Omnizide - Death Metal Holocaust

Posted on Friday, April 11, 2014

When you see an album called Death Metal Holocaust, you can be reasonably sure that you’re not getting Power Metal. Omnizide is a Death Metal band in the Swedish style and though this is their debut LP (their only previous release was the 2011 Pleasure from Death EP, the songs from which are also on this LP), the members have been in numerous other bands (Craft, Dark Funeral, and Avsky) prior to this one. This isn’t a gang of new kids by any stretch of the imagination. For a debut album, this sounds pretty tight and professional, as you would expect from guys who’ve been at this a while. The songs might not be very original sounding, but they’re solid. Musically, Omnizide reminded me of a more Death Metal version of Dark Endless by Marduk. It had the same Doom-infused Death Metal style and the vocals sound similar in terms of delivery. Omnizide is a bit heavier, though, with deeper and more brutal guitar tones. The songs also have somewhat more memorability, sporting catchy riffing and the occasional bit of melodic guitar-work to spice things up. While this isn’t anything I haven’t heard dozens of times before, it is well executed and does what good Death Metal should: it kicks ass. Also, it sounds evil, which is always a good thing where Death Metal is concerned. It might not be “drop everything and call of your friends” awesome, but it doesn’t disappoint by any means. If you want solid evil Death Fucking Metal, this will satisfy your needs quite handily.

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The Kennedy Veil - Trinity of Falsehood

Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2014

As usual, there’s very little guesswork involved with what you’re getting from Unique Leader. Yet this sophomore outing from Sacramento’s The Kennedy Veil isn’t so much a technical Death Metal album for the sake of a technical Death Metal album as it is a half-hour long blastbeat assault for the sake of a half-hour long blastbeat assault. From the moment you press play, it’s evident that these drumsticks are on that Heisenberg. I don’t know what this snare drum did to piss off Gabe Seeber, but dude isn’t going to be able to wipe his ass by 40. A surgical beating so ruthless that by the third track, my wrist hurts. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to approximate that roughly 93% of The Trinity of Falsehood is blanketed by Seeber’s berserker blast barrage. What’s troubling is that the rest of what’s going on is buried beneath, simply overpowered by the relentless blast onslaught. It’s unfortunate because KC Childers actually knows his way around a riff. Compared to the drumming, his playing is not overly technical. Sure, there are sweeps and million-mile-per-hour scales, but it’s mostly a melodic, hook-oriented style. Vocalist Taylor Wientjes has a nice present-day Frank Mullen meets Mike DiSalvo circa Whisper Supremacy balance of brutal yet semi-understandable going for him. The problem being that by mid-album, the incessant jackhammer drumming lulls the listener into a near-meditative state of mind-wandering that transforms his vocal patterns into wallpaper. It hardly seems fair to fault a drummer for being too brutal —perhaps some blame should fall on the mixing job as well— but a few times per song, Seeber takes his foot off the pedal (…well… not literally…) just long enough for the rest of the band to show off a penchant for high-quality songwriting. It’s these moments when the songs are allowed to temporarily breathe —see “Seventh Circle”— that the album elevates from sleeper to keeper. I just wish there were more of them. Here’s to hoping that future spins will reveal additional worth.

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Mystica Girls - Gates of Hell

Posted on Tuesday, April 08, 2014

After being completely blown away by 2011’s stunning Metal Rose album (perhaps EP would be more accurate, as it was only 25 minutes long, but let’s not stand on formality), I was somewhat concerned about the subsequent lineup changes. I’m not sure if Alice (drums) and Sofia Renie (vocals) both left at the same time, but although getting a new drummer is usually survivable, replacing a singer often is not. I guess that I had my head up my ass and missed out on the 2012 re-recording of Metal Rose, this time fleshed out to inarguably full-length status at 44 minutes, and the next year’s follow-up EP, The Conquest, both featuring the revamped lineup of Yolanda Moreno on drums and Mon Laferte singing, so Gates of Hell is my first exposure to them. I’m unclear if it happened during the recording of this album, or perhaps just after, but I’m sorry to have to report that bass goddess Red Jane has also parted ways with Mystica Girls, leaving the apparently unstoppable Cinthya Blackcat with an entirely new band since the last time I heard them. The fresh Girls seem to have brought more Hard Rock influences to the songwriting than I was expecting (or wanted), as the Metal elements are occasionally toned down -sometimes way down, as in the disappointing “Spooky Cookie” and “The Boogie Biker.” Mon’s voice is strong, although I’m still getting used to her decidedly Hard Rock style, and she seems more comfortable singing in English than Sofia did -all of these songs are in English for some reason. When the band keeps to the Metal side of things, sometimes mainly evidenced in the drumming, then everything is fine, if not excellent. But there is no “Tortura” or “Mi Sangre” here, demanding that I listen to it over and over, although the intense title track and “Tiny Blue Dot” come the closest, and there are certainly many other moments of greatness. The mix is also a little different, somewhat de-emphasizing the bass. (Possibly because it’s at least partially Red Jane’s successor, Kathy Whitewolf?) Many groups have trouble with their second album; the old saying being that you have your entire life to compose your debut, but only a year or two for the follow-up. Considering that and the almost complete lineup overhaul, Gates of Hell is impressive in many ways, but overall still doesn’t quite hit the very high mark set by Metal Rose. Hopefully this lineup is stable now, because it will be interesting to hear what Blackcat and company do next, whether it’s more Metal focused or moves further into Hard Rock territory.
PS. Just throwing it out there, but what if Red Jane, Alice, and Sofia reformed under a new band name?

