Wake, Thought Form Descent (Metal Blade Records 2022)

Canadian death metal band Wake release their sixth album, Thought Form Descent.

From Calgary, Alberta, heavy music band Wake has built a career by being different, not just from other bands but also from their previous selves. Moving from grindcore and crust toward black and death metal, combining and fusing them, and adding whatever was right and deemed needed is a hallmark of Wake. Over the course of five previous long-players, a couple of EPs, and split, the music is as reliably earnest and unpredictable.

There are eight tracks on the new album. “Infinite Inward” opens like a melodic death metal song and travels on an arc that leads to more extreme environments. “Swallow The Light” has a rambler kind of feel to it in the opening bars, reminding me a little of Mastodon. “Mourning Dirge (Repose of the Dead)” completes the first triplet, sounding for all the universe like a battling starship in an uncertain scrap that could go either way.

After a transition piece, “Venerate (The Undoing of All)” leads the way into part two. The song is a big production with dramatic presentations throughout, pushing even more than the previous pieces, and that is saying something as, up to this point, the album has already been intense. “Observer to Master” plasters rage across the horizon, and then does it again, and then does it some more. “Bleeding Eyes of the Watcher” puts me in mind of sorcery and has me thinking the world is not what it seems to be on the surface. This is a steady one that climbs a mountain then explores the coastline on the other side. Unsatisfied, the music presses on to reveal horrors buried deep. That is where it leaves you. “The Translation of Deaths” is a short reflective cooldown.

I presumed this album would diverge from the previous one because the previous ones had done that very thing to their predecessors. The new album lived up to that expectation and, more than that, provided active entertainment, drama, and opportunities for introspection. Recommended.

Thought Form Descent is out through Metal Blade Records on Friday, July 22nd. Explore the possibilities at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://wakegrind.bandcamp.com/album/thought-form-descent

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Wake, Thought Form Descent (Metal Blade Records 2022)

Begrime Exemious, Rotting in the Aftermath (Dark Descent 2022)

Rotting in the Aftermath is the fourth full-length album from Edmonton’s Begrime Exemious.

Begrime Exemious is a Canadian heavy metal band that formed in 2005. They have had a rich recording career, counting three long-players, four EPs, a couple of splits, a demo, and even more than that. They have been a bit quiet on the recording front recently, with their previous full-length album, The Enslavement Conquest, coming out in 2016. The music is a kind of death metal ~ black metal crossover with plenty of catchy entreaties to draw your gaze. The band is Derek Orthner (vocals, guitar), Franky Thibaudeau (guitar, vocals), Alasdair Rintoul (bass), and Lee Norland (drums).

“Cruel Mistress” rolls out a serious presentation to get the set going. Determined, driving riffs swing the hook first to lay the groundwork for the growling vocals that follow. The lead guitar argument is convincing, then we are back onto the metal-forging framework. “Breach The Stronghold” follows, and the pace picks up a tick, as does the urgency. The rhythm inveigles and before you know it, you’re cooked. This is an excellent start and a good introduction to the band if you haven’t heard them before.

“Infected Mind” offers an extremely dreary view of the world gazing into the abyss (or the other way around, maybe). Doom tones cloak the sullen atmosphere while the guitars do their dastardly work. “As Bodies Collapse” has a more of dark theater to it, painting the edges with flourishes and sinister nods and creating an intricate design.

No matter the track, there is a nudging stroke in every song, propelling it forward and taking you along for the ride. You can count on a feast for your senses – both aural and mental – in every chapter of this book. Recommended.

Rotting in the Aftermath is out on Friday, July 8th through Dark Descent Records. Have a look at their on-line shop at the link below.

Links.

Begrime Exemious website, http://begrimeexemious.com/

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

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

Dark Decent Records, https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/

© Wayne Edwards

Begrime Exemious, Rotting in the Aftermath (Dark Descent 2022)

Cauchemar, Rosa Mystica (Temple Of Mystery 2022)

Canadian heavy metal band Cauchemar release their third full-length album, Rosa Mystica.

Cauchemar is from Québec and have been together since 2007. They have a very traditional metal approach to their music that works as a starting point. From there they steep their work in doom and manifest fascinating creations. They released an EP in 2010, La vierge noire, followed by two long-players, Tenebrario (2013) and Chapelle ardente (2016). Each new album is a step toward the vanishing point as the band hones its sound and compositional constitution through comparative gradation. The new album is their best so far. Cauchemar is Annick Giroux (vocals), François Patry (guitar), Andres Arango (bass), and Joël Ladouceur (drums).

