This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Ahret Dev, Alfahanne, Algebra, Angel, Anoxia, Boris, Cell, Exhumed, Esogenesi, Evil Invaders, Gatecreeper, Obsidian Tongue, Ramallah, Ripper and Seven Kingdoms.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ahret Dev – Hellish (Godz Ov War)
Ahret Dev were a short-lived Polish brutal death metal band which were active from 1994 to 1998. After releasing two demos, Ahret Dev released their only full-length album Hellish in 1997. The album has been re-released after two decades to make the band more recognizable to younger death metal fans.
Hellish was released when death metal music was in its golden age and Polish bands were on the verge of becoming big names. Although it seems at first glance that the album follows the usual death metal structures, with a closer look it does appear that the album is breaking death metal routines. The band break into their musical framework and search new tunes in highly technical and avant-garde pieces. An effort that could have been a milestone at that time, Ahret Dev’s Hellish is a brilliant work that had fallen into the dust of oblivion and is now roaring again. A definite cult classic.
Alfahanne – Atomvinter (Indie)
Over their decade of existence, the Swedish band Alfahanne have played what they describe as “Alfapocalyptic Rock.” It’s a combination of black metal, classic rock, goth and punk. Atomvinter is their fourth album.
They incorporate a few English song titles for the first time, while still singing mostly in Swedish. The songs have the catchiness of hard rock, but also the ominous atmosphere of black metal. Tracks like “Alla Mot Alla” mix melodic singing with harsh vocals. The semi-ballad “A Place To Call Home (Arla Boggie)” utilizes acoustic sections, while they crank up the tempo on “Himlen Kan Vanta.” The vocals are an acquired taste, but it’s a varied and wide-ranging album.
Algebra – Pulse? (Unspeakable Axe)
Algebra hail from Switzerland, the same country as superb technical thrashers Coroner. While Algebra’s third album, Pulse?, has some hints of the technical precision of those luminaries, they molds their sound from thrash metal around the world, from the Bay Area to Germany. All this weaving creates a sound that isn’t defined by their influences, but how far they push the framework of their previous two albums.
Songs are fleshed out, with emphasis on crafty guitar performances stuffed with frenetic leads and solos. The harmonies Algebra employs in the final minutes of the title track are masterful, as both guitarists stay locked in for a gripping finale. The closing cover that follows, a faithful rendition of Sepultura’s “Dead Embryonic Cells,” is a suitable coda to the proficient energy contained within Pulse?
Angel – Risen (Cleopatra)
Risen, the seventh studio album by the American rock band Angel, contains 15 new songs and two remakes. Risen is a return to their 1970s hard rock/glam rock roots. The album mostly features sappy, melodic love songs containing cliché and predictable lyrics. “1975” is one of the better songs, though, which creates nostalgia for the year Angel released their self-titled debut.
Lyrics aside, DiMino has a great voice and Punky Meadows produces fantastic guitar tones with nimble solos. He’s considered a guitar legend and it shows. Single “Under the Gun” is one of the better songs. The best songs are remakes: “Tower” and “Angel Theme.” “Tower” is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, while the keys on “Angel Theme” add a ‘70s science fiction vibe that Ozzy may have ripped off for the intro to “Mr. Crowley.” The music produced on Risen is strong, but the awful lyrics result in a mediocre results.
Anoxia – To The Lions (Mighty)
The Danish band Anoxia work very deliberately. After originally forming back in 1996, they didn’t release their debut album until 2010. Now, nearly a decade later, they are back with their sophomore effort To The Lions.
Blending traditional and thrash metal, riffs are front and center on To The Lions. While having plenty of old school influences that are evident on songs like “Scaffold” and “These Chains,” Anoxia inject enough modern elements to avoid sounding overly retro. From galloping thrash to radio friendly metal, they change things up and keep it interesting.
Boris – LφVE & EVφL (Third Man)
With the prolific Japanese band Boris, you never know what you’re going to get. They shift between styles, avoiding being pigeonholed into a specific genre. Over the years they’ve explored everything from doom metal to noise to psychedelic rock to dream pop. LφVE & EVφL is their first studio album on Jack White’s Third Man Records, a compilation of two independent works.
Opener “Away From You” is mellow and restrained, while “Coma” is 7 minutes of drone. “Evol” is the album’s longest track, clocking in at over 16 minutes, an engaging composition that’s sometimes rhythmic, other times subdued, and adds some conventional singing to its experimental structure. Love is the softer of the two works. Evol has more metal elements and is heavier in places, though it also contains the quietest song on the album, “In The Pain(t).” Boris albums take a while to wrap your head around, but fans of their avant-garde musical palette will find LφVE & EVφL an engrossing listen.
Extraterrestrial lifeforms and planets in faraway galaxies are where Cell plant themselves on their second album, Ancient Incantations Of Xarbos. This is sci-fi black metal where the horrors come from the unknown, from what lies beyond our sight. It’s clear that this trio has a vision for their music that borders on ambitious, though they don’t oversaturate their sound with unnecessary sonic tricks to force a grandiose mood.
There’s some technical savagery going on, especially when the audible bass locks in with the other guitars to form a gripping harmony. These come typically during one of their exhaustive longer songs. Cell is unable to sustain momentum for eight to ten minutes, evident in the back half of the album. The concept is strong, as is their performances, but there wasn’t a need for the lengths some of these songs stretch out to.
