This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Alice Cooper, Atlantean Kodex, Betraying The Martyrs, Blacktop Mojo, Blood Red Throne, Brutality Will Prevail, Chelsea Wolfe, Come Back From The Dead, Crashdiet, Crypt Sermon, Eschaton, Eye Flys, The Hu, Nightfell, Visceral Disgorge, Weeping Sores and Winterfylleth.
The reviews are on a 5 star scale.
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs (earMusic)
‘Ol Black Eyes keeps on spinning out the tunes. The master of shock rock Alice Cooper rebounds from the ho-hum Paranormal album with this fun and musically enticing Breadcrumbs EP. A tribute to his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, members of MC5, Grand Funk Railroad, and Detroit Wheels join Alice for this romp around the Motor City.
Breadcrumbs chews on the classic garage rock sound and if Alice proceeds to write more albums in the future, I’d love to see him take this approach. A dirty guitar tone complements Cooper’s crazy lyrical ventures in “Go Man Go” while the name-dropping opener “Detroit City 2020” is an homage that represents the city proudly. Star of the show is “Devil With A Blue Dress / Chains Of Love”, which starts off as a lounge inspired tune and then erupts to a full-throttle rocker filled with a grooving riff to latch on to. I’m all for hearing more of Alice using his charisma and lyrical mannerisms over garage rock rhythms; listeners can easily see the visual of these guys plugging in and playing and letting their natural talents take over.
Atlantean Kodex – The Course Of Empire (Van)
Germany’s Atlantean Kodex made quite a name for themselves with their first two albums, but after 2013’s The White Goddess they took their time delivering the follow-up, The Course of Empire. Similar to Crypt Sermon (reviewed elsewhere in this week’s column), Atlantean Kodex hammer us with pure epic metal, and here on The Course of Empire they give us a nearly perfect album.
The songs are long, and the arrangements are ingenious, with a natural flow to them. Markus Becker has a fantastic voice, and neither he nor the band ever stretch the boundaries of showmanship so far as to drift into power metal cheese-land. Each song is sincere and compelling, and the hour-plus album flies by. Production is decidedly retro, which could be viewed as a slight flaw or an endearing bonus, but regardless, The Course of Empire is the epic metal album of the year.
Betraying The Martyrs – Rapture (Sumerian)
The French deathcore/metalcore band Betraying The Martyrs have had a fair amount of lineup changes during their decade of existence. They have a new lead guitarist, Steeves Hostin, for their fourth album Rapture.
As with previous releases, BTM add electronic and symphonic elements to provide variety and depth. They also incorporate melodic singing alongside death growls, giving songs like “Down” and “The Iron Gates” both catchiness and brutality. They avoid being overly formulaic, sometimes doing the melodic singing on a verse and growling the chorus. It’s an effective blend of punishing metal and accessible rock.
In the current era of the music business, many bands have decided to eschew record labels, major or otherwise, in favor of successfully issuing albums on their own. Texas hard rockers Blacktop Mojo have steadily increased their profile and fan base, which will continue to grow with their latest album, Under The Sun.
Potent grooves drive the radio friendly music, with songs like “Come Get Your Coat” providing both memorable melodies and a killer guitar solo. Their southern roots are evident on slower songs such as “Keep” and the ballad “It Won’t Last.” Blacktop Mojo have an exceptional vocalist in Matt James, who has a wide range and soulful delivery. He’s able to pull off grunge moments, bluesy rockers and his upper register is reminiscent of Myles Kennedy. In a genre where a lot of bands sound similar, Blacktop Mojo are able to cut through the clutter and stand out from the crowd.
Blood Red Throne – Fit to Kill (Mighty)
Blood Red Throne perform an accelerated vicious form of death metal on Fit To Kill, the Norwegian band’s ninth full length release. The music hits an aggressive note that shows a band firing on all cylinders. This is very exciting and punishing music that brings out the head-banging quite effectively. The music has a nice pace to it that makes it constantly thrilling and leaves the listener begging for more. The band is also made up of established players with one member Dod having performed with Satyricon and another Freddy Bolso having performed with Enslaved.
This experience shows in some very fiery songs that will get your juices flowing. There is really nothing major to fault with this release other than we’ve heard similar music before. It really brings the hammer down and goes for the throat quite nicely. Fans of bands like Asphyx and Pestilence will find a lot to like here, but this is really death metal that should appeal to all fans of the genre. Fit to Kill is death metal to worship with all your might.
Brutality Will Prevail – Misery Sequence (BDHW)
Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, Brutality Will Prevail have long been referred to as a hardcore band. But with the release of the album Scatter the Ashes in 2012, the band made some changes to their musical foundations. Mid-paced songs entered the band’s music, and the guitar riffs shifted from hardcore routines to doom/post metal-fused riffs. The process evolved on In Dark Places, and has finally reached its final destination with Misery Sequence.
