Icelandic smashers Mannveira finally rise, deliver mangling black metal with ‘Vitahringur’

There’s an ominous aura behind the idea of “awakening a sleeping giant,” a saying that dates back to World War II and at the time meant that the United States had been provoked into joining the fight. However, we can use that saying today for something a lot less destructive from the standpoint of human lives lost and instead put that weight behind a band that’s finally showing its beastly power.

Icelandic black metal force Mannveira, have been around for a little more than a decade now, but we’re finally getting their debut full-length record “Vitahringur” 11 years after the project came to be. The world got something of a taste of what they had in them on a 2014 EP and a split effort in 2016 alongside Ellorsith, but this five-track, 35-minute crusher is the real indication of what this machine is capable of doing, and it’s clear they’ve spent their silence sharpening their blades. This band—vocalist Illugi, guitarists Örlygur and Sindri, bassist Óskar, drummer Jón—brings caustic and devastating power, a force that adds to their homeland’s impressive array of heavy bands, proving they are as hungry and bloodthirsty as the rest of them. Maybe more so.

“Ópin rjúfa þögnina” opens with dark blasts and guitars stinging as gruff growls march, and disorienting melodies cause your head to spin. The pace then picks up as the playing gets nastier, shoving you in the mud as the track drowns out. “Í köldum faðmi” bubbles up front before weird grunts greet you, and beastly wails signal the coming savage assault. That brutality eventually turns more atmospheric before things get animalistic, with guttural howls peeling back flesh. The guitars get airy but still open wounds, fury and mysticism unite, and things crush to a static-filled finish.

“Vítahringur” starts spacious as the guitars open, with the storm looming. Slow-driving misery pivots into vocals scraping and black melodies flooding and flowing. The track keeps gaining momentum as the guitars swim through psychological weirdness, and then raw growls punch their way in, leading the track to its noise vortex resting place. “Framtíðin myrt” lets growls escape as a numbing pace picks up the momentum, and the guitars tangle. Things feel properly hypnotic at times, bringing immersive calm, but then the rains crash down again. Leads gush melody, the growls scar, and everything fades into a nightmare. Closer “Kverkatak eilífra martraða” is disorienting as it begins as growls wrench, and a dizzying aura takes hold. The vocals go for the throat as the band begins trucking hard, and the growls turn to roars. Things slow and get disorienting, giving off an intoxicating vibe, and all of that dissolves into the atmosphere, disappearing forever.

I’ve never been to Iceland, but I imagine that majestic nature of the place would be in direct contrast with the misery-inducing, mangling black metal that Mannveira presents on “Vitahringur.” This is a devastating, molten record that feels like it sends lava flowing through your bloodstream, leaving you in abject torture. The atmospheric elements are disarmingly sinister, the heaviness bludgeons, and this band leaves you heaving in a pile of sweat and piss.  

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/mannveira

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

Perilaxe Occlusion defy typical, delve into 3D modeling themes on crushing ‘Raytraces of Death’

Heavy metal is a world in which no topic is off limits, though that also could mean troublesome waters for bands that delve into, say, outright fascism. That always sucks. But there’s so much out there in this universe in which to concentrate, so many possibilities to explore and mine that really, anything could be topical for a heavy metal record. Even converting vector layers into pixels.

OK, I know. What? But look, this makes so much sense, especially from a technological standpoint. Metal musicians aren’t morons, despite decades of people deciding that’s the case, so why not head into areas such as rasterizing, the technique described above. That’s the rich territory explored by Canadian death metal travelers Perilaxe Occlusion, whose new EP “Raytraces of Death” takes you into mind-tangling terrain like no other creator before them. The band delivered a very well-received demo late last year, their means of introducing you to metallic bursts about 3D modeling, but these three songs go even further into the vortex. The band—guitarist/bassist XT, drummer/cellist XE (they’re joined by guest vocalist Ti)—pulverizes you with bizarre chaos and complicated strangeness that might take some time to wrap your head around but also delivers the goods in such a wonderfully strange way.    

