By Chad Bowar
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Genre: Modern Metal
Amaranthe are a unique modern metal band that utilizes a three-vocal attack combining a clean male and female vocalist with an aggressive male counterpart. Their latest release, the Jacob Hansen produced sophomore album The Nexus, is full of catchy radio friendly modern metal.
The band is gifted, but don’t utilize their talents to their potential and instead settle for forgettable mainstream songwriting. Guitarist Olaf Mörck can shred and his guitar solos are the highlight of the record. The three vocal attack can be a distraction at times, but female vocalist Elize Ryd’s performance is brilliant. Every song has a memorable chorus but are all too similar to stand out from each other.
Genre: Black Metal
Flying underneath the radar last year was Cold Of Ages, the underrated debut full-length album from Arcata, California’s Ash Borer. They jump from Profound Lore Records to Gilead Media to release the two-track 12 inch Bloodlands.
Two sprawling tracks make up Bloodlands, each alternately soft and harsh while still able to maintain a certain bleak sound evocative of the sparsely populated wilds of the far northern California coast. Although a long release at over thirty minutes, Bloodlands serves to whet the appetite of those with an ear for Cascadian black metal without the derision sometimes associated with the subgenre. A recent split between Ash Borer and Fell Voices makes a nice accompaniment.
Genre: Death Metal
When you first play Dies Irae, the debut album from the Italian band Carved, it's easy to mistake it for symphonic power metal. The opening title track is a three plus minute instrumental, and it's not until a minute and a half into the second song that the death metal kicks in.
Carved's music does sound like power metal at times, with classical and symphonic parts, but the vocals are mostly death metal growls with a little bit of singing. The songs are atmospheric and dynamic with a glossy sheen, yet pack a punch. Melodic symphonic death metal would probably be the best description of Dies Irae.
Genre: Black Metal
Cnoc An Tursa are a Scottish black metal group proud of their heritage on The Giants of Auld. Keyboards and woodwind instruments gives a sophisticated touch to the celebratory nature of the music. These guys carry their passion for Scotland’s past on “Hail Land of My Fathers” and “Bannockburn.”
For having a grand design to their songwriting, only “The Spellbound Knight” puts in the mileage, at almost seven minutes. Folksy melodies show up on occasion, injecting extra spirit into their galloping black metal. The Giants of Auld is a rousing debut that comes off as a condensed version of a Winterfylleth or Primordial record.
Know Hope is the third album from Rockford, Illinois' The Color Morale. Their sound is typical of the genre, mixing screaming and singing vocals with both accessible melodies and crushing breakdowns. The vocals of Garret Rapp, though, are a little different than the norm.
His harsh vocals are varied and effective. I also like his singing, which isn't the ultra-smooth and saccharine crooning normally heard in metalcore. It's just normal singing, which to me works better and makes the transitions between screaming and singing much smoother. In a crowded genre, small things like that help a band stand out.
Genre: Death Metal/Deathcore
Dark Sermon bring just as much energy and technicality to their brand of death metal/hardcore as they do open "E" string chug-a-thons. Their debut In Tongues delivers goods that both metalheads and hardcore enthusiasts can appreciate. Just put it on and jump around.
Hailing from Tampa, Florida, the birthplace of true death metal, Dark Sermon have definitely learned a few tricks from that city's death metal forefathers. In addition, the band experiments a bit and utilizes blackened blast-beats throughout In Tongues. The title track is a good barometer for what to expect from these young Floridians; technical precision, blast-beats, and breakdowns. Their future seems pretty bright. Fans of The Black Dahlia Murder and Job For A Cowboy will be pleased.
Genre: Glam Metal/Hard Rock
It's the 2010s and they are from Australia and New Zealand, but De La Cruz and their debut album Street Level would have fit right in on the Sunset Strip circa 1983. Back then they would have been classified as "hair metal," and today I guess you'd just call them hard rock.
De La Cruz plays music that's anthemic and catchy with a lot of hooks. Vocalist Roxxi Catalano has some character in his voice, and a wide range. With song titles like "S.E.X." and "Girls Go Wild," it's not hard to figure out where they are coming from. Like all good hair metal albums, there's the requisite ballad, the album closer "Shine." If you yearn for the days of big hair and acid-washed jeans, Street Level is a fun blast from the past.
Genre: Doom Metal
Female fronted doom bands have become a thing the last few years, but none of them are like High Priest of Saturn and their self-titled debut. This Norwegian band doesn’t put Merethe Heggset’s vocals at the forefront. In fact, her eerie chant-like vocals sit back a bit behind the syrupy and psychedelic doom riffs unraveling across eons.
As if their Dead Meadow-esque demeanor wasn’t already enough to get the old lava lamp bubbling, the whole album is soaked in the oh-so-sweet organ work of Ole Kristian Malmedal. This is 42 minutes of retro psych-doom to lose yourself in. Dig it.
Genre: Death Metal
Ounce of Mercy, Pound of Flesh from King Carnage might be the oddest old-school death metal record I've heard in my entire life. The oddity comes not from strange, dark lyrics or an overly gruesome cover. The strange part about it is the very simplistic production.
King Carnage is Trillion Red’s Patrick Brown, using the moniker "The Left Hand.” Some one-man bands pull off sounding like a group comprised of different individuals playing various instruments. Ounce of Mercy, Pound of Flesh falls short. It is apparent the same person handled all the instruments (and vocals). The hardest thing to accept, for me, is the tone of the main guitar; no sustain whatsoever. There are some great riffs and solid drumming here. Points to The Left Hand for originality.
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
The Italian band Kruna arrive on the scene with Last Century, their debut album. It bursts out of the gate at warp speed, with the first couple of songs packed with galloping thrash riffs. "Confessor" has a more moderate tempo, but they blast off again on the following track and rarely take their foot off the gas.
The guitar work is excellent throughout, but the album could use more variety. The tempos are pretty similar, and the vocals are all harsh. The parts that might be sung by some bands in the genre are delivered in a mellower but still harsh style here. Kruna's musicianship is excellent, but to gain a foothold the songwriting needs to be stronger, with more memorable tracks.