The Grim Gauntlet (January 2018)

Project Vela – Disconnected (2018) – Project Vela are more or less and electronic rock group heavily influenced by groups like Linkin Park and Imagine Dragons. The radio would be a perfect place for them, with songs like “Blame Me” and “Never Let Her Go” being automatic earworms. They could have done without the breaks in between each track though, that’s a waste of listener time. 6/10

Sainted Sinners – Back With A Vengeance (2018) – A great mix of traditional heavy metal, along with fine touches of blues, classic rock and even some proggy keyboards here and there. I’ll also add that there are some extremely tasty solos to chew on, so be ready for that. This record definitely grooves, being that the bass is pushed up rather high in the mix, but not to the detriment of the leads, nor the vocals. I’m quite pleased with it, and it shows that real rock is far from dead in the underground. Years ago though, this record would have had far more appeal. 8/10

Novareign – Legends (2018) – Have you ever wondered what Dragonforce would have sounded like with a far less cheesy frontman and slightly toned down guitar acrobatics? Well, that’s what we have here with Novareign and am I ever pleased with this performance. Not only do the drums pound in my ears, but the vocals elicit a great deal of passion which goes rather well with the slight guitar acrobatics that are used. There’s a great deal of chug here, but I find that adds to the punch. It’s a thrashy type of power metal that I don’t think you’ll get bored with easily and I liked it far more than I have any single Dragonforce disc. There’s a slight segue in “To Wander The Stars” but I’m not going to bitch about an acoustic break in the assault, as there is plenty of meat, muscle and might to be found here. 9/10

Lechery – We Are All Born Evil (2018) – Holy shit, seems that real metal hasn’t been Thanosed out yet either. At least not For Lechery, who come in with pulse-pounding grooves, memorable melodies and the kind of bravado that amounts to songs that I can’t get out of my head to save my life. From the start of “Hevay Metal Invasion” (which had me banging my head in just the first few minutes) to closer “Tip Of The Whip” its easy to see why this performance made a mark on me, and the ripping solos certainly didn’t hurt. I feel like a disenfranchised older metal listener looking at all of the trends and politics in metal and thinking that it’ll never sound the way it used to, until a man puts his hand on my shoulder and gives me this album saying merely, “Oh, yes it can.” 9/10

Chaos Invocation – Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond (2018) – The difference between Chaos Invocation and a lot of similar extreme bands is that they’re willing to break the mold. A mixture of dissonant black metal and atmospheric death, they’ve managed to marry the two genres in a manner that comes out masterful. Clean vocal chants only help to raise the atmosphere and make me believe that I am listening to an actual invocation of great beasts, rather than just a death metal disc. You can hear all of the band’s classic influences, but they’ve been done proper justice and the result is definitely one of the more interesting efforts of yesteryear. Let’s hope that you didn’t sleep on this one. 9/10

Asenblut – Legenden EP (2018) – Asenblut are going to be right up the alley for Amon Amarth fans. Pummeling drums meld with familiar melodies to offer up a feeling much like that of The Crusher, albeit with some Vs. The World influences. The vocals seem like they might be a little too loud in the mix, but with solo efforts and melodies that I would consider on par with some of the Swedish Vikings’ best, there’s a great deal to like here. The Manowar cover is also a nice touch and I can’t wait to see what happens with these guys in the future. It would be great to differentiate a bit from the Amon Amarth patterns, but the end result is still a blast. 6/10

Antichrist – Pax Moriendi (2018) – The Peruvian incarnation of the moniker, these guys make a type of gurgly, doomy, cavernous death metal that is also accented by synths to add a little more atmosphere to the mix. It’s good, up until slight cleans or whispers appear, which take me out of the cavern, to be honest. I prefer the foreboding nature of this music without the monster becoming the man, as sometimes happens. Even so, there’s still enough gravel to be had within this lumbering beast to appeal to fans beyond my nitpicks. Just stay in character next time. 7/10

Isgвde – Eowlandsvintr (2018) – a classic, kvlt black metal band with an album and moniker that I’m not even going to try to pronounce, this slightly symphonic offering is going to be just what the grim doctor ordered for fans of early Emperor, Immortal and then some. The recording sticks to a very old school approach and is quite raw, though far more audible in melody and vocal tone than the black metal albums of old. It also carries along a slew of frostbitten riffs and melodies that make the experience far greater for those yearning for that classic sound. Especially now that Metal Sucks have waged war on it, in place of their harmless hipster black metal meanderings. If you miss the old sound, these guys will do you right. 7.5/10

