This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from 1914, Concrete Funeral, Constantine, Death Angel, Funeral Storm, Gaahl’s WYRD, Gloryhammer, Hidden Lapse, Janet Gardner, Kaleidobolt, Krypts, Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts, Pale Misery, Texas Hippie Coalition, Total Fucking Destruction and Vader.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
1914 – The Blind Leading The Blind (Napalm)
Lyrical themes of war are very common in extreme metal, as are albums focusing on a specific war. However, bands who utilize one specific war for all of their lyrics are not as common. The Ukrainian group 1914 draw their inspiration from World War I.
The Blind Leading The Blind is their second full-length. Musically, 1914 combine blackened death metal with doom elements along with period piece intros and outros and atmospheric soundscapes like “Hanging On Barbed Wire.” Tracks like “A7V Mephisto” are deliberate, while songs such as “C’est Mon Dernier Pigeon” have denser and more extreme sections. In addition to their original material, they cover The Exploited’s “Beat The Bastards,” complete with a bagpipe intro. The album culminates with the epic 10 minute “The Hundred Days Offensive,” a diverse and encompassing song that’s a good representation of the album.
The Canadian death/thrash brigade Concrete Funeral have a good grasp of the harsh side of things on their debut album Ultimum Judicium. Some very vicious sounding vocals atop the music matches it quite well. Abrasive riffing fits well within either the death or thrash genres. The music works well in all its caustic glory as the songs glide by with memorable efficiency and a rapid pace, but are allowed to have their impact implanted quite nicely.
There is a certain tone that the vocalist Devin Schum takes that make him sound similar to Exhumed and other bands and his death vocals fit well with the riffs that could be considered thrash, but also are somewhat death metal in nature. There is still the feeling that this straightforward type of music could be more interesting, but this is a small flaw in what is otherwise a very strong death/thrash offering. Fans of bands like early Kreator and Slayer will get a kick out of Concrete Funeral’s work. There is a nastiness that makes it more than just a typical thrash release.
Constantine – Aftermath (Rockshots)
After a nearly decade long absence, Greek guitarist Constantine (Nightfall, Descending) returns with his second solo album Aftermath. The record opens with an instrumental showing Constantine’s shredding ability, but the rest of the album features vocals from a variety of guests.
Among those lending their talents to the proceedings are Soilwork’s Bjorn “Speed” Strid, Primal Fear’s Ralf Scheepers and Destruction’s Schmier. There are a wide variety of styles to match the diverse group of singers, from melodic death to traditional metal to hard rock. “Deliver Us” with former Firewind singer Apollo Papathanasio even has symphonic elements. As you’d expect, the most intense song is the thrashy “War And Pain” with Schmier. There is a lot of talent on this album, with the songs fitting that talent very well.
Death Angel – Humanicide (Nuclear Blast)
It’s amazing how many Bay Area thrash bands are still around and making relevant music nearly four decades after the genre’s explosion in the ’80s. One of the most consistent and sometimes overlooked bands from that era is Death Angel. Humanicide is their ninth studio album. Vocalist Mark Osegueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany are the holdovers from the band’s early days, but the current lineup has been together for a decade now.
Death Angel have always been able to write songs that are not only technically impressive, but also memorable, and that’s the case with Humanicide. Galloping riffs and shredding from Cavestany and Ted Aguilar drive the album, with tracks like “Divine Defector” showcasing a wide range of guitar styles and solos. Osegueda’s vocals haven’t lost any of their fire or passion and are the record’s emotional center. While Death Angel embrace the glory days of thrash, they also incorporate modern styles and change things up to avoid monotony. From the anthemic “I Came For Blood” to the complex “Immortal Behated,” Death Angel continue to fire on all cylinders.
Funeral Storm – Arcane Mysteries (Hells Headbangers)
Funeral Storm’s debut album Arcane Mysteries is an authentic offering of classic Hellenic black metal that relies on atmosphere, melody and heroic, traditional metal riffs. Medium tempos recall the glorious swing of Manowar or Viking-era Bathory, but with a Greek distinctiveness. Tremolo picking isn’t overdone and comes when an epic note is required. Necroabyssious, frontman of Grecian black metal pioneers Varathron, further authenticates the classic Hellas sound. Keyboards solidify the band’s self-styled “tartaric black occult” vibe. Instrumental interludes permeate the album with horror film theatrics. The acoustic guitar preceding “The Martyr at the Lake” adds to the melodious richness apparent on the album.