There are eight tracks on Rosa Mystica, beginning with “Jour de colère.” The opening bars are menacing, turning toward the mysterious. About one minute in, the guitars kick in, lifting the discourse to pursuit, and now we are on an adventure. Giroux, singing in French, facilitates a dark mood in a misty wood. “Rouge sang” follows and is ambitious at the jump, with immediate accelerant in the tempo and urgency in the vocals. “Notre–Dame–sous–Terre” is ponderous, accentuating the doom aspects and elements Cauchemar does so well. It is a beautiful, dark treatise.

Listening to the first few songs, I had Fates Warning flashbacks, and maybe Omen, from the 1980s. Also Demon. That is good for me because I love that music. What is particularly different about Cauchemar’s music that lifts it beyond homage is the integration of doom and their unique compositional perspective, as in the title track, for example. Juxtapose those ideas with more active and ranging songs such as “Le tombeau de l’aube” and then the album, taken as a whole, has a more profound impact. Recommended.

Rosa Mystica is out today, Monday, May 16th through Temple Of Mystery Records. You can pick it up at Bandcamp or through the label’s website. Links below.

Band photo by Chany Pilote.

Links.

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

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

Temple Of Mystery Records, https://templeofmystery.ca/product-category/cauchemar/

© Wayne Edwards

Cauchemar, Rosa Mystica (Temple Of Mystery 2022)

Brkn Love at The Vogue, April 30th

Brkn Love wrapped up their current tour this past weekend, including the penultimate stop at The Vogue in Indianapolis.

Brkn Love (฿ Ɽ ₭ ₦ ⱠØVɆ) has been on the road for the past few weeks supporting Badflower on an arc of shows that traversed a winding path, leading finally to the toe-stub stop in Broad Ripple on Saturday night. While lightning flared outside, Justin Benlolo and the band threw down their music with accustomed gusto to the swelling crowd.

My first time seeing Brkn Love was a couple years back at Aftershock in Sacramento. I was impressed by performance and the sound they put together. The music they play is hard-edged rock that sometimes gets labeled alternative. To me there is a classic vibe in it, updated and extended through the eccentricities and urgencies of the composers.

The tour has ended for now, so here are a few pictures to help remember the show at The Vogue. The follow-up to the band’s self-titled 2020 debut album can’t be too far away, and when it arrives it will be big news. Until then, stream the current single “Like A Drug” and think back to the last time you heard them play live.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

BRKN Love, https://www.brknlove.com/

Spinefarm Records, https://spinefarm.merchnow.com/catalogs/brkn-love

The Vogue, https://thevogue.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Brkn Love at The Vogue, April 30th

Cancer Bats, Psychic Jailbreak (New Damage Records 2022)

Canadian hardcore band Cancer Bats continue a winning streak with their seventh studio album, Psychic Jailbreak.

One of the great things about the Heavy Montreal festival is, coming from the states, you get to see a lot of bands that don’t always play at the US festivals. I saw Cancer Bats there for the first time in 2019 (I put a couple photos from that show at the bottom of the article). They were fantastic, and I have had an eye out for them ever since. As a result, I was pretty excited when I heard they had a new album on the way.

The band had a steady line-up of Jaye Schwarzer, Liam Cormier, Mike Peters, and Scott Middleton for more than a decade. Just last year, Middleton exited the band and the remaining three have continued on. Over the years they have released six previous studio albums, the most recent being 2018’s The Spark That Moves. Cancer Bats’ music is almost always labeled hardcore, and that fits. You will find as you listen all manners and shades – fast, slow, heavy, light, and dark. There is a corridor in their music for all types of heavy music fan.

The new album has eleven churning tracks, cracking the egg on “Radiate.” It is a stomper, driving the idea into your head with delectable repetition and a short pointed lead break toward the end. Do your stretches before this one because it will get you going. “The Hoof” follows and ramps the tempo up even higher. This is an early keeper. I love the driving force of it and the plunging inertia it creates.

“Lonely Bong” has a lot of plays on Spotify, as does the title track. The bong song is a trooper and a metric ton of fun to bounce around with. “Psychic Jailbreak” has a more serious tone to it, and more apparent aggression in the riffs and vocalizations. It is a menacing creeper toward the finish and definitely memorable – just the kind of song you want to go out on.

