CD Review: “Reign Of Gold” by Human Fortress

German power metal outfit Human Fortress return with its sixth release Reign Of Gold. “Thunder” is hampered by thin production and is somewhat generic. Things improve on the title track with its driving rhythm compliments of drummer Apostolos Zaios. “Lucifer’s Waltz” is a diabolical number that would incite an unholy dance at a black mass. The metallic bombast is subdued by ominous strings and an unholy choir that creates an unnerving atmosphere for the track’s duration. “Bullet Of Betrayal” is a melodic track with a strong folk influence. The combination of guitar harmonies and lush keyboards provide for a serene musical landscape. “Shine of Light” falls a bit flat with its schmaltzy piano intro and Gus Monsanto’s pastiche vocals. Power metal often falls victim to its own conventions and it is apparent on this track. Things get heavier on “The Blacksmith” with its sharp guitar riffs and double bass drumming and “Martial Valor” which is a mid-tempo rocker with a heart tugging woodwind solo during the track’s midsection. Initial single “Legion Of The Damned” is a fast paced ride through a dark forest with its punk drums and Iron Maidenesque guitar parts. Album closer “Victory” is a galloping rocker with an overarching string arrangement that accentuates the emotional thrill of victory.

Reign Of Gold is a mixed bag as it is interesting at times and generic at other times. This lack of consistency mars the experience as Human Fortress can play some serious power metal. However, Reign lacks the heaviness and depth found on other power and symphonic metal records. Tracks like “Martial Valor,” “Lucifer’s Waltz,” and “Victory” are heavy with classical elements that heighten the experience. Unfortunately other tracks lack the drive of the aforementioned songs.

Human Fortress has carved a niche in the power metal sub-genre since its formation 20 years ago. However, Reign Of Gold is not a breakout record that would catapult the band to the upper echelons of power metal. There are some solid songs, but not enough to recommend the record to folks. Fans of the band will probably pick it up. However power metal fans may be a little disappointed. Sadly, Reign Of Gold takes the bronze.

Check out the band’s official website:

http://www.human-fortress.de/

CD review: “Trapped In Chaos” by Dust Bolt

Dust Bolt expands its horizons on the band’s fourth album, Trapped In Chaos. There is greater depth to the songs, while the band retains its signature thrash sound.

Album opener “The Fourth” transitions between aggressive, blistering drums spliced with slower, grooving riffs. Frontman and guitarist Lenny Bruce’s vocals are a bit tepid, however it does not take away from the track.

“Dead Inside” the initial single commences with a crushing, plodding riffs and machine like drums, before speeding up after the first minute of the song. Guitarists Bruce and Flo Dehn play some colossal riffs while drummer Nico Rayman maintains a heavy groove with some impressive double bass.

A warped psychedelic riff opens “Rhythm To The Madness” before the band accelerates in to thrash mode. The track’s midsection slams like a caged animal before the tempo speeds up at the song’s conclusion. The tracks “Shed My Skin” and “Killing Time” are straight up thrash numbers with a pinch of hardcore that get the head banding. The latter has a couple of ripping guitar leads that reaffirm this band are not a one trick pony.

“Another Day In Hell” is the third single off Trapped and has a dark atmosphere punctuated with haunting clean guitars and a slow beat. This is certain to become a fan favorite and shows the band’s growth as songwriters. Album closer “Who I Am” ends things on an aggressive note with a sped up galloping riff that transitions to a slower bottom heavy groove that fades in to noise.

Trapped In Chaos is Dust Bolt’s experimental record, which will draw detractors because the band plays softer, slower tracks. There are some thrashing tracks on here, but the slower, acoustic parts provide depth the songs and a contrast to the faster songs. This is expected as the band does not want to release the same record over and again. However, there is the concern that Dust Bolt would all but abandon its thrash roots in favor of short, mainstream songs. Fortunately the band does not do that here. The vocals are a bit shaky and at times the band seems a little reluctant to move too far. However, this record may be the turning point for Dust Bolt as it melds its sound in to something more cohesive. Slayer did it with Seasons In The Abyss as it combined the best elements of South Of Heaven and Reign in Blood. It seems Dust Bolt wants to do the same thing.

