This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Allen/Olzon, Azure Emote, Body Count, Burning Witches, Crematory, Five Finger Death Punch, Insect Ark, Lurker Of Chalice, Mortuous, Pure Wrath, Rose Tattoo, Ross The Boss, Trauma, Tulus, Viscera, Wombbath and Wvrm.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Allen/Olzon – Worlds Apart (Frontiers)
Singer Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob) and guitarist/songwriter/producer Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear) have teamed up with Jorn Lande on several albums (though Karlsson was not part of 2014’s The Great Divide. This time around, instead of Lande they brought aboard Anette Olzon (ex-Nightwish) for Worlds Apart.
The music is similar to Allen/Lande albums: soaring hard rock and traditional metal that’s bombastic and melodic. Allen is one of the best singers in the business with a powerful voice and dynamic style. Adding Olzon to the mix obviously gives it a different vibe, but it works well. The duo sound great on rousing, upbeat numbers like “Worlds Apart” and “My Enemy” as well as ballads such as “What If I Live” and “One More Chance.” Allen’s edgier approach and Olzon’s pop/rock stylings blend seamlessly on Worlds Apart.
Azure Emote – The Third Perspective (Selfmadegod)
After the 14-track, hour-long saga Azure Emote went on for 2013’s The Gravity Of Impermanence, The Third Perspective’s six tracks and 44 minutes seems restrained by comparison. That isn’t the case though, as the band’s avant-garde approach to death metal continues to subvert the typical genre stereotypes. When the band uses a violin, it’s not just for a tiny section of one song; it’s a constant influence. Female vocals don’t just beef up the background but are a leading player on several tunes.
Like their previous albums, there’s a learning curve in grasping all the ideas Azure Emote deliver. Nothing falls flat, though the two songs that go into double-digit lengths don’t quite reach the scope promised. The Third Perspective functions at its highest mark when ambition is scaled down into manageable sizes, as on “Loss” and “Negative Polarity.”
Body Count – Carnivore (Century Media)
Since re-emerging a few years ago, Body Count have been on a roll, issuing the well-received Manslaughter (2014) and Bloodlust (2017). Carnivore is their seventh studio album.
Once again produced by Will Putney (Fit For An Autopsy), there are also several guests on the record. Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta is a perfect fit, lending his passionate vocals to “Another Level.” A more surprising guest is Evanescence’s Amy Lee on the Nipsey Hussle tribute “When I’m Gone.” The songs are straightforward with Ice-T’s distinctive vocals and Ernie C.’s potent riffs. Two of Ice-T’s classic rap songs (“Colors 2020” and “6 In Tha Morning”) are redone in Body Count’s metal style, and there’s also a cover of Motorhead’s classic “Ace Of Spades.” The musicianship on Carnivore is razor-sharp, as are the lyrics.
Burning Witches – Dance With The Devil (Nuclear Blast)
On their third full-length studio album Dance With The Devil, the all-female Swiss band Burning Witches have a new vocalist. Laura Guldemond (ex-Shadowrise) is added to the fold, and is a very versatile singer.
On tracks like “Lucid Nightmare” she transitions smoothly from menacing to melodic. The production from V.O. Pulver and Destruction’s Schmier gives the sound a modern sheen while paying homage to the past. Songs like the title track are extremely catchy and have that ’80s feel while the mellow “Black Magic” has ’60s and ’70s influences. The album wraps up with the anthemic “Battle Hymn,” featuring Ross The Boss (Manowar) and Michael Lepond (Symphony X.
Crematory – Unbroken (Napalm)
The long-running German industrial/gothic metal band Crematory have had numerous lineup changes over the years. For their latest release Unbroken they add guitarist/clean vocalist Connie.
The album opens with the autobiographical song “Unbroken” that chronicles their resilience. It’s packed with songs like “Behind The Wall” and “A Piece Of Time” that are danceable and aggressive. They change things up with slower tracks such as “Rise And Fall” and “Inside My Heart.” At 66 minutes they overstay their welcome a bit, but there are plenty of quality songs on Unbroken.
Five Finger Death Punch – F8 (Better Noise)
Love them or hate them, there’s no denying Five Finger Death Punch are one of heavy music’s most successful bands. No flash in the pan, they’ve maintained that success for more than a decade. It has been a tumultuous last couple of years for the band, with the exit of drummer Jeremy Spencer and frontman Ivan Moody’s struggles with substance abuse. The band has emerged with a sober Moody, a new record label and a new album, F8.
