Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sinister: The Unborn Dead (2014)

The Dutch death metal mavens Sinister have quietly put together quite the impressive and long-lasting career despite never coming close to mainstream death metal recognition.  Most of the reason for this is geographical, but it is quite unfortunate all the same. 

This release is a quick, two-song 7" EP.  Both songs are covers with the first being a cover of Grotesque's "Ripped from the Cross", and a second, much more outside-the-box cover of Chicago-based doom metal band Novembers Doom.  Both tracks are presented with the grinding bottom-heavy riffs and pounding drums that Sinister has perfected over their long career.  Vocalist/drummer (?) Aad Kloosterwaard has one of the most extreme voices in death metal, sounding much more like a deep, guttural croak.

There is not much to say about the Grotesque cover.  It is definitely within Sinister's wheelhouse, fast-paced, frenetic death metal.  It is unsurprising that Sinister is able to handle this song capably.  The much more shocking cover is the Novembers Doom cover.  Sinister infuses some clean vocals to capture the mournful tone of the original track.  But the band sounds a little clumsy trying to slow things down and has a hard time conveying the tragedy and loss that Novembers Doom is so well-suited to capture.  Sinister should probably stick to uncompromising, lethal death metal than trying their hand at doom.

So, two tracks, one pretty good, and the other not as well-executed, but certainly interesting.  It is only a two-track EP so it is only recommended for hardcore fans.

Friday, October 3, 2014

You're Probably Wondering Where the Hell I Have Been

I promise to get back soon.  Things might actually slow down here sometime soon.  I just won a Motion to Suppress last week and I have a jury trial in a couple of weeks.  I suspect after the jury trial I will be back.

See you soon.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kult of Taurus: Divination Labyrinths (2014)

Without a doubt, one of my favorite black metal scenes of all time is the Hellenic scene. Groups like Rotting Christ, Varathron, Ravencult, Thou Art Lord, and others bring a unique melodicism to an otherwise bleak and miserable sound. The bands have a unique style all to themselves and it is a sound that other regional scenes simply do not possess. Kult of Taurus is another of these bands and has been around since just 2007.

The album begins in fairly typical fashion with a largely ambient track. There is some voiceover discussing the nature of mankind that probably comes from some horror movie or other, which lends a nice creepy vibe to kick things off. From there, we are off to the races with the kind of dark riffing this breed of black metal is known for. Musically, Kult of Taurus is probably most similar to Melechesh. There is a strong Middle-Eastern element to the band's sound, though Kult of Taurus do not use the constantly repetitive riff structure that Melechesh uses to great effect. The structure of the songs is very progressive as well, leading to room for experimentation.

The vocals should be discussed. These are not typical black metal vocals in that they are not the typical raspy shriek. Rather, they are delivered in a harsh, but mostly clean manner that is clear and easy to understand. That is not to say that the vocalist is crooning at all. It is still an aggressive and threatening style, it is just not the more typical black metal style.

This is a highly enjoyable release that fits in well with the Hellenic black metal scene. That is one of my favorite styles of black metal and this album is a perfect example of why.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Godhunter/Anakim: Vulture's Wake/The Whimper of Whipped Dogs (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Godhunter was covered here fairly recently and I discussed how it was nice to hear some real sludge metal again. Here we have the same Godhunter paired with fellow Tucson, AZ sludge metal group Anakim. This is an incredibly short split, presented in physical form on a 7" vinyl. Each band has just one song on the split, so it is a very quick introduction to the bands.

I covered Godhunter recently and came away very impressed. This track by the group is a bit more of a stoner doom-styled track with heavier riffs and a generally much more rock-oriented sound. "Vulture's Wake" is a surprisingly catchy track though the vocals are still a little bit too one-note. On just one song though that can be overlooked.

Anakim is a band that I was unfamiliar with prior to hearing this. They are significantly softer and less-aggressive than their colleagues. Anakim's sound is much more ethereal and abstract than the much more straightforward Godhunter, at least for the first half of the song. The second part kicks off with a Sabbathian crunchy riff, similar to "Black Sabbath". The vocals are impressive, done with double track. One voice shouts while the other growls in the background. It adds to the dreamlike texture of the track. I found myself very impressed with Anakim's addition to this split.

