Short reviews of the latest heavy metal albums, including releases from Astral Domine, Astrophobos, Demilich, Descend, Descend Into Despair, Ethersens, Fluisteraars, October 31, Ring Of Fire and Sierra.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Astral Domine - 'Arcanum Gloriae' (Bakerteam)
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Arcanum Gloriae is the debut album from the Italian band Astral Domine, formed in 2011 by composer/guitarist Luca Gagnoni. The songs are epic in scope and composition, with plenty of guitars to go along with the orchestral elements.
Marco Scorletti has a dramatic style perfect for the cinematic music. It's filled with vibrato and almost operatic. There's also a guest appearance from Rhapsody Of Fire singer Fabio Lione. There's a lot of variety in tempos and intensity, making this a remarkably mature debut album, and one symphonic power metal fans will enjoy.
Astrophobos - ‘Remnants Of Forgotten Horrors’ (Triumvirate)
Genre: Melodic Black Metal
Sweden’s Astrophobos play a mildly symphonic, melodic form of black metal. With the obvious exception of Watain, most of the other top tier bands in this genre, such as Naglfar or Necrophobic, have fallen out of favor recently as melodic black metal descended from Dissection has been creatively spent.
Astrophobos do nothing to reinvigorate a tired genre. Harsh vocals, fast riffs, and blastbeats combine with melody appearing in guitar solos and in slower passages, but the songwriting is typical and Remnants Of Forgotten Horrors becomes boring rather quickly.
Descend - 'Wither' (Inverse)
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Death metal with a progressive flair, Descend’s second album Wither rises high thanks to great musicianship and an unpredictable style. The drums don’t stick to one beat for long and the guitars twist their riffs and harmonize on solos. The band has no issues breaking into an acoustic jam in the middle of a song like “From Grace to Grave,” but these breaks never feel forced in.
That’s not to minimize how heavy most of this music is, though melody is usually not far away. Wither keeps the listener wondering what will come next, and that excitement is sustained throughout the hour-long running length.
Demilich - '20th Adversary of Emptiness' (Svart)
Genre: Technical Death Metal
The Finnish band Demilich only released one studio album back in 1993, but that record has been very influential. Now, everything the band has ever recorded has been collected as 20th Adversary of Emptiness.
Demilich combined technical death metal with progressive influences and deep gurgling vocals from Antti Boman. The seminal Nespithe has been remastered from newly discovered higher quality masters. The 2 CD, 29 song collection also includes four demos and three songs Demilich recorded during their 2006 comeback. This is a must own for fans of the band, and anyone interested in the history of tech death.
Descend Into Despair - 'The Bearer Of All Storms' (Domestic Genocide)
Genre: Funeral Doom
With a band name like Descend Into Despair and a genre like funeral doom, you know there's not going to be anything shiny or happy on the Romanian band's full-length debut The Bearer Of All Storms.
As you'd expect, it's bleak and atmsopheric, with tortured growling (and some melodic) vocals. The songs plod along at a glacial pace, but the production lacks the heft and bottom end to really pack a punch. The double disc is also really long, with the shortest of the 7 songs clocking in at over 8 minutes, and the longest nearly 18.
Ethersens - 'Your Wandering Ghost' (Scarlet)
Genre: Progressive/Avant Garde Metal
Waiting almost six years between a debut and sophomore album isn't the usual career trajectory, but Ethersens aren't the usual band. The French troupe returns with a new singer (Laurent Mora) and a new album Your Wandering Ghost.
It's a dynamic album that shifts from ambient, almost trippy music to dense metal. Even though the music is progressive and quirky with a lot of non-traditional elements, there's also plenty of melody to maintain interest throughout the album's many twists and turns.
Fluisteraars – 'Dromers' (Eisenwald)
Genre: Black Metal
If you like Burzum but don't want to listen to Varg, then Dromers, the debut from Dutch black metal trio Fluisteraars may be the solution. While Burzum take the lo-fi approach, Dromers is crisp, clear and loud. Fluisteraars incorporate an almost rock vibe into their sound. They exude that sort of oomph.
Black metal rasp and deep, mournful bass mesh with deceptively varied guitars and delicious melodies. It feels like coasting across verdant fields in twilight, but with a yearning as if it's only a dream when the reality is bleak and painful. Flowing grace nestles with emotional catharsis and triumphant power.
October 31 – 'The Fire Awaits You' (Hells Headbangers)
Genre: Heavy Metal
October 31 are a heavy metal band fronted by Deceased’s King Fowley; whose voice is already an acquired taste. Unlike Deceased, this is more a straightforward heavy metal album than it is a classically influenced death metal record. Fowley’s vocals do not fit here at all and the album is repetitive and a relative mess, from the word go. If you want to see what Fowley is truly capable of get a hold of Deceased’s Fearless Undead Machines.
This fire awaits you, but you can make it wait; don’t waste your time on this one. For those so inclined, this re-release includes the band’s original demo Voyage To Infinity as well as a cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “I Don’t Know,” among other tracks
Ring of Fire – ‘Battle of Leningrad’ (Frontiers)
Genre: Progressive Power Metal
Nine years since their last release due to other commitments, Ring of Fire are back with their fourth album Battle of Leningrad. Including the legendary Tony MacAlpine on guitar, Mark Boals on vocals and Timo Tolkki on bass, this is a true supergroup. The record is a concept that tells the story of the Nazi army being defeated by the Russian army under overwhelming circumstances.
The true star of the record is MacAlpine. One of the most underrated guitarists, his neo-classical playing is stunning. It’s great to see him take on this style of music as his playing suites it perfectly. Boals also delivers an incredible range and showcases his talent throughout. The record suffers from the material not being overly memorable but the musicianship alone is worth the price of admission.
Sierra – 'Pslip' (Retro-Futurist)
Genre: Heavy Rock/Progressive/Psychedelic
Sierra, hailing from Canada, are one of the bands on Kylesa’s new label, Retro-Futurist Records. The groups new full-length album, Pslip, was produced by none other than label head Phillip Cope, so there’s some mastery already attached to it. It sounds great. The band does a good job of holding down their side of things, too. Each song is well-crafted and well-executed.
Pslip, to me, is a successful rock record. It is heavy, yes, but it retains a certain Alice In Chains-meets-Down feel (in a prog sort of way). Pick it up if that sounds good to you.