This week’s Heavy Music HQ reviews include releases from Artillery, Black Blood Invocation, Cavernous Gate, CRS, Deep Purple, Fen, Ghostreaper, Imprecation, Isenordal, Luca Sellitto, The Murder Of My Sweet, Nefarious Dusk, Nightwish, Running Wild, Sun Of The Sleepless, Timeworn and Witchbones.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Artillery – In The Trash (Mighty)
In The Trash is a collection of early demos from Danish thrashers Artillery. The album contains their first demo We Are The Dead from 1982, and the unreleased demo In The Trash from 1986. Being a collection of demos, the sound quality is very raw and unpolished. Listeners will definitely have to crank the volume to hear this album well. Listen to the frenetic head banger “The Challenge” and the solo intro on “Therapy” for examples of how the bass is a major presence.
In The Trash is a speed/thrash metal, through and through, but the band takes much influence from the NWOBHM movement. What would one expect from a band who took their name from a Tank song? They are also from Denmark and some of their compositions resemble Mercyful Fate, especially “We Are the Dead” and “Day of Doom.” From speed picking to gallops, there are plenty of infectious riffs to puts necks in traction.
CRS – The Collector Of Truths (Concreto)
The path to CRS’s The Collector Of Truths doesn’t start now, or last year, or even last decade. It goes back to the late 1990s, when the Mexican group was known as Cirrosis. That iteration released some demos and an LP before going underground in the early 2000s. Now, as we nearly enter a new decade, CRS have returned with a full-length of groove/death metal with a technical spark.
This spark comes in the form of shredding guitar solos and guest spots from drummer Kevin Talley on a few songs and Obscura/Alkaloid bassist Linus Klausenitzer on “The Art Of Breathing.” Those two musicians are at such a high skill level that the listener will immediately recognize their work. Their inclusion gives gravitas to the songs they are on, though the group does fine on their own with tunes like the anthemic “Resistencia” and Meshuggah-esque “Asfixia.”
Deep Purple – Live In Rome 2013 (earMusic)
The legendary Deep Purple have been around for a mind boggling 50 years, influencing countless bands over the decades. They have released numerous live albums during their lengthy career. Their latest is Live In Rome 2013. It was recorded on the Now What?! tour shortly after the passing of longtime keyboardist Jon Lord.
The lineup of Ian Gillan (vocals), Steve Morse (guitar), Roger Glover (bass), Ian Paice (drums) and Don Airey (keyboards) play tracks from throughout the band’s history. The 18 song set (plus some solos) includes several from Now What?! along with classics such as “Hush,” “Space Truckin” and of course “Smoke On The Water.” Deep Purple still play with energy and passion and sound great.
Fen – The Dead Light (Prophecy)
There is a very folky element to The Dead Light, the British band Fen’s sixth full-length release. The songs are driven by distinctive currents that make for a very immersive listening experience. The band does have a post-black element that makes them quite appealing. The combination of sounds makes for a unique take on the black metal genre that isn’t often heard. Still, the music is straightforward enough to make an impact despite the lack of a complete focus. The music is also complex enough to make for a thinking man’s metal band around every corner.
The guitar riffs are majestic and make for a deep listening experience. This is music one can wrap their thoughts around as it has some very distinctive patterns throughout. The songs have a rawness to them that is drawn back because of the folk and post-black elements to the band’s sound. This allows them to breathe and be more full of life. There are also dynamics to this disc that allows them to be heavy or soft depending on the mood created. Overall, this was a very successful album that has black metal portions, but also other elements added in.
Ghostreaper – Straight Out of Hell (Pride & Joy)
Ghostreaper is the project of Voodoma guitarist Mikk Hollenberg. Together with drummer Wolle Haitz, he has brought together ten vocalists from ten different countries to record ten songs in a variety of styles – power metal, hard rock, and more. The overall theme is the Wild West, but that’s nearly irrelevant within the scope of Straight Out of Hell.
