Amon Amarth, The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade 2022)

Iconic Viking metal band Amon Amarth have crafted their twelfth album, The Great Heathen Army.

Since 1992, Amon Amarth has been carrying the banner and swinging the sword for Viking metal, an heroic melodic heavy metal style that is wildly popular from sea to sea and icecap to icecap. Releasing a new album every two or three years for the past three decades has made them a reliable source of fresh music for their legions of fans. The new record has nine tales of heroism and conflict set in a savage world and told in the way only Amon Amarth can. The band is Johan Hegg (vocals), Olavi Mikkonen (guitar), Johan Söderberg (guitar), Ted Lundström (bass), and Jocke Wallgren (drums).

The battle begins with “Get in the Ring.” The song has a very ominous set-up to put you in the right frame of mind for the tenacious musical intercourse. Hegg’s gruff vocals cast their familiar spell over the abiding guitar riffs and steady percussion. It is an excellent choice for an opening song as it reminds you how much you like Amon Amarth. The title track follows, and it has a serious tone with a lithe delivery. “Heidrun” takes the baton and charges the field with a romping riff that sounds like the steady movement of a well-appointed army. A catchy chorus makes this song one that will stick in your head. “Oden Owns You All” is a much more aggressive track, with rippling percussion and forceful pattering that enhances the established style and theme.

Overall, the album delivers what the band’s fans are looking for. My favorite track is “Dawn of Norsemen” because it encapsulates the elements I like most about Amon Amarth from the story to the melody to the reliable rhythm section. You might choose a different favorite, but if you have enjoyed the previous albums from Amon Amarth, I think we will agree that the new one gets high marks. Recommended.

The Great Heathen Army is out now through Metal Blade Records in a variety of forms. Make your choices at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://amonamarth.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-heathen-army

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

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/releases/amon-amarth-the-great-heathen-army/

© Wayne Edwards

Amon Amarth, The Great Heathen Army (Metal Blade 2022)

Cirkus Prütz, Blues Revolution (Metalville 2022)

Swedish blues rock band Cirkus Prütz take you for a ride on their new album, Blues Revolution.

I do not think of bands from Sweden first when I am tabulating a mental list of blues rock acts, but after hearing Cirkus Prütz I might have to recalibrate. Blues Revolution is their third album, following All For The Boogie And The Blues (2017) and White Jazz – Black Magic (2019). You’ll hear a variety of music on the record in the fertile lane of southern-influenced blues rock. The more I listen to it, I hear a strong influence of classic rock like Deep Purple in there too, but maybe that is just me. Whatever comparisons anybody wants to make, their music is great to hear. The band is Christian Carlsson (vocals, guitar, harp), Franco Santunione (guitar, vocals), Jerry Prütz (bass, vocals), and Per Kohlus (drums).

The title track starts the set off with a big build-up and a singalong jam, kind of like “Space Truckin’,” but smoother. It is a hard rock pop angle aimed at broad appeal. The guitar solo that comes along is very nice, and it is the part I like best. When I first started listening to this kind of music in the 1980s it was the lead breaks I would always anticipate. “Boogie Woogie Man” puts that guitar right up front with a tasty lick that is a welcome invitation. The singer here is channeling Danny Joe Brown a bit and the song is an excellent bluesy southern rock number. “Modern Day Gentleman” tips its hat to ZZ Top with smooth vocals and a biting lead guitar.

The tempo slows down and picks up as you wind your way through the ten tracks on the album. Each one is well produced with a polished sound. I especially like “Howl Like the Wolf” which has a real get-up-and-go vibe to it, and “Death Knock Blues” because it reminds me of the Ian Gillan songs I like best. I am getting the feeling Cirkus Prütz will put on a good show, and, based on what I have heard here, I would really like to see them live. Recommended.

Blues Revolution is out on Friday July 29th through Metalville Records.

Links.

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

Metalville Records, https://www.metalville.de/

© Wayne Edwards

Cirkus Prütz, Blues Revolution (Metalville 2022)

Paganizer, Beyond The Macabre (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Beyond The Macabre is the twelfth studio album from the death metal menace that is Paganizer.

