Graveir, King of the Silent World review (Impure Sounds Records 2020)

Australian black metal revelers release their second full-length album, King of the Silent World, a meditation on darkness.

The approachable style of Graveir is bound to rake in new fans to the black metal realm. The vocals are not clean – they are harsh and poisonous, filled with despair. And yet the lyrics are understandable. The guitars are melodic in their rhythm, often, and the drums are not a constant blast beat. Songs like “Scaphism” on King of the Silent World have riffs that could almost be called hooks. Likewise, “The Fetch of Crooked.” Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely black metal and it is heavy and grim. It just has an unusual turn to it that opens the door on a wider view.

“Bathed in Acheron” is another good example of a unique approach. It has an almost anthem quality at times, and clangs like down-toned cast iron bells. “Immacolata” is the very essence of sorrow in its sound, and wanders the land of doom stanzas. “Fodder In The Gears” is practically the opposite of this: aggressive, hateful even. It is a campaign of violence and the dissonance in the music shows you that very clearly.

The final fifteen minutes of the album are shared by two songs, “Phantasms in Daguerre” and “Father, Devourer.” The former is an oil painting of a dark magician’s nightmare and the latter is a schematic for a sinister revolution of bleak reality. I really like how Graveir walk the boundaries of the genre and push down the fences whenever they need to in order to release the music that is within them. This is one I will be saving. Recommended.

You can get the download at Bandcamp. Impure Sounds Records is selling a vinyl version and Brilliant Emperor Records has a cassette. Breadcrumbs below.

Links.

https://www.graveircult.com

https://www.facebook.com/Graveirbm

https://graveircult.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/impuresoundsofficial

https://www.facebook.com/BrilliantEmperorRecords

Graveir, King of the Silent World review (Impure Sounds Records 2020)

Falconer, From A Dying Ember review (Metal Blade 2020)

If it is possible for you to imagine combining Middle English folk music like “Sweet Nightingale” with death metal blast beats and late NWOBHM guitar riffs, then you have an idea of what to expect from the new Falconer album, From A Dying Ember.

The origins of Falconer reach back twenty years when Stefan Weinerhall started musical conjurings after Mithotyn (1990s band from Sweden) split up. Falconer rose out of these early musings, releasing their first album in 2001. The response was positive from the beginning, and the band went on to produce seven more albums through 2014. The lineup is all rock and roll with vocals, two guitars, bass, and drums: Mathias Blad, Stefan Weinerhall, Jimmy Hedlund, Magnus Linhardt, and Karsten Larsson, respectively. On the new album you can also hear traditional folk instruments like “keyed fiddle and bagpipe” as well as piano, other keys, and strings on occasion. There is no doubting that Falconer’s music is guitar-driven, but their unique perspective and the inclusion of epic and folk metal expansions make them stand out.

There is not a typical song on the album. While the set works a regular theme, there is still a good deal of variety throughout. “Thrust the Dagger Deep,” for example, sounds like it is being sung by a medieval traveling minstrel who somehow is accompanied by electric guitars. “Kings and Queens” features epic-scale guitars up front with a convulsive drum track. Two minutes in there is a blistering lead break that puts you in mind of Savatage. “Bland Sump och Dy” begins with a meandering bass line, and is sung in Swedish. “Rapture” starts with strings that are soon joined by a riff so heavy it is almost doom. This album is at its core folk metal cranked up several notches. Along the way, though, Falconer takes you on a journey and gives you all sorts of different looks.

From A Dying Ember is out today, June 26. They have a big back catalogue for you to go through as well, and it is worth a dive if you like what you hear on the new one.

Links.

http://www.falconermusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/falconermetal/

https://www.metalblade.com/us/artists/falconer/

https://falconer.bandcamp.com/

Falconer, From A Dying Ember review (Metal Blade 2020)

Stygian Crown, Stygian Crown (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

The inaugural album from the Los Angeles doom band Stygian Crown blends classical voice with tradition-respecting modern doom metal.

The sound of Stygian Crown is different enough that they have developed a new category for it: Candlethrower. Uh-huh. The band has the classic metal full line up of five principals: Melissa Pinion (vocals), Nelson Miranda (guitar), Jason Thomas (bass), Andy Hicks (guitar), and Rhett A. Davis (drums). Those names might ring a bell – Davis, Miranda, and Thomas were in Gavehill, and that in itself is a strong recommendation. This band, however, is not death metal but instead is a doom hybrid affair. A new direction, you might say.

