This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from 22, Accept, Cattle Decapitation, Corpsessed, Flight, Foghound, InnerWish, In The Woods…, Neckbeard Deathcamp, Sodom, Unearth, Unreqvited and Virgin Steele.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
22 – You Are Creating (Long Branch)
Let’s kick off the week with a fairly unique album, an odd progressive hard rock record with an interesting concept. This double album from Norway’s 22 claims to be an interactive record, with the listener creating the effects of the music rather than the band imposing the experience upon the listener. It’s a pretentious statement, but honestly not far off what we all do when listening to an album that we really connect with.
Concept aside, the songs on are all catchy-as-hell prog rock/metal tunes that would go over well in any sold out arena. The band knows how to deliver in an accessible yet complex manner, similar to The Mars Volta and Zedi Forder, and the vocals are excellent. While the concept is overwrought, it’s easy to love these songs, and if that’s the effect we decide we are experiencing, then I suppose it worked, right? And with an album cover and lyrics loaded with Easter eggs, it’s an album that can deliver hours of entertainment.
Accept – Symphonic Terror: Live At Wacken 2017 (Nuclear Blast)
When it comes to live metal albums, the most common setting is probably Wacken. The legendary German festival has tens of thousands of fans and a great atmosphere. That’s the venue Accept chose for their latest live album Symphonic Terror: Live At Wacken 2017.
The two hour set is broken into three parts. The first part is a traditional Accept show, including both new songs from 2017’s The Rise Of Chaos and older tracks. Then guitarist Wolf Hoffmann plays some tracks from his solo album accompanied by an orchestra, followed by Accept with the orchestra, once again playing both older and newer songs. They wrap up the show with the iconic “Balls To The Wall.” The symphonic element makes it different than the usual Wacken live album, and Accept songs work pretty well with those arrangements. It’s available in various configurations including Blu-ray and CD.
Cattle Decapitation – Medium Rarities (Metal Blade)
Medium Rarities, a collection of rare tracks from Cattle Decapitation, has been in development for a decade. The 23 songs on this compilation span the band’s entire career, including demos pre-Human Jerky. From their beginnings as gory death/grind to their contemporary, mind-bending death metal, Medium Rarities traces the obvious progression taken during that period.
This means that a good chunk of the album is of a primitive standard musically, with sub-minute violent snaps that don’t hold up as well as their more distinguishable style that has been perfected since Karma.Bloody.Karma. Songs written from 2006 on make up the latter third of Medium Rarities, and those songs (mainly bonus material taken from Japanese album releases) are the absolute jewels worth wading through the album’s uneven first half.
Corpsessed – Impetus of Death (Dark Descent)
Corpsessed’s Impetus of Death adds another album to the heap of Finnish death metal; a decayed heap of rotted recordings, to be precise. There has to be something about living in Finland that drives people to produce the kind of filthy death metal that has a style distinguishable from any other region of the world. Corpsessed are not here to reinvent the genre, but to stamp their own presence in this blossoming section of the metal world.
The band gets into a zone of madness and doesn’t stray from it much over the course of Impetus of Death’s 45 or so minutes. Closer “Starless Event Horizon” flirts with funeral doom early on, possibly a nod to guitarist Matti Mäkelä Tyranny project, before its predictable descent into the thick of insanity. With a cleaner production than expected, Impetus of Death is less daunting than most albums from this shadowed corner of metal.
Flight – A Leap Through Matter (High Roller)
Retro rock rears its rusty head on A Leap Through Matter, the second album from Norway’s Flight and first for High Roller Records. The four-piece takes its lead from heavy bands like Saxon and progressive acts like Camel, resulting in a very ’70s-inspired hard-rocking prog number.
Musically, A Leap Through Matter presses all the buttons, with niftily-arranged rockers and some sweet arrangements. However, the vocals of guitarist Chistoffer Bråthen really let the album down. And that’s too bad, because the songs the band has written here could really hit home if well sung. Hopefully the band makes the change on the mic on their next album.
Foghound – Awaken To Destroy (Ripple)
It has been a difficult year for Foghound. The Maryland doom metal band’s bassist, Rev. Jim Forrester, was murdered in December of last year, just as they were wrapping up the tracking for Awaken To Destroy. They decided to continue on and finish the record.
There are numerous homages to Forrester, including “Death Will Tremble” and “In Due Time.” Foghound blend driving, uptempo stoner metal with slower, doomier sections and also mix in rock influences. Thick, heavy guitars are a constant, but they switch up tempos and intensities within nearly every track. From more laid back songs such as “Staring Down The Demons” to raucous numbers like “Gone Up In Smoke,” Foghound deliver a diverse collection of downtuned riffage.
InnerWish – Waiting for The Dawn/Silent Faces/Inner Strength (Ulterium)
The Greek power metal band InnerWish are reissuing their first three albums: 1998’s Waiting For The Dawn, 2004’s Silent Faces and 2006’s Inner Strength. In addition to digital and CD, they will be available for the first time on vinyl.
The albums have been remastered, but not remixed. You can hear the progression from their relatively raw debut to a much more refined and polished group on Inner Strength. The musicianship is always solid, but they become sharper songwriters in the span of these three albums. There’s not much in terms of new material, but for InnerWish fans that found it difficult to find the early albums, the reissues will be welcomed.
In the Woods… – Cease the Day (Debemur Morti)
Norwegian veterans In the Woods… bring a progressive black metal presence to the table on their newest release, Cease the Day. It is the band’s fifth full length (the second since their 2014 reformation) and their maturity is shown strongly on this release. The songs are well developed and feature a great deal of dynamics. There is a mixture between clean and harsh vocals by James Fogarty (Ewigkeit) that fits in nicely with the rest of the music. The album features numerous memorable portions and manages to strike a balance between forcefulness and melody.
It is the more gentle, introspective moments that resonate the most, but In the Woods… are really firing on all cylinders here. They are able to deliver black metal elements, but also put in some more folkish moments for a varied platter of music. The mood is dense and full of passion and makes the songs resonate strongly. This album is a nice improvement over their previous one Pure and completes the band’s comeback nicely. Like At the Gates, In the Woods… have successfully come back with a couple of solid albums following a long period of time off.
Neckbeard Deathcamp – White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers (Prosthetic)
Neckbeard Deathcamp use its unpolished black metal as a foil for jabs at far-right political ideologies, which got them press attention in the underground scene when they originally self-released White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers this past summer. Now being re-released by Prosthetic Records, this debut album takes swings at everything from Internet culture to infamous figureheads of the far-right movement.
Their simplistic music is another layer to Neckbeard Deathcamp’s wink and nod style. It doesn’t always translate to captivating songwriting, though the riffs on “XXXL Obersturmfuhrer Leather Duster” are magnetic. With song titles like “Please Respond (I Showed You My Penis),” it’s clear the band are not taking their message to heart. Whether that pisses people off, makes them laugh, or shrugs it off in indifference, there’s something on this record that will get people talking one way or the other.
Sodom – Partisan (SPV/Steamhammer)
Sodom had some major lineup changes recently. Guitarist Frank Blackfire rejoined the band after a 29 year absence. Tom Angelripper also recruited Asphyx’s Stefan Hüskens (drums) and Beyondition’s Yorck Segatz (guitar), and now Sodom are a quartet. The new lineup looks strong, as powerful as what Sodom’s newest EP, Partisan offers.
There are two new songs on this EP, “Partisan” and “Conflagration,” which both will take you back to the roots of Sodom, delivering goods from the band’s early days such as Obsessed by Cruelty and Agent Orange. After the release of 2016’s acclaimed Decision Day, the Partisan EP shows how Sodom are putting black metal up front once again, making it bolder than before to blacken their thrashy music one more time. There’s also a live version of “Tired & Red.” Partisan makes Sodom fans want to hear even more from the new lineup of the blackened thrash titans.
Unearth – Extinction(s) (Century Media)
Massachusetts metalcore veterans Unearth are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Two decades into their career they still have three original members (vocalist Trevor Phipps, guitarist Buz McGrath and guitarist Ken Susi), and are issuing their seventh studio album Extinction(s).
The ten songs bludgeon their way into the listener’s cortex. Tracks like “Dust” and “Sidewinder” blend heavy riffs, breakdowns and harsh vocals with catchy melodies. While they follow the musical path they’ve laid down over the past 20 years, Unearth also infuse some new elements to keep things fresh. Extinction(s) is streamlined and focused, with ten tracks clocking in at less than 40 minutes. It’s an effective combination of technicality and groove that will keep necks snapping and pits moving.
Unreqvited – Mosaic I: l’amour et l’ardeur (Northern Silence)
Canada’s Unreqvited are back with their third album – and second this year – of what might generously be called post-black metal. I say generous because the metal influences have nearly disappeared here. Despite the band’s foundation in black metal, one can hardly describe Mosaic I: l’amour et ‘l’ardeur as metal – the band’s love of orchestral arrangements now dominates the compositions.
Brief moments of distorted guitar do rise to the surface, while deep within the songs the anguished shrieks and howls of DSBM vocals can be heard faintly, but for the most part Unreqvited have given us a lush, expansive album of atmospheric post-rock with a hint of blackgaze, resulting in one of the more beautiful albums of the year. Just don’t expect your ears to be shredded by blastbeats and tremolo picking.
Various Artists – Sound Of The Raging Steppe (Tengger X Cavalry)
Curated by Tengger Cavalry frontman Nature Ganganbaigaali, Sound Of The Raging Steppe is a compilation of songs from five different “Nomadic Chinese metal bands.”
Folk metal fans are probably already familiar with Tengger Cavalry, who contribute two of the ten tracks, but the other four bands haven’t had much previous exposure: Nan, Liberation, Suld and Sintas. Liberation’s track contrasts extreme elements with mellow moments, as do Nan, but with a little more funk. The Mongol band Suld are a tight, professional unit while Sintas contribute one song that’s very straightforward and melodic and another that’s much more avant-garde. The compilation gives some well deserved exposure to some up and coming bands.
Virgin Steele – Seven Devils Moonshine (Steamhammer/SPV)
Virgin Steele have been reissuing earlier albums over the past few years, and while Seven Devils Moonshine does include reissues of 2001’s Hymns To Victory and 2002’s The Book Of Burning, the five disc box set also includes three discs of new material.
The three CDs of new material (Ghost Harvest Vintage I: Black Wine For Mourning, Ghost Harvest Vintage II: Red Wine For Morning and Gothic Voodoo Anthems) include plenty of newly written songs. There are also re-recorded orchestral versions of older VS songs along with some newly recorded cover songs such as Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” There’s a massive amount of material, with 58 new tracks along with the reissues. It’s a nice combination of old and new.