Hammerfall – Built To Last

Mighty Swedish metallers Hammerfall return with the latest release “Built To Last” which promises to deliver a straight forward collection of songs in proper classic metal style.

“Bring It!” is filled with loads of traditional guitar riffing that build the usual mid tempo groove while rocker style vocals with the perfect amount of high pitch vibrato and pompous chorus conveying glorious warriors lifestyle.

“Hammer High” follows the same epic theme with even more warrior style chorus/chants followed by a consistent melodic catchy rhythm with a generous dose of power metal style energy and the melodic clarity of the guitar solos.

“The Sacred Vow” starts with a rather sad acoustic moment but soon the rhythm gains speed and acquires the expected power metal triumphant tone that reaches its natural acme in a flamboyant guitar solo.

The title track contains all the beloved classic metal features that one can possibly imagine. Besides a highly melodic core with polished guitar riffs, luminous shredding solo and passionate soft breakdown, there is the expected redundant catchy chorus that evokes the usual battlefield and forgotten legendary glory.

“Second To None” features some ballad style sentimental keyboards arrangements with baroque accents and an emotional atmosphere but there is also space to show great musicianship with a charismatic and more modern guitar solo.

“Built To Last” is all about steel and glory without any astonishingly original elements, therefore it would mainly appeal to a specific devoted classic melodic metal crowd.

Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake

Legendary Bay Area quintet Testament returns with the brand new full length “Brotherhood Of The Snake” featuring heavy majestic songwriting that never fails to summon the band’s unmistakable signature style.

The title track features a powerful healthy thrash groove built with great bass dynamics and crunchy guitar riffs. The chorus is highly addictive with a vintage attitude and effortlessly complements the energetic music core which is further embellished by memorable guitar solos.

“The Pale King” doesn’t disappoint with a somber blasting dose of perfectly calibrated bass and drums. Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick deliver indisputably charming guitar work that will conquer any listener while Chuck Billy’s vocals shift smoothly from ravenous grasps to a more melodic catchy chorus.

“Stronghold” will be easily remembered for its venomous groovy chorus and the relentless guitar driven groove that would please any wild headbanger. Again the guitar work is as impressive as expected featuring a generous dose of beloved full blown shredding while the rhythm section evokes some nostalgic thrash elements.

On “Seven Seals” the unforgotten glory of thrash metal is again channeled and celebrated but feels absolutely relevant. Skolnick continues to add savory guitar accents conveying a highly melodic theme that, supported by a crispy rhythmic section, reaches its expected acme in the super catchy chorus.

“Neptune’s Spear” flows with an uncompromised thrash groove filled with genuine melodic elements and the true highlights can be easily found in the intoxicating dynamic guitar work featuring a stunning neoclassical influenced guitar solo.

“The Number Game” has a cinematic approach delivering a great range of crunching guitar riffs well supported by a super energetic bass and drums combo in proper thrash fashion. Billy’s enraged vocals keep that intense energy alive without any hesitation and another grandiose round of virtuoso style guitar solos will inevitably steal the scene.

With “Brotherhood Of The Snake” Testament returns in excellent shape and stays true to the infamous Bay Area thrash legacy but also delivers a refreshing creative energy that reconfirms the band’s seminal status in the metal scene.

T.O.M.B – Fury Nocturnus

Pennsylvania-based blackened noise occultists T.O.M.B has released a brand new album entitled “Fury Nocturnus” which consists of a collection of cryptic hypnotic tracks with remarkable ambiance, black metal and industrial influences. It’s difficult to categorize T.O.M.B’s musical direction which certainly showcases a deep fascination for the occult and the obscure and far from being a radio friendly album “Fury Nocturnus” will certainly intimidate and confuse the average listeners.

“Awake” confirms that you will not find traditionally structured songs on this album. The noise reigns and persists without any melody to guide you through an exasperating atmosphere.

“Darkness” has an extremely obscure sound filled with monochromatic noise effects and desperate screams.

In “Glorious Triumphant” some industrial elements become somewhat recognizable and there is a faint sense of rhythm.

“Belial” continues this bizarre sound experimentation but you can almost distinguish the ghastly presence of what used to be called melody in the distance.

