Charred, Prayers of Malediction (HPGD Productions 2021)

Florida Thrash~Death Metal band Charred re-release their first long-player, Prayers of Malediction.

There is not an enormous amount of information out there about Charred. The Bandcamp page reports that the band is from Deerfield Beach, Florida. The Metal Archives has about the same amount of detail, adding that Prayers of Malediction was originally released digitally in 2019. The new HPGD release will give wider distribution to this excellent album, so that is a good thing. And, anyway, maybe we don’t need to know much about the musicians and the band if we have their music to listen to.

There are nine ripping tracks on the album. Along with the obvious Thrash and Death Metal content, there is also a strong groove vein running throughout that makes these songs even more memorable. Most of the tracks are short, in the two minute range, with a handful of longer pieces. Growling vocals, battering percussion, and wailing shreds tag team to add force and power to the music.

“The Athame Of The Witchking” has a tasty Doom Metal opening, and that is always a good thing for me to hear. “Entity Of War” has a nice Mercyful Fate callback and “Enthralling The Weak” swings a weighty metal hammer aimed directly at your spine. My favorite track might be “The Means Of Destruction” because of the way it comes at you low and swerving then hooks back to crack you on the skull.

“Kesai Khati (Eater Of The Raw Flesh)” shuts the show down with a story that will keep you up at night. I did not know about Charred until I listened to this album and I am glad I got to hear it. Keep an eye out for anything else they release. Recommended.

CD and digital forms of Prayers of Malediction will be out from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions on Friday, October 1st.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hpgd.bandcamp.com/album/prayers-of-malediction

HPGD, https://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

Charred, Prayers of Malediction (HPGD Productions 2021)

Wingless, Nonconform (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Polish metal trio Wingless let loose with their fourth album, Nonconform.

Nearly a decade ago, Wingless came together as a group of seasoned musicians playing heavy metal from a modern angle. As time passed, the music solidified into a more classic death and doom sound, and that is what we hear on Nonconform. The band is comprised of the newest member, Michał “Xaay” Loranc (vocals), founder Grzegorz Luzar (guitar and bass), and Piotr Wójcik (drums), who has been with the group since 2018.

The nine-track album starts with “Imperceptible,” which opens like waking up with the house on fire – heavy and loud from the first note. After the first movement, there is a slowed-down spoken word segment then a return to the bestial pummeling. The pace shifts are a regular feature of the landscape on Nonconform.

The songs are often a negotiated truce between Death Metal elements and Doom Metal presence. And frequently a mixture of the two, like in “Separated From All Life” where we have doom guitars and vocals with a more peppery percussion. Some of the tracks do start out with a slower pace at the gate – “Sadness Filled With Silence” and “Nyctophilia,” for example – and maintain it throughout. Shifting tempo is more common, however.

Standout tracks for me are “Constellations” and the sinister title track, both of which, in their own ways, highlight the strengths of the band. The final track is “When You Are Short Of Tears,” a solemn song with a powerful arc that resolves in quietude. The classic influences from two metal lineages coalesce in a fulfilling heavy music experience. This is the best album I have heard from Wingless. Recommended.

Digital and CD formats are available from Selfmadegod Records on the first Friday in October, the 1st.

Links.

Wingless Bandcamp, https://wingless.bandcamp.com/

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

Selfmadegod Store, https://selfmadegod-store.com/

Wingless, Nonconform (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Headless, Square One (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The fifth album from Headless is a welcome return of catchy guitar-driven European hard rock.

Headless is a group formed of veteran rockers from well-known bands. The music is perhaps best described as hard rock, and it is reminiscent of 1980s and 1990s work from acts like Queensrÿche, with a less serious perspective, perhaps, and with more emphasis on the melodic. The band is Göran Edman (vocals), Walter Cianciusi (guitar), Dario Parente (guitar), Martin Helmantel (bass), and Enrico Cianciusi (drums).

The set’s first song, “A Leaf’s Flight Path,” starts off very slowly and quietly, building to a harder-edged rock song by the halfway point with compelling guitar work. In fact, when I think back on this album it is the guitar that comes first to mind. The mature compositions are a pleasure to listen to, and Edman has a compelling voice. Those guitars parts, though, they really stay with you.

