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.

Rating:
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails

Posted on Monday, September 15, 2014

This is my first encounter with Fallujah, so I attempted a fair amount of research going in. Unfortunately not much of it was helpful. The online critics seem to be split right down the middle. People either worship the ground this quintet shreds on, or despise them with a passion reserved for rapists, thieves, and Bryce Harper. All I really knew for sure was that these young San Franciscans are named after a city in Iraq and signed to Unique Leader (which these days usually means super-tech/ultra-brutal Death Metal with sweep harmonics that sound like Mario and Luigi getting big on mushrooms). Low expectations abound, I dove right in, and roughly a dozen spins later, I’m pleased to report The Flesh Prevails is nowhere near as horrible (or as otherworldly amazing) as the semi-retarded internet minions proclaim. Fallujah essentially sound like The Contortionist playing Progressive Death Metal. They bludgeon with the ferocity of Behemoth one minute, and float on cosmic waves of mellow introspection and synthesized ambiance the next. Luckily nothing is over-the-top. The brutality and navelgazing space travel never overpower each other, while the guitarists and bassist manage to noodle without forcing the listener to tune out. The songs are given room to breathe —at times perhaps a bit too much— and the clever use of synths, along with the occasional inclusion of clean male/female vocals, serve to keep both heavy and calm arrangements emotionally weighty. If there’s one major drawback, it’s a low memorability factor. With the talent level through the roof, plus a commendable attention to detail in songwriting, this really ought to stick with you more than it does. Other than the dizzying Emperor-gone-Tech-Death heights of “Sapphire,” it’s difficult to pinpoint many true highlights. That said, The Flesh Prevails is a record capable of being appreciated for its vibe alone. It’s beyond well-played, easy to get lost in, and hits multiple pleasure centers in the brain simultaneously.

Rating:
-
Tags: - -
(0) Comment(s)


Xaos Oblivion - Black Mountains Spirits

Posted on Friday, September 12, 2014

This is the solo band of Demonic Slaughter and Abusiveness member Xaos Oblivion and, of all of his projects, this is probably the most experimental. It still falls firmly within the realms of Black Metal, but it goes a lot of places that his other bands don’t, incorporating weirder song structures and ambiance into the music where the others stick to the more established guidelines. This is not to say that Xaos Oblivion is the Black Metal version of Primus. This band isn’t nearly as experimental as Sigh, for example. It pushes the boundaries of Black Metal enough to qualify it as unusual, but not far enough for people to claim that it isn’t Black Metal anymore. I happen to like Xaos Oblivion because it goes further afield than Demonic Slaughter or Abusiveness. Black Mountains Spirits has an interesting atmosphere to it and that comes from it being slower and more deliberate. There’s a lot of restraint on this LP, and while some might criticize the band for not going for the throat where they could, I thought that the more measured approach helped establish a darker, more twisted atmosphere than they would have gotten had they went with the more orthodox style. The additional complexity also keeps things from getting monotonous over the longer song format that this band has. Compared to Demonic Slaughter and Abusiveness, the songs are almost double the average length in some cases. If you like your Black Metal to be a bit more adventurous than the norm, but not so far out there that the music degenerates into weird shit for the sake of being weird (Sigh, Ulver, Arcturus), Xaos Oblivion is a band you should check out.

Rating:
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Hour of Penance - Regicide

Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2014

It pains me to bestow any negative criticism upon my dago Death Metal brethren, but this just isn’t my Hour of Penance anymore. I mean that both figuratively and literally, as the only remaining member from the era when I worshipped at this band’s altar —2003’s Disturbance and 2005’s Pageantry for Martyrs— is lead guitarist Giulio Moschini (who joined in 2004). While The Vile Conception (‘08) and Paradogma (‘10) were both solid efforts, capable of being appreciated for their malevolent sonic ferocity and sheer technical prowess alone, the former marked the decline of each successive release becoming far less memorable and increasingly more boring than its predecessor. 2012’s Sedition proved to be ultimately forgettable, and the process of reviewing Regicide has been like trying to write about sand. It takes about 99 seconds for any one of these tracks to become a complete blur of wall-of-noise sound that’s just about impossible to stay focused on. 36 grams of coke, 6 Red Bulls, 18 Adderall pills, and the occasional shot of Primitine Mist wouldn’t be enough to prevent me from tuning this record out, but at least I’d be dead. Maybe if I were ten years younger and had only been into Death Metal for a couple months, this might be some mind-blowing shit. But I’m not ten years younger, have been into this Death Metal band alone longer than a decade, and this album honestly put me to sleep on more than one occasion. The million-mile-per-hour drumming never stops, the million-note solos on top of million-note riffs never stop, and the million ways of barking “I hate Jesus” aren’t enough to save this record from the fact that it has no actual songs. It’s all well-played and brutal as fuck, and might possibly fare better as indistinct background noise for life’s meaningless activities, but that’s nowhere near good enough for me. I need the music that can turn life’s meaningless activities into the indistinct background noise. Lately, what Hour of Penance is putting out sounds less like music and more like a subway train racing through its underground tunnel. Regicide is where I get off.

