Carcariass, Afterworld (Season Of Mist 2023)

Melodic prog death metal band Carcariass launch their sixth album into the universe, Afterworld.

Carcariass if from France, and its name “comes from Carcharodon Carcharias, the Latin name of the Great White Shark.” Formed more than thirty years ago, the band creates melodic progressive metal, dipping often into death metal territory and regularly regaling listeners with long instrumental passages. After releasing back-to-back records just before the turn of the century, they started to space out their new music, once leaving a gap of ten years between albums. The new record follows 2019’s Planet Chaos, and finds Carcariass flexing in familiar territory. The band is Pascal Lanquetin (guitar), Jérôme Thomas (vocals), Raphaël Couturier (bass), and Bertrand Simonin (drums).

The set gets going on “No Aftermath” with a thumping rhythm that suggests action. Gristly vocals over-shout the other instruments, and a reprieve is found in a brief guitar break. The first song is a sort of overture for the rest of the music. “Billions of Suns” follows. The percussion is battering, and it goes well with the vocals. The guitars, when they reach out on their own, have a more melodic presentation, generally, although they do break into frantic flourishes when the need arises. “Identity” steps in on quieter feet. The music expands from this formative notion into similarly styled executions in the family of the first two tracks.

There is a reassuring regularity about the music on Afterworld. And it certainly is different from other bands that might be labeled in a related way. The biggest attraction for me are the extended instrumental passages. I do appreciate the dissonance of the intentional juxtapositions, too. My favorite tracks on the record include “Angst,” which I hear as a mission statement (and it has great guitar work), and the mysterious, rampaging “Black Rain.” The set finishes on the title song, a beautifully ornate piece displaying impeccable musicianship. Prog fans will find treasures here. Recommended.

Afterworld is out on Friday, April 14th on CD through Season of Mist and digitally in the usual places. Check out the links below.

Links.

Carcariass website,

Bandcamp, https://carcariass.bandcamp.com/album/afterworld-new-album-2023

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

Season Of Mist, https://shop.season-of-mist.com/carcariass-afterworld-cd-digipak

© Wayne Edwards

Carcariass, Afterworld (Season Of Mist 2023)

Heathen Foray, Oathbreaker (Massacre 2023)

Austrian metal band Heathen Foray mince no words on their sixth studio album, Oathbreaker.

Heathen Foray came together in Austria in 2004. An umbrella description of their music might be melodic death metal, but there are commonly elements of folk and Viking metal in there, too, not to mention the robust percussion that would be at home in other strands of heavy music. Over the years they have released five other full-length albums, beginning with The Passage in 2009. The music they create has moved and changed over time, and the new record in some ways calls back their earlier work. The band is Robert Schroll (vocals), Jürgen Brüder (guitars), Alex Wildinger (guitars), Max Wildinger (bass), and Markus “Puma” Kügerl (drums).

“Oathbreaker” gets things going with a heavy growl and a catchy roll. The song lives at radio length and combines English and German lyrics to present its message. It is a raucous opener. “Leben” moves off in a different direction, taking a power/epic metal stance and extending the composition to twice the length of its predecessor. In the second half of the song, there is a folk-Viking metal feel, making this track quite the journey. “Ahnenreih,” too, has a folk metal foundation, and it moderates the rampage with the use of a more personal palette to shade the narrative. “Heimdalls Spross” finishes the side with an aggressive riff and more environmental messaging. It is a good, steady roll.

The back half starts with the drinking anthem “Allvoll,” and it is a killer – fast and rambunctious. “1000 Years Of Human Flesh” is an historical drama about organized religion, so you’ll be glad you had that drink. It is a grinding, heavy song and one of my favorites on the album. “Raiment” is a bit of an oddity in that it sounds very different from the other songs in the set. You’ll hear flavors and tinges that fit right in with the rest, and you are also treated to other elements that stretch the boundaries implied by the earlier tracks. The finisher is “Covenant Of Swords,” which, as the title implies, encourages everyone to fend off their oppressors and rise to the occasion. It is certainly a great way to wrap things up as it ties together nicely the sentiments expressed earlier. After you listen to this album, you feel energized. Recommended.

Oathbreaker hits the streets on Friday, April 7th through Massacre Records. Examine the details at the links below.

Links.

