Album Review – Death Angel / Humanicide (2019)

A solid and entertaining album of old school Thrash Metal that marks the band’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality.

Since their return from a long hiatus in 2001, American Thrash Metal wolfpack Death Angel has been on a constant and solid roll, releasing a series of albums that, although might not be considered masterpieces, are extremely high-quality albums of good old, classic thrash. If their 2016 installment The Evil Divide is in my humble opinion their strongest album of this new phase of the band and one of their all-time best ones in terms of creativity, speed and rage, we can say their brand new opus Humanicide, the ninth studio album in their career, continues to pave their thrashing path and keeps the band more than just relevant in the current metal scene, therefore keeping the flames of old school Thrash Metal burning brighter than a thousand suns.

Recorded and mixed at Audio Hammer Studios in Sanford, Florida, with additional recording at Spiderville Studios in Oakland, California and mastered at Sterling Sound in Nashville, Tennessee, Humanicide is the band’s fourth album in a row to be produced by Jason Suecof (Charred Walls of the Damned, Crotchduster, Capharnaum) and also to have the same lineup comprised of vocalist Mark Osegueda, guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar, bassist Damien Sisson and drummer Will Carroll. In addition to that, Humanicide also marks Death Angel’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality, which is also reflected in the album artwork designed by renowned American artist Brent Elliott White (Megadeth, Trivium, 4ARM, Thy Art Is Murder, Amon Amarth), who already worked with Death Angel in their 2010 album Relentless Retribution and in their 2013 album The Dream Calls for Blood. Having said that, are you ready to join this unrelenting wolfpack in their quest for Thrash Metal?

An epic intro ignites the bold title-track Humanicide, with the strident guitars by both Rob and Ted morphing into a shredding feast while Mark’s vocals sound piercing and acid just the way we like it, thrashing our souls mercilessly for almost six minutes before we’re treated to Divine Defector, devastating form start to finish thanks to the pounding beats by Will, and albeit not a brilliant song it’s still classic Thrash Metal and a good option for slamming into the pit. And more melodic but utterly aggressive, Death Angel put the pedal to the metal in another feast of classic guitar lines, nonstop drums and raspy vociferations in Aggressor, with Rob and Ted doing a very good job with both their acoustic lines and electrified riffs.

I Came for Blood, my favorite of all songs, is a fast and infuriated explosion of old school thrash where its guitars couldn’t sound more thrilling, while Damien and Will bring sheer thunder with their respective instruments, not to mention the song’s aggressive, take-no-prisoners-like lyrics (“The bloody nose of victory / Fueled by seeds of hate / Make peace with my enemies? / No chance, not today / I’ve traveled through the unknown / That is where I thrive / You chose to say my name aloud / So I shall never die”). Featuring the smooth piano by Ukrainian guest musician Vika Yermolyeva, Immortal Behated is a pensive and beautiful metal tune, very detailed and full of layers and nuances, and also presenting crisp guitar solos, intricate drumming and endless darkness to heighten our senses, whereas in Alive and Screaming they get back to their trademark berserk mode, with Mark being on fire on vocals supported by his bandmates’ potent backing vocals, showcasing once again a demolishing job done by Will on drums. And The Pack, as Mark himself says, is a call to arms, sounding as if the band wants to gather all thrashing wolves to fight side by side with them, with Rob and Ted stealing the spotlight with their flammable riffage.

Children Of Bodom’s own Alexi Laiho delivers a vibrant guitar solo in Ghost of Me, another fast-paced, high-octane tune with Mark firing his trademark screams, bringing to our ears riffs and solos played at the speed of light, therefore inspiring us all to slam into the pit like maniacs. Next, it’s time for Jason Suecof to fire a guitar solo in Revelation Song, focusing on the melody rather than the speed and offering another blast of dark poetry by the band (“Watch for their people dawning / Watch for their evil task / A negative space revival / A negative faceless mask, hey / A child to be so wicked / Coming to steal your mind / Lost in a destructive space / Lost in a revolting time”), with Damien’s bass sounding truly ominous in the background. Of Rats and Men is a generic version of their own music, which despite Mark’s efforts to make it more engaging the music never really takes off, while The Day I Walked Away, some sort of a “bonus track” included in all versions of the album (and that’s why I don’t understand why it’s called a bonus track), is one more not-so-exciting song by the band with a bland sound and vibe, but still presenting some good moments such as the guitar solos blasted by Rob and Ted.