After a spooky 30 second intro, the album opens with the bone crushing riffs of “Devour the Dead.” Our first glimpse (?) at Melissa Pinion’s vocals hit right away. Her voice is clear and strong, and her delivery is steady. She seems quite comfortable in the doom universe. The music is guitar-driven castle wall dreariness. Think Ritchie Blackmore’s formulations when the song is not about cars, or maybe a slowed-down Iron Maiden. The lead breaks are not so much shreds as they are studies in mood, although the guitars do occasionally cut loose (like in “When Old Gods Die”). The lyrics tell fantasy tales with a medieval orientation and a focus on violent conflict, plague, death, and darkness. The band is called Stygian Crown, after all. With this release, you are getting just what you expect. To bookend the set, “Two Coins for the Ferryman” is absolutely perfect for this album in atmosphere, theme, sound, and execution – from the spoken word intro to the extremely long fade out at the end. This band knows itself.

Stygian Crown will be released on June 26, 2020. Head over to the Cruz Del Sur store (link below) or the always reliable Bandcamp to examine all the available varieties.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/stygiancrown

https://stygiancrown.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/

https://www.facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic

Stygian Crown, Stygian Crown (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

Pale Divine, Consequence of Time review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

Pale Divine brings a new perspective to their music with Consequence of Time, their sixth full-length album.

Pale Divine has always had great licks and sharp lead work. Go back and listen to their albums (on Spotify, say) and you will see what I mean. From Thunder Perfect Mind (2001) and Eternity Revealed (2004) – the one with “Serpents Path” – on to the super fuzzy Cemetery Earth (2007) all the way through to the 2018 self-titled release you hear great guitar work. There have been a few lineup changes here and there but the music has remained solid throughout. Heavy metal, in the classic lane. Current members include Greg Diener (guitar, vocals), Dana Ortt (guitar, vocals), Ron McGinnis (bass), and Darin McCloskey (drums). The most recent joiner is Dana Ortt, and it is tempting to think therein lies the source of the changes seen in Consequence of Time. And I am sure it is true, Ortt himself and the refreshing wave that passes over everyone else in the band when a new musician comes along account for the innovations. Pale Divine has no interest in sitting back and coasting.

What innovations? Let’s look at the two singles that have been released so far. “Tyrants & Pawns” first. The lead guitar is very active and plays the part of a second voice, really, along with the singer for much of the song. Separately, then, there are also lead breaks bleeding creativity and demonstrating precision. The singing itself has a different orientation and emotive quality in this song (and the whole album) compared to earlier ones. It is not that the previous albums are being eclipsed here; the new one is just a different space along the same path.

“Satan In Starlight” provides another, alternate example. You cannot miss the lead tear that rollicks through the second half of the song. Pale Divine has done this before, of course (e.g., “Lord of Sorrow,” etc.). The band’s reliable guitar work is what keeps me coming back over and again. What is noticeable now is a tangential lightness of being that allows the lead moments to wander in confidence, usually fiercely and yet sometimes almost lilting. The feeling I get from this album is that, while the band has never slowed down, it is now shifting into a different gear, showing us things we haven’t seen before.

Consequence of Time hits the streets on Friday, June 26. Check out the singles now and get ready for the full album in a few days. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/serpentspath/

https://paledivine1.bandcamp.com/

https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/

Pale Divine, Consequence of Time review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

Festivals and Shows to Get Fired Up About

Tour dates are changing rapidly for this year. We will keep updating information as it becomes available. Many of these events are migrating to the Fall and there is a good chance they will be moved again. We’ll keep the posters up until the word is official one way or the other.

Rescheduled for May 14-16, 2021
Festivals and Shows to Get Fired Up About

Lamb of God, Lamb of God review (Epic Records 2020)

For their eighth album, Lamb of God has gone self-titled. It makes perfect sense as it speaks directly to their fans and demonstrates that the band will always be exactly who they want to be.

Randy Blythe, Mark Morton, Will Adler, John Campbell, and Art Cruz. Fans already know who is whom in this lineup, and recognize Cruz is recording for the first time with the band after being the touring drummer for some time. Lamb of God is one of the most recognizable and highly regarded bands in heavy music today. The Richmond, Virginia-based band started out as Burn the Priest in the mid 1990s. They released their first Lamb of God album, New American Gospel, twenty years ago, and have been stalwart metal workers ever since. Ashes of the Wake and Sacrament were a sort of tipping point for the band where their notoriety rose to the level of nonerasable. It has been five years since their last studio album – the longest gap in the discography – so fans are more than ready for new music.

