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)

Space Chaser, Give Us Life (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The third album from Space Chaser is an absolute rampage of blistering thrash.

Formed in Germany in 2011, Space Chaser has promulgated some the most memorable thrash music out there. This five-piece metal machine has released two previous full-length albums, the most recent being Dead Sun Rising in 2016. The new album has all the velocity and ingenuity fans have come to expect. The band is Siegfried Rudzynski (vocals), Leo Schacht (guitar), Martin Hochsattel (guitar), Sebastian Kerlikowski (bass), and Matthias Scheuerer (drums).

If you look at the cover art you will get a pretty good idea about the thematic perspective for Give Us Life. It ranges from techlife to rampaging killing machines to the evolution of a star, as in the title track the band describes this way: “It’s always an act of violence, birth and death. When a star sheds its hull and collapses into a white dwarf it soon will perish like all life, biological or non-biological. If a star goes supernova it explodes and spreads all the elements needed to create life, and the whole process begins anew. Thousands of worlds have to perish, to create new worlds and life of its own.” I am always up for a good story. Still, it is the music that is the most important thing to me.

There are ten tracks on the new album, mostly running at radio length and all of them glistening with speed and power. There are fascinating crooks and turns in nearly every song. I am impressed when a band can find a way to create a pattern I have never heard before, and there are many examples of that very thing in this music.

“Cryoshock” is a stand-out for me – I love the lead work – and the title track is a monster, too. The final track, “Dark Descent,” also captured my imagination with its big build and tempo changes. The laid-out lead guitar toward the end, I can still hear it. I am on board with thrash most of the time and this album ticks that box but it also adds so much more. Recommended.

The street date for Give Us Life is Friday, July 16th and you can get it at the Metal Blade shop or Bandcamp.

Links,

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

Bandcamp, https://spacechaser.bandcamp.com/album/give-us-life

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

Space Chaser, Give Us Life (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Desaster, Churches Without Saints (Metal Blade Records 2021)

German Blackened Thrash Metal band Desaster add a new set of high-speed adrenaline-infused metal to their history.

Desaster started in the late 1980s and really got kicking in the 1990s. Along with releasing eight previous full-length albums, there has also been a slew of EPs, splits, compilations, and three live albums. It has been five years since their last studio album, The Oath Of An Iron Ritual, so the time is definitely right for some new music.

The musical style on Churches Without Saints is what we have come to expect from the band: high speed Blackened Thrash that visits themes of darkness and aggression. They have an old school four-piece set-up that pummels and pounds and rakes over the universal constant in search of conflict and despair.

There are eleven tracks on the album, including an intro and an outro. Most are set at high speed, like the opening cut, “Learn To Love The Void.” There are a few that have a scaled back pace, like the title track itself, which is more about threat and menace than acceleration.

Other stand-out tracks include “Hellputa” which is best described as an explosion with its roaring energy and dueling lead break. “Sadistic Salvation,” too, is a break-neck killer up front but it steps back in the middle to survey the ruin it has sown. The longest track, “Endless Awakening,” comes just before the outro. It has an acoustic opening to begin the journey that takes to you to all the corners of the kingdom. There are parts of this song that remind me most of the old school standard and in other places there are turns to raging dimensions and ethereal planes previously unseen. Desaster is wide open on this album, delivering the goods. Recommended.

Churches Without Saints is out now from Metal Blade Records. Have a look at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://desaster.bandcamp.com/album/churches-without-saints

Desaster website, http://www.total-desaster.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/666Desaster666

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

Desaster, Churches Without Saints (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Cirith Ungol reimagines music that was long thought forgotten for their new EP.

The California metal band Cirith Ungol released four albums in the 1980s to early 1990s, most notably (for me anyway), King Of The Dead (1984). Big dark fantasy themes, wailing guitars, and the unique and unforgettable voice of Tim Baker helped write the band’s name in the book of eternity. They passed into the mist only to return in 2019 with a live album and in 2020 with their first studio release in decades, the earth shaking Forever Black. Cirith Ungol was definitely back. The band is Tim Baker (vocals), Greg Lindstrom (guitar), Robert Garven (drums), Jim Barraza (guitar), and Jarvis Leatherby (bass).

