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.

Rating:
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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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Whitechapel - Our Endless War

Posted on Monday, September 22, 2014

Much like a car after a few nasty fender benders, once a band covers the unspeakably horrible Pantera (as traumatically witnessed on 2011’s digital-only Recorrupted EP), it’s never really the same again. But in the case of Knoxville bruisers Whitechapel —a band whose first three albums featured some of the most tactically surgical Deathcore brutality the genre’s haters will ever miss out on— I feel like I at least owe them a test drive. That said, 2012’s self-titled full-length was by no means a smooth ride. In what some felt was an effort to appease the anti-Deathcore majority that comprises what’s left of extreme music print journalism, the group abandoned many of their signature elements in favor of a more straightforward —albeit sterilized— Death Metal style. Sadly, Our Endless War is a continuation of that approach. Tom Petty once said, “Breakdown / Go ahead and give it to me / Breakdown / It’s all right,” but this sextet just isn’t listening anymore. After the intro, this album kicks off with its title track, an angry political number. Now that Whitechapel has addressed the corruption of American politics, I’m sure we’ll start to see these problems disappear before our very eyes. Musically the song feels like a Rocky training montage set to Death Metal, especially when the Italian Stallion would start effortlessly crisscrossing the jump-rope towards the end to emphasize his progress. “The Saw Is the Law” follows in more bouncy and bendy fashion, but for all its rhythmic swagger the song sorely lacks a hook. Still, there’s almost a breakdown at the end, and the bonehead in me just can’t resist Phil Bozeman’s militant machinegun vocal pattern. Next up is “Mono,” which begins with unsettling Slipknot breathing. It ends far better with Bozeman growling “KILL YOURSELF,” but I’m still waiting on that hook. “Let Me Burn” might be as close as I’ll get. The track at least locks into a strong headbangable groove with solid lyrics in tow. Probably the closest thing to old Whitechapel found here. Speaking of solid lyrics, I’m really feeling “Worship the Digital Age.” So much so, I’m considering having “SELL YOUR SOUL AND WORSHIP THE DIGITAL AGE” etched on my tombstone in Comic Sans. (Not that anyone would look up from their game of Candy Crush long enough to read it.) Unfortunately after these back-to-back highlights, the record descends into boring filler. The next three tracks are instantly forgettable, and the standard edition closes out with “Diggs Road,” which has to be the most energetic song about suicide ever written. Believe me, I thought about offing myself during those awful guitar solos. If you score the limited edition, you also get “A Process So Familiar” —more jump-rope filler— and “Fall of the Hypocrites,” which actually redeems itself with a taste of how Bozeman’s vocals used to sound, and a pit riff straight out of Internal Bleeding’s NYDM playbook.
In summary, this is better than I expected, but still a far cry from the brute force of the old days. I miss the heart-stopping breakdowns and I miss Bozeman at his most brutal. Dude once did guest vocals on a Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza cut (“The Alpha the Omega,” which also featured Despised Icon’s Alex Erian) that were so heavy they made my dickhole queef. If you can’t make my dickhole queef anymore, then what’s the point?

Rating:
-
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Battleaxe - Heavy Metal Sanctuary

Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It’s been ages since I’ve heard Battleaxe. They were a band that had cult status here in the US, but they never got beyond that point before they broke up. Most Metal fans here never heard of them. I had some knowledge of them because I loved obscure Metal releases even back in the early ’80s. I’d spend my hard earned allowance on tapes whenever I could, amassing a fair sized collection of Metal albums in the process. Most of the bands in my collection at the time were oddball releases that were chosen mostly by how cool the cover art was or how Metal the band name sounded, owing largely to the fact that none of my friends at the time listened to anything heavier than Journey. It was a hit or miss way of finding new bands, but without it, I would have probably never heard of half of the groups that I regularly listened to back then. Like many of the bands from that era, Battleaxe has a sound that most modern fans wouldn’t even consider Metal. Listened to with a modern ear, stuff like Battleaxe, Witchfinder General, Saxon and many others would be classified as Hard Rock. The guitar-work is hard driving, but still possessing melody and plenty of catchy hooks and rhythms that get your head banging right away. Dave King, the sole remaining original member, hasn’t changed much when it comes to the band’s sound. In this case, he would have been a fool to mess with the formula, because the main draw is this band’s NWOBHM bloodline. He’s modernized the lyrics a bit, but for the most part, this could have easily been a remastered recording from 1985. For me, this LP was a nostalgia thing. I still love listening to old-school Heavy Fucking Metal once in a while because it reminds me why I started listening to this kind of music in the first place. Heavy Metal Sanctuary still has that Hard Rock/Heavy Metal style infused with some Punk energy that I remember from the days of Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden, old Saxon and many others from that period. It’s a bit on the campy side, but this is a very fun listen. Fans of NWOBHM, ’70s Hard Rock or early Metal (Dio’s Holy Diver, early Metal Church or Judas Priest) will get the most enjoyment out of it. If you’re looking for brutality and soul-tearing evil music, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

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