Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Do What I Want

I saw this and had to share.  This is from The Chive.

Funeral Doom Bands on Bandcamp

I did one of these posts quite a while ago with slam death metal.  I decided it was about time to pick a new genre to take a look at briefly and hopefully discover some good, newer bands.  All of these are either free or Name Your Price.

Dom: Dom II End
Dom is a one-man funeral doom metal project from Spain.  Created exclusively by Ivan "Belial" Manzano, Dom has managed to put out a number of releases in the short time it has been active.  Dom is incredibly bleak with a morosely slow sound and some dark and disturbing soundscapes.  The use of keyboards further adds to the hopeless sound.  This is an instrumental band but for the most part vocals are not missed.  At times, it tends to drag on with no real direction, but for the most part it sounds pretty good.

Lycus: Demo 2011
Lycus has been getting a little bit of hype, as well as the occasional mention over on Metalsucks.  It is fairly well-deserved too.  Lycus is not as slow-paced as other bands, and probably are more of a doom metal band with death metal-esque growled vocals in the vein of Swallow the Sun's first album than a funeral doom metal band.  The music is compelling though.  I will be on the lookout for their debut album which is supposed to release this year.

The Cold View: Weeping Winter
Winter is probably the most appropriate season for funeral doom, especially the really cold, miserable days and The Cold View have taken that concept and run with it.  Musically, The Cold View bears a very strong resemblance to Ahab's debut album.  I love that album so I am definitely on board here.  It is very slow, very depressing, but with some surprisingly pretty moments if you listen close enough.  I like this one quite a bit.

Ubi Sunt: I
Ubi Sunt is quite an unusual group.  Their album is based on the works of Thomas Campion and Solage, two composers from the Renaissance.  Kind of an odd concept for a funeral doom metal band, but it comes across quite well.  There is a heavy use of wind instruments, strings, and organs which really add a Renaissance flair to the music.  The result is a very impressive mix.  I like this one a lot.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 86

ARTIST:  Sepultura
ORIGIN:  Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais (Brazil)
TITLE:  Hatred
LABEL:  Oxygen
YEAR:  1996
GENRE:  Thrash/Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Inner Self"
NOTES:  Have you figured out that I liked Sepultura in high school?  Searching for this album in Sepultura's official discography will be fruitless.  This is a bootleg.  It is the only bootleg in my collection.  Much of it is from a live concert in Holland, though there are parts from another concert and some studio tracks as well on it.  I remember finding it at the local music store which had a large amount of bootlegs on sale at one point.  I found the Sepultura album because I was basically obsessed with the band at this point.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

W.A.S.P.: The Crimson Idol

Once again, I have been on a major W.A.S.P. kick lately, covering their early material and their mid-era material.  I have not had an occasion yet to check out their more recent stuff, but after all of the great stuff I have heard from the band and the surprisingly positive reviews of even their most recent material, certainly an odd thing for a band that has been around for 30 years, I may just do that.

This is the major album that I targeted when it was becoming clear to me that I needed to expand my W.A.S.P. library.  It seemed like the most interesting due to the overall concept of the album and the fact that the band had matured so much.  I mentioned in my last post about the band that The Headless Children was where the band was beginning to flex their artistic muscles somewhat and move away from the more radio-friendly sound they had started with.  It was on this album that the new W.A.S.P. truly arrived.  There are still a couple of anthemic, fist-pumping songs on here ("Arena of Pleasure" and "Chainsaw Charlie" for example), but the songwriting had matured significantly.

This is a concept album.  The story in a nutshell is about a young man from a troubled childhood who rises to superstardom as a rock star but finds out in the process that he has alienated his family and the people he cares the most about.  The final track is about the startling realization that he has fame and money but that his parents have disowned him.  It is definitely a product of its time as the 1980's were truly a greed-driven time period.  In some ways this album is a commentary on the changing fortunes of the 1980's metal/rock scene.  Many once-important bands were beginning the downhill turn of their careers.  Those that were not able to adapt would perish.  W.A.S.P. was a band that was able to adapt, though they were never as famous as they were in the 1980's.  This album in part was the start of their next era.

Musically, this album is epic.  It begins with the introductory track "The Titanic Overture" which immediately kicks into the first rampaging song "The Invisible Boy".  From there, the band keeps up a high intensity except for the occasional acoustic interlude or the one or two ballads on the album.  But none of those softer moments detract from what is an incredible album.  If anything they add to it.  They make the album feel like a complete story, not a collection of songs.  This album is a larger work of art that is hard to take apart piece by piece.  It makes more sense as a cohesive unit.

This is quite simply the best album I have heard thus far from W.A.S.P. and it will honestly be very difficult to supplant.  As much as I like The Headless Children, W.A.S.P., and The Last Command, this is an incredible album and could easily be somewhere in my Top 25 of all time.  It really is that good.  

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 85


ARTIST:  Megadeth
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Cryptic Writings
LABEL:  Capitol Records
YEAR:  1997
GENRE:  Heavy Metal/Hard Rock
FAVORITE SONG:  "A Secret Place"
NOTES:  Megadeth really started to drift away from thrash metal on this one, and even heavy metal on some tracks.  They were trying to follow the Metallica formula I suspect.  But I like this album a lot better than I like Load.  I think a lot of the songs are surprisingly catchy.  It is not the best album by Megadeth, or even remotely close, but it is not the worst either.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

FMA Reviews: Sinister: The Carnage Ending

Originally reviewed here.
In recent years Sinister's music has been somewhat outshined by their amazing and oftentimes brutal album covers. They put out a couple of terrific death metal albums in the early 1990's with some terrific artwork on the cover. But since then their music has been lacking something. One thing they have always managed to do is grab attention on the CD racks though. The music just has not been able to live up to the promise of the cover.

