Venom, Inc., There’s Only Black (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The sophomore full-length album from Venom, Inc. is an unwavering menace: There’s Only Black.

Venom is the iconic band that brought us Welcome To Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982), essentially creating Black Metal from punk and speed metal. Since then, black metal itself has evolved in a particular direction while Venom had other ideas. At War With Satan (1984) was on brand but it was clear that things were changing, and then Possessed (1985) was a noticeable, clear shift. The seas calmed a bit with Prime Evil (1987), but chaos was coming. The band paused, considered reforming, then split in twain.

Venom, Inc. emerged from the schism of the original band. Their debut album was Avé (2017), and I found it enthralling. That one will be hard to follow, but if any band can do it, Venom, Inc. is the one. The musicians are Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn, and Jeramie “War Machine” Kling.

You can hear the music coming from far away on the first track, “How Many Can Die.” It is a stylized punk attack with a hardcore head and intermittent hooks. The song works, and still this is a chancy approach for an opener – you have to really depend on the fans being in to what you are putting down. And I was. “Infinitum” is a stone cold killer with a battering mission. The lead guitar break will really wind you up. “Come To Me” is a chopper. I love the straight-forward, no nonsense musical construction. An excellent metal song where the vocals take the forefront while the riff and rhythm provide an indelible platform and the dark lead guitar work intoxicates.

I am having a hard time finding anything to complain about on this record. The title track is a stunningly superbly sinister metal song. “Don’t Feed Me Your Lies” begins on a contemplative foot and then turns into a ravager. “Rampant” is a race straight toward a sharp cliff. Every song has a unique appeal, and they all come together to create a solid set you will want to listen to over and again. Recommended.

There’s Only Black is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Links below.

Links.

Venom, Inc. website, https://www.venom-inc.co.uk/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

© Wayne Edwards

Venom, Inc., There’s Only Black (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Dark Forest, Ridge & Furrow (Cruz Del Sur 2022)

UK metal band Dark Forest celebrate their twentieth anniversary with a new EP, Ridge & Furrow.

In their twenty years, Dark Forest has produced an impressive string of EPs and long-players, most recently in 2020 with the full-length album Oak, Ash, & Thorn. They play a traditional variety of heavy metal told in a melodic way that puts you in mind of traveling bards with stories to tell. Their sound is unmistakable – once you’ve heard it, you will recognize it again immediately. The band is Josh Winnard (vocals), Christian Horton (guitar), Patrick Jenkins (guitar), and Adam Sidaway (drums).

The set opens with “Skylark,” a song that displays rugged pop sensibilities on a wildly enthusiastic, fuzzy charge that has surprisingly fierce drumming. Just when you think this song sounds like something you’ve heard before, you notice things you have not heard before, combinations that have not existed prior to the current instantiation. There are pieces of NWOBHM, epic metal, fantasy metal, prog, and more, and it is tinted in a lovely fuzz. Damn, there is a lot going on here. Josh Winnard’s voice and the clarity of the guitars stand out, although the song deftly uses everything in it to add up to what it does. Sensational. “The Golden Acre” has a quieter start, and a more serious tone when it gets rolling, compared to the opener. A darker story, you might say, told with a similar depth and breadth.

The title track lands in the middle of the EP, and its compositional stature is sweeping. Truly, this album has a good deal in common with the band’s early work in this regard. It is an uplifting story about the endurance of land and how it always has an ability to renew. “Meadowland” is a short instrumental song that posits in acoustic. Beautiful. The final track, “Under The Greenwood Tree,” is a new rendering of a fan favorite that I first noticed on the Dawn Of Infinity (2011) album. It is a zesty bit, and then some – great to hear again. This EP is an excellent way to celebrate twenty years of Dark Forest. Recommended.

Ridge & Furrow is out on Friday, September 30th through Cruz Del Sur Music in digital, CD, and vinyl.

Links.

