Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Innsmouth: Consumed by Elder Sign (2014)

The works of H.P. Lovecraft have had a very long history of influence on metal.  Of course Metallica referenced his works in two early famous songs, "The Call of Ktulu" and "The Thing that Should Not Be".  Many groups have since tailored their music to create a sound worthy of the doom and gloom present in his stories.  Two subgenres have captured this feeling best.  One is funeral doom, lead by groups like Catacombs, Thergothon, and Tyranny.  The other is a form of primordial, occult death metal.  Innsmouth falls into the latter of these two subgenres.

With a name like Innsmouth and the title of the album here, you can probably guess that there are a lot of Lovecraftian references to be found herein.  You would be absolutely correct.  Song titles like "Thrice-Blessed Shub-Niggurath" and many of the lyrics also keep that going.

But along with the obvious lyrics and band name, the sound really conveys the hopelessness and foreboding doom of the Lovecraft stories.  The sound is otherworldly, dark and intense, with rumbling riffs and psychotic growling vocals.  There is a creepy atmosphere that carries throughout the entire album, which is conveyed the best through the use of audio effects such as those at the beginning of "Thrice-Blessed Sub-Niggurath".

The riffs in this release are not particularly ground-breaking.  They are not overly progressive or strange.  But they work incredibly well, particularly with the vocals.  The riffs are fairly repetitive, but that is definitely not a bad thing when they sound this good.

This album is definitely a contender for Album of the Year for me.  It is one of those death metal albums that just grab you and refuse to let go.  Definitely a must-hear.    

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ass to Mouth: Degenerate (2014)

Originally reviewed here.
You just know what to expect with a name like "Ass to Mouth". Hint: it's not radio-friendly. It is not the kind of thing that is going to be heard on pop radio or MTV. It's going to be nasty, it's going to be extreme, and it's going to be very short.

It's grindcore of course, though not the overly noisy, chaotic type. There is a pretty obvious structure to the songs here and actual riffs. Ass to Mouth incorporate a lot more thrash metal elements into their particular brand of grind. Thrash riffs and shouted vocals are utilized frequently. What results is grindcore in which the vocals can actually be clearly understood and there is a coherent rhythm to the songs. That is pretty rare in this style.

Occasionally, Ass to Mouth throws in something completely out of left field, such as the almost funky bass rhythm at the end of "You Have 0 Friends", the cowbell opening to "One Shot Too Far", and the almost upbeat beginning to "Here Comes Mr. Pig". Those are the moments that stick in the brain. It is clear as well that Ass to Mouth have a sense of humor, based on the above song titles, among others. Plus, their name is Ass to Mouth. Come on.

The vocals are the element that stands out the most to me. As I mentioned, they are presented in a thrash metal-style shout rather than the death metal grunting. There are the occasional pig squeal vocals, but they are used mostly as backing vocals on the occasional track. It is much more of an extreme punk style than a brutal death metal style.

This album flies by in just over thirty minutes. With twenty tracks on it, it is pretty obvious that Ass to Mouth do not really attempt to do anything progressive. In fact there are only a couple of songs on the album that are even more than two minutes long. Most of the rest fall in the minute and a half range. Ass to Mouth simply scream and thrash their way through a couple of verses and call it a song.

Ultimately, this is a fine grindcore album. It is interesting enough to me, though grindcore is not a favorite style of mine. It remains varied enough to maintain interest and is something I could listen to again and again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fear of Domination: Distorted Delusions (2014)

Originally reviewed here.
Seriously? There are still bands like this out there? Not to mention newish ones? Immediately when this album began I felt like it was 2000 all over again. I would have loved this early in college. Jaded, lawyer me is not nearly as impressed. That is to say, I found this barely listenable. I was even more annoyed with the band photos which portray a group looking like a cross between Mushroomhead and Hollywood Undead.

Musically this band sounds like a cross between Spineshank and mainstream-leaning In Flames. There is some melodic death metal present in there but the industrial tinges overwhelm them frequently to the point where the keyboards are about the only thing that can be heard. The music sounds incredibly juvenile, the kind of thing that 16-18 year olds would play loudly on their car stereos to freak out the neighbors. I know this, because I was once one of those kids. But now that my tastes have matured I find myself avoiding schlock like this.

The vocals are not impressive, pretty stereotypical melodeath shrieking. There are a lot of samples used and the riffs, when present, are as basic as could be. This is basically nu-metal, folks.

