January 2017 Rapid Fires

Tuesday, 7th February 2017

With little, if any albums to clean out from 2016, onward we jump into 2017 with the first round of our monthly short reviews, otherwise known as Rapid Fires. Up this month: A Sun Traverse, Aether, Borealis, Don’t Drop the Sword, Ghost of Mary, Grim Ravine (pictured), Ignis Gehenna, Infamovs, KforKill, Killing Addiction, Metal Law, Pimea Metsa, Sunterra, The Replicate, and Tóxica.


A Sun Traverse – A Sun Traverse (Mighty Music)
All sorts of Danish metal notables here in A Sun Traverse, including ex-members of Saturnus, and ultra-underrated melodic death metal outfit Withering Surface. The band appears to be nothing more than a collection of scene vets coming together to play some despondent doom in the vein of classic My Dying Bride (sans violins) and even early Katatonia, if we want to go that route. The result is an album soaked in slo-mo tempos, guitar melodies (“The Autumn Fall” in particular is quite entrancing), and burly bark of Michael H. Anderson. Time for some Danish doom dancing. – David E. Gehlke (A Sun Traverse Facebook)


Aether – Tale of Fire (Art of the Night Productions)
Polish symphonic melodic death metal act Aether establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with on their debut EP, Tale of Fire. Encompassing a sound with similarities to acts such as Wintersun, the synths provide a large chunk of the band’s folk meets viking meets melodic death framework. It’s an upbeat affair, and it may sound somewhat familiar in reference to other bands of the sound but for an initial glimpse, they leave a strong feeling of knowing what makes the genre tick. You’d be hard-pressed to get any of the songs out of your head quickly (particularly the title track, with its campfire-esque cleans towards the end of the song). An act worth getting to know. – Kyle McGinn (Aether on Facebook)


Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII (AFM Records)
Debate abounds regarding re-recording early material for most bands – especially if the record has staying power for its generation (Bonded by Blood perks up). Take Canada’s Borealis – possessing the advantage of drummer Sean Dowell’s studio that he runs to give their debut album from 2008 a MMXVII second chance. The penchant for German power influences a la Gamma Ray shines during the instrumental sections for “Midnight City”, and overall this is dark, melodic metal with numerous Kamelot meets Evergrey nuances as far as the riffing, symphonic embellishments, and emotional, melodic vocal delivery from guitarist Matt Marinelli (think Mike DiMeo meets Tom Englund). A little AOR “Turn Me Loose” refrain appears in some of the guitar passages for “Eyes of a Dream”, possibly tipping their cap to Loverboy. If you missed out the first time, World of Silence MMXVII proves vital, as Borealis prepare studio album four for autumn availability. – Matt Coe (Borealis on Facebook)


Don’t Drop the Sword – Into the Fire (Self-Released)
Sticking to tried and true power metal tenets, German five-piece Don’t Drop the Sword wield axes of steel on this debut EP Into the Fire. Carrying the heavy torch onward into battle since 2015, you’ll enjoy a bevy of mid-tempo to slightly faster riffs that contain many harmonic or cultural hooks plus anthem-oriented vocals that can gravitate to a gritty, down to earth approach. Older Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, Iced Earth, and Savage Grace come up as reference points when taking in these five songs, of which the speedier “Death or Glory” and “The Rise of Neith” should elevate sweat glands and heart rates. Teutonic metal through and through, Don’t Drop the Sword embody the timeless spirit of the movement. – Matt Coe (Don’t Drop the Sword official website)


Ghost of Mary – Oblivaeon (Revalve Records)
Crossing genres appears to be the new norm to gain fresh perspective in metal – as Italy’s Ghost of Mary illustrate on their debut album Oblivaeon. Taking a melodic death foundation and injecting symphonic/gothic layers, you have the clean/growl/scream juxtapositions, calmer sections against heavy riffs, and shifts that go from In Flames twin guitar trilling to nuances of Linkin Park (the latter in some of the clean vocals) and Paradise Lost. The speed and classical flourishes allow “Nothing” to make serious ear traction, while some of their cultural heritage creeps in the opening sequence of the progressive, almost seven-minute “Something to Know”. Musically exciting, vocally could be a tough sell as many will think the emo-oriented cleans are not appropriate in this type of act. Probable to make many newcomer to watch lists. – Matt Coe (Ghost of Mary on Facebook)


Grim Ravine – The Light is From Below (Black Bow Records)
The only real atmosphere in sludge is that of a scalding guitar tone. Now, atmosphere in doom is an entirely different matter, when being delicate and/or cinematic is often welcome…but not in sludge. Grim Ravine surely understands this on their four-song The Light is From Below EP, an offering that is driven by a near-endless barrage of overcooked, certifiably ugly riffs, no-tempo, and throaty vocals. Of particular note is the brooding “Vacant Mass,” which stalks and stumbles its way around like a more coherent Eyehategod. Not bad company. – David E. Gehlke (Grim Ravine Bandcamp)


Ignis Gehenna – Baleful Scarlet Star (Séance Records)
Hailed as an isolated, one-man black project led by an Australian gent by the name of Nihilifer, Ignis Gehenna sports a frayed, certainly extreme brand of BM on Baleful Scarlet Star. Since the man prefers his tempos fast and frenzied, there is a little less distinction between the cuts as one would like, although the chord combinations and note melds here are of the Dark Funeral/Marduk mind. And those looking for a true black metal epic climber, look no further than the 10-minute “Edict of Blood.” Warp speed ahead. – David E. Gehlke (Ignis Gehenna Bandcamp)