This year Sinister once again released an album with an eye-catching album cover. Unlike prior albums though, the music contained within is extremely impressive and powerful death metal. Sinister definitely has an old-school death metal sound, not at all surprising since the band has been around for a long time now. They have resisted the urge on this album to add more modern touches to their music, just letting it speak for itself. The result is an absolutely blistering and relentless death metal attack that shows that there is some life (death?) left in this old band. Seriously this thing will leave you gasping for air and with a broken neck. It is that good.

Sinister, like their countrymen in Asphyx, are propelled by some extremely powerful riffs. This is fully on display with this album. The riffs are like steamrollers, unstoppable and shockingly heavy. The sound of the album is crisp without sounding sterile. The result of this is that the riffs are emphasized that much stronger. The blunt-force trauma from the riffs is that much more serious. So yeah, the riffs are good. Just a little bit.

Beyond the guitars, everything just comes together to create as much of a cacophonous sound as possible. The drums drive things forward and are truly interesting. It is not often that I really notice the drums, unless they are really good or really bad. This time, they are really good. The vocals, which are not the most brutal in the death metal genre, nonetheless sound terrific with this music.

This album puts Sinister back on the map. They had been going with the flow for years. No longer.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 84


ARTIST:  Fear Factory
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Remanufacture
LABEL:  Roadrunner Records
YEAR:  1997
GENRE:  Industrial/Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Machines of Hate (Self Bias Resistor)"
NOTES:  I will be honest.  I have no idea why I still have this.  This is a remix album of the breakthrough of Fear Factory.  It is much more of a techno remix album and the songs tend to drag on and on.  As such, it is not one I pull out very often.  And I usually don't enjoy it that much when I do.

Monday, January 28, 2013

FMA Reviews: Nunslaughter: Christmassacre

Originally reviewed here.

What Does the Laughter of Nuns Have to Do With Anything?

Well this is certainly interesting. A little bit of background on this release first. This is not a new release. It was initially released on Christmas Day in 2004, in a variety of formats. It was reissued this year to celebrate Nunslaughter's favorite holiday. So this is not a new release, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Nunslaughter has released a filthy little EP full of good times and Christmas cheer. We have the immortal classic "Deathlehem", the positively uplifting "Jewrusalem", and who could forget the popular children's song "Unholy Scriptures". It is pretty obvious how Nunslaughter feels about all of this.


Musically, anyone who has ever heard Nunslaughter knows what to expect. All of the songs are short, sharp, and fast. Nunslaughter plays death metal with a definitive punk style. They rampage through this four song EP in less than ten minutes. They are unrelenting in their brutality. All of the songs are fairly simplistic, but the style fits well for the band. Nunslaughter knows what they want to accomplish and they are very good at what they do.

This is an incredibly short EP, but sometimes good things come in small packages.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 83

ARTIST:  Various
ORIGIN:  Various
TITLE:  In Memory of Celtic Frost
LABEL:  Dwell Records
YEAR:  1996
GENRE:  Black/Death Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  Opeth: "Circle of the Tyrants"
NOTES:  I had heard a couple of songs by Celtic Frost before, but not that many.  Basically I picked this album up to become familiar with not only Celtic Frost, but the bands that played on it.  The album also featured a brief bio on each of the bands, as well as Frost.  The Mayhem bio went into great length about the whole Dead/Euronymous/Varg Vikernes fiasco.  It took me a little while to get into the songs, but eventually I discovered Morgion, Grave, and Opeth on the basis of these songs.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

W.A.S.P.: The Headless Children

I was in my hometown a few weeks ago, which is unfortunately down to only a couple of used music stores these days.  I had not been to one for a long time, so I decided to go.  Sometimes used music stores have some unexpected gems, I got Destroyer 666's Cold Steel  at this same store.  Other times, there is nothing particularly interesting.  Well this time I managed to get some decent stuff.

I did a post on W.A.S.P. a few weeks ago.  I was still listening over and over again to the two albums that I had from them when I went to the used store.  I saw this album and recognized it from some decent reviews I had read, so I decided to give it a shot.  This was one of those times where I managed to get a gem.

The Headless Children is the album where W.A.S.P. began to shed some of the cheesier, over-the-top aspects of their sound.  The songwriting matured quite a bit on this album and the band went away from being a typical partying glam band, albeit a much more metal one than some of the other groups that dominated MTV in those days, to being a very impressive traditional metal band.  There are still some moments where the old W.A.S.P. shined through, but for the most part, the band had changed quite a bit, and for the better.

There are some damn catchy songs on here, such as "Mean Man" and "Maneater".  As I said, there are definitely some elements here that really resemble the old band, but they also drifted somewhat away from the catchy poppier sound.  The most obvious example of this is the title track, which is an incredible song from start to finish.  The band is not focused on making catchy, radio-friendly music, or shocking audiences like "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)".  And that is not the only example.

