Heavy Metal Album Reviews: Week of February 24, 2015

Aktor – ‘Paranoia’ - High Roller Records

Aktor – ‘Paranoia’. High Roller Records

Aktor – ‘Paranoia’ (High Roller)

Genre: Heavy Metal
Chris Black is constantly moving forward, as his work ethic is commendable. After High Sprits and Dawnbringer releases in 2014 he is back with his latest creationAktor. Their debut release Paranoia is rooted in psychedelic tendencies and heavily influenced by ‘70s progressive rock. Aktor are more suited in the rock world and is the least heavy of all of Black’s projects.

As always, Black’s melodies are infectious and seep into your consciousness the more you hear them. Opener “Devil and Doctor,” “Where Is Home” and “Gone Again” are recognizably stamped with Black’s memorable melodies. Black has an amazing ability that allows for all of his bands to have a similar feel while still retaining a unique identity.

Rating: 4
(Dan Drago)

Astral Blood - ‘Astral Blood’ - Tridroid Records

Astral Blood – ‘Astral Blood’. Tridroid Records

Astral Blood – ‘Astral Blood’ (Tridroid)

Genre: Black Metal
Prepare thy sacrifice for the glory of Astral Blood and their self-titled debut EP! Okay, so you don’t have to kill for it, but it’s definitely worth some pain. This Minnesota-based black metal group makes quite an impression over 16 necrotic minutes. Most of Astral Blood moves at mid-paced-to-quicker speeds but when they kick into high gear things get absolutely frigid.

They use just the right amount of symphonic keys to make it sound epic without going over the top. The keys bleed atmosphere and majesty over merciless black metal. A strange, haunting and oddly sensual spoken word interlude slides in with Holly Axelrod’s poetic narration. Astral Blood’s tempered theatrics and scathing delivery definitely deserve your attention.

Rating: 3.5
(Matt Hinch)

Atomic Aggressor - 'Sights of Suffering’ - Hells Headbangers Records

Atomic Aggressor – ‘Sights of Suffering’. Hells Headbangers Records

Atomic Aggressor – ‘Sights of Suffering’ (Hells Headbangers)

Genre: Death Metal
Chilean old school death metal upstartsAtomic Aggressor bring the pain like it is still the late 1980s. They are riding a strong wave that could be classified asAltars Of Madness but with a renewed fervor that showcases a modern sharpness combined with the wonderfully old school.

They pull together elements of the strong roots of South American death metal, whether it be their fellow countrymen in Pentagram or the forefathers the likes of Sarcofago and Sepultura. A great debut from a band that pays homage to their roots without falling victim to copyright infringement; fans of OSDM will dig this album very much.

Rating: 4
(Tom Campagna)

Below The Sun - ‘Envoy’ - Temple Of Tortuous Records

Below The Sun – ‘Envoy’. Temple Of Tortuous Records

Below The Sun – ‘Envoy’ (Temple of Torturous)

Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
Below the Sun’s aim is to transcend past space and dimensions with this enthralling release. Sludgy, yet ever-evolving, riffs stretch to gargantuan lengths (sometimes too long). There’s a gravitas to the songwriting that makes each minute seem as if it’s building to a formidable conclusion.

The unintelligible growls and bellows become a distraction from the transcendent music. Honestly, the album would’ve been better without them. The band thrives in a minimalistic environment, where words aren’t a required means of expression. When the album reaches those points, as it does on the last two tracks, that’s when the group turns into a substantial entity.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

Carach Angren - 'This Is No Fairytale' - Season Of Mist

Carach Angren – ‘This Is No Fairytale’. Season Of Mist

Carach Angren – ‘This Is No Fairytale’ (Season Of Mist)

Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
The Dutch metal outfit Carach Angren are back once again with their blend of furious blast beats and landscape orchestrations. Their fourth full length This is No Fairy Tale is a conceptual story that deals with abuse, deprivation and seclusion. A straight up horror, it unfolds as a fairy tale dealing with two children’s adventures to break away from darkness.