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Tengger Cavalry - Ancient Call

Posted on Friday, April 04, 2014

Tengger Cavalry is one of a very small handful of bands that mixes Chinese and Mongolian Folk music with Metal. Of all of the groups I’ve heard, Tengger Cavalry integrates the Folk music aspects into their music the most. Chthonic is known to use Chinese Folk rhythms and song structures in their music, but for the most part, they’re solidly Metal. Tengger Cavalry, on the other hand, blurs the line between a Metal band incorporating Folk into their music, and a Folk band that’s incorporating Metal. It’s a very interesting listen, to say the least. As much as 2013’s Black Steed was Folk-influenced, Ancient Call takes that even further. Admittedly, some of the songs on this LP are a bit on the “Chinese equivalent of a Renaissance Faire” side, but for the most part, it’s like listening to the soundtrack to an epic tale of ancient China (maybe something like Red Cliff or Hero). If there is a flaw in the band’s sound, it’s that they’re sometimes too heavy on the Folk music and too light on the Metal. Tracks like “Brave” are essentially straight-out Folk with only minor Metal parts. You can barely hear the guitars sometimes because the Folk instruments push them so far into the background. Still, when they successfully integrate the two styles, they strike musical gold. Fans of Folk Metal that are looking for something different should definitely check this out if you can find it. I’ve noticed that a lot of this band’s material is difficult to get, but based on the recordings that I’ve heard, it’s well worth tracking down.

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Carnifex - Die Without Hope

Posted on Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Huge congrats to Carnifex. New year, new record label, and a new album that has penetrated the Billboard 100 (circa piracy age) via pure brutality alone. This accomplishment must feel all the sweeter done in the face of so many bitter haters. These overnight Metal authorities who bash Deathcore because it’s cool to talk shit about what “the kids” like. Oh, boo-fucking-hoo… you live in a place where the youth support extreme music. You poor jaded faggot. Come live in the ghetto with Daddy. I certainly don’t hear anyone on the block bumping Hell Chose Me. “The kids” like a steady diet of Chief Keef and Waka Flocka Flame ‘round these parts (and to be honest, I’ll take that over Watain and Skeletonwitch anyday). These people want to pretend they were born the boring old assholes they’ve become. Like their elders never persecuted them for their musical taste in between rapes. The relentlessly horrible misery of life does not discriminate against age, and neither does the music that heals the pain, if only for a short while. I feel that I also need to address these My Little Pony Metal mags who label bands like Carnifex “neanderthal,” “dumbed-down,” and “trendy,” only to turn around and put Phil Anselmo on their covers. As if his musical output is some classy, original, thinking man’s shit?! Name a trend in Metal. Fake Phil has fucked it bareback. These delusional bastards pen their critique through some haze of narcissistic make-believe in which the opinions of their imaginary friends affect their own. How does it feel to be the sad white defender getting dunked on in the Dr. J poster that is life?
Die Without Hope is as solid a heavy record as you’ll hear all year. Taking a longer time in between albums than usual seems to have refined their attack, as much of their ‘core elements have been scaled back in favor of big league Death Metal chops. It’s not all blast/pit riff soup anymore — not that there’s a damn thing wrong that formula. Shawn Cameron gives the most bestial vocal performance of his career, while his bandmates provide a significantly honed songwriting approach as the backdrop. Slower tempos, pummeling chug, melodic leads, and occasional atmospheric experimentation allow the songs more room to breathe, giving those aforementioned blasts and pit riffs more of a finishing move effect. I am slightly disappointed by the complete absence of the band’s signature heart-stopping breakdowns. I suppose they’ve bowed to the critics somewhat in that sense. Still, if this monster doesn’t get your fingertips tapping the steering wheel, I don’t want to know what will. If you hate Carnifex, you must love puppy dogs, flowers, rainbows, and Jesus. I just hope the band doesn’t get into any legal trouble for using Indiana’s copyrighted State motto as an album title.

