This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Aborted, Bangladeafy, Betzefer, Dark Sarah, Dragonlord, Forn, Madder Mortem, Prezir, Pyrexia, Second Sun, Skullcave and Sumac.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aborted – TerrorVision (Century Media)
TerrorVision is the tenth full-length from Belgian death metal veterans Aborted, and their first with bassist Stefano Franceschini (Hideous Divinity).
They deliver their brand of crushing death metal that’s dense and heavy, but also laden with groove and melody. After an instrumental interlude, the bludgeoning begins with the title track. There are atmospheric moments and solos that add diversity, along with tempo changes that help give the listener momentary respites before the intensity resumes. There are focused tracks like “Visceral Despondency” and more lengthy song such as the six minute “Vespertine Decay.” Lyrically, TerrorVision examines the state of the world today through the prism of ’80s horror movies. While slightly more accessible than the typical Aborted album, it’s still ferocious and brutal.
Bangladeafy – Ribboncutter (Nefarious Industries)
Two years ago, in our inaugural Progress Report, we looked at a curious EP from a New York-based duo named Bangladeafy. Their fusion-prog mix was intriguing enough in those 16 minutes for me to keep an eye open for future releases, and here they are with their debut full-length album (well, ten songs in 22 minutes), Ribboncutter.
One minor difference between Ribboncutter and Narcopaloma is the addition of raw punk vocals this time around on the title track, courtesy multi-instrumentalist Jon Ehlers (Atif Haq is the drummer). Aside from that, Bangladeafy have delivered another short, sharp, discordant platter of oddball prog/noise with some fantastic drumming and basswork. I’m looking forward to more output from these guys.
Betzefer – Entertain Your Force Of Habit (Metalville)
After their last album, 2013’s The Devil Went Down To The Holy Land, Betzefer vocalist and founding member Avital Tamir exited the band. After debating whether they wanted to continue, the Israeli groove metal band brought aboard Aharon Ragoza for Entertain Your Force Of Habit.
Giant grooves and catchy melodies are contrasted by Ragoza’s rough and aggressive vocal style. He utilizes different styles from growls to screams to singing. Tracks like “Dead Lines” and “Never Been” have a lot of swagger along with memorable riffs. You’ll hear influences of bands ranging from Pantera to Lamb Of God to Soulfly in Betzefer’s sound. Changing vocalists is always difficult, but this is a pretty smooth transition.
Dark Sarah – The Golden Moth (Inner Wound)
The Finnish symphonic/cinematic metal band Dark Sarah return with The Golden Moth, wrapping up The Chronicles trilogy, which tells the story of Sarah and her evil half-sister Dark Sarah. The band is fronted by Heidi Parviainen (ex-Amberian Dawn) and JP Leppeluoto (Charon).
The songs are very dynamic and theatrical, but the symphonic elements do not overshadow the guitars. In addition to the vocal interplay between Parviainen and Leppeluoto, there are several guest vocalists who play characters in the album’s concept, including Nightwish’s Marco Hietala, Diabulus In Musica’s Zuberoa Aznarez and former Ensiferum member Netta Skog. The songs are meticulously arranged, with strong musicianship and good vocal performances, and while a bit melodramatic at times, it’s still an engaging listen.
Dragonlord – Dominion (Spinefarm)
Eric Peterson’s symphonic black metallers Dragonlord have been teasing a new album now for as far back as 2010. Now, a whopping thirteen years on from Black Wings Of Destiny the time has finally come for album three, Dominion, the new blackened release and a progression into a more epic sound.
Dominion has all the brazen grandeur of Cradle Of Filth’s best and it can be said that Dragonlord are on par, a feat to be lauded with only three albums to their name. The addition of young Alex Bent on drums adds a fresh dynamic as do the dulcet tones of female vocalist Leah who lends her soothing voice to several tracks including the stunning ballad “Love Of The Damned.” Dominion marks a splendorous return.
Fórn –Rites of Despair (Gilead)
According to Fórn, Rites of Despair is the band’s first proper full-length album, making every other release up to this point either an EP or demo. So that means the excellent The Departure of Consciousness release back in 2014 was nothing more than a taste test for Fórn. The real tempting course is in this 65-minute behemoth, which keeps in line with their purposeful crossing of doom and sludge.
There’s no shortage of crushing forays into the bleakest musical corners, but the band masks some of that with periodic reigned-in guitar work and a pattern of an interlude after every two songs. These interludes invoke an airy dream, reinforced by guest musicians, including Worm Ouroboros/Barren Harvest vocalist/guitarist Jessica Way. Her wonderful contributions help to give Rites of Despair space to step out of those bleak corners, if only for a split second.