“Fracturing the Voronoi” gets things started with doomy misery hanging overhead as the growls bury you in thick death. The track is punishing and ugly as the drums decimate, thick bass slithers, and the soloing goes off, scorching faces. We head into sludgy terrain, the band mashes bodies, and everything disappears into feedback streaks. “Incalculable Thresholds” brings the drums crashing in and a punchy, thrashy vibe that aims to leave bruises. Growls rumble as the guitars churn hard, getting strange and eerie and making you wonder what just happened. Things head into a strange pocket before re-emerging with black metal-style playing as the guitars spiral, and a heavy stomp directs the track right into hell. “Geometric Dismemberment” closes things, starting with doomy drubbing before things explode into total chaos. Cavernous growls bury as the guitar angle and drip, and your body is pummeled. Guitars rain down, dressing things with mournful tones, while the shadows thicken, pushing the track into a murky, uneasy mist.

Perilaxe Occlusion didn’t sit around and wait after their demo was so well received, and “Raytraces of Death” is a collection that builds on their promise and shows just how deadly their machine can be. This is an incredibly satisfying display, a quick look at where this band is expanding, and how they’re growing more sinister before our eyes. More of this over a proper full length is something I’m very much anticipating in the future.  

For more on the band, go here: https://perilaxeocclusion.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.bloodharvest.se/

Or here (North America): https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.bloodharvest.se/

And here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Amenra move from Mass, still create massive, reflective power on ‘De Doorn’

Some bands insist on calling their shows rituals, and that’s not the most offensive thing in the world, but oftentimes that just means you’re putting on a show, and you’ve come up with a cute name for it. For other bands, that title makes sense, as seeing them in the live setting is more a spiritual experience than your average show. There also are artists that can make their records feel the same way, like you’ve gone through something profound and spiritually altering.

For the past 21 years, Belgian beasts Amenra have defied convention when it comes to their band and their creations. Members comes and go, all of which eventually get indoctrinated into the Church of Ra, meaning they’re always part of the body, and until now, their full-length creations have been labeled a “Mass,” ranging from I to VI. That last part changes with the release of “De Doorn,” which translated means “the thorn,” their first album that deviates away from a mass but never sacrifices any of the spiritual linking that solidified this band—vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout, guitarists Mathieu Vandekeckhove and Lennart Bossu, bassist Tim De Gieter, drummer/percussionist Bjorn J. Lebon. They’re joined by backing vocalist Caro Tanghe (of the mighty Oathbreaker) on this five-track, nearly 47-minute album that centers on the themes of dialog and the passing of knowledge, which is given more intense treatment through the dual vocals and long passages of speaking, that often feel like a hush. Musically, the band still delivers heavy, doom-style storming, but there is more delicacy and atmosphere than usual, making this a true full-boded musical experience.

“Ogentroost” emerges from the mist and lets sounds waft over, numbing you as guitars drip in, and a long section of speaking pushes the plot. The track then opens and scorches, delivering heavy blows as Tanghe calls out in the background. The track keeps finding new ways to break open, the shrieks rain down hard, and a huge emotional deluge takes you prisoner, scraping your psyche before leaking into “De Dood In Bloei” where sounds envelope in an ambient cloud. The pressure soothes as Tanghe speaks through layers of time, almost like a prayer, capturing your imagination and treating your wounds. “De Evenmens” begins with shrieks striking and frantic pounding making your heart race before more dialog clouds your senses and helps you melt, language barrier be damned. Clean singing collects as the pressure begins to build, quaking the earth. The storm blasts with a fury, the band keeps piling on the emotional toll, and the track finally drowns out into the earth.

The final two tracks are the longest, beginning with “Het Gloren” that’s a healthy 11:31. It opens slowly as the doom collects, giving off a strange haze. As the playing starts to swell, the shrieks devastate, and fiery chaos licks the surface of the earth, with the vocals continually ripping hard. The guitars drip as the track begins to move more quietly, contemplating its next move, and then the ground swallows you whole, the playing floods with madness, and the whole things ravages, leaving nothing behind at all. “Voor Immer” is the closer, bleeding for 12:42 and starting in a heavy murk as guitars drip and quiet singing trickles. The bulk of this track is quite reflective, an exercise in patience as you await the highs and lows. There is even a gentler pace at times, letting you float along as the guitars drain. About 8 minutes in, the hammers drop and wild shrieks peel back flesh, leaving you exposed. The playing clobbers, the vocals mar psyches, and static mauling mixes into a cosmic haze, melting into stars.