Rating:
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Babymetal - Babymetal

Posted on Friday, March 28, 2014

Only in Japan could anyone think of combining “Death Metal” with little girls singing and dancing. But before you dismiss this completely out of hand, take a moment to consider what it means. In America, Metal is looked down upon. Most sheep people listen to totally worthless, disposable bullshit, such as whatever is popular at the moment you’re reading this. I don’t even want to type any of their undeserving names. Things are different in Japan. The awesome Animetal recorded Thrash/Power Metal covers of Anime theme songs, and were so popular that a US version of the band now exists, covering that band’s covers. That is how crazy Japan is. So, when I first heard of Babymetal, a couple years ago, I think, I stopped everything to immediately check them out. It helps that I just love Japan, of course. Osamu Tezuka, Go Nagai, Ichiro Mizuki, Akira Kurosawa, Ishiro Honda, Stan Sakai, Yoshitaka Amano, Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima are among the greatest artistic geniuses the human race has ever produced. (If you don’t know who they all are, I truly feel sorry for you.) Babymetal released a few singles (and videos to accompany them, of course, as this is a visual band) which are compiled here with several new songs, so I went into this having already been familiar with some of the material. The new single/video, and the album-opener, “Babymetal Death,” is the heaviest thing they’ve ever recorded, along the lines of Dethklok’s most intense moments, with “Death!” chanted over and over comprising the bulk of the lyrics. I don’t make the Dethklok comparison lightly, as both bands are just about as equally fabricated (although both groups consist of actual live musicians when performing on stage), and if you can find any enjoyment in the music of the animated Americans, you might be able to do likewise with the very Japanese Babymetal. The music is generally within the realms of Thrash or modern Death Metal, plus some electronic elements, and of course the currently 16-year-old Su-metal singing with occasional vocal help from the even younger Moametal and Yuimetal. They’re better than you might think, although I don’t believe that any of them are unleashing those sporadic Death-growls. If you listen to any amount of Power Metal I guarantee that you’ve heard lighter-weight singing. The only real problem I even have with this, since I don’t expect it to be “art” any more than I would a PG-13 Hollywood movie to be, is that a few of the songs are written to cover specific musical bases that I don’t like. After about a minute-and-half, the very Pop-Metal “Ii ne!” suddenly becomes a Rap song for 30 seconds, before getting what I can only describe as “brutal” for the next 30, then going back to normal. I think that “Akumu no Rinbukyoku” starts with (and later goes back to) what may be a Djent riff. I avoid that type of supposedly-musical abomination like AIDS-infested Indiana meth/crack whores, so I’m not sure, but it’s an unbelievably terrible riff. Even so, it’s only a small part of the song and Su-metal just completely ignores it and signs a beautiful vocal line over it as if that stupid riff didn’t exist at all. “Uki Uki ★ Midnight” has some Dubstep elements, which I guess I didn’t really mind. I don’t even know how to describe what happens during parts of “4 no Uta.” But I do expect some weirdness. Admittedly, more than a little is lost without the visuals, and I don’t mean that in any perverted way (this time), but if you can get past the fact that this is three little girls and an anonymous (supposedly) backing band, there is actually a lot to like here. I mean, would you prefer that something like this is popular (which it is in Japan!), or… just look at the Billboard Top 10 this week. As with a great many other things, I’m with Japan.

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Drudkh / Winterfylleth - Thousands of Moons Ago / The Gates

Posted on Monday, March 24, 2014

Much like getting that semi-hot bar slut home for the first time only to find out her cavernous vagina is where they filmed The Descent, there’s a slight degree of disappointment involved when getting this ultra-rare split from Drudkh and Winterfylleth undressed. Unless, of course, pussies so large there’s graffiti inside is your thing… or you’re just really into obscure cover songs. First off, this isn’t technically a split. Ukrainian mainstays Drudkh get three covers, while British Black Metallers Winterfylleth only get one. You don’t need to major in economics to realize that isn’t a fair deal, and it’s the better band being shafted to boot. Drudkh is a mysterious horde. Not just in terms of their elusive nature, but of their inconsistent album-to-album effort level. On some records, Roman Saenko & Co. prove to be the real wolves in Black Metal’s throne room, then on others they merely coast on atmospheric autopilot. Their renditions of Heyfestos’ “…W Krainie Drzew” and Unclean’s “Ten, Ktery Se Vyhyba Svetlu” are as bland and forgettable as I can only assume the originals are. They do end their half three-quarters of the “split” in fine fashion with a blistering recreation of Sacrilegium’s “Recidivus,” but as far as this personnel is concerned, I much prefer Hate Forest and Old Silver Key. (Sad to say I’ve only recently discovered the latter, and if you still haven’t, I must insist you immediately track down their sole full-length at all costs. Absolutely amazing stuff with Neige from Alcest on vocals. Essential.) Hey… speaking of Hate Forest, Winterfylleth fucking nails “The Gates” to the point of outright ownership. That instantly recognizable guitar sound, that instantly recognizable tortured scream, that second-to-none drumming… If there’s a better Black Metal band going right now —that isn’t named An Autumn for Crippled Children or Deafheaven— I’d really like to know about it. More Winterfylleth, please.
Note: this 12-inch vinyl collector’s piece is cruelly limited to 666 copies. So, yeah… don’t illegally download it or anything.

