Fates Warning, Long Day Good Night review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Fates Warning has released their biggest album yet and it has all the trappings of a milestone.

Back at the beginning, Night on the Bröcken (1984) was something very different for the times – we were in the midst of the NWOBHM. That first album had a an occult theme (which I really appreciated) but it was the Progressive Metal elements that were the most important sign of something completely different, and you can hear them in there if you listen. Queensrÿche is another example – their first album (the self-titled EP) was also Power Rock with occult elements and they, too, emerged on the forefront of Prog, along with Dream Theater and … Fates Warning. I knew about Queensrÿche first because I was so taken with their song “The Lady Wore Black,” but it was Fates Warning that really stuck with me through the decades because of their compositional ingenuity. Look back and listen through the long catalogue of this band (on Spotify, say) and I think you will be amazed.

The new album finds Ray Alder and Jim Matheos working together writing the music. There are thirteen songs on Long Day Good Night, which is the band’s 13th album. It listens like a tour through the world Fates Warning has created over the years and a few special glimpses of things we have never seen before. It is Progressive Metal of course, and complex, but it also has many heavy linear passages that forge a straight-forward groove.

After a three minute soft, eerie, and somehow reassuring intro, “The Destination Onward” lands the first hard punch. It is eight minutes of structure you could build the rest of the album on, from the stabbing guitar assertions surrounded by heavy riffs to the fibrillating percussion to lithe lead break. And of course the soaring vocals. “Shuttered World” is next and it is a little more abrupt, while “Alone We Walk” is pensive and also curiously frenetic. Songs like “Under The Sun” are quiet and lyrical in their fullness and objective beauty. Others are aggressive and challenging, like “Scars.” The long-form is here, too, the strongest example of which is “The Longest Shadow of the Day” with its amazing bass lines and unforgettable guitar work. Nothing is left out here and there is no filler, either – it is simply excellent.

Long Day Good Night is available right now in many different forms and functions. I am convinced this is going to turn out to be one of my favorite Fates Warning albums. Highly recommended.

Links.

Website, http://www.fateswarning.com

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

Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/FatesWarning

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

Fates Warning, Long Day Good Night review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Lykantropi, Tales To Be Told review (Despotz Records 2020)

Swedish rock band Lykantropi emerge from the woods with a new album, Tales To Be Told, building on the strength of their previous releases and reaching new clearings.

The music is guitar driven where the guitar is mostly clear toned with very little distortion (and the occasional phase shift). Flute is also center stage in the compositions but not in a Jethro Tull kind of way. It is more like the early Atlanta Rhythm Section music if it was folked-up a little bit and the songs were about tales of the distant past, love, and occult happenings.

The band is Martin Östlund (vocals and guitar), My Shaolin (vocals), Ia Öberg (flute), Tomas Eriksson (bass), Elias Håkansson (guitar), and Ola Rui Nygard (drums). Their first two albums have been recently re-released in advance of this new one, so if you want to take the journey, it is waiting for you.

The album starts with a deeply drawn breath. “Coming Your Way” is an easing-in passageway to the 1970s rock style of the band, having beautiful flute lines and hypnotic vocals to go along with the somewhat disturbing lyrics. There is a very psychedelic and dreamy feel to every song and it has a cumulative transportive effect when you listen to the entire album. There is a groovy melancholy in a way, too, but it is the kind of feeling that is not sad or depressing but more of an acceptance of the direction of things if not the actual things themselves.

A song to pay particular attention to is “Kom Ta Mig Ut.” It delivers an embodiment of the band’s elemental sound. Partnered with “Spell On Me,” which holds the narrative torch, and “Världen Går Vidare,” where the spirit lives (and the message I really needed today), Lykantropi has made a profound impression on me. If you are in a mellow mood, this music fits the bill. Recommended.

Tales To Be Told will be available on Bandcamp this Friday, November 6th. A couple of singles are there already.

Band photo by Svartna Film.

Links.

Band Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/lykantropiband

Band Bandcamp, http://lykantropi.bandcamp.com

Label, https://despotz.se/

Label Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/DespotzRecords

Lykantropi, Tales To Be Told review (Despotz Records 2020)

Clouds Taste Satanic, The Satanic Singles, review (Kinda Like Music 2020)

Instrumental Doom Metal masters Clouds Taste Satanic embark on a new project, The Satanic Singles.

