October 2015 Rapid Fires

Wednesday, 4th November 2015

Missed this one last month and it seems so many albums have been released in the time between. Two months left until the end of the year already! But it’s that time of year for the metal writing staff – time to look back at the year and see the highs and lows of what 2015 had to offer. Before then, here’s another round of 15 albums we’ve looked into before that time comes. We check out Black .44, Blazon Stone, Caecus, Evilheart, Ghostblood, Harlott, Humavoid, Power Theory, Sailing to Nowhere, Simulacrum, Sorcerer, Stormgrey, The Heretic Order, Vanden Plas, and Vehement Animosity.

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Black .44 – No Blanks (Inverse Records)
Waves of stoner metal filter through our in-boxes as of late – add Finnish quartet Black .44 to the list with this debut album No Blanks. Quality riffing and smart hooks keep “Hometown Murderer” and “The Eyes Above” firing bullets in the chamber for those who love Alice in Chains, Corrosion of Conformity circa the early to mid-1990’s and a touch of Sabbath legacy at heart. Guitarist Jason fluctuates vocally between conventional clean melodies and slightly aggressive gritty textures – very soulful and slow building at times to make “Into the Grace” a future set list staple. A tight little record that should launch Black .44 into a wider live platform to build upon. – Matt Coe (Black .44 on Facebook)

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Blazon Stone – No Sign Of Glory (Stormspell Records)
Another side project of the multi-talented Swede Cederick Forsberg (Rocka Rollas, Breitenhold, Cloven Altar), No Sign of Glory is his take on the mighty German power force Running Wild. And we are talking classic 80’s to mid-90’s style: speedy riffs, cultural hook textures, lots of double bass, and those choruses sure to champion many pubs or clubs/festivals across the European continent. Georgy Peichev handles the vocals and there is keyboard help from Jan, but Cederick writes the songs and plays bass, guitars, and drums – quite proficiently on winning anthems such as “Fire the Cannons” and the mid-tempo crusher “Bloody Gold”. Considering most jolly roger addicts feel Rolf has been missing the mark on their latest studio platters, Blazon Stone fills that ‘old glory’ void seamlessly for the second time. – Matt Coe (Blazon Stone on Bandcamp)

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Caecus – Affliction EP (Blood Harvest)
Someone forgot to turn the snare on here. Granted, it’s not at St. Anger level, but the snare sound on Caecus’s Affliction EP is thoroughly distracting, especially since we’re wading into brutal, blast-o-rama death metal territory. With little to go off of in terms of information about the band (which is fine), it’s down to pinpointing where they’re heading, and based on the three songs across Affliction, they’re not off to a bad start. The tightly-wound plunge taken on the EP’s opening number “I” is toppled by some whirling, hurricane death metal action, where upon the mysterious drummer really gets in some crazed blasting. Of course, the snare tends to throttle the whole thing, yet this is such over-the-top and chaotic stuff, someone down the line will heard these lads into a proper studio and get them straightened out. – David E. Gehlke (Caecus Facebook)

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Evilheart – Quinquaginta (Test Your Metal)
Originally released (independently) in 2014, but now picked up by emerging Canadian label Test Your Metal, Evilheart’s Quinquaginta is a bold, brutal death metal offering that doesn’t veer too far from the course set by Brazil’s Krisiun. Evilheart, though, are Mexican, but you can detect the strong Krisiun influence across many of the album’s tracks, especially when the blast/guitar tangents line up. It’s an approach where the drums and riffs feel like they’re falling off a cliff, only to connect at the very end. A noble, but well-played pursuit, Evilheart may not score any points in the originally department, but they’re capable of giving Mexican death metal a shot in the arm. – David E. Gehlke (Evilheart Bandcamp page)