Madder Mortem – Marrow (Dark Essence)
After a seven year gap between Eight Ways and 2016’s Red In Tooth And Claw, the Norwegian band Madder Mortem make a much quicker return with Marrow, their seventh full-length.
They encompass a variety of styles. Tracks like “Liberator” are relatively straightforward, while “Moonlight Over Silver White” has more twists and turns, with mellow psychedelic moments contrasting heaviness and the powerful vocals of Agnete M. Kirkevaag. She delivers an impressive performance, able to go from folky and reserved to all out belting. The mostly mellow “Until You Return” is followed by the aggressive and doomy “My Will Be Done,” which includes some harsh vocals. There are also folk, prog and avant-garde moments to be heard in this dynamic and varied album that’s difficult to categorize, but easy to enjoy.
Prezir – As Rats Devour Lions (Godz ov War)
Prezir are well-versed in the art of the frantic guitar solo on their debut album, As Rats Devour Lions. Their conventional black metal ways are bolstered by the ripping solos that seem to sneak up on the music like a viral infection. Each song has at least one of them, where the attention moves away from everything except that lone guitarist putting his fingers to the limit.
If this review seems a bit heavy on praise for guitar solos, that’s because of the band’s workmanlike standards with their black metal. It’s fast, loose, full of blasphemy, and sticks to what it knows without deviation. There’s nothing wrong with Prezir hanging onto a singular approach, as they do it well, but the guitar solos are the attraction on As Rats Devour Lions.
Pyrexia – Unholy Requiem (Unique Leader)
Two days after their former frontman, Erick Shute, received three consecutive life sentences for his role in a 2016 triple murder, New York death metal veterans Pyrexia will look to bury the past with the release of their fifth full-length album, Unholy Requiem. Like their last effort, Feast of Iniquity, this new record offers even more no-nonsense brutality with a giant chip on its shoulder.
No strangers to that ‘tough guy’ death metal sound, Pyrexia deliver eight tracks of pit-pushing heaviness that borders on the more extreme ‘brutal’ style sans the mechanical technicality. The production feels rough but organic, and the pulsing riffs and puffed-chest attitude sounds like a blend of Dying Fetus and the last Devourment album. In no way a game-changer, Pyrexia’s latest is a refreshing dose of straight-forward hammering with blisters on its hands.
Second Sun – Elandes Elande (Gaphals)
Second Sun are fronted by Tribulation’s former drummer Jakob Ljundberg, but their sound is nothing like that band’s. Elandes Elande, their sophomore release, is psychedelic space/hard rock with a ’70s vibe.
On tracks like “Noll Respekt,” a mellotron provides a very retro vibe, while songs like “Ingen Tid For Allting” and “Panikangestattack” are more guitar based. While most of the album is soaked in a ’70s sound and production, the ballad “Det Betyder Allt” has a more timeless sound. As you’re probably gathering from the song titles, the album’s lyrics are in Swedish. If you’re looking for something extreme, this isn’t it, but if you dig the sweet sounds of the ’70s, this may be right up your alley.
Skullcave – Fear (Art as Catharsis)
Skullcave perform a very sludgy take on the metal genre on this their debut album, Fear. The music goes through a number of shifts and changes, but is always a sludge driven album at heart. The sounds here are at times doomy as well. The diversity makes for a very interesting and varied sound. Right from the track “Fear to Hide” the band lays down their signature sound. The riffs are massive and have a huge impact. The next song, “Forgiving,” lays down some acoustics at the beginning which is really nice.
There is a huge amount of variety on display and it is very welcome to behold. The vocals are weighty and carry the songs. The guitars are cavernous in scope and make for a bludgeoning. The drums provide the backdrop for the remainder of the instruments. All in all, this was an excellent record, but I felt the level of intensity drop from time to time. This is what prevents the album from being absolutely outstanding. Still, this is some eminently memorable music and it deserves very close attention indeed.
Sumac – Love In Shadow (Thrill Jockey)
A few months after American Dollar Bill – Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous To Look At Face On, their collaboration with Japanese artist Keiji Haino was released, Sumac return with Love In Shadow, their third studio album.
Like their first two albums, this includes lengthy atmospheric sludge songs. The four tracks clock in at over 66 minutes, with the opener “The Task” more than 21 minutes long. In the hands of lesser musicians, things might go off the rails, but with Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom), Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) and Brian Cook (Russian Circles), they deliver varied and interesting songs with frequent shifts in tempo and intensity. Things unfold slowly, but patience will be rewarded.