Swarm of Spheres, Brother, Take Five (No Why Records 2021)

Canadian metal trio Swarm of Spheres is back with their first new music in eight years on Brother, Take Five.

The band – Mark McGee (drums), Jay Chapman (guitar and vocals), and Andrew Rashotte (bass and vocals) – came together a little over ten years ago as Swarm of Spheres. Their self-titled demo was released in 2011, followed by Invest in Your Death two years later. Since then it has been quiet on the recording front until now. The band’s musical style is “in the stoner/sludge metal neighbourhood, leaning more towards the busier, faster-paced side of the tracks.” That sounds good to me. Let’s take a listen to Brother, Take Five.

“All Piss, No Vinegar” is short and savage, a compact little rager that gets your blood up at the jump. Feedback is the starting gun for “A Heart of Gold & A Face Like Ray Liotta.” What a great title. This is a big, fast, loud song with crackling guitars and a good pound in the rhythm. The first taste of what I would call stoner elements are here too. “Life is Kyfe” has a kind of formal feeling to it, strained through a punk colander. It made me feel spikey.

“Blood, Swass & Tears” has a rambling riff at its musical core. The heavy trudging in the middle brings it all together for me. “Ibuprofen” is very doomy with some discordant elements, and “Brother, Take Five” is the anchor, bringing that in-your-face attitude to the front of the stage. The tempo slows in the middle, and the lead guitar that lives in there is inspirational. I really enjoyed this EP all the way through. I hadn’t heard Swarm of Spheres before and now I am glad to have made their acquaintance. Recommended.

Brother, Take Five is out in digital and on vinyl through No Why Records on Friday, October 15th. The always reliable Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up.

Links.

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Swarm-Of-Spheres-258028310927228/

No Why Records, https://nowhyrecords.bandcamp.com/

Swarm of Spheres, Brother, Take Five (No Why Records 2021)

Atræ Bilis, Apexapien (20 Buck Spin 2021)

The first full-length album from Canadian Death Metal venturers Atræ Bilis is a warning shot across the bow of musical mediocrity.

Formed in 2018, Vancouver Death Metal band Atræ Bilis released its first album last year, Divinihility, through Transcending Obscurity. That EP was an earth-shaker that created anticipation for what the band might do next. Apexapien answers that question. The band is Luka Govednik (drums), Jordan Berglund (vocals), Brendan Campbell (bass), and David Stepanavicius (guitar).

The opener is a two minute stabbing attack, “Theta.” Absolutely furious. Death Metal vocals break through in the next rack, “Lore Beyond Bone,” featuring harmonies and frenetic percussion and guitar accompaniment. It is like a flock of birds in rapid flight, undulating and twisting but somehow always retuning to a recognizable form.

The album treads this line throughout, the chaos-in-order brutal technical Death Metal. While the style is present on every track, variations abound. Blackened harmonic vocals interact synergistically, especially on tracks like “Hymn of the Flies.” These are some of my favorite moments on the album, but I am impressed overall by the ability and ingenuity of the musical enterprise.

You can hear all manner of labelable crystals in the music from the discordant to perpendicular angularity to experimental avant-garde. To make these diverse ingredients into a workable whole is an accomplishment in and of itself, but to make them musically sound is nearly impossible because if you make one wrong step then it is just noise. Atræ Bilis never take a wrong a step. Recommended.

Apexapien is out on Friday, October 8th through 20 Buck Spin. The vinyl will be out a little later as all record labels deal with the backlog at the vinyl pressers.

Band photo by Derek Carr.

Links.

Atræ Bilis Linktree, https://linktr.ee/atraebilis

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

20 Buck Spin, https://www.20buckspin.com/

Atræ Bilis, Apexapien (20 Buck Spin 2021)

Fucked Up, Year of the Horse (Tankcrimes 2021)

The new album from storied Canadian hardcore/punk band Fucked Up is a massive treatise of all-encompassing heavy music effluence.

The musicians (from the band’s Bandcamp page) are Damian Abraham, Jonah Falco, Mike Haliechuk, Ben Cook, Sandy Miranda, and Josh Zucker. There is a lot going on here with this band. Twenty years and more than eighty (!) recordings in, they are still innovating and exploring. Let’s stick to the “Year Of” albums from Tankcrimes to maintain a little focus.

Year of the Dragon (2014) and Year of the Snake (2017) both feature an extended primary track along with one or two shorter ancillaries. As the titles indicate, these albums are part of an “ongoing series celebrating the Chinese Zodiac.” The story that rolls through the albums covers a lot of ground and that is perhaps the point. The music also travels quite a winding path. Given the length of these compositions, it is unsurprising that they present multiple musical expressions ranging from hardcore to classical, loud and raging to quiet and lilting.

Year of the Horse is a single track that runs over ninety minutes cut up in four pieces (Acts). The four segments function very much (in my ears) like movements in long pieces of classical music. It is not only that each one of them is different compared to the others, they also have individually different variations in each local environment. There are differences in the differences, you might say.