Dark Forest website, http://www.darkforest.co.uk/

Bandcamp, https://darkforest-uk.bandcamp.com/album/ridge-and-furrow

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

Cruz Del Sur Music, https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/blog/

© Wayne Edwards

Dark Forest, Ridge & Furrow (Cruz Del Sur 2022)

Sergeant Thunderhoof, This Sceptred Veil (Pale Wizard 2022)

British stoner metal band Sergeant Thunderhoof stomp the terra again with This Sceptred Veil.

Sergeant Thunderhoof has been around for nearly ten years, and in that time they have released three previous full-length albums, an EP, and a split. It was that split I heard first, actually, Ripple Music’s Turned to Stone, Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa where they shared a side with Howling Giant. I was captivated by the more-than-twenty-minute song and since have sought out more at every opportunity. This Sceptred Veil is the best music they have produced to date, as far as I am concerned.

There are nine tracks on the new album. “You’ve Stolen The Words” is a wakening. The heavy fuzz arrives almost immediately, conveying the distant mercurial voice, ever melodic and punctuated now and then with exceptional exertion. This is desert stoner music but high plains, I must insist, with mountains near enough by to have an influence. I can feel melancholia in the song.

“Devil’s Daughter” comes next, and it is a little more actively probative, and, additionally, oracle-like. The riffs conceal the solemn thunder leeching from the dark grey clouds edging nearer, largely unnoticed atop the foothills in advance of the spiritual lead guitar line. Fantastic. And then with not a moment to gather yourself, “Absolute Blue” surrounds you with its silken folds. The first three songs establish the necessity that the next six songs be heard.

The album is marvelous – a wondrous, heavy fuzz presence that pulses and undulates and lifts you away. “Foreigner” is filled with power and “Woman Call” is extra bluesy. Every song makes important and impressive use of guitar, and still “Show Don’t Tell” stands a bit apart on that front. The final passages are “Avon & Avalon Parts I & II,” together running over eighteen minutes – could be a full album side. These two deserve a separate review unto themselves (but sadly will not receive it here). Coming where they do in the set, the impact is significant as the story emerges and the mysticism unfolds. This album is amazing, and I hope it reaches the ears of all the people of the earth. Highly recommended.

This Sceptred Veil is out on Friday, June 3rd through Pale Wizard Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://sergeantthunderhoof.bandcamp.com/album/this-sceptred-veil

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

Pale Wizard Records, https://palewizard.bigcartel.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Sergeant Thunderhoof, This Sceptred Veil (Pale Wizard 2022)

Robin Trower, No More Worlds To Conquer (Provogue 2022)

Guitar master Robin Trower offers a new album of blues rock music, No More Worlds To Conquer.

Best known initially for his work with Procol Harum in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Robin Trower went on to release more than two dozen solo albums in his career. His fluid playing style is unmistakable – not only do you recognize it when you hear it, you are always glad to be listening. Mesmerizing and poignant, the new album is an impressive achievement in his storied career. Trower plays guitar and bass, Chris Taggart is on drums, and Richard Watts sings.

The title of the album gives a hint that what we will hear will be consistent to what has come before. It is true that everything fans like best about Trower’s music is here again as he does what he does so well. His album Bridge Of Sighs (1974) is the one most often pointed toward to exemplify his style and languid demonstration of his musical presence. It is a classic, and no mistake. There is a lot of other music of his out there, too. The fascinating thing is you can pick an album at random to listen to and be amazed by it, or you can take a deep dive, listen to it all, and marvel at Robin Trower’s astonishing catalogue. There are no bad records in the bunch, and listening to them back to back never gets old.

“Ball Of Fire” gives the new set a rambling open. Every instrument shines as the rhythm sets the rails for the soulful vocals and Trower’s signature guitar. The title track and “The Razor’s Edge” are featured songs, and, while I am hesitant to pick favorites, the latter one has gotten more play hereabouts because I want to listen to the lead passages over and again. Longtime fans and newcomers alike reap rewards on this album. Recommended.

