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)

Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne review (Burning World Records 2020)

Somnus Throne is a relatively new Doom Metal band that draws upon the blood of the earth to channel sinister forces into mournful thunder.

The members of this band are from/have been all over the US: New Orleans, Los Angeles, Portland, and San Antonio. All over west of the Mississippi River, that is. This is their debut album, and it presents a classic sound as its foundation. The building blocks of doom are all here, taken to their logical extensions and combined with such an insistent compositional approach that it becomes an intentional chant, a mantra.

After an intro bit, the album features four long songs, the first three at the ten minute mark and the last almost at fifteen. I have always thought that doom is best expressed in extended passages, so these stats bode well. “Sadomancer” gives a nice opening statement/warning – “Satan is ever ready to seduce us with sexual delights.” Mmhmm. The vocals are ethereal, distant and almost detached. The guitars are like giant stone wheels rolling over the landscape and crushing it to powder. This combination is hypnotic. A third of the way through we are goosed by a sharp pain, sudden and therefore unexpected, then back to the wheel. “Shadow Heathen” has a greater mechanical activity, and it carries a more direct message while maintaining the mysteriousness established with the opener. The lead guitar exploration in the back half of the song is a sword edge seeking flesh.

Side two starts with “Receptor Antagonist,” which itself starts with a burst of anger then lays out a river of guitar distortion to glide upon. The vocals on this piece have a real feeling of desperation, and the pace cranks up to set the stage for a waling lead break. The longest song is saved for last, “Aetheronaut~Permadose,” and it has a beautiful, lulling intro – sort of like holding your face gently for a moment before punching it. The vocals are positively growling here, and the threat is real. The music builds a wall around you but also works from your insides out. All-encompassing and saturating. Relentless. Recommended.

Somnus Throne is out now. To buy the digital, go to the Burning World Records Bandcamp page. To buy physical versions in the US, go to the Band’s Bandcamp page. Links below.

Links.

Somnus Throne Bandcamp, https://somnusthrone.bandcamp.com/

Somnus Throne Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/TrueSomnist

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

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

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

Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne review (Burning World Records 2020)

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Album number three from Cortez is Sell The Future and it rides a heavy wave of riff-powered demolition.

From the Boston area, Cortez has been releasing music since their 2006 demo. They have had a couple of lineup changes over the years, as most bands do. For Sell the Future, earliest members Jay Furlo (bass) and Scott O’Dowd {Scotty Fuse} (guitar) are joined by long time players Matt Harrington (vocals) and Alasdair Swan (guitar). Alexei Rodriguez (drums) is newest, dating from 2017 (if The Metal Archives has it facts straight).

Harrington’s voice is powerful and fierce when he wants it to be and yet he can attenuate it for different emotions and effects. The compositions rely on solid grooves and big riffs, with well-placed and clever lead breaks adding nuance to the work. The rippling and surprising percussion bursts that you hear from Rodriguez in unexpected places are a fundamental building block to the unique sound of the band.

“No Escape” is a banger, and the perfect choice for an up-tempo lead off song. The title track is next and sets a serious tone with a purposeful riff up front then pushes on with a heavy swagger. The tempo gets a switch in advance of the lead break, which flays the carcass of reason. “Look At You” has a driving rhythm that just won’t let you turn away, and if you are not hooked on this album by the time the third song is over, I don’t know what to say to you. I cannot pick a single favorite, but I will point to the way the songs dissimilarities enhance the set as a whole – listening to the furiously paced “Vanishing Point” right after “Sharpen The Spear,” which has a more plaintive structure, puts you off balance in just the right way for the closer, “Beyond.” This album was worth the wait. Highly recommended.

Sell the Future is out now. Bandcamp is a good place to look for the digital, and there are couple vinyl variants there, too.

Band photo by Bruce Bettis.

Links.

Ripple Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/sell-the-future

Cortez website, http://www.cortezboston.com/

Cortez Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cortezboston/

Cortez Soundcloud, https://soundcloud.com/cortezboston

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

For more than thirty five years, Armored Saint has been banging eardrums. They are back to do it again with Punching The Sky.

“March of the Saint” is the first song on the first album in 1984, March Of The Saint. It starts like a coronation march; a grand entrance. Then the guitars roll out and the 1980s metal vocals hit. That song has a fast tempo and a snappy lead break. What a great way to get started, and “Seducer” is on that album, too – one of my all-time favorites from Armored Saint. The band released three more albums through 1991 before taking a break for a while. They returned in 2000 with Revelation and formally reformed in 2006, releasing La Raza in 2010 and Win Hands Down in 2015. They have updated their sound over the years with new recording technology and so on but the heart of the band never strayed, and neither did their dedication to the idea of heavy metal.

