This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from The Accused A.D., Albez Duz, Big|Brave, Call Of The Void, Employed To Serve, Mental Cruelty, Mettadone, Monasterium, Nibiru, Pulver, Suhnopfer, Spirit Adrift, Tir and Whitesnake.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
The Accused A.D. – The Ghoul In The Mirror (Blackhouse)
The Seattle horror-punk/metal/crossover band The Accused formed in the early ’80s and released numerous albums, the last in 2009. The Accused A.D.‘s lineup includes former The Accused vocalist Blaine Cook and guitarist Alex “Maggotbrain” Sibbald along with Steve “The Beast” McVay and drummer Mickey Widner (The Poison Idea).
This incarnation has the same “splatter-rock” aesthetic as the original band. Tracks like “Hate Your Friends” and “Pick The Sores” are raw and fast with that crossover vibe, while songs such as “Dirt Merchant” and “Looking For The Smell” are more in the traditional metal vein with catchy riffs and a medium pace. They go back to the classic rock era for a punked up cover of Rick Derringer’s “Rock And Roll, Hootchie Koo.” Cook’s distinctive vocals and the band’s raucous music makes this an enjoyable listen.
Albez Duz – Enigmatic Rites (Listenable)
Albez Duz have a grasp on the doomy side of things on their fourth full length, Enigmatic Rites. Songs are long and developed nicely,featuring a number of shifts and changes to keep things interesting. Though the music is fairly straightforward, the band is able to make it seem complex enough for repeated listens. With both traditional and modern elements it can appeal to a variety of doom listeners. Large and crunchy riffs take a commanding presence of the instrumental aspects of the disc.
Could the album be improved upon? Sure, but there’s very good songwriting at play and a successful doom release is what it leads to. The band even has the guts to throw in an instrumental track called “When the Bird Fledges” that adds variety. This is a very ingenious and thoughtful doom record that deserves your attention.
Big|Brave – A Gaze Among Them (Southern Lord)
A Gaze Among Them is the fourth full-length from the Canadian trio Big|Brave. They are a dynamic band who have a variety of styles in their arsenal.
There are five tracks on the record, most of them expansive and varied. They incorporate dreamy drone, thick doom and experimental moments. “A Holding Pattern” is a slow build, beginning peacefully with the intensity rising before easing. The long exception to the lengthy songs is the three minute “This Deafening Verity,” a sparse and simple track with haunting vocals from Robin Wattie, who delivers a powerful performance throughout the album. A Gaze Among Them is a compelling and engaging release.
Call of the Void – Buried in Light (Translation Loss)
If there was a specific kind of light Call of the Void wanted the listener to be buried in on their third album, it wouldn’t be the warm, welcoming type; instead, it would be the blinding, burning kind. This light is intense, blistering every follicle of hair and every piece of skin tissue on the body. The band offers no escape from this light, no chance to step out of its path.
Buried in Light further extends the group’s volatile brand of hardcore, grind, punk, and death metal into 45 minutes of unfiltered madness. Save for a brief interlude halfway through the album, it’s a straight shot through the horrifying light. Call of the Void know what they are good at and work within this sound to maximize its caustic effect.
Employed To Serve – Eternal Forward Motion (Spinefarm)
Employed To Serve‘s previous album, 2017’s The Warmth Of A Dying Sun, received a lot of critical praise and garnered them a deal with Spinefarm Records. Expectations are high for the British band’s third album, Eternal Forward Motion.
ETS play metallic hardcore that’s intense, but also infused with melody. Throat-shredding vocals are balanced with memorable riffs and hooks. Inspired by predecessors such as Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge, they synthesize their influences into their own style. Tracks like “Dull Ache Behind My Eyes” crank the tempo up to warp speed, while songs like “We Forgot You” are more moderately paced. The brief and straightforward instrumental “Sore Tooth Twin” acts as an intermission halfway through before the carnage resumes. The album lives up to its title as Employed To Serve continue to progress and grow without losing any intensity or fire.
Mental Cruelty – Inferis (Unique Leader)
After releasing their first album Purgatorium in 2018, it took only a year for Germany’s brutal deathcore outfit Mental Cruelty to release their second album, Inferis. Although Inferis more or less follows the composition and motifs of Purgatorium, it’s easy to see that the band has quickly entered its musical maturity on their second album.
Inferis is deathcore, but clearly seeks to link the boundaries of deathcore to death metal. This is what separates Inferis from their debut and gives it a more dynamic sound, along with impressive album production. By retaining the voice of deathcore, the band add s components and motifs of progressive and technical death metal to their music, to experience the new meaning of being brutal in music. Mental Cruelty’s Inferis is a monster that delivers the sound of brutality in the best possible way.
Mettadone – Rotten Flattery (Archaic Sound)
The Ukrainian band Mettadone have gone through a lot of changes since their 2015 debut album. After the vocalist left, founding drummer/songwriter Evgeniy Shamarin moved to vocals and guitar and the band’s sound shifted from gothic/doom to death metal for Rotten Flattery, their sophomore release.
Their brand of death metal is influenced by bands like Hypocrisy and Edge Of Sanity. Mettadone writes songs that generally range from 5 to 7 minutes, and shift tempos and intensities to keep things interesting. It also gives space for lengthy instrumental sections, such as an extended guitar solo in “Obscurity Of Hypocrisy.” Hints of their gothic/doom past are evident on slower paced songs like “Pray For Help” that also has some melodic singing. They expertly blend brutality and melody for a successful reinvention.
