March 2020 Rapid Fires

Saturday, 21st March 2020

Uncertainty and panic, at least in some form, has enveloped parts of the world, but the metal release schedule soldiers on. Perhaps with the recent quarantines and social distancing measures put in place, people will devote more time to listening to metal. That’s never a bad thing. Up for debate this month in our short-review column Rapid Fires, is Azure Emote, Biff Byford, Elixir, Ergodic, Graveslave, Inno, Isle of the Cross, Last Frontier, Lychgate (pictured), Magg Dylan, Man Machine Industry, Puta Volcano, Ravenscroft, Roadrash, Svengahli, Viogression, Wishing Well, and ZombieKing.


Azure Emote – The Third Perspective (Selfmadegod)
Masters of outside the box death metal, Azure Emote make their long-awaited return with The Third Perspective. Needless to say, there’s a lot of stuff to encounter over the course of your initial listen. While we noted death metal, there’s so much more. Tracks shift and bend their way through industrial, avant garde, jazz, and prog, outside of the usual black and doom insertions. While this can make it a bit much at the start, it’s power and influence start to further seep in with each listen. It flows incredibly well, and one of those albums that is completely worth the effort you sink into it. – Kyle McGinn (Azure Emote on Facebook)


Biff Byford – School of Hard Knocks (Silver Lining Music)
The debut solo album from the Saxon frontman, Biff Byford felt the need to cover all facets of his love of hard rock and metal on School of Hard Knocks. Featuring support from members of Opeth, Motörhead, and Rhapsody of Fire to name a few, you’ll hear material ranging from anthem-glory on “Welcome to the Show” or Saxon-like familiarity for “Pedal to the Metal” to a bit of progressive rock/metal slant during the seven-minute “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Two special covers also appear with the Simon & Garfunkel classic “Scarborough Fair” in its acoustic/clean context where Biff can showcase his versatile, melodic voice, and Wishbone Ash “Throw Down the Sword”, which started his love affair in younger years for historical songs. A departure to stretch his wings, well-worth the investment if you love Biff and heavy metal/hard rock in general. – Matt Coe (Biff Byford on Facebook)


Elixir – Voyage of the Eagle (Dissonance Productions)
Featuring four original members from their early 80’s beginnings, Elixir on their sixth album Voyage of the Eagle parade their heavy metal with an old school, classic, and sometimes doom-like quality throughout these ten tracks. Understandable given their UK base and being a part of the NWOBHM movement, there’s a plodding quality to many of these songs while the potent, bluesy/Dio-esque pipes of Paul Taylor carry the bulk of worthy attention on “Sail On” and the twin-axe harmony mid-tempo rocker “Almost There”. Even the tones and production values sound straight out of the late 70’s/early 80’s – which could be a good or bad thing depending on your viewpoint of what older artists should do in the modern age. Of the current ‘new’ studio albums from this pack of bands, this scribe prefers Diamond Head and Satan over Elixir if given the choice. – Matt Coe (Elixir on Facebook)


Ergodic – Ergodic (Self-Released)
Looking for something more tech death in nature, but the type that doesn’t forget the more brutal aspects that are necessary? Ergodic have a short but sweet offering that should be right up your alley. There’s neoclassical tech stuff all over the place (though admittedly quite tastefully done) and no shortage of high velocity riffing to get your heart going. But there’s also a more brutal underbelly to it, particularly with the lower gutturals, and it’s what gives the band a stronger foothold. There’s tech death everywhere these days, but given these three tracks, Ergodic should be able to carve out a place for themselves if they continue to write like this. – Kyle McGinn (Ergodic on Facebook)


Graveslave – Devotion (Trvasfuk Music)
Usually a metal band influenced by Magic: The Gathering probably seems more suitable for power metal. But that doesn’t stop Graveslave from giving it a genuine go on Devotion. Octone-fueled death metal with plenty of grind influences is what you’ll get and it’s particularly nasty in tone. Some light tech death injections give it a more modern feel, but they never forget their prime directive of blasting the listener into oblivion with heaviness. It doesn’t really go outside the boundaries much, but good for those moments where only the most chaotic and blasting extreme metal will do. – Kyle McGinn (Graveslave on Facebook)


Inno – The Rain Under (Time to Kill)
Featuring current and former members of Fleshgod Apocalypse, The Foreshadowing and Novembre, Inno, on paper, is a can’t-miss proposition. But, as we’ve often learned, such pedigrees do not always equal results. On their debut The Rain Under, Inno only proves to be mildly effective mainly because of the underwhelming vocals of Elisabetta Marchetti, who doesn’t possess the range or conviction to carry the band’s oftentimes lengthy compositions across the finish line. There are hints of The Foreshadowing and Novembre floating about, yet they don’t appear enough to justify further listens. – David E. Gehlke (Inno Facebook)