In summary, as already mentioned Humanicide (available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale from several locations as you can see HERE) is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still an above average album of old school thrash that definitely deserves a shot. To be honest with you, I would love to see Death Angel go back to the more diverse and crisp musicality found in The Evil Divide, but of course I wouldn’t complain at all if they decide to keep following the same formula and deliver to us another ten albums on the same vein as Humanicide in the coming years. And for a great band like Death Angel, who have always crafted first-class Thrash Metal since their beginnings, that’s more than enough to keep us happy.

Best moments of the album: Humanicide, I Came for Blood, Immortal Behated and The Pack.

Worst moments of the album: Of Rats and Men and The Day I Walked Away.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Humanicide 5:42
2. Divine Defector 3:24
3. Aggressor 5:11
4. I Came for Blood 3:12
5. Immortal Behated 6:08
6. Alive and Screaming 3:36
7. The Pack 3:33
8. Ghost of Me 4:34
9. Revelation Song 5:33
10. Of Rats and Men 4:08
11. The Day I Walked Away 3:29

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

Guest musicians
Alexi Laiho – lead guitars on “Ghost of Me”
Jason Suecof – lead guitars on “Revelation Song”
Vika Yermolyeva – piano on “Immortal Behated”

Album Review – Amon Amarth / Berserker (2019)

Raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you together with the Swedish Vikings of Heavy Metal.

My fellow Vikings, it’s time to grab your swords, axes, spears and shields and head into the battlefield once again to the sound of Berserker, the eleventh studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal horde Amon Amarth and a huge step forward in terms of energy and creativity if compared to their previous album Jomsviking, released in 2016. Not only that, Berserker is also the band’s first album to feature Jocke Wallgren on drums, who joined the band in 2016, bringing thunder to the compositions by frontman Johan Hegg and his loyal henchmen Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg on the guitars and Ted Lundström on bass.

Featuring another epic artwork by American artist Brent Elliott White, Berserker brings to our ears pure, straightforward Amon Amarth with no artificial elements, sounding very dense, cohesive and, above all, extremely entertaining from start to finish. Furthermore, while saying that Berserker is not a concept album, Johan Hegg also stated that “it’s also about sticking together in the face of adversity. Then there’s more introverted stuff, as well – songs that relate to my private life, and I got the ideas for those songs from my wife.” In the end, all song work really well, sounding connected albeit each one on its own when you listen to the album in full, therefore providing you a smooth and powerful experience only hardworking bands like Amon Amarth can offer.

The acoustic guitar by guest Javier Reyes (from Animals as Leaders) ignite the heavy and vibrant Fafner’s Gold, with Jocke showing why he became a permanent member of the band. In a nutshell, it’s classic Amon Amarth with an extra kick coming from the flammable riffs by Olavi and Johan Söderberg, while in Crack the Sky it’s time to bang our heads together with the band while Johan Hegg leads the horde with his raspy roars in a mid-tempo extravaganza tailored for enjoying a cold pint of mead. Then slashing guitar sounds kick off another hard-hitting tune named Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, which can’t get any more Viking than what it already is with its pounding beats, crisp guitar solos and Johan’s deep growls, turning it into a must-listen for all fans of the genre; followed by Shield Wall, a true battle hymn spearheaded by the band’s most fearful Viking, Mr. Johan Hegg, vociferating the song’s catchy and inspiring chorus powerfully (“War / Here to conquer, battle ready, no retreat / Vikings / Raise the shield wall / Hold the front line / Fight till death”). Needless to say, this can easily become a fan-favorite during their live concerts.

