This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Above Aurora, Anonymus, Black Orchid Empire, BPMD, Curse The Son, Eisenhauer, Electric Mob, House Of Lords, League Of Corruption, Living Gate, Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall, Moonlight Haze, Nemesium, Obscene, Parkcrest, Ulthar and Valdrin.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Above Aurora – The Shrine Of Deterioration (Pagan)
Founded in Poland, the black metal trio Above Aurora now reside in Iceland. Four years after their debut and two years after an EP, they return with their second full-length The Shrine Of Deterioration.
After a nearly five minute instrumental sets the stage, black metal kicks in on “Virus,” which also includes some mellower moments alongside the icy riffs and intensity. That’s the case throughout the album, as Above Aurora shift between brutality and ambiance. Those regular tempo and intensity changes keep the listener engaged, and make songs like the 7 plus minute “Celestial Monarch” and 8 minute closer “Splinters” compelling throughout.
Anonymus – La Bestia (Bam&co Heavy)
Quebec-based Anonymus sang mostly in French on previous albums, but also English and Italian. La Bestia is their first album they sing entirely in Spanish. Three-fourths of the band speak Spanish and have ties to Spanish speaking countries. Musically, Anonymus play thrash metal with root groups in mind but modernized with hints of melodic death metal and traditional metal.
There are excellent production values, mostly by guitarist Jef Fortin. He worked with famed producers Colin Richardson and Jean-Francois Dagenais of Kataklysm. Palm-muted, chugging guitars sound thick and meaty. Carlos Araya’s drums hit hard and fast. “Bajo Presión” is musically and vocally reminiscent of Nailbomb. Oscar Souto’s vocal delivery is similar to Max Cavalera, who also speaks a Romance language, Portuguese. Souto also growls occasionally. “Cada Loco Con Su Tema” features impressive finger tapping. Iron Maiden fans would adhere to the melodies of “Tierra.” “Terremoto” hammers with brute force. La Bestia hits bluntly and brutishly. It certainly lives up to it’s name, the beast.
Black Orchid Empire – Semaphore (Long Branch)
Black Orchid Empire’s Sephamore is an elaborate, mediated and destructive venture through a thick sci-fi concept that can be equal parts frustrating and beautiful. What must be stated to the point of redundancy is that the sound these guys have conjured is phenomenal: air-tight, melodic progressive metal with the occasional punk-y flair harnessed through pin-point precision performances that finds no difficulty in exhibiting this trio for the diligent craftsmen that they are.
What stops me from referring to Sephamore as a work of the gods is a feeling of lost potential. Tracks like “Singularity,” “Red Waves” or “Natural Selection” are gorgeous, and at times brutal, moments of prog metal but are fleeting with run times that barely creep past the three-minute mark. While the rapid pace of the record does provide instant replay value, tracks never feel like they’re given time to blossom with the slight exception to “Motorcade” and “Evergreen,” whose wings certainly spread but never truly take flight. Despite my discrepancies with what could be, there’s not a bad song on Sephamore and you’d be a fool not to give this blistering neck workout a spin or two.
BPMD – American Made (Napalm)
BPMD’s American Made skirts the typical pratfalls of the dreaded “supergroup” tag by performing all covers instead of attempting original material that would be heavily scrutinized. Instead of pooling their choices strictly from metal, vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, guitarist Phil Demmel, bassist Mark Menghi and drummer Mike Portnoy go back to the ‘70s for some modern takes on classic rock and blues.
This isn’t a metal album, and the band makes that clear from the start, with Blitz saying as much in the opening seconds of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” However, there is a metalized sheen put on songs, like a thrashy outro or double bass drumming to give these songs a kick. An inspired take on Blue Oyster Cult’s “Tattoo Vampire” is a standout, as is the raucous take on Aerosmith’s “Toys In The Attic.” A listener can immediately tell these four guys had a hell of a good time recording American Made.
Curse The Son – Excruciation (Ripple)
American power trio Curse The Son have been around for more than a decade, plying their riff-filled brand of stoner/doom across the nation. Excruciation is their fourth album, and showcases a band surmounting numerous challenges, not the least of which was a nasty motorcycle accident bassist Brendan Keefe was in a couple years ago.
For the most part on Excruciation, Curse The Son play it close to the vest, staying well within the lanes of Black Sabbath worship, with plodding rhythms, heaving riffs, and Ozzy-inspired vocals. There are a couple of curve balls, though, showing that the band can be much more than a one-trick pony when it wants to. The blues/stoner rock combo that ends the album, “Devil Doctor Blues” and “Phoenix Rising,” turn out to be the most memorable tracks on the album.
