Death Angel, The Bastard Tracks (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Iconic thrash band Death Angel releases a live set of rarely performed songs aptly titled The Bastard Tracks.

The Bay Area thrash scene is the stuff of legends. If you have never heard about it then I am not sure we’re going to be close friends. So many huge acts came from that place and time, including the bands on the current Bay Strikes Back tour: Testament, Exodus, and my personal favorite, Death Angel. I have a deep and abiding love for thrash and I admire these three bands (and so many more) for the music they have created. Death Angel has always been special to me, though, and so I was excited to see this album cross my path.

The songs on The Bastard Tracks were recorded live at The Great American Music Hall in the band’s hometown of San Francisco on May 22nd this year. The set list was chosen specifically to highlight songs that had rarely been played live, including some that had never been performed on stage before. That is what sets this album apart.

You don’t hear any crowd noise on this set, but the live feel is there in all its energy and vibrancy. The track list is: “Lord of Hate,” “Where They Lay,” “Why You Do This,” “Fallen,” “Absence of Light,” “The Organization,” “Execution/Don’t Save Me,” “Succubus,” “It Can’t Be This,” “Let the Pieces Fall,” “Faded Remains,” “Volcanic,” “Falling Off the Edge of the World,” “Guilty of Innocence,” and “Alive and Screaming.” There are some real jaw-droppers in there for Death Angel fans; songs we have always wanted to hear live. Finally, here is the chance. Recommended.

The Bastard Tracks is out on Friday November 26th through Nuclear Blast Records in digital, CD/Blu-ray, vinyl, and cassette. This is a great item to pick up to hold you over until the Bay Strikes Back tour starts again next Spring.

Links.

Website, https://www.deathangel.us/

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

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/item/groups/51000.1.html?article_group_sort_type_handle=rank&custom_keywords=death%20angel

Death Angel, The Bastard Tracks (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Imperialist, Zenith (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Sci-Fi Black Metal band Imperialist have crafted an amazing new album, Zenith.

From Monrovia, California, the band is Sergio Soto (guitar, vocals), Bryant Quinones (guitar), Joshua Alvarez (bass), and Rodney Quinones (drums). In 2015 they released an EP, Quantum Annexation, and followed that up with the well-received long-player Cipher (2018). The new album is a big next step, embracing science fiction narratives and infusing them with diabolical Black Metal. The amazing dark chemistry of the creation cannot be denied.

The album begins with extremely creepy tones and murky, ominous music on the intro piece. Talk about setting the stage. The trepidation builds leading into “The Maw,” a savage, hammering track. The howling continues with “Parallax Descends,” a confoundingly catchy track. And that is something about this music that sets it apart – it is hard driving, technical Black Metal that somehow also has enough groove in it to transport you on the surface as well as trigger your deeper menacing central dread with the harsher metal. That is so difficult to do that you almost never hear it, but here it is on Zenith.

The back half of the album delivers just as strongly as the front. “Majesty of the Void” first reminds you of the sinister mystical nature of the creature you face then tramples you with beating rhythm and weight-of-the-universe guitars. The story continues in the galactic perspective and so has an infinite space to mine ideas. “Terminal Odyssey” soars in its sounds and sights and revelations, and the final track, “Beyond the Celestial Veil,” spares no emotion or action. By the time the cooldown comes you know you have been through it – you also know you are ready to go again. Highly recommended.

Zenith will be directly overhead on Friday, November 26th through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Links.

Website, https://www.imperialistofficial.com/

Bandcamp, https://imperialistus.bandcamp.com/album/zenith-sci-fi-black-metal

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

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

Imperialist, Zenith (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Sun Below, Sun Below (2021)

The new concept album from Toronto’s Sun Below continues the Sativa Rock tradition the band pioneered.

Altered state seekers of truth Sun Below are a heavy psych / stoner rock trio from Toronto. Having released a string of EPs in 2018-19, they are back now with their first full-length album. The musicians in the studio are Jason Craig (guitar, vocals), Will Adams (drums), and Garrison Thordarson (bass).