Amenra exist in truly unique territory where their albums feel less like a collection of songs and more like a spiritual event where you cannot just drop in and drop out, because without the surrounding context, you can’t really assign proper meaning. These five songs are not attached to a “Mass,” yet they still feel just as ritualistic, just as emotionally gripping as they work their way through each layer of the puzzle. It’s great to see Amenra move up in the world with their alliance with Relapse, and hopefully more eyes and ears are open and welcome to the Church of Ra, a structure where your pain and emotional baggage is welcome as you grow into a better self.  

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/churchofra

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/b/amenra

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

Minnesota destroyers Wanderer lay down D-beat hammer, chaos with debut ‘…Brutalist Existence’

Photo by Andy Wilcox

There probably isn’t a more fitting way to mark the continuing normalization of our daily activities than to get your faces ripped off by music that feels like it’s been boiling for 15 months, waiting to explode. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like the first time I’m back in a room with people witnessing heavy music live, as I slip into the back of the room to avoid being kicked in the mouth.

I’d imagine once Wanderer can get back on stages, it’s going to be fucking war. This Minnesota-based D-beat-powered metallic beast is delivering their first full-length album “Liberation From a Brutalist Existence,” a collection that had to wait to come to full fruition based on the goddamn pandemic, but now the music is here to rip you limb from limb. The band focuses on topics such as escapism, suicide, self-reflection, dealing with abuse, and existential issues on a molten 10 tracks spread over 23 minutes. The band—vocalist Dan Lee, guitarist/backing vocalist Brent Ericson, bassist Jack Carlson, drummer Mano Holgin—are joined by a slew of guests including vocalists Sanjeev Mishra (Straya), Mollie Piatetsky (Closet Witch), and Brandon Carrigan (who Lee succeeded on vocals), as well as engineer Adam Tucker (he recorded, mixed, and mastered the album), who added auxiliary percussion. It’s a rabid, furious album, one that’ll wake you from your stupor easily.

“Marionette” starts the record by chugging away and eventually letting loose as Lee’s growls rumble, and the D-beat-fed tempo rips you up. The shrieks rip, the feedback burns your flesh, and everything ends in sludge. “Mind Leash” is a quick basher that punishes with fast, chaotic playing dressed in boiling growls and scathing madness, and then it’s into “Abrasion” where the guitars jolt, and muddy playing makes it tough to come up for a breath. The track hulks as the growls punish, and then a burst of atmosphere leads to heavy crunch, a smothering chorus, and guitars heavily lingering. “Bloom” brings thick bass trudging and every other element following suit, bruising bodies. The guitars fire up as the melodies ring out, heading into a spacious pocket that picks up and drives right into “Decay” that continues agitating the fires. The track speeds and pulverizes, the pace bashes skulls, and the body burns into ash.

“Hellhole” pounds with filthy guitars and oatmeal-thick mashing, while a heavy doom cloud hangs overhead and darkens the ground. Then, the band just flattens you deliberately, collecting static and feedback that spits power. “Simone” brings pummeling guitars and burly death growls from Lee as the drumming decimates. Wild shrieks from Piatetsky get into your system and devastate you while the playing feels incredibly thick, splattering to its inevitable end. “Frost Cage” opens in the midst of punishing drumming and guitars stabbing violently, with heavy growls to boot. That all blasts into the ground, the growls carve, and flesh is beaten into submission. “Bourn” clobbers with sludgy power and flattening playing as hardcore-style violent splits faces. The guitars scorch as the playing gets thrashier, the violence increases, and it all ends in panic. “Contented” closes the album, the longest track of the bunch, running 3:56. Guitars char and the bass flexes, and then the playing slows but maintains pure heaviness. Abrasive howls make their impact as the guitars scorch, the low end crushes ribs, and the track is sucked into a noise vortex in the sky.