The new album is filled to overflowing with fresh, blistering riffs. The rhythm section is a rippling marching force, laying down the cadence and pounding out the attack. Randy Blythe has an iron voice that seems to strengthen with every album and every song. As a special bonus, there are guest appearances by Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Chuck Billy of Testament.

There is a narrative arc to this album. The first song is “Memento Mori,” which is usually translated as something along the lines of “remember you are going to die.” That’s a mood setter if there ever was one. Blythe has said in interviews that the album should be listened to in order because of the story it tells. He has gone on to say that they establish social issues in the first part of the album and that later songs provide an idea of how to resist what seems like a rising tide of horrors in contemporary society. Things might be messed up, and it is a struggle, but it is not the end. So don’t pick a song to listen to out of context, at least not the first time through. Sit down and listen to the whole album, front to back. It is all great music and you’ll have a better experience this way. You can always listen to your favorites again and again.

Lamb of God is out now and available absolutely everywhere. Epic Records has physical copies in many forms, and there are nice import choices from Nuclear Blast. This is one of the best releases so far this year. Highly recommended.

Band photos by Wayne Edwards, Aftershock 2019.

Links.

https://www.lamb-of-god.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lambofgod/

https://epicrecords.shop.musictoday.com/dept/lamb-of-god

Lamb of God, Lamb of God review (Epic Records 2020)

Satyrus, Rites review (2020)

Italian doom project Satyrus release their first ode, Rites.

The members of Satyrus have been/are actively involved in other bands, largely focusing on non-doom subgenres like death metal, industrial, prog, hardcore punk, thrash, and so on. They have come together here to feed their need for pure doom. The musicians are Frankie Pizzimenti (guitar), Freddy Fish (bass), Gianni Passafiume (vocals), and Morgan Perrone (drums).

There is not an enormous amount of information floating around in the States about these four, apart from some of their previous associations and the fact that Facebook reports their hometown location as Palermo. That site also lists their influences as Black Sabbath and Coven. That has the ring of truth.

Rites is a self-released collection of five long songs that all boil in black blood of the earth. The opener is “Black Satyrus,” twelve minutes of mystical incantations, sinister intimations, and fuzzy dread. It has a slow build culminating in a lead solo that pierces the swollen cocoon that has been woven by the lead up. “Shovel” follows with a more determined thrust and a faster tempo. The lead guitar is positively frenetic for a doom song. That, in fact, is a characteristic of the album that you do not always see in music with this label: an active and independent lead guitar. It keeps you engaged in the music and also prevents you from dissolving into yourself from the mesmerizing bass and riffs.

I mark “Stigma” as the stand-out track on this release. It has a crunchy stomp and an almost bluesy vocal line. The lead guitar breaks come is as melody, another voice. About a third of the way through the song, the cadence shifts to an urgent anxiety only to be surrounded and soon encased in fuzzy riffs. A catastrophe occurs in the final third where grating animalistic noises are heard and then put to an end by ranging new beat. It’s a trip.

Available now at Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and also streaming on Spotify, Rites is a welcome addition to doom lore. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/satyrusdoom/

https://satyrus-occult.bandcamp.com/album/rites

Satyrus, Rites review (2020)

Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins, Whore of Babylon review (Silver Lining Music 2020)

Back for the attack, Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins have a follow-up album to their 2018 earth-shaker.

Mike LePond is best known as the bass player for Symphony X. In 2014 he released an album titled Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins, and many thought it was a solo album. It wasn’t, though, not really. It was a new band. Four years later, they released their second album, Pawn and Prophecy. Now we have a new set from the band, Whore of Babylon, and it is another big metal album with all the heavy bells and whistles.

LePond has employed an army of musicians for this album, including Alan Tecchio, Lance Barnewold, Rod Rivera, Sarah Teets, Michael Romeo, and Michael Pinnella – and he is playing the bass, of course, both 4- and 8-string varieties plus acoustic and rhythm guitar and some background vocals in there too. The music has the feeling of bands like Savatage and Dio and Deep Purple, with roaring guitars and blistering leads.

