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)

Photo Gallery: The Contortionist at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, October 15, 2022

Here are a few photos that might not have made it into the main Ghost Cult Magazine article.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Ghost Cult Magazine article on the show, https://www.ghostcultmag.com/concert-review-the-contortionist-rivers-of-nihil-live-at-old-national-centre-indianapolis/

Rivers of Nihil FFMB article, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2022/10/26/rivers-of-nihil-at-old-national-centre-indianapolis-october-15-2022/

The Contortionist, https://www.thecontortionist.net/

© Wayne Edwards

Photo Gallery: The Contortionist at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, October 15, 2022

Rivers Of Nihil at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, October 15, 2022

Rivers of Nihil finished off their fall tour with an unusual show in Indianapolis.

Rivers of Nihil finished their Fall tour with The Contortionist last Saturday at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a concept tour in a way. Not only did The Contortionist play two of their albums in their entirety, but Rivers of Nihil also played an album straight through. That is something I had never seen before.

The Old National Centre was known to me for most of my life as the Murat Theatre, the oldest (extant) stage house in Indianapolis. It is a beautiful place with many performance areas including the main theater, The Egyptian Room, and a number of other halls and lobbies. The Rivers of Nihil show was in one of the lower levels in a small hall at the back. It is nicer than I am making it sound – imagine a decent-sized room where a wedding reception might be held with a stage on one side.

The evening got off to a peculiar start when Rivers of Nihil took the stage. The bassist, Adam Biggs, announced that the lead singer, Jake Dieffenbach, would not be performing due to “personal issues.” However, if it was OK with the crowd, the rest of the band would play anyway. The crowd agreed (what else could they do?) and the show went on with Biggs handling the vocal duties. At one point someone did jump on stage to sing for part of a song and I am pretty sure it was Dieffenbach, but in the darkness it was hard to tell.

Rivers of Nihil played their most recent album, The Work (Metal Blade Records 2021) straight through. This album has received a lot of good press (including from me) for its depth of expression. In many ways, Rivers of Nihil have a strong Pink Floyd component going with these songs, particularly in their exploratory nature. There is an extended lyrical presence in the work, and the generous use of saxophones during the live performance greatly enhanced the experience. The lighting was particularly dim and deeply colored, with the liberal use of strobe effects to drive the etherealness home. Even without their usual lead singer, the show they put on ran for an hour and was fantastic.

That’s it for the Fall tour, but Rivers of Nihil are back out on the road in Europe starting in November on the Faces of Death Tour. They will be in the northeast in December for three shows with Killswitch Engage as well, so there are a lot of opportunities remaining to see them this year. Get out there and do it.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

This post is condensed / rewritten from the Ghost Cult Magazine article which is linked below.

Links.

Ghost Cult Magazine article on the show, https://www.ghostcultmag.com/concert-review-the-contortionist-rivers-of-nihil-live-at-old-national-centre-indianapolis/

Rivers Of Nihil, https://www.riversofnihil.com/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/artists/rivers-of-nihil/

The Contortionist, https://www.thecontortionist.net/

© Wayne Edwards

Rivers Of Nihil at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, October 15, 2022

Queensrÿche, Digital Noise Alliance (Century Media 2022)

Metal powerhouse Queensrÿche release their sixteenth studio album, Digital Noise Alliance.

It doesn’t always happen this way, but I was on board with Queensrÿche from their very first self-titled EP. That song, “Queen Of The Reich,” got more spins from me than anything else I had going at the time. I immediately loved the band and have followed them ever since. Their music changed almost immediately from the hard rock / metal of that first release, transforming into complex, progressive-oriented concept music, and that was fine with me. Every step of the way – The Warning (1984) and Rage for Order (1986) – was leading unswervingly to the all-time great Operation: Mindcrime (1988). Even now, Queensrÿche is most remember and revered for that album, but every record they have released before and since is a shining example of their dedication to their music and their artistry.

