Author: Megan Kennedy

Bird Eater
Dead Mothers Make The Sun Set

Black Market Activities
Street: 02.10.14
Bird Eater = Ennio Morricone + Gaza + Iota

The band is now defunct, and this album was delayed three years on its release, so this is an unusual review. That said, it is still a must-grab for anyone starving for more of Salt Lake’s unique brand of rusty, heavy music. Overall, this album’s barbed-wire riffs and howling vocals create a Western-tinged atmosphere that feels like authentic frontier insanity. The organic songwriting style and clever use of sound effects allows room for breath and suspense, and this only makes the heavy moments hit harder. Songs range from the death metal grind of “Never Buried” to the lonely faraway dirge “Gather” with narrative ease. The only glaring flaw is the uncredited (at least in the press kit) insertion of what sound like Native American ritual chants on certain tracks. This is both unnecessary and inappropriate, especially with no context, and the tracks in question would have sounded perfectly great without them. Remove the imperialism and this is one sick and satisfying album. –Megan Kennedy

Norma Jean

Razor & Tie

Street: 08.06
Norma Jean = The Chariot + Oh Sleeper
Norma Jean have gone through some serious transitions, speaking both of the musicians involved and their sonic output. I didn’t know what to expect out of this album—the band having dropped off my radar after O God: The Aftermath—but imagine my delight at listening to what would turn out to be a highly emotional and engaging post-hardcore record that has since become as addictive as Nutella-flavored crack. The songwriting here is so fluid that the album speeds by in peaks and valleys of one giant song and story. Screams are desperate and gut-wrenching. Singing is organically bound to the greater aesthetics of the song instead of being hammered in where it doesn’t belong, a post-hardcore cardinal sin. Peppered in the chaos are unique instrument choices, true sludge and doom, and riotous groove. Wrongdoers is poking holes in all the self-drawn boundaries of the genre and letting the ensuing deluge carry them to higher places. –Megan Kennedy


Lamb of God
VII: Sturm Und Drang

Roadrunner Records
Street: 07.24
Lamb of God = Chimaira + Pantera

In their first release since singer Randy Blythe’s manslaughter trial, Lamb of God bring the pain and some new surprises. Their distinctive Southern-edged thrash is in full force, as with all records past, but with a new clarity and sharpness. Guitars are at peak performance—tracks like “512” bring some deeply satisfying and catchy riffs. A few tracks demonstrate the band’s progression, including “Embers” and its satisfying Chino Moreno cameo, and the Alice In Chains–inspired “Overlord,” wherein Blythe clean-sings for the first time. “Torches” includes another fun—if underutilized—cameo from Greg Puciato as the distorted voice of some disembodied god behind Blythe’s spoken word and screams. The “new directions” are exciting, but could use strengthening. Blythe’s lyrics reference his new darkness, too, and his talent for distilling complex emotions into “simple” lyrics has only improved. My only disappointment was that drummer Chris Adler didn’t bring over any of his tricks from playing with Protest the Hero, which is not really a complaint. This album is pure strength from beginning to end. –Megan Kennedy

Mass Grave
Another Element Recordings
Street: 12.20.14
DiseNgaged = Autopsy + Overkill

Hold on to your butts, death metal fans! This may be a short five-song EP, but from the eerie dirge opening of “Unearthing” to the grating thrash of “I Am The Devil,” DiseNgaged’s newest release will satisfy what ails you. The cozy old-school elements of the genre are all present and accounted for, with the band foregoing any “core” or newer-generational elements that so much death metal includes nowadays. Dez Troy’s vocals are super engaging, a crazy brutal mix of Randy Blythe of Lamb of God and more traditional death metal screeching that is more understandable than not, giving listeners a chance to connect with the lyrics. If you’re looking for that dependable old-school sound, look no further—but let’s pester these gents to put out a new full-length soon. –Megan Kennedy


Winter Kills

Napalm Records

Street: 08.27
DevilDriver = At The Gates + Arch Enemy

This is definitely DevilDriver’s strongest record in years—a complete maelstrom of throat-ripping screams over thick, thumping double-bass and heavy guitar licks that can’t help but demand your attention. It’s good traditional thrash, so expect the usual hallmarks of the era: catchy hooks descending into brutality, heavy groove and repetition in the song structure. My favorite groove comes on “Curses and Epitaphs,” with its classic “new wave of American metal”–style opening, and a haunting guitar melody floating over the pounding of John Boecklin’s inhuman drum pulse. Their choice to cover AWOLNATION was a bold and successful experiment; “Sail” is one of the most engaging songs on the album. It seems as though Dez Fafara’s vocal range has expanded as well, or maybe it’s the mixing, but he sounds better than ever. This is a solid step forward for this seasoned band. –Megan Kennedy




