While it seems strange to refer to a sound that has been around for over two decades as “modern”, it feels completely accurate to describe the sonic barrage of Aeon as Modern Death Metal. Renowned for keeping the intensity levels up – backed by a production to level small towns with its ripped, lean torso – for their fifth release Swedish violence-dealers have shown no relenting despite lockdown, No extra inches have been added to their waist-bands, and no sign of flabbiness added to their carb-free sensory assault.
It has been thirty years since drummer / vocalist Jonas Renske and Anders “Blackheim” Nyström began a musical journey that would see them evolve from a studio-only project exploring their darker musical tastes to becoming one of the most respected purveyors of melancholic and post-Gothic music; always evolving with each album, embracing Gothic and progressive metal, and always distinctively Katatonia.
When yet another massive riff, this time during the early stages of track nine ‘World Eater’, hits – you know the sort… the type of riff that makes your face do the same involuntary wince/”oooooo” combo as sucking a lemon straight after brushing your teeth might – the smile can’t help but break out on your face: The Conquering (Spinefarm Records) isn’t just Employed To Serve upping the ante; their fourth album goes deeeep.
Common wisdom would have you believe that most bands approaching their third decade, and / or seventh album, will have found either a comfortable groove, or a furrow that they like to plough, and that the desire to challenge themselves and their supporters, to expand or revitalise their sound, has probably been dissipated to some degree. The cycle begats the (album) cycle and the artist, conscious of the desired output, sates the audience even if they do make token refinements to keep their own creative beasts content. For while there may be tweaks and tinkerings, there are, deep-down, a forest path of a woodland much explored, not often adventures anew.
While all things toxic (waste; holocausts; um, waltzing) have long been a regular bedfellow for the lyric writers and album cover artists that inhibit the pungent worlds of Thrash and Death Metal, it also lurks in another sense; behind the scenes and pervading the environment of many bands relationships. Escaping the cryptic realms of one such biohazard of a relationship was a necessity for legendary bassist Terry Butler (Obituary, Death, Six Feet Under), guitarist Taylor Nordberg (Wombath, Ribspreader), and vocalist/drummer Jeramie Kling (Venom-Inc, Goregang, The Absence). Continue reading
Following up a breakthrough album, such as Boss Keloid’s last opus Melted On The Inch (Holy Roar) which finished at #4 in Ghost Cult’s Album of the Year poll in 2018, is a challenging proposition. Stray too far from the magic formula and you risk undoing that giant stride taken forwards (even without being a band that has always taken efforts to ensure development and evolution of their sound is a given); repeat the previous approach and accusations of diminishing returns, or playing it safe, abound along with an invariably inferior product. Continue reading
Masters of baroque melodic extremity, it is befitting that Suffolk symphonaires Cradle of Filth has grabbed the goat by the horns with a suitably slick foray into the live stream arena. Atop a multi-layered theater stage set, ring leader Dani Filth sets the tone, holding aloft a flaming torch and emerging from a cowl straight out of one of the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania entrances, before announcing the commencement of the invocation of the unclean…Continue reading
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
While it may be OK to not be OK, as the main refrain of the thumping anthemic opener ‘Enlightenment?’ insists (and while it absolutely is, we still have much work to do as a collective mass to support each other), Sleeps Society (Sleeps Brothers, in assoc. with Search & Destroy, Spinefarm, UNFD, Universal) takes a step and seeks to provide a place, a community packed with a kinship of like-minded souls who will be there with and for each other. It would be easy for the Sleeps Society (a Patreon-based family) to be empty words and hollow platitudes, but there is integrity to the missives that are as important to the overall point of While She Sleeps in 2021 as the songs. Continue reading