This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from ACxDC, Between The Buried And Me, Binary Code, Bitterness, Devangelic, Firewind, Heron, Horn, In The Company Of Serpents, Shrapnel, Sinisthra, Triptykon and Voodoo Gods.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
ACxDC – Satan Is King (Prosthetic)
Antichrist Demoncore, more widely known as ACxDC, rail against inequality, fascism, and law enforcement on Satan Is King using the force of grindcore/powerviolence. In the four years since they last released new material in the form of EP The Oracles Of Death, the world has gone topsy-turvy. This foursome from Los Angeles, California has taken all of the madness around them and made a soundtrack to fight back with.
With songs mostly hovering around one to two minutes, including some outliers that barrel over those parameters like an unruly group of protesters, ACxDC stick to what works. They throw a catchy tune in, like the uproarious title track, which makes the 15 tracks more distinguishable. That doesn’t stop a few of them from blending together, but that doesn’t hinder Satan Is King as a compact 25 minutes of rebellious music.
Between The Buried And Me – Between The Buried And Me (Craft)
It has been just over 18 years since North Carolina progsters Between The Buried And Me emerged with their self-titled debut album. It’s now being reissued on vinyl after being remixed and remastered by Jamie King, the album’s original producer.
The album made a splash with an original approach that was heavy and aggressive while injecting melody. It was the only album drummer/clean vocalist Will Goodyear would appear on. At this nascent stage of their career they had a lot of metalcore and mathcore influences with boundless youthful energy driving the songs. It showed BTBAM’s vast potential, especially songs like the closer “Shevanel Cut A Flip.” While leaving plenty of room for improvement, there were flashes of brilliance that paved the way for the band’s future success.
Binary Code have come quite a way from their debut album over a decade ago, transforming from a prototypical tech death group to an absorbing progressive sound on Memento Mori. This is the second album featuring vocalist Oded Weinstock, and his ability to switch between emotional singing and roaring screams without either dropping strength is impressive. His vocals are a step up from his promising work on 2016’s Moonsblood.
The album’s setup allows him to put in an inspired performance, as Binary Code further step into a proggy style, with longer songs and orchestral synths bolstering the likes of opener “Filaments Dissolve.” The hostility doesn’t fade away, coming out bluntly on “Notion Of Gravity.” The band’s take on Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” gives an electric charge to a ‘90s alternative gem, and guitarist Jeff Loomis guests on “Those I Sought To Spare” with a dynamic solo.
Bitterness – Dead World Order (G.U.C.)
Bitterness have gone through an interesting journey in terms of passing through two different genres. One of the most underrated German bands, who began their career by combining melodic death and thrash metal, have released their new album, which is like they’ve issued a statement that made the transition to the final point.
It was with the band’s 2012 album The Final Declaration of the End that Bitterness slowly parted ways with what is known as Gothenburg melodic death metal sound and approached the classical elements and structures of thrash metal. Guitar melodies remain in the songs’ frames but riffs and Frank Urschler’s vocals stabilize the band’s shape as a thrash metal act more than before. From a general point of view, the songs may not contain any original notes, but Dead World Order is at a point in Bitterness’ career that stands strongly in the standards of Teutonic thrash metal, with vehement songs, and acting like a maniac!
Devangelic – Ersetu (Willowtip)
Ersetu, the third album from Italian brutal death metal outfit Devangelic, revolves around the concept of the theory of creation if that theory was from an Anunnaki myth. Alien DNA and deities are the catalysts that drive the outrageous, blistering music of Devangelic. Three albums in, the group has grasp the idea of being punishing while throwing in foreboding intros/outros and strong guitar solos to avoid becoming a tuneless bore.
By adding those elements, Devangelic gain an atmospheric advantage that doesn’t rely on noise alone for effectiveness. The impenetrable vocals can make the album’s overarching theme a bit hard to consume, though song names like “Eyes Of Abzu” and “Throne Of Larvae” set the tone all by themselves. Ersetu is an absorbing trek into the past of ancient beliefs and ideals.
Firewind – Firewind (AFM)
While guitarist Gus G has been the anchor of Firewind since their inception in 1998, there have been numerous vocalists over the years. The latest addition to that list is Herbie Langhans (Avantasia, Sinbreed, Radiant), who joins the band for their ninth album, a self-titled effort.
Though vocalists come and go, the core sound of the band remains the same: guitar-driven melodic metal. Gus G provides memorable riffs and a plethora of shredding solos. Langhans’ voice fits in well with Firewind. He has plenty of range, but also is able to sing with a bit of an edge on tracks like “Rising Fire” and “Perfect Strangers.” Songs such as “Space Cowboy” and “Overdrive” give a nod to the past, but the album manages to incorporate contemporary elements as well to give it a more timeless approach.
Heron – Time Immemorial (Sludgelord)
Heroes of East Vancouver, Canada, Heron are purveyors of massively heavy, blackened sludge metal. Time Immemorial is the quartet’s third full-length, and goes along with two EPs over the past five years. Mixing in healthy doses of doom and post-metal gives the band a more unique persona than simply saying “sludge,” much like the excellent band Adrift.
Time Immemorial is a short album, the five songs covering just 37 minutes, but it packs a wallop in that span. Musically Heron are a compelling act, with some excellent arrangements and supremely heavy tone. Vocally, Jamie alternates between guttural howls and blackened shrieks, the former of which aren’t entirely effective, but neither do they dull the edges of an otherwise formidable entry in the sludge/doom genre.