Street: 08.21
Myrkur = Agalloch + Darkthrone

This talented, one-woman black metal outfit has returned from the depths of the Danish forests with her first full-length, and I’m damn glad she did. While she is still responsible for most everything on the album (except drums), this album includes collaborative cameos from some of black metal’s heavy-hitters, like Teloch of Mayhem and production from Garm of Ulver. The album’s tracks are an interconnected story of transformation with Nordic mythology–inspired motifs. Musically, the style is a beautiful weaving of second-wave black metal, folk, medieval and even classical and post-metal elements. Clear, layered vocals create a choir-like tone, a perfect narrative guide through an ethereal landscape—her unique soprano voice fits the black metal vocal tradition like a glove. 
–Megan Kennedy

Gunfight Fever – Self-Titled

Gunfight Fever – Self-Titled

Gunfight Fever

Street: 10.31.14
Gunfight Fever = Scale the Summit + Shadows Fall

Hailing from Ogden, this four-piece instrumental metal outfit is packing some serious teeth in its jaws. Their debut album is well-structured, with a songwriting style reminiscent of the thrashier spectrum of NWOAHM blended with efficient prog sensibilities. Going fully instrumental is a different challenge, but it means the listener can just sit back and ride the waves—and this album is an exciting ride. The album opens with tracks of clean thrash and neo-classic rock before moving into djent territory with “It’s The Water” and beyond, to album closer “Have At Thee, Bro!” and its charmingly indie-style intro. “Poindexter” in particular is a gut-wrencher, a showcase of gorgeous fretwork. Every song demands your attention with its cascading transitions and effective mix of technicality and melody; higher production quality on the next album will only make it shine brighter. Put these guys on a bill with Animals as Leaders or Periphery and watch their stock blow up. This is some high-quality instrumental metal that you shouldn’t sleep on. –Megan Kennedy

The Age of Ether

Street: 06.28.14
Disforia = Iced Earth + Blind Guardian + 
Into Eternity

I’ve had the pleasure of following this act for some time, and it’s incredible to see how exponentially better, more polished and more professional they become with each release. The Age Of Ether is a beautiful, soaring display of melodic, power and progressive metal with sci-fi lyrical themes. John Yelland’s vocals are flat-out mind-blowing, and he makes a powerful partner with Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian, who provides guest vocals on “The Dying Firmament,” and Brittney Hayes of Unleash the Archers on “Lunar Sunrise.” The guitar work is detailed and, along with keys, builds a sonic landscape that got my blood pumping. Production values on this album are insane. These dudes areinittowinit,andtheyareoneof the most promising bands in this state. –Megan Kennedy

Crown of Phantoms
Napalm Records
Street: 07.30
Chimaira = DevilDriver + Lamb of God

I just can’t get behind this album as much as I’d like to. I’ve been a fan of these dudes for years, and it’s not that the album is poorly played or written—it’s just not as dynamic as I’ve heard them prove to be in years past. Chalk it up to an almost complete lineup change. I think it’s going to take a bit more time for this new Chimaira to really sink into their roles and bring the pain. “The Transmigration” was the most interesting track, and it’s a soft melodic interlude, so not the best of signs for what’s supposed to be a heavy-hitting album from one of the granddaddies of New American Metal. It’s not a bad album—it’s groovy and punchy as all get-out, and even though the songs tend to blend together, there are some stand out riffs and sections. But I think the real potential magic of this ensemble is still waiting to be unlocked. –Megan Kennedy

cult leader art

cult leader art

Cult Leader
Useless Animal EP

Deathwish Inc
Street: 06.16
Cult Leader = Converge + Coalesce

On the heels of the acclaimed debut Nothing For Us Here comes this tiny but crushing EP to grind the lesser music out of your ears. Both “Useless Animal” and “Gutter Gods” are short tracks, like brutal slashes with rusty blades, but there is so much energy and atmosphere in their frantic, ugly rhythms. The stand-out track is easily the cover of Mark Kozelek’s “You Are Not My Blood,” wherein the band is joined by SubRosa members to showcase their range with this deep, brooding dirge. Anthony Lucero’s dramatic, clean vox, in particular, were an enjoyable surprise. There is a distinct, dark anger in Cult Leader’s music that I have honestly felt only on a few records ever, and it’s that unique adrenaline that keeps me coming back. My only complaint is this isn’t a fucking full-length, and I’m still thirsty. Replay. –Megan Kennedy