December 2014 Rapid Fires

Friday, 2nd January 2015

Officially closing out the year that was 2014 with this last batch of Rapid Fires as we begin to crack open the egg(nog?) that is 2015. With the amount of killer releases we have been steadily working over with 2014, we can only hope that 2015 continues this same trend. Cheers to the coming year! This month we tackle Absentia Lunae, Alltheniko, Axenstar, Bhleg, Cinemuerte, Ctulu, Divine Ascension, Eye of Solitude, Harmony, Post Mortal Possession (pictured above), Resumed, Shed the Skin, Thunderworks, Witchrist, and Wretch.

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Absentia Lunae – Vorwarts (ATMF)
The ATMF label has become a bit of a hotbed for esoteric extreme metal bands, with Italy’s Absentia Lunae obviously fitting the bill quite nicely. The band’s Vorwarts effort is their third overall, purveying a brand of mangled, avant-garde black metal with vocals that are part Tom G. Warrior, and part Johan Liiva (ex-Arch Enemy). Either way you slice it, the album peels off some major warped tonnage, like on the blasting “Rapace Planare,” as well as the towering “Tragedy, Replaced by Golden Horns.” In all, a warped, highly unorthodox release that would blend in well with what’s going on in French, except these gents are from Italy. – David E. Gehlke (Absentia Lunae on Facebook)

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Alltheniko – Fast and Complete (Pure Steel Records)
Italy’s Alltheniko (their name based on a word game from their city’s province Oldenico) return for their fifth full-length since 2006 in Fast and Complete. Power/speed metal of a European variety is at play on their 8 original songs plus a closing take on Saxon’s “The Power and the Glory”, the type you grew to know and love if you lived for the burgeoning 80’s scene. Bassist David Nightflight’s vocals could be considered Peavy–lite on “Tank of Death”, while the musical transitions for “KaiserSteel” remind these ears of all periods Annihilator. Overall those who enjoy classic German power/speed metal like Rage where the picking is tight, the vocals are a touch throaty, and the band incorporate semi-intricate instrumental sections amidst the energy will love this record. –Matt Coe (Alltheniko official website)

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Axenstar – Where Dreams are Forgotten (Inner Wound Records)
No real beefs with fluffy power metal as long as the songs are there. Dancing fairies, moats, and glorious battles can be worked with; just don’t cross the line. (Looking at you, Manowar.) For Sweden’s Axenstar, they’re on the proper level with their sixth album, Where Dreams are Forgotten. The band’s sound is somewhere between the uppity range of classic-era Stratovarius and the rough-and-tumble Vain Glory Opera days of Edguy, which means, there’s still some refining to be done. However, there’s some heroic jaunts here: “Inside the Maze,” “The Return” and “Curse of the Tyrant” suffice just fine. – David E. Gehlke (Axenstar on Facebook)

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Bhleg – Draumr Ast (Nordvis Productions)
Hey, a black metal name that sounds like a vocal inflection. “Bhleg” has long been the utterance to come out of the mouths of BM’s most high-level bands, usually set in motion to kick a song into gear. In this case, Bhleg are a Gothenburg, Sweden-based black metal troupe going at it full-grim. Production is rusty and raw, with buried drums and scratchy guitars, more or less generating a feel akin to what Gorgoroth was doing before they went quasi-commercial. Particular grimness can be found if you look long and hard at the abyss found in “Alyr.” Totally frostbitten. – David E. Gehlke (Bhleg on Facebook)

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Cinemuerte – Dhist (Raging Planet Records)
Female-fronted rock/metal. Need more be said here? Probably not, as visions of bands like Lacuna Coil and The Gathering come together pretty quickly as this 5-song EP begins to pump through the speakers. Dhist being the first of three upcoming EPs from the band, there’s nothing that sticks out as being bad but nothing that is particularly memorable either. Hopefully the next two EPs push the band out of the more stereotypical female fronted outlet. There’s definite potential to be found here (vocalist Sophia Vieira has the pipes for sure), but with this overcrowded field, Cinemuerte need something to stand out a bit more. – Kyle McGinn (Cinemuerte on Facebook)

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Ctulu – Sarkomand (Black Blood Records/Human to Dust)
Do you enjoy ‘90s melodic black metal bands such as Dissection, Naglfar, or Mork Gryning? Good, then Ctulu’s third effort, Sarkomand, should be right up your alley. A Lovecraftian take on the usual Scandinavian melodic black metal theme, you’ll find the usual combination of tremolo picking and melodic riffing, high frequency blast beats, and piercing rasps the ‘90s scene was known for. Ctulu do offer some reprieve from the blasting though, with some clean vocals and acoustics in “Mondsucht” and the slower and epic feel to “Nachtwind” but it would be nice to hear more of these moments on future offerings. As it stands, it’s a nice throwback to an earlier time with some tricks tossed in for good measure that genre fans should take note of. – Kyle McGinn (Ctulu official website)

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Divine Ascension – Liberator (ViciSolum Productions)
The Australian metal scene has another winner in the power/progressive scene through this sextet Divine Ascension. Liberator as their second full-length weaves in Kamelot-like symphonic layers of riffs and enchanting Jennifer Borg melodies that bring Sharon from Within Temptation or Patty Smyth of 80’s act Scandal to mind at steady five to six minute intervals. Careful attention to memorable choruses gives “Stronger” and the Evergrey meets Symphony X-ish “The Final Stand” mandatory applause, while the title cut allows the Szulik/Inglis axe duo an ample emotive showcase for their bag of licks and tricks. The slightly hour plus record doesn’t dip in quality from first cut to last – a rarity in the maxed out album world. Inching up creatively to their domestic Vanishing Point and Voyager brethren, I await more treasures from Divine Ascension down the line. –Matt Coe (Divine Ascension official website)