That's really all I want to say. I did not make it through the whole album.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Verscythe: A Time Will Come (2013)

Bands have been progressively adopting sounds that were mostly popular in the 1980's these days.  Much of that has been groups trying to recreate the Bay Area thrash metal sound.  Every once in awhile, a group comes along aiming at a slightly different target.  Verscythe is a group whose sound is rooted in 1980's heavy and power metal.  But this is not the European style, this is real American-style power metal.

The band that Verscythe reminds me of the most is a little-known group called Lethal.  Much of the reason for that is the higher-pitched, plaintive vocal style of Justin St. Pierre.  His vocals really drive the band forward with their air raid siren quality.  He has an impressive vocal range and the ability to hit some astonishing high notes.

Musically, Verscythe is melodic and powerful with some Maiden-esque dual guitar melodies.  They are not as progressive as the aforementioned Lethal, but it is still uplifting and infectious metal.  The guitarists complement the galloping riffs with blazing solos.  Almost all of the songs roll along at a brisk pace but are performed exceptionally well for a band that plays as fast as Verscythe.  They do slow things down at times to prove that they are a multidimensional band, as skilled at playing fast and heavy as they are at slow and melodic.

The only misstep is the ballad "Wednesday's Rain" which comes off sounding like the kind of song Warrant or Extreme would have written.  It comes off a little cheesy and insincere.  The kind of song written just to gain female fans and some radio play.  That is certainly not a problem with anything else on the album.

This is an impressive release from a new band.  While this is not likely a style that will gain them a ton of fans, it should be able to foster a devoted following.

Lord Mantis: Death Mask (2014)

Originally reviewed here.
Lord Mantis have never been exactly politically correct. That has been the point. They had a very vile cover on their last album and this one is possibly even worse. The album itself, and most certainly the cover, has been called "transmisogynistic", which is a word I think was just made up for this album cover. It certainly sounds like a thing, but probably not one which gets bandied about very often because it has an extremely limited scope. Essentially hatred of trans-women. Okay, sure. I am not sure Lord Mantis is really making a statement here other than just to piss people off or disgust them. I definitely do not believe there is anything really political here, but I could be wrong. Maybe I just listen to music just to listen to it. I do not go out of my way trying to find any messages in art really. I just enjoy it for what it is.

I recently reviewed an album by a band called Drug Honkey, and I thought that was an extremely hateful and vile sound. Lord Mantis is similar in that they play the same type of sludgy, doom metal, but they are quite a bit more conventional in their sound. This is much more obviously metal, with a focal point on the riffs rather than the vocal effects. It is not pretty, not by any means. The music is suffocating and pummelling. It is extremely harsh and violent. But the band does actually get locked into a groove at times, so while it is certainly unforgiving and malevolent, it is surprisingly infectious. Which means it is listenable and has that replay factor. That comes into play particularly toward the end of "Death Mask" and "Negative Birth".

The only real respite from the spiteful sound is the track "Coil" which sticks out quite a bit for its much more laidback groove and Cynic-like mechanical vocal effects. It is a welcome change of pace and makes the final track that much more effective.

This is unfortunately an album that could get a lot more attention for the odd choice of artwork than for its musical merits. That would be a shame, because this is actually a very well-crafted sludge metal album. The type of sludge metal that the genre was originally known for, think Acid Bath, Eyehategod, and the ilk rather than the much cleaner, radio-friendly stylings of the earlier works of Mastodon, Baroness, and any other band with a John Baizley cover. This is quite likely a Top Ten album for me. It really is that good.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Drug Honkey: Ghost in the Fire (2012)

Originally reviewed here.
Yep, Drug Honkey. I think it is pretty obvious right from the get-go what kind of music Drug Honkey plays. Sludgy, stoner-y doom metal with lots of feedback and lots of almost psychedelic sections. But this is one really bad trip. This is vile, hateful, and crushing. It is the soundtrack to an overdose of heroin and crack combined, with a little bit of methamphetamine for good measure. It is a dark and twisted album that lurches and crawls and heaves itself at you. It's a nightmare.

The sound of this release is spacey, yet malevolent with a lot of reverb and tortured screaming. This album is basically full of the kind of bad moments from Eyehategod, when they were at their most drug-fueled, alcohol-soaked antagonistic. The difference here is that Eyehategod would occasionally snap out of it and provide some lighter moments. Drug Honkey never does this. The entire album is full of that kind of spiteful, twisted malevolence.