Who amongst us hasn’t had to wait excruciating periods of time for good things to come to fruition through this hellish pandemic? But I can imagine from the volatile nature of the music, Wanderer must have been bursting at the seams to release “Liberation From a Brutalist Existence.” There is plenty to leave you heaving on the floor, and if you work your way through the lyrics, there’s a lot to parse through and apply to your own existence. This record is a fire breather, 23 minutes of metallic wrenching that will be the best workout you have all day.  

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/WandererMN

To buy the album (vinyl), go here: https://entelodonrecords.limitedrun.com/

Or here (cassette): https://badmouthrecordings.bigcartel.com/

Or here (digital): https://wanderermn.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.entelodonrecords.com/

And here: https://badmouthrecordings.bandcamp.com/

Bicoastal Hellish Form unleash mind-drubbing doom, tear into damaging wounds with ‘Remains’

The last few months have been kind of nice in a weird way, like we’re crawling out from the fallout of an extinction event, seeing the sun beam for the first time and feeling lucky to have gotten out in one piece. But look closer, and the wounds are there, and they’re deep, and they’re painful. We will never be the same again. Normal means something entirely different to so many of us now.

The two members of Hellish Form—Willow Ryan and Jacob Lee—have spent a lot of the time trying to do their own introspection and battles with pain as they’ve suffered through the same pandemic we all have. In fact, they have released two full-length records since the hell virus struck, and the latest is coming in the form of four-track beast “Remains.” There certainly are tenets of the members’ other respective bands (Body Void, Keeper, Skull Incision), but these two, who recorded the music while living on opposite coasts, is doom misery where some hope snakes through every now and again. They examine self-torment and absorbing one’s own wounds on a path to rebirth, a journey many have to walk based on what we just experienced, light at the end of the tunnel be damned.  

“Your Grave Becomes a Garden” opens the record, a 14:14-long beast that begins in a thick doomy haze as shrieks rain down, and the slowly building power meets up with a synth glaze. Keys drip as the agony thickens, spreading the gloom as wrenching hell is unleashed, feeling like a vicious and stationery storm. The vocals come in forceful wails as mournful guitars thicken, the synth collects like a thick fog, the emotions flood, and the final bludgeoning disappears into a strange sheen. “Ache” has guitars weeping in madness as the playing soars into the clouds, and the vocals crash down as the synth stretches. It feels like you’re lost in a mist as moody pounding increases, your heart is squeezed, and the shrieks rip out guts, leaving them strewn on the floor.

“Shadows With Teeth” runs 12:17 and is utterly morbid when it begins as the shrieks cave, and the playing slowly pummels. Synth boils as the playing blasts forcefully, doom collects overhead, and it feels like you’re being beaten deliberately and insultingly as you beg for mercy. A synth bed glimmers, the playing is dreamy and emotional, and the wail of, “The pain in my chest will never fade, but I’ll carry it with me until my dying day,” buries the dagger. Closer “Another World” runs 10:43 and unleashes a wave of doom drone and mesmerizing synth, giving off a strange vibe as the shrieks land shots. Spacey keys hypnotize as the drums hammer hard, and the doom cauldron heats up, with shrieks pounding hard. There’s a bizarre magical feel that floats, the vocals tear into flesh, and the pressure builds until it finally pops, and everything ends in mystery.

We’ve all been through some serious shit the past 15 months, and Hellish Form channel all of that misery and torture into “Remains,” a bicoastal effort that came together while the pandemic raged. The death, fear, and longing built into these songs also are here to help burn everything down from the past and build back up into a stronger self that is more calloused just from surviving. This is a wrenching, powerful affair that rarely relents and always looks at building your strength through psychological chaos.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/HellishForm/

To buy the album, go here: https://translationloss.com/products/remains

For more on the label, go here: https://translationloss.com/

White Ward honor label home with spacious, elegant black metal on fiery ‘Debemur Morti’

How does one celebrate a landmark occasion 18 years in the making that, along the way, was comprised of you releasing tons of groundbreaking releases from metal artists as diverse as any roster on the planet? Can’t really do big festivals at the moment, as unless you’ve done a ton of leg work, it’s hard to put together. So, what are your other logical options?

