Author: Bryer Wharton

Deathead
Blessed in Blasphemy
Self-Released
Street: 07.18.14
Deathead = Sodom + Kreator + Sepultura

I’m sure Deathead don’t quite want to be known for a small rukus over a T-shirt they made that had “At Least I’m Not Mormon” on it, but I do think it did get them banned from playing a venue or two. The Ogden thrash trio self-produce their stuff. The sound on the album comes off as a bit tin-like and almost feels as if when a solo plays, it’s played far off in the distance. I like the DIY production, as it gives the album the old-school panache. The songs have that raw, dirty feel, like listening to some old, obscure ’80s thrash cassette tape. “The Thing in the Dark” is a damn cool song, and as the album progresses, the speed lets up, and there’s some cool bass-jam-styled tracks. Blessed in Blasphemy stands solid and the possibilities of the live show’s sound make me want to get off my ass and make it to a gig. –Bryer Wharton

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Sigh
Graveward
Candlelight
Street: 05.04
Sigh = Goblin +
The Meads of Aphosdel + Diabolical Masquerade
 
It seems like every time I hear the newest offering from Japan’s Sigh, I’m always thinking it’s the best thing they’ve put out. To me, that means that once I hear those new tunes, I’m hooked on the new songs, and every listen blows me away. A grand spectacle always is the case for the synth/key-heavy black/thrash/prog band. The new album has that exact “This is the best thing they’ve released” feeling. Graveward returns a hell of a lot back to more guitar-fueled songs than on their previous In Somniphobia. This is a listen-repeat-listen type of album. Its biggest success is its flow and catchy flavor, which makes me want to keep listening to it. The bigger guitars give it the nice taste and crunch of heaviness coupled with the weirdness and far-beyond-epic orchestration for which the band has come to be known for over two decades. –Bryer Wharton 
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Sanctuary

The Year the Sun Died

Century Media

Street: 10.14

Sanctuary = Nevermore + Hellstar + Control Denied

With the current trend of classic bands reuniting or members returning to old projects, it almost seems like beating a dead horse. Sanctuary is better known as the band that Warrel Dane—the awesome heavy metal vocalist—was in before the mighty Nevermore. Sanctuary’s return seems warranted with Nevermore dead and all original members intact aside from guitarist Sean Blosl. This is not the same Sanctuary as it was on their prolific 1987 album, Refuge Denied. Dane rarely comes close to his falsetto highs from that album. The production value has increased exponentially in pure positive form. Much of the record is subdued and melancholy. The shredding, raging opening track, “Arise and Purify,” shows metal-crunching dominance. The slow and brooding closing track, “The Year the Sun Died,” is just the prime example of the depth of the album. It’s something heavy metal junkies are going to play and play again. –Bryer Wharton
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Purgation
Exterminated Malfeasance
Slaughterhouse
Street: 11.20.13
Purgatory = Suffocation + Cannibal Corpse + Deeds of Flesh
I’m hard-pressed to tear this record down at all because of recording/production. I imagine the recording studios in India are a bit limited for metal bands, but the drums are incredibly loud in the mix and have a bit of the overbearing clickety clack effect. The hard-pressed fact comes in the form that the source is actually really good if you get past the drums. Behind the louder noises are stellar death metal groove punches and some just-as-stellar sweet bass playing. Looking at this record from the optimistic point of view, it’s damn pleasing, it just takes a few listens of aural adjustments and you get the full devastating effect of it all. “Repugnant Flesh” and “Uncanny Obsession” reek of the right kind of putrefaction. Drum sound gripe aside, there are about a million fewer albums I’d rather not hear to blast this monster all day. –Bryer Wharton
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Prong

Ruining Lives

Steamhammer/SPV

Street: 05.13

Prong = Metallica + Fudge Tunnel + early Helmet

One might imagine following 2012’s Carved Into Stone—Prong’s most acclaimed and commercially successful album since the landmark 1994 record Cleansing—would put some pressure on the band. Tommy Victor comes out guns blazing with Ruining Lives. The first track, “Turnover,” is a hell of a song, and sets the tone for an album that chomps at the heels of classic Prong material. Since they began in 1986, the band has dabbled in post-hardcore/thrash, crossover and industrial. Ruining Lives, essentially, is a thrash record with some modern elements. It’s not really crossover anymore—fuck, it’s just metal. Victor upped his guitar chops tenfold here. There are some hellaciously fantastic riffs, not to mention smashing solos and leads that push the songs into realms that are completely original to metal. All that thrashing madness aside, the power of Ruining Lives is, equally, its lyrical power and the constantly changing dynamics, sounds and styles of the record. They keep listeners guessing at what’s next, and make for an interesting and head-banging listen. –Bryer Wharton

