Album review: Hellhound “Warrior of Rising Sun”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Hellhound consists of dedicated Japanese metalheads on a mission.

As I listen to “Warrior of Rising Sun”, Japanese heavy metal band Hellhound’s new album, I have a big smile on my face. The album is a mix of new songs and re-recordings by the current line-up of the band of some of the band’s old songs. The band has been around for almost two decades. They debuted with the “Welcome to Metal Zone” EP in 2004 and followed that with the first full-length studio album “Tokyo Flying V Massacre” in 2006. Hellhound is proper heavy metal, true metal, grassroots metal. It is the kind of metal music lovers around the world play in their basements and at local rock clubs and live houses. Music that gives you no choice but to play air guitar and headbang. The ingredients in the Hellhound metal soup include some NWOBHM, scoops of Manowar, a few pinches of thrash and speed metal and a true dedication to the heavy metal genre across everything this band does. It is retro without trying to be retro. It is just real metal played by a bunch of Japanese men with patch-covered battle vests and studded leather armbands. The song titles are classic: “Samurai Warrior”, “Let Metal Rule the World”, “Metal Psycho”, “Heavy Metal Hammer Down”, “Heavy Metal Patrol”, “Heavy Metal Till I Die”, “Metal Warrior” and so on. Their previous album from 2018 was called “The Oath of Allegiance to the Kings of Heavy Metal”. You get the picture. The band members’ stage names are also in line with the overall mission: Crossfire on vocals and guitar, Lucifer’s Heritage on guitar, Blackwind on bass and Mountain King on drums. I love it. This is excellent stuff for heavy metal lovers. It is a Japanese heavy metal crusade. It reminds me of some of those Russian metal bands that emerged in the mid-1980s. Like those Russians, Hellhound is a bunch of dedicated guys that love metal and want to spread the metal gospel. Power to them.

Hellhound’s album “Warrior of Rising Sun” will be released on 22nd September via Spiritual Beast.

Album review: Aborted “ManiaCult”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Extreme metal band Aborted’s new album continues an excellent and sinister musical journey deep into the abyss.

Aborted has for quite a few years now been one of my favourite extreme metal bands. It is something about this Belgian band’s sinister relentlessness. They don’t accept any compromises. They just do their thing no matter what. The new album, “ManiaCult”, continues with the by-now well-established Aborted signature sound but I detect some slight amendments to the soundscape. There is a tad bit more variety (such as the haunting piano-based instrumental track “Verbolgen”) and some new influences woven into the normal pure mayhem and madness. Believe it or not, but there is catchiness in some of the songs. Aborted may be a loud, fast and brutal band. But this is not random noise, it is organised chaos. There is structure to the madness and some find guitar melodies and terrific riffs. Standout tracks on this album include “Drag Me to Hell”, “Grotesque” and the epic “I Prediletti: The Folly of the Gods”. The title track “ManiaCult” is an obvious highlight in all its skull-crushing tech death glory. If you’re listening to this album correctly, you’ll need a shower and a cold beer once you’re finished. Aborted’s done it again. Sven de Caluwé founded this grind/death metal band some 26 years ago and the vocalist is still commanding his horde from the front. In the current line-up, Sven is joined by drummer Ken Bedene, guitarist Ian Jekelis and bassist Stefano Franceschini. It is a great version of the band. This album is brutal and mad awesomeness.

Aborted’s new album “ManiaCult” will be released on 10th September via Century Media Records.

Album review: Hladomrak “Archaic Sacrifice”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Stockholm-based black metal band Hladomrak returns with a new album full of splendid chaos and darkness.

“Archaic Sacrifice” is Hladomrak’s third full-length album since this excellent black metal band was formed a decade ago in Stockholm, Sweden. Guitarist Evgenerator is the brain and driving force behind this band and at times this has been a one-man band. On this album, Evgenerator is joined by Nils “Dominator” Fjellström (Nordjevel, ex-Dark Funeral) on drums, Dipa on bass and Talon on vocals. Hladomrak’s music is chaotic and constantly in-your-face like an angry bee attacking you. Dangerous and annoying at the same time. I love it. Hladomrak has a raw, natural and unpolished nerve to its music, a bit of an underground feeling. Some of black metal’s biggest bands nowadays have too polished productions. Hladomrak is different. There are plenty of death metal vibes throughout the album. At times this sounds like black metal played by a grindcore band (just listen to splendidly furious tracks like “Fozforos Insignia” or “I Zinew”). The roughness and the chaos make this terrific music for those of us who dig extreme music. This is music created in darkness. The sun doesn’t shine where this brutal music was made. “Tiethu’m” is a favourite among the album’s eight tracks. Another is “Saith”, a runaway freight-train kind of song. This exquisite album of cold darkness is relentless, it just keeps pummelling the listener. It’s beautiful chaos and mayhem.

