Like the previous installment, the third chapter in Ripple Music’s Turned to Stone series is framed as a challenge between two contenders for Stoner Doom supremacy. But while Chapter II saw Howling Giant and Sergeant Thunderhoof put forth their competition as a battle of wits between mythic swordsmen, Chapter III is the culmination of an ongoing meme war between Merlin and Wizzerd. It also operates on a similar template as each band is given a full epic track to put their best foot forward.
With nine years spent waiting since the release of their last album, 2012’s Bury The Light, Pharaoh returns in forceful fashion with their fifth full-length. The Powers That Be (Cruz Del Sur Music) could very well be the Power Metal veterans’ most aggressive outing since 2006’s The Longest Night, bringing in a borderline thrash undercurrent with the guitar’s blazing technical runs along with the vocals’ established grit. This is established right off the bat with the title track’s assertive crunch and ‘Will We Rise’ follows up the intensity with some added Classic Metal flavor.
In contrast to the darker doom path that Grief Collector established with 2019’s From Dissension To Avowal, their first proper full-length shows more direct connections to singer Robert Lowe’s past projects. ‘Corridors’ opens En Delirium (Petrichor Records) in a similar fashion that ‘Falling’ started off Solitude Aeturnus’s Through The Darkest Hour, featuring a catchy Grunge groove and lofty vocal lines. There are even some Classic Metal touches comparable to the most recent Tyrant album on ‘Our Poisonous Ways’ and ‘The Letting Go.’
The first proper album from Heavy Temple sees the Philadelphia power trio in a rather interesting position. Aside from featuring a new lineup of players behind bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk, Lupi Amoris (Magnetic Eye Records) doesn’t seem too different from the two EPs released before it. It isn’t that much longer than those EPs, consisting of five tracks totaling thirty-three minutes long, and is executed in a similarly free-flowing Heavy Psych style. Continue reading
While Red Fang’s fourth album immediately stands out as their first full-length since 2016’s Only Ghosts, it seems to hearken back to the Sludgy aspects of their earliest ventures. Tracks like ‘Unreal Estate’ and the title track reflect strong Melvins circa (A) Senile Animal vibes with their trudging riff patterns and eccentrically howled vocal lines. ‘Fonzi Scheme’ and ‘Days Collide’ elaborate further the former putting in a particularly potent stomp and the latter benefitting the most from the disorienting atmosphere.
Ever since I was a kid, I have had a deep interest in cryptozoology. While I can accept most of these hypothetical creatures as misidentifications or outright fabrications as an adult, there is still the part of me that likes to imagine the possibilities. As a musician myself, a cryptozoology-themed band has also been on my bucket list for a long time. I’m sure plenty of bands with that sort of theming are out there, but the debut album from Mothman And The Thunderbirds makes for a particularly interesting variation.
For the most part, the fourth album from Jess And The Ancient Ones continues down the low-key approach to Occult Rock that was established on 2017’s The Horse And Other Weird Tales. Just about every song on Vertigo (Svart Records) is driven by a short length, an upbeat structure, and extensive layers of psychedelic instrumentation. Aside from the eleven minutes of the closing ‘Strange Earth Illusion,’ the first two albums’ more drawn-out runtimes seem to be a thing of the past.
Project: Roenwolfe occupies a prime position in one of the Heavy Metal world’s more overlooked niches. Their Power/Thrash Metal fusion provides a trifecta of melodicism, intricacy, and aggression that is most directly in line with Iron Savior while also triggering associations with Helstar and Heathen, among others. Edge Of Saturn (Divebomb Records) is their first album since they debuted with 2013’s Nightmare Dreamscape. And as expected, there have been some upgrades in that eight-year timeframe.
While the core sound behind Book Of Wyrms has always been a balance between Doom Metal and Space Rock, their third album sees the band committing much more to the latter. Occult New Age (Desert Records) retains the methodical tempos and some of the beefy riffs of 2019’s Remythologizer but ultimately devotes its atmospheric ends to lighter textures and looser structures. The heavier sequences have more in common than Kyuss than Cathedral and their underlying Hawkwind influence had previously never been highlighted to this extent.
Haunt – Beautiful Distraction
Having released six full-lengths and other assorted releases in just five years, it’s only inevitable for Haunt’s output to start getting samey. Their first (and probably not last) album in 2021, Beautiful Distraction carries on the polished, synth-laden variant of Heavy Metal last seen on 2020’s Mind Freeze and Flashback. Fortunately, the formula is still enjoyable with tracks like ‘In Our Dreams’ and ‘Face Of Danger’ offering uplifting hooks while ‘Imaginary Borders’ hits. It’s rather strange to see new versions of ‘Hearts On Fire’ and ‘It’s In My Hands’ considering their appearances on prior albums, but their later placements in the track order ultimately amount to inoffensive inclusions. As interchangeable as these albums have become lately, fans will still find their favorite pleasantries on full display.
7 / 10
Witchseeker – Scene Of The Wild
Like 2017’s When The Clock Strikes before it, the second album from Singapore’s Witchseeker offers high octane Speed Metal with a certain Hard Rock sensibility. That latter element is especially pronounced on Scene Of The Wild (Dying Victims Productions) as songs like ‘Rock This Night Away,’ ‘Sin City’ (Not an AC/DC cover), and ‘Tokyo Nights’ among others are packed with catchy singalongs and frolicking beats. Fortunately, there’s still enough rawness to go around with the tempos often opting for total intensity, the vocals having an endearingly untrained quality and a filthy as hell bass tone. It may not be a serious gamechanger but another fun listen for fans of Enforcer and White Wizzard.
8 / 10
Significant Point – Into The Storm
Significant Point’s debut album follows in the footsteps of their countrymen in groups like Loudness and Anthem, but their approach to Speed Metal ends up feeling more German than Japanese. Songs like the opening ‘Attacker’ and ‘Riders Under The Sun’ show strong influence from Running Wild and Walls Of Jericho-era Helloween with their blazing guitar runs, flamboyant harmonies, relentless drumming, and unhinged yet melodic wails.
There’s also room for more Classic Metal leaning fun with ‘You’ve Got The Power’ and ‘Night Of The Axe’ offering some in your face optimism. The more epic touches on ‘Running Alone’ also make for another highlight of a closer. Into The Storm (Dying Victims Productions) may be rather rough and tumble for some fans, especially when it comes to the vocals, but comes strongly recommended to those who like their Power Metal with extra grit.
8 / 10