Misery Sequence is a powerful and clear picture of Brutality Will Prevail’s maturity that comes from the rupture of the sound of the early years and testing of new musical structures. The music on this album has the same raw power and intensity as the band’s recent albums. But with a precise and brilliant production, the songs are just as effective as they are supposed to be heard. The song “Reckless” brings a new life to the album, and takes us to the emotional “Breathless” featuring Toni Coe-Brooker. Misery Sequence may be a little short but it is utterly heavy, dramatic and thrilling.
Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence (Sargent House)
Chelsea Wolfe has shown herself to be a rare artist with cross-genre appeal. Whether it has been goth rock, doom metal, industrial or folk, her charisma and songwriting ability have earned her massive respect and a legion of devoted fans. On Birth of Violence, her sixth album, she allows all her experiences to coalesce into a stunning, personal, and intimate journey.
Birth of Violence is primarily an acoustic album, but even with its folk and country leanings it retains a haunting, doom-ridden undercurrent, almost as if Wolfe is ready to explode any second into something crushing, but she is managing to hold it back. It is a beautiful, ominous record, dripping with emotion and a kind of sensual spirituality. Birth of Violence is an album that is almost impossible to stop listening to once you press play, and it may be Chelsea Wolfe’s greatest accomplishment yet.
Come Back From The Dead – The Rise of the Blind Ones (Transcending Obscurity)
Entombed and their Sunlight Studios brethren have forged a left-hand path that has meandered throughout the world. Spain’s Come Back From The Dead were certainly raised with generous helpings of Unleashed, Dismember, Grave and Entombed. It’s easy to see why bands seek to emulate those legendary Swedish bands. Come Back From The Dead’s sophomore full-length The Rise of the Blind Ones certainly matches much of what these bands have done.
Does the album usurp those early ‘90s classics? Not quite. Even though the band understand what makes those albums great, imitation keeps this record from elite consideration. The Rise of the Blind Ones is a catchy album. “Nebulaes of Malevolent Shining” is one of the more memorable tracks on an album with no filler. The album will stay in the mind’s register, but it’s too easy to point out what’s already been done, even specific songs; therefore, bringing to questing the band’s creativity.
Crashdïet – Rust (Frontiers)
Finnish sleaze gang Crashdïet have returned with Rust, their first album in six years and first with vocalist Gabriel Keyes. While Rust might be the name, the sound and songs show no wear and tear on these Finns as they sound mightily rejuvenated with 11 tracks of up-tempo, catchy tunes that will be sure to please any fan of the band.
The production is a massive step up from 2013’s The Savage Playground, which was a muddy mess. Rust takes advantage of the sonic improvement with rockers that will make listeners want to raise their fist and yell. Keyes possesses a fresh voice and provides the ample attitude to the bombastic title track and the romp of “Crazy” and “Idiots.” There are plentiful amounts of captivating guitar parts, including the nice utilization of acoustic intros with the melancholic daze of “Into The Maze” and the rollicking “We Are The Legion.” A very slick and inspired release from the Finns, Crashdïet are doing a great job keeping glam and sleaze alive.
Crypt Sermon – The Ruins of Fading Light (Dark Descent)
Crypt Sermon’s 2015 debut, Out of the Garden, was a breath of fresh, enthusiastic air in the doom/epic metal world. These guys fit in perfectly with modern bands such as Spirit Adrift and Visigoth, but also pay significant homage to Candlemass and Bathory. In other words, this Philly quintet really perked up our ears, and here we are four years later, eagerly sinking our teeth into their follow-up, The Ruins of Fading Light.
From the get-go this is definitely Crypt Sermon, but not quite as stellar and vital as their debut. Most notably, Brooks Wilson’s vocals sound a little rougher than on the first album, as if he’s been working way too hard. The songs are still compelling slabs of epic doom, not quite as riff-laden yet gripping in their own way. The Ruins of Fading Light is a commendable sophomore album, and won’t disappoint fans of the band or newcomers.
Eschaton – Death Obsession (Unique Leader)
Death Obsession is the second full-length album from New England tech death group Eschaton, yet also acts as a compilation of sorts. The album has three new songs, followed by a remixed and remastered version of their 2010 self-released EP Wake Of The Ophidian, and finishes with the instrumental “Seal Of The Curse.” The instrumental, a metalized medley of two tracks from the NES game Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, is worth wading through this collection of stellar new material and uneven deep cuts.
