This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Battalions, BillyBio, A Canorous Quintet, Emigrate, Groza, Marius Danielsen, Master, Sacrosanct, Stilla, Valkyrja and Virgin Black.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Battalions – Forever Marching Backwards (APF)
Forever Marching Backwards, the third album in three years from Battalions, is a riff-centric joyride dipped in a groove coating. Battalions know their way around a good guitar riff, and make sure to show it off in these eight songs. It takes a few seconds in each to get to the beer-soaked heart of Battalions’ frantic sludge metal.
For a half-hour album, there’s a great deal of unexpected charm, from the charging instrumental “Vaseline (G)Love” to the doom-centric “Infinite Void.” The title track and “Black Hole” bolt the album into a devious mode. The approach of doing an album a year could result in burnout or heavy filler, but Battalions avoids both of those possibilities with the marvelous Forever Marching Backwards.
BillyBio – Feed The Fire (AFM)
Billy Graziadei is Biohazard’s longtime guitarist, and is also part of Powerflo with Cypress Hill’s SenDog and Fear Factory’s Christian Olde Wolbers. Feed The Fire is his first solo album, and is released under the moniker BillyBio.
The album blends blistering thrash infused hardcore like the title track and “Enemy” with mid-tempo paced tracks such as “Generation Z” and “Sodality” that amp up the groove. The music is straightforward and direct, with hardcore style vocals and some melodic singing. While there are certainly Biohazard influences on the album, Graziadei incorporates plenty of other styles to give BillyBio its own identity.
A Canorous Quintet – The Only Pure Hate MMXVIII (Black Lodge)
Twenty years ago, the Swedish melodic death metal band A Canorous Quintet released their second album before splitting. They reunited a couple years ago and have re-recorded that album with the title The Only Pure Hate MMXVIII. A Canorous Quintet have a nasty edge to them that is refreshing to behold, even in this day and age. It adds to the typical melodic death music they perform and makes it more punishing. Though the music isn’t wholly original, even for its time, it is different enough to make an impact. The vocalist has a raspy tone that is reminiscent of At the Gates’ Tomas Lindberg, as is the band’s music as a whole. It still resonates with a clarity that is refreshing and different enough from that outfit.
Their blend of aggression and melody is welcome and makes for a well-rounded release. They even add in acoustic tracks like “Everbleed” for variety. This is definitely one of the better albums from the genre I’ve heard this year even though it adds very little to the melodic death metal genre as a whole and is a re-recording. The Only Pure Hate MMXVIII is an album that knows its influences, but definitely makes the best of them for added impact.
Emigrate – A Million Degrees (Spinefarm)
Emigrate are the side project of German industrial metal band Rammstein’s founding guitarist, Richard Kruspe. Started in 2007, A Million Degrees is his third album, and follows a similar template as 2014’s Silent So Long. Namely, ample hints of Rammstein’s machine-like beats and plenty of hooks, but with much more focus on melody.
As always, Kruspe invites several guest vocalists to appear. This time, he gets help from Rammstein bandmate Till Lindemann on one track, Billy Talent’s Ben on another, and Kruspe’s partner, Margaux Bossieux. While overall a bit more pensive than Silent So Long, there are a few energetic tracks (“War” and “1234” are excellent) that make A Million Degrees worth checking out.
Groza – Unified In Void (AOP)
Groza’s debut album Unified in Void is an impressive record on many levels, and I think there’s a story behind the success of their first album. Shortly after Mgła put their rendition of black metal music on the map, especially with their acclaimed album With Hearts Toward None, they gained many admirers and many bands tried to get that particular sound. Some of them failed, but some like Groza managed to succeed.
Groza are now on that very spot. Their music follows nihilistic, dark, cold and bleak themes, while the lyrics go through various directions, but in the end it keeps itself close to nihilism, hopelessness and misanthropy, which are poetically impressive. Groza’s music on Unified in Void deals with major bleakness, the sadness blended with grieving, sorrowful melodies and epic soundscapes to human suffering. With another look at Mgła’s discography, you find their debut album is called Groza. Groza have borrowed so many elements from Mgła but they are not their mimics, though some may think they are.
