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New Heavy Metal Album Reviews: May 13, 2014

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 The latest heavy metal album reviews, including releases from Decembre Noir, Dornenreich, Graves At Sea, Greenleaf, Gun Barrel, Holy Shire, Hour Of Penance, Lantlos, Miasmal, Of Spire and Throne, Psychotic Gardening, Retribution, Sebastian Bach, Somnabulist Red, Sourvein, Teitanblood, Thine, Vallenfyre and WAMI..

Decembre Noir – ‘A Discouraged Believer’ (FDA Rekotz)

Decembre Noir – ‘A Discouraged Believer’
FDA Rekotz Records

Genre: Doom/Death Metal
German doom/death metal quintet Decembre Noir are poised to release their full-length debut, A Discouraged Believer, a record that balances melancholy and fragility with a barrage of thunderous riffs.

Decembre Noir pace themselves at mid-tempo death marches the majority of the time, but also traverse the grounds of their Swedish counterparts with fixings of quaint melody and in-your-face ferocity. The band’s fondness for somber beauty adds great character to A Discouraged Believer, a strong debut that should whet the palates of fans of early Opeth, Katatonia, and My Dying Bride.

Rating: 3.5
(Evan Mugford)

Dornenreich – ‘Freiheit’ (Prophecy)

Dornenreich – ‘Freiheit’
Prophecy Productions

Genre: Neofolk
Beginning their life as a melodic black metal band in the mid ‘90s, Austria’s Dornenreich have quietly assembled a solid diverse catalog. Back with their eighth album Freiheit, the band moves even further away from their metal roots. The songwriting is layered and complex and one gets the impression that a lot of time and effort was put into composing the material.

The songs are spearheaded by driving acoustic guitars and violins while vocalist Eviga whispers the majority of his vocal melodies. Growls and electric guitars finally find their way onto the record with “Das Licht Vertraut der Nacht.” Freiheit is a deep record that requires multiple listens before its full effect takes place.

Rating: 3
(Dan Drago)

Graves at Sea/Sourvein – 'Split’ (Seventh Rule)

Graves at Sea/Sourvein – 'Split’
Seventh Rule Recordings

Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
Neither Graves at Sea nor Sourvein could really be considered prolific. Lineup changes played a role in that, but both are back with this five song split EP.  Graves at Sea ply their seething and sludgy doom with energy and vigor. Zombie-rific and dessicated shrieks and growls spew from the dark aura swollen with filthridden tone and unabashed amp worship. It's somewhere between High on Fire and Electric Wizard.

Sourvein's three tracks counter with the same kind of power but more bleary-eyed and laid back. Their sludge/doom works a psychedelic flavour into both the mix and the vocals. Both sides are excellent and must-haves for new and old fans alike.

Rating: 4
(Matt Hinch) 

Greenleaf– ‘Trails And Passes’ (Small Stone)

Greenleaf– ‘Trails And Passes’
Small Stone Records

Genre: Stoner/PsychedelicRock
Greenleaf's sound can be defined as ‘70s style, stoner rock with a psychedelic feel. Although only two original members remain on this release, the chemistry between the musicians on Trails and Passes is simply impeccable. The fifth studio album for the band, it continues to display their exceptional songwriting and ability to make the listener travel back in time.

The abundance of fuzz and the catchy riffs are sure to grab the listener and take them on a ride through time and space. With drums that are absolutely unrestrained, vocals that soothe like medicine, and melodies that are as groovy as they are full of energy, this album is tailor-made for fans of both the old and new style good old fashioned catchy rock ‘n’ roll. Trails and Passes is perfect for anyone who already has Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Truckfighters, Dozer, Clutch and Graveyard albums in their record collections.

Rating: 4
(Valerie LittleJohn) 

Gun Barrel – ‘Damage Dancer’ (Massacre)

Gun Barrel – ‘Damage Dancer’
Massacre Records

Genre: Heavy Metal
Starting their career back in 2000, Germany’s Gun Barrel are ready to release their sixth full-length record, Damage Dancer. While their earlier material was more influenced by Motörhead and Running Wild, the band now seems to channel Accept and Judas Priest. Patrick Sühl is their fourth vocalist and is back for his second release. His voice is more melodic and smoother than his predecessors.

