Ten From the Tomb 7/22/19: The blood of all kings soaks our swords.

TEN FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a themed list devoted to grouping together albums of similar interest that I missed throughout the year 2019. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraint of time. I have a policy of covering 99% of everything I receive in some form, be it mini-review or full-feature, so don’t hesitate to send anything and everything my way.

Here I present a ten album sampler of some of the absolute best traditional heavy metal so far in 2019, ten albums from the first seven months of the year. Consider it a ride into glorious battle where steel meets steel, where the Earth will soon taste blood and sweat. Most of these albums made it here to Ten From the Tomb because I couldn’t manage the time for a long-form review or because I really didn’t have more than a paragraph or two worth of insight beyond banal description. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with 10 more albums from different styles, genres, themes, etc.

Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because I am not doing full reviews for these releases! I always have some quality control in mind and look for expressive, meaningful, or just damn heavy releases that hold value without gimmickry or bland plagiarism. This weeks list comes directly from a poll on PATREON where patrons vote on the sub-genre or subject of the list. Next week’s subject will be picked by me and it will more than likely catch up on sludge metal related releases for 2019. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate the friendly and positive interactions I’ve had with all thus far. Think my opinions are trash and that I suck? Want to totally tell me off, bro? Click away and let’s all live more sensible lives full of meaningful interactions. I’m too old and bored with people to care.


Artist By Fire & Sword
Title [Type/Year] Freedom Will Flood All Things With Light [EP/2019]
Rating [4.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The debut EP from Boise, Idaho heavy metal quintet By Fire & Sword aims for the heart before the head in so many ways that it cannot help being felt before deserving any deeper consideration. Ranting homily, whether they are meant to mock or empower the cult of Christ (or not) are sermons delivered with performative value beyond the norm. Vocalist Tom Newby (The Green Zoo) possesses a melodic oeuvre far beyond power/heavy metal but in this modality he offers the soar of post-‘Lateralus’ Maynard James Keenan with the cadence and slickness of Zoli Téglás (Ignite). The first, I dunno… 8-10 listens were a joy for the somber ‘epic’ heavy metal tone of ‘Freedom Will Flood All Things With Light’ and that gorgeous vocal work yet what reasonable part of my brain that still functions would soon glow within the traditional heavy metal and sorta 80’s US power metal style that By Fire & Sword carry themselves with.

Debuts, especially half hour debut EPs, are often full of damning kinks in their hoses that reduce the power of their first impression but there is a meticulous (but never tedious) level of thought put into each of these five songs. The songwriters here, presumably the guitarists, showcase a deft handle upon the structures of classic hard rock and how they’d translate into traditional heavy metal; This allows them to arrive upon a sound and style akin to Omen or early Twister Tower Dire without sounding too entrenched into any one era, form, or worship. ‘Freedom Will Flood All Things With Light’ is easily one of the most immediate pieces of traditional heavy metal that I’ve heard in 2019. It is the sort of record that grabs ahold quick and inspires a reaction before you’ve had time to think yet, still holds its weight under closer scrutiny. Only gripe is that I’d like the bass guitar presence to kick in a la Steve Harris at least once every ten minutes of a spin, would really add that one extra facet that the jewel needs.


Artist Dream Tröll
Title [Type/Year] Second to None [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.75/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Fully armed with three Pauls beyond their debut full-length, ‘The Knight of Rebellion’ (2017), including new members vocalist Paul Walsh and bassist Paul Thornton, British traditional heavy metal/hard rock quintet Dream Tröll bring what I’d consider a mid-2000’s gloss to 80’s power metal influenced 70’s heavy rock. What? I mean these songs read somewhere between Haunt and Journey depending on your perspective; Hell, I’ve seen a couple of weirdos online compare them to Ghost and (despite how painfully wrong that shit is) I do understand why. Dream Tröll really excel when it comes to anthemic arrangements with wry and smirking attitude a la early Maiden but the melodic language they’re pushing out often has an 80’s hard rock plastique to it. It feels like they’ve refurbished the simple-yet-effective methods of old and given them a really good bra to keep things perky and pointed in the right direction.

The amount of harmonized and layered vocal arrangements help to boost the anthemic qualities of  Dream Tröll‘s sound this time around, often giving a classic power metal feeling when they reel in the pace. I did feel a bit of fatigue when they dug into balladry on the second half of the record, though. I’m not sure “The Art of Death” and “Darkness Lies Within The Sun” should’ve been back-to-back but, you’re given a clear sign that they can do more than jogging stadium rockers. Dream Tröll have improved in every sense but the most noticeable boost on ‘Second to None’ goes to the production sound and general balance of the mix. I wanted a little more definition on the bass guitar tone but it was altogether a nice leap for this driven and actually pretty fun band. I wasn’t wild about the tracks between “Chrome Skull Viper” and the impressive closer “Legion” but still felt like I got some really good mileage out of this sophomore release from Dream Tröll.


