Hammers Of Misfortune, Overtaker (2022)

Rocky Mountain prog metal band Hammers of Misfortune are back with Overtaker.

Hammers of Misfortune started out in San Francisco more than twenty years ago. Back in the nineties, they operated as Unholy Cadavar before changing their name to the current, more familiar one. With six previous long-players under their belt (and the Unholy Cadaver album, too), They have made an indelible mark on progressive metal. The lineup for the Overtaker album includes John Cobbett (guitar, bass, Mellotron), Jamie Myers (vocals), Mike Scalzi (contributing vocals), Blake Anderson (drums, piano), Sigrid Sheie (Hammond B3), Frank Chin (contributing bass), and Steve Blanco: (synth), with a guest appearance by Tom Draper (Carcass, Spirit Adrift) on guitar.

It has been six years since the last record, so fans have been sweating this new for a while now. The title track kicks things off at a blistering pace as the band puts it all out there at once. “Dark Brennius” inveigles with the respite of its opening bars, but it is a dodge. Cataclysmic music follows, a ravaging lead break, and mystical passages that are like opening a door to gentle blue light in a dungeon of cacophony. I get the sense that I am being chased with this one all the way through. And then comes “Vipers Cross” which, if anything, is more chaotic than the first two songs. I am breathless but Hammers is filled with energy and keeps it going for twice again as much more.

The album fills your head with ideas and information at a pace right on the edge of what humans can reasonably be expected to take in. Any slowing down that occurs is brief, occurring in between flurries of furious activity. Fans of the band will be ready for this. Newcomers: prepare yourselves. Recommended.

Overtaker is out digitally on Friday, December 2nd. Stream or pick it up at Bandcamp, or wherever prog metal lives.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hammersofmisfortune.bandcamp.com/album/overtaker

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

© Wayne Edwards

Hammers Of Misfortune, Overtaker (2022)

In The Woods…, Diversum (Soulseller 2022)

Progressive black rock and metal band In The Woods… returns with a nuanced perspective on Diversum.

In The Woods… formed in Norway in 1991 alongside, in many ways, Green Carnation. Their earliest expressions were black metal, and later they were one of the first bands to refer to their music as pagan metal. I am most familiar with what sounds to me more avant-garde and prog-like from this group. The new album shines a light on familiar places as well as along less well-trodden pathways. The band is Anders Kobro (drums), Bernt Sørensen (guitar), Nils Olav Drivdal (bass, keys), Bernt Fjellestad (vocals), Kåre André Sletteberg (guitar, keys), and Alf Erik Sørensen (session keys).

“The Coward’s Way” is surprisingly straight-forward in structure with a gentle intro and an emotional rock delivery. It does swerve off into lands peculiar toward the end and that’s when I knew I was in the right place. “Moments” is a direct meshing of discordant elements in that the rhythm structure does not match, in a conventional way, the vocal presentation. As the song goes on, there is more of a meeting of the minds, but there is plenty of start-and-stop and swing and chop all the way through. “We Sinful Converge” is off in another direction, soaring on wings of high production. There is an episode of lostness in the middle, creating an important reference before the return to the earlier framing. It is a fascinating beginning.

“The Malevolent God” is very dramatic, taking the mood to a dire crescendo. It is my favorite track on the record for that set up and the amazing middle chopping riff and ramble, spiced with a slick lead break. I also appreciate the closer, “Your Dark.” This final song takes a soothing vocal mediation in precedence to screeching singing and heavy guitars, reverting at last to an off-balance placidity. A curious excursion indeed. Recommended.

Diversum is out now through Soul Seller Records. Follow up at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://soulsellerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/diversum

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

Soulseller Records, https://www.soulsellerrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

In The Woods…, Diversum (Soulseller 2022)

Hypermass, Empyrean (2022)

Progressive death metal band Hypermass release their debut full-length album, Empyrean.

Formed ten years ago in Norway, Hypermass issued a demo in 2013 called Into Oblivion, then the EP Clouded Visions a couple years later. Since 2015 they have been rather quiet on the recording front, raising expectations for their first long-player, Empyrean. Playing progressive death metal that is loaded with grooves, hooks, and technical proficiency, they exist on their own self-constructed plane. The band is Markus Sundet (vocals), Thomas Pedersen (guitar), Sindre Dagestad (guitar), and Martin Nordvik (bass). Torgeir Aambø did the drum work on the new recording.

