Septic Flesh = Rotting Christ + Hollenthon + Therion
Septic Flesh had a hard task to make something greater than their last record, The Great Mass. Titan is a more than appropriate title for the epically epic damned ninth album from the Greek metal masters. Titan is not just a metal masterwork, but a musical one at that. Listeners can blast any song for full wrecking effect or be completely immersed in the entirety of the album experience. Titan plays out like any great symphonic overture that can stand up in a real debate to the great overtures of Bach and Beethoven. It’s not just a big, grandiose experience, it’s one where every detail has been perfected to enlighten any aural palette. Beautifully enthralling from the moment you hit play, you are bombarded with crushing metal with constantly changing tempos and full orchestral backing, from strings to horns, with every nuance played from intense to beautiful. –Bryer Wharton
GWAR = Anthrax + Ghoul + Green Jellÿ
In a conversation with GWAR frontman Oderus Urungus a few years back, I asked the space alien what possibly could be more metal than GWAR, to which he replied, “I don’t know, maybe Diamond Metal.” Point from that tidbit, GWAR are metal to the teeth, even if you count their dabbling in punk rock and other musical diversions. Battle Maximus is GWAR’s recorded return without their long-time guitar player Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus). For some weird reason, GWAR must feel like they have something to prove, because the metal is upped with just about everything else. The record is also the first to be produced in GWAR’s new studio, and fuck-me-sideways, this is easily the best GWAR have sounded in the production realm as well as just pure heavy metal, thrash madness and axe and stick skills. For the (oddly many) folks that believe that GWAR release crappy music and just put on raucous live shows, I ask you to go tell that to Oderus and you’ll probably wind up with whatever object that happens to be lying around shoved up your ass. –Bryer Wharton
End of Disclosure
Hypocrisy = Entombed + Amon Amarth + Grave + At the Gates
With a new record, Hypocrisy hits the road this spring in the ol’ USA to support it and all that goodness. End of Disclosure continues the path from the last few new offerings from these Swedish extreme metal legends, but actually beefs it up a hell of a lot. The title track feels like it could have come straight from Hypocrisy’s much-loved Abducted. The nine tracks offered up here to the metal gods hit strong notes of bellowing death metal with some thrashier moments, as well as a good balance of melody and heaviness. The band’s brainchild, Peter Tagtgren, whose Abyss recording studio produced some masterful works, shows a much-needed evolution with this record. Previous Hypocrisy and other production efforts from Tagtgren have felt a bit hollow, but End of Disclosure welcomes a heavier end on all instrumental and vocal levels and more importantly, a new record that fans and noobz alike can spin and spin without getting burnt out. –Bryer Wharton
Loma Vista Recordings
Ghost = Blue Oyster Cult + Thin Lizzy + Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
Since the Swedish group comprising of Papa Emeritus and the nameless ghouls delivered Opus Eponymous in 2010, Ghost and the band’s initial take on a bit heavier and more evil ’70s rock and costumed stage shows have made them infamous. The band’s third full-length record Meliora makes up for the mistakes made on the last record, Infestissumam, which had a goofy, schlock style and a good amount of filler straying away from the straight-up rock that they made a name with. Meliora has great vibe, and the whole thing is catchy as fuck without being redundant. I know that people already have “He Is” or “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” stuck in their heads. Meliora is similar to OE but with some heavier riffs, and the evil tones by way of fantastically done keys/synths lend it more depth in its atmosphere. It’s a little goofy, but it’s meant to be. The songwriting here makes Meliora the best thing Ghost have released yet. –Bryer Wharton
Season of Mist
Rotting Christ = Septic Flesh + Varathron + Moonspell
Whenever your band has a big name and reputation in the metal/extreme metal scene, there are expectations with each new album. For me, Rituals meets those expectations and goes above and beyond. These Greek metal stalwarts became well-known in the underground for their earlier works of black metal, then transitioned to a gothic metal style, and now into what I like to call grandiose dark metal. Rituals is quite grandiose, and while Rotting Christ play on the styles that the band explored on their previous albums, Katá ton Daímona Eaftoú and Aealo, they vary heavily on the album and execute them more atmospherically—yet, it’s still crushing.
Rituals may just sound fresh and new to my ears, but for me, it plays out as more interesting and more engrossing than Rotting Christ’s other recent output. Despite the vinyl version of the new album being released on a double-LP, the album maintains a duality of the “Side A / Side B” dynamic. The first half of the record exhibits plenty of atmospherics. The band performs vocals in Latin and Greek with an almost evil–Gregorian chant method, and the songs flow together nicely, which keeps the pacing fast. The drumming on the first half of the album is one of its key elements and driving factors. It’s the drums that crush more intensely than any riff—the song “Apage Satana” is almost all drum and vocals—even the riffs cling to my ears like black tar.
The songs, in a way, feel simplified, but conversely, more dynamic than the last few albums. From rough translations of song names, Rotting Christ have returned to more Satanic themes than Katá ton Daímona Eaftoú’s more lyrical types of cultural and mythological themes. Despite what Rotting Christ actually say lyrically—because I don’t speak Latin or Greek—this lyrical direction helps amplify the themes of the album and its mystical, magical feeling. Back to the structure of the album, the second half becomes a bit more structured with less atmospheric styling. The rhythm gets slower, but the record transitions from a powerful, bone-crushing feeling to an intensely darker and grittier vibe. One of the English-titled tracks, “For A Voice Like Thunder,” starts out with a sample of battle sounds and turns into a spoken-word passage that becomes almost gratuitously dark—it’s also the first track to feature the slower rhythm style and focus more on the guitar structure. The fast, epic, fist-pumping-type songs fit Rotting Christ’s live shows in the way of getting the crowd to go, “Hey, hey, hey!” Fortunately, however, they often divert from that high energy to slower moments. The style of this record fits the live feeling of Rotting Christ perfectly. I can see that the band focuses on crowd interaction as they take album opener “In Nomine Dei Nostri,” which features a drum/riff combo with high energy, and move down tempo to a slower, doom-like song like “Devadevam.” The duality of Rituals is its greatest strength as it mixes up energy and momentum, which results in a fully engrossing record—one that is more than I hoped for from Rotting Christ.
