This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters reviews include Age Of Taurus, Apocrophex, The Body, Burn The Priest, Grayceon, High Priestess, Knelt Rote, Lillye, Morag Tong, Mos Generator, Nequient, Obliterate, Oksennus and Overkill.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Age Of Taurus – The Colony Slain (Rise Above)
Five years after their debut, UK doomsters Age Of Taurus re-emerge with The Colony Slain. They’ve had a a couple lineup changes, adding bassist Leo Smee (ex-Cathedral) and guitarist Daniel Knight.
Their brand of doom is generally uptempo, with a lot of catchy riffs and memorable melodies. They do slow down the proceedings from time to time, with tracks like “Beyond The Westward Path” blending plodding doom with quicker tempos. They also inject progressive and NWOBHM flavors into the mix throughout the album. The doom template can be repetitive, but Age Of Taurus are more compelling due to the quality of their songwriting and the variety of styles and speeds you’ll hear on The Colony Slain.
When this reviewer wrote about Apocrophex’s Suspended from the Cosmic Altaar three years ago, a sore spot was the lack of indelible music. That issue has since been remedied on their Æternalis follow-up. With further tempo variations and a lofty sonic streak, Apocrophex show maturation in the time following their debut album.
That’s not to say they’ve gone mellow, though there is restraint shown when necessary to provide an atmospheric bolster. The tech-y pulse constantly throbs, sleek bass lines matching up to bendy guitar work. Æternalis puts Apocrophex back in a fine position after the wobbly Suspended from the Cosmic Altaar.
The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer (Thrill Jockey)
The Portland duo The Body have been very prolific over the past eight years or so, issuing around 20 EPs, splits, collaborations and albums. I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer is their sixth full-length studio album.
As usual, they explore numerous genres, and you can put the word experimental before all of them. Extended ambient sections are contrasted by more extreme parts. Vocals from Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota) and Chrissy Wolpert (Assembly Of Light Choir) are balanced with male vocals. Industrial tracks like “The West Has Failed” that have a danceable beat are paired with more noisy and dissonant songs such as “An Urn” and the alluring “Blessed Alone” that pairs ethereal melodic vocals with harsh screams. The lengthy spoken word piece “Ten Times A Day, Every Day, A Stranger” wraps up the proceedings. It’s a powerful and emotional album that takes a while to absorb, and while The Body’s experimental style isn’t for everyone, the creativity and impact of the album will resonate with fans.
Burn The Priest – Legion: XX (Epic)
For the covers album Legion: XX, Lamb Of God are using their original moniker Burn The Priest, since the songs are what influenced them in their early days back in the mid-’90s. It has been 20 years since Burn The Priest’s self-titled debut was released on Legion Records.
The songs on Legion: XX are a collection of punk, hardcore, crossover and noise rock songs from artists that are part of Lamb Of God’s musical DNA. There are well-known names like Melvins, Ministry, Agnostic Front and Bad Brains along with more obscure bands like the Richmond punk band Sliang Laos. Frontman Randy Blythe shows his versatility by using a variety of vocal styles ranging from singing to screaming. From the blistering S.O.D. classic “Kill Yourself” to the groove-laden Cro-Mags song “We Gotta Know” to the Agnostic Front hardcore anthem “One Voice,” the band transitions seamlessly from style to style. Burn The Priest balance putting their own spin on the tracks with maintaining the spirit of the originals.
Grayceon – IV (Translation Loss)
An increasing sense of urgency runs through Grayceon’s IV, a feature not always present in California band’s past work. The trio still has a powerful snap to their music, as Jackie Perez Gratz’s (Giant Squid, ex-Ludicra) cello pulls double duty as a rhythm and lead instrument. The frantic harmonies between Gratz and guitarist Max Doyle are pure ecstasy.
Grayceon shift from thundering metal to low-key rock, partially held together due to Gratz’s enlightened vocals. What makes the band noteworthy is not the prominent use of a cello in this kind of setting, but how they incorporate what is usually seen as a classical instrument in a way to avoid the music being characterized under that umbrella.
High Priestess – High Priestess (Ripple)
The L.A. doom band High Priestess formed a couple of years ago and issued a demo last year. The trio of vocalist/guitarist/organist Katie Gilchrest, bassist Mariana Fiel and drummer Megan Mullins are now issuing their self-titled debut.
It’s a bold move to lead off with the album’s lengthiest track, the 10 minute “Firefly” that has a three minute intro before the singing begins and extended instrumental sections, but they pull it off. They balance epics like that with more focused songs like the mostly subdued “Banshee” and the deliberate “Mother Forgive Me.” The tempos are generally slow to moderate with thick, heavy riffs, the doom sometimes taking psychedelic detours. Sweet vocal harmonies and harsher growls along with frequent shifts in styles and intensity make this an intriguing and diverse debut.
Knelt Rote – Alterity (Nuclear War Now!)
Basically formed as a power electronics/noise band, Portland, Oregon’s Knelt Rote took a new direction on their past few releases, combining black metal, death metal, grindcore and noise together to send their music to more a relentless, furious, begrimed level of extreme music. Alterity, as the band’s fourth and posthumous album is carrying the aforementioned context one more time.
