Ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Beyond - 'Fatal Power Of Death' (Iron Bonehead)
Genre: Death Metal
After a couple minute mellow intro, the German band Beyond step on the gas and go full throttle on their full-length debut Fatal Power Of Death. There are a lot of twists and turns throughout the album.
You'll hear plenty of dense riffs and crushing blastbeats, but Beyond ease up periodically into a nice groove before cranking it back up. And no matter what tempo they are playing, the shredding is non-stop, with some outstanding guitar work. The vocals are really echoey, which is a bit distracting, but positives far outweigh any negatives on this very well done debut.
Butcher Babies - 'Goliath' (Century Media)
On their debut album Goliath, the L.A. band Butcher Babies come out with guns blazing. The songs are aggressive and intense, with dual vocals from Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd. Primal screams alternate with melodic singing; it's beauty and the beast vocals with two beauties.
You'll hear similarities to bands like In This Moment, Otep and Kittie, blending intensity with melody. Butcher Babies explore genres ranging from thrash to metalcore to punk to nu-metal. Having already toured with Marilyn Manson, Butcher Babies are on Mayhem Festival this summer, giving them a prime opportunity to win over legions of new fans. They are a band that's bound to polarize, but that's not a bad thing at all.
Evan Brewer - 'Your Itinerary' (Sumerian)
Genre: Instrumental/Progressive Metal
While The Faceless bassist Evan Brewer’s aptly titled debut Alone was created purely using bass guitars, the follow up sophomore Your Itinerary is a full band effort, strongly featuring keys, guitar and drums - with the bass essentially filling the role of lead guitars/vocals.
The best praise that can be handed to Your Itinerary is the strength of the jazzy prog songwriting is enough to really make you forget that you’re listening to a “bass player’s” album. Equal parts technically proficient and calmly mellow, Your Itinerary is a must for fans of both great musicians and chilled out tunes.
Facebreaker – 'Dedicated to the Flesh' (Cyclone Empire)
Genre: Death Metal
Bursting with old school gusto and the militant march of Bolt Thrower or Hail of Bullets, Sweden’s Facebreaker pack a wallop with their fourth full-length album, Dedicated to the Flesh. It's another carnivorous recording that, while not bringing so much fresh meat to the table, gorges the listener with its endless cuts of choice death metal.
Steered by the blood-filled lungs of Roberth Karlsson and the stampeding drums of Mikael Wassholm, the band is at their deadliest during a track like “Zombie Flesh Cult,” grinding the rhythm into a sweltering mid-paced trudge. A few tracks miss the mark, but Facebreaker and their latest soundtrack of undead destruction packs a hell of a bite.
King Conquer - '1776' (Mediaskare)
Genre: Death Metal/Hardcore
Politically charged and angry as hell, the sophomore full length of Florida’s King Conquer, 1776, features raw and crunchy production, as well as more duel harsh vocals and beatdown hardcore influences than heard on their previous releases.
Thanks to the likes of “Empires” and “A Day Late... And A Dollar Short,” 1776 is definitely the best thing King Conquer have done, and while it isn’t a jaw dropping LP, a good majority of the tracks pack a big punch and the Floridian’s true aggression pushes them above a lot of their peers.
King Kobra - 'II' (Frontiers)
Genre: Glam Metal
After disbanding in the late '80s, King Kobra returned in 2011 with a self-titled album. Their comeback continues with II. The 2013 version of the band is the lineup from their first two albums (guitarists David Michael-Philips and Mick Sweda, bassist Johnny Rod and drummer Carmine Appice) along with former Rough Cutt vocalist Paul Shortino.
King Kobra's comeback album was a pleasant surprise, and II continues the momentum. It has a classic '80s vibe with lots of big hooks and singalong choruses. Shortino's bluesy and soulful voice adds a little extra swagger, and of course Appice is one of the best drummers in the business. '80s metal may have disappeared for awhile when grunge came along, but has endured, even though many of the bands have traded hairspray for Rogaine.
Kryptos – 'The Coils of Apollyon' (AFM)
Genre: Thrash Metal
Mixing thrash with classic heavy metal, India’s Kryptos channel the energy and spirit of their influences. Their latest release The Coils of Apollyon is a healthy mix of Coroner and Kreator blended with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. There is maturity to the writing as Kryptos manages to combine their influences and create something unique and memorable.
Vocalist Nolan Lewis eerily embodies Coroner singer Ron Royce on “Serpent Mage” and “Eternal Crimson Spires.” The Maiden and Priest influences find there way into the guitar work, which is excellent. The riffs are melodic and the leads are technical and also shred. A gigantic step up from previous releases as this is far and away the best record of their career.
Phantom Glue - 'A War Of Light Cones' (Black Market Activities)
Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
On their second album, the Massachusetts band Phantom Glue blend sludge, doom, stoner and occult rock into a tasty concoction. Distortion is in ample supply, both in the guitars and vocals. There's also an ample supply of melody.
Phantom Glue vary the tempos on the album. Upbeat sludgy goodness slows down to crushing, dense doom. I prefer the faster tracks, which are catchier, but the glacial parts add some diversity to the proceedings. The lyrical subject is interesting as well, what they call a "nightmare/occult" history of Colonial America.
Serpent Crown - 'Serpent Crown' (Horror Pain Gore Death)
Genre: Thrash Metal
Countless thrash bands have originated in the Bay Area, going back to the earliest days of the genre. Serpent Crown hail from the thrash hotbed, and their self-titled debut also features drummer Will Carroll, who has been in Death Angel the past few years. He has since departed Serpent Crown due to commitments with them.
Serpent Crown is straight from the old school. Dara Santhai is the band's vocalist and guitarist, and there's plenty of galloping riffage on the album. Her shouting vocals are buried deep in the mix, really hearkening back to the early days of the genre, although her more melodic vocals are turned up a bit. It's a raw and loose album, straightforward and powerful.
Stomach Earth – 'Stomach Earth' (Black Market Activities)
Genre: Doom/Death Metal
Gunface, aka Mike McKenzie, guitarist for tech-grind act The Red Chord, recently released his anticipated full-length debut, a death/doom metal solo project called Stomach Earth. Intent on proving that he can play at tempos not bordering on warp speed, McKenzie slows things to a torturous hitch. Stomach Earth is funeral doom with a bloated, deathly gut.
The album’s atmosphere is rife with apocalyptic mire. Behind the lumbering riffs and the pounding drums, an industrial wasteland whirs unseen. Bleak and ferociously dense, Stomach Earth drones and bashes about, flattening its listener into submission. It’s imposing and, at times, quite scary.
Genre: Stoner/Doom Metal
After a couple of EPs, the Texas band Venomous Maximus emerge with their full-length debut Beg Upon The Light. It's stoner metal with an occult bent, thick doomy riffs churning along at a reasonably fast pace.
One thing that makes Venomous Maximus stand out from the usual band in this genre is the vocals. Gregg Higgins isn't a traditional singer. He uses a spoken word/sing-song delivery, combining it with some singing here and there. It's an interesting style, but one that works well with the genre. It gives the album a dramatic flair, and along with some quality guitar work makes for a compelling effort.
Witches Mark – 'Witching Metal Ritual' (Heaven and Hell)
Genre: Heavy Metal
Witches Mark hail from Austin, Texas, but sound like an amalgamation of styles such as Teutonic thrash, power metal, and heavy metal. They might more easily be classified as a thrash metal equivalent of Deceased.
The band has a sheer ton of variety, but I can’t say they do anything that over the top for the listener. If you have heard their influences before, you already know what to expect from the band. A promising start to the album ultimately falls flat due to a lack of substance.