July 2018 Rapid Fires

Wednesday, 8th August 2018

Things are really heating up so to speak (in more ways than one in parts of the world, currently). Summer is at it’s peak, and festival season is well underway. Not much else to ask for except for a quality run of new metal releases, which is seemingly always the case. Here we have plucked some of the good, bad, and somewhere in-between for quick consumption. We check out Destinia, Draghkar, Gaskill, Hollow, Levinia, Manic Outburst, Mater Natura Excelsa, Of Misery, Pounder, Tarja (pictured above), Vahrzaw, Varicella, and Wretch.


Destinia – Metal Souls (Frontiers Records)
What do you get when you assemble a Japanese guitar hero with a bevy of seasoned musicians in the hard rock metal realm? Well, it’s Destinia – featuring Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, Lords of Black), Marco Mendoza (The Dead Daisies), Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake), and Nozomu Wakai – and their debut full-length Metal Souls which is chock full of melodic metal with traditional and power aspects. Songs like “Rain” and “Be a Hero” possess that 80’s anthem veneer, very much in the Dio, Rainbow, and Whitesnake mold if given a potent modern overhaul in terms of production and tones. Nozomu knows his way around the arpeggio/shred licks and tricks – but he’s sure to inject the proper riff mainframe and allow the players to drive home the hooks and melodies. Well worth your time if you miss that singer-guitarist serve and volley style of metal. – Matt Coe (Destinia on Facebook)


Draghkar – The Endless Howling Abyss (Craneo Negro Records)
More old school death worship comes in the form of Draghkar, but fear not as they may be bound to the old aesthetic but its far from copycat material. The band’s filthy, gritty approach to death metal is never at a lack for personality, and while things are kept quite heavy, there are some hooks to be found. While not ‘melodic’ in a sense, there’s plenty of atmosphere and catchy riffs to be had, while the band drives ever-forward with plenty of crunch. In a world of mere clones and copycats, Draghkar will most likely catch some buzz for crafting something that reveres while keeping more of an individual identity intact. – Kyle McGinn (Draghkar on Facebook)


Gaskill – Special Weapons (75orless Records)
The follow up to 2015’s The End of the World and Our War albums (the latter their tribute to Black Flag), Special Weapons is a five-song EP that sees the New Bedford, MA unit solider forward in their primal crossover hardcore/thrash sonic blend that keeps things pure and true. One minute the band channel inner Danzig or early Life of Agony for “Small Cake”, and the next swiftly kick rear-ends in D.R.I. meets Nuclear Assault madness during “Slow Crows”. Expect raw emotion, in your face punchy tones, guitar riffs that crawl out of your speakers to attack, and true half-time doomy transitions without forcing the ‘breakdown’ while vocalist Kevin Grant floats his psychedelic, forceful delivery into your soul. Proof that crossover contains potency even in 2018. – Matt Coe (Gaskill on Facebook)


Hollow – Downfall (Self-Released)
Not the Swedish power metal band on Nuclear Blast back in the late 90’s, this band from Brazil have been active for ten years and their second album Downfall sits in that heavy/thrash metal veneer. Sepultura/Soulfly influences are prevalent from the Max-like vocal roar to bouncy grooves and riffing propensities, making the title cut and “Remember” standouts. A couple of short instrumentals “Onward” and “Passing Through” give the full cuts a bit of breathing room, while there are a few epics that also stretch the musicianship, intertwining acoustic strains against the electric power hammer proceedings (think Megadeth meets Iced Earth here for the seven-minute plus “True War”). A tad basic on the drumming side, but overall another slice of proof that South America is a metal hotbed waiting in the wings for international acclaim. – Matt Coe (Hollow on Facebook)


Levinia – Liberation (Self-Released)
Coming back quickly with a new single following the excellent Alluring Fear demo at the beginning of this year, “Liberation” only serves to enhance the band’s formula for melodic metal. Attention-grabbing off the bat with a dreamy melody, things pick up into heavier territory – something the band shined with on their demo. Levinia may be a melodic metal act, but they don’t relegate themselves into the usual symphonic tropes. Instead it’s focus lies with memorable riffs and dipping into more progressive territory (both instrumentally and with a few vocal acrobatics from Court Henson). Catchy for all the right reasons, there’s no reason Levinia shouldn’t be championed by a larger audience as an EP looms in their near future. – Kyle McGinn (Levinia on Facebook)


Manic Outburst – Violent Agitation (Self-Released)
Together since 2012, Manic Outburst hail from Detroit and perform a crossover style of thrash on their second album Violent Agitation that is quite quick hitting. So much so, these eight tracks fly by in under 28 minutes – but never fear, there are plenty of gallops, gang vocals, and mosh parts beyond the usual speedy machine gun riffs and up-tempo rhythm section action. “Speed Is Your Master” lives up to its title, while the drum/guitar interplay for “Bottom Feeding Scum” makes this an enticing mid-album cut (featuring a guest solo from Condition Critical axe man Tony Barhoum). Meat and potatoes-oriented thrash, old-school intent with youthful exuberance – tearing heads like the cover art illustrates, potent stuff indeed. – Matt Coe (Manic Outburst on Facebook)