Heathen Foray website, https://heathenforay.com/

Bandcamp, https://heathenforay.bandcamp.com/album/oathbreaker

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

Massacre Records, https://massacre-records.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Heathen Foray, Oathbreaker (Massacre 2023)

Thron, Dust (Listenable 2023)

German death metal band Thron crack on with their fourth album, Dust.

Formed in 2015, Thron is a band of mystery. I read a recent list of the musicians in the band as this: Samca (vocals), PVIII (guitars), SII (guitars), SXIII (bass), and CII (drums). So, there you go. I think of the band as progressive death metal, but you can see many elements in their composition. The music on their new album is described this way in the press blurb: “With Dust, [they] incorporate new elements in their sound by going back to their very roots which lie in the early 80s when bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate ruled the field, and at the same time taking inspiration from the 90s when bands like Tiamat, Edge of Sanity or Sentenced expanded their horizon. This combined with serious dedication to the glorious Progressive Rock dinosaurs of the 70s and the love for the dark extreme musical arts with blasting fury and aggressive vocals…” Does that clear things up? Let’s listen in.

“Dying In The Mud” holds nothing back, starting with a broad sound and deploying forcefully along the main lines. The music is death metal, presented in a formal and polished fashion. The gruffness comes in with the vocals, and as the song progresses, it becomes more aggressive. The lead guitar work is campaign-like, resolved to do its work over time. “Return…” has been released as a video already, and it blasts its way through all obstacles. Tough and surging, this music has a purpose. Then comes “The True Belief,” and its posture is more measured, you might say more serious in tone than battering. The vocals are talkative as the guitars begin scaling and the pressure rises. Very nicely done, and the album is only getting going.

The overall impression I get from this music is that the legitimate death metal is made approachable by the varying set-ups and divergences. You are kept guessing throughout, and yet you are always rewarded with each new take. There are a couple of bonus tracks, “Into Oblivion” and “The Tyranny Of I,” that appear only on the CD and download versions. Keep that in mind, but in the end, whichever way you go on format, you can’t lose. Recommended.

Dust is out on Friday, March 31st through Listenable Records on digital, cassette, CD, and vinyl. Shop at the links below.

Band photo by Thomas Rossi.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://listenable-records.bandcamp.com/album/dust

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

Listenable Records, https://shop-listenable.net/en/

© Wayne Edwards

Thron, Dust (Listenable 2023)

Avatar, Dance Devil Dance (Black Waltz 2023)

The dark circus comes back to town – Avatar has a new album out: Dance Devil Dance.

I first noticed Avatar just a few years ago on the festival circuit in the US. They have been producing fascinating metal albums since 2006’s Thoughts of No Tomorrow, and the band formed five years before that. Clearly, I was seriously out of the loop. I have been doing some catching up in the past couple of years, and every time I see them perform live, I am even more intrigued. Avatar is Johannes Eckerström (vocals), John Alfredsson (drums), Jonas Jarlsby (guitar), Henrik Sandelin (bass), and Tim Öhrström (guitar).

Appropriately, “Dance Devil Dance” kicks off the set. I immediately see the band on stage in my mind when the first tones drop. Avatar is known for their stage show, and they have said that they write their music for performance. I think that comes through in audio-only experience as well (although, of course, I can’t unsee them now, can I). The song has a great clip to it, and the expected satiric creepiness. I can imagine this on the radio, and I can see fans singing along at a festival, too. The music has broad appeal in the heavy music community, and that is one of its strengths.

“Chimp Mosh Pit” follows and is more directly active, almost chatty in a way. There is a great hook in there, and Eckerström’s talkative approach to the vocals on this one is engaging. It has a crisp snap. “Valley Of Disease” is more serious in tone, and heavier. It is a face-in-the-dirt kind of metal song with melodic choruses. “On The Beach” takes an aerobic approach, and when you add up these opening tracks you notice that Avatar is going to put you through the paces on this record. There is always a riff or melody or trap in every song that grabs you, no matter what the surrounding compositional structure might signal. It is a distinctive feature of their music.

If you like your metal a half-bubble or so off, this record is for you. Fans of Avatar are going to get what they are looking for. I especially like “Gotta Wanna Riot” for its joyous destructive energy. And then there is “The Dirt I’m Buried In,” which is almost a club song, and “Train,” a gloomy western gothic folk tale that erupts halfway through before returning to its essence. This is a wild album. Highly recommended.