The vocals do the most effective job at conveying how bad of a drug trip this is. The effects given to the vocals cause them to sound at times echoing, at others almost as if they were in slow motion. They are never pretty, often shouted, and always angry. They have a very strong hallucinogenic property to them. I have never done any type of illegal drugs in my life, but have been around enough people that have that I have a vague idea of what it feels like to have a drug overdose. This album conveys that.

Musically, Drug Honkey is fairly simple with plodding drums and dissonant chord progressions. The vocals are definitely the star here. Not to suggest that the band is not capable musically. They are, but they are not really doing anything remarkable other than conveying atmosphere at any point.

This is definitely not an album to listen to in the dark. It really is a nightmarish, hallucinogenic mindfuck of an album.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Update

Getting a new computer this weekend.  Mine is pretty well fried, which explains the lack of posts lately.  I would anticipate that I will get back to work early next week.  Sorry for the delay.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Halahkuh: Desecration (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
I'm not totally sure how a band can claim that their music is influenced by a historical figure.  Maybe I just don't understand.  But here we are with Halahkuh, an Indian melodeath/thrash metal band who claim that their influences are Genghis Khan and his son Hulagu Khan.  I admit to being a little in the dark as to Genghis Khan's son, but I am certainly aware of Genghis.

Halahkuh take influences from extreme thrash metal bands from the 1980's and mesh them with earlier Swedish melodeath, prior to the softening and bastardization of the Gothenburg sound.  Think heavier At the Gates and Dark Tranquillity meeting Kreator.  It is a heavy and aggressive sound.  Much like their historical influences the music is relentless and driven with fast-paced riffs and abrasive vocals.

There are a few breakdowns throughout this release.  I am not someone who completely opposes breakdowns, as long as they are used sparingly and written reasonably well.  Sodom did them well on occasion and of course Suffocation does as well.  Halahkuh does incorporate them well into their music.  They come at a decent time and are not overused.

The songs are mostly on the shorter end but they pack a lot of energy into them.  This is an EP, so there are only four tracks here.  Again, not really a problem.  It is enough of a teaser to whet the appetite for more.  I have to say I am kind of surprised that this is a release from an Indian band.  It really does sound more like the kind of thing you would expect from a European band.  It is impressive, just sounds out of place.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Albatross/Vestal Claret: The Kissing Flies/Black Priest (2012)

Originally reviewed here.
If you can parse this title then I am impressed.  I think I represented it correctly.  Essentially, this is a split album from Indian heavy metal outfit Albatross and the former vocalist of Hour of 13's new band.  Now Indian metal is not something I am overly familiar with.  I was not aware there was much of a scene in India.  I have a lot of mental associations with India, mostly due to my first real girlfriend being from there, but metal music is not one of them.  Anyway, enough of that.  Only one band from this split is Indian anyway.

Albatross kicks things off with four out of the five songs on the split.  Why so many?  Well Vestal Claret's song is 18 minutes long, that's why.  Albatross's music strongly resembles King Diamond's solo work and that seems to be the major influence.  The songs generally tell some sort of horror story and feature very impressive lead guitar melodies weaving through traditional heavy metal riffs.  The vocals are higher-pitched and include a lot of wailing and the occasional blood-curdling shriek.  Singer Biprorshee Das does not have the range of King Diamond, but his voice is effective enough to match the horror atmosphere produced by the eerie melodies.

As previously mentioned, Vestal Claret is the new band from Philip Swanson, formerly of Hour of 13.  I am well-familiar with Hour of 13, being one of my favorite recent traditional doom metal bands.  They had a strong gift for songwriting, putting out some truly catchy material.  I am not sure what happened to them but seeing Swanson in a new band makes me feel better.  Sure enough, that is exactly what this song is, catchy, traditional doom metal.  It is slow but demands attention.  Swanson's voice is terrific, exhibiting the gothic horror quality it has always had.  The song is a trip.

I enjoyed both parts of this split.  Vestal Claret probably did a little bit more for me on initial listens, mostly due to the fact that Das's vocals are definitely a grower.  Both bands are impressive though.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hiss from the Moat: Misanthropy (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
I have been exposed to an awful lot of Italian bands recently.  I won't complain about it.  I love finding metal from other countries, especially countries that do not have a real deep and well-known metal scene.  Italy definitely fits that.

