Kill All The Gentlemen, Black Canvas (Sliptrick Records 2022)

The sophomore album from Kill All The Gentlemen is a crunching, thumping metalfest: Black Canvas.

The Loss and the Rapture (2018) was the first long-player from the UK death metal band Kill All The Gentlemen, following a couple of EPs in the preceding years. I have seen their music labeled in the “melodic” category but they sound pretty loud to me. There are complex passages along with pace and tone changes along the way, but this is mainly head-thumping metal. The band is Adam Martin (vocals, guitar), Ben Andrew (bass), Mikey Precious (guitar), and Thomas Arne Rørstad (drums).

There is an intro piece at the top and eight tracks following. “Claw Marks” is the first punch to face – it is a ragged crank with a rusty hammer that does indeed have a hook in there to go with the blazing percussion and gruff vocals. You hear that song and you’re glad you’re at the show. “Eyes For Medusa” has some of the same elements, but it also contains clean vocals in places and beautiful lyrical ideas. Hot on its heels is “Snakes,” and that one is an all-out attack. It is definitely one of my favorite tracks of the set.

Every song has something about it that makes it memorable, from the reflective middle of “Giving Gets You Nothing” to the relentless sodden allegations of “Doomsayer.” There are no low or slow moments anywhere on the album. The final flourish is “Death Black.” It is a chunky avalanche of metal notions and with caustic dressings hung around for good measure.

Kill All The Gentlemen will surprise you. There is a good chance their music will not be what you expect. There is an even better chance that you will like it so much you’ll remember their name. Recommended.

Black Canvas is out now through Sliptrick Records. Touch the links below.

Links.

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

Sliptrick Records, https://sliptrickrecords.com/

Kill All The Gentlemen, Black Canvas (Sliptrick Records 2022)

Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)

In their fourth decade, Finland’s Amorphis continue to flex with Halo.

Formed in the earliest part of the nineteen nineties, Amorphis began making progressive doom and death metal music with notable creativity. Over the years, they moved into a more melodic – or perhaps melancholy – range of expression. The depth of the music did not change, and neither did the ingenuity in composition. Halo is the band’s fourteenth full-length studio album, and along the way they have released multiple splits, EPs, compilations, and live albums. The sheer volume of production is enough to give you pause. In every instance, attention to detail and quality was never overlooked. The band is Tomi Joutsen (vocals), Esa Holopainen (guitar), Tomi Koivusaari (guitar), Santeri Kallio (keys), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass), and Jan Rechberger (drums).

The new album is big, with eleven songs landing in the four-to-five-minute range. Across tracks, the musicians take the opportunity to explore divergent tonal and stylistic approaches to composition. Alternating medium-coarse and clean vocals is common, and the use of keyboards to expand the sound is typical. Esa Holopainen describes the album this way: “It is thoroughly recognizable Amorphis from beginning to end but the general atmosphere is a little bit heavier and more progressive and also organic compared to its predecessor.” Extra heaviness is always welcome, as far as I am concerned.

“Windmane” stands out to me especially for the lead guitar and keys work. It is also a good example overall of the album with its many movements and changes. “War” is a great track as well, with persistent heaviness recurring throughout, and “The Wolf” is a wonderful opportunity to escape to another state of being. The album will surely please fans of Amorphis and it will have broad appeal to aficionados of many heavy music subgenres. Recommended.

Halo is out on Friday, February 11th through Atomic Fire Records in a plethora of formats, bundles, and versions, along with tie-in merch.

Band photo by Sam Jansen.

Links.

Amorphis website, https://amorphis.net/

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

Atomic Fire website, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/

Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)

Hammr, Eternal Possession (Hells Headbangers 2022)

Hammr returns to its roots with Eternal Possession, and at the same time gets back to basics.

There was an EP titled Hammr released in 2015 that started to capture the rowdy emanations that had been percolating for a while. Unholy Destruction (2018) was the debut long-player and it was a monster. Now we have Eternal Possession. Like the earlier work, the new album is the singular province of “JH” who started it all in the mid-twenty-teens. The label says that on this new album “each of these nine sick ’n’ sleazy slices of minimal-is-maximal crush just steamroll the listener with preternatural ease.” That sounds like a good selling point.

On “Forces of Sin” the vocals sound like they are emanating from another dimension. There is a furious pounding pace that is happening in a closed environment, as if you are being pummeled while seated in a chair. It is claustrophobic and upsetting. “Ritual Desecration” is next, and it is out there, too. It has an excessive aggression to it that I like a lot. Very punk, very thrashy.

