Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween: Here's Some Lovecraftian Album Art

I love the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  I know that I am not alone among metalheads in that.  So here is some cover art clearly influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  Some of these are obviously Lovecraft's creatures, others just have the same feel.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Proposed "Best Of" Lists

There was a thread on the Metal Archives recently where the original poster asked the following:

Pick out one of your favorite bands, famous or not, and create your own “Best Of” out of ten to twelve songs; link it to YouTube and say a little something about why you chose the songs. I think this could be awesome for people who want to get into a band, or who are just curious to what regular fans think of a bands output.

Here was my response:

For me, the band I would pick to do a best-of would be Amorphis. In particular, I picked later-period Amorphis with Tomi Joutsen singing. While I like their early death metal material, their later progressive material is what I find myself coming back to again and again. I would have loved to have Amorphis played at my wedding last year because I believe that a lot of their songs while not explicitly romantic, certainly carry with them a romantic and emotional feel. Many of the songs below capture that perfectly. I chose to start out with "House of Sleep" because that is the song that I believe best captures this feeling. I still find myself listening to Amorphis frequently when I am in a melancholic mood.

1. "House of Sleep" - Eclipse
2. "Her Alone" - Silent Waters
3. "Silver Bride" - Skyforger
4. "My Sun" - Skyforger
5. "Course of Fate" - Skyforger
6. "You I Need" - The Beginning of Times
7. "Mermaid" - The Beginning of Times
8. "Reformation" - The Beginning of Times
9. "Leaves Scar" - Eclipse
10. "I of Crimson Blood" - Silent Waters

Any thoughts?

Monday, October 29, 2012

FMA Reviews: Necroven: Worship of Humiliation

Originally reviewed here.
Occult death metal is a style that has remained underground out of necessity. To say that the style is extreme is a massive understatement. Though it formed from the music of Morbid Angel, Incantation, and Immolation, it has progressed beyond even those dark and sinister boundaries that those bands pushed. This is evil music.

Necroven is an occult death metal band in the vein of Drawn and Quartered, Angelcorpse, Nox, Lecherous Nocturne, and other much more underground bands. The riffs are jagged and distorted. The drumming is typically blastbeat-driven though not entirely. The production is fairly murky but not to the extent that the music can not be heard. A lot of other occult death metal bands make the mistake of having too muddy of production and it all sounds like a sloppy mess. This is not pristine, but at least everything can be heard. It is the kind of production that sounds best with this music. The vocals are incredibly deep.

There are some issues with this though, which are somewhat common issues with occult death metal. There is not a lot of melody, which is to be expected, but going along with that is that there are not too many truly memorable moments. The songs tend to run together as well. Most of them do not feel like complete ideas, rather some riffs thrown together with some vocals over them that just sort of end at some point.

The music is certainly filthy and once in a while I am in the mood for some good occult death metal. The positives outweigh the negatives, but this is by no means a great album.

Friday, October 26, 2012

One and Done? Pt. 11: Sothis: De Oppresso Liber

I had a subscription to Metal Maniacs in 2008.  This was the year that the magazine eventually folded.  For several months the magazine was running advertisements for Sothis's debut full-length.  Lots of different advertisements.  There was quite simply a lot of hype leading up to this album's release.  Well at the time I had a lot of disposable income so I figured what the hell I will give them a shot.

Sothis is a U.S. symphonic black metal band.  Yes such things actually exist.  And of course you can imagine how well this sounded.  Somewhere along the veins of Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, and Limbonic Art, but nowhere near as impressive.  For the most part, this was just kind of a boring release without a whole lot going for it.  Well, I do enjoy "Defiance" quite a bit.  That song alone makes this somewhat interesting.  But nothing else really grabs me.

Well all the hype did not really do Sothis too many favors as the album was not well-received when it was actually released.  It's now been more than four years since that release and I have not heard anything about a new one.  Maybe the deflated egos have lead to the inability to come up with a follow-up.  Maybe the band is trying hard to come up with something decent.  Whatever the reason, four years is a long time for a sophomore album.

FMA Reviews: Ataraxy: Revelations of the Ethereal

Originally reviewed here.
I had previously pointed out that some death metal just has such an intense, filthy, otherworldly quality that makes it a ton of fun to listen to. I then pointed out a number of groups who had this unknown quality to just put out some amazing death metal. Well add Ataraxy to that list. This is the debut album for the Spanish death metal band and they truly do an amazing job on this release. Ataraxy will definitely be a band to continue watching.

I suppose the best point of reference for a sound is The Chasm along with Asphyx. The guitar tone here is incredible. It is crunchy and gives off a sinister and evil atmosphere. This is definitely an old-school death metal sounding album but at the same time, it sounds fresh. It is not stale, cookie-cutter death metal at all. Ataraxy do their best to craft their own sound, one not done thousands of times before.

As I mentioned, the best points of reference are probably The Chasm and Asphyx. This is due to the unusual song structure and general sound. The songs do not follow a standard death metal progression, opting to evolve naturally and without any real constraints. They flow well too. They utilize a lot of slower, doomy riffs as well to keep the atmosphere claustrophobic and eerie. The vocals sound very much like Martin Van Drunen's possessed wailing and that is definitely a plus in my book.