For long-running label Debemur Morti, they decided to celebrate 200 releases with one of their most visionary, creatively channeled bands for a special EP release that’s as long as some grindcore LPs. White Ward, who delivered 2019’s stunning “Love Exchange Failure,” our second favorite record of that year, stepped up and delivered Debemur Morti release no. 200 with an EP of the same name, a two-track, 17-minute excursion that is imaginative and challenging, another hint that this band is continuing to morph into their real form. The band—vocalist/bassist Andrii Pechatkin, guitarists Yurii Kazarian and Mykola Previr, drummer Evgen Karamushko, sax player Dima Dudko, pianist Mykola Lebed—are joined by guest vocalist Lars Nedland (of the great Borknagar), and together they put together a fitting tribute to their label home and music that truly embodies the spirit of the assertion “we are death.”

“Debemur Morti” fittingly begins the record with sax swirling and keys layering, while the atmosphere is torn apart and engulfed with chaos. Fierce shrieks strike as the playing gets more savage, thrashing and trudging hard. Nedland’s clean singing bellows, adding a new texture, while the power increases, the sax swoops in again, and then things halt as a quote from the film “Reformed” plays, asking about god being able to forgive humankind for destroying the world. That sends chills as the track basks in slow tempos and darkness before exploding once more, letting the sax slice in and everything bleed its last. “Embers” is the closer and unloads synth and more sax pumps, as jazzy bass slinks in, and an ambiance is established. About 4 minutes in, the track exudes destruction as vicious shouts rumble, and a slow, drubbing pace adds to your collecting bruising. Sax pushes in as the band keeps gutting you, punishing and soaking in elegance, simmering in psychedelic sounds and warmth, bowing out to whipping winds.

White Ward is an ideal band to be responsible for Debemur Morti’s 200th release, as this is one of the most inventive and creative bands on a really ambitious roster. These two songs have everything a White Ward devotee could want from jazzy heat to black metal fury and a lot of things in between. We’ve long been huge fans of White Ward, and this release only solidifies that passion.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/whitewardofficial/

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Heavy Temple blast into heart of classic tale on smoking, sultry ‘Lupi Amoris’

Photo by Gene Smirnov

I’m sure we’ve all had times when we have seen a band that we didn’t know much about or maybe never heard of that we see live, and the performance changes everything. It’s the amazing discovery phase of live shows we haven’t had for the past 15 months, though it’s coming back. But having those experiences can etch a band into your DNA forever.

A few years ago, I had circled Heavy Temple as one of the bands I made a point to see at Descendants of Crom fest here in Pittsburgh, mostly based on word of mouth. I had listened to them a little bit before that, but it wasn’t until the three forces that comprised the band at that time took the stage that it really hit me. That were an absolute force, one of the best live performances I’ve seen in the last half decade or so, and from that point, I’ve been a devoted disciple. A lot has changed since then as 2/3 of the band was overhauled, and the goddamn pandemic happened, but Heavy Temple finally have delivered their debut full-length effort “Lupi Amoris” (translates to “wolves of love”). I was skeptical at first because I loved their previous lineup, but vocalist/bassist High Priestess Nighthawk surrounded herself with a smoking new lineup that includes guitarist Lord Paisley and drummer Baron Lycan. They created a five-track, 33-minute bruiser that reeks of doom thunder, bluesy haze, and psychedelic storms as the band is inspired by Angela Carter’s story The Company of Wolves, that takes the Little Red Riding Hood cautionary tale and turns it on its neck, embracing female sexuality and power, and lashing back against what society has deemed proper for a woman to possess and express. And they do it with fire.   

“A Desert Through the Trees” has the bass trampling and heavy blues riffs cutting into you, as the vocals soar. “I feel you like you feel me,” NightHawk wails, blasting you with sultry glory as the guitar work follows suit, blazing into hell. Things really pick up toward the end as psychedelic bubbling comes for you, melting steel, bringing the track to a delirious end. “The Wolf” brings a heavily trippy atmosphere that’s so thick you can practically touch it, and your head is just swimming in smoke. The vocals kick in as the track blasts through your ribcage, atmospheric playing heads into a raging fire, and the guitars punch back, spiraling and twisting, leaving the room spinning.

