Death Angel, The Bastard Tracks (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Iconic thrash band Death Angel releases a live set of rarely performed songs aptly titled The Bastard Tracks.

The Bay Area thrash scene is the stuff of legends. If you have never heard about it then I am not sure we’re going to be close friends. So many huge acts came from that place and time, including the bands on the current Bay Strikes Back tour: Testament, Exodus, and my personal favorite, Death Angel. I have a deep and abiding love for thrash and I admire these three bands (and so many more) for the music they have created. Death Angel has always been special to me, though, and so I was excited to see this album cross my path.

The songs on The Bastard Tracks were recorded live at The Great American Music Hall in the band’s hometown of San Francisco on May 22nd this year. The set list was chosen specifically to highlight songs that had rarely been played live, including some that had never been performed on stage before. That is what sets this album apart.

You don’t hear any crowd noise on this set, but the live feel is there in all its energy and vibrancy. The track list is: “Lord of Hate,” “Where They Lay,” “Why You Do This,” “Fallen,” “Absence of Light,” “The Organization,” “Execution/Don’t Save Me,” “Succubus,” “It Can’t Be This,” “Let the Pieces Fall,” “Faded Remains,” “Volcanic,” “Falling Off the Edge of the World,” “Guilty of Innocence,” and “Alive and Screaming.” There are some real jaw-droppers in there for Death Angel fans; songs we have always wanted to hear live. Finally, here is the chance. Recommended.

The Bastard Tracks is out on Friday November 26th through Nuclear Blast Records in digital, CD/Blu-ray, vinyl, and cassette. This is a great item to pick up to hold you over until the Bay Strikes Back tour starts again next Spring.

Links.

Website, https://www.deathangel.us/

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

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/item/groups/51000.1.html?article_group_sort_type_handle=rank&custom_keywords=death%20angel

Death Angel, The Bastard Tracks (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Exodus, Persona Non Grata (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Thrash luminaries Exodus are back to crack some skulls with their first full-length studio album in seven years, Persona Non Grata.

When I think of thrash metal, Exodus is one of the first bands that pops into my mind. An early purveyor of the art form from their Bay Area perspective, Exodus has released eleven albums over the years, counting the new one, and a barrage of splits, EPs, live albums, and compilations. They are one of my favorite thrash bands and you cannot leave them out of any conversation about heavy music. The band is Gary Holt (guitar), Tom Hunting (drums), Steve Souza (vocals), Jack Gibson (bass), and Lee Altus (guitar).

Persona Non Grata has eleven blazing tracks and an intriguing transition piece. The title track opens the set at high speed in every particular: guitar, bass, and percussion. Steve Souza pushes the vocals to edge of growl and strain, expressing deliberately the theme of the song and the whole album in tone and attitude. The lead break is a power tool pairing that destroys everything in its path. It is a great jump out of the gate.

The music speeds through a path of devastation for the next hour or so, each successive song building on the last. There were three singles released in advance of the full album drop, including “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves),” “Clickbait,” and “The Years Of Death And Dying.” Each of these song plants a flag for the album, but you can’t stop there or you’ll miss “Slipping Into Madness,” my personal favorite, and “Lunatic-Liar-Lord,” another one that is high up in the pecking order.

The album resolves on “Antiseed,” a track with a grim lead-in and a slow build that careens into an explosive expression of destruction. What a capper. For me, the new album is even better than the its immediate predecessor, Blood In, Blood Out (2014), and that one was a monster. Get your ears up on this now. Highly recommended.

Persona Non Grata is out today through Nuclear Blast Records. There are many forms to choose from, including the one I picked up, the retro CD longbox. I couldn’t help myself.

Links.

Website, https://exodusattack.com/site/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sonstiges/exodus-persona-non-grata-cd-blu-ray-.html

Exodus, Persona Non Grata (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Testament, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 9, 2021

One of the early purveyors of Bay Area thrash metal, Testament rips a hole in the fabric of the universe every time they play. Coming in hot on the opening day of the festival, they definitely delivered the goods.

Check out the band’s music on streaming platforms, including the latest album, Titans of Creation. Links appear below the photos.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

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

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/c/testament

Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/artist/28hJdGN1Awf7u3ifk2lVkg

Testament, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 9, 2021

Black Soul Horde, Horrors From The Void (Vinyl Store 2021)

Greek dark metal band Black Soul Horde take a journey through the Lovecraftian ether on Horrors from the Void.