Rating:
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Van Canto - Dawn of the Brave

Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014

I like checking out bands that are odd or different in some way. Even if the vast majority of music I end up hearing sucks Godzilla’s giant mutant reptile penis, there are times when checking out a new or different band pays dividends and I get to hear a truly exceptional album that would have been overlooked otherwise. Van Canto is one of those oddball bands that caught my attention because they triggered my “WTF?” alarm. Van Canto describes themselves as A Cappella Metal. That caught my attention because you don’t ever see the terms “A Cappella” and “Metal” together in the same sentence unless that sentence happens to be “A Cappella music isn’t Metal.” I walked to the cash register of my local record store with this CD and paid for it knowing that there was probably a 1% likelihood that it was going to be awesome and a 99% likelihood that it was going to be an abomination of epic proportions. Let me begin this review by saying that Van Canto is what you get when a Power Metal band has to sell their instruments in order to pay the rent. Rather than selling each other into prostitution, they decide that going A Cappella might be something strange enough to lure a few more people to their concerts with the added bonus of not having to lug a ton of musical instruments to each show. This is all speculation, of course. They might have decided to do this whole “Metal without using real instruments” thing on their own without the aid of drugs or alcohol (or impending rent payments that needed to be made), but that would just make them stupid instead of creative. Much like Diablo Swing Orchestra, this is one of those records that you use to show an activist college girl how open minded you are in hopes that she’ll give you a blowjob. It says something, then, that the best material here is on the bonus CD that comes with the “limited edition” version of this release. Yes, it’s that fucking bad. The nature of A Cappella music requires the vocalists to use their voices to simulate the melodies and rhythms that would normally be created by guitars and keyboards. This leads to a ton of laugh out loud moments where the song takes an unintentionally funny turn when one or more of the singers attempts to simulate a guitar riff or some form of melody. It sounds so stupid that you can’t help but laugh. Face it, when you can make the original version of “The Final Countdown” sound awesome in comparison, you fucking suck and you should probably quit music altogether. I think Joey Tempest (Europe) is laughing his ass off right now because now he can honestly say that his version of the song isn’t the worst one out there. What saved this release from being absolute trash was the aforementioned bonus CD. All of these bonus tracks are reworkings of older songs that Van Canto recorded prior to this LP. The first three songs are orchestral versions played with real symphonic instruments and without any vocals. The fourth track is a Techno remix that uses effects to alter the vocal weirdness in such a way that it doesn’t sound stupid, which is quite a feat in and of itself. The final two are an acoustic track with only the lead vocals and acoustic guitars, and a choir rendition of one of their songs. The A Cappella gimmick might get a few curious people (such as myself) to check out one of this band’s releases, but after listening to this, I don’t think I’ll ever buy or listen to another one. One track of this nonsense is enough to give you all you’ll ever need to hear from Van Canto. If you’re able to download the bonus CD material without purchasing the rest of this LP (either through iTunes or Amazon), I’d do that instead of buying the whole thing. The rating below reflects only the LP tracks. The bonus CD is worth an 8 on its own merits, mostly because it’s as far away from this A Cappella bullshit as you can get - most of which probably doesn’t even involve the members of this band. I wouldn’t bother with the rest of it. If you want to hear good A Cappella music, buy a Pentatonix LP. Don’t waste your money on shit like Dawn of the Brave because you’ll probably regret it (unless that activist college chick actually does give you a blowjob, then mission accomplished).

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Prostitute Disfigurement - From Crotch to Crown

Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I must confess to not keeping up with Prostitute Disfigurement at all since 2001’s Embalmed Madness. I know… shame on me. I don’t really have an excuse or a logical explanantion as to why its been a baker’s dozen worth of Braves’ calendars since I last checked in on these humorously-named Dutch sickos. I loved that aforementioned debut and the demo that preceded it. What’s not to love about timeless family favorites like “Choking on Defecation,” “Chainsaw Abortion,” “Cadaver Blowjob,” and “On Her Guts I Cum”? I suppose the general gayness of life and an influx of 10,008 new extreme Metal releases per year inadvertently separated me from PD’s progress. I did manage to cum on a few guts during that span, but unfortunately those women were alive. Enough about the past. What do the cadaverous quintet bring to the embalming table circa now? Very little I’m afraid. Not sure who outgrew whom, but I’m not feeling From Crotch to Crown much at all. The demented lyrical content and delightfully disgusting cover art thankfully remain in tow, but musically the band has taken a far more conventional approach to brutal Death Metal. This sounds like the filler from Cannibal Corpse’s Gore Obsessed and Deicide’s Earache era fucked and had a crack baby. So… basically it’s a Severe Torture record now that I think about it. There’s a few serviceable pit riffs and guitar solos hidden between never ending walls of non-stop machinegun blast, but nothing you’ll remember once the album’s over. Gone are the beyond bestial low-end gurgles. Niels Adams (Centurian) still has a solid set of pipes, but his vocal patterns are equally elusive to the hippocampus, forgotten mere seconds after they’re growled. No more drum machine set to “annihilate.” Michiel van der Plicht (ex-God Dethroned) might as well be a machine. The only problem being that machine is an oscillating desk fan with a baseball card wedged in it. Guttural, guttural, where for art thou guttural?? Rotting away is still better than being gay, but From Crotch to Crown is all bore, no gore.

Rating:
-
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Acheron - Kult des Hasses

Posted on Friday, March 14, 2014

Acheron has a long and storied past. Formed by ex-Nocturnus member Vincent Crowley back in 1988, Acheron has been part of the Death Metal scene since its very earliest days. While the band never achieved the much-deserved fame or recognition that bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, or even Vital Remains got, Acheron has persisted. Though they’ve come close, they’ve yet to have that one “breakthrough” album that pushes them to the next level. Any number of reasons can be given as to why they’ve been overlooked, but they’ve consistently put out very solid recordings over the years. Musically, I’m having difficulty calling what they do pure “Death Metal” these days - which is not a complaint, by the way. There are parts of Kult des Hasses that show more kinship with old Mercyful Fate or Angel Witch than bands like Morbid Angel. Even the legitimately brutal parts on this LP sound more like Thrash than Death Metal. That being said, Kult des Hasses is probably the most technically proficient and musically distinct album that Acheron has ever produced. The guitar playing, in particular, is exceptional. Art Taylor’s soloing really drives the music, giving the songs an explosive quality sometimes, or a Blues-influenced atmosphere on other occasions. Kyle Severn’s drumming is as tight as always, and Vincent Crowley’s vocals are as caustic and brutal as you’re going to get and still be completely understandable. While this might not be the “breakout” LP that they need to separate themselves from the second tier and move up to the top levels of the scene, it’s definitely well worth checking out.

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Behemoth - The Satanist

Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2014

To say that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of The Satanist would probably be the understatement of the year. I was practically camping out in front of the record store waiting for this to come out. I’ve followed Behemoth since their The Return of the Northern Moon demo tape (professionally released by Pagan Records in 1993), and while their music has changed considerably since those days, I’ve always enjoyed listening to them. When Nergal came down with leukemia, I was afraid that I would lose another one of my Metal idols. It appears that our Lord and Master, Satan, had other plans for Nergal, though. The Satanist is one of those records that you have to listen to multiple times before you get a firm grasp on what Behemoth is doing. The early part of this album suffers from some production issues, namely the guitars getting buried underneath either the drums or the atmospherics (keyboards, choir or samples), sometimes both. There are parts of “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” and “Furor Divinus” where the guitars can’t really be heard beyond the occasional bit that breaks through during a segment when the drums or orchestration slow down or stop. Things get better around the middle of the LP, with the second half of The Satanist being significantly better sounding than the first. I think the main reason for this is that the slower songs were concentrated more in this half of the record, and the faster ones came early on. What holds all of this together is Nergal’s corrosive singing. He has a fairly distinctive voice that is raw and harsh, but still coherent and understandable, which is a rare thing in a genre filled with vocalists that gurgle like some sort of rabid beast or scream like a banshee. The music here is a veritable maelstrom of brutal and evil sounding guitars, keyboards, drums and whatever else Nergal and his compatriots can throw at you. In a way, Behemoth has become what I always hoped that Morbid Angel would be. While Trey Azagthoth and company have turned into something of a mockery of their former selves, Behemoth stepped in and stole the throne right out from under them. Tracks like “The Satanist” and “O Father O Satan O Sun!” easily make this a worthwhile purchase, and while this isn’t an absolutely ungodly masterpiece, there’s more than enough awesomeness to make up for whatever unevenness can be found.

