Hallows Eve was quite an anomaly back in the halcyon days of Eighties Heavy Metal. Even going by the standards of a time when subgenres were still nebulous and ill-defined, the Atlantans’ approach was difficult to pin down. Utilizing familiar tropes in unfamiliar ways, their Alice Cooper-inspired horror theatrics set them apart from their Speed Metal peers while their Punk attitude was a far cry from King Diamond. Their 1985 debut album, Tales Of Terror (Metal Blade Records), is easily the rawest and arguably the most endearing iteration of their Horror Metal formula.
While Toronto’s Possessed Steel approached Epic Metal with a rough attitude on the EPs they released in 2014 and 2017, their first proper full-length is much classier in comparison. The style is as grandiose as ever, but a greater emphasis on intricate guitar harmonies and polished production gives Aedris (Temple Of Mystery Records) more in common with a band like Wytch Hazelthan Atlantean Kodex. Further comparisons could also be made to The Lord Weird Slough Feg and Hammers Of Misfortune with the free-flowing structures and pastoral air throughout.
Consisting entirely of musicians from the eccentric Demon Bitch with equally esoteric pseudonyms, Detroit’s White Magician settles firmly into the world of heavy Occult Rock on their first full-length album. “The Agents Of Fortune”-esque cover art is enough to indicate that any comparisons to Blue Öyster Cult are likely intentional; the band exercises a similarly freerolling attitude with an ominous undercurrent. But while Dealers Of Divinity (Cruz Del Sur Music) gambles on a well-trod formula, the group seems to have a couple of aces up their sleeves.
Cortez’s third full-length album shows a certain spark that was merely hinted at the Boston group”s previous releases. This is immediately established with the opening”No Escape,” which comes crashing in with a template more in line with Classic Metal than their usual Stoner Rock. I find myself reminded of Cauldron or Castle as the driving tempo sustains a reverb-friendly production job with a slew of flamboyant guitar leads, gritty bass, and chanted vocals to go around.
With Wytch Hazel having established their style right from their 2011 formation, each of their releases has mostly been a matter of fine-tuning and making tweaks to their Hard Rock vision. The band’s third full-length album is no exception as it delivers its signature blend of Celtic melodies and spiritual lyrics with brazen positivity. Past efforts have been enjoyable in their own right but III: Pentecost (Bad Omen Records) may be the strongest execution of the formula so far.Continue reading
Spirit Adrift could’ve followed the more accessible bent of 2019’s Divided In Darkness with more of the same but chose to mix things up to an even greater degree with their fourth full-length album. The tug o’ war between Doom and Traditional Metal that has defined their style has turned in the latter’s favor with more songs taking on upbeat tempos. The lyrics have also undergone a noticeable attitude adjustment with a decidedly optimistic outlook and an emphasis on metaphysical galactic imagery. There are enough common denominators to help Enlightened In Eternity (20 Buck Spin/Century Media) fit in with their established trajectory, but it may be their most drastic sound shift thus far.
After releasing two albums and an EP under the Witch Hazel moniker, the York, Pennsylvania quartet has rebranded as SpellBook. Their first album under this new moniker, Magic & Mischief (Cruz Del Sur Music), doesn’t deviate too far from their established Occult Rock style. There are a multitude of Seventies Rock grooves fitted with a slight Doom crunch that is quick to recall their contemporaries in groups like Lucifer, Demon Eye, and Icarus Witch.
High Spirits’ endearing sincerity has always been a shining contrast to the often-sour realms of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, and that feelgood brightness is needed now more than ever. While it’s been four years since the release of their last album, 2016’s Motivator, the Chicago project’s fourth full-length doesn’t skip a beat and their established blend of AOR and Classic Metal is well intact. You always know what you’re getting but it’s presented with far too much enthusiasm to ever feel stale.
Coming off a self-titled demo in 2019, Midnight Dice’s first EP, Hypnotized(Underground Power Records/Hoove Child Records), sees the Chicagoans continuing to build their momentum. Comparisons to the musicians’ previous band Satan’s Hallow remain inevitable as Hypnotized rides on a similarly anthemic Classic Metal style. However, there are also developments that show the band beginning to carve out a more distinct identity.Continue reading
The first full-length album from Seattle’s Greyhawk is a particularly interesting iteration of the NWOTHM scene. A focus on hooky songwriting with an epic tone makes for easy comparisons to such contemporaries as Visigoth and Traveler as the production carries a polished sheen similar to the likes of Haunt or Idle Hands. While these factors would initially suggest that the band is just another notch in a long line of derivatives, they find a lot of ways to set themselves apart on Keepers Of The Flame (Fighter Records).