5FDP’s run of number one rock singles continues with “Inside Out,” and there’s no shortage of other potential hits. The album is filled with songs like “Living The Dream” and “Full Circle” that pack a punch and have plenty of intensity, but are also ridiculously catchy. Moody’s delivery is as angry as ever, but also shows his melodic side on songs such as “Mother May I” and the soaring ballad “Darkness Settles In.” It’s a cathartic listen that follows the blueprint of past albums while infusing more depth.
Insect Ark – The Vanishing (Profound Lore)
Perhaps as Insect Ark intended, their latest release, The Vanishing, is an unusual trip, even by instrumental psych-doom standards. Six songs in length, the EP is a union of post-rock theatrics and cosmic meandering that creates an atmosphere that’s tense, unwieldy, and at all times hypnotic. There’s a sinking-feeling heaviness on display, one magnified by the use of ethereal slide guitar, grumbling bass, and celestial sound effects.
Whereas the doom genre tends to ‘hail the riff,’ Insect Ark do a fine job of relegating it to back seat status, centering instead on the ambiance and the journey—curiously, the riffs, in their most traditional sense, only seem to really manifest at the very start and at the very close of the record. The songs on occasion feel like interludes to something bigger, and it’s not uncommon to experience a sense of déjà vu as things continue to bleed together. Psychedelic without the hyperbole, The Vanishing is an impressive slow-burner that seems to urge the listener to fill in the holes.
Lurker Of Chalice – Tellurian Slaked Furnace (Nuclear War Now!)
Jef Whitehead is best known as the sole mastermind behind the USBM project Leviathan. He is also known for his side project, Lurker of Chalice, which released one self-titled album in 2005. He also put out two, highly limited CDR demos releases. Whitehead has compiled the two demos under the title Tellurian Slaked Furnace.
While the Lurker of Chalice full-length is a mix of black metal and experimentation, the two demos are far less rooted in black metal. The 12 tracks in question are filled with simple-yet-hypnotic bass and drum machine rhythms, infernal and lupine sounds, and dark-wave ambiance. There are few vocals, but the comp is not totally void of voices. “II” (all tracks are assigned roman numerals) features creaking voices and shrieks. It’s the blackest track. There are also backward voices. Album opener “I” features alluring acoustic guitar. Tellurian Slaked Furnace doesn’t contain as much black metal elements as the self-titled album, but it’s a dark journey, nonetheless.
Mortuous – Among The Lost/Mors Immortalis (Carbonized)
Among The Lost/Mors Immortalis is a re-release of two demos from the California death metal band Mortuous. These demos, 2010’s Mors Immortalis and 2012’s untitled (later renamed as Among The Lost), are bludgeoning roots that would grow into something essential with their 2018 debut album, Through Wilderness.
The order of the demos is reversed, which makes sense, considering the 2012 demo has stronger production values and a full band, while Mors Immortalis was written and performed almost exclusively by founding member Colin Tarvin. With most of the material from Mors Immortal was re-recorded for their 2012 demo, the last few songs feel more like bonus tracks, a way to trace a song’s development from where it ended to how it started.
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier (Debemur Morti)
The genius of Januaryo Hardy and his project Pure Wrath is how it doesn’t skimp on the ethereal side of black metal. That’s a staple of the group’s latest EP, The Forlorn Soldier. There are various keyboard and piano parts built into the searing guitars and painful screams from Hardy that give the EP a melancholy touch.
This comes in use for the concept behind The Forlorn Soldier, a chilling tale of a lost family during the genocide in Indonesia during the 1960s. A low-key piano solo at the end of opener “When A Great Man Dies” is given extra gravitas with knowledge of the EP’s backstory. Every release from Pure Wrath has topped the last, and this EP fits into the inevitability that the next full-length album will be a stunner.
Rose Tattoo – Outlaws (Cleopatra)
Back in 1978, the Australian hard rock band Rose Tattoo released their self-titled debut album, which was called Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw in some markets. More than 40 years later, the band has re-recorded the iconic album as Outlaws. The only remaining band member that was also on the original version is frontman Angry Anderson.
The album’s original ten songs are included, though not in the same order. It includes classics like “One Of The Boys,” “”Rock N’ Roll Outlaw” and “Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The new version of course has much more modern production, but there’s still some of the edge and roughness. Three bonus tracks are also included, which were written for the original album but didn’t make the cut. Rose Tattoo are a band every rock and metal fan should know, and their debut was very influential. This version is certainly not essential, though it’s nice to hear the bonus tracks and the current incarnation of the band playing these early songs.