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Ghostblood – Blood From Beyond the Grave (Self-Released)
A power-trio from Seattle going under the “all gore no core” tag (yes to that), Ghostblood’s old-school thrash-bashing sorta belies their name, as DR was initially under the impression this would be some sort of dreamy, wind-swept post-metal offering. ‘Tis not the case, as the gents blast through a Sodom/Kreator inspired set of songs that are suitably punchy and tight (such things are natural for three-piece bands). Easy to get into the velocity unearthed on the opening title track or the unsuspecting BM undercurrent found on the opening portions of “Bloodstormer,” which is perhaps the most inspired of the lot. So lots of neck-whipping to be had, the production is great and raw, and these 11 songs are easy to come back to and get through. Quality stuff all the way. – David E. Gehlke (Ghostblood Bandcamp page)

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Harlott – Proliferation (Metal Blade Records)
Another Aussie locomotive coming down the tracks in this thrash quartet Harlott and their second album Proliferation. Slicing and dicing through fairly uppity riffing and semi-technical power elements, tracks like “Lord of War”, the hornet’s nest swarming “Cross Contamination”, and furious title cut make me think of late 80’s Sepultura and Dark Angel if given a young man’s production makeover. Andrew Hudson has a menacing delivery that is clear and up for the word challenge (think more intelligible John Connelly) – but the jackhammer snare/double bass and twin axe tandem assault will wreck many necks after its 44 minute journey. Thrash ‘em all. – Matt Coe (Harlott on Facebook)

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Humavoid – Glass (Self-Released)
Modern progressive metal from Finland is the name of the game with Humavoid and their latest EP, Glass. Employing vocalist/keyboardist Suvimarja Halmetoja with most of the heavy lifting (with some growls courtesy of guitarist Niko Kalliojärvi), it’s not quite the usual beauty and the beast affair. The 3 songs feature both progressive and atmospheric moments, alongside plenty of heavy riffs. The music is at the heavier end of the progressive spectrum, almost going towards melodic death metal at its heaviest and delivers plenty of solid hooks (both rhythmically and vocally). The seven minute “Eyeshine” is the best representation of the band, with soaring vocals, bouncy and groovy riffs, intriguing keyboards and a true sense of purpose as it moves through the timespan. A fairly fresh band, but they do seem like they are onto something with their formula so far. – Kyle McGinn (Humavoid on Facebook)

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Power Theory – Driven By Fear (Pure Steel Records)
Pennsylvania power metal act Power Theory straddle the lines of classic American and European finesse meets musical savvy on their third studio full-length Driven by Fear. Wisely opting for a fresh vocalist in Jeff Rose, his Biff Byford-like charm and confident upper echelon range works brilliantly for the mid-tempo anthem “Long Hard Road” and guitar hero-ish “Don’t Think Twice”. Musically concentrating on thick riffing with catchy, melodic hooks and sing-a-long choruses, think Saxon meets Metal Church through this 9 track, 38 minute platter. Touring with Vicious Rumors, Seven Witches, and others has certainly improved the output a hundred-fold. – Matt Coe (Power Theory on Facebook)

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Sailing To Nowhere – To the Unknown (Bakerteam Records)
Only a matter of time for Edguy/Avantasia to infiltrate musical minds and develop creativity entities like Italy’s Sailing To Nowhere. Dual male/female vocals make the 9 track album more dynamically diverse, and the Anastacia cover “Left Outside Alone” is given a heavier sheen – but overall To the Unknown struggles to separate itself in bombast and dramatic elements for any distinction. Beyond the fact that the drum sound is drier than dirt with the snare sounding mechanized and occasional solos sound weak (insert “Big Fire” here). Straddling melodic power metal and hard rock lines, aimlessly missing the bulls-eye overall. – Matt Coe (Sailing to Nowhere official website)