Rating:
-
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Burial Hordes - Incendium

Posted on Tuesday, September 09, 2014

When describing a band like Burial Hordes, I almost always get into an argument regarding their musical style. It all comes down, in most cases, to whether one considers the term “Black/Death Metal” to mean “a mixture of Black and Death Metal” or “Death Metal influenced by Black Metal.” For those who consider it an influence issue, the proper definition of the music on Incendium is Death/Black Metal because this is clearly a case of a Black Metal band being influenced by Death Metal. The music is Black Metal in style, but there are a number of areas where the band was shaped by old Death Metal. The vocals are an early giveaway, with singer Cthonos using a guttural Death growl that is brutal but still relatively understandable. He does a good job of it, too, going for a more inflection-laced style that gives the vocals feeling and also adds a lot of diversity that a monotone growl (a-la old Incantation) would have lacked. Also evident is the fact that the guitar tones have something of a Florida Death Metal sound. This is one of the reasons I like Incendium. It added a lot of depth to the sound, along with a dose of heaviness that something more treble-heavy would have lacked. One thing I would have liked the band to further explore was the inclusion of more atmospheric elements. The songs “Scorned (Aokigahara)” and “Incendium” were dark and atmospheric, giving them more of an identity than the others on this LP. They were by far my favorite tracks of the eight on display here. The rest were solid, though, and they show a band that knows how to kick ass like professionals. If you like your Black Metal a little more on the brutal side, this is a band I heartily recommend.

Rating:
Tags: - -
(0) Comment(s)


Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls

Posted on Monday, September 08, 2014

I think for most Judas Priest fans, 2005’s Angel of Retribution was the band’s long-awaited return to form, and sonically speaking it’s hard to argue. But how much of that was just pure relief and joy that Rob Halford was back and Mark Wahlberg was finally gone? It also seems, for most Judas Priest fans, some of that joy and relief faded with 2008’s 17-hour concept abortion Nostradamus. However, it’s possible that album was beneficial in clearing out all the cobwebs, because with Redeemer of Souls, the group has truly tapped into the power and the glory of their late-’70s to mid-’80s dominance in a way I’d have never thought possible. Few bands make it to album #17, let alone discover the fountain of youth on it. Even without founding guitarist K.K. Downing, Redeemer sizzles with nostalgic passion and that ultra-memorable, arena-ready, anthemic songwriting capable of hooking even the most hardened of Metalhead hearts. It all starts with the production. This album is intentionally old-sounding, and while I’m sure a few people will bitch about that, keep in mind those same fucks would also be whining if the band had gone all super-slick Pro-Tools deluxe on us instead. I love the production. I think it only adds to the LP’s irresistible time-capsule appeal. Of course, a vintage sound would only be wasted without vintage riffs, vintage solos, vintage hooks, and vintage choruses by vintage Halford, and Redeemer has all that in spades. “Dragonaught” rings the bell with a riff that’d fit right in on British Steel, while the title track screams for vengeance, “Down in Flames” defends the faith, and “Hell & Back” shows a lot of stained class. Songs like “Halls of Valhalla,” “Sword of Damocles,” “Secrets of the Dead,” and “Battle Cry” do lean more toward modern Priest, but just about all of them have a solid chorus, and I believe the term “modern Priest” still has to encompass Painkiller somewhat. But “March of the Damed” is easily my favorite. Just an instant classic that feels like every era of Priest rolled into one sleazy Metallic stomp. Then there’s a song like “Crossfire” which echoes Priest’s pre-Metal Rocka Rolla days, when the young outfit’s shade was much closer to Purple than Black. Then you have the ballad, “Cold Blooded,” which could hold its own with any JP ballad from the old days. Seriously, all that’s missing is the Fleetwood Mac and Joan Baez covers. My only beef comes in lyrical form on the emotive (standard edition) closer “Beginning of the End” — “And so we’ll rise / By the grace of God / His words are carved in stone.” Forget about “Better by You, Better Than Me,” it’s these lyrics that make me want to blow my brains out. Maybe it’s a typo and Halford meant “Bi,” and maybe “God” is some kind of new slang for “hard cock.” All I know is I’ve got no problem with dudes fucking dudes, but Christianity is totally gay. What’s worse is that aside from this obscene and unnatural verse, the song is actually quite touching. Can’t we leave something in the closet for decency’s sake?
In summary, I’m no Judas Priest expert. Truth is, I didn’t even give them a chance until my mid-20s. But I know good music when I hear it, and when Priest songs are good they’re incredibly good. The songs on Redeemer of Souls are incredibly good, too. An impulse grocery store purchase that turned out far more rewarding than expected. I’ll even go out on a limb and say this will be the best Metal album of the year to feature a homosexual Christian vocalist.