Isle of the Cross – Excelsis (Rockshots Records)
From the mastermind of multi-instrumentalist Je Schneider, Isle of the Cross with Excelsis contains twelve tracks and over an hour of avant-garde progressive death metal that is melodic, symphonic, and semi-technical/djent from song to song. Two of the songs “The Wolf” and “The 9th Circle” are broken into two and three-part arrangements respectively, while “Sacrifice” sets the tone in a brutal Gojira meets Meshuggah against Fleshgod Apocalypse montage of crushing riffs, jagged rhythm mechanics and vicious larynx lacerations. Occasional forays into Symphony X-like keyboard progression or Opeth acoustic-like splendor make “Tartarus” and “Breatheia” alluring and dynamic at opposite points on the record. Dense and intense, Isle of the Cross has enough cross-pollination appeal to the progressive and extreme metal audiences, including a star-crossed lovers in the afterlife conceptual storyline. – Matt Coe (Isle of the Cross on Facebook)


Last Frontier – Aether (Equivalent Exchange) (Revalve Records)
Six years beyond their second album, Aether (Equivalent Exchange) has a significant singer change signaling Last Frontier’s lineup. The atmospheric heavy metal band gained Marco Cantoni as their vocalist, and musically the band stride into a sound familiar to most who love Iced Earth, Nevermore, and Morgana Lefay if taken in more of a progressive direction. Keyboards set up darker / cinematic textures, but the guitars carry the bulk of the heavier sound – songs like “Flames of Moloch” and the twelve-minute plus closer “Shahar” embracing a wide array of emotions, interplay, and dynamics among the musicians. Probably one for those who like versatility and under the radar influence juggling – but well worth the time if you seek this out. – Matt Coe (Last Frontier on Facebook)


Lychgate – Also sprach Futura (Debemur Morti)
There’s something pleasantly disarming about Lychgate’s Also sprach Futura EP. The British doom/death ensemble has done this before on 2015’s underrated An Antidote for the Glass Pill, that is, weaving in unease with dungeon-like wanderings. It’s almost like this is pre-doom, if will, imposing and eclectic and also quite lateral — Lychgate is a veritable melting pot of controlled cacophony, ready to swallow the listener whole. – David E. Gehlke (Lychgate Bandcamp)


Magg Dylan – Amethyst (Eclipse Records)
The debut from this alternative metal act offers some solid hybridization potential. Amethyst has that heavy crunch that should give the band some appeal to fans of acts like Lacuna Coil as well as a bevy of modern hard rock acts. There’s no shortage of hooks as the music progresses, both from some catchy melodies as well as the strong vocal perfomance of Suzanne De Iulio. The way that the riffs showcase a darker edge is just what this style of music needs, giving it a slightly different feeling than what most bands of this style tend to go for. – Kyle McGinn (Magg Dylan on Facebook)


Man Machine Industry – Doomsday Clock (GMR Music Group)
Driven by J. Bergman, Man Machine Industry is a solo project filled out by other Swedish musicians in a potent groove-oriented metal platform, incorporating a mixture of industrial to thrash influences for this full-length Doomsday Clock. Explosive hooks, addictive ear-friendly choruses, and substantive grooves with crunchy riffs and melodies throughout will make many think of Machine Head, Pantera, Testament, Prong, and current Judas Priest all weaving in and out of mandatory playbacks for “At the Sound of Violence”, the low staccato-filled punchy “River Turned Red” and old-school traditional “Chosen to Divide”. Smart execution, professional sound, proper understanding of the versatility and mechanics necessary to keep up with the veterans of the field – Man Machine Industry aligns well with those who need that sonic wall of low-tuned riffs, punishing tempos, and killer leads plus Prong-like forcefulness on the vocal side. – Matt Coe (Man Machine Industry on Facebook)


Puta Volcano – AMMA (The Orchard)
Puta Volcano has an oddly satisfying mix of genres with album number three, AMMA. There’s stoner rock in its lumbering tone, augmented by a slightly Alice in Chains/grunge vibe, and just a sampling of Southern rock to flesh it out. It’s groovy first and foremost, with the guitars providing a suitable level of crunch (see “Primitive Data”) while still allowing melodies to soak their way in. Add in Anna’s vocals, which soar but still contain some grit to them, and you have a formula where playful catchiness meets stoner riffs without the tedium that sometimes pervades these acts. Worth checking out if you are on the more melodic side of the spectrum. – Kyle McGinn (Puta Volcano on Facebook)


