Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Los Angeles metal band Alcatrazz returns with their fifth long-player, simply titled V.

Alcatrazz started almost forty years ago in California. Its first phase lasted from about 1983 to 1987 when a hiatus ensued, but not before the band released three albums. Picking back up in 2007, a touring incarnation was in place for a few years. Most recently, Alcatrazz came together again on the edge of the pandemic, putting out the well-received Born Innocent album in 2020. And now, in rapid succession, we have V. The band is Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), Gary Shea (bass), Doogie White (vocals), Joe Stump (guitar), and Mark Benquechea (drums).

The opening song “Guardian Angel” has a real Iron Maiden feel to it, and I mean that in a good way. The delivery lays over on the radio-ready side, even with the ripping guitar shreds. The music is heavily layered and produced, resulting a very polished final product. It goes down smooth. A fine way to start the album.

The keyboards have a large presence throughout the set and they work well with the vocal style. In some ways it is like the second phase of Deep Purple except, again, more in the pop lane. The singer Doogie White is well known, after all, for his vocal performances with Rainbow and Rising Force (among others) so you recognize his signature sound immediately and the compositions are designed with synergy in mind. For me, the music is solidly created and the existence of big lead breaks makes every song worthwhile. Witness “Nightwatch.”

While the music does operate in a definable universe, it offers considerably variety, too. One of my favorite songs is the bluesy “House Of Lies,” and then there is the solemn heavy ballad “Dark Day For My Soul.” Rollicking tunes abound as well as in “Blackheart” and “Target.” There is an old school sensibility here that is tuned into a contemporaneous awareness that results in a new and unique sound. Recommended.

The new album is out now through Silver Lining Music in digipak, digital, and streaming formations.

Band photo by Alex Solca.

Links.

Alcatrazz website, http://www.alcatrazzofficial.com/

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

Silver Lining Music, http://sl-music.net/en/releases/259-artists/releases-alcatrazz/984-v

Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Illudium, Ash of the Womb (Prophecy Productions 2021)

The second album from California’s dark dreamgaze trio Illudium extends and embellishes the ideas of its predecessor.

Illudium is fronted by Shantel Amundson (guitar, vocals, synth), with Gregory Wesenfeld on drums and Josef Hossain-Kay on bass. Their first album, Septem, came out five years ago. The new album “was born in the fiery pandemonium of the burning season of 2020 when huge tracts of the sunshine state went up in flames, while skies glowed orange at night.” You can hear the creative destruction in the compositions as they demonstrate both clashing bursts and gradual progressions as a path for change.

Ash of the Womb is a six-track set of thoughtful ruminations, reflections, and explorations. Shantel Amundson’s voice is beautiful, filled with emotion and power. Her tone and delivery match the sentiment of the accompanying instruments at every turn and from the very beginning, with “Aster.” Shades of Tori Amos can be heard from time to time, tinging Amundson’s unique vocal delivery. Heavy guitar riffs push in over quieter acoustic layers only to retreat and live on as memories and echoes later in the songs and after the music has ended.

Every track has both heavy and lighter moments. On songs like “Madrigal,” the metal entry strains the continuum against the light and lyrical alternate expression. Elsewhere the transitions are more linear. Sounds of nature open for a couple of the songs, providing an elemental grounding from which the music grows.

“Where Death and Dreams Do Manifest” is the capstone and can serve as a sort of summary statement. I hesitate to declare a favorite because each song, while being self-contained, also is an essential and integral part of the whole. The album is an ethereal, melancholy and also insistent musical ecosystem in the macro sense, as well as in all its individual micro pieces. Recommended.

Ash of the Womb comes out on Friday, October 15th through Prophecy Productions. Bandcamp has the digital, too.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://illudium.bandcamp.com/album/ash-of-the-womb

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

Prophecy Productions, https://us.prophecy.de/artists/illudium/illudium-ash-of-the-womb.html

Illudium, Ash of the Womb (Prophecy Productions 2021)

Ruin, Spread Plague Death (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

After you hear Spread Plague Death, the new Ruin album, you are definitely going to join the cult.

