Short Cuts: Killing Joke, Huntress, Grave Digger

CD Review: Huntress  Static
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: A-
Huntress - Static 2015

Behind the scenes, Jill Janus is dealing with some pretty serious shit, including a cancer diagnosis and myriad mental health issues. She seems to be gaining strength from that which seems hell-bent on destroying her. An imposing female presence in the dark, mysterious underworld of occult-inspired heavy metal, Janus has emerged from the shadows with her band Huntress with the wrathful Static, a Napalm Records outing that's a lean, riff-hungry animal on the prowl for mean hooks, clearly articulated song structures and sinister, gloomy melodies. Taking full advantage of her four-octave range, Janus sings with fierce, commanding strength through heavy, menacing crawls like the title track, "Brian" and the record's smoldering centerpiece "Mania," while "I Wanna Want to Wake Up" grabs hold and doesn't let go and the fast-paced "Sorrow" loves the thrill of the chase. Graduating from the Tony Iommi school of riff creation with honors, Huntress unloads a truck full of them here, all simple and effective, driving such tracks as the awesomely titled "Harsh Times on Planet Stoked" and "Fire In My Heart" straight through hell without stopping. All hail the Huntress!

CD Review: Killing Joke – Pylon
Spinefarm Records
All Access Rating: A

Killing Joke - Pylon 2015
For some, the recent appearance of the so-called "Blood Moon" brought with it a dark foreboding and dire predictions that the apocalypse was nigh. Maybe they were just sensing that a new Killing Joke record was on the way. The four horsemen of metallic post-punk – including shamanistic front man Jaz Coleman, bassist Youth, guitarist Geordie and drummer Big Paul Ferguson – haven't diluted their ominous, fire-and-brimstone warnings in the slightest. An immersive experience layered with electronica and industrial sonic debris and enveloped in the all-encompassing glow of thousands of burning embers, the thrilling Pylon is angry and spiritual, urgent and expansive with deep, echoing vocals and tribal rhythms establishing a connection between the primitive, the divine and a confused, violent modernity. At times an enormous monster intent on devouring whatever gets in its way, Killing Joke's engrossing 16th studio album urgently stampedes through "Delete" and "Autonomous Zone" with slashing guitars and a rapid, pounding heart rate. The thundering intensity of an engorged "Dawn of the Hive" channels its rage through insistent, pummeling drums, and a giant wall of guitars is furiously erected in an icy "New Cold War" that explodes in a feverish crescendo, the track's starry atmospherics mirroring those of an infectious, racing "Euphoria" and the arresting beauty of the cinematic "Big Buzz." Slick and hypnotic, "War On Freedom" drives on with a relentless will, while "New Jerusalem" sets its hooks with slow deliberation, savoring its heavy riffs and menacing grooves. Repent now, humanity.

CD Review: Grave Digger  Exhumation: The Early Years
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: B+

Grave Digger - Exhumation: The
Early Years 2015
The past is the past, and there's no sense trying to relive it. That is, unless you're German speed-metal champions Grave Digger, who decided to remake some of their '80s classics for a new collection entitled Exhumation: The Early Years. Unremittingly fast and aggressive, Grave Digger charges almost blindly forward with renewed vim and vigor, unwilling or unable to apply the brakes to a runaway train of razor-sharp riffs, searing guitar solos and rhythmic rampages. Old favorite "Headbanging man" sets a violent tone, thrashing about with white-hot intensity. Following suit, "Fire In Your Eyes" and the teeth-gnashing "Witch Hunter" are fast-moving conflagrations that sweep across the land with destructive power, while galvanizing anthems "Heavy Metal Breakdown" and "Stand Up and Rock" and their shouted choruses take unabashed delight in espousing somewhat tiresome metal cliches. Running on pure adrenaline, marauding charges "Get Away" and "Enola Gay – Drop The Bomb" are just as furious and the galloping "Here I Stand" has all the grit and rawness of early Iron Maiden. Although by this time, even the slightest shift in gears or a melodic interlude would be a welcome relief. Running with a pack of contemporaries such as Helloween, Sinner, Running Wild and Rage has kept Grave Digger from growing complacent, as Exhumation: The Early Years illustrates in convincing fashion.  
– Peter Lindblad

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