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)

Carcass, Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast 2021)

The new Carcass album is a raucous affair, filled with sinister chuckles and Torn Arteries.

Carcass is such a well-known band I don’t think much background is needed here. Their history is fascinating, being on the forefront of Death- and Goregrind, and later also being influential in the early days of Melodic Death Metal. The initial run was in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, then they reformed in 2007. Since that renaissance, they have released EPs, splits, and the full-length Surgical Steel in 2013. The new album is the band’s seventh long-player, if I counted right, and it is a rager.

The title track is the opener and it spins directly at you with a vigorous multifaceted attack. The vocals are gruff and full, the riffs and percussion are fireworks set on solid steel poles, and the lead work is aching and familiar. Without a breath, “Dance of Ixtab” whips in with active parallel rhythm that fosters direct and immediate catchiness. And then “Eleanor Rigor Mortis.” Come on. Is there any way you are not going to love a Carcass song with a title like this? No, no way. It is an excellent entry that features a vocal-lead guitar pairing. And we are still on side one.

“Under The Scalpel Blade” has a slower tempo up front, and “The Devil Rides Out” does Dennis Wheatley (and also Hammer Studios) proud. “Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited” is the longest track, landing at ten minutes, and it is a theatrical presentation with a compellingly dramatic arc that manages sorrow and anguish, terror and regret in the fullness of its articulation. The final strokes occur on “The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing,” the fittingest of all possible closers.

It has been eight years since the last big album from Carcass so I expected Torn Arteries to be something special. It turns out I was right – it is instantly one of my favorites in their distinguished and storied catalogue. Highly recommended.

Torn Arteries is out through Nuclear Blast Records on Friday, September 17th. Join the fray.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://carcass.bandcamp.com/album/torn-arteries

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

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/vinyl/2lp/carcass-torn-arteries-red-.html

Carcass, Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast 2021)

At The Gates, The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media 2021)

The seventh studio album from At The Gates is a progressive take on the condition of existence.

For more than thirty years the Melodic Death Metal band from Sweden, At The Gates, has been a consistent creator of heavy music. From The Red in the Sky Is Ours (1994) to 2018’s To Drink from the Night Itself, you could always count on them for compelling new metal that rang out in ways you’d never heard before. And here we see that again on the new album, The Nightmare Of Being.

The band – Tomas Lindberg (vocals), Martin Larsson (guitar), Jonas Björler (bass), Adrian Erlandsson (drums), and Jonas Stålhammar (guitar) – expertly executes an expanded palette of composition that embraces progressive metal elements more extensively than fans might have anticipated. An outlying example is “Garden of Cyrus” which features a saxophone – not an instrument you hear on a lot of death metal albums, but one that fits perfectly in this song, complementing gruff vocals and lyrical guitars. Still, it was a surprise to hear it

Not every song is an oddity. Long-time fans and newcomers looking for heavy, crushing metal are going to find it here, too. In most cases, the songs have more than one movement that is reached through effluence or stark shift, each standing in seeming, if not actual, juxtaposition to its neighboring fellows. The complexity of the music is one of its most attractive features.

The new album does sound different in many ways compared to early work of the band. For me it is a fitting addition to the canon of At The Gates and it is a strong sign of the continuing vibrancy of the musicians. Recommended.

The Nightmare Of Being is out now from Century Media in a plethora of versions. You can get it all over.

Links.

Website, http://atthegates.se/

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

Century Media, https://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=729

At The Gates, The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media 2021)

Dungeon Serpent, World of Sorrows (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

Generated in a singularity, Dungeon Serpent’s new album World Of Sorrows is executed with aplomb.

The soul member of the band is Arawn, and he has to do it all from vocals to guitars to drum programming. That is a lot to ask and there are many examples of one-man-bands out there. Arawn, and Dungeon Serpent, is the exception, operating at the high end of the spectrum in composition and performance. World of Sorrows is the first album from the solo act, following an earlier two-song demo.

“Necroscope” starts the set off with a straight up death metal attack. Heavy and driving, this song should be the single. Fittingly, there is a YouTube video to go along with it and that makes sense because it is an excellent introduction to the album. “Decay” is next and it starts aggressively, too, but by the end the first melodic elements appear, and the ending is light and ethereal.

There is not much of a break as “Immortal Incubation” is a wild ride, while “Cosmic Sorcery,” my favorite track, offers moments of respite as part of the broader heavy. The closer is the longest song, the title track, “World of Sorrows.” It has an epic metal feel to it, big in its ideas and full in its production. The progression runs through the edge of doom to straight-up death metal to those gentler and spare melodic elements. In many ways it is like a suite, as we might expect in a long piece. It is just the right finale and nightcap.

World of Sorrows is out on Friday, July 16th through the ever-reliable Bandcamp as well as the Nameless Grave Records store. Recommended.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://dungeonserpentmdm.bandcamp.com/album/world-of-sorrows

Nameless Grave Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/NamelessGraveRecords

Nameless Grave Records, https://namelessgraverecords.com/

Dungeon Serpent YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChdc80haQRpzS_T4RXL92Rg

Dungeon Serpent, World of Sorrows (Nameless Grave Records 2021)

Assault, In Aevum Et Illustrata (Eastbreath Records 2021)

Singapore metallers bring the sophomore singe with their second album, In Aevum Et Illustrata.

Assault has been around for fifteen years. Their first EP, The Exceptions of the Rebellions, came out in 2011 and was followed in 2017 by the long-player, The Fallen Reich. Along the way they have been honing their skills and producing increasingly complex and memorable music. The band members are known by single names: Noh (guitar), Clarence (vocal),  Hanesh (guitar), Mitch (drums), and Syaz (bass).

The new album has nine tracks, including a short intro bit. The title is In Aevum Et Illustrata and can be translated into English as “In the Age of the Enlightened.” The first proper song starts off at a blistering pace, “Oration of Lies.” It has a very clippy riff and a standard structure, including a technically astute lead break just past the middle. The song diverges then from the regular with a pulsing attack from the rhythm section and an aggressive exit strategy. Innovative and well done. The next song, “MDCCLXXVI Novus Ordo Seclorum” throws in some keys, a soft acoustic section, and other surprises. And then comes “Age of Enlightenment” with its tense, nerve-rattling, rampaging guitar riffs. There is no rest to be had from start to finish on this album.

The music does fit into the category of melodic death metal, and it has a lot of thrash elements, too. The writing is refreshing and I appreciate the effective use of the bass throughout. There is a lot to take in on this set, and all of it is good. If you are new to Assault, this is a good jumping on point. Recommended.

In Aevum Et Illustrata is out now from Eastbreath Records on CD and digital. In the US, Bandcamp is the place to get it.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://eastbreathrecords.bandcamp.com/album/in-aevum-et-illustrata

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

Assault, In Aevum Et Illustrata (Eastbreath Records 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)