Half Past Human contains four songs from the vaults – songs that were written but never released during earlier sessions. These pieces have been re-worked and newly invigorated for fans to hold them over until the touring starts up again.

“Route 666” revs to life with a roaring engine and hits the road with pelting goodtime riffs and pops. Dual complementary lead guitars are the highlight. “Shelob’s Lair” sends us on a trek through the darkness and lifts us up with an energetic and impassioned lead break and outro. “Brutish Manchild” is the shortest track and could function well as a single or a rousing live standard to whip the crowd into a frenzy at just the right moment.

The closer is “Half Past Human,” and it is more on the epic side than the others. The song starts out quietly, forlornly, then builds steadily to a louder, fuller sound. The composition has a sweeping production with extended elements that highlight the best aspects of the band and never overstay their welcome. It is just the right nightcap, and it is good to have these songs finally released. Fans will be delighted that they are seeing the light of day. Recommended.

Half Past Human is out on Friday, May 28th, and can be accessed through the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://cirithungol.bandcamp.com/album/half-past-human

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

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

FFMB review of Forever Black, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/04/25/cirith-ungol-forever-black-review-metal-blade-records-2020/

Cirith Ungol, Half Past Human (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Vulture, Dealin’ Death (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Vulture comes raging back with more speed and thrash on Dealin’ Death.

It is easy to think that the best days of Thrash Metal are behind us because so many iconic albums came out all those years ago. If you look around at the music back then you find that there is a lot of bands you did not know about that made high-speed, solid, and aggressive music that somehow slipped past you. Similarly, new thrash has come out consistently over the years, and, if anything, there has been a resurgence in past lustrum or two. Vulture is a good example of new Thrash Metal that absolutely kills.

Hailing from Germany, Vulture formed only a few years ago in 2016. The demo they released in that first year was well received by fans and since then the band has issued two full-length albums, making Dealin’ Death the third long-player. Set up in the classic style of bass, drums, two guitars, and vocals, the music they create can clock in to legitimate speed freak territory whenever they feel the need.

After a nice short intro that could have been for a demonic toy movie, the thrash kicks up. In some of the songs, a rampaging juggernaut is on display while on others the tempo is not quite so frantic and the composition stretches in other directions. The narrative themes tend toward horror and mythology. When you match these ideas up with fast music the result is high-energy entertainment. Clever twists and turns lead to compositional diversity and add to the experience. This is good, fast metal that makes no massive demands of you and gives you what you want to hear.

Dealin’ Death is out this week on Metal Blade Records. Recommended.

Links.

Vulture Kills store, https://vulturekills.bigcartel.com/

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

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

Bandcamp, https://vulturekills.bandcamp.com/album/dealin-death

Vulture, Dealin’ Death (Metal Blade Records 2021)

Metal Massacre XV (Metal Blade Records 2021)

The fifteenth installment of Metal Blade Records’ popular Metal Massacre compilation series takes the stage.

It all started in 1982 at the very beginning of the storied label. The first Metal Massacre compilation had some incredible artists contribute to it including Cirith Ungol, Avatar, Bitch, and Metallica. The anthology was an annual event for many years until the end of the 1980s when the new ones started to come out only sporadically. It is nice to see the fires lit again for the first time since 2016.

Here is what is on the new compilation. 01. Midnight, “Masked and Deadly” (exclusive), 02. Poison Ruïn, “Demon Wind,” 03. Fuming Mouth, “Master of Extremity,” 04. Many Suffer, “The Trees Die Standing” (exclusive), 05. Temple of Void, “Leave the Light Behind,” 06. Ripped to Shreds, “撿骨 (Bone Ritual)” (exclusive), 07. Rude, “Omega,” 08. Midnight Dice, “Starblind,” 09. Smoulder, “Warrior Witch of Hel,” and 10. Mother of Graves, “In Somber Dreams.”

As you can tell from the contributor list, there is quite a range of music here from straight up heavy metal to punk to death metal to doom and all points around and in between. It is worth noting that a few of these tracks are exclusive to this release (marked above), at least for now. That’s a good reason to check this album out along with the rest of the solid tunes.

Metal Massacre XV is out on Friday May 21st through the label at the link below. Recommended.

Links.

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

Metal Massacre XV (Metal Blade Records 2021)