Vintersorg – Till Fjälls del II

Sweden’s folk metal hero and possible cultural ambassador moonlighting as a metal band, Vintersorg is back with his 10th album in what appears to be a direct sequel to his first proper full length from twenty years ago,“Till Fjälls del II”.

If you have never heard Vintersorg before, surely you are at least familiar with Borknagar in which he is also the vocalist.   Andreas “Vintersorg“ Hedlund’s voice is instantly recognizable and majestic in its timbre. He is also the master of the unbelievably catchy metal chorus that compels you to thrust your fists in the air and sprint to the nearest forest to headbang uncontrollably. I don’t speak Swedish (duh) but I gather the lyrics are just as catchy and hook laden as their delivery. Seriously, the choruses are so infectious you will be humming them hours later.

As a sequel of sorts to his debut record, both sonically and visually the music is nostalgia laden as well as a return to form. With the album titles roughly translating to “To The Mountains” it should be no surprise that the subject material harkens to the beauty of the natural world of Sweden’s landscape and heritage. While I actually hold the philosophical laden releases of “Visions from the Spiral Generator” and “The Focusing Blur” as the apex of his career, the more folksy and nature inspired material of his earlier works “Cosmic Genesis” and are obviously also great in their own right.

From the opening seconds “Jökelväktaren” with its blackened metal intro instantly let you know where this record stands. Throughout the six plus minute track different shades of epic sounding black metal are interspersed with more folk sounding melodies. This really is the template for the rest of the record as majority of the material follows this format. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that. Aside from a couple tracks with acoustic passages and female vocals like “Vårflod” and a flute outro on “Fjällets Mäktiga Mur” we kind of know what to expect. But that shouldn’t diminish the enjoyment one iota.

Vintersorg is one constant in this chaotic world, seemingly incapable of crafting inferior work. With current events seemingly never ending with unbridled negativity it should be no wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to retreat to the mountains and escape it all. And for nearly 70 minutes, you too can escape to them even if just for a short while on this epic musical journey.

Municipal Waste – Slime and Punishment

After a four year (mostly) dormant period, the crossover revivalists Municipal Waste return with a grime drenched piece of political catharsis with Slime and Punishment. In just under 30 minutes run time, this is a call to arms to unearth your denim jacket and get caught In a mosh.

The Waste crew aren’t playing games and certainly upping the aggression this time around. While plenty of the humor and tongue-in-cheek song titles are still ever present, there is a aggression to the music that hasn’t really been heard previously, or at least to this extent. Songs like “Breathe Grease” hammer this concept like a blacksmith bashing away…only your skull and eardrums are the anvil. “Amateur Sketch” starts at a frantic pace leading its way to a Megadeth-esque breakdown. Throwing gas to the grease fire that is this album are the grind-core length tracks “Enjoy the Night” and “Excessive Celebration” which clock in at 00:49 and 1:29 respectively. These are offset by the more mid-tempo jams of “Slime and Punishment” and “Think Fast” which help round out the album overall.

While the riffing, d-beat laden tunes are rife with energy fans of the band, or for anyone that’s ever heard thrash/crossover before for that matter, should know what to expect. They aren’t reinventing their sound by any means, hell, they are doubling down and capitalizing on their influences. But honestly, does anyone really want Municipal Waste to try their hand at expanding their palate to, say, prog like Vektor? I think not. We all look to MW for a quick, fun, and often too short of a time. If partying, moshing, and quick infectious tunes a la Anthrax and Nuclear Assault sound like fun to you, jump in, the Slime is warm.

The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices – Pora Sotunda

For six decades the choir known as The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices has worked with various artists and delivered an ensemble of ancient and post-modern music based on the fact that human voice is an extremely versatile instrument. On the new venture “Pora Sotunda, a single that will be followed by a full length album next year, the choir joins forces with renowned vocalist Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance to lead the listeners through an enchanted sonic realm.