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Warfather - Orchestrating the Apocalypse

Posted on Monday, March 10, 2014

To say that Morbid Angel’s 2011 comeback LP was perceived by the Death Metal multiverse as a dismal flop is putting things rather lightly. I once publicly admitted to liking four songs from Illud, and came home that night to a burning cross in my lawn and a banner that read, “FAGGOT GO HOME.” Four good songs or not, I think we can all agree that the album overall was more awkward than a loud fart at a funeral, and that in retrospect, Steve Tucker-fronted Morbid Angel sounded better by comparison. Sure, there wasn’t an Altars of Madness or a Covenant, but it most certainly can be argued as the most brutal era of their legendary legacy (pending one’s own definition of “brutal,” of course). After hearing whatever that Nader Sadek rubbish was —I’d like to hear the argument for four good songs there— I was beginning to wonder if the Heretic album would be my last good memory of all the parties involved. Needless to say, I was strongly rooting for Warfather’s debut to beat the ugly out of me. I was hoping Tucker —faced with the daunting challenge of having to reinvent and reinvigorate his career at age 42— would make Father Time his bitch and conquer 2014. After all, he’s a pretty confident person, bro.
< dead silence >
While a competent effort, Orchestrating the Apocalypse does not have what it takes to fulfill those wishes. It’s a peculiar case of highly impressive individual performances not equating to much of a whole. On the positive side, the riffs are great. Tucker —switching from bass to guitar for this project— not only summons the back catalogs of Deicide and Morbid Angel to classic effect, but also succeeds at the difficult task of infusing emotion into Deathly riffcraft. Some of these melodies have melodies that have melodies! Elsewhere, it’s as if he modeled many of the guitar arrangements after Classical music. The drumming —courtesy of the mighty “Deimos” (former sticksman for Destroyer 666, Inhume, Prostitute Disfigurement, and Sinister to name a few)— is also spectacular. However, the drum sound is fucking clown dick. The only thing I like about the sound of the kick drums is that it reminds me of when I used to write reviews on an actual typewriter. Which brings us to the record’s biggest flaw: horseshit production. Horrible beyond belief! It’s as if the instruments were recorded on different planets and then mixed using some kind of pre-ProTools software prototype. (And don’t give me that “it’s supposed to sound Old School” bullshit. Old School sounded way better than this. Shit, Hellhammer’s Death Fiend demo sounds better than this.) It’s paper thin, completely void of any trace of audible bass guitar, and highlights a definite need for studio magic when it comes to Tucker’s vocals. Too often he reaches too far for range that isn’t there, and you can file that under momentruiner. (Fuck the purists. AutoTune that shit! A guitar doesn’t naturally sound distorted, does it? No one gets butthurt about that.) In closing, there’s a lot of good things to take away from Orchestrating the Apocalypse, but they don’t come close to outweighing all that’s left to be desired. With even the most basic of modern productions, you could probably flip the six on this rating.

Rating:
-
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Wolvserpent - Perigaea Antahkarana

Posted on Friday, March 07, 2014

As with most record labels, Relapse has had its share of duds over the years, but in theory, Wolvserpent shouldn’t be one of them. The band plays dark and punishingly heavy music, which is normally something that I love. Where Perigaea Antahkarana fails is in the songwriting. At 82 minutes for four songs and an intro track, this LP is a prime example of a band creating overly long compositions and beating simple structures into the floor to the point of being mind-numbingly boring. You could have shortened each of these tracks by two-thirds and they probably would have still been too long. This has the worst aspects of Drone and Dark Ambient displayed in all their vulgar glory. After repeated tries, I somehow managed to listen to the entire album in one sitting, and truth be told, it wasn’t an experience that I want to repeat. I swear that the 82 minute duration is misleading. It looks like a long time already, but when you’re actually suffering through it, you’d swear that this fucking thing lasts four hours. It’s not an easy listen by a long shot. Unless you like nearly-endless, droning music that’s less exciting than watching paint dry, I’d avoid Wolvserpent. This has been upped a couple points just because the guitar tone is fucking evil sounding. I love the tone, but that doesn’t save this record from being a dog.

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Demonomancy - Throne of Demonic Proselytism

Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014

When you know that Yosuke Konishi of Nuclear War Now! Productions is a huge fan of Blasphemy and bands in that style, it’s no surprise that he would release an album by Italy’s Demonomancy. While they aren’t a clone of Blasphemy or a direct descendant of the band like Revenge or Conquerer, Demonomancy does share a lot of stylistic similarities with the Ross Bay legends. The main difference between the two is their chosen speed range. Demonomancy tends to dwell in the slower side of Black/Death Metal, occasionally kicking up the tempo to show that they can grind alongside the best of them. This particular style makes them sound a bit like the combination of Blasphemy and Corpse Molestation in that they have the song structures and playing style of Blasphemy, but that slower pace, and murky, bass-heavy guitar sound that Corpse Molestation had on Descension of a Darker Deity. The speed range that Demonomancy tends to focus on gives them more heaviness, and doesn’t diminish their attack in the least. While most of the bands that were spawned by Blasphemy’s unholy influence tend to blast and grind their way through albums, the varied velocities that Demonomancy uses on this LP gives the music some much needed diversity, which their peers often lack. It’s not the standard Black/Grind that most fans of Blasphemy might be looking for, but it’s still a potent brew of bludgeoning and caustic Black/Death Metal.

