This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Agnostic Front, Bask, Chrome Waves, Cloak, The Drowning, Edge Of Paradise, Esoteric, Imperial Jade, Infirmity, Midnight Prey, Otherwise, Schammasch, Slow, Wolfbrigade and Wolf Jaw.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Agnostic Front – Get Loud! (Nuclear Blast)
Agnostic Front’s twelfth studio album Get Loud! is the culmination of nearly forty years. One won’t find bent-back old men playing elevator music here, though. The said album is a boot-stomping, circle-pit instigating model of how to play NYHC. With 14 songs clocking in at just over a half-hour, the group wastes no time in making their point.
Get Loud! has an old school feeling. “Spray Painted Walls” and “Anti-social” have a crossover appeal with fast picking and drumming. The group even employed Sean Taggart, the artist who created the art for their second album, Cause For Alarm. Roger Miret’s vocals and his group’s gang choruses offer plenty of parts to sing such as the street-tough lyrics on “Snitches Get Stitches.” Miret and Vinnie Stigma (guitars) have formed a bond playing together since 1982 that certainly results in the consistent, energetic sound heard on Get Loud!
Bask – III (Season of Mist)
When you mix psychedelic rock elements with Americana and folklore, you are doing things a little differently than the norm. For Bask, it’s just business as usual.
When I think of way to describe this Carolina collective, I posit a combination of Baroness, Kylesa and Panopticon’s unabashed love for folk music, which certainly fits within the circles Bask may fall within. The atmospheres created by the guitars and their vocalist are sublime as the listener is encapsulated by the music that feels beautiful. This is the band’s best album to date, and with a varied sound and wide range appeal to fans of rock music, the sky is the limit.
Chrome Waves – The Cold Light Of Despair (Disorder)
It was just this last March that Chrome Waves put out their compelling debut album, A Grief Observed, and they return less than nine months later with The Cold Light Of Despair compilation. This release pairs three original songs with three cover songs and could be filed as an EP if it wasn’t for a running length that is on par with their first album. Though they have released some of these tracks on Bandcamp over the last year, this compilation houses all their one-off tracks in one release.
Though they dabble in black metal, mainly on the vocal front, Chrome Waves operate in a more atmospheric/experimental setting. This is heightened on the cover songs, which includes a sorrowful rendition of Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” and a dreamy take on Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ “Push The Sky Away.” The original songs aren’t slouches either, including the acoustic-led “Slow Refrain” and the heavy ambience of “Spirits Descend.” The Cold Light Of Despair is a solid stop-gap as the band continues work on a new album.
Cloak – The Burning Dawn (Season of Mist)
Atlanta’s premier blackened rock act Cloak are back for their sophomore effort with The Burning Dawn. Fans of their excellent debut To Venomous Depths won’t be disappointed by the new album, as it has more of the black metal sound, all held within a rock structure, much like Tribulation.
“The Cleansing Fire” follows an intro track and serves as the foundation for which the rest of the album’s sound is based. Scott Taysom’s vocals are killer gurgles, as he serves the vile role of vocalist here and he sells the black metal aesthetic wholeheartedly. One of the best heavy rock/metal albums out there for those of you in need of a little black n’ roll.
The Drowning – The Radiant Dark (Transcending Obscurity)
The Drowning are a five-piece U.K. death/doom collective, with members having gained experience in other bands such as My Silent Wake and Desecration. The Radiant Dark is the band’s fifth album, and as far as the songwriting goes it is one of the strongest death/doom albums of the year.
The eight songs on The Radiant Dark feature captivating vocal performances, outstanding guitar work, and some truly stellar arrangements. The only thing holding this album back from inclusion in yours truly’s year-end list is the questionable production, most notably apparent in the subpar drum sounds and some odd guitar mixing. Production aside, though, The Drowning show they are a more than capable band that writes some of the best songs the genre has to offer.
Edge Of Paradise – Universe (Frontiers)
After independently releasing a couple of albums and an EP, the California band Edge Of Paradise has signed with Frontiers for their third full-length Universe.
They incorporate a few different approaches into their sound. There are classic metal elements and some symphonic touches along with modern flavors such as industrial and electronic. Vocalist Margarita Monet has a powerful and versatile voice. On tracks like “Electrify” she’s able to belt it out with a lot of power, while she has a more subdued approach on songs such as the title track. It’s the type of album that has plenty of rock radio potential, but also appeals to those who like traditional metal.
Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence (Season Of Mist)
The British band Esoteric have been around for more than a quarter century, but have not been exceedingly prolific. A Pyrrhic Existence is their seventh full-length, and comes eight years after their last effort, Paragon Of Dissonance.
There are only six songs on the record, but it is a massive, 98 minute double album. Esoteric combine funeral doom and death metal in songs that develop slowly, but have plenty of twists and turns. Opener “Descent” is the album’s longest track at more than 27 minutes of tempos and intensity shifts. There are moments of beauty and optimism contrasted by extremity and desolation. The first track on the second disc, “Consuming Lies,” incorporates some groovy guitar work that devolves into a noisy end. This is an album that requires patience to fully absorb, but funeral doom fans will find it a rewarding ride.
Imperial Jade – On The Rise (Listenable)
Originally issued only their native country of Spain, Imperial Jade‘s On The Rise is now receiving a worldwide release via Listenable Records. The group’s sophomore effort is bluesy hard rock with a lot of swagger. The ’70s are a huge influence, with elements of both traditional hard rockers and more psychedelic approaches.
