Inferi - The Path of Apotheosis

Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I was initially interested in checking out this band because I’ve never heard anything that is both Technical and Melodic Death Metal before. Technical Death Metal bands are rarely melodic in any sense of the word. Inferi might have been more melodic on their earlier releases, but the technical aspects of their sound are edging out any remaining bits of that. These guys have essentially come down with a serious (and eventually fatal) case of wankerdom. The riffing on The Path of Apotheosis is mostly an exercise in hyper-technical playing interspersed with occasional melodic parts. When they have a melody going, regardless of how complex it is, it’s the highlight of the song. Take, for example, the opening part of “Prelude to a Perilous Fate” - maybe the first thirty to forty seconds of it. The playing on that segment is melodic and interesting. It then turns into a hyper-technical whirlwind of overly complicated and unmelodious riffing, blasting drums and growling vocals. The melodic stuff makes a brief reappearance before the blasting drums and hyper-technical guitar playing reassert themselves. A guitar solo near the end of the song brings some melody back in, but even that is fleeting. This is pretty much how all of the songs on The Path of Apotheosis are. It’s Death Metal with an identity crisis. On one hand, Inferi wants to be Technical Death Metal. They want to wank off with their guitars and play music for the subset of Death Metal fans that desire to hear a Death Metal version of Dream Theater. On the other hand, they also want to be Melodic Death Metal and have atmospheric bits and soulful guitar solos. The two identities don’t coexist very well here, and the music veers sharply between overly-technical and atmospheric Death Metal like a schizophrenic homeless guy trying to figure out if he’s Jesus or Satan. Listening to this album isn’t easy. There are parts that seriously kick ass, but they’re sandwiched between moments that are so needlessly complex that melodies and atmosphere disintegrate immediately. The guys in Inferi need to make a choice between melodic and technical styles because trying to be both just isn’t working very well.

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Crematory - Antiserum

Posted on Friday, November 21, 2014

Germany’s Crematory is a band that has changed quite a bit over the years. They started out as an Atmospheric Death Metal band, adding Dimmu Borgir-esque keyboards to the standard Death Metal formula. After a short period of this, they morphed into Gothic Metal, incorporating increasing levels of Bauhaus and The Cure into their sound, making them something like a Death Metal version of Cradle of Filth, but without the annoying high-pitched vocals of Dani Filth. Now, they’ve gone through another transformation. Rather than sounding even more like The Cure, it’s something along the lines of Rammstein meets Peter Tagtgren’s Pain. The band is still heavily keyboard-driven, though instead of the massive Gothic synths hitting you in the face, they sound like they beat up Johan Van Roy and stole some leftover stuff from the new Suicide Commando LP from his studio. It’s executed competently, but when a band changes so radically and so abruptly, I wonder just how genuine it is. It’s not like the group has been inactive for a decade and decided to go a different direction now that they’ve reformed. No, this reeks of an attempt at regaining some relevance (though I would also argue that this band’s relevance was negligible to begin with). Crematory was never in the top tier when it came to any of the genres that they played in, often coming to the party late and only achieving modest success. The music is heavily Industrialized, but the new Cyber-Punk direction in the music isn’t reflected in the lyrics. Where a band like Mechina incorporates a lot of Science Fiction into their lyrics and themes, Crematory hasn’t changed that much outside of the obvious musical upheaval. Lyrically, it’s more or less the same old shit in a different package. It’s still angst-ridden Gothic Metal, but with a robotized voice effect added and a whole lot of Techno/Industrial keyboards. There are some nods to the futuristic, but the band really needed to go all the way. Going Cyber-Punk with the music and then dialing it back or not moving forward at all in the other areas defeats the purpose. Where Crematory falters is in this area and it’s symptomatic of a band that changes direction abruptly but hasn’t done so naturally. I did like this album more than their old stuff, but at the same time, there are plenty of other bands out there that do this sort of thing better. Sadly, this is also something that I said about their older music. If you want Industrialized Death Metal with real Sci-Fi lyrics and themes, Mechina eats Crematory alive like a horrifying cyborg great white shark chowing down on some random surfer at the beginning of a horror flick. Antiserum isn’t a predator, it’s a victim. Once again, Crematory has shown up at the party late and the only thing left for them is cheap beer and fat chicks. These guys (and girl) need to give Johan Van Roy back his keyboard parts and return to the drawing board. Change needs to be organic and this clearly isn’t it. Fans will appreciate good music as long as it’s played from the heart and the band clearly believes in it. The music on Antiserum sounds contrived and that’s what kills this for me more than anything else.

