So many moments in De Vermis Mysteriis transcend all that High on Fire has done in its six album catalog, as well as those of the lesser canniboid tribes in people-of-the-pipe metal, that it induces altitude sickness. A good album pleases immediately then fades into fondness. A great album pleases repeatedly and never fades away.
Des Kensel’s drums summon unspeakable gods on every track, Jeff Matz’ bass thumps on the ceiling of Perdition like the horny neighbors in the apartment upstairs and Matt Pike has become a guitar. He doesn’t just play his mutant fret-beast any longer. He has become that mutant beast as surely as Jake becomes a Na’vi at the end of Avatar. Pike’s guitar on De Vermis Mysteriis is as shattering as anything recorded since Tony Iommi first descended to Earth.
Bereft is the highly-anticipated project of Sacha Dunable of Intronaut and Graviton, Derek Donley of National Sunday Law and Graviton, Charles Elliott of Abysmal Dawn and ex-The Faceless vocalist Derek Rydquist. Bereft has some Novembers Doom, Cathedral, and just of tiny bit of Pilgrim in them.
Sloppy murk and long-ton guitar heaviness pour like mud from an overflowing basement when "Corpse Flower" stretchers in the soul-bash of the album's 39 minutes. Uncaring string-lifts, amp noise and a crypt-load of feedback dirty up the proceedings, yet add to the edge of the oppressive weight of Leichenhaus' atmospherics.
Tragic Idol in no way emulates the dark simplicity of early albums, nor does it walk the same path as their divisive mid-'90s output. What it does however – expertly, naturally and beautifully – is blend the myriad styles and influences of Paradise Lost’s long career into one monster of a modern metal album. Edgy, yet accessible, Tragic Idol is the sound of a band planting its flag on the sacred ground it has been threatening to reclaim with recent albums.
As if buoyed by Gregor Mackintosh’s foray into old school British death metal with his Vallenfyre project, the guitars on Tragic Idol are dirty and brutal in tone, but melodic and deft in content with the hypnotic repetition of licks on tracks like “In This We Dwell” and the classy soloing that launches “To The Darkness” firmly announcing the band as mainstream contenders without once ever calling their metal credibility into doubt.
The Canadian band’s late frontman David Gold reduced the use of harsh vocals on Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light in an effort to focus on the best in each new song. Choosing to layer his natural baritone with higher and lower pitched doubling causes the vocals to channel the spectral sound of Peter Steele. Gold eventually establishes his unique persona by eschewing Steele’s droll irony and sketches a withering hopelessness that Type O Negative never seriously plumbed.
“Death Is Not An Exit” is a prescient masterpiece. Steeped deeply in the album’s gorgeous production and paper-cut arrangements, this song is a compound of emotional complexity. Heartbreaking confusion forces the narrative to veer between acknowledging life’s preciousness and then its essential tragedy. As with the entire album, the narrator’s disassociated viewpoint belongs to someone observing human existence as a momentary interruption in the oblivion before birth and after death.
Stalingrad is ten tracks of chest-beating heavy metal at its very best; music that neither claims nor pretends to be anything other than it is. In “Shadow Soldiers” and “Against The World” we have two classic Accept mid-tempo pounders, while “The Quick And The Dead” and high octane opener “Hung, Drawn And Quartered” captures a band capable of shifting effortlessly into top gear while revelling in triumphant melody.
The rhythm section of Peter Baltes (bass) and Stefan Schwarzmann (drums) is precise and economical, but never overly flash, preferring to take a back seat to the startling guitar histrionics of Wolf Hoffmann and Herman Frank. New vocalist Tornillo turns in an exceptional performance, proving that while utterly convincing with a Udo-style rasp, he is a vocalist with tremendous range and variety, capable of taking Accept to places previously unreachable.