“Seeping Chalice” is an entirely different beast with a motorizing kind of muscle. And then you have songs like “Negative Fury,” which is not only the longest track but is also relentlessly oppressive in its battering. If the metric is crush factor, then every track breaks the needle.

My favorite song might be the title number. It seems like an explanation of everything to me, a recounting and a declaration of what the music is all about. It is a roaring, smashing encumbrance of your senses that pushes straight into your brain. I am really glad I heard this album – it makes me want to dig deeper. Recommended.

Eternal Possession is out on Friday, February 11th through Hells Headbangers on CD, tape, and digital. Vinyl to follow. Check out the label’s website or punch the Bandcamp link below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hammr-us.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-possession

Hells Headbangers website, http://www.hellsheadbangers.com/

Hammr, Eternal Possession (Hells Headbangers 2022)

Theandric, Flight Among The Tombs (2022)

Back with the first new music since 2014, Detroit’s Theandric present the four-song EP Flight Among The Tombs.

The band had early beginnings about ten years ago in Detroit. Releasing an EP called Up The Irons in 2011, and then a long-player two years later, The Door Of Faith, the band went quiet shortly thereafter. In its most recent formulation, the players are Paul Tiseo (vocals, bass, keys, and guitar), Bill Bogue (guitar), Aaron Wienczak (guitar), and Matt Voss (drums). Tiseo had the original idea for the group, and it continues now along similar paths with expanded perspectives.

The music is filled with big notions in both the narrative and the musical composition itself. It has a renaissance feel to it more than a medieval one. More Robin Hood than Lord of the Rings, you might say. Fixed in fantastic ideas and melodies, the guitars sometimes play in homage to Randy Rhoads and the vocals might be mistaken for a merry take on Ronnie James Dio.

The first pairing is “Flight Among The Tombs” and “The Battle Of Sherramuir.” “Flight” has a notably prog orientation in the keys and strings; a challenging composition. “Battle,” on the other hand, has a lighter tone, even though it is ostensibly about a violent conflict. It is rather like listening to a mage sing about a storied battle in the most entertaining way possible.

“Condemned To Death” is heavy and dark, with serious, doomy riffs and sorrowful vocals. “Ozymandias” has a more mysterious vibe to it, mystical and maybe even sinister. Big riffs and soaring vocals line the halls of both songs, expressed along somewhat divergent lines. It is good to hear the solid production in these songs and the artful execution of the musicians’ vision. If you are in the mood for traditional metal with an epic flair, Theandric is worth a look. Recommended.

Flight Among The Tombs hits the streets on Friday, February 11th. The quick grab is Bandcamp. Links below.

Links.

Theandric website, https://www.theandric.com/

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

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

Theandric, Flight Among The Tombs (2022)

Steve Vai, Inviolate (Favored Nations 2022)

Steve Vai shows on his new album Inviolate that there can never be too much guitar music in the world.

I first came to know of Steve Vai when he played for Frank Zappa, effortlessly handling those impossible guitar parts in Zappa’s complex music. He is an incredible musician and I am always been amazed when I listen to him play. I have written before that Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien was the album that turned me toward solo rock and metal guitar performances. That’s true, and, while I always listen to new music from Satriani, it is Steve Vai I follow most closely. Inviolate is Vai’s tenth solo album, and it is as inventive and engaging as any he has done before.

The opening track is the sentimental “Teeth Of The Hydra.” It is a cautious opening, a way of building familiarity with the assembled listeners. The music reaches more for the ring with “Zeus In Chains,” which has an enfabling bass line and a conquering rhythm formation. The melody is ever-pleasing and shooting guitar flourishes are delightful perfumed pokes. “Little Pretty” is a walk out the back door through a very different landscape. The arrangement is still sweeping and galactic, but the particulars are a bit more personal, the fingers sharper.

“Candlepower” has a playfulness about it, an endearing lightheartedness. “Apollo In Color” offers a decidedly otherworldly feel. Exploratory. “Avalancha” is a full-on charge. It is filled with muscle and speed, only barely tempered. The backing lines are heavy and serious, and the percussion is crisp. This one will turn your head.

“Greenish Blues” plays as advertised – a somewhat sad, soulful, blues-inspired musical story. When Vai winds up and let’s loose he plays some of the most inspired lead moments on the album in this song. “Knappsack” is a race down a mountain road pursued by villains. “Sandman Cloud Mist” brings us to the dock with thoughtful reflections on the journey. I hear solemnity in it, as well as resolution. The album is moving, and here at the end Vai gives you a minute to put it all together in your mind.

Inviolate is out now through Favored Nations. Bring more instrumental guitar music into your life. Recommended.

Links.

