The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Aether Realm - 'One Chosen By The Gods' (Primitive Ways)
Genre: Folk/Melodic Death Metal
Listening to Aether Realm's debut album, you'd think they are from Scandinavia. One Chosen By The Gods is folk-infused melodic death metal popularized in that part of the world. But this band hails from Greensboro, North Carolina.
One Chosen By The Gods is a rousing effort, packed with melody but still heavy with death metal vocals. Their style is in the vein of bands like Ensiferum, and the production is excellent, very crisp with a lot of orchestral atmosphere. The musicianship is first-class and the songwriting above average. Props to Aether Realm for bringing a bit of Valhalla to the deep South.
Corpus Mortale - 'FleshCraft' (Deepsend)
Genre: Death Metal
It has been six years since the last release from the Danish death metal band Corpus Mortale. Fleshcraft is brutal and aggressive as you'd expect, chock-full of blast beats and pinch harmonics. However, this is more than by-the-numbers death metal.
Corpus Mortale inject tempo shifts, texture changes, galloping thrash riffs and even semi-progressive flourishes to add diversity. Skull-crushers like "The Unwashed Horde" are made more interesting and memorable with these added touches. Fleshcraft will fly under the radar, but it's worth seeking out for death metal fans.
Heaven's Cry - 'Food For Thought Substitute' (Prosthetic)
Genre: Progressive Metal
After returning last year with their first new album in a decade, Heaven's Cry are reissuing their other two albums. Food For Thought Substitute was their debut in 1996. The songs are intricate and complex while not ignoring things like melody. The tempos and textures are constantly shifting, always maintaining interest.
The albums have been remixed and remastered, bringing the sound quality up to date. Heaven’s Cry are an excellent prog band many may have overlooked back in the day, and are well worth revisiting.
Heaven's Cry - 'Primal Power Addiction' (Prosthetic)
Genre: Progressive Metal
Primal Power Addiction, originally released in 2002, has been remastered and remixed. It’s in the same vein of their debut,with the Canadians channeling prog bands like Nevermore and Dream Theater. The musicianship and compositions are top-notch, but not quite as catchy as their debut.
The album closes with a cover of the Midnight Oil song “Beds Are Burning,” which doesn’t stray far from the original. It’s a solid effort, and like their debut is worth revisiting by prog fans.
Genre: Occult Metal/Ambient/Noise
Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, Kontinuum have drawn a great deal of inspiration from the elemental and dreamlike landscape of their homeland on their debut full-length Earth Blood Magic. There is a deep sense of mysticism to the album, an appreciation for the weird and occult that seeps out of the noise like a mist.
With elements of darkened doom and death metal woven into the deeply atmospheric structures, Kontinuum give nods to influences as disparate as Solstafir and Celtic Frost. Heady and heavy, the sound occasionally becomes too thick, wallowing in its complexity rather that displaying the necessary light touch, but overall it's a promising debut.
Nine Covens - 'On The Dawning Of Light' (Candlelight)
Genre: Black Metal
While the identities of the members of Nine Covens has been kept under wraps, their traditional black metal sound has few surprises to it. Their second album, On The Dawning Of Light, is much less dynamic than their compelling debut. It’s aggressive right from the gate, and hardly backs down from this approach.
The songwriting is sharp, though lacking in intricacy, and the music is tightly performed. Odd stylistic choices (e.g. the seven-minute instrumental “White Star Acception”) drag down what is otherwise a standard black metal record.
Sulphur Aeon - 'Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide' (FDA Rekotz)
Genre: Death Metal
Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide is the full-length debut from the German band Sulphur Aeon. It's a hit and miss affair. "Inexorable Spirits" is a highlight, adding blackened touches and melody to dense death metal. The main thing holding the album back is the poor production.
The musicianship is good, the songwriting solid for the most part and the vocals are effective. If you like traditional death metal with touches of melody and can get past the subpar production, there's potential here.
Genre: Hard Rock
The album cover makes one think the Bee Gees are back, but Vanderbuyst are a Dutch hard rock trio who’s retrograde Flying Dutchmen nails the '70s era while adding plenty of their own personality. Strong songs, hermetically sealed playing and production values worthy of golden age Golden Earring, Vanderbuyst vary little from “Frivolous Franny” to “Welcome to the Night.”
They rock hard for the money, and it’s worth an investment for the fan that hasn’t grown deaf to the echoes of a distant past when dinosaurs roamed the stage.
Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
Switzerland’s Zatokrev are no strangers to parable. These sludge/doom stalwarts have returned with The Bat, the Wheel and a Long Road to Nowhere, an album with a darkly hypnotic scheme – cover the listener in whirling post-metal effects, then cave its head with plodding grooves and woeful black metal witchery.
Although a song like “The Wheel” dawdles, other sterling tracks keep the 76-minute running time on its feet. Opener “Goddamn Lights” is a lumbering and beastly affair, and “Rodeo with Snakes” moseys guns blazing through an Old West ghost town. Zatokrev tell the story of The Bat, the Wheel, and a Long Road to Nowhere carefully, intent on finding the devil in the details, and then letting him loose.