Vltimas: Something Wicked Marches In (Season Of Mist)
Put together former Morbid Angel member David Vincent, Rune ‘Blasphemer’ Eriksen (ex-Mayhem and Aura Noir) and Crytopsy’s Flo Mounier and you have the ingredients for a lesson in brutality. Of course, as anyone who has dabbled in the kitchen will know, having all the ingredients does not automatically grant you immediate rights to produce masterful pieces of culinary delight. Thankfully, Something Wicked Marches In does indeed help the palate salivate in all the right places. Nine tracks of meaty death metal, punishing and ungodly, technically tidy and featuring Vincent’s distinctive throaty roar all combine nicely to add to the ever-growing pool of top-quality output that the death metal scene appears to be excelling at once again this year. The title track sets the scene, a brutal pulverising blast which sets off fast and increases in speed steadily.
This is balanced by the immense Monolith, a five-minute epic, full of jagged chainsaw riffage, Vincent’s roar and a stellar performance in the drum department from Mounier. With the bludgeoning approach of the band’s previous outfits evident in the delivery, there is sufficient in this album to allow you to kick back and enjoy as the riffs rain down, the pace changes and the album flows. Last One Alive Wins Nothing and closing track Marching On are among the highlights of an album that at times sails very close to the Behemoth style of delivery. At times frenzied in approach, at others controlled and crushingly heavy, there is nothing here to either elevate the band to the highest table but also nothing to relegate them from the top division. This is solid, impressive and well worth grabbing hold of a copy. 8/10
Frosthelm: Pyrrhic (Revenger Records)
Blackened thrash metal is the order of the day with the sophomore release from North Detroit’s five-piece Frosthelm and follows their 2015 debut The Endless Winter. With an album whose meaning is defined as ‘a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat’, you have a feeling from the opening bars of the sweetly titled A Gift of Razors that this isn’t going to be a joyous, feel good album. And whilst that is true in terms of subject matter, if blistering razor-sharp lead breaks, battering drumming and horrible roaring vocals are your thing, then Pyrrhic should make you smile, for this is a savage and relentless album that peels the flesh and melts the skin. Bernard Pfliger is the voice, and one of unrestrained ferocity at that.
His bloodcurdling roars would damage foundations such is the gravity and power. Serpentine Embrace is just as intense, Brian Helm’s beats per minute up in the high hundreds’ whist the slashing guitar work of Dakota Irwin and Billy Zahn threaten to leave permanent damage. Whilst this onslaught would be horrific for many, the punk edges pulsating pace and beating black heart of songs such as Pisslord, Immortal Nightfall A Dreamless Lust and the closing seven-minute monster Pyrrhic II: Looming Dusk disguise a technicality and ability that is often overlooked. Sheer nastiness is often dismissed without searching underneath for the quality. Brutal? Oh Yes but Frosthlem deserve your attention. 7/10
Sons Of Cain: The Book Of Cain (Self Released)
Sons Of Cain is bizarrely one of the most used names in hard rock. This version of Sons Of Cain hail from Central Illinois and play a thick style of Southern Rock which trades on the typical style you would expect from a band whose genre is described on Facebook as ‘Southerny Metally Bluesy Ballsy Chunky Fuckin' Rock n' Roll, man’. The seven-minute second track Battle Cry possibly sums up this album best; fat riffs, a sludgy NOLA sound and a punk edged attitude with Jess Reed’s vocals reminiscent of the way Phil Anselmo snarls on latter day Pantera. The album improves as it progresses, Nomad and another thumping seven-minute track West Harrison both have gnarly chunky riffs, and switch pace as they progress.
West Harrison smoulders throughout, the ignition spark light midway through as the track expands into a full force smash in the face. There is even some Sabbath style riffage tucked away midst the mayhem that unfolds. It’s snarling, angry stuff but it hits many of the right spots, with some massive guitar work and a drum sound that sticks with you. The Book Of Cain may not be the most original album of the year, but it has heft, solidity and an overall appeal which makes me smile every time I play it. Great stuff. 7/10
Sküma: Vol.  (Self Released)
Badged as a band that straddles the middle ground between pop and rock, Greek outfit Sküma’s debut album consists 32 minutes of stoner style music, spread over eight songs. The band veer close to the early Nirvana sound at times although they are no clones. Tracks such as P4NDA and the opening Sküma contain some raucous, angry riffs. The band’s compositions are reasonable, with some of the better moments coming on no-nonsense head down songs like Newen and T.F.B. Disappointingly, Mixalis’s vocals are weak and often struggle to stay in tune, which hampers the overall sound of this band from Heraklion. It’s a bold attempt but one that ultimately doesn’t get me excited in anyway. 5/10