Songs that stuck my head include “Backseat Rhythm,” “Langeweile,” and “Streetlight Buzz.” These tracks are very different, one to the next, but they all have a way of engaging my neurons that sets in a permanent placeholder. The guitar, sure, like I said already, but also the design of each of these songs has a deliberate construction to achieve a particular aim, a specific mood and feeling. The result is unswervingly captivating. Whenever I next have a feeling for this lane of rock I’ll be scrolling for Headless. Recommended.

Square One is out on Friday, September 24th through M-Theory Audio. Check out the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://headless-official.bandcamp.com/

Headless website, http://www.headlessofficial.com/wordpress/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/headless.italy/

M-Theory Audio, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/store

Headless, Square One (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Day 4: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

This is it, the last hoorah. One last time around the track for Louder Than Life 2021.

Virtually all the music festivals that returned this year added an extra day. I know what they are doing. They are trying to give the fans a little more because last year was so tough for everybody, missing the festival and the general malaise we all lived in. That’s great. It also requires additional endurance. Four days is a long festival. More music is better. You just have to give it that extra push. Another cup of coffee. A little yoga. A couple more beers. And then we’re ready for Day 4. It was a big one with Judas Priest and Metallica’s second set.

We learned a few things this weekend. Three quick ones. 1. The covid-19 protocols really caused almost no delays at all. There was a health check station before the box office or security, and the lines moved extremely fast. This could easily become the emergent standard for festivals – proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative test – that allows us to gather in very large groups and enjoy music together. It worked. 2. We found out that it is inevitable in these times that the line-up will change, sometimes suddenly, but that other bands will jump right in and fill out the bill. 3. We also learned that two full, completely different sets by Metallica is a fantastic idea.

All right. That’s a wrap, Loudmouths. Another great festival under the belt. The promoter, Danny Wimmer Presents, always does an excellent job putting on festivals. Compare their festivals to any other ones and I think you’ll agree with me. The grounds are clean, safe, and well-maintained, and if any issues pop up, they get addressed. It all adds up to an exceptional fan experience. Their next one is Aftershock in Sacramento in two weeks. I will be at that one, too. See you all out there.

Photos by Wayne Edwards. Metallica set list image is from the band’s Instagram page.

Festival Info: https://louderthanlifefestival.com/

Day 4: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

Day 3: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

It is time to stretch out your muscles and get your second wind for the rest of the festival – we’re running downhill from here.

Butcher Babies

Disturbed was the headliner for Saturday, backed up by Machine Gun Kelly and the indefatigable Volbeat. I spent a good deal of my day at the Disruptor stage because there was a string of bands playing there I couldn’t wait to see. Before that though, I saw Bones UK for the first time and they ripped the stage up. What a great band. I already checked and they are playing the next festival I am going to and I am already fired up to see them again.

Late in the afternoon the Butcher Babies, Code Orange, and Suicidal Tendencies played back-to-back on the same stage, and that was three amazing hours. I first saw Butcher Babies at the final Carolina Rebellion a few years back and since then I have always been thrilled to see their name on a bill. I haven’t seen Code Orange enough in my life yet, and even though I did witness Suicidal Tendencies in action just two weeks ago at Blue Ridge Rock Festival, I had to stop by again for a second dose.

I know Volbeat sometimes divides a crowd, but I am a fan. Hard-edged up-tempo rockabilly is always a good time. And when they had Neil Fallon of Clutch join them a couple years back on a song, well, I knew they had good musical sensibilities. Their set at Louder Than Life was full of the usual energy and bristling light-hearted spirit I have come to expect from them. Great show.

Volbeat

One more day left. The mighty Judas Priest and the festival-closing second set by Metallica is what we have to look forward to. See you out there.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Festival Info: https://louderthanlifefestival.com

Day 3: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

Day 2: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

Metallica played their first set of the festival on Friday night and they brought the house down. But there is more to the story of Day 2 at Louder Than Life.

Rise Against

It was a good evening at the festival. Killswitch Engage, Gojira, Rise Against, and Jane’s Addiction leading up to the big Metallica Show. And nicely set up, too, by the earlier bands like Avatar, Joyous Wolf, Turnstile, and Cleopatrick.