There has been a lot of talk about old-school death metal bands popping up and becoming a major trend. I will say that if bands sound as impressive as Ataraxy, I have no problem with it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

One and Done? Pt. 10: Catacombs: In the Depths of R'lyeh

I have covered this album before here.  Last night I was on kind of a funeral doom kick and since this is one of the few funeral doom albums I have, along with a couple by Ahab, I started thinking about the band a lot. Well, band is probably not the correct term as Catacombs is made up of Xathagorra Mlandroth, a Lovecraftian name if I have ever seen one.  He performs all of the instruments and all of the vocals on the album.  He also does the same for several other projects, such as Hierophant, Inimical, Origin of Darkness, and Sect.

But Catacombs is the only project I am familiar with.  It released an EP in 2003 and this album in 2006.  Catacombs is the only Mlandroth project that has released a full-length album.  The other projects have released EPs, demos, or splits, but no proper albums.  Catacombs is still listed as active though Origin of Darkness is the only project that has released anything in the last several years since this full-length.

So what is going on?  Is Catacombs still active?  Is Xathagorra Mlandroth still making music?  I have no idea.  I hope so, because this album is incredible.  As I mentioned, I do not really have all that much funeral doom, but I really enjoy the stuff I have.  And this guy makes some damn good funeral doom.  This album perfectly captures the dread and cosmic horror of Lovecraft's stories.  I would like to hear more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Initial Impressions: Dawn of Demise: Rejoice in Vengeance

I saw this wonderfully disturbing piece of artwork staring at me from the CD racks in Hastings Bookstore and decided it was just disgusting enough to give a shot.  Especially since it was cheap.  I had no idea who Dawn of Demise were, the name vaguely rang a bell, but I had no definite idea.  But with the artwork, I knew it had to be some manner of brutal death.  Let's face it, not too many power metal bands feature artwork so deranged.

In cases like this, you really can judge a book by its cover, or music by its album art as it were.  This is brutal death metal, clearly influenced by Suffocation, Pyrexia, and some slamming brutal death metal bands as well. All of the typical brutal death metal cliches are present here.  Chugging and slamming riffs, pounding drums, and guttural vocals reign supreme in the music of Dawn of Demise.  Vocalist Scott Jensen actually has two vocal styles, a harsh bark that he uses most of the time, and the deep guttural gurgle that is common amongst slam death bands.

Dawn of Demise put together some suitably brutal tracks on this release, but it sadly lacks a sense of real identity.  There are a lot of things borrowed from other bands present here, but nothing really sticks out.  Every time I hear this album, I feel like I am hearing it for the first time, because nothing really captures the attention and sticks in the memory.  This is fine if you want to listen to something brutal, but it likely will not last much more than that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Initial Impressions: Pathology: The Time of Great Purification

I will give Pathology this: they are surprisingly prolific.  I have been at this blog thing for since early 2009 and I have already reviewed three new Pathology albums in that time period.  One each year since 2010, and I missed their 2009 release.  All told, Pathology has already released six full-length albums since 2006.  That's one a year you math scholars.

Detractors will probably say something to the effect of it being easy to be prolific when you basically re-write the same album over and over again.  And there probably is something to that argument.  Pathology's music is not the most complex music in the world.  It is all heavy slamming riffs, guttural vocals, and pounding drums with a major emphasis on brutality.  But Pathology does all of this with a fairly strong ability for songwriting.  What results is some of the catchiest slamming brutal death metal imaginable.  And that is just plain weird.

Pathology's albums all basically follow the same formula.  They are there to brutally pound on the listener's ears for 30 minutes or so and then the album is over.  None of the songs are terribly long.  Dynamics are not incredibly important.  It is simply pounding riffs upon pounding riffs, bludgeoning brutality.  But they are the most accessible of slamming brutal death metal bands.

It continues to floor me that Pathology is on Victory Records, a label mostly known for hardcore acts.  This is a very brutal band for that label.  But I have basically given up on attempting to understand it.

Pathology has released yet another album of slamming insanity.  And I eat this stuff up.  As long as they do not change, I probably will not fail to pick up their records.

Monday, October 22, 2012

FMA Reviews: Bädr Vogu; Exitium

Originally reviewed here.
I will be completely honest up front and say that my experiences with crust are extremely limited. As in virtually non-existent, particularly in its pure form. I have heard a few bands that combined crust with forms of metal such as Gallhammer, but that is about it. Bädr Vogu is a band that combines crust with doom metal, so I am not in completely foreign territory on this release.

The songs seem to alternate a little bit so that I can not really tell if this is a doom metal band with crust punk influences or a crust punk band with doom metal influences. Not that it really matters that much. On some songs, the band is slow with grinding riffs and a definite punk energy shining through, but on others, the music is actually faster but with some heavy, down-tuned riffs. There are a lot of movie samples present as well. The vocals are done in a deep, death/doom style with some occasionally more primal roars.

This was kind of an unusual album for me, but there was a lot to like. It is a very raw sound but I found myself enjoying it more and more with repeated listens.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 52: Pantera: Far Beyond Driven

Apart from Cowboys from Hell, I never really got Pantera.  To be fair I have not checked out their material prior to that album, their more glam phase was just not something I chose to check out.  That being said, I still bought most of the band's albums because I was a young metalhead and I felt it was my duty to check them out as Pantera pretty much was the be-all and end-all of metal in the mid 1990's.  I was in middle school and did not really have much exposure to the metal underground.

