Slough Feg - Digital Resistance

Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mike Scalzi has been in and around the San Francisco Metal scene for a long time. He’s played in a number of groups over the years, but Slough Feg (also known as The Lord Weird Slough Feg) has always been his main band. I started listening to Slough Feg shortly after I saw Mike play a show as part of Unholy Cadaver (this was prior to the band changing their name to Hammers of Misfortune). John Cobbett is a good vocalist and guitarist, but Mike Scalzi is a better front-man. He impressed me enough with his stage presence and playing ability to check out his main band and I’ve followed them ever since. For those who have never heard the music of Slough Feg, they’re best described as Heavy Metal in the traditional sense. They draw from old Hard Rock and early Metal for inspiration, though they do incorporate some occasional Celtic melodies and Progressive Rock structures into their brew. Slough Feg does have a fairly accessible style (especially on this LP) and their melodic guitar-work and clean vocals would have been fairly radio-friendly had this been the early ’80s. It’s still some rocking stuff, though. If there’s one thing Mike Scalzi knows how to do, it’s make a fun record. The songs on here are mostly upbeat and though the message behind the album is serious, it never brings down the otherwise celebratory mood of the music. If you’ve listened to Slough Feg for any length of time, you realize that there’s always a message in there somewhere, and Digital Resistance is no different. A lot of the songs have an anti-technology edge to them, though not in a Luddite sense. The guys in Slough Feg don’t want you to abandon technology, they just want you to think about what it does to you and to the people around you. The lyrics make quite an interesting read, and for a Metal album there’s a lot of depth there. While those obsessed with all thing grim and dark will probably despise this LP, it’s one that I enjoyed quite a lot. It isn’t quite as much fun as seeing the band play live, but it’s pretty close.

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Electric Wizard - Time to Die

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014

I’ve grown to appreciate Electric Wizard over time. When they initially burst onto the scene, my first impression was a small band hiding behind a big sound. I don’t feel that way anymore, but let’s be honest, how often have you reached for Come My Fanatics in the last 17 years? Dopethrone might be a different story for most, but the album they started to win me over with was Witchcult Today. Again, not at first —you can reference this very site as we speak for an embarrassing, poorly-written review by 28-year old douchebag-know-it-all me— but I’ve warmed up to it a lot since then, especially timeless anthems like “Dunwich” and “Torquemada ‘71.” Factor in how much I enjoyed 2010’s Black Masses —maybe the least filler of any LP in their discography— and Time to Die becomes the first Electric Wizard record that I’m actually psyched for beforehand. Well… it’s yet another testament to the bucket of lukewarm fecal matter that is my luck… Oborn & Buckingham sure picked a fine time to phone one in. Not sure if it’s emotional jetlag after a somewhat nasty split with Rise Above Records, or if there just isn’t much left in the tank, but most of Time to Die flatlines in unspectacular fashion. What’s unfortunate is that when an Electric Wizard song is bad, it’s bad for SOOO LOOONG! The opening tandem of “Incense for the Damned” (10:42) and the title track (7:49) feels like a hookless eternity. “I Am Nothing” is a far tastier slab of the group’s signature speaker-destroying beefiness, but even this awesome song drags on a few minutes longer than it needs to. I’m just not hearing much focus or inspiration. When these guys (and gal) lock into a memorable groove with their massive sound, they’re unstoppable. It simply doesn’t occur too often here. Oborn’s vocal performance seems especially half-hearted throughout, sounding borderline comatose on the sloppy “Funeral of Your Mind” and “We Love the Dead.” Buckingham may have saved her best riffs for “SadioWitch” and “Lucifer’s Slaves,” but by this point it feels like a lost cause. They’ve flat-out laid an egg here, and just when 35-year old douchebag-know-it-all me was starting to root for them. Oh well… time to throw “I Am Nothing” on a mixtape and move on with my “life.” Better luck next time, Wiz.