Steve Vai website, https://www.vai.com/

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

Favored Nations, https://www.favorednations.com/

Steve Vai, Inviolate (Favored Nations 2022)

Korn, Requiem (Loma Vista 2022)

The indefatigable Korn are back with their fourteenth studio album, Requiem.

One of the most important Nu Metal bands that ever was, Korn formed in the early nineties in Bakersfield, California. For me, it was Follow The Leader (1998) that sunk the hook in to a permanent place. Since then, I have had an ear up for Korn more than any other band in this lane. The live shows are always fantastic, and the new album is a solid axe-swinger that fans are going to gobble up. The band is Jonathan Davis (vocals), James Shaffer (guitar), Brian Welch (guitar), Reginald Arvizu (bass), and Ray Luzier (drums).

The nine tracks on Requiem stomp the terra with refined authority. The melodic, lyrical passages carry the narrative along while the choruses bring us all together in collective moments of shared space. Every change in pace is an understood necessity. Each morsel is fashioned for the most prescient effect.

My favorites are “Disconnect” and the single “Start The Healing.” The latter is a savage prowler and the former has an undeniable resonance. I keep listening to these two over and over. There is something about Korn’s music that lands differently to me than similarly oriented bands. Their sound is unique while remaining in a particular sound zone, and there is an earnestness you just don’t hear in other bands. When Korn a song is about something painful, it sounds like they feel it whereas a different band attempting the same would just sound like they were complaining. The difference matters.

There are other stand-out songs as well. The heaviness of “Hopeless And Beaten” should not be overlooked. “My Confession” is an absolute cataclysm and the closer, “Worst Is On Its Way,” holds no shields against its descriptions and predictions. The album is succinct, reflective, and powerful. It is an important addition to the history of the band. Recommended.

Out now through Loma Vista, Requiem is yours for the taking. It is yet another excellent album from Korn.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards, Aftershock 2019.

Links.

Korn website, https://kornofficial.com/

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

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

Loma Vista, https://bodega.lomavistarecordings.com/collections/korn

Korn, Requiem (Loma Vista 2022)

Obsidian Sea, Pathos (Ripple Music 2022)

Bulgarian proto-doom trio Obsidian Sea bring their fourth album into clear view: Pathos.

Obsidian Sea came together in 2010 in Sofia playing a classic rock style layered into doom horizons. Prior to the new record, the band released a demo at the beginning and three long-players since – Between Two Deserts (2012), Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions (2015), and Strangers (2019). Their musical approach relies on melodic passages and extended diversions set in sweeping idiomatic paradigms of venerable rock and roll. According to the Metal Archives, the band is Bozhidar (drums), Anton (vocals and guitar), and Delyan Karaivanov (bass).

There are seven songs on Pathos, each hovering in the five-to-six minute range. Well-worn, reliable set-ups are played as bedrock formations holding up incredibly well-executed guitar work and impressive compositional talent. You can expect fuzzy guitars on the regular and softened melodic expressions that form a low hedge for the greater guitar adventuring.

Some of the song titles are quite grim. Witness the first two tracks, “Lament the Death of Wonder” and “The Long Drowning.” The music itself, while living in the land of doom, is not depressingly-oriented and the vocalizations are more earnest and dramatic than they are dreary and dank. Dark fantasy more than horror, you might say.

My favorite tracks include “The Revenants” and “Mythos” as they both highlight the features I have just mentioned, and I appreciate the sternness of the guitar moments. The former song especially has a mystical sensibility. The final piece is “The Meaning of Shadows,” and it approaches the avant-garde in comparison to its fellows. It also has a delightful noir aroma, a sinisterness. The song builds toward the end into an urgent finale, functioning as a gleeful capstone to the set. Excellent, all the way around. The music is not what you might typically think of when doom is being discussed, but it has a legitimate place in that world. Recommended.

Pathos is out now through Ripple Music. Snap it up at the label’s website, Bandcamp, or any of all those other places you can get music.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/pathos

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

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Obsidian Sea, Pathos (Ripple Music 2022)

Vorga, Striving Toward Oblivion (Transcending Obscurity 2022

The debut full-length album from Vorga arrives to smash the glistening bubble of astronomical mediocrity.

Vorga is a black metal band centered in Germany. Taking inspiration from the stars more than from the depths of the earth, the music they create is expansive and awe-striking. It is an atypical approach for black metal, and it really works. They previously released an EP titled Radiant Gloom in 2019, and a single, “Cataract Mind,” the following year. The band is Atlas (guitar), Jervas (drums), and Спейса (vocals, bass).