The Creptter Children – Asleep With Your Devil (2018) – If you wish that Evanessence or Lacuna Coil had more bite, then you might find something to like within these five cuts. The symphonics work perfectly with the hard-hitting bass riffs and the frontwoman’s change from passionate vocals to that of harsh vocal bouts. “Watching You” is a great example of that. The electronics here are actually one of th best parts of the band, and show that there is promise here – but the similarity to Lacuna Coil might be an issue for them ever reaching a mainstream audience, even though they definitely have what it takes. There’s actually a few guitar solos on the disc, for starters. But that won’t happen when the major labels get ahold of them. “No, you gotta start rapping and using autotune now – that’s what all the kids dig.” For their sake, I hope that this band doesn’t give a shit about the kids. 7/10

Genocide Pact – Order Of Torment (2018) – Those of you looking for punchy death metal that balances out it’s grooves with long, drowning bits of doom are in luck with this one. I particularly like that the frontman sounds like a stone golem and the rest of the band may as well be made of hefty stones to boot. Sometimes the drums work to blast the guitar sections out of existence, but that might just be my jammy new Chinese headphones. Even so, I’m not going to turn down a beating like this and neither should you. While not the most creative act in the genre, they definitely get the job done and will hit you where it hurts. Get ready for an assault, because that’s what Genocide Pact are here to do. Death metal with real bite and not bullshit, this is what separates the men from the boys in my opinion. 8/10

Dead River Runs Dry – Hierophants Of The Storm (2018) – These Aussie black/deathers manage to make their presence known with a slew of nods to the old school, but a performance that was a bit low in the mix and I had to turn up just to hear. That could be the promo quality too, as it is quite weak. The band definitely try to stuff as much structure as they can within this disc, which makes it listenable and throwing in thrash, rock and modern black metal elements (like Satyricon‘s disco black) are definitely appreciated. There might be a few areas where they could let up as I’m being drowned out by the drums in more than a few areas. Thankfully, the fiery guitar riffs aren’t though, which is a small blessing on their part. Putting it simply, these guys mixed a lot of modern and classic elements together in order to make an experience that is well worth remembering. It feels like those frosty tombs of old, but it carries a new school sense that catapults it far beyond monotony. Definitely looking to hear more from these guys, with a higher quality promo next time. 8.5/10

Flames Of Genesis (2018) – I could have sworn that I’d reviewed this album, especially since I interviewed their frontman months ago. This album puts the listener directly into the heart of the universe and maybe useful for meditation. Through the magic of synths, we are thrust into areas that I would not just describe as vacuous, but steely, like that of ancient spacecraft, or the ruins of a long dead species that had once achieved wonders far beyond anything that we can scarcely imagine. Sometimes the atmosphere here can sound a bit dreary, but in other areas it sounds rather euphoric and ultimately covers our universe as it is – a complexity of vast emotions. If you’ve always wanted to go out into space, yet feel unfairly landlocked, you may find these recordings quite enjoyable. 9/10

Hautajaisyoe – Matkalla Kohti Hautaa (2018) – A great mix of death and thrash metal, these guys really know how to tear the place up. Adding to that, we have a frontman who sounds like he’d strangle you in your sleep and make sandwiches from the mea. If that doesn’t sell you on this Finnish plate of death and destruction, then you’ll be intrigued to the use of frightening melodies here and there which build the kind of soundscape that I was in no way expecting. There are definitely some modern elements here, but these guys hit just a bit harder than some of the modern bands that may have inspired them. It’s great to see the old and the new mixing together with such a great sense of grimy, gory harmony. 7/10

Mors Subita – Into The Pitch Black (2018) – A little but of In Flames, some Dark Tranquillity, maybe some touches of Insomnium and various metalcore influences went into making this, which isn’t ultimately a bad album. The melodies are there when it counts and it’s plenty chunky, even blistering at times – but I just feel like every song seems to be a slight variation of the other and leaves me with roughly the same feeling without. Not that there’s a real issue with this objectively, but I think that the record is a little bit too much “by the book” and feels “paint by numbers.” Sure, it’s got a nice kick and it’s much heavier than anything In Flames are doing right now, that’s for sure. Even potent solos aside, there’s nothing here I haven’t heard before. Though if this sort of thing tickles your pickle, you know where to find it. I will admit that it’s a bit better the second time around. 6.5/10

Nigredo – Flesh Torn, Spirit Pierced (2018) – Holy repetition, Batman! Just in floating through each of the songs on this album, I noticed that the drum and vocal patterns on each and every song are nearly identical to each other. That’s great if you want to be pounded out of existence, but terrible if you want anything else. I appreciate the effort and ferocity, but there isn’t much else to offer here that isn’t experienced within the first couple of songs. Eventually, it will fall into monotony and that’s not the kind of listening experience that any metal listener wants. But it might be good to listen to while performing heavy labor due to the amount of adrenaline that it may produce in the brain. So there’s that, at least. 6/10

More To Come In February!

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