There are nine tracks on the album, starting with a short on ramp, “The Constant.” “Hivemind” is the first detailed glimpse into the universe of the set and it walks you around the expansive neighborhood, offering clues to the keys to the coming compositions. The hammer drops and the prog breaks out and it is more like a festival than a chemistry class. That is the hallmark of Hypermass – they confident enough in their own ideas that they do not try to fit in anyone else’s mold.

There is a plethora of looks on the album. The grisly “The Degenerate Strain” has its own approachability despite its sharp edges. Watch out for the ripping lead guitar that springs to life unexpectedly. “Null and Void” has the fully formed heaviness, too, that is somehow carried on a musical anti-gravity mechanism that allows it to move toward wherever you are at the time you hear it. It is almost mystical the way it works.

The title track comes near the end of the record and it is an achievement. Whether the sky is coming down or we are rising to meet it the journey is multifaceted and absolutely fascinating. The guitar on this song shines again, and the coarse vocals remind us that existence is multidimensional. Excellent throughout, and recommended.

Empyrean is out now. Bandcamp is a quick place to hear it – at the link below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hypermass.bandcamp.com/album/empyrean

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHw3woqZYJMR4AN9Yf02jRQ

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

© Wayne Edwards

Hypermass, Empyrean (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)

Psilocybe Larvae, Where Silence Dwells (Fono Ltd. / Red Rivet Records 2021)

The new album from Russian metal band Psilocybe Larvae breaks a nine year silence with a clang and a roar.

The music of Psilocybe Larvae has strong progressive elements that frame the visages of death and doom. The band has released four previous albums: Stigmata (2000), Agony (2003), Non-Existence (2008), and The Labyrinth of Penumbra (2012). The line-up has jostled some over the years. The musicians on the new album are Vitaly Belobritsky (guitars, vocals), Alexey Legotin (bass), and Iliya Piyaev (drums), while in the current band Belobritsky and Legotin are joined by Anton Veresov (guitar) and Alexander Yakovlev (drums).

“The Flame Of Dying Life” is the first of ten tracks on the album and it sets a grim tone. It offers a dark frolic and a gentle growl to wave you in then drops the hammer with heavy punches and gravelly shouts. The feel is most gothic. The next song has a similar structure with a somewhat different timbre, followed by a notably different approach in “Ghost In The Room,” my vote for most memorable song on the album. The layers in this one are stretched to the very edge of complement and, even though the track starts out fairly up-tempo, it finds a way to build throughout. Good show.

There are heavier songs like “Dead Dreams,” which is full-on death metal turned at the corners toward a broader appeal. And then you hear “Sorvali Cemetery” which has a dooming sense to it and offers a number of surprises from the strings to the soaring middle ground. The album is sure to be a hit with the newer generation of heavy music fans and it also holds sway over more seasoned listeners like me with it callbacks and essential roots. Recommended.

Where Silence Dwells hits the streets Friday, December 10th in digital. The CD version will be released by Fono Ltd. (Russia) and Red Rivet Records (Japan) on December 15th, and a cassette version comes out that day, too. The vinyl LP is set for a February release.

Links.

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

Website, http://psilocybe-larvae.ru/

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

Psilocybe Larvae, Where Silence Dwells (Fono Ltd. / Red Rivet Records 2021)

Mastodon, Hushed and Grim (Reprise Records 2021)

Progressive metal band Mastodon cap a big year with a new full-length album, Hushed and Grim.

Since 2000, the band has been Troy Sanders (bass and vocals), Brann Dailor (drums and vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar and vocals), and Bill Kelliher (guitar and vocals). I remember exactly when I started listening to Mastodon. I did not hear their first long-player, Remission, when it came out in 2002, but I did hear Leviathan two years later. I liked, I recall, but for some reason it didn’t land with me the first time the way it ultimately would. Time passed and then I heard Crack The Skye (2009) – there was no turning back from that. I immediately went back through the entire catalogue and since have waited less-than-patiently for every new release. Mastodon is one of my absolute favorite metal bands.

In 2021, Mastodon has been showing up more regularly than most bands at festivals, sometimes stepping in at the last minute to replace bands that were sidelined by covid-19, as they did at Psycho Las Vegas, and in a headline spot, too. I have seen them several times live this year and always to my amazement. Each and every performance is masterful.

The new album is another exceptional set the band has added to their already galactic catalogue. Early singles were “Pushing the Tides” and “Teardrinker,” both of which have more than a million spins on Spotify by now. The more recently released “Sickle and Peace” already has half a million plays. Their fans are legion.

