Heavy Metal Album Reviews: Week of May 26, 2015

The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Ape Machine – ‘Live at Freak Valley’ - Ripple Music

Ape Machine – ‘Live at Freak Valley’. Ripple Music

Ape Machine – ‘Live at Freak Valley’ (Ripple)

Genre: Stoner Rock
Live At Freak Valley is the first live album of Portland, Oregon’s stoner blues-rock band Ape Machine. Looking at their catalog, it’s easy to find that the band is very skilled in the music they’re playing. Wild and enthusiastic blues driven stoner rock songs are performed perfectly by the band.

But when it comes to a live album, you’re expecting to hear something more, different from songs’ original sounds; especially when your music has enough potential and space for carrying the lengthy psychedelic improvising parts. But Live At Freak Valley suffers from lack of these. At some points, because of its production, it doesn’t even sound like a live album, making it more like a best of compilation release. At the end, Ape Machine’s powerful performance and their perfect retro rock sound stand as the album’s most positive points.

Rating: 3
(Arash Khosronejad)

Exxiles -  'Obliviion' - Nightmare Records

Exxiles – ‘Obliviion’. Nightmare Records

Exxiles – ‘Obliviion’ (Nightmare)

Genre: Symphonic/Progressive Metal
Exxiles are a new project started by former Reign Of The Architect drummerMauricio Bustamante. Their debut albumOblivion is an ambitious effort with numerous guest musicians.

Appearing on the album are Chris Caffery (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Mike Lepond (Symphony X), Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle) and many others. It’s a concept album and the first of a planned trilogy. The songs are epic and bombastic utilizing a lot of different tempos, atmospheres and textures. It can be powerful and glorious at times, but there are other times it goes a little over the top into cheesiness.

Rating: 3
(Chad Bowar)

Far Beyond the Sunrise – ‘Far Beyond the Sunrise’ - Famined Recordings

Far Beyond the Sunrise – ‘Far Beyond the Sunrise’.Famined Recordings

Far Beyond the Sunrise – ‘Far Beyond the Sunrise’ (Famined)

Genre: Metalcore/Djent
New Jersey’s Far Beyond The Sunrise, highlighted by the duo of Joe Carozza and Kyle Curtis on guitars, have issued an intriguing EP of 5 songs. The collection is hands-and-knees heavy as it crawls over the carpet looking for its djent contacts to help them restore focus to the chaos.

The EP is fairly well-assembled as it toggles between the progressive and holler squalor of metalcore disguised as rubber-mallet metal. “Atychipobia” (fear of failure) and the EP’s single “Credibilty Loss” slather harsh, grating, dynamite-to-silence breakdowns all over the YouTube,  prepping the world for a full album.

Rating: 3.5
(Todd Lyons)

Kamchatka - 'Long Road Made Of Gold' - Despotz Records

Kamchatka – ‘Long Road Made Of Gold’. Despotz Records

Kamchatka – ‘Long Road Made Of Gold’ (Despotz)

Genre: Hard Rock
Just a year after their last album, the Swedish power trio Kamchatka are back with Long Road Made Of Gold. It’s their sixth record overall, and second for bassist Per Wiberg (Opeth, Spiritual Beggars).

The band draws from many genres including blues, stoner, progressive and hard rock. There’s even banjo on the opening track. They have a throwback vibe, but the production is crisp and modern. The songs are memorable and eclectic with singalong choruses, top-notch musicianship and non-stop groove.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Killer - 'Monsters Of Rock' - Mausoleum Records

Killer – ‘Monsters Of Rock’. Mausoleum Records

Killer – ‘Monsters Of Rock’ (Mausoleum)

Genre: Heavy Metal
The Belgian band Killer got their start way back in 1980. They split for a decade or so in the ’90s and have been back together since 2002. Their latest album isMonsters Of Rock, their first since 2005.

They have that vintage ’80s vibe with speed metal influences and prominent guitar. Vocalist Speedy is the lone remaining original member. His voice has raw raspiness in the vein of Lemmy, but with more range and technique. The songs are straightforward, but very effective and catchy. Killer are a band that’s flown under the radar, but for fans of the old school they are worth exploring.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

MRTVI - ‘Perpetual Consciousness Nightmare’ - Into The Night

MRTVI – ‘Perpetual Consciousness Nightmare’. Into The Night

MRTVI – ‘Perpetual Consciousness Nightmare’ (Into the Night)

Genre: Black Metal
MRTVI’s debut album Perpetual Consciousness Nightmare is a nightmare on the Portal side of the black metal spectrum. All the instruments and vocals are layered over each other, creating a paranoid atmosphere that supports the album’s concept of a man reflecting on his life following his suicide.

It’s a hopeless vision that lone member Damjan Stefanovic stays stuck in, though slight brevity is found during a few instrumentals. The music is so dense that it can be tough to completely comprehend. The spectacle of dissonance on display should find a place with those who like to be unnerved by their black metal.

