Ilsa, Preyer review (Relapse Records 2020)

Washington, DC doom metal masters Ilsa unveil their sixth full-length album, bringing feral certainty to a world of indecision.

The first music of Ilsa’s I heard was Corpse Fortress (2018), well into the history of the band. What a great album. The music is Doom Metal in a very active sense, with no dragging or overdrawn moments. It is intense, and I expected the same from the new one, Preyer. It is all that and more.

“Epigraph” has a voiceover for the entire song where a Satanist discusses killing someone as part of what appears to be an interview. This is about Sean Sellers, a convicted murderer, and the album has this notion as its starting point. The music is heavily distorted and begins in the background. By the end of the song the positions are reversed with the voice becoming more distant and the music taking the forefront. “Poor Devil” is next and it is the first step after launch. The fully formed doom vision of the band is instantly in play and there is no looking back.

The pace is variegated but the filling line is not. The vocals on every track sounds like the world depends on the message getting through. The lead work is penetrating and the rhythm sets solid steel railing. The Punk intentions are plainer on some songs, like “Shibboleth,” and on others, like “Mother of God,” Doom lays it hands on heavy and presses hard. The title song is like a mad monk’s manifesto and the closer, “The Square Coliseum,” slides the stone lid over the sarcophagus of ruin in a final, terminal jolt. The place where solace lives is not accessible from this musical world.

Preyer is out this Friday, November 20th. It is a welcome addition to the band’s burgeoning canon. Recommended.

Band photo by Maire O’Sullivan.

Links.

Ilsa Bandcamp, https://ilsa.bandcamp.com/

Ilsa Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/ILSADC

Relapse Records, http://www.relapse.com

Relapse Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Ilsa, Preyer review (Relapse Records 2020)

Greenwitch, CosmoSteelBlood Trinity review (HPGD 2020)

Directly from outer space to you, Greenwitch lands a heavy Death Metal EP in your lap.

Not much is known about the California metal band Greenwitch apart from their affinity for discord and their yearning for exploration. The band describes the new album this way: “‘CosmoSteelBlood Trinity’ utilizes the classic HM-2 tone along with cosmic noise to convey an epic tale of the aftermath of a power struggle between the 9 Galactic Lords and 3 extradimensional beings.” OK, then. Let’s give this a spin.

“Cellar Dweller” is the first punch to your aural canals and it offers up a grinding squeal for a handshake. Breathy Death Metal vocals cast aspersions on the surroundings while clomping guitars are pilloried by pummeling percussion. It’s beautiful. The music does have a buzzing intergalactic insect tone to it, and that is carried through on the next song, “Parasite Possession,” although there also has a strong groove in the riffs as well. “From Nothing” is Punk in the singing while “To Devour The Flesh Of Worlds” is a march on the field of battle.

The final two songs are a couplet, “Celestial Tomb” and “Conquest Of Thorns.” These songs are the most ominous (and the longest) on CosmoSteelBlood Trinity. Relentless, I would call them, especially the latter. The sinister whispering toward the end is deeply creepy, and the final flourish sounds like an alarm and an impending metallic crash. When this is over, you need to wipe your face. Recommended.

Anticipating its drop on November 20th, you can preorder the album now at the links below.

Links.

HPGD Website, http://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

HPGD Bandcamp, http://hpgd.bandcamp.com/

HPGD Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pg/horrorpaingoredeath/posts/

Greenwitch, CosmoSteelBlood Trinity review (HPGD 2020)

Dvne, Omega Severer review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

The new EP from Dvne captures some of their new music and reinvigorates some of their well-known work.

Edinburgh, Scotland Prog Metal band Dvne will have a new album out in 2021. In the mist of time between now and then, they have released an EP that has two songs: one new, and the other a re-recording of a favorite tune from the band’s Aurora Majesty release of 2015.

The band is Victor Vicart (guitar, vocals, and keys), Dudley Tait (drums), Daniel Barter (guitar and vocals), Greg Armstrong (bass), and Evelyn May (keys). I found out about them via Psycho Las Vegas, and I have been a fan ever since. For many people, Prog is an acquired taste, perhaps because of its compositional density – it requires participation from the listener. I like it in just the right amounts; I know when to listen and when to stop.

The new song is “Omega Severer,” to which the EP owes its title. It is heavy on the synthesizers. I do not mean that as a negative criticism – the song is ten minutes long and there is a lot going on throughout the journey. There are multiple voices, heavy guitars, quiet moments and outrageously loud ones. The complex nature of this type of music often means that these sort so transitions are expected, and here they all are. The possibilities are truly endless but artistry and talent are required to make something enjoyable to listen to and memorable. This song hits all the marks, and more.