Despite Alterity mostly revolving around grindcore tinged blackened death metal, the presence of noisegrind is throughly tangible throughout the album, referring to early days of Knelt Rote’s music. On the other hand Alterity takes some inspiration from influential old school death metal veterans like Immolation and Incantation when they are focusing on few slow paced doomy death metal parts. That has widened the impressive musical realm of Knelt Rote, one last time.
Lillye – Evolve (Eclipse)
The female fronted alternative metal band Lillye alters the landscape and reinvents boundaries. Virginia Lillye, with a strong background in musical theater, unleashes a dominating vocal that is aesthetically startling and viscerally pleasing. The instrumentalists provide superior accompaniment, and the hooks in songs like “Run” and “Brittle Glass” are ultimately satisfying.
Most notable is Lillye’s fearless innovation. They are not shy, and Virginia Lillye is anything but conventional. Her vocal lines are constructed of patterning that is unexpected, sometimes bizarre, yet delivered with such power and surety, we want to throw out all our classic records and start over…with her. If you want the same old thing, pick another band. Want to go exploring? Pick up Evolve.
Morag Tong is the name of a organization of assassins from the video game series The Elder Scrolls. Whether intentional or not, the British band’s first album, Last Knell of Om, is a suitable audio accompaniment to a video game and bong session.
Their hazy music relies on a glacial pace unequipped to move beyond that. It makes for songs that settle in and chug along with a bass-heavy approach on the spectrum of a band like Om (a coincidence that Om is used in the album title?). Last Knell of Om is a chill metal album, perfect for the coming summer season in the northern hemisphere.
Mos Generator – Shadowlands (Listenable)
Plying the riff-trade since circa 2000, Washington’s Mos Generator have long been second-tier fan favorites of the densely packed smoke circles nestled throughout the stoner rock and doom metal campgrounds. Their latest respectable effort, Shadowlands, will likely convince many of its greatness by way of its stellar cover artwork, while the music itself stirs little electricity and more often than not sounds like Foo Fighters with Dave Grohl on a wicked classic rock bender.
Mos Generator seem bred from a sunny clime, with riffs a plenty that are smooth, sweet, and weathered…if only those riffs and their accompanying refrains were not so familiar and innocuous. Tony Reed’s vocals are both sturdy and off-putting, toeing a line between radio and jam band festival rock that will serve to inspire those with only the most dilated of pupils. The opener and closer seem to win the day, but unlike the cover, Shadowlands never truly takes flight.
Nequient – Wolves at the Door (Nefarious)
Nequient vocalist Jason Kolkey has a lot to say on Wolves at the Door, with his biting social commentary about politics, religion and metal culture enhanced by the group’s primal delivery. Occupying a space somewhere between hardcore and death metal, with spots of grind and black metal for good measure, Nequient bum rush through this album with murderous glee.
They try their hand at sturdier songwriting, slowing the pace to a dribble, with an uneven endgame. The short and stocky songs, unapologetic and bristling with fist-closed anger, are where Wolves at the Door reaches its plateau.
Obliterate – Impending Death (Unique Leader)
The sheer number of slamming breakdowns Obliterate use throughout the eight songs on Impending Death is heavy enough to tumble over even the thickest of barriers. Sometimes it’s used as a crutch, which is the more standard method. However, when it’s supplemented by a maniacal death metal streak, the result is enthralling.
That happens enough on Impending Death to make Obliterate stand over their peers. The lighter touches, like a mellow outro to “I, Cerberus” or neoclassical shredding in the “Hellhole” interlude, add a great deal of wealth to counteract the traditional fare. This is music where every note has a blowback effect.
Oksennus – Kolme Toista (Nuclear War Now!)
Kolme Toista, the third album from the Finnish death metal band Oksennus is certainly unusual sounding. They go out of their way to be as unique as possible on this recording and it shows through. The music is slanted in a weird direction, but able to raise a pulse through the almost hypnotic wave of music present. However, this cacophony suffers from some setbacks.
First, the songwriting is sort of skewed all over the place and unable to keep on a clearly defined path. Second, the atonal sound of the band is somewhat off-putting instead of accessible and leads to a blurred vision of their music. This is still at times a riveting recording, but at most others just too all over the place to be worthwhile. The inconsistency is what prevents this disc from ever taking off and it gets mired in obscure beats and rhythms.
Overkill – Live In Overhausen (Nuclear Blast)
In April of 2016, thrash legends Overkill played a show at Turbinenhalle 2 in Oberhausen, Germany to mark the 25th anniversary of Horrorscope and the 30th anniversary of their debut Feel The Fire. The show was captured for the DVD/CD Live In Overhausen.
The 21 song nearly two hour set includes both albums played in their entirety for the first time, beginning with Horrorscope. They wrap up the set with “Fuck You,” the Subhumans cover that originally appeared on a 1987 EP. Frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and guitarist D.D. Verni are the only current band members to have been around when the material was originally recorded. This version of the band doesn’t have the youthful exuberance of Overkill’s early days, but their musical chops are much sharper. They have released a few live albums over the years, but the playing of two classics in their entirety makes this one especially desirable.