There have been a few personnel changes over the years, and that is to be expected of such a long-lived act. The current lineup is Eddie Jackson (bass), Michael Wilton (guitar), Mike Stone (guitar), Todd La Torre (vocals), and Casey Grillo (drums). The sound they achieve on the new album harkens back to the early days of the band and has firm filaments that trace Queensrÿche’s entire history. The opening track, “In Extremis,” has a charging rhythm and forceful guitar front that sets the stage for Todd La Torre’s strong and melodic voice. The lead guitar elements have a progressive feel to them, attenuate in precisely the right way to integrate with the song’s set-up and to reach audience’s ears in the most impactful way. The next song is “Chapters,” and it slows the pace a bit to emphasize emotion and drama, all the while preserving the guitar and percussion innovations and, of course, the vocals. As you move through the record, each song is a new journey and discovery.

Across the eleven songs on the new album, Queensrÿche creates incredible music to express ideas in the way that they have been doing since the beginning, and in the unique way that only they can. The new set stacks up beautifully with the existing canon of the band, demonstrating irrevocably that heavy music would be incomplete without them. Highly recommended.

Digital Noise Alliance is out now through Century Media Records. Listen to the album and go see Queensrÿche on tour now with Judas Priest.

Links.

Queensrÿche website, http://www.queensrycheofficial.com/

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

Century Media Records, https://www.centurymedia.com/artist/queensryche

© Wayne Edwards

Queensrÿche, Digital Noise Alliance (Century Media 2022)

Somehow Jo, Scales And Details (Inverse Records 2022)

The third album from prog rock band Somehow Jo is out this week, Scales And Details.

Formed in 2009 in Tampere, Finland, Somehow Jo is a progressive rock/metal band that brings order from the jam. Their first album, Satans Of Swing, came out in 2015 and Tusk followed in 2018. The band is Christian Sauren (vocals, guitar), Eero Aaltonen (bass), Sakari Karjalainen (guitar, keys), and Lassi Peiponen (drums).

Talking about the process of creating the music for Scales And Details, the press release tells us that the “base material of the album is largely the best ideas selected from the jamming sessions and then worked into ready songs. The lyrical ideas have been written on the basis of images from the song demos.” This certainly sounds like what we might expect from a progressing rock act: music emerging from a process of exploration and refinement.

There are nine tracks on the new album, beginning with “Fata Morgana.” The music is surging and urgent, with melodic arcs that release some of the tension but never lose the sense that you are part of a caravan that is traveling through dangerous country. It reminds me a little of the band Camel on their more energetic songs. “Friend” has a quieter start and a more mysterious posture. Disturbing warbles and straining vocals push the idea of peril to the front of your mind where it sticks. The lead guitar work is compelling; it draws you in. “Cycle” is a demonic hoedown, like if the Squirrel Nut Zippers were a prog band. It is unusual and fascinating, and these first three songs demonstrate an impressive range, building expectations for the rest of the album that are largely fulfilled.

Other tracks that I like especially include “When It Falls,” which is not like anything else in the set, and the final song, “Mirror.” That last piece is particularly encouraging in its tone and construction. I mean, you get a very positive feeling from the music in a way that is quite different from the other songs even though many of the elements are similar. You can think of this album as a journey, or a thoughtful examination, or even a walking mediation. The guitar work is great, and if you are looking for prog metal/rock on the lighter side, this one will do it for you. Recommended.

Scales And Details is out through Inverse Records on Friday, September 16th.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://somehow-jo.bandcamp.com/

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

Inverse Records, https://www.inverse.fi/site/

© Wayne Edwards

Somehow Jo, Scales And Details (Inverse Records 2022)

Fallujah, Empyrean (Nuclear Blast 2022)

San Francisco prog metal heavyweights Fallujah are back with their fifth album, Empyrean.

Fallujah hit the ground running in 2009 by releasing a demo and their first EP, Leper Colony. There was another demo the following year and then the band’s first long-player, The Harvest Wombs, planted the flag firmly in 2011. Their early work has been regularly described as metalcore, and over the years they have moved compositionally toward progressive metal and technical death metal. The band is Scott Carstairs (guitar), Andrew Baird (drums), Kyle Schaefer (vocals), and Evan Brewer (bass).