Far Beyond Driven was released in 1994.  By this point, Pantera had perfected their groove metal sound.  Of course Vulgar Display of Power was the release that got the band headed in that direction.  But this is the one that a lot of mainstream people think of when they think of Pantera, mostly due to the minor hit "I'm Broken".

There are some decent songs on this release, and by and large I do like it better than Vulgar Display of Power.  For some reason that album never really did anything for more.  I think the reason I like this one better is due to the fact that the songs on this one are not as stripped-down and simple as they are on the prior album.  Dimebag's riffs are generally more impressive on this release as well.

However there is one truly terrible song on here.  "Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills" is an absolutely horrible song.  There is no redeeming quality at all on that song.

I do tend to listen to this album occasionally, more than Vulgar certainly.  But this is not the Pantera I choose to remember.  Their tough-guy, macho image on this release is annoying.  I much prefer Cowboys.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Initial Impressions: Accept: Blood of the Nations

Okay I admit it.  I have never really gotten into Accept before.  I never really tried.  I recognize that they have been around for a very long time, dating back to the NWOBHM in fact.  But I never really checked them out.  I have heard "Balls to the Wall"  many, many times and in fact love that song.  But for some reason I just never really got around to picking up an album by them.  Then this album was voted Album of the Year on the Metal Maniacs website in 2010.  So I decided at some point I would start with this one.

Accept does not get the recognition they deserve.  A lot of that is probably geographical.  Accept came out of Germany with their first album in 1979.  This was at the height of the NWOBHM and Accept was left out in the cold even though they had a minor hit with the aforementioned "Balls to the Wall" and some well-received albums.  However, the band continued until a hiatus from 1996 to 2010, putting out some decent music in fact if the reviews on the Metal Archives are to be believed.  That is a longer shelf life than most of the NWOBHM bands enjoyed.

Musically, Accept sounds like a heavier version of Judas Priest.  They have traditional-sounding metal riffs, strong melodic sensibility, a liberal usage of guitar solos, and a strong and gritty vocal performance.  While diminutive frontman Udo Dirkschneider is no longer with the group, the new vocalist does a passable job at sounding like him.  This does still sound like the band that recorded "Balls to the Wall".  The band does not sound like they were coming off a 15 year hiatus.  This album sounds great.  Every song on here is terrific.

I will be looking into Accept's prior discography after hearing this.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The People v. Dissection: Reinkaos

If it pleases the Court, your honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are here today to discuss the merits of Dissection's swansong.  Reinkaos is often mentioned among in the same breath as St. Anger, Risk, and The Unspoken King, among many other huge flops by heretofore famous bands.  The problem is one of reputation and prior albums.  Dissection's early work is held up as classics by a large number of metalheads.  Their brand of freezing cold, melodic black metal had never really been heard before.  And Dissection did it well.  Their first two albums have stood the test of time and truly are classics.

So what happened with Reinkaos?  To begin with, there was an eleven year gap between Storm of the Light's Bane and Reinkaos.  In that time, Dissection ceased to be a truly original band.  Many other groups took what Dissection was doing and crafted their own sound.  Lord Belial, Naglfar, and many other melodic black metal bands arose during the time Dissection was on hiatus.

Secondly, the sound on this release was significantly different.  Instead of the cold and dark atmospheric black metal Dissection previously crafted, this was a melodic death metal album.  Most of the black metal elements, apart from the vocal style had been stripped away.  Furthermore, the sound was more streamlined on this release.  The songs were much more straightforward and had a more typical structure and progression.  The songs were catchy, insanely so.  And that just is not well-received by a band that had previously been beloved as a melodic black metal pioneer.

Reinkaos is a good album though.  And that is why we are here ladies and gentlemen.  To discuss the merits of this much-maligned album.  For one, as mentioned before, it is incredibly catchy.  I know I find myself singing "Starless Aeon", "Dark Mother Divine", and "Maha Kali" over and over again every time I hear this album.  They are, in a word, infectious.  And the entire album is like that.

Furthermore, you simply cannot judge this album against the band's prior albums.  As stated, there was a long gap between albums.  Many bands change their sound drastically over a long period of time, it just so happened that Dissection's change seemed like night and day because there was a dearth of releases between them instead of a gradual progression like other groups.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I urge you to reconsider Dissection's final album.  It is not the terrible release that many make it out to be.  If it was created by any other band, it would be considered a classic.  Thank you.    

Thursday, October 18, 2012

FMA Reviews: Bestial Summoning: The Dark War has Begun

Originally reviewed here.
Apparently this is a reissue of a 20 year old album from the Netherlands-based Bestial Summoning. This was originally released when black metal was just starting to make waves in Norway. It actually pre-dates many of the big-name black metal releases of the Second Wave. It is a very overlooked gem that I have actually not heard of myself.