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Eye of Solitude – Dear Insanity EP (Kaotoxin)
Promising British death doomsters Eye of Solitude now have the flexibility to do as they please, especially after the success that was last year’s marvelous Canto III. Therefore, rather giving another full-length a go, the Brits have mashed together an equally-worthy one song EP under the Dear Insanity banner. The song itself nearly hits 50 minutes, so pick your spots you shall, for it’s mostly atmosphere, and more atmosphere, save for some gentle funeral doom strokes that emerge once the song is more than halfway done. An experimental well done. Bring on a new album in 2015, lads. – David E. Gehlke (Eye of Solitude on Facebook)

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Harmony- Theatre of Redemption (Ulterium)
This Swedish power/progressive metal act gain a major vocal feather in the cap for this third platter Theatre of Redemption – former Lost Horizon vocalist Daniel Heiman. 6 years seems like a lifetime away since the brilliant Chapter II: Aftermath, but this is Euro-metal full of supreme guitar/keyboard hooks and superior melodies/harmonies for those who love Rainbow oriented themes and Tad Morose meets Kamelot style power. Everything from the full on neo-classical assault that is “Crown Me King” through the moodier, contrast oriented “Bloodbound” gives ample chance for fist pumps, hair windmills, and attention to choral chants. You even get a tender, lower register power ballad in “You Are” to flick your Bic to. Let the arpeggio synchronization fly free… – Matt Coe (Harmony on Facebook)

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Post Mortal Possession – Possessing Entity (Self Released)
Stomping, catchy death metal is what you’ll find with Possessing Entity, a five-song EP from Pittsburgh’s Post Mortal Possession. Thick with groove and heavy with blasts, this is the kind of thing that is sure to appeal to the death metal masses (particularly those fans of Dying Fetus and Suffocation). Just a trace of black metal to be found as well (see “Visceral Butchery”) to keep things interesting. For a self-released effort, there is some serious bludgeoning to be had with this one and the band wisely keeps things moving at a brisk pace. Sure, it’s death metal through and through, but it’s hard to knock it when it’s executed this well. – Kyle McGinn (Post Mortal Possession on Facebook)

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Resumed – Alienations (Bakerteam Records)
A cool, somewhat advanced (technically) combo of death metal and jazz courtesy of Italy’s Resumed (they were initially named Holy Terror, apparently unaware of the cult thrash band with the same name). There’s a hearty dose of Human-era Death-on-Gorguts going down, although one will be hard-pressed to get around the very clicky and totally distracting bass drum, which sounds utterly inauthentic. Shame, ‘cause modern technology can fix such things, and Resumed can work up a musical gymnasium without much of a hassle. Heck, they even have the Death-worship song title down with “Predicting the Future.” – David E. Gehlke (Resumed on Facebook)

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Shed the Skin – Rebirth through Brimstone EP (Hells Headbangers)
Yet another veritable supergroup, Shed the Skin features Incantation skinsman Kyle Severn, Matt Sorg of Ringworm on guitars, and Ash Thomas of Vladimirs on vocals. Topping it off with a Dan Swano mastering job, Rebirth through Brimstone checks off all of the go-to death metal boxes. A mere two tracks (the title track and “Luminous Transgressions”) showcase the band’s style – 100% pure death metal. No need for any additional tags on this one, just timeless and crushing death metal that switches back and forth from lumbering doom to bludgeoning speed. There’s promise here, hopefully the wait for a full-length won’t be too much longer. – Kyle McGinn (Shed the Skin on Facebook)

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Thunderworks – Thoughts & Thunder (Self Released)
A one-man melodic death metal project out of Redding, Connecticut, Thunderworks does carry an appropriate name for its burly sound. Also rooted in some death ‘n roll, there are some notable melodic passages that keep things moving in an upbeat direction. Truth be told, the best comparison to these ears is that of the old Swedish band Without Grief (particularly in the growls) in terms of their deathly yet rockish approach. Being that this sound has been tread before by many, there is a hesitation to give it a glowing approval, but melodic death fans should find something to enjoy here. – Kyle McGinn (Thunderworks official website)

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Witchrist – Vritra (Iron Bonehead)
With the band’s recent announcement that they are no more, Vritra comes across as a bit bittersweet. A well respected death/doom outfit from New Zealand, Witchrist provided two punishing full-lengths that hit hard, and Vritra (which features KzR of Bolzer on vocals) does no different. Oppressively heavy riffs that can crawl or grind with equally blistering results, this is more of a war march than anything else. This is a death/doom combo that keeps things on a deathly scale, but it’s clear the band has mastered the monstrous power of doom. Vritra does end things on a high note for the band, but with a mere three tracks, the affair ends far too quickly. RIP! – Kyle McGinn (Witchrist on Facebook)

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Wretch – Warriors (Pure Steel)
The black and white, sea faring cover is quite a contrast to the power style Ohio’s Wretch deliver on Warriors. Veterans of the scene (originating in 1983, comeback circa 2006), this 13 track, almost hour long effort contains familiar thick rhythms, twin guitar ethics, and the soaring pipes of Ron Emig. Virtuoso acoustic antics make the ending of “Sleepless Dreams” enticing, but most of this material has old school 80’s scene at heart, clichéd themes (‘we are metal’ in the title cut, “Sword and Stone”) and familiar execution that probably goes over better at their festival dates in Germany and Greece than it would in most of North America. Deep aficionados of Dio, Priest, and Maiden can file this near the back of their collection. – Matt Coe (Wretch official website)