Trapped In Chaos is a nice dose of thrash metal to ring in 2019. It is a mix of old and new that should satisfy most of the band’s fans. This is not the band’s Turbo album, but some fans may be let down by the softer tracks on the album. Still, bands progress and Dust Bolt want to add more panache to its music. This is good, or else the band would be trapped.

Check out the Dust Bolt’s official website for more information.

CD Review: “Arcane Astral Aeons” by Sirenia

Sirenia gets right to business on its ninth effort, Arcane Astral Aeons, with the crushing “In Styx Embrace”. The driving guitar riffs and grooving percussion meld well with the orchestral elements. We are even treated to blast beats before transitions to an acoustic passage before concluding in bombastic fashion.

Album single “Into The Night” is a mid tempo rocker with a catchy chorus and some splendid keyboard work. Guitarist Morten Veland unleashes a blistering solo that concludes too soon. “Love Like Cyanide” is the initial single off Astral, with a pumping percussion underneath choppy, classically inspired guitar riffs. Vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan sounds both powerful and vulnerable here, as she laments about toxic love. The track’s midsection is notable for its gothic chorus and tight groove.

“Desire” has a thick galloping riff that accentuates Zoldan’s sultry vocals. She even sings a passage in French over a playful melody before the song kicks back in to high gear with a stomping guitar riff and a black metal interlude.

“Asphyxia” commences with a dissonant guitar riff and a dark ambient electronic sample that segues in to a sludgy guitar riff. There is greater use of industrial and electronica samples on this song, making it an interesting listen.

“The Voyage” is aptly named as its rollicking guitars symbolize a vessel moving to and fro across a hostile sea. This is a dynamic, heavy track with a howling arabesque guitar lead that accentuates the adventurous tone on this track.

Arcane Astral Aeons is 55 minutes long, but there are few dull spots on this record. The album’s 11 tracks are diverse, yet cohesive. This is attributed to several elements of black metal and grooving rhythms appearing throughout the album. Thus, Astral is not monotonous, but there is an aura of similarity to each track. I have said numerous times that symphonic and progressive metal bands have to make extra strides to avoid pretentious and wayward songs. Well, Sirenia have avoided the trap with ease. Zoldan’s grandiose vocals are superb as usual and the guitar riffs are thick and pack a wallop.

Ultimately, Astral is a crushing record with a nice blend of orchestral and electronica samples. Fans will certainly enjoy it as the band’s signature sound is intact with a new black metal element that makes it heavier. Sirenia continue to reach the stars.

Check out the band’s official website for news and tour dates:

http://sirenia.no/

CD Review: “Electric Messiah” by High On Fire

High On Fire pay tribute to the legendary Lemmy Kilmister with its aptly titled eighth record, Electric Messiah. The trio’s blend of Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Slayer is in full throttle throughout the record. “Spewn from the Earth” is a straight trasher replete with frontman Matt Pike’s guttural wails and ground shaking guitar riffs. Drummer Des Kensel’s manic double bass only heightens the song’s intensity. “Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil” is one of two epic songs on this album that surpass nine minutes. A metallic take on the history of Sumeria, “Steps” is a towering piece of riffs that trudge forward, engulfing the listener’s ears. Things speed back up on the title track, which would do Lemmy proud. “Electric Messiah” is a blitzing take-no-prisoners assault of pummeling double bass and lighting palm muted riffs. This track offers little breathing room and forces you to bang your head. The way it should be. The second epic track, “Sanctioned Annihilation,” is composed of a driving triplet drum pattern underneath sludgey guitar riffs. This leads to a disjointed, yet cohesive tempo that is slow but mid-paced. There is little drag despite its 10 and a half minute duration, and it stands as the record’s centerpiece. Album closer “Drowning Dog” is a galloping psychedelic rocker that concludes the album in grand fashion.

Electric Messiah rarely lets up throughout its 56 minute duration. This record pays homage to Lemmy in the best way: playing loud, fast and heavy. Matt Pike’s riffs attack from every angle while bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Kensel easily keep up. The record’s primary weak spot is “The Witch and the Christ” which lacks direction. Matt and company are at their best when they are dynamic and have an end goal. Luckily, this is only one misstep and the other eight tracks more than make up for it. The production is rugged yet clear, and one can hear the band’s pugnacious sound in all its glory.