If you are unfamiliar with Clouds Taste Satanic, it is past time to get acquainted. The quick take is they compose and perform instrumental doom metal music. We did an overview article on them earlier this year (link below) that was an alacritous stroll through their catalogue. That is a good place to catch up on what they have out there.

Typically, their songs are very long – as in often around the twenty minute mark. The band has decided to try a new direction for a minute and record shorter cover songs. The Satanic Singles is a project planned to be released in four parts, one each month until February when the full length Cloud Covered album comes out (with additional tracks not released in the singles series).

Volume 1 has two tracks. Side A is a cover of Elton John’s “Funeral For A Friend,” and Side B is the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” The second side is about what you would expect – it has a big sound in the first place, that theme, and it translates well into the band’s idiom. The Elton John cover, on the other hand, could have gone in any of a number of directions. Running at about half the length of John’s original, CTS focuses on the most compelling instrumental elements, bringing an enduring heaviness to the music but not what you would really call doom. A diversion that is an engaging difference to the Yellow Brick Road centerpiece, I’d say. Recommended.

Grab this first single at Bandcamp. There are vinyl versions, too, but some are already sold out. Check it out fast.

Links.

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

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

Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/artist/5QidF8yXlvTyGkDy24JImY

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvVu8mcXrE2eVjq_ApcGBmw

Overview Article on Clouds Taste Satanic, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/04/07/a-quick-look-at-clouds-taste-satanic/

Clouds Taste Satanic, The Satanic Singles, review (Kinda Like Music 2020)

Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle review (Mongrel Records 2020)

The new album from Ruff Majik has the most direct Rock and Roll feel of their work to date.

The musicians credited on The Devil’s Cattle are Evert Snyman (guitar, bass, vocals, percussion, drums, and piano) and Johni Holiday (guitar, bass, and vocals), with Timothy Edwards and Xan Swart adding drums, Christiaan Van Reenen making an appearance on keyboards, and additional vocals by Vincent Houde. On their Bandcamp page, the creation of the new album is explained this way: “The Devils Cattle was written between Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bourlon, Berlin, and Oyster Bay in 2019, whilst Johni Holiday and [company] were hopping between locations during a very busy year.” The press materials state Ruff Majik is from South Africa, Bandcamp has them headquartered in Cottbus, Germany, and clearly they get around a lot during the creative process. Wherever in the world they might be from, at, or going to, it is the music that matters.

My first thought listening to this album was it made me of a heavy metal version of the White Stripes. The vocals and affectation are reminiscent of Jack White, and the music does have hints in that direction but the divergences are far greater than the confluences. The opening song is a ripper with a message that resonates, “All You Need Is Speed.” In the very next song, the talk-in sets the stage for a tale of woe in “Swine Tooth Grin,” and the gravity of the guitar riffs match the sentiment of the lyrics precisely. Each new track is a turn and a twist.

The album is long and expresses a variety of sentiments and stylistic careening during its course. I love the guitars which are both a comfort and a threat, and so are the vocals and, separately, the lyrics. Sometimes it feels like free association but not improvisation. The compositions have an intentionality that confounds the notion of haphazardry. Creativity lives a big life in this album, and it is completely different to anything else I have heard this year. Recommended.

The Devil’s Cattle is out now from Mongrel Records and getable through Bandcamp.

Links.

Band Bandcamp, https://ruffmajik.bandcamp.com/

Band website, http://www.ruffmajik.com

Band Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/ruffmajik

Label website, http://mongrelrecords.com

Label Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/mongrelrecords

Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle review (Mongrel Records 2020)

Yaotl Mictlan, Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar review (American Line Productions 2020)

Salt Lake City Metal band Yaotl Mictlan take us on a savage journey with their third album, Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar.

