This week’s reviews include releases from Ataraxy, Eigenlicht, Ektomorf, For The Fallen Dreams, Harakiri For The Sky, Heavatar, Horizons Ablaze, Painted Doll, Pop Evil, Revenger and Visions Of Atlantis.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ataraxy – Where All Hope Fades (Dark Descent)
Ataraxy’s slow-burning death metal is how the hope in the album’s title disappears, its circular spiral into the oblivion unfettered by the occasional melody. The avalanche of riffs that pools out of “One Last Certainty” and “The Mourning Path” is a welcomed cleanser from the horror that patiently emerges on the other songs.
However, the group functions best when they engulf the listener in a foggy sonic discharge. As the guitars wail and the tempo suddenly craters during the closing minutes of “The Blackness of Eternal Night,” the album fades into a peaceful emptiness where no more pain can be felt.
Eigenlicht – Self-Annihilating Consciousness (I, Voidhanger/Gilead Media)
The fundamentals of existence and philosophical musings are the backbone of Eigenlicht’s journey to their debut album, Self-Annihilating Consciousness. With this being black metal, much of that essence is lost to howls of suffering. Most will focus on the music throughout the four double-digit tracks, anchored by a wistful flute on the short intro song.
From resounding organs to piercing synths, the keyboards are a major factor unburdened by the dense instrumentation. These songs have areas where it’s as if the band takes a deep breath, punctuated by understated tranquility that goes on just long enough for the anticipation into eventual tragedy to be at its peak.
Ektomorf – Fury (AFM)
2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the formation of Ektomorf, who have gone to be one of Hungary’s most successful metal bands. Founder Zoltán “Zoli” Farkas remains, but the rest of the lineup for their latest album Fury is completely new.
Their groove metal style remains intact, with head bobbing riffs contrasted by Farkas’ aggressive vocals. He delivers lyrics about discrimination and pain with the fury signified in the album title. They shift tempos from skull-crushing deliberation (“Fury”) to mid-tempo destruction (tracks like “Bullet In Your Head”) to galloping thrash on “Infernal Warfare.” Producer Tue Madsen does a good job balancing an expansive sound with enough rawness to give it the bite it needs.
For The Fallen Dreams – Six (Rise)
For their first several albums, the Michigan metalcore band For The Fallen Dreams were on the typical musical treadmill of releasing an album, touring for a year and getting right back in the studio for the next one. They took a different approach for their new album Six, getting off the road for a while to work and raise families while still working on new music.
Coming four years after their last album, FTFD were able to refine and polish the songs on Six, adding atmosphere and depth to their metalcore fare. While balancing the melodic and the extreme throughout, some tracks tip the scales toward aggression, while others are more accessible. The added time between records served them well, as they have delivered a very consistent album that will please existing fans and allow them to attract new ones as well.
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson (AOP)
Post-black Austrian duo Harakiri for the Sky are back with their fourth album, Arson. M.S. (all instruments) and J.J. (vocals) have released three highly-regarded slabs of emotional metal. Their lengthy, well-arranged songs with anguished, depressing lyrics are sprinkled with plenty of atmosphere and a healthy dose of melodic death metal.
Arson stays with this stylistic template as well. Excellent production highlights the top-notch, multilayered music, with J.J.’s tortured harsh vocals dragging us along for an exhausting ride. Of note, the drumming here is performed by Septicflesh’s Kerim Lechner.A bonus track, a cover of Graveyard Lovers’ “Manifesto,” with clean vocals from Silvi Bogojevic, is the closest we get to respite on what may prove to be one of February’s best releases.
Heavatar – Opus II: The Annihilation (earMusic)
Almost exactly five years after their debut, the German power metal band Heavatar return with Opus II: The Annihilation. The band is fronted by Van Canto’s Stefan Schmidt and also includes veteran drummer Jorg Michael (Saxon, Stratovarius, Grave Digger, Running Wild).
Heavy guitars are augmented by classical elements that give the songs added atmosphere and depth. It checks all the power metal boxes: soaring melodies, versatile vocals, guitar wizardry and sometimes over the top lyrics. It’s nothing new or original, but is executed flawlessly. They also cover the Manowar track “Metal Daze,” which is a little more down and dirty than the rest of the record.
Horizon Ablaze – The Weight of a Thousand Suns (Leviatan/Diger)
Horizon Ablaze certainly have an interesting grasp on the music they’re performing. This is avant-garde music of a high order. It is a vicious attack of black metal bliss, but has some nods to death metal as well. The music is very harsh in nature, but also has a twisting avant-garde element that elevates it above what is typical from the black metal genre. The music on their third album is interesting in its approach with a very discordant aspect that is altogether appealing.
There is a little too much of the harsh black metal style for my tastes. I’m looking more towards the avant-garde aspect of the music for positivity and there is enough of a push to this degree to make the songs compelling. Fans of avant-garde black metal like Deathspell Omega will certainly find something to like here. The music is evil enough for a good spin and listen.
Painted Doll – Painted Doll (Tee Pee)
Painted Doll‘s pleasant self-titled debut featuring the unlikely pairing of comedian/guitar-shredder Dave Hill and metal legend Chris Reifert (Autopsy, Death) satisfies on a couple of levels. The throwback late ‘60s/early ‘70s feel makes the album a colorful journey back to clever yet basic chord patterning, slides, wah wah pedals, and good old-fashioned echo on the vocal tracks.
The production is just dirty enough to feel “historically textured,” and the lead solos are rich in sustain and melody. The record is also filled with good songs, those with hooks easy to remember. Some rock albums scream for attention, while this one welcomes in the listener as if an old friend.
Pop Evil – Pop Evil (eOne)
Michigan’s Pop Evil have become one of the more successful commercial hard rock bands, with a string of top 10 rock radio singles and albums that have charted as high as number 25. Their fifth full-length, a self-titled effort, could be their most successful yet.
It’s already spawned one top five single, the opening single “Waking Lions.” The album is jam packed with melodic yet heavy songs with giant hooks that still pack a punch. Frontman Leigh Kakaty is able to croon with the best of them, but also raps effectively on tracks like “Colors Bleed” and “Art Of War,” giving them a Rage Against The Machine vibe. There’s not an ounce of filler on the album, and ample diversity to held them stand out from the sometimes interchangeable legion of hard rock bands.
The New Mythology Vol. 1 is a good way for Revenger to introduce their latest lineup, which features all new members except for guitarist JP Poulin, the lone founding member remaining who has switched over to bass guitar. Their thrash metal has a heavy dose of groove, channeling a jumpy energy into the sound.
Poulin has surrounded himself with great musicians who are each able to stand out when required. His bass work bolsters songs like “The Man Who Shot God” and “The Watcher (Uatu)” uses its extra time to craft a supercharged closer. This EP gives Revenger a means of motivation if and/or when they decide to release another full-length.
Visions Of Atlantis – The Deep & The Dark (Napalm)
Even though vocalists Clementine Delauncy and Siegfried Samer have been part of Visions Of Atlantis since 2013, The Deep & The Dark is their first full-length studio album with the band. It’s also the first VOA record for guitarist Christian Douscha and bassist Herbert Glos, leaving drummer Thomas Caser as the sole holdover from 2013’s Ethera.
The combination of Delauncy and Samer is a good one. She has a smooth tone and is able to hit the high notes when needed, but also has a poppy side. She really shines on the ballad “The Last Home.” Samer sings with a lot of power and dynamics. The songs are symphonic power metal, but the classical elements don’t overshadow the hooks and melodies. The album has a lot of diversity, from the radio friendly title track to the Celtic tinged “Ritual Night” to the epic “The Silent Mutiny.”