Dance Devil Dance is out now through Black Waltz. Hit up the band’s store at the link below to see what’s what.

Live performance photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Avatar website, https://avatarmetal.com/

Avatar store, https://usa.avatarmetal.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Avatar, Dance Devil Dance (Black Waltz 2023)

In Flames, Forgone (Nuclear Blast 2023)

Sweden’s In Flames release their 14th studio album of mesmerizing metal, Forgone.

Much has changed for In Flames in the past thirty years. There have been line-up shifts, and an evolution in the band’s sound as the decades have passed. What has been consistent the entire time is the quality of the music and the push for excellence. Whatever direction In Flames moved in, they moved with purpose and determination. The band is Anders Fridén (vocals), Björn Gelotte (guitar), Bryce Paul (bass), Tanner Wayne (drums), and Chris Broderick (guitar).

Talking about the new album, Anders Fridén says, “In a way, it sounds stupid to say we wanted to be more ‘metal,’ because we always felt that we were. Over the last couple of years, the world became even more hostile and evil in certain ways. We have a war in Europe. People, in general, are more stressed. All of that energy and anger helped fuel this album. We went in to make something on point, heavier, and yes, ‘more metal.’” He goes on to say, “This album is about lost time. Everything is going in the wrong direction. We can’t make up for the lost time. That’s why the album is called Foregone. We’re destined to end. That realization creates different emotions – panic, frustration, fear. ‘Scary’ isn’t a horror movie or an angry metal guy screaming. The real horror is what’s going on in the news from around the world. We are basically doomed. The album is about the few moments we have left and what we do with them.”

There are a dozen tracks on the new record. First up, “The Beginning Of All Things That Will End.” It is an acoustic mood-setting intro. It is quiet and sweet at first, then turns a bit melancholy as it progresses. “State Of Slow Decay” brings out the big guitar riffs at the front. Steady reckoning turns to a charging attack setting up the intense vocals, which are urgent to the point of straining. The tone becomes most ominous as the end approaches, and the darkness begins to swell. “Meet Your Maker” is fierce and speedy, more aggressive than its predecessor. But suddenly there is a melodic, almost lyrical passage that makes you begin to understand that what is happening in complex. Then comes “Bleeding Out,” a song that frees of the last of your expectations for the music and insists you sit back and listen. It has a surprisingly proggy presence (and lead guitar break) to go along with the alternating rugged and mellowing moments.

As with In Flames albums from the past, there is a lot going on here. That is one of the things fans like so much about this music – it gives you many perspectives and offers depth to go along with the singable choruses. Save a special place in your brain for both parts of “Forgone,” and, when you hear “In The Dark,” know that it will be hard to shake. In fact, the entire album will ring in your ears long after the turntable stops. Highly recommended.

Forgone is out on Friday, February 10th through Nuclear Blast Records. You’ll find more information at the links below.

Links.

In Flames website, https://www.inflames.com/

Bandcamp, https://inflamesofficial.bandcamp.com/album/foregone

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/in-flames

© Wayne Edwards

In Flames, Forgone (Nuclear Blast 2023)

Soilwork, Övergivenheten (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Soilwork make it an even dozen with their new album Övergivenheten.

Soilwork came together in the mid-nineties in Sweden. Initially, their music would probably have been categorized as melodic death metal. Later it evolved toward a groove metal, although the melody never went away. Over the decades, the band has released eleven other full-length studio albums plus a plethora of singles, EPs, and splits, making them one of the most prolific metal outfits in the business. The new record carries their banner further down the path, and delivers mana to Soilwork’s waiting fans. The band is Björn “Speed” Strid (vocals), David Andersson (guitar), Sven Karlsson (keys), Sylvain Coudret (guitar), Bastian Thusgaard (drums), and Rasmus Ehrnborn (bass).

The Google translator will tell you that Övergivenheten is “the abandonment” in English. It also offers “desolation” and “desertion” as possibilities for Övergivenhet. Even if something is lost in the translation, we certainly get the general idea.

There are fourteen tracks on the new album, including a couple of transition pieces. The title song breaks the ice with acoustic emanations, voices, and a banjo. Layers and multiple elements soon join and intertwine as the music builds until, a minute and a half in, the song really takes off. The first principal vocals are gruff and insistent while the surrounding music is less dire, and a melodic voice merges in soon enough. It is the perfect way to position the set.