The story flows like a King Diamond penned effort where narration and the common thread between songs work seamlessly to create an eerie atmosphere. A cinematic feeling permeates throughout as the symphonic elements work congruently with the thematic aspect. Another powerful frightening tale that Carach Angren have become masters at portraying.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Drago)

Chiefs - ‘Tomorrow’s Over’ - Roosevelt Row Records

Chiefs – ‘Tomorrow’s Over’. Roosevelt Row Records

Chiefs – ‘Tomorrow’s Over’ (Roosevelt Row)

Genre : Stoner Rock
Formerly Phoenix, Arizona’s bohemian Roosevelt Row house band, Chiefs move to San Diego to go where the buffalo roam, or so they offer in Tomorrow’s Over’s first song “Buffalo Roam.” The chunky desert rock riffs and thick brown sound give the Chiefs a signature stoner spirit. As the album sinks in it becomes apparent that Tomorrow’s Over isn’t a haphazard title but rather a subtle nod to the doomier elements buried in all the sludge. 

“Tesla” generates an electrical crispiness to the overall crunch of the album. “1999” is one year minus a Y2K meltdown, and if not for the weakness of the album’s vocals, the song would have brought down all the wine bars in La Jolla with an apoplectic genre-busting burst. Cali sunshine with a heart of darkness delivered through the vocal delivery of William Ginsberg, while beatniks wrestle hippies for the best hash all makes for a curious rush.

Rating 3.5
(Todd Lyons)

Crypt Sermon - ‘Out of the Garden’ - Dark Descent Records

Crypt Sermon – ‘Out of the Garden’. Dark Descent Records

Crypt Sermon – ‘Out of the Garden’ (Dark Descent)

Genre: Doom Metal
This debut album checks off the essential qualities of doom: ascending melodic vocals, fret-scorching guitar leads, mythical reverie. All of them done with a nod to groups like Candlemass and Saint Vitus, without directly mimicking those timeless acts.

Though there a few quicker moments in “Heavy Riders,” the album functions in a blissful mid-tempo style. The lofty ambition of the eight-minute “Into the Holy of Holies”—the tender acoustic beginning picking up to a joyful main riff—is an accurate depiction ofCrypt Sermon’s range. The band isn’t reshaping the genre, but their inspired work instills confidence for their subsequent releases.

Rating: 4
(Dan Marsicano)

Dr. Living Dead – ‘Crush the Sublime Gods’ - Century Media Records

Dr. Living Dead – ‘Crush the Sublime Gods’. Century Media Records

Dr. Living Dead – ‘Crush the Sublime Gods’ (Century Media)

Genre: Thrash Metal/Hardcore
Combining the riffs of thrash metal with the attitude and aggression of hardcore is the path that Sweden’s Dr. Living Deadhave been exploring throughout their career. Back with their third release Crush the Sublime Gods, it’s their first with a new vocalist and drummer. The production is light years better than their previous releases as the guitars are incredibly thick and heavy.

New vocalist Dr. Mania is much closer in style to Suicidal Tendencies singer Mike Muir as he perfectly executes not only his hardcore bark but also his unique melodic vocals. There are also hints of Spreading the Disease era Anthrax with a healthy dose of D.R.I. as well. When they tap into their metal roots is when the band is at their best.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Drago)

Eclipse – ‘Armageddonize’ - Frontiers Records

Eclipse – ‘Armageddonize’. Frontiers Records

Eclipse – ‘Armageddonize’ (Frontiers)

Genre: Hard Rock
Coming off the critically acclaimed Bleed & Scream, Sweden’s Eclipse have returned three years later withArmageddonize. Equal in stature, the release is filled with massive hooks, grandiose vocal melodies and tight musicianship. They have developed a mature AOR sound that has much more in common with Whitesnake than the countless hair bands of the ‘80s.

The record starts off with a bang as “I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry” is remarkably catchy with hooks that will remain long after the song has ended. Armageddonize is an instantly accessible affair that finds the band bringing energy and strong songwriting to the table once again.

Rating: 4
(Dan Drago)

Falling in Reverse - ‘Just Like You’ - Epitaph Records

Falling in Reverse – ‘Just Like You’. Epitaph Records

Falling in Reverse – ‘Just Like You’ (Epitaph)

Genre: Metalcore
Falling in Reverse, from the strip club capital of the world, Las Vegas, do a nice strip down with band interaction on Just Like You.  Basically a solo outing for Ronnie Radke, the best songs “Chemical Prisoner” and “Brother” act as bookends for an unremarkable example of metalcore.

“Just Like You” goes American Idiot with the awful hit single’s precious corollary that he, Ronnie, is an a–hole just like you. What can be said about any metal album that uses “OMG” in a couple of its song’s lyrics? Embarrassing. Better than their last album, the dreadful Fashionably Late, this contribution to the arts will  end up high on the sales charts.

Rating: 2
(Todd Lyons)