The band is brothers Yaotl and Tlatecatl joined by Tenoch (according to The Metal Archives). The press release reveals: “The brothers shared a mutual passion around their Mexica and Mayan culture. Their lyrics focus on the belief that after Christians colonized Mexico, their people lost their identity and succumbed to a colonized way of life; the lyrics are inspired by the unfortunate way in which at the present time their people live in extreme self-hatred. Ultimately, they would like to see the end of the colonized way of thinking and for their people to embrace their roots.” Knowing the background and inspiration of the composers sometimes gives listeners additional insight into the music, thereby making it more impactful. I definitely think that is true in this case because the motivation is so powerful.

The music is extremely heavy, even with the gentle opening of “Entre lluvias Fuertes.” Well, gentle – I mean quiet, but it is very unsettling with eerie wind instruments and rattles, and voices in a lilting disembodied elemental frame. The first guitar riff drops about a minute and a half in and pushes you over as if you were made of dry reeds. When the vocals begin, you have started to become part of the object that is the layered, ambient, dark energy surrounding you everywhere and penetrating.

The music on the album has a living mysticism to it in sound and narrative, and a feeling of melancholy – and often hopelessness. In that sense it lies in the land of Doom Metal, but the feeling of it is more like Black Metal, or what I have heard called Dark Metal. And then there are rising moments of power and what might sound like hope, furthering the complexity of the music and the message.

The songs are typically riff heavy, with many, like “Ba’alche’o’ob” and “Tezcatlipoca – Espejo Relumbrante,” riding on driving, punishing percussion, and others, such as “Nuevo Fuego,” with long, ethereal moments surrounded by the rising walls of harsher sound. The closing song, “Sombra del Mictlan,” is the longest, running about eleven minutes and beginning with an invocation in voice and what sounds like a wooden flute. Doom riffs follow with harmonic whistles and rattles broadening the musical vista. It is an amazing piece. The heavy sound of Yaotl Mictlan truly is unique. Recommended.

Out now through American Line Productions and available through Bandcamp. If you are looking for something other than the digital, check out the band’s website at the link below for CDs and other merch. If you have never heard the band before, this album is a great place to start.

Links.

Band website, https://yaotlmictlan.com

Band Bandcamp, https://yaotlmictlan.bandcamp.com

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

Label website, http://www.alprods.net

Label Big Cartel webstore, http://www.alprods.bigcartel.com

Yaotl Mictlan, Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar review (American Line Productions 2020)

Carcass, Despicable review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

Carcass first appeared more than thirty years ago, becoming a Death Metal mainstay immediately, and they are not done yet.

Carcass created its place in music history by pioneering extreme metal on their earliest albums in the late 1980s. A few years later, they were on the forefront of a new movement in metal, melodic death metal. In both of these cases, the band provided a vision that was expanded on by multitudes of other acts and that persist today. They took a break for a long stretch after Swansong in 1996, not releasing another full-length album until Surgical Steel (2013).

Despicable is an EP released in advance of next year’s full-length album, and it holds songs that will not be on that longer album. The band is Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, Daniel Wilding, and Tom Draper, and the music continues on the path the band has solidly established in its second incarnation.

There are four songs on the new EP, beginning with “The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue,” which has delightful thrashiness to it, culminating in a swirling storm of enraged hornets performed on guitar toward the end. “The Long and Winding Bier Road” has a slower and heavier taste, telling a story in clever hooks. The gas is punched again on “Under the Scalpel Blade,” adding in a sordid Penny Dreadful storyline to warm your veins. “Slaughtered in Soho” is the sign-off, with an airy riff and a tender growl – and a wailing lead break. If these four fine songs are any sign of what the 2021 album will be like, we are definitely in for a wild ride. Recommended.

Out now from Nuclear Blast, you can get Despicable in all sorts of formats from Bandcamp or through the store portal link below.

Links.

Carcass Bandcamp, https://carcass.bandcamp.com/album/despicable

Carcass Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/OfficialCarcass

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

Nuclear Blast Records Store Portal, https://media.nuclearblast.de/shoplanding/2020/Carcass/despicable.html

Carcass, Despicable review (Nuclear Blast 2020)

Nuclear Power Trio, A Clear And Present Rager review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Just in time for the US presidential election, Nuclear Power Trio is here to bring world peace through instrumental metal music.