Let’s keep the fires of Viking Metal burning bright in Valkyria, showcasing a beautiful job done by the band’s guitar duo while Jocke nicely dictates the rhythm with his potent beats, ending with melancholic piano notes, whereas Raven’s Flight contains all elements we love in their music, those being of course heavy and electrifying riffs, nonstop beats and enraged roars. Not only that, it’s at the same time fast and neck-breaking just the way classic Melodic Death Metal demands, while Ted’s bass keeps rumbling in the background majestically. In Ironside we’re treated to accelerated beats intertwined with headbanging moments, exhaling epicness and power in a crushing display of Swedish Melodic Death Metal, setting the tone for The Berserker at Stamford Bridge, bringing forward a pensive and dark aura while the instrumental pieces represent all the obscurity that’s embracing the main character to perfection. Moreover, get ready for battle to the sound of Olavi’s and Johan Söderberg’s guitars, who shred their strings with a lot of passion and feeling.

When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails is another one of those creations by Johan Hegg and his crew overflowing epicness where all instruments are in perfect sync, therefore enhancing the song’s taste and impact (especially Jocke with his rhythmic and groovy beats); and putting the pedal to the metal Amon Amarth smash our heads in Skoll and Hati, a song about the two wolves from Norse mythology (“From the iron moors of Jotunheim / Arose two beasts of wrath innate / Skoll and Hati were their names / Born of Fenris, born of hate”), represented by the speed and fury flowing from drums and guitars, which are all Johan Hegg needs to deliver a beyond powerful vocal performance. There’s no sign of slowing down as Wings of Eagles is just as frantic and vibrant as its predecessor, sounding perfect for heading into the battlefield (also known as the circle pit) to the crushing beats by Jocke and the thunderous bass lines by Ted. And last but not least, Into the Dark is another good song by the band which, albeit sounding as epic as expected, goes on for a little too long (maybe it would have worked better with a few extra variations). Johan Hegg’s deep guttural vocals are amazing, though, as well as the song’s final moments.

Are your spears and swords sharp enough to join the most beloved and dauntless Vikings of Melodic Death Metal in their quest for metal music? Well, I bet after listening to Berserker, available in full on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale HERE (or HERE if you fancy some exclusive, ass-kicking bundles), you’ll be more than ready to head into the battlefield and give your life and blood together with Amon Amarth. Put differently, simply raise the shield wall, hold your hammers high, and unleash the berserker that lives inside you in the name of Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Mjölner, Hammer of Thor, Shield Wall, Raven’s Flight and Skoll and Hati.

Worst moments of the album: Into the Dark.

Released in 2019 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. Fafner’s Gold 5:00
2. Crack the Sky 3:49
3. Mjölner, Hammer of Thor 4:42
4. Shield Wall 3:46
5. Valkyria 4:43
6. Raven’s Flight 5:20
7. Ironside 4:30
8. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge 5:13
9. When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails 4:24
10. Skoll and Hati 4:27
11. Wings of Eagles 4:03
12. Into the Dark 6:48

Band members
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass guitar
Jocke Wallgren – drums

Guest musician
Javier Reyes – acoustic guitars on “Fafner’s Gold”

Album Review – Anti-Mortem / New Southern (2014)

Southern Metal as raw, exciting and heavy as it can be.

Rating4

anti-mortem_new southernSouthern United States has always provided headbangers lots of awesome bands such as Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity, Down and, of course, Groove/Thrash Metal gods Pantera, and if there’s one thing that elevates this type of heavy music above many other genres is the passion those bands add to their music, an incredible mix of  Rock N’ Roll, Country Music and Blues that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Now, directly from Chickasha, Oklahoma, comes the excellent Southern Metal band Anti-Mortem, and their debut-album New Southern is just as heavy and dirty as hell.