Funeral Storm have been around in one incarnation or anther (started as Raven Throne), and released a series of splits and compilations with various lineups. Now with Arcane Mysteries, band founder Wampyrion Markhor Necrowolf has created a magnificent long-play opus that should resonate for years with fans of Hellenic black metal.
Gaahls WYRD – GastiR – Ghosts Invited (Season of Mist)
After a live album was released in 2017, GastiR – Ghosts Invited is the debut studio album from Gaahl’s WYRD. The former Gorgoroth member begins the album with droning music and vocals reminiscent of Mayhem on “Ek Erilar.” Harsh, Attila Csihar-like vocals assume a shamanistic role with meditative cleans and mellow ambiance to complete the track, thus foreshadowing the direction of the album. Bard-ish vocals and earth-rooted ideas are painted with a philosophical brush, as heard on “The Speech and the Self.” “Carving the Voices” features vocals, lyrical themes, and harmonies recalling fellow Norwegians Borknagar. Gritty, thrashy guitars mark “Through and Past and Past” as one of the heaviest tracks.
GastiR – Ghosts Invited has a complexity and simplicity that creates opposing forces and dynamism. The recording’s diversity, atmosphere and tremendous singing should land it on top of many year-end lists. It’s the album black metal needs to step out of its self-imposed box.
Gloryhammer – Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex (Napalm)
Cosmic metal paladins Gloryhammer have landed with what could easily be considered the best power metal album of the year. Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex combines the grandeur of the story of Angus McFife with shameless, epic, synth-heavy metal. Over-the-top cheese fuels every melody but there’s no shortage of superb songwriting. While the entire record is gold, the twelve-minute closer, “The Fires of Ancient Cosmic Destiny,” is notably dynamic.
There hasn’t been a true power metal album that has made this much of an impact on me in ages and it’ll likely be ages more until the genre spits out something like this again. Despite their tongues being firmly planted in their cheeks, Gloryhammer have earned a place next to DragonForce, Stratovarius, and the other greats of post-2000 power metal.
Hidden Lapse – Butterflies (Rockshots)
The whole “dark prog metal” thing seems to be the go-to for half of the female fronted bands out there right now. It’s not always a bad route to go, with Solarus’ sophomore album being the most recent example of doing it well. However, Hidden Lapse‘s Butterflies, while a solid record, ends up coming off as a bit contrived and relatively uninspired. None of the tracks are anything special and it has very few exceptional moments.
Electronic elements are integrated well and there’s no issue in the mixing department. But, although the vocals and rhythm section are very strong, both end up being limited by songwriting that doesn’t quite do them justice. In the same breath, the choruses are plagued by awkward melodies. There are some shining moments, but the foundation isn’t enough to bring Butterflies into being any better than good.
Janet Gardner – Your Place In The Sun (Pavement)
In 2017, Vixen vocalist Janet Gardner released her first solo album. Earlier this year she left Vixen to focus on her solo career, and is now issuing Your Place In The Sun.
Like her 2017 debut, this album finds Gardner teaming up with her husband, guitarist/producer Justin James. While you’ll hear songs that hearken back to Vixen’s ’80s glory days, there are a lot of modern elements as well. Tracks like “Assassinate” are melodic and radio-friendly with a classic vibe, while “Try” is an acoustic based bluesy ballad. “Web” uses vocal effects and some electronic flourishes for a more contemporary feel. There’s some filler, but it’s a varied and enjoyable release.
Kaleidobolt – Bitter (Svart)
First of all, Kaleidobolt is a great name for a band. A combination of kaleidoscope and lightning bolt, it also just happens to perfectly describe the music these frenzied Fins are gifting us with on Bitter, their third album. Take some jangly psychedelic rock, some hazy stoner rock, and infuse it all with a freaked-out attack reminiscent of King Crimson’s more chaotic moments, and you have the Bitter recipe.
It’s amazing to think three men can make such a racket, but I mean that in a positive way. The seven songs on Bitter are all infused with an undeniable charm. The transitions between manic and psychedelic are all grin-inducing, and the band has the musical chops to back it up. If wacky psychedelic progressive rock sounds like your ball of yarn, Kaleidobolt are your band.