Marius Danielsen – Legend Of Valley Doom: Part 2 (Crime)
While Darkest Sins guitarist/vocalist Marius Danielsen‘s debut solo album was ten years in the making, the follow-up only took three years. Legend Of Valley Doom: Part 2 continues the lyrical theme of the debut.
Also like the debut, there are tons of high profile guest musicians ranging from vocalists Michael Kiske, Ripper Owens, Blaze Bayley and Mark Boals to guitarists Bruce Kulick, Tom Naumann (Primal Fear) and Timo Somers (Delain) along with numerous others. Even with so many guests, the concept is what ties things together, maintaining a cohesive feel throughout. It’s very symphonic and melodic, an ambitious effort with quality songs and a lot of variety.
Master – Vindictive Miscreant (Transcending Obscurity)
Death metal legends Master have been crushing skulls for 35 years, and have released quite a bit of material lately. Since their 2016 album Epiphany Of Hate, Master have issued two live albums, a compilation and a split with Dehuman. Vindictive Miscreant is their fourteenth studio album.
There’s nothing new here, just good, old-fashioned, ripping death metal. The riffs are razor-sharp, and Paul Speckmann’s vocals are raw and distinctive. While it’s intense and extreme, there’s a surprising amount of catchiness, especially on songs like “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.” Master deliver 45 minutes of first-rate old school death metal.
Sacrosanct – Necropolis (Rock Of Angels)
I hadn’t heard of German metallers Sacrosanct until just recently. And that’s okay: it’s been twenty-five years since the release of their third album. Now returning to the scene reinvigorated and ready for action, the thrash/power metal veterans present Necropolis, their fourth album.
There are a lot of fast, thrashy movements throughout, with a heavy emphasis on what we call power metal now, but back in the band’s heyday was just “metal.” The feel of the music is somewhat reminiscent of old Anacrusis albums. Vocalist Richard Hesselink has a great voice, although an odd country twang accompanies much of his singing. Aside from that, this is a welcome return and immediately positions Sacrosanct as a band to watch going forward.
Stilla – Synviljor (Nordvis)
Just in time for winter, it’s the latest album from the Swedish black metal band Stilla. Synviljor is the group’s fourth studio release.
While their nature-inspired brand of black metal has the cold, icy riffs and tremolo guitars the genre is known for, tracks like the opener “Fraisefrosten” also inject some groove into the extremity. The tracks are long, generally in the six to eight minute range, giving them plenty of space to develop and shift, moving from oppressive and dense parts to more moderate and mellow sections. And while there is some repetition in the riffs, it tends to be more hypnotic than monotonous.
Valkyrja – Throne Ablaze (W.T.C.)
It has been five years since the last Valkyrja album, and the Swedish black metal outfit has seen some turmoil recently. Vocalist RSDX, who had been with the band for a couple of years, exited. Founding guitarist Simon Wizen takes over vocal duties on Thrones Ablaze. It’s also the first Valkyrja album for drummer V. Parri.
For having little previous experience doing black metal vocals, Wizen does a fine job on the album. His lyrics have a more existential bent, exploring topics rife with despair and hopelessness. Musically, Throne Ablaze follows the path of previous Valkyrja albums, blending brutality with regal melodies that makes for a punishing yet diverse effort. Former vocalist A.L. also makes a guest appearance on the nearly eight minute epic “Transcendental Death.”
In 2008, the Australian symphonic/gothic metal band Virgin Black released the second part of their Requiem trilogy, and then seemingly disappeared. A decade later, they have re-emerged with the trilogy’s third installment, Requiem – Pianissimo.
Following Mezzo Forte, which means “moderately loud,” and Fortissimo, which means “very loud,” things are more reserved on Pianissimo, which means “very soft.” While there are some bombastic moments, the majority of the album is quiet and reserved, with the focus on strings, piano and operatic vocals. With help from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and a choir, Virgin Black deliver a dynamic conclusion to the Requiem saga. And though it’s not heavy or loud, it still packs a powerful emotional punch.