Ross The Boss – Born Of Fire (AFM)
Born Of Fire is the fourth album released under the Ross The Boss moniker. Founded by Ross “The Boss” Friedman (Manowar, Dictators, Death Dealer), the lineup also includes vocalist Marc Lopes (Kobra Kai, Meliah Rage) bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X) and new drummer Steve Bolognese (Death Dealer).
Like their other releases, this is heavy/power metal inspired by the old school. Friedman provides plenty of guitar wizardry, with Lopes’ dramatic vocals displaying a lot of range and emotion. Tracks like “I Am The Sword” are catchy and straightforward, while songs such as “Shotgun Evolution” and “Denied By The Cross” are a bit more complex. While similar, Born Of Fire has more variety and slightly better songs than 2018’s By Blood Sworn.
Trauma – Ominous Black (Selfmadegod)
Started back in the late ‘80s, Trauma never got the international acclaim as fellow Poles Vader and Behemoth. They released their first album in 1992 after changing their name from Thanatos. There is a question of who influenced whom, but Trauma’s latest album Ominous Black is undeniably Polish death metal. The band even used the Wiesławscy Bros at the famous Hertz Studio (Behemoth, Vader) for the mix and master.
The guitars come off as sounding too buzzy and trebly, and a bit one dimensional in the chugging, churning style. On the positive side, guitar solos and double bass work are interesting. The bass really stands out in slower paced moments. The ringing guitar chords have a nefarious taste that breaks up the monotony of the chugging. Ominous Black has its moments, but Behemoth do this style better with more imagination.
Tulus – Old Old Death (Soulseller)
In a genre brimming with extremities, black metal can be a harsh and bloated war zone, but Norway’s Tulus effectively cut through the chaos with their latest offering Old Old Death. While black metal signatures of harsh snarls and blistering tempos are certainly at hand, Old Old Death gives more presence to its Sabbathian riff work and refreshingly audible bass lines to deliver an arsenal of bite-sized bangers that, despite never truly blossoming, scratches an itch typically out of reach to the black metal motif.
Instantly notable from opener “Hel” is Old Old Death’s near-pristine production. The album ditches the lo-fi sounds typically associated with the sub-genre in favor of a rich high-fidelity arena that allows the selection of ear-worm riffs to breathe. At just below 30 minutes, however, the track-listing rarely offers more than brief rushes of adrenaline. Elaborate it may not be but it’s hard not to have fun with Tulus’ newest venture.
Viscera – Obsidian (Unique Leader)
Viscera is comprised of members who have played for bands like Sylosis, Heart Of A Coward, and Martyr Defiled, yet this new group is unique on its own merits. Their debut album, Obsidian, skips between technical death metal and djent, with added layers of symphonic heft to boost its appeal.
It all meshes well together, with the only divisive point being the melodic vocals on a few songs (only the title track has extensive use of them). People may not want that kind of vocals in their tech death, but it’s another layer that balances the gruesome roars that otherwise dominate the vocals. The obligatory interlude “Lilith” aside, Obsidian has Viscera accumulating various forms of death metal into a riveting first effort.
Wombbath – Choirs of the Fallen (Soulseller)
The Swedish death metal band Wombbath have a scalpel-like roughness to their music. There is an old-school vibe to the music with influences from old Entombed to Asphyx, which gives it a very authentic feeling. The riffs are brutal and punishing, yet the band maintains a fairly mid-paced feel to their songs. This is very addictive and pummeling music indeed, but it doesn’t quite live up to the classics it tries to emulate.
There is simply too much of a déjà vu feeling to the album that prevents it from really sinking its teeth into you. Still, the music is very strong and packs a strong punch throughout. There is very little wrong with the songwriting and it manages to be very tight. With a bit of innovation, this might have been a fantastic album, but as it stands it’s a very good one. The band’s fourth full-length, Choirs of the Fallen gets a recommendation to fans of old-school themed death metal.
Wvrm – Colony Collapse (Prosthetic)
Colony Collapse is Wvrm’s first full-length album since the release of the acclaimed Heartache in 2016. After Heartache Wvrm released an EP and several splits that were still on the band’s musical path. Although Colony Collapse has incorporated the usual taste of Wvrm’s music, they are focusing more on death metal and grindcore.
As such, the presence of powerviolence and crust elements has become a bit dimmer than what was happening in Wvrm’s music. However, Colony Collapse still revolves around tense, complex and chaotic structures, which represents the dark world of humankind, full of suffering and extinction which dwells in the heart of post-apocalyptic themes. It’s hard to recognize Colony Collapse as Wvrm’s best work to date, but it completes the Heartache musical concept perfectly.