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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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:
-
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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.

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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:
-
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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