It is unfortunate that there are only two songs here. Of course I have heard the entire album for Godhunter, but I am anxious to hear more from Anakim.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul: Splatterhash (2014)

Originally reviewed here.
Oh boy, this is quite the combination of bands to share a split. To be fair, I am actually not very familiar with Cannabis Corpse, but I am a big fan of Ghoul. Both bands are known for their outlandish lyrical content and their obsession with gore. The name of the split is a play on the album Splatterthrash by Ghoul. It of course references Cannabis Corpse's obsession with marijuana.

Cannabis Corpse kicks things off on the split. The band is a marijuana-based parody of Cannibal Corpse, which can probably be ascertained by the band's name. The band was created by Land Phil of crossover/thrash metal band Municipal Waste. He does do a fairly competent impression of Corpsegrinder Fisher. Many of the band's song names are direct knockoffs of Cannibal Corpse songs, such as "Inhalation Plague" from "Evisceration Plague". The references to Cannibal Corpse are pretty clear, though Cannabis Corpse does a pretty solid job of presenting their own style. The dual vocals are an impressive addition that is apparently new to the group these days. I have been previously reluctant to check out Cannabis Corpse. The fact that they were originally a parody band and their obsession with marijuana were turnoffs. However, the music is very strong death metal. I would be willing to give them another chance based on this.

Ghoul is a band that I am familiar with and like quite a bit. Their manic, horror movie thrash/death metal is a unique style that no other band has quite been able to replicate. Ghoul unfortunately is not very prolific with releasing music. It is likely that Ghoul is a side project for various members. They also add some different vocal styles, catching listeners off-guard with some black metal-style shrieking to go along with the typical gruff vocals. The two tracks here are a very good representation of Ghoul's sound. It is gory, intense, and surprisingly catchy, with the occasional oddball moment thrown in for good measure.

I still hate how short these splits are on occasion. Particularly with an inspired pairing such as this. There are only four songs on the whole thing with each band having just two tracks. Nevertheless, this is a good sampling of what to expect from both groups.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Godhunter: City of Dust (2014)

Originally reviewed here.
It seems like I have been reviewing an awful lot of sludge lately. That is fine with me. When sludge is done right, it sounds incredible. The heavy riffs, gruff vocals, and angry lyrics are a combination that speaks to me, particularly after a long day at work dealing with clients. Unfortunately, over the years sludge has become bastardized into an almost radio-friendly style by the likes of Mastodon and Baroness. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy Mastodon and Baroness at times, however their effect on the style has continued to be felt to this day and few bands play the style the way Crowbar, Acid Bath, and others played it. But we seem to be seeing a resurgence of sorts very recently with groups like Lord Dying and Godhunter.

Godhunter are a Tucson, AZ-based band that plays a style of sludge similar to that of Crowbar. The songs are frequently moderately-paced, with thundering riffs and angry, shouted vocals from singer David Rodgers. The songs do possess some progressive structures keeping things varied and interesting. Godhunter is not concerned with making things simplistic, but at the same time, the songs do not linger longer than they should. There is something to be said for that.

The band kicks things off with "Despite All" which starts off with a spoken word segment explaining a lot of the ills of the world, including lawyers destroying justice, which I take a little offense to. It is a common complaint about my chosen field however and I certainly understand that. "Snake Oil Dealer" is clearly the best song on this release with the terrific guitar work and crawling riffs. The vocals work much better on this track as well. "Shooting Down the Sun" stands out as well due to the acoustic guitar melodies and generally somber tone. The non-spoken vocals are incredible on this track with a lot more emotion than the rest of the album. I could have done without the spoken parts though which tend to detract from the rest of the song.

The only real issue I have with this album is a small one. Apart from "Shooting Down the Sun", there is almost no variation in the vocals. Occasionally the backing vocals kick in, keeping things interesting for awhile, but for the most part, Rodgers is a fairly one-note vocalist. That is not unusual in sludge metal, or a lot of metal in general, but for some reason it seems much more pronounced on this album.

Apart from that one minor squabble, this album does a lot to recapture the feel and style of old sludge metal. And that is definitely a good thing.

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.