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Incantation / Archgoat - Rehearsal & Live 1990 / Jesus Spawn

Posted on Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Let me begin this review by saying that this release is for die-hard devotees of Incantation and Archgoat only. If you’re merely a casual fan or someone who is curious about the bands on this split, I recommend checking out their other work instead. This material was, up until now, very rare, mostly because it’s so old. Back in the ’90s, rehearsal and live recordings were uncommon to see officially released. The overwhelming majority of live recordings were bootlegs and had to be obtained by knowing someone who recorded the show or knew the person who did. Most of the live and rehearsal recordings from that era were poorly recorded and usually even the best of them still sounded like shit. Demo tapes had poor sound quality because bands didn’t have the ability to do a high quality recording on a shoestring budget. Today’s bands have it much easier because they can create a high quality recording that would have cost thousands of dollars in the 1990s on a budget considerably smaller. All that said, the sound quality on this split is horrible. The recordings were done using the technology of the time and on an almost nonexistent budget. The Incantation half of this is composed of two rehearsal tracks (a cover of Hellhammer’s “The Third of the Storms,” and “Profanation”) and three live songs (the Hellhammer cover, “Profanation,” and “Unholy Massacre,” recorded at the Cheers Club in Nyack, New York, from Incantation’s first live performance). Of the five, the live songs sound marginally better, but that isn’t saying much. The Archgoat half of this is a repress of the Jesus Spawn demo tape. It’s much more listenable, but still suffers from poor sound quality (it was probably a 4-track recording on an analog tape and then reproduced onto cheap cassettes). If you’re a die-hard fan of either of these bands, this release might be worth it to you as a document of how they sounded back in the very beginning of their careers. The recordings are rare, and though the sound quality is raw and unrefined, this is historically relevant, showing two bands in their formative stages, no more, no less.

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Exhumed - Necrocracy

Posted on Monday, March 03, 2014

If you’ve been around the Bay Area Metal scene for any length of time, you will know who Matt Harvey is. You will also know one or more musicians who have been in Exhumed at some point. The one constant in the band is Matt, and at this point he’s the only remaining original member. The rest of the group consists of a revolving door of musicians, at various times including Impaled bassist Ross Sewage and Murder Construct guitarist/vocalist Leon Del Muerte. Exhumed is something of a Death Metal institution here. I must’ve seen a dozen incarnations of this band over the years, dating back to the early ’90s. One of the earliest Death Metal releases I purchased, in fact, was a copy of the Excreting Innards 7-inch EP (1992). Their sound has evolved considerably over the years, going from their early days of worshipping at the altar of Carcass and playing more of a Gore/Grind style to solidly Death Metal, incorporating both strong melodic guitar-work and neck-snapping ferocity. Necrocracy, therefore, sounds like a very mature work. It’s musically cohesive and showcases a lot of technical flair that doesn’t become overcomplicated or degenerate into wankery. The band knows how to kick ass and they do just that. If there’s a flaw on this album, it’s that the production may have cleaned things up enough so that every note is clearly audible but the power and brutality that the band displays live is dialed back. I thought that the guitars, in particular, needed to be louder and more powerful. That being said, the band’s best medium is live in concert. If you get a chance to see them perform, they will snap your fucking neck and kick your ass like you owe them money. While Necrocracy does a fair job of brutalizing the listener, it’s still but a shadow of what they’re like on stage.

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Dwell - Ash Tombs

Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014

Dwell is a side project of Church Bizarre members Allan B. Larsen (listed as ABL here) and Jens B. Pedersen (listed as JBP) to explore the realms of slower and heavier Death Metal. This is actually a fairly short release as far as Doom/Death Metal is concerned. Though there are three tracks on Ash Tombs, only two of them are actual songs. “Become the Void” is essentially a four minute Ambient/keyboard intro to “Perditions Mire,” although it’s listed as a separate track. It’s definitely needed, though. “Plunging Into Ash Tombs” and “Perditions Mire” are cast from the same mold in terms of how they sound, so breaking the two of them up helps to separate them in the minds of the listener. Otherwise, they would have bled together, sounding like one long song. The riffing is different, but the tonal ranges are fairly close. The keyboard interlude between them is a great move strategically when you know your music operates on a narrow tonal range. Since this is a demo, Dwell can get away with that, but if they ever go on to record something longer than this, they’re going to have to figure out a way to further differentiate the songs from each other. Maybe incorporating keyboards or some other higher pitched instrument would help, because the contrast between that and the lower, darker notes could highlight the differences. Individually, I like both “Plunging Into Ash Tombs” and “Perditions Mire.” Together, they sound similar enough to where you would think they were the same song. It would be a good song, but the same one nonetheless.

