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New Heavy Metal Album Reviews: March 11, 2014

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The latest heavy metal album reviews, including releases from Armageddon Rev 16:16, Biblical, Comeback Kid, Conan, Crypt Of Silence, Dark Forest, Dirge, Insain, John Baizley, Nate Hall & Mike Scheidt, KXM, Monsterworks, Nervosa, Ogre, Our Last Enemy, Psalm Zero, Scibex, Shroud Of The Heretic, Tortorum, Valknacht and Volume IV.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Armageddon Rev. 16:16 - 'Sundown On Humanity' (Pitch Black)

Armageddon Rev. 16:16 - 'Sundown On Humanity'
Pitch Black Records

Genre: Power/Progressive Metal
They have been around since 1985, but Cyprus' Armageddon Rev. 16:16 have not released a full-length album until now. Sundown On Humanity features three of the band's original members, including vocalist Jimmy Mavrommatis.

The music is pretty typical power/prog metal with bombastic guitars, soaring melodies, ample atmosphere and extended instrumental sections. Mavrommatis has an excellent voice with a lot of range and power. The guitar work is also very good, with plenty of searing solos. The songs are well-written with singalong choruses and a decent amount of diversity. Hopefully it won't take another three decades for their second full-length!

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Biblical - 'Monsoon Season' (New Damage)

Biblical - 'Monsoon Season'
New Damage Records

Genre: Hard Rock/Psychedelic Metal
The Toronto band Biblical have shared stages with bands including Red Fang, Kyuss Lives! and The Sword. Their debut album Monsoon Season has elements of those bands and a legion of others.

The diverse album has a lot of retro elements, exploring both '70s proto metal and '60s psychedelia. You'll also hear everything from twangy classic rock to fuzzy stoner metal to spacious desert rock. The vocals are sometimes airy and ethereal, other times gritty and immediate. It's an album that's tough to categorize, but easy to enjoy.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)

Comeback Kid - 'Die Knowing' (Victory)

Comeback Kid - 'Die Knowing'
Victory Records

Genre: Hardcore
Fierce, uncompromising, and unrelenting, Comeback Kid’s new record Die Knowing sees this band pushing with more energy and fire. This is a marvel of a record, their heaviest yet, that screams right back at you and deserves to be heard.

Nothing has held this band back in the past, and with this new effort, it does not appear than anything will ever get in their way. This is Comeback Kid at their very best.

Rating: 3.5
(Edward Banchs)

Conan – ‘Blood Eagle’ (Napalm)

Conan – ‘Blood Eagle’
Napalm Records

Genre: Doom Metal
Conan have been trudging across a war-torn wasteland with their monochromatic, self-described “caveman battle doom” since 2007, and Blood Eagle is just one more sluggish step towards being one of the most uncompromisingly heavy bands marching out of Britain.

The dual vocals from Jon Davis and Phil Coumbe feel like warning blasts from a Viking horn cutting through the suffocating weight of their riffs. While they’ll always require patience from those reluctant to wade in their prehistoric quagmire, there’s more groove and less drone for increased accessibility, and “Horns for Teeth” ranks as one of their catchiest songs to date.

Rating: 3.5
(Sean Frasier) 

Crypt Of Silence - 'Beyond Shade' (Solitude)

Crypt Of Silence - 'Beyond Shade'
Solitude Productions

Genre: Doom Metal
The eyes of the world are currently focused on Ukraine because of the political situation there. That's where the band Crypt Of Silence hail from. Beyond Shades is their debut album.

The songs are long and epic doom metal with death influences and harsh vocals. On the opening 12 minute track "Walk With My Sorrow" they establish their musical identity for the first five minutes with somber guitars and even a bass interlude before the vocals kick in about five minutes in.  Each of the four songs unfolds slowly, sinking in deeper after multiple listens. It's a melancholy album full of emotion and despair.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Dark Forest – ‘The Awakening’ (Cruz Del Sur)

Dark Forest – ‘The Awakening’
Cruz del Sur Music

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Combining progressive, power and straightforward metal for over a decade, Dark Forest are back with their third release, The Awakening. Featuring new vocalist Josh Winnard and guitarist Pat Jenkins, the band continues to explore their Iron Maiden and Steel Prophet influences.