Rating:
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Septicflesh - Titan

Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014

Being somewhat swept up in the nostalgia surrounding the long overdue reissues of their first two albums, I kinda forgot that Septicflesh is still an active kicking ‘n’ screaming unit. This is their 3rd full-length since hooking back up in 2007, but I must confess to it being the first thing I’ve checked out from them in aeons. I don’t know how or when I lost touch with these Greek atmospheric Death merchants, it just sorta happened. Obviously I loved their first two LPs, and the amazing “Woman of the Rings” cut from The Holy Bible compilation, but at some point thereafter I remember hearing something they put out that I didn’t like, and I must’ve just shut that door and forgot to reopen it. Regardless, it’s wide open now, and what I’m hearing is blowing it off its fucking hinges! I don’t typically fall for highly orchestral endeavors when it comes to Extreme Metal, but that’s only because I’ve never heard it taken to these heights until now. Septicflesh has outdone themselves with this symphonic masterpiece. The orchestras are woven into the attack on such a meticulous level, as elegance and extremity co-exist in perfect harmony. A concept album of sorts, one gets the impression that every fiber of this quartet’s being was painstakingly strewn into every note and arrangement here. It’s just about impossible to get me to sing along with a choir —I fucking hate choirs— but it’s almost involuntary as I’m enveloped by these grandiose structures. (“Once you were sentient beings…” dammit!) Speaking of vocals, it’s time for everyone to show Spiros Antoniou a little love. This guy has always had a Death roar that I could pick out of an auditorium of 999 growlers, and 24 years later he sounds as brutal as ever. And speaking of singing along, I’m not minding Sotiris Vayenas’ occasional clean backing vocals, either. (“From the silence of a deadly horror… Burn… Burn… Burn…” There I go again!) This is just an expertly crafted opus with song after song entrancing and captivating the listener. It’s difficult to sum up with words, as this one has to be experienced to be truly appreciated (and experienced in depth, I might add; I didn’t like this right away and I’m glad I sat on it as long as I did). The more you listen, the more it possesses you. To be truthful, the record does wane somewhat toward the end —the last three tracks don’t quite match the brilliance of the first seven— and the bonus disc of all-orchestral variations is pretty much worthless, but that doesn’t make this any less essential.

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Cemetery Fog - Towards the Gates

Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014

Tell me it’s “recommended for fans of Katatonia” and you could probably end up selling me a mason jar of albino midget semen. (At the very least I’m going on YouTube to verify the albino authenticity; wouldn’t wanna get tricked into buying the seed of regular midgets.) I guess I’ll just always be a sucker like that. What can I say? I love Katatonia so much that any new band I see stylistically compared to them, unless there’s a dead giveaway dealbreaker —female vocalist, Christian, from Japan, etc.— I’m most likely going to check the shit out. Sure I’ve been burned before, but I’ve also found some absolute gems. And Finland has certainly come through in that category before (all hail the immortal Rapture), especially if we’re talking old Katatonia, so the buzz surrounding this Hamina duo’s debut EP was simply impossible to ignore. That is, until I finally got to hear it. I won’t say that Towards the Gates is terrible, but holy motherfuck it’s BORING! I think a comparison to old Katatonia is stretching the truth ever so slightly, and at this stage of Cemetery Fog’s brief existence, it’s downright unfair. Old Katatonia was a perfect storm of Paradise Lost’s gloom, early Bathory’s hellfire, and the most sincere aura of melancholy ever achieved. These guys can’t even play their fucking instruments yet (see “Shadow of Her Tomb”). Don’t get me wrong, I do hear the influence. Traces of the mighty Dance of December Souls are scattered throughout “Withered Dreams of Death,” and the clean passage on “Embrace of the Darkness” is haunted by For Funerals to Come, but to imply these attempts are anywhere near the same league is ludicrous. Bad production doesn’t help, and either lose those synths or learn how to use them. Tighten up those guitar skills while you’re at it, and stop loading the songs with lifeless Death Metal filler riffs that no one will ever remember. Sorry to be so bossy, but I hate to let any group with Katatonic potential —let alone one with a pentagram and inverted cross worked into the logo— go to waste. With practice and patience, Cemetery Fog might get there someday, but for now you can file this under “false alarm.”