If you glance through the track list at the titles of the songs, you get a quick feel for what is about to happen. “Dracul’s Son,” “Ides of March,” “Lady Bathory” … a lot of fantasy elements and tales of blood in there. The monster bass lines from LePond first stand out BIG on “Tell Tale Heart,” with its pummeling frontend groundwork. Most of the songs are fast an loud. The music does slow and quiet down in the middle for a 13 minute pair, “The Night of Long Knives” and “Champion,” and the title track, too, is eerie and understated. The closer is “Avalon,” an eight minute capstone to the set with gargantuan bass work and a firm nod to the stylings of Ritchie Blackmore. It is an excellent way to wrap up the album and put a seal on this metal artifact.

Available now from Silver Lining Music and pickupable at the links below. Recommended.

Band photo by Jatzi Nieto.

Links.

http://www.facebook.com/mikelepondssilentassassins

https://mikelepondssilentassassins.com/

http://sl-music.net

http://www.facebook.com/Silver.Lining.Music.Ltd

Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins, Whore of Babylon review (Silver Lining Music 2020)

Vulkan, Technatura review (2020)

Vulkan returns for a third round of heavy prog with Technatura, a story of nature versus the made-up world.

This band from Sweden band has released two earlier albums, Observants in 2016 and Mask of Air in 2011. What do they sound like? Well, they are a prog band, and that means … it could mean a lot of different things. I always have Emerson, Lake, and Palmer jump into my head when I hear the category “prog” mentioned. If Vulkan is ELP, then their earlier albums are like Love Beach and the new one is more like Black Moon. I hope that helps. [Note: They don’t really sound much like ELP.]

The band is Jimmy Lindblad (vox and percussion), Johan Norbäck (drums), Christian Fredriksson (guitars), Oscar Pettersson (bass), and Olle Edberg (keys, synthesizers). The music is indeed overall on the guitar side of town, and yet the keys do get a lot of work throughout. Technatura does sound heavier to me than the earlier two albums, and I like that aspect. The album is arranged on five pillars of long songs surrounded by about that same number of shorter pieces, plus a smattering of interludes. Long-form music does not lend itself well to singles, but the band did release a shorter piece, “Marans ritt,” as a single and you might have seen it on a playlist here or there.

It would be crazy to pick a favorite track, but I am going to give it a try anyway: “Redemption Simulations,” because of the killer percussion and bass lines that start the song off and the arc of the composition overall. Yeah, but see then the very next song, “Bewildering Conception of Truth,” has great guitars, innovative shifts and changes, and a dedicated through-line; “Rekviem” has a wicked vamp at the front; the closer has stomping giants and a wall of heavy riffs. I take it back. I don’t have a favorite. There is too much here to like to hold one piece above another.

Technatura is out now at all your favorite places. Listen on Spotify to see what you think and if you like what you hear, support the band with a download or a merch purchase. If I am in a prog mood, this is the kind I want to listen to.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/thebandvulkan

https://www.vulkanband.com

https://vulkanband.bandcamp.com/

Vulkan, Technatura review (2020)

Power Trip, Live in Seattle 05.28.18 (Dark Operative 2020)

Power Trip surprised fans with the release of an unannounced live set recorded in Seattle in 2018.

I was very excited to hear this set had been dropped out of nowhere because I have seen Power Trip many times and they are such a great live band. Usually, when I have caught them live, they played a half hour or a little less, so this live set recorded at Neumos in Seattle is a boon because it is a full 40+ minutes of unrelenting smashmouth metal.

They are covering all the bases on the setlist with songs from their two full-length albums and a couple from the self-titled EP. Just so you know, here’s the list: “Drown” – short intro, “Divine Apprehension,” “Suffer No Fool,” “Soul Sacrifice,” “Executioner’s Tax (Swing the Axe),” “Crucifixation,” “Heretic’s Fork,” “Conditioned to Death,” “Firing Squad,” “Manifest Destination,” and “Crossbreaker.” Power Trip were on fire this night in Seattle, and it has been expertly captured for our repeated enjoyment.

You can listen to Live in Seattle 05.28.18 on any and every conceivable streaming platform. If you go to Bandcamp and buy the download, note the following, posted on the site. “The band offers this release as a way of saying thank you to all supporters, friends, and allies over the years. All proceeds from the sale of this album on Bandcamp go toward offsetting the financial impact of the numerous Power Trip tours and live appearances cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Band photo by Joshua Andrade.

Links.

https://powertrip.bandcamp.com/

Power Trip, Live in Seattle 05.28.18 (Dark Operative 2020)