Heavy Metal Album Reviews: Week of March 3, 2015

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Acherontas ‘Ma-IoN (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification)’ - W.T.C.

Acherontas ‘Ma-IoN (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification)’. W.T.C.

Acherontas ‘Ma-IoN (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification)’ (W.T.C.)

Genre: Black Metal
Formed from the remains of Stutthof, Greek black metal stalwarts Acherontashave always impressed me with their straightforward take on classic black metal, a trend that continues on their latest full-length. Applying the right mixture of blastbeats, atmospherics, and traces of melody on Ma-IoN (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification), Acherontas wrap the entire album into an accessible package with clear production and a modern, beefy sound.

Reminiscent of similar bands such as Enthroned, Acherontas know their way around the genre well, ending up with a slightly melodic, symphonic sound minus the keyboards and the pomposity that plagues so many other bands in the subgenre. Ma-IoN (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification) is a solid release from a solid band, no more, no less.

Rating: 3.5
(Dave Schalek)

Caveat – 'Kobayashi Maru' - Tridroid Records

Caveat – ‘Kobayashi Maru’. Tridroid Records

Caveat – ‘Kobayashi Maru’ (Tridroid)

Genre: Stoner Metal
It’s not easy to slide Caveat and their newest EP Kobayashi Maru into a particular genre. Simply put, the band mashes together two seemingly disparate genres in stoner and death metal with plenty of ominous doom floating around as well.

Caveat bring more than enough riffs, mostly of the groovy variety. But as noted can drop the pace to a plod. Through it all they keep the can of whoop-ass open. Countering the powerful easiness is a deep, low death/doom scream. It’s an interesting dynamic, but the growls don’t dominate. There is room for the massive riffs to breath. Heavy stoner metal with menace, bite, bluesy swagger, and a bass solo!

Rating: 3.5
(Matt Hinch)

Helrunar - 'Niederkunfft' - Prophecy Productions

Helrunar – ‘Niederkunfft’. Prophecy Productions

Helrunar – ‘Niederkunft’ (Prophecy)

Genre: Black Metal
On their fifth album Niederkunfft, the German duo Helrunar take a different lyrical approach. Instead of the Northern mythology explored in earlier albums, this time around they delve into Europe in the Middle Ages. However, most of the songs are sung in German, so to English speaking listeners the topical shift won’t be noticed.

Musically Helrunar incorporate slower, doom elements with black metal. There’s a lot of variety in tempo and texture, with the band mixing regal instrumental sections with more intense and extreme parts. They have expanded their musical and lyrical horizons on this album, and have done it very effectively.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Hiram-Maxim - 'Hiram-Maxim' - Aqualamb Records

Hiram-Maxim – ‘Hiram-Maxim’. Aqualamb Records

Hiram-Maxim – ‘Hiram-Maxim’ (Aqualamb)

Genre: Doom/Psychedelic Metal
Hiram-Maxim are named after the inventor of the first portable, fully automatic machine gun. They describe the sound of their self-titled debut album as “doomgaze.”

The songs are slow and epic, with the four tracks clocking in at 36 minutes. You’ll hear dense, fuzzed out extreme parts, but also mellow and ambient sections. The vocals range from whispers to spoken word to screams. It’s sometimes straightforward, but much of the time the songs delve into experimental territory. It’s a challenging listen at times, as Hiram-Maxim push boundaries and explore different sonic territories.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Isabrut – 'Isabrut' - Iron Bonehead Productions

Isabrut – ‘Isabrut’. Iron Bonehead Productions

Isabrut – ‘Isabrut’ (Iron Bonehead)

Genre: Death Metal
Canada has produced some of the best death metal as of late and Isabrut are fighting to be included in the discussion with their self-titled EP. Isabrut aren’t as technical as Archspire, as chaotic as Thantifaxath or very “core”. They take a more traditional approach, preferring to destroy through hammering rhythms and insidious attitude.

Isabrut‘s death metal is chunky and thunderous mixing blazing runs with forceful riffs. Mid-paced romp and thrashiness worm their way in as well. To make matters worse (in a good way) black metal tremolos cut to the bone. Closer “Prophecy” even call to mind Arise-era Sepultura. It’s a nasty and gnarled EP.

