Iron Maiden, Senjutsu (Sanctuary Records 2021)

Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden release their seventeenth studio album, Senjutsu.

I first saw Iron Maiden in 1981 on their Killers tour. They were supporting Judas Priest at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio, and Whitesnake was also on the bill. I went to the show to see Judas Priest, mainly, but I had started listening to the Killers album a few days before the concert. Iron Maiden was the newest band so they went first. Somebody in an Eddie mask walked out on the stage and I didn’t know what that was all about at the time, but everybody started cheering and then the music started. I have been a diehard fan of Iron Maiden ever since.

The impact Iron Maiden has had on heavy music is immense. They have released so many albums that could be called pivotal in their history and they have been written off by the press just as many times. But they never left, did they. For me, the albums that had the greatest impact were The Number of the Beast (1982), Fear of the Dark (1992), and The Book of Souls (2015). Yeah, how about that, Maiden fans? Which three would you choose? It’s here where we sit down and start debating the merits of each and every one. But we’ll have to do that in person, so instead let’s take a quick look at the newest, Senjutsu.

There are ten tracks and the running time is 82 minutes so if you make a quick division that means there are a lot of long songs. Iron Maiden has never shied away from the extended form, and as their career has gone on they have really leaned into the concept. Strong and inventive compositions, from Steve Harris especially, deepen the musical expression and more than justify the running time. If anything, at the end I wish there was even more.

Clever and instantly memorable hooks on songs like “The Writing On The Wall” sink in immediately and are with you to stay – I made a mental list on the first listen through of the songs I hoped to hear live this year on the band’s tour, and it is a pretty long list. The lead work sounds fresh, Bruce Dickinson’s voice is in top form, and the rhythm is granite. Picking highlights from this long set is almost arbitrary because of the consistent quality throughout, but I’ll go ahead and do it anyway. Along with “The Writing On the Wall,” I have a sparkling affection for the relentless pulsing of “Lost In A Lost World,” the familiar finesse of “Death Of The Celts,” and the profound and sweeping thoroughgoing of “The Parchment.” There are no wrong turns anywhere on this album. Highly recommended.

Senjutsu is out now in digital, double CD, and triple vinyl versions. Tap the links below.

Links.

Iron Maiden website, https://www.ironmaiden.com/

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

Iron Maiden Shop, https://666.ironmaiden.com/

Iron Maiden, Senjutsu (Sanctuary Records 2021)

Rotting Christ, Der Perfekte Traum (VinylStore.Gr 2021)

The Perfect Dream of Rotting Christ gets a polish and a rejuvenation with the new limited edition of Der Perfekte Traum.

The Greek metal band Rotting Christ is Sakis and Themis Tolis who, along with Jim Mutilator, saw the origins of the band in the 1980s. I think most people, including me, think of the band’s music as Black Metal, but it has varied considerably over the years. With a discography that includes more than a dozen full-length albums and a plethora of EPs, compilations, splits, and live albums, They have covered a lot of ground.

Der Perfekte Traum, “The Perfect Dream,” was originally released in 1999. The new edition is remastered and includes the two studio tracks and five live cuts. The studio tracks are “Der Perfekte Traum” and “Moonlight.”

“Der Perfekte Traum” is a medium-tempo melodically executed song with extended spoken word elements and shifting moods. Sonically, it is quite beautiful, with subdued but clearly recognizable Black Metal influences and unexpected flairs. “Moonlight” has excellent hooks and a trendy construction that almost puts in a radio-ready category. It is a great song, again on the melodic side but also charged with energy and action.

The live tracks are all songs from the Triarchy of the Lost Lovers (1996) album. I really liked that album, incidentally, and the live performances have a nice doomy quality to them. I particularly appreciate the lead work in “A Dynasty from the Ice” and the dire emotion of “Diastric Alchemy” has a high linger factor. I enjoyed revisiting this album – I had forgotten how much I liked it when I first heard it. Recommended.

