This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include Anicon, Craft, Hatchet, Hoth, Impending Doom, King Heavy, Like A Storm, Maggot Casket, Morgengrau, The Sea Within, Vein and Velvet Viper.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anicon – Entropy Mantra (Vendetta)
I have raved about the New York City black metal scene in previous reviews. The area has a bottomless array of talent, with groups rearranging hallmarks of the genre. Anicon can be added to that list with Entropy Mantra. Their sophomore effort exceeds their promising Exegeses debut with songwriting that gets progressively more complex as the album wears on.
Like many other NYC acts, the band members comes from other groups in the area. Yellow Eyes, Krallice, Trenchgrinder, and Pyrolatrous are represented in the ranks of Anicon. The musicians’ experience in the scene leads to grand feats of technical instrumental mastery. Though there are vocals, they tend to be a side attraction to the lengthy instances where all four members pick apart their equipment note by note.
Craft – White Noise and Black Metal (Season Of Mist)
The Swedish black metal band Craft formed in the mid-’90s and released a few albums in the early 2000s before their output slowed. White Noise and Black Metal is their fifth full-length, and first since 2011. Their lineup includes former members of Shining, and vocalist Nox also fronts Omnizide and Nidhoggr.
Craft play traditional black metal, varying the tempos from slow, methodic destruction (“Tragedy Of Pointless Games”) to moderate paced annihilation (“Again”) to a more chaotic form of aural mayhem (“Undone”). Their roots are in the old school, but the production is up-to-date. The riffage is repetitive at times, but are memorable enough and have an ominous atmosphere that helps reduce monotony.
Hatchet – Dying To Exist (Combat/EMP)
Bay Area thrashers Hatchet would have fit in perfectly in the early days of the genre, but are part of the wave of rethrashers that were spawned in the early and mid-2000s. Dying To Exist is their fourth album, and first with lead guitarist Clayton Cagle.
They pay homage to the old school with Cagle and vocalist/guitarist Julz Ramos’ twin guitar attack and add a few modern touches as well. The riffs are fast and furious with plenty of soloing. Ramos is able to deliver both lower and higher pitched vocals, giving their sound some variety. The album blazes by in 40 minutes or so, streamlined and focused. It doesn’t break any new ground, but is well played and enjoyable thrash.
Hoth – Astral Necromancy (Epicurus)
The Seattle melodic black metal duo Hoth are back with their third album, Astral Necromancy. While not a complete concept album, there is a theme of darkness throughout the record. There are theatrical moments, but it never devolves into melodrama.
Traditional black metal is mixed with melodeath for an aggressive but melodic collection of songs, made more extreme by the black metal style vocals. Icy riffs and somber arrangements give way to groovier, death metal influenced parts. They periodically inject Viking elements, especially on “Journey Into The Eternal Winter,” which includes some melodic vocals. There’s even a prog feel in parts of “The Void Between The Stars.” The production is a bit thin for my taste, but the songs are varied and memorable, a worthy follow-up to their well received 2014 album Oathbreaker.
Impending Doom – The Sin And Doom Vol. II (eOne)
It has been nearly five years since the last Impending Doom album. For their latest release The Sin And Doom Vol. II the California Christian deathcore unit are going back to their roots. Their first demo in 2005 was The Sin And Doom Of Godless Men, produced by Christopher Eck.
They brought back Eck for this album as they hearken back to the heaviness and rawness of their early days. The tracks are punishing and intense with aggressive growls from Brook Reeves, but with glimpses of melody as well. You’ll hear crushing death metal along with ‘core elements. The band’s message of redemption and salvation is delivered with a brutal and intense soundtrack, and there’s no doubt where they stand. In “The Serpent’s Tongue,” Reeves delivers this message: “I am a Christian, a faithful man of God, come at me!”
King Heavy – Guardian Demons (Cruz Del Sur)
Guardian Demons is the second album from the doom band King Heavy. Most of the band is from Chile, but vocalist Luce Veldmark (Hooded Priest) lives in Belgium. This time around he traveled to Chile for the recording of the album, making for a more cohesive recording.
King Heavy play an epic style of doom with songs in the 5 to 10 minute range. A lot of the songs are stately and deliberate with crushingly heavy riffs, but they periodically speed up the tempo on tracks like “(Death Is But An Extreme Form Of) Narcosis.” Veldmark has a unique style that’s very dramatic, giving the album a theatrical flair. It’s an acquired taste, but gives them a more distinctive sound that the typical doom band.