No More Worlds To Conquer is out now through the Provogue Records imprint of Mascot Label Group. Hit the link below and look at Robin Trower’s website for more information.

Photo of Robin Trower by Laurence Harvey.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://rtnmwtc.bandcamp.com/album/no-more-worlds-to-conquer

Website, http://www.robintrower.uk/

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

Provogue Records, https://www.mascotlabelgroup.com/collections/robin-trower

© Wayne Edwards

Robin Trower, No More Worlds To Conquer (Provogue 2022)

As The World Dies, Agonist (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

UK death metallers release their debut album, Agonist.

As The World Dies came together very recently, formed by members of the bands Memoriam and Pemphigoid. They play a brand of heavy metal that will smash you senseless with its integration of classic elements and contemporaneous existentialism. This new album is riveting. The musicians are Jay Price (vocals), Ash Cotterill (guitars, vocals), Bill Richmond (bass), Chris McGrath (drums), and Scott Fairfax (guitar).

“Annulment” cracks the egg with a splendid swelling approach that warms the engines for the first full-on assault. Second is “Desolate,” and it is a paint peeler that strips your selfness away. The death metal cataclysm pulls back now and then to give you a minute to assess the damage but not long enough to really do anything about it. I don’t know if “Dawn Of Terror” is meant to strike fear in your heart with its opening bars, but it certainly is ominous. The vocals are similar to the previous track but – you can hear the similarity – somehow here they are eerier.

“Red Death” allows an understanding wall of doom explain to you from the start what the situation is going. Melodic in a way, it is also as heavy as the boulders of the Titans and it works an effective tempo shift into the set. Bringing forth “The Tempest” at this juncture is the perfect selection because the groundwork has been laid for fear and drama. This one could be my favorite track, but it does have strong competition.

With this record, you never can fully anticipate what will be next. You get into a place where you are ready for it based on the music you have already heard, but each new track has a critical menace you didn’t know you would hear. The bitter end is the band’s namesake, “As The World Dies.” If you are going to name a song after yourself, you need to step it up a notch. Think about the bands that have done that successfully – it is a harrowing list. This time it definitely works. The growling vocals and crushing guitars on display here will easily stand the test of time.

The debut album from As The World Dies is an exceptional introduction for a band with a promising future. It is death metal with a doom influence and a confident, steady attitude. This album is an early 2022 winner. Highly recommended.

Agonist appears on Friday, March 25th from Transcending Obscurity Records. Check out the label’s US store website or Bandcamp at the links below to see all the variants and merch available.

Links.

As The World Dies website, https://www.astheworlddies.co.uk/

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

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

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

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

As The World Dies, Agonist (Transcending Obscurity 2022)

Lavender Sweep Records, From the Mountains to the Sea (2021)

Volume 1 of From the Mountains to the Sea is an exceptional introduction to some of the best music you haven’t heard yet.

Lavender Sweep Records is run by “a small group of people from the Welsh city of Swansea, with a shared love for forgotten musical formats, film and various forgotten fads…” That adds up. Now, I don’t know the first thing about the heavy music scene in Swansea. That’s why this new compilation from is perfect for me. I have no preconceptions when I press play on From the Mountains to the Sea. I just hear what I hear.

The first track is a banger by Acrimony called “Satellite 13.” Up-tempo guitar-driven music that hits all the right spots. The perfect starter. Taint is next and it has a whole different take on the world. Much more in the sludge lane, the vocals are coarse and doom is the keystone. And then Sootbelly hits he stage with “Girls ’N Cars,” a four-minute rager on the title subjects. By now you’re going and it’s time for another beer. These three bands together would be a great show.

There are eighteen tracks on this album, each one an eye-opening discovery and not a single dud in the bunch. There is a metric ton of great music here, so picking favorites is a chore, but I will say I am enamored with Buffalo Kings, Sump, Sigiriya, and Sons of Thunder. I had to cut this list way down from where it started, just to keep it manageable.