“The Maiden” has guitars glimmering and the bass rolling hard as the guitars ignite. The track pounds away, psyche madness stretches its black wings, and the soloing rips your face off, blistering and leaving you bruised at the end. “Isabella (with Unrelenting Fangs)” is the longest track, running 9:30 and starting with bass plodding and guitars agitating. The track absolutely swaggers as NightHawk howls, “Come to me, my king, let me kneel for you,” exuding power. The guitars melt as the song takes on a solid Sabbath-style blazing, bursting and feeling like you’re going to explode into flames. The playing steams as your flesh is scorched, the bass bubbles, and the track comes to a pummeling end, burying you. “Howling of a Prothalamion” is the closer, opening with eerie synth and rumbling drums as the track comes to life. Sinister riffs carve, the drums power, and the bass sprawls, adding to the madness. The bass and guitar work unite as molten fury spills over, the tempo keeps picking up and knifing away, and the track folds into awesome B-movie-style synth that disappears into the stars.

Heavy Temple had to overcome roster upheaval and the world basically shutting down, and they’ve come out from the other side with “Lupi Amoris,” their rock-solid 33-minute debut full-length record. This album should catapult the band into the conversation as one of the finest bands in doom, as they balance heaviness with mind-bending trippiness that might sound even better if your mind is altered. This is a smoking beast, a record that should put Heavy Temple’s name on more people’s tongues, their music scorching pathways through their brains.   

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/

To buy the album, go here: http://lnk.spkr.media/heavy-temple-lupi-amoris

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords/

English maulers Bossk deliver volatile chaos, spacey sounds on life soundtrack ‘Migration’

We’re all on a journey somewhere, and that doesn’t have to necessarily be physical, though many people constantly are moving spaces as well. We’re also in the midst of existential excursions, our pathway through our lives, our works, our relationships, and ultimately to our demise, and everyone’s is unique to their own psyche.

English crushers Bossk (yeah, named after the bounty hunter) have prepared a soundtrack for you in case you need something to highlight your trip from your origin to where you ultimately end up. “Migration” is their second record, and it’s a mighty, atmospheric, mind-expanding collection that can be volcanic one minute, completely immersed in stardust the next. The band—vocalist Sam Marsh, guitarists Alex Hamilton and Rob Vaughan, bassist Tom Begley, drummer Nick Corney—unloads over these seven tracks and nearly 42 minutes a sonic display that is varied, keeps surprising you, and also delivers thunderous power, even when they’re not destroying your senses.

“White Stork” simmers in sound as noise waves waft, and spacious stretching is dressed with electro zaps, ambient haze, and pulsating bursts. Wood block strikes echo, everything builds into a lather, and then we’re into “Mehir” that has sludgy power breaking out of an eerie glaze. The track pulverizes with monstrous growls pounding, the band creating atmospheric chaos, and lava spilling before things ease into calm. That washes through moody power as the guitars feel like they’re bathing in the cosmos, the shrieks rain down, and the track ends in burly hell. “Iter” is a quick instrumental track that has noise making your spine shiver, a strange aura settles, and the playing stings as “HTV-3” dawns in strange synth and murky haze. The vocals then explode, the chorus feels like it’s going to level worlds, and then we’re back into the clouds as the track feels overcast. A new stormfront arrives, crackling open as clean calls bellow, and the doom coats the ground with tar. The track soars again as the band levels you with sludge, the synth swirls like a dangerous storm, and the drama builds, swallowed whole by a dramatic burst that lets everything bleed out.

“Kibo” is another instrumental cut that helps set the stage as synth waves and alien transmissions take hold. Guitars gently lap, noise trickles, and your head floods, moving toward “Lira” that slowly charges and has a glorious build. The band begins to rip out guts and pile them up on the floor, the music swelters, and the drums come to life, taking apart bone. It feels like a radio transmission working their way in, heaving and destroying, absolutely punishing your psyche. Heavy blows rain down like nails, an electric haze sizzles, and the track zaps into the black. “Unberth” closes the album, letting sounds build up and guitars crackle as the sounds envelope everything. The music jolts, the leads gush with energy, and the moodiness thickens even further, overwhelming you. The synth rises, it feels like your head is being squeezed, and the sounds hurtle into space, leaving you enthralled and exhausted.