Rating: 3
(Dan Marsicano)

Pyramaze – ‘Disciples of the Sun’ - Inner Wound Recordings

Pyramaze – ‘Disciples of the Sun’. Inner Wound Recordings

Pyramaze – ‘Disciples of the Sun’ (Inner Wound)

Genre: Progressive/Power Metal
Denmark’s Pyramaze are about to unleash their fourth release Disciples of the Sun. It has been seven years since their previous album, which was fronted by Iced Earth’s Matthew Barlow, who has since departed. They are now fronted by unknown singer Terje Harøy,. and are joined by Jacob Hansen, who not only produces, but is also one of their new guitarists.

Not as heavy as Immortal, the songwriting is more grandiose in nature and epic in scope. Leaning more on their progressive roots, the material is easily accessible. Vocalist Harøy is brilliant and makes a stunning impact with his debut. He has finesse for writing remarkable memorable melodies. Pyramaze are one of the best-kept secrets in metal and it’s about time they get the recognition they deserve.

Rating: 4
(Dan Drago)

Ten – ‘Isla De Muerta’ - Rocktopia Records

Ten – ‘Isla De Muerta’. Rocktopia Records

Ten – ‘Isla De Muerta’ (Rocktopia)

Genre: Hard Rock
A mere seven months since their last release, hard working melodic rock outfitTen are back with their tenth studio release Isla De Muerta. Led by guitar virtuoso Gary Hughes, his leads are smooth and fluid. He also provides the melodic vocals, as he possesses a set of clear pipes and a wide range.

The material is centered on a theme of pirates and buccaneers and can be awkward at times.  “The Valley of the Kings” finds them at their most comfortable with blazing solos and a memorable vocal melody. Considering the short break between releases, it is on par with their last few albums.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Drago)

Third Ion – ‘13/8Bit’ - Glasstone Records

Third Ion – ‘13/8Bit’. Glasstone Records

Third Ion – ‘13/8Bit’ (Glasstone)

Genre: Progressive Metal
Calling Gameboy fans. 13/8Bit is the debut album from Third Ion, a prog metal quartet featuring former members of The Devin Townsend Project and Into Eternity. The formula is geeked-up and spaced-out, with oodles of ambitious riff-work and the occasional foray into Konami chiptunage that plays like one of those Choose Your Own Path books, but with sillier sci-fi lyrics.

Singer Tyler Gilbert waxes Sagan-poetic and sounds like a blend of Maynard James Keenan and the Ghost of Christmas Past. 13/8Bit is decidedly modern and partially experimental, throwing Dream Theater, Tool, and Meshuggah traits at you with varying degrees of success. Even though the gamer aspect is fun, it seems secondary. There’s a lot to appreciate here, and potential is high.

Rating: 3
(Evan Mugford)

Thunder - 'Wonder Days' - earMusic

Thunder – ‘Wonder Days’. earMusic

Thunder – ‘Wonder Days’ (earMusic)

Genre: Hard Rock
I first heard Thunder in 1990 when the radio station I was working for played the single “Dirty Love” from their debut albumBackstreet Sympnony. 25 years later the British hard rockers are still doing their thing after a couple of breakups and reunions. Wonder Days is their first album since 2008.

If you liked them back in the day, you should still enjoy them now. They still play catchy, bluesy, hook-laden hard rock that’s anchored by Danny Bowes’ distinctive voice and great guitar work. They mix in a ballad or two for variety, and still have the spark that first attracted fans more than two decades ago.

Rating: 3.5
(Chad Bowar)

Unmothered - ‘Umbra’ - Crowquill Records

Unmothered – ‘Umbra’. Crowquill Records

Unmothered – ‘Umbra’ (Crowquill)

Genre: Sludge Metal
The kind of noise-infused sludge thatUnmothered perpetuate on their second EP Umbra is maintained within a suffocating climate. Each of the three songs put the band in a different light, from the jagged tempos of “Huntress” to the subtle rhythm-led break within “Scarp” that opens up previously unheard melodic possibilities.

These possibilities are just that—teasers that act as a cleanser before the heaviness bellows back in. It can be an arduous task to write songs that are rowdy without losing direction. Today Is The Day have successfully navigated that and Unmothered are heading on a parallel path.

Rating: 3.5
(Dan Marsicano)

We Butter The Bread With Butter – ‘Wieder Geil!’ - AFM Records

We Butter The Bread With Butter – ‘Wieder Geil!’.AFM Records

We Butter The Bread With Butter – ‘Wieder Geil!’ (AFM)

Genre: Metalcore
We Butter The Bread With Butter is the worst band name in the history of all mankind. With that out of the way, the band from Lübben, Germany has taken the ever-increasing trend of shoveling multi-genre sounds (EDM, pop, cabaret, etc.) into their brand of European metalcore and put together a fine record that gets better with multiple listens.

Wieder Geil!, German for “Horny Again!,” breaks through with “Anarchy” and continues excellence into “Berlin, Berlin” and especially “Warum Lieben Wir Nicht,” which roughly means ‘Don’t you love me , baby?,’ which shows off the best of WBTBWB’s qualities. There’s a mix of German and English lyrics, but it is not distracting. The album is good. The inside joke about the band name is not.

Rating: 3.5
(Todd Lyons)