The new edition of Der Perfekte Traum is a limited vinyl release with a street date of Friday, September 3rd and it is available through VinylStore.Gr. Snap the link below and scroll down a bit for the three variants.

Links.

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

Rotting Christ website, https://www.rotting-christ.com/en

VinylStore.Gr, https://www.vinylstore.gr/en/our-releases-w-28079.html

Rotting Christ, Der Perfekte Traum (VinylStore.Gr 2021)

Portrait, At One With None (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The fifth album from Portrait is one of the best metal records to emerge from these plague years: At One With None.

Fifteen years in, Sweden’s Portrait is still forging unbreakable metal. There most recent album, Burn The World (2017), was a show-stopper, giving Portrait added recognition and setting the standard for their music even higher. The band is Per Lengstedt (vocals), Christian Lindell (guitar), Fredrik Petersson (bass), and Anders Persson (drums).

If you just say “heavy metal” and you don’t put any anchoring labels on the idea, a certain sound comes to mind. Got it in your head? Start there, add a theatrical flourish and a King Diamond homaging. Lay in contemporary recording technology. That is where I see Portrait. Their music is solid old school metal with an elegantly updated sound enriched by thoughtful composition.

Eight stout tracks populate the album. Each song feels like the start of a new campaign, a commitment to a cause. The rhythm holds the line for Lengstedt’s vocals which are strong and enveloping. The riffs sink in instantly and the lead guitar work is colorful and precise.

My favorite track is “Ashen,” because it has it all. I have an affection for the long form anyway, so the nine minute running time is a plus, ceteris paribus. It can’t only have endurance; there must also be substance. And here it is. The song has an intense, steady build, and the lead work is lyrical and engaging, hitting all the right marks. Among the straight-up metal bands, Portrait is a leader and their new album is one of the best they have produced. Recommended.

At One With None is out on Friday, September 3rd from Metal Blade Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://portraitsweden.bandcamp.com/album/at-one-with-none

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

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

Portrait, At One With None (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Destruction, Live Attack (Napalm Records 2021)

Legendary German thrash band Destruction release a massive double live album, Live Attack.

Destruction began in the early 1980s and went through a number of stylist and line-up changes over the years. To me and their legions of fans they are a thrash band. If you take a look at their discography it is a little overwhelming. So many long-players, splits, and live albums. Destruction has been a fundamental metal force for decades and they never experienced much of a lull that they didn’t bounce right back from with renewed energy.

Recently, founding guitarist Mike Sifringer left Destruction suddenly and was replaced by Martin Furia, who appears on the newly released single “State of Apathy.” As earth-shaking as this development was, there was never any question about Destruction continuing as a band because they still have a lot of metal in them waiting to come out. The musicians now are Schmier, Randy Black, Damir, and Martin Furia.

Live Attack has twenty rampaging tracks from their livestream performance recorded at Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland. They play classics like “Mad Butcher” alongside newer songs such as “Born To Perish” from the recent studio album of the same name. This concert is distinct from last year’s Born To Thrash live album which was taken from a 2019 show. Both are great sets, but the big advantage to the new album is its more comprehensive scope and expansive set list. The playing is crisp and sharp, as always, and the recording capture is top-notch. I have been a thrash fan since thrash began, and I have followed Destruction all along so this new release is a must-listen for the likes for me. Recommended.

The digital version of Live Attack is out now and the vinyl will be shipping in the coming weeks. There is also a CD/Blu Ray set if you want to witness the performance.

Links.

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

Band website, https://www.destruction.de/

Napalm Records, https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/destruction-live-attack-black-3lp.html

Destruction, Live Attack (Napalm Records 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)

Spirit Adrift, Forge Your Future (Century Media Records 2021)

The new EP from Spirit Adrift stokes the flame of perseverance with the rumble of heavy metal.