Hladomrak’s album “Archaic Sacrifice” will be released on 10th September via Non Serviam Records.

Single review: The Lightbringer of Sweden “Free the Angels”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lars Eng is back with a new The Lightbringer of Sweden single. “Free the Angels” is European power metal at its best.

Heavy, fast, riff-happy and yet very melodic in a bombastic power-metal way. The Swedish guitarist and composer Lars Eng is back with a new The Lightbringer of Sweden single, “Free the Angels”. It follows the same path as the band’s debut album “Rise of the Beast” from 2020. On the debut album the dark forces were in focus and now it seems that the tables have turned and the good guys are fighting back on album number two. “Free the Angels” is the first single from the forthcoming second album. The German singer Herbie Langhans (Avantasia, Firewind, Radiant, Sonic Haven) is still behind the microphone. He is one of metal’s best current melodic metal vocalists in Europe and he is not holding anything back on this new track. But as great as Herbie’s vocals are, and the fab production and skilled musicians, it is Lars Eng’s songwriting that is the key ingredient in The Lightbringer of Sweden. Lars has studied his 1980s metal heroes, been inspired and used that to create his version of power metal. It is refreshing with a single that clocks in at 6:20. It is a statement of defiance. Screw the three-minute rule! This is a great track and it demands its six-plus minutes. In addition to Lars and Herbie, the band consists of Tobbe Jonsson (Angeline) on drums, Johan Bergqvist on bass and Carsten Stepanowicz (Radiant, Sonic Haven) on guitar. It is a terrific first taste of the next album. Bring it on!

The Lightbringer of Sweden’s new single “Free the Angels” will be out on 8th September.

Album review: Wolves In The Throne Room “Primordial Arcana”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Atmospheric black metal from the wild forests of the State of Washington.

Wolves In The Throne Room serves up excellent atmospheric black metal from the wild forests of Olympia, Washington, USA with influences from death metal, symphonic black metal and folk metal. The band uses keyboards to great effect in creating the epic atmosphere of a mythical world on this album. The band’s music paints a dreamy, haunting and bleak picture full of despair. There’s a touch of goth rock here and there, not least because of the inclusion of a lot of synthesizers. The synths and the way that they are used in the music make this different from many other bands. I dig it. The band was founded in 2002 by Aaron Weaver (drums and synths) his brother Nathan Weaver (vocals and guitar). They are joined by the guitarist Kody Keyworth in the current line-up of the band. On this album, the core trio of the band is joined by Galen Baudhuin on bass (and melodic vocals on “Through Eternal Fields”) and Yianna Bekris plays acoustic guitar on “Masters of Rain and Storm”. The album is solid with no dips. My favourite track is the terrifically sinister and uncompromising “Underworld Aurora” which drowns in the keyboard-driven soundscape (no, that’s a good thing). What a splendid album!

Wolves In The Throne Room’s album “Primordial Arcana” is out now via Relapse Records and Century Media Records.

Album review: Veterans “Fake Quiet and Peace”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Unpolished Singaporean basement metal on debut album by Veterans.

“Fake Quiet and Peace” is the debut album by Singaporean metal band Veterans. On vocals we find Kike Valderrama who some readers may recognise from the band Adarrak. The rest of the band consists of Neil Halliday on drums, Matt Hughes and Martin Vlaskovsky on guitars and Badr Fadil on bass. This band plays a hard-hitting, groovy underground metal with hints of hardcore, thrash and much more. It’s unpolished, unwashed, damp and very good. The recordings capture a live-on-stage feeling. Listening to the album it is easy to imagine the smell of a sweat-and-beer-soaked basement rock club with leaking water pipes. Highlights for me on this eight-track album include the punky “Agenda”, the pissed-off “Old Sour”, the guitar-happy “Bitter Pill” and the entertaining “Right for the Throat”.

Veterans’ debut album “Fake Quiet and Peace” is out now.

Album review: Arcane Existence “Colossus”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Arcane Existence is a symphonic extreme metal band from California now releasing its second album.

Arcane Existence started as a solo project in 2016 by multi-instrumentalist Kiera Pietrangelo. The project’s debut album, “The Dark Curse”, was released in 2017 and it is now followed by the splendid “Colossus”. In addition to Kiera Pietrangelo on guitar and bass, the band now consists of Jade Ordonez on vocals, Chris Zinnanti on guitar, Becca McCabe on clean vocals, keys and harp and Harley Blandford on drums. The music is dramatic and often theatrical, technical and very good. Death and black metal influences are present throughout the album, but this album has symphonic metal at its heart. It’s a busy soundscape bursting with energy and with so many twists and turns in its songs that it’s like a thrilling rollercoaster ride that you are a little bit afraid of. “Conducting the Scourge” is a favourite track which nicely demonstrates everything this album is about – the sharp contrasts of the instruments, the different vocal styles, the tempo changes, the energy bursts and so on. The title track is also a good mini-version of the idea behind the whole “Colossus” album.

