This week’s reviews include releases from Act Of Defiance, Airbourne, Air Raid, Chelsea Wolfe, Coven, Evil Invaders, Godhead Machinery, Kadavar, Monolord, Monarch, Necrovorous, Shrapnel, UFO and With The Dead.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Act Of Defiance – Old Scars, New Wounds (Metal Blade)
Act Of Defiance, formed by ex-Megadeth members Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover along with vocalist Henry Derek Bonner and bassist Matt Bachand, released their debut in 2015. Old Scars, New Wounds is their latest effort, produced by Dave Otero (Cattle Decapitation).
There’s no doubt the musicianship is going to be top-notch. Broderick is one of the best guitarists in the business, with Drover and Bachand also first class musicians. The whole band participated in the songwriting process this time, and they did a nice job creating songs that are diverse and memorable. Bonner has an aggressive, biting vocal delivery and is also able to sing melodically when needed. From slow crushers like “The Talisman” to mid-paced groovers such as “Circle Of Ashes” to upbeat thrashers like “Molten Core,” Act Of Defiance deliver the goods.
Airbourne – Diamond Cuts: The B Sides (Nettwerk)
Australian rockers Airbourne are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their first album release with a box set. It includes their first three studio albums (Runnin’ Wild, No Guts No Glory and Black Dog Barking) along with a documentary DVD and the rarities collection Diamond Cuts: The B Sides.
The compilation includes two previously unreleased tracks along with 13 b sides from their first three albums. It’s an entertaining collection with the band’s trademark raucous hard rock with singalong choruses and gritty melodies. The quality of the songs is better than the usual b-sides collection. There are some excellent tracks here that easily could have made the cut on albums. Airbourne albums are great soundtracks for parties, and with this much material (four albums and a DVD) you could have an all-night rager.
Air Raid – Across The Line (High Roller)
Swedish traditional metallers Air Raid have undergone a couple of lineup changes for their third album Across The Line, including a new vocalist, Fredrik Werner.
Though they only began releasing music this decade, Air Raid sound like they have been around since the ’80s. They have the classic style of that era with soaring melodies and twin guitars from Andreas Johansson and Magnus Mild. Werner is a good addition, singing with a lot of power and also a bluesy edge. Adding neoclassical elements helps give them some modern touches alongside their classic vibe.
Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun (Sargent House)
Chelsea Wolfe has drawn a lot of critical acclaim for her genre-spanning albums. Her latest release Hiss Spun will continue that praise, blending disparate styles into a cohesive and compelling whole.
The album is front-loaded with heavier tracks, such as the opening doom-laden song “Spun,” the deliberate “16 Psyche” and “Vex,” which includes guest growls from Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom). Those are contrasted by quieter and more ethereal tracks, some which glide along mellowly and others that have more tension. She incorporates styles including alt rock, folk and electronica. Wolfe’s vocals range from near whispers to melodic crooning to more aggressive and urgent singing. All of those styles are on display on “Twin Fawn,” the most dynamic song on an emotional and cathartic album that’s packed with them.
Coven – The Advent (Svart)
Originality can be hard to come by in heavy metal, but most bands at least attempt to not be outright with their aping. Coven, however, show no such hesitation on The Advent, with direct copies of songs from pretty much every great metal band from 1980-1983.
If it wasn’t for the awful, high-pitched vocals, “Wings of Glory” could’ve been an outtake from Iron Maiden’s first album. Mind you, a poor outtake, one that would never see a public release, but an outtake regardless. The EP is also too long, which contradicts the whole point of an EP, and not worth much aside from its futuristic-looking cover art.
Evil Invaders – Feed Me Violence
In the early ’80s bands began amping up the intensity from traditional metal, creating speed and thrash metal. Belgian bruisers Evil Invaders hearken back to the glory days of that style with their second full-length, Feed Me Violence.
Slayer are an obvious influence, but vocalist Joe (just Joe, like Cher or Madonna) has a wide range, from gruff barks to Halford-esque upper register. There are also plenty of guitar acrobatics and lighting speed drums. They do dial back the tempo from time to time to create some variety. In addition to Slayer, you’ll hear elements of bands like Kreator and Metallica in their sound as well. It’s certainly not original, but it is well done, and a fun retro ride back to speed metal’s heyday.
Godhead Machinery – Ouroboros (Inverse)
Swedish group Godhead Machinery are all about black metal with symphonic tweaks on their debut, Ouroboros. Just passing over the 30-minute mark, Ouroboros is not much of a time waster, even though the group finds a way to fit in not only a customary intro track, but a typical instrumental interlude around the album’s halfway point.
“Praise the Flesh” and “The Plague” rise with an ambitious approach, where the orchestration becomes more prevalent. Their lengthier design puts the band in a better position than the blackened fare that dominates large parts of the album.
