This week’s Heavy Music Headquarters album reviews include releases from Alien Weaponry, Gruesome, Human Cull, Lordi, Nervosa, Ovate, Sadistik Forest, Sons Of Alpha Centauri, Svvamp and Witchskull.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Alien Weaponry – Tu (Napalm)
The New Zealand trio Alien Weaponry have some unique attributes. The first is their age. Vocalist/guitarist Lewis de Jong is 15, his brother Henry (drums) is 17, and bassist Ethan Trembath is 15. The De Jong’s have a Maori heritage, which they have embraced in their music.
They blend thrashy riffs and a modern metal approach with lyrics both in Te Reo Maori and English. It’s a unique approach, but Alien Weaponry are more than a novelty or curiosity. Their songs are heavy and diverse, with menacing mid-tempo tracks like “Ru Ana Te Whenua” contrasted by melodic, radio-friendly songs such as “Holding My Breath.” It’s a compelling combination of heavy music and history, and while off to a good start, they have the potential that could lead to even greater things in the future.
Gruesome – Twisted Prayers (Relapse)
Gruesome have made mimicking Death’s music an art form since their formation, and Twisted Prayers has the band following Death into the 1990s circa Spiritual Healing. There are apparent odes to that classic record, from the blasphemous cover art to the technical stylings of the group’s blunt death metal to guitarist James Murphy (who played on Spiritual Healing) providing a few guest solos.
Even after one full-length album and a few EPs, Gruesome sound as close as any band could sound to Death without coming across as a knock-off. The ideals and vision of Chuck Schuldiner continue to be properly represented on Twisted Prayers, as if he himself had a hand in writing this album. Assuming Gruesome stays on this path, their next album would be in the vein of Human, a steep hill to climb. Good thing that Twisted Prayers proves there is little worry of them being able to pull it off.
Human Cull – Revenant (Wooaaargh)
A piercing scream opens up Human Cull’s second album Revenant, and that scream (extended for almost ten seconds) is a purposeful statement for the trio from the United Kingdom. This statement stays firm through 18 songs of passionate grindcore that comes in at under 20 minutes.
That’s not a shocker, considering the genre, but the tweaking of tempos on songs like “Baleful Foundation” and “Endless Purgatory” avoids Revenant merging into an absent-minded barrage of inconsequential sound. As with other great grindcore releases, Revenant doesn’t require a serious time commitment to give out its message of societal decay and violent uprising.
Lordi –Sexorcism (AFM)
Finnish masked monsters Lordi have been around for more than a quarter century now, with Sexorcism their ninth studio album. It’s the fourth consecutive album with the current lineup of Mr. Lordi (vocals), Amen (guitar), Ox (bass), Mana (drums) and Hella (keyboards).
The album follows their template of horror based lyrics and catchy hard rock/heavy metal, although the subject matter is a little more risque than usual. Like their previous album, Sexorcism clocks in at more than an hour, which is about three songs too long. There are several memorable tracks like “Your Tongue’s Got The Cat” and “Polterchrist” along with a few more disposable songs. Lordi have developed their own niche, and this album will satisfy their core audience, but won’t attract as many new fans to the party as they’d like.
Nervosa – Downfall Of Mankind (Napalm)
For their third album Downfall Of Mankind, the Brazilian female thrash trio Nervosa have a new drummer, Luana Dametto. Even with the lineup change, the band’s sound is similar to their first two records.
Galloping riffs and searing solos from Prika Amaral are backed by Dametto’s full-tilt kit work. The songs blaze by at maximum velocity, with some moderately paced tracks adding some variety. Versatility is no problem with vocalist/bassist Fernanda Lira, whose feral and aggressive approach utilizes numerous pitches and intensities. Also appearing is Joao Gordo, frontman of the veteran Brazilian crossover thrash juggernaut Ratos de Porao. Producer Martin Furia (Destruction, Flotsam & Jetsam) helps showcase their old-school influences while injecting some modern flair.
Ovate – Ovate (Soulseller)
The black metal group Ovate‘s core lineup consists of former live Taake and Gorgoroth members Aindiachai (guitar/bass) and drummer Brodd. The vocal duties on their self-titled debut album are handled by a variety of black metal luminaries.
Musically, they utilize a traditional black metal and pagan metal approach that remains cohesive even with all the different vocalists. The five tracks are lengthy ones, ranging from six to nine minutes in length. The vocalists include Hoest (Taake/Gorgoroth), who makes “Song Til Eini Orm” one of the album’s best. V’gander (Helheim), Eid (Krakow), Ese (Siegest) and Odemark (The 3rd Attempt) round out the vocalist. The round robin vocal approach works well, although the band could have trouble developing their own identity without a permanent singer.
Sadistik Forest – Morbid Majesties (Transcending Obscurity)
It has been a few years since we’ve had a new Sadistik Forest album. The Finnish death metal group released their sophomore album back in 2012, with Morbid Majesties their latest. The band is fronted by former Hooded Menace member Markus Makkonen, who has an aggressive and varied delivery.
Sadistik Forest deliver plenty of old school death with blastbeats and groove-laden riffs. They bring the pain in a plethora of ways, from the deliberate “The Hour Of Dread” to the uptempo and chaotic “The Maelstrom Opens.” They don’t overstay their welcome, with the album clocking in at a streamlined 35 minutes. However, they do show their epic side with the nine plus minute closer “Bones Of A Giant.” And while old school death is their bread and butter, periodic glimpses of black and doom are a nice change of pace.
Sons of Alpha Centauri – Continuum (H42/Cobraside)
If you haven’t heard of U.K. band Sons of Alpha Centauri, don’t feel bad: it’s been more than ten years since their debut album was released. Now the progressive instrumental quartet are releasing their second album, Continuum. The main attraction of the album seems to be the fact that Isis’s Aaron Harris produced it.
Musically, Continuum ranges from slow and pensive post-rock to groovy, fuzz-drenched stoner metal. Electronic ambiance permeates the album, and while a couple of songs fall flat, most are enjoyable exercises in mood and emotion. The 11-minute closer “Return Voyage” is an excellent amalgamation of all the band’s styles. Sons of Alpha Centauri show they’ve got solid songwriting chops and clear talent. Hopefully their third album drops sooner than 2028.
Svvamp – Svvamp 2 (RidingEasy)
Swedish power trio Svvamp revel in the primordial soup of early hard rock. Their debut album was cut on an old 4-track recorder, and for this album, Svvamp 2, they’ve stepped up to a 6-track deck. But make no mistake, this technological evolution hasn’t affected their style at all.
Drawing heavily from bands like Cream, Canned Heat and Grand Funk Railroad, Svvamp 2 is as much of a throwback album as one can imagine, right down to the tape hiss present on many tracks. The performances are as genuine as the production, making this an album that works well on hazy summer nights. Svvamp effectively pay loving homage to music their grandparents likely enjoyed.
Witchskull– Coven’s Will (Rise Above)
Fans looking for heavy, riff-oriented metal with a stoner vibe will be pleased with Witchskull‘s Coven’s Will. The vocal is diverse, sometimes pleasantly harsh, and other times textured on the high end like old Maiden or Priest. The “wall of sound” is satisfying, and if you like dexterous, fluttering guitar hammer-ons in the spirit of the best ’80s metal leads, you will feel right at home in the solo spots.
In terms of the rhythm section, structures often change cleverly for dynamics and context, yet there are times when the drummer seems to be running along side the band instead of keeping it right in the pocket. Some would have preferred a click-track. Others not.