This week’s a funny one, with one hugely, hugely obvious Album of the Week pick, one that’s most likely destined for my personal best metal of 2014 list. But after some real digging, I’ve found a couple other albums well worth checking out, too: a long lost reissue from a forgotten Metal Massacre band, some wonderfully filthy thrash/speed metal from Italy, a split featuring one of my favorite British metal artists, and a flat-out brilliant EP by one of the best live bands working today. Read on, and enjoy some great music.
The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum (Candlelight)
As is often the case with metal bands, my first truly profound experience with the Wounded Kings was seeing them play live for the first time. Here was a band on a very smoky stage playing some of the most colossal sounding doom this side of Triptykon, with the backlit, shadowy visage of a woman not so much singing as incanting to the music. It came off as so detached yet so entrancing, and the entire room was mesmerized. Going back to the Dartmoor, England albums, I kept searching for that perfect combination of power and mystery that was so dominant in that live performance, but that feeling never quite crystallized on record.
Consolamentum, the Wounded Kings’ fourth full-length, is as close as they’ve ever come to capturing that live sound. Not surprisingly, not a lick has changed in the structure of the material: exceedingly slow doom grooves led by guitarist Alex Kearney and anchored by drummer Mike Heath, a dense backdrop against which Sharie Neyland chants her haunting lyrics in an equally arresting, deep voice. This time around, though, it all coalesces a lot more gracefully than on past albums, songs like “Gnosis” and “The Silence” taking on a towering presence and an almost liturgical solemnity. Unlike other doom bands, the Wounded Kings aren’t out to overwhelm, but rather to entrance, and this album succeeds extraordinarily well.
Also out this week:
Blues Pills, Live at Rockpalast (Nuclear Blast): While we wait for that long, long-awaited debut full-length by the Swedish heavy rockers, Nuclear Blast has released a new live EP, comprised of four songs recorded last October in Germany. If you didn’t know already, Blues Pills are a phenomenal live band – they were one of the best bands at Roadburn 2013 – and led by the fiery Elin Larsson, they tear through three unreleased tracks as well as “Little Sun” from 2012’s Bliss EP. They are truly a band to watch, and this excellent, painfully short release will only whet appetites more.
Esoteric Youth/Caïna, Split (Church of Fuck): The exceedingly talented Andrew Curtis-Brignell has teamed up with young Manchester band Esoteric Youth for a tremendous new four-song split release. Bridging black metal and hardcore, Esoteric Youth’s songs are vicious pieces of work, ranging from the brooding ominousness of “Förlåt” to the in-your-face hostility of “Kvarblivelse”. As for Curtis-Brignell’s Caïna tracks, “We Sleep” and “Apocrypha” continue his return to the raw black metal of old, primitively recorded and brilliantly executed, the slyly progressive arrangements reflecting his musical imagination. Caïna always surprises, and the tracks here highlight a very impressive release.
Folge Dem Wind, To Summon Twilight (Code 666): If you call yourself a “primitive black metal tribe”, shouldn’t your music at least sound primitive? Because instead of sounding like it was recorded on 4-track tape in a basement, this album by the French band – sorry, tribe – sounds far too crystalline for its own good. It’s capably written and performed black metal, mind you, but the rawness, atmosphere, and mystique of real primitive black metal is sorely missing here. It’s like someone took a vacuum cleaner to a dusty old sepulcher.
Hopeless Youth, Disgust (Candlelight): The Montreal band cleverly incorporates several sides of hardcore – Converge’s modern sound, crust, crossover thrash among them – on this very promising debut. It’s hard to get excited about new hardcore music anymore, but this is a band to watch. “Divided United” is a face-ripper.
Horizon Ablaze, Dødsverk (Code 666): There are times where this Norwegian band approaches levels of malevolent insanity comparable to Nihill, but too often slips into either rote black metal/death metal/doom passages that feel far too tame for its own good.
House Of Lords, Precious Metal (Frontiers): Wow, these guys have not changed in 25 years. Remember Giuffria? I actually kind of liked Giuffria. “Call to the Heart” is an all-time guilty pleasure. They were like a mellow Survivor. That video was priceless. David Glen Eisley has woman troubles, Craig Goldy can’t wait to join Dio, and Gregg Giuffria looks like he thinks his synth playing is curing cancer.
Jagged Vision, Harvest Earth (Retro Futurist): If it’s on Kylesa’s label, you’ll have a very good idea what it’s going to sound like. The psychedelic and sludge influence on this Norwegian band is huge, of course, but much like countrymen Kvelertak, there’s a willingness to embrace a lot more than that, and you can hear traces of black metal, thrash, and hardcore in the music as well. So although the sludgy moments are good enough, this record really takes off when the curveballs are thrown, like on the contagious “Electric Empire”. The music still lacks the overall color and personality of Kvelertak, but it’s a good start.
Jesters of Destiny, Fun at the Funeral (Ektro): When you look back at the track listing for the classic 1984 compilation Metal Massacre IV, your eyes are drawn immediately to the legendary names: Voivod, Hellhammer, Fates Warning, Overkill, Metal Church, but hiding at the end of Side Two is a band everyone has forgotten about, a curious LA band called Jesters of Destiny. Having put out only one album and an EP before calling it quits in the late-1980s, the band’s sound was far too amorphous for its time, straddling too many disparate musical styles a full decade before genre-bending became fashionable in metal and hard rock. Their 1986 album has been reissued by the excellent Ektro Records, and listening to it today you can hear how well it’s aged. Rooted in metal but never afraid to venture into punk, college rock, and psychedelia – you can totally hear the Flaming Lips in places – it’s a remarkably prescient record. Unfortunately, it came six years too soon, missing out on the early-‘90s alternative explosion, but it’s never too late to discover a woefully underrated gem like this.
Lethal Dosage, Consume (Battleground): The kind of tuneless music that kids beat each other up to then don’t even remember five minutes later, while the rest of us shake our heads and wonder what metal is coming to.
Morfin, Inoculation (FDA Rekotz): They might be from Southern California, but these guys are Florida death metal through and through, deliberately copping the styles of Obituary, Death, and Autopsy, from the song structure, to production, to vocal style. Which is nice and all, it’s always good to have bands upholding metal tradition, but there’s not enough of their own character in the music. It feels more like a clinic than art.
Scythia, …Of Conquest (self-released): I’ll admit, my heart sank when I learned the Canadian folk metal band no longer boasts Morgan Zentner’s “Oboe of Death”. Who could not love that? But the Vancouver foursome have more changes in store on their third full-length, as they downplay the folk element just a touch, now focusing primarily on robust power metal. Consequently …Of Conquest has more muscle behind that perpetually fun, highly bombastic sound, allowing for bigger riffs and more theatrical synth accompaniment. Head honcho David Khan is as charismatic as ever as he steers this ship towards the musical territory of Alestorm, Gloryhammer, and Turisas. To the North Sea we go! Stream and purchase via Bandcamp.
Satanika, Nightmare (Iron Shield): Thrash/speed revivalists who aren’t afraid to dip into late-‘80s death metal, this Italian band churns out filthiness and horror movie shtick with a sense of morbid fun, alternating between nasty death growls and outlandish speed metal screaming. Yes, the kick drum sound is unnecessarily clicky, but with songs as ferocious as “Black Queen”, “Blood Orgy”, and “Sacrifice the Bitch”, that hardly matters. Any album that samples the real Evil Dead, not the garbage remake, has the right idea. Next time around, though, guys, keep those kicks organic.