Cult of Luna-The Raging River

This felt like a pretty quick turnaround for a new Cult of Luna release since it was toward the tail of of 2019 when their last full length, A Dawn To Fear, was released. This one is technically an EP, but with a total of five songs you get damn near 35 minutes of new Cult of Luna music. Hell, that’s damn near seven minutes longer that Reign in Blood.

Not much of a revelation here. This is vintage Cult of Luna. It feels like you either dig these guys or you don’t. Count me solidly in the “Dig It!” camp. You’ve got four really long songs of the classic Cult of Luna dirge-tinged soundscapes of the apocalypse with an interesting Mark Lanegan fronted interlude smack dab in the middle to separate the four longer songs. Cool little release that should quench fans thirst until their next full length release.

4 flip flops out of 5

Steven Wilson-The Future Bites

Let’s try some non-metal on for size, shall we? If you can’t handle music without the crushing guitars of TRVE METAL, then just circle back here for tomorrow’s post. Because, in this house, we celebrate anything and everything Steven Wilson.

Look, I miss the fuck out of Porcupine Tree. I’m sure I’m not alone. But, I think the window of Wilson circling back to the Tree at this point is ever decreasing (even though Richard Barbieri makes an appearance on one song on the new album). It feels as though he’s really feeling his creative oats out on his own and not being tied down to just the same set of four musicians. He’s also really stretching his legs far away from anything remotely close to resembling metal. There were some of the later Porcupine Tree and early solo releases that could easily be seen as metal. Those days feel a long time ago. I remember getting to see him on the Hand.Cannot.Erase tour and it was right after Prince and David Bowie had passed away. In between songs, he went on a long rant about how courageous he felt both of those guys had been during their careers even when they were at the height of their popularity. He said the biggest thing missing in pop music today was the courage to take chances. It feels as though this album is in line with Wilson making a courageous stand.

This latest album is even a further step into the realm of pop and electronica that Wilson has been edging toward since he started his solo leap. This album feels like the transformation is complete. And that’s not a bag on the album at all. It’s just a bit of an adjustment coming at it from a metal background. The songwriting and lyrical content are still top notch all the way through just as you would expect. Musically, this one is bright and crisp and is heavily driven by keys and programming. There is rarely a guitar to be heard on this one. The lyrical content matches the slick style of the musical presentation in that is is tackling capitalist consumerism and influencer society and the smarmy nature of our popular culture. It’s an indictment, but it’s one you can dance to.

While not my normal cup of tea musically, it’s one that I find I can’t get out of my head. I feel that speaks to the quality of the songwriting. Look, we need to just face it. Wilson is just a fucking musical genius. I will follow this guy wherever he decides to go.

4 flip flops out of 5

Soen-Imperial

If anything, Soen are dependable. It feels like every two years they drop a new album right at the beginning of the year. This being two years from their last release, it is not unexpected to see the drop their latest, Imperial.

Are we still mainly referring to these guys’ as Martin Lopez’s post-Opeth band? Or are we clinging to referring them to our favorite producer of Tool albums from a band that just happens to not be Tool? I don’t know, man. But it feels like we should move on from those backhanded labels and just take Soen on their own merits since we’re now on album number five.

The new album continues on with the band’s signature combination of prog metal with some punch and some seriously emotive proggy ballads. Ballads might not be the right word for their songs of a softer side, but I’m kind of at a loss on how else to describe them. Shit, I hate to do this, but the Tool comparisons are hard to avoid. Singer Joel Ekelof just channels a laid back Maynard and Lopez just drives the band forward with his tight double bass fills. All in all, a pretty good installment in the Soen catalog.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound

This review has a little good and a little bad. First, the good: this is a bit of a return to form for Tribulation. And, the bad: It looks like main creative force Jonathan Hulten decided to leave the band shortly after the completion of this album. Which kind of puts a bit of a damper on the quality of the album since it’s unclear how the loss will affect the band going forward. It does appear that the band has already named a replacement guitarist and will be going forward without Hulten.

I was a tad disappointed with Tribulation’s previous release, Down Below. The songs just didn’t really stand out in any discernable manner. This latest album feels more in line with Children of the Night in that in captures the band’s signature goth/glam mash-up of black/death/traditional metal tropes. It’s like they rediscovered the hooks and melodies that made Children of the Night such an enjoyable and unique listen. Here’s to hoping that the loss of Hulten doesn’t handicap the band in their future endeavors.