Rating:
-
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Frozen Ocean - The Dyson Swarm

Posted on Thursday, August 21, 2014

Frozen Ocean is kind of an oddball, existing somewhere in the gray area between Atmospheric Black Metal and Dark Ambient. I’m not familiar with the band’s back catalog, but from the sound of things, sole member Vaarwel started out playing Black Metal but gradually began incorporating more and more Dark Ambient/Deep Space Ambient stuff into his compositions. That being said, the majority of The Dyson Swarm has more in common with Neptune Towers, Arecibo (aka Lustmord) and the original Cosmos soundtrack composed by Vangelis than anything that could be classified as Metal. The overwhelming bulk of the songs on this album are instrumental, with only two having vocals (“CE-4” and “The Dyson Swarm”). Even then, the vocals play only a small part. The music itself is very atmospheric, having a mellow, trance-inducing effect that is best listened to in the dark or under candlelight. It’s also very repetitive, something that is noticed almost immediately. Having listened to a lot of repetitive Black Metal (usually in the Burzum vein) over the years, I didn’t have a problem with this. The minimalistic song structures do start to wear on you on the longer tracks, particularly on the two that exceed nine minutes. This LP has taken more than a few tries to grow on me, mostly because I have to be in the right mood to listen to it. Fans of atmospheric music or those “Sounds of Space” Ambient releases that you occasionally find in the New Age section of the record store will probably enjoy this the most. If you’re like me and you’re a Metalhead who crosses over into the Dark Ambient scene, The Dyson Swarm is an interesting listen, but it isn’t for everyone.

Rating:
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


AlNamrood - Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq

Posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This is my first time hearing AlNamrood, and like other bands from the Middle East, I was curious to see what these guys brought to the table when it came to Black Metal. I’ve heard others from the region and most of them have been good. I was cautiously optimistic about this band, mostly because in the game of musical Russian Roulette, one of these groups eventually has to suck donkey dick, and so far none of the ones I’ve heard have chowed down on the metaphorical mule member. Thankfully, AlNamrood doesn’t suck. They’re actually pretty interesting. They’re a Middle Eastern Folk-influenced Black Metal band that has an oddly Industrial sound. The production on Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq probably has a lot to do with that. The drums have an unusual sound to them, especially the snare, which sounds like an empty oil barrel. Unlike the garbage can lid sound of most European or American Black or Death Metal bands, this has a deeper, more metallic tone. The guitars are also slightly strange sounding. They have a higher pitch, which may have to do with the Arabic Folk rhythms that they’re using in their songs. The distortion on them sounds a bit odd, too. It may be that, for once, I’m listening to a Black Metal band that doesn’t tune down or use heavier gauge strings in their guitars to sound more brutal. The combination of the odd drum tone and the guitar tones gives this a very unique sound. It takes a bit of getting used to, to say the least. Musically, this LP sounds like what would happen if you added distorted electric guitars to Akrabu or maybe the solo works of Nile main-man, Karl Sanders. It has that same Arabic Folk style that you get from a band like Melechesh, but in a more ritualistic or Industrial way. I know that AlNamrood is aiming for the Middle Eastern Folk Metal crowd, but I think that fans of more harder-edged Industrial or Industrial Metal will also find the music on Heen Yadhar Al Ghasq to be interesting enough to check out.

Rating:
Tags: - - -
(0) Comment(s)


Harakiri for the Sky - Aokigahara

Posted on Monday, August 18, 2014

Turn not to those Black Metal bands who have factitious spirits, or to white wizards; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. She is Negativity our Goddess. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against positivity, against happiness, against the oppressors of the darkness of this genre, against structural purity in weak riffage. A man or woman who is a musician and has a positive energy or is an optimist shall surely be put in a bundle on eBay. For Negativity so loathed this world, that She aborted Her only rotten son, that whosoever believeth in despair should not write music that sucks everlasting pipe. For there is one Goddess, and one mediator between Her and men: the band Harakiri for the Sky. Bereaved, now these are the sons of Negativity, and it doth not yet appear what they shall be; but we know that when She shall appear, She shall be into them, for their melodies are bleak as fuck. For by Her were all things created that are in Black Metal, and that are on Aokigahara, miserable and more miserable, whether they be Katatonic, or Forgotten Tomb-ish or Heretoiresque, or Tears for Fears covers; all things were created by Her and for Her. For Eklatanz himself shall ascend from “Panoptycon” with a shout, with the voice of the archdemon, and with the banner of Negativity: and the fans of SDBM shall rise first; then we who are dead inside and remain shall throw horns up together with them in the stereo, to meet the Cunt in the garage with the car running. The Goddess Negativity is not willing that any should see the glass half-full, but that all should check out this sick fucking record. That if thou shalt confess with thy keyboard the Goddess Negativity hath nursed Harakiri for the Sky from Her breast, thou shalt be saved from lame Black Metal. Have no fellowship with the unrealistic works of hope; but rather condemn them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in music. Negativity: the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