Krypts – Cadaver Circulation (Dark Descent)
This writer has poured out his affection for the Finnish style of death metal in the past on this site, which so happens to be Krypts’ specialty on their third album, Cadaver Circulation. Though they don’t break away from the norms of the subgenre (the crushing production, the sheet of grime over each instrument), they’ve gotten the doom-laden death metal down to a soiled tee.
There are no double-digit songs like on their last album, Remnants of Expansion, or any plodding instrumentals. These six songs are primed with no filler in mind. Opening song “Sinking Transient Waters” flirts with combustible tempos, though that is an exception for a band more comfortable drifting through the decay. Cadaver Circulation fulfills one’s hopefully endless quota for Finnish death/doom.
Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts – Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts (MMRecordingworks)
Matt Mitchell is the vocalist for the British band Furyon, and also formed Colour Of Noise with guitarist Bruce John Dickinson and released an album. With his other projects currently on ice, Mitchell decided it was a good time for a solo project under the moniker Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts.
The album has a lot of straightforward hard rock with memorable hooks and singalong choruses. There are some unique moments, like back to back organ and guitar solos on the track “On And On” and the twangy “Old Enough and Ugly Enough.” From quiet acoustic numbers like the cello and steel guitar infused “Keep Me Safe” to rousing rockers like “Unavailable,” Mitchell digs deep and delivers an eclectic yet cohesive album.
Pale Misery’s Black Candles and Gutter Scum could’ve been recorded in an abandoned shack on the shores of a muggy swamp, the Southeastern U.S. humidity giving these songs a musky scent. If the band’s name or the album title didn’t offer enough clues, this trio revels in the bleak and hopeless; they gather strength from a place of forced solitude from every cretin walking this planet.
The band get into crusty black metal on Black Candles and Gutter Scum, which works for the most part (the eerie sample-driven “Quiet” is a hair too long for a 20-minute release). Closer “Hope is a Mistake” explores a dark, sludgy place that fits into their Louisiana home base and displays that Pale Misery are not just satisfied with being the crusty punks of the black metal scene.
Texas Hippie Coalition – High In The Saddle (eOne)
The potent grooves of Texas Hippie Coalition return with a couple of new members. Anchored by founding vocalist Big Daddy Ritch, new to the party for their latest album High In The Saddle are bassist Rado Romo and drummer Devon Carothers.
The songs are straightforward, both musically and lyrically, driven by southern-fried grooves. They are catchy, and you’ll find yourself singing along to tracks like “Dirty Finger” and “Tongue Like A Devil” while their softer side is on display on the ballad “Ride Or Die.” They pay tribute to a legend on “Stevie Nicks,” while “Why Aren’t You Listening” has a modern rock flair. With bands from Pantera to Molly Hatchet to Black Label Society to Clutch in their DNA, THC continue riding high.
Total Fucking Destruction – #USA4TFD (Give Praise)
#USA4TFD is the first album from the offbeat grindcore outfit Total Fucking Destruction in seven years, though the band has kept busy with EPs and splits. Some of those EPs, Monsters and Our Love is a Rainbow, are a part of this album, tacked onto the end as a nice bonus for those that may have missed out on them. Thirteen new songs make up the first half of #USA4TFD, which has the group in their usual warped frame of perception.
There’s nothing as immediate as a “Youth Apocalypse Right Now” or “Human is the Bastard” here, but the level of grindy consistency is admirable. The songs never go over two minutes, the band’s twisted humor is up front, and drummer Richard Hoak (formerly of Brutal Truth) plays like he’s holding his kit together with scotch tape. #USA4TFD is the product of an experienced band making strange grindcore as well as they were 20 years ago.
Vader – Thy Messenger (Nuclear Blast)
With a full-length album slated to be released towards the end of the year, Polish legends Vader are issuing the five track EP Thy Messenger.
It opens with the powerhouse death/thrash track “Grand Deceiver,” then rolls into a re-recorded version of “Litany” from the 2000 album of the same name. There are two other new songs along with a cover of Judas Priest’s “Steeler.” Piotr Wiwczarek is no Rob Halford, nor does he try to be, delivering the song in his own extreme style. The EP blazes by in less than 15 minutes, a nice appetizer for the main course set to arrive in a few months.