Arcane Existence’s new album “Colossus” is out today.

EP review: Sailing Before The Wind “Immemorial”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Japanese metalcore band marks its first decade with new EP.

Japanese metalcore Sailing Before The Wind was founded in Tokyo a decade ago and released its first EP “Judgement” in 2012. The band is led by bassist and songwriter Bitoku Sakamoto who some may recognise from his time as a touring bassist for Crystal Lake. Celebrating the band’s tenth anniversary, we get a five-track EP which features re-recordings of three old songs – “Sail Away”, “Cross the Ocean” and “Break the Silence” – as well as the new tracks “Decaders and “Misguided Sunrise”. “Misguided Sunrise” features a guest appearance by Lucas Spencer from Feed The Addiction. The band serves up a good version of metalcore – heavy riffs, melodic guitars, angry vocals, good melodies, breakdowns and constant tempo and style changes in the songs. If you’re a metalcore fan, this EP won’t disappoint.

Sailing Before The Wind’s EP “Immemorial” is out today.

Album review: Thyrfing “Vanagandr”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Excellent Swedish Viking metal is served up on Thyrfing’s eighth studio album.

Formed in Sweden in 1995, Thyrfing has now got its eighth full-length studio album ready for the world to hear. The Swedish Viking band’s songs are based on Norse mythology and the lyrics are sung in Swedish. The new album, “Vanagandr”, has an appealing combination of Pagan and folk influences, heavy music, great melodies and plenty of energy. It is atmospheric, dark and epic music. At times, it gets rather intense in a black metal kind of way, such as on the fab track “Träldomsord”. Other terrific tracks include the epic “Undergångens länkar”, the sinisterFredlös” and the bombastic “Håg och minne”. The album’s soundscape is big and complex and the end result is very good. The band currently consists of vocalist Jens Rydén (ex-Naglfar), Patrik Lindgren and Fredrik Hernborg on guitars, Joakim Kristensson on bass and keyboards and Dennis Ekdahl on drums. If Viking metal is your thing (it should be), this is a real treat for your ears.

Thyrfing’s new album “Vanagandr” will be released on 27th August via Despotz Records.

EP review: KajHolst “Collect Me”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish rock trio KajHolst has better songs than most bands. The new EP is flawless and should elevate this band to a much bigger stage.

I have known bassist Rickard Donatello since the early 1990s. I learnt early that whatever act Donatello was playing with was always something interesting, no matter the genre. In recent years, he has most notably been a fill-in bassist for two of Sweden’s more interesting reunions – cult punk rockers KSMB and rock band Lolita Pop. But Donatello is much more than just a rock-solid backing musician. In KajHolst, a power rock trio he co-founded in Stockholm in 2013, he gets to shine. KajHolst’s line-up remains the same since the start: Rickard Donatello on bass, Michael Uv Westerlund on vocals and guitar and drummer Mats Borg (ex-Grisen Skriker, John Lenin, Jakob Hellman). In the late 90s, Donatello and Uv Westerlund played together in the band Screamin’ Mother. On this terrific new four-track KajHolst EP, I hear what sounds like echoes of and tips of the hat to David Bowie, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Joy Division, Adam Ant and much more. But there are also hints of influences by newer acts such as Primal Scream, Garbage, The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Franz Ferdinand. It’s an eclectic mix, but it works. The resulting musical stew is sheer awesomeness to my ears. KajHolst has found a terrific signature sound. They manage to pay respect to musical influences from the past five decades without sounding dated. Is this alternative rock, post rock, indie rock or something else? The keyboards certainly give me some early 80s vibes, but these rock songs are timeless. This is quality rock with great melodies. Michael Uv Westerlund’s lead vocals are expertly paired with the excellent backing vocals of Agnes-Felicia Rase. KajHolst is a band that already has the world-class songwriting that much bigger acts can only dream of. KajHolst is ready for a bigger international stage. This is ridiculously good. Pretty close to flawless. I bloody love it. The four songs on the EP – “Be That Man”, “Collect Me”, “Sweetest Lullaby” and “Tell Me Why” – are all terrific. I can’t even pick a favourite track. This EP is a gift to all music lovers out there, to those of us who love guitars, Joy Division bass lines and catchy melodies with a hint of darkness.

KajHolst’s EP “Collect Me” will be released on Friday 13th August.