Without this set I might have missed these bands entirely, but now they are on my radar. The range of musical styles is broad indeed while remaining in the heavy music realm. You definitely want to hear this. Recommended.

From the Mountains to the Sea is out on Friday November 12th through Lavender Sweep Records. Check it out at the links below.

Links.

Website, http://www.lavendersweeprecords.com/

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Lavender-Sweep-Records-748698365283653

Lavender Sweep Records, From the Mountains to the Sea (2021)

Paradise Lost, At The Mill (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Paradise Lost release their second live album of 2021, At The Mill.

The importance of Paradise Lost to the heavy music community is difficult to overstate. They are pioneers in transformative doom metal and are founders, really, of what became gothic doom. Since forming in 1988 they have released sixteen studio albums, including 2020’s Obsidian. Their place is permanent in the history of metal and they continue to create and innovate with each passing year.

This new album is a recording of the livestream the band did last fall at The Mill Nightclub in Yorkshire, England, their hometown. It follows Gothic – Live at Roadburn 2016 that came out earlier this year. Both are complete sets but there is almost no overlap between them. The set list for At The Mill is “Widow,” “Fall from Grace,” “Blood and Chaos,” “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us,” “Gothic,” “Shadowkings,” “One Second,” “Ghosts,” “The Enemy,” “As I Die,” “Requiem,” “No Hope in Sight,” “Embers Fire,” “Beneath Broken Earth,” “So Much Is Lost,” and “Darker Thoughts.”

If you are a fan you will know all the songs. The melodic metal tinted with dark, gothic themes and enriched by the lyrical lead guitar work is nectar to your ears. Paradise Lost has always been known for its compelling live performances and they are holding nothing back on At The Mill. While the band already has many live albums in their catalogue, I recommend this one as well to hear their current state of excellence.

At The Mill is out this Friday, July 16th, through Nuclear Blast Records. You can get the digital at Bandcamp and the vinyl or CD/Blu Ray combo at the Nuclear Blast shop. The Blu Ray is a good option if you missed the original livestream.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://paradiselostofficial.bandcamp.com/album/at-the-mill

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

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sonstiges/paradise-lost-at-the-mill-cd-blu-ray-.html

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

Paradise Lost, At The Mill (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Towards Atlantis Lights, When The Ashes Devoured The Sun (Melancholic Realm Productions 2021)

The musicians in Towards Atlantis Lights are Ivan Zara (guitar), Kostas Panagiotou (vocals, keys), Riccardo Veronese (bass), and Ivano Olivieri (drums). Their music is often described as funeral doom, and they label it this way: Arcane Doom Metal. The band’s first album, Dust of Aeons, was released in 2018 by Transcending Obscurity. This follow-up album is both a continuation and expansion of the ideas and sound from their inaugural record, this new one being more active and aggressive.

There are six tracks on the album including a fairly short intro piece, “Alpha & Omega,” that wanders the listener in. The narrative themes concern civilizations in the distant past, and that is an excellent framework for the music of the band. “The Minoan Tragedy” is the first full song, and it is a fifteen-minute heavy doom rumination with mostly clean vocals punctuated by coarse growls and rapid guitar cataracts, most memorable near the end.

“The Forgotten Tribes” is even eerie and heavier – it is my personal favorite for the way the vocals and guitars work together. “The Bull and the Serpent” starts off at a high-tempo sprint while “Mad Prophetess” soaks you with heaviness up front before lashing out in sudden bursts. “Pelasgian Tales” features ethereal guitars and voiceover to tell the tale.

If you liked the first album, this one will appeal to you as well. It is full-throated doom that surrounds you completely and takes you away. Recommended.

When the Ashes Devoured the Sun has a street date of Friday, July 16th. You can pick up the digital or CD through Bandcamp.