The Anti-Mortem guys play with their hearts and souls throughout the entire record, never sounding bored or tired, which pretty much represents what Southern Rock really is. The songs might not be the fastest nor the most creative in the world, but they’re fuckin’ heavy (especially the lyrics and riffs), keeping the energy bar always high for the delight of all metalheads, hard rockers and bikers who enjoy sharing a cold beer with friends at a pub while listening to some good heavy music. Do not expect to listen to anything new or different in their music, like keyboards, electronic effects or any other kind of shit, the music here is just pure Rock N’ Roll.

The opening track, Words Of Wisdom, is an excellent summary of all that was said above: awesome heavy riffs the likes of Crowbar and Down, those dirty vocals we love, and a slow and heavy chorus that is totally catchy; while the following song, the title-track New Southern, provides us some more pure Southern Metal, as if the band is paying a tribute to Down with it. Then come my favorite song in New Southern, the powerful 100% Pure American Rage, with its engaging rhythm, direct riffs, cool lyrics (“We took all we will take / Our hate is American made / City to city, state to state / Our rage is American made”) and another great vocal performance by singer Larado Romo, and Hate Automatic, a more traditional Hard Rock tune with a chorus tailored for live performances. And if you didn’t like what you’ve listened to until here, well, I feel really sorry for you.

However, if you’re a true hard rocker and wants some more Anti-Mortem inside your ears and brain, you’ll enjoy the next song, Black Heartbeat, an interesting mix of Hard Rock and Glam Metal with elements from bands such as Skid Row, Alice In Chains, A7X and Audioslave, and simply love the excellent heavy tune I Get Along With The Devil, with its very southern sonority and explicit lyrics. Then we have the average song Path To Pain, which despite it’s nice vocals is nothing really outstanding; Wake Up, the type of song all hard rockers and bikers from the United States and the rest of the world just love from the bottom of their hearts; and the good Ride Of Your Life, with highlights to the good riffs which blend amazingly with the vocals.

anti-mortemNew Sothern’s last part has some good and not so good moments, which includes Stagnant Water, with total focus on the heavy riffs and the rumbling sound of the bass guitar, with a very cool guitar solo; Truck Stop Special, a generic song that doesn’t add any value to the album; Jonesboro, another average song which despite its good start could have been a lot better after all; and a fun and very competent cover version for Mr. Big’s A Little Too Loose as a bonus track. I guess the lyrics for this song (“I got a little too loose / In Oklahoma city”) were the inspiration for Anti-Mortem to record their version of it, don’t you agree?

And finally, ladies and gentleman, we have another 100% serious contender for “best album art of the year”: the front cover for New Southern is astonishingly perfect! Kudos to American artist Brent Elliott White, who has worked with so many awesome bands such as Trivium, Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Death Angel and Chimaira, which makes it easy to see why Anti-Mortem ended up choosing him to illustrate their music.

In summary, as I previously said, there’s nothing new in the music found in New Southern, but how can someone not get thrilled with it? It’s raw, honest, dirty and fuckin’ heavy, exactly the way Southern Metal should be, and while we have bands like Anti-Mortem spreading their powerful crude melody everywhere, we can rest assured heavy music will never die.

Best moments of the album: Words of Wisdom, 100% Pure American Rag, I Get Along With The Devil and A Little Too Loose.

Worst moments of the album: Path To Pain, Truck Stop Special and Jonesboro.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast Records

Track listing
1. Words Of Wisdom 4:24
2. New Southern 4:06
3. 100% Pure American Rage 3:36
4. Hate Automatic 3:57
5. Black Heartbeat 3:43
6. I Get Along With The Devil 2:57
7. Path To Pain 3:34
8. Wake Up 3:23
9. Ride Of Your Life 3:50
10. Stagnant Water 4:44
11. Truck Stop Special 4:05
12. Jonesboro 4:19

Bonus track
13. A Little Too Loose (Mr. Big Cover) 5:20

Band members
Larado Romo – Vocals
Nevada Romo – Guitar
Corey Henderson – Bass
Zain Smith – Guitar
Levi Dickerson- Drums