Artist Ravensire
Title [Type/Year] A Stone Engraved in Red [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Though they’d admit themselves that they’re rough around the edges band delivered ‘raw’ but with passion, the bit of weirdness gives Ravensire an edge in achieving their goal of ‘keep it true’ worthy epic heavy metal style. ‘A Stone Engraved in Red’ may come a the third album from this Portuguese quartet but I’d say their overall sound almost sounds like the ‘epic heavy metal’ movement that’d surge out of Italy across these last two decades. Battle Ram, DoomSword, and Holy Martyr come to mind but these are all fairly different sounds creating a similar feeling that is distinctly and intentionally epic heavy metal. “After the Battle” is where the war for my admiration was fought and won, I love how they handle this track with a hint of Manilla Road and a handful of wailing solos that create this homespun, righteous traditional Manowar-meets-Running Wild feeling that I don’t often get from modern bands in this style. That song paired with “The Smiting God” really hooked me in for a few extra listens, to the point that I’d say Side A wasn’t as effective as Side B in terms of details that insisted on being heard. A very good, above-average listen that’ll appeal to folks who want their traditional heavy metal feeling a bit ‘off’ and steadfastly true.


Artist Hemisferio
Title [Type/Year] Anacronía [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Finally! A band that are working with a distinct bass guitar tone and actually writing parts for the bassist to shine within. From the very first song (“Tres Sombras”) Peñaflor, Chile based heavy metal band Hemisferio pours on the heavy metal dramatics as if it were 1983 on a tour from Los Angeles to Stockholm and then Berlin as their classic form of heavy metal is immediately thoughtful, emotive and perhaps all the less catchy for it. From early Slough Feg to Cirith Ungol, Heavy Load and beyond these guys have taste and they’re all about hitting the right early 80’s heavy metal vibe without edging into the heavy/speed metal territory enjoyed by their other side project Insight. Comprised of members of Ripper, Hellish and Armoured Knight there is a surprising lack of any pure speed/thrash metal songs on this typically mid-paced heavy metal record. I definitely thought of groups like Savage Grave and Black Fate as I made my way through ‘Anacronía’ and enjoyed it all but I don’t think I ever felt like the songs were memorable in a traditional sense. Hemisferio are beautiful in motion, a whirling set of inspiring jogs and soaring vocals, but they didn’t leave a massive impression upon me. I cannot understate the quality of this recording as it sounds warm, almost thickened by a natural tonal range that is evocative of epic heavy metal classics in the US underground of the late 80’s. That rich analog sound and the unique cadence of the Spanish sung lyrics make for a truly compelling listen that I’d recommend even if only about half of it will ‘stick’ in your mind.


Artist Booze Control
Title [Type/Year] Forgotten Lands [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

It should be no secret at this point that I love every bit of classic German underground metal regardless of the sub-genre in mind and Booze Control represent the speed-metal kissed 1985 era removed from the witching metal thrashers and the power metal kids. I should be writing this in past tense, though, as Booze Control felt they’d accomplished exactly what they’d set out to do with this fourth full-length from the band since forming in 2009 after their teenaged troupe Shepherd’s Guns had caved in around 2008. ‘Forgotten Lands’ is a young band going out on a high note with an 80’s power metal influenced heavy metal record that is more serious than anything they’d done prior (hence the goofy pun band name, no judgement!) so, they’ve called it quits. I wasn’t blown away by this album but I did come back to it several times just for how easy it was to sit through the full spin and enjoy the very standard and ‘classic’ sound of the album.


Artist Diamond Head
Title [Type/Year] The Coffin Train [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.0/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Spotify!

Because NWOBHM legends Diamond Head are most remembered for an album that is almost entirely unlike the rest of their discography starting in 1983 it is always somewhat of a disconnect to think ‘Lightning to the Nations’ (1981) and essentially have gotten AOR, 80’s hard rock, and generally melodic hard rock music for the past seven full-lengths while the general metal fandom never followed them where they wanted to be. ‘The Coffin Train’ reminds me of a blues rock influenced ‘Youthanasia’ more than anything else with jaunty hard rock thumps and snarling-but-soaring vocals from Rasmus Bom Andersen who replaced Nick Tart around 2014. They’re not shooting for an underground classic here, ‘The Coffin Train’ is a big and loudly accessible hard rock album with a big production sound but songwriting that’ll probably appeal most to the Century Media/Nuclear Blast crowd of the 2000’s. None of it is my thing but by placing ‘The Coffin Train’ alongside traditional heavy metal bands I’m probably reaching the only demographic that would be curious enough to see what they sound like today, I only wish they’d be more willing to pander to the late 70’s metal crowd a bit more rather than try to modernize a ‘rock standards’ feeling.


