Happy Godsmack Day to all you Boston readers. You must be so darn proud. Anyway, on with the show:
Alestorm, Sunset on the Golden Age (Napalm): What grades did the pirate get in school? HIGH SEAS!!!
Belphegor, Conjuring the Dead (Nuclear Blast): A merciless return to simple, blasphemous black metal, the Austrian veterans keep it quick and simple on this new album. Which is all well and good, it’s nice to see them re-energized after Helmuth’s typhus scare, and the band clearly knows exactly how an album this simple should be paced. My only gripe is that it lacks a couple tracks that truly pop out, but those craving honest-to-goodness extremity will likely get a kick out of this.
Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast): Two years ago this Swedish band caught my attention with a debut EP that put a different spin on the whole Swedish proto-metal thing that was exploding. With more emphasis on blues and boogie rather than Pentagram/Sabbath doom ‘n’ gloom, and featuring a powerhouse singer in Elin Larsson, the music immediately set itself apart from the rest of the retro rockers out there. At long, long last, Blues Pills’ debut album is finally out, and it completely delivers on the promis of the previous EPs the band’s released. It’s devoid of frills, firmly rooted in Cream and early Fleetwood Mac, with Larsson adding welcome doses of soul to tracks like “High Class Woman”, “Jupiter’, and “Black Smoke”. What more could you want from a band like this? It’s one of the year’s finest.
Bolzer, Soma (Invictus): After percolating in the underground, the buzz surrounding the Swiss/New Zealand death metal duo grew steadily throughout 2013, thoroughly impressing yours truly at the Noctis fest last September. By 2014, the hype grew exponentially, with overflow crowds clamouring to witness the band’s formidable sound firsthand at Roadburn in April, and by the time they played to the American critical hive mind at Maryland Deathfest, that was it, Bolzer had officially exploded. Although the guys have yet to grace folks with a proper album, they’ve slapped together another EP follow-up to last year’s revelatory Aura, and this new music continues to refine that primal yet deceptively musical sound. For a duo Bolzer is able to sound towering, as the 12-minute epic “Labyrinthian Graves” is positively monstrous. However, the real advancement just might be the much shorter track “Steppes”, which is not only relentlessly punishing, but easily the catchiest song they’ve ever written. At the rate they’re advancing, if and when they actually create a proper album, it could be the most exciting death metal release in ages. Very big things are in this band’s future.
Cold World, How the Gods Chill (Deathwish): The Pennsylvania band might have a pretty good gimmick involving various cameo appearances by several rap artists, but at heart this is a fairly straightforward hardcore album, and in a good way, performed with ferocity and featuring blunt yet often startlingly eloquent lyrics.
Columns, Please Explode (Relapse): Grindcore songs that are smart enough to be catchy, yet at the same time make you want to hurl yourself into the nearest wall. Plus a terrific sense of humor. What more could you ask for?
Eluveitie, Origins (Nuclear Blast): By now we all know that every Eluveitie album will basically rip off At the Gates and toss in violin, penny whistle, and hurdy-gurdy all over it. But they do it exceedingly well, and those Celtic arrangements burst out beautifully on this latest album, which sometimes comes close to recapturing the magic of the band’s two breakthrough albums Spirit and Slania. Still, it would be nice to hear this band turn things down a bit – this album is horrendously loud – and simplify like on the superb Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion, but tunes like “The Call of the Mountains” and “From Darkness” will nevertheless go over extremely well in a live setting, as they always do.
Entombed A.D., Back To the Front (Century Media): The split between LG Petrov and Alex Hellid has resulted in yet another one of those stupefyingly dumb situations with neither musician willing to let go of the Entombed brand. Petrov’s version, Entombed A.D., does absolutely nothing to live up to his band’s legacy. Granted, Entombed hadn’t put out a great album in a very long time, but this effort is boring, tepid, and most troublingly, devoid of solid grooves.