The band describes the album as a “concept recording that follows a figure, the Holy Drifter, on his journey through visions and across time.” The record is an impressive enterprise, clocking in at over seventy minutes. A few songs from the earlier EPs reappear here where they fit in nicely with the roving narrative.

“Chronwall Neanderthal” opens the set with a fuzzy rambler riff and punctuating vocals. The song gains a mind of its own, like an untended garden, and roams a psychic landscape it seems to create as it goes along. The doom goes a bit heavier on the next track, the first epic-length bit of business, “Holy Drifter.” This is one you can settle in with and see what you see as your mind drifts. Indeed, the whole album is like this generally: laid-back emanations that can be explored or merely watched by your mind’s unblinking eye.

There is a lot to digest here, all of it good. I most enjoy the massively long songs because that’s a lane I like to inhabit. Shorter pieces like “Shiva Sativa” – a personal favorite of mine from the album – offer a break in the landscape and give additional perspectives more difficult to generate in the lengthier pieces. They all work together to create the whole. This is an excellent doom album that can be snapped off in smaller bits or taken in one big dose. Either way it is a ride filled with wonders. Recommended.

Sun Below is out now. The easiest get is at Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://sunbelow.bandcamp.com/album/sun-below

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClD8r5eZv1Tb8GJWOce_nCQ

Sun Below, Sun Below (2021)

Joyous Wolf, Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground, Burlington, Vermont, October 29, 2021

Orange County, California rock band Joyous Wolf made a pass through the Northeast in October on their Fearless tour. I never get enough of the bluesy rock delivery that they create so fluidly.

Check out Joyous Wolf’s music on streaming platforms, including the latest release, Fearless. Links appear below the photos.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Website, https://fearless.joyouswolf.com/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7W3_dDSqeHZCny8ZBumofg

Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/artist/48vfT7i3EmuNEDAVRhzxpp

© Wayne Edwards.

Joyous Wolf, Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground, Burlington, Vermont, October 29, 2021

Ill Niño, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 12, 2021

My first time seeing Ill Niño was at Blue Ridge, and they made the trip worthwhile all by themselves. They are a great live band. There is so much going on in the music and on stage it makes your head spin.

Check out Ill Niño’s music on streaming platforms, including the latest release, Si una Vez. Links appear below the photos.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Website, https://www.illnino1.com/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeth5ikBXfY8IYuHyhwA8Pg

Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/artist/1xJ6l1VXgGuyZ0uhu27caF

Blue Ridge Rock Festival coverage at Ryze-Up magazineBlue Ridge Rock Festival 2021 – (ryze-up.com)

© Wayne Edwards.

Ill Niño, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 12, 2021

Avatar, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 11, 2021

The theater that is an Avatar performance is not to be missed. The spectacle is beguiling and it enhances the musical projections. Listening to the band is great and seeing them takes the experience to a whole new level.

Check out Avatar’s music on streaming platforms, including the latest release, Hunter Gatherer. Links appear below the photos.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Website, https://avatarmetal.com/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/avatartube

Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/artist/4jpaXieuls7LVzG1uma5Rs

Blue Ridge Rock Festival coverage at Ryze-Up magazineBlue Ridge Rock Festival 2021 – (ryze-up.com)

© Wayne Edwards.

Avatar, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 11, 2021

Exodus, Persona Non Grata (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Thrash luminaries Exodus are back to crack some skulls with their first full-length studio album in seven years, Persona Non Grata.

When I think of thrash metal, Exodus is one of the first bands that pops into my mind. An early purveyor of the art form from their Bay Area perspective, Exodus has released eleven albums over the years, counting the new one, and a barrage of splits, EPs, live albums, and compilations. They are one of my favorite thrash bands and you cannot leave them out of any conversation about heavy music. The band is Gary Holt (guitar), Tom Hunting (drums), Steve Souza (vocals), Jack Gibson (bass), and Lee Altus (guitar).

Persona Non Grata has eleven blazing tracks and an intriguing transition piece. The title track opens the set at high speed in every particular: guitar, bass, and percussion. Steve Souza pushes the vocals to edge of growl and strain, expressing deliberately the theme of the song and the whole album in tone and attitude. The lead break is a power tool pairing that destroys everything in its path. It is a great jump out of the gate.