On “Pora Sotunda” exotic and archaic flavors evoke distant magical soundscapes with the addition of subtle tribal percussions and soft arpeggios while Lisa Gerrard as lead vocalist delivers an inspired performance adding darker yet absolutely warm tonalities.

“Ganka” impresses with the minimalist yet empowering sounds that the choir seem to achieve effortlessly with mystical arcane chants.

Those looking for a unique sonic experience and willing to keep an open mind will certainly benefit from the uniquely fascinating music journey that is “Pora Sotunda”.

Hard Action – Hot Wired Beat

Following an explosive debut in the underground scene young Finnish rockers Hard Action return with the sophomore release “Hot Wired Beat”, an album devoted to straightforward authentic rock dynamics with an entertaining vintage essence.

Listening to “Free Fall” will reminisce of bands like Hanoi Rocks because of the up-tempo guitar action full of licks and sleazy hooks that basically take the lead throughout the song.

“Nothing Ever Changed” can display mellow melodic vibes in the midst of another round of solid mid-paced rhythmic patterns and guitars are again very dominant in the mix accompanying the punkish rebel vocals with the right amount of traditional rock dynamics.

On “The Losing Side” the adrenaline blasts are definitely toned down as the band favors a melodic approach with inevitable radio friendly tones but guitars do maintain the retro gritty energy that becomes more empowering in the entertaining guitar solo.

“Tied Down” returns to focus on high impact rhythmic dynamics fueled by traditional rock aesthetics as guitars deliver tight riffing jamming towards a lovely guitar solo but there is still space for softer melodies.

“Tunnel Vision” is all about loads of gritty guitar riffs & solos executed in bold rocker fashion with the welcomed addition of fuzzy tonalities that accentuate the irresistible vintage mood resulting in a particularly delightful anthemic rock groove.

On “Hot Wired Beat” Hard Action pays homage to decades of catchy rock n’ roll successfully crafting all kinds of melodic hooks and focusing on enthusiastic guitar driven grooves.


The Faceless – In Becoming A Ghost

After quite a bit of lineup changes and delays, The Faceless finally return with their 4th album. This showcases a very different side of the band, and even has some writing from Justin McKinney, which adds a nice element to this new music.

Digging The Grave: opens with very dissonant and abrasive instrumentation, combined with very “black metal,” styled vocals. At a certain point, there’s a change of pace, where there are some clean vocals, combined with their signature “7-7-2 groove,” that they love to use. Definitely a tribute to Autotheism here. There’s also a Planetary Duality tribute that happens during the rhythm part behind one of the solos. It reminds me of the beginning of “Ancient Covenant.” This will tickle the pickle of old school The Faceless fans, for sure!

Black Star: opens with some pretty proggy riffing. It’s followed up by some cool interchanging vocals, bouncing from clean to harsh. The middle section has that Autotheism thing going on again with the clean vocals, and a 7/8 feel. There are cool new elements sprinkled in the track too.

Cup Of Mephistopheles: opens with a bit of a more old school 80’s electronic vibe. This track stands out a lot to me. There’s a lot of cool variations. It has The Faceless experimenting with new ideas. It has a nice eerie feel to it, in general.

The Spiraling Void is about the closest they get to the Planetary Duality sound on the album. With the instrumentation, and vocals being lower growls, as opposed to black metal styled vocals… you’ll see what I mean. This track has some more traditional Prog Metal elements as well.

The Terminal Breath opens with a cool lick that gets used a few times, that is very familiar in Michael Keene’s playing. This track is a cool way for them to close the album, with some Cynic vibes going on throughout the song. Great soloing in here. There’s some atmospheric black metal vibes showing up, that kind of drive the point home that they are changing direction.

There’s a lot of new ideas on this album, combine with signature elements that a long time fan of The Faceless will identify with.



Travelin Jack – Commencing Countdown

Berlin based rockers Travelin Jack don’t want to be considered a retro rock band despite clearly drawing inspiration from renowned ‘70s rock bands but regardless of obvious influences the latest release “Commencing Countdown” is undeniably packed with explosive hooks.