This is tremolo riff-based black metal with some incredibly intense drumming driving things. The riffs are down-tuned giving off an evil-sounding tone. Most of the songs are broken up briefly with the occasional slower moment. This keeps things from becoming too one-dimensional. The drums are blast-beat driven and are absolutely crushing. The vocals are delivered in an Attila Csihar-esque groaning screech. They do not have the same distinct personality, but do have the other-worldly quality.

The songs do tend to sound kind of the same after awhile, but that is certainly not anything completely unusual in early black metal. The songs are mostly shorter so there is not a lot of time to experiment with different ideas. Most of the tracks have one basic riff and a slight change of pace interlude at some point. This is not at all technical music. It's just early black metal, plain and simple.

I was a little surprised this was such an old release originally. It is certainly an overlooked early black metal gem.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Initial Impressions: Down IV: Part 1 - The Purple EP

Down is my favorite side project band.  And it is not even particularly close.  I have been listening to the band since I first heard about them around the time that NOLA was released.  As most are aware, Down was originally formed from members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, and Eyehategod.  There has been a little bit of turnover at the bass guitar, but the basic idea is still there.

Of course with a side project it is sometimes difficult to find time to record which explains why the band has only released three full length albums since their formation in the early 1990's.  This is just an EP, but the band has announced that they will attempt to release four such EPs in quick succession.  All with new songs. It is a lot easier for the members to get together and put out shorter releases.

As much as I love the band though, none of their subsequent releases have really held a candle to NOLA.  There was just something about the energy on that album.  And every single track was a classic.  It ranks as one of my favorite albums of all time.  The other releases have just not come close to that one.  It is still the one I spin the most frequently when I am in the mood for some Southern fried metal.

This is probably one of the strongest releases, if not the strongest, that Down has put out since their great debut album.  Because there are only six tracks, there is no filler here.  Each song is well-crafted and sounds incredible.  Of particular note are the lead single "Witchtripper" and "Misfortune Teller".  Phil Anselmo's tortured croon is used to full effect on this album.  The riffs are as heavy as anything you would expect when you have Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein on guitars.  The band does a terrific job of taking their influences from Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Southern rock and mixing it into one package.  This has always been the band's trademark and it sounds just as good here as it did on the first album.

This is an incredible EP, one of the best releases Down has ever put out.  It is just six killer tracks with absolutely no filler.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Initial Impressions: Trivium: In Waves

Everyone has bands that they are ashamed to admit that they love.  No one's tastes are impeccable.  This being my blog, I do not really care what other people think of the bands that I enjoy.  I will not be afraid to admit that there are some groups that I love that other people hate and there are some groups that I hate that a lot of people seem to love.  I have previously mentioned my love of Cradle of Filth as one example.  I also despise Neurosis, Isis, and a lot of the so-called "atmospheric sludge" groups.  I also happen to really like Trivium.

I considered not checking this one out.  In fact it took a long time before I eventually did.  At one point I was ignoring it because I did not care much for Shogun.  I figured that was it for this band and me.  But over the last few weeks I had been reading some surprisingly good reviews for it.  So I decided eventually to go for it.

Whatever went wrong on the last album has been fixed and Trivium is actually sounding like a much more mature band on this release.  They have always been gifted at writing infectious hooks and melodies and that is certainly evident here on tracks like the title track and "Built to Fall".  The band had long ago filtered out much of their metalcore influence, though they do still utilize hardcore vocals somewhat frequently.  But the chugging riffs and frequent breakdowns have gone by the wayside.  What remains is a fairly streamlined, melodic, and very catchy album.

The guitar work is the star here.  Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu are both talented guitarists with an ability to write decent riffs and solos.  They also complement each other well.  The hardcore vocals do grow a little stale at times.  I do prefer the cleaner vocals from this band.  But there is enough of a variety to keep things entertaining at least.

This is probably still not likely to be popular with the true metalheads.  This is Trivium after all, and their undeniable Trivium-ness is on full display here.  But the band has crafted their own sound and grown into it.  There is something to be said for that.

Monday, October 15, 2012

FMA Reviews: Blutvial: Curses Thorns Blood

Originally reviewed here.
While black metal is definitely the genre that has seen the most evolution in recent years, my taste in it has not evolved quite as much. I am still much more of a fan of the raw and sinister black metal perfected in Norway and Sweden during the early 1990's. I still like my black metal owing a lot to thrash and death metal, the style present in the albums of Immortal, Darkthrone, and Mayhem, among others. So when a black metal band comes around that sounds like the more traditional style, I become very interested.

Blutvial is one such band. Hailing from the U.K., Blutvial's sound is unashamedly rooted in the Norwegian style with some nods to Blasphemy and other progenitors of the bestial war metal style. This is harsh and caustic black metal with thrash metal-style riffing and shrieking vocals. This is the kind of black metal I personally love. It is the kind that first captured my attention when I heard Dissection and Emperor for the first time.

From the first moments of this album, it is clear that Blutvial are not here to build an atmosphere. They immediately pummel the listener upon starting the album and they never really relent. The riffs sound a little fuzzy, which is the way that black metal should be produced, but the production is not so bad as to make it hard to hear. The first half of the album is a wall of riffs and darkness, somewhat rare these days in black metal.

The second half of the album sees the length of songs increasing and atmosphere becoming more prevalent. But that is not to say that the band descends into purely atmospheric black metal. The riffs are still harsh and the music is still energetic and violent. Just not quite as much as in the first half.

