Once upon a time in the MetalReview Dot Com Days Ov Yore, this crew of particularly persnickety prickly pears would review everything sent to the email inbox (or PO box). It’s unfathomable to think of now, with most of us getting anywhere from 20-50 promo emails a week; there is simply too much to cover for us hobbyists. Even among the stuff we love we can’t possibly catch ‘em all, no matter how much the Blazikens and Gengars and Bidoofs of the heavy metal world might tempt us with their sounds.
So every year, we have a little tradition where we drop way too many mini-reviews on you over the course of a few days in an attempt to catch up at least a little. We’ll never catch ‘em all again, because time is scarce, we’re all older, and quite frankly your power metal demo probably isn’t very good and we just simply don’t enjoy being mean anymore. Nothing you’ll read below (or over the next few days) is mean. Quite the opposite, in fact, as these are all things we enjoy a lot, which is exactly why we’re doing this!
Please enjoy part 1 of our 2022 Missing Pieces / Heretofore uncaught heavy metal Pokémon. Parts 2 and 3 to follow tomorrow and Friday.
MOONLIGHT SORCERY ‒ PIERCING THROUGH THE FROZEN ETERNITY
released March 31; Avantgarde Music
This is the best EP of 2022. That’s it. That’s the review.
Fine, you needy bastards, I’ll tell you more!
Finland’s Moonlight Sorcery has made some unholy pact with a dark wizard and conjured one hellishly fiery debut EP. The band has been around since 2018 but they appear to have been spending all those years working on their spell craft to cast one perfect 25-minute charm over black metal fans in the form of Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity. While this three-piece resides in the realm of melodic black metal, two key things help them stand out:
The reserved use of one instrument.
The unabashed abuse of the rest.
Melodic black metal often leans heavily on keyboards. That can be great fun but require a band to straddle dangerously close to sound too cheesy. Moonlight Sorcery keeps its keys of various persuasions in check. Piano in the intro track, synths and organs to bring the release to a somber close, and a brief almost dance beat with the drums in the middle of one track or the only times they dominate the mix. For the most part keys and synths are simply there to provide a layer of stardust to the songs.
All the other instruments, however, are primarily in shred mode. The guitars are on fire when riffing but they are often peppered with phrases you think belong in a lead but exist for the sake of adding color to the song. When the band does finally give into a lead, it’s pure 80’s shred that belongs on a big stage with bright lights and pyrotechnics. It’s not just the guitars that shred either. Session drummer Tommi “Tomahawk” Tuhkala is an animal on the kit. He opens “Wolven Hour” with a triumphant gallop and then turns that into a wild sprint via some fancy cymbal work not long after.
The only shortcoming this release has is it being an EP and robbing us of at least another 20 minutes of glorious bonfire-and-beer black metal. [SPENCER HOTZ]
DEKONSTRUKT ‒ MENTALLY TRAPPED
released March 25; Subzine / Modern Illusion
Subtlety is nice, right? Like, sometimes you want to sit with a nice cup of tea and read the paper on a quiet morning. But other times you want to go dumpster diving with a mouthful of rusty nails and sucker-punch a sewer rat the size of a Rottweiler. When you’re feeling exactly that kind of need for mean, bleeding speed, Germany’s Dekonstrukt is more than capable of bringing the hurt. The five-piece band from Ulm plays a seriously pissed-off brand of crust punk in the vein of Wolfbrigade or Tragedy, careening ahead with wild-eyed ferocity flecked with grind, d-beat, and even a touch of death metal.
