This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aphonic Threnody, Ataraxia, Benediction, Hellsmoke, Infera Bruo, Kraken Duumvirate, Leviathan, Lost Symphony, Molassess, Mr. Bison, Netherblade, Silvera, Skalmold, The Unguided and Wayfarer.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aphonic Threnody – The Great Hatred (Transcending Obscurity)
Aphonic Threnody have been around since 2012, founded by Towards Atlantis Lights/Dea Marica guitarist Riccardo Veronese. The Great Hatred is their third full-length.
The album has just six tracks, but is definitely not an EP. The songs are lengthy slabs of atmospheric funeral doom/death metal. Each track has many ebbs and flows and a variety of intensities. Heavy guitars and delicate keyboards mesh smoothly. Tempos range from glacial to groovy. The vocals are mainly harsh, but spoken word and melodic singing are utilized as well. Even with several tracks longer than 10 minutes, Aphonic Threnody have no problem engaging the listener with compelling arrangements that run the gamut of emotions.
Ataraxia – Quasar (Annapurna)
Ataraxia have been active since 1985. With Quasar, the eclectic ensemble celebrate 30 years of releases. With 25 studio, EPs and live albums listed in their discography on various labels, the group have made a name for themselves around the world. They play an avant-garde mix of neoclassical and dark wave through a variety of media. Their sound is both archaic and modern, electric and acoustic. Nature is a lyrical influence. Quasar reveals archetypical connections between the cosmos and humanity.
Much like the album title, the music on Quasar is vast and vibrant. Every track has something different to offer in terms of instrumentation and voices. Male and female operatic choirs create wispy tones gracefully harmonized in their Italian language or English. Keyboard backdrops and vocal effects create electric, ethereal atmosphere. Other parts reveal more organic, archaic instrumentation with acoustic guitar and flutes. Quasar is a relaxing album best heard star gazing or with candles and incense.
Benediction – Scriptures (Nuclear Blast)
Scriptures marks 30 years of releases for Benediction. Once again, as throughout their career, the album found release through Nuclear Blast, making them one of the longest running bands on the label. Along with Bolt Thrower, Carcass and Napalm Death, Benediction helped put England on the map for death metal. Over the years, Benediction have established their identity, one they do not forsake on Scriptures.
Scriptures contains many familiar, low end death metal-style riffs. Starting in the late ‘80s, the band obviously have a thrash influence, which they show on tracks such as “Progenitors Of A New Paradigm” and “In Our Hands, The Scars.” The latter track and “Tear Off These Wings” showcase the tightness of the rhythm section with bass and drum jams that kick off these tracks. At times, Dave Ingram belts out ferocious, echoing roars. Scriptures will keep the OSDM fans happy, especially the Benediction faithful.
Hellsmoke – 2020 (Pride & Joy)
Hellsmoke are a new Swedish band with a lineup that includes members who have been in bands such as Darkane, Bai Bang and Alicate. 2020 is their debut. Releasing a debut is even more challenging now as new bands aren’t able to go on the road to try and build a following.
2020 blends the melodies of hard rock with traditional metal. Tracks like “Black Sun Rising” and “Raise Your Fist” are jam packed with hooks along with heavy guitars. You’ll hear ’80s influences on songs like “Rest When You’re Dead,” while tracks such as “Hellcome To The Badland” name checks “Purple Haze.” It’s a well worn musical path, but Hellsmoke bring energy and some catchy songs to the table.
Infera Bruo – Rites Of The Nameless (Prosthetic)
It seems impossible for black metal to have a “best kept secret,” considering how niche the audience is for the genre. However, if that proclamation had to be handed out to any band, it should be to Infera Bruo. They’ve been as consistent as any band performing today, and their fourth album, Rites Of The Nameless, keeps that going with forward-thinking progressive black metal.
There isn’t a significant creative jump made, but there’s a refinement to the melodic aspects of their sound. Singing and shrieking harmonize on “Latent Foe Arcane,” and their full-time keyboardist adds a haunting factor to the frosty outro of the closing title track. Getting rid of the short interludes that were throughout 2018’s Cerement fortunes Rites Of The Nameless with a smoother listen. Infera Bruo offer quality songs to those that want their music immediate, cumulative or both.
Kraken Duumvirate – The Stars Below, The Seas Above (Silent Future)
Kraken Duumvirate’s fascination with occultism and the sea lands them in murky depths on their debut album, The Stars Below, The Seas Above. Four lengthy slabs of doom, bordering on a funeral pace, align with three ambient songs that could’ve been culled from The Ruins Of Beverast’s back catalog (specifically Unlock the Shrine-era). The album’s glacial movement is to its advantage, set to a hypnotic rumble, as the band is willing to keep to the same musical beats for minutes on end.
It’s admirable that the band had something they wanted to say and didn’t push it out, though there are points where a defter hand could’ve slashes some parts off. The ambient material equals almost 13 minutes on its own when half that time would’ve been more effective. The “experimental” part of Kraken Duumvirate’s doom metal is a significant aspect of their massive first album.
Leviathan – Förmörkelse (Nebular Carcoma/Bile Noire)
There are a ton of bands with the name Leviathan. This is the one-man Swedish black metal outfit who released an album in 2002 then disappeared. Roger “Phycon” Markstrom (Feral, ex-Armagedda) has resurrected the project with Förmörkelse.
The album hearkens back to the glory days of black metal, but with modern production. Phycon’s skill on the drums is evident, giving the songs a boost. The music has the rawness black metal needs along with ample melody. The tempos are generally mid-paced, with “Verklighetens Väv” more deliberate. There’s a decent amount of variety, but not a lot of originality.
