Sometimes, life gets in the way of the important things. I’ve been dealing with so many happenings with my day job and my new house and my cat that I’ve been neglecting what’s important in life. Namely, writing metal reviews and watching Big Trouble in Little China for the 100th time. Well that changes now. Here’s a bunch of notable releases from May. Because you know what Jack Burton says: “Yes sir, the check is in the mail”:
TesseracT – Sonder
These British prog legends were going to have a hard time topping their previous release, 2015’s Polaris, in my book. What they’ve done is return with an even proggier, even more melodic, and at points, even heavier record. So did they surpass my expectations? Not exactly…
The problem with Sonder is that there’s just not enough of it. 36 minutes and 7 songs are all that you get to enjoy on Sonder, and one of them (“Smile”) is just an updated version of a single they released last year. But that wouldn’t be a problem if the music were bad. Everyone wins when there’s less bad music. But Sonder is a fantastic album, full of prog and melody and the deftest touch of heaviness where needed (seriously, the 3-5 screamed words in “King” make me want to super punch a skyscraper). It’s because of the sustained excellence throughout the album (even the updated version of “Smile”, a great song that didn’t necessarily need updating is a smashing success) that the short run time becomes problematic. But the material on the album is fantastic.
“Luminary”, “King”, “The Arrow”
Sevendust – All I See Is War
Fun fact: the first metal show that I ever attended was Sevendust and Ill Nino at the Ogden Theater in Denver back in 2003. My friend Spencer snuck a frozen waffle into the venue in his pants and threw it at the band as they took the stage because we wanted to hear them play “Waffle”. They did. 100% true story.
Anyway, after 12 (seriously, 12!) studio albums, you should know what to expect out of Sevendust at this point. Lajon Witherspoon still has the best pure voice in rock & metal. Morgan Rose is a drum god. This album is full of solid jams and great hooks, and for anyone who loves this band, you’ll dig this record. Interestingly enough, the album is carried by both the heaviest tracks (“Dirty”, “Risen”, “The Truth”) and the softer tracks (“Not Original”), while the middle-of-the-road tracks tend to be where the album can bog down a bit. Still, a great effort from one of my all-time favorites.
“Dirty”, “Risen”, “Not Original”
Wolf King – Loyal to the Soil
One of at least four wolf-themed bands to have released an album in the last few weeks (Wolvhammer, Wolves Among Us and Bad Wolves for those who were wondering), Loyal to the Soil is the leader of the pack when it comes to quality (get it? It’s a wolf pun). Their blackened hardcore sound works really well with the unhinged screams (a la God Mother) on tracks like “Hail the Ash” and “Sorrow’s Reach”, while the tracks where they slow things down and boost the low end sound like Sumac getting a Deathcore makeover.
The introduction of the deeper death-growls after the first few tracks helps elevate this record from good to borderline great. While the primary screams work well for me, I could see their higher registry growing old over the course of an album if there growls weren’t there to balance them out. I’ve seen some comparisons to Nails thrown out for Wolf King, and while they never hit that level of violence they’re more than aggressive enough for the average metal fan.
“Hail the Ash”, “Loyal to the Soil I”, “Sorrow’s Reach”
Abraham – Look, Here Comes the Dark!
Clocking in at a mind-boggling 1 hour, 51 minutes, Look, Here Comes the Dark! is not an undertaking for the feint of heart or the short of time. I feel like this Swiss post-rock outfit were aiming to prove that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing on this album, because while each and every track is quite good, I’ve managed to feel downright exhausted each time I’ve finished listening.
Daunting run-time aside, Look, Here Comes the Dark! is an impressive record, full of varying styles and tempos that keep it relatively engaging throughout. The best comparison I could think of for their sound would be Cult of Luna minus the 80’s synth, but there are touches of Mastodon and a host of other bands thrown in as well. Extra bonus points for the cool concept of the album (it’s about a post-apocalyptic world) that comes through quite well in the lyrics. A thoughtful, expansive listen, and I could see this grade rising as I’m able to really give the record the time it deserves.
“Hyperoine”, “Vulvaire”, “Erth”
LIK – Carnage
Hailing from Sweden, LIK (which apparently means “Corpse” in Swedish – how clever) drop the technicality and melody that seems to be ever present in Death Metal these days in favor of a straight-forward gore fest. Bonus points awarded from some of the heaviest, crunchiest riffs of the year. Extra bonus points for growled vocals that you can actually understand! Points lost for being able to understand the lyrics…Bill Shakespeare these guys are not.
LIK certainly aren’t reinventing the wheel with Carnage, but Death Metal as a genre tends to get stale pretty easily. This album is a refreshing take that plays well throughout, with songs that work very well individually rather than every track blending together in a guttural goulash.
“Rid You of Your Flesh”, “Only Death is Left Alive”
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
A Norwegian Operatic black metal outfit full of dudes in corpse paint with names like Shagrath, Silenoz and ICS Vortex should not be allowed to put out an album that is this boring. I’ve been trying like hell for 10 minutes to come up with interesting things to say about Eonian, but if I’m being honest I can’t remember a damn thing about it. This album is wholly forgettable.
Sure, “Interdimensional Summit” is pretty cool, and “Council of Wolves and Snakes” is an alright track, but that’s it as far as this record goes. It took everything in my power just to make it through the entirety of the record once, and I can guarantee you I won’t be making it all the way through again. I’d rather test my lawnmower blade with my tongue than submit myself to that again.