From its earliest days, Paganizer has been a welcome presence in the death metal world. The music is always filled with hooks and crushing riffs, dizzying pace and unstoppable percussion. Every new album is an event, and the latest is no exception. Founder Rogga Johansson (vocals, guitar) and long-time regular Matte Fiebig (drums) are joined by Kjetil Lynghaug (guitar) and Martin Klasén (bass) who have played on the last couple of albums.

Beyond The Macabre takes its cues from the band’s history and wraps itself in classic forms of Swedish death metal. As with recent albums, there are many melodic elements but no one would call this music melodic death metal. It is heavy and charging throughout, and the hooks and melodies that are in play make the music memorable while never taking away from its power. The guitar work is exemplary and Rogga sounds great, as always.

There are no low patches to be found on this album, and it gets off to a vigorous start by focusing on the band’s strengths with “Down The Path Of Decay.” Other tracks that stood out for me are “Raving Rhymes Of Rot” for laying on the extra heavy and “You Are What You Devour” for its plain speaking declarations.

I have been a Paganizer fan all along. For me the new album maintains the accessibility of recent work by the band and holds the death metal line fast. I will be spinning this one a lot in the coming weeks. Recommended.

Beyond The Macabre is out on Friday, June 24th through Transcending Obscurity Records. As always, there is a great collection of variants and merch available to go along with the music.

Links.

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

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Paganizer, Beyond The Macabre (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Cities Of Mars, Cities Of Mars (Ripple 2022)

Heavy fuzz doom trio Cities Of Mars self-title their third long-player.

Sweden’s stoner doom band Cities Of Mars began in 2014, releasing an EP, Celestial Mistress, a couple year later. The music falls squarely in the land of doom, but the subjects and trajectories of the compositions align with the stars. Joining their first two full-length albums, Temporal Rifts (2017) and The Horologist (2019), the new record continues the sure-footed journey. The band is Danne Palm (bass, vocals), Johan Kuchler (drums, vocals), and Christoffer Norén (guitar, vocals).

“Before The Storm” is a beautiful spacey opening for the album. Patient, building slowly, the song introduces an ethereal voice signaling the beginning of the journey and, importantly, the need for it. Gentleness gives way to heavy doom guitar riffs on “Towering Graves.” The vocals are still mysterious but much more menacing now. The massive riffs continue on “The Prophet,” growing tall enough to block out the dim setting sun on the red planet.

“Song of a Distant Earth” is an acoustic piece; a mood shift before the devastating “A Dawn of No Light.” The tempo picks up and the rhythm is more assertive, and the lead guitar freer in its explorations. “The Dreaming Sky” has a forlorn quality to it. Harmonizing vocals and melancholy guitar lines waken suppressed feelings. “Reflected Skyline” is an airy piece, and sad, too, in my hearing.

“The Black Shard” is the twelve-minute final word on the album. In some ways you could see it as a reinterpretation of the ideas earlier expressed. You could also see it as a furthering of those notions. It is an exceptional piece and, if nothing else, you should listen to this one. It has many powerful moments, and regular returns to altered pace, attitude, and sentiment throughout. Much like the album in its totality. Recommended.

Cities Of Mars is out now through Ripple Music. Bandcamp is always a good place to pick up the goods.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/cities-of-mars

Website, http://www.citiesofmars.se/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCavaUFPTEDKYjAxJ8Qapbeg

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Cities Of Mars, Cities Of Mars (Ripple 2022)

Watain, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Notorious black metal band Watain release their seventh studio album on an unsuspecting world, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain.

It has been almost twenty-five years that Watain has stalked the earth now. This black metal band from Sweden has a reputation like no other, building loyal fans from all over the world by creating unique dark music with no compromises. Their first full-length album, Rabid Death’s Curse (2000), was a sign to anyone who wanted to read it, and the promises made then are fulfilled with every new set.

Anyone who has seen Watain live surely has a story about the experience. It is a journey bathed in darkness. The band has found a way to capture the live experience more essentially than ever before with the new album, which was itself recorded live in the studio, where founding members Erik Danielsson, Håkan Jonsson, and Pelle Forsberg, were joined by Alvaro Lillo, Hampus Eriksson, and Emil Forcas.