Bossk have an intensity and might that a lot of other bands that work in this sound don’t seem to be able to muster. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the band, but “Migration” is a fantastic rekindling of spirits that haven’t been together in a while, and every moment of this just levels you with intensity. This is an awesome display, a reminder that Bossk have some of the best chops in the game and a muscular character that easily can leave you overwhelmed.  

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bosskonline

To buy the album, go here: https://deathwishinc.com/collections/bossk

For more on the label, go here: https://deathwishinc.com/

Power legends Helloween unite eras, deliver glorious anthems, metal lore on self-titled album

We all have bands that mean a ton to us, and even with their highs and lows, you stick with them, knowing that there’s a reason you love them, and they feel like important people in your lives, even if you haven’t met them. Unless they they turn into MAGA assholes or nazis. They can go to hell. But you know your favorites wouldn’t do that to you, right?

One of my absolute favorites bands of all time is German power metal warriors Helloween, a group that has one of my most treasured records ever (“Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2”), and I could do a story alone just on what that music has meant to me. Like so many other long-running bands (they formed in 1983!), they’ve had a lot of upheaval and a run you could divide into three eras. Several years ago, the “Pumpkins United” tour happened that brought together key Helloween members from every era, and that effort landed us their new self-titled album, a release that should just be called “Helloween.” And for all the expectations, they’re more than met. This isn’t a cash in, a lifeless reunion, or anything like that, because Helloween never would do that. Its current members—vocalists Mike Kiske and Andi Deris, guitarist/vocalist Kai Hansen, guitarists Michael Weikath (a lifer) and Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf (another lifer), drummer Daniel Loble—bring all their finest elements together and not just coexist, but thrive. This record is 12 tracks and 65 minutes, and to be honest, there are two tracks we could lop off to make this tighter. But fuck it. It’s a great journey, way better than it has a right to be, and this is the feel-good story of this year so far. Fuck. I love it.

“Out for the Glory” is just a killer opener as the track speeds in, and Kiske takes the lead, making it feel like the band’s first glory period again. The chorus is huge and surging, and then Deris blasts in and delivers some harsh screams as the guitar erupts, and the track ends in great glory. “Fear of the Fallen” starts clean and hammers away, as Deris takes the lead and drives. Shock of shocks, it’s another killer chorus, and then the guitars take turns with the soloing, giving everyone a chance to shine, and then everything rips back in, with the calls of, “Listen to your heart,” bursting with positivity. “Best Time” erupts with sounds bubbling and the energy bleeding. The chorus is insanely poppy as the call of, “I will have the best time of my life,” aims to make your heart soar. Synth rains down, the playing is like a sugar rush, and the track is begging to be a single. “Mass Pollution” is another one with Deris leading first, the track raging toward another powerful chorus and the guitars collecting, bringing a classic ’80s beatdown. The chorus draws, the guitars reign, and the track adds a giant exclamation point at the end. “Angels” starts with keys raining, the playing getting punchier, and the drums pummeling as the singing gets into your blood. There are moments that feel sorrowful and even gothy, which is different for Helloween, but the dual vocals show a united front as the track grinds away. “Rise Without Chains” has a gigantic European power vibe (well, duh) as the keys strike, and Deris explodes on the chorus, demanding, “Rise without shame.” Fiery guitar work crushes, the chorus explodes anew, and it all ends in a surge.

“Indestructible” brings chugging guitars and the pumpkins again defying all the odds, calling, “Because we are one,” as all their voices align. The track is anthemic as they battle for freedom, the guitar work bursts from the gates, and Kiske’s and Deris’ voices bring the track to its end. “Robot King” opens and rips everything apart, the faster pace trudges, and a glorious chorus radiates with power. The track does have some inherent silliness woven in, but that’s just an undeniable and wonderful part of Helloween’s DNA, and it’s another thing that makes this record feel like home. “We’ll make a stand together,” grabs you and carries you, filling you with drive to make sure metal never dies. The record hit a bit of a bump on the next two tracks, starting with “Cyanide” that Deris leads. It’s not his fault; it’s just that the track never really finds its footing, though there is some fire-breathing soloing that kills, and the track brings an energetic end. “Down in the Dumps” is fine, feeling darker with Kiske out front. The vocals are the high point of the track, but elsewhere it’s OK but not great. “Orbit” is a quick final breath, an interlude track that sets the stage for the awesome 12-minute closer “Skyfall,” a track about a fallen alien stuck here on earth. This is classic Helloween, the perfect amalgamation of all their eras, bringing their best to the table. Kiske starts the track, sounding like he never went away, and Deris follows him up, adding more grit. It’s a great epic, one of the best tracks in their entire catalog, not hyperbole. It puts an amazing exclamation point at the end of a record a lot of us never thought we’d get.