4 flip flops out of 5

Michael Schenker Group-Immortal

Dude, I feel like calling your new album Immortal in 2021 is just tempting some sort of fate. Schenker, as evidenced by the 50th Anniversary banner on the album cover, ain’t exactly a youngster. Maybe something like “I’m Covid Free” or “I Can Stand Without Assistance” would have been a more appropriate title. And, yes, he still embracing that stupid fucking hat and sunglasses as his new trademark look. Is he just surrounded by Yes Men that are scared to tell him that he looks like a giant dork. I just don’t understand.

It’s going to be a little hard to not compare this album to Accept’s new one since these albums came out on the same day and I just wrote the Accept one yesterday. You’ve got two old school classic metal entities that are still kicking here in the year of 2021. MSG has always kind of been more of a Schenker solo endeavor than a true group, but it feels like he has gone even further in treating this as just his creation even more so than the group’s heyday in the 80s. This album has a rotating cast of singers and musicians on each song and feels kind of like Schenker is embracing the whole Michael Schenker Fest idea of bring back past vocalists. This latest release has classic era MSG frontmen Gary Barden and Robyn McAuley and enlists Primal Fear frontman Ralf Scheepers for a couple of burners. Hell, he even locates Joe Lynn Turner to sing on a song. Scoring Derek Sherinian to play some keyboard on the album was also a nice addition.

Overall, this one rocks pretty hard. Unlike the Accept album, which felt like an old group trying to stay grounded in their past youth, this feels like a Schenker who has embraced his age. There’s nothing on here that is in any way groundbreaking. But, with all this dude has accomplished in his career, it doesn’t feel like it really needs to. You’ve got splashes of classic MSG sound, a nice Dio-spiced song and even a Deep Purple sounding opening track. There’s even a song that seriously reminded me of a Queens of the Stone Age song (The Queen of Thorns and Roses). There’s one crappy speedbump of a ballad tucked midway through (After the Rain), but overall the album moves at a fairly crisp pace. The album ends with a cover of Scorpions’ In Search of the Peace of Mind, which feels a bit like a dig in the continuing rivalry between Michael and his brother, Rudolf.

Overall, this is a nice little record. Schenker is still one of the unsung guitar heroes from the 70s and 80s. It’s kind of sad that his name doesn’t get thrown up with some of the other guitar titans of his time. Hell, this album is nice to have simply to hear his effortless and melodic leads on some new songs.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Accept-Too Mean To Die

Hmmmm. So, I’ll admit that I haven’t really followed along with Accept since their last split with Udo. I know the new guy, Mark Tornillo, has gotten pretty good reviews since he joined the band. But, I just couldn’t find my way to really caring that much about the band since he joined. Maybe it’s because it seems weird that American is now fronting what is quintessentially the most German of German metal bands. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of a shorter Dee Snyder. Maybe it’s because he’s the metal version of Kenny Chesney in that he’s never been seen in public without a hat. Hell, it’s probably more that I was only marginally an Accept fan even during their heyday. Their material has always been metal as fuck and those crunchy-ass Wolf Hoffmann riffs are the stuff of legends. But, they were always just a tad under Maiden, Priest and Saxon as far as quality metal in my opinion. Whatever the reason, I just haven’t been on the Accept bandwagon in a while.

So, maybe the shitshow of 2020 is getting me nostalgic. Hell, I even gave the new AC/DC album a chance and it was a very pleasant surprise. So, how does the new version of Accept stack up against the original? Man, pretty good, I’d say. I mean, Accept is basically just Wolf Hoffmann now. He’s the only guy left from the original band. And his guitar work is just what you’d expect. He’s really everything that you could expect out of a metal guitarist. He has that trademark crunch and it hasn’t changed a bit. Hell, I feel like I’ve heard many of these riffs before. Tornillo is fine. He brings a blend of Udo mixed with a smattering of Brian Johnson and Steve Souza of Exodus. I can see why the band has continued with their popularity with him on the mic.