Most of the material is mid-paced and built around big chords, as the songwriting is fairly straightforward. The melodies could be a tad more memorable as sometimes the material feels formulaic. Their earlier material had more bite and urgency, which is missing here. At times Gun Barrel hit the mark, like on the title track, which is by far the most complete song.

Rating: 3
(Dan Drago) 

Holy Shire - 'Midgard' (Bakerteam)

Holy Shire - 'Midgard'
Bakerteam Records

Genre: Symphonic/Fantasy Metal
When the Italian band Holy Shire perform, the stage is crowded. They have 8 members, including two female vocalists and a flutist. Their debut album is Midgard.

The subject matter is based on fantasy literature, which is pretty typical for the genre. The bombastic and sometimes symphonic music is also fairly typical. What sets Holy Shire apart is the vocals. You will hear the usual ethereal and sometimes operatic singing, but one of the vocalists has an edgier, hard rock style that you usually don't hear with this genre. It's an interesting combination, and helps set Holy Shire apart.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Hour Of Penance – ‘Regicide’ (Prosthetic)

Hour Of Penance – ‘Regicide’
Prosthetic Records

Genre: Brutal Death Metal
Italy’s Hour Of Penance are seasoned veterans of brutal death metal, and seem to just get better and better with each offering. Regicide, the band’s sixth album, takes off right where 2012’s Sedition left off with a giant slab of brutal death metal just dripping with catchiness, lightning fast riffing, and blastbeats.

Like bands such as Origin, what separates Hour Of Penance from the rest of the brutal death metal pack is an ability to write exceedingly catchy songs with powerful rhythms that just demand that you snap your neck to as you listen. Rather than resorting to self indulgent wankery as so many bands in this genre are prone to, Hour Of Penance smartly let the music breathe a bit and just concentrate on the rhythm and the hooks. That’s an intelligent approach; it works in spades.

Rating: 4
(Dave Schalek)

Lantlos – 'Melting Sun' (Prophecy)

Lantlos – 'Melting Sun'
Prophecy Productions

Genre: Post Black Metal
For Melting Sun, the fourth release under the Lantlôs banner, now sole member Herbst has taken the mic from Alcest's Neige and made the post-black metal project all his own. Vocally it's not too far from Alcest, but  Lantlôs carry a considerable amount of heft compared to present day Alcest.

Melting Sun is rife with soaring melodies and cleanly sung vocals delivered with a dreamy vibe. But  Lantlôs avoid the total sleepy shoegaze route with a heavy low-end and some pretty meaty guitars. Don't get me wrong, it's still plenty chill and very “post” but it's perfect for those that think Shelter drifted too far.

Rating: 3.5
(Matt Hinch) 

Miasmal ‘Cursed Redeemer’ (Century Media)

Miasmal ‘Cursed Redeemer’
Century Media Records

Genre: Death Metal
Sweden’s Miasmal’s self titled debut full-length from 2011 caused such as ruckus that Century Media Records immediately snatched them up after their departure from Dark Descent Records’ roster. Playing straightforward Swedish death metal, Miasmal distinguish themselves somewhat with their heavy reliance upon the d-beat, giving their brand of death metal a decidedly ‘crusty’ sound.

Combine this approach to tempo with plenty of gigantic riffs laid down as if they came straight out of the Sunlight Studios, gruff vocals, and good songwriting, and Cursed Redeemer, the follow up to the debut, goes down very well, indeed. Solid death metal.

Rating: 4
(Dave Schalek) 

Of Spire & Throne – 'Toll of the Wound' (Broken Limbs)

Of Spire & Throne – 'Toll of the Wound'
Broken Limbs Recordings

Genre: Doom Metal
Toll of the Wound from Scottish doomsters Of Spire & Throne will not cheer you up. Nor will it necessarily cause you to be unhappy. But when you already feel down, this three track EP will drag you further into the depths of frustrated despair.

Of Spire & Throne play slow and heavy, their obsidian tones providing all measure of malice. Bits of synth/noise cut into their supra-Sabbathian riffs and heaving drone. You will sink inward, crumbling toward death with a curse on your lips. Heavy times demand heavy music and it doesn't get much heavier than this.

Rating: 4
(Matt Hinch) 

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