Headless, Square One (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The fifth album from Headless is a welcome return of catchy guitar-driven European hard rock.

Headless is a group formed of veteran rockers from well-known bands. The music is perhaps best described as hard rock, and it is reminiscent of 1980s and 1990s work from acts like Queensrÿche, with a less serious perspective, perhaps, and with more emphasis on the melodic. The band is Göran Edman (vocals), Walter Cianciusi (guitar), Dario Parente (guitar), Martin Helmantel (bass), and Enrico Cianciusi (drums).

The set’s first song, “A Leaf’s Flight Path,” starts off very slowly and quietly, building to a harder-edged rock song by the halfway point with compelling guitar work. In fact, when I think back on this album it is the guitar that comes first to mind. The mature compositions are a pleasure to listen to, and Edman has a compelling voice. Those guitars parts, though, they really stay with you.

Songs that stuck my head include “Backseat Rhythm,” “Langeweile,” and “Streetlight Buzz.” These tracks are very different, one to the next, but they all have a way of engaging my neurons that sets in a permanent placeholder. The guitar, sure, like I said already, but also the design of each of these songs has a deliberate construction to achieve a particular aim, a specific mood and feeling. The result is unswervingly captivating. Whenever I next have a feeling for this lane of rock I’ll be scrolling for Headless. Recommended.

Square One is out on Friday, September 24th through M-Theory Audio. Check out the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://headless-official.bandcamp.com/

Headless website, http://www.headlessofficial.com/wordpress/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/headless.italy/

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

Headless, Square One (M-Theory Audio 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)

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)

The Absence, Coffinized (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The fifth album from Tampa, Florida metalists The Absence is a tour of dark imaginings.

Melodic Death Metal is a popular lane for heavy music these days, and one of the premiere bands creating it is The Absence. For nearly twenty years and through four previous albums, The Absence has charted its way through the mire of possibilities by producing music exactly the way they wanted to, and fans have responded. Now comes Coffinized, another chapter in the band’s growing legacy.

The album opens with the title track, and it is a dismal wind blowing arctic devastation that at first seems like a dirge but soon enough starts swinging a metal hammer. The compositional approach is compartmentalized ideas stitched seamlessly together that will turn you this way and that until the disequilibrium makes you see the truth in the void.

“Future Terminal” has a clever and catchy vocal/guitar duet in a the chorus that stays with you after the close, as does the explanatory lead break near the middle. The songs are heavy and driving, fast and churning. “Choirs of Sickness” is incredible in the way it establishes drama, while a song like “Black Providence” is much more eerie and sinister in its approach. “Discordia” screeches and “Faith In Uncreation” delivers speed and depth (and has a truly bizarre ending after a few moments of silence – it is better if you just hear it without me describing it in advance).

Every song is its own microcosm while being undeniably a part of the greater whole. I have listened to The Absence consistently through the years and always liked their music. This new album reinvigorates my interest and takes it to a new level. Recommended.

Coffinized comes out tomorrow, Friday, June 25th from M-Theory Audio.

Links.

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

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

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

The Absence, Coffinized (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The first full-length album from dark power metal band Silver Talon is an epic attack on your senses.

With a sound as big and complete as Silver Talon produces, Decadence And Decay is a promising sign of what we hope will turn out to be a long string of mesmerizing albums. The band is unusually large, with three listed guitarists: Wyatt Howell (vocals), Bryce VanHoosen (guitar), Sebastian Silva (guitar), Devon Miller (guitar), Walter Hartzell (bass), and Michael Thompson (drums). They make the most of all these assets in the performance of their sweeping compositions.

The music the band creates is usually described as Power Metal but that does not catch all the aspects of Silver Talon. The precision of the lead guitar – and the astonishing speed – has to be heard to be believed. There are many prog elements here, too, with complex parts working together to achieve a greater whole. Wyatt Howell’s vocals press to the soaring in a broad range. The rhythm section is at times in the service of the meter and at other moments a whirling inclination of its own. Taken together, the effect can be overwhelming.

The lyrical themes are often dark fantasy and breathe the essence of large gathered forces in conflict. The eight songs on the album average in the five minute range giving plenty of opportunity for extension and expression. The epic closer, “Touch The Void,” runs over eight minutes at the end and has the full complement of entreaties. It is essentially a suite, and it tests the highs and lows, the speeds and slows. If you are looking for spacious metal with both straight-forward and complex compartments, you will be glad you found Silver Talon. Recommended.

Digital, CD, cassette, and vinyl versions become available from M-Theory Audio on Friday, May 28th.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://silvertalon.bandcamp.com/album/decadence-and-decay-2

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

Silver Talon website, https://www.silver-talon.com/

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

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Varmia, bal Lada (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Black Metal comes face to face with Folk traditions in Varmia’s new album, bal Lada.

Pagan Metal might actually be better label than Black Metal for Poland’s Varmia. The use of traditional instruments gives a Folk Metal influence and intonation, but it is more than that – the compositions themselves are affected by the traditional music. The new one is the third full-length album from the band since 2017, and the musicians are Lasota (guitar and vocals), Alle (bass), Svarrge (drums), and Piotr (percussion and traditional instruments).

The sounds of birds and nature are interrupted first by pounding percussion then by a heavy guitar riff in the opening track, “Woanie.” Traditional folk choral voices give way to a gravely metal lead right at the end of the intro device, and the first landscape begins to be revealed with the next track.

The music both combines and vacillates between passages that are consistent with what you might hear from other heavy bands and pagan ritual music, but there is always something different going on in every song – sometimes it is a turn of phrase and sometimes it is a goat horn. The music is undeniably heavy and weighty (not the same thing at all), and the integration of pagan ideals with Black and Death Metal tropes and trials is fascinating.

The traditional elements sometimes come through in a particularly focused way, as with “Upperan.” Even so, the metal never melts away. I get deeper feelings of the darker side of nature in this song particularly. “O” is another excellent example of this, and even more so as I think about it – I have never heard anything like this music. The album captivated me from start to finish. Recommended.

Bal Lada drops this Friday, March 12th and can be accessed at Bandcamp. More information can be had at the M-Theory Audio website (link below).

Links.

Bandcamp, https://varmiaband.bandcamp.com/album/bal-lada

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

Label, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/

Varmia, bal Lada (M-Theory Audio 2021)