W.A.S.P. matured on this album.  As much as I liked the earlier group, I like this version even better.  This one has been playing almost everyday since I got it.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 82

ARTIST:  Sepultura
ORIGIN:  Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais (Brazil)
TITLE:  Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation
LABEL:  Cogumelo Records
YEAR:  1986
GENRE:  Thrash/Black/Death Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Troops of Doom"
NOTES:  I was in the middle of my massive obsession with Sepultura when I picked this one up.  Of course this one is completely different than anything I had heard from the band to this point.  I was mostly sticking to the groove metal era of the band.  So this was a major difference from what I had been used to up to that point.  It was the most raw and chaotic album I had heard.  So it took me a little while to really get into.  But once I did I was hooked.  This is still my favorite album by the band.  It also features the band's first EP.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 81

ARTIST:  Alice in Chains
ORIGIN:  Seattle, WA (United States)
TITLE:  Unplugged
LABEL:  Columbia Records
YEAR:  1996
GENRE:  Grunge/Heavy Metal (Acoustic)
FAVORITE SONG:  "Would?"
NOTES:  I was skeptical about this one before I got it.  I had seen the MTV special, but I was not sure I wanted the album or not.  The fact of the matter is though that some of Alice in Chains's songs really translate well to the acoustic guitar.  It would have been bizarre for the band to play "Man in the Box", "Them Bones", or some of their other heavier stuff, so they stuck to the more mellow stuff, and it worked quite well.  Staley's voice really conveys a lot of pain that he was going through at the time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

FMA Reviews: Fastkill: Bestial Thrashing Bulldozer

Originally reviewed here.
I have seen a lot of complaints that all of the thrash metal released today is just bands copying what has been done by the big-name bands of the 1980's, in particular the Big Four. This is simply not true. Obviously there is the wave of bands from the United States and England that are trying to recapture past glories of the Bay Area scene. Of course there were other scenes in the 1980's, scenes that have been largely ignored by newer thrash metal bands, for some unknown reason. 

Enter Japan's Fastkill, a band clearly influenced by the much more chaotic, and yes, bestial, thrash metal bands of the 1980's. We are talking clear Slayer, Destruction, and Kreator worship here. Japan has produced a few bands like this, with King's-Evil being another name.

The cover art leaves no doubts that the music contained therein is going to be fast, intense, and destructive as all hell. And Fastkill definitely delivers on those promises. With rapid-fire riffing, jackhammer-drumming, and the banshee-like shrieks of frontman Toshio Komori, this is a total maelstrom of pure, unadulterated thrash metal. The speed and intensity of the riffing is reminiscent of the early records of the aforementioned Slayer and the Teutonic thrash wave. The songs are all short and lightning-fast with the longest track being just under four minutes and nothing else coming close. The brevity of the songs and the take-no-prisoners, constant and fast riffing leaves the listener gasping for breath, their head reeling from the sonic assault. It's a good thing, really.

The first couple of times I listened to this, I really did not care for the vocals. They are high-pitched and often resemble the whooping of birds the way they emerge out of the music. Komori does do the high-pitched Araya-esque blood-curdling scream well. After a couple of listens, I got used to his voice and it does not bother me nearly as much as it did early on.

This is a punishing and brutal thrash attack. An impressive tribute to the much more chaotic sounds of early thrash metal away from the Bay Area.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 80


ARTIST:  Voivod
ORIGIN:  Jonquiere, Quebec (Canada)
TITLE:  Negatron
LABEL:  Mausoleum Records
YEAR:  1995
GENRE:  Progressive/Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Nanoman"
NOTES:  I had heard a few songs by Voivod up until this point.  This was my first album by the band though and I always liked this one.  It was not the easiest album to get into as there was not a lot of catchiness, but once it took hold, I loved it.  There are a number of different versions of this album with some additional songs.  I unfortunately only have ten tracks on mine.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bandcamp Mayhem: Randomness

I was on Facebook recently and a couple of ads caught my eye for bands on Bandcamp.  Not having much else to do at the time, I decided to check them out.

CROW BLACK SKY: PANTHEION
Crow Black Sky captured my attention because they are from South Africa.  I have not heard much metal from the African continent, so I am always intrigued when I run across a band from that region of the world.  Crow Black Sky is a melodic black/death metal band from Cape Town in South Africa.

The first thing that is noticeable is the frequent use of keyboards to achieve a symphonic effect.  This is a calculated effort to provide an epic atmosphere.  The result is similar to the better albums by Dimmu Borgir and Hecate Enthroned.  The guitar tone is suitably dark and crunchy and provides some interesting riffs.  The vocals are fairly typical for melodic black metal style.  Think Naglfar and Luna Ad Noctum for reference points.  They are delivered in a rough, deeper rasp.

The only real issue I have with this one is that some of the songs are a bit on the long side.  The album tends to drag a little bit in places.  Other than that, this is a decent album.  It is not something completely original and mind-blowing but it is certainly entertaining.

Bandcamp.

THE DEADSTATION: EPISODE I: LIKE PEERING INTO THE DEEPEST OCEAN ABYSS
Okay, the title of this album is pretentious as all hell.  It also does not help much that four of the seven tracks make up the "Like Peering Into the Deepest Ocean Abyss" saga.  I am not sure if they refer to it as a saga, but dammit I am going to refer to it as a saga.  Despite the ridiculously long album and song titles, the songs themselves are relatively succinct.  That's good.  It is easy to ignore the long titles that way.