Monasterium – Church of Bones (Nine)
Polish epic heavy metal/doom band Monasterium return with a glorious second offering, Church of Bones. Candlemass comparisons should arise; however, Church of Bones rivals or even usurps modern-era Candlemass albums. Michał Strzelecki possesses a similar vibrato wail to Messiah Marcolin, but his Polish accent bestows an exotic inflection.
Except for occasional screams, he doesn’t reach for the clouds on every note. His approach seems kinetic—as each track gains intensity, so does his voice. Smooth transitions and dynamic riffs result in dramatic chorus lines. “Sleeping with the Dead” and “The Order of the Dragon” are just two examples of riveting choruses. Tomasz Gurgul’s Egypt-inspired scale on “Ferrier to the Underworld” is the guitar-chord highlight of the album. Monasterium have a knack for adapting the rise and fall of action in short stories to music. The feeling of condemnation is genuine on “The Last Templar.” Church of Bones triumphantly captures the essence of epic heavy metal.
Nibiru – Salbrox (Ritual)
Nibiru are an Italian drone/doom/psychedelic trio with four full-lengths and an EP under their belt. For their fifth album Salbrox they have signed with Ritual Productions. The press materials say the album is inspired by the continuous re-adjustment between disharmony and balance, which is an apt description for the musical output as well.
The songs are lengthy and atmospheric, hypnotic and ritualistic. Harsh, ominous vocals combine with Enochian chants and thick atmosphere. The opening 14 minute opus “Enhb” has world music style percussion and an aura of darkness. “Exarp” is more doom-laden, while “Hcoma” has a cinematic vibe and “Abalpt” is experimental. Even while exploring different textures and styles, it’s still a cohesive, though challenging album that requires a patient and open-minded listener.
Pulver – Kings Under The Sand (Gates Of Hell)
Kings Under The Sand is the debut album from German five-piece classic metallers Pulver. These guys worship at the altar of early ’80s metal, taking major influence from bands like Iron Maiden and Tank. In fact, much like Maiden, Riot, and other bands of the era, these guys even want to grace their covers with a mascot – the Phantom Hawk.
Gimmicks and homage are fine, but you have to be able to back it up with well-written, well-played songs. Sadly, that doesn’t happen here. There are glimmers of talent in the dual guitar playing, and Dave Fröhlich has a very Jeff Keith (Tesla) grit to his voice, but the over-compressed drums and rudimentary, simplistic songwriting undermine this potential. A bit of seasoning is in order for Pulver.
Suhnopfer – Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes (Debemur Morti)
Less is more, or at least it’s supposed to be. However, in the case of Suhnopfer’s Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes, the opposite holds true. The third album from this French one-man group goes all out with its melodic black metal, jutting through precise twin guitar leads and fury-induced drumming. Musician Ardraos, who is the mastermind behind Suhnopfer, is best known for his time as the drummer for Peste Noire. Knowing this makes the prominence of the drums in the music an obvious factor.
The drums lead these songs, though the skillset of Ardraos with the other instruments is never in doubt. What may be questioned is his songwriting, which is technical pizazz that’s rote in execution. A few acoustic guitar passages do nothing to blot this out, and by the end, Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes becomes tremolo-picked notes whizzing by like a train passing every station to its grisly destination.
Spirit Adrift – Divided By Darkness (20 Buck Spin)
Spirit Adrift’s second album, Curse of Conception, was heavily featured in 2017 year-end lists, including yours truly’s. That album was slowly moving from doom to more traditional metal. That transition continues on Divided by Darkness, which the Arizona rockers still faintly holding onto their doom roots while fully (perhaps too fully) embracing their love of older metal.
Divided By Darkness is full of energy and brimming with talent. Nate Garrett’s vocals continue to improve, and the rhythm section capably backs up the stellar guitars. This is an album that traditional and doom metal fans will love. At times the riffs feel much too familiar: Ozzy, Judas Priest, and Pink Floyd all have distinct deja-vu moments here, and the homages could have been toned down slightly, but that doesn’t take away from an incredibly fun album.
TIR – Metal Shock (Gates of Hell)
Surfacing from the depths of the underground for the first time in eight years, Italian classic metal legends TIR are releasing their second album, Metal Shock. Even though they formed in the ’80s, the band have devoted most of their focus to live shows and building a local reputation rather than producing albums. As a result, they’re held in very high esteem in their hometown of Rome.
For me, classic metal albums are almost always either great or crap; there is no in between. Fortunately, Metal Shock instantly takes a stand among the former, with its dual guitars and colorful drumming building a solid foundation as soon as they come in. On top of that, the raspy vocals kick ass and the bass lines are clear in the mix. Using the premium fuel that the band produces, each song is energetic, catchy, and has a high degree of headbangability behind it. There’s nothing exceptional about Metal Shock and it’s pretty lean in the variety department but it’s classic metal done well, plain and simple.
Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood (Frontiers)
This week’s reviews have included some esoteric and experimental albums, but we’re wrapping things up with good old fashioned rock and roll. Whitesnake have been doing their thing for more than four decades, and Flesh & Blood is their thirteenth studio album. David Coverdale is the lone original member, with the current lineup including guitarists Reb Beach (Winger) and Joel Hoesktra (Night Ranger), bassist Michael Devin, longtime drummer Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne) and keyboardist Michele Luppi.
At 67 years old, Coverdale still has a great set of pipes. The guitar work on the album is stellar, and songs like “Shut Up & Kiss Me” would have been huge hits back in the day. Flesh & Blood is packed with bluesy hard rocking tracks that have catchy choruses and hooks galore. Many artists who had a lot of success in the ’80s are willing to hit the nostalgia circuit playing nothing but their old hits, but some bands like Whitesnake continue to create quality new music and add to their already impressive musical legacy.