Mastodon’s music has evolved over the years, and now it in the complex and leans toward the progressive end of the metal spectrum. It has a haunting quality, and hypnotizing nature that draws you quickly in and holds you as the enchantment unfolds. The new album is almost an hour and a half long and it seems exactly right in its construction. Not extended or stretched; just precisely as it should be.

I am not going to pick favorites because every song has its necessary place, from the reflective “Skeleton of Splendor” to the forceful “Pain with an Anchor” to the overwhelming closer “Gigantium.” I will say this album goes toward the top of the list of the work the band has released. I found it to be captivating. Highly recommended.

Hushed and Grim is out now on all streaming platforms and in the expected physicals. Look to the links below.

Band photo by Wayne Edwards at Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2021.

Links.

Mastodon, https://www.mastodonrocks.com/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/MastodonMusic

Mastodon, Hushed and Grim (Reprise Records 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)

Fetid Zombie, Transmutations (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Fetid Zombie is out with its first full-length album in five years, Transmutations.

The driving force behind Fetid Zombie is Mark Riddick. In 2016, he/the band released Epicedia, an exploratory album with four long tracks that trod every land of heavy music. Since then, there have been many splits and EPs, which is a hallmark of Riddick’s work. Transmutations is the seventh long-player under the Fetid Zombie banner.

Riddick has invited a long list of musicians to join him on the new album including Ralf Hauber (Heads For The Dead), Chris Monroy (Skeletal Remains), Clare Webster (Yylva), Josh Fleischer (Svierg), Jamie Whyte (Beyond Mortal Dreams), James Malone (Arsis), Malcolm Pugh (Inferi), and Toby Knapp (Affliktor, Waxen). The result of this incredible variety of influences is a lush album that crosses multiple borders of heavy music and generates a synergistic whole.

Across six tracks you hear classic metal transforming into death metal and then heavy prog melding with searing dark entropy and more. The variety of the landscape is astonishing in every song. The opener, for example, “Chrysopoeia,” is an eight minute epic with growling death metal vocals, riffs that would be at home in classic heavy metal albums from the eighties, disembodied ethereal voices howling from the void, melodic guitar leads, space prog, and too many other elements to count. It is a grand quest.

Every song has its own environment and infrastructure that makes it unique. With all the seemingly disparate pieces floating around you might worry that this is a confusing basket of everything, but that is not what comes across at all. Each song is carefully constructed to fit together perfectly and the musicians perform expertly throughout. I can’t think of anything to compare it to directly. You have to hear it for yourself. Recommended.

Transmutations is out now from Transcending Obscurity. You can find it in the usual places including Bandcamp and the label’s US store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://fetidzombiedm.bandcamp.com/album/transmutations-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Fetid Zombie, Transmutations (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links.

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

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

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

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

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

Vokonis, Odyssey (The Sign Records 2021)

Sweden’s Vokonis has created a progressive rock/metal album designed to push out against borders and boundaries and exist in that expanded space.

With three previous full-length albums stretching back only to 2016, Vokonis seems to be on a mission. The earlier music was more in the stoner/doom lane (it seemed to me) and the newer work is heading toward the prog. That is a touchy transition that Vokonis has managed effectively. The band is Simon Ohlsson (guitar, vocals), Jonte Johansson (bass, vocals), and Peter Ottosson (drums), with Per Wiberg on keyboards for this album.

I always look first for the longer songs because I appreciate the necessary complexity and endurance required for an extended composition. There are six tracks on Odyssey, half at radio length and half tending toward the epic frame. “Rebellion,” then, is an opening shorter piece that sets up the nine-minute title track that follows. The clear vocals allow for straight-forward narrative delivery atop the keyboard beds and pulsing guitar riffs. “Odyssey” is a big story and it is beautifully imagined. Listening to the guitar diversions and occasional gruffing vocalizations you realize they are the milestones that mark the way and that will spark memories on re-listening.

“Blackened Wings” and “Azure” are shorter, up-tempo skirmishes that liven up the set and add a couple of my favorite breakaway moments. It is “Hollow Waters” that stands out most to me for the way it combines elegance and power so seamlessly and effectively. The closing track is the longest, “Through The Depths,” and I see it simultaneously as a culmination and a retelling of what has come before – it is filled with ambitious ideas and soaring moments; peppered with lyrical stopovers as well as truculent byways. For fans of the band and fans of transitional prog, this is an album you will want to hear. Recommended.

Odyssey is out now in all its myriad realities and tangential essences. Bandcamp is a good place to start looking over the choices.

Links.

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

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

The Sign Records, https://thesignrecords.bandcamp.com/

Vokonis, Odyssey (The Sign Records 2021)