Elvenking, Red Silent Tides (AFM)
U.S. Release Date: February 22nd

Going “retro” can mean a lot of things these days and as you will see with the next two reviews, can elicit very different reactions. I’ve been waxing poetic a lot lately about bands like Christian Mistress and Ghost going back to late ’70s rock or early ’80s NWOBHM for their sound. That seems to be the growing trend lately. Elvenking go retro with Red Silent Tides as well. However, they only go mid ’80s power metal on your ass.

Listed as a melodic folk metal band in most circles, it’s a perfectly fine label but with this album you’re going to hear mostly power metal and be taken back to a time when big hair ruled.

Really, Red Silent Tides feels sort of like a combo of Coheed and Cambria and Final Countdown era Europe (and that’s not a dig at them either). The entire album is filled with grand melodic passages and takes you way back into the ’80s with it’s feel. As soon as you hear the layered vocal intro of “The Last Hour” you think back to 1986, but then the basic rhythm of the song brings it back to a semi-present day feel. But it’s really “Possession” that’s the key to this record for me. It’s an incredibly catchy tune that starts off as a ballad and then moves into this grand mid-tempo ’80s sing along. Overall, it’s a pretty fantastic album that could have been made in 1986 or 2011. Very cool.

Ektomorf, Redemption (AFM)
U.S. Release Date: February 22nd

Just like Elvenking, Ektomorf is also a “retro” type band. However, 1999 just isn’t quite ready to be revisited yet. This Hungarian band has been around since 1996, so frankly they should know better than this by now. Redemption is all the parts of Limp Bizkit and Korn that metal fans hated over the years, lumped into one giant shitstorm. I don’t know if Hungary is a little behind the times and nu-metal is just starting to hit over there but if not, it seems amazing that Ektomorf hasn’t heard that nu-metal is no longer a viable genre of music.

You just know listening to this album that Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water plays in their van as they drive to the next tour stop. With each song, I kept looking for the notes to say “DJ Lethal Remix” or “featuring Coal Chamber.” Funny too, that smack dab in the middle of the disc is this short almost grungy track called “Sea of My Misery” that sounds like it could have come off any Days of the New album. Now I’m the type of guy that has a really hard time comparing bands to each other, so to pull Days of the New out of my ass really says something. I wish I could say anything positive about this record but the only way you can possibly like this record is if you can’t wait for the new Limp Bizkit record to arrive.

Helstar, Glory of Chaos (AFM)
U.S. Release Date: February 8th

Glory of Chaos has been out for a while oversees now, so fans of the group probably already own this. And if you don’t know about Helstar, well then it’s time to become a fan.

This is the second album of the Helstar comeback attempt. After releasing four pretty great speed metal records in the ’80s, their final album in 1995 was pretty weak and that seemed like the end of the Helstar era. But in 2006 they reunited, rerecorded some old tunes, then finally put out a proper studio record in 2008 called The King of Hell which was damn fine.

Glory of Chaos doesn’t jigger with the formula very much but it’s a concoction that’s worked well for Helstar. Mix a heavy dose of speed and thrash with some power metal and James Rivera’s screaming falsetto for a thrashing good time. It’s a very consistent record overall, nothing really stands out as being one of their best but nothing is even close to being boring either. There really shouldn’t be any thrash metal fan that doesn’t enjoy the disc for maintaining a killer formula.

Grayceon, All We Destroy (Profound Lore)
U.S. Release Date: February 22nd

Anyway you look at it, Grayceon is simply a fascinating band. This San Francisco trio is open to any and all sounds it seems and looks for ways to take a unique blend of downtuned guitar, drums and electric cello to new heights while still balancing them all together.

All We Destroy is Grayceon’s third record but first where Jackie Perez Gratz gets the majority of the spotlight. Her and guitarist Max Doyle split a lot of the vocals on the first two albums while Gratz gets to shine almost on her own on this effort. Musically, you could lump them into so many genres that by default they sort of remove themselves from categorization. There’s elements of post-rock, progressive metal, jazz, folk and doom that shine amongst the many sounds on this record. Gratz’s vocals alternate between gut-busting screams and melodically clean throughout the record.

The remarkable skills of these three musicians really stand out on All We Destroy. They never take one element and overuse it. They may take a subtle folk passage, blend it into some progressive guitar licks and then back into some avant garde jazzy piece. What this does is keep you on the edge of your seat to hear what’s coming next. There’s not one occasion on this six-track album that you sit back and figure out the formula of what you’re about to hear. Music so eclectic usually ends up being so wacky that it’s hard to understand what the band was going for. But Grayceon throw out surprises left and right on this album and you end up still being right there on the same page as them. Thank God there are still some bands out there with the vision to pull off something as grand as this.

Subrosa, No Help For the Mighty Ones (Profound Lore)
U.S. Release Date: February 22nd

Subrosa is a female dominated doom metal band from Utah that’s poised to make a huge statement in the doom community with their third album, No Help For the Mighty Ones. Doom metal doesn’t get too many acts with more ladies in the band than guys so Subrosa has something a little different going for them without even hearing what they are about. But hangin’ with the guys is not a problem at all for these ladies as No Help For the Mighty Ones is quite mighty in its own right.

Right away you notice two things about the disc; the thunder of the drums and the creepy dual violin attack. Make no mistake, the album is rooted in downtuned sludge but the violins totally make the album what it is. They have this very evil, creepy feel to them as evidenced in the eight minute “Beneath the Crown.” In the middle of the song the two violins play off each other underneath growling and screaming and in turn it kind of creeps you out (in a good way of course).

No Help For the Mighty Ones is easily Subrosa’s best album to date and is one of the most unique doom metal records I’ve heard in a long while. It’s kind of nice to see a band like this pushing the boundaries of the standard doom sound.