Rating:
-
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Kriegsmaschine - Prism: Archive 2002 - 2004

Posted on Thursday, August 14, 2014

To coincide with Enemy of Man, the new full-length LP from Poland’s Kriegsmaschine, the band has also unleashed a compilation of demo and unreleased songs that they recorded over the period between 2002 and 2004. Naturally, the sound quality on these tracks isn’t the same as their new LP, but for something like this, it’s pretty damn good. Most of the time, demo and unreleased tracks sound pretty bad, the reason being that they were never recorded in the same quality as a serious release, especially if the band didn’t intend for the songs to be available to the public. Considering this, Prism is very listenable. The music here is on the raw side, showcasing a more stripped-down and straight-forward Black/Death Metal style. There isn’t as much Ambient/Atmospheric stuff on Prism, but the music itself has a dark feeling to it that comes from the rawness and the aggression. It has a “live in the studio” quality that makes you feel almost as if you’re in the rehearsal space with the band, listening to them go through a full set of material. Another thing that I noticed about the music on Prism is that it’s far more Punk-influenced than their full-length albums. It has an ancient Bathory feel to it that you don’t get on Enemy of Man, which has more in common with Mayhem and Behemoth. Tracks like “Goathammer Sorcery” and “Deathcult Supreme” get your head banging immediately and they’re instantly engaging. If these guys played either of those songs live, I’d put money down that there’d be fatalities. Though the songs on Prism sound considerably different than on Enemy of Man, I found that I enjoyed them almost as much, but for different reasons. I liked the rawness and Punk energy that the band has and though the songs aren’t really representative of what Kriegsmaschine sounds like today, they do what good Metal should: they kick ass. That makes this compilation worth tracking down and listening to.

Rating:
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Throes of Ire - Funeral for a Witch

Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Funeral for a Witch is a concept LP about the life of Margaret Aitken, a woman who was forced to confess to witchcraft under torture but was spared when she agreed to help the witch hunters by outing other witches. The story goes that she sent many innocents to their deaths by fingering them as witches - being a witch herself, she’d know another when she saw one, or so the logic went. In the end, the guilt she carried around with her eventually consumed her and drove her mad. The truth that she was a fraud eventually came out, whereupon she was burned at the stake for her crimes. On paper, this sounds pretty interesting. It was the main reason I wanted to check out this record, in fact. In practice, though, the Doom/Death Metal that Throes of Ire sets this story to isn’t very exciting. The song structures are pretty simplistic, the riffing and pacing are ploddingly slow and the songs are overly long. The lyrics, though, are great. The story is interesting and it’s well written. The delivery and the music, on the other hand, turn a rather riveting read into an exercise in drudgery. Only on “Solitary Mourning” (the last track on the LP) does the pace kick up and things get interesting - but you first have to get through eight minutes of music similar to the other songs, which were lethally boring. Even that doesn’t last very long, though. Sadly, Funeral for a Witch lacks the kind of diversity and dynamics in the songwriting that it really needed in order to make a concept piece like this work. Though this is their second release, Throes of Ire still needs a lot of development before they’re ready for the big leagues. The lyrics are up there already, but everything else is severely lacking. The songwriting is simplistic - which isn’t a sin - but simplistic structures get tedious when you stretch things out over ten to twenty minutes. The songs needed something to break up the monotony in the worst way. Even the vocals needed diversity. The only style employed on this album is the standard Death Growl, but it was delivered without passion. The vocals were dry and lifeless, which, when blended with the already dull music, did nothing to spice things up. They did the equivalent of adding dull and tasteless oatmeal to dull and tasteless oatmeal. All you got in the end was more dull and tasteless oatmeal. Though there’s a lot of improvement necessary in the sound of Throes of Ire, I hope these guys can figure things out. They have some interesting stories to tell, but their musical abilities haven’t caught up with their imaginations yet.

Rating:
Tags: - -
(2) Comment(s)


