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Albums of 6/14/24

The most interesting releases of the week!

Angel Sword – World Fighter

Angel Sword celebrate their flaws. The band’s previous release, 2019’s Neon City, had some solid riffs and a sky high entertainment factor, but didn’t stay in my rotation for long. Now the band’s third full-length World Fighter comes to us from Dying Victims Productions. Angel Sword still play heavy metal, but now they’ve moved even farther into the depths and flaws of the genre. The vocals and general songwriting approach remind me of Bob Dylan or Graham Parker at times, not in terms of style, but in terms of emoting at the occasional cost of pitch and tone.

The promotional material for this record focuses on grit and on the band’s goal to “re-summon the metal gods of old.” We end up with catchy hooks and some great guitar solos, but the drums and the bass seem like they’re passengers at times. World Fighter really achieves their 80s throwback sound in their production, where they double or triple layer vocals and slap enough reverb to overwhelm the actual melody at times. Luckily, their attempt at old school heavy metal didn’t go so far as to completely give into 80s production. All the instruments come through clear. If you’re looking for something fresh or with modern sensibilities, Angel Sword won’t be for you. But for fans of their previous albums and for those looking back into the past with longing, World Fighter is here with a satisfying statement.

Darkend – Viaticum

Viaticum is Darkend‘s fifth release, but I hadn’t heard of this band prior to Time to Kill Records giving us this release. Viaticum consists of emotive and lengthy black metal. The production job on Viaticum ended up being my biggest roadblock towards enjoying the release. The music sounds muddy at times, and not in a lo-fi black metal way but in a way that suggests that the album really needed another month or two of development time. Beyond that, Viaticum succeeds in pretty much every possible way.

Darkend used some stellar songwriting to create this record. Viacticum feels like one cohesive piece of music, which does increase the experienced length of some of these songs. However, the whole album songs so engaging and folds back in on itself so well that the length doesn’t end up being an issue. The performances throughout are fantastic as well, really squeezing everything out of every note to convey that the band has big feelings and wants you to know about them. Some passages on Viaticum have quite sparse orchestration, but Darkend use those moments to highlight whatever remaining dissonances or melodies are left in the song.

Miasmic Serum – Infected Seed

Infected Seed is the debut album from Italian death metal band Miasmic Serum, released on Chaos Records. This impressive Conjureth-style OSDM features guest appearances from Jason Netherton of Misery Index and Fiore Stravino of Fulci. There are some short, evenly-spaced, and entertaining interludes (intro “Auditory Hallucinations,” album midpoint “Neurotoxic Venom,” and penultimate track “Ancient Initiation Rite”), but otherwise this music is all bludgeon all the time.

Percussion makes the first lasting impression on Infected Seed. These songs sound frantic and busy, but never too complicated or messy. The tight and furious drum patterns deserve credit for striking this balance. They aren’t alone, though, as the guitars and bass both shine when given the chance. Miasmic Serum wrote some mid-tempo tracks and then filled in every moment they could with some small flair. I’m not in love with the vocals, but they fit well with the guitars and don’t detract from the listening experience. Infected Seed hits heavy.

Apes – Penitence

The new album from Apes sounds like it was mixed by. Well. Anyways, Penitence is this grindcore group’s second full-length, released on Secret Swarm Records, and it slots in nicely in a string of excellent grindcore releases this year, following bands like Beaten To Death and Full Of Hell. Whereas those bands painted with bright and clashing colors, Apes has created a more doomy, darker album that fits the cover art quite well.

So I don’t overly like the production, as this album feels muddy and separated from the listener, but that may well have been an artistic choice here as muddy and distant fit the sound of Apes excellently. Penitence contains riffs, but they serve more as conveyors of layers of dissonance and pulsing heaviness than anything like melodic moments. This album is everything all the time, and seems frustrated at being that. Just an expulsion of negative emotion with well-earned rest at the end.

Sunburst – Manifesto

They call themselves “cinematic” metal. I’ve never been 100% clear on what that is, but Sunburst definitely fits. Manifesto, released on Inner Wound Recordings, very distinctly draws from Luca Turilli-era Rhapsody of Fire and Symphony X. Manifesto took eight years to come out and sounds like it. Sunburst‘s consistent, metronomic guitar lines and drum bursts contribute to an immersive listening experience.

No part of Manifesto stood out as individually excellent. There are great guitar solos sprinkled throughout, and drums that pop and add life to passages where needed. There are bass lines that harmonize well and vocal passages that soar. There are memorable riffs and interlude-like instrumental passages that are worth listening to. But what ultimately sticks out when listening to Manifesto is how well the various pieces fit together to form a seamless, metallic shine. After listening, Sunburst stayed with me, and I have to assume it will remain with me for a long time.