Like A Storm – Catacombs (Red)
There are Brooks Brothers who make suits, and then there are Brooks brothers that make hard rock music. Chris (vocals/guitar), Matt (guitar) and Kent (bass) Brooks are three fourths of Like A Storm (along with drummer Zach Wood). Catacombs is the New Zealand band’s third full-length.
Their brand of radio-friendly hard rock incorporates some harsh vocals along with melodic singing, giving them a little more bite than some of their contemporaries along with soaring melodies and catchy hooks. Utilizing the didgeridoo on tracks like the opener “The Devil Inside” is something you don’t usually hear in hard rock. Catchy singles like the the title track are balanced by heavier songs such as “These Are The Bridges You Burned Down” and the ballad “Solitary.”
Maggot Casket – Maggot Casket (HPGD)
Have you ever wondered what a rotting corpse sounds like putrefying in the summer heat? Well, Maggot Casket‘s self-titled debit is that sound and boy am I glad it can’t actually smell either because this is pretty awful. The music and the production, which range from shoddy to just plain awful, are forgettable from the word go; even the “samples” are poorly executed.
The only flash of musicality is on the beginning of “Harvester of Marrow” but it is all too brief a moment. In an era where death metal is so vast and plentiful and whose quality is usually incredible, Maggot Casket is a prime example of just how bad and overtly rudimentary the genre can be.
Morgengrau – Blood Oracle (Unspeakable Axe)
Morgengrau’s second album, Blood Oracle, is a crisp slap to the temple when heard. For an album that barely screeches by the 35-minute mark, these songs benefit from a scale that could come from an album twice its length. Each one has a momentous quiver that threatens the very foundation it builds up.
When that foundation collapses, the jacked tempos instigate a lingering uneasiness. The band do finesse their formula on “Poised at the Precipice of Doom,” with percussion sidelined in the intro as guitars sustain a crushing mood that’s appropriate considering the song’s title. Morgengrau produce zero-filler death metal on Blood Oracle.
The Sea Within – The Sea Within (InsideOut)
When a band such as The Sea Within consists of prog royalty like Daniel Gildenlow (Pain Of Salvation), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings) and Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani), it’s inevitable that high-quality music will follow. That’s what their self-titled debut promises and delivers; prog rock with decades of prestige behind it. Jazzy undertones (“An Eye For An Eye For An Eye”) and a multi-pronged odyssey (“Broken Cord”) are an added bonus.
Speaking of bonuses, this album comes in multiple formats, including a two-disc edition featuring four extra songs that were recorded around the same time as the album’s main eight. Usually this is a spot for prime B-cuts, but The Sea Within actually load up some of their best content on it. “Where Are You Going?” has a chorus worth celebrating over, and “Denise” is a tender ballad with Gildenlow putting his heart into each word sung. It’s worth spending a few extra bucks to get.
Vein – errorzone (Closed Casket)
Boston, Massachusetts’s Vein have delivered something fresh and extraordinarily interesting on their previous releases, becoming one of the highest acclaimed bands of recent years, and gaining them a cult following. errorzone is Vein’s latest album, collecting all the artistic imagery they have created and weaving them into nonstop wild and aggressive hardcore.
Vein’s errorzone is not only experimental hardcore, it is joined by loads and loads of mathcore and metalcore ideas and chaotic song compositions. Brilliant songwriting and stellar performances from Vein’s members have guaranteed errorzone to be one of my favorite albums of the year. On errorzone, Vein have precisely developed an electrifying style which can be totally heard as the future of hardcore.
Velvet Viper – Respice Finem (GMR)
The German band Velvet Viper formed in 1990 and released a couple of albums before disbanding. After a 25 year absence vocalist Jutta Weinhold (Zed Yago) reformed the group with a new lineup to release Respice Finem, which was produced by Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween).
Their music is traditional metal with NWOBHM influences, straightforward and melodic. Weinhold’s vocals, though, are a combination of traditional and power metal. She sings with a lot of passion and emotion, with vibrato giving it a more dramatic effect. She has ample power and range, but is able to pull off the subtle moments as effectively as the grandiose ones.