With such a lengthy musical expression, you have to figure you are going to miss something by sampling here and there because sampling means skipping. Resist the temptation. There are parts of each Act that I like especially but I am unlikely to skip to them when listening again because it would seem truncated to me if I did. Certainly the first time you listen you have to go from beginning to end without a pause. Heavy music fans, harken: set aside an hour and a half to discover where this album finds you. It is worth it. Recommended.

The digital version of Year of the Horse has been out for a while and you can pre-order the CD and vinyl versions now at the Tankcrimes store for anticipated September and December ship dates, respectively.

Band photo by Natalie Wood.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://fuckedup.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-horse

Fucked Up website, https://www.fuckedup.cc/

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

Fucked Up, Year of the Horse (Tankcrimes 2021)

Dungeon Serpent, World of Sorrows (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

Generated in a singularity, Dungeon Serpent’s new album World Of Sorrows is executed with aplomb.

The soul member of the band is Arawn, and he has to do it all from vocals to guitars to drum programming. That is a lot to ask and there are many examples of one-man-bands out there. Arawn, and Dungeon Serpent, is the exception, operating at the high end of the spectrum in composition and performance. World of Sorrows is the first album from the solo act, following an earlier two-song demo.

“Necroscope” starts the set off with a straight up death metal attack. Heavy and driving, this song should be the single. Fittingly, there is a YouTube video to go along with it and that makes sense because it is an excellent introduction to the album. “Decay” is next and it starts aggressively, too, but by the end the first melodic elements appear, and the ending is light and ethereal.

There is not much of a break as “Immortal Incubation” is a wild ride, while “Cosmic Sorcery,” my favorite track, offers moments of respite as part of the broader heavy. The closer is the longest song, the title track, “World of Sorrows.” It has an epic metal feel to it, big in its ideas and full in its production. The progression runs through the edge of doom to straight-up death metal to those gentler and spare melodic elements. In many ways it is like a suite, as we might expect in a long piece. It is just the right finale and nightcap.

World of Sorrows is out on Friday, July 16th through the ever-reliable Bandcamp as well as the Nameless Grave Records store. Recommended.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://dungeonserpentmdm.bandcamp.com/album/world-of-sorrows

Nameless Grave Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/NamelessGraveRecords

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

Dungeon Serpent YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChdc80haQRpzS_T4RXL92Rg

Dungeon Serpent, World of Sorrows (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

Musk Ox, Inheritance (2021)

The new album from Musk Ox offers beautiful, haunting Acoustic Doom.

Musk Ox is Nathanael Larochette (guitar), Raphael Weinroth-Browne (cello), and Evan Runge (violin). This is exactly what it appears to be: a classical music trio. I know this is not the wheelhouse for many heavy music fans, but it will hit the right note for some because this music is an excellent example of Acoustic Doom – all of the sorrow, hopelessness, strife, and emotion without the electricity.

Side one is the title song in two tracks. The opening minutes are ethereal and cautionary; low and intense. The introduction of the guitar as a rhythm element allows the bow instruments to present melody, alternately, and harmony. Slow-paced and mournful, there is meaning here for everyone that will manifest individually as you listen.

Side two has three tracks, “Memoriam,” “Ritual,” and “Weightless.” These songs are a little more active and lighter, technically, with a different kind of intensity and depth. Moments of urgency, especially in “Weightless,” drive home the emotion and ideas. While these three pieces do stand clearly apart from the other music, they all fit well together. There is doom here if you will have it.

It is also worth knowing that, if you like Musk Ox, the new solo album from Raphael Weinroth-Browne will also appeal to you. It is a live performance of the long cello piece Worlds Within Live. There is a link for this one below as well. In some ways this music is more intense and personal than the trio. It is a vast, rich tapestry that traverses a range of concepts, spending a considerable amount of time in the land of prog.

Inheritance is available on Friday, July 9th and Worlds Within Live is out now. I recommend both for Acoustic Doom fans and for other heavy music enthusiasts who want to hear something very different that has déjà vu familiarity to it.

Musk Ox Photo by Jonathan Lorange.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://muskoxofficial.bandcamp.com/album/inheritance

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

Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Worlds Within Live, https://raphaelweinroth-browne.bandcamp.com/album/worlds-within-live

Musk Ox, Inheritance (2021)

Heavy Trip, Heavy Trip (Burning World Records 2021)

Instrumental heavy psych trio Heavy Trip re-release a full-length album of succulent guitar delights.

That’s a mushroom on the cover, not weed. Make the appropriate adjustments.

The band is from British Columbia, I hear. Information about them is thin on the ground. A trio, according to the Bandcamp page, and there is photographic evidence of this. The music is amazing instrumental heavy psych guitar-based transcendence. The album is out in a new edition from Burning World Records following the success of its original release last year.