I spent the afternoon wandering the grounds, looking at the art installations, stage hopping, and drinking. There are no shortages when in comes to drinking options with the Tiki Bar, whiskey bars, and the regular beer stalls at every turn. Hey, the summer is almost over and it’s a music festival.

A big surprise for me was how much I enjoyed Jane’s Addiction. I don’t mean anything bad by that – I just hadn’t seen them live before and had not really followed the band since their big hit decades back. The performance was amazing, from the opening eerie vocalizations to the acrobatic ending. I came away feeling a lot like I did the first time I saw Primus after not really paying much attention to them for years and years – I felt like I had really been missing out. Catch Jane’s Addiction live whenever you get the chance.

Metallica’s performance was off the hook. I hadn’t seen the band for several years and my memory of that earlier performance faded a little compared to what I saw Friday night. Thinking back on it now, I guess I do not know what I was expecting, but what we all got to see was absolutely amazing. It is incredible to think that they will be playing again on Saturday, and they will perform a completely different set. I heard (and read) many fans hoping for a front-to-back Black Album set, and that would make some sense given that 2021 is the thirty-year anniversary of its release. Whatever they do, my money is on an epic show that we will all remember for years to come.

And it is only Friday now; it’s not over yet. We are at the halfway point which means there are two more days of great music to go.

Photos by Wayne Edwards. Metallica set list image is from the band’s Instagram page.

Festival Info: https://louderthanlifefestival.com/

Day 2: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

Day 1: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

After skipping one year (like every other festival), Louder Than Life returns to Kentucky with a roar for a four-day event.

The big story is Metallica playing two unique sets to close the show on Friday and Sunday nights. That has to be the show-stopping draw for the festival. But there is more. The other headliners are fan favorites, too: Korn, Disturbed, Judas Priest, Jane’s Addiction, Staind, and Machine Gun Kelly. Add in the robust undercard and there is more than enough music to please any rock fan.

I am at the festival mostly as a fan this year, wandering the grounds and taking a couple of snaps. And listening to the music. Today I am going to do a quick run-down of the grounds to give you an idea of what it is like at Louder Than Life.

Most importantly, there are three stages. Two main stages are erected side-by-side – the Space Zebra Stage and the Loudmouth Stage – and a smaller stage set on the far end of the grounds, the Disruptor Stage. The two mainstages alternate music nearly continuously – when one band finishes, another begins. During each set, the quiet stage is breaking down the previous act and setting up the new one. Fans do not really have to move much to get to the next set.

The Disruptor Stage is running a separate program that overlaps the main stages. It is far enough away that, while you can hear the music from the other stages, it does really affect the bands when they are playing on the Disruptor Stage. It only takes a couple of minutes to walk from the far stage to the main stages when you want to, or you can camp out in either place and listen to music for hours.

There is merch (including a separate stand for Metallica merch), beverages and food – I had Island Noodles for the first time in two years today – and the VIP area is huge, if you want to go that way. Louder Than Life is very well organized and everything is running smoothly. It is easy to get through the gates, and when there is a long line for food or merch, it moves fast.

Anthrax

It was a great first day at Louder Than Life. Three more to go. Passes are still available so check out the festival link below.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Festival Info: https://louderthanlifefestival.com/

Day 1: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

Rivers of Nihil, The Work (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The new album from Rivers of Nihil reaches out more broadly than any of their previous work.

Pennsylvania metal band Rivers of Nihil have been on a journey since 2009. Releasing a couple of EPs in the early days and then three increasingly complex long-players after that, they have always established their own direction and followed it, never appearing to take cues from the outside world. That approach has made them one of the most unique metal bands around, and their new album, The Work, plays into their strengths.

The opening track, “The Tower,” is melodic, sad, and beautiful. Slowly it turns darker, even deploying a saxophone for a deepening sense of melancholy. The guitars and coarse vocals do not appear until well past the halfway mark. This song is not an anomaly. The album traverses the known universe of musical expression.

“Dreaming Black Clockwork” is more what I expected to hear on the album – harsh, technical metal rolled out with persistent aggression. Once it gets its teeth into you it shakes you hard and doesn’t let go. There is a creepy, quiet section and a dissonant exit.

The third song is “Wait” and it is a ballad. Indeed, there is clean singing throughout to go along with the brutal vocals on heavier tracks. “Maybe One Day” is another example of a quiet song, and it is reminiscent of Pink Floyd in the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason days. There are a lot of different musical ideas ebbing, flowing, and combining on the album.