Matt certainly paid proper respect on Electric Messiah. A heavy, thrilling musical journey that will leave ears bleeding and necks hurting. Fans of the band should pick this up as well as folks new to the group. This is certainly worship music for the Church of Metal.

Check out the band’s official website here:

http://highonfire.net/

CD Review: “Scourge Of The Enthroned” by Krisiun

Krisiun’s eleventh record, Scourge Of The Enthroned, is a colossal slab of merciless blast beats and armor crushing riffs. The title track opens this album with a hellish, yet grandiose riff before slamming straight to hell. Drummer Max Kolesne’s chaotic blast beats synchronize with Moyses Kolesne’s chainsaw guitars throughout the song. The song’s seamless rhythm changes make for an unpredictable and exciting listen.

“Demonic III” is possibly a tribute to this brotherly trio, whose music could conjure a thousand devils. The pulverizing stop start riff sets the mood of this track before the band plays even faster! Moyses even treats us to several guitar leads sandwiched between the monolithic drums and riffs. Meanwhile, bassist and vocalist Alex Camargo’s guttural vocals match the song’s intensity. The song’s crushing midsection solidifies this song as one of the best in the band’s 28 year existence.

Max’s drumming on “Slay The Prophet” advances like an army upon a defenseless city. Once again the track’s midsection provides the listener a slight break as the band settles into brief, albeit nice groove before switching back to heavy mode. Krisiun’s thrash influence shows on “A Thousand Graves” with its fast tempo before transitioning to a rolling blast beat pattern. The riffs on this track strike like several spikes at once. Album closer “Whirlwind Of Immortality” commences with a twisting riff that is joined by rapid drumming, before alternating between a broken galloping riff and a staccato riffing bolstered by blast beats. A fitting end for a record structured on uncertainty and technical chaos.

Scourge Of The Enthroned is Krisiun at its most technical, yet its most dynamic. The complex song structures are at times catchy but never ambitious. Technical death metal bands often fall victim to emphasizing musicianship over emotion, yet Krisiun avoids this common pitfall. You can chalk it up to experience, however Scourge’s brevity is also a main factor. It features just eight tracks and is barely 38 minutes in length. Therefore, Krisiun spend little time fooling about and get right to business. The album’s production superb which is expected from this trio. The drumming and guitars are up front and one can easily hear every time change, riff and lead.

Krisiun once again prove why it is extreme metal royalty on this record. Scourge Of The Enthroned shows a band operating at top performance with several tracks that will certainly become fan favorites. Fans should not worry about the album’s length compared to the band’s past three releases as the songs are around four to six minutes in length. This record certainly takes the throne.

Check out Krisiun’s official Facebook page for news and tour dates:

https://www.facebook.com/krisiun.official/

CD Review: “The Deviant Chord” by Jag Panzer

Jag Panzer storms the battlefield with its first album in six years. The Deviant Chord is replete with soaring vocals and stellar guitar virtuosity. I admit that power metal is my least favorite sub-genre in heavy metal, but Jag Panzer always possessed a heavier edge than its contemporaries. This is evident on “Far Beyond All Fear” which has a clear Iron Maiden influence with its galloping riffs and beautiful guitar harmonies. Vocalist Harry Conklin’s signature soulful, raspy vocals have not dulled with age and his voice ascends over the music with ease. The title track opens with a dreamy acoustic guitar passage before the electric guitars burst through the speakers and settles into a grooving riff. The haunting back vocals sound like a spectral chorus adding the song’s creepy nature. “Foggy Dew” is notable for its military percussion which complements the patriotic flair of the guitars. It is a fairly cheesy track, but still a fun listen. “Divine Intervention” features a sweeping guitar riff and a bluesy solo at the beginning that drives the song forward over a rocking drum pattern. “Dare” concludes the album in heavy fashion, with its stomping drumming and staccato guitar riffing.

The musicianship on this album is top notch. Guitarists Mark Briody and Joey Tafolla are commendable guitarists that play well off of each other. The rhythm section featuring bassist John Tetley and drummer Rikard Stjernquist is precise and uniform. This makes the album a bit generic at times as there are few standout moments. The band plays it safe at times, but that is understandable as the band reformed in 2013.