Kadavar – Rough Times (Nuclear Blast)
Berlin trio Kadavar are back with their fourth album, Rough Times. These retro/stoner rockers offer another take on the whole psychedelic/old school hard rock movement. The songs have a very dated hi-fi production quality, with a lot of treble and echo on the vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place in the late ’60s.
When the songs work, they really work, such as first single “Die Baby Die,” with its driving psychedelic feel, and “Vampires” and Tribulation Nation” are catchy as hell. Not every song clicks, but there’s enough solid (and excellent) cuts on Rough Times to recommend it for fans of catchy space rock.
Monolord – Rust (RidingEasy)
The Swedish stoner/doom trio Monolord received positive response to their first two releases, increasing expectations for their latest opus, Rust. They have lived up to the hope and hype.
The album clocks in at nearly an hour, but only has six tracks. The lengthy songs don’t drag, as Monolord construct compelling compositions. Songs like the slow “Dear Lucifer” and “Wormland” are stately and smooth, while tracks like opener “Where Death Meets The Sea” have a little more pep in their step. Thomas Jager has a silky style that’s an interesting contrast with the grubby and gritty guitars. There are some ’70s influences, but it doesn’t sound as retro as many stoner/doom records do.
Monarch – Never Forever (Profound Lore)
Monarch’s newest release Never Forever has a dreamlike quality. The mix forces me to want to get closer in to the music, yet their Brechtian riffing keeps the listener at a remote orbit of the dark, crushing music. The only respite comes from vocalist Emilie Bresson’s sometimes intimate delivery only to be countered by death roaring and unholy shrieking from beyond.
A surreal (or maybe tongue in cheek) version of the old Kiss standard “Black Diamond”splits the album into two distinct movements. Familiarity with the original version only deepens the impact of the loose improvisational feel that Monarch hold over the cover band standard. This is music for the bold to experience as a whole album, over an hour of darker than black, slower than hell, beautifully nightmarish 21st century extreme music. Truly music for the doomed.
Necrovorous – Plains of Decay (Dark Descent)
Necrovorous have a very brutal flair to their music. There is definitely the influence of other death metal bands to be felt on Plains Of Decay, the Greek band’s second full-length and first since 2011. There is certainly a large debt to old Entombed, but there are other points of comparison too. The razor sharp scalpel edge of Carcass can be heard here as well. The band tries to sound like they are carving out their own niche, even with the heavy influences. They are fairly effective at doing so.
As mentioned, there is an aggressive element to Necrovorous that they use as one of their most important traits. Necrovorous sound very old school in nature and this is partially why they are so effective. Though the music here could be more original, it is undeniably metal enough to be worthwhile.
Shrapnel – Raised On Decay (Spinefarm/Candlelight)
From Norwich, England, Shrapnel deliver blasting and strong thrash metal which began with their early EPs and they have kept that spirit ever since, shaping it to a more mature and astounding achievement on The Virus Conspires, which was the band’s first full length. Shrapnel have followed the path of their debut in Raised On Decay.
The band’s second album is a complex of catchy guitar riffs blended with fiery jazzy/bluesy guitar solos which can be heard all over the pieces. Mostly focused on fast groovy thrash, Shrapnel experience many influences from Overkill and Death Angel to name a few, channeling old school and modern thrash metal with impressive musicianship. However, the band hasn’t strayed far enough from those influences to forge a unique enough identity of their own.
UFO – The Salentino Cuts (Cleopatra)
UFO have had a remarkably stable lineup over the years, with three members in the band for 40+ years and guitarist Vinnie Moore around since 2003. The band has great chemistry and it shows throughout The Salentino Cuts, an album of cover songs that despite the solid performances is still hit and miss.
The album features Phil Moog’s bluesy vocals (although he at times can try too hard to sound like the song’s original singer) and some great solos from Moore, but the crux of the problem here is the uninspired song selections. These songs may mean a lot to the band, but not to us. The most interesting cuts are John Mellencamp’s “Paper in Fire” and Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher.” Beyond that, choices are on the predicable side.
With The Dead – Love From With The Dead (Rise Above)
Ex-Cathedral/Napalm Death frontman and Rise Above Records founder Lee Dorrian formed With The Dead in 2015 with ex-Electric Wizard bassist/guitarist Tim Bagshaw. After their debut album, drummer Mark Greening exited, and they have expanded from a trio to a quartet, adding bassist Leo Smee and drummer Alex Thomas for Love From With The Dead.
Their debut had plenty of heft, but this one is even heavier. From stifling doom to quicker paced stoner metal, the riffs are dense and crushing. Lyrically it’s very heavy as well, reflecting personal difficulties and a general anger and frustration with the world at large. Their fury and misery is poured out through the music, a cathartic and impactful album.