Helloween may not have gotten to the heights of an Iron Maiden or a Judas Priest, but they’ve spent nearly 40 years making unforgettable epic power metal that has attitude, energy, and humor, and this self-titled reunion record is an absolute gift. It might seem like a lot of cooks in a kitchen trying to get ideas on to this record, but really, this works so perfectly, and it’s such a good time. Helloween had nothing to prove to anyone, but that probably wasn’t their point anyway. They’re clearly having fun, they have a ton of fuel left in the tank, and this record is a triumph for all metal fans.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.helloween.org/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/item/groups/192526.pre-orders.html

For more on the label, go here: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

GraveRipper blast black metal into meaty thrash on storming, punishing EP ‘Radiated Remains’

Thrash metal is a style of music that I approach with heavy skepticism, and that’s because of my love for this sub-genre. I grew up really cutting my teeth on the heavier stuff with thrash, as I remember buying a Testament cassette in my youth, having a tape from a band called Overkill recommended to me, then going back and buying it. The rest is history. I love it. And when bands fuck it up, I hate it.

Luckily today, we have something that added fuel to my thrash metal flame, that being Indianapolis-based maulers GraveRipper. Their new EP “Radiated Remains” is in our grasp, and holy hell is this a smasher. They’re also not coming at this from a traditional thrash perspective as they douse a whole lot of black metal stylings into their work, making this six-track release even more volatile. That’s one of the things that sets apart this band—vocalist/guitarist Corey Parks, guitarist Keegan Hrybyk, bassist Chris Pilotte, drummer Jacob Lett—as they bring a much more dangerous edge to thrash, but they do it in a way that while you might feel at risk at times during this, you always come out of it feeling energized.

“Instinctive Extinction” is a quick start intro cut that is kind of the beast opening its eyes, as the guitars awaken, and then we’re into “Atoms Divide” that just attacks and chugs heavily as the vocals crush, with Parks wailing, “You will die tonight,” over the chorus. The track thrashes and savages as the vocals get grisly, the track storms heavily, and everything comes to a fiery finish. “All Life Decays” trudges in, landing heavy body blows with the vocals scraping off scabs. The chorus kills as the riffs strike, feeling evil and destructive, ripping as hard as humanly possible, leaving you gasping. “Cherenkov Light” has meaty riffs as the vocals slash by, and the chorus is simple by design, howling the title back, as blistering, splattering playing leaves you with heavy bruising. “Complete Blinding Darkness” has a great, punishing pace, knifing its way into your guts, with Parks spitting rage. The band is utterly pulverizing, blasting through on the verses, and aiming to break your bones. “King Killer” is dark and thrashing, with Parks taunting, “You will never grow old!” Black metal-style leads slice through muscle as it spills from your gaping wounds, delivering an infectious, violent assault. The track keeps trucking, accumulating bodies, while everything suddenly burns out. This is the final track on the digital version, but the physical also has the 2020 “Complete Blinding Darkness” tacked on at the end, a nice, raw bonus.

GraveRipper have a stranglehold on black thrash, something they prove over and over on “Radiated Remains,” which is smothering and satisfying as hell. I’m a long-time thrash fan, and not just everything registers with me because of that, but these guys absolutely nail this style. This is fun and frantic as shit, and I’m really looking forward to hearing what they can do with a full length.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/graveripperofficial

To buy the album, go here: https://wisebloodrecords.com/store

For more on the label, go here: https://wisebloodrecords.com/