Musically, the ten tracks presented are unmemorable at best, with poor production hampering everything. Drums sound awful, and often the vocalists are lost in the mix. And speaking of vocalists, none of the ten bring anything vital to the table, leaving the songs limp and uninspiring. While Hollenberg had noble aspirations for Ghostreaper, the execution falls well short of an epic Wild West shootout.
Imprecation/Black Blood Invocation – Diabolical Flames of the Ascended Plague (Helter Skelter/Regain)
Diabolical Flames of the Ascended Plague is a split album of American (Imprecation) and Greece (Black Blood Invocation) black/death hell fire propagators. Houston’s Imprecation offer a collection of exclusive tracks, a reworking and an atmospheric outro. “Emperor of Infernal Spirits” is a reworked track from 1994, which features blackened shrieks from Seth of Decay of Ritual Decay and Morbus 666. These four songs contain abyss churning riffs, doomed dirges and ominous keys.
While there are still death-mongering growls and low-end riffs that skim the tormented abyss of Tartarus, Black Blood Invocation’s side of the split has a murkier, black grind presence. The Von and Archgoat isn’t as apparent as their previous EP and demo, but their output here is still decidedly bestial. BBI also inserts keys to add an additional element of ambiance to their sonic dungeon of torment. Ugly, brutal, wicked—Diabolical Flames of the Ascended Plague will singe your hair with its bombarding inferno hails!
Isenordal – Shores Of Mourning (Prophecy)
Shores Of Mourning is the debut album of neofolk/doom project Isenordal, which was originally self-released by the band in 2017. It’s now being re-released by Prophecy Productions on the heels of the group’s 2018 sophomore album, Spectral Embrace. The band’s black metal influences have a stronger presence on Shores Of Mourning compared to the folksy bent of Spectral Embrace.
Even with that, the use of strings, pianos, and melodic vocals are as commonplace as the raspy barks and blast beats. Songs like “Cleansing Rites” and “To Tear the Veil of Dreams” hint at the sounds that would lead to their second album. While Spectral Embrace was more of an original release, it’s hard to deny the naturalistic force on display by Isenordal on Shores Of Mourning.
Luca Sellitto – The Voice Within (Pride & Joy)
Luca Sellitto is the guitarist and founding member of the long running power/progressive metal band Stamina. The Voice Within is his first solo album.
It’s in the neoclassical power metal vein with plenty of shredding and guitar wizardry. Three of the tracks are instrumentals. One is a blazer, one a ballad and one somewhere in between. The other five songs feature guest vocalists. Rob Lundgren (The Mentalist) sings on three songs, while Goran Edman (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) and Henrik Brockmann (ex-Royal Hunt) also guest. The combination of different vocalists make for an eclectic release with top notch guitar work.
The Murder Of My Sweet – Brave Tin World (Frontiers)
Brave Tin World is the fifth album from the Dutch band Murder Of My Sweet. The quartet, fronted by vocalist Angelica Rylin, incorporate a lot of different styles to create their sound.
The songs have a strong base of hooks and memorable choruses, along with atmospheres that range from cinematic to symphonic to progressive. Rylin’s vocal style gives the proceedings a modern feel that’s very accessible, avoiding the operatic/classical approach of many bands of this genre. Most songs are in the 5 minute range, giving them time to develop and showcase the dynamics of the arrangements. It’s a well rounded and varied release.
Nefarious Dusk – The Wanderer Of The Cold North (Purity Through Fire)
The British black metal outfit Nefarious Dusk have been around for several years, issuing a few demos and an EP before emerging with their full-length debut The Wanderer Of The Cold North.
The trio play traditional black metal with searing vocals from Azrael (Atra Mors, Ethereal Forest). Synths provide atmosphere atop the icy guitar riffs. The tracks are lengthy with numerous ebbs and flows as tempos and intensities shift. Though the style isn’t original, Nefarious Dusk’s varied arrangements make for a compelling debut that fans of traditional black metal will appreciate.
