Jeff Hanneman, legendary guitarist of Slayer passed away on May 2nd, 2013, nine years ago today. Ghost Cult continues to fly the flag of Slayer high, and customarily we celebrate the life of Jeff, the music he made and the stages he left scorched. His legacy as a riff maker, songwriter, soloist, and metal personality has not been dampened since his death. In the time since he passed, Ghost Cult covered Slayer just as heavily in Jeff’s life, as they released a final studio album with Jeff’s contributions (Repentless), had a legend and friend hold down his spot live (Gary Holt of Exodus), released a comic book with Jeff’s likeness, completed their final world tour ever of two years, released an incredible film/music video trilogy (The Repentless Killogy), former bandmate DaveLombardo wrote a loving tribute to his fallen friend, and we have created two career-spanning retrospectives (read them here and here) on the end of the band. From the time Jeff passed and every night on that final world tour, Slayer honored Jeff during ‘Raining Blood’ with the “still reigning” banner. As we say every year at this time: Hail Jeff and hail Slayer!
It’s hard to believe – especially for some of us Of A Certain Age – that this year sees the fortieth anniversary of legendary German thrashers Destruction. Frontman Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer might be the last man standing from the band’s original line-up (co-founder and guitarist Mike Sifringer having left last year) but the band’s fifteenth full length studio album, Diabolical (Napalm Records) still manages to recapture that old fiery attitude.
Kontact’s debut EP is rather tricky to pin down in terms of style. Voivod makes the most immediate comparison with an aesthetic immersed in similar cosmic theming and the vocals channeling Snake in a similarly manic yet almost robotic sneer. However, the guitar work draws more on Speed Metal gallops and doomy riffs than the high-pitched dissonance that would come with such an association. King Gizzard at their heaviest might also be an applicable reference point though there isn’t quite as much psychedelic fuzz wafting about.Continue reading
While Blazon Stone’s sixth full-length continues down their established path of Running Wild emulation, it’s also the first they’ve released as a full-fledged band. In contrast to past albums that had bandleader Cederick Forsberg recording most of the instruments himself with whoever was available to sing at a given time, Damnation (Stormspell Records) sees him just sticking to the guitars this time around. A completely new lineup has been assembled that includes a new singer, a new drummer, and even Crystal Viper bandmate Marta Gabriel on bass duties.
If you can rely on one thing it’s that legendary Norwegian twosome Darkthrone will continue to not give a flying fig about convention or what people think about them until the day they die. No live shows since 1996, an early decisive leap from death metal to black metal, a total lack of adherence to any kind of rule book, and a succession of albums which basically read as unadulterated love letters dedicated to the music on which they grew up. If you don’t get Darkthrone by now then you never will.
It’s been a long time coming but Flotsam and Jetsam finally look to have reasserted themselves among the top of the speed metal elite. After arriving on the scene with two undisputed classics back in the late ’80s, the Arizona thrashers fortunes dipped and for a while it seemed that they would only be remembered for those releases and supplying Metallica with bassist Jason Newsted.
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.
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
With a gap of eight years since their last studio album and boasting a new, reshuffled line-up, UK thrashers Evile are back with an absolute vengeance on their fifth full-length release. And as its title suggests, listening to Hell Unleashed (Napalm Records) is much like letting an angry, unfed Rottweiler loose in a roomful of overweight and particularly slow-moving children.
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.