The unevenness comes as a result of songs that were written in the early days of the band, before they were able to fine tune their tech death. The quality of the three new songs, with their proficient musicianship and unpredictable pacing, is a notable contrast to the less-polished origins of the EP. The first trio of songs and “Seal Of The Curse” are highly recommended; the rest get a lukewarm endorsement.
Eye Flys – Context (Thrill Jockey)
Eye Flys are a new band with a veteran lineup. It was formed by Full Of Hell guitarist Spencer Hazard and ex-Backslider drummer Patrick Forrest, with Backslider bassist Jake Smith brought on board for vocals and guitar and Triac’s Keven Bernstein on bass. Context is their debut EP.
It’s an aggressive and intense album with biting vocals, but there’s ample groove and melody as well. There are similarities to groups like the Melvins (which inspired the band name) and Unsane, Eye Flys bring their own brand of noise to the table. Sometimes bludgeoning, other times more technical, there’s no shortage of groove. The six tracks fly by in a focused barrage of noisey sludge, whetting the appetite for a future full-length.
The Hu – The Gereg (Eleven Seven)
Formed in 2016, The Hu hail from Mongolia. Even prior to the release of their debut album The Gereg the band has had tens of millions of YouTube views of the singles “Wolf Totem” and “Yuve Yuve Yu.”
The Hu blend traditional Mongolian instruments and throat singing with hard rock to create a sound that is very distinctive that will appeal to fans of numerous genres. It’s also very catchy. They alternate uptempo, rousing songs like “Shoog Shoog” with more subdued tracks such as “The Great Chinggis Khaan.” You’ll hear elements of bands like Tengger Calvary and Korpiklaani, but The Gereg’s brand of folk and hard rock is distinctly The Hu.
Nightfell – A Sanity Deranged (20 Buck Spin)
After releasing their first two albums in back-to-back years, Nightfell took four years to follow up with A Sanity Deranged. The years haven’t affected their icy death/doom, as the duo continue to home in on the doomier side of their sound. A looming sense of uneasiness washes over these songs, especially in the slower tempos that crawl along like an injured person dehydrated and lost in the tundra.
There is no solace to be found in the darkness this album is confined to. It doesn’t dissipate for anything, not even with the distorted voices and noise used in the interlude “(Holiness Digested).” Though there’s less of the experimentation of Nightfell’s earlier albums (nothing like the gloomy ballad “Empty Prayers” on here), A Sanity Deranged fits right in line with their disdainful vision.
Visceral Disgorge – Slithering Evisceration (Agonia)
If a listener wasn’t convinced that Visceral Disgorge’s Slithering Evisceration was a brutal death metal album, the band explicitly says it on closer “Transfixed In Torture,” as some random clip of someone saying “brutality” interrupts the song. This inclusion isn’t subtle at all, but nothing about the band’s sophomore album is. It’s a caveman style of death metal, all grunting and slamming and flailing around with the intent of being as obnoxious as possible.
At least the band has gotten away from the gory, sexual torture nonsense of the past, switching to a more sci-fi/horror direction. The content is still graphic, yet at least doesn’t feel like throwing words (mutilation, genitalia, shredded, anal bleeding) at a wall. Slithering Evisceration is brutal death metal performed with no surprises or attempts to break out of the mold.
Weeping Sores – False Confession (I, Voidhanger)
The mournful strings of a violin accentuate the death/doom of the debut album from Weeping Sores, False Confession. An immediate comparison to My Dying Bride is hard to resist, yet the band uses the violin as a main instrument instead of just trudging it out for brief cameos. Its sorrowful notes give emotional validity to many of these songs, especially the frightful memory of a child’s drowning invoked in closer “Sinking Beneath The Waves.”
Weeping Sores are comprised of members of Pyrrhon and Seputus, both bands of which are far cries sonically from the soul-destroying pace of this music. The vocals are performed with such a deep tone that it can be hard to pull out individual words unless a listener has the lyrics on them, but doing so changes the entire complexion of False Confession. There’s genuine horror looming over this album, one that isn’t easily forgotten once the meaning is dug out.
Winterfylleth – The Siege Of Mercia (Candlelight)
In 2017, the UK black metal troupe Winterfylleth played the main stage at the Bloodstock Festival. That performance has been captured for posterity with The Siege Of Mercia.
Available on DVD/CD and vinyl, the five song setlist that clocks in at just under 40 minutes focuses on their earlier material, with all the tracks from their first four albums that were released between 2008 and 2014. There’s also a previously unreleased bonus track, the 2019 synth version of “Children Of The Stones” (the original was on 2010’s The Mercian Sphere). Their live presence is impressive, delivering the songs with precision and passion. Winterfylleth’s first live album is a quality one, with the only downside its relatively short length.