Motor Sister, Get Off (Metal Blade 2022)

Motor Sister is back with a dozen original tracks on the band’s second album, Get Off.

If you haven’t heard who Motor Sister is yet, this line-up will be an eye-opener: Jim Wilson (vocals, guitar), Scott Ian (guitar), Pearl Aday (vocals), Joey Vera (bass), and John Tempesta (drums). Name those bands! Originally formed as a tribute band playing a special set of Mother Superior music, they released an album of just such covers in 2015 called Ride. The band sometimes calls the music they play “no bullshit hard rock and roll” and that label does indeed fit. The new album follows this course with twelve original tracks and one cover to put a bow on it.

Most of the songs are up-tempo rushes that will flush your face with nostalgia. Witness the opener, “Can’t Get High Enough.” That one goes right along with the cover art, doesn’t it? Charging guitar, great hooks, and the incredible pairing of two fantastic rock voices is a recipe for success. You can tear another one of those off for me any time and I will be ready to listen to it. “Coming For You” follows hot on its heels, and it is a blood boiling fever maker. There is speed and energy here, more than enough to go around; enough to spare.

There is a ballad on the album, “Sooner Or Later,” in the frame hard rock bands used to make them in. And there is an introspective song, “Pain.” Slower pieces are more than balanced with ragers, like “Excuse Me, Your Life Is Exposed” and “Bulletproof.” And anyway, who wants an album that sounds all the same. There is a compelling variety of compositions on the record, all of it sounding like an unearthed treasure trove of music you have never heard before that fits like a glove. The only question I have is: When does the tour start? Recommended.

You can get your hands on Get Off starting Friday, May 6th from Metal Blade Records. Examine your options at the links below.

Links.

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

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Motor Sister, Get Off (Metal Blade 2022)

Satan, Earth Infernal (Metal Blade 2022)

Satan’s follow-up to 2018’s Cruel Magic is a speeding vortex that raises the flag even higher: Earth Infernal.

Satan is a band from Newcastle that formed around 1979. They were part of the actual New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, they have laid down five full-length albums – six counting the new one – and a truckload of EPs, compilations, and live albums. The group has gone through many changes over the years, more than you might even expect even for such a long-lived band. Notably, they changed their name several times (Pariah, Blind Fury), disbanded and reformed. They re-solidified in 2011 and, starting in 2013, released three monstrous albums in a row, Life Sentence (2103), Atom By Atom (2015), and Cruel Magic (2018). Earth Infernal stretches the string winning albums to four in a row. The band is Brian Ross (vocals), Russ Tippins (guitar), Steve Ramsey (guitar), Graeme English (bass), and Sean Taylor (drum).

The metal is high-energy and clocks in at pace. “Ascendancy” pierces the veil with a rowdy, driving rhythm and eager guitar passages. “Burning Portrait” mixes the pace a little, and then “Twelve Infernal Lords” ratchets up the drama and mystery, recalling often returned-to themes. I could say that some of the music is reminiscent of this or that band but of course it is the other way around, isn’t it – Satan is an original.

There are some quiet passages, but they are mood-setting and don’t last long. For example, “Mercury’s Shadow” has a soft opening but in less than a minute the metal takes a swing on this reflective instrumental track. For that matter, “A Sorrow Unspent” has an airy casualness when it begins but soon turns toward a swirling attack of unhesitating, pulsing guitars.

Side Two has just as much innovation and transforming musicality as the first half. “Poison Elegy” is a good example, and one of my favorites from the entire set. It has drama, tempo changes, fantastic soaring vocals, and guitar work that comes at you from every angle. Throughout the album, the pairing of guitars is unique and compelling, sometimes tag-teaming individual passages and at other times playing in unison. “Earth We Bequeath” has the final say on the record, and it seals the deal. This is another great Satan album. Recommended.

Earth Infernal is out on Friday, April 1st through Metal Blade Records. Check out the links below for vinyl variants and other versions.

Link.

Bandcamp, https://satanuk.bandcamp.com/album/earth-infernal

Satan website, https://www.satanmusic.com/

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

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

© Wayne Edwards.

Satan, Earth Infernal (Metal Blade 2022)

Týr, A Night At The Nordic House (Metal Blade 2022)

Folk metal icons Týr have recorded a live album with an orchestra that exhibits an unforgettable musical symbiosis, A Night At The Nordic House.

It has been a little over twenty years since progressive folk metal band Týr was founded in the Faroe Islands. Their location is certainly a memorable aspect of the band’s character, but of course it is the music they create that sets them apart. Over the years they have released eight full-length studio albums, the most recent being Hel (2019). Their style is a progressive form of epic folk metal that overlaps Viking and death metal as well.

