Genre: Psychedelic/Progressive Metal
Psychedelic metal with an angry streak, The Captain’s Daughter is never short on exhilarating music. Minimal vocals pave the way for floaty riffs and spastic beats, spread across four tracks that range from a digestible four minutes to a gargantuan 12 minutes.
Eight Bells have no qualms about stretching out guitar-driven ambience alongside pulse-raising heaviness. The peaceful female vocals turn to a distorted shriek on “Fate and Technology,” and the unfettered instrumental “Yellowed Wallpaper” is a revelation. The Captain’s Daughter is no droning bore, but an intelligent and dynamic debut.
Elysion Fields - 'New Beginnings' (InnerStrength)
Chicago’s Elysion Fields winch up the screech and growl and hang it all on a frame of 13 tracks. Dillinger Escape Plan and August Burns Red vaguely come to mind as “Conquest of Man, “Maroon” and “Mirrors” spend their minutes in the listener’s ears. Though the presentation is well done, there’s an odd lack of energy in some of the tracks, as if Elysion Fields set the electronic metronome a few beats per minute short.
Much of the guitar work is above average The riffs are few, but the melodic fills and half-leads are good, albeit ranging from guitar practice finger runs to true modal goodness. The rhythm guys are a notch above good, as is the whole of New Beginnings is Elysion Fields best effort so far. Remember to catch their version of “Gangnam Style” on YouTube.
Genre: Black Metal
Greece’s Enshadowed are nominally labeled as black metal, but genre purists will note that a categorization of death metal is probably a better fit. Enshadowed are mostly concerned with writing catchy riffs intertwined within an all assault. Incorporate a slightly raw production and a few tempo changes, and they return after an eight-year hiatus with Magic Chaos Psychedelia, their third full-length album.
The approach works quite well as Enshadowed are, indeed, catchy with well written songs and a raw edge. In all honesty, the genre tag blackened death metal could do just as well as applied to Enshadowed, a band plying their trade in the nether regions between the two genres. Think of a rawer, less pretentious version of modern Behemoth, and you’re on the right track.
General Lee - 'Raiders Of The Evil Eye' (Play The Assassin)
Younger readers may never have heard of the '70s sitcom "The Dukes Of Hazzard," but General Lee obviously have. The French band's studio is named Boss Hogg Studio, so I'm assuming they are named after the car driven by Bo and Luke Duke, not the Civil War general.
General Lee's sound is sometimes dense and metallic, other times more free-form, progressive and melodic. Raiders Of The Evil Eye has a lot of contrasts, ebbs and flows. Moderate instrumentals flow into crunchy, riff-laden tracks with hardcore barks. They are at their best when the intensity is cranked up, losing momentum when the pace lags.
Hanging Garden - 'At Every Door' (Lifeforce)
Genre: Melodic Death/Doom Metal
The Finnish band Hanging Garden return with a revamped lineup, a new label and their first album since 2009. Three new members (including a new vocalist) come aboard for At Every Door, their third full-length.
Hanging Garden play melancholy death/doom with some electronic flourishes that is sometimes heavy and dense, other times melodic and catchy. The vocals are mostly harsh, with some clean vocals sprinkled in. The singing is a bit weak, but when both styles are done in unison, like on "Ash and Dust," it sounds excellent. At Every Door is atmospheric and emotional, the perfect soundtrack for a rainy day.
Genre: Progressive Metal
Italy’s Kingcrow return with their fifth full-length album In Crescendo. It has all of the elements one expects out of the progressive genre: acrobatic guitar playing, odd time signatures and most importantly, great songwriting.
The beauty of “This Ain’t Another Love Song” is outstanding. Vocalist Diego Marchesi has an amazing voice and the vocal melodies are astonishing. The musicianship is top notch as the band does an admirable job of balancing extreme progressive moments with elements of rock. On In Crescendo, the band is adding a more metallic dimension to their sound and it has taken them to the next level.
Genre: Doom Metal
Doom metal is only part of the game with Sweden’s Kongh. The heavy riffs, the booming, mid- paced tempo, the powerful production, you name it; the genre hallmarks of doom are present in spades in Sole Creation, their third full-length.
However, rather than employ guttural vocals with nods to death or black metal like those of most modern doom metal bands, Kongh employ nasally inflected vocals (sort of similar to those employed on Atriarch’s last record) to go along with cavernous passages more at home on a Neurosis record. Toss some nods to death rock to go along with the sludge, and Kongh’s Sole Creation shapes up rather well as a nice blend of various genres.
Genre: Death Metal
Unending Degradation, the debut album from Finnish death metallers Krypts, is another trampling triumph courtesy of label Dark Descent. Lumbering and barbaric, Krypts specialize in dingy, doom-laden dirges (à la early Incantation) with old-school Nordic putridness and warping solos galore.
Buried six hundred feet under tracks like "Blessed Entwinement," "The Black Smoke" and "Dormancy of the Ancients" is a melodic corpse, but up front Unending Degradation is a foul, guttural screed. Dark Descent released essential albums from fellow Finns Desolate Shrine and Maveth in 2012, and Unending Degradation is an equally earth-quaking start to 2013.
Genre: Progressive Metal
The side project of Threshold guitarist Pete Morten, My Soliloquy by and large, falls into the same noody-doodly prog metal category. It’s an insular vibe that The Interpreter projects; the type that the ever-picky Dream Theater and/or sub-progressive crowd tend to fall prey to.
Never the matter, there’s some adventurous jams to be found here, most notably “Flash Point” and “Six Seconds Grace,” where upon swaths of keyboards run to the hills with quirky arrangements. All par for the course in prog metal. Morten’s vocals, however, are an acquired taste, and could draw the dividing line for The Interpreter.
(David E. Gehlke)
Nepente – 'Suffering Is The Seed' (Sonic Blast)
Genre: Death Metal/ Grindcore
Raw death metal with a dash of grindcore is the bread and butter of Colombia’s Nepente. Suffering Is The Seed is the second full-length from this five-piece, and is an all out blast fest somewhat reminiscent of early Napalm Death, but with more of a death metal edge.
Rolling blastbeats, a blur of machine gun riffs, and an alternating pattern of deep guttural vocals and high pitched screeches indicate that Nepente have spent an inordinate amount of time listening to classics such as Utopia Banished and the like. For the most part, Suffering Is The Seed is a good, listenable affair, but does somewhat peter out the deeper you wade with less than stellar songwriting. Some improvement is in order for their next release.