Hiss from the Moat is a blackened death metal band with their leanings much more toward the death metal side of things.  This is definitely not a Behemoth clone, the production is much cleaner, with the razor-sharp riffs not as grimy or decayed, though they definitely have an overall evil vibe.  The drumming is crisp and clear while maintaining the typical relentless pounding and blastbeats common in this style of metal.  The vocals are delivered in two different styles, an Immolation-esque grunting roar and a more blackened raspy shriek.

The album starts off very interesting with some nice acoustic strumming and some storms and demonic voices in the background prior to leading into juggernaut "Conquering Christianity".  The rest of the songs are fairly straightforward, there are not a lot of instrumental segues, once the band gets going, they do not let up.  The music is chaotic, yet refined.  Hiss from the Moat do not do much experimentation.  They know they are here to break some necks and defame religion, and that's what they do.

Hiss from the Moat are nothing particularly original.  It's straightforward blackened death.  It does have a certain evil vibe to it that is necessary for the genre and some impressive riffwork and vocals.  It is interesting enough to hold attention, but is probably not a necessary album.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I.C.S.: National Blasphemy (2014)

I've been getting lots of Italian bands sent to me lately.  Most of them have been rather impressive.  That's notable because Italy has not had a lot of really great metal bands over the years.  Graveworm, Lacuna Coil, Necrodeath, and Fleshgod Apocalypse have been among the more notable groups from the boot-shaped country.

I have no idea what "I.C.S." stands for.  I have not been able to find anything on it either in the material from the band, it's probably in Italian.  Or not.  Oh well.  There have been a lot of bands with acronyms as their names sent to me lately too.  It's an epidemic.

What we have with I.C.S. is a thrash metal band with some very strong punk inflections, to the point where they are almost a crossover band at several points.  Influences are clearly Overkill, Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, and other groups.  It is fast-paced and almost upbeat at times.  The lyrics border a bit on the grotesque occasionally which is a little strange for thrash metal.  Song titles like "Overrotten Anal Supremacy" and "Erection and Resurrection" are typically the type of titles you would see in a goregrind band.  But the band also stays true to the genre with the far more thrash-like "Toxichrist" and "Foolish Party".
I am impressed with this group.  They write extremely catchy, crunchy riffs with a good sense of the style.  There is nothing really here that no one has heard before.  I.C.S. do not reinvent the wheel, but what they do is write some damn infectious retro-styled crossover/thrash metal.  That's perfectly acceptable.  Plus it makes great driving music.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ugh

So the trial is over.  Unfortunately now my computer has now died on me, further delaying my return.  Sorry.  I promise to return shortly.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Impending Trial

Tomorrow is the beginning of my two-day custody trial.  It is the major reason things have been quiet around here lately.  I hate custody cases with a burning passion.  I am definitely looking forward to getting this thing over with.  Things will pick back up afterwards, though this weekend I need to help my dad with a big remodel project.

Kelly in particular, I will get back to work on stuff very soon.  Thank you all for your patience.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Little Update

I know I have been a little slow on getting things up lately.  Work has been busy once again.  I had a civil trial early in the month, a big hearing on a Motion to Suppress a statement in a stabbing case this week, and then a two-day custody trial next week.  I will be back on a regular posting schedule soon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dementia Senex: Heartworm (2013)

Huh.  Where do we begin?  Dementia Senex is a kind of odd band from Italy with quite the disparate influences.  Ulcerate is probably the most accurate reference point for Dementia Senex's sound.  The band draws from brutal death metal and post-metal weirdness to form a dissonant, chaotic sound.

Despite the wildly different styles, like Ulcerate, Dementia Senex seems to know what they are doing, which makes all the difference in the world.  It is a little difficult to combine two seemingly wildly different styles like these into a cohesive sound, not to mention one that actually sounds good.  The songs are generally on the longer side which allows for a lot more time for experimentation.  The music is marked by frequent tempo and riff changes with some sections driven by dissonant chords and screaming and others by more typical death metal-styled riffing.

Dementia Senex is an impressive mix of atmosphere and aggression, the two major elements they draw from their varied influences.  What is consistent however is that the production brings these two seemingly diverse sounds out perfectly.  Despite the unusual combination, the band sounds great.  All of the instruments can be heard clearly, with the stunning guitar work the big highlight.  The vocals are agonized and strained, yet intense adding to the dark atmosphere.

Dementia Senex shows an unusual mix of styles, but it works for them.  This is recommended for fans of Ulcerate and other weird death/post-metal hybrids.