Links,

Bandcamp, https://pantheistuk.bandcamp.com/album/when-the-ashes-devoured-the-sun

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

Towards Atlantis Lights, When The Ashes Devoured The Sun (Melancholic Realm Productions 2021)

Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

The soundscape presented by the new Boss Keloid album Family The Smiling Thrush rivals the stirring of primordial oceans.

Going back more than ten years, Boss Keloid has been creating some of the most interesting and sweepingly original heavy music on the planet. They have a way of translating musical complexity and quirkiness into a common language that everyone can hear. The band is Paul Swarbrick (guitar), Alex Hurst (vocals and guitar), Ste Arands (drums), and Liam Pendlebury-Green (bass).

Sometimes sounding a bit like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer while at other times moving more in a Zappa vein and then suddenly shouldering a hard turn into the inexplicable, Boss Keloid’s music cannot be predicted. Family The Smiling Thrush opens with the nine minute track “Orang of Noyn.” The song defies succinct description. Heavy prog rock is a functional label but it leaves a lot out. The music takes you over and you quickly lose track of how long you have been listening. If another song hadn’t started after, I am not sure how long it would have taken me to realize the first track had ended.

“Gentle Clovis” is up second and it has a reassuring anthropological feel to it. You get transported back to the 1970s with the keys and guitars in the lines, riffs, and echoes. There is a battering drama at the end that is entirely appropriate and it runs right on into the next piece, “Hats The Mandrill.” If you are not feeling the scope of the musical vision at this point then you should start the album over and try again because by now it should entirely surround you.

There are builds big and small throughout, all of them engaging, and welcoming and demanding, too, simultaneously. I was particularly swept up by the pair “Smiling Thrush” and “Cecil Succulent.” I suspect that the experience will land differently for individuals and yet still I wager there will be places you are drawn to, no matter how much you like the work in its entirety. There will be a part that takes hold of you and finds something to fulfill you didn’t even know was wanting. The album is elemental. Recommended.

This one is out tomorrow. Some of the limiteds have already flown, but you can still get physicals through Bandcamp or Ripple Music, and the digital is there, too.

Links.

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

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

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

Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

Evile, Hell Unleashed (Napalm Records 2021)

Returning with their first album in eight years, Evile lands hard and hits the ground running.

The band’s first full-length album came out in 2007, Enter The Grave. From the initial riffs of the title track you could tell you were in for some heads-down thrash. There was a new album every couple of years after that until 2013 when Skull came out. A few line-up changes have occurred over the years and the band is now Ol Drake (vocals and guitar), Ben Carter (drums), Joel Graham (bass), and Adam Smith (guitar).

There are nine big tracks on the album beginning with the blistering “Paralysed.” This is exactly what I was hoping for – high speed attack in guitars and percussion, ravaging vocals, and a maniacal lead break. Ah, thrash. “Gore” is next and it is another blasting ripper. “Incarcerated” gives a short breather at its front but it does not hold a quiet line. These front three make an excellent impression.

My favorite songs are probably the title track, which anchors the album, and “The Thing (1982).” These both hit me on a fundamental level and played directly into my earliest love of heavy music, which is straight-up thrash. In addition to the speed and technical acumen that flows freely from the songs, they both also have additional depths and turns that sink the metal in deep.

The album has a couple of surprises. There is a guest appearance by Brian Posehn who is best known as a comedian and has in recent years been getting involved in heavy music because of his lifelong love of metal. Then there is the cover of the Mortician song “Zombie Apocalypse.” That’s something different for Evile. This new set has the craft and style fans have embraced over the years. It delivers savage thrash on every level. Recommended.

Hell Unleashed is out now. In the UK hit the band’s website. For EU, Napalm Records’ site works great and Bandcamp is the best bet in the US.

Links.

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

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

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

Napalm Records, https://napalmrecords.com/english/evile

Evile, Hell Unleashed (Napalm Records 2021)