Entombed A.D. - Back to the Front

Posted on Monday, August 11, 2014

Silliness. Pure fucking silliness. Not this album itself, but the bullshit surrounding it. For those unfamiliar with the situation, essentially LG Petrov says that Miller Lite “tastes great,” while Alex Hellid is convinced that the American beer’s #1 attribute is that it’s “less filling.” Bandmates of nearly 30 years, the pair agreed to disagree on this matter, but things really started to boil over when Petrov went on record stating that toilet paper rolls should be placed over —the “6” formation, if you will— in the dispenser, while Hellid vehemently defends the under position. “It should be like a 9, godammit,” the guitarist recently told Metalpenisfucker.com. “A 9 is more fucking evil! Just ask King Diamond!” “Bullshit,” the vocalist fired back on Extrememusicassram.org. “A 6 is a fucking 9! An inverted 9 is even more evil, motherfuckers!” This dispute has caused a seemingly unrepairable rift in the Entombed camp, and since both gents own the rights to the name, we have this whole Back to the Front fiasco. Petrov intended on using the moniker for this LP —which was already finished and being promoted in the Fall of 2013— but Hellid apparently needs it for the carpool lane. So, after months of legal battles, now we have Entombed A.D. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, wouldn’t you say? What’s worse, this record is now faced with the unenviable task of overpowering the drama attached to it. For the most part, it succeeds. Look, I gave up on the hope of another Left Hand Path a long time ago. (That’d be like expecting Slayer’s forthcoming Nuclear Blast album to be another Reign in Blood. Isn’t gonna happen.) At this stage of the game, expecting another Wolverine Blues would probably be a tall order, but I wouldn’t mind another Uprising, or even an Inferno. Based on those expectations, Back to the Front not only delivers but exceeds. Basically Serpent Saints minus the goofiness, the majority of these songs charge hard and hit heavy. The patented Death ‘n’ Roll style this group has steadily been rebuilding since disastrous career-low Same Difference comes to fruition here. Tracks like “Bedlam Attack,” “Pandemic Rage,” “Second to None,” “Bait and Bleed,” and “The Vulture and the Traitor” combine stomping Punkish energy with headbobbable groove, and then there’s the left-field Thrash assault of “The Underminer.” Of course, it helps that LG sounds equal parts pissed and focused. This might be his most straightforward vocal performance since those glorious early ’90s, while guitarist Nico Elgstrand occasionally pays homage to the period with a melodic lick or two of his own. But let’s hold off on that Left Hand Path II stamp for now. It’s a fair enough compliment to acknowledge that this is the best Entombed record in 10 years, and more so that it is an Entombed record. Fuck the dumb shit.

Rating:
-
Tags: - - -
(0) Comment(s)


Lantlos - Melting Sun

Posted on Friday, August 08, 2014

Out of pure embarrassment and shame, I almost passed on reviewing this record. I just never seem to get Lantlos right. If I were writing a review of my 2011 Agape review, I’d most likely give it the lowest possible score after chastising myself in haiku fashion.
Stupid cokehead.
Get off Neige’s nuts.
Listen to the shit more than twice.
The clueless douche I was just 2 years ago doesn’t even mention that “Bliss” is the greatest song ever recorded! Luckily with this follow-up, Markus “Herbst” Siegenhort has delivered something even I can’t screw up. Actually, I might want to rescind that statement on the probable chance that I fail to describe how amazingly fucking perfect Melting Sun is. Melting Sun is the musical equivalent to having your balls licked during orgasm. It causes the same floating effect as the “Mr. Nice Guy” weed in Half-Baked. It’s like smelling a Cold Stone Creamery for 40 minutes while watching Hulk and Thing fight in slow motion while Alexis Texas feeds you bacon wrapped in bacon with her ass. Juvenile humor aside, this LP is completely flawless and far too beautiful for the confines of my vocabulary to do justice. When I learned that Alcest’s Neige was no longer doing vocals, and that the band had removed all traces of Black Metal from their sound, I was momentarily skeptical. But that skepticism was buried and forgotten about halfway through opener “Azure Chimes.” Herbst’s clean vocals are fantastic, often made all the more mesmerizing by backing vocal harmonization, and the music… holy shit! It’s so good I’m pissed. Crushing heaviness and airy Shoegaze delight co-exist in a euphoric paradise where darkness is achieved through light and sadness by joy. Nowhere is this more evident than on the heart of the album: “Aquamarine Towers” and “Jade Fields.” Both tracks display an attention to detail in songcraft that emotional music so often lacks. Downtuned, distorted guitars carve the flesh while clean guitars caress the brain, as unforgettable melodic passages glide around sparse-yet-incredibly-addictive verses. I remember being a teenage musician, staying up all night, trying to fill the entire page with the perfect lyrics. Little did I know that “I’ve seen you / I’ve been through the sun” could comprise something a million times more effective in its abstract simplicity. Instrumental segue “Oneironaut” gently guides us into slow and soothing closer “Golden Mind.” This shimmering lullaby is like the cigarette after sex, or in this case, aural pleasures. I can’t say enough about how excellent this is. A benchmark for Post-Rock and the Album of the Year nominee I didn’t see coming. By following in Alcest’s Black Metal-shedding footsteps, Herbst has unequivocally surpassed his comrade for now. As much as I’ve enjoyed Shelter, it wilts in the glow of Melting Sun.