Blessed Be The Hunter is the second full-length album by Eisenhauer. The German band plays a mix of doom, southern rock, stoner and traditional metal. They are often compared to Grand Magnus and for good reason because they create heroic, doomy heavy metal.
Danzig are another band Eisenhauer are often compared to. Singer Christian “Waxe” Wagner has a deep, masculine voice with a lot of feeling that’s comparable to Glenn Danzig, among others, but really this is just a point of reference. He has his own sound that doesn’t even come close to ripping off another singer. The music is closer to Danzig’s bluesy guitar style, ala John Christ. This Danzig comparison in string play is most apparent with the guitar notes that usher in the album on “Priestess of Delight” and the instrumental, “Tyrannus.” Blessed Be The Hunter is a catchy album that sounds familiar yet so different.
Electric Mob – Discharge (Frontiers)
Electric Mob are a young new band from Brazil, fronted by Renan Zonta, who will be familiar to fans of Brazil’s version of the television show The Voice. Zonta is blessed with an undeniably amazing set of pipes, and they are on full display on Discharge, the band’s debut album. Zonta would have fit in well with any of the vocal heroes of days gone by.
It’s clear from the outset that the boys in Electric Mob listened to a lot of their parents’ records. Discharge is an unabashedly enthusiastic homage to the hard rock and metal of the early nineties, just before grunge reared up. While not original at all, Discharge is a well written, smooth-sounding record that one can’t help but enjoy.
House Of Lords – New World – New Eyes (Frontiers)
House Of Lords emerged in the late ’80s with the MTV hit “I Wanna Be Loved,” disbanded in the early ’90s and reformed in 2000. The only remaining original member is vocalist James Christian. They released three albums in their heydey, and have been prolific since returning, with New World – New Eyes their tenth album.
Hard rock with an ’80s vibe is their bread and butter, with songs that are melodic and hook-laden. The production is pristine, the musicianship excellent with songs ranging from arena rockers like “One More” to power ballads such as “Perfectly (Just You And I).” Back in the day an album like this would have generated a few radio hits, but in 2020 it’s aimed at those who grew up in the ’80s or wished they did.
League Of Corruption – Something In The Water (Black Doomba)
League Of Corruption offer southern fried groove from Canada on Something In The Water. It wouldn’t be wrong to initially assume these guys come from the same Southeastern U.S. region that gave us groups like Down and Corrosion of Conformity. However, their climate is a bit frostier, which hasn’t deterred their escapades best kept for alcohol-fueled music marathons. This is straight-laced groove metal, with no reaches into anything outside of that zone.
Good thing the band does it so well, making the album a chilled-out affair that comes with its own mugginess. These guys know their way around a good solo and aren’t afraid to exploit that on these six songs. Even the bass gets its own lead time in the long instrumental break during closer “Where’s Your Savior Now.” Something In The Water is quality groove metal from a band of experienced, road-traveled musicians.
Living Gate – Deathlust (Relapse)
Members of YOB, Oathbreaker and Wiegedood have joined up as Living Gate, letting loose their vision of death metal on their Deathlust EP. Their vision is uncompromised by any contemporary genre standards, reaching to the past for intel on how to write these songs. A jagged gem like the title track is an animalistic nightmare, packing in bass guitar leads and a thrilling guitar solo into less than two and a half minutes.
While some of the members have hints of death metal in their other bands, this foursome goes all in on it with the material on Deathlust. Even when they switch into a less hostile tempo on “Roped,” the grimness is unbearable. Like any great EP, Deathlust moves quickly and leaves the desire for more in its wake.
Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall – We Are The Night (Frontiers)
Multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Kiske/Somerville, Starbreaker) formed his solo project Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall in 2013. The template has been Karlsson bringing in numerous guest vocalists while singing a couple songs himself. That continues on their third release, We Are The Night.
Tracks like “Hold Your Fire” with Animal Drive/Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Dino Jelusik have symphonic elements while songs such as “Queen Of Fire” featuring Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo are more in the traditional metal vein with plenty of atmosphere. Ronnie Romero (Rainbow) shines on “One By One,” while Karlsson himself is no slouch in the vocal arena, taking the lead on the title track and “Don’t Walk Away.” Tony Martin (ex-Black Sabbath, Blue Murder) makes a return appearance and displays his vocal prowess on two songs. Even with the variety of vocalists, the album still has a cohesive sound tied together by Karlsson’s songwriting.