The new album was recorded live at The Nordic House in Tórshavn, in the Faroe Islands on February 8th, 2020, with the Symphony Orchestra of the Faroe Islands. If ever there was a metal band that could make effective and dramatic use of an accompanying orchestra, Týr fits the bill. From the press release … “Working with the Symphony Orchestra was without a doubt one of the highlights of our careers,” admits vocalist Heri Joensen. “The feeling of sheer sophisticated power behind us was extraordinarily uplifting. We were awed by how well the songs worked in a symphonic setting. ‘By The Sword In My Hand,’ for example, seems to take on a new life.”

There are eighteen tracks on the massive album, including the opening intro. “Gates of Hel” is the ideal song to hear first if you want to know what to expect from the rest of the performance. The slow build is enormously enhanced by the fullness of the orchestration. The primary instrument is still the guitar, and the voices and orchestral apparatus work a pervasive, all-encompassing effect. The gruff lead vocals match the perfectly the melodic aspects of the overall musical construction.

“By the Sword in My Hand” is another exemplary performance. The theme is an epic tale of conquest and the ideal instantiation of the narrative. Dazzling lead guitar work and soaring choruses combine into overwhelming musical power. The final track, “Álvur Kongur,” is the capstone, and you get the feeling at the end that seeing this performance would have been as amazing an experience as hearing it.

A Night At The Nordic House is out on Friday March 18th through Metal Blade Records. Highly recommended for fans of Týr, and genre fans as well – but, seriously, if you appreciate folk/Viking/epic metal then you are already a Týr fan.

Links.

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

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

Týr website, https://tyr.fo/

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

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Týr, A Night At The Nordic House (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)

Whitechapel, Kin (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Heavy metal stalwarts Whitechapel have created their eighth full-length album, Kin.

It is no accident that Whitechapel rose to prominence in the heavy music world so quickly. At the jump their music carried a uniqueness in theme and an energetic earnestness in expression. The lyrical themes have changed over the years and the music has expanded to cover new and invigorating ground. The band has released seven previous full-length albums, the most recent being The Valley in 2019. The lineup for Kin is Gabe Crisp (bass), Alex Wade (guitars), Ben Savage(guitar), Phil Bozeman (vocals), Zach Householder (guitar), and Alex Rüdinger (drums).

The first song on the album is “I Will Find You” and it starts off like a theme to a western film before taking a sharp turn less than a minute in toward a punishing landscape. Other tracks have a loud voice right at the first note, like “Lost Boy” and “To The Wolves.” Whether it is a race at the sound of the gun or a slow build, every song takes a journey with unexpected encounters and obstacles to overcome.

Stand-out tracks for me include “The Ones That Made Us” for its dooming nature and mysterious intrigue that soaks the sound throughout, and the title track which closes the set. The clean vocals at the beginning of “Kin” deepen the emotional impact of the song overall and also open the gates for the second movement with its soaring guitar work. It is a bold choice to end the album on this song, one that pays off in welcome closure.

In some ways this new album is reminiscent of the previous one, The Valley. Kin, though, is more than a reflection of the earlier work, and it is more even than a continuation of it – it is an expansion into broader realms, the nature of which can only be understood through time and experience. Recommended.

Kin officially drops on Friday, October 29th through Metal Blade Records. Enjoy a promenade through the many aspects of format versioning and merch at the links below.

Links.

Whitechapel website, https://www.whitechapelband.com/

Bandcamp, https://whitechapelmetal.bandcamp.com/album/kin

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

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

Whitechapel, Kin (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Hate, Rugia (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Blackened death metal band Hate releases their twelfth full-length album, Rugia.

Since the mid-1990s, Polish band Hate has been has been issuing rock solid death metal. Their style has evolved somewhat over the years, moving from a strictly death metal approach toward an amalgam of black and death metal. Their lyrical themes have changed, too, concentrating in more recent years on mysticism and esoteric perambulations. Armed with a new drummer, the latest album is “a refreshing new chapter to our discography, composing nine truly sinister onslaughts of pure rage,” according to the band.

The set opens with the title track, offering an engaging percussion/riff combination before settling in with a thrumming death metal standard. The music is dramatic, even theatrical toward the end, dressing the stage for the deeper shades of dark to come. The question of where to place the title track (when there is one) has always fascinated me. It could be anywhere – the anchor position, sorted in the middle, or right up front. I think starting with “Rugia” is a blatant display of confidence, one that is well deserved.

Most tracks are relatively brief for this type of music, keeping the focus razor-sharp. Watch (listen) for “Exiles of Pantheon” especially, and “Resurgence,” for pummeling rhythm enhanced by unexpected turns in the harmony. “Sun Of Extinction” is a stand-out track for me because of its challenging, almost prog-ish, opening and determined follow-through. And “Awakening The Gods Within” has a cliff dropping shift from the doom laden opening to the savage assault that follows. These are all thrilling for their own reasons.