Beyond the Omens
Lucifer’s Hammer = Saxon + Visigoth + Armored Saint
Just to set the record straight, this is not the black/death metal Lucifer’s Hammer from Michigan—who have broken up, by the way. This Lucifer’s Hammer comes from Chile. Thankfully, they not only make the Chilean metal scene proud, but also all of South America’s metal troupe. The debut record from the band may be drenched in ‘80s–heavy metal denim and leather, but unlike many bands these days who try to recreate that glorious decade of metalness and instantly sound like a bad rip-off or cover band, Lucifer’s Hammer stay true to their art and sound honest, on top of tight-as-hell songwriting.
The opening track, “The Hammer of the Gods,” sets a gooey, ‘80s tone with a great opening riff and sees the vocalist spanning his range right out the gates from mid to high to some falsetto. Things really get rolling once the mostly instrumental second cut, “Lucifer’s Hammer,” starts its thrashy riffing, fast and rife with glorious, heavy metal soloing. It sounds like the band members have been playing their instruments for a long time. One of the most endearing qualities of Lucifer’s Hammer is their adaptability. The record does a great job at capturing so many facets of what made the glory days of heavy metal great. They have the riff-producing chops to create those anthems, backed by the slower, pummel-your-face, Saxon-type riffs. Yes, I’ll say it: There is a hint at ’80s hair metal, but the kind you want to listen to over and over again: maybe a little bit of Dokken, Whitesnake panache—really only a couple of the few hair bands I can stand—and with some of the fist-pumping heavy metal action of, say, Armored Saint and Metal Church.
To reiterate, I don’t list all these bands as anything that Lucifer’s Hammer are directly copying. They’re just subtle influences that you can hear from a band that keeps its songs fresh. A fully focused listen exalts maximum metal satisfaction. Background listening, though, is great, too. Honestly, the only negative I can pick out of everything on this record is the vocal range, which could be changed up a bit more, because after a few listens, it generates the same feeling, and I start to forget the vocals are even there.
But back to a huge positive of the record—its production—all I can say is “Damn.” So many bands go for overly polished, slick styles. Much of modern production styles try to emphasize and make the riffs sound ultra heavy. While the chances of seeing Lucifer’s Hammer at this stage in the live setting is slim, Beyond the Omens captures a great live quality. The production style for Beyond the Omens is pure, natural and showcases every strength that the band possesses without sounding like the artists sat in a studio for eight months. I’m glad that the band joined up with the indie, Vegas-based Shadow Kingdom label. They’re smaller in the scheme, but they’re up and coming and are putting out a terrific amount of quality, traditional-type metal bands. If you need any convincing, try listening to (my favorite track) “Nightmares.” Even though it’s not the most ripping cut, it’s the catchiest. If you need a ripper to convince you, go for the title track. In the somewhat famous words, don’t take my word for it … just check it the fuck out. –Bryer Wharton
Visigoth = Manilla Road + Iron Maiden + Atlantean Kodex
It’s been a while since this album was released, so I’ve been lucky to have quite a few listens under my belt. Other than giving my humble opinion on the second album from SLC’s heavy metal crew Visigoth, I do want to address a couple things. One of them is what I came across browsing the web for reviews. The other the massive importance lyrics play—not just in metal, but in all music.
One thing is certain: There is no such thing as the sophomore slump for Visigoth. I actually enjoy Conqueror’s Oath significantly more than their debut, Revenant King. This is mostly due to a massive amount of riff candy, guitar solos that don’t repeat themselves and a rhythm section that is not just a background for guitars and vocals. I was getting the hooks and incredibly crunchy guitars stuck in my skull halfway through the second listen. So with this storm of all the instruments pumping come the lyrics. In heavy metal, a catchy riff is just as important as a catchy chorus or potent lyrics. With Conqueror’s Oath I actually recognize and remember songs by name better than the debut. I won’t name particular song highlights, since it would pretty much be the entire album.
While skimming other reviews online, I came across a strange theme. Visigoth has been accused of, for a lack of better words, “forced cheesiness.” Fuck, they’re not Steel Panther. The only read I can get on this critique comes from the bands love for, vast knowledge of and huge influence from metal and rock from the ’70s and ’80s. I do see some ways that a listener could confuse an influence from a specific sound and interpret it as “cheese”. In the end the influences are there, but I don’t find them straight ripping off a style. Find me a band from the ’70s or ’80s in the metal-rock realm that doesn’t sound cheesy. –Bryer Wharton
No Mercy for Mayhem
Midnight = Venom +
Hellhamer + Motörhead
This Midnight just got much darker, and that’s always a good thing. While their debut album, Satanic Royalty, was all Athenar, No Mercy for Mayhem is in full-band mode. The differences are subtle, though, so I’m unquestionably sure that Athenar was the end-all-be-all of what actually made the record. The dynamics of this latest offering of Satan, heavy metal, punk and more Satan with touches of blasphemy are that much tighter than the debut album. The tone is grittier than before, with Athenar taking a more vile vocal approach, as well as the guitar tone bringing in more vile grime and overall nastiness. “Try Suicide” beats up any new, so-called punk rock anthem of today with the old-school tunes punching them in the face. The new album seals the deal that Midnight are out to destroy metal, punk and all the hipsters and poseurs who follow. –Bryer Wharton