Black Soul Horde is rapidly building a reputation for reliably creating epic metal landscapes in dark dimensions. Take last year’s Land Of Demise, for example, and the earlier Tales of the Ancient Ones (2013). The music has an Iron Maiden kind of scale but leans in a somewhat speedier direction. The band is Jim Kotsis (vocals), John Tsiakopoulos (guitar, bass), and Costas Papaspyrou (guitar). Vasilis Nanos is the drummer for the recording session.

The new album has a specific narrative focus on the mythology created by H. P. Lovecraft. A lot of metal bands have found rich veins to mine in Lovecraft, and for good reason. Not every song on Horrors From The Void is sourced entirely from this realm but they do all have mystical premises. The way Black Soul Horde uses the literature it is to take an idea or story and set it in an imminently digestible metal package of approachable, catchy riffs and thrilling lead breaks.

We hear on these eight tracks a talent for melody and astute composition that make every song a living experience. It is metal told at an epic scale and Kotsis’s voice is strong and clear – well patterned to the musical paradigm. My favorites are the opener and the penultimate track, “Beneath the Mountains of Madness” and “The Curse,” because they exhibit all the individual elements that make the album work so well as a whole.

The CD version of the album contains two bonus tracks, “Dragonfire” and “The Horde.” It is worth getting the physical for these songs because of the blistering lead work on “Dragonfire” and the grand presentation that is “The Horde.” If you liked their last album Land of Demise then you will like this one, too. For me, the new one goes a notch higher. Recommended.

Horrors From The Void is out tomorrow, November 10th, in CD and digital formats. Links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://blacksoulhorde.bandcamp.com/album/horrors-from-the-void

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

Vinyl Store, https://www.vinylstore.gr/

Black Soul Horde, Horrors From The Void (Vinyl Store 2021)

Charred, Prayers of Malediction (HPGD Productions 2021)

Florida Thrash~Death Metal band Charred re-release their first long-player, Prayers of Malediction.

There is not an enormous amount of information out there about Charred. The Bandcamp page reports that the band is from Deerfield Beach, Florida. The Metal Archives has about the same amount of detail, adding that Prayers of Malediction was originally released digitally in 2019. The new HPGD release will give wider distribution to this excellent album, so that is a good thing. And, anyway, maybe we don’t need to know much about the musicians and the band if we have their music to listen to.

There are nine ripping tracks on the album. Along with the obvious Thrash and Death Metal content, there is also a strong groove vein running throughout that makes these songs even more memorable. Most of the tracks are short, in the two minute range, with a handful of longer pieces. Growling vocals, battering percussion, and wailing shreds tag team to add force and power to the music.

“The Athame Of The Witchking” has a tasty Doom Metal opening, and that is always a good thing for me to hear. “Entity Of War” has a nice Mercyful Fate callback and “Enthralling The Weak” swings a weighty metal hammer aimed directly at your spine. My favorite track might be “The Means Of Destruction” because of the way it comes at you low and swerving then hooks back to crack you on the skull.

“Kesai Khati (Eater Of The Raw Flesh)” shuts the show down with a story that will keep you up at night. I did not know about Charred until I listened to this album and I am glad I got to hear it. Keep an eye out for anything else they release. Recommended.

CD and digital forms of Prayers of Malediction will be out from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions on Friday, October 1st.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hpgd.bandcamp.com/album/prayers-of-malediction

HPGD, https://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

Charred, Prayers of Malediction (HPGD Productions 2021)

Day 1: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

After skipping one year (like every other festival), Louder Than Life returns to Kentucky with a roar for a four-day event.

The big story is Metallica playing two unique sets to close the show on Friday and Sunday nights. That has to be the show-stopping draw for the festival. But there is more. The other headliners are fan favorites, too: Korn, Disturbed, Judas Priest, Jane’s Addiction, Staind, and Machine Gun Kelly. Add in the robust undercard and there is more than enough music to please any rock fan.

I am at the festival mostly as a fan this year, wandering the grounds and taking a couple of snaps. And listening to the music. Today I am going to do a quick run-down of the grounds to give you an idea of what it is like at Louder Than Life.

Most importantly, there are three stages. Two main stages are erected side-by-side – the Space Zebra Stage and the Loudmouth Stage – and a smaller stage set on the far end of the grounds, the Disruptor Stage. The two mainstages alternate music nearly continuously – when one band finishes, another begins. During each set, the quiet stage is breaking down the previous act and setting up the new one. Fans do not really have to move much to get to the next set.