Well if you could not tell by the album title, The Deadstation is a progressive metal band, somewhat in the vein of Dream Theater, Queensryche, Manticora and other groups.  The music is energetic and upbeat.  It is extremely melodic and for the most part faster-paced.   The songs have a more progressive structure, but the band keeps things from bogging down with some very impressive lead guitar work.  There are a couple of filler tracks on here, but that is not terribly surprising from this genre.  The vocal work is impressive and mostly consists of higher-registered singing.

This is a reasonably interesting release.  It probably does not do enough to stand out among other progressive metal bands, but it is a fun listen.

Bandcamp.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 79


ARTIST:  Prong
ORIGIN:  New York, NY
TITLE:  Rude Awakening
LABEL:  Epic
YEAR:  1996
GENRE:  Industrial Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Mansruin"
NOTES:  I had heard of Prong before.  I think everyone had heard "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck". But this was the first album I had heard.  I liked a lot of industrial metal at the time and I knew that Prong had taken that turn.  For a long time, I listened to this album every day.  It has been quite awhile now and I definitely prefer their earlier crossover material, but this was for the most part my indoctrination into the band.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FMA Reviews: Schattenbrandung: I - Apophänie

Originally reviewed here.
Blackened doom metal is kind of an odd concept. Some of the earliest better-known black metal bands were often very fast-paced with thrash metal and punk influences. Think Immortal and Gorgoroth's earlier work for examples. Doom metal on the other hand is quite the opposite. Obviously over time the atmosphere became the major element in black metal and that is where black and doom metal were able to eventually find a common ground. Blackened doom would not have worked in the mid 1990's. It works better now. 

Meet Schattenbrandung, a German blackened doom metal band. This is the band's debut album after forming in 2009. Their songs on their album are not named, but instead represented by Roman numerals that are weirdly out of order and missing VI. Their inability to count notwithstanding, this is some surprisingly decent stuff in places.

The songs often alternate between heavy and faster-paced riffing and more melodic noodling. It is quite the contrast and it probably would come across better if it was not done so frequently. I find myself enjoying the heavier material much more than the lighter stuff. Oftentimes when they go lighter there just is not anything else really going on. Very few vocals, just some light drumming and melancholic guitar chords. There is not too much to the melodic soft sections.

The songs on this are often very long. The shortest one is almost seven minutes long. The band tries to break up the monotony by switching gears somewhat frequently with tempo shifts and the aforementioned alternating hard and soft sections. Sometimes this is effective, sometimes it feels as if the band is having troubles figuring out what to do next and ending the song is not one of the options.

I do not want it to seem like this is a bad album, it is just a little overdone at times. The good parts are very good and they do outnumber the bad. It would be nice if the band would cut down on the soft sections, or at least shorten them. The rest of the material does sound pretty good.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 78


ARTIST:  Queensryche
ORIGIN:  Bellevue, WA (United States)
TITLE:  Operation: Mindcrime
LABEL:  EMI Music
YEAR:  1988
GENRE:  Progressive Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "The Needle Lies"
NOTES:  This is one of the greatest metal concept albums of all time.  The story is engaging, with clearly identifiable characters.  And of course the guitar work of Chris DeGarmo and the vocals of Geoff Tate are incredible.  One of the most talented duos in metal.  These album has a number of classic tracks, but "I Don't Believe in Love" is the big hit.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reader Submissions: Nonsun: Good Old Evil

Nonsun is a Ukrainian duo that plays an amalgamation of sludge metal, doom metal, and drone metal.  They recently released this EP and contacted me to take a listen.

I will admit that this one took a little while to get into.  The band switches gears somewhat frequently between sludgy doom metal, which I enjoyed, to moments of random feedback and noise, which I really did not care for.  Nonsun is a very harsh listen.  There is nothing particularly pretty about anything that the band does.  When they are playing the more metallic parts, the tone is muddy and hostile and the vocals are rough.    The noise parts are very grating on the ears as well.  Of course, all of this is the point.  Nonsun is not trying to be particularly pleasant.  They are trying to be as loud and painful as possible.  And in that respect they certainly succeed.

There are moments on the second track "Rain Have Mercy" that border on the catchy.  As such, that is probably my favorite track on the EP.  It also has far fewer noise moments.  Of course with the good comes the bad, and third track "Message of Nihil Carried by the Waves of the Big Bang" is a complete noise/drone track.  The final track makes up for it with its very slow burn leading into nothingness.

As I said, this one took a couple of listens to get into.  There are some moments I did not care for, but by and large they were outnumbered by the good parts.

Nonsun bandcamp page.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 77


ARTIST:  Megadeth
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Killing is My Business...And Business is Good!
LABEL:  Combat Records
YEAR:  1985
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Skull Beneath the Skin"
NOTES:  Megadeth's debut album achieved a level of notoriety with the cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots".  Due to label pressure, the album had to be re-released without the cover song.  I have the version without it.  This also featured "Mechanix" which was an early version of the Metallica classic "The Four Horsemen".  Quite an impressive debut.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Deathhammer: Onward to the Pits

Darkthrone's Fenriz has pretty good taste in underground metal.  He runs his own blog with a band of the week highlighted.  Ghost and In Solitude are two bands that have risen to a fair amount of stardom based on Fenriz's hype on his blog, along with a number of others.  Deathhammer is another band that has appeared there.  In addition, the character on Darkthrone album covers once sported a Deathhammer patch.  I recently picked up the cassette issue of their 2012 album from Hell's Headbangers.