I am extremely impressed with this release. It is what I personally look for in black metal.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Initial Impressions: Electric Wizard: Black Masses

This one took me awhile to finally track down.  I have gotten away from ordering albums online unless I really want them.  This did not interest me enough to go that route although I did love Witchcult Today.  But as much as I did enjoy that album I have to be in the right mood for it.

Electric Wizard sounds like the soundtrack to some old 1970's low-budget occult horror movie.  I think that is part of the idea in fact.  I remember an interview with Jus Osborn in Metal Maniacs a few years back (obviously) in which there was a special segment of movies that he recommended.  They were mostly obscure films with the exception of Suspiria.  I checked a few of them out, all the ones I could find on Netflix.  These are the types of movies that I can imagine an Electric Wizard soundtrack to.

The major complaint I have had about Electric Wizard in the past and the reason I have to be in the right mindset to listen to them is their repetitiveness.  The band will frequently drone on and on with one idea with little variation.  Othertimes they will start in on a psychedelic section that will go on for a very long time.  For the most part on this album, the band tends to avoid that.  Most of these tracks are complete and straightforward songs without a lot of meandering parts.  The second half of the album drags a little bit at times and seems to lose steam.  The more interesting songs come in the first half.

This is still very slow music, but that is to be expected.  Electric Wizard has always relied on crushing grooves and extremely heavy riffs.  Those are definitely present here.  They have always been at their most interesting when those riffs move at a little bit of a faster pace and there are some songs on here that do that.  I did have a little bit of an issue with the nasally vocal delivery on "Venus in Furs" at first but it gradually grew on me.

As a full album I think I enjoy this one more than Witchcult Today.  It is a bit more accessible due to the lack of overly-long, drawn-out psychedelia.  However, it does not have a track that stands out far in my mind.  Witchcult had "Dunwich" which is such a terrific song.  This one came close with the title track, but it is just not quite there.  Overall though this is a better album than their previous one.  That has been the extent of my Electric Wizard experience thus far.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Initial Impressions: Coffinworm: Great Bringer of Night

Just like Hooded Menace, which I reviewed a few days ago, Coffinworm released an album a couple of years back that I heard a lot of hype about and wanted to check out.  Also like Hooded Menace, I never really got a chance to do that.  This is not to suggest Coffinworm is anything like Hooded Menace sonically, just that my experiences were similar.

Coffinworm is kind of a unique beast.  Their genre is very difficult to pin down as they show off elements of black metal, doom metal, and sludge metal.  What results is filthy, raw, and eclectic.  One moment they will be coasting along on an uptempo heavy riff, the next they will be pounding away a slow, monolithic section.  The slower parts do outnumber the faster moments, and the faster parts typically do not last long.  The vocals never rise above a harsh, almost shouted rasp, the sort of thing you would expect if Kirk Windstein were to try to sing for Watain.

This is kind of an interesting release.  It has the same name as the band's 2009 demo and also features what I assume are re-recorded versions of all three tracks from the demo as well as two new tracks.  The best thing I can figure out is that this is not meant to be a sophomore full-length.  It is a re-recording of their demo with a couple of additional tracks.  Add in the fact that this was not released by Profound Lore but by a small label called The Flenser, and it is only on vinyl, and that seems to be the most likely situation.

If there is one complaint that I have about this it is that the faster moments seem to sound better but they are not very frequent and typically do not last long.  I like the slower stuff fine, but the faster material really captures my attention.

This is definitely a nasty piece of metallic filth.  I quite like it.  Maybe I will still get around to checking out their last full-length album some day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Initial Impressions: Aborted: Global Flatline

Belgian bashers Aborted are all about brutality.  There is absolutely nothing pretty or melodic about them.  At all.  Also as you can see from the band's name, they are not the most subtle lyricists in the world.  Everything about the band is chaotic and loud as hell.  But there is always something to be said for that kind of music.  And once in awhile I want to listen to something that is likely to cause brain hemorrhaging.  Good thing too.

Aborted is coming off releasing a couple of albums that were not real well-received.  Their last album was reviewed very poorly by most.  That is due to the band's experimentation with the dreaded deathcore.  But this album sees Aborted returning to the crushing brutal death metal that they had perfected for years before attempting to branch out a little bit.  Let that be a lesson.  Never experiment.  Ever.

I am kidding about those last two sentences of course, but I am not kidding about how much I enjoy this album.  This is bone-crushing death metal the way it should be.  It's brutal and uncompromising, grinding death.  This is how a band that calls themselves Aborted should sound.  The dual vocal sound of Sven De Caluwe even sounds refreshed and as psychotically menacing as ever.

Aborted has undergone an almost complete overhaul of members, apart from the ever-present De Caluwe of course, since their last album.  Perhaps De Caluwe felt this was the only way to purge the disappointment of the last two albums.  It is not unusual for the band to be constantly changing however.  It is De Caluwe's project and his alone. 

I love this album.  I love a flesh-peeling death metal album and this one definitely qualifies.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Initial Impressions: Marduk: Serpent Sermon

Marduk has always been one of the more impressive black metal bands from Sweden.  Most of the reasoning for this is due to their emphasis on songwriting rather than just blasting away like some of their countrymen.  Nowhere is that more evident than on this album.