John Garcia, John Garcia (Napalm): You can’t listen to an album by John Garcia and not hear Kyuss in it, but there are moments on this new solo album where you can hear the influence of Glenn Hughes-era Deep Purple, the broader heavy rock sound allowing for some singing from Garcia that sounds more soulful than usual. Highlighted by “My Mind” and “Flower’, this is a much more impressive record than last year’s release by Vista Chino.
Kix, Rock Your Face Off (Loud and Proud): It’s no Blow My Fuse, but it’s great to have these Maryland rockers back in action after all these years, playing music with plenty of raunch and energy on “Rollin’ in Honey” and “Love Me With Your Top Down”.
Mutilated Veterans, Necro Crust Warhead (Hells Headbangers): Look at that title, and note the record label. This EP sounds exactly like the title implies, and this being a Hells Headbangers release, it’s a total death crust scorcher.
Nachtmystium, The World We Left Behind (Century Media): Blake Judd got into so much trouble in the past year or two, burned so many bridges with people, that a lot of folks are ready to pillory this latest attempt to restore some credibility and respectability. Personally, I have no beef with the guy and have thoroughly enjoyed his music over the past decade, and contractual obligation or otherwise it’s good to see Judd (hopefully) cleaned up and focusing on music once again. In fact, this latest album, while not in the same league as the landmark Instinct: Decay or the Black Meddle albums, is nevertheless stronger than 2012’s Silencing Machine. Unlike that record, which was a full-on assault of black metal, the pace is a lot more measured on The World We Left Behind, simple, catchy riff patterns and groovy tempos allowing plenty of room for psychedelic-tinged melodies and Judd’s expressive vocals. True, the album tends to run a bit too long – something this simple doesn’t have to be an hour long – but based on the strength of such tracks as “Fireheart”, “In the Absence of Existence’, and the bluntly defiant “Voyager”, this is a surprisingly inspired effort. Maybe this’ll be the fresh start Judd needs.
Swashbuckle, We Hate the Sea (Get This Right): What do you call a pirate with two eyes and two legs? “Rookie.”
Unisonic, Light of Dawn (earMUSIC): Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen are meant to make music together. The singer and guitarist are power metal incarnate, and this follow-up to their 2012 reunion once again trounces anything Hansen’s Gamma ray has done lately. In fact, this album is a lot more consistent, combining classic heavy metal, flamboyant power metal, and streamlined hard rock very well, Kiske still hitting the high notes as strongly as he did more than a quarter century ago.
Wovenwar, Wovenwar (Metal Blade): The more you read about how convicted murder conspirator Tim Lambesis ran As I Lay Dying, you couldn’t help but notice how he was the sole reason that band sucked so badly, and wonder just how much the rest of the band had been held back. Now that they’ve shed the loathsome Lambesis from their lives, they’ve started anew with singer Shane Blay, they definitely sound reborn on this debut. Granted, this is still very much in keeping with the metalcore formula, but while As I Lay Dying felt lazy and featured boring grunted vocals, every song on this record bursts with life, guitars often soaring, Blay holding his own with some very strong singing. It’s all you ever ask for from a metalcore album, but never hear consistently enough, and Wovenwar’s album is a triumph, very much on par with the best work by Killswitch Engage and All That Remains. Here’s hoping the band gets the sales they so deserve after their ordeal.
Not metal, but worth hearing:
Mozart’s Sister, Being (Asthmatic Kitty): Because Caila Thompson-Hannant is based out of Montreal and creates solo electronic music, the comparisons to Grimes are inevitable, but unlike Claire Boucher’s carefully contrived quirkiness, Mozart’s Sister is decidedly more up front, not to mention coherent, more rooted in ‘90s R&B diva singing. Atop clever arrangements of minimalist synths, loops, and glitchy beats, she brings some genuine soul rather than sound precious, which works to her great advantage on standouts like “Lone Wolf”, “Salty Tear”, and “Don’t Leave it to Me”. This is well worth seeking out.