Dekonstrukt’s two guitarists charge through a huge range of styles, and the recording is satisfyingly thick and grimy while retaining enough clarity to follow all the impressive, whiplashing changes. Four of the five members are credited with at least some vocals, so there’s a real sense of collective anger to complement lead vocalist Mona’s enraged howl, which is a bit similar to Fuck the Facts’s Mel Mongeon. With most songs falling in the two- to three-minute range, there’s plenty of time to develop riffs and ride them out, but things still clatter by at a whirlwind pace, whether it’s the blackened melody of “Vortex,” the killer, Napam Death-y stank-face breakdown on “Outlast,” the snarling d-beat of “Atheos,” or the Bolt Thrower gallop on “Taste of Decay.” I’m sure that Dekonstrukt are perfectly lovely people, but on the evidence of Mentally Trapped they might just as soon throw a skyscraper at you like a javelin as they would buy you a beer. A smashing great time! [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
EUCHARIST ‒ I AM THE VOID
released March 25; Regain
When Dissection returned from Jon Nödtveidt’s, um, sabbatical*, they surprised long-time fans by not continuing with the icy, melodic black metal style that made their two 90s albums classics but instead heading in a much more melodeath direction. Eucharist is kind of doing the opposite. While A Velvet Creation and Mirrorworlds don’t exactly have the legendary bonafides of The Somberlain and Storm of the Light’s Bane, they’re still quite revered by many a fan, especially those that prefer a less spit-shined form of melodeath.
So naturally, Eucharist’s comeback I Am the Void is far harsher, far more aggressive, and far more black metal than either 90s album. And while the album does have quite a bit of the type of frigid, melodic, “blue cover” black metal perfected by their Swedish countrymen in Dissection (amongst others), much of it goes a lot farther into the blackened arts. So far, in fact, that the closest parallel to the cyclical darkness of opener “Shadows” would be a less muffled, more full band- (and audible bass-) sounding version of Darkthrone’s “As Flittermice as Satans Spys.” Lone remaining legacy Eucharist member Markus Johnsson stated that this record was going to be grislier and more destructive than their 90s output, and from its first seconds, I Am the Void is out to prove him an honest man (the naked desperation of his vocals also helps quite a bit).
Much of the record ends up somewhere between various corners of the Norwegian Second Wave (the Darkthrone vibes, some Gorgoroth, and a lot of In the Nightside Eclipse) and the Dissection feel, with Eucharist finding success all along such a spectrum. At the more purely grim end is the aforementioned opener, while at the other side you have tunes like “Mistress of Nightmares,” with its beautifully frosty melodies and hard-driving rhythms. It’s in the middle where I Am the Void finds much of its gold, however, with tracks like “In the Blaze of the Blood Red Moon” and “In the Heart of Infinity” hitting aggression, melody, and bleakness in near equal measure, proving that Eucharist’s move to darker territories wasn’t just a gimmick, but accompanied by smart songcraft and tight riffage.
The only real downside to I Am the Void is that at over 76 minutes (on the digital and deluxe versions), it is a lot, but it’s largely a lot of very good (and you will want to get to the atmospheric, nearly 10-minute title track closer). The return of Eucharist is surprising both due to all the years since Mirrorworlds (almost 25!) and for the exact musical style delivered, but it’s a return that ends up being very welcome for those exact same reasons. [ZACH DUVALL]
* Time spent in prison for murder, but you knew that.
MISERY INDEX ‒ COMPLETE CONTROL
released May 13; Century Media
It’s the first word I think of when I think of Misery Index, whose pummeling take on death/grind has been just exactly that — both reliable and pummeling — through twenty-plus years and six full albums now. Complete Control doesn’t change anything, really, and that’s a good thing. Change is not what I want from Misery Index. Reliability. That’s what I want.
Aggressive as hell, balancing slicing death metal with brute force grind and hardcore groove, Complete Control is certainly a swaggering beast, all fierce bellow and bone-breaking fists, savage fury and seemingly limitless fire. Dig a little bit deeper and you’ll see that it’s a smart fellow, too, rife with polysyllabic disgust, taking on the evils of modern society with a depth and wisdom belied by its skull-punching tendencies. Brief flirtations with melody (“Rites Of Cruelty”) and atmosphere (the intro and midsection of “Administer The Dagger,” some tremolo riffing in “The Eaters And The Eaten”) offer only the slightest deviations from the Misery Index norm established long ago: death metal riff, grindcore intensity, hardcore invective. When the intro to “The Eaters And The Eaten” kicks in, sounding for all the world like the angriest swarm of stinging insects imaginable, it’s damned near pure death/grind perfection, from a band that has reliably delivered pretty much that.
At this point, it’s almost a moot point to rank a new Misery Index record against those that came before — each one is a variation on their theme, and each one has its many strong points, and probably none will ever be your favorite over whichever one got you here. Complete Control continues that trend — it’s as great as the previous two, maybe not quite as good as some older ones, but if that’s true, it’s only by the slightest margin, because Misery Index always delivers. There’s a word for that.
