This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Amaranthe, Anaal Nathrakh, The Arson Choir, Brave The Cold, Corey Taylor, DevilDriver, Dialogia, Gorephilia, Hath, Ivory Moon, Kilter, Nachtblut, Sumac and Tallah.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Amaranthe – Manifest (Nuclear Blast)
For their sixth album Manifest, Amaranthe have signed with Nuclear Blast. Their breakthrough was 2014’s Massive Addictive, which spawned their only U.S. charting single to-date, “Drop Dead Cynical.”
There’s no shortage of singles on Manifest, nor a shortage of guest musicians. In addition to Amaranthe’s triple vocal attack, Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast appears on “Strong,” while Heidi Shepherd from Butcher Babies guests on “BOOM!” The highlight is former Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow on the video version of “Do Or Die,” available as a bonus track in some configurations. It’s very similar to recent albums, with slick, polished songs and melodic singing from Elize Ryd balanced by harsh and melodic male vocals. There are some catchy and memorable songs, a couple that miss the mark, but overall an effort Amaranthe fans will be pleased with.
Anaal Nathrakh – Endarkenment (Metal Blade)
No year seems more relevant for a new Anaal Nathrakh album like Endarkenment than 2020, as their heightened industrialized black metal fits in with the outright social discord that surrounds our every waking minute. Since 2012’s Vanitas, the group has released an album every two years, a commendable feat not only in consistency, but the quality of the material produced.
Endarkenment is no different, as vocalist Dave Hunt and multi-instrumentalist Mick Kenney keep finding ways to mature melodically while maintaining the frenzied noise that began two decades ago. The title track is a heck of an exclamation point to start the album, and there’s not much downtime from there. Kenney has some wild guitar solos on several songs, but it’s the stunning outro to “Requiem” that has some of the finest work of his career. Eleven albums in, Anaal Nathrakh have lost none of their contempt for humanity, which fits 2020 perfectly.
The Arson Choir – Invisible Monsters (War Against)
The Southern California mathcore quintet The Arson Choir formed in 2014 and their debut release was 2017’s Trophy Nation. Their latest effort Invisible Monsters is a brief, four song EP.
It’s relentless hardcore with passionate vocals from Phil Penegar. The songs are intense and heavy, but also have memorable grooves. “Revenge, My Love” is less than two minutes long while running the gamut from chaos to melody. The longest track is the closer “Vanisher,” which clocks in at 2:46. Each song on the EP is quality, and whets the appetite for more than 10 minutes of new material.
Brave The Cold – Scarcity (Mission Two)
While there has been much press about Napalm Death guitarist Mitch Harris’ role on their latest album, Brave The Cold has his fingerprints all over it. Scarcity has Harris performing vocals and all guitars, while current Megadeth drummer Dirk Verbeuren plays behind the kit. Though there is a bit of a Napalm Death feel to some of these songs, Harris incorporates orchestral flourishes and effects-laden melodic vocals to pull it away from the shadow of his well-known project.
Scarcity has the bluntness of a railroad spike to the ears, raging like dynamite set off, when the duo is honed into a whirlwind of blast beats and reckless riffs. “Apparatus” and “Dead Feed” are a back-to-back punky jab, setting up nicely for the five-minute “Upheaval,” which doesn’t rely on a single sonic idea for very long. If Brave The Cold takes up more of Harris’ attention than Napalm Death moving forward, Scarcity is a cannon shot-level debut statement.
Corey Taylor‘s debut solo album CMFT has been in the works for a while, with some of the songs dating back to his teen years. Taylor’s vocal versatility was already evident, from the brutality of Slipknot to the radio friendly rock of Stone Sour. He pushes the musical boundaries even more on the very diverse CMFT.
“Highway 666” is hard rock with some twang, while the single “Black Eyes Blue” is straightforward mainstream rock with hooks galore. A bluesy influence is evident on “Halfway Down,” with ’90s rock driving the catchy “Kansas.” Taylor brings his punk influences to the rousing closer “European Tour Bus Bathroom Song.” There are ballads as well, such as the power ballad “Silverfish” and the piano based track “Home.” The most polarizing song will be “CMFT Must Be Stopped,” a guitar driven hip-hop track featuring Tech N9ne and Kid Bookie. It’s an eclectic album showcasing Taylor’s many musical influences and interests that will appeal more to Stone Sour fans than Slipknot ones.
DevilDriver – Dealing With Demons I (Napalm)
After a foray into twangier territory with the 2018 covers album Outlaws ‘Til The End, DevilDriver deliver Dealing With Demons I, the first half of a double album.
It’s a fierce album that’s packed with intense but groove laden songs such as “Vengeance Is Clear” and “Nest Of Vipers.” Frontman Dez Fafara’s delivery is emotional and aggressive, powered by impressive riffage from guitarists Mike Spreitzer and Neal Tiemann. The outlier is “Wishing,” which features melodic singing from Fafara in additonal to harsh vocals. The album is a family affair, with Simon Blade Fafara guesting on “You Give Me A Reason To Drink.” The songwriting this time around is razor sharp, expertly calibrating the mix of melody, groove and intensity.
There’s no restraints put on Dialogia throughout their extensive debut album, Nostrum, which spans almost 62 minutes and features everything from a closing track with live strings to a five-part mini-opus in “FearBlack RedEscape” with female vocals and a guest guitar solo from ex-Death member Bobby Koelble. It’s also worth mentioning the inclusion of two (one former, one current) members of Daylight Dies to bring in notable names from the melodic death/doom metal scene.