Discussing the album, Scott Carstairs says, “Empyrean isn’t a concept album, but there are some recurring themes throughout. The first three songs (‘The Bitter Taste of Clarity,’ ‘Radiant Ascension’ and ‘Embrace Oblivion’) all deal with a process of metaphorical rebirth—overcoming personal hardships, finding the right outlook to keep moving forward, and learning to embrace change in a way that makes you stronger for it in the long run. ‘Duality of Intent’ describes the internal conflict between the two sides of your brain, simultaneously craving immediate gratification versus long-term fulfillment and the paradoxical balance that results. ‘Artifacts’ is about the universal human desire to create something that will live on beyond oneself. ‘Mindless Omnipotent Master’ takes a cynical look outward, personifying mankind’s globally-linked networks of societal and technological systems as a giant mechanical beast which has grown beyond our control and now moves of its own accord.”

Clearly, very specific ideas are at work in the writing of this album. The great thing about this kind of depth is that it’ll work for everybody because you can embrace it and attempt to inculcate it, or you can just listen to the songs and not think so much about it. It is up to you. The music is complex. It is loud and aggressive. Perhaps the best example is the opening track, “The Bitter Taste Of Clarity,” which is absolutely savage in the music and the narrative theme. There are shifts to lighter moments, but they are pretty rigorous, too. The lead guitar work is incredible. “Soulbreaker” is another track I’d like to emphasize. The music is brutal, and its execution is unswervingly precise. Languid moments in the background and along the way serve to highlight the deeper, more punishing passages.

This album is excellent from front to back – it is my new favorite from Fallujah. Recommended.

Empyrean is out on Friday, September 9th through Nuclear Blast Records. Touch the links below to check it out and pick it up.

Band photo by Stephanie Cabral.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://fallujah.bandcamp.com/album/empyrean-2

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/fallujah-empyrean.html

© Wayne Edwards

Fallujah, Empyrean (Nuclear Blast 2022)

King’s X, Three Sides Of One (Inside Out Music 2022)

Legendary prog metal band King’s X release their thirteenth studio album, Three Sides Of One.

King’s X is one of those bands that has had an immeasurable impact on modern music. Some of the biggest bands from the nineties have cited them as direct influences, and you can hear it in the progressive rock and metal music that has come out since then. Their discography is impressive with twelve previous studio albums and five live sets published through a variety of labels ranging from Megaforce to Atlantic to Metal Blade. They are true icons in the music industry.

It has been fourteen years since King’s X put out an album of new material, so Three Sides Of One is more than welcome and hotly anticipated. The band continues to be Doug (dUg) Pinnick (bass, vocals), Jerry Gaskill (drums, vocals), and Ty Tabor (guitar, vocals).

There are a dozen tracks on the new album, beginning with “Let It Rain,” a song that walks out on a solemn tone that is followed by a tentative strum and then solidifies with growing assurance in the percussion. Soulful vocals bring the opening bars together and set up the launch. The lead guitar break is a beautiful thing. After the rain, then there is “Flood, Pt. 1.” This one works on a decidedly heavier tone, with aggressive guitars urgently pushing the ideas forward toward a surprisingly melodic vocal. “Nothing But The Truth” is a steady piece, with thoughtful construction and a gorgeous extended guitar solo. The first three songs are all very different and they are also all very King’s X.

Other favorites from the set for me are “Give It Up,” which is a one catchy number, and “Watcher,” a song that takes me back to the early days of Chicago, in my head, anyway. And really, I could pick any song on the album and easily point to aspects of it that are exceptional and memorable. There is no question that fans of the band are going to love this new album. It is incredible that the musicians have come together after a long time gap and created such a stunning collection of new songs. Highly recommended.

Three Sides Of One drops on Friday, September 2nd through Inside Out Music in an array of formats.

Links.