Rating:
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Aborted - The Necrotic Manifesto

Posted on Friday, October 10, 2014

It dawns on me every time I pop The Necrotic Manifesto in… Aborted has made it. They’ve actually made it. Granted, “making it” in the world of Death Metal isn’t nearly as glamorous or profitable as making it as a surgeon, or as a lawyer, or a politician, actor, athlete, or even as an international competitive pig-fucker… but it’s still quite the accomplishment. When you stop and think about just how many Death Metal bands there are —a staggering amount considering the relatively small (but loyal) fanbase— and then attempt to calculate what percentage of those bands are the best of the best, the excellent, the good, the shitty, the not-good-enough-to-even-be-remembered-as-shitty shitty, etc. The fact that Aborted’s sound is instantly recognizable alone is commendable enough, but that they’ve come to symbolize a seal of the highest quality is something really special. They’re one of the heaviest, one of the fastest, typically one of the most memorable, and they always seem to achieve this massive, absolutely perfect production. Gigantic, loud, crystal fucking clear sound every time out, and they can pull it off live to boot. Not too bad for a group of Belgian kids worshipping Carcass I’d say.
The trouble with Manifesto is that by the time I’ve wrapped up all this thinking, the disc is already on track 7 and I’ve no idea what I’ve just heard. I’m not implying that Sven & co. have phoned this one in, only that it kinda flies by in a brutal blur if you let it. It’s essentially Global Flatline 2, but sorely lacks its predecessor’s still-fresh staying power. There’s a few meaty hooks (“Coffin Upon Coffin,” “Die Verzweiflung”), a few memorable vocal patterns driven by intelligible lyrics (“The Extirpation Agenda,” “Sade & Libertine Lunacy”), and these guys still want to be Carcass, only now it’s big-boy Carcass, and they have the chops to do it. And of course it’s still fast, still heavy, still a million-and-a-half Hellraiser samples, and still flawlessly recorded. It just doesn’t stick the way this band can make it stick. For instance, almost every time I play the Deluxe Edition, my brain tunes everything out until the Converge and Suffocation covers (“Concubine” and “Funeral Inception” respectively). Aborted is the undisputed heavyweight champion of Death Metal covers, and these gems are two of the finest covers in the history of bonus trackdom. Alas, when someone else’s songwriting is far and above the highlight of your album, it’s natural to assume things might’ve been rushed a bit.

Rating:
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Vader - Tibi et Igni

Posted on Thursday, October 09, 2014

In a way, I feel a bit bad for Vader. At one time, they were the preeminent Polish Death Metal band. When anyone said “Polish Death Metal,” the first group that came to mind was Vader - and for good reason. Now, what comes to mind when someone says “Polish Death Metal” is Behemoth. For a lot of younger fans, Vader is an afterthought. They’re like the fourth or fifth band most think of when it comes to Poland’s Metal scene. I think part of the problem is that Vader has a particular style and formula that hasn’t evolved much over the years. The vast bulk of their songs are fast and aggressive, hitting you in rapid-fire succession with respite only coming towards the end where they have one or two tracks that are slower, heavier and more atmospheric in style. For many fans, how much you like Vader depends on how much you like old Morbid Angel. As with Sadistic Intent, Vader is essentially a variation on the first couple Morbid Angel albums, primarily Altars of Madness, or for the Metal “kvltists” out there, Abominations of Desolation. While I do enjoy listening to Vader a lot, the standout tracks for me tend to be the slower, more atmospheric ones. In this case, “The End” is the one that has the most unique sound out of the standard album tracks. Much as “Black Velvet and Skulls of Steel” did on Welcome to the Morbid Reich, this song acts as the closer, signaling the end of the LP and, if you happen to get the limited edition version of this release, where the bonus tracks begin. The bonus tracks are a mixed bag, consisting this time of a re-recorded older song (“Necropolis”) and a Das Ich cover (“Des Satans Neue Kleider”), reworked in the Vader style, sounding almost completely different from the original. The older track, “Necropolis,” has a pretty distinct sound and it has a strong hook that gets your head banging right away. Of all of the songs on the entire album, “Necropolis” may be the most memorable. The others are powerful, hard-hitting and aggressive, but lack strong, memorable hooks that would make them stick out. Even without that element, this LP does kick a lot of ass. In that, Vader has never changed. There hasn’t been a Vader album that hasn’t kicked a lot of ass. Their challenge is breaking their mold and being more adventurous and memorable. They have a tried and true formula, but the music is getting predictable. If they can expand the Vader sound and still kick all kinds of ass doing it, Behemoth is going to have to look over their shoulders because Vader will reclaim their throne if they don’t watch out.