“Ignite The Torch Again” brings to life raw elements of old school black metal but it still feels like a ritualistic experiment that cannot be fully comprehended.

“Oblivion Dawn” continues to portray a peculiar noisy soundscape with some doom influenced guitars in the background.

The title track features confusing chants that evoke ancient occult rituals with a strong sense of desolation and a heavily sinister atmosphere.

Due to its peculiar enigmatic nature “Fury Nocturnus” might appeal only to a restricted underground audience.

Civil War – The Last Full Measure

Swedish act Civil War returns with the new album “The Last Full Measure” delivering a melodic mixture of classic heavy metal and epic power metal.

“Road To Victory” channels typical warrior anthems with dated triumphant keyboards and polished guitars. Sadly nothing stands out as the songwriting seems quite stale and the guitar driven groove doesn’t hold enough strength.

“Deliverance” follows the same musical direction, even if the guitar riffs are rather catchy we all heard this type of songs before. There is an obvious traditional guitars/keyboards combo and at least this track features a more genuinely catchy groove.

“A Tale That Should Never Be Told” delivers an atmospheric symphonic approach with almost mystical choirs and majestic music theme.

“Gladiator” offers a tighter faster rhythm with some crunchy guitar riffs in the mix. The recurring battlefield glory is particularly dominant and the guitar solo adds some dynamic elements.

The title track tries to gain strength with solemn atmospheric keyboards and certainly the lead guitar work is more detailed and interesting but in the end the overall mood is not as impressive as it should be.

“Aftermath” is the usual ballad borderline romantic with super clean melodic guitars but the vocals don’t seem to hold the necessary dose of pure passion.

“The Last Full Measure” tries to be as catchy as possible but unfortunately really suffers from an evident lack of originality in terms of songwriting and since each song feels too predictable it would be enjoyable only for an average unsophisticated crowd.

Sons Of Balaur – Tenebris Deos

Fictional Norwegian black metal band Sons Of Balaur comes to life straight out of the acclaimed metal graphic novel “Realm Of The Damned” to deliver a real full length release entitled “Tenebris Deos”. Considering the mythological biography supporting the band’s history and mysterious identity, “Tenebris Deos” might not sound like a serious musical effort but in general these songs seem to pack a fun blackened rock groove.

“Invocation” works well as opening act since it contains the main black metal influenced elements that characterize the music style of “Tenebris Deos”. There is nothing highly original and remarkable but the guitars never fail to offer catchy blackened riffs that evoke true traditional black metal anthems.

“Old Relics” has a raw rhythm with clear old school black metal roots but also a pompous mood with some epic warrior style choirs and faster guitar riffing entwined with few modern polished leads.

“Succubus Slut” has a fun black and roll mood with gritty guitar riffs and a catchy chorus that makes it a widely accessible tune.

“The Curse Of Bloodlust” relies on a faster rhythmic section and an ominous atmosphere with classic tremolo picking and traditionally enraged growls, yet nothing feels too extreme and the song actually ends with super soft semi acoustic passages.

“Van Helsing Must Die” has an obvious classic horror theme and attempts to sound as evil as possible with modern production, catchy guitar riffs and baritone growls.

“Balaur’s Rise” runs on a heavy slow doomish guitar riffing with a horror rock vibe that always maintains a groovy dynamic rhythm. Growls are performed in old school fashion and pay tribute to many iconic black metal acts.

Black metal kvlt followers will not take seriously Sons Of Balaur but fans of the “Realm Of The Damned” graphic novel will enjoy this real life debut album.

Anciients – Voice Of The Void

Canadian band Anciients returns with the sophomore album “Voice Of The Void” which delivers a captivating mix of prog, stoner and sludge highly focused on eclectic guitar dynamics.

“Following The voice” is an energetic guitar driven tune with rather heavy undertones featuring groovy riffs with loads of prog stylish details. Melodic flashy guitar leads showcase great musicianship and pleasant creativity in the midst of a harsh faster rhythmic section.

“Pentacle” is filled with cold dark undertones reflected in the particularly ominous growls and blackened somber guitar riffs. Soon a warmer light begins to embrace the rhythmic section in prog fashion with inspired melodic guitars.

“Ibex Eye” might be the most charismatic track with a genuine stoner soul spiced up by effortless prog style tempo changes. Clean vocals and growls fully embrace the general somber mood but the majestic intricate guitar work is the true highlight of the song.

