This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include Abscess, Bruce Dickinson, Bullet For My Valentine, Code Red Riot, Fates Warning, Naberus, Paradise Lost, Shylmagoghnar, Throneum and Vanhelga.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Abscess – Horrorhammer (HPGD)
Formed as an Autopsy’s side project back in 1994, Abscess became Danny Coralles and Chris Reifert’s main project after the demise of Autopsy in 1995. Abscess took a bit different direction than what they did in Autopsy. Coralles and Reifert along with Joe Allen and Clint Bower released numerous albums, splits, compilations and EPs from 1994 until they put Abscess to rest in 2010.
Horrorhammer, which is now re-released on vinyl for the first time since 2007, is Abscess’ fifth studio album. It shows the band’s thirst to keep old school death metal alive when a song like “When Witches Burn” comes around, but most of Horrorhammer is more upbeat, punky tunes like “Another Private Hell” and “Exterminate.” This bridge between death metal and punk isn’t something new, but Abscess tried to make a memorable connection and they succeeded in making a strong one in their music unpolished production and strong performances.
Bullet For My Valentine – Gravity (Spinefarm)
Bullet For My Valentine have been one of the most commercially successful British metal bands over the past decade with several top 10 albums and numerous hit singles. Gravity is their sixth studio album, and first with Jason Bowld, who replaces original drummer Michael “Moose” Thomas.
Their string of singles continues with memorable tracks like “Over It” and “You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War).” There are some heavy moments, but it’s a very accessible and mainstream record with a lot of atmospheric synths. And while there are some hits, there are also some misses. Some tracks are derivative, and forays into new territories don’t fully connect. Still, there’s enough for fans to grasp onto, and even if it’s not critically acclaimed will do just fine.
Bruce Dickinson – Scream For Me Sarajevo Soundtrack (BMG/Sanctuary)
In 1994 Bruce Dickinson had left Iron Maiden and was touring with his band Skunkworks. They played a memorable concert in war-torn Sarajevo, which is chronicled in the documentary Scream For Me Sarajevo. It includes footage of the show and the war, along with recent interviews with Dickinson, who made a return to Sarajevo.
The soundtrack of Scream For Me Sarajevo includes songs from his solo albums Balls To Picasso (1994), Skunkworks (1996), Accident Of Birth (1997) and 2005’s Tyranny Of Souls. There are also some rarities. It’s an interesting collection of more obscure but still quality Dickinson songs. It’s a good soundtrack, but make sure to check out the film as well, which has already won numerous awards.
Code Red Riot – Mask (Red)
Corky Gainsford was Otherwise’s drummer from 2010 to 2015, appearing on their two most successful albums and highest charting singles. He has now formed Code Red Riot, handling vocals, bass, guitar and drums on their debut album Mask. He also brought aboard guitarist Taz Azure for some of the lead work.
It’s a hard rock album packed with head-bobbing riffs and singalong choruses. Gainsford knows how to write a hooky song, with numerous memorable tracks such as the slick “Living Low,” the raucous “Bulletproof,” the anthemic alt rocker “7 More Days” and the ’90s tinged “Slide.” He doesn’t have a giant set of pipes, but sings with emotion and gets the job done on a promising debut.
Fates Warning – Live Over Europe (InsideOut)
Before last year, prog legends Fates Warning had only released one live album (1998’s Still Life). Last year they issued Awaken The Guardian Live, which reunited the Awaken The Guardian-era lineup to play that album in full. Now they are back with Live Over Europe, recorded earlier this year by the current lineup of Ray Alder, Jim Matheos, Joey Vera, Bobby Jarzombek and Mike Abdow.
The massive two disc collection, recorded in various European venues during their Theories Of Flight tour, clocks in at nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes. The 23 song setlist includes four songs from 2016’s Theories Of Flight, with the rest taken from throughout their career. The new songs blend in seamlessly with classics like “Silent Cries” from 1988’s No Exit. The musicianship is excellent throughout, and Alder sounds great. Even though they just released a live album, this one certainly will have a lot of appeal to Fates Warning fans.