Ruin, also known as the Death Metal Cult, since it sprang back to life in 2015, has been cranking out the music at an alarming rate. While their preferred format is the split or EP, Spread Plague Death is the third full-length studio album, following Drown In Blood (2017) and Human Annihilation (2018). It feels like it has been a really long time since the last LP, but that’s is only because there have been so many other short-form releases in between. I am glad for this big one, not because I don’t like the EPs and splits – I do like them. It’s just good to have a bigger chunk all at once.

There are thirteen head-cracking tracks on the album, running around radio length, typically, with only one transitional piece. Vocals are creaking moans and shrieks, the guitars riffs are slammed down in granite chunks, and the machine is strung together with torrid rhythm.

Doom passages are abutted by blistering, speeding rants and the periodic sonic torques leave you withered enough to topple. The growling savagery of the vocals can best be described as appropriate when compared to the subjects of the songs and the furious tantrum of the other instruments.

Ruin’s music is for the crowd that appreciates aggressive music. There is not an enormous space for crossover appeal. You are either down with this hard-edged approach to metal or you aren’t. Count me in. Recommended.

Spread Plague Death is out now. Nameless Grave Records has the vinyl edition, cassette versions are available through Nero One Records and Death Metal Cult, and there is a CD from Goat Throne Records.

Band photo by Carmen Canchola.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://thedeathmetalcult.bandcamp.com/album/spread-plague-death

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

Nameless Grave Records, https://namelessgraverecords.com/

Ruin, Spread Plague Death (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

Old Grandad, Vol. 666 ~ OGD EP (Hectic Records 2021)

Grooving stoner grunge from Old Grandad gets a re-issue.

San Francisco in 1994 is when the band came together. According to the story, “Will Carroll, Erik Moggridge, and Max Barnett created a thrash/death metal-flavored, Sabbath-inspired, Satanic-Floydian, groove-guzzling giant.” That is quite a confluence of influences and when you listen to the music on this re-issue you definitely hear them all.

In addition to the albums in question, Old Grandad produced The Last Upper in 1999 and Hocus Corpus in 2005. After that they were quiet on the recording front until 2019 when a new self-titled album came out. It is great to look back now with this new version of the early work and have a chance to take it all in.

The two albums included here are the first full-length Hectic Records release from 1995 and the 1997 EP. I hadn’t listened to Old Grandad very closely until I put this one on a couple times. It is a fascinating combination of those aforementioned elements, along with a considerable amount of screaming. The guitars are fuzzy, the rhythm is steady, and psychedelia abounds.

It is hard to take the themes seriously with song titles like “The Highs That Bind,” “Blatant Drug Song,” and “Don’t Call Me A Deadhead,” so instead settle in for a good time. I can’t say first-hand whether this music is an artifact of the time and place it was created in and therefore represents the circles Old Grandad moved in back in the day. I bet it does, though, and anyway we can all listen to it now no matter what. Recommended.

This re-issue of Vol. 666 ~ OGD EP is out now through Hectic Records. Bandcamp is the place to go.

Band photo by Lori Higbey.

Links.

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

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

Hectic Records, https://www.hectic.com/

Old Grandad, Vol. 666 ~ OGD EP (Hectic Records 2021)

Despise You, West Side Horizons (Tankcrimes 2021)

Tankcrimes issues West Side Horizons, a massive compilation from Inglewood power violence band Despise You.

Founded by Phil Vera and Chris Elder in 1994, Despise You had a major impact on the hard music scene. Lasting only a couple of years, the band released a slew of split 7s and compilations featuring their brand of aggression and anger operationalized in musical expression.

This collection is vast, including songs from splits with Crom, Supression, Scapegoat, and Stapled Shut, plus cuts from compilations and sixteen previously unreleased tracks. All of this music was recorded between 1994-1996 and bits and pieces are floating around out there in the ether. Having it all together in one tight package is boon to fans and collectors.

If you haven’t heard Despise You before then get ready for shrieking anger and spinning kicks. Only twelve of the sixty two tracks are over one minute long so listening to all of them in a row is a shock to the system. It is a shock worth taking.