Infamovs – Under the Seals of Death (Momento Mori)
With the current Immolation currently buzzing in a lot of death heads’ ears, Infamovs’s Under the Seals of Death should provide ample support. Much like Immolation, Infamovs (who hail from Chile) play an ugly, horrifying brand of death metal. The riffs–as you would expect–are without melody, but are often formidable in their own right, like on the searing chug portions on “Serpent of Sin.” The only thing that would top this thing off would be a cover of Morbid Angel’s “Where the Slime Lives.” – David E. Gehlke (Infamovs Facebook)


KforKill – The World is Broken (Self-Released)
Despite the somewhat Seasame Street-like band name, The World is Broken is a snarling and groovy debut of modern death metal. Big on bite, each song effectively balances a wall of sound approach with heavy grooves and more frantic surges in energy. In fact, the band all but oozes energy, even if the approach is somewhat predictable in execution. The main appeal for this brutal assault is that of adrenaline, and there’s certainly an excess to be had here. Just enough groove and catchy melodies to keep it from becoming a death metal blur, and it never loses a step over the course of the album. Sit back and enjoy the rush. – Kyle McGinn (KforKill on Facebook)


Killing Addiction – Shores of Oblivion (Xtreem Music)
Squarely locking themselves into the old school death metal cult, Shores of Oblivion does a thorough job of capturing the essence of the genre. This being of the more American-styled tradition, with citations for Cannibal Corpse, Death, Incantation, and the like being noted. Of course, the legitimacy of the sound may stem from the fact that Killing Addiction started out in the late ’80s. So this latest slab of thick and chunky brutal death metal harkens back to that ’90s feel with ease, and while the band may not have gotten their due “back in the day,” they’ve continued to push new material forward. It sounds how you’d expect it to, but consider it ‘death metal for death metal fans.’ – Kyle McGinn (Killing Addiction on Facebook)


Metal Law – Hellrider (Metal on Metal Records)
German traditional heavy metal remains steadfast in appeal, especially when acts like Metal Law continue to release new product. Hellrider as the band’s third album champions the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and a healthy dose of Manowar heroic outlook and execution. Denim and leather bring Metal Law together, thunderous anthems keep “Thundergod” and “Hellride of Steel” top of mind, while the throaty vocal warbling from guitarist Karsten Degling ensures card carrying true membership. The guitar work carries the bulk of memorable melodies, thoughtful lead breaks that often revert back to catchy twin refrains perfect for unison audience participation. Stand united and brandish your sword, as Hellrider keeps the clichés on guard for those who choose to join in the metal worship. – Matt Coe (Metal Law on Facebook)


Pimea Metsa – No Blood No Glory (WormholeDeath Records)
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. No Blood No Glory‘s cover isn’t one of the strongest in recent memory, but beneath it is an energetic and fun romp through Viking metal waters. Combining folk influences (ie: Ensiferum, Korpiklaani) along with a melodic death metal backbone via Amon Amarth, Pimea Metsa comes across as a legitimately metal act with folk influences to keep it interesting. Triumphant riffing leads the way, with the folky elements providing more background enhancement to increase the “epic” vibes. Charging tempos, anthemic choruses, and some needed melodic slowdown (“Einherjer”) round out the album, which should be an easy sell to those who like any of the bands mentioned. – Kyle McGinn (Pimea Metsa on Facebook)


Sunterra – Reborn (NRT Records)
Reborn in the sense of it being their first release in over a decade, as well as a rebirth in sound from a mostly typical gothic metal flair, Sunterra’s Reborn has ample ground to cover. You can expect to hear the usual growled/female sung vocal combo, but the music behind it appears much more in the realm of electronic and industrial. There’s some heavy riffing still of course, which helps with the gothic metal vibes, but the heavily electronic background may prove too much for some. Dancable beats accompany some tracks (“Lord of Lies”) and some Pain influence leaks out of “Shut Up!!!” but the ultra low growls just don’t seem to match the vibe. Experimentation is good, and no one is going to accuse Sunterra of being a clone of anyone else, but a more cohesive flow would help moving forward. – Kyle McGinn (Sunterra on Facebook)


The Replicate – A Selfish Dream (Self-Released)
The brainchild of Sandesh Nagaraj, The Replicate is a technical death metal project that utilizes different vocalists for each song…not a bad idea for a rough style of metal to break into. On the band’s four-song A Selfish Dream, Nagaraj and band of cohorts blend of dizzying riff action, busy drumming, and a quirky, obtuse song flow. There’s certainly an immediate grip to some of these cuts, like “Chainsaw of God,” which features a high-rung slab of Voivod-like melodies and textures. – David E. Gehlke (The Replicate Facebook)


Tóxica – Ahogados En Contaminación (Witches Brew)
Together since 2013, Argentina thrash quartet Tóxica put out an EP and split release with Japanese thrashers Code Red prior to Witches Brew signing them for their first full-length. Translating to drowned in pollution, Ahogados En Contaminación gives the listener twelve tracks of furious riffs, mid-range to elevated speed tempos, and highly engaging melodic lead breaks that give the Bay Area movement a run for their money. Between guitarist Matzii Zurita’s Mike Muir-ish rapid fire word spew and the charging riffs to half-time crowd swirling transitions, it’s Exodus meets Death Angel in a Latin American context for winners “Masas De Odio” and mid-tempo warpath effort “Involucion”. A slamming affair sure to keep pit churning hordes appeased. – Matt Coe (Tóxica on Facebook)