Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Initial Impressions: Revocation, Misery's Omen, Waylander, Lord Belial, Blood Tsunami

Revocation is one of the biggest up-and-coming young bands this year. The band plays a highly technical style of thrash that has been extremely well-received by most major metal outlets. There has been an awful lot of hype surrounding this release, so of course I had to check it out eventually. Is the hype justified? You bet your ass it is.

Inevitably this band will be thrown in with the retro thrash movement, which I guess is okay as long as people do not dismiss them simply because of that fact. Revocation sounds more like groups like Sadus, Heathen, and other technical thrash metal bands. A well which has not been mined by many of the other groups in the retro thrash movement.

As far as the music goes, the guitar riffs are definitely the main attraction. Featuring frequent time changes and blazing leads, the guitars definitely steal the show. The vocals are delivered in a harsh yell, definitely a throwback to the late 80's underground thrash vocalists and a continuing force in thrash metal. The drum patterns are often quite complex, with the occasional blast beat thrown in for good measure.

This is a very good example of the retro thrash movement done right. Please do not dismiss the band simply because of that moniker.

This band is fucked up. I mean this album is seriously unnerving. From the eerie cover art to the rumbling music, everything is odd and off-kilter. I guess that can be expected when one of the band's members is also in the epic mindfuck band Portal.

Misery's Omen plays a sort of progressive, blackened doom metal. The music is mostly made up of slow dirges that sound like the music to a funeral march into hell. It occasionally branches off into more melodic territory, while always soon returning to the deathlike somber sound from whence it came. There are some faster songs on the album, but the band always sounds best when they are slow. There are some soft acoustic interludes that are often beautiful, yet unsettling in their own way as the listener is never sure of when the band will revert to the harsher sound again. The vocals are delivered in a deep grunt and are often indecipherable.

The band uses frequent time signature changes to keep the listener feeling off balance. It works. The entire album is an exercise in strangeness. The length of the songs varies wildly. The 11+ minute opener is immediately followed by aa 3+ minute song. This further leads to the strange feel of the album as a very long song may be followed by a very short song and vice versa.

This album is otherworldly and unique. I have their previous shorter album and enjoyed it so well I picked this one up. But, this one is infinitely stranger and more of an ordeal to listen through. The strangeness can get very unnerving and lead the listener into anticipation for the album to be finished. Not always a great quality in an album.

From the slow deathly dirges of Misery's Omen to the relatively upbeat folk black metal of Waylander. When I first discovered folk metal, I wondered if it was possible to find bands that blended Celtic music (part of my own ancestral background) with heavy metal. Since that time, I have discovered that, in fact, there have been quite a few. Waylander, Skyclad, Cruachan, Eluveitie, and Primordial all play metal laced with Celtic musical influences.

Waylander is a bit different than the other bands, preferring to blend Celtic music with more blackened metal whereas the other bands have different metallic bases. The vocals are harsh, black metal shrieks providing an odd contrast to the often beautiful Celtic melodies. The songs are often mini-epics in order to incorporate all of the ideas of the band. There are frequent slower interludes which allow more of the Celtic music to play freely and unencumbered by the thrashing guitar riffs and pounding drums.

Waylander is one of the better folk metal bands out there. The Celtic music is very prevalent but does not completely take over the metal elements. The two parts exist together in fairly decent harmony. Eluveitie is the only Celtic metal band that has more seemlessly melded their two musical sides. Waylander is definitely a good listen and I may keep my eyes open for more of their stuff.

This is my fourth Lord Belial album, and their last album prior to their breakup. It's always a little sad when a quality band breaks up before they have much recognition. Melodic black metal has been gaining in popularity in recent years with groups like Watain, Naglfar, and Nifelheim reaching wider audiences. However, the same exposure was never really granted to Lord Belial. Even magazines such as Metal Maniacs barely covered their last couple of albums. I never saw an interview or review for their prior album, and that was a great melodic black/death metal album. This album did warrant a short article, but no review.

Lord Belial started out as a typical melodic black metal band. They slowly began incorporating more and more death metal influences. The band on this album is almost half and half. It would appear that there may have been some problems internally as the band recorded this album. The album is a little more lackluster compared to their earlier material. It is not nearly as memorable as the band's prior albums. This is a shame as Lord Belial has always had a knack for producing some quality, memorable performances. Perhaps it had become time that the band had run its course.

All of the elements that have made Lord Belial such a vital member of their genre are still present: harsh vocals, soaring leads, pummeling drums, occasional melodic touches, and a fascination with Satanic or Anti-Christian lyrics. The band just sounds a little tired. As mentioned, the band broke up soon after the release of this album. It's a shame, but perhaps for the best.

Sure, why not? Dismember produced Death Metal, Venom had Black Metal, so why can't we have a band simply name their album Thrash Metal?

Blood Tsunami perhaps became best-known for the fact that Bard "Faust" Eithun became their drummer. Faust has been the drummer for several black metal bands over the years including Emperor and Aborym. However, he was not a founding member of the band, so the fact that he is their drummer is one of the principal reasons the band became well-known is somewhat aggravating. Plus, Faust cannot travel to the U.S. if the band were to ever tour here as he has a felony charge of murder on his record. So it's actually kind of a disadvantage to have him as a member.

Blood Tsunami is from Norway, a country not well-known for thrash metal bands. Off the top of my head I can only name this band and Nocturnal Breed as thrash metal bands from Norway. As the country is not rich with thrash metal, the band had to take their influences from elsewhere. Blood Tsunami's thrash metal is a combination of the style of German thrash metal bands like Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom, along with Swedish thrash/death metal bands like At The Gates, Dismember, Nihilist, and Hypocrisy.

The music is very fast, as is customary with thrash, featuring mile-a-minute riffs and an almost buzzsaw sound to the guitars. The vocals are frequently shouted, but oftentimes revert to an almost death metal-like growl.

Blood Tsunami is one of the better newer international thrash metal band, showing that it's not just the U.S. seeing a resurgence in the genre. This album is very good and the band is worth checking out further.

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