I could do a track-by-track on this but it is better if you just listen to it – it is quicker to listen to some of them than to read a description of them. Hit up the first track, “Culpa Mia,” and see if it is for you. Then go from there. Brutal percussion and rhythm, screaming, shrieking, belligerence, and bad attitudes. That’s what you will find. My favorite song is “Puppet.” So there. Recommended.

The drop date for this big set is Friday, August 6th from Tankcrimes. There are CD and LP versions.

Photo by Anthony Mehlhaff.

Links.

CD, https://tankcrimes.merchtable.com/tankcrimes-music/cd/despise-you-west-side-horizons-cd/

Vinyl, https://tankcrimes.merchtable.com/tankcrimes-music/vinyl/despise-you-west-side-horizons-vinyl-lp

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

Despise You shop, https://despiseyou.bigcartel.com/

Tankcrimes Records, http://www.tankcrimes.com/

Despise You, West Side Horizons (Tankcrimes 2021)

Mordred, The Dark Parade (M-Theory Audio 2021)

New music from Mordred is cause for celebration – witness The Dark Parade.

Mordred is a legendary Bay Area band that made a big splash when they came together 1980s. Their first album, Fool’s Game, hit the streets in 1989, followed by In This Life (1991) and The Next Room (1994). After that, there was a resting period for a few years. The band came back together and toured in the early 2000s, then again about ten years later. Since 1994, though, they did not release any new music until last year’s EP, Volition. And now there is the new long-player, The Dark Parade.

The music is heavy, riffy, hooky funk metal with a thrashing sensibility. The eight tracks on the new album all burn high-test fuel, bursting and cracking with energy and enthusiasm. The subjects themselves are not light-hearted – there is “Dragging For Bodies” as one example and the title track for another. Grim tidings grooving in on cross-over thrash jams.

I cannot think of other bands to compare Mordred with that would really tell you anything useful about them. I have already listed a long menu of aspects of their music, but it is not like they are all just thrown in a pot and heated up. This music really is its own thing, carefully constructed and genuinely unique.

The legend of the band will live on, of course; it will always be there. I would give this new album unencumbered consideration, though, not looking for glimpses and flashes of the past but instead embracing everything about what this music is now, because it is incredible. Highly recommended.

M-Theory Audio has The Dark Parade coming out on Friday, July 23rd. Preorders are available now through the label and at Bandcamp.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://mordred.bandcamp.com/album/the-dark-parade

Mordred website, https://mordred.company.site/

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

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

Mordred, The Dark Parade (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol reimagines music that was long thought forgotten for their new EP.

The California metal band Cirith Ungol released four albums in the 1980s to early 1990s, most notably (for me anyway), King Of The Dead (1984). Big dark fantasy themes, wailing guitars, and the unique and unforgettable voice of Tim Baker helped write the band’s name in the book of eternity. They passed into the mist only to return in 2019 with a live album and in 2020 with their first studio release in decades, the earth shaking Forever Black. Cirith Ungol was definitely back. The band is Tim Baker (vocals), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), Robert Garven (drums), Jim Barraza (guitar), and Jarvis Leatherby (bass).

Half Past Human contains four songs from the vaults – songs that were written but never released during earlier sessions. These pieces have been re-worked and newly invigorated for fans to hold them over until the touring starts up again.

“Route 666” revs to life with a roaring engine and hits the road with pelting goodtime riffs and pops. Dual complementary lead guitars are the highlight. “Shelob’s Lair” sends us on a trek through the darkness and lifts us up with an energetic and impassioned lead break and outro. “Brutish Manchild” is the shortest track and could function well as a single or a rousing live standard to whip the crowd into a frenzy at just the right moment.

The closer is “Half Past Human,” and it is more on the epic side than the others. The song starts out quietly, forlornly, then builds steadily to a louder, fuller sound. The composition has a sweeping production with extended elements that highlight the best aspects of the band and never overstay their welcome. It is just the right nightcap, and it is good to have these songs finally released. Fans will be delighted that they are seeing the light of day. Recommended.

Half Past Human is out on Friday, May 28th, and can be accessed through the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://cirithungol.bandcamp.com/album/half-past-human

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

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

FFMB review of Forever Black, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/04/25/cirith-ungol-forever-black-review-metal-blade-records-2020/

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Greenwitch, CosmoSteelBlood Trinity review (HPGD 2020)

Directly from outer space to you, Greenwitch lands a heavy Death Metal EP in your lap.

