Head of The Demon – 'Head of the Demon' (Ajna Offensive)
Genre: Black Metal
You don’t see too much minimalist black metal these days, the subgenre pioneered by Ildjarn and a couple of others. Tinny guitars, simple drum patterns, horrid atmosphere, and a decided lack of, shall we say, musical prowess are the hallmarks of this niche subgenre. Bands that sit at the top of the minimalist subgenre today would be Furze and, perhaps, Brown Jenkins.
Enter Head Of The Demon, a one man (I assume) project from Sweden. Consisting of strummed, tinny guitars that flirt with becoming acoustic, a slow pace with simple percussion patterns, guttural rasps, and not much else, Head Of The Demon are obviously going for the atmosphere, and in that they succeed. Although there are some interesting moments, the repetitive and overly simple nature of the music does not work in Head Of The Demon’s favor, resulting in a sub-par album.
Genre: Heavy/Thrash Metal
Holy Grail performs traditional heavy metal with thrash tempos and power metal-esque vocals on their second album, Ride The Void. Stylish guitar solos dominate much of the album, which are constant highlights when utilized.
Ride The Void peters out around the halfway point, but regains its focus with the aggressive thrashing of “The Great Artifice” and the emotional closer “Rains of Sorrow.” Metal fans both old and new can expect a solid record worth a look in this slow January period of releases.
In Solitude - 'In Solitude' (Season of Mist)
Genre: Heavy Metal
It’s a shrewd move by Season of Mist re-releasing In Solitude’s eponymous debut (originally released in 2008). Uppsala’s finest are on a rapid incline following the critical success of 2011’s The World. The Flesh. The Devil, and now the band’s burgeoning fan-base can wrap their mitts around this previously sold-out cult record.
The songwriting on In Solitude is not as developed as its successor, but the band’s youthful exuberance and passion for classic heavy metal like Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest is truly infectious throughout this 36-minutes of galloping, arcane metal that played its own in part sparking a NWOBHM revival.
Jorn – 'Symphonic' (Frontiers)
Genre: Traditional Metal/Hard Rock
Jorn is a powerhouse singer. His whole career he has embodied the spirit of Ronnie James Dio. It is eerie how similar they can sound. Jorn has enjoyed great success as a solo artist as well as fronting Masterplan. Symphonic is Jorn’s attempt at adding orchestration to his heavy progressive style of rock.
The song selection is top-notch quality. Amazing musicianship, superior melodies and extremely catchy songs are sprinkled throughout the entire release. The issue is they are the original tracks with orchestration tacked on. I don’t feel the songs benefit from the process, as they were excellent to begin with. This release comes off more as a best of and doesn’t offer much of anything new. Recommended if you are a die-hard Jorn fan.
Genre: Black Metal
Koldbrann have resided within the second tier of Norwegian black metal with critical acclaim for their past efforts; but have never quite reached the stature of their most well known peers. Employing a harsh, yet clean and crisp, sound, Vertigo has all of the genre hallmarks of the more polished of the second wave Norwegian bands.
Vertigo is an amalgam of the punk snarl of latter day Darkthrone, the black n’ roll of Volcano-era Satyricon, and, most intriguing of all, the subtle melodies and nods to progressive metal that Taake are known for. The mix works very well, as Koldbrann are excellent musicians and songwriters. That skill in songwriting and intrigue is especially embodied in the album’s closer, “Inertia Corridors,” a standout track.
Genre: Crust, D-beat, Punk, Hardcore
Barfing-through-a-megaphone style vocals, a buzzing bass sound, searing n’ sloppy guitar leads that appear out of nowhere, that familiar beat serving as the drunk backbone behind the proceedings, all held together with some classic no-fi production—yep, it’s another crust record!
Formed from the ashes of Aussie crust acts Schifosi and Pisschrist (bring ‘em home to meet the parents, ladies!), Live Forever collects all of Kromosom’s material previously only available on vinyl. You can almost see the stale beer and body odor stink lines rising off of this collection’s 15 tracks. If the words “soap” and “shampoo” don’t apply to you, check this one out.
Lightning Swords of Death - 'Baphotemic Chaosium' (Metal Blade)
Genre: Black Metal
Lightning Swords of Death’s suffocating black metal is extremely effective on Baphotemic Chaosium, their second release for Metal Blade. Cold almost to the point of sounding industrial, yet with a modern punch to the production, Baphotemic Chaosium works best when the band moves from plaguing the listener with riffs that sound like a tempest (“Baphotemic Chaosium”) to plummeting into the doom abyss (“Chained to Decay”).
While “R'lyeh Wuurm” and “Epicyclarium” leave the impression that in the future there is room for LSOD to further descend into darkness and become even more audacious instrumentally while continuing to create memorable, atmospherically sinister black metal.
Nervochaos – 'To The Death' (Greyhaze)
Genre: Death Metal
Sao Paulo’s Nervochaos have been pounding the death metal pavement since 1996, To The Death being their fifth studio effort. One could compare them to other Brazilian acts, but their sound is universal. Employing all the malevolence and punch of the war machine on the cover, Nervochaos rip through the album with fairly standard death metal crunch.
Working in sweet solos, gang vocals and bruising groove, To The Death leaves nothing on the table. They may not be rewriting the playbook but their battle plan is well executed. Strap on your anti-Christian boots and join the fight!
Genre: Symphonic/Death/Doom Metal
The Greek band Nightfall have been around for more than 20 years, but still remain an unknown quantity to a lot of metal fans. Most of the current members have only been in the band for a couple years, but the mainstay is vocalist Efthimis Karadimas, who has been there for all of Nightfall's albums.
Cassipeia is a nice addition to their catalog, a diverse and wide-ranging effort that covers many different genres including gothic, symphonic, death, doom, traditional, progressive and black metal. Karadimas' death metal vocals add intensity to the proceedings, but there's plenty of melody. Every song has multiple tempo and texture shifts and extended instrumental breaks, but remains cohesive.
Pink Cream 69 – 'Ceremonial' (Frontiers)
Genre: Power Metal/Hard Rock
Unfortunately known more as the band Helloween’s Andi Deris used to front, Pink Cream 69 are back after a six-year layoff with the new album Ceremonial. During the hiatus members were tearing it up in side projects Unisonic and Voodoo Circle. Singer David Readman has now been with the band for his eighth album and the current lineup sounds energized and fresh in part due to the lengthy layoff.
This record is overflowing with guitar and vocal melodies. If you are a fan of melodic hard rock, “Wasted Years,” “The Tide” and “Find Your Soul” will be right up your alley. They are instantly recognizable and insanely catchy. Another promising release by one of the premiere hard rock acts today.
Continue To Page 3 For More CD Reviews