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Dark Tranquillity
Construct
Century Media
Street: 05.27
Dark Tranquillty = In Flames + Insomnium + Soilwork
The Gothenburg Swedish melodic death metal style may be a shadow of what it originally was. It’s arguable that Dark Tranquillity, considered pioneers of style, have retained the spirit of what that early ‘90s movement in metal was about. Dark Tranquility, these days, are more melody than death metal, though the band does strike a good balance of heaviness and catchy melodies. Construct reminds me a lot of the band’s 2002 album Damage Done in production tones, and just the fact that it’s a very guitar-oriented record—where the last felt like they were doing too much to be more modern like their peers—notably, In Flames. There are some haphazard-feeling guitar breakdowns on a few of the tracks that seem unneeded, considering the wealth of pretty good guitar work. The record is better than a poke in the eye, but there are bands doing things much better in the melody and death realm that I’d rather listen to than anything DT has done since the late ‘90s. –Bryer Wharton

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Eternal North
Children Ov the Cold
Slaughterhouse Records
Street: 11.02
Eternal North = In Flames + Children of Bodom + Emperor
This Idahoan group makes me ponder the possibilities if In Flames and Children of Bodom hadn’t “moderned up” their sound. The key theme on this little EP is the guitar melodies, electric or acoustic. It kind of makes a guy feel like it’s the early ’90s and so many Scandinavian groups hadn’t become shadows of themselves. There’s lots of inspiration here, from the early Swedish scene right down to vocal aspirations and more in the way of guitar tones. The title track punches the border of epic with some fancy and memorable guitar licks. Then, to go above and beyond, it throws the listener for a 180 as the melodies get harsher. With “Approaching the Veil,” things get all black metal—like when symphonic black metal was still good. This is a beefy EP for the folks who dig the older versions of the equated bands. –Bryer Wharton
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Autopsy
The Headless Ritual
Peaceville Records
Street: 07.02
Autopsy = Abscess + Death + Asphyx
Did you think San Francisco death metal crew Autopsy’s comeback album, Macabre Eternal, was hot tits? Well, this new festering, putrid bag of pus-ridden tunes makes Macabre Eternal seem lackluster. It’s basically what one should expect from a band that has a hell of a lot of years of collective experience. Things fall right into place: perfect mixing, catchy songs, speed mixed with down tempo crunches, the whole reeking bag of classic death metal treats. The Headless Ritual kills not only as a classic-sounding death metal record, but makes the so-called brutal bands seem silly. There’s a bunch more dirge-doom stuff with this new offering—lots and lots of great guitar work either in the core riffs or mighty-beyond-chop-licking soloing. It gives the rotten corpse of Autopsy a new putrid flavor, while remaining true to the band’s roots and expectations. There is a reason Autopsy are considered legends, and this new offering just gives more fodder for the followers to try to live up to the greatness they exude. –Bryer Wharton
 

 

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FearFactory

Fear Factory
Genexus

Nuclear Blast
Street: 08.07
Fear Factory = Godflesh + Napalm Death + Pitchshifter

Listening to this record reverts me a bit to my 15-year-old self—Fear Factory was “my” band then, and I’ve followed them since. There is quite a bit for me to gush and love about this new offering from the band. After the decision to use a drum machine in the studio for Fear Factory’s last album, The Industrialist, it’s nice to have a real drummer—Mike Heller (Malignancy)—on the kit. It gives an organic feel to the hugely mechanical feel that Fear Factory have always had. It’s a grooving, machine-gun riffing, synth-heavy monster—and catchy as hell. The record’s biggest success is that it goes back to the band’s second and third album with some hints at Mechanize and some new elements as well. This is the Fear Factory I grew up with, and I fucking love it. –Bryer Wharton

Ripping Death

Ripping Death
Tales of the Ripper

Iron Bonehead
Street: 12.18.15
Ripping Death = Death Strike + Usurper + Repulsion

This is not so much ripping death metal—more like galloping, but it can rip in its own right. The debut demo from Ripping Death is one of those rare “fun as fuck” death metal releases—and those are rare, like finding that gem you’ve been looking for on Discogs for cheap. The riffs do veritably gallop along, making the pace and tone fun, not scary death metal. Those riffs are the thing that make this demo solid gold. The core may be straight up, but it lets the background of soloing and jamming get entertaining. The cover art suggests a little bit of the lightheartedness: The quite gruesome-looking skull and blades are offset by the skull’s almost googly eyes. While only four songs, it indicates possible development for the band and the ways that they could toughen up with their cover of Cianide’s “Rage War.” Push play and rip in any fashion you see fit. –Bryer Wharton