“Ecstasies In Night Infinite” breaks through the veil first with an unrelenting, monstrous assault. The combination of the roaring speed with cascading riffs overlaid by a black lace of cogent lyrical hooks is a structure that stands up to the many twists and turns presented. The vocals are coarse and intimately discernable; the lead breaks are savage and crackling. Watain stands alone in the way they combine dark, heavy elements into music that is approachable in the groove and complex on every individual layer as well as in the spaces between them. Just listen and you will hear it in every song.

“The Howling” is next, and it offers us more of everything from other angles we hadn’t contemplated before. The groove is seductive and black metal is razor sharp. “Serimosa” shows a down-shifted tempo perspective with theatrical balancing, further demonstrating the variety and complexity of the music Watain presents on this album. “Leper’s Grace” is another example of the unexpected in rhythm and pace – it is one of my favorites from the set as it left me tipsy by the halfway mark.

“Before The Cataclysm” is especially eerie, and that is saying something in the context of this music. Here again, it is the fascinating combination of elements that are themselves individually stunning and somehow, in their amalgamation, rise to another place altogether. “Septentrion” brings the curtain down in a grand fashion, hearkening to the mystery and wonder of the spaces in the cold dark north. It is an enduring culmination.

This music is not meant for the weak of heart or mind. The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain is out through Nuclear Blast Records on Friday, April 29th. Recommended.

Live photos by Wayne Edwards, Webster Theater, Hartford, 2019.

Links.

Website, https://www.templeofwatain.com/

Bandcamp, https://watainsom.bandcamp.com/album/the-agony-ecstasy-of-watain

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/watain

© Wayne Edwards

Watain, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Grimtone, Polaris (Void Wanderer 2022)

Darkness convenes on the new Grimtone album, Polaris.

With origins marked in 2015, Sweden’s black metal maelstrom Grimtone plies a regimen of oblique, inky metal. The band is Michael Lang, who broke out of the gates in a flurry of recording, with three full-length albums between 2017 and 2019: Memento Mori, Morte in Vitam, and Hymner till döden. Just last year Grimtone appeared on the five-way split Mourning in Autumn and also released an EP, The Awakening. And now there is Polaris – he must have a lot to say. After all, it is not just Grimtone, is it? There is also Arsonists of Lucifer, Dommedag, etc. Prolificity by thy name.

The standard is set by the first track, “Creed Of Hate.” A rapid, raking riff sets up a steady percussive entry and the gloomy, distanced vocals. It is a murky affair, with a solid hook. The order is more apparent here than the chaos in this black metal statement. “Streams Of Polaris” waken slumbering denizens with a callous affront that is curiously salved in the coming bars, creating a salubrious avenue for mental ingestion. It is a surprising choice that works exceptionally well.

There is no pivot to look out for as the music flows over you. Certainly there is variation and there are angular takes, as in the elegance of the opening of “Burning The Rye” and the furtive ending to “Calls Of The Bells.” Even with these textures in the landscape, the dedication to evoked principles never wanes. My favorite track is perhaps “Haunt The Realm” as it makes me feel chased and at risk, but every track has a culminating insight. This my first experience with Grimtone, and I am impressed. Recommended.

Polaris is out now. Void Wanderer Productions has the cassette (limited to 50) and digital. War Productions has a CD version (limited to 100).

Links.

Bandcamp, https://voidwandererproductions.bandcamp.com/album/polaris

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

Void Wanderer Productions, https://voidwanderer.com/product/grimtone-polaris-mc/

War Productions, https://war-productions.org/warproductions/

© Wayne Edwards

Grimtone, Polaris (Void Wanderer 2022)

Meshuggah, Immutable (Atomic Fire 2022)

Meshuggah sets the heavy music world on fire again with Immutable.