Deathhammer toiled in relative obscurity for years, releasing demo after demo before finally releasing their first full-length album in 2010.  That is when the word of mouth really began working for the band.  Hell's Headbangers paid attention and picked the band up, releasing their 2012 sophomore effort.  As it turns out, Deathhammer is definitely the kind of band built for that label.

Deathhammer is a particularly filthy breed of thrash metal band from Norway.  Sounding like the unholy offspring of Motorhead and early Sodom, their style is raw and nasty.  Deathhammer is a two-person band, much like Darkthrone, with Sergeant Salsten on bass, vocals, and guitars and Sadomancer on drums and backing vocals.  They make an unholy amount of noise for being just two members.

The songs are all fast-paced and retain the same frenetic energy throughout.  The result is an album that sounds as if it would not have been out of place in the early days of extreme thrash metal.  Sodom, Sarcofago, Bestial Devastation-era Sepultura, and Destruction are the obvious reference points.  No wonder Fenriz loved this band.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 76

ARTIST:  GZR
ORIGIN:  United Kingdom
TITLE:  Plastic Planet
LABEL:  TVT
YEAR:  1995
GENRE:  Industrial/Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Drive Boy Shooting"
NOTES:  Geezer Butler was frustrated with Black Sabbath.  He did not believe that the last couple of albums should have been released under the Black Sabbath name.  So he went out on his own and formed a band under his own name.  He recruited Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell for vocals.  This was a surprisingly decent album, but the band never did anything else remotely interesting.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 75

ARTIST:  Faith No More
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE:  The Real Thing
LABEL:  Slash Records
YEAR:  1989
GENRE:  Alternative Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "The Real Thing"
NOTES:  Faith No More was one of the earliest metal bands I remember, even before Metallica.  I remember my older brother getting this album on cassette when I was still very young.  I have vivid memories of the videos for "Epic", "Falling to Pieces", and "From Out of Nowhere".  All of these memories eventually lead me to pick up this album for myself.  I still love this one.  Mike Patton's voice had a ton of range.  Although it sounds somewhat dated now, this is still a fun one to put on occasionally.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Arsis: Lepers Caress

This is yet another short and intriguing EP from Scion A/V Records.  Arsis has been a band that I have been following fairly closely since I discovered them.  Arsis started out as a very technical melodic death metal band.  Over the years, their technicality has decreased somewhat as they have focused more and more on crafting memorable songs.

Arsis opens things up with an intro track here, which I would argue is probably not necessary on an EP.  But from there, Arsis gets right back at what they do best, which is to rampage through some razor-sharp riffs with insane drumming patterns, and the manic vocals of James Malone.  The EP definitely picks up from there and refuses to waver after that point.  Arsis has continued with their recent trend of making their songs as memorable as possible.  Each track after the introduction has its own infectious moments.

"Veil of Mourning Black" is a re-recording of an early Arsis track.  The remaining tracks are all new.  The closing track "Denied" stands out as the highlight on the EP, ending things on a very high note.

There is not much here to really make an impact on non-fans of the band.  If you like Arsis, you will likely like this one.  If not, this probably will not change your mind.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 74

ARTIST:  Sepultura
ORIGIN:  Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais (Brazil)
TITLE:  Dead Embryonic Cells
LABEL:  Roadrunner Records
YEAR:  1991
GENRE:  Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Troops of Doom"
NOTES:  This was a single featuring the title track, a cover of the Motorhead classic "Orgasmatron", and a re-recorded version of "Troops of Doom" which was initially on the Morbid Visions album.  There is not much to say about it other than that.  I was a huge Sepultura fan in high school and I was picking up anything and everything by the band that I could find, which included singles, bootlegs, and more.

Friday, January 18, 2013

FMA Reviews: Melencolia Estatica: Hel

Originally reviewed here.
Sounding like a dream that keeps getting stranger and stranger, going off the rails towards oblivion, Melencolia Estatica's Hel is one of the more surprising albums of the year. The album is a concept piece centered around Fritz Lang's masterpiece of early cinema, Metropolis. I will admit to being somewhat naive about that piece, having only read about it or heard others talk about it. I have never seen it myself, though the pieces I have seen would suggest a fairly powerful message.

Melencolia Estatica is the project of Climaxia, who performs the bass and guitar duties. She, that's right she, is the only stable member of the group. The vocals are handled by Afthenktos, who possesses a fairly impressive range for a black metal vocal style, which is used to terrific effect over the course of this album. Melencolia Estatica has been making some noise in the depths of the Italian black metal underground for a few years now. This is the group's third full-length album.

The music is dark and suffocating. The atmosphere is extremely foreboding. All of which serves to drive home the underlying threat of the demise of mankind as found in the film that inspired this album. This is doom-laden black metal that always sounds slightly unhinged and deranged. It is unpredictable and chaotic. At times it is ethereal and dreamlike and at others it is torturous and aggressive. The soundscapes crafted by Climaxia take hold deep within the soul and refuse to let go. The album is deeply affecting.

This is definitely music for headphones. The vocal effects come across best that way. The whispers and screams from the void are much more effective through the use of headphones instead of stereo speakers. Besides, it is much easier to get lost in the music that way. To shut everything else out and let it whisk you away.