After releasing their debut album earlier this year, the instrumental band Lost Symphony return with Chapter II. It features several high profile guest musicians.
Lost Symphony blend elements of cinematic power metal with good old fashioned guitar shredding to create songs that have atmosphere and first class musicianship. Among those lending their talents to Chapter II are Jeff Loomis (Nevermore/Arch Enemy), Marty Friedman (Megadeth), the late Oli Herbert (All That Remains), David Ellefson (Megadeth), Jon Donais (Anthrax/Shadows Fall) and more. The virtuosity of the musicians is unquestioned, but Chapter II is more compelling than the typical instrumental album because of the songwriting.
Molassess – Through The Hollow (Season of Mist)
Born from the ashes of Dutch occult rockers The Devil’s Blood, Molassess bring members of that band and a couple of other cohorts back into the scene. Through The Hollow is the band’s debut, an hour long journey through similar eerie and evil territory, landing them in much the same camp as Sabbath Assembly.
Molassess’ music is hypnotic, and Farida Lemouchi’s husky voice lends the songs a perceptible air of menace. The longer songs here (three tracks are 10+ minutes) are a bit too long, and the lack of variance in tempo can make Through The Hollow drag, but there is no question that Molassess are loaded with talent and compelling ideas. Check out “Get Out From Under” or “Death Is” for evidence.
Mr. Bison – Seaward (Subsound)
The Italian heavy psych trio Mr. Bison, whose members all have the first name Matteo, have played live with some notable names in the genre ranging from Danko Jones to Red Fang to Mondo Generator.
Their latest, Seaward, is a concept album drawing inspiration from the sea and the legend of the seven pearls of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Mr. Bison have a wide palette of influences and styles. “From The Abyss” has a retro psychedelic vibe, “I’m The Storm” brings prog influences to the mix, and the there are elements of contemporary bands like Clutch as well. It’s a trippy and groovy ride through psychedelic rock, blues, prog and more.
Netherblade – Reborn (Dark Hammer Legion/Volcano)
The music of Italian thrashers Netherblade is similar to bands like Kreator and Overkill. There is a vicious attack of thrash metal with aggressive riffing that recalls Kreator, while the high-pitched vocals are reminiscent of Overkill. Their full-length debut Reborn is a very powerful concoction that makes up for a lack of originality with grit and passion. The style is relatively standard, but it is still very hostile in nature and this gives the band character.
With some tweaks, Netherblade could be a force to be reckoned with in the thrash genre. As it stands, the band is powerful and assertive in equal degree and makes you want to headbang along with the tracks. Reborn is a very solid slab of thrash that is a fun and involving listen throughout.
Silvera – Edge Of The World (Mighty)
The Danish hard rock band Silvera are issuing their debut album Edge Of The World. It was produced by the legendary Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Pretty Maids).
Edge Of The World is radio friendly hard rock with anthemic songs and catchy riffs. Pretty much every song could be a single, with songs like the title track and “Generation Z” especially memorable. There’s a little bit of Volbeat in the vocals, but Silvera’s music is heavier and more straightforward in the vein of groups like Theory Of A Deadman or Nickelback. Kobra Paige from Kobra And The Lotus guests on “Everything We Are,” one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Skalmold – 10 Year Anniversary – Live In Reykjavik (Napalm)
To celebrate a decade as a band, the Icelandic Viking/folk metal band Skalmold played three shows in their hometown. That resulted in 10 Year Anniversary – Live In Reykjavik.
Skalmold have five studio albums under their belt, with 2018’s Sorgir their latest. All are represented in the 16 song, 100+ minute set. It’s available in numerous configurations include 2CD/Blu-ray, vinyl and digital. The hometown crowd provides energy to the band, reflected in the rousing renditions of their back catalog. From the opener “Heima” through the closer “Kvaðning,” Skalmold never lose momentum and deliver a memorable, career-spanning show.
The Unguided – Father Shadow (Napalm)
The Swedish melodic death band The Unguided are currently a quartet. Bassist Henric Liljesand played on their new album Father Shadow, but has since exited due to other obligations.
Originally formed by members of Sonic Syndicate, their fifth full-lengh Father Shadow includes three Sonic Syndicate covers as bonus tracks. The album has some really catchy songs such as “War Of Oceans” that have mostly melodic vocals with harsh vocals adding some edge. They do flip that script on tracks like “Crown Prince Syndrome” that have a bigger ratio of harsh vocals along with plenty of melodic singing. Electronic flourishes add texture and a modern sound. The original material is compelling, and it’s interesting to hear The Unguided revisit their early days on the cover songs.
Wayfarer – A Romance With Violence (Profound Lore)
Colorado’s Wayfarer came into being nearly ten years ago and have been peddling their brand of frontier black metal ever since. Each of their past three albums has presented a certain amount of intrigue, as their style continues to be honed and refined. On A Romance With Violence, the foursome just might have found the right combination, as the album clicks from start to end.
Black metal is a bit too limiting of a tag for what Wayfarer deliver on A Romance with Violence. There’s plenty of aggression, harsh vocals, and typical black metal tropes, but the band deliver so much more. The whole album comes off as the soundtrack to a gritty frontier movie, as evidenced in the lyrics and song titles. And with plenty of atmosphere, dynamics, and stellar arrangements, this is one of the more compelling black metal albums of the year, especially for those who don’t usually dip their toes in this kind of water.