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Simulacrum – Sky Divided (Inverse Records)
Another entry in the Finnish progressive metal scene, Simulacrum’s second full-length Sky Divided delivers an hour plus feast for the adventurous, neo-classical run follower or syncopation keyboard/guitar cavalcade. Dream Theater and Symphony X maniacs will rejoice in “Behind the Belt of Orion”, while the lower tuned squeals and pinches give “Deep in the Trenches” more of a modern approach. Two epics in “The Abomination” and “A New Beginning” give guitarist Nicholas Pulkkinen, bassist Olli Hakala, and keyboardist Chrism flexibility in spreading dynamic instrumental wings, while vocalist Niklas Broman has a decent grasp of his semi-progressive, semi-operatic range. Flat snare tone aside (a little too compressed for my ears), Simulacrum definitely display talent – let’s see where their journey takes them. – Matt Coe (Simulacrum official website)

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Sorcerer – Sorcerer Reissue (Hammerhart)
Lots of love for Sorcerer’s 2015 album In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross, one of the year’s best doom albums. The Swedes, though, have a bit of unique back story to them, having been around 1988 to 1992, only to go unnoticed, but undeterred was mainman Johnny Hagel (ex-Sundown), plopping down a new version of the band, and receiving a deal from Metal Blade in the process. The album in question happens to be a reissue of a compilation of the band’s demos, where you can see their stone-faced, but epic doom just starting to take shape. Sure, it’s crude and a prime indicator of the times (especially in the production facets), but the sterling sounds of “Queen in Black” and “Born with Fear” are right on the money. – David E. Gehlke (Sorcerer Facebook)

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Stormgrey – Pray.Crawl.Suffer (Vic Records)
Forming in 2011 and gaining inspiration from the early 1990’s death/thrash movement, Lithuania’s Stormgrey took 3 years testing the material for this debut album through rehearsals and live performances. Pray.Crawl.Suffer benefits from retooling and attention to minutiae, be it subtle half-time drum maneuvers, thick dual guitar chugging, or the deep bellows from vocalist Rimtautas Piskarskas. Obituary, Death, and Sepultura lob themselves about during “Crawl Through Suffering”, the low-tuned swinging “Masquerade” and vicious groove-bending ender “Holy Bitch”. Toss in Dan Swanö for mixing/mastering and haunting skull adorned cover art and Stormgrey is onto something good. – Matt Coe (Stormgrey on Facebook)

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The Heretic Order – All Hail the Order (Massacre Records)
More throwback memories here from the UK’s The Heretic Order on this 11 track debut album. Think sharp guitar play, addictive tempos, and easy on the brain choruses that take spices of Mercyful Fate, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and some evil Angel Witch nuances to keep classic metal with pagan and Satanic references alive and kicking. Lord Ragnar Wagner and Count Marcel LaVey elevate their speed tricks with bluesy feel on winning combinations such as “Death Ride Blues” and the head levelling “Ghost Tale”, while LRW’s voice has that eerie sing-song warble that speaks to the NWOBHM heart. One to watch for if the live product can equal this studio output. – Matt Coe (The Heretic Order on Facebook)

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Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld Part II (Frontiers)
Look at Vanden Plas…these Germans have been around since 1986, with nary a big breakout (their run InsideOut Music not too long ago might be their most notable bout of exposure). Obviously, the title is the giveaway here: Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld Part II is the second part of a conceptual piece that was self-penned by the band. Certainly large, flamboyant stuff, Vanden Plas brandish their semi-symphonic melodic metal rather well throughout the album, with the songs broken down into “Visions.” Lots ‘o time needed to get into this one, but you have to appreciate the approach, dedication, and servitude of Vanden Plas. – David E. Gehlke (Vanden Plas Facebook)

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Vehement Animosity – Entropy (Self-Released)
One part pummeling, brutal death metal, one part hyper-technical death metal. Put them together and you’ll get Vehement Animosity’s debut, Entropy. There’s frenetic speed, head-scratching moments of technicality (“Chiasma”), bludgeoning death metal shredding, and sometimes they put all of it on display for all to hear in one track (“Epitomes of Misanthropy”). Despite the technical wow factor, they do keep things listenable with some surprisingly catchy material that sticks out upon first listen. If you are a fan of bands like Inanimate Existence or Cryptopsy, you shouldn’t miss out on this one. – Kyle McGinn (Vehement Animosity on Facebook)