“Nous Sommes La Guerre” breaks off a snappy riff up front to generate the initial mood, but the song itself is complex. Certainly, this is what we expect from Soilwork, and they offer it up on every song with their signature style whether the thrust is fast or slow, dark or light. There is no track that is simply one thing. “Electric Again” starts out as a ravager, loud and harsh enough to peel off the top layers of anything it encounters, but it also has calmer moments. “This Godless Universe” walks in quietly and bares its teeth later on. Some songs have a catchy riff, like “Death, I Hear You Calling,” while others, like “Golgata,” are front loaded with more challenging, technical presentations. Throughout it all, there is no mistaking this music for anything other than Soilwork – they have come through again with an album that raises an already high bar. Recommended.

Övergivenheten is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Links below.

Links.

Soilwork website, https://www.soilwork.org/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/soilwork

© Wayne Edwards

Soilwork, Övergivenheten (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The Halo Effect, Days Of The Lost (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The Halo Effect brings back the glory days of melodic death metal on Days Of The Lost.

Veteran musicians from bands such as In Flames and Dark Tranquility came together last year to form a new band, The Halo Effect. The idea behind the new band was for the members to “go back to the roots and explore what the groundbreaking metal sounded like then[, a]nd add the experience and skills of what the members could bring to the table now.” The style of music they are referencing is often called “The Gothenburg Sound,” and, under a broader umbrella, melodic death metal, or melodeath. The musicians are Peter Iwers (bass), Daniel Svensson (drums), Jesper Strömblad (guitar), Niclas Engelin (guitar), and Mikael Stanne (vocals).

Over ten contemplative tracks, The Halo Effect have definitely achieved their goal. The album growls to life with “Shadowminds,” where gruff vocals live together with teedling juxtapositions and rough-and-ready guitar riffs. This is indeed a very particular kind of music. The compositions combine without irony light, bouncy lines with others that are clearly intended to be sinister. You can hear this even more clearly on the title track. It is like a medieval battle at a renaissance fair.

The execution of the ideas is flawless, and there is notable variety across the tracks while the principle is maintained. “The Needless End,” for example, is generally harder-edged while a song like “Gateways” plays toward an overall softer range. In every case, the songs are crisp and sharp, and the production level is quite high. This set is destined to be embraced by its intended audience, and it is so well done it might start a resurgence of the form. Recommended.

Days Of The Lost is out now through Nuclear Blast Records in many instantiations. Connect through the links below.

Links.

The Halo Effect website, https://www.thehaloeffect.band/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/the-halo-effect

© Wayne Edwards

The Halo Effect, Days Of The Lost (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Amon Amarth, The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade 2022)

Iconic Viking metal band Amon Amarth have crafted their twelfth album, The Great Heathen Army.

Since 1992, Amon Amarth has been carrying the banner and swinging the sword for Viking metal, an heroic melodic heavy metal style that is wildly popular from sea to sea and icecap to icecap. Releasing a new album every two or three years for the past three decades has made them a reliable source of fresh music for their legions of fans. The new record has nine tales of heroism and conflict set in a savage world and told in the way only Amon Amarth can. The band is Johan Hegg (vocals), Olavi Mikkonen (guitar), Johan Söderberg (guitar), Ted Lundström (bass), and Jocke Wallgren (drums).

The battle begins with “Get in the Ring.” The song has a very ominous set-up to put you in the right frame of mind for the tenacious musical intercourse. Hegg’s gruff vocals cast their familiar spell over the abiding guitar riffs and steady percussion. It is an excellent choice for an opening song as it reminds you how much you like Amon Amarth. The title track follows, and it has a serious tone with a lithe delivery. “Heidrun” takes the baton and charges the field with a romping riff that sounds like the steady movement of a well-appointed army. A catchy chorus makes this song one that will stick in your head. “Oden Owns You All” is a much more aggressive track, with rippling percussion and forceful pattering that enhances the established style and theme.

Overall, the album delivers what the band’s fans are looking for. My favorite track is “Dawn of Norsemen” because it encapsulates the elements I like most about Amon Amarth from the story to the melody to the reliable rhythm section. You might choose a different favorite, but if you have enjoyed the previous albums from Amon Amarth, I think we will agree that the new one gets high marks. Recommended.