Spirit Adrift has made the most of the few years the band has been around, releasing four full-length albums since 2016, most recently 2020’s Enlightened In Eternity. The band has built a reputation for reliability and continues to produce straight-ahead rock and roll for the growing and ever-loyal fan base. I saw their live performance at Aftershock in Sacramento a couple years ago and it is certainly one of the most memorable parts of that festival for me. There is a grit and determination in the stage presence you don’t often see. They were there for the music first and foremost and that commitment came through in every note.

There are three songs on the new EP. “Forge Your Future” has a nice doom feel to it with the gentle intro and the heavy riff framing that set up a powerful vocal performance. There is a steady, unimpeded heavy metal force that propels the music forward to its sonic conclusion. “Wake Up” is more active and openly aggressive in posture while still carrying the heavy weight with a guitar-centered attack.

The third tack is “Invisible Enemy,” and it presents an epic attitude and then delivers on that promise. An old school metal structure is the foundation you could rest a battleship on and they use it to set up a big production. Halfway through there is a quiet bridge leading to a renewed energetic charge to the end. This set is another fine addition to the growing catalogue of Spirit Adrift. Recommended.

Forge Your Future is out now, limited to 1,000 units in the physical. There is a digital release as well.

Live photos by Wayne Edwards from Aftershock 2019.

Links.

Spirit Adrift website, https://www.spiritadrift.com/

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

Century Media Records, https://centurymedia.store/product/Y4CE419COMBO/spirit-adrift-forge-your-future-black-lp-digital-download

Spirit Adrift, Forge Your Future (Century Media Records 2021)

Geezer Butler, Manipulations of the Mind (Sanctuary / BMG 2021)

All of Geezer Butler’s solo work has been collected in a box set, along with rarities and live tracks.

International legendary bassist Geezer Butler, one of the original members of Black Sabbath, released three solo albums over the years. The music sounded nothing like Black Sabbath at all. Instead, it was more in the Industrial Metal vein, and there was a lot of talk about this back in the day because, maybe, fans wanted to something more like what they’d heard before. Take these albums on their own terms instead and you will find a treasure trove of heavy music.

The three separate albums originally were released under three different band names, G//Z/R for Plastic Planet (1995), Geezer for Black Science (1997), and GZR for Ohmwork (2005). In the new box, the original artwork is preserved and Geezer Butler has been inserted to replace the original release band names.

There is a fourth disc in the set that contains alternate takes and demos. It also has “Beach Skeleton,” which was a bonus track on a deluxe edition of Black Science. A bigger bonus for me is the three live tracks that are also included, “Drive Boy, Shooting,” “Detective 27,” and “House of Clouds,” all originally on the Plastic Planet album. I have seen Geezer Butler perform many times with Black Sabbath and, later, with Deadland Ritual. I never did see him perform any of these songs live, however, so it is great to hear them now.

This box set is an import for US buyers. You can get it on-line at major retailers like Amazon and Target, and your favorite record store can probably order a copy for you, too. If the box is too much for you, there is also a single-disc “best of” out there now which has some tasty bits. I recommend go all in and grab the full box.

Live photos of Geezer Butler by Wayne Edwards at Aftershock 2019 performing with Deadland Ritual.

Links.

Geezer Butler website, http://www.geezerbutler.com/

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY-qM3oNJx9E0L8UZEXPZug

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

Geezer Butler, Manipulations of the Mind (Sanctuary / BMG 2021)

The Slow Death, Siege (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Australian atmospheric doom band The Slow Death return with their mournful fourth album, Siege.

The first album from The Slow Death was their self-titled entry in 2008, followed four years later by the aptly titled II. 2015 brought the charmed album Ark, and now Siege. They write and perform thoughtful, deliberate doom, typically in long form. The band is Mandy Andresen (vocals, keys), Stuart Prickett (guitar, keys), Yonn McLaughlin (drums), Dan Garcia (bass), and Gamaliel (vocals).

