This week’s reviews include releases from Anubis Gate, The Convalescence, Crawl, Epica, Fireforce, From North, Monster Magnet, Motorhead, Night, Ovakner and Septicflesh.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Anubis Gate – Covered in Black (Nightmare)
Adversity has been the name of the game for Anubis Gate, with record label issues, membership upheaval, and health issues all conspiring to keep the band from adding to their impressive discography. Covered in Black is their seventh album, following 2014’s Horizons. Forget for a moment that no founding members still play in Anubis Gate: their style and sound remain relatively unaffected.
Anubis Gate play an engaging style of progressive power metal, utilizing great hooks, melodies, and vocals to memorable effect. Add in equal parts power metal, progressive meanderings, and influences from Katatonia to Pink Floyd, style everything just a little darker than past records, and you have a super new album from the veteran Danes. Covered in Black is a welcome addition to Anubis Gate’s discography.
The Convalescence – This Is Hell (Unique Leader)
The deathcore band The Convalescence are back with their latest album This Is Hell. In addition to typical deathcore tropes, they incorporate symphonic elements and a bit of black metal.
There’s quite a bit of variety here. Frontman Keith Wampler incorporates a plethora of styles from growls to screams. There are some melodic vocals as well, and the track “I Won’t Survive” features prominent female vocals for added variety. The symphonic elements are mainly atmospheric, but come to the forefront periodically. They’ve upped the death and slightly reduced the ‘core this time around, making for their most potent album to date.
Crawl – This Sad Cadav’r’ (Black Bow)
You want some grime with that puddle of nihilistic sludge? Look no further than This Sad Cadav’r, the latest exercise in aural suffocation from one-man doom merchant Crawl. At just three tracks in length and roughly a half-hour long, the record is a ragged and cavernous mixture of chaotic violence and simplistic monolithic passages.
Consisting of drums and bass and vocals, This Sad Cadav’r is as rudimentary and barbaric as it is drenched with booming effects and noises that accentuate the overall dismal, dreadful atmosphere. Finding time to enjoy or even listen to the record might be a tad difficult, but it’s hard to deny the overall jarring experience created by Crawl.
Epica – The Solace System (Nuclear Blast)
Less than a year after The Holographic Principle, Dutch symphonic power metal veterans Epica are issuing the six track EP The Solace System, which are songs written during the sessions for that full-length.
They didn’t make the cut for the album, but these aren’t throwaways. The opening title track is symphonic and epic and is the prototypical Epica song. “Architect Of Light” is the strongest song on the EP, a heavy and memorable track with Simone Simons’ outstanding vocals and some harsh vocals from Mark Jansen. The typical Epica full-length clocks in at more than 70 minutes, which can get to be a bit fatiguing. A 30 minute EP like this one is a quick and easy listen, and still has the quality you’d expect from Epica.
Fireforce – Annihilate The Evil (Limb)
The Belgian power metal band Fireforce have had a couple of lineup changes since their last album (2014’s Deathbringer), with a new guitarist and drummer for their fourth full-length, Annihilate The Evil.
While still incorporating power metal styles, Fireforce increase the heaviness this time around. There’s still plenty of melody, but the arrangements are a bit more straightforward. The dual guitars are front and center, bringing excellent harmonies, quality riffs and some tasty solos. They close with the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter, giving the bluesy original a power metal twist.
From North – From North (Downfall)
From North are a Swedish Viking metal band who are releasing their self-titled debut. Even though they are a new band, they have some experienced members who have been in groups such as Anata, Stormhold, Irrbloss and Years Of Falling.
From North does incorporate folk and medieval instruments for that classic Viking metal sound, and the lyrics are based on Norse mythology. However, there are times they utilize a darker, groove metal style that’s also effective. It’s a promising debut with memorable songs that have depth and interesting arrangements, good production and quality musicianship.
Monster Magnet – Spine of God and Tab (Napalm)
It’s hard to go wrong with Monster Magnet. Even their weaker albums have something about them, a certain sleazy, stoned charisma, that makes them enjoyable. Maybe for that reason, Napalm is re-releasing a couple of their older albums: their 1992 debut album Spine of God and their third record, Tab. The albums most people gravitate towards are Dopes to Infinity and Powertrip, but debut Spine of God showcases the band in much more spaced-out, psychedelic jams. Monster Magnet hadn’t really learned how to write the catchy hits they came up with a few years later, but Spine of God is riddled with acid-trip effects and lyrics to the point of self-parody, and it all works fabulously.
Tab, on the other hand, was actually the band’s first album, but didn’t get released until Spine of God and Superjudge garnered critical and popular success. Tab is much more self-indulgent than anything else Monster Magnet produced, with the title track taking up a whopping 32 minutes of the four song, 56-minute record. Even more trippy and hypnotic than Spine of God, Tab is really for fervent fans of the band, or those curious to see how far Monster Magnet came in the following years.
Motorhead – Under Cover (Silver Lining/Motorhead)
Motorhead‘s final studio album Bad Magic was released in 2015, and Lemmy passed away the same year. Since his death, there has been a live album released, and now comes the covers compilation Under Cover. It includes cover songs originally done from 1992 to 2015.
The quality of the songs varies. Some are in Motorhead’s sweet spot, like Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law” and Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach.” They also do a nice job with Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” and Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil.” The newest song is David Bowie’s “Heroes,” recorded in 2015. Lemmy’s limited range gives it a different vibe than the original, but it works. The album closes with Metallica’s “Whiplash, giving it more groove than the original. By no means essential, Under Cover is a fun collection of covers.
Night – Raft of the World (The Sign)
Raft of the World is the third album from Sweden’s Night. Like a ton of bands these days, Night worship at the retro metal altar, playing an old-school style of NWOBHM. With so many bands paying homage to their forebearers, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd.
Night try to stand out by writing catchy galloping tunes awash in great riffs and solid lead guitar breaks, a little less heavy than some other bands. What also stands them apart is Oskar Andersson’s vocals – and not always in a good way. Andersson has a unique somewhat thrashy vocal style, but his singing definitely grates on the nerves by the end of the record. Aside from that, Raft of the World is a satisfying NWOBHM record.
Ovakner – Ar/Lume (Eihwaz)
Ovakner bring an Entombed influenced platter to the table with their newest EP Ar/Lume. It is very vicious in its approach, but also has moments that let the music breathe and inject more variety. This band is very interesting in its approach because it simultaneously goes for the throat and also throws in a more intelligent thought at the blink of an eye.
The first song “Ar” is a very good example of this as it starts off very abrasive, but ends on a thoughtful note. Though there are other influences present, the old school death metal vibe is the one at the forefront. It makes the album rollick and glide along nicely. The EP certainly doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at approximately 25 minutes in length, but it is more than long enough for this style of material.
Septicflesh – Codex Omega (Prosthetic)
Greek titans Septicflesh have a new drummer (Kerim “Krimh” Lechner) and are on a new record label (Prosthetic) for their latest album Codex Omega, but their trademark sound is intact.
They blend crushing death metal with majestic symphonic elements to create compositions that are extreme and atmospheric. They worked with producer Jens Bogren this time, who makes the brutality and orchestral parts blend seamlessly. The songs have an epic quality, but are focused and streamlined. It flows very well, and is a step up from 2014’s Titan. There’s also a second disc with three songs featuring just the orchestra and choir.