Nightwish – Decades: Live In Buenos Aires (Nuclear Blast)
In 2018 Nightwish released the career spanning compilation Decades. The tour in support of the collection spanned the globe from Europe to North America to South America. Decades: Live In Buenos Aires was recorded in September 2018 in Argentina. There’s no shortage of camera angles with 19 cameras capturing the 21 song set. It’s available in numerous formats: Blu-ray/2CD, 2CD, digital and vinyl.
The band is razor sharp with Floor Jansen’s flawless vocals shining bright. The set includes songs from Nightwish’s early days along with tracks from the Jansen era such as “Elan” and the massive 16+ minute “The Greatest Show On Earth.” Fan favorites like “Wish I Had An Angel” and “I Want My Tears Back” are included along with some lesser known songs. Some of the songs the band hadn’t played live in years before this tour. There have been several other Nightwish live releases over the years, but this one’s career spanning set makes it well worth checking out.
Running Wild – Crossing The Blades (SPV/Steamhammer)
The long-running German band Running Wild released their latest studio album Rapid Foray in 2016. Their next record is set to be issued next summer, and in the meantime the four track EP Crossing The Blades will tide fans over until then.
The opening title track will be on that album, but in a different version. It’s a rousing song that’s instantly memorable. The song “Stargazed” was introduced at last year’s Wacken festival. There’s one other original song along with a cover of Kiss’ “Strutter.” Frontman Rock N’ Rolf is a huge Kiss fan wanted to pay homage. It’s a faithful rendition with slightly raspier vocals. There’s some quality material on the EP, increasing anticipation for next year’s full-length.
Sun Of The Sleepless/Cavernous Gate – Sun Of The Sleepless/Cavernous Gate (Prophecy)
This release is a split between black metal group Sun Of The Sleepless and death/doom outfit Cavernous Gate. While those are two different genres put together on one release, it works in favor of each because of both bands’ affinity for ambiance and acoustic guitars. Each song in the Sun Of The Sleepless collection is paired with a softer interlude, while Cavernous Gate incorporate acoustics and synths to break up the mammoth gloom.
While Sun Of The Sleepless have been around on-and-off the last two decades, this is the first material from Cavernous Gate. The latter group makes a heck of an impression, their death/doom mantra having enough mass to stifle any lighter moments. It’s up to the individual’s music taste as to which band resonates more, but the variety between each makes for an easy listen of a split that goes almost 50 minutes.
Timeworn – Leave the Soul for Now (Loyal Blood)
If you yearn for the heavy, sludgy, progressive early days of Mastodon and Baroness, look no further than Timeworn, a group of five from Norway who play a mix of sludge and hardcore. Leave the Soul for Now is the band’s ambitious third album, and sees them pushing their sound into more expansive territory.
By expansive, I mean not just in sound, but length. The eight songs here run nearly an hour, and at times lose themselves in the length. Pruning back a few tracks would lend them a greater impact, but regardless, musically and vocally Timeworn display a more than capable progressive sludge brand of music that fans of the bands mentioned above will definitely be drawn to.
Witchbones – The Seas of Draugen (Iron Bonehead)
The year 2019 has been remarkably productive for Portland, Oregon’s Kevin Yearout, aka Vardlokker, whose murk-drenched black/death metal project Witchbones has dropped a demo, a single, two EPs, two compilations, and now, two full-length records, with the latest being The Seas of Draugen, a title that seems to take cues from Norwegian folklore (or perhaps a Burzum compilation?).
The result is pretty grim, harrowing stuff. Atmosphere supersedes all else thanks to a raw and rumbling production that accurately emulates the cover’s nautical horror-show. The riffs buzz and grind and smother, the programmed drums wield a ritualistic and industrialized tone, and the vocals, subterranean and cavernous and entirely unintelligible, serve as these far-off bellows or echoes that again aid the record’s occult desires. The record pounds hypnotically forward, scarily so, and all this aural chaos, well, it does a fine job of digging in its dark teeth.