Mater Natura Excelsa – Sorrow Plagues / De La Nostalgie / Elderwind / Dreams Of Nature (Avantgarde/Flowing Downward)
Certainly one of the best labels at the moment when it comes to atmospheric black metal, Italy’s Avantgarde Music (and its Flowing Downward sub-label) are getting into the introductory bit of things by releasing a natured-focused split between four of its newest bands: Sorrow Plagues, De La Nostalgie, Elderwind and Dreams of Nature. Sorrow Plagues comes out the winner here, not because they’re first in the running order, but because of their colossal, almost soothing take on the style. Elsewhere, the proto-black stylings of Elderwind are a 90s toss-back, while Dreams of Nature chime in with a Summoning-like two jams. – David E. Gehlke (Mater Natura Excelsa Bandcamp)


Of Misery – Black Noose (Self-Released)
The deathcore current is strong on Of Misery’s Black Noose. It doesn’t take very long to establish what sort of an experience you are going for, and unfortunately the songs are completely saturated with the ‘core cliches. The downtuned riffs feel entirely too familiar, as do the patterns as each song progresses. From a musical perspective, it fits the sound but does nothing to improve/alter it. If there’s one positive piece, the band doesn’t employ the same type of gurgling vocalist but one that you can actually understand completely, giving some definition to an otherwise bland release. – Kyle McGinn (Of Misery on Facebook)


Pounder – Faster than Fire 7″ (Shadow Kingdom)
As if Matt Harvey needed another band between his main gig in Exhumed, Death-tribute Gruesome, grind act Expulsion and side thrash outlet Dekapitator, here comes Pounder, which channels the man’s love for NWOBHM and Motorhead. Pounder’s three-song Faster than Fire EP is everything you’d expect it to be in this realm, but, most surprising is Harvey’s raspy, almost Graham Bonnet-like vocals. While he doesn’t go as high as the old Alcatraz and Rainbow singer used to, his vocal exploits on Faster than Fire turn it into something more than just some random, cheap homage act. – David E. Gehlke (Pounder Facebook)


Tarja – Act II (earMUSIC)
Following up on 2012’s Act I, this is obviously the second live release from the one and only Tarja Turunen. There’s no lack of content for Act II to be certain, particularly those who invest in the DVD/Blu Ray, which contains two shows (an intimate one in London, and a larger one in Milan). The 2-CD version contains the Milan set, and the sound is excellent. While the crowd is rather audible, the mix makes it feel more genuine and it never gets in the way of the music. Speaking of which, the varied setlist is one that fans should appreciate, with cuts from her four albums and even some rare tracks to boot. The bottom line: a no-brainer if you’ve followed Turunen in the past. – Kyle McGinn (Tarja on Facebook)


Vahrzaw – Husk (Blood Harvest/Regain)
Supposedly the last album from these Australian black/death mongers (or mongrels?), Husk, is a perfunctory blaze-of-glory salvo that should put a nice bow on the band 25-year career. Unrelenting and smeared with those sideways, front-loaded chord smears, the album heaves itself forward via “Black Night by Firelight” and “Kneel, Kiss, Kill,” the latter injecting some quick dashes of melody. For a band that has gone unnoticed in the Australian underground for so long, Husk begs to ask: What took Vahrzaw so long to get noticed? And why hang it up now? – David E. Gehlke (Vahrzaw Bandcamp)


Varicella – Dead is Better (Machine Man Records)
When it comes to ‘old school’ metal, there’s not many that head that direction in a more industrial feel. But Varicella is here to bring listeners back to the glory days of bands like Godflesh and Ministry with Dead is Better. Pulsating samples and effects merge with some heavy riffs, spoken word, and brazen shouts/screams to bring things back in a clear ’80s/early ’90s way. It’s abrasive yet memorable, and the underlying metal benefits greatly from the way the industrial machine – there’s always something going on to catch your ear. There’s not as much of a market for this stuff anymore, but Varicella are a reminder of how it can be done effectively. – Kyle McGinn (Varicella on Facebook)


Wretch – Reborn (Pure Steel Records)
A re-release of this Cleveland band’s debut record originally seeing the light of day in 2006 on Auburn Records, Wretch epitomize blue collar US-metal with traditional riffing and power/thrash inflections. Songs such as “Mental Wars” and epic “The Winners” properly channel everything from Metal Church and Judas Priest to Armored Saint. Colin Watson’s raspy, maniacal sneer on vocals plus the dual rhythm guitar propensities occasionally veer into Helloween territory too – and it doesn’t hurt to give a nod to the old local guard in covering Breaker for “Touch Like Thunder”. Making the most of this second reformation (three albums since 2003 after only issuing six demos), Wretch are that down to earth band playing for the love of heavy metal – and we could use more bands like that in our lives. – Matt Coe (Wretch official website)