King’s X website, http://kingsxrocks.com/

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

Inside Out Music, https://www.insideoutmusic.com/

© Wayne Edwards

King’s X, Three Sides Of One (Inside Out Music 2022)

Haunter, Discarnate Ails (Profound Lore 2022)

Texas death metal band Haunter pull out the stops on their new album, Discarnate Ails.

Centered in Austin, Haunter came together in 2013. The music they make is a fusion of black and death metal elevated by progressive percolations. Combining subgenres is not new, of course, but the level of success achieved depends on the way the mixing is done. Haunter always gets it right, and they are top-of-the-line experts if their last record, Sacramental Death Qualia (2019), is any measure. There is an arc to the band’s career that, given Discarnate Ails, appears to be heading upward. Listed musicians on the new album are Bradley Tiffin (vocals, guitar), Enrique Bonilla (guitar), and Cole Tucker (bass).

There are three long tracks on the album. “Overgrown With The Moss” opens the set with gentle discovery. It is as if you are wandering through a forest that slowly turns darkly magical as you pass through it. You notice a raised placed in the earth. You go over to investigate and, brushing aside the overgrowth, you unleash something unimaginable. The black metal is there, and the wonder of progressive ingenuity is too – that is what supports the ten-minute-plus running time and maintains your interest through all the valleys and crypts and plains.

“Spiritual Illness” clangs out brusquely, and has the feeling of an attack. “Chained At The Helm Of The Eschaton,” on the other hand, is filled with mystery and wonder in its opening melody and has a resonating cooldown that is beautiful to hear. All three tracks have their own unique postures and progressions, and they all are mesmerizing. Recommended.

Discarnate Ails is out on Friday, May 6th through Profound Lore Records. Take note also that Haunter is scheduled to perform at Fire In The Mountains this year, a unique music festival held at the Heart Six Ranch in the Tetons. If you can get there, definitely do it because it will be an experience like no other. Links to the record and the festival appear below.

Band photo by Oscar Moreno.

Links.

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

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

Profound Lore Records, https://profoundlorerecords.com/

Fire In The Mountains Festival, https://fitmfest.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Haunter, Discarnate Ails (Profound Lore 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)

Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)

In their fourth decade, Finland’s Amorphis continue to flex with Halo.

Formed in the earliest part of the nineteen nineties, Amorphis began making progressive doom and death metal music with notable creativity. Over the years, they moved into a more melodic – or perhaps melancholy – range of expression. The depth of the music did not change, and neither did the ingenuity in composition. Halo is the band’s fourteenth full-length studio album, and along the way they have released multiple splits, EPs, compilations, and live albums. The sheer volume of production is enough to give you pause. In every instance, attention to detail and quality was never overlooked. The band is Tomi Joutsen (vocals), Esa Holopainen (guitar), Tomi Koivusaari (guitar), Santeri Kallio (keys), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass), and Jan Rechberger (drums).

The new album is big, with eleven songs landing in the four-to-five-minute range. Across tracks, the musicians take the opportunity to explore divergent tonal and stylistic approaches to composition. Alternating medium-coarse and clean vocals is common, and the use of keyboards to expand the sound is typical. Esa Holopainen describes the album this way: “It is thoroughly recognizable Amorphis from beginning to end but the general atmosphere is a little bit heavier and more progressive and also organic compared to its predecessor.” Extra heaviness is always welcome, as far as I am concerned.

“Windmane” stands out to me especially for the lead guitar and keys work. It is also a good example overall of the album with its many movements and changes. “War” is a great track as well, with persistent heaviness recurring throughout, and “The Wolf” is a wonderful opportunity to escape to another state of being. The album will surely please fans of Amorphis and it will have broad appeal to aficionados of many heavy music subgenres. Recommended.

Halo is out on Friday, February 11th through Atomic Fire Records in a plethora of formats, bundles, and versions, along with tie-in merch.

Band photo by Sam Jansen.

Links.

Amorphis website, https://amorphis.net/

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

Atomic Fire website, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/

Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)