Just take a second to look at the cover image. Are you taking that seriously? I hope not. Obviously, this is a goof. Do you want to be even more confused? Check out the videos on YouTube. There they are, Vlad and Donny and Kimmy hamming it up for the camera and shredding. Wow. What in the world is this exactly? I am not sure, but the thing is, the music is excellent.

Who are the musicians? I don’t know, but if you do watch the videos, you can narrow it down quite a bit. I am not going to weigh in on identities because that is too much fun as a drinking game for next Tuesday. Let the speculation begin.

A Clear And Present Rager is a five song EP of heavy jazz/metal instrumental music and it is tight. The title track is the opener and it has a very Satriani vibe to it. All three principal instruments are mixed in to have a clear and noticeable presence: thick bass lines, fuzzy riffs and ripping leads, and punchy and rollicking drums. It pops. “Grab ’Em By The Pyongyang” is next and it starts with an acoustic intro, but the electric riff is hot on its heels. “The Fusion Collusion” offers a clippy percussive intro, while “Ukraine In The Membrane” has a more pensive opening statement that turns into a frantic search for meaning. “Mutually Assured Seduction” is the last call, and it is here where we piece together the wreckage of the evening and see what can be salvaged – hence the melancholy tone.

Even as this release is silly and is clearly trying to lighten up our lives during these dreadfully dreary days we all face, the music is crisp, challenging, and solid as a rock. It really is great instrumental rock.

Go get yours now, and play it loud on election night. Recommended.

Links.

Buy It From Metal Blade, https://www.metalblade.com/nuclearpowertrio/

Band wesbite, http://www.nuclearpowertriomerch.com

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/c/NuclearPowerTrio

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

Nuclear Power Trio, A Clear And Present Rager review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Serpents of Secrecy, Ave Vindicta review (Moving The Earth Records 2020)

The Baltimore Doom Metal scene gets another big dose of darkness from the debut album of Serpents of Secrecy.

The band had started this album in 2017, but the work was put aside after the shocking death of bassist Rev. Jim Forrester. Some of the music had already been recorded, and Serpents of Secrecy came together to finish all the work up and make sure it was not lost to history. The band for the album is Rev. Jim Forrester (bass), Todd Ingram (guitar), Chuck Dukehart III (drums), Mark Lorenzo (vocals), and Steve Fisher (guitar).

The underlying sound and vibe is classic metal in many ways and there are some songs that might have been played on the radio back when there was radio. There is a pervasive grungy feel, including the vocals which have a 1990s Seattle flavor to them in their cleaner incarnations. There is a plaintive emotion hovering around the music even when it crosses into a light literalness – that is one of the elements that makes this feel like a Doom album in the face of more straight-forward Metal.

“Ave Vindicta” opens the set and establishes that Doom tone I was talking about with throbbing feedback and slow, heavy riffs. “Heel Turn” is a more mainstream Metal song, and “The Cheat” is almost a ballad up front, with a melancholy lead guitar in the middle and a heavy finish. Bass lines are prominent on many of the songs, and well-placed sharp guitar remembrances glide in and out like ghosts. There are up-tempo crushers in here too, like “Warbird’s Song” and “Broke The Key” (one of my favorites on the album). It all comes to a close with a raucous sermon, “In The Lock.” This is an excellent album filled with variety and imbued with a style not often present in new music these days. Recommended.

Ave Vindicta is available on Halloween. Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up, and check out the band’s Big Cartel store for other merch. Links below.

Links.

Band Bandcamp, https://serpentsofsecrecy.bandcamp.com/releases

Band Big Cartel Store, https://serpentsofsecrecy.bigcartel.com/

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

Band Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/Serpents-of-Secrecy

Serpents of Secrecy, Ave Vindicta review (Moving The Earth Records 2020)

Zakk Sabbath, Vertigo review (Magnetic Eye Records 2020)

Zakk Sabbath gives us a welcome reminder of the pivotal album Black Sabbath, and an exploration of its timelessness.