Reliability. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
OBSIDIAN SEA ‒ PATHOS
released February 4; Ripple Music
Last we spoke of Obsidian Sea was back in 2019, shortly after they’d released their wonderfully warm and unconventional third full-length Strangers, an album that… Hmmm… Yeah, managed to fall through the cracks and only gained coverage here at LR amidst that year’s edition of Missing Pieces by yours truly. You know, one of these days I might actually surprise myself by learning at least one life lesson. Today is clearly not that day, though, because yet another Obsidian Sea release has slipped under the radar, now poking its head from its elusive hidey-hole to give me a rather snide side-eye. I wear my shame like armor.
Great news! Obsidian Sea remains Bulgaria’s champions of woozy doom / proto experi-metal / hard avant-rock, and much like Strangers, Phobos continues the band’s trajectory of delivering the goods in a freaky-deaky sort of way that “owes as much to Sabbath as it does a record like Paul Chain’s Alkahest.” Sure, it’s a little strange when a fairly strange band remains strange in virtually the same strange ways as the past, but when you’re cookin’ such an effortlessly strange little stew and do so with a healthy stretch of years between bowlfuls, that strangeness continues to be gratifying whenever it happens across your lap. Think of Phobos as that cozily strange stray cat that occasionally wanders into the chilly cabin for a steady sesh of warm snugglin’ and peculiar conversation aforn vanishing once again in a plume of mushroom dust.
Okay, Phobos might actually be a touch more experimental compared to Strangers—just a whisker’s worth of additional progginess coating that occult fur, making it an ideal record for backyard wizards who love the idea of cranking playful, sometimes drifty, sometimes tipsy, always impish doom that’s equally as likely to be played by humans in pointy boots as it is by shady garden gnomes. I hope you read that as the compliment it’s intended to be. Quaint hails to the steadily strange! [CAPTAIN]
PORCUPINE TREE – CLOSURE / CONTINUATION
released June 24; Music For Nations
The new album from Porcupine Tree, their first in 13 years (and their first since 1993 to not include bassist Colin Edwin), feels a little like a visit with an old friend after a long absence. Of course they’re the same person, but they’ve also lived a whole different life since you last saw them and they’re bound to be different in some important ways. Or, perhaps more concerning, they may not have changed at all. The anticipation brings with it at least a little anxiety.
Porcupine Tree and Inside Out started releasing the lead singles for Closure / Continuation way back in November of last year, a full nine months before the scheduled release date of June 24. “Harridan,” “Of the New Day,” “Herd Culling,” and “Rats Return” gave a pretty clear picture of what PT would be like when they eventually showed up again: looks and sounds a lot like the good ol’ pal you came to love all those years ago, with frequent nods to those good ol’ days, but dressed a little differently, a little fresher bounce in the step then the last time you remember. Comforting. And yet… not quite familiar.
When the full album dropped, early releases made up the first three tracks so, while the potential for disappointment was averted, so too was the delightful shock of surprise. A little dry, a bit pro forma. In all it took a few rounds of catching up to recognize new developments through the old habits, to appreciate the growth from a well-laid foundation, to recognize those subtle new features as belonging naturally in the face of your old friend. And though they sounded about the same, they conveyed their sentiments a little differently, with a little different rhythm, shaping their stories in ways you don’t remember them doing, surely a reflection of diverse experiences they’ve enjoyed in the interim. Anyway, it was nice to be feeling an intimate connection again, however it had evolved.
And then “Chimera’s Wreck.” They’d been saving this for last, apparently unsure of how well it might be received against expectations. But it was extraordinary. A self-assured reinterpretation of everything the two of you loved about all the music you’ve shared, remembering those oldest days and pointed boldly to the future. It was then that you remembered what made you such great friends in the first place.
Porcupine Tree has a couple of surprises for you, too, bundled in a little box of extras. They’ve always got extras. Those are terrific and may end up being your favorite part of the visit in the end but, for now, you’re just so happy they’re back, a little older, a little wiser, and just as wonderful as you remembered. [LONE WATIE]