Rating:
-
Tags: - -
(0) Comment(s)


Lord Dahthar - The Tower

Posted on Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Lord Dahthar started out as a side project by Dahthar when he was the keyboard player for a now-defunct band called Vision of Mara. So, quite naturally, this band has a very keyboard-centric sound. In fact, a third of this EP is just straight keyboard playing without any other instruments. Though the first and last songs aren’t specifically denoted as intro and outro tracks, that’s essentially what they are. They’re probably the most adventurous and interesting parts of this release because for the most part, anything with guitars and drums isn’t very exciting. The riffing is pretty basic, sporting a very “single chord played over and over again with occasional changeups” style. All of the intricate stuff is handled by the keyboards, though most of the time, you can’t hear them because the treble-heavy guitars and the light switch drums drown them out. I was a bit surprised by this, mostly because I expected a band fronted by a keyboard player to sound a lot like Dimmu Borgir. This might have been a better EP had Dahthar and company pushed the keyboards out in front, because there’s no faster way to annoy me than to make me listen to light switch drums and bass-free guitars. The tones on the guitars and drums were pretty bad. It was so annoying that this review almost turned into a rant about how Dahthar should have made this a keyboard-only project. It took me several listens (rather painful ones, at that) before I could get past the production issues. If the next release by Lord Dahthar has better production (turn the bass up on the guitars, get a better drum tone and bump the keyboards up so that they don’t get drowned out by the other instruments), I’ll probably appreciate their music more. The sound here really brought it down for me. Though the keyboard-only tracks were good, the other ones just didn’t have the same quality. These guys still have some growing to do, but production issues aside, the music on The Tower shows a lot of promise. Their next release will be the one that’ll tell us whether Lord Dahthar is worth following or not. If they can get a good studio engineer and put together a package that showcases their skills, they could be serious contenders.

Rating:
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Incantation - Dirges of Elysium

Posted on Friday, August 01, 2014

When I thumb through issues of my old fanzine [Portrait of Defiance -Editor], so many things piss me off. Poor grammar, typos, errors, bad interview questions, bad jokes, half-assed reviews, my constant misuse of the Power Metal genre tag… I could keep going but it’s too painful. In my defense, I was as young, dumb and full of cum as a Metalhead could be, but that’s no excuse for being a semi-retarded asshole all the time. (There’s a reason that —assuming I can outlive, like, 6 people— there won’t be a soul at my funeral.) But what makes me cringe the most about those old rags is how mean I was to Incantation. And not only when I’d review their material. I’d often go out of my way to take shots at them in other bands’ reviews! I was such a bullheaded, all-or-nothing kid. If I didn’t find something instantly memorable, I’d take a Dumb and Dumber shit all over it and disregard its value altogether. Back then, I didn’t realize that an album’s feel could yield the same staying power as great songs and riffs. That vibe alone could stand the test of time, or that the menacing aura of pure unbridled evil that Incantation achieved with Onward to Golgotha and Mortal Throne of Nazarene would never be equaled, despite countless imitators. These days I can put those records on and easily get lost in a sound so ominously brutal it’s soothing, even if 20 years later I still can’t hum any of the riffs to you. The good news is that present-day Incantation is still heavy as fuck, and that whole memorable thing has been significantly ironed out. John McEntee has become quite the songwriter in his old age, and for about the last decade-plus we’ve been treated to the best of both underworlds. Dirges of Elysium picks up right where 2012’s Vanquish in Vengeance left off. A whirlwind of powerful hooks encased in blast paired with… well… dirges of Elysium. This might be McEntee’s best vocal performance since taking over the mic a decade ago. A few slight hiccups, but for the most part he revels in Old School guttural glory while even managing to be understandable at times. Some of the LP’s longer cuts tend to drag on a bit, and 16-minute closer “Elysium (Eternity Is Nigh)” is just about impossible to sit all the way through, but overall Dirges is yet another worthwhile addition to a body of work that speaks for itself.
Suggested mixtape selections: “Debauchery,” “Carrion Prophecy,” “Charnel Grounds,” “Impalement of Divinity,” and “Dominant Ethos.”

Rating:
-
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Primal Fear - Delivering the Black

Posted on Thursday, July 31, 2014

Some people lump Primal Fear in with the Power Metal bands and that’s really a mischaracterization of their music. While the band shares many qualities with Power Metal, Gamma Ray in particular, they’re really more of a Traditional Metal band. If you really get down to it, their claim to fame is being a German version of Judas Priest. Naturally, they’re not as good as old Judas Priest, but then again, few bands ever achieve that level of success and recognition based solely on their musical abilities. Judas Priest was one of those groups that got huge because they created some of the best pure Metal ever recorded. A band like Primal Fear is going to have a tough time even coming close to the edge of the monstrous shadow that Rob Halford and company cast over the Metal world. Even though they’ve augmented their sound with copious amounts of old Accept and post-Uli Roth Scorpions, they still have that glaringly obvious Priest influence. The thing that’s most striking about Primal Fear isn’t that they’re still trying to be Judas Priest (they are), but that they’re only taking the most recognizable aspects of the Priest sound and leaving out the things that made JP original. They don’t do any experimentation with weird harmonics or different styles. Their sound isn’t versatile enough to go there, it seems. Their music is rock-solid Heavy Fucking Metal, but Primal Fear hasn’t figured out a way to distance themselves from obvious clone status. To make matters worse, they haven’t really evolved much. They still pretty much sound the same as they did back in the ’90s. They’ve refined things a bit, but ultimately it’s still the same old shit all over again. Delivering the Black isn’t a bad album, but if you already own a couple of Primal Fear’s LPs, you’re really not getting anything you haven’t heard before. Maybe the guys in Primal Fear need to stop listening to Judas Priest and start listening to the bands that influenced them. They know what Priest sounds like but they don’t know what made Priest great. The range of music that Priest employed spanned from ’70s Hard Rock to Speed Metal to Thrash and everywhere in between. They could take all of that and craft songs and records that were uniquely their own. I’d like to see Primal Fear be likewise more adventurous. Cloning Judas Priest is fine if you’re in a tribute band, but after more than fifteen years and ten full-length albums, you’d think that Primal Fear would have more up their collective sleeves than rearranging riffs from Defenders of the Faith. Delivering the Black is still a solid LP of Heavy Metal music, though. It has good riffs and melodies, but ultimately all you ever do is compare it to any Judas Priest LP from Stained Class to Nostradamus. In the end, I always end up asking myself, “Is it worth it to listen to Primal Fear when I already own the Judas Priest discography?” If you’re wondering what my answer to that question is, I’m listening to Screaming for Vengeance right now.

