The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ace Augustine - 'The Sick And Suffering' (Red Cord)
After releasing their debut album, Ace Augustine split up. The Christian metalcore band has reformed with three new members, including a new vocalist, for their sophomore effort The Sick And Suffering.
Their music is sometimes dark, heavy and brooding, other times melodic and upbeat. Both the screaming and singing vocals are good, and the lyrics deliver a positive message. They stay mostly in the comfortable confines of the genre box, but stretch themselves periodically on the ballad "The Great Disconnect," with all melodic singing.
Across Tundras/Lark's Tongue - 'Split' (Cavity)
Genre: Psychedelic Stoner/Rock
Here's a quick look at a split from two psychedelic stoner bands only skirting the edges of metal. First up are two sprawling songs from Lark's Tongue, a Peoria, Illinois-based quartet playing psychedelic, light stoner rock. Their two-song contribution is not heavy, but is pleasing, melodic, and innocuous.
Across Tundras, now based in Nashville, are a bit more metallic with a more riff-oriented approach and with music dovetailing into desert rock. Across Tundras' half of the split is another pleasing two-song contribution, and is a worthy compliment to their growing discography.
Amarok/Hell - 'Split' (Vulture Print)
If the cover to the left looks strangely shaped, it's because it is for a cassette, not a CD. Doomsters Amarok and Hell join forces for a split album. Chico, California's Amarok have done several splits in the past year or so, and their side is one 20 minute track. It's glacially paced doom with an interesting vocal combination of low-pitched growls and black metal rasps. There's also a lengthy violin solo in the middle.
Hell is a one-man project from Salem, Oregon. His three songs are denser with a bit more musical variety along with high-pitched rasps, and also includes a guest violinist, which gives the two sides of the cassette a common theme. It's a good pairing for underground doom fans, because the artists have their own sound, but should also appeal to each other's base.
Cold Blue Mountain – 'Cold Blue Mountain' (Gogmagogical/Vulture Print)
Released on LP and cassette, those analog formats fit Cold Blue Mountain wonderfully. Cold Blue Mountain bring a wide array of styles into their sound. Mostly based around the grimy groove of sludge, classic rock, doom and fierce, scathing hardcore screams work their way into this powerful album.
The album is massively heavy and filled to brim with filth and incredible tone, yet the production is such that it's all very crisp. Heaving riffs, stoner rock groove, Hammond organ and even some "post-metal" parts make Cold Blue Mountain a diverse and insanely catchy listen. Take heed sludge fans, and climb the Mountain.
Rating: 4 (Matt Hinch)
D-A-D – 'Dic.Nii.Lan.Daft.Erd.Ark' (AFM)
Genre: Hard Rock
Denmark's D-A-D have never achieved the success in North America as they have abroad. Their latest record Dic.Nii.Lan.Daft.Erd.Ark will finally receive stateside distribution and help give them some needed exposure. Their sound is rooted in '80s hard rock but without the cliché image and lyrics and would rather concern themselves with writing memorable songs.
Lead vocalist Jesper Binzer is the perfect combination of ex-Motley Crüe singer John Corabi and the legendary Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. The band at times creates the perfect pop hard rock tune with "The End," "Fast on Wheels" and "Last Time in Neverland." The deluxe edition comes with a bonus CD that contains sixteen bonus live and acoustic tracks that encompasses their whole career.
Genre: Industrial Metal
Dawn Of Ashes' sound has evolved and changed a few times over their decade plus existence. From industrial to melodic black metal to melodic death metal, their musical identity has often shifted. This time around, Anathema is mainly industrial metal.
However, there are still plenty of elements from prior incarnations. Vocalist Kristof Bathory uses a black metal rasp, and there are a lot of symphonic influences in addition to the industrial and electronic sections. That gives Anathema a warmer and more dynamic feel that the usual industrial metal, which can be quite sterile. Add in some horror punk and shock rock touches and you have a creepy, eclectic and entertaining album.
ID: Exorcist – 'Paths to Exile' (Inverse)
Possessed Finnish metalcore act ID: Exorcist deliver a sleekly played and heavily produced second full-length album in Paths to Exile, and then, wouldn't you know it, they end up losing all sense of direction. Never short on style, the band juggles groove, nu-metal, and even the occasional progressive flourish, but lag in part due to a parade of clichéd guitar riffs.
While a track like "Part II (Home)" features an impressive melding of snail-paced groove and post-metal affect, the area spotlights are simply too spread out. Paths to Exile will bang heads, no doubt, but its lack uniqueness and uniformity tethers it knee-deep in the metalcore wading pool.
Lair of the Minotaur – 'Godslayer' (Southern Lord)
Genre: Thrash/Sludge Metal
Chicago's Lair of the Minotaur are celebrating a decade of Greek mythology-based carnage with a new EP Godslayer. Releasing digitally and as a 7-inch, the EP features a pair of songs, "Godslayer" and "The Black Heart of Stygian Darkness," a labrys-attack of thrash and sludge that kicks up as much bone as it does blood.
Albeit a mere sampling of the things to come, Godslayer wields two of the heaviest tracks Lair of the Minotaur have yet to forge; "Godslayer" proves to be a thunderous head-banger and "The Black Heart of Stygian Darkness" rages unstoppable before fading into an eerie synthesized sunset. Indeed, a short and violent odyssey.
Laurasia Awaits Us – 'Apathy Remains Victorious' (Domestic Genocide)
Genre: Post Metal
The debut of Finnish duo Laurasia Awaits Us, titled Apathy Remains Victorious, is a somber affair indeed. LAU use their post-black/doom to drag the listener into the pits of depression. The album is very atmospheric and analog feeling with a super-fuzzed tone that makes one feel warm and frozen stiff all at once. The effect is quite arresting.
Tortured black metal howls cry of a desperate yearning for happiness that will forever remain elusive, sending shivers down the spine. The epic soundscapes created can at times relate to drone with their trance-like properties. Apathy Remains Victorious is a lush and affecting album for the slit-your-wrists-in-lo-fi part of your dark soul.
Nahar - 'The Strange Inconvenience' (Avant Garde)
Genre: Black Metal
The Strange Inconvenience is the second album from the French duo Nahar. Their sound has evolved considerably from their 2009 debut. The raw black metal of that album has evolved into a multi-genre sound.
Nahar incorporate elements of progressive and doom metal along with copious amounts of atmosphere on The Strange Inconvenience. Crushing doom gives way to mellow sections with singing, then extremity returns. It's an eclectic album with a lot of twists and turns that unfolds a little more with each listen.