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
Bongzilla’s fifth album comes with an interesting set of curveballs, being their first full-length release since 2005’s Amerijuanican as well as their first to be recorded as a trio. However, very little has changed about the Wisconsinites’ vision in the sixteen years they’ve been away. As evidenced by an appropriately dumb but endearing title like Weedsconsin (Heavy Psych Sounds), the Sweet Leaf remains the focal point of their aesthetic and their Stoner-Sludge sound is as potent as ever.
Bewitcher has always stood out for having a more melodic slant than their Blackened Speed Metal peers and that distinction is at its most apparent on their third album. The band’s Venom meets Running Wild style leans much in the latter’s favor on Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (Century Media Records). The guitar rhythms are noticeably more accessible with more flamboyant leads above them and more dynamic song structures to match. Even the blatant Welcome To Hell worship on ‘Satanic Magick Attack’ has an almost Hard Rock flair to it.
Of all the bands on the Gothic Rock/Heavy Metal fusion bandwagon, Poltergeist may be the most committed to those Post-Punk aesthetics. The style on their third EP remains closer to Joy Division than Judas Priest with a heavy emphasis on chilling synths, stiff bass-heavy rhythms, and disinterested vampiric baritones. This is especially true on the first two tracks as the opening ‘Electricity’ goes full Synthwave and ‘Through Clouded Eyes’ follows it up in ominously subdued fashion.
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – L.W.
As indicated by the title, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard’s seventeenth full-length essentially serves as the second half of 2020’s K.G. and picks up where it left off stylistically. L.W. (Flightless Records) sees the completion of the microtone trilogy that started with 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana, emphasizing a similar mix of Middle Eastern scales, rhythmic percussion, and loosely flowing song structures. ‘Static Electricity’ and ‘See Me’ do the best job of dialing that vibe with their upbeat pacing while the grandiose chugs and life-affirming chants make the closing ‘K.G.L.W.’ one of the band’s most over the top Doom Metal dives to date.Continue reading
As fitting for such an enigmatic entity, the sixth album from Speed Metal legends Agent Steel has been released under some rather bizarre circumstances. In addition to being the first album to feature their original vocalist John Cyriis since 1987’s Unstoppable Force, he also ends up being the only original member left in the band after the fallout of their last reunion. Subsequent live festival debacles and his eccentric responses to preemptive concerns regarding this album’s quality certainly haven’t helped matters, leaving fans to wonder whether it will be a return to form or an insane conundrum.
Despite promising to move away from Heavy Metal in favor of a Post Punk sound in marketing materials, Lunar Shadow’s third album still features many of the band’s established quirks. The guitar tone’s lessened distortion promises a less in-your-face attitude, but the actual playing is still based around intricate sweeps and trills. The drumming also continues to mix in some aggressive fills and double bass patterns with the more upbeat rhythms while the vocal delivery still consists primarily of a shrill wail with some variation for mood.
Cave of Swimmers’ first album isn’t much longer than the two EPs they’ve previously released, just barely hitting thirty-two minutes long. However, Aurora (BroomTune Records) serves as a dramatic leap forward for the Miami duo. The songs are rooted in the same hyperactive Heavy Psych last seen with 2015’s Reflection but there is more time devoted to exploring their more in-your-face influences. The resulting hodgepodge of Stoner Rock, Prog, and Classic Metal ends up being somewhere between Hammers Of Misfortune and Galactic Cowboys with a bit of King Gizzard for flavor.
Every album that Moonspell releases explores a different facet of their Gothic Metal style, sometimes responding to the one before it in a constant tug-o-war between darkness and light. Their thirteenth album, Hermitage (Napalm Records), is no exception. In contrast to the grandiose symphonics of 2018’s 1755, the band opts for a scaled-back, atmospheric approach with more Prog influence thrown in than usual. It seems to invoke the band’s early vibe without going full throwback and also reminds me of Tiamat or Opeth in spots.