Meshuggah came together in Sweden in the late 1980s. Flashing talent and affection for technical metal with an unmistakable groove, the band took a prominent place instantly in the heavy music scene. Their full-length albums now number nine, and there has been a large helping of splits and EPs produced along the way as well. It is incredible how each album presents music that is very new and also undeniably Meshuggah – nothing ever feels worn or re-hashed, and that goes doubly for Immutable. The band is Jens Kidman (vocals), Mårten Hagström (guitars), Dick Lövgren (bass), Fredrik Thordendal (guitars), and Tomas Haake (drums).

The first three tracks set you up for the long haul. “Broken Cog” is filled with whispering creepiness and urgent pushes. “The Abysmal Eye” chokes off dissent with its heightening technicality and its consistent employment of mysteriousness. “Light The Shortening Fuse” drops in with a savage chop that separates the gristle from the bone. There is a middle breather but that gives you just enough stamina to press on to the end.

If somehow you have never heard Meshuggah before, this is a good album to step in on because it shows you so many sides to the band’s music. It is creative, robust, and variegated. Songs like “Ligature Marks” juxtapose a savage narrative theme with a compelling and emotional exit after a four minute battering. The very next track, “God He Sees In Mirrors,” is positively relentless, offering no respite. And then, exactly in the middle of the album, is “They Mover Below,” a nine-and-a-half-minute instrumental odyssey that is absolutely breathtaking.

Other stand-out tracks for me are “Black Cathedral” and “The Faultless” – and I could say the same about “I Am That Thirst” and “Armies Of The Preposterous.” There is not a single weak moment in the entire set. It is too early in the year to declare a top ten list, but I have no doubt that this album is going to be on a lot of them at the end of 2022. Highly recommended.

The irrepressible Immutable is out through Atomic Fire Records now on CD, vinyl (with variants), cassette, and, of course, digital.

Band photo by Edvard Hansson and Brendan Baldwin.

Link.

Meshuggah website, https://www.meshuggah.net/home

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

Atomic Fire Records, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/meshuggah/

© Wayne Edwards.

Meshuggah, Immutable (Atomic Fire 2022)

Hellacopters, Eyes Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast 2022)

After a fourteen-year recording hiatus, The Hellacopters are back with a new studio album, Eyes Of Oblivion.

Starting off as a garage rock-style band in 1994, Sweden’s Hellacopters forged a following with a big start opening for Kiss not long after releasing their debut long-player Supershitty to the Max! in 1996. They released six more studio albums in the following years before embarking on a farewell tour in 2008 and wrapping things up. You can’t keep a good thing down forever, though, and the band reëmerged in 2016 for some anniversary appearances. Now we have Eyes Of Oblivion.

What’s the new one sound like? The band’s Nicke Andersson has a few thoughts. “The album has 10 songs and although it’s obviously not easy to be objective at all, I think musically it sums up everything we’ve touched upon from the start in 1994 up until now. Some of the songs date back as far as 10 years or more, and some were written more recently. It’s rock and roll played with high energy, so for lack of a better term I say High Energy Rock And Roll.” It is hard to argue with that. The music on the album is a kind of summary, in a way. Given the long history of the band and its legion of fans, new music that has a familiar flavor is bound to be just what the people want.

“Reap A Hurricane” breaks the ice with a catchy, guitar-driven hard rock head rattler. The chorus has you singing along immediately and every time the guitar breaks through it is cause for a fist-pump. “Can It Wait” has a more serious tone – a little – and takes a couple more chances with tempo. “So Sorry I Could Die” is a heavy-hearted blues number that that shifts from head-bobbing to a cool sway. Very nice.

I really like the title track, I must say, and it is clearly a banner-carrier for the album, as we might expect. Crisp and clippy, it has radio written all over it. Listen to this track first if you want a get-acquainted ramp. The top track for me is “Beguiled” for its incredible urgency and the way it got stuck in my synapses on the first play. Play that one second, then start at the beginning and go all the way through.

There are many twists and turns on the record. Enjoy the regular emergence of rock and roll piano in the rhythm section and absolutely delightful homages. The Hellacopters have come together and put out a great record that is a truly welcome return. I hope many more will follow. Recommended.

Eyes Of Oblivion is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Check out the links below to see what and all can be had.

Link.