I would refer to this music as Funeral Doom, although many would find the Atmospheric Doom label more accurate, or perhaps simply more palatable. Given the subjects of the songs, the pace, and the haunting constructions, I am standing by my FD assessment.

There are four tracks on this album, two that are about twenty minutes long with the other two a bit more than half that. The first song is one of the long ones, “Tyranny.” The opening notes have a feeling of transition to them, like something has been happening for a while but we are just now becoming fully aware of it. The music is beautiful and melancholy. The first heavy guitar drop is fairly early in, about a minute and a half, and it raises the seriousness of the established emotion. There is a tempo change and then the first voice is heard, a lovely, comforting vocal and, later, a gruff one, both of which return. The narrative is fairly linear and the music moves with the story toward the solemn conclusion.

“Famine” follows, a shorter work running only about thirteen minutes. Given the title, you are not going in with hopes for a sunny afternoon. Indeed, the story is grim even as the music is compelling an uplifting – at first. The heavy, trouncing guitars and rhythm press in suddenly, conveying catastrophe and doom. Toward the end the inevitability, the fate, becomes clear, and the song ends dramatically.

“Pestilence” is Funeral Doom at the beginning the way I usually think of it: slow, dead slow; utterly hopeless. This track is the other long piece, and certainly it goes through a range of expressions and movements. The beginning passage is the one that stayed with me longest. The final song is “Ascent of the Flames” and it hit me as a sort of cool down – an opportunity to reflect on what has come before and a memorial wrap-up.

I am a fan of Funeral Doom and this sort of music has long appealed to me. As a result, I am always on the lookout for another band I can rely on to set the kind of tone I want to hear. The Slow Death has become one of my regulars and this new album is among their best. Recommended.

Siege is out from Transcending Obscurity Records on Friday, August 27th. Investigate all the possible variations in presentation at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://theslowdeathband.bandcamp.com/album/siege-atmospheric-death-doom-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

The Slow Death, Siege (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Toxic Ruin, Nightmare Eclipse (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The sophomore album from Wisconsin’s Toxic Ruin is a relentless inculcation of maniacal Death and Thrash Metal.

From its beginning, Toxic Ruin put everything out like the world was riding on the outcome. Their first album, Subterranean Terror, was released in 2016 and it was a swinging heavy hammer that could dislodge any passivity or derelict insolence. An EP followed in 2018 an now Nightmare Eclipse is an all new gargantuan menace. The band is Stephen Behrendt (vocals and bass), Jacob Baneck (guitar), Blake Toltzmann (guitar), and David Miller (drums).

There are eight tracks plus a bonus ninth on Nightmare Eclipse. A blistering pace is set with the opener, “Until Everything Is Gone.” As fast as physics allows, the song runs through stalwart old school manifestations and plucks them up with incredibly precise executions. Stephen Behrendt’s vocals are a rampaging beast all their own, uncontained by any convention from the beginning to the end. “Ritual Rebirth” takes the baton and presses the ideas further, segue to the ripping single “Defiler,” a song to make your head spin and your ears ring into next week. These first fifteen minutes are an overwhelming display.

Toxic Ruin has amazing, insistent pace but the music isn’t just about speed. The compositions seek clever ways around and into places others have not tread. The pushing rhythm section and battering percussion lay the groundwork for engaging and unexpected lead guitar journeys and explosions.

The feeling of darkness and horror grips you on songs like “Voices Of Death” and “It Of The Horrid Storm” even with the latter’s more measured tempo. On “Liquor Blood Bound” there is pure adrenaline and “Nightmare Eclipse” has a more theatrical construction. Set aside your expectations and accept that Toxic Ruin is going to shake you up. Recommended.

Nightmare Eclipse is out this Friday, August 27th from M-Theory Audio. Links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://toxicruin.bandcamp.com/album/nightmare-eclipse-2

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/toxicruin.metal

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

Toxic Ruin, Nightmare Eclipse (M-Theory Audio 2021)