There are four tracks on the album, all of them absorbing, each one chewing at the edge of the infinite. If you think of the music of Earthless as a point of reference, that is not a bad place to start. Heavy Trip have their own unique ways, of course, their own path to the majesty of what is. It is Desert Doom Stoner Heavy Psych Mountain Metal music for the mind expanding crowd.

Here’s the deal: I like this album almost too much to comment on it. There are big riffs and heavy grooves, and the music is so lush it provides sustenance. My advice is drop everything and go listen to it right now. Highly recommended.

Heavy Trip is out already. Check out the band’s website, Burning World Records, or Bandcamp for the goods.

Links.

Website, https://heavytripdudes.com/

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

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

Label, https://www.burningworldrecords.com/

Heavy Trip, Heavy Trip (Burning World Records 2021)

Wreck-Defy, Powers That Be (Punishment 18 Records 2020)

Canadian Thrash super crushers unload their third album on the unsuspecting cosmos with devastating effect.

If you don’t know about Wreck-Defy, it is time to catch up. Peopled by Aaron Randall (vocals), Matt Hanchuck (guitars), Greg Christian (bass), and Dave O’Neal (drums), this band is a juggernaut. There are a lot of great heavy music created in Canada that flies under the radar in the US – don’t let that happen here.

Fragments Of Anger was the opening volley in 2017, followed by Remnants of Pain two years later. This music laid the groundwork for the new album, which is my favorite so far. Loaded with inventive riffs and lashing lead breaks, Powers That Be has staying power.

There are nine songs and an outro piece, all starting with the ripper, “Beyond H8.” A catchy guitar flips the switch and then the roiling speed kicks in. An innuendo here, an homage there, and blistering guitars all around. The title track follows up on the opening aggression, settling in for the long haul with steady determination. Every track is a demonstration and a display of technical acumen and creative resourcefulness. Choosing favorites isn’t easy, but I am going with “Space Urchin” for its blatant disregard of the seen world and “Scumlord” for exactly the opposite reason. The themes and stories are different from one song to the next, but the Thrash lives in every corner (except for the last track, which is a melancholy wave goodbye). No beats are missed here – high marks all around.

The digital is out, and there is vinyl to be had as well. Links below. If you are making a 2020 Thrash list, this album better be on it. Highly recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wreck-defy.bandcamp.com/album/powers-that-be

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Underground4560/

Punishment 18 Records, http://www.punishment18records.com/

SubLevel Records, https://sublevelrecords.bandcamp.com/

Doc Gator Records, https://www.docgator.com/

Wreck-Defy, Powers That Be (Punishment 18 Records 2020)

Kataklysm, Unconquered review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)

The 14th album from Canadian Death Metallers Kataklysm is Unconquered, a massive earth shaker that will pin your ears back and squeeze your brain.

Kataklysm is a band that has been creating music since 1991, and they are mainstays in the heavy scene. Their catalogue is huge, with not only more than a dozen studio albums but also numerous splits, compilations, and live releases as well. Fans have always had something new to look forward to with this band. The musical style has evolved over the years but they have stayed in the heavy lane.

Founders Maurizio Iacono (vocals) and Jean-François Dagenais (guitar) are joined by longtime bass player Stéphane Barbe and Olivier Beaudoin on drums (according to The Metal Archives, James Payne has since taken over on drums). The new album has similarities to the earlier work of the band, and in that way might seem like an homage to the past. The renewed sound has a sustainability to my ear, a strong tint of permanence, pointing more toward a new direction than a nostalgic episode.

A hazy photo of Kataklysm at Heavy Montréal 2019 (photo by Wayne Edwards)

“The Killshot” opens the set, beginning ominously with a quietude we know cannot last. Sure enough. Aggressive drumming blasts ravage even as guitar rhythms offer a stabilizing reassurance that is itself shaken by rare discordant clangs. The vocals are strong and coarse, easily understood, thereby becoming a narrative instrument as well as a musical one. It is a savage start, and rolls right into “Cut Me Down” for more hostility. There is a quiet melody to this song that is lurking in the background, and that makes it even more disturbing.

There is no letting up in this album. Any airy component is accompanied by a frenzied partner that keeps you on edge throughout. This characteristic is exemplified explicitly by “Focused To Destroy You” and more implicitly with songs like “The Way Back Home,” which have plainer lyrical elements living with musical gunfire and lyrics like this: “I’ll dig your grave on my way back home / I’ll gut you out like the pig that you are.” There is no waffling there, or anywhere else throughout. I will renew my prediction that this ferocity is here to stay. Recommended.

Unconquered is out now. Nuclear Blast is offering many versions and bundles – there has to be something there for every fan.

Links.

The band’s site, https://www.kataklysm.ca/

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

Ordering from Nuclear Blast, https://www.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/discography/overview/70940.kataklysm.html

Kataklysm, Unconquered review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)