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Darkest Hour - Darkest Hour

Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2014

If you haven’t been paying attention, the haters are having a field day bashing the living shit of Darkest Hour’s new self-titled LP. I haven’t seen an underdog take a pounding like this since Captain America inhaled a warehouse full of Heisenberg and beat Daredevil’s ass blue-black until his face resembled senior citizen scrotum. I refer to Henry & Schleibaum as underdogs because, honestly, what chance did they have at appeasing any fickle fuck whose life is so empty he writes about his CDs? (Sorry, computer files, or however the fuck you listen to music on the Starship Enterprise.) Painted into a corner by a remarkably solid but undeniably predictable career up to this point, they had one of two choices: keep rehashing a tried ‘n’ true Slaughter of the Soul-worshipping formula already stretched paper thin over the course of seven albums, or… they could change. If the last 15 years has taught me anything, it’s that Metalcore bands can only change in a couple of different ways. They can “go Deftones,” which is similar to “going Radiohead” (other street names: “writing a Jupiter,” or “pulling a Codeseven”); they can incorporate some kind of foreign genre (Glam, Gothic, Dance/Electronica) into an odd couple pairing that typically just sounds wrong; or, as in this particular case, the lifelong screamer gives actual singing a whirl. All paths lead to a softer, more accessible goal, and it either works or it doesn’t. Believe it or not, I think Darkest Hour has pulled it off in spades. Let’s face it, they couldn’t go on writing the same record every two years ‘til the end of time. I don’t care how good that same record is, eventually the shit gets stale. Sometimes you just have to bite Holyfield’s ear off. I’d imagine it’s better than getting knocked out. I honestly don’t see what all the critics are so butthurt about here. With album #8, these guys have written some tunes you might actually remember in ten years. John Henry can really fucking sing!! Who knew? I mean, the guy nails it as far as I’m concerned. The standout clean singing on “The Misery We Make,” “Futurist,” “Anti-Axis,” “The Goddess Figure,” and “Departure” creates instant memorability, not to mention staying power. Henry’s style often reminds me of Nicholas Brooks on It Dies Today’s The Caitiff Choir, and yeah, I do mean that as a compliment. Many of these songs still brim with that fiery Gothenberg energy, only now there are different levels they can operate on. Besides, if you want to hear them play only that signature style, you’ve got a mega-fuckton of old records to choose from. I think this is their best since The Mark of the Judas. I may’ve said that before, but this time I mean it. People just didn’t give this one enough of a chance before dragging it into a folder with the other 621 releases they downloaded that day. Either that, or they just can’t get around the paralyzing fear that they might just like something “the kids” are into if they’d listen to it more than once. People suck.
Speaking of which, make sure you hunt down the retinal scan-only bonus tracks, as they are two of the best songs of the bunch. Gee, guys… I’m glad I went out and bought the standard edition the day it came out… dicks.

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Aldious - District Zero Tour - Live at Shibuya-O East (video)

Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My name is Ychoril and these are my confessions. You may know that I’m a huge Japanophile. I love Japan and all things Japanese. The only thing that turns me on more than a hot Japanese woman is a hot Japanese Metal chick. That said, I watch District Zero Tour - Live at Shibuya-O East like most men watch porn. It has everything I could possibly want in one package: hot Japanese women and Heavy Metal music. In fact, it’s even better than just hot Japanese women and Heavy Metal music, it has hot Japanese women PLAYING Heavy Metal music. Overdosing on Viagra might give me an erection lasting longer than four hours, but so does watching Aldious live in concert. The difference is that while most would turn the volume down to hide the fact that they’re watching porn, I turn the volume up to advertise the fact that I’m listening to Metal. Though the band is composed of five hot Japanese ladies, they aren’t lightweights. This group is as professional and as well rehearsed as any Metal band out there. Fans of Power Metal in the vein of Stratovarious and Iron Savior will appreciate the musical prowess that these ladies display here and on their studio LPs, which is considerable. Guitarists Yoshi and Toki can and do shred as good as any Power Metal band out there, and the rest of the group (bassist Sawa and drummer Aruto) are similarly proficient with their instruments. Vocalist Re:NO (Rino Nikaidou) takes a bit of getting used to, mostly because her voice seems more suited for ballads than for Metal. Previous vocalist, Rami (who departed the band in 2012 due to health reasons), was more in line with traditional Power Metal vocals, and Re:NO’s style had many longtime fans wondering if the bleached-blonde former vocalist for JPop group Suitei Shojo and former KERA magazine fashion model could handle being in a “real” band. The District Zero LP had fans divided, but this live DVD shows that she and the rest of the group can still deliver the goods in a live environment. The band is definitely heavier in concert and their enthusiasm is clearly evident. Re:NO’s stage presence is considerable, and though she is the front-person, she never hogs the spotlight. All of the members, even drummer Aruto, get plenty of camera time. Yoshi and Toki are often in the front, trading guitar solos and shredding away like they were on the Shrapnel Records roster back in the ’80s (for those who don’t remember or weren’t alive back then, Shrapnel was the record label devoted to guitar wankery), though their music never stops being melodic and engaging. And they stay mesmerizing throughout the entire two hours that they play. Yes, Metal fans, this DVD has an entire two hour concert on it, shortened only between encores (there are two) for the sake of time. The musical selection spans much of the band’s career, though the bulk of it is centered around the District Zero LP. They still play older cuts like “Mermaid” and “Ultimate Melodious,” though the vocal arrangement has been altered slightly to accommodate Re:NO’s style. A word of warning: this band is from Japan and everything is in Japanese. It’s also region coded for Japan so if you don’t have an all-region DVD player or you happen to live in an area where Region 2 isn’t your native coding, you won’t be able to view it. As a fan of all things Japanese, I don’t recall ever being without an all-regions capable DVD player, but I know most folks out there probably don’t have one, so a warning is in order before you drop a bunch of money on this. For me, it was well worth relegating myself to eating Maruchan Cup Ramen for about a month while recovering from the financial hit this put on me. Sadly, it looks like I’m going to be eating instant ramen for a while longer because I got this DVD paid off just as the band’s latest LP, Dazed and Delight, was released. Life as a Japanophile isn’t easy - or cheap, for that matter - but releases like District Zero Tour - Live at Shibuya-O East make it all worthwhile.

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Those Who Bring the Torture - Piling Up

Posted on Monday, November 17, 2014

When it comes to Death Metal’s perverse and unholy backyard barbecue, there are those who bring the potato salad and Those Who Bring the Torture. Yes, I know that joke was stupid, but reviewing anything from the mighty Rogga Johansson is never an easy task. One has to get things off the ground however one can. You see, Rogga is in 72 bands that all put out 18 albums a year. I don’t know exactly how many that is, but I know it all equals 9. Fortunately for this writer, Those Who Bring the Torture records are slightly less daunting than most of Johansson’s similarly-veined endeavors. Despite the menacing moniker, this is actually one of the man’s more accessible outlets. No, that’s not another bad joke. Just listen to the first riff of album opener “Under Twin Suns.” That’s a hook with a groove you could almost rap to! Okay, so maybe it isn’t that accessible, but it certainly seems as though Rogga saves all his best melodies for this particular project. Of course, that’s not to say TWBtT isn’t still Death… the Rogga way. This prolific Swede knows no other means. However, tracks such as “The Gateway,” “In Orbit,” and “Towering Structures of the Damned” are graced with a slick melodic sensibility that doesn’t often reveal itself on most Paganizer or Ribspreader cuts. Elsewhere, “Incomprehensible” has an air of melancholy and dejection that’s almost Doom-like in essence, despite the song’s speedy double-bass-driven energy, while “A Dead Cold Space” achieves nearly the same vibe through a Punkish slant. If I had to pick a weak spot, all that’s really available is album closer “Turrets of a Forgotten Castle.” Not a terrible tune, but somewhat of a lumbering Thrashy clunker that doesn’t quite fit in with the flow of an otherwise powerful album. Then again, everything this guy does is pretty damn awesome in its own right. Just not always the easiest material to expound upon, as it’s typically the same brand of standard-issue sickness Johansson so effortlessly deals with the quickness of a veteran Vegas Blackjack dealer (talk about “piling up”). So, if you hunger for a side of something a little different with your helping of more-of-the-same, Those Who Bring the Torture might just be surprisingly filling.

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Slough Feg - Digital Resistance

Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

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

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Electric Wizard - Time to Die

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014

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

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Septicflesh - Titan

Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014

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

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.”

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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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