Esogenesi – Esogenesi (Transcending Obscurity)
There is a great deal of dynamics at the heart of what Italy’s Esogenesi do on this self-titled release. The band maintains huge chops on their heaviest parts and nice subtle use of beauty on the more gentle ones. The result is a vibrant and changeable recording that always has the right tone for the proper mood. The heavier portions are more heavy than say what My Dying Bride does and there is a more death metal element to the band’s sound.
This is a very huge sounding recording and it has the right amount of instrumentation to accomplish the task. Though the band sound sort of one-dimensional , they make up for this fact with solid songwriting around every corner. This makes the songs more colorful and full of passion. I almost never grew tired of this recording as it entertained me the majority of the whole way through the work. There still are some portions where the music is pretty slow though and I wish it were faster. This is a quality death/doom release that will appeal to all fans of the genre.
Exhumed – Horror (Relapse)
Matt Harvey has had a busy 2019 playing in his new band Pounder, who released a really solid debut album of speed metal. He’s also getting back to his down and dirty main project Exhumed, who may be at some of their most disgusting just to balance that out. The simply titled Horror is almost exactly half the length of 2017’s Death Revenge, meaning this feels a lot more Symphonies of Sickness instead of the heavy Necroticism of its predecessor.
This bite sized approach gives the album more riffs instead of those big thick riffs on the more fleshed out material. This doesn’t hurt tracks like “Ravenous Cadavers,” “Slaughter Maniac” or “Ripping Death” at all. The material’s head crushing pace and violent tempos really set the stage here. Another solid helping of gore metal from one of the genre’s most consistent acts.
Evil Invaders – Surge Of Insanity: Live In Antwerp 2018 (Napalm)
While some bands prefer to wait until they have several albums under their belt before doing a live release, others would rather do it earlier in their careers. The Belgian speed metal band Evil Invaders fall into the latter camp, issuing Surge Of Insanity: Live In Antwerp 2018 after just two studio albums.
Even so, they have plenty of material for a full set. They play 14 songs plus an intro and outro that clocks in at well over an hour. Evil Invaders rip through tracks from 2015’s Pulses Of Pleasure and 2017’s Feed Me Violence with a lot of passion and energy. Their sound is raw, but without being sloppy. They also do a cover of Venom’s “Witching Hour,” which fits in well alongside tracks like “Master Of Illusion” and “Fast, Loud ‘N’ Rude.” The DVD/CD was filmed in their home country, with plenty of support from the crowd. Surge Of Insanity captures a potent live band at the peak of their power.
Gatecreeper – Deserted (Relapse)
Deserted signals a foray further into a death/doom metal style for Gatecreeper, while keeping it within the sweaty, gritty atmosphere that can only come from a band residing in Arizona. This menacing side of the band was heard on their debut album, Sonoran Depravation, but it’s given a wider reach on Deserted. It’s felt the most on the title track and “Absence of Light,” with the latter bringing out the keyboards for maximum death/doom efficiency.
The riffs are strong on these two songs, as well as more lively cuts like “In Chains” and “Puncture Wounds.” Gatecreeper even go the anthem route on “From The Ashes,” with enough hooks to get a wide grin out of the most stone-faced metal fan. Deserted is desert death metal; arid and blistered, wrapped in a bitter core.
Obsidian Tongue – Volume III (Bindrune)
After a six year absence, the Portland Maine atmospheric black metal duo Obsidian Tongue return with Volume III. Vocalist/guitarist Brendan Hayter (ex-Woods Of Ypres) remains, with drummer Raymond Capizzo (Falls Of Rauros) a new addition.
The album includes the band’s longest songs to-date, including the 14 minute opener “Anatkh.” It flows extremely well, alternating between melodic singing and harsh vocals. There’s a lot of atmosphere, an acoustic interlude, blastbeats and icy riffs. It’s an album of contrasts, with brutality and beauty both having a presence. “Empath” is the other epic track, with the 13 minute song going from introspective to bludgeoning. It’s an emotionally engaging album, whether it be anger or sadness, that grabs the listener and doesn’t let go.
Ripper – Sensory Stagnation (Unspeakable Axe)
Chile’s Ripper crash through 20 minutes of thrashing death metal on their new EP, Sensory Stagnation, and follows-up their 2016 album, Experiment Of Existence. Taking on a more chaotic death metal tone, Ripper, well, rips it up on this headbanging EP.
With a thick production effort, the guitars are like a buzz saw that tear through cutting tracks like “The Unreal” and the pounding title track. Vocalist Venus Torment comes with a vicious growl that serves as a reminder of David Vincent on those early Morbid Angel albums. The most interesting aspect of this EP is the buildup of intro “Dissociation,” showing a little of a melodic sensibility of the band before churning out this searing combo of death and thrash metal. There’s a lot to like here, especially the tempo changes and engulfing groove of “Like A Sacrilege”. There are certainly worse ways to spend 20 minutes; give Ripper a chance!
After issuing their fourth studio album Decennium in 2017, the Florida band Seven Kingdoms are releasing the EP Empty Eyes.
There are four original songs and a cover. Vocalist Sabrina Valentine has similarities to Evanescence’s Amy Lee, but Seven Kingdoms’ music is more in the power metal vein with some thrash influences. The songs are heavy, with plenty of guitar solos and soaring melodies. “Monster” is an extremely catchy song, while “The Water Dance” is more technically impressive. The EP closes with a cover of the Heart classic “Barracuda.” It’s done well, but is basically a karaoke version with little variation from the original.