The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Barren Earth – ‘On Lonely Towers’ (Century Media)
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Formed by ex-Amorphis members, Barren Earth do not stray far from the core sound of their previous band. Their third releaseOn Lonely Towers finds the band firing on all cylinders and increasing the progressive elements. It’s the first release with new singer Jón Aldará, whose guttural and melodic vocals work brilliantly with the direction of the music.
The material is layered and extremely diverse. Their ability to bounce between melodic death and ‘70s prog is seamless. The eleven minute plus title track is one of their finest yet as the dynamic brings you inside its addictive structure. Barren Earth continue to pave new paths and showcase a band at the top of their game.
Bio-Cancer – ‘Tormenting The Innocent’ (Candlelight)
Genre: Thrash Metal
No-nonsense thrash metal is always a welcomed commodity, and Bio-Cancergive us plenty of that with their sophomore record. Their blunt delivery makes for a stampede of aggression, a headlong attack that offers an abundance of cutthroat guitars and raspy screams.
Each song is a miniature atomic bomb of electric fury. The tranquil cello introduction to “F(r)iends or Fiends?” is about as twisty as the album gets, with the rest of the time devoted to thrashing. Tormenting The Innocent is a direct shot that doesn’t offer more than it needs to.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – ‘Stellar’ (Season Of Mist)
Genre: Black Metal
Stellar is the third album by the German black metal band Der Weg Einer Freiheit(which translates to “the way of freedom”), and their first for Season Of Mist.
This album is more complex and dynamic than their earlier releases. Lengthy somber and melancholy instrumental sections give way to dense black metal. The German lyrics are delivered with both melodic singing and harsh screams. Melody and cacophony intertwine for a listening experience that’s sometimes relaxing, other times unsettling, but always interesting. It’s not necessarily an immediate album, but a grower than will unveil different nuances with each subsequent listen.
Dodheimsgard – ‘A Umbra Omega’ (Peaceville)
Genre: Avant-Garde Black Metal
After an eight year absence, the Norwegian band Dodheimsgard return with several new members. Except for guitarist/vocalists Vicotnik and Aldrahn, A Umbra Omega is the first DHG album for the three other members.
Their style is avant-garde with a black metal base. Even when the music is fairly standard, the unusual vocals give it a quirky vibe. The five proper songs are very lengthy (11 to 15 minutes) with numerous ebbs and flows and twists and turns. It’s an unusual album, but also a compelling one. Electric and acoustic, progressive and traditional, extreme and mellow, A Umbra Omega is an album of dichotomies, an ambitious, challenging, unique and experimental effort.
Fórn – ‘The Departure Of Consciousness’ (Gilead Media)
Genre: Doom/Sludge Metal
Immense volume is what Fórn unleash, packaged into a doom metal format. Despondent riffs hold firm to a far-reaching scope that dabbles in astral planes and bottomless voids. Unassuming in its initial moments, the shaky anticipation is fulfilled when the entire band gets involved.
The heightened pace minutes into “Dweller on the Threshold” is a giant tease, a momentary relapse from the sorrowful melodies. The thick bass tones overwhelm the unsettling ambiance, and a few low-key instrumentals don’t help matters. The sinister energy emitting through each note screeched out makes for a striking listen.
Frosthelm – ‘The Endless Winter’ (Black Work)
Genre: Blackened Thrash Metal
Blending the belligerence and aggression of Dissection with the precision of bay area thrash are the fundamental traits ofFrosthelm’s sound. Their smashing debutThe Endless Winter is a procession of blackened thrash that pummels the listener into submission. Their penchant for creating palm muted classic riffs gives them a needed breadth of diversity.
Vocalist Tyler Pfilger is a powerhouse of a singer as he rotates between inhuman gutturals and high pitched screaming. At just thirty-four minutes they don’t overstay their welcome and that makes for a blistering enjoyable ride. Mixed and mastered by Matt Hyde, the sound is powerful and gigantic in scope.
Fulgora – ‘Stratagem’ (Housecore)
There are always high expectation when well known artists start a new band. In this case it’s bassist John Jarvis (Pig Destroyer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed), and drummer Adam Jarvis (Misery Index, Pig Destroyer) teaming up with guitarist/vocalist B.L. LaMew to form devastating grind/death trio Fulgora and their debut Stratagem.
Expectations exceeded. All of the visceral nature of the member’s constituent bands meets LaMew’s vicious hardcore bark and gut-wrenching riffs, culminating in total annihilation. Dischord and a bent concept of riffing come out as focused rage fighting a battle with chaos. There’s barely a chance to breathe under their relentless beatdown but they manage to inject a ferocious sense of groove too. Give yourself some room to move, or at least make sure you’re not breaking anything important.
The Gentle Storm – ‘The Diary’ (Inside Out)
Genre: Progressive Metal
First collaborating in 1998 in the progressive outfit Ayreon, vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) and guitarist Arjen Lucassen have joined forces for the brand new band The Gentle Storm. Their debut The Diary is a concept that tells the story of love lost and the isolation it creates. It’s a two-disc affair that showcases the same songs with folk acoustic arrangements on one album and a heavier, more orchestral direction on the other.
As usual, Anneke’s performance is out of this world as she blends her gorgeous voice with memorable melodies. Lucassen is a brilliant musicianship and his talent for composition is showcased throughout. Both discs work exceptionally well with the heavier direction being slightly more enjoyable.
Gloson – ‘Yearwalker’ (Epitaph)
Genre: Doom/Sludge Metal
Gloson, a five piece from the west coast of Sweden, dispense what they call Boar Sludge. Maybe it’s a Swedish thing, a way to explain stubborn attitudes, but Gloson have made a fine collection of intricate crunch blankets that shine on in the dismal murk while suffering from split brain disease. Neurosis and Isis in the same tub, leaving behind a muddy ring of Uncle Acid and other fuzz-meisters comes to the medicated mind.
”Årsgång” is foreboding, with its looming doom intro followed up with foul-breath vocals, sludgey zombie beat, oddball bells and a stretch of spoken word. It makes you want throw the curtains back after a listen or two. ”Sirens” Is a Pilgrim-like workout, but as good as the first half of the 32-minute ’Yearwalker’ may be, excellence hits the fan with “The End/Aftermath” and “The Aftermath/Beginning.”
Gouge – ‘Beyond Death’ (Hells Headbangers)
Genre: Death Metal
Norway is not your typical stop for quality old school death metal, but Gouge are out to prove you wrong. This is down and dirty roots death metal with plenty of Repulsion riffs to go around. These Scandinavians have a sound that may be nearly 30 years old, but it is a welcome (filthy) breath of fresh air.
With a simple name and no-frills death metal that blows off the doors when it only needed to knock, make no mistake about the aural violence which you are now privy to. Gouge are a band worth checking out for OSDM fans and fans of older grindcore alike.