Nearly fifteen years ago, current Killswitch Engage members Jesse Leach and Adam Dutkiewicz teamed up to birth the collaborative project Times of Grace. This dynamic duo pushed their creative boundaries by conjuring a fresh take on the heavy-yet-melodic sound. They delivered their debut album, The Hymn of a Broken Man (Roadrunner Records) in 2011. The gloom and aggression let loose on that record was ignited by the brutally honest songwriting. The themes of struggle, heartbreak, and hope were potently delivered with a real and plaintive spirit. These two brought forth a discovery of powerful melancholy and now ten years later, they are offering a sequel to that revelation. Their second full-length Songs of Loss and Separation (Wicked Good Records) is carrying on the melodic mournfulness, yet wonderfully wholesome sound that is Times of Grace.
You want brutal? You got it! The debut album from Yautja (members of Thou, Coliseum, Mutilation Rites), The Lurch (Relapse Records), is that in spades. If you’re into just an all out onslaught of driving grooves mixed with crazy, double stops, and all the above, this is the cut for you! Not to get too into it, but this is right up my alley. I dig it when a band is their own thing, or their own entity, so to speak. They are just themselves.
At The Gates is a household name to every Melodic Death Metal fan out there. Formed over thirty years ago, this group of guys invigorated the scene by gifting the people with their unruly and extreme proclamations. Along with several other eager acts from their hometown, like Dark Tranquility and In Flames, ATG bolstered what is now defined as Gothenburg Melodic Death Metal. The signature sound that they captured still storms the scene today, showing off the band’s Swedish roots with a grim and wistful flourish. They continue on to profess their dark truths on their new seventh full-length record, The Nightmare of Being (Century Media Records).
Well, that was quite the trip, but in like, a good way. There wasn’t some breakthrough moment of introspective self-discovery or anything of the sort for me but making it through Asclepius (Southern Lord) does feel nice. Where these songs written well ahead of time or were they discovered and jammed out through the recording process? Don’t know and don’t quite care. Iceburn somehow made it work and sound natural.
With plans to tour with their almost original line up – between the five current members of Candlemass all of them were in the band at some point across the legendary Doom Metal acts first two albums, and all were present and very much correct for 2019’s impressive The Door To Doom (Napalm Records) – on hold, Sweden’s epic morose masters ventured into the world of live lockdown streaming, capturing their 2020 performance from Stockholm’s Studio Gröndahl for release on multiple visual and audio formats under the title of Green Valley Live (Peaceville). Continue reading
The biggest challenge for prodigious talents Henry, Eli, and Abe Ismert is the need to shift the narrative from discussion around their ages (18, 16 and 13 respectively) and their undoubted potential to the types of plaudits and eulogies that adorn the releases of the artists they aspire to be considered in the same breath as; the Mastodon’s and Gojira’s of our twisted, alternative Metal world. Previously released via Bandcamp in the COVID-restricted summer of 2020, the brothers from Kansas City are re-issuing their debut Grand Currents (self-released) on the back of a groundswell of support for singles ‘Sediment’ and ‘Foundation’, this time accompanied by a physical release.
An album of peaks and valleys, when flying high Grand Currents achieves that aim of refocusing the story to one of deserved acclaim. A twisted post-Thrash underbelly is a tough core that provides a grounding to a progressive modern Metal mentality, holding the expansive sensibilities on a tight leash that the brothers may do better to loosen on further releases. For it is those moments that seek to crack the skye that do Hammerhedd the most credit: halfway through ‘Drone’ and the Voivod-ian cortex wraps itself around a rhythmic Tool-esque build, or the discordant judder of the back-nine of ‘Sediment’. When they indulge their musical expressionism they really show their hand and talk of potential begins to be realised.
Yet, their greatest weapon also highlights their greatest shortcoming. While Henry Ismert is expansive and able to find twisted barbs in his guitar work, exploring spaces that Mastodon and Helmet have opened up, his rudimentary vocal output undermines both the finished artistic product, and the bands reach and appeal. To make the step that Hammerhedd (and let’s be honest, the band name doesn’t help either but we’re probably too far down that line to unwind that one…) could potentially make and to invade the alternative conscience in the ways the aforementioned other Progressive Metal leading lights have, they will need to find a way to bring the vocal performance up to the technical level of the other instruments on display, in a way the ideas and musical vision deserves.
Still, time is on their side. And Grand Currents possesses more than just flashes of potential. It does intimate there is more to come, yes, which can only be a good thing, and it is also a valid and worthwhile investment of your time, even if only to have been onboard for if and when they do find a way to raise the vocals to the level of the other instruments somewhere down the line.
Buy the album here: https://linktr.ee/hammerhedd
6 / 10
During the very strange time that is the Covid quarantine era, livestreams have become quite popular over the last year. Having seen a few of them, they are well produced and are meant to feel as if one is at the show, albeit with no one else around, and have been quite popular. Having said that, the latest Puscifer livestream entitled Billy D and the Hall of Feathered Serpents featuring Money Shot is on a whole different level! Starting off with Billy D (portrayed by Maynard James Keenan) ending up in an underground luchador bar with “bartesians” serving up experiences in a glass, each drink served up is named after a track from the Money Shot album.
The early nineties was an exciting experimental and developmental time for the genre of Folk Metal. The German outfit SuidAkrA took on this evolving style and meshed it up with Black Metal on their debut album, Lupine Essence that was released in 1997. They were able to uniquely harmonize the two genres and create a memorable and meaningful record that is still considered with reverence in the Black/Folk/Celtic Metal scenes. Now the band is re-releasing their early work with original member Arkadius Antonik remastering each track himself. With new artwork, bonus tracks, and its first release on vinyl, these multi-genre metal veterans are getting a chance to properly present their initial material. Continue reading
Over 35 years ago, Fates Warning was one of the main trailblazers and influencers in the Progressive Metal movement. With so much history, there has been a lot of lineup changes throughout the years, but the band has always been known for its exploration and expansion of the scene. Even today this East Coast act is still examining their special sound. Earlier this month FW released their newest full-length album, Long Day Good Night (Metal Blade Records). These boys went big and completed 13 songs to celebrate their 13th full-length release. The group took their time to dig deep into their assorted inclinations to expose the wealth they found there.
Over thirty years ago, England’s own Carcass came to the scene and shared their glorification of grind and gore. The unhinged and manic sound they conjured found an audience and quickly gained popularity, along with their contemporaries Napalm Death and Godflesh. The surge of the extreme had its time in the sun, but after their 10 year hiatus, Carcass came back in a slightly different mood. In 2013, the group took their well-known viciousness and molded it in with more melody on their sixth full-length, Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast). They married Grindcore and Melodic Death Metal on that record which got a lot of attention and reminded everyone why these guys are such an original act. After seven years, the band is back again with their EP, Despicable (Nuclear Blast). In just four songs, Carcass takes their significant union of sounds and exemplifies them with new levels of pandemonium. Continue reading