Vokonis, Odyssey (The Sign Records 2021)

Sweden’s Vokonis has created a progressive rock/metal album designed to push out against borders and boundaries and exist in that expanded space.

With three previous full-length albums stretching back only to 2016, Vokonis seems to be on a mission. The earlier music was more in the stoner/doom lane (it seemed to me) and the newer work is heading toward the prog. That is a touchy transition that Vokonis has managed effectively. The band is Simon Ohlsson (guitar, vocals), Jonte Johansson (bass, vocals), and Peter Ottosson (drums), with Per Wiberg on keyboards for this album.

I always look first for the longer songs because I appreciate the necessary complexity and endurance required for an extended composition. There are six tracks on Odyssey, half at radio length and half tending toward the epic frame. “Rebellion,” then, is an opening shorter piece that sets up the nine-minute title track that follows. The clear vocals allow for straight-forward narrative delivery atop the keyboard beds and pulsing guitar riffs. “Odyssey” is a big story and it is beautifully imagined. Listening to the guitar diversions and occasional gruffing vocalizations you realize they are the milestones that mark the way and that will spark memories on re-listening.

“Blackened Wings” and “Azure” are shorter, up-tempo skirmishes that liven up the set and add a couple of my favorite breakaway moments. It is “Hollow Waters” that stands out most to me for the way it combines elegance and power so seamlessly and effectively. The closing track is the longest, “Through The Depths,” and I see it simultaneously as a culmination and a retelling of what has come before – it is filled with ambitious ideas and soaring moments; peppered with lyrical stopovers as well as truculent byways. For fans of the band and fans of transitional prog, this is an album you will want to hear. Recommended.

Odyssey is out now in all its myriad realities and tangential essences. Bandcamp is a good place to start looking over the choices.

Links.

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

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

The Sign Records, https://thesignrecords.bandcamp.com/

Vokonis, Odyssey (The Sign Records 2021)

Empty Throne, Glossolalia (Wise Blood Records 2021)

The debut album from Empty Throne brings together years of experience for a new take on Thrash and Black Metal.

The band formed only last year and yet its members have been playing in notable bands for many years. Witness: C.R. Petit (vocals), Mike Pardi (guitar), Jason Ellsworth (bass), and Gabe Seeber (drums). These musicians have contributed to bands ranging from Angerot to Abbath to Possessed and back again, honing skills and raising their game until they came together as Empty Throne.

Glossolalia has three long songs of heavy music that traverse many alleyways of heavy music. You could call it a lot of different things, starting with Black Metal and casting about in Thrash and Death Metal as well.

“And All Shall Know His Name” gets going with a gallop and the speed heats your blood up immediately. The technical expertise demonstrated in the precise playing of every instrument is impressive and this solid footing sets the music up for any turn it cares to take. “That Day Has Come” has a funereal opening segment that collapses under the savage thrashing metal attack that appears instantaneously and separates you from your senses. The guitars are ravaging and the bass is emblematic of a dark wizardry that lurks in the shadows and erupts when you least expect it.

“My Flesh The Temptation” closes the set and there is no wind-down at all. The tempo and energy are just as fierce at the end as the beginning. Layered vocals and relentless searing metal hammer until there is nothing left to smash. Tempo changes, when they occur, offer no respite. Instead they push deeper the dark ideas and imprint them in places where they will never fade. Glossolalia will stay with you. Highly recommended.

The EP is out now from Wise Blood Records and gatherable at all the usual places. Links below.

Links.

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

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

Wise Blood Records, https://wisebloodrecords.com/

Empty Throne, Glossolalia (Wise Blood Records 2021)

Moon Coven, Slumber Wood (Ripple Music 2021)

The return to full-length form for Moon Coven brings more thoughtful melodic doom into the world.

The band is from Sweden and has been around for nearly ten years. They released a series of EPs leading up to the self-titled long-player in 2016. Slumber Wood is their second full album. The music has changed a little over time and now the sound produced has a very clear doom intent, the way I hear it, no matter what narrative element might be running at any given time.

The opener, “Further,” and its spiritual companion, “Ceremony,” establish a slow and deliberate pace of heavy stoner psych highlighted by and with the vocals which hover on the light side, and the ethereal. Then suddenly “Potbelly Hill” quiets the rumble down but keeps the doom going with softened sounds for the first minute before taking a turn by introducing a surprisingly turbulent riff that changes the tone of the song entirely. It is a bit dizzying. By the end of third track you don’t know what to think.