Listening to “Land Of The River” you know it’s time to put on your glittery makeup and platform boots as guided by Alia Spaceface’s charismatic voice the band confidently engages in groovy guitar driven rhythmic patterns which certainly hold a raw vintage sound and a detailed stylish vision.

“Metropolis” is all shimmering and loud as Alia again unleashes powerful vocals through bluesy rock melodic guitars and fun groovy dynamics that hold some funky vibes leading to a pleasant classic rock guitar solo.

The energetic “Cold Blood” continues to amplify a ‘70s rock essence as the guitar riffing diligently performed according to an upbeat rocker style culminates with a flamboyant guitar solo swiftly followed by a slightly contemplative/trippy breakdown.

Besides the usual retro rhythmic grooves “Galactic Blue” holds a subtle melancholy infused melodic core yet guitars keep a sharp bluesy rock attitude before reaching a deliberate spaced out momentum while Alia delivers another vibrant vocal performance.

On “Time” the band decides to slow down momentarily putting aside any major rock riffing galore as Alia steals the spotlight with passionate vocals soon followed by the familiar rock formula meant to create brighter and more vivacious grooves.

“Journey To The Moon” closes the album with sparkling catchiness as guitars & bass put together an exciting series of classic hard rock grooves calling for good times & party all night, an overall positive feeling particularly enhanced by a rather captivating guitar solo and Alia’s dazzling vocals.

On “Commencing Countdown” there is a lot of potential as Travelin Jack evokes in the right way all the melodic energy and the wicked rock approach typical of an unforgotten music era resulting in a quite entertaining collection of groovy songs.

Toothgrinder – Phantom Amour

New Jersey’s quintet Toothgrinder is ready to entertain and surprise the audience experimenting with multiple music styles ranging from jazz to straightforward metal on the newest record entitled “Phantom Amour”.

With a mix of super crunchy guitar riffs and modern electro layers “HVY” opens the album favoring a heavy approach that will recur throughout the song yet the band proceeds to deliver a more radio friendly melodic blend as the guitar sound acquires polished tonalities enhanced by soothing vocal delivery.

On “The Shadow” the band’s hardcore influences become palpable with a series of fierce guitar riffs and screams yet the smooth breakdown evokes ethereal melodic soundscapes with alt-rock flavors.

“Let It Ride” ensures pure catchiness with the refreshing chorus surrounded by classic rock vibes as well as danceable moments with more modern electro layers bearing hints of radio friendly pop.

The title track sounds definitely catchy with a generous dose of guitar driven grooves that often give way to softer crispy harmonies but don’t refrain from offering more gritty metal rhythmic patterns and furious screams.

“Jubilee” is the must-have romantic ballad stripped down to minimalist acoustic harmonies and mellow vocals but packs a final surprise with the addition of banjo.

“Pietà” drastically changes scenario as hardcore elements take a lead role in the mix with intensely angered screams and massive raw guitar riffs following a faster rhythm that leads to a compelling eclectic guitar solo.

“Vagabond” offers abundant sonic clarity with luminous atmospheric textures but doesn’t refrain from adding a more metal approach with tight guitar riffs, chunky bass lines and venomous screams yet still maintains a catchy melodic core.

With “Phantom Amour” Toothgrinder chooses to take a more melodic route communicating genuine emotions through music & lyrics and also showcases an authentic desire to explore further music territories.

Death Of Lovers – The Acrobat

Featuring Domenic and Kyle from shoegazers Nothing the band Death Of Lovers offers a new artsy manifesto with the debut full length “The Acrobat”.

On “Orphans Of The Smog” certainly the post-punk elements are quite evident as Death Of Lovers skillfully concocts a perfect soundtrack for your daydreaming with hopeful minimalist guitar melodies and soft beats channeling full blown ‘80s nostalgia.

With a distinct cold wave aura “Ursula” could either favor a relaxing time or make you feel like dancing with dazed melodic guitars and a rather catchy rhythm holding the right dosage of retro atmospheric arrangements.