The eight tracks on Striving Toward Oblivion are absolutely all black metal, often grueling and pummeling. And yet there is welcome variety in the music throughout. “Starless Sky” is best described as relentless. It holds you down and screams at your for five minutes. “Comet,” on the other hand, has a great sense of adventure in its melody and rhythm. It is more engaging than punishing. “Disgust” is penance for past crimes, and “Stars My Destination” shines in its elevated self. I wonder what Alfred Bester would think of the song.

Black metal in space turns out to be a rich vein to mine. “Last Transmission” is an industrious song that has a potential for broad appeal. “Fool’s Paradise” is very catchy in the initial hooks – it could be a radio song, almost. It is one of my favorites on the album and it has stayed with me after the album was done. Indeed, the farther in you go with this album, the longer you stay with it, the deeper you understand it and the more you begin to inhabit the space it describes. Do not stop after the first song or two. You have to hear the entire thing. Recommended.

Striving Toward Oblivion is out tomorrow, February 4th, through Transcending Obscurity Records.

Links.

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

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

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

Vorga, Striving Toward Oblivion (Transcending Obscurity 2022

Thorn, Yawning Depths (Chaos Records 2022)

Brennen Westermeyer has a new album under his solo project banner Thorn on the way, Yawning Depths.

According to the press release: “Cavernous, brooding, and bleak, Thorn is a solo project of erstwhile Fluids vocalist Brennen Westermeyer. From the deserts of Phoenix, Thorn specializes in the foreboding and ominous. Weaving elements of death metal, doom, post, and grind, Thorn creates a soundscape for worshipping pagan gods and making offerings to entities unknown.”

I find the description to be quite accurate. Take a look at the cover image. That is what the music sounds like – being chewed, swallowed, and digested by a gap-mouth horror. In some ways, this album runs like a sequel to last year’s Crawling Worship. In my head, anyway.

There are eight tracks on the new album. I am going to go ahead and label this death metal music. There are other elements swimming in there, too – most notably a tasty doom sensibility that rears its handsome head occasionally. Still, death metal suits the set pretty well.

It is a brief affair but it has titanic moments. I was absolutely floored by “Noxious Existence,” and the sorrowful “Lapis Lazuli” took my breath away with its dark, mesmerizing beauty. The grinding crunch of doomy “Unknown Body of Light” burbles to the surface of my consciousness from time to time even now, and the closer, “Graven Moonglow,” is a show-stopper, and no mistake. I like the commitment in this music, the unswerving menace created in the compositions that is so well executed in the performance. Well done. Recommended.

Yawning Depths begins breaking hearts on Friday, February 4th with the CD and digital, out through Chaos Records with the vinyl version to follow later in the year. Gurgling Gore has the cassette.

Links.

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

Chaos Records, https://www.chaos-records.com/

Thorn, Yawning Depths (Chaos Records 2022)

Ectoplasma, Inferna Kabbalah (Memento Mori 2022)

Steeped in a horrifying glaze of dark otherness, the new Ectoplasma record is a feast for your twitching senses.

Since 2104, Ectoplasma has been spreading its dank word in the heavy metal scene. Springing up from Greece, this throat-punching death metal act has released a host of EPs and splits, plus three previous long-players, most recently White-Eyed Trance (2019). According to the band, the new album “shamelessly manifested their devotion to muddy, organic, disgusting, bone-breaking, and rotten-to-the-core death metal.” Who would argue with a musical self-description like that? The credited musicians on the new album are Giannis Grim (vocals and bass) and Dimitris Sakkas (guitar and drums).

Nicely fuzzy guitars startle the death metal arrangement on the first song, “God Is Dead, Satan Lives (Rosemary’s Baby).” A welcome groove steps in fairly early in the track and gives it pace and wings. “Appalling Abomination” has a darker initial presence, and a thicker heaviness. The beehive gets broken open in the first minute, however, and whirling, dizzying speed takes over. And then the groove kicks in again. I am liking this combination.

Later on, the title track bears the band’s death metal teeth and the gruff vocalizations are their most sinister so far. The bass line that opens “Gruesome Sacred Orgasms” is most inviting, and the stabby nature of the following riffs thoroughly sells the concept of the song title. “Filth-Ridden Flesh” offers callbacks to earlier tracks, and the closer drips hot, toxic wax on the set with a menacing cadence. There were a number of good surprises on the album and overall it hit the right spots for me. Recommended.

Inferna Kabbalah sprang to life on January 24th through Memento Mori and Rotted Life. Touch the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ectoplasma187.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Ectoplasma-1579524392276613

Memento Mori, http://www.memento-mori.es/

Rotted Life, https://www.rottedlife.com/

Ectoplasma, Inferna Kabbalah (Memento Mori 2022)