Rating: 3.5(Matt Hinch)

Kjeld – ‘Skym’ - Hammerheart Records

Kjeld – ‘Skym’. Hammerheart Records

Kjeld – ‘Skym’ (Hammerheart)

Genre: Black Metal
Inspired by the majestic ancient tradition of their Frisian heritage, Kjeld’s sound is rooted in traditional black metal landscapes. Their debut offering Skym is a cold desolate affair that blends brutal aural assaults with melodic sensibilities. The use of angular guitar chords brings a dissonance to the proceedings and works well with the shrieking vocals.

The lyrics are native to their Frisian language and are spewed forth with relentless abandon by vocalist Skier. Their strength lies in the ability to easily bounce between blast beats and melodic guitar passages. A strong debut as Kjeld shows maturity not typically found this early in a band’s career.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Drago)

Monsterworks - 'The Existential Codex' - Eat Lead & Die Records

Monsterworks – ‘The Existential Codex’. Eat Lead & Die Records

Monsterworks – ‘The Existential Codex’ (Eat Lead & Die)

Genre: Heavy Metal
After releasing two albums each in both 2013 and 2014, New Zealand’s prolificMonsterworks are out with their first and probably not last 2015 release, The Existential Codex.

Even though they churn out albums at a breakneck pace, the quality is always good. They explore numerous genres from traditional metal to death metal to prog. The songs are sometimes straightforward and groovy, sometimes progressive and experimental, and always compelling. It’s a solid album, and if it’s not what you’re looking for, just wait a few months for their next effort.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Pelican - 'The Cliff' - Southern Lord Recordings

Pelican – ‘The Cliff’. Southern Lord Recordings

Pelican – ‘The Cliff’ (Southern Lord)

Genre: Post Metal
Chicago’s Pelican have long been regarded as one of the best and most influential instrumental bands working today. They have never really neededvocals to get their point across, and have only ever recorded vocals to one track in six years. With the release of The Cliff EP, the band has added number two to their “with vocals” list. The voice? The Life and Times’ Allen Epley. The result? A successful, albeit melancholy, love song.

The next two tracks are remixes of the song.. The first, handled by Justin Broadrick (Godflesh), drops the vocal entirely in favor of beefed-up guitars and layers of noise. The second, reworked by Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer (Palms, Isis), keeps the vocal, but buries it in a wall of sound and fuzzy, wuzzy warmth. The final track “The Wait” was originally to be included on the band’s Forever Becoming record, but was cut due to time constraints. It’s back and it is pure Pelican… without vocals.

Rating: 3.5
(JH Statts)

Subversion - ‘Animi’ - Rogue Records

Subversion – ‘Animi’. Rogue Records

Subversion – ‘Animi’ (Rogue)

Genre: Technical Metal/Metalcore
Subversion’s melodic tech death will find favor with those who idolize groups like Periphery and Meshuggah. Their sophomore album is pulsating with boisterous screams, start-stop guitar riffs, and periods of anthemic singing. Sweeps of electronic and symphonic sounds give the music a purposeful edge.

The album reaches its high point with the final two tracks. “Novation” is a rousing jam capped off by a momentous breakdown near the end. The title track gets itself in an infectious groove, the keyboards adding weight to the otherwise low-key finish. Though the rest of the album doesn’t quite match up to that pair of songs, Animi is a more consistent record than their debut.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

UFO - 'A Conspiracy Of Stars' - SPV Records

UFO – ‘A Conspiracy Of Stars’. SPV Records

UFO – ‘A Conspiracy Of Stars’ (SPV)

Genre: Hard Rock
The legendary UFO have been rocking for more than 45 years, and show no signs of slowing down with their latest album A Conspiracy Of Stars.

Original vocalist Phil Mogg still sounds great, and guitarist Vinnie Moore, who has been with UFO since 2003, is one of the best in the business. The songs on the album are melodic and catchy with excellent musicianship and plenty of shredding from Moore. There’s  ample diversity as well, with uptempo arena rockers and midtempo bluesy tracks.

Rating: 4
(Chad Bowar)