The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Ad Nauseam – ‘Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est’ (Lavadome)
Genre: Death Metal
Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est is the debut album from the Italian band Ad Nauseam. It took five years to create, which is evident in the complexity and diversity of the music.
At times the songs are brutal and technical, other times more progressive and almost avant-garde. Dense and oppressive parts give way to mellower, experimental sections before the extremity resumes. The twists and turns are constant throughout the lengthy songs, keeping things interesting. And while the technical mastery and variety is easy to admire, it can also be difficult and challenging for the listener to absorb.
Blackout – ‘Blackout’ (Riding Easy)
Genre: Doom Metal
Despite only forming in 2011, NYC’sBlackout have been nothing but productive. They released We Are Here in 2013, the Converse EP last year and now their self-titled full-length. Two songs from the EP appear on Blackout in expanded form, but not my favorite “The Chain”. No matter. They all crush.
Blackout are simply massive. The trio bust out jam after jam of groovy, devastating doom. Hypnotic rhythms and a simple approach to riffs sink deep under the skin and become part of the listener. Psychedelic flourishes weave into the music but also the unconventional, almost indie sounding vocals. Blackoutsounds like the product of their environment; loud, abrasive, towering and not to be slept on.
Blliigghhtted – ‘Zeroes’ (Merdumgiriz)
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
The latest from the ever-productive Merdumgiriz camp is Zeroes byBlliigghhtted, consisting of two 21+ minute free-form black metal freakouts. Both tracks, as expected, throw convention to the curb and wind through a number of unpredictable courses.
Zeroes is cavernous and lo-fi. Needling tremolos and crashing percussion give way to moody and epic synth-driven passages. Chaos and experimentation reign eternal. Much of the atmosphere is created by the male/female, growl/howl vocals. Terrible, haunting and entirely unsettling. It’s impossible to understand exactly what is going on but those with open minds need to relish the unrestrained creativity and wildly varied construction of their extremely experimental black metal. It’s a challenging art, but one worth experiencing.
Cyrax – ‘Pictures’ (Bakerteam)
Genre: Progressive Metal
Italy’s Cyrax are constantly shape-shifting their progressive music in ways that surprise and gather one’s curiosity. The three-part “Shine Through Darkness” goes excessive without seeming forced. “These Greenvalleys” has a classical touch with operatic vocals and strings to give the tune some heft. A funk-ish closing instrumental is the lone track that comes off more like a studio outtake.
The stylistic changes that jump between songs can make the whole album a little disjointed at times, where instances like the use of a full choir seem too melodramatic. Still, Pictures is a distinct effort that definitely earns its progressive tag.
Full Devil Jacket – ‘Valley of Bones’ ( eOne)
Genre: Hard Rock
Tennessee’s Full Devil Jacket have reunited, and Valley of Bones is their first album since 2000. The songs have to age like fine Jack Daniels, it appears. On the melody scale, this album pegs the needle at full cannot-get-it-out-of-your-head levels. “Killer” is killer straight up hard rock with no back chaser. “Valley of Bones” is a four-four rocker with electronica effects baked in. “7XDown” is the probably the anthem to pump fists to.
The problem with the album is that it gets all schizoid after that. A trio of okay songs shuffle by, and then “Blood of the Innocents” appears as a rep from the real metal police shows up to make sure things are in order. The remainder of the album simply spins off into WTF town. It must be noted that Josh Brown sounds great and that’s a good thing, considering he could have been just another drug casualty after an overdose back in 2000.
Hollywood Undead – ‘Day Of The Dead’ (Interscope)
Genre: Rap Metal
Hollywood Undead’s fourth full length album Day Of The Dead is a world all unto itself. This musical menagerie of rap, rock, industrial, nu metal, and pop flows like an insanity fueled carnival ride. The songs have everything from metal leads, auto tuned and clean vocals, hip hop jams, synthesizers, and a few screams thrown in for added punch.
The lyrics are emotional and well written, with songs that range from party anthems to gritty stories about street life. “Dark Places” and “Take Me Home” were two particularly standout tracks for me. The spirit of the hard edged LA music scene is strong with these cats.