Rating:
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Wrong - Pessimistic Outcomes

Posted on Tuesday, July 29, 2014

“In a world consumed by ashes, where there’s only misery and despair, pessimism has seized the human race… Hate has aroused, accompanied by a general delirium, only survival and immediate satisfaction is looked for. There’s no judgment, no punishment, no sensibleness… neither sanity. Humanity has become an aberration, tainted and perverse, condemned to misfortune and decadence, wandering in a desolate environment without resources, weakening slowly until the breath leaves them.”
This is the concept behind Wrong’s second full-length. I chose to print it here because I wish I had written it. Truer words never spoken, just ask anyone who deals with the general public for a “living.” That’s why I say we ought to change the term Depressive Black Metal to Working Man’s Black Metal. Not only would that serve to identify the genre’s fan base, but also to expose its detractors. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate, nay, crave the sadness, pain, and unaffectedness that Black Metal bands like Deafheaven, An Autumn for Crippled Children, and Madrid’s Wrong bring to the table is enjoying life a bit too much. Should happy people be listening to extreme music? I certainly don’t think so. For me, extreme music is one of very few sources of happiness. That said, if it’s a lack of extremity and/or technical skill that has the underground masses so butthurt over DBM, Wrong might be just right to soothe the manginal burn. They are far more intense than most. After all, this is one of the dudes from Wormed. Pessimistic Outcomes is a slightly different beast than last year’s masterful debut. While Memories of Sorrow was more… well… sorrowful, this follow-up is angrier and considerably more demented. At about the 2:40 mark, leadoff cut “Thru the Grey Path to Nowhere” bursts through the gate with bereaved blasting and Phlegeton’s hideous snarl, while “His Hatred Breathes” follows with even faster frostbitten kingdoms. But where there’s anger and dementia, sadness is never far behind, and this duo always keeps Brave Murder Day in its back pocket. Dejected melody is a constant throughout, tying everything together tighter than a noose. Even the awkwardly-moving schizophrenic title track is graced with melancholy, not to mention a vocal attack sure to have Anti fans raising the horns. “Dragging My Soul Until the Sunset” has multiple personalities also, as the track leapfrogs from ambient to dreary to experimental to furious and back, with Phlegeton sounding absolutely possessed all the while. “I Thought I’d Woken” closes the LP out on a downcast note, as somber tones prepare the stage for a near-Lifelover level of vocal insanity by song’s end.
Overall, Pessimistic Outcomes does lack the immediate memorability of Memories to some degree, but both records capture the true essence of misery in remarkable fashion. What Wrong is doing here borders on hypnotism. Long songs that feel short, as the listener gets lost in dystopian soundscapes that are equal parts abstract and focused. Long live WMBM. Praise Negativity. Hail and kill (yourself).