The band for the new album is original members John Bush (vocals), Joey Vera (bass), Phil Sandoval (guitar), and Gonzo Sandoval (drums), who are joined once again by long-time guitarist Jeff Duncan. They lay down eleven big tracks for Punching The Sky, starting with “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” which has the album’s title in the refrain. The music is vigorous, infused with loud attitude to go along with the rumbling riffs and roaring lead guitar splits. “Bubble” is a contentious number with a more serious tone than many of the other songs, while “Lone Wolf” has a clandestine opening riff and “Fly in the Ointment” is more reflective. At every turn, Armored Saint delivers heavy music longtime fans will embrace and that will catch the attention of new listeners as well. Recommended.

Punching The Sky is out Friday, October 23rd from Metal Blade Records, where you can get merch bundles. Bandcamp is the quick way to grab the digital download.

Links.

Band website, http://armoredsaint.com

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

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

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

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Saul, Rise As Equals review (Spinefarm Records 2020)

The first full-length album from Saul is a stab at the heart of mediocrity that rises above the tide of ordinary heavy music.

This band from Iowa is Blake Bedsaul (vocals), Zach Bedsaul (guitar), William McIlravy (bass), and Myles Clayborne (drums). Their EP Aeons (2019) received a lot of attention, propelled by the success of the single “Brother.” Their music has a harder edge than Pop Metal and more melodic passages than you might expect from heavy music. Punchy, sawblade guitar riffs and forceful vocals are the hallmark, interspersed with lyrical moments. The songs are typically about experiences of people as opposed to dark or fantasy concepts. Breaking Benjamin might be a starting point for reference, but Saul’s music has a sharper edge and a fuller sound. There are other comparisons, too, but listen to Saul directly if you really want to know what they are like.

The album has fourteen songs all running at radio length and each one a separate success. The opener is “Trial By Fire,” which was released earlier as a single. It is clearly a crowd pleasing live anthem, cracking out with a snapping riff that has a clever bend to it then proceeding on to a sing-along chorus that will resonate with fans. In fact, every song sounds like a single – meaning that they are all tight and constructed for maximum impact. There is no meandering anywhere on the album. Take “King of Misery,” which starts out at a slower tempo than many of the other songs, but the rock solid guitars are there and the execution of the vocals as the centerpiece to the composition is spot-on. The title track is another stand-out piece, and for me, and “The Toll” is maybe my favorite on the album for its pulsing rhythm and penetrating message.

I saw Saul perform on a livestream with Clutch, Crowbar, and Blacktop Mojo a couple months back and their set really stood out. I have been waiting for this album to come out ever since, anticipating something big. The band absolutely delivered. Rise As Equals is even better than I expected. Highly recommended.

You can get the full album this Friday, October 23rd from Spinefarm Records. The quick buy is through Amazon Music for the download, with the physical versions widely available. The Saul Shop link below is a good path to follow if you are in a buying mood.

Links.

Saul website, https://saulofficial.com/

Saul Shop, https://saul.merchnow.com/

Saul Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/saulbandofficial/

Saul YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfVimzkq5EqQ0ZDo_FrP7Lg

Spinefarm website, https://www.spinefarmrecords.com/usa/

Spinefarm YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/SpinefarmRec

Saul, Rise As Equals review (Spinefarm Records 2020)

Furnace, Dark Vistas review (Soulseller Records 2020)

Swedish Death Metal band Furnace release their second album this year, Dark Vistas.

Rogga Johansson (guitars, lead vocals) and Peter Svensson (bass, backing vocals) are joined by drummer Lars Demoké for the concept album Dark Vistas. It is astonishing to have a second album this year from Furnace (according to the Metal Archives), most particularly because it is essentially one big story. That is a lot of music, taken together. Maybe it is just a release timing coincidence. In any case, it is great to have both albums out now. The other album is Black Stone Church, and make sure you give it a listen, too. It is very good.

The primary themes on the new one are in the Cthulhu Mythos H. P. Lovecraft created. The dark, magical world of decadence and suffering is the perfect place for Death Metal, and Furnace make the most of the complementarities.

The music is on the Heavy Metal side of Death Metal – that is, melodic and broad with enough of an edge to know there is a knife. The vocals are coarse and decipherable while the tempo hovers in the midrange. Cinematic I would call it.