The re-recorded song is “Of Blade And Carapace.” I liked this song the first time I heard, and the re-recording is excellent. It is a very active piece, with rapid movements and a pulsating, compelling nature.

Bandcamp is the place to collect these songs. Link below. I am anxiously awaiting the full album in 2021. Recommended.

Band photo by Johannes Andersen.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://songs-of-arrakis.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://facebook.com/DvneUK

Dvne, Omega Severer review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Seismic, Seismic review (2020)

The first album from Philly instrumental doom band Seismic is an all-encompassing heavy crush.

Anthony Mariano (guitars), Ken Miller (bass), and Mike Lang (drums) came together as a trio in 2018. The quick take is that they play instrumental Doom Metal, but it is not really as homogenous as that. The band’s self-titled debut plainly demonstrates the musicians’ broad palette. In some ways, instrumental music is more compositionally freeing because of the absence of the vocals. It is true you lose the blatant narrative organ, but you also dispense with the need to create music that works with that element.

The album is three songs: 6½, 7½ , and 11½ minutes running. “The Colour Out Of Space” is a minor cacophony for a few seconds before the heavily distorted vibrating strings turn up the power and the feedback squeals open your eyes. The massive doom thrum is the billboard you drive by until the lead work drops in and percussion solidifies the form. You are halfway through by the time the speedy chop rolls up. Riding the high waves of the pushing riffs is nimble electric guitar melody. “Haunter In The Dark” has a more straightforward front end – an ominous percussion movement that is hesitant and also forewarning. It sounds like something terrifying is about to happen, but you have to hang around to hear it.

The longest piece is last, “At The Mountains Of Madness.” Lovecraft is a doom go-to, and they bleed the eerie vibe for all it is worth. Over the course of the song, the haunting seeps in and cannot be shaken out. The atmosphere swells in your lungs, roiling and determined, and clings like sticky smoke. But then you don’t want to let it go, anyway. This is more than an excellent start, this first album from Seismic, and I can’t wait to hear what comes next in the coming months. Recommended.

Bandcamp is the quick and easy place to buy the download. You can also preorder a vinyl version there which will be out in January.

Links.

Website, http://www.seismicdoom.com

Bandcamp, https://seismicdoom.bandcamp.com

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

Seismic, Seismic review (2020)

Balothizer, Cretan Smash review (Louvana Records 2020)

The sophomore album from Balothizer is a heavy fusion of folk music from Crete and sturdy metal influences making the title of the set spot on.

The band is Pav Mav (bass and vocals), Nikos Ziarkas (electric lute), and Steve J. Payne (drums). The band explains that their music for the new album starts with “Cretan folk songs, either for their melodies, historic and regional idioms, potent lyrics, rhythms, patterns or dances” and combines or transforms them into modern metal fusion pieces. This is somewhat different from the approach of their first album in that the new one is heavier, utilizing an electric lute (that’s right) rather than acoustic executions. The result is astonishing.

This music is not like Folk Metal you hear from Scandinavia. It is more in the lane of System of a Down, but Balothizer’s approach is more deeply rooted in the tunes and rhythms of the traditional music they are celebrating. The application of modern instruments and sound does not separate from the roots but it does grow a different branch. The attitude and posture is punk while the reverence for the underlying traditional music is never trampled.

“Jegaman” leaps at you with a fierce speed and relentlessness that grabs your attention immediately. “Peace” emerges slowly with percussion and an echoed voice, then the electric lute kicks in and we are off to a different place. “Aleppo” is the noisiest track, brimming with angular musical leverage and clanking assertions. And then a song like “Anathema” has a quiet beginning, a melancholy feel that evolves over its ten minute path into a bigger, louder call. All of these separate approaches are necessary to complete the full message of the album. The music is very different compared to most other heavy acts – it is a refreshing and welcome listen. Recommended.

Cretan Smash is out now. Check out the available versions at the label link below. Also Bandcamp.

Band photo by Andreas Christophides.

Links.

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Balothizer

Bandcamp, https://balothizer.bandcamp.com/album/cretan-smash

Label, https://www.louvanarecords.com/store#!/Balothizer/

Balothizer, Cretan Smash review (Louvana Records 2020)

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, We’re The Bastards review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)

The Bastard Sons are back with another great album, We’re The Bastards.

Phil Campbell is a veteran metal guitarist I have always admired. I can think back to seeing him so many times with Motörhead and every performance had a singular brilliance. After Lemmy died and that iconic band was no more, Campbell formed The Bastard Sons. Their first release was an EP in 2016, followed by the full-length The Age of Absurdity two years later.The music is solid hard rock and heavy metal – guitar-driven goodness that salves the wounds of the modern world. I have been counting down the days to the new album because the ones that came before were so excellent.