The above is not to suggest that Marduk is in any way less brutal than some of the other black metal bands to come out of Sweden, they certainly do have their chaotic moments of blasting frenzy.  But they are hardly ever brutal for brutality's sake.  But while there are certainly brutal moments, this whole album has a heavy and dark atmosphere surrounding it.  It is evil-sounding black metal the way that it was when it first crawled out of the depths of Scandinavia in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The band still utilizes some of the staples that they always have.  There are still plenty of tremolo riffs and blastbeats present.  The vocals are still a sharp, raspy growl.  And the overall sound is still evil as hell.  What has changed a bit more is that the atmosphere is probably more prominent than it has ever been and the melodic guitar lines have gotten more impressive.

This is an absolutely compelling album from Marduk, possibly their best in years.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Initial Impressions: Napalm Death: Utilitarian

I have been on a big Napalm Death kick lately.  So when I saw their newest release marked down recently, I had to get it.  Napalm Death has been consistently great for three decades now so I did not have any reservations about picking this one up.  It certainly helped that I loved their last release and of course, Napalm Death know who they are and are not likely to change drastically any time soon.

So what do we have here?  Unsurprisingly it's a Napalm Death album.  Seventeen tracks of grinding brutality.  Napalm Death pull no punches and just blast away for seventeen songs.  We do not expect anything more or less from them.

Of course it would not be a Napalm Death album without some form of experimentation or other.  While the core sound remains unequivocally Napalm Death, they do throw in some unusual moments.  We have a bit of a doomy opening, some almost chanted vocals, and an atonal saxophone thrown in at various points.  None of those moments overwhelm the rest of the music, they get put in almost as an aside.

Beyond the odd moments, this is a typical release from the band.  Barney Greenway still does his full-throated roar, and Shane Embury, Danny Herrera and Mitch Harris still blast away on their instruments.  The  band has lost none of its ferocity over the years and remains as uncompromisingly brutal as ever.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Pitchfork has posted a review of Enslaved's newest album which I have yet to hear thanks to the damn music store here not getting it in today.  In this review they complain about people calling this album a classic.  That's right, Pitchfork is calling people out for calling an album a classic before hearing it.  Pitchfork.  Because they never have preconceived notions about music.  Oh the irony.

Initial Impressions: Gorod: A Perfect Absolution

I will give my standard response to technical death metal first.  I like technical death metal when it sounds organic.  When it sounds like it is not overly sterile and machine-like.  When there is a human element.  I do not like polished technical death that sounds like Pro Tools is as much to credit for the composition as the individual musicians.

Gorod has been around for a little while.  They were previously called Gorgasm but changed their name to avoid confusion with another band with the same name.  Gorod is a French technical death metal band.  France is not real well-known for technical death but a lot of the bands I have heard from the country seem to have their own unique style.  I was anxious to see if Gorod would be the same way.

This is very technical stuff here.  There are a lot of noodling guitar lines and fluctuating song structures.  But at the same time, there is a more organic feel than you will find in groups like Brain Drill.  Gorod do a pretty good job of avoiding the technicality for the sake of technicality that a lot of other groups fall into.  Yes there is a lot of technicality but it is framed around an actual song, not just a series of technical riffs piled on top of each other without any clear direction.

The last half of this album is where things get really interesting.  This is where a lot of the technical riffing and noodling takes on an almost jazzy improvisational style.  In particular the funk-laden opening of "Varangian Paradise".  Another improvement Gorod makes on typical technical death metal is the variation in vocal styles.  Yes there are some harsh, death metal growls and roars but there is a lot of other styles as well, including some clean singing.

Gorod brings a bit more to the table than a lot of technical death metal bands.  That is why I enjoy this album quite a bit.  They enter the realm of Decrepit Birth, Obscura, Psycroptic, and the like as technical death metal bands with some actual personality.  

FMA Reviews: Mortör: Shoot 'Em Up

Originally reviewed here.
Canada's metal scene is another one that is somewhat underrated, but they have churned out some amazing groups across all genres. Crytopsy, Kataklysm, Voivod, Razor, Sacrifice, and Slaughter are just a few of the death and thrash metal bands that have called Canada home. Mortör is another band to have come up out of the Great White North.

Mortör has only been active for a few years at this point, but this is already the second full-length from the Quebec natives. All of the songs are fairly short, with only a couple breaking the four minute mark. This makes for a tight, punch-filled album that is unapologetic in its take-no-prisoners approach.

Based on the song titles and album art, it would appear that subtlety is not exactly Mortör's strong point. This is an album about war and death, make no mistake about it. The music does well to match the imagery. Mortör plays groove-laden death/thrash. Points of reference include Panzerchrist and Dekapitator. Mortör uses a lot of bottom-end in their riffs, giving a deep, rumbling feeling, not unlike the sound of tanks on the move. That added to the precise rhythms of the riffs give off a mechanical vibe. Mortör is a war machine.

The only real complaint I can even come up with is that the songs tend to run together after awhile and there is no real standout here. There is no one moment that I think back to as a great moment after the album is over. Although the dueling guitar melodies in "Locked and Loaded" come close.