The music speeds through a path of devastation for the next hour or so, each successive song building on the last. There were three singles released in advance of the full album drop, including “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves),” “Clickbait,” and “The Years Of Death And Dying.” Each of these song plants a flag for the album, but you can’t stop there or you’ll miss “Slipping Into Madness,” my personal favorite, and “Lunatic-Liar-Lord,” another one that is high up in the pecking order.

The album resolves on “Antiseed,” a track with a grim lead-in and a slow build that careens into an explosive expression of destruction. What a capper. For me, the new album is even better than the its immediate predecessor, Blood In, Blood Out (2014), and that one was a monster. Get your ears up on this now. Highly recommended.

Persona Non Grata is out today through Nuclear Blast Records. There are many forms to choose from, including the one I picked up, the retro CD longbox. I couldn’t help myself.

Links.

Website, https://exodusattack.com/site/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sonstiges/exodus-persona-non-grata-cd-blu-ray-.html

Exodus, Persona Non Grata (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Khemmis, Deceiver (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Denver doom metal band Khemmis roll out their fourth full-length album, Deceiver.

From their founding almost a decade ago, Khemmis has been a reliable source of thought-provoking doom metal. The lane of music they operate in tells you something about their sound, but they do not get lost in the crowded field – you can always tell when it is Khemmis playing on stage. After the recent departure of long-time bassist Daniel Beiers, the band is Zach Coleman, Phil Pendergast, and Ben Hutcherson.

Acoustic guitars open the first song on the album, “Avernal Gate.” The peace does not last long. Invigorating lead breaks and vibrant pace make this track an eye opener. “House of Cadmus” has a slower and weightier riff range. Paired with the clean vocals, the effect is particularly penetrating. “Living Pyre” is the first-half highlight for me. It is bold and serious in its tone and solemn in its delivery. The surprisingly wicked secondary vocal adds an even darker depth.

“Shroud of Lethe” sustains and permeates with its shadowy dignity. The eloquent lead break near the front and the vicious transient voice past the middle are perfectly placed rejoinders. “Obsidian Crown” sits atop a deceptively straight-forward substrate and from there grows and blossoms. In the closing track, “The Astral Road,” final lines are spoken in the fateful progression of existence. The calamity of conflict resonates in fiercer movements while the realization of the truth behind the increasingly obvious façade is revealed in the quieter moments.

The music on this album has an epic scale to it, a soaring persona that holds true in every song. It is exactly what fans of the band were hoping for. Recommended.

Deceiver is due on Friday, November 19th through Nuclear Blast Records.

Links.

Website, https://khemmisdoom.com/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/khemmis-deceiver.html

Khemmis, Deceiver (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Abscession, Rot Of Ages (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Swedish death metal band Abscession takes another merciless swing with Rot Of Ages.

The demo Death Incarnate was the band’s first issue in 2010. Grave Offerings came five years later, their first full-length album. Right on schedule, Rot Of Ages is ready for fan consumption a little over one lustrum later. There is not a lot to go on when thinking about what to expect on the new record, but as it turns out the music is a rewarding avalanche of heavy metal surety. The band is comprised of Thomas Clifford (vocals), Skaldir (guitar, bass, keys), and Markus Porsklev (drums).

“Rat King Crawl” explodes at the jump in a race to the end of all things. It slams and pounds all the way through, not changing pace as much as it changes expression in the fourth quarter. It’s a killer. “Theater Of Pain” is more frantic and that’s fine because your blood is flowing fast from the opener. “Dead Man’s Hate” is a heavy metal breather with slightly less pace but just as much weight. The structure of the song allows for twists and turns, rushes and halts.

“Rains Of Death” is a blasting frenzy, capping the fairly short songs on Side 1, leading to the longer title track. “Rot Of Ages” rakes you over the coals for two straight minutes then abruptly drops into a beautiful solo piano aside, joined by clean vocals – for about a minute. Then the rampage returns, softened at the end by a piano callback.

