Heavy Metal Album Reviews: Week of January 13, 2015

The latest heavy metal album reviews, including releases from Convent Guilt, Desolate Shrine, Einherjer, Ghoulgotha, Hateful Abandon, Karma To Burn, The Last Ten Seconds Of LIfe, Manilla Road, Pain Of Salvation, Shredhead and Volahn.

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Convent Guilt - 'Guns For Hire' - Shadow Kingdom Records

Convent Guilt – ‘Guns For Hire’. Shadow Kingdom Records

Convent Guilt – ‘Guns For Hire’ (Shadow Kingdom)

Genre: Traditional Metal
They sound like they have been around for decades, but Australia’s Convent Guiltare a relatively new band. Guns For Hireis their debut album.

They would have fit in perfectly in the late ’70s/early ’80s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene. The album mixes that vintage style with Australian hard rock to create a songs that are catchy and memorable with a throwback vibe. There’s not a lot of complexity or variety here, just straightforward old school metal with elements of everyone from Saxon to Diamond Head to AC/DC.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Desolate Shrine – 'The Heart of the Netherworld' - Dark Descent Records

Desolate Shrine – ‘The Heart of the Netherworld’.Dark Descent Records

Desolate Shrine – ‘The Heart of the Netherworld’ (Dark Descent)

Genre: Death Metal
Finland’s Desolate Shrine deliver as expected on their third album, The Heart of the Netherworld. Not a surprise as Dark Descent is near flawless at releasing quality death/doom. After a disconsolate intro, Desolate Shrine launch into their infernal and twisted death metal. Oppressive atmosphere weighs heavy balanced by an equal feeling of reaching for the sky.

“We Dawn Anew”’s piano beginning is a welcome change of pace from channeling the loudest of darknesses, however brief. The 14-minute track is spun with more obvious melodies than much of the rest as the album’s highlight traverses a deadly and shifting landscape. The Heart of the Netherworld is over an hour of terrorizing and nuanced death metal beckoning forth atmospheric and desolate doom.

Rating: 4
(Matt Hinch)

Einherjer – ‘Av Oss, For Oss’ - Indie Recordings

Einherjer – ‘Av Oss, For Oss’. Indie Recordings

Einherjer – ‘Av Oss, For Oss’ (Indie)

Genre: Viking Metal
As it was, so shall it be. Viking metalersEinherjer have released an album that not only tells a story, but transports their listeners back to the days of old. Back to the days of our ancestors, when myth and lore were a way of life and tales of battles, conquests, and Nordic might were spread far beyond the frosty shores of Northern Europe.

Av Oss, For Oss is an incredible album full of vocals black as night tempered by melodic guitar riffs, rolling drums rhythms, and hauntingly beautiful key work. Fans of Norwegian black metal, symphonic black metal or folk metal will certainly find Av Oss, For Oss to their liking.

Rating 4
(Diana M. Marsh)

Ghoulgotha – ‘The Deathmass Cloak’ - Dark Descent Records

Ghoulgotha – ‘The Deathmass Cloak’. Dark Descent Records

Ghoulgotha – ‘The Deathmass Cloak’ (Dark Descent)

Genre: Doom/ Death Metal
I’ve kept my eye on San Diego’sGhoulgotha after catching them as an opening act at some random show a couple of years ago. Consisting of a rather catchy, and nasty, amalgam of doom and death metal with a wacky gimmick guitar sported by frontman W. Sarantopoulos, Ghoulgotha made enough of an impression on me such that I was looking forward to this debut full-length.

Unfortunately, The Deathmass Cloak is a disappointment with nearly unlistenable chunks of songs given to starts, stops, and time changes that grate upon your nerves almost instantly. To their credit, though, Ghoulgotha are mixing things up with quirky songwriting, but the result leaves much to be desired.

Rating: 2
(Dave Schalek)

Hateful Abandon – 'Liars/Bastards' - Candlelight Records

Hateful Abandon – ‘Liars/Bastards’. Candlelight Records

Hateful Abandon – ‘Liars/Bastards’ (Candlelight)

Genre: Post-Industrial Metal
A brief conversation on Twitter withHateful Abandon reveals Liars/Bastards to be an admitted love letter to their influences. According to their Facebook page (isn’t social media handy?) those influences include old Killing Joke, Skinny Puppy and Throbbing Gristle. For more recent comparisons look at Psalm Zero or a less heavy Godflesh.

Any connections Hateful Abandon have to a black metal sound are long gone as a throbbing post-industrial aesthetic is the main focus. Lots of samples/field recordings and non-traditional instrumentation provides an imaginative backdrop for what would serve well as a soundtrack to a coldly thrilling post-apocalyptic scene. Hateful Abandon are holding on to a “metal” tag tenuously, but there’s plenty for metalheads to enjoy and the bands promises their next will carve deeper into their unique sound.