On “The Lowly People” vocals offer mixed feelings of profound melancholy and romantic vibes as the simple rhythmic patterns and warm guitar harmonies flow gently like a breeze reminiscing of ‘80s movies soundtracks.

On “Quay D’Orsay” palapable‘80s vibes can become quite luminous yet maintain a melancholic essence with soft arpeggios and stylish melodic guitars while electro infused instrumental passages ensure a hypnotizing mood.

With a totally danceable upbeat rhythm “The Absolute” is filled with post-punk dynamics but shimmering synths layers tend to gain a primary role favoring a surreal atmosphere that gracefully leads to a slick jazz saxophone solo.

The nostalgic themes of “The Acrobat” certainly will fascinate any listeners as Death Of Lovers focus on creating an overdose of sparkling melodies and dreamy atmospheres.

Beast In Black – Berserker

Those who were heartbroken when Battle Beast songwriter and guitarist Anton Kabanen left the band will be happy to enjoy his triumphant return with the newborn band Beast In Black and the explosive debut album “Berserker”.

The band’s renewed entity is ready to arise on the eponymous track “Beast In Black” with all kinds of power metal anthemic energy. Sharp and victorious guitar riffing & soloing will get you ready for the next battle with the expected generous dosage of polished shredding while majestic choirs and keyboards channel classic 80’s heavy metal.

On “Blind And Frozen” such vintage sound becomes more empowering with loads of catchy keyboards that contribute to build up an easy rhythm which acquires also some pompous yet absolutely irresistible 80’s pop melodic soul.

With “Born Again” the retro pop shenanigans are embellished by a more sentimental mood as the rhythm slows down at times to evoke emotional melodies in the midst of the usual massive guitar fancy tricks.

“Zodd The Immortal” might sound more serious ditching the big pop choruses to focus without any hesitation on a heavier sonic assault that certainly follows the major power metal guidelines but ultimately acquire a bold somber attitude with loads of entertaining guitar dynamics.

To properly close this album Beast In Black chooses the must-have ballad “Ghost In The Rain” which features all the emotional quality necessary to compose soothing dreamy melodies adorned by simple piano and gracefully passionate vocals.

Fans will be delighted to see that Anton’s seasoned songwriting skills are recognizable all over “Berserker”, an album infused with 80’s synth pop and cheesy power metal that has always had its own raison d’être.

b.o.s.c.h – Fleischwolf

It seems that the harsh climate of Germany’s North Sea coast had an effect on b.o.s.c.h resulting in the fierce electro metal manifesto of the latest effort “Fleischwolf”.

Immediately the album opener “Schock” is a delicious surprise as b.o.s.c.h skillfully focuses on big stomping grooves embellished by futuristic electro accents that definitely spice up the massive guitar driven rhythmic assault.

“Reiz Mich” seems to channel more aggressive metal dynamics as guitar riffs & drums become quite thick and harsh followed by inflamed vocals while quirky electro layers bring additional stylish variety.

“Blender” might have a less rambunctious start as subtle melodic guitars are ready to introduce a danceable electro atmospheric ensemble followed by exciting upbeat grooves surrounded by multiple industrial oriented arrangements.

The title track demands serious stomping on the dance floor with a dominant super catchy electro driven rhythm that also delivers some creepy accents while guitars continue to keep a sharp metal edge with bold riffing patterns.

“Du” has loads of intense industrial flavors as synths and guitars work together to ensure steady stomping worthy rhythms while vocals stand out in an energetic big chorus yet this track also features slightly somber melodic moments.

“Zu Spät” takes you to the Black Forest and its fairytale realm where bad witches are waiting for you as vocals shift from theatrical storytelling to bold tones following a mix of frenetic guitar driven grooves and spooky electro arrangements.

Overall, “Fleischwolf” relies on a modern fusion of electro/industrial element and primordial metal roots, inevitably a bit reminiscent of mighty Rammstein, as b.o.s.c.h can create absolutely raw energetic metal tunes without necessarily sacrificing a rather catchy essence.