The instrumental breaks are the clear bright spot on the release. Jenkins and founding guitarist Christian Horton do an excellent job of creating harmonies and shredding solos. New vocalist Winnard does a competent job, but a lot of times his voice is a tad thin and his melodies aren’t overly memorable. The band does hit its stride on the galloping “Penda’s Fen.”

Rating: 3
(Dan Drago) 

Dirge – ‘Hyperion’ (Debemur Morti)

Dirge – ‘Hyperion’
Debemur Morti Productions

Genre: Doom/Sludge Metal
If Hyperion were a type of sea, it would one that was entrenched with thick, wine-dark waves. The layers that unfold throughout the play length of Dirge's latest release are cognitively and emotionally overwhelming, and it’s not a bad thing. From its heavy beginnings in the opening track, “Circumploaris” to the brief moments of static calm that occur in tracks like “Venus Claws,” this album is as dynamic as it is real.

This is by far one of the most honest records to come out in quite some time. From the striking vocals to the heaviness of the instruments copulating with one another, it is an altogether beautiful record. The human condition is felt within its notes and it’ll take you to the dark places of the self that aren’t often visited. This is definitely the kind of record that will make top ten lists this year, so check it out.

Rating: 4.5
(Valerie LittleJohn)

Insain – 'Enlightening the Unknown' (Kaotoxin)

Insain – 'Enlightening the Unknown'
Kaotoxin Records

Genre: Death Metal
Posthumous releases always have the potential to plunge fans/journalists into “what could’ve been” discussions, but as far as now defunct French band Insain are concerned, this seems moot. They played solid but unspectacular brutal death metal at the start of their career and they stuck to said style until the time of their dissolution. Nothing more, nothing less.

The clinical production job and almost mechanical musicianship does give proceedings an Origin or Brain Drill vibe, which isn’t my cup of tea, but the moody leads (see “Absorbing”) are commendable are lend some gravitas to the cacophony. Not very unique but solid in its own right.

Rating: 3
(Neil Pretorius) 

John Baizley, et al - 'Songs Of Townes Van Zandt Vol II' (Neurot))

Baizley, Hall & Scheidt - 'Songs Of Townes Van Zandt Vol II'
Neurot Recordings

Genre: Americana
In 2012, Neurot Recordings released “Songs of Townes Van Zandt,” a tribute to the gritty Texas singer-songwriter whose songs are often better known than his name. Scott “Wino” Weinrich (St. Vitus, The Obsessed and more), and Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly (Neurosis) were featured on the first installment, making Vol. 1 a tough act to follow.

Vol. 2 more than lives up to the challenge with stellar performances by John Baizley (Baroness), Nate Hall (USX) and Mike Scheidt (Yob, VHOL), and haunting accompaniments by Katie Jones, Stevie Floyd of Dark Castle and Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand.

Rating: 4.5
(Karen A. Mann)

KXM - 'KXM' (Rat Pak)

KXM - 'KXM'
Rat Pak Records

Genre: Hard Rock
KXM are a supergroup trio made up of vocalist/bassist Dug Pinnick (Kings X), guitarist George Lynch (Lynch Mob) and drummer Ray Luzier (Korn). The band name comes from the K in Korn, the X in Kings X and the M in Lynch Mob.

Out of the three members' bands, KXM sounds most like Kings X, but there are a lot of other influences at work as well. Lynch can shred with the best of them, and while you'll hear some of that, his riffs are creative and tone flawless. Luzier keeps things pretty straightforward, and he's nice and loud in the mix. It's a well rounded album, and the three veteran musicians have excellent chemistry together.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

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