Next up is “Eye of the Night” and it sounds like a crime story. The short piece “A Tower of Silence” is a transitional passage to “Bahgsu Nag,” which starts off with a strum. The song has a very different sound, something all its own and apart from the others on the album. Bringing us ultimately to the last two songs, “Seagull” and “My Melting Mind,” which are more in line with the early tracks. The anchor song has a special resonance – maybe it is the phase shift – that ties a knot around you and hangs on. Truly, I can’t get it out of my head.

You can take this album in a number of different ways. The steady ardent doom with surprising bulges and flares is the way I took it and it settled in well with me. Recommended.

Slumber Wood is out now. Vinyl and CD versions are available, as well as the digital download.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/slumber-wood

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

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

Moon Coven, Slumber Wood (Ripple Music 2021)

Led To The Grave, Pray For Death (HPGD 2021)

Massachusetts Death Metallers Led To The Grave come out swinging on their first Horror Pain Gore Death Productions release.

Led To The Grave’s origins stretch back to at least 2007 with their self-titled demo. Since then there have been many more recorded artifacts, including two full-length albums, most recently Bane of Existence (2017). They have signed with HPGD now and metal fans will be glad for the easier access to the band’s music, which is a smash of Death Metal and Thrash that would melt a stone cold hunk of iron.

There are two songs on the EP. First up is “Pray For Death,” a rousing ripper with a catchy, progressing riff that opens up space for the growling vocals and peppering drums. The song is fast but not super-speedy and it ends with a bang.

“No Salvation” spins at you like an expertly thrown bladed weapon. There is a siesta in the middle that walks you right into the charging second half. It is a savage ride that will raise your blood pressure and get your fists punching in the air. These two songs are an inspired metal pairing. Recommended.

Pray For Death is out today. Look on the Bandcamp page or at HPGD’s website to order cassettes, digital, CDs, t-shirts, and all. After you hear these two songs you are going to want more. While you’re waiting for future music releases to materialize, check out the band’s Bandcamp page where you can get the earlier music to hold you over.

Links.

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

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

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

Led To The Grave, Pray For Death (HPGD 2021)

Mephitic Grave, Into The Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity (Carbonized Records 2021)

Doom and Death Metal come together on the debut album from Mephitic Grave.

Mephitic Grave is a heavy metal band from Hungary formerly known as Mothrot. They initially got together in 2018, and Into The Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity is their first widely distributed full-length record.

The opening track is a mini-suite, “Entering The Atrium / The Gatekeeper.” There is a long lead-in of the sound of rain and grinding noises before the dread guitar lands and the chanting growls prowl into your brain. The song has a sense of foreboding in the more doom-oriented moments and promotes feelings of threat in the faster parts. It is an excellent combination. “Chthonicon” is next and it starts off faster and also features the tempo shifts that created and fostered such trepidation in the opener. I am starting to see the path. Indeed, these gateway pieces are truthful signs of the journey that is unfolding.

Given in the grim nature of the musical sound the band has created, it is no surprise that the narrative content is also dark. The approach is described in the press release this way. “[T]he band’s visual and lyrical concepts revolve around the philosophy of cosmicism which denies the presence of a god or any such ideas of divinity and upholds that humans are insignificant in the face of an incomprehensibly large cosmos.” Makes sense. A Lovecraft idealism without too much regard for the Old Gods. Rich grounds for Death Metal themes.

The doom influences are very strong throughout the album and if I had to put the music in a category I would probably lean in that direction, even though I usually see “Death Metal” next to their name. The labels are only useful anyway to give you an idea of what to expect before you hear the music. After that you decide for yourself whether you like it or not. My personal decision is that this album is very good. Recommended.

Friday May 7th is opening day for Into The Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity. Check it out through the Carbonized Records site or Bandcamp for quick pick-ups.

Band photo by Jim Jones.

Links.

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

Carbonized Records, https://carbonized-records.myshopify.com/

Mephitic Grave, Into The Atrium of Inhuman Morbidity (Carbonized Records 2021)

Artillery, X (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Danish thrash masters Artillery come back for another round with their tenth full-length album, X.