The Disruptor Stage is running a separate program that overlaps the main stages. It is far enough away that, while you can hear the music from the other stages, it does really affect the bands when they are playing on the Disruptor Stage. It only takes a couple of minutes to walk from the far stage to the main stages when you want to, or you can camp out in either place and listen to music for hours.

There is merch (including a separate stand for Metallica merch), beverages and food – I had Island Noodles for the first time in two years today – and the VIP area is huge, if you want to go that way. Louder Than Life is very well organized and everything is running smoothly. It is easy to get through the gates, and when there is a long line for food or merch, it moves fast.

Anthrax

It was a great first day at Louder Than Life. Three more to go. Passes are still available so check out the festival link below.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Festival Info: https://louderthanlifefestival.com/

Day 1: Louder Than Life Festival, Louisville, Kentucky

Nefariym, Morbid Delusions (Inverse Records 2021)

The debut full-length album from Nefariym tears open the fabric of musical reality: Morbid Delusions.

Coming together only two years ago, Melbourne, Australia’s Nefariym was created by veteran metallers Mark Kelson and Richie Poate. The music can generally be thought of as Death Metal with the duo’s own novel twists with plenty of Doom and Sludge in the mix as well. There have been a couple singles released by the band but this album is the first deep journey fans can listen to and assess.

The album contains an intro piece, nine new songs, and a cover of a metal classic. The first full track is “Succubus” and the band comes out blasting with a monstrous adrenaline-fueled assault from every instrument. Black/Death Metal hybrid vocals give the song the perfect tinge. “A Morbid Delusion” follows and it is another ripper – a high speed conundrum for your brain that’ll need a minute to process. The production lays together the rhythm with the vocals with a harmony guitar line that fills the entire available space, while an early lead break sounds like a madman railing against the injustices of existence.

Toward the end of “A Morbid Delusion” the tempo slows a bit and provides a perfect segue to “Tearing Flesh From The Bone” which has an excellent Sludge/Doom essence. This is my favorite track for its sheer heaviness and the unforgettable refrain. Throughout the album the alternating between high-tempo songs and slower doomers is enthralling. I found the entire set captivating, including the cover of Celtic Frost’s “Circle Of The Tyrants,” which both provides an anchor for the album and delivers an homage. Highly recommended.

Morbid Delusions hits the streets on Friday September 24th through Inverse Records.

Links.

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

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

Nefariym website, https://nefariym.com/

Inverse Records, https://www.inverse.fi/shop/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=939

Nefariym, Morbid Delusions (Inverse Records 2021)

Alien Weaponry, Tangaroa (Napalm Records 2021)

New Zealand metal band Alien Weaponry pull out all the stops on their second long-player, Tangaroa.

From the very beginning it was clear there was something different and very special about the music of Alien Weaponry. It is hard-driving thrash/metal infused with traditional Māori instrumentations and language. The pulsing, charging constructions stand alone in the heavy music universe and comparisons are destined to fail. Over the past decade the band has released a string of EPs and the influential full-length album, (2018). Musicians on Tangaroa are Henry Te Reiwhati de Jong (drums, backing vocals), Lewis Raharuhi de Jong (guitars, lead vocals), and Tūranga Morgan-Edmonds (bass) who recently replaced the departing long-time bassist Ethan Trembath.

There are twelve tracks on the album, opening with “Titokowaru,” a song that highlights the syncopation and powerhouse musical presentations that will characterize the rest of the set. “Hatupatu” expands on the vocal capabilities of band, adding depth with carefully structured layering. “Ahi Kā” takes off in a different, mysterious direction, employing audio captures to the creative vocals and setting them over a lyrical bed and around rousing rhythms.

The title track, “Tangaroa,” is a centerpiece of the album with its socially relevant message and its elegant combination of linear aspects and challenging musical elements prominent in other songs. Really, every song has something about it that memorable and noteworthy from the magnificent opening riff on “Buried Underground” to the ethereal wind instrument on “Īhenga.” The variety and inventiveness in the compositions is enthralling and offers listeners what seems like an endless array of aural experience.

Engaging, original, and 100% authentic metal, Tangaroa is going to be on Year’s Best lists far and wide. Recommended.

Tangaroa is out on Friday September 17th through Napalm Records in CD, digital, and vinyl versions.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://alienweaponry.bandcamp.com/album/tangaroa

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

Alien Weaponry website, http://alienweaponry.com/index.html

Napalm Records, https://label.napalmrecords.com/alien-weaponry

Alien Weaponry, Tangaroa (Napalm 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)