In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
It’s no secret we have a weird way of writing here at Nine Circles. I’ve been spouting nonsense here since…shudder…2016 and still the primary way I learn about music is by texting Fearless Editor Josh™ along the lines of “hey, what’s coming out that you think I’d like?” Because while I can barely keep up with the bands I love, Josh keeps up with EVERYTHING. I have yet to surprise him with a new band where he hasn’t gone “Oh yeah, I checked out the single it’s great!” So this week when I had a blank schedule for the site and asked what I should be listening to, Josh immediately shot back the latest releases from Heads for the Dead and Trial.
When the Boss lays down the law, you listen. So let’s dig in.
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There’s something about that gnashing buzz guitar sound and songs about the supernatural and gruesome deaths, you know? Heads for the Dead certainly know it, and on their third full length The Great Conjuration the supergroup made up of members of Wombbath, Revel in Flesh and Sentient Horror really rip into the OSDM vibe. Where 2018’s debut Serpent Curse felt like an exercise in style (albeit a very good exercise), each release showed a great commitment to the old school cause. Into the Red from 2020 reveled in the bog of a murkier production that really emphasized Raif Hauber’s desiccated vocal delivery. Now two years later and featuring Wombbath handling the majority of the instrumentation the band feel more organic in their approach to the songs, and it’s an even bigger step up in attack.
The production has opened up a bit, but there’s no sacrifice to the grime and filth on lead-off track “The Jewel of the Seven Stars” where the keyboards and effects levied by Jonny Pettersson who also handles guitars and bass really sit well in the mix. There’s also a greater emphasis on the solos this time around, perhaps owing to the recent addition of Matt Moliti from Sentient Horror to rip and shred across the tracks. It’s impossible to deny the fun of hearing everything come together as Hauber roars “666!” on “The Beast” – it’s indicative of the whole of The Great Conjuration: a head bashing ode to the old school where you laugh and scream as you slip in the viscera spilled over the pavement of the parking lot.
The name Trial may be at the top of the post, but to be clear, we’re talking about Trial (swe) as they’ve retitled themselves to avoid the confusion of the 101 other bands stomping around with the same name. Having come to attention with their 2011 debut The Primordial Temple, the band’s fourth full length Feed the Fire finds them with a new singer but still churning forth a twin guitar attack that falls somewhere in the middle of bands like Iron Maiden and Halloween. It’s power, it’s progressive, and to be honest, it’s a solid if slightly unremarkable album.
There’s no shame in doing a thing well, though. Maybe it’s that new vocalist Arthur W. Andersson is bored a bit too deep in the mix; the dual guitar leads and riffing is there in spades, but when I listen to this kind of music I really want those anthemic vocals to stand out, and it’s a shame here, but Andersson brings a strong voice to tracks like “Sulphery” and the aggressive attack of “In the Highest.” you have your gallops, you have your rhythm that, like a lot of powerful metal really is there for keeping the time and driving the songs forward. And everything is good, it’s solid. But is it going to turn me from the influences that obviously shaped the band? No. I don’t think that’s a write-off though – your mileage is going to vary by how passionate you are about this particular genre. And it’s got enough going for it that I’m going to check out the back catalog and keep an ear peeled for whatever comes next for the band.
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Until next time, keep it heavy…keep it safe.