The Great Heathen Army is out now through Metal Blade Records in a variety of forms. Make your choices at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://amonamarth.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-heathen-army

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

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/releases/amon-amarth-the-great-heathen-army/

© Wayne Edwards

Amon Amarth, The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade 2022)

Allegaeon, Damnum (Metal Blade 2022)

Melodic death metal purveyors Allegaeon release a new album, their sixth long-player, Damnum.

Allegaeon is a band from Colorado that came together under the current name in 2008. I have read their music described as “technical melodic death metal.” That sounds like a lot of ground to cover. It is, and they do it expertly. Damnum is there sixth full-length album, and I think it is their best one so far. The band is Greg Burgess (guitar), Michael Stancel (guitar), Riley McShane (vocals), Brandon Michael (bass), and Jeff Saltzman (drums).

The first song is “Bastards of the Earth.” It begins acoustically but it doesn’t stay that way very long. The metal is technically proficient, superbly so. That is the first defining characteristic of the band and of this album. The second is the vocalizations, which present in singularity and harmony, medium- and most-gruff death metal-like, and lyrically, beautifully melodic. There are other bands that do this as well, but none are as effective at it, and the others do not stretch the edges quite so much. Allegaeon is unique.

“Of Beasts and Worms” is next. It has identifiable recurring elements yet still the song is completely different from any of the others and is one of the stand-out tracks for me on the album. The end points of quiet and of raging are so far apart you can’t see one when you are standing at the other. In the louder moments the passion is undeniable and when the music goes softer there is an earnest yearning that throws an invisible cloak around you. The lead guitar parts are incredible, delivered with stunning speed and unswerving surety. It is a rager with a catchy chorus and monstrous rhythm.

There are no low points on this album. Every song is a new discovery. “Vermin” just kills it. “The Dopamine Void” is presented in two parts and is a showcase for the band’s musical ingenuity. The final song is “Only Loss,” and here the music delivers on the promise of the title – elegant, sorrowful, intense. Excellent on every front. Highly recommended.

Damnum is out this Friday, February 25th, through Metal Blade Records. More info at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://allegaeon.bandcamp.com/album/damnum

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

Metal Blade Records, https://metalblade.com/allegaeon/

Allegaeon, Damnum (Metal Blade 2022)

Rivers of Nihil, The Work (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The new album from Rivers of Nihil reaches out more broadly than any of their previous work.

Pennsylvania metal band Rivers of Nihil have been on a journey since 2009. Releasing a couple of EPs in the early days and then three increasingly complex long-players after that, they have always established their own direction and followed it, never appearing to take cues from the outside world. That approach has made them one of the most unique metal bands around, and their new album, The Work, plays into their strengths.

The opening track, “The Tower,” is melodic, sad, and beautiful. Slowly it turns darker, even deploying a saxophone for a deepening sense of melancholy. The guitars and coarse vocals do not appear until well past the halfway mark. This song is not an anomaly. The album traverses the known universe of musical expression.

“Dreaming Black Clockwork” is more what I expected to hear on the album – harsh, technical metal rolled out with persistent aggression. Once it gets its teeth into you it shakes you hard and doesn’t let go. There is a creepy, quiet section and a dissonant exit.

The third song is “Wait” and it is a ballad. Indeed, there is clean singing throughout to go along with the brutal vocals on heavier tracks. “Maybe One Day” is another example of a quiet song, and it is reminiscent of Pink Floyd in the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason days. There are a lot of different musical ideas ebbing, flowing, and combining on the album.

While my favorite tracks are the ones like “The Void from Which No Sound Escapes” that have savage, visceral elements interspersed with quieter, more contemplative passages, there is no track I would skip. From the straight-up ragers to the buttoned-down meditations, The Work promises a lot and delivers even more.

Since I first heard Rivers of Nihil at Heavy Montreal a couple years back, they have been high on my list of metal acts. They have never been easy to label and this new album is going to make it even harder to pigeonhole them. To me, that makes their music even more appealing. Recommended.

September 24th is the Friday when The Work appears. Snap it up at your local record store, the Metal Blade shop, or Bandcamp.

Band photo by Mike Truehart.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://riversofnihil.bandcamp.com/album/the-work

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

Rivers of Nihil website, https://www.riversofnihil.com/

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

Rivers of Nihil, The Work (Metal Blade Records 2021)