1982 is the place in history when the formative machinations coalesced into a recognizable construct for Artillery. The released a number of demos in the next couple of years, leading up to the first full album, Fear Of Tomorrow, in 1985. They have been rumbling and shaking the metal world ever since. After a slow period in the 1990s and aughts, Artillery has been cranking out skull-rattling thrash on the regular for the past twelve years. The current lineup is Michael Bastholm Dahl (vocals), Michael Stützer (guitar), Kræn Meier (guitar), Peter Thorslund (bass), and Josua Madsen (drums).

There are eleven tracks on X, starting with “The Devil’s Symphony” and ending with “Beggars In Black Suits.” Better bookends would be hard to find. Dahl’s theatrical, soaring vocals are juxtaposed against the relentless riffery and ripping leads in a synergy that produces amazing results.

Most songs have a short lead-in bit before setting the guitars on attack, but then it is all metal and thrash. The vocals are the feature (as in Dio, say) while the fortress is the guitars and they are also the musical weapons. Catchy hooks and riffs and technically expert light-speed leads are the hallmarks of this band. This is exactly the kind of construction that has appealed to me since the very beginning.

There is one slower piece, “The Ghost Of Me,” but the album is mainly a study in adrenaline. In every song I can find something that really stands out, like the dizzying lead in “Varg I Veum” or the very complex but somehow still memorable lead-in guitar on the very next song, “Mors Ontologica.” There are mystical moments, tongue-in-cheek passages, and lines of aggression, all told in heavy metal. This is one to save so you can hear it over and over. Recommended.

The album drops on Friday, May 7th and you can snap it up everywhere. Hit the Metal Blade Records link below to see the varieties available.

Links.

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ARTILLERY.DK

Artillery Website, http://www.artillery.dk/home.php

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

Artillery, X (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Trauma, Acrimony (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Veteran Polish Death Metal titans Trauma add to their canon with Acrimony.

Since the early 1990s Trauma has been writing powerful Death Metal music. They fit in perfectly with the strong tradition of heavy metal bands in Poland and their compositions have a traditional feel to them and a polished production. The band is Arkadiusz Sinica (drums), Jarosław Misterkiewicz (guitar, bass), and Artur Chudewniak (vocals).

Last year’s Ominous Black album was well received by fans and the songs from the new EP Acrimony were recorded at the same time. There is a beautiful stylistic connection in the album cover art to match the cabalistic connection between the previous LP and the new set. If you liked the album you are going to want this companion to go with it. One does not feel quite complete without the other.

“Internal Sacrifice” is a stylized epic metal song, with a big build and a massive payoff. “The Godless Abyss” has a more direct approach and also has a theatrical construction. “Reign of Terror” quietens down a bit, at least at the start. The solitude does not last long and the peaceful serenity is dismembered by blast beats and crushing riffs.

The final song is a cover of the Gorefest favorite “Reality When You Die.” This is the longest track and it is rager once it gets going, seeming to have a ravenous need to engulf you. These four tracks form an excellent set to take us through until the next album comes out. Recommended.

Acrimony is out now from Selfmadegod Records and is available through Bandcamp as well as the other usual outlets. Take a minute to think about rounding up some other Trauma releases while you are at it if you don’t have them yet.

Links.

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

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

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

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

Trauma, Acrimony (Selfmadegod Records 2021)

Evile, Hell Unleashed (Napalm Records 2021)

Returning with their first album in eight years, Evile lands hard and hits the ground running.

The band’s first full-length album came out in 2007, Enter The Grave. From the initial riffs of the title track you could tell you were in for some heads-down thrash. There was a new album every couple of years after that until 2013 when Skull came out. A few line-up changes have occurred over the years and the band is now Ol Drake (vocals and guitar), Ben Carter (drums), Joel Graham (bass), and Adam Smith (guitar).

There are nine big tracks on the album beginning with the blistering “Paralysed.” This is exactly what I was hoping for – high speed attack in guitars and percussion, ravaging vocals, and a maniacal lead break. Ah, thrash. “Gore” is next and it is another blasting ripper. “Incarcerated” gives a short breather at its front but it does not hold a quiet line. These front three make an excellent impression.

My favorite songs are probably the title track, which anchors the album, and “The Thing (1982).” These both hit me on a fundamental level and played directly into my earliest love of heavy music, which is straight-up thrash. In addition to the speed and technical acumen that flows freely from the songs, they both also have additional depths and turns that sink the metal in deep.