Other stand-outs for me are “Hammering On,” which is a laid back number with a big pounce to go along with the impressive vocals, and “Shadow Of Mercury” because of its straight-head clobbering approach to musical construction. “Pressure Mind” and “Rolling Threes” is a tasty pairing, too. They are the kind of songs you want to hear in the second half that keep the pace, energy, and inventiveness hitting hard as you roll toward the finish. This new Cancer Bats album delivers the goods. Recommended.

Psychic Jailbreak is out now through New Damage Records. Check out the links below.

Band photo by Sid Tang.

Links.

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

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

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

New Damage Records, http://newdamagerecords.com/

Live photos by Wayne Edwards from Heavy Montreal in 2019.

© Wayne Edwards

Cancer Bats, Psychic Jailbreak (New Damage Records 2022)

Age Of Wolves, Age Of Wolves (Pitch Black Records 2021)

Veteran metallers come together on a new band and release their debut album: Age Of Wolves.

Canadian musicians Michael Edwards (vocals), Al “Yeti” Bones (guitar), Ray Solomon (bass), and Dwayne LaFramboise (drums) established Age of Wolves two short years ago. Focusing on traditional metal starting points, their music expands and circulates to fold in contemporary insights into formidable established frameworks. The result is slamming rock and roll that will get your head banging.

There are eight cracking tracks on the self-titled record. “Lil’ Burner” starts the fire with a Thin Lizzy lick, a heavy bass line, and an engagingly gravely vocal. The lead break pushes the edge of tone and the rhythm holds firm the place in time. “Avernus” comes next and hits at a darting clip then soon down shifts into a relaxed bluesy posture. Whiskey drinking music. “Grease Monkey and the Monkey Wrench” has a Clutch feel to it in my ears, and that is always a good thing. It is a strange little story with a spritely vamp that pushes the narrative along. Side one ends on “Temple Bar,” a beautifully executed, soulful-sounding song that resonates with rich guitar renderings.

The back half almost sounds like a different album at first. “Overlord” presents an epic face while “We Rise” has a much more street-level approach to its maneuvering. The guitar is still there in each case, and it is clearly revealed as the through-line. “My Love Ends All” has a power-balladesque structure at the beginning and also has a ripping lead break that challenges your idea of what this song is all about. The closer is “Endless Tides,” and it is a delightfully heavy rambler with an esoteric outro. It is a great choice for the set closer. The album was not what I expected but, after hearing it all the way through, I’m definitely on board with Age of Wolves. Recommended.

Age Of Wolves is out now through Pitch Black Records on CD and digital.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://pitchblackrecords.bandcamp.com/album/age-of-wolves

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb-7a39qy_Qw532NCP6DRgA

Pitch Black Records, https://www.pitchblackrecords.com/

Age Of Wolves, Age Of Wolves (Pitch Black Records 2021)

Sun Below, Sun Below (2021)

The new concept album from Toronto’s Sun Below continues the Sativa Rock tradition the band pioneered.

Altered state seekers of truth Sun Below are a heavy psych / stoner rock trio from Toronto. Having released a string of EPs in 2018-19, they are back now with their first full-length album. The musicians in the studio are Jason Craig (guitar, vocals), Will Adams (drums), and Garrison Thordarson (bass).

The band describes the album as a “concept recording that follows a figure, the Holy Drifter, on his journey through visions and across time.” The record is an impressive enterprise, clocking in at over seventy minutes. A few songs from the earlier EPs reappear here where they fit in nicely with the roving narrative.

“Chronwall Neanderthal” opens the set with a fuzzy rambler riff and punctuating vocals. The song gains a mind of its own, like an untended garden, and roams a psychic landscape it seems to create as it goes along. The doom goes a bit heavier on the next track, the first epic-length bit of business, “Holy Drifter.” This is one you can settle in with and see what you see as your mind drifts. Indeed, the whole album is like this generally: laid-back emanations that can be explored or merely watched by your mind’s unblinking eye.

There is a lot to digest here, all of it good. I most enjoy the massively long songs because that’s a lane I like to inhabit. Shorter pieces like “Shiva Sativa” – a personal favorite of mine from the album – offer a break in the landscape and give additional perspectives more difficult to generate in the lengthier pieces. They all work together to create the whole. This is an excellent doom album that can be snapped off in smaller bits or taken in one big dose. Either way it is a ride filled with wonders. Recommended.

Sun Below is out now. The easiest get is at Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://sunbelow.bandcamp.com/album/sun-below

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClD8r5eZv1Tb8GJWOce_nCQ

Sun Below, Sun Below (2021)

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)