The Deviant Chord is a somewhat misleading title as the band does not deviate from the power metal formula. Fans of Jag Panzer may enjoy the album as the vocals and guitar work is still solid. However, the songwriting is conventional, and will probably improve on the following record. Die hard fans of Jag Panzer and power metal in general should enjoy this.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website:

https://www.facebook.com/jagpanzerofficial/

CD Review: “Deep Calleth Upon Deep” by Satyricon

Legendary Norwegian black metal duo Satyricon are back with Deep Calleth Upon Deep, its ninth studio album. “Midnight Serpent” opens with a rollicking guitar riff over a demonic circus of blast beats. It is evil black n’ roll with Satyr’s harsh vocals sounding like a priest at a black mass. Frost’s drumming is superb with constant, yet seamless tempo changes that never sound out of place. A strong track and definitely one of the best songs Satyricon has made. Praise is also due to “Blood Cracks Open The Ground” which is notable for its simple guitar riff but complex drumming. The drums tremble and heave like an earthquake, complementing the title. The hopeless ambiance of “To Your Brethren In The Dark” encircles the listener with its doom like melody and dissonant guitar. This song requires repeated listening as there is something enrapturing in its sadness. “The Ghost Of Rome” is perhaps a tribute to the band’s namesake, an Ancient Roman novel written in the first century. It is fairly uptempo as the guitar hastens to keep up with the percussion and is not as dark as the previous tracks. Yet, it still fits the album with its haunting background female chants. Black n’ Roll meets progressive metal on the seven minute long “Black Wings and Withering Doom.” Satyr’s playing transitions from sumptuous to infernal, conveying a hellish majesty.

Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a fusion of black metal and hard rock spattered with progressive elements. Satyricon’s uncompromising attitude allows the band to experiment with its sound free of worrying whether people will consider it “true black metal.” This record is equal parts rocking as well as introspective and dark. It requires repeated listens to grasp the gamut of emotions running through this album. The title of this album suits it as there are musical and emotional layers to this record.

Well, Satyricon did not disappoint with its newest album in four years. Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a well crafted record, with each song offering something enjoyable to the listener. While Satyr’s medical condition may put the band’s future in jeopardy, if this is Satyricon’s final album, the band goes out on a high and victorious note.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official website:

http://www.satyricon.no/

CD Review: “Profane Nexus” by Incantation

You can never underestimate the old guard. Incantation has spewed blasphemous, twisted death metal for 28 years. The band’s blend of death and gothic sludge has placed it in the upper echelons of extreme metal. After a six year hiatus, Incantation showed the metal world it could still the deliver the goods with its 2012 release, Vanquish In Vengeance. That creative kick continues on the group’s tenth album, Profane Nexus. “Muse” commences things in demonic fashion with a hypnotic guitar riff that explode into a cacophony of churning riffs. Vocalist and guitarist John McEntee’s guttural vocals are audible in the chaos, as if he is screaming from the depths of hell. On “Rites Of The Locust” the main spiraling riff perfectly parallels the drumming, like a demonic army marching off to war. Special attention should be paid to the slow paced coda with its grinding drums. Another highlight is the deformed beauty of “The Horns Of Gefrin.” The colossal, galloping opening instantly grabs the listener before it is interrupted by spurts of blast beats. It is an unpredictable song that transitions from fast to slow with a dynamic mid-section and tribal drums. “Lus Sepulcri” is an aggressive, straightforward track with roaring drums and dissonant guitars. The militaristic nature of the music differs from the twisted compositions the band is known for which makes it standout. “Ancients Arise” concludes Profane in grandiose fashion. It is a plodding, disturbing doom metal track reminiscent of Celtic Frost in its simplicity but sheer heaviness.

Profane Nexus is death/doom done right. It is not too complex, nor are the musical compositions clumsy. This should not surprise anyone as Incantation helped pioneer the sub-genre. The unorthodox riffing makes this an interesting album that is not generic in the slightest. Production wise this album is loud with a slight polish. It is not a perfect sounding album, which is good as that would detract from the menacing tone of the songs. It is a pulverizing but technical record.

Well, three albums into its comeback and Incantation are still on a roll. There are newer death metal bands that play more complex music than Incantation, but these groups lack the feel of the latter. Incantation do not play intricately for the sake of showmanship. The band’s dark message reflects the brutality of the music, which can be both elaborate and simple. Profane Nexus is another great release from this trio.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official website:

https://www.incantation.com/