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Opeth - Pale Communion

Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2014

It’s a good thing so many of the reviews I read piss me off so much, otherwise I’d have a significantly harder time getting half of my own off the ground. It’s just infuriating when some douchebag moron tries to write off the opinion of a large number of people with a poorly thought out sentence which encapsulates a widely accepted notion that makes absolutely no sense. Of course I’m referencing the inevitable portion of any positive review relating to the new all-Prog Opeth where the writer declares that all detractors of the band’s stylistic shift have given up on them just because they aren’t heavy anymore. Yeah… um… because when I want relentless, balls-to-the-wall, pedal-to-the-metal brutality and blistering, insanely barbaric, raging heaviness… I reach for Orchid, Morningrise, and Still Life. (?) Nothing gets a fucking monster of a pit going like “Face of Melinda,” motherfucker! I once broke several vertebrae in my spinal column from headbanging so violently to “Still Day Beneath the Sun.” Gimme a fucking break. No one puts on any Opeth record for brutality purposes, you stupid sons of bitches. Why don’t you try thinking before you type? You know what my favorite Opeth album is? Damnation, bitch. And last I checked that one’s softer than powdered baby pussy. My beef with the likes of Heritage and now Pale Communion has nothing to do with how non-Metal they are, it’s how non-good they are. How mind-numbingly fucking boring they are. Prog has always been the backbone of Opeth’s endeavors, but that used to be accompanied by a fire that’s long burnt out. This is limp-dick ’70s Prog mimicry for the sake of limp-dick ’70s Prog mimicry and nothing more. There is no passion anymore. No sadness or pain in any of these 8 songs. Listening to this album is like watching an elderly woman crochet an afghan. Sure there’s an art form to it, but do I give a fuck? This is parlor music for amputees. A Rich Little-level impersonation for the souldead content with a useless sinless life. I’m not ready to sit on the park bench and feed the ducks breadcrumbs just yet. Henceforth, this LP has no place in my collection. This is a worship of gods with which I am not familiar and will never desire to be. A crutch for a brilliant musician who has lost his edge. And the weak-willed follow, pretending. Always pretending. I piss on this and all who champion its banality. I vomit on your beloved era and pray it drowns in its deserved obscurity. And you, shape-shifter, with it.

