Adrenaline Rush – ‘Adrenaline Rush’ (Frontiers)
Genre: Pop Metal
Formerly part of the teen-pop duo Peaches, vocalist Tåve Wanning has formed a new project Adrenaline Rush. Their eponymous debut record adds her pop sensibilities to dirty ‘80s style rock. The songs are centered on big hooks, but they aren’t overly memorable.
The songwriting tends to be formulaic and a tad basic. Vocally she might be better suited for the pop market. The band she has surrounded herself with are talented, as the guitar solo in “Change” is excellent. The bands draw will be Tåve’s looks, but that alone isn’t enough to overcome the bands average ability to compose a song.
Bastard Sapling – ‘Instinct Is Forever’ (Gilead/Forcefield)
Genre: Black Metal
Indulging in Bastard Sapling’s second album is an experience that’ll be hard to overlook. After their excellent Dragged From Our Restless Trance debut, the group’s frostbitten black metal has far greater force backing it on this album. Though headstrong tempos are common, the acoustic splendor of “Elder” is a necessary separation from the animalistic tempers.
Haunting vocals from Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell on “Lantern At The End Of Time” cement the 11-minute opus as the album’s high point. There’s a marked effort to digress from conventions, like the sharp guitar solos and tuneful groove of “The Killer in Us All.” Instinct is Forever is vital for those that champion all styles of extreme metal.
Blackwolfgoat – ‘Drone Maintenance’ (Small Stone)
The latest full-length fromBlackwolfgoat, the solo project of guitarist Darryl Shepard, comes in the manifestation of a semi-concept album. Revolving around a maintenance man who repairs broken drones, the instrumental work supports this futuristic vision. The songs aim for a cinematic approach, like a droning take on a Hollywood film soundtrack.
Shepard knows how to pace the music, unleashing a bundle of clashing moods with just his guitar. The songs are trimmed to avoid excess, and the backstory gives a unified perspective to the whole album. Listen to Drone Maintenance in one sitting to get the most absolute value out of this gem.
Dying Out Flame – ‘Shiva Rudrastakam’ (Xtreem)
Genre: Vedic Death Metal
To view Dying Out Flame as a novelty act would be doing their debut Shiva Rudrastakam a gross disservice. The Nepalese group have carved out a niche as the first band (to my knowledge) defiling ears with Vedic death metal. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that can easily be stagnant.
Dying Out Flame mix a pulverizing style of brutal death metal with “Hindu classical modalities” and their Vedic philosophy. The death metal is top notch and technical while the traditional music is uplifting and spine slithering with occasional female vocals. But Dying Out Flame are at their best the more they blend the two. Melody meets ferocity. East meets West. And the results are fantastic. Breathe it in.
English Dogs – ‘The Thing With Two Heads’ (Candlelight)
Genre: Thrash Metal/Hardcore
English Dogs continue to bring forward their meld of hardcore punk and thrash metal on The Thing With Two Heads, their first full length in 12 years. Fans of Discharge, Anti-Nowhere League, and The Exploited should find themselves right at home with this style of music.
The difference between the previously mentioned bands and this is the incredibly crisp production value that is very modern sounding; so take that as you will. In the end, this is a really fun mix of genres and showcases the best of both worlds.
Enuff Z’Nuff – ‘Covered In Gold’ (Cleopatra)
Genre: Hard Rock
Enuff Z’Nuff’s heydey was in the late ’80 and early ’90s, as they had radio hits such as “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing.” Their last studio album was in 2010, and they return with the covers album Covered In Gold.
The track listing is all older songs, ranging from Motown (Smokey Robinson’s “Tears Of A Clown”) to ’80s pop/rock (Prince’s “When Doves Cry”) to ’90s grunge (Nirvana’s “All Apologies”). Other artists’ songs they cover include the Beatles, Cheap Trick, David Roth and perhaps the strangest selection, Joey Scarbury’s light rock “Greatest American Hero” theme. The covers are pretty faithful to the originals, but with an Enuff Z’Nuff twist making it more than a karaoke album.
