Baest-Necro Sapiens

Fairly straight-ahead grindy gore driven death metal out of Denmark on this one. It feels like we should be getting a lot more metal out of Denmark than we do. I’m sure there are a shitload of bands that I am forgetting, but off the top of my head, I’m thinking Mercyful Fate/King Diamond and fucking Lars. So, hooray for Baest for upping the count on badass metal coming out from one of my favorite countries. Seriously, if it wasn’t so damn cold there, I would really be seriously looking into becoming a Dane.

That was a bit of a digression. Sorry. My brain goes places, you know. Anyway, lyrically these guys are in the Cannibal Corpse/Exhumed realm of all things gross and disgusting. The difference here is that Baest is fairly accessible musically. Not a lot of surprises, but the guitar work is not so grinding as to make thing messy or unlistenable. Hell, there is almost a NWOBHM vibe in places on here. All in all, this is just a nice slab of death metal that doesn’t get weighed down by a sense of super seriousness. This is a fun one.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

LizZard-Eroded

I wish I knew a bit more about this band. All I really know is that they are a three-piece prog metal band that hails from France. Their sound is a bit of a balance between technical flashes and accessible melodic metal. In a way, it feels as though they fit in that same world of softer metallic prog populated by artists such as The Contortionist or The Pineapple Thief. The vocals are very much on the emotive side. I’d say this album is mainly for prog nerds, but I think there is enough cross-over appeal that should give these guys a wider mainstream audience. Definitely a more hopeful sounding album during a time that has mainly produced depressive and angst driven screeds.

4.0 flip flops out of 5

Pupil Slicer-Mirrors

This band name is just too graphic. Too ick inducing. Sure, it’s metal as fuck, but Jesus. Pupil Slicer? It honestly might be pushing it a bit far.

You ever see a heist movie? Sure you have. You know those flash bang charges either the bandits or the cops will throw into a room to disorient whoever is unlucky enough to be standing in there. Well, that’s this album. It comes out of nowhere quick and will completely incapacitate you. It’s fast. It’s abrasive. It’s caustic. It’s a downright hideous album. And that’s not meant as an insult. You name your band Pupil Slicer and this is pretty much the music you have to produce.

The best way to describe Pupil Slicer is by way of comparison. You’d have to say Dillinger Escape Plan is a touchstone for these guys. So many herky-jerky stops and starts and simply spastic outburst of noise populate this one. It’s kind of jazzy in some places and an ammo dump full of bombastic riffs in others. It’s a lot of damn noise produced by a trio, that’s for damn sure.

In the end, I kind of like it. I think. I’m not entirely sure though. I mean, it’s packed with talent, but I’m just not entirely sure it’s exactly listenable. Brace yourselves and cover your eyes. You’ve been warned.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Acid Mammoth-Caravan

This album sounds exactly like you would imagine it would. Set your bongs to stun, boys. It’s going to get a little foggy in here.

Yeah, these dudes are bringing a stonery doom metal sound from Greece. How does that differ from stonery doom metal from other parts of the world, you ask? Well, not much different in turns out. Stoners speak the same language and produce the same sludgy sound all around the world. Acid Mammoth sounds about like if Sleep was fronted by Nate Garrett from Spirit Adrift on vocals. That kind of sums these guys up in a nutshell. Decently produced slow dirges. Interesting note in that it appears that this is a father/son venture with son on guitar/vox and dad on lead guitar. I think this may be the only time I’ve run into something like that. The metal genes are obviously strong within this clan. For some reason, I just can’t imagine me and my old man coming up with something this cool

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Evergrey-Escape of the Phoenix

I have a feeling that this is going to come across as a negative review and I promise it is not intended in that way at all. Evergrey is such a polished and professional musical group that it almost feels like their music comes slickly packaged out of a factory. Look, this is a very solid album. But it kind of feels like the band is a bit on autopilot at this point. The songs are quality. The vocals are soaring and tremendously emotive. The guitars are blistering. The keyboards are wistful. The drums are cannoning thunder. All the things are there, but I’ll be damned if I’ll be able to distinguish the songs on here from those on The Atlantic or The Storm Within a year from now.

OK, that did sound pretty harsh. It’s still a damn fine album and there are some really standout songs on here. I guess, in a way, I’m comparing these latter era Evergrey albums to the groundbreaking albums from their early career where it really felt like they were pushing boundaries and creating something new. Hell, I kind of wish they would get back to lyrical content of worldwide conspiracies, alien abductions and terrifying religious cults. Those albums gave me goosebumps. These latter albums, including this latest one, haven’t had as deep of an impact on me even though they are still fine albums. I will say that I think this latest platter is a step forward in quality over The Atlantic or The Storm Within. It’s just not in the same ballpark as The Inner Circle or In Search of Truth.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Harakiri For the Sky-Maere

Harakiri For the Sky comes back this year with a follow-up to their successful 2018 release, Arson. Harakiri is a two-man operation and both dudes only go by initials. So, I’m not really at liberty to speak much on the background of these guys since I haven’t been granted security clearance as of yet. All I can say is that JJ provides the lyrics/vocals and MS brings all of the musical arrangements and instrumentation. Oh, and they’re a couple of long-haired heshers from Austria.

The latest opus is simply that. It is a double album that is jam-packed full of blackened death metal that embraces all that is melancholy and depressing in the world. This is not an album to help you feel anything close to optimism. A sampling of song titles: “I, Pallbearer”, “Sing For the Damage We’ve Done”, “Three Empty Words”, “Us Against a December Sky”. Yeah, this shit feeds my worldview. Musically, this one feels a little more straight ahead than Arson did. The meat of the songs is fairly driving and crusty death metal. Hell, there’s even a bit of hardcore undercurrent to the thing in places. To me, the album really shines during the quieter and more atmospheric interludes and breaks within the songs. To me, it feels as though the album would have benefitted from a bit more experimentation and flushing out of some of these more melodic breaks. But, that’s just me.

All in all, not a bad follow-up to a stellar prior album. I will say that it has grown on me more and more with each listen. A solid release.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

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