“We’re The Bastards” is the opener and it is the right foot forward – it is an anthem about heavy music and the intentions of the band, which are uncomplicated: playing heavy music. “Son Of A Gun” follows and it is a high speed banger. The story rolls on in “Promises Are Poison,” where a more serious tone is established. What is constant throughout are the harrowing riffs, the commanding percussion, and Phil Campbell’s impeccable guitar work. Neil Starr has the perfect voice for this music, tying it all together.

There are so many great songs on this album it hardly makes any sense to separate them out. The guitar in “Animals” is monstrous, but it is on “Keep Your Jacket On” too. The singles are all cracking, and the longer pieces like “Desert Song” and “Waves” are composed in uncompromising balance. This music sounds like it was designed to be performed live – when you listen to the songs you can’t help but visualize the band on stage belting them out. This one is a keeper.

Nuclear Blast has many versions and bundles for you buying enticement. The limited digipack has four live tracks not on the regular CD, so that is something to consider if you are into the physicals. Whichever way you go, you get to hear the music and that’s the winner. Recommended.

Link.

Band website, http://www.philcampbell.net/

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, We’re The Bastards review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)

AC/DC, Power Up review (Columbia Records 2020)

Here they come again – the first new music from AC/DC in six years is good metal for 2020.

Rock Or Bust  came out in 2014, and we’ve been waiting since then to see whether there would be new music from the iconic Australian Hard Rock band. Question answered. Power Up is true to form heavy hitting riff medicine.

Every fan of the band has a favorite or two. My short list is creeping up to ten. I saw AC/DC one summer in Indianapolis at an outdoor venue during the For Those About To Rock We Salute You tour. The highlight for me that night was “Whole Lotta Rosie,” one of my favorites anyway but I never thought they’d play it. The performance was astonishing, visually completed by a large blow-up Rosie behind the band. I have seen them other times but that one summer night sticks in my mind. There are so many killer songs … “Kicked In The Teeth,” “Gimme A Bullet,” “Problem Child,” … it is a long list. And then there are all the radio tunes that were smash hits. The impact AC/DC has had on heavy music, and popular music, cannot be denied.

The singles from the new one are “Shot In The Dark” and “Realize,” and they punch just like AC/DC radio songs always do. Great hooks and heavy riffs, catchy choruses. Check, check, check. It’s a formula you hear on many of the other songs, too, naturally, like “Why Do They Kick You When You’re Down,” “Wild Reputation,” and so on. But that is not all that is here. “Through The Mists Of Time” is almost sentimental in its tone, “Witch’s Spell” has a wicked, cracking little lead break, and “Code Red” combines a nostalgic throwback riff with a new roller that celebrates the confluence of history with modernity. The songs are short with only one reaching to the four minute mark and they are all designed to grab you attention. They always do, from the first to the last.

The album is out now and available everywhere. The story has been told in interviews and articles that AC/DC has tons of music sitting around unreleased. Maybe we’ll get more soon. If it is as good as Power Up, I can’t wait to hear it. Recommended.

Band photo by Josh Cheuse.

Link.

website, https://pwrup.acdc.com/

AC/DC, Power Up review (Columbia Records 2020)

In Malice’s Wake, The Blindness Of Faith review (2020)

The fourth album from Australia’s In Malice’s Wake is another crushing example of their Thrash acumen.

For almost twenty years, In Malice’s Wake has been drilling down on classic Thrash Metal. Centered in Melbourne, Australia, the band is founders Shaun Farrugia (vocals and guitar) and Mark Farrugia (drums) joined by longtime members Leigh Bartley (guitar) and Karl Watterson (bass). The Blindness Of Faith is their fourth album, and it is as filled to the brim with new ideas as it is grounded in the principles of Heavy Metal and Thrash. You can hear a little bit of Goatwhore in there, a touch of Destruction, too, I’d say, but that is just for orienting purposes. Once you hear In Malice’s Wake’s music, you’ll recognize it instantly from then on.

The Blindness Of Faith jumps right on your head out of the gate with the title track, a savage pummeling introduction to both the musical perspective and the lyrical content of the album. Straight ahead rapid riffs and steady rhythms are challenged by radical eruptions and scathing shreds. Shaun Farrugia’s vocals are just the right amount of rough to direct the charge of the guitars on the rails of percussion and bass.