Their participation makes sense for what Dialogia are striving for musically on Nostrum, which firmly holds onto a melodeath/doom style with various outside musicians brought in to sweeten their sound. One of the band’s best moves was properly utilizing the endless talent of drummer Jasper Barendregt (ex-Dodecahedron, Our Oceans), as his technical performance lets subtlety coerce with gargantuan fills.
Gorephilia – In the Eye of Nothing (Dark Descent/Me Sajo Un Ojo)
The range of Gorephilia’s music is wide and varied. Although their main focus is to build the songs on a death metal foundation, they strongly merge them with other death subgenres, from death doom to technical/progressive deaths. But this integration is so subtle that each genre can be heard separately and densely. Gorephilia’s third album, In the Eye of Nothing, travels to the realm of old school death metal, connecting it to modern death metal with great precision.
Influences from death metal titans such as Morbid Angel, Immolation and Incantation are more palpable on In the Eye of Nothing than ever before, so it makes every corner of the album point directly to significant moments of classic death metal, the reflections of the resonance of infernal death metal of the past. But this is not about copying blindly. It’s all about collecting ideas and reanimating the vibrant, imperishable golden age of death metal. In the Eye of Nothing contains enough special points and moments to introduce it as an authentic and independent work.
Hath – Hive (Willowtip)
Having heard Hath’s full-length release Of Rot And Ruin last year, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going into the re-release of their 2015 debut EP Hive, which includes an additional track. This is a more aggressive mindset to the earlier material. Don’t get me wrong, there are still several nuances to this disc, but a more all-out attack can be found here. Some moments recall Morbid Angel, others also recall something faster, like earlier Behemoth.
The quality of this EP is very high with tight musicianship and excellent songwriting. Hath make their music a pleasure to listen to and one comes away from each track feeling satisfied. Hive may have led to greater experiments on their full-length album, but the quality of these two releases is similar.
Ivory Moon – Lunar Gateway (Volcano)
It has been a while since we’ve heard from the Italian symphonic metal band Ivory Moon. Lunar Gateway is their fourth album, and first since 2012. They’ve had a lot of lineup changes since then, with only two members also appearing on Dark Time.
Vocals from Patrizio Izzo and Loretta Venditti provide variety and balance. Izzo has a powerful voice that’s also expressive, with Venditti displaying a wide range from subdued alto to operatic soprano. The songs have a lot of diversity as well. They are melodic and symphonic, with tracks like the lengthy opener “Human Greed” incorporating progressive elements. “Here We Are” is straightforward and highly melodic. There’s a nice mix of soaring, uptempo songs with mid-tempo tracks and ballads. The production is pristine. It’s a welcome return from a talented symphonic outfit.
Kilter – Axiom (Alter-Nativ)
What do you get when you take a bass player well versed in jazz, an insanely talented saxophonist, and the drummer from Imperial Triumphant? You get Kilter, and they play exactly what one would expect from that pedigree: avant-garde music full of jazz, prog, and extreme metal ingredients. Axiom is the band’s daringly experimental debut album.
Kenny Grohowski may be the biggest name from a metal perspective, drumming for the incredible Imperial Triumphant, but Kilter was founded by bassist Laurent David, and augmented by sax player Edward Rosenberg III. Together these guys can be loosely described as a mash of King Crimson’s jammier moments, IT’s avant-garde lunacy, and Morphine’s bizarre sax-and-bass foundations. All together it’s an engrossing and challenging musical experience that will appeal to fans of the weird and unusual.
Nachtblut – Vanitas (Napalm)
Vanitas is the sixth album from the German band Nachtblut, whose self-described “dark metal” combines gothic, orchestral and black metal elements along with German lyrics.
Askeroth’s unique vocals are mostly black metal style combined with gruff melodic singing. The title track emphasizes the symphonic side of the band, while “Leierkinder” is in the folk metal vein. Electronic elements give “Kaltes Herz” a modern vibe while “Nur In Der Nacht” has a straightforward feel. The contrast between the harsh vocals and the atmospheric, melodic music works well. Fifteen years in, Nachtblut continue to develop and refine their very recognizable style.
Sumac – May You Be Held (Thrill Jockey)
Post/experimental metal trio Sumac are back with their fourth album, May You Be Held. Recorded off and on over the past three years with assistance from Kurt Ballou (Converge) and Matt Bayles (Isis), this hour of music is comprised of five songs that are an engrossing exercise in patience. Aaron Turner (Isis), Brian Cook (Russian Circles), and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) have pushed themselves farther down the experimental road here than on their past efforts.
With track styles ranging from atmospheric washes to angular, dissonant blackened post-metal and song lengths from five to twenty minutes, May You Be Held is not for the weak of heart. Rather, one must approach this offering with a mind open to expansive suites and deliberate, purposeful meandering. Sumac have crafted an album that is lengthy but never tedious, and will appeal to post metal fans.
Tallah – Matriphagy (Earache)
The Pennsylvania band Tallah have only been around for a couple of years. They released an EP in 2018 and now emerge with their debut full-length Matriphagy. They describe their music as “nu-core,” blending classic early 2000s nu-metal with modern hardcore.
Matriphagy is a concept album about an overprotective mother pushing her son to the edge of insanity through psychological and physical abuse. The music is constantly shifting from chaotic to technical to groovy. Justin Bonitz’s vocals are constantly shifting as well, breathing life into the album’s concept. Tallah take influences from older bands like Slipknot and Korn along with newer acts such as Ded and Code Orange, bringing both skilled musicianship and raw emotion.