All the stops are pulled for the final track, “Sacred Dnieper.” It is a consolidated fury that sounds for all the world as if it spewed directly from the blackest void. This album is a roving, unrelenting menace that will dislodge your peace of mind. Recommended.

Rugia is available now through Metal Blade Records. Examine the varieties at the label link below.

Band photo by Daniel Rusilowicz.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hate.bandcamp.com/album/rugia

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

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

Hate, Rugia (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Aeon, God Ends Here (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Aeon’s fifth full-length album is a monumental work that rivals any other heavy album released this year.

Aeon is a band from Sweden peopled by Tommy Dahlström (vocals), Zeb Nilsson (guitars), Daniel Dlimi (guitars), and Tony Östman (bass), with Janne Jaloma on drums for the album. They released their first EP twenty years ago and have produce increasingly solid work thereafter. Their last longplayer was Aeons Black, released in 2012 and it was a highly regarded entry in the band’s canon. The new album, God Ends Here, is even better and will surely make year-end “best of” lists far and wide.

After a dramatic intro piece, the album kicks off with “Liar’s Den,” and it is a heavy hammer swung straight at your head. The song smashes together multiple styles ranging from 80s metal to modern death metal. Vocal depth and blast beats highlight and color the musical explosion. It is a lot to take in, and that is even before the rampaging lead guitar break. “Let It Burn” follows with a groove vibe in the front riff and a commanding vocal assertion. But then there is a lyrical transition piece that is light and eerie and theatrical right before “Church of Horror,” an aggressive, thrashy track that is one of my favorites on the album.

This brings me to the structure of the album, which is unusual. What you typically see is some kind of predictable regularity in the sequencing of tracks on the album. You know, maybe a couple of transition pieces with mainly longer songs, or just epic pieces alone, or all short ones. Maybe one outlier – a blip or a big anchor. God Ends Here is more variegated with a fuller range of expression. And, importantly, the “transition” pieces aren’t merely convenient functional tidbits. Instead they are integral in the overall work.

A good example of this is the triplet of the raging “Forsaker” delivered in a furious two-minute chunk followed by “Into The Void,” which is a one-minute chorale that sets up the title track, a big production with deep, integrated layering. These are three very different songs that work precisely together to create a larger suite that is itself an indispensable part of the even bigger chronicle. It is a fantastic achievement at every level. I hope that this album is a sign of even more music coming in the near future from Aeon. Highly recommended.

God Ends Here is out tomorrow, Friday October 15th through Metal Blade Records. Links below.

Band photo by Tony Östman.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://aeon666.bandcamp.com/album/god-ends-here

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/aeon666

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

Aeon, God Ends Here (Metal Blade Records 2021)

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)

Criminal, Sacrificio (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The ninth full-length studio album from the resilient Chilean thrash band Criminal shakes the pillars of the heavens.

For thirty years now Criminal has been making a salty combination of death/thrash/groove metal. The band’s first long-player, Victimized, came out in 1994, and in the decades since then the consistently excellent work of Criminal has drawn increasing attention. As with most long-lived bands, there have been a number of line-up changes through the years. On the new album, founding vocalist and guitarist Anton Reisenegger is joined by Danilo Estrella (drums), Danny Biggin (bass), and Sergio Klein (guitar).

There are twelve searing tracks on Sacrificio, starting with the ripping “Live On Your Knees.” It is a rough-edge thrash song with a timely message, a catchy bridge, and a soaring lead break. On its heels is “Caged” fostering a jagged stabbing attack, aggressively rejecting any limits. And then “The Whale” has a more expansive attitude, edging up the theatrics, shifts, and syncopation. And Criminal is only getting started at this point, just three songs in.

The percussion has a prominent presence on every track, with blasts beats and clever, technically stunning execution. Speed in the rhythm section is a consistent motif, as are tempo shifts sharp enough to make the ground move beneath your feet. Reisenegger’s rough and aggressive voice never falters, delivering a powerful performance throughout.

Stand-out tracks for me include “Theocracy” with its hardcore hammering and “Sistema Criminal” for its hair-raising lead work. Add “Hunter And The Prey” to the list for its sheer, raw urgency. This is an album that will get spin after spin from me – every time I listen to it I like it even more. Recommended.

Sacrificio is out from Metal Blade Records on Friday, September 17th through all the usual outlets.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://criminalband.bandcamp.com/album/sacrificio

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

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

Criminal, Sacrificio (Metal Blade Records 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)