Plague Years, Circle of Darkness review (eOne Music 2020)

Speed and mayhem are alive and well in Circle of Darkness, the new full-length release from Michigan metallers Plague Years.

From the beginning notes of the band’s first EP, these four Detroit musicians threw down the gauntlet in a clear sign to the world they were here to create hard, fast, crunching metal. Labeled as a crossover band, you can definitely hear Hardcore, Thrash, and Death Metal elements throughout. The new album is a continuation of 2018’s Unholy Infestation, except even faster and darker. The band on Circle of Darkness is Tim Engelhardt (vocals), Eric Lauder (guitar), Rian Staber (bass), and Mike Jurysta (drums).

There isn’t a single band to compare them to because Plague Years combines so many styles and their music shifts and moves in and across the songs in the album. They show a lot of chopping steady guitar rhythms at a mid-tempo speed in narrative moments of songs, then click into phantom blasts and thrashing ramps to sink the spikes in deeper. From the new album, songs like “Eternal Fire” rest on a modulated pace overall but have mystical lead breaks and surprising percussion eruptions that are not externalities but instead are essential elements in the composition. Flat out raging numbers are there too like “Circle of Darkness” and “Play The Victim” – and in these pieces the tempo is set high but there are also echoing ethereal moments and fascinating transition bridges.

Plague Years will get a hook into any metal fan because the range of expression and the variety of their musical appeal allows them to fit in on practically any heavy title card. Recommended.

Circle of Darkness is out this Friday, September 18. You can hear a couple singles already, and preorder the download or a hardcopy in different forms now. Their previous EP Unholy Infestation is on Spotify right now so you can go listen to that to tide you over for a couple of days

Band photo by Rian Staber.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/plagueyearsdet

https://plagueyears.bandcamp.com/

http://www.entertainmentone.com

http://www.facebook.com/eOneMusicUS

Plague Years, Circle of Darkness review (eOne Music 2020)

Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets review (2020)

The members of King Giant changed the band’s name to Pimmit Hills after David Kolwalski left in 2017. The first release from the newly-named band is an EP titled Heathens & Prophets.

Under the earlier name, the band released three full-length albums, an EP and a demo. That is a lot of music, and an impressive legacy for King Giant. The current band is David Hammerly (vocals), Keith Brooks (drums), Todd Ingram (guitar), and Floyd Lee Walters III (bass). They are playing a bluesy Southern Rock with a Desert Rock mysticism and melancholy. I’ve read them compared to early ZZ Top and there is a hint of that fuzz in there, but the music of Pimmit Hills is darker and more serious – and there is a clear difference between the local flavor of guitar-heavy music in Texas and in Virginia. Compared to King Giant, the new music is consistent with the earlier work but more earthy, I’d say.

Heathens & Prophets might technically be an EP but with four 7-minute songs it’s a full meal. A crisp solo guitar lick cracks the set open with “Baby Blue Eyes.” Hammerly’s husky voice puts a precise picture in your head of the story he tells: “You look at me with sadness / I look at you with regret.” O man, that’s a punch in the gut. “Ginger” fades in on a peppy drum beat and growing guitar feedback to set up a song about murder. “Lost River” has a swampy warble and backing keyboards that give it a solemn fullness. The lead break has both a somberness and a ruthlessness to it. “Beautiful Sadness” wraps the set up with a fierce bluntness, and seems more like the end of Side 1 than the last song on the album.

Out this Friday, September 18, you can find Heathens & Prophets in the digital everywhere. I am hoping it will pop up on Spotify so I can follow them there. These four songs are just part of the album the band was working on when the pandemic put the slows to the world. They have continued to write more material and will release it when recording becomes practicable. I can’t wait to hear the other songs, too. Recommended.

Band photo by Shane Gardner.

Links.

https://www.pimmithillsmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/PimmitHillsMusic

https://gyard.bigcartel.com/products

Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets review (2020)

Jupiterian, Protosapien review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Jupiterian brings another round of atmospheric doom into the world straight from the heart of South America.

The four-piece metal band from São Paulo has been building its reputation in the heavy scene brick by brick over the last five years. Their first album, Aphotic (2015), is an impressive entry into the musical world. It oscillates between a traditional Doom Metal approach and Funeral Doom, pressing forth with a gargantuan heaviness. Terraforming (2017) begins like an ayahuasca chant with “Matriarch” and pushes on to turn and rise like a lumbering, impossibly tall giant tilling the planet for its on purpose and design. These two albums were early signs of things to come – the first two steps.