The production is modern, but the aesthetic is retro. Tracks like “Dance” and “Keep Me Singing” are uptempo and catchy, while songs such as “Glory Train” are mid-tempo groovers. “Sad For No Reason” features twangy acoustic guitars, while “Lullaby In Blue” is a cinematic ballad. There’s a lot of variety, and vocalist Amau Ventura has the chops and range to excel on any style. For fans of bands such as Airbourne and Rival Sons.
Infirmity – Descendants Of Sodom (Lost Apparition)
Infirmity start their debut album Descendants Of Sodom on a bold note with a three-and-a-half minute instrumental, “Gomorrah Aflame.” A hollow-sounding piano leads into a monstrous segue topped by a fantastic bass solo. This extended intro acts as a grim overture for the darkness that lies ahead. Infirmity take death metal and add a touch of violent thrash a la Dark Angel to throw the music into a steady state of unbalance.
It’s not uncommon for the album to turn expectations up on their head, with grandiose songs with a melodic direction (the title track and “Unholy Deception”) aligned with stocky death/grind (“Plastic Idols – The Obsessed”). The band has the range to do more than they initially let on, and this leads to Descendants Of Sodom being a satisfying debut for this Los Angeles, California foursome.
Midnight Prey – Uncertain Times (Dying Victims)
There is a very caustic old school feeling at the heart of what Germany’s Midnight Prey do. The music on Uncertain Times, the band’s first full-length release, rattles along much like a Motorhead record, yet has a bit more of a traditional metal feeling. The music feels under-produced, but also authentic because of this. The tunes have a heavy amount of groove that makes them addictive.
A small punk feeling to the recording actually makes it feel more interesting in the long run. Though there isn’t anything overly compelling to be found, the music still makes its mark on the listener with solid songwriting and performances. At the end of the short recording time the listener can’t help but feel fairly satisfied.
Otherwise – Defy (Mascot)
Over the past decade or so, Las Vegas hard rockers Otherwise have had some radio success, with songs like “Soldiers,” “Darker Side Of The Moon” and “Coming For The Throne” landing on the rock singles charts. After independently releasing an EP last year, the band has signed with Mascot Records for their latest full-length, Defy.
Even with all the changes on the business side of things, the band’s sound remains consistent. They deliver songs that are catchy and melodic. Tracks like “Crossfire” and “Lifted” have hit potential while not sounding exactly like every other hard rock band. The record was produced by Matt Good (Asking Alexandria, Hollywood Undead). It has a few more electronic elements than their previous releases, but guitars are still front and center. It’s a streamlined record with minimal filler and maximum hooks.
Schammasch – Hearts Of No Light (Prosthetic)
For their fourth full-length album Hearts Of No Light, the Swiss band Schammasch have expanded from a quartet to a quintet, adding guitarist J.B. (Blutmond).
After a relatively straightforward opening instrumental, the avant-garde black metal stylings kick in with “Ego Sum Omega,” an 8 minute opus that alternates intensity and mellow moments. Piano and some electronic elements give the instrumental “A Bridge Ablaze” a unique sound, while “Rays Like Razors” is ominous and foreboding and “I Burn Within You” eccentric. Every song brings a different approach while remaining cohesive. The avant-garde tends to be appreciated more than enjoyed, but Schammasch are able to check both boxes.
Slow – VI – Dantalion (Aural)
Belgian multi-instrumentalist Déhà is or has been involved in literally dozens of projects, but for my money his funeral doom project Slow is his best. The band is now a duo, with Lore having joined two years ago, just after the excellent V – Oceans. The pair re-recorded IV – Mythologiæ earlier this year, and are now back for their first proper release, VI – Dantalion.
If you enjoyed V – Oceans, you know what’s coming here on VI – Dantalion: namely, a handful of glacially-paced dirges ranging in length from five to seventeen minutes, immaculately produced, and featuring Déhà’s subterranean growls along with crushing guitars and crashing drums. The 16-minute ambient closing track “Elégie” is a thing of beauty, but the whole album is another stellar addition to the Slow catalog.
Wolfbrigade – The Enemy: Reality (Southern Lord)
Wolfbrigade are one of those bands whose music speaks for itself. Gods of d-beat, crust punk and genre definers known as Lycanthro punk strike again with their tenth studio album, The Enemy: Reality. It’s a 27 minutes opus of pure crushing punk, and punk is just a part of it, as what we’ve heard in nine previous albums.
Wolfbrigade are known for mixing Swedish [melodic] death metal elements with crust punk, making a destructive sound that nothing can defeat. But things get more interesting when they give more attention to put strong touches of speed metal to their music. It’s like a rougher version of Motörhead! With lyrics focused on human wickedness and with unpolished production that helps creating an intense atmosphere, The Enemy: Reality is an utterly loud and evil record that makes your soul and ears start to bleed.
Wolf Jaw – The Heart Won’t Listen (Listenable)
After releasing their debut album last year under the moniker The Badflowers, the UK trio are now Wolf Jaw. The Heart Won’t Listen is their new release.
Wolf Jaw have a lot of classic rock influences along with blues and hard rock. You’ll hear bits and pieces of everyone from Led Zeppelin to Queens To The Stone Age to Franz Ferdinand. Powerful riffs drive melodic tracks like “Hear Me” and “I Lose My Mind.” Those melodies are drenched in fuzz and have plenty of grit and grime. Tom Leighton has a varied style that’s sometimes smooth, other times edgier and more aggressive. It has a retro attitude and modern production.