“Incantations” starts with a series of dreamy arpeggios but this soothing atmosphere is not meant to last forever as a charismatic guitar solo introduces a blast of tight riffing. The overall groove is certainly catchy and heavy but in truth this track could have had a more mesmerizing effect as an instrumental.

“Voice Of The Void” might not be ready to attract a wide audience but it certainly delivers an enjoyable dose of musical diversity that will definitely trigger curiosity and interest in the metal scene.

Obsidian Kingdom – A Year With No Summer

Catalan experimental band Obsidian Kingdom has released an eclectic sophomore album entitled “A Year With No Summer” which features an interesting sonic ensemble of jazzy and progressive influenced tracks.

The title track offers a wide range of musical influences and pleasant melodies emphasized by a catchy rock chorus. Electro style layers maintain an atmospheric tone that creates a solid backbone for exciting tempo changes.

“The Kandinsky Group” has a more experimental avant-garde mood with plenty of darkened electro atmospheres and somber guitar phrases. Intricate prog influenced guitar work build a heavier and louder rhythm that grows into a doom sinister guitar driven crescendo with some dissonant accents.

“The Polyarnik” is a melodic instrumental piece with an apparent artsy minimalist approach and dreamy atmospheres embellished by modern electro accents that could appeal to a wider audience.

“Away/Absent” is not your standard radio friendly song as it delivers a rather challenging concoction of diverse styles and sounds including a final acoustic piece, starting after a silent gap, which seems almost out of place. Harmonious slower passages deliver translucent emotions while dense metal influenced rhythms create a chaotic mood.

Overall, “A Year With No Summer” might not be a perfect album but Obsidian Kingdom showcases a unique musical pathway with multiple creative stylistic features that easily cross average music boundaries.

Saint Vitus – Live Vol. 2

American doom icons Saint Vitus have released their second official live album simply entitled “Live Vol. 2” which features Wino as vocalist rather than original frontman Scott Reagers as it was recorded in 2013 during the “Lillie: F-65” tour.

As expected, the band performs impeccably some memorable true doom classics such as “War Is Our Destiny”, “White Stallions”, “Born Too Late” and “Dying Inside” that are rightfully included on this live album.

“Live Vol. 2” will obviously become a collector item for Saint Vitus devoted fanbase and will be a rather enjoyable album for those who never had the chance to see the band perform live with their unmistakable signature heavy doom.

Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust

Death metal seminal act Gorguts returns with the latest EP “Pleiades’ Dust” which consists of a singular 33-minute composition that features historic/philosophic lyrical inspiration and always feels like a cryptic experimental music journey.

Certainly the main music core embraces clear death metal elements but the extreme metal aspects are never overpowering and tend to maintain a solid ominous background for something more adventurous. There is a multitude of style and tempo variations that never feel awkward with clever atmospheric interludes and softer phrases. Often a mystical introvert atmosphere creates the right moody layers to support interesting, at times classical influenced, technical guitar work. There are also ethereal moments in which melodic arpeggios deliver a sense of abandon and meditation that drastically fade into a more chaotic rhythm.

With its mysterious dissonant aura “Pleiades’ Dust” is a work of music that could be truly appreciated by a limited underground audience.

Numenorean – Home

Calgary’s post black metal act Numenorean makes its official debut with the album “Home” which contains five lengthy tracks featuring all the genre’s unmistakably familiar elements.
At the very first listening the melancholic soundscape of the title track evokes iconic Alcest’s early work. Numenorean chooses wisely the quality and quantity of lush somber guitar arpeggios lingering through raw fast paced drumming and adds the desperate vocal/screams in typical post black metal fashion.
“Thirst” conjures a similar bleak atmosphere but the guitars acquire a different distorted energy before going back to full blown emotionally charged arpeggios.
“Laid Down” features a tragic mood with minimalist guitar passages and a sorrowful patina persists even when the rhythm gains a primitive rage. A soft introvert breakdown erases any sign of chaos to bring harmonious guitars that convey a natural sense of peace.
In the end, “Home” showcases some scattered interesting ideas even if
post black metal shoegaze might just sound too trendy for many potential listeners.