This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Amahiru, Cadaver, Ceremonial Castings, Diamond Head, Dream Theater, Eleine, Glorious Depravity, Plini, Scour, Shores Of Null, Sodom, Sorceress Of Sin and Voivod.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Amahiru – Amahiru (earMusic)
Amahiru are a new band formed by Frederik Leclercq (Kreator, Sinsaenum, ex-Dragonforce) and guitarist Saki from the Japanese power metal band Mary’s Blood. The lineup is rounded out by Epica’s Coen Janssen on keyboards, Fear Factory/Raven drummer Mike Heller and vocalist Archie Wilson.
The songs on their self-titled debut are melodic and catchy, with elements of hard rock, traditional metal and some Dragonforce style extreme power metal. Leclercq and Saki’s guitar work is front and center, with plenty of shredding and soloing. The instrumental “Ninja No Tomashii” gives them plenty of room to show their skills, while “Waves” is more reserved and introspective. Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd guests on “Lucky Star” while the late Sean Reinert (Cynic) appears on an alternative version of “Bringing Me Down.” First-class musicianship and a modern sound make for an interesting debut from Amahiru.
Cadaver – Edder & Bile (Nuclear Blast)
Norwegian masters of slaughter Cadaver drop their first album in 16 years with Edder & Bile. As always, their sound is rooted somewhere around the Symphonies of Sickness era of Carcass with their own added flair.
They even recruited death metal veterans Jeff Beccera (Possessed) and Kam Lee (Massacre) to lend their unique throats to the fray. This is a well-produced album that has come a long way since the band’s debut Hallucinating Anxiety and is one of the most fun death metal albums of 2020. Catchy riffs take up residence on “The Pestilence,” “Deathmachine” and album opener “Morgue Ritual” among others, with just enough melody to keep you coming back for more gore.
Ceremonial Castings – Salem 1692 (MMXX) (Eisenwald)
Symphonic black/death band Ceremonial Castings released Salem 1692 in 2008. 12 years later, the group have re-recorded this classic USBM album. Salem 1692 is a concept album about the Salem witchcraft trials, a sordid event that always fascinated members Jake Superchi (UADA founder) and his brother Nick. The two grew up near Salem, Massachusetts and are direct descendants of Judge John Hathorne, who had sentenced the witches to hang.
Lyrically, Ceremonial Castings re-craft the familiar story as if it were a spell. Elements such as keys, melody, female vocals (“Stones Upon The Warlock”) and operatic vocals (“Beneath the Sabbath Moon” and “The Crucible and the Cross”) immerse the album in theatrical mysticism. However, the power of the riff is the most compelling aspect of the album. Blast beats are abundant. The guitar style and vocals straddle the fence between black and death metal. Salem 1692 is the most wicked and numinous rendition of the infamous witchcraft trails.
Diamond Head – Lightning To The Nations 2020 (Silver Lining)
Diamond Head are commemorating the 40th anniversary of their debut album Lightning To The Nations by releasing a new version of it re-recorded with the current lineup. The band also adds four covers, including vibrant renditions of Metallica’s “No Remorse” and Judas Priest’s “Sinner.” It’s great to see them give a nod to bands that came before them, as well as a group that used them as a huge inspiration on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.
The raw energy of the original recording is polished, along with updates like cutting a few minutes off of “Sucking My Love” to lessen its bloated features and raising the heaviness of “Am I Evil” a considerable amount. This is still the album that helped grow the NWOBHM movement and has lost little of its potency after four decades. This re-recording won’t replace the original, but it’s a testament to Diamond Head’s staying power.
Dream Theater – Distant Memories – Live In London (InsideOut)
The trend with metal concerts over the past several years has gone to more bands on a bill with shorter set lists. That’s definitely not the case with Dream Theater, who like to do “an evening with” shows with lengthy sets. Their ninth live album Distant Memories – Live In London was recorded at the Apollo Theater during their tour to support 2019’s Distance Over Time.
In addition to that album, DT were celebrating the 20th anniversary of Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory. That album is played in its entirety, along with six tracks from Distance Over Time. The other two songs in the 2 1/2 hour show are “A Nightmare To Remember” from 2009’s Black Clouds and Silver Linings and “In The Presence Of Enemies – Part 1” from 2007’s Systematic Chaos. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to hear a classic album in its entirety along with newer material. Dream Theater’s musicianship as always is flawless without being clinical, and for fans the 20 plus songs will fly by in all their progtastic glory.
Eleine – Dancing In Hell (Black Lodge)
After issuing an EP last year, the Swedish symphonic metal band Eleine return with their third full-length Dancing In Hell. It’s the first full-length for bassist Anton Helgesson and drummer Jesper Sunnhagen, who joined the band in 2018.
Two songs from the All Shall Burn EP are included on the album, including opener “Enemies” and the soaring EP title track. The arrangements have a lot of depth, with the symphonic elements smoothly shifting from the background to the foreground when needed. Madeleine Liljestam’s smooth melodic vocals are contrasted by the growls of guitarist Rikard Ekberg. Though the formula is a fairly standard one for the genre, the quality of the songwriting and the compelling vocals make Eleine stand out above the symphonic crowd.
Glorious Depravity – Ageless Violence (Translation Loss)
Glorious Depravity, which features members of Woe, Pyrrhon, and Mutilation Rites, have taken death metal back to its grizzled roots with Ageless Violence. If this was 1991, this would’ve been a cassette passed around during a Ripping Corpse show (it can’t be a coincidence their name is based on an EP/song from that group). Clocking in at under 30 minutes, there’s enough negative energy in here to create a wormhole that would engulf New York City in an instant.
Ageless Violence doesn’t reveal some hidden truths or attempt to be more than what it is, which isn’t a problem when the product is this potent. Body horror, religion, barbarity; all for the taking for Glorious Depravity, as the subject matters ramp up in revolting fashion as the album goes on. The band comes off less like a “supergroup” and more like a bunch of guys that, for a short period of time, want to relive the golden days of death metal.
Australian guitarist extraordinaire Plini is back with his second album, Impulse Voices. Fans of instrumental prog-rock that centers on some amazing guitar playing, this is for you. Think Animals as Leaders or Intervals combined with Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. Here Plini is backed up by Chris Allison and Simon Grove on drums and bass, along with a handful of extra guests on various instruments.
There’s plenty of variety within the eight songs on Impulse Voices, from the delicate notes of “Perfume” to the heavier moments of “Last Call,” and it’s all summed up beautifully in the epic closing track “The Glass Bead Game.” All told, Plini has released a solid set of instrumental prog rock songs rife with (but not overdone) superb guitar work.
Scour – The Black (Housecore)
Philip Anselmo is a member of numerous bands and projects in a variety of genres. Scour are a black metal group with members from several well-known extreme metal bands such as Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Misery Index and Pig Destroyer. They have yet to release a full-length, but The Black is their third EP.
The EP has six tracks, with opener “Doom” featuring actor and metal fan Jason Momoa (Aquaman) and Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal). Cannibal Corpse’s Pat O’Brien guests on “Flames.” Scour blend traditional black metal with other varieties of extremity such as grind, thrash and punk. The songs are heavy, dense and brutal, and also fairly brief with the EP clocking in at around 16 minutes. The brutality is not constant, though, with things like the cinematic instrumental “Microbes” providing brief respites.
Shores Of Null – Beyond The Shores (On Death And Dying) (Spikerot)
A single, 38-minute track is what Shores Of Null attempt with their third album, Beyond The Shores (On Death And Dying). Their blackened doom sound is boosted with outside instruments like piano and violin as well as guest spots from several musicians, including vocalists Mikko Kotamaki (Swallow The Sun) and Thomas A.G. Jensen (Saturnus). This album is a giant step, as they haven’t released a track over 10 minutes up to this point in their career.
The concept is strong, based on psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). Torment echoes through the whole song, as the main character struggles with loss. The journey builds with an unrushed pace, giving the listener time to sink into its darkness. Shores Of Null are daring with this new effort, and those with the patience for a song this long should be satisfied.
Sodom – Genesis XIX (eOne)
German thrash legends Sodom have had wholesale lineup changes for their sixteenth studio album Genesis XIX. It features the return of guitarist Frank Blackfire, who was in the band from 1987 to 1989, along with newcomers Yorck Segatz (guitar) and Toni Merkel (drums). The lone holdover from 2016’s Decision Day is frontman Tom Angelripper.
Their first full-length as a quartet follows the band’s tried and true template with galloping thrash and Angelripper’s throat-searing vocals. With a couple EPs under their belt, the new lineup has had some time to jell. The new members bring renewed energy while staying well within Sodom’s established sound, giving the songs an additional spark. It’s familiar without being stale. Songs like the mid-paced and groovy “Occult Perpetrator” help provide some variety. Genesis XIX is an album longtime fans can appreciate and newer fans can embrace, though it’s a bit long at 55 minutes.
Mirrored Revenge is the debut from the UK melodic power metal band Sorceress Of Sin. The album was produced by Tom Maclean (Haken, To-Mera), who also handled the keyboard and orchestral arrangements, an important part of the album.
The songs are heavier than the usual melodic power metal fare, with tracks like “Multifaceted Survival” and “Wicked Distortion” powered by potent guitar riffs. The star of the show is vocalist Lisa Skinner, who displays power, range and emotion along with a variety of styles. She can be edgy when needed, and on songs such as the ballad “Echoes Of Existence” goes from quiet crooning to operatic soprano. The press materials name check Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske, and I hear similarities to Kobra Paige (Kobra and the Lotus) in her approach as well. The songs aren’t always as memorable as they should be, but Skinner’s performance certainly is.
Voivod – Lost Machine Live (Century Media)
We all miss concerts these days, so it’s a breath of fresh air to listen to the latest from legendary Canadians Voivod. Lost Machine Live is a career-spanning live set recorded in Quebec City in 2019. The band is in top form here, not missing a beat or dropping a note as they weave their way through their unique take on prog and thrash.
Voivod have a ton of material they can draw on, and while the 13 songs and 75 minutes presented here seems like a lot, it only allows the band to touch on a number of albums, ranging from the thrash of “Voivod” to the most recent “The End of Dormancy” and a couple other tracks from 2016’s excellent The Wake. This is a rare case where more songs would have been welcomed, but we will take what we can when it’s this good.