Force of Darkness – ‘Absolute Verb of Chaos and Darkness’ (Hells Headbangers)
Genre: Blackened Thrash Metal
Playing non-stop blackened hyper blast thrash, Chile’s Force of Darkness have returned with their new EP Absolute Verb of Chaos and Darkness. Steeped in the aura of early Kreator and Sodom blended with Sarcofago, their relentless attack is intense. It’s centered on blast beat drumming and tremolo guitar riffs merged with the brutal vocal grind of Nabucodonosor III.
The hellish “Abraxas Revenge” finds the band at their most intense, a hybrid ofObsessed By Cruelty era Sodom and early Celtic Frost. The EP is twenty minutes of constant intensity that never lets up and packs a huge punch. It’s on par with their excellent self titled debut.
Karma to Burn – ‘Arch Stanton’ (Faba/Deepdive)
Genre: Stoner/Desert Rock
Karma to Burn’s Arch Stanton — titled for the name on the grave where the treasure is buried in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly — successfully sticks to the band’s tried and true recipe of no fuss, mostly instrumental riffage with numbers serving as song titles. The only “vocals” on the album come from that classic Western’s dialogue.
The biggest change on Arch Stanton is the new lineup, which, regardless, doesn’t much alter the band’s sound: Guitarist Will Mecum is now joined by a new rhythm section of drummer Evan Devine and bass player Rob Halkett. Standout tracks include punch-in-the-face opener “Fifty Seven,” slower and bluesier “Fifty Three.”
(Karen A. Mann)
Machinae Supremacy – ‘Phantom Shadow’ (Spinefarm)
Genre: Power Metal
Gaining popularity by contributing songs through various games and systems, Sweden’s Machinae Supremacy are indeed a unique brand of metal. The band is now seven records into their fifteen-year career with the release of Phantom Shadow. Combining video game soundscapes with odd time signatures and larger than life choruses is what stands at the heart of the band’s sound.
Their first attempt at a true concept album, there are sixteen tracks at a little over an hour. The band’s sound is schizophrenic at times as they easily bounce back and forth between genres and break into the soundtrack of your favorite childhood game on a whim. Absolutely playing by their own rules, the band has matured and released their strongest material to date.
Monsterworks – ‘Overhaul’ (Eat Lead and Die)
Genre: Heavy Metal
Less than six months after their last album, the prolific New Zealand band Monsterworks return withOverhaul. It’s a little more straightforward than their last effort, but there are still a lot of progressive and experimental moments.
Traditional riffs and grooves with melodic singing give way to growls and extended instrumental sections. Monsterworks are constantly changing and shifting styles, but do it in a way that flows really well. The 6 songs clock in at 35 minutes, culminating in the epic 12 minute closer “Resolution.” Their fourth album in two years shows they have a deep well of creativity, and I’m guessing we’ll see another release in the not too distant future.
Sea of Bones – ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ (Gilead)
Genre: Doom Metal/Psychedelic/Drone
Sometimes too much of a good thing can, well, become less so. Connecticut’s Sea of Bones are a doom/drone trio who recently had their 2013 sophomore release The Earth Wants Us Dead remastered for vinyl. Nearly 92 minutes in duration, the album is a venerable monster, home to a closing 39-minute title track that buries the listener, and ultimately itself, under a bed of smothering din.
With agonized vocals and deep, shuddering riffs, the doom malaise is seasoned with black and sludge metal. The production and sheer heaviness is hard to ignore, but this ambitious, often psychedelic journey tramps too far into the fog. Colossal no doubt, and ideal for diehard fans of drone-doom.
X-Drive – ‘Get Your Rock On’ (Frontiers)
Genre: Hard Rock
X-Drive are a new band, but they have some veteran members. Founding guitarist Jeremy Brunner recruited vocalist Keith St. John (Montrose), bassist James LoMenzo (ex-Megadeth, White Lion) and drummer Fred Fischer (Midline). The album’s title Get Your Rock On is an apt description of the music.
They play straight-ahead blues based hard rock with an ’80s vibe. The songs are catchy and melodic with plenty of blazing guitar solos. They mix in a few ballads and mid-tempo numbers along with arena rock anthems. They would have been huge in the ’80s, and fans of that era of music will dig X-Drive.