Not much is known about the California metal band Greenwitch apart from their affinity for discord and their yearning for exploration. The band describes the new album this way: “‘CosmoSteelBlood Trinity’ utilizes the classic HM-2 tone along with cosmic noise to convey an epic tale of the aftermath of a power struggle between the 9 Galactic Lords and 3 extradimensional beings.” OK, then. Let’s give this a spin.

“Cellar Dweller” is the first punch to your aural canals and it offers up a grinding squeal for a handshake. Breathy Death Metal vocals cast aspersions on the surroundings while clomping guitars are pilloried by pummeling percussion. It’s beautiful. The music does have a buzzing intergalactic insect tone to it, and that is carried through on the next song, “Parasite Possession,” although there also has a strong groove in the riffs as well. “From Nothing” is Punk in the singing while “To Devour The Flesh Of Worlds” is a march on the field of battle.

The final two songs are a couplet, “Celestial Tomb” and “Conquest Of Thorns.” These songs are the most ominous (and the longest) on CosmoSteelBlood Trinity. Relentless, I would call them, especially the latter. The sinister whispering toward the end is deeply creepy, and the final flourish sounds like an alarm and an impending metallic crash. When this is over, you need to wipe your face. Recommended.

Anticipating its drop on November 20th, you can preorder the album now at the links below.

Links.

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

HPGD Bandcamp, http://hpgd.bandcamp.com/

HPGD Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pg/horrorpaingoredeath/posts/

Greenwitch, CosmoSteelBlood Trinity review (HPGD 2020)

Cosmic Reef Temple / Shrinkwrap Killers Split review (Wave Guardian Records 2020)

A quick shot of extra spacey heavy surf music is crashing your way with a new split from Cosmic Reef Temple and Shrinkwrap Killers.

Cosmic Reef Temple is a band of mystery, operating under aliases – according to the press release, the members are Wave Guardian Of The Reverberatory (guitar), Sub-Frequency Fractal Emitter (bass), Celestial Wind Talker (saxophone), Summoner of Galactic Storms (synthesizer), and Interstellar Time Keeper (drums). Instrumental in the creation of Surf Metal music, they have released a full-length album, Age of the Spaceborn, and a few splits. They contribute one song to this new issue, “Wave Constellation.” Surfy guitars starts us out, quickly joined by a peppy laid back bass line, then an eerie and beautiful saxophone. The second movement is a frantic speed / space / surf implementation with the saxophone becoming distressed. Part three is exposition, catching us up on the story so far while we drink coffee in a café somewhere in the Middle East. Toward the end we are looking back and wrapping up. You can hear the wind and the waves. Four minutes of instrumental wonderland.

Shrinkwrap Killers is Greg Wilkinson playing all the parts. The music is an evolving mix of surf and punk and whatever Wilkinson wants to put in there. The music is often heavier than what you usually hear in the surf lanes, and that is very appealing. On the split, there are two songs from Shrinkwrap Killers: “No Coordinates and I am Fucked” and “It’s Not a Dead Body Inside This Bag.” Both clocking in around the two minute mark, there is a lot packed into each expression, and the titles are strong clues to the feel of the pieces. The first song is a searching, lyrical guitar adventure. The second song begins like Part Two of the first, but the theme is not the same and it cranks off in a different direction altogether with electronic warbling crossing over between our listening ears, scarifying other sounds I cannot quite pin down, and a literal zipping up at the end. Journey complete.

Color me converted. Heavy Space Surf music it is. Recommended.

Out on Friday, October 2nd from Wave Guardian Records, the split will be available as a limited-edition seven-inch (black vinyl and translucent blue vinyl with 45RPM adapters) and as a download. Bandcamp is the place to make your choice.

Links.

http://waveguardianrecords.bandcamp.com/

http://www.facebook.com/waveguardianrecords

http://cosmicreeftemple.bandcamp.com

http://www.facebook.com/cosmicreeftemple

http://shrinkwrapkillers.bandcamp.com

Cosmic Reef Temple / Shrinkwrap Killers Split review (Wave Guardian Records 2020)