While my favorite tracks are the ones like “The Void from Which No Sound Escapes” that have savage, visceral elements interspersed with quieter, more contemplative passages, there is no track I would skip. From the straight-up ragers to the buttoned-down meditations, The Work promises a lot and delivers even more.

Since I first heard Rivers of Nihil at Heavy Montreal a couple years back, they have been high on my list of metal acts. They have never been easy to label and this new album is going to make it even harder to pigeonhole them. To me, that makes their music even more appealing. Recommended.

September 24th is the Friday when The Work appears. Snap it up at your local record store, the Metal Blade shop, or Bandcamp.

Band photo by Mike Truehart.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://riversofnihil.bandcamp.com/album/the-work

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

Rivers of Nihil website, https://www.riversofnihil.com/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/riversofnihil/

Rivers of Nihil, The Work (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Veilburner, Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The new Veilburner album, Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull, is an all-out assault on your senses.

Pennsylvanian metal duo Veilburner have been haunting studios and stages since 2014. With four previous full-length albums under their collective belt, their fifth shows a confident complexity in technical exploration. Mephisto Deleterio plays all the instruments and lead vocals are provided by Chrisom Infernium.

“In the Tomb of Dreaming Limbo” cracks the capsule open in an absolute rage. Screeching, blast beats, and a howling abyss greet you after a short calm-before-the-storm ramp. This one will shake you fillings loose and explain to you why it had to be done. “Nocturnal Gold” starts out a little calmer but it does not stay that way for very long. The music tracks from a dark and sinister environment to an ethereal pelagic one and back again. It is a soundtrack for savage miners in the netherworld who have high aspirations. Dissonant elements land here too bringing the weird to a more intense level.

“Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull” is a stand-out track, and we should expect that since the album bears the song’s name. It is an explosion of diverse oddities. I could say something similar for “Vault of Haunting Dissolve” and mean it even though the oddities are entirely different compared to the former. The multifariousness of the musical constructions is impressive. The compositional creativity seems boundless, all the while laying in familiar callbacks that remind you where you are in the metal chasm.

The closer is “Dissonance in Bloom,” which could be a subtitle for the band. The attitude of this song is point-of-know-return recklessness even though the creation is fully-formed and executed without a misstep. This music challenges your senses and delivers a therapeutic litany if you are willing to hear it. Recommended.

Transcending Obscurity Records releases Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull on Friday, September 25th. Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up in the US.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://veilburnerband.bandcamp.com/album/lurkers-in-the-capsule-of-skull-dissonant-death-black-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Veilburner, Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The Electric Mud, Black Wool (2021)

The new EP from The Electric Mud shows how the old and the new can come together the make something even better.

I first heard The Electric Mud last when I was reviewing their album Burn The Ships (2020). That was a good one, and it made me want to listen to their first album too – another winner, Bull Gator (2018). I have been on high alert for anything new from these bluesy Florida stoners ever since and now here it is, Black Wool.

There are two new songs on the EP and two covers. The new ones are “Ordinary Men” and “Black Wool.” The former is a radio-length churner that carries their signature sound on in a logical procession with a peppy, rolling riff and effusive vocals. The title track is more measured and twice as long; settled in for a steady heavy session. It is a great pairing, the short runner with the long-haul heavy.

The covers are Corrosion of Conformity’s “Albatross” and the Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post.” That COC song is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music I have ever heard, so to hear such an excellent cover of it put a big smile on my face. “Whipping Post” has been widely covered by Southern Rock bands and even acts like Frank Zappa. It is an iconic piece. The version The Electric Mud has crafted for this EP is exceptional in its depth and completeness. It is certainly one the very best I have heard, after the original.

You can never go wrong with this band. Go get you some Black Wool from The Electric Mud. Recommended.

You can have Black Wool on Friday, September 25th. Grab the digital album at Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://theelectricmudofficial.bandcamp.com/album/black-wool-ep

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

The Electric Mud website, https://www.theelectricmud.com/

FFMB review of Burn The Ships, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/09/21/the-electric-mud-burn-the-ships-review-small-stone-records-2020/

The Electric Mud, Black Wool (2021)