Yet another impressive Canadian band. This band has a bright future.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Initial Impressions: Toxic Holocaust: Conjure and Command

Toxic Holocaust has always appealed to me.  They play a style of metal that is cobbled together from influences like Celtic Frost, Bathory, Venom, and early Sodom.  It's blackened thrash metal with a definite punk attitude.  This is music that is appealing to people who remember the early 1980's underground metal and miss the rawness and the attitude from that time period.

Toxic Holocaust has been a one-man band until very recently.  This is Joel Grind's baby and he has shaped it into the blackened thrash beast that it currently is.  He now has additional members taking over at bass and drums but Grind is definitely still in command.

Toxic Holocaust's last album, An Overdose of Death made my Top 10 albums of the year in 2008.  Since that time I have looked into some of their other past recordings.  Overdose still stands out as the band's best full-length album even after this one.  That is not to say that this is a bad release at all, far from it, but it is missing something that its predecessor had.

This is still infectious blackened thrash with a punk edge but perhaps the songs are not quite as catchy.  The production is also a little muddier this time around.  This album comes off as more of a deep underground release than the somewhat more polished previous album.  Perhaps that was intentional.  Toxic Holocaust is not music meant for mainstream consumption after all.  Maybe this was a calculated effort.

I still quite enjoy this release.  It is a little bit of a letdown from their last one, but it is still a very impressive release from a band that plays a style I really enjoy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Metal Cover Songs: Michael Jackson

When I was a little kid, I really liked Michael Jackson.  This was around the time that Bad was released and of course after Thriller.  Hey, I was like six and at the time Jackson was not considered the complete freak he turned out to be.  I long ago grew out of that.

Anyway, I thought this would be a little easier.  I was looking for some Michael Jackson covers by metal bands.  Unfortunately there do not appear to be a lot of them.  There are a ton of "Beat It" covers but not nearly as many of "Smooth Criminal" or other more rock-oriented songs.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Initial Impressions: High on Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis

I have been a fan of High on Fire since I first heard Death is this Communion.  Unfortunately something about their last album rubbed me the wrong way and I think it had to do with the production.  It just seemed too thin and clean for a band of this type.  The songs were great, the production was just kind of bad.  So I was hoping this time around for a meatier production to really bring out this band's strengths.  Luckily I got it this time around.

This is the High on Fire that I am a fan of.  Big, meaty, doomy-sounding riffs, rough and weathered vocals, and heavy pounding drums.  The band also does a very good job of keeping things interesting.  There is a lot of variety in the songs here.  One minute there will be a fast-paced crushing song and the next will be a much slower, but equally massively heavy track.

High on Fire has risen to the top of the stoner doom metal scene and with good reason.  They definitely show that reason here.  High on Fire do a great job of never really falling victim to some of the traps that other stoner doom metal bands do.  They change things up a bit and they never get into a long, drawn-out psychedelic segment.  They keep things interesting and therefore do not lose their listeners.

This is a return to form for High on Fire.  Their last album was good musically but was missing something on production.  This time around that issue has been fixed which has allowed the sound of the band to truly come through.  Definitely a good thing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Initial Impressions: Hooded Menace: Effigies of Evil

A couple of years ago Hooded Menace released an album that got a lot of praise that I really wanted to hear.  I never actually got around to checking them out on that one however.  Well just recently they released a new album and I was determined not to make that same mistake again.

Hooded Menace is described as a death/doom metal band with lyrics dealing mostly with horror themes.  After listening to this album a few times, I think they are basically a doom metal band.  There really is not a lot of death metal elements present here.  Some of the riffs are a little more distorted than they would be on a traditional doom metal release, but not quite to the degree they would be on a death metal release.  About the only real death metal element present here is the vocal style of Lasse Pyykko.  His vocals are a very deep roar which calls to mind some of Demilich's and Opeth's work.

Despite the miscategorization of the band, this is a very enjoyable release.  For the most part, the riffing is clean and down-tuned to allow for an evil and eerie feeling.  Coupled with the death metal-esque vocals and samples lifted from old horror movies, this works quite well in conveying the horror that the songs are typically about.  

I really enjoyed this album.  It was definitely worth the wait.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Initial Impressions: Paradise Lost: Tragic Idol

Paradise Lost was a band I discovered fairly early on in my exploration of metal.  I think it was Christmas time when I was about 15 years old that I got the amazing Draconian Times.  That album was a favorite of mine for a very long time and I still love it to this day.  That being said, I have never really liked the rest of the band's material nearly as much.  Paradise Lost has gone through a lot of changes over the years and not all of them have been very good.

This album is probably the closest to Draconian Times of any of the albums that I have heard.  I have not heard really close to all of the band's albums, I will be honest about that.  This is not as fast-paced as some of the tracks from that album, in particular the hard-driving "Once Solemn".  This is melancholic gothic metal with a lot of melody.  Nick Holmes's voice still sounds as great and emotional as ever.

Paradise Lost once again has put out a terrific album of gothic metal.  This is probably now my second favorite album from the pioneering band.

FMA Reviews: Midnight: Complete and Total Hell

Originally reviewed here.
Midnight is a band that I have been wanting to check out for quite a long time, but for some reason I never really got around to it. Midnight is pretty much the prototypical Hell's Headbangers band, besides the mighty Nunslaughter of course. They pay tribute to a lot of the early black metal bands while remaining firmly rooted in the NWOBHM and speed metal. 

