The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Absolon - 'Darkness Rising' (Roxx)
Genre: Power Metal
The epic concept album is a staple of power metal, and that's exactly what Absolon have tackled on their debut release Darkness Rising. There are interludes, spoken word parts and a storyline revolving around a man who sells his soul to the devil, resulting in his band becoming the biggest metal band in the world.
It's a very theatrical release, and even though there's a lot of music, the songs are not overly long. The concept is the dominating aspect of the album, meaning atmosphere and bombast sometimes overshadow things like hooks and melody. There's a little Queensryche, a little Broadway and a lot of showmanship on Darkness Rising. It's sometimes over the top, but ultimately satisfying.
Ayr - 'Nothing Left To Give' (Antithetic)
Genre: Black Metal
Originally released in 2011, the third (and last so far) album from North Carolina's Ayr has been reissued. The four song EP embraces traditional black metal, but incorporates a lot of diversity. The opening track "Thirst" is almost soothing at times, interrupted by periodic howling vocals before ramping up to full blast-beat mode.
"Hallucination" is a trippy instrumental, followed by the forbidding and atmospheric closer "Expiration." Ayr are an intriguing black metal band, and if you aren't familiar with them, Nothing Left To Give is well worth exploring.
Genre: Metallic Hardcore
Call of the Void are pissed, and they use Dragged Down A Dead End Path as a way to express this. This uproarious debut is caught somewhere between metallic hardcore and grind-y punk. The album isn’t as unstable as Nails or Converge can get, but a few moments on “Failure” and “Napalm Lungs” almost get to that point.
The band isn’t afraid to toy with tempos either, though the attempt to sprint past three minutes on “Breeding Grounds” is a misstep. For those who want crushing, metal-infused hardcore in 25 minutes or less, this album will be sufficient.
Genre: Hardcore Metal
Starting out as a Misfits/Samhain cover band, Death Wolf recently changed their name from Devil’s Whorehouse. Featuring in its ranks current Marduk bass player Morgan Håkansson, Death Wolf release their sophomore album II: Black Armoured Death. Their sound is the perfect combination of solo Danzig and early hardcore.
The band sounds most comfortable when emulating solo Danzig like on “Lord of Putrefaction,” “Night Stalker” and “Little Black Angel.” Even with their hardcore influences there is no similarity to the Misfits or Samhain, which is surprising considering their history. The record isn’t very cohesive, though, going from moody rock songs to a classic hardcore punk vibe. On their next release it would benefit the band to choose a more consistent direction.
Epicrenel – 'The Crystal Throne' (Inverse)
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Reminiscent of early Rhapsody and Nocturnal Rites, Epicrenel try and carve out a niche in the overcrowded power metal genre. Their debut release The Crystal Throne does an excellent job of incorporating symphonic elements with classic power metal conventions. Featured in its ranks are former and current members of Adagio, Amberian Dawn and Adamantra
The musicianship is top notch and is the bright spot on the record. All of the instrumentation is jaw dropping. Lyrically we are in power metal territory with formulaic fantasy filled nonsense. Vocalist Christian Palin incorporates a wide range and has a penchant for writing memorable vocal melodies. Unfortunately, The Crystal Throne is remarkable more for its musicianship than its songwriting.
Globe and Beast – 'Grandfather's Axe' (Melotov)
San Diego’s angry and angst-ridden newcomers Globe and Beast have channelled absolutely none of their hometown's sun into their debut, Grandfather's Axe. A promising and seething first full-length, Globe and Beast blend together the abrasive, muscular surliness of hardcore with thick lashes of sludge and even blackened doom.
Drawing upon influences like Engineer and Converge, and also borrowing heavily from seminal Canadian hardcore band Cursed, Globe and Beast swing the pendulum back and forth between caustic and emotive. The wrath-riddled and arhythmic “Body's Sore” is an early strong point, whereas deeper in the album “Directions” and “Systems” are thicker to wade through, drenched in gloom and toxic sludge. Grandfather's Axe rails against an evil and ill-fitting world with surprising eloquence.
Goatcraft – 'All for Naught' (Forbidden)
Void of the many traits purists would define as metal – no guitars, no drums, no bass, no vocals – San Antonio’s Goatcraft have employed a different approach with no less affecting results: one man playing occult-driven neoclassical piano. That man is Lonegoat and, with bravado completely intact, he’s fashioned All for Naught, a debut album of unique and considerable depth.
Whether the album’s layers of tempestuous piano keys strike your fancy or not, it’s a task to negate how utterly different All for Naught remains. Its melancholic nature ushers in clouds like a weather pattern, but, aside from songs like the absorbing “Journey to the Depths,” Goatcraft could be best served with a wider tableau of emotions, not simply Victorian despair.
thehappymask – 'Ruines' (Domestic Genocide)
thehappymask is a one-man project from Russia. The details of the album’s creator and the process of the making of the album are shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Ruines is an eclectic record largely based on a post-metal/shoegaze template.
At first Ruines sounds a little like Explosions in the Sky; actually, a lot like Explosions in the Sky. The instrumental album breathes deeply with soaring melodies and lush soundscapes. Tinkling guitar, synths and piano float along with metronomic drums, relaxing the listener through to the much rougher final tracks. Sail away, friends.
Genre: Melodic Metalcore
Myrtle Beach’s socially-conscious Hundredth distance themselves from their roots and jumps into the fire with Revolt. The first of two EPs scheduled for release this year, Hundredth eases back on melody and highlights a more hardcore approach to this five song presentation.
“Ruin,” “Savages” and “Barren” are rough house speedsters with tight arrangements and premium playing. Some Hatebreed, some August Burns Red and something unique to Hundredth rages through the EP. Christianity takes a back seat on the EP, unlike before, but the lyrics are still soulful.
Genre: Black Metal
Germany’s Imperium Dekadenz are a traditional black metal band that oozes melody and atmosphere. The release of their fourth album Meadows of Nostalgia finds the two-man band developing their songwriting. Most of the songs are mid paced and not overly fast.
The material is filled with melodic tremolo guitars, bombastic drumming and sweeping keyboard that creates a subtle ambiance. Horaz’s harsh vocals fit perfectly alongside the layered music. The ten-minute epic “Aue der Nostalgie” is a tour de force that showcases their strengths. The acoustic interlude “Memoria” is gorgeous and the perfect balance to the ongoing brutality. At times monotony kicks in, but the strength of the songwriting is impressive.