The latest release begins with heavy brass horns blaring threatening blasts and what sounds the distance metallic pounding of an enormous hammer against the hull of an ancient, derelict spaceship. Dripping water, buzzing insects, and then “Mere Humans” takes off. The sound has a sharp edge along with the weight of the vocal, guitar, and rhythm space. “Voidborn” thrums your sensibilities into raw strips with its insistent, insidious probing, turning almost frantic in the second half. “Capricorn” brings a stormfront of distortion that resolves in a blistering lightning storm, and “Starless” feels like an incarnation of hopelessness. The final song is “Earthling Bloodline.” It is the essence of “Protosapien” and the plain expression of album’s theme. Drawn out, deep growls (as if from the depths of the earth) surrounded and infused by thundering bass and guitar motions, kept on track by relentless, inexorable percussion.

Doom Metal is the organic center of the music from Jupiterian, enhanced by related genres at the command of the composers. Across their three albums there is a movement in the music’s complexity and presence. With the latest release, having heard the first two, you can detect a clairvoyance in the entity that is the music the band has created. Highly recommended.

Protosapien is out now. Transcending Obscurity has some amazing format variants and merch – the vinyl is a genuine showcase for the cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski. The download is available through Bandcamp and other fine vendors.

Band photo by William van der Voort.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/jupiteriansect/

https://jupiterian.bandcamp.com/

https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Jupiterian, Protosapien review (Transcending Obscurity 2020)

Marilyn Manson, We Are Chaos review (Loma Vista Recordings 2020)

Marilyn Manson is the monster you know. On his newest album, he shows us we cannot hide from the chaos we see because it is everywhere.

Heaven Upside Down was three years ago, The Pale Emperor two years before that. Marilyn Manson has been keeping up with regular new releases, and it was time for another. But 2020 is a weird year, strange days, and We Are Chaos is an odd album in the artist’s canon. The Shock Rock persona is in there somewhere, and we get flashes of it throughout this new one, but there is less revelry this time around and in its place there is a pervasive dolefulness.

“We Are Chaos” was released as a single ahead of the album launch, as was “Don’t Chase The Dead.” Both of these songs are basically ballads (especially the title track) and it left us all to wonder what the rest of the album was going to sound like. I mean, I am used to Marilyn screaming, or giving us the sinister whisper. The first song, “Red Black and Blue,” has that pulsing energy I expected with punching percussion, strong guitar riffs, and distressed, urgent vocals. Next are the two singles, and then another sweet ballad, “Paint You With My Love.” “Half-Way & One Step Forward” has a very creepy feel to it, and it is quiet, too, although it does get a little louder there at the end. “Infinite Darkness” conveys a spacey odor and has a bigger guitar presence than the previous four songs. It is heavy on the narrative and has a stomping momentum. “Perfume” sounds like it might be the next single – it is very radio friendly (is there still radio?). There is a nice heavy punch to “Keep My Head Together,” and a committed recklessness that is very appealing. The eeriest song is probably “Solve Coagula” with its hopelessness and caustic violence. It also has the great line, “I’m not special, I’m just broken.” The album wraps up with “Broken Needle.” The opening acoustic guitar riff is a quiet signal, a statement that this subdued entry in the history of Marilyn Manson is understandable on the surface. It is exactly what it seems. “Are you all right / ’cause I’m not OK / all of these lies / are not worth fighting for.”

Out now on Loma Vista, We Are Chaos is available in many formats and features. Suggested links are below, but you can get some form of the album pretty much anywhere.

Photos by Wayne Edwards from Aftershock 2019.

Links.

Wesbite, https://www.marilynmanson.com/

Buy Music, https://marilynmanson.lomavistarecordings.com/

Buy Merch, https://store.marilynmanson.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MarilynManson/

Marilyn Manson, We Are Chaos review (Loma Vista Recordings 2020)

Hymn, Breach Us review (Fysisk Format 2020)

Hymn is back with Breach Us, a further exploration of the chaos that exists in the sludge.

There are only two members in the Norwegian band Hymn, Ole Ulvik Rokseth on guitars and vocals, and Markus Støle handling drums. The Spartan simplicity of the membership is not obvious in the music, which has a robust and full sound. We might have to categorize the music as doom or sludge, but it is more of a duopoly of heavy inspiration, really, writ large.

Perish was the first album by Hymn, released in 2017. It is a dramatic piece of adventure, like scaling a mountain in a free climb. Breach Us is more polished and refined in all aspects, ranging from the vocals to the compositions themselves, even in the parts that seem improvisational in their rawness.

There are four songs on the new album, and it definitely has a Side 1 and Side 2 feel. “Breach Us” and “Exit Through Fire” are the first couplet, and these songs bear the greatest resemblance to the first album both in the singing and the presentation of the drums and pulsing riffs. Guest appearances by David Johansson and Guro Moe add greater depth and broader reach to the second two entries, “Crimson” and “Can I Carry You.” This is especially noticeable on the latter, which has distinct movements in the fourteen and a half minutes of the song that demonstrates shifts in feeling and style. The biggest single presence throughout is the strumming guitar that generates heavy riffs, occasionally perpendicular to each other. There is a pliant verisimilitude that permeates these musical creations, and it gives me the feeling that Breach Us portends ascent.