I found myself completely engrossed in this album. And it got stronger and stronger with repeated listens. This is one of the biggest surprises of 2012 for me. An absolutely breathtaking experience.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 73

ARTIST:  White Zombie
ORIGIN:  Haverhill, MA (United States)
TITLE:  Supersexy Swingin' Sounds
LABEL:  Geffen Records
YEAR:  1996
GENRE:  Industrial/Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Electric Head Pt. 1 (Satan in High Heels Mix)"
NOTES:  There was a time in the 1990's when some metal artists were releasing remix albums.  Fear Factory may have started the trend with their Fear is the Mindkiller EP.  White Zombie picked up on it and ran with it, releasing this album of remixes after the Astro Creep album.  It was basically the last thing the band would release, which is a shame.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Witch Mountain: Witch Mountain

I am beginning to really like Scion A/V.  They put out a bunch of free EPs from some damn good bands.  Over the last year and a half or so there have been terrific EPs from Immolation, Revocation, and Corrosion of Conformity.  This time I decided to check out Witch Mountain, a band I had only a passing familiarity with.

Witch Mountain is a traditional doom metal band from the U.S. featuring a female lead singer.  There is a large discussion over on the Metal Archives forum which is dissecting the merits of having a woman in a metal band.  A large consensus seems to be that many bands use it as a gimmick.  I really do not think that is the case with Witch Mountain as Uta Plotkin possesses an extremely impressive voice.  It is powerful and really gives the band a unique quality that makes them stand out from many of the other retro doom metal bands out there.  Seriously she is one of the most talented vocalists I have heard in a long time.

The music on the EP is somewhat lumbering traditional doom.  It is slow-paced but it allows Plotkin a chance to really shine.  The music is very impressive though and it does not get bogged down in its slow pace.  It remains interesting enough to keep the listener's attention even when Plotkin is not wailing away.

Plotkin is definitely the star here though.  Without her, the band probably would not merit much mention.  I am not suggesting that Witch Mountain uses the fact that they have a female lead singer to achieve any measure of notoriety.  It is not the fact that Plotkin is a woman that makes the band stand out.  It really is her voice.  She is that good.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 72

ARTIST:  Danzig
ORIGIN:  Lodi, NJ (United States)
TITLE:  Danzig II: Lucifuge
LABEL:  Def American
YEAR:  1990
GENRE:  Heavy Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Her Black Wings"
NOTES:  My second full-length album by Danzig and my third overall release.  This is still quite possibly my favorite Danzig album.  At this point, I was really big into his solo band and my interest in his prior projects was starting to increase as well.  He just has a knack for writing dark, catchy songs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

FMA Reviews: War Possession: Through the Ages

Originally reviewed here.
This is another quick and dirty death metal EP from Hellthrasher Productions, the people that brought out the Engulfed EP reviewed earlier. War Possession is a Greek band. I have heard a lot of black, doom, and heavy metal from Greece, but I have not heard too many death metal bands.

War Possession is another band interested more in the old school death metal sounds. Their influences are the more brutal bands from the early days of death metal such as Asphyx and the Swedish scene with groups like Immolation and Incantation thrown in for good measure. Most of the music is faster-paced with a few doom-laden sections to keep things interesting. The vocals are delivered in a sort of decayed and dessicated guttural gasping croak. It is not a style done frequently and it sounds very impressive with the down-tuned and eerie atmospheric style of the music.

The production is a little thin. Some of the sections sound kind of hollow as if there is a wide gap between the guitar-driven melodies and the rhythmic bottom end. War Possession also does not really bring anything new to the table, music-wise. This is a basic old school death metal recording, but it is interesting enough.

FMA Reviews: Engulfed: Through the Eternal Damnation

Originally reviewed here.
I have been able to find virtually no information on Engulfed out there, so I really went into this one blind. The little information I have been able to find is that Engulfed is a death metal band from Turkey and that they are made up of members of Deggial, Burial Invocation, and Decaying Purity.

This is a very short EP, featuring only four songs and being less than 25 minutes in length. But do not mistake its brevity for being an easy album to listen to. Engulfed is brutally intense. Engulfed's style of death metal is most similar to Incantation and Angelcorpse and other more occult death metal bands. The music is a whirlwind of riffs and pounding drums and deep guttural roars. There are some black metal elements thrown in to the point that many will probably call this a blackened death metal band, but for the most part this is just a fast and furious underground death metal band.

Engulfed apparently do not believe in being calm. This EP blasts by with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. It is an absolutely punishing album. One which is bound to cause strained necks and headaches. There are a few moments where the music slows down a bit, but the drums continue to pound away and what the band decreases in intensity, they more than make up for with dissonant chords and atmosphere.

For everyone out there claiming that death metal has become sterile and lifeless, I would urge you to check out Engulfed. It's just a shame this is only an EP and not a full-length.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 71

ARTIST:  Sepultura
ORIGIN:  Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais (Brazil)
TITLE:  Chaos A.D.
LABEL:  Roadrunner Records
YEAR:  1993
GENRE:  Groove Metal/Thrash Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Nomad"
NOTES:  I have actually had two versions of this album.  The first version was the original with a bonus track featuring demonic laughing.  Kind of boring really.  The second version featured "Chaos B.C.", a remix of "Refuse/Resist" and some live tracks.  My first metal t-shirt featured Sepultura's "Territory".  I have no idea what ever happened to that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nebraska Metal: Faith Buried in Flames: Scriptures of the Suffering

I recently had an occasion to meet a member of this band, though I will not tell you how or which one.  As a thank you he gave me a copy of his band's CD and a t-shirt.  I like free stuff.