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Valdur - At War With

Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014

At War With has a dark and murky sound. The guitars are very bass-heavy and this whole LP reminds me of old Disembowelment and Corpse Molestation, but the music has an early Swedish Death Metal feeling. Valdur is a band that isn’t afraid of mixing in some melody in with the carnage and destruction that they’re dishing out, something that was particularly effective in making the songs memorable and interesting. If this album had been song after song of brutal riff after brutal riff, it would have bored the shit out of me in no time flat. By mixing things up, the songs became far more listenable. Even though the band operated in a tight tonal range for the bulk of this LP, the melodic parts, the atmospheric elements and the tempo changes (going from Grind level speeds to slower and heavier) broke things up enough so that I never started thinking that I was listening to several different versions of the same track. This is some brutal and ugly Black/Death Metal and that’s the kind of music I like to hear. If there was one area that I would have changed, it would be the loudness of the drums. There are times when the drums, particularly the snare, drown out the guitars. When Matthew, the drummer, isn’t blasting away, this isn’t a problem. It becomes an issue when they kick up the speed and start going into a segment were they are more in the Grind range. This doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, you notice it right away. On the whole, though, I found At War With to be an LP that was both dark and punishingly brutal, two good things that work well together in the realms of Black and Death Metal. I’m definitely looking forward to what this band produces next.

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Numenor - Colossal Darkness

Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Though this band seems to have been originally influenced by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga in much the same way that Summoning was, the content of Colossal Darkness appears to be entirely inspired by Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series. The Eternal Champion concept was interesting in that it wasn’t an actual series of books but a combination of novels and characters that were interrelated. Most fantasy literature nerds, such as myself, will know Elric and his soul drinking sword, Stormbringer, right away, but there were many others. Each protagonist in Moorcock’s writing was the reincarnation of the Eternal Champion, and since each character existed in a different era, there were almost infinite possibilities when it came to where the stories could go. Realistically, books in the Eternal Champion series could be futuristic or primitive or anywhere in between. It also allowed for a lot of crossovers where different characters from the various novels could interact with each other in one or more of the fantasy worlds that Moorcock created. While a lot of Moorcock’s work wasn’t as epic as Tolkien’s, it’s still fertile ground for a band like Numenor to explore. Musically, Colossal Darkness isn’t quite as epic as Summoning, but there are times when they come close, such as on “The Sailor on the Seas of Fate.” Most of the time, the band is more akin to a Power Metal version of Dimmu Borgir. The music is generally Symphonic Black Metal, but the guitar-work reflects a substantial Power Metal influence, particularly in the soloing and in the places where the guitar is the primary instrument. The combination of this Power Metal influence and the Symphonic Black Metal style creates an interesting and dynamic range of musical output. Like the Eternal Champion series itself, it allows Numenor to go a lot of places within the realms of Metal. If there is one thing that the band needs, though, it’s some more punch in their music. It might have something to do with the production, but I thought that the guitars needed more prominence and power. Also, more powerful keyboards, which are already nice and loud but should sound “bigger.” Things are just a little bit too ethereal here. Colossal Darkness is still a good album with some interesting music and ideas. If Numenor can put a bit more power into their delivery, they’ll be a band to look out for.

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Thy Emptiness - Crowned Under Cascade Rain

Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014

The Superchi brothers (Jake and Nick, aka The Witcher and OldNick) are back again, but this time under the name of Thy Emptiness. Instead of the Symphonic Black Metal style that they usually write with their main band, Ceremonial Castings, they’ve decided to do something in the Doom/Death Metal direction, hence the different name they’re employing, and the cover of My Dying Bride’s “For You.” Truthfully, though, this isn’t so much Doom/Death Metal as it is Black Metal with Doom/Death Metal influences. Thy Emptiness is actually closer to Dimmu Borgir than it is to anything in the Doom/Death Metal vein. All of the songs on Crowned Under Cascade Rain could easily pass for something on a Ceremonial Castings LP, mostly due to the overpowering keyboard presence. Everything here is a bit slower and heavier than the usual Ceremonial Castings fare, but ultimately, Thy Emptiness isn’t different enough to have an identity of its own. The main reasons for this, I think, are the over-reliance on keyboards when creating melody and atmosphere, and the lack of heaviness in the guitars, which are very thin, and that’s a bad thing in the Doom/Death genre. They needed to be punishingly heavy and more prominent, and the fact that they aren’t seriously hurts. The main things Thy Emptiness needs to work on is getting the guitars in there and stop relying on the keyboards so much. Keyboards might be the most important element in Ceremonial Castings, but they don’t translate as well to a genre that is primarily driven by guitars like Doom/Death Metal is. These are, however, mainly production issues that could be worked out for the band’s next release. So, while the songs don’t suck, I think this might appeal more to fans of Gothic Metal or Black Metal. It just doesn’t have that underlying heaviness that fans of My Dying Bride are looking for.

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