The flip side has more delights in store, and the energy does not diminish at all. My favorite tracks on the back half are “When The Guillotine Falls” and “Prometheus Unbound,” both because of the way they deliver on expectations while jangling a couple of surprises in the mix. The music here is solid death metal at high speed, clinically structural rhythm, and a whole lot more. Recommended.

Rot Of Ages is out on Friday November 19th through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://abscessiondeath.bandcamp.com/album/rot-of-ages-death-metal

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

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

Abscession, Rot Of Ages (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Killer: 50 Years Later – An Alice Cooper Tribute Album (Pale Wizard Records 2021)

Alice Cooper’s absolute classic Killer gets a fond remembrance from contemporary bands.

I don’t have any friends who haven’t heard Killer. As I often report, I am a huge Alice Cooper fan from my earliest music listening days and Killer might be my favorite album of his, if there was any way I could choose a favorite. Coming hard on the heels of the band’s first real radio success with “Is It My Body” and especially “I’m Eighteen” from the Love It To Death album, Killer was the record where the combination of radio hits with horror-themed longer tracks coalesced into what Alice Cooper would be known for from that point on into eternity.

I know every song on this album by heart, so listening to new versions of them is a little weird. But you can feel the respect and appreciation from all the contributing bands. They know how important this music is and they are giving it props. Green Lung has the opening track, “Under My Wheels.” They give it a faithful retelling (no horns), including the vocal inflection that Alice put on it way back when. “Be My Lover” gets a spin by The Grand Mal, and here again we are close to the original. It is an excellent celebration.

“Halo Of Flies” is a big test in the sense that it is an expansive, complex eight-minute track. It also received the most scrutiny from me personally because it is my favorite from the 1971 album. Sergeant Thunderhoof deserves a medal for this one – it is incredible in every way. I want to see them do it live.

Ritual King has “Desperado,” the closest thing to a ballad in the set and they take it off in a very different direction. The other two short songs are delivered beautifully by 1968 for “You Drive Me Nervous” in a groove-doomy reinterpretation and Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of the Knight on “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” which they drive to an even deeper dungeon of doom than 1968 did.

And what’s left? “Dead Babies” and “Killer.” Mos Generator gets the former and the title track goes to Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. “Killer” has that snappy jazz in its reincarnation here that it had before but this time it is taken into an alternate universe. Mos Generator’s rendition of “Dead Babies” is closer to the laid lines, although heavier and fuzzier –something that can be said for all the songs, really.

There are four bonus tracks on the CD version: “I’m Eighteen” by Alunah, “Billion Dollar Babies” by Suns of Thunder, “Muscle of Love” by Possessor, and “Sick Things” by Sound of Origin. These are all admirable additions. In fact we could go on and on, couldn’t we. There are tons of other Alice Cooper songs I’d like to see covered, but then that would become a series.

The album at hand is a genuine delight for a long-time fan of Alice Cooper. Surely, followers of the contemporary contributing bands will also be glad to hear these tracks that are new for them. Highly recommended.

Killer: 50 Years Later hits the streets on November 27, 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of the original album’s release.

Links.

Pale Wizard Records, https://palewizardrecords.bandcamp.com/music

Green Lung, https://greenlung.bandcamp.com/

1968, https://1968band.bandcamp.com/music

Sergeant Thunderhoof, https://sergeantthunderhoof.bandcamp.com/

Mos Generator, https://mosgenerator.bandcamp.com/

Ritual King, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/ritual-king

The Grand Mal, https://thegrandmal.bandcamp.com/album/the-grand-mal

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, https://riseaboverecords.com/artists/riseaboveartists/admiralsircloudesleyshovell/

Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of the Knight, https://trippywicked.bandcamp.com/album/three-leaves

Alunah, https://alunah.uk/

Suns of Thunder, https://sunsofthunder.bandcamp.com/

Possessor, https://possessor.bandcamp.com/

Sound of Origin, https://soundoforigin.bandcamp.com/

Killer: 50 Years Later – An Alice Cooper Tribute Album (Pale Wizard Records 2021)