I swear, one of these days I’m going to get back to writing full length reviews. But what started out of necessity due to a total absence of free time has continued forward thanks to what feels like weeks on end of mediocre releases. There are some contenders to hopefully break that streak in the coming weeks (although the so-so early reviews on the new A Perfect Circle record won’t help), but until then, time to clean out my metal review closet.
Light the Torch – Revival
The former Devil You Know have returned with a new name and a tired sound. I, like every other guy who discovered metal in the late 90’s-early 2000’s, cut my teeth on Killswitch Engage’s The End of Heartache. Howard Jones may have been my first favorite metal vocalist. But KSE never topped that album with Howard at the mic (and to be honest, I’ve learned with age that Alive or Just Breathing is the superior album), and all three Devil You Know/Light the Torch albums have just made me pine for the days when Howard was the most commanding voice in metal.
There are a couple tracks on Revival that are worth you time (as there were on They Bleed Red and The Beauty of Destruction), but the overall album just falls flat. The soaring melodies of “Die Alone” and the devastating heaviness of “The Sound of Violence” stand out against an otherwise blasé record that consists almost entirely of clean vocals. While nobody has ever doubted Howard’s pipes, what made him so effective as a vocalist was his ability to balance his operatic singing voice with a blood-curdling scream. That scream, for whatever reason, is all but absent on Revival, creating a monotonous, overwhelmingly dull record.
“Die Alone”, “The Sound of Violence”
Napalm Death – Coded Smears and More Uncommon Slurs
It’s Napalm Death. It’s heavy and angry as fuck. If you’re expecting anything more or anything less, than that’s your own problem.
“Oh So Pseudo”, “Call that an Option”
Primordial – Exile Amongst the Ruins
The biggest knock against the Irish folk/black metalists on their most recent record is not of quality, but rather of organization. After hearing their first single, “To Hell or the Hangman”, well before the album released, my expectations shot through the roof. And then the album opens with “Nail their Tongues”, which is about as folk-y and black-y as it gets. The first two songs on the record had me preparing for an Album of the Year contender, but the rest of the album doesn’t deliver. Oh sure, it’s plenty heavy, balancing some fantastic doom with the band’s signature evil folk brooding, but the bar was simply set too high with the first two tracks for the rest of the record to live up to my early impressions.
Even so, Exile Amongst the Ruins is a highly entertaining listen, and you will be seeing “To Hell or the Hangman” on plenty year-end lists. The energy on the track (noticeably absent from the rest of this album) is infectious, and the pseudo-western acoustic riff that sends the track barreling around ever turn is an absolute marvel to listen to unfurl.
“Nail Their Tongues”, “To Hell or the Hangman”
Vexes – Ancient Geometry
Do you have a Deftones-shaped hole in your heart that you’ve been trying to fill? Well then I’ve got the band for you! Stopping just short of becoming a full-on cover band, Vexes’ sound falls nicely in between the early and later years sound of Deftones, with plenty of groove spliced with an equal portion of melody. While it’s hard to go too crazy over an album that’s so clearly derivative of a band that’s come before it, what’s the matter with releasing a great Deftones record? Deftones sure as hell didn’t do it with 2016’s Gore or 2012’s Koi No Yokan, so there’s an untapped market for the post-rock/nu-metal hybrid sound.
The album opener, “Helion”, has one of the most powerful choruses of 2018, starting the album out with a thunderous boom before transitioning into the more melodic singles, “Lift” and “Plasticine”. The surprising strength of the album is in the second half, where some of the more complete and memorable songs land. “Terra” might be the best on the record not named Helion, and “No Color” would have an argument for that top spot as well if not for the embarrassingly bad rapping verse.
“Helion”, “Plasticine”, “Terra”