3.5

Pharaoh – The Powers That Be Review

Pharaoh – The Powers That Be Review

“For a time it seemed Philly-based Pharaoh would be the vanguard of a new wave of gritty American traditional/power metal. Albums like The Longest Night and 2012s Bury the Light bristled with burly riffs and rough-hewn vocals, accentuated by super slick musicality and proggy elements. After nearly nine years without a release, the band’s forward momentum is a thing of the distant past, but that doesn’t mean they can’t drop another barn burning dose of heavy metal thunder with fifth album The Powers That Be.” Curse of the Pharaoh!

Helloween – Helloween Review

Helloween – Helloween Review

Helloween gets 97.543% of the credit for creating what we now think of as the Euro-power metal sound. Led by the high-pitched wailing of Kai Hansen, their Walls of Jericho debut was a nonstop rush of speed and irresistible hooks, and Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I was less speedy but far more polished and majestic, featuring the vocal power of a young Michael Kiske. When it was announced that BOTH long absent frontmen would be returning to Helloween to join current frontman Andi Deris for a new album, I felt conflicted.” He should have squashed his expectations.

Starlight Ritual – Sealed in Starlight Review

Starlight Ritual – Sealed in Starlight Review

Sponge Boy(d) and I don’t exactly have well aligned worldviews or musical tastes, but for whatever reason we both laid claim to the debut by Canadian classic metal act Starlight Ritual. Instead of fussin’ and feudin’, we decided to do a double review of Sealed in Starlight instead. See? People of different opinions can work together! Hailing from Quebec, this crew rocks a heavy metal sound steeped in the 80s. They cite influences ranging from Mötörhead, Rainbow and Judas Priest.” Sealed in the 80s.

Inhuman Condition – Rat°God Review

Inhuman Condition – Rat°God Review

“As an elderly gent who was already big into heavy metal long before genres like death and black arose and split off to maraud and pillage, I remember the early days of death fondly. Those seminal 80s albums by Death, Necrophagia, and Pestilence were simple, elemental and loads of unholy fun. When Massacre‘s long-delayed From Beyond debut hit the streets in 1991, it was like a capstone on that original sound, which was already mutating and evolving into nastier, more abhorrent entities. I’m still very fond of those early platters, and was especially annoyed that Massacre never managed a decent follow up to their classic release. Fast-forward 30 years and Death / Massacre alumnus Terry Butler teamed up with some well-traveled younger guns to release what is essentially a continuation of Massacre with the name Inhuman Condition.” Vermin Supreme.

Black Moon Mother – Illusions Under the Sun Review

Black Moon Mother – Illusions Under the Sun Review

“Enter Nashville’s Black Moon Mother, a group that you can imagine listening to in a smoky bar with a whiskey, rather than a dingy club with a moshpit. Playing a combination of dense doom, shoegaze, indie rock and even trip-hop, Illusions Under the Sun is their debut album. While certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, this is a notable debut, forged on the back of a compelling live show and a willingness to bend some of metal’s sacred rules.” Doom mother sex magik.

Hannes Grossmann – To Where the Light Retreats Review

Hannes Grossmann – To Where the Light Retreats Review

“I have a confession to make. I have a pathological aversion to bands named after people. Unless your name is Ozzy or Dio, I’m probably not going to listen to your album. Ok, I guess I love the solo stuff from Warrel Dane and Michael Romeo, but that’s it! I honestly can’t explain why, but I’ve just always thought that metal is a band’s genre. Anyways, I’ve said all that to immediately contradict myself.” What’s in a name?

Portal – Hagbulbia Review

Portal – Hagbulbia Review

“There are a number of cool things about Hagbulbia, but on my first listen, I figured the coolest was that Portal won’t ever have to make it again. By my fifth, I was convinced that they should. After two decades muddling death metal and noise, the release of thirty-eight minutes heavily skewed towards the latter is not just obvious; it’s almost required. As such, Hagbulbia is a burning distillation of Portal’s less musical humors, but the band have chosen a canny strategy for its release. As an unannounced companion to the more traditional Avow, it can be at worst a novelty rather than nuisance for fans, who may be far more receptive to the cocktail than a shot.” There may be cake.

Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments Review

Perturbator – Lustful Sacraments Review

“It is an interesting phenomenon how French synthwave musician Perturbator became a common household name among today’s metalhead community. Several years ago, I had an opportunity to see Perturbator live at Seattle’s vegan metal bar The Highline, the same venue where I previously saw AlcestOathbreaker, and Khemmis. Though it slipped my mind why I ultimately was unable to attend the Perturbator show, the point is that Perturbator has somehow become more aligned with the underground metal scene even though it would make far more sense for the band’s music to circulate most comfortably in synthwave circles.” Synthy lust.

Svneatr – Chinook Review

Svneatr – Chinook Review

“Another day, another black metal album. Just like my daily bowl of Lucky Charms and cup of coffee, it will either be delicious or tiresome. Is it gonna be Starbucks’ ashtray blend or Trve Kvlt’s Diabolical Divinations roast? Is Lucky Charms gonna hurt that shady cavity I’ve got developing in my molars or will it delight with its blend of hearty bits and sweet marshmallows? It’s a toss-up – just like black metal. While I have history with Vancouver’s Svneatr, sophomore effort Chinook hopes to follow up 2018’s excellent The Howl, The Whisper, The Hunt with a cold, riffy second-wave shenanigans. Does Chinook live up to to the hype?” If you want to destroy my Svneatr

Cross Vault – As Strangers We Depart Review

Cross Vault – As Strangers We Depart Review

“There are certain key words and taglines that all but guarantee your friendly stronghold Steel will seize a promo as his own, jealously guarding it from interlopers, pretenders and would-be promo usurpers. Putting “Viking doom” in your promo blurb alongside reference to Bathory is one such way to score a hard ticket to the iron reviewing table. Germany’s Cross Vault have been toiling away in relative obscurity since 2014, heavily influenced by acts like Warning and crafting downcast material that often feels like a follow up to that act’s monumental Watching from a Distance opus. By 2015 a heavier, more grandiose sound made an appearance alongside the Warning-isms, somewhat justifying Viking era Bathory comparisons. After 4 years of silence, third album As Strangers We Depart sees the band once again searching for that perfect blend of doom, gloom and epic sounds.” Doom n’ boom.