Midnight basically sounds like a combination of Motörhead and Venom. It is fast and intense, with very short songs, but with raspy vocals and distorted riffing. It is never a pretty sound, but that's to be expected from this record label. Midnight is unabashedly retro, but they sound like they are absolutely having a blast doing it. They are fast and intense, with NWOBHM-inspired riffs and a Lemmy Kilmister-esque vocal style. This is beer-drinking, party music, if the party was to spin out of control and end up with people smashing beer bottles over people's heads and turning into a giant drunken brawl.

This is a compilation of the band's material released prior to their Satanic Royalty debut full-length. Most of this material was hard to find and long out of print. There are 21 tracks here, but they fly by really fast, with only a handful breaking the four minute mark.

As a compilation of demos and splits, the production is a little uneven. Some of the songs sound better than others, but that is all par for the course for this type of release. This compilation offers a look at Midnight's material prior to their full-length.

This is filthy and dirty metal in the vein of Motörhead and Venom. I love it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Initial Impressions: Nachtmystium: Silencing Machine

Once one of the U.S.'s premier black metal bands, Nachtmystium started to distance themselves from that style a little bit, adding more and more progressive and psychedelic influences to the point where there was hardly any trace of black metal on their last album.  Fans were divided about whether that was a good direction or not.  One thing that could be said though is that at least it was interesting.

This album has been hailed as a return to form for Nachtmystium, even the old black metal logo has returned.  That is not entirely correct.  There are still elements lingering from the Black Meddle albums.  For the most part the black metal sound has returned, though only superficially.  The band utilizes more tremolo riffs, blast beats, and harsh vocals, but underneath it all, it is clear that Nachtmystium has progressed beyond typical black metal.  Many of the songs feature some or all of these elements but also possess a distinctive post-rock or psychedelic sound as well.  Blake Judd maintains the harsher vocal style throughout the release however.

If anything, this album represents a coming-together of the sounds that Nachtmystium has put out over the years.  The black metal is present but so is the progressive rock, post-rock, and psychedelia.  The one constant is the cold atmosphere.

I really did enjoy this album.  I have liked prior Nachtmystium albums, but none as much as this one.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Your First CD


Yahoo had this article on today, so I figured I would share.  I was very late to the CD game.  When I first started getting into music cassettes were cheap and readily available.  My first CD was around Christmas in 1995.  My parents decided to get me a CD player finally and I got my first CD on Christmas Eve from my grandparents.  I did not get the CD player until the next day but that gift kind of spoiled it.  So my first CD was the self-titled album by Alice in Chains.
The next day I received several more:
Megadeth: So Far, So Good...So What!
Ozzy Osbourne: Diary of a Madman
Ozzy Osbourne: Ozzmosis
Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Obviously Smashing Pumpkins is the one that stands out.  I never really got that album and got rid of it soon afterwards.

Anyone else have any stories?

FMA Reviews: Bonded by Blood: The Aftermath

Originally reviewed here.
When a band names themselves after a famous album, you would expect that band to try to live up to the name. Bonded by Blood is named after the amazing debut album from thrash metal pioneers Exodus. It is one of the better, if not the best, thrash metal albums in history. So Bonded by Blood already has their work cut out for them to try to not be "that band named after the Exodus album" and forge their own identity.

On their prior album, Exiled to Earth, Bonded by Blood appeared as if they had discovered their own sound, stepping out of the shadow for a little while of their namesake. They had crafted a rather impressive concept album about a dystopian future. The album was well-received and appeared to set the band up for success in the future. Bonded by Blood had joined the ranks of Skeletonwitch, Vektor, and other newer thrash metal bands to truly find their own voice instead of just copying the music that had come before them.

Which brings us to Bonded by Blood's third album. The third album is often an important album in a band's catalogue. It usually lays the foundation for how the band is going to proceed. Will they grow or will they stagnate? Well it appears from this album that Bonded by Blood will stagnate. Bonded by Blood has not taken a step forward after their impressive sophomore album. This is more of a lateral step. They did not really take a step back, but this is basically indistinguishable from any other thrash metal album.

There are two big problems here. The first one is the vocals. Bonded by Blood features a new singer this time around, Mauro Gonzales. Their previous singer Jose Barrales was a very good thrash metal vocalist, exhibiting a similar style to Exodus screamers Paul Baloff and Steve Souza. Gonzales's style is cleaner and not as raw. It is less a thrash metal style and more of a classic heavy metal style. It's fine for what it is, but their last vocalist captured the genre a little bit more.

The other issue is the production. This is way too clean. Thrash metal is supposed to be raw and dirty. This is too sterile.

Now Bonded by Blood still put together some decent songs and the riffs are still razor-sharp. The band obviously knows how to thrash. It is a little unfortunate that they were unable to take that step forward again after a terrific second album. I am a thrash metal fan and will likely continue to listen to Bonded by Blood because they do a lot of things very well. Unfortunately this album will likely not win them many new fans.

One more note, the Rage Against the Machine cover is terrible.

Bonded by Blood still craft some good moments, but this is not a step forward from their last album.