Short Reviews | October 19th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our third set of October 2022 releases finds us in the presence of heavy psych, progressive rock, gothic rock, traditional heavy metal, and a couple of experimental black metal releases. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works that I come across while still presenting some decent variety but choices boil down to what sticks, what inspires or what is worth writing about. If you find something you dig in the lot of ’em, go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase. The arts require your support and contributions. If you’d like your music reviewed send promos to:

TITLE:Fear is a Cruel Master
LABEL(S):Magnetic Eye Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

Ruby the Hatchet aren’t trying to pull a fast one on you, I mean they’re certainly selling a notion of organ buzzing, chanteuse-directed heavy psychedelic rock hooks meant to make the body move but ‘Fear is a Cruel Master‘ delivers substantive experience exactly the way it should, through a sharp-tongued reveal of the poet inherent and, to some degree, the self examined. Sure, sit back in the deep orange pool of their sopping production values and soak up nothing, this is music which can quite successfully satisfy the need for an inspired background muse but with some attention paid to the details you’ll find a clever enough set of haunting, sometimes disillusioned n’ smoky doom rock pieces that always manage a bit more reach than their usual tuneful enterprise. Is there substance over style here, then? In case you missed ‘Planetary Space Child‘ (2017) they were already hitting on some earnest depth around that time but I felt like this was the one to take that fireball energy and finally make a bit of eye contact. A rare hit of this type of synesthesia for me, the latest since Jess and the Ancient Ones‘ brilliant ‘Vertigo‘ a couple years back.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Ritual & Repetition
LABEL(S):Prophecy Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

Manchester, England-based gloomed and galloping gothic rock/metal act Gospelheim was admittedly formed during the pandemic, a statement which begins to give audiences a bit more pause each time they hear it since we’ve seen such unpredictable, underdeveloped results from a lot of quickly formed groups circa 2020. Yet I would suggest that their debut ‘Ritual & Repetition‘ is a well selected outlier which charms quickly and gets a few redeeming moments off before it begins to overthink and overshare. This is largely due to the quartet’s knack for infusing impatient bits of post-metal and black metal adjacency into their trade of quips between vocalist Coco and guitarist Ricardo, think of the dynamic from GGOOLLDD (Netherlands) and you’re in the right ballpark, yet the vocals here are often deadpan and the big rock hooks come a bit more often here as a general rule. Of course you shouldn’t expect absolute self-serious drollery here, they’re a subversive bunch who aren’t above enjoying the camp available to this mode. It makes for a record which is a bit torn between its catchier carapace and the well-involved heavy rock compositions which characterize the second half of the album, these are finely layered and blustering atmoblackened post-metal pieces (see: “Valles Marineris”) which stifle the sort of cheekier bopping (“Hope Springs Infernal”, “Satan Blues”) the band produce otherwise, they find an appreciable compromise on “Praise Be” and “Voyeuristic Schism” but it still leaves me with a bitter aftertaste, a sort of switcheroo between what’d pulled me in for a closer look and the miasmic blackened rock I’d found deeper within. Still, none of that was such a faux pas that I’d slapped it off the stereo.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

LABEL(S):Karisma Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

Whatever sunlight-starved gland it was in my head that’d started bursting when Oslo, Norway based progressive jazz-rock quartet Wizrd rolled into the kicking groove of opener “Lessons” hasn’t stopped draining since, as their debut LP ‘Seasons‘ has proven a both a great, wondrous thing at face value and something even more compelling upon closer inspection. Their influences are deceptively obvious, taking a sort of early-to-mid 70’s progressive rock analog warmth and feeding it southern rock vocal harmonies, dizzy slide guitar runs, and some otherwise not-so ancient treatment of their rhythmic drivers. Yet we’ve much, much more to take in from that starting point as ‘Seasons‘ reveals a richly detailed progressive rock album which shreds but, doesn’t forget how to chill and make a good show of it. Otherwise expect a bit of ‘Tarkus‘-era ELP in their sound and no doubt Gentle Giant fans will appreciate the active jazz rock buzz of the band but these folks (whom also feature in Spidergawd, Krokofant, ​Soft Ffog et al.) aren’t pushing such an ‘old school’ level of chill underfoot, instead packing most of these songs with performative technique in feature of what is, for my own taste, one of the more impressive rhythm sections that has hit on a nowadays prog record in a bit. There isn’t a bad song on this record, though it’ll be tough to pick just a few standouts. I’d found “Free Will” to be the song to ingratiate me most to start, “All Is As It Should Be” showcased their knack for tone and texture, and “When You Call” landed the psychedelic nod I’d been waiting for in good form.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

TITLE:Black Math Horseman [EP]
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

The second former Tee Pee Records alumni of the evening, Los Angeles based psychedelic post-rock group Black Math Horseman, may or may not ring a well-rusted bell in mind for their 2009 album ‘Wyllt‘. I think they’re pretty spot on with the suggestion that there really weren’t a ton of bands that sounded like ’em back in the day, nowadays this surreal and cinematic form of dread-inducing post-rock is quite a bit more common yet these folks still have it. The guitar arrangements are a bit more active on these songs for the most part, I’d almost go as far as accusing the eponymous opener/title track of having a riff, and this bodes well for a quick reintroduction and a succinct, captivating enough mLP. Even if this style isn’t entirely my thing I appreciate that they’ve managed to revive themselves rather than an ‘of the moment’ trend infused version, ‘Black Moth Horseman‘ doesn’t need to be anything other than the pretty, sorta apocalyptic dreaming thing that it naturally is.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