The album has a couple of surprises. There is a guest appearance by Brian Posehn who is best known as a comedian and has in recent years been getting involved in heavy music because of his lifelong love of metal. Then there is the cover of the Mortician song “Zombie Apocalypse.” That’s something different for Evile. This new set has the craft and style fans have embraced over the years. It delivers savage thrash on every level. Recommended.

Hell Unleashed is out now. In the UK hit the band’s website. For EU, Napalm Records’ site works great and Bandcamp is the best bet in the US.

Links.

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

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

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

Napalm Records, https://napalmrecords.com/english/evile

Evile, Hell Unleashed (Napalm Records 2021)

Plasmodium, Towers Of Silence (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The caustic ululations from down under can only mean that Plasmodium has released a new album.

Australian chaos cohorts Plasmodium ripped the lid off of reason in 2016 with their first album, Entheognosis. The menace that began with those four songs continues on Towers Of Silence, another loose approximation to coherence.

There are five tracks on the new album. The first two are short, noisy explosions. I am not sure if they are meant to terrify the listener, but they could have that effect. The pace is furious and the direction of the music is more of a flurry than a path.

“Pseudocidal” is a free-form expression that lays an ambient bed and lets the drums run wild. Vocalizations are more subdued than they were in the openers and even become discernable after a few minutes. The percussion seems to be on about something and you find that reassuring in the otherwise worrisome surroundings.

The last two songs on the album a big ones, “Translucinophobia” and “Vertexginous,” having a running time over thirty minutes between them. The former is like an extended Alexandrian campaign in an unknown land and the latter is more like a journey through an extended purgatorial menace that ends badly. This is metal music, heavy music, dark music, but there is nothing to reliably compare it to because of the general lack of core elements. The thought of what Plasmodium might create next is a churning maelstrom of bewildering possibilities.

I have listened to about fifty releases from Transcending Obscurity over the last many months and this one is by far the strangest. If you are up for the challenge, Towers Of Silence is out now. There is no telling what door it might open for you.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://plasmodiumdeath.bandcamp.com/album/towers-of-silence-cosmic-black-death-metal

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

Plasmodium, Towers Of Silence (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Gojira, Fortitude (Roadrunner Records 2021)

In their twentieth year as a metal band Gojira issues their seventh full-length studio album and it is one of the very best.

Gojira is from France and they play heavy metal. The music has groove and progressive elements to it, and you do not mistake Gojira for another band when you hear their music. Magma (2016) is the most recent album up to now, and while they have been quiet on the recording front since it came out they have been playing live and dazzling fans continuously. The band is Jean-Michel Labadie (bass), Mario Duplantier (drums), Christian Andreu (guitars), Joe Duplantier (guitar and vocals).

There are eleven tracks on the album, beginning with “Born For One Thing.” The drum lays in a march cadence while the guitar wind-up does not prepare you for the metal when it kicks in a few seconds later. The composition is heavy and complex, syncopated and variegated, groovy and mysterious – all these things at once. “Amazonia” comes up next, with its subtle slither and shimmer. Its every element is mesmerizing, like an shamanic chant. The narrative is compelling and delivered with authority.

The songs on Fortitude are big and ambitious. Some are delivered on a softer register throughout, like “Another World” and others demonstrate an incredible range from peace to aggression, as in “Hold On.” Progressive influences live in and amongst the growling metal. And then there is the title track, which is a short reflective piece that transitions into “The Chant,” a song that builds into a powerful statement before handing off the torch to “The Sphinx” with its heavy and sinister posture. This set wraps on “Grind” featuring punishing percussion, whispering vocal savagery, and stabbing, whirling guitars.

I was expecting something big from Gojira on this new album. What they have done is even more than I expected. We are all going to be reading about how this album is setting a standard others will be compared to and let me add my voice to that chorus. I am sure Fortitude will be on the 2021 Best Of list. Highly recommended.

Fortitude is out now. Hit the website link below to investigate the options.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards, Aftershock Festival 2019.

Links.

Website, https://www.gojira-music.com/?frontpage=true

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

Roadrunner Records, https://store.roadrunnerrecords.com/gojira.html

Gojira, Fortitude (Roadrunner Records 2021)