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

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/the-hellacopters-eyes-of-oblivion.html

© Wayne Edwards.

Hellacopters, Eyes Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Radio-friendly heavy psych band Spiral Skies release their second album, Death Is But A Door.

Centered in Stockholm, Sweden , Spiral Skies is a band of mystery. They released an EP in 2015 called A Queendom To Come, and their debut full-length album, Blues For A Dying Planet (2018), attracted good notices. Their musical style is an amalgam of 1970s and 1980s European rock themes combined with a light version of heavy psych, perhaps designed to reach a broader audience than a heavy stoner vibe likely would. The band is Frida Eurenius (vocals), Dan Svanljung (guitar, key, didgeridoo), Jonas Lyander (guitar), Eric Sandberg (bass), and Daniel Bäckman (drums).

There are nine tracks on the album, starting with “The Endless Sea” which begins sweetly then turns toward the aggressively dramatic before you have a chance to get fully settled in. The shifting landscape in this composition signals what is to come. Not every song plays with this much variety, but a good deal of ground is covered throughout the set. “Into The Night,” for example, is a peppy, radio-friendly song, and a diversion from its predecessor. It reminds me a little of some of the music by Demon I used to listen to in the eighties, except more lyrical and, well, better.

“Time” is a track to look out for as it has nice lead guitar work. The closer, “Mirror Of Illusion,” is quiet and reflective, and it turned out to be a favorite of mine as well. The music is very listenable. Frida Eurenius’ voice is beautiful to hear, and the compositions are engaging and approachable. The guitar-driven light stoner vibe is just the ticket when you are in that place in your head. Recommended.

Death Is But A Door is out through AOP Records on Friday, March 25th. Links below.

Links.

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

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

AOP Records, http://www.aoprecords.de/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Monolord and Firebreather at Black Circle Brewing, March 19, 2022

Two bands from Gothenburg, Sweden rolled in to Indianapolis on Saturday night and laid down the doom.

Black Circle Brewing is a restaurant and bar in Indianapolis that attracts an impressive roster of heavy music acts throughout the year. On Saturday night, it was Monolord and Firebreather who took the stage. Both stoner / doom bands from Sweden are touring on new albums. The local opener was Ancient Days, and they have new music out, too.

Ancient Days is a five-piece doom outfit with a mysterious, bewitching vibe. I arrived at Black Circle just as they started to play, so I head their sonic emanations spilling out into the neighborhood as darkness was folding over the city. It was an amazing way for the show to begin. Check out their music at Bandcamp – their latest album is Sign of the Times.

Firebreather is playing every stop on the tour, and they have a titanic rumble about them. Their latest album is Dwell In The Fog, and once you hear it, you won’t be able to stop listening. The music is a rambling groove of rushing heavy, and their live performance is a nonstop push that probes your cerebellum and gets your head swinging.

Monolord is a band I have been following for years and years. Your Time To Shine is their latest album, and I have been on the bandwagon since Empress Rising. I don’t know how it is possible, but this is the first time I had ever seen them live. I have heard every song they have released and I’ve seen recordings of their performances, but being there is a whole different experience. That’s why we go to shows, right.

Black Circle Brewing is a small, intimate place. There is no pit, so you can stand right up by the stage, which rises only a couple feet so it feels like the band is in the same space you are. The show was sold out and the crowd was a solid sea of doom fans. We got everything we were looking for and more. Unsurprisingly, this performance made me want to see Monolord again even more, if that is possible. Then again, how could it go any other way? I know for sure I’ll catch them at Psycho Las Vegas at the end of the summer – get those tickets while you still can because that event is going to legendary.

Monolord and Firebreather have several more dates in March in Texas, Arizona, and southern California. Check out the tour poster below and see if they are coming your way.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Monolord, https://monolord.bandcamp.com/

Firebreather, https://firebreatherdoom.bandcamp.com/

Ancient Days, https://ancientdays.bandcamp.com/

Black Circle Brewing, https://www.blackcirclebrewing.com/black-circle

© Wayne Edwards.

Monolord and Firebreather at Black Circle Brewing, March 19, 2022