TITLE:Beyond the Wall
LABEL(S):Temple of Mystery Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

Montréal, Quebec-based traditional heavy metal quartet Metalian have been around since the early 2000’s kicking their way through records which reflect their interest in the broad spectrum of heavy rock-cum-traditional metal through early speed metal. After gaining a bit more notice when their fourth album ‘Vortex‘ hit High Roller Records in 2019, which landed nearby reissues of their earlier records, the band were notably kinda on the map at that point so ‘Beyond the Wall‘ comes with some anticipation. In some ways the Priest-lovin’ speed metal band you heard on that last album is still raring to go here but this record seems to benefit from some personal reflection, darker times, and a pretty interesting story about the band kinda sneaking in the night so they could play, rehearse and write during the pandemic lockdown. They’ve for sure released records that were this like, pure early 80’s heavy metal in style before and that has long been their thing but these songs’ve obviously been worked on with a finer-toothed comb. “March to the Death” is the sort of song this type of band can guarantee a crowd forming around as it plays, a barnstormer with solo trade-offs and harmonized wails abounding. Not all of the album takes that speeding ’84 NWOBHM anthemic token but the first two songs on this thing will definitely sell it to Blade Killer, Lethal Steel and Riot City fans up front per the power behind the vocalist’s work. “Rise of the AI” was the song for me on this one beyond the first few, and I appreciated the Brian Ross-esque cadence on “Beyond the Wall” right after. The last few songs on the album became a bit much as I left the album on repeat, I’m not such a fan of balladry and the 80’s road rocker thing as much as they are but it wasn’t a major detractor overall.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:Evil Reign
LABEL(S):From the Vault Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

We haven’t had to wait long at all for Copenhagen-based heavy metal band Steel Inferno‘s third album, just under two years, yet they’ve had no trouble outdoing their previous two records with this one. Their production values have lost some of their compressed feeling, their riffs are hitting a sort of spirit of ’83-’85 speed metal clip much of the time, and this new vocalist Christ Rostoff is fantastic. Think of Stacey Anderson‘s register on early Hallow’s Eve, or the first Drifter (Che) record, but a bit less exaggerated in its use of vibrato in phrase. A very classic “heavy metal in a speed metal era” sort of sound with a bit of menace to its storytelling is… really the sweet spot for my taste in terms of traditional stuff so, ‘Evil Reign‘ felt like a second skin right away. “Queen”, “Dark Tower” and “Succubus” will stick in your head first but this album has catchy, easy to catch songwriting out the gills.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Steel Inferno – Evil Reign

LABEL(S):Pagan Records
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

OLS is a vocal/dark folk project from musician, producer and vocalist Anna Maria Olchawa who presents her song arrangements using non-traditional arrangements and a broad spectrum of instrumentation, beginning the songwriting process with polyphonic vocal parts she has orchestrated with an emotional effect or focus in mind. The music is of course ritualistic, sacred in feeling by design with elaborate phrases written to collide and harmonizes as if swaying in place. ‘Pustkowia‘ is remarkable for its emotionally driven intent, though I suppose it will be a challenge for many listeners who interpret lyrics better than emotional timbre/performance since it is vocalized in Polish. I’d found the mood well and easy enough to immerse into and the darker fire-lit ambiance of the album intriguing throughout, with the only piece to challenge my patience ,”Auf dieser einsam menschenfernen H​öhe”, making a bit more sense the second time around. The best piece here for my taste is “Jad” and especially in context, as it feels the protagonist is less alone all of the sudden and her ideas scale up quite well. I would recommend this alongside ‘Devotional‘ by The Lord & Petra Haden this week as they contrast well while bringing a certain avant-garde folk reverence.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

TITLE:III: The Great Light Above
LABEL(S):Les Acteurs De L’Ombre
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

Utrecht, Netherlands-based progressive black metal duo Wesenwille make a somewhat average first impression in terms of their aesthetics versus the well above-average craft found on this third full-length album. That is meant less as a critique of visual design and more a compliment to the dissonant, challenging and often difficult to follow thread engaged within ‘III: The Great Light Above‘. There is some considerable mercy in leaving such a compact and taxing work to just ~33 minutes, as this allows for a very dense set of obstructions to be chipped away at for their ideas which offer a naturally ugly reflection of socioeconomic structures which enslave, or, your own interpretation can yet be pulled with a curious enough ear. Employing Studio Emissary for a cinematically geared yet confrontational render the main fellowe behind this work, R. Schmidt, crafts a sort of pyramid of stairs from which his ideas flow and topple in building layers, a feat which I’d rather associate with prime Blut Aus Nord than the usual comparisons this groups gets, and partially because of the dramatic if not slightly suffocated use of keyboard/synth. The most key pieces here for my taste, or at least the ones that featured the most profound step into fresh paradigm were “Transformation” and “Our Sole Illuminator”. At this point I’d have to admit this is a record which needs more time than I’ve given it, at least in terms of diving deeper into its intended statement but the quality is even higher than a quick glance might suggest.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

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