Faith Buried in Flames is a groove metal band from Norfolk, Nebraska, which is the city in which I am currently working.  It is one of only two metal bands from this area I am aware of, though the other one may be defunct.  I am honestly surprised there is even one.

Groove metal is not really a genre of which I am a big fan.  I like some Pantera, some Machine Head, the Sepultura groove metal era, Exhorder, and a few other random bands.  But for some reason Nebraska seems to produce a number of groove metal bands.  Deadechoes and Seppeku are two such bands that were reviewed on this blog.  More than likely this is due to Nebraska being hopelessly behind the times.  Faith Buried in Flames is a pretty decent groove metal band really.  Their music is not the simplistic, meat-headed style that has become synonymous with the genre name.  There are some complexities in this music with some other elements that keep it from becoming a typical and boring groove metal album.

There are the occasional death metal elements to be found in the music.  That in and of itself makes this far more interesting than the stereotypical groove metal album.  Faith Buried in Flames has some impressive death metal riffing going on in several places.  The guitar work for the most part is very entertaining and keeps things from growing stale.  The band also uses the occasional acoustic interlude to break up the otherwise fast-paced and punishing songs.

The album does tend to drag a little bit by the end, but for the most part it is a bit of a wild ride.  I was overall very impressed by this release.  Hopefully they can keep things going and not get discourage by having their home in an otherwise metal-deficient part of the state.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 70


ARTIST:  Fear Factory
ORIGIN:  Los Angeles, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Demanufacture
LABEL:  Roadrunner Records
YEAR:  1995
GENRE:  Industrial Metal/Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Body Hammer"
NOTES:  I still think this is the best album Fear Factory has ever released.  And I do not think that I am alone in this.  I first heard Fear Factory on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack as I recall.  I liked the song okay, but it was not something that I was incredibly excited about.  I heard a few other songs then picked this up.  I actually have the digipak reissue with a bunch of bonus tracks.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2012 Lists

Okay the 2012 lists are finally done.  I may have overdone them this year, not totally sure.  Let me know in the comments what you thought.  I may try to streamline them more next year.  But I wanted to get a variety of topics thrown out there because some times one long list is a little boring.

Tomorrow I will get back to my normal posting.

Popular 2012 Albums I Listened to Once and Gave Up

I am not going to get into it.  I just do not understand the appeal of these bands.  I tried listening to them and nothing really clicked.  These are groups I have tried to understand in the past and I just don't get it.

NEUROSIS: HONOUR FOUND IN DECAY

CONVERGE: ALL WE LOVE WE LEAVE BEHIND

DEFTONES: KOI NO YOKAN

BARONESS: YELLOW AND GREEN

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 69


ARTIST:  Misery Loves Co.
ORIGIN:  Sweden
TITLE:  Misery Loves Co.
LABEL:  MNW Zone
YEAR:  1994
GENRE:  Industrial Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Sonic Attack"
NOTES:  I heard "Happy?" quite a bit which lead me to pick up this release.  Honestly I forgot about this one.  I used to listen to it a lot but have not played it for quite some time.  This is real industrial metal.  And there are some great songs here.  It is not really a release to make you think, more than anything it just bludgeons the listener.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Best Albums of 2011 I Heard in 2012

 5.  TOXIC HOLOCAUST: CONJURE AND COMMAND
Toxic Holocaust is a band that focuses on a very specific timeframe in creating their music.  They play old school black/death/thrash metal with nods towards Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Sodom, and the like.  It is all fast and intense music.  Their albums are short and fun.  This one was no exception.

4.  INSOMNIUM: ONE FOR SORROW
Insomnium's somber take on melodeath can be heart-wrenching.  That much is sure.  The Finnish band has been putting out high-quality albums for years now and they certainly lived up to their past albums with this one.

3.  VADER: WELCOME TO THE MORBID REICH
The pioneering Polish death/thrash metal band has been one of the most consistent bands going for the last couple of decades.  Every album destroys.  You know what you will get with a Vader album, a steamroller of riffs and pounding drums.  They never disappoint.

2.  DISMA: TOWARDS THE MEGALITH
Incantation's Craig Pillard appears as vocalist for this album and the sound is fairly similar to Pillard's other band.  It's grimy, old school death metal with a nod toward the occult death metal that was rising from the grave in the late 1980's.

1.  VEKTOR: OUTER ISOLATION
I am a big fan of Vektor already and this is the only album I have heard to this point.  The band combines styles from Voivod and later Death into a very impressive and original sound.  The album is just a crushing beast of a release.  This one would have easily made my Top 10 in 2011, likely at number two or three.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 68


ARTIST:  Metallica
ORIGIN:  San Francisco, CA (United States)
TITLE:  Load
LABEL:  Elektra
YEAR:  1996
GENRE:  Heavy Metal/Hard Rock
FAVORITE SONG:  "Wasting My Hate"
NOTES:  As I mentioned in a previous post, I remember the massive amount of hype leading up to this release.  Then word starting spreading that Metallica had cut their hair.  Horror upon horrors.  Then the album was released.  I was very disappointed with it personally.  There are some decent songs here, but for the most part, it was completely unlike anything Metallica had previously released.  The thrash was gone completely.  It was some time before Metallica would be good again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

FMA Reviews: Varg: Guten Tag

Originally reviewed here.
Okay this one threw me too. I decided after some bad experiences that I needed to investigate bands before listening to them. Just to get some kind of an idea of what I am in for. So I checked out the ever-reliable Encyclopedia Metallum for some information about this band. I saw that they were listed as a pagan metal band with lyrical themes about Norse mythology and fantasy. I suppose that may have been true at one time, but it is definitely no longer the case.