However, the album is not a complete success. The biggest flaw has to be the lyrics. I’m not one to ever really get hung up on lyrical content. I’m really here for the music moreso than clever lyrics. But, come on. You guys have got to be in your 60s by now and you’re still rolling out song titles like “Sucks To Be You” and “Too Mean To Die”. The lyrics are so juvenile and simplistic that they simply jar me out of the song. Some of them are so bad that I honestly feel a little embarrassed listening to them.

Ultimately, if you are a diehard Hoffmann fan, this album will not disappoint. However, if you are an Accept newbie, go back and listen to Balls to the Wall or Restless and Wild.

3 flip flops out of 5

Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos

So, if you’ve been feeling a bit of a void in your life since the retirement of Slayer, have no fear. There’s a multinational band based mainly in Brazil that is armed and ready to fill that Slayer sized hole in your heart. The guitar work of Prika Amaral simply crushes from the first notes and her devastatingly crushing axe work doesn’t let up until the last bit of metal is wrung out of her strings. Vocalist Diva Satanica (I really hope that’s her given name) feels like she is channeling the love child of Tom Araya and Arch Enemy’s ex-vocalist Angela Gossow. Seriously, listen to the opening banshee wail that starts off Genocidal Command and tell me she’s not a dead ringer for a young Araya. Now, I’m not saying that Perpetual Chaos is Reign in Blood Part II, but this album has all the crunchy thrash riffs and blood-soaked lyrics even the most jaded Slayer fan could possibly want. These are not ladies to be fucked with and I hope to hear more of this kind of stuff out of them in the future.

4 flip flops out of 5

Asphyx-Necroceros

Asphyx is back after a five year absence with a new slab of classic death metal. Even though these guys hail from The Netherlands, Asphyx would easily slot in with the Swedish contingent of death metal bands that came up in the 90s. This one is fairly straightforward and reminds me quite a bit of mid-tempo At The Gates or The Haunted. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the 90s era of death metal, this one should scratch that itch. Or you could just go listen to the classics themselves. One complaint on this one is that the opening riffs to Three Years of Famine sound very reminiscent of Skullcrusher by Overkill. The song isn’t a ripoff of the prior song at all, but I’d be damned surprised if the guys weren’t spinning The Years of Decay prior to coming up with this riff.

3 flip flops out of 5

Miss Lava-Doom Machine

We’re heading to a non-traditional metal spot for today’s review. Miss Lava hails from Portugal. After listening to this album, I never would have pegged these guys as being from anywhere other than the high desert area of California. I mean, this album just screams Barstow, CA and a trunk full of psychedelics.

This is a bouncy slab of desert flavored stoner rock right in line with the lies of Fu Manchu or Kyuss. The guitar sound on here is just so bright and inviting that it’s hard not to find yourself not doing a boogie shuffle along with it. To make a more obscure jumping off point, this kind of reminds me a bit of King Buffalo if King Buffalo was a little less spacey and a little more pop oriented. This is a feel good record during a time that feels in need of a good time. Grab this one and crank it loud. It feels like that’s why this one was created.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Frozen Soul-Crypt of Ice

I’ve taken a bit of a break since wrapping up the 2020 Best Of list. New releases are starting to slowly worm their way out of the woodwork. So, let’s jump back into this thing again and see what the world of metal has in store for us in the year of 2021. It looks like this site is going to be entirely album reviews again for the foreseeable future since concerts are more than likely not going to be a thing this year. I mean, maybe we’ll get to go to a show towards the end of the year, but I’m not overly hopeful.

Anyway, we’re going to stay in the state of Texas for the first review of the year. Frozen Soul doesn’t exactly sound like something that would crawl out of the wilds of Fort Worth, TX, but there you go. You never know where exactly a frozen slab of death metal inspired by the classics of the genre is going to foment. This is the debut album for this group and it feels like they are wearing their influences proudly. I’m hearing elements of Death, Exhumed, Bloodbath, Carcass (especially on the title cut) and even newcomers Tomb Mold mixing around throughout these ten songs. There’s nothing on here that is going to completely blow your mind, but it’s a solid attempt. It’s one of those albums that you may feel like you’ve heard before, but not in an irritating way. This one feels more like a dank and sweaty dive bar that contains a frenzied pit. In other words, kind of like home.

3.5 flip flops out of 5