Rating:
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Moloch - Verwustung

Posted on Friday, October 03, 2014

If my count is correct, this is full length LP number twelve for Moloch. I may be off, mostly because this band’s discography is the length of a small novel. This band has a huge number of demo recordings and split releases out there, some of which are reissues of older stuff. One of the hallmarks of Eastern European Black Metal these days is that they tend to release their music in ridiculously small numbers of copies. Many of Moloch’s releases are limited to under 100 copies, with some even fewer copies than that. There is even supposed to be a 7-inch EP out there that exists in only one physical copy! All this “limited release” stuff might keep the band “cult” in status, but in many cases, it’s a bit of a shame because the music is really good. In fact, this LP is a lot better than I really expected it to be. The reason I say this is because the production on Verwustung is very raw, and I’m generally not much of a fan of underproduced music. I like to hear a band’s compositions presented in the best possible sound and format (probably a remnant from my years in marketing), and a raw sound generally isn’t the best way to do this. In this situation, though, it actually works far better than a slick, overly polished sound would have. This is reminiscent of a rehearsal that was dumped to an analog recorder and then tweaked slightly to bring the guitars up enough so that you can hear the riffs clearly. It also captures the raw feeling and emotion that the music is supposed to convey. When Moloch is playing Black Metal, the music is fucking evil sounding. It has that dark feeling and sinister atmosphere that you want when you listen to this kind of Metal. Please note that I qualified this by saying “when Moloch plays Black Metal,” because there are two tracks (“Todesstille” and “Verwustung”) that are Ambient pieces. They aren’t specifically denoted as “intro” or “outro” tracks, but that’s essentially what they are. They really don’t do much for this recording. They’re overly long (“Todesstille” is over five minutes long and “Verwustung” is over ten) and they don’t go anywhere. They don’t set the mood and they don’t seem connected to the rest of the album, which doesn’t help either. In fact, “Todesstille” was so quiet that I had to jack the volume on my player up quite high in order to hear it at all. At normal volume, it almost sounds like five minutes of dead silence. Even when you can hear it, it’s droning and minimalistic to the point where you start tuning it out if you aren’t paying attention. Five minutes of nearly nothing isn’t a great way to start an LP, even if the other tracks are awesome. I would have chopped it down or made it more interesting, because it was otherwise pointless. The Black Metal songs carry Verwustung and they do a great job of making your neck go snap, crackle and pop. If you like your Black Metal dark and evil sounding, Moloch is definitely a band to check out.

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In Flames - Siren Charms

Posted on Monday, September 29, 2014

You’re inevitably going to see a mega-fuckton of bad reviews when it comes to In Flames’ 11th studio LP. That’s because Siren Charms is unequivocally piss-dripping clown dick. But this bad review in particular comes from a different perspective than most others you’ll read. Most of these people gave up on In Flames a long time ago, at whatever stage one became “considered cool” to start disliking them. Frankly, I forget exactly when that was. Hard to pinpoint in a career littered with transitions. Hell, even I attempted to write off the band at 2000’s Clayman, but 14 straight years of those songs stuck in my head convinced me otherwise. Truth is, up until this point, I’ve enjoyed every step of this band’s career to some degree. In fact, what the majority considers to be their lowest lows just happen to be some of my favorites. Reroute, Soundtrack, their Ferret album… love ‘em all. I’ll even throw a little extra gas on the fire and admit that Lunar Strain and the Subterranean EP are probably my least listened-to of the bunch. It’s just impossible for me to care what anyone thinks. Music isn’t about people for me anymore —the people making it, the people selling it, the people going to shows… I don’t even know what a hipster is— and what genre something is or isn’t matters even less. Look, those even remotely familiar with popular work of fiction The Bible recognize that all music is a gift from Lucifer. All that matters to me is whether it’s good or bad… Holy motherfucking monkey balls is this bad. The fact that this is the band’s major label debut may very well be a coincidence, but what I’m hearing is a radically neutered In Flames. Hate their more recent works or not, one couldn’t deny they at least had energy. Siren Charms is a restrained and timid affair, aimed at a yet-to-be-identified target market. The melodies are lifeless, the songs are dull and vapid, and the only one not holding back probably should have. Clearly Anders Friden has been nursing the idea that he’s a really good clean singer in the back of his mind for quite some time now, and to his credit, he’s pulled it off a time or two in moderation. He completely lets his inner Michael Bolton go here, and it sounds really really fucking terrible. His tone-deafness ruins practically every song, soiling what little musical decency there is. The only true highlight found is the chorus to “Rusted Nail.” (“Just this once…” indeed.) I won’t say the band is done yet, but until a return to some form is acknowledged, I am.
Note: Not that anything could save this piece of garbage, but it didn’t help that the Deluxe Version I bought from the local Best Buy was completely mastered wrong. Every song was abnormally quiet except for the title track. I know nobody buys physical media these days, but did anyone else happen to experience this?

Rating:
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