Moonlight Haze – Lunaris (Scarlet)
A little less than a year after their debut, the Italian symphonic/power metal band Moonlight Haze return with their sophomore release Lunaris. Even with a short turnaround between releases, Moonlight Haze have still managed to progress from their debut.
The songs are catchier and more memorable, with the symphonic elements augmenting and adding to the music without overpowering it. Frontwoman Chiara Tricarico (ex-Temperance) is a versatile singer, able to sing in the traditional power metal style, but also using a more accessible approach on tracks like “Till The End.” A guest spot from Elvenking’s violinist gives “Of Birth And Death” a folky vibe. While breaking through in such a crowded genre is an uphill battle, Moonlight Haze take a big step forward with Lunaris.
Nemesium – Continua (Black Lion)
Formed in 2014 in Geelong, Australia, Nemesium experienced their first appearance with the release of the EP Sentient Cognizance and now, after five years, they have added a more serious form and structure to their music with the full-length Continua.
In the first encounter with the music of Nemesium, and specifically Continua, the sound integrity of the album clearly shows its enormous shape. Songs sound like they are following European melodic death metal patterns, but they are not just melody-driven pieces and have strong basis of extreme/blackened death metal. Continua stands on the border between modern and old school compositions. Although at some point the album seems a bit long, maybe because Nemusium were trying to show their ability to compose and present a rich showcase of their musical ideas, Continua’s brutal undertones, its killer groove and staggering dynamism makes Nemesium to be recognized as one of Australia’s finest metal acts.
Obscene – The Inhabitable Dark (Blood Harvest)
Obscene make no suggestions that they are anything more than a cutthroat death metal group on The Inhabitable Dark. A softly played piano in the outro to the closing title track is about as experimental as they get. Otherwise, it’s brute music pushed ahead by vocalist Kyle Shaw, doing his best John Tardy impersonation. Original, no, but they deliver some nasty shots on “Without Honor And Humanity” and “They Delight In Extinction.”
The guitar solos are kept to a minimum, appearing in the album’s last third on “Isolated Dumping Grounds” and “This Is He Who Kills.” Like any competent death metal album, the songs are built around the rage of the riff. It’s just enough to keep the album from disintegrating into a subpar take on an established sound.
Parkcrest – …and That Blue Will Turn To Red (Awakening)
The Chilean thrash band Parkcrest have been around for about a decade now, issuing their debut in 2016 and following that up with …and That Blue Will Turn To Red.
They rocket out of the gate at maximum BPM with opener “Impossible To Hide,” with blazing riffs and rocket-fueled drums. It’s raw and old school, with nods toward both the Teutonic and the Bay Area brands of thrash. While maximum tempo is their typical pace, Parkcrest avoid monotony by slowing the tempo slightly and increasing the groove on tracks like “Possessed By God” and the lengthy instrumental “Dwelling Of The Moonlights.” They tread down a well worn musical path while trying to establish their own identity.
Ulthar – Providence (20 Buck Spin)
Bay Area bastions of blackened death metal Ulthar are back with their sophomore effort, Providence. Their main goal remains the same, to explode on impact with tracks like “Undying Spear” and “Cudgel” filled with tremolo picked passages which accompany a death metal song structure.
The uncomfortable chanting during the title track adds a layer to this band’s repertoire which feels like they are careening through space with Blood Incantation and Nucleus in tow before returning to their desolate version of earth. Continuing on a similar path of destruction like their fellow northern California peers in Vastum, Ulthar have put out another quality death metal album to further cement their place in the scene.
Valdrin – Effigy of Nightmares (Blood Harvest)
Black and death metal can be interesting when combined properly. This is certainly the case with the Ohio band Valdrin, whose third full-length album Effigy Of Nightmares displays a knack for putting these two genres together. The music is fairly raw, but given a kick in the pants by an overall sound that is distinctly evil. This leads the music to be fairly atmospheric and carrying with it a large weight.
It is hard to say which genre is emphasized more because it has the machine gun riffing of a death metal release combined with the nefarious atmosphere of a black metal release. There aren’t many high points on the album and it sometimes sounds generic which brings it down a couple of notches. Still, the songwriting is solid and the music is poignant. This is a fun and powerful release that has a lot going for it. It has the right mixture of different metal genres for a maximum impact. Though it could be improved, this album still comes recommended to black and death metal fans.