There’s the retro rock of “Back In 76,” the frenetic pace of “Into The Mud” and the AC/DC-esque “Free Ourselves.” Their musical palette runs the gamut from blues to punk to metal to good old rock and roll. The songs are relatively simple, but there’s ample variety and catchiness to avoid monotony.
Valgrind – Condemnation (Memento Mori)
Italian intimidators Valgrind are death metal by way of a heavy American influences, especially Morbid Angel, with major changes in time signature and great galloping sections that help to break up the chaos. Condemnation is their fourth full-length.
“The Curse of Pegasus Spawn” is the best kind of technicality as it adds to the album and doesn’t feel put on. Vocalist Daniele Lupidi does a great job sounding like John Tardy combined with David Vincent and much like Vincent he is shouting actual words too, look no further than “Entangled in a World Below.” There haven’t been a ton of death metal records this year that combine the songwriting, technicality, and riffs that Condemnation does and they are more than worth your time.
Warkings – Revenge (Napalm)
The power metal band Warkings emerged a couple of years ago with Reborn, with the members using pseudonyms. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out that vocalist Tribune was Georg Neuhauser from Serenity. Two years later they return with Revenge, their sophomore full-length.
The ten songs tackle typical power metal lyrical topics like heroic battles, and the music is standard power metal fare as well. While not overly original, the execution is solid. Songs like “Warrior” bring heaviness and catchy melodies. “Odin’s Sons” features female growls while “Banners High” is the requisite ballad. The album closes with the anthemic “Warking.” It’s a step up from their debut that fans of bands like Hammerfall, Sabaton and of course Serenity should enjoy.