If you have read Lovecraft, then you will slide right into the narrative of the album. If not, you can catch up as you go along. The music is riff-heavy, leaning on the vocals and guitar harmony rather than big lead breaks. Some of my favorite tracks include “From The Blackest Void” which manages to be dreary and upbeat at the same time, and “The Calling” (released as a single) for its grand scope and its insistent percussion. There is a through line binding the entire set together and so you will hear recurring elements until it is all resolved in the end.

Dark Vistas is out now and available from Soulseller Records. You can also get it at Bandcamp.

Links.

Furnace Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blackstonechurch666/

Soulseller Records Bandcamp, https://soulsellerrecords.bandcamp.com/

Soulseller website, http://www.soulsellerrecords.com/

Furnace, Dark Vistas review (Soulseller Records 2020)

The Troops of Doom, The Rise of Heresy review (Blood Blast Distribution 2020)

The debut release from Troops of Doom is a Heavy Metal eruption that will be heard in every corner of the Earth.

The band is from Brazil: Jairo “Tormentor” Guedz (guitar), Alex Kafer (bass and vocals), Marcelo Vasco (guitar), and Alexandre Oliveira (drums). You certainly recognize the first person on that list as an original guitarist for Sepultura. The sound of The Troops of Doom has its starting point in early (classic) Death Metal, and from there it grows into its own beast.

The new EP has four original songs and two covers of well-known Sepultura songs. First the originals. “Whispering Dead Words” has an orchestral opening with big brass horns and the full complement. The strangling starts right past the one minute mark. “Inspired by hate / Existence fades away / Burn those bastards / To Infernal flames.” “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is a ripper – fast and furious, with a catchy clomping riff in the middle. “The Confessional” has that steady head banging momentum as well, leading into the title song, which is the track that’s stands out the most for me. “The Rise of Heresy” displays punishing percussion and fierce rhythm riffs standing shoulder to shoulder with the grizzly vocals.

The covers are “Bestial Devastation” from the Bestial Devastation (1985) EP and “Troops of Doom” from Morbid Visions (1986). The new versions certainly sound better given the more recent recording capabilities and the covers are consistent musically with the originals. It is nice to hear them updated and they ring as true in their new incarnations as they did back in the mid-1980s originals.

The Rise of Heresy is available now in the digital and you can get it at Amazon Music and stream it at Spotify. Physical versions are on the horizon and are popping up in various forms around the globe. Think of tracking them down as a quest. Whatever way you consume this music, if you are a fan of Sepultura, you are bound to like The Troops of Doom. Recommended.

Links.

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

Band YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkmgbCkDR4PohSI89P14pLg

Blood Blast, http://www.bloodblast.com

Blood Blast Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/BloodBlastDistribution

Amazon Music, https://www.amazon.com/music

The Troops of Doom, The Rise of Heresy review (Blood Blast Distribution 2020)

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Crystal Spiders add a new entry in the Stoner Rock ledgers with their full-length debut, Molt.

The band is Brenna Leath and Tradd Yancey, bass/vocals and drums, respectively. They released a three-song demo last year, and Molt is the rapid follow up. Leath is also in the bands Lightning Born and The Hell No, creating music there and already finishing the principal writing on the next Crystal Spiders album after Molt. She is keeping the creative fires alive in this first year of the pandemic.

The new album has a straight-forward sound and a practical approach to Stoner Doom that sits atop a solid underlying heavy rock structure. There is occasional the lead work like near the end of “C.U.N. Hell” that complements the abiding rhythm, but it is those bass lines and the assertive percussion that gets the biggest notice. And the vocals, of course. Leath’s voice is clear and soulful and vaporous all at once, in the neighborhood of Jillian Taylor (Ruby The Hatchet) but a bit lower in register and huskier tone.

A couple of the songs stood out and stuck with me even among the field of excellent music the album creates. “The Call” is a rousing, pulsing rocker, with a piercing guitar upfront and a ponderous then menacing back end. The ethereal sounds and tones in “The Fog” were absolutely hypnotizing – I was so wrapped up in listening to it I didn’t even realize when the song ended and the album was done. The title track is a crackling burst of Punk energy and “Chronic Sick” is pure doom.

Molt is out now from Ripple Music at their Big Cartel store and through Bandcamp. I just finished listening to the new album again and I am already anticipating the next one. Recommended.

Band photo by Marissa Straw.

Links.

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/molt

https://www.facebook.com/crystalspidersinmymind

https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Crystal Spiders, Molt review (Ripple Music 2020)