The latest heavy metal album reviews, including releases from Alesana, Austrian Death Machine, Bigelf, Buioingola, Cauldron Black Ram, Cemetery Fog, Circle, Dire Wolves, Epistasis, Gravehill, Human Cull, Lost Society, Mass Infection, Neige et Noirceur, Nux Vomica, Pilgrim, Pleibian Grandstand, Pyrrhon, Sargeist and Shear.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Alesana - 'The Decade EP' (Artery)
Genre: Metalcore/Post Hardcore
The North Carolina band Alesana last released a full-length album in 2011, and return on a new label with The Decade EP.
The six songs are very melodic and catchy, with big hooks and memorable choruses. There are some harsh vocals and intense parts as well. "Double Or Nothing" is the most aggressive track, with some growls and shrieks, but also ample melody. The closing song "Nevermore" also effecitively contrasts sunshine and brutality. As fans await the next full-length, this will tide them over nicely.
Austrian Death Machine - 'Triple Brutal' (Artery)
Triple Brutal is likely the last we'll be hearing from Tim Lambesis for a while, so it's probably not coincidence that the album opener is "I'll Be Back."
The album continues the thread of the first two Austrian Death Machine releases, blending pretty decent thrash/crossover with cheesy Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions and lyrics inspired by his movies. His dalliance with his housekeeper is also parodied on some of the tracks. If you liked the first two ADM albums, there's no reason you won't like this one, too. The musicianship and songwriting is top-notch, but a little of the Ah-nold shtick goes a long way.
Bigelf – ‘Into the Maelstrom’ (Inside Out)
Genre: Psychedelic Hard Rock
Due to internal conflicts, Bigelf were put to rest after the release of the critically acclaimed 2008 Cheat the Gallows. At the insistence of drum legend Mike Portnoy, founder Damon Fox resurrected the band with Portnoy behind the kit. Five years later they are back with their most consistent record of their career, Into the Maelstrom.
Combining the melodies and musical intricacies of The Beatles with the swagger of Led Zeppelin and the progressive tendencies of early Pink Floyd showcases the quality of the songwriting. The John Lennon inspired “Already Gone” finds the band at their most majestic. Portnoy shines on the groove filled “Alien Frequency.” A must have for any Beatles fan with an added hard rock edge.
Buioingola - 'Dopo l’Apnea' (Sentient Ruin)
Genre: Crust/Doom Metal
Tuscany, Italy’s Buioingola, defined as “darkness in my throat,” create a bleak blend of apocalyptic doom that will destroy you slowly. After releasing an explosive three track demo in 2012, the band went back into the studio in February 2013 to record the music that makes up Dopo l’Apnea.
The end result is five colossal and pulverizing songs, beginning with opening track “Persevero,” which engages the listener in a game of tug-of-war between life and death. Album closer “Oceano,” will take you on a 15 minute journey filled with despondency and desperation that leads nowhere. Buioingola have arrived.
Cauldron Black Ram – 'Stalagmire' (20 Buck Spin)
Genre: Blackened Death/Sludge Metal
Aussies Cauldron Black Ram have brought Stalagmire, their third LP over to the always reliable 20 Buck Spin roster. This move will hopefully garner the trio some much deserved attention on North American shores.
CBR raid the pantry to cook up a boiling stew of death, doom and black metal, spiced with a bit of thrash and solos a plenty. Scurvy is a good possibility as any bright fruits have long since rotted under the punishing darkness pervading the album. Undead black/death vocals snarl and whisper through endless seas of hearty head-bobbling riffs and inspired percussion. Lock up your daughters, Cauldron Black Ram are here.
Cemetery Fog - ‘Shadows From The Cemetery’ (Iron Bonehead)
Genre: Black/ Death Metal
Iron Bonehead Productions continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Once again diving deep into the underground, they dredge up Finnish black/death metal trio Cemetery Fog.
Harkening back to bands such as Hellhammer and Sodom, Cemetery Fog pile on the primitive miasma of the glory days of black and death metal, circa 1984, with lots of raw riffs, plodding dirges, and a few primitive blasts on Shadows From The Cemetery. A five-song demo from 2013 that is now being given a proper release from Iron Bonehead, Shadows From The Cemetery is worth tracking down.
Circle (ex-Falcon) – 'Leviatan' (Ektro)
Genre: Prog Metal/Avant Garde Rock
Circle have reclaimed their moniker after “loaning it out” while they created as Falcon (ex-Circle). I know, it's confusing. What's not so confusing is how completely you can get lost in their latest endeavour, Leviatan.
Pulsating percussion and an all acoustic (save the keys) approach lock into the consciousness, detaching it from the here and now to soar through the cosmos. Fluctuations in volume and intensity provide the inertial variation to continue the trip, like slingshotting through a gravity field. Circle splice the genes of bluesy Americana and acid-laced spacerock, sending the listener beyond the stars on a journey of inner-spatial exploration. Relax and let the magic happen.
Direwolves – 'Aegri Somnia' (Throatruiner)
Do you ever listen to an album that is just “good”? Nothing more, nothing less. You might be round a friend’s house, they have it on in the background, you enjoy it, and you might end up buying it eventually, but it’s never a priority purchase? Direwolves' Aegri Somnia is one of those albums.
It showcases a good mix of melody and crushing rage in true nuanced-hardcore style, sort of like a condensed version of Mea Culpa’s First To Ripen (obscure reference ahoy!); worth a listen, but don’t expect it to make any top ten lists.
Epistasis – 'Light Through Dead Glass' (Crucial Blast)
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Complexity reigns supreme on Light Through Dead Glass, the sophomore album from experimental black metallers Epistasis. Guitarist Kevin Wunderlich, bassist Doug Berns, drummer Alex Cohen (Pyrrhon, Malignancy) and vocalist/trumpeteer Amy Mills meld scathing black metal, sludge and prog together to create an album that reveals depth with each listen.
One moment Epistasis are uprooting trees with gale force black metal runs, and the next soaring through the clouds leaving melodies in their wake. Mills' searing rasp is countered by her dramatic and melancholic trumpet. Sludge, doom and acoustics also leave their mark. For all its atmosphere and mood changes, Light Through Dead Glass never loses focus.
Gravehill – ‘Death Curse’ (Dark Descent)
Genre: Death Metal
If you’re sick of “progressive” death metal with an art school mentality and think the genre has wandered too far from its brutal roots, Gravehill are your antidote. With tasty solos and rancid snarls from Mike the Abominator, Death Curse proudly carries the old school torch.
While most of the album rampages with the pace and intensity of misanthropic thrash, the tortured doom of “Open Their Throats” and blackened-punk gang vocals of “Fear the Reaper” provide welcome texture. Death Curse is a passionate, dynamic homage that growls with its own inspired intent to harm.