Artist Forged in Black
Title [Type/Year] Descent of the Serpent [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Formerly known as Merciless Fail this Essex, England based heavy/power metal project should immediately perk the ears of early Nevermore, Sanctuary, and similar fusions of Testament-esque Bay Area heaviness with power metal tonality. They can shred, they wail, and the neoclassicism abounds the finer melodic moments within and though I am not the demographic for this type of thing I can appreciate the skill with which they proceed through the somewhat daunting 50 minute spin of ‘Descent of the Serpent’. Where my ears do perk up is when vocalist Chris Storozynski stretches himself admirably between Messiah Marcolin-esque melodrama, King Diamond shrieks, and his more typical power-thrash wailing (see: “Shadowcasters”). I’d seen several reviewers agreeing upon the sentiment that Forged in Black were trying to do too much with this album and that it was too ambitious for its own good but, I think that was all idiocy. These guys are damned capable and I love their ability to turn on a dime within each song, (see: Angel Dust) it should appeal to fans of older progressive power metal who also like thrash; In my mind it had a sort of Testament thrash meets Psychotic Waltz feeling, something ‘true’ and fucked at once.


Artist Gygax
Title [Type/Year] High Fantasy [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

At just around 28 minutes long this third album from ex-Gypsyhawk membership Gygax finds the band more or less iterating upon what they’d done on ‘2nd Edition’ (2018) while kicking up a bit more energy this time around. Yes, the Thin Lizzy obsessed fantasy themed fun of the band is still the major driver of ‘High Fantasy’ and the big point of interest for be this time around is the shredding dual guitar solos. I love the harmonized parts, the runs, the general shred of it all which I guess I could liken to Haunt on some level but Gygax aren’t so obsessed with the 80’s metal gig. Much of this album is straight rock, anyhow. “Spell Shaker” feels like an old Hellacopters hit and “The Eyes Have It” compounds that feeling, though again the lead guitar work really makes the moment Gygax‘ own. I’m not personally blown away but man can I ever appreciate the guitar work on this album, it feels great to just let it shred away and I loved that they really kept the energy up for the full 28 minutes this time.


Artist Aphrodite
Title [Type/Year] Lust and War [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.25/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

Well, technically this is a speed metal album which sticks out like a sort thumb among the others this week but hey nobody’d have sneered at Acid on a bill with any number of traditional metal bands back in the day. A somewhat punkish speed metal act out of Ottowa, Canada this band features Jo Steel (Ice War) playing most of the instruments while vocalist Tanza Speed of Outline provides vocals. Speed is an extremely dry vocalist and goes so straightforward with the performance here that it actually reads entirely appropriate for a punkish, distant early 80’s speed metal album. There is a weird sense of classic speed metal clashing with what I’d consider skate punk melodic arcs but that could just be my own imagination working too hard. ‘Lust and War’ is a driven, immediate and fast paced record that is entirely traditional and amateurish to the point of real charm. I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment, really! I only wish Aphrodite was more adventurous with gang-shouted choruses and lyrics that focus more on a verse-chorus-verse pattern so that it all didn’t bleed together so often. It all feels very honest, naked and powerful at once and I’d say unless you think that way it’ll probably appear repetitive and unimpressive.


Artist Skelator
Title [Type/Year] Cyber Metal [Full-length/2019]
 Rating [3.5/5.0] BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!

The west coast United States answer to Sacred Steel (with a bit of Riot punched in for speed) returns after a five year hiatus and well, they’re pretty much back to business as usual. I’m feeling such huge late 70’s Halford vibes in Jason Conde-Houston‘s voice this time around and I wasn’t sure if I’d just not paid very close attention to his inflection before. The Skelator album to own, in my opinion, is definitely still ‘Death to All Nations’ (2010) but this is probably up there as second on the queue to recommend. ‘Cyber Metal’ probably represents the Seattle area band’s most varied songwriting session to date but not their most original material, just good ole heavy metal with a touch of speed/power metal push there and there.

Did I miss your favorite 2019 album? Send me an e-mail and tell me about it. It is always worthwhile to speak up for the lesser known stuff. Please remember you can contribute to my Patreon @ only $1 USD per month ($12 a year) to help keep me in front of the computer writing about metal. Thanks.

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