Naberus – Hollow (Eclipse)
Aussie groovers Naberus return with their third album, Hollow. They cover a lot of musical ground on the record, incorporating everything from groove metal to melodic death to thrash to metalcore.
There’s plenty of intensity and aggression blended with melody and groove. The vocals are a mix of angry barks and melodic singing, done with equal conviction. Tracks like “Shadows” are pit-worthy, and you can also sing along while you mosh. Naberus bring a lot of energy to the proceedings, but at 14 songs, the album overstays its welcome by a song or two. A little streamlining would have made it more effective, but it’s still a solid slab of groove metal/melodeath.
Paradise Lost – Believe in Nothing (Nuclear Blast)
Paradise Lost went through a gothic phase and Believe In Nothing is one of the albums that has that vibe to it. The UK band played it safe on this, their eighth studio recording from 2005. This is a remastered version that includes bonus tracks, done because the band wasn’t satisfied with the artwork and production of the album. The songs are mainstream sounding and also very easy to digest. This is a change in tone to some of their recent albums that have been heavier. The change makes for a nice amount of variety that echoes the sentiments of other albums like Symbol of Life and Host as seen from songs like “Isolate.”
The songs are certainly catchy and infectious and have a great deal of memorability. Unfortunately, they are a bit shallow and lack the depth of some of Paradise Lost’s greatest recordings. This is still a very fun listen, but it doesn’t have quite the impact that the band’s best albums have. Those looking for variety from their Paradise Lost recordings might still want to check it out, as there are enough good moments to warrant a listen. This is a very good album, but not essential. I wouldn’t consider this version mandatory if you own the original, but for completists and those who don’t have it, it’s worth hearing all of the facets of Paradise Lost’s sound.
Shylmagoghnar – Transience (Napalm)
Shylmagoghnar’s sophomore effort is marked by a significant expansion of the blackened melodic death metal of their debut, Emergence. And when I say “expansion,” that’s exactly what I mean; everything on Transience feels bigger, grander and more elaborate than its predecessor.
This time around, the Dutch duo focuses on a more prevalent orchestral presence than on their first album. These songs are as theatrical and flamboyant as Ne Obliviscaris, Wintersun or Dimmu Borgir, but without the latter’s bloat and occasional aimlessness. And when most of the songs on the record break the seven-minute mark, that’s really saying something. But they’ve by no means abandoned their riffs; even when its songs are dripping with symphonics and traipsing into Shylmagoghnar’s proggiest territory yet, Transience is still just as sharp and forceful as any of the band’s influences in their heyday.
Throneum – The Tight Deathrope Act Over Rubicon (Hells Headbangers)
Oh, jeez. New Throneum. Those two words will surely arouse purists of ye old hideous deadly arts while simultaneously soar over the domes of all other heavy music fans. The Tight Deathrope Act Over Rubicon, the Polish trio’s ninth full-length of raw and rabid extremity, features nine tracks of belligerently ugly and implicitly unpolished death metal that will likely be packaged with a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
Asthmatic vocals and an explosive pots-and-pans percussion display assist greatly with the overall grim atmosphere, and Throneum continue to prove that they’re quite capable of crafting some appropriately primal riffs. But this is all highly niche metal and the record’s paltry production will quickly repel more modern listeners who aren’t actively tape-trading and gluing together fanzines. Still, for those curious, The Tight Deathrope Act Over Rubicon, as crappy as it sounds, will likely cause you to gawk dumbly at your tapping hands and feet.
Vanhelga – Fredagsmys (Osmose)
The Swedish black metal band Vanhelga have been around since the early 2000s, but have flown mostly under the radar. Their previous album was independently released, but for their fifth effort Fredagsmys they have signed with Osmose Productions, which should give them more exposure.
While skilled at atmospheric black metal with icy riffs, Vanhelga also incorporate regal and melodic moments and warmer vibes for a wide-ranging collection of melancholy metal. They blend deliberate tracks like “Psykotisk Självinsikt” that incorporates melodic singing alongside the black metal rasps with urgent and quicker tempo songs such as “Förpassad Till Misär.” There are surprises, such as the mostly acoustic, all melodic singing “Ensam Mot Alla” that’s downright poppy. It’s a very diverse album with twists and turns around every corner.