Once I put this album on I had no urge to skip around – front to back is the way to go, and no detours. There are a couple of tracks even so that stood out for me, the first being “Unbound Sinful Light,” which absolutely murders, and “Into the Outer Darkness,” which displays a culminating brilliance that strains your veins. I am a big Thrash fan going back to the beginning so I am predisposed to this sort of music. Even with my biases, I contend there is an objective reality to the quality of The Blindness Of Faith. Highly recommended.

You can buy CDs and merch bundles directly on the band’s site or through Bandcamp. Preorders are available now, and the album drops officially this Friday the 13th.

Links.

Website, http://www.inmaliceswake.com/

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

Bandcamp, https://inmaliceswake.bandcamp.com/releases

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0h-8r5roSoHCal8QAmixkg

In Malice’s Wake, The Blindness Of Faith review (2020)

Okrütnik, Legion Antychrysta review (Ossuary Records 2020)

The debut album from Okrütnik resonates with equilibrium-tipping surety and sets an incredibly high standard for other bands to match.

Michał Dryjański (vocal), Eryk Kula (guitars), Szymon Garbarczyk (bass), and Grzegorz Drygas (drums) are Okrütnik, a Heavy Metal band making waves since its 2018 inception in Kotlin, Poland. Legion Antychrysta is a statement of their abilities, and it is a loud one.

“Sabat” sounds like it is happening in space with the tortured moaning of a giant creature emanating across the unimaginable distances. And then the music kicks in hard with a raging bass line and a medium tempo rhythm showing razor sharp thrash edges chipping in every few bars. The main lead break has a deep echo and a ripping intensity. The vocals sound very Black Metal to me, and it all pulls together into an integrated being. The title track is next, opening with a traditional heavy metal front and a 1980s homage in the guitar squeal. The vocals go breathless halfway through and by now we notice how unusual this music is, how different. It fosters the elements we seek in heavy music and Black Metal, and it pays tribute to the foundation of the form, but the combinations and permutations have not been heard before.

Every song is a new door and another surprise. The energy is indefatigable, and so is the creativity. The music is sometimes very controlled, as in “Portret Trumienny, a Na Grobach Kwiaty,” and other times it is bewildering – for example, “Noc Galicyjska.” I have laid some labels on the songs, but this band is not confined to a specific subgenre. The creativity of the compositions and the execution of the performances exist at a level not often seen. Recommended.

CDs, cassettes, and downloads can be picked up at the band’s Bandcamp page (link below).

Links.

Bandcamp, https://okrutnik.bandcamp.com/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3cAvYyvadWtsXZsqVuH4iQ

Band website, https://okrutnikkontakt.wixsite.com/okrutnik

Ossuary Records, http://ossuaryrecords.com/en/

Okrütnik, Legion Antychrysta review (Ossuary Records 2020)

System of A Down, Protect The Land single review (2020)

After fifteen years, new music from System of a Down appears via the single Protect The Land.

To get an idea of the motivation behind the release of these songs, here is an excerpt from the band’s press release.

We as System Of A Down have just released new music for the first time in 15 years. The time to do this is now, as together, the four of us have something extremely important to say as a unified voice. These two songs, “Protect The Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz” both speak of a dire and serious war being perpetrated upon our cultural homelands of Artsakh and Armenia.

We’re proud to share these songs with you and hope you enjoy listening to them. Further, we encourage you to read on to learn more about their origins and once you do, hope you are inspired to speak out about the horrific injustices and human rights violations occurring there now. Most importantly and urgently, we humbly implore you to donate, in sums small or large to help those adversely affected with what are ever growing accounts of crimes against humanity.

There is a lot more to it, and you can read about at on the band’s Bandcamp page, Facebook, etc. Links below.

L-R: Daron Malakian, Serj Tankian, Shavo Odadjian, John Dolmayan

The two new songs are well in line with the signature sound of System of a Down. “Protect The Land” starts with a heavy guitar riff to establish the tone. The lyrics follow the message noted in the press release and the vocals are melodic and insistent. “Genocidal Humanoidz” has a much more frantic tempo demonstrating the hysteria the title portrays. The songs are very different to each other, showing separate musical sides of the band.

The single is out now. Give it a listen for the music and donate to the cause if you want to. I saw System of a Down a couple years ago at Aftershock in Sacramento and even without new music for such a long time, the show was just amazing. It is nice to have these two new songs, and I hope there will be more on the way in the coming months. But even if they never released another note, I would still go see them whenever I could. Recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://systemofadown.bandcamp.com/

Website, https://systemofadown.com/#home

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqmknZNg1yw&feature=youtu.be

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

System of A Down, Protect The Land single review (2020)