CD, vinyl, and download formats are ready to go at Bandcamp, and of course you can stream it all at Spotify and the other usual places.

Cover art by Danny Larsen.

Links.

https://urskoghymn.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/hymnoslo

https://www.fysiskformat.no

https://www.facebook.com/fysiskformat

Hymn, Breach Us review (Fysisk Format 2020)

Church of the Dead, Church of the Dead review (Stay Heavy Records 2020)

A few years ago, Church of the Dead was slinging EPs out left, right, and center. Now they are back with a new lead singer and a full-length album.

Operating out of Helsinki, Finland, Church of the Dead has enjoyed a respected place in the local heavy music scene. The band released five EPs between 2013 and 2015: Stay Out of My Grave (2013), Terror Tales (2013), Rave to the Grave (2013), Meet Me in the Tomb (2014), and Forever Dead (2015). Things were quiet for a while after that, until the 2019 single “Rat King” which had a reimagining of “Reanimating the Flesh of the Damned” on the B-side. With all this work and experience under their collective belt, it was clearly time for a full length album.

The musical style is a classic brand of Death Metal – think Celtic Frost with gruffer vocals and you are on the right path. Bolt Thrower is another style similarity. Church of the Dead has additional influences, stylistic nuances, and differences that set them well apart. The line-up now is the same as it has been all along except for the new singer: Jussi Salminen (vocals), Kride Lahti (guitar), Antti Poutanen (bass), and Tommi Makkonen-Viheriälehto (drums).

The music relies on riff and rhythm, and the lead guitar appearances are low key or play a harmony role. Stand-out tracks are “Coffincraft,” which made me nostalgic and wrapped me like a hoary cloak, “Nekrovulture,” because it creates a stout, roaring presence that absolutely rips, and “The Abyss” – the last one being the keystone that holds together the essence of the music in the set and acts like the banner a warring army waves on the battlefield as it advances.

Church of the Dead is out now. The quickest grab is Bandcamp. Most of the earlier EPs are available on Spotify and other streaming services if you want to give them a listen as well. The band’s entire canon is solid. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/ChurchOfTheDead/

https://churchofthedead.bandcamp.com/album/church-of-the-dead

Church of the Dead, Church of the Dead review (Stay Heavy Records 2020)

Watertank, Silent Running review (Atypeek Music 2020)

The new one from Watertank is a chronicle of entwined imagining and tangential observations related in a language from another world that, against all odds, makes perfect sense.

Watertank is from Nantes, France. Silent Running is the band’s third album, following Destination Unknown (2015) and Sleepwalk (2013). Tagged as post-hardcore and shoegaze, the music is persistent and loaded with creative guitar riffs. The musicians are Romain Donet on guitar, Jocelyn Liorzou on drums, and Thomas Boutet singing and playing both guitar and bass.

The cover image is something that looks like a Tardigrade Stegosaurus that has leapt through a pane of glass. That would be quite a feat for a microscopic organism. The layering of the unusual and the unexpected into an amalgam that you somehow accept is an excellent image of the music on the album, which is somewhat more complex and reaching compared to the band’s earlier releases.

The album opens with “Envision,” which warps in on a squeal that drops off a cliff to a tramping rock-pop riff driver that carries a crooked edge. It is a creative mixing of known devices to generate a different sound and, even more importantly, a feeling that shifts unexpectedly from goodtime to uneasy. “Suffogaze” starts with a nice Tony Iommi-inspired riff, and as with the first track, shifts and bends in a way that is not just a quirk. Some of time the music has a very heads-down resoluteness to it and at other times there are lively rock and heavy guitar moments. The vocals are melodic and often soft, even whispering. That quiet element pressed against disconsonant chords or heavy guitar pulses further enwarbles your thinking as the music works its way through you. By the time “Cryptobiosis” comes around at the end, you are willing to believe in the world you have heard.

Silent Running is out now. Bandcamp has the download and there is also a vinyl version available.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/wtrtnk

https://watertank.bandcamp.com

http://atypeekmusic.com/Atypeek_Music.html

Watertank, Silent Running review (Atypeek Music 2020)

Isotope, Isotope Compilation review (Carbonized Records 2020)

Isotope brings it all together with a round-up of their four recent releases in one tight package of mind mashing aggression.

The compilation includes the 2019 self-titled full-length LP, 2017’s Wake Up Screaming EP, the Midnight Soldier seven-inch from 2015, and the debut demo Final Wind Of Mercy (2014). It will get you up to speed in one slam. The band credits are Chuck “Zone Tripper” Franco (vocals), Nick “Sikki Nikki” Cantu (guitar), Paul “Bazzy” Capito (bass), Clint “Clza” Baechle (drums), Kristen “K.P.” Payne (guitar on the recent two releases), and Scootch (guitar on the first two releases).

If you don’t know about Isotope yet, this collection is the way to find out. They are known as a hardcore punk band made up of musicians well oiled in the scene and looking for another outlet for their energy. From the very beginning they were mixing genres with big riffs and blistering leads you expect to hear in more straight-stream metal acts. The singing has the attitude and perspective of punk, and at the same time emanates expressions varying into other bandwidths.

The collection is arranged with the newest music first so I suggest you listen to it backwards to see how the band has changed in the six years it has been working together as Isotope. Final Wind Of Mercy is a demo in name only – everything is well in place in this debut. Midnight Soldier has a cleaner production sound while maintaining the raging chaos. Wake Up Screaming brings a brittleness and sharper slice to the compositions, and the newest, Isotope, is a ranging machine of punk and metal terrorizing the landscape. Highly recommended for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

This compilation is out now on a limited edition cassette of 100 copies. There is also a download-only version available at Bandcamp if you miss out on the physical.

Band photo by Carlos Garcia.

Links.

http://www.facebook.com/isotopehardcore

https://isotopehardcore.bandcamp.com/

http://www.facebook.com/Carbonized-Records

https://carbonizedrecords.bandcamp.com/album/isotope-compilation

Isotope, Isotope Compilation review (Carbonized Records 2020)

Black Magnet, Hallucination Scene review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

James Hammontree’s Black Magnet sees its inaugural release with Hallucination Scene, an homage to Industrial Metal of yore.

I always think of (later) Ministry first when the subject of Industrial Metal comes up, but of course it is Nine Inch Nails that flies the flag highest in this genre. Static-X, too, and KMFDM (again, later). Rammstein? Um, sure, and tons of others. It was a nineties thing, wasn’t it, and there were some good things that came out of that decade so taking a trip back in that direction isn’t all bad.

Black Magnet is the solo creation of James Hammontree who both wrote and performed all of the vocals, guitars, synthesizers, drum programming, and samples. It was all Hammontree in the studio. For live performances, a full band will be deployed.

The opening notes of the album burble up like an increasingly aggrieved whale cresting behind you and coming over the top. Angry, vessel-popping lyrical shouts are backed up by volleys of noisy musical pelting. “Anubis” is next, and it is a little more subdued by comparison, but it has just as much attitude. “Punishment Map” has a nice feedback squeal going for it, and it is a constructional nod in the general direction of Rob Zombie. “Trustfucker” is the highlight of the set for me. The lyrics and vocal presentations are fantastic, and the clomping rhythm is perfect for a wide variety of stomping and headbanging activities. This song put me on the path. The closer is “Walking In The Dark,” and it is perhaps the most dissonant and clanging of the set making it an excellent farewell punch. I am very interested to see how these compositions are replicated live – I bet it’ll be a great show.

The album is out now from 20 Buck Spin. Lineup for the metallic resonance and give your ears a good, solid ring. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/blckmgnt

https://blckmgnt.bandcamp.com

http://www.20buckspin.com

http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Black Magnet, Hallucination Scene review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Oxalate, Infatuating Sickness review (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions 2020)

Oxalate’s latest is an EP that’s a flash of dark conjuring that will close your eyes and poison your mind.

Oxalate is a New York / New Jersey Metal band – The Metal Archives lists them as Death Metal and the occult angle they have makes you think about the darker end of that musical spectrum. The band is (again, from The Metal Archives) Devon Ray (bass, vocals), Jackeline Betancourt (drums, vocals), Chris Albertsen (guitar), and Zakk Mild (guitar). They released the single Dank Sepulchrum in 2018, and independently pushed out Infatuating Sickness in 2019. This year they are on a split with Perpetuated, Blood Spore, and Vivisect, and Infatuating Sickness is getting a new release.

Infatuating Sickness is trudging Black Metal that delivers a consistent eleven minutes and eleven seconds of dire hopelessness. The music relies heavily on the rhythm section and compelling vocals. The guitars get to shine in short lead flurries in “Unwholesome Revelation” and “Dark Ritual,” while they are more prominent parts of “Blood and Sulphur” and right at the end of the title track. I have only heard five songs from this band and I like all of them. I am aching for more. Recommended.

The download for Infatuating Sickness has been out for a while at the band’s Bandcamp page, and the CD, a new download, and merch will be available Friday, September 4 from Horror Pain Gore Death (second link below). The band was also selling a tape and t-shirt bundle through their Facebook page (third link below) earlier this week – check in there and see if any remain.

Links.

https://oxalate.bandcamp.com/

https://hpgd.bandcamp.com/album/infatuating-sickness

https://www.facebook.com/Oxalateband

http://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

Oxalate, Infatuating Sickness review (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions 2020)