Rating: 3.5
(Matt Hinch)

Karma to Burn – ‘Arch Stanton’ - FABA

Karma to Burn – ‘Arch Stanton’. FABA

Karma to Burn – ‘Arch Stanton’ (FABA)

Genre: Instrumental Stoner Metal
West Virginia’s true sons of the bud are one of those bands that make you and your friends snap your faces away from the necks of your beer bottles and look to the stage. Maybe it’s a rainy Thursday night and Sierra are in town, or a hot summer Tuesday when Weedeater roll in, and you go to see, smoke, drink and groove.

Karma to Burn put an end to passivity. They rock hard and yet keep the groove firmly in the alligator clips of the head banger nod. 20 years of wicked professionalism make them splendid at bagging up music to do stuff by. In some states, you need a medical license to sell what they offer. They do it by the numbers. Opener “Fifty Seven” is a true burner.

Rating: 3
(Todd Lyons)

The Last Ten Seconds Of Life - 'Soulless Hymns' - Density Records

The Last Ten Seconds Of Life – ‘Soulless Hymns’.Density Records

The Last Ten Seconds Of Life – ‘Soulless Hymns’ (Density)

Genre: Deathcore
Pennsylvania’s The Last Ten Seconds Of Life are back with the crushing new albumSoulless Hymns, which is their third full-length.

One thing that helps set this band apart from the deathcore masses is their deliberate tempo. Several songs move along at a slow pace, with periodic mid-tempo groovy moments. That increases the heaviness factor, especially the breakdowns, which are nearly in slow motion. Vocalist Storm Strope (which would also be a great name for a TV weatherman), gives a diverse performance with a variety of ominous growls and yells.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Manilla Road – ‘Out of the Abyss’ - Shadow Kingdom Records

Manilla Road – ‘Out of the Abyss’. Shadow Kingdom Records

Manilla Road – ‘Out of the Abyss’  (Shadow Kingdom)

Genre:  Heavy/Power Metal
Manilla Road continue to re-release their back catalog as fans eagerly anticipate the release of a new LP in 2015. Out of the Abyss is the album following the epic foursome that spans Crystal Logic, Open the Gates, The Deluge, and Mystification. However this doesn’t mean this album doesn’t hit as hard.

Mark Shelton and crew’s final album of the ‘80s was another staple of their already patented epic heavy metal. Fans of the band will want to get a hold of this excellent release; however newer fans may want to start earlier in the discography. Out of the Abyss is a solid Manilla Road album, but not their best.

Rating: 3.5
(Tom Campagna)

Pain Of Salvation - 'Falling Home' - Inside Out Music

Pain Of Salvation – ‘Falling Home’. Inside Out Music

Pain Of Salvation – ‘Falling Home’ (Inside Out)

Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal
Swedish progsters Pain Of Salvationreturn with the acoustic album Falling Home. It includes reimagined versions of older songs, cover songs and a new track.

They put a variety of spins on the older material. Some arrangements are jazzy, others are more progressive, and they also do some that are pretty faithful to the originals. The cover songs are  Dio’s “Holy Diver,” done in a lounge meets reggae style that’s certainly a lot different than the original, but it works. Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” is the other cover song. This album has a pretty narrow target audience, but avid Pain Of Salvation fans will appreciate the creativity of these acoustic tracks.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Shredhead - 'Death Is Righteous' - Mighty Music

Shredhead – ‘Death Is Righteous’. Mighty Music

Shredhead – ‘Death Is Righteous’ (Mighty)

Genre: Thrash Metal
With a name like Shredhead, it’s not difficult to figure out that they are a thrash band. Death Is Righteous is the second album from the Israeli band.

They mix old-school influences with modern touches to create music that is potent and catchy. The vocals are combination of thrash barks and edgy singing that’s rough but effective. Ripping solos and galloping riffs are the norm, with plenty of mid-tempo groove mixed in. They brought aboard noted producer Tue Madsen to do the mixing and mastering, and he did a good job letting the band’s heaviness and power shine through, while adding just enough gloss and polish.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Volahn - 'Aq’Ab’Al' - Iron Bonehead Productions

Volahn – ‘Aq’Ab’Al’. Iron Bonehead Productions

Volahn – ‘Aq’Ab’Al’ (Crepusculo Negro/Iron Bonehead)

Genre: Black Metal
California’s Volahn is the founding and most well known band of the Black Twilight Circle movement, a movement residing upon its own label, Crepusculo Negro. An interesting intersection between low-fi black metal and Mesoamerican occult themes, the Black Twilight Circle can be most readily sampled on the titanic compilationTLILTIC TLAPOYAUAK, but the heart and soul is really Volahn.

A one man musical entity, Volahn consists of a fast combination of furious guitar work, blastbeats, a few keyboards, melodies, and rasped vocals that periodically segue into acoustic guitar and spoken word passages that reinforce the Mesoamerican themes. The acoustic passages reveal Volahn’s fascination with Spanish classical guitar, a welcome element to one of the more artistically interesting new bands on the USBM scene.

Rating: 4
(Dave Schalek)