Rating:
-
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Ea - A Etilla

Posted on Monday, July 28, 2014

When I see an album come into my queue that’s one track and just a hair under fifty minutes in length, I think one of two things: “Oh fuck, the label decided to combine all of the tracks together so you can’t listen to each song individually” (this happens more often than you think…), or in this case, “That’s one fucking long song!” Yes, A Etilla is one long track. That leads to the automatic second part of this, which is the question, “How painful is this going to be to listen to?” Russia’s Epic Funeral Doomsters, Ea, have been writing songs in excess of twenty minutes for quite some time now, having started in 2005 and, after four previous LPs, have honed their craft to a fine art. This might be one long track, but it’s never boring. This is an epic-length song that goes somewhere. It’s akin to listening to a combination of Turn Loose the Swans-era My Dying Bride and a Dark Ambient band. They have a heavy, more Death Metal-inspired style when it comes to their vocals and guitar tone, but with a far more integrated and developed sense of atmospherics. Instead of plodding, boring music that has been artificially stretched out, A Etilla is constantly changing. The music is dark, ominous and heavy - all of which are essential in creating awesome Doom Metal. The band uses ancient sacred texts as the basis for their lyrics, and to a degree, their music is like a spiritual journey. I’ve always found things like this to be fascinating, mostly owing to my interest in ancient mystical texts, occultism and forbidden knowledge. Of course, I’m one of those crazy kids that was playing D&D, reading H.P. Lovecraft and drawing pictures of Cthulhu in the third grade. As you can imagine, I was one of the “weird kids” that would be a Ritalin zombie in today’s school system. Ea taps into the area of my brain that likes the mystical. They use Ambient passages and choir parts to great effect, breaking things up and then segueing into a new sections, all the while keeping things moving. By the time the song is over, you’re almost exhausted because it takes you all over the place, from punishingly heavy guitars to ethereal Gregorian choirs. If you’re into Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal, they’re definitely a band to check out if you haven’t already done so.

Rating:
Tags: - - -
(0) Comment(s)


Pact - The Infernal Hierarchies, Penetrating the Threshold of Night

Posted on Friday, July 18, 2014

Pennsylvanian Black Metal horde, Pact returns with their second strike, The Infernal Hierarchies, Penetrating the Threshold of Night, and it was definitely worth the wait. I liked their debut LP, The Dragon Lineage of Satan, but that was marred by a sub-par production (particularly the drum tone). The music on their debut was some sick and evil Black Metal, but it just wasn’t presented properly. The Infernal Hierarchies, though, corrects that and you get Pact screaming forth blasphemy in the way they were meant to. This LP is essentially a 45 minute ass kicking that only stops damaging your neck and head at the end of the last song. Pact reminds me of the older school of US based Black Metal in that their sound has a substantial amount of Death and Thrash Metal built into it. It harkens back to the era when groups like Demoncy, Profanatica, Masochist and Necrovore were the only bands that were legitimately Black Metal in the US during the early ’90s Death Metal boom. The production on this album probably has a lot to do with it, showcasing a more bass-heavy guitar sound. It’s pretty punishing, which is good thing in my book. The Infernal Hierarchies is a very intense record and if there’s a flaw in this beast’s armor, it’s that it’s fairly relentless in the mauling that you get. There isn’t much breathing room because the caustic and brutal music bludgeons you hard, slows down briefly to measure you and then bludgeons you again. I don’t consider that much of a flaw, though. When you’re looking for music that kicks your ass and leaves you broken and scarred, Pact delivers the goods more reliably than UPS.

Rating:
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Doom:VS - Earthless

Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2014

If you only hunt down one Doom Metal album this year, make it Earthless. Holy fuck! This record is excellent. For those unfamiliar with this oddly-monikered act (if memory serves, it’s pronounced “doomus,” with a trve kvlt “v” instead of a “u,” just don’t ask me about that colon or the random capitalization), it’s the side solo job of Draconian guitarist/main songwriter Johan Ericson. As big a fan I am of Draconian, trust me when I say Johan saves his slowest, heaviest riffs and saddest, deepest melodies for Doom:VS (see Bill Steer, Carcass). I thought the project had been eternally put on ice given the 6-year absence since 2008’s Dead Words Speak, so it was a pleasant surprise just to see this one in print. Then to actually hear it… god damn! As much as I enjoyed its aforementioned predecessor, Earthless towers over it significantly. It’s just one of those instantly gratifying records that grabs you immediately and refuses to let go. Slow music, but by no means a slow-burner, Earthless is utter fucking Doomgasm from beginning to end. It’s like scratching a mosquito bite for 50 minutes, as a tag-team of crushing riffs and mournful melodies continually shovels dirt on hope’s rotting bloated carcass. Catchy, depressing, beautiful — in my heart, this is what Doom Metal is to me. But let’s talk about what really takes this beast next-level. The vocals. Whereas Ericson manned the mic exclusively on Dead Words Speak, this time he has enlisted the talents of Saturnus frontman Thomas Jensen to handle all harsh vocal duties. And my oh my, handle them he does. If you’re even half the fan of this man’s voice as I am (check out Saturnus’ “Starres” to hear the best Doom chorus ever: “FOR ME!!! FOREVER!!! FOR US!!!”), you’re in for a treat. You get more of his deep growl here than on the last couple Saturnus records combined. Ericson —a fine vocalist in his own right— still contributes some clean vocals —the shakiness of which, at times, being all that keeps this LP from total perfection— but by sharing some of the grimelight, he has taken Doom:VS from worthwhile to otherworldly. His morose musical mastery and Jensen’s trademark powerful roar/poetic spoken bits are a match made in purgatory. For those who wish that both Draconian and Saturnus were just a little bit heavier and perhaps a little less Gothic, Earthless is your Doom come true.

Rating:
-
Tags: -
(0) Comment(s)


Page 1 of 171 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »