February 2016 Rapid Fires

Saturday, 5th March 2016

As the month of February rapidly zips by us, it’s time to get in another month’s Rapid Fire column. As we eagerly await what the warmer weather will bring (aside of a number of already announced great tour packages), it’s best to clear the plates so that everything is ready to go full-speed ahead. A number of singles, live albums, and under the radar releases to satiate those looking for new material below. This month we investigate Axevyper, Barús, Collision, Doro, Iron Mask, Kaos Reign, Löbo, Onslaught, Revenience, Sanktuary (pictured above), Spheron, Temisto, Vargafrost, The Wakedead Gathering, and War Inside.

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Axevyper – Into the Serpent’s Den (Iron Shield Records)
Brandishing axes of yesteryear on their logo, Italy’s Axevyper won’t mince words in their traditional heavy metal attack on Into the Serpent’s Den, the quintet’s third full-length in seven years. A previous appearance on a domestic tribute to Omen album gives you a clue that melodic twin guitar harmonies, marching/epic drum strains, and even a few bass lead parts hones in on what to expect for “Brothers of the Black Sword”, “Spirit of the Wild” and the Maiden-esque closing 8:50 epic “Beyond the Gates of the Silver Key”. Luca ‘Fils” Cicero screeching higher propensities could unhinge a few fence-sitters – however ardent followers of battles, shields, and leather/denim vests will fly the flag for Axevyper high. – Matt Coe (Axevyper on Facebook)

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Barús – Barús EP (Emanations)
Barús is a name you may not be aware of, but it sure seems like that is going to be changing right quick. This French death metal act takes cues from bands like Meshuggah in their use of heavy groove, Nero di Marte in their atmosphere, and pools them in with deathly fury. Opening track, “Tarot” blends grooving rhythm with dissonant riffs and plenty of energy. Things get a bit more atmospheric later in the EP, with “Chalice” and “Cherub” taking the reins and going into some areas of spoken word and slower, doomier riffing. The whole EP works seamlessly though, and captures that same heavy and fresh feeling as Sanzu. Expect to hear much more of these guys in the future. – Kyle McGinn (Barús on Facebook)

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Collision – Satanic Surgery (Hammerheart Records)
File Collision’s Satanic Surgery in the “Not to be taken seriously” category. A Dutch thrash/grindcore hybrid, Collision are rather privy to short, no-thinking-allowed songs, many of which comb over previously-used ideas. While that’s the band’s most glaring issue, some of these songs have some snap ala “Touch Me, Jesus” and “Piece of Shit from the Tar Pit,” which at one minute and 40 seconds, emerges as the album’s most direct and knifing number. From there, however, you’re just getting a mish-mash, pile-on of overused ideas, all set to the tune of comedic song titles and questionable subject matter. Next. – David E. Gehlke (Collision Facebook)

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Doro – Love’s Gone to Hell (Nuclear Blast)
Currently traversing parts of the East Coast with a strictly Warlock set list, Doro feels the time is ripe for some new music – hence an EP teaser for the forthcoming full-length, hopefully dropping in late 2016/early 2017. Three versions (radio, single, and demo) appear of the title track – a semi-ballad of sorts with Doro using more of her lower and mid-range register while the piano and darker chord sequences make me think of a gothic side we haven’t heard from her much lately. You’ll also get her duet with the late Lemmy “It Still Hurts”, plus two live songs “Rock Till Death” (featuring Hansi from Blind Guardian) and “Save My Soul” that prove she’s still loud and proud on stage. The golden locks and voice still shimmer – metal ‘til the end. – Matt Coe (Doro official website)

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Iron Mask – Shadow of the Red Baron (AFM Records)
A re-issue of the band’s third album, beyond the 11 original tracks we get two bonus songs from 2013’s Fifth Son of Winterdoom re-recorded with latest vocalist Artur Almeida. Iron Mask serves up a bevy of neo-classical oriented power metal, filled to the brim with talented arpeggio runs on the keyboards and guitars, a hefty serving of double bass and of course a vocal equal that hits high registers at will. Oliver Hartmann (ex-At Vance, Avantasia) masterfully glides in his melodic singing prowess for “Dreams”, while musically people who appreciate Yngwie, Symphony X and the faster side of Stratovarius should be appeased. Artur’s more Dickinson-esque delivery on the ten-minute plus epic “Fifth Son of Winterdoom” bodes well for the next studio record as a difference maker. – Matt Coe (Iron Mask on Facebook)

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Kaos Reign – Screaming for Salvation (Self-Released)
Connecticut metallers Kaos Reign return for a second helping with Screaming for Salvation. With loving nods to bands like Slayer and Sepultura, there is a distinctive flair for the old guard present, with some groove to fill in the gaps and add some spice. The strongest card in the band’s deck is their songwriting. There’s a ton of catchy riffs going from song to song, and while they can nail that trashy gallop (“Rejection Letter”), they aren’t opposed to slowing things down to help with the dynamics (“Deathwish”). 55-minutes of pure heavy metal that takes from enough diversity to keep the listener’s head moving and utmost attention. – Kyle McGinn (Kaos Reign on Facebook)

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Löbo – Alma (Signal Rex)
Portuguese doom crew Löbo recognize the one primary flaw with their chosen style of metal: it gets stale really fast. Doom has long been in need of a creative injection, and while it comes every so often (Pallbearer would be a good example), the style’s constituents appear to be all too at ease with sticking to the norms. Not Löbo. On Alma, the band tacks on some alien electronic elements to go along with songs that march along like a funeral procession, all the while being as heavy as a boulder. Through it all, Alma takes on a surprisingly discomforting cinematic feel – just ride along through the excellent (and spacey) “Por fim só. Livre.” – David E. Gehlke (Lobo Facebook)

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Onslaught – Live at the Slaughterhouse (AFM Records)
Capturing two UK gigs in London and Bristol, the veteran thrash band deliver a 13 song live record that proves their vicious brand of windmill inspired riffing and blitzkrieg vocals still can pack a punch on their second go around since the 1980’s. Sy Keeler’s acidic roar along with the pummeling tempos and raw power chords makes old favorites like “Metal Forces” and “Onslaught (Power from Hell)” go down as easily as the newcomers “Chaos Is King” and the exotic “Children of the Sand”. The DVD (not available at time of reviewing) contains the same set list plus a 20-minute documentary and a music video off their last studio album. Can’t go wrong with old school UK thrash. – Matt Coe (Onslaught on Facebook)

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Revenience – Daedalum (Sliptrick Records)
The first effort by Revenience, Daedalum shows a band that blurs some lines between gothic and symphonic metal. First single “Shamble” gives a good overview, with upbeat and frequently heavy riffs trading space with sprinkles of keyboards and Debora Ceneri’s soaring vocals. Sometimes coming across as a blend of Epica and Evanescence, there’s more punishing moments a la “A-Maze” (which also uses some death growls) alongside more mellow ones, such as the piano-led “Lone Island.” Nothing really moves outside of much-tested waters, but the songwriting chops are there (along with a strong vocal presence). A solid debut with some potential, even more so if they can find more of their own identity with album number two. – Kyle McGinn (Revenience on Facebook)

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Sanktuary – Winter’s Doom (Self-Released)
As unheralded of a Canadian thrash act as you’ll find, Sanktuary are back at it with their fourth album, the appropriately-named Winter’s Doom. Still operating in the wide-open space(s) of traditional thrash and traditional metal, the band relies on a no-frills, all raw, all natural production job to get their point across. And it does, with the album’s seven cuts getting their rollick on, particularly the spacious “Venom Lord” and bulldozing “Corpse Blockade,” which come to think of it, would be quite the title for a zombie flick. Any way you slice it, hard to find a more valid, “true” thrash band from the Great White North than Sanktuary. – David E. Gehlke (Sanktuary Facebook)

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Spheron – A Clockwork Universe (Apostasy Records)
Progressive death metal with plenty of technical flair, Spheron manage to make a splash into the crowded waters. The music can push forward with bludgeoning brutality, but then switch things up into a more melodic/progressive passage (and occasionally shift into some clean singing as well) at the drop of a hat. Just check out “The Blind Watchmaker” for a pleasant introduction to what this band is capable of. Other tracks like “Plains of Hungary” move towards more melodic and airy waters, while “Gargantua” is about as massive and heavy as you’d expect, given the title. Things really culminate on the closing track, “Bound in Empty Jars,” with plenty of razors’ edge riffing alongside equally sharp melodies and occasional clean moments. Easily a sleeper hit for this year so far. – Kyle McGinn (Spheron on Facebook)

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Temisto – Temisto (Pulverised)
The Morbus Chron connection is an instant selling point for Temisto’s self-titled effort. Produced and engineered by MC’s Robert Andersson, the band’s album is a pointed slab of off-kilter death metal. Building upon the style’s fundamental elements, Temisto proves to be fully capable of jousting between rampant, rampaging riff-action (see: “Above Sacred Ground”) and trick-turning, mystical motifs (“Abyssal Depths”). As somewhat of an added little bonus, the album maintains fabulous pacing, bolstered by some well-placed instrumental bits. If anything else, Temisto conjures up the right kind of weird and the right kind of awesome (if you will) with their self-titled effort. – David E. Gehlke (Temisto Facebook)

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Vargafrost – Honour, Blood, Spirit, and Love (Naturmacht Productions)
The word “love” in an album title for a black metal band…there’s a new one. It’s usually the other way around – “hate” gets used rather frequently, because of course, there’s no way a black metal band would ever admit to liking anything other than death, Satan, and nature. But we digress. Vargafrost are a New Zealand-based outfit, and Honour, Blood, Spirit, and Love is their second album, a relatively primal, yet bubbling offering of classic black metal. Subhuman vocals, sprawled-out riffing, and a raw production job encapsulate an album with no definitive high point, although a nod should be given to “Ask and Embla” for its preponderance of sideways riffing and thrashing drums. – David E. Gehlke (Vargafrost Facebook)

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The Wakedead Gathering – Fuscus: Strings of the Black Lyre (I, Voidhanger)
A one-man ensemble comprised of Andrew Lampe (quite disappointing he doesn’t go under an assumed name), The Wakedead Gathering play a diabolical, depth-dwelling style of black-on-death metal. Lampe’s instrumental capabilities are more than sufficient, especially in the way he constructs riff tangents. Many of his ideas strike an immediate dissonant chord, like on “Blood from the Earth,” a song that would have no problem hanging with other abyss-loving death metal bands. Some vintage death metal is unearthed on “The Harrowed Column,” while funeral doom gets a run-through on “An Ancient Tradition,” allowing the storyline of a witch hunt on Fuscus: Strings of the Black Lyre to come to life…or death. Either way works. – David E. Gehlke (The Wakedead Gathering Facebook)

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War Inside – S.U.T.U.R.E. (Finisterian Dead End)
Those looking for the intense and chaotic will find themselves right at home with War Inside. Taking the death metal framework and adding just a sprinkling of black metal, the vitriol comes with just a bit of atmosphere. But never too much. Its clear that destruction is the number one name of the game as you move through the album, with crunchy death metal riffage, blastbeats and tremolo melodies, and caustic vocal screams dominating the landscape. It’s an adrenaline rush, but as these things go, you may feel a bit if deja-vu before the S.U.T.U.R.E. comes to a close, with only the more instrumentally-favored “Penance” really standing out much from the overall pack. – Kyle McGinn (War Inside on Facebook)