The band is Zakk Wylde, Blasko, and Joey Castillo. I first saw Zakk Sabbath a couple years ago at the Rock on the Range festival in Columbus and I was completely blown away. I’d seen Zakk Wylde with Black Label Society, of course, and with Ozzy Osbourne, but I didn’t know what to expect from what looked like a tribute band from the billing. What I saw and heard was jaw dropping. An absolutely amazing performance. I tried to find some recordings, but at the time there wasn’t much. Now there is some video, and Zack Sabbath has “live bootlegs” up on their Bandcamp page (for free, by the way – there is actually a lot there so go check that out at the link below). No studio recordings, though. So when I heard Vertigo was coming out, I was on board immediately.

Every metal fan knows about that first Black Sabbath album, and most have heard it more than once. Some of us have listened to it so many times we know it by heart. So while listening to Zakk Sabbath commemorate the album, we are going to hear anything that is different from the original. And of course it is different. This is not meant to be a note by note recreation. It is celebration of the music and the seminal nature of the compositions on the album. There are extensions and bending and warbling variations throughout. The tempo matches the original very closely. Wylde’s vocals are extremely well suited for this music, and the musicianship is absolutely impeccable. At the same time, this is not a tribute album like, say, the Nativity In Black releases, so the new recordings do not reimagine the music. The songs included are the ones on the original US release, meaning that “Evil Woman” is not here and instead “Wicked World” is (on the standard CD).

If you are still wondering what this is all about, then grab a couple of those free live downloads from Bandcamp or check out a few videos of Zakk Sabbath on YouTube. It is clear that the band has great admiration and respect for this music. For me, Black Sabbath was one of the first bands I started listening to when I was a teenager and their music had a massive impact on me. It still does – not a week of my life has ever gone by without me listening to Black Sabbath. As a result, I won’t tolerate any fucking around with their music. With all that said, I really like Vertigo. Go get it now. Highest recommendation.

You can pick Vertigo up now from Magnetic Eye Records either at their website or through another retailer but there are no downloads. Physical versions only.

Live photo from the band’s Facebook site by @bilakos_thrash.

Links.

Zakk Sabbath Bandcamp, https://zakksabbath.bandcamp.com/

Zakk Sabbath Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/officialzakksabbath/

Label website, https://en.merhq.spkr.media/

Label Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Zakk Sabbath, Vertigo review (Magnetic Eye Records 2020)

Violent Life Violent Death, The Color of Bone review (Innerstrength Records 2020)

The new VLVD release roars with a creepy dankness and shakes the mystic tree of hoary lore with the reckless violence of a terminal necromancer.

Violent Life Violent Death have released four EPs (counting the new one) since 2016. Centered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the band is David Holquin (drums), Joe Benham (guitar), Scott Cowan (vocals), Joey Park (guitar), and Justin Campbell (bass). They play hardcore metal that lies on the metal side (to my ear) with deep set hooks and a penetrating progressiveness.

The new one has five songs, all in the three minute range. “Grave Walk” gets things going with a chunky clank and battering percussion. It’s companion piece, “Dead With Me,” is more explicitly dramatic, even theatrical. It has a breaking-down-the-fourth-wall fierceness as Cowan’s voice seems to reach out to the listener individually – “I wish you were dead with me.”

“Roseblade’ is the epitome of punch. The darkness you feel listening to it is a claustrophobic cloak that is a circular orchestra surrounding your head. The echoey second-line voices and the marching chop of the guitars in the second half is mesmerizing. “Linger” is discordant at the front, tipping you, dizzy, into the final piece, “The Color of Bone.” Here you are lead into a knowable space and shown a fundamental truth. Sometimes it is worth hearing what we already know stated aloud. And here it is.

You can get The Color Of Bone this Friday, October 30th from Innerstrength Records through Bandcamp and all the usual other places. You can hear “Roseblade” now, and Spotify has a couple of the band’s other EPs available, so listen up in anticipation. It is an great set. Recommended.

Band photo by Justin Driscoll.

Links.

VLVD Bandcamp, https://violentlifeviolentdeath.bandcamp.com

VLVD shop, https://violentlifeviolentdeath.bigcartel.com/

VLVD Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/violentlifeviolentdeath

Label website, https://www.innerstrengthmusic.com

Label Bandcamp, https://innerstrengthrecords.bandcamp.com

Label Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/innerstrengthrecords

Violent Life Violent Death, The Color of Bone review (Innerstrength Records 2020)