Horn – Mohngang (Iron Bonehead)
Mohngang is the eighth studio album by the German pagan black/folk act, Horn. The amount of instrumentation found on the album is impressive, especially considering it was all made by one man, Nerrath. Keyboards, horns, cello, clean and harsh vocals, and the usual metal instruments (drums, bass, guitar) comprise a triumphant opus.
Mohngang is a folk album, but some of the upbeat, folk parts of past albums have been downplayed for darker compositions, but still has parts that will make listeners grab an ale. Grim, medieval parts remind of early Satyricon, but with a polished production. The clean vocals, especially the “whoa” parts are heroic and memorable. Each song except “Upstream Canals, a Ship’s Bell Sounds” is titled and sung in German. For this reason, the aforementioned song is one of the catchier titles, not to mention the woodsy acoustic guitar and tribal drumming. Mohngang is full of atmosphere that will conjure ancient pride.
For their fourth album Lux, Denver doomsters In The Company Of Serpents have expanded from a duo to a trio. Founding vocalist/guitarist Grant Netzorg remains, with Ben Pitts (Nightwraith) on bass and lap steel guitar and JP Damron (Vermin Womb, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire).
Lux means “light” in Latin, and the album employs solar imagery in both the lyrics and album art. The record opens with the 10 minute “The Fool’s Journey” that runs the gamut from plodding doom to uptempo sludge and has enough twists and turns to avoid monotony. “Scales Of Maat” (with guest vocalists Ben Hutcherson of Khemmis and Primitive Man’s Ethan Lee McCarthy) has groovy riffs that slow to a nearly stationary pace by the end of the song. It’s not just tempos and intensities that shift, it’s also the vocal style. “The Chasm At The Mouth Of The All” features quiet spoken word vocals along with harsher vocals that are the norm throughout the album. The addition of spaghetti western style interludes makes for an even more diverse sound.
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
Quality thrash metal, I find, is a product of balance. Memorable riffs played at blistering speeds, mouth-watering solos and a run time that never reaches beyond its grasp. Shrapnel’s Palace For The Insane comes frustratingly close to hitting this golden trio.
I’ll preface my explanation by saying that this is intended as a positive review, with PFTI liberally leaping from boisterous riffs to eclectic solos that cherry pick styles from the greatest of thrash’s pioneers. I even found myself gawking (with my ears, of course) at Arran Tucker’s vocals. It’s a momentous mixture that echoes a culmination of Havok’s David Sanchez and Jason Newsted that capriciously snaps into snarling growls to rip the carpet up from underneath unsuspecting listeners. Sadly the album does itself no justice with an unnecessarily long run-time. It’s no prog-lengthed slog, at just under an hour, but the tracklist simply lacks the diversity (but by no means the strength) to justify such longevity. It may suffer under its own weight but I concluded PFTI having sustained my grin, I never thought an Ipswich lad could like something from Norwich so much.
Sinisthra – The Broad and Beaten Way (Rockshots)
You are forgiven if you haven’t heard of Sinisthra. After all, the Finnish band’s debut came out 15 years ago, followed by silence. Until now. The band is fronted by Amorphis’s Tomi Jousten, and The Broad and Beaten Way is the band’s long-awaited sophomore release. Those expecting a repeat of the band’s 2005 debut, Last of the Stories of Long Past Glories, will be disappointed, as the new album has a much more metallic edge to it.
If you’re looking to connect Amorphis to Sinisthra, don’t bother. Jousten sings in an emotively clear manner, and the music is more akin to Katatonia than Amorphis, an eloquently morose mix of doom, goth, and prog, all glistening and pristine. That being said, the songs here make The Broad and Beaten Way well worth listening to whether you’re a fan of Jousten’s other work or not. Here’s hoping for a more timely third album.
Triptykon – Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019) (Prowling Death/Century Media)
Tom Gabriel Warrior has been working on Requiem for decades. The first installment, “Rex Irae,” was on Celtic Frost’s 1987 album Into The Pandemonium, while the third part, “Winter,” appeared on 2006’s Monotheist. But there was still a huge gap missing, and Celtic Frost had disbanded. In 2018 the Roadburn Festival contacted Warrior, giving him the impetus to finish the project and perform it live with Triptykon.
The result is Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019), a collaboration with the Dutch Metropole Orkest. The new composition is the 32 minute opus “Grave Eternal.” While there are some metal elements in the opener, “Grave Eternal” is atmospheric and avant-garde with a choir and female vocals from Safa Heraghi alongside Warrior’s clean singing. While ambitious and beautifully performed, it may not appeal to those used to the extremity of Celtic Frost and Triptykon. Still, it’s an impressive gothic and orchestral performance that shows Warrior’s versatility as a writer and musician.
Voodoo Gods – The Divinity Of Blood (Reaper)
When the death metal group Voodoo Gods started back in 2006, their vocalist was Nergal (Behemoth). He was replaced as co-vocalist by Cannibal Corpse’s George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher for their 2014 full-length debut, and six years later the band returns with their sophomore effort The Divinity Of Blood.
New guitarist Viktor Smolski (ex-Rage) and holdover Jacek Hiro (Sceptic) deliver some impressive riffs and groove (especially on songs like “From Necromancy To Paraphilia”) while the dual vocals from Fisher and Seth Van De Loo (Nader Salek) bring a double shot of extremity. From deliberate and crushing death metal to thrashier, uptempo sections to mellower progressive moments, Voodoo Gods’ style is engaging and surprisingly catchy. They also cover Necrophobic’s “Before The Dawn.” While self-indulgent at times, it’s still a satisfying album.