(Diana M. Marsh)
Iris Divine – ‘Karma Sown’ (Sensory)
Genre: Progressive Metal
Combining grandiose vocals with intricate musical passages, Virginia’s Iris Divinepresent a nice balance of accessibility and complexity. Their sophomore releaseKarma Sown is a layered multi dimensional release that features stunning musicianship with thick heavy riffs. A combination of the bands Redemption and King’s X, they have a penchant for writing multifaceted material while still retaining massive hooks.
The album closes with “In the Wake of Martyrs” which finds the band at their most progressive and is easily the highlight of the record. The vocal hook gets latched into your brain while the musicianship is mind blowing. Vocalist Navid Rashid possesses a mid range vocal that blends well with the detuned guitars.
Pombagira – ‘Flesh Throne Press’ (Svart)
Genre: Psychedelic Doom Metal
Despite what their name and album title may suggest, Pombagira are not from Brazil and they do not play brutal death metal. This London-based duo play doom and they play it well. In fact, on their sixth full-length release, the mammoth double-disc Flesh Throne Press, Pombagira hit upon just about every tenet in the doom rulebook.
The band manages to sound both huge and small, shifting from suffocating walls of distortion to eerily quiet moments of occult-edged rock. The melancholic clean vocals, blended with a reverberating doom din, remind of an act like Pallbearer, while the more hypnotic passages should appeal to fans of Yob and earlier Om. Although the proceedings do occasionally drag, the ambitions and emotional weight are reason enough to recommend Flesh Throne Press to doom fanatics. This one needs ample room to burn.
Karyn Crisis’ Gospel Of The Witches – ‘Salem’s Wounds’ (Century Media)
Genre: Doom/Progressive Metal
Karyn Crisis has teamed up with her husband Davide Tiso to form Karyn Crisis’ Gospel Of The Witches. Their debut album Salem’s Wounds also includes Charlie Schmid (Vaura) on drums.
It’s a diverse album that showcases Crisis’ many sides. The styles range from doom to prog to traditional metal to occult rock and a few others. Her vocal versatility is on full display with a variety of singing and screaming. Ross Dolan from Immolation does backup vocals on several tracks and Tombs’ Mike Hill appears on a couple, adding even more depth and variety. Salem’s Wounds is an impressive album musically, vocally and lyrically.
Terra – ‘Untitled’ (Hibernacula)
Genre: Black Metal
Terra’s commanding, yet hypnotic black metal is spread across three expansive tracks. Vocals are relegated to a minimal role, though when they appear, the howling cries of anguish stick with a listener. The songs follow parallel paths; a sonic blur transitioning into a subdued trance usually driven by screeching feedback.
The musicianship is on point, and it’s great to hear audible bass guitar that sometimes even leads the melodies. There isn’t much in the way of high points, as the band sticks to a constant momentum that can become a bit numbing. For a first effort, Untitled is a promising point to work from.
We Are Harlot – ‘We Are Harlot’ (Roadrunner)
Genre: Hard Rock
We Are Harlot are fronted by former Asking Alexandria vocalist Danny Worsnop. Their self-titled debut album is a throwback to classic hard rock.
The songs are packed with hooks and delivered with swagger. The vibe mixes ’70s and ’80s with a modern edge. There are plenty of guitar wizardry as well including some searing solos from guitarist Jeff George (Sebastian Bach). Worsnop delivers a versatile performance of mostly melodic singing along with a few growls. Potential radio hits abound, along with several that will get arenas rocking. We Are Harlot are a band with the chops and pedigree for success.
Viper Solfa – ‘Carving An Icon’ (Massacre)
Genre: Gothic Black Metal
Viper Solfa are a new band consisting of three former Trail Of Tears members including vocalist Ronny Thorsen. Guitarist/keyboardist Morfeus (Limbonic Art, Mayhem) and vocalist Miriam “Sphinx” Renvag (Ram-Zet) round out the lineup.
Carving An Icon has the orchestrations and “beauty and the beast” vocals of gothic metal, but adds black metal elements for a more ominous and extreme vibe. The album has a lot of contrasts, but the arrangements make sure everything remains cohesive.