My first clue was the album cover. It does not look like the kind of moody landscape picture you would normally expect out of a pagan metal band. It looks more like something that a dirty hard rock band would use. So already things are a little strange.

No, this is something else. While the melodies are somewhat folk-inflected, the riffs have an almost NWOBHM quality to them. These are definitely more traditional metal-based riffs. The vocals are more of a black metal-esque raspy growl. The songs are mostly faster-paced and energetic. Not the kind of sullen, atmospheric quality you would expect in a pagan metal band.

So we have established that this is not a pagan metal band. But enough about that. This is a really fun album. The lyrics are mostly in German so I have no idea what they are saying, but it still sounds as if Varg is having a good time creating this album. As I previously mentioned, some of the guitar melodies do have a folk-like lilt to them. And the guitar melodies are surprisingly upbeat for the most part. The happy sound of the melodies does not really match the hateful vocals, so it kind of comes off a little unbalanced, but for some reason it just works.

As the album goes on, more and more folk elements seem to become present, although this is by no means just a folk metal band. The band may use folk melodies, but their foundation is definitely in traditional metal.

2012 Reissue of the Year

I am going with Xenomorph which has been reissued on vinyl and on CD.  The CD also includes the band's demo.  Xenomorph is from Nebraska, my home state.  This is a terrific death metal album that fans of the genre definitely need to check out.  I picked up the vinyl release.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 67


ARTIST:  Sepultura
ORIGIN:  Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais (Brazil)
TITLE:  Refuse/Resist
LABEL:  Roadrunner Records
YEAR:  1993
GENRE:  Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Refuse/Resist"
NOTES:  At one point I made a decision that Sepultura was my favorite band and I tried to get as many of their releases as I possibly could.  This was my second release by the band and was an EP that was released prior to the Chaos A.D. album.  This features the "Refuse/Resist" track as well as a number of covers of bands like Final Conflict, Ratos de Porao, and Motorhead, and some live tracks.  It is a pretty decent little EP.

Friday, January 11, 2013

FMA Reviews: Spawn of Possession: Incurso

Originally reviewed here.
Spawn of Possession is yet another technical death metal band. The band has been around for awhile now, though I have not previously had an opportunity to check them out. This is the band's third full-length and their first one in six years. I had heard good things about their prior albums, with some calling them a cross between Obscura and Necrophagist. So I was kind of anxious to hear this group.

The first thing that I noticed with this release is that the band bears a much stronger sonic resemblance to Obscura than to Necrophagist. I have mentioned several times my standard for what is good technical death metal compared to bad stuff. Even though I like Necrophagist, their sound can sometimes come off as cold and sterile. It is as if the band exists to be as technical as possible without much concern for crafting decent songs. Again, I like Necrophagist, but some imitators such as Brain Drill come off as far too mechanical. Obscura on the other hand sounds more human, though still very technical.

There is definitely a lot of alternating guitar shredding and noodling. Despite this, the individual band members do a nice job of making it sound interesting. Sometimes the overly technical groups get too bogged down in throwing a ton of riffs and leads in and the whole thing kind of comes apart at the seems. It is often hard to listen music like that for long. The constant interjecting sounds get to be too much to really handle and interest is lost quickly. Spawn of Possession avoid this by at least keeping tracks grounded in one cohesive idea. The vocals do a nice job of keeping things on track too.

Spawn of Possession's biggest gift is their ability to write songs that emphasize the technicality but are not afraid to be melodic at the same time. The band may shift time signatures and throw riffs out of nowhere, but there appears to be a method and reason for everything. That is often lost in other bands that sound like one long technical guitar improvised jam session. Spawn of Possession have crafted their songs to be stand-alone tracks with the technicality something of an afterthought.

I came away from this release very impressed. Obscura and Decrepit Birth have been two of my absolute favorite technical death metal bands for some time. I would place Spawn of Possession up on that pedestal alongside those two groups. This is simply a terrific example of technical death metal done well.

Latest Addition to the 2012 Albums

This one has not had a chance to fully sink in yet, but it likely would have been a Top 20 album, if not Top 10 album.  And I got it on cassette.  That's right.  A new full-length album in 2012 released on a cassette.

Cataloguing My Metal Collection Pt. 66


ARTIST:  Pantera
ORIGIN:  Arlington, TX (United States)
TITLE:  Vulgar Display of Power
LABEL:  Atlantic Records
YEAR:  1992
GENRE:  Groove Metal
FAVORITE SONG:  "Mouth for War"
NOTES:  This is the album that really caused groove metal to take over as the most popular metal subgenre for a little while.  The music was much more simplified on this release from the power/thrash metal of the previous release.  Dimebag Darrell's riffs and Phil Anselmo's tough-guy snarl were the driving forces of this release and "Walk" proved to be a very popular song.  I just do not care much for this album.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Albums I Missed in 2012

PALLBEARER: SORROW AND EXTINCTION

GRAND MAGUS: THE HUNT

GRAND SUPREME BLOOD COURT: BOW DOWN BEFORE THE BLOOD COURT

EVOCATION: ILLUSIONS OF GRANDEUR

INCANTATION: VANQUISH IN VENGEANCE