Ravenscroft – See Through (Pavement Entertainment)
First time looking at this one’s art and name, it seemed like a sure-fire symphonic metal act. Couldn’t have been more far off, as Ravenscroft instead fall into the space somewhere between hard rock and modern metal. Opening track “Always Failing” has a Disturbed-esque ring to it, even including some more gruff voices and cringe-y “sounds” towards the end of the track. Thankfully, the band also moves in a more melodic direction, with “Anything,” the title track, and “Bed of Nails” delivering up just the right combination of catchy and heavy, even with a more commercial vibe underneath it. Not bad for the sound (minus “Always”), but unfortunately doesn’t do much to stand out from the rest of these types of acts either. – Kyle McGinn (Ravenscroft on Facebook)


Roadrash – Roadrash (Metal Assault Records)
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, Roadrash are a quartet that live for primal speed metal on this self-titled debut EP. More like a single (as it will be released on digital platforms and purple 7” vinyl), these two songs rage in a way that reminds listeners of early Exciter and Motörhead. Gang vocals during the chorus and relentless snake/kick combinations make “666 MPH” an instant favorite, along with an intense wah-wah solo break for those early Kirk Hammett-heads, while “Street Guerreiros” contains burning rubber, spitfire vocals, and a extended guitar segment that bares some similarities to “Metal Heart” from Accept. Raw passion that’s in your face and taking no prisoners – Roadrash lives up to their moniker, and it will be exciting to watch their progress. – Matt Coe (Roadrash on Facebook)


Svengahli – Nightmares of Our Own Design (Self-Released)
Nightmares of Our Own Design is a moody beast. Progressive death metal that isn’t afraid to expand the timeframe (meaningfully), there’s almost as much eerie exploration as there is progressive death metal. Given it comes from Alex Weber (Exist) and a bounty of guests that sit in the top tier of the death metal genre (such as WAIT, Obscura, and Gorguts), it should come as no surprise that it can flex some impressive technical muscles without letting the ‘tech’ get too out of hand. Svengahli have released a fascinating gem with this one, and it’s one to let the mood take you away to somewhere else entirely. – Kyle McGinn (Svengahli on Facebook)


Viogression – Expound and Exhort reissue (Hammerheart)
A Milwaukee-based act from the late 80s/early 90s who never got their just due, Viogression’s Expound and Exhort was originally released in 1991. A tour with Death was lined up, but the band’s then-label folded, leaving the album to wallow in the wind. Hammerheart is giving it the reissue treatment and for good reason — while largely indicative of the early 90s death metal scene, Expound and Exhort pummels and drives in the same manner as the aforementioned Death, while vocalist Brian DeNeffe is on par with Obituary legend John Tardy. A worthy reissue all the way. – David E. Gehlke (Viogression Facebook)


Wishing Well – Do or Die (Inverse Records)
A Finnish heavy metal act with plenty of 70’s references on their new album Do or Die, it’s refreshing to hear influences from Deep Purple and Rainbow to Iron Maiden through these ten tracks. From the opening verses of the title track that possess that vocal/music interplay similar to “Aces High” if going in a bluesy direction, on through to the introspective, softer/atmospheric clean strains for “Live and Learn” – its evident that the five-piece use the Hammond organ as a main toe to toe musical component as the guitar. Not necessarily the fastest band on the planet, Wishing Well prefer to slide into more mid-tempo arrangements that breathe organically and allow the players to flesh out the main hooks with emotive lead breaks and proper rhythm section context. Add in the Ian Gillan-esque vocals of Rafael Castillo and you have an exciting record, especially for the older generation. – Matt Coe (Wishing Well on Facebook)


ZombieKing – Dead to Life (Pavement Entertainment)
Ushering forth their debut EP, ZombieKing deliver some modern metal thrills with Dead to Life. Direct and aggressive riffs, with a hint of southern flavor (see “Down Below” or “Texas Sky”) is the flavor of the act, and the gruff yet clean vocals stand out as a strong point. Likewise, the creative guitar work and solos give the band more scenery to chew, and give it a more metallic feeling. All in all, some interesting points to ZombieKing, with four tracks that are catchy and offer a solid glimpse of what the band is capable of. – Kyle McGinn (ZombieKing on Facebook)