Thursday, December 11, 2014

EP Briefs (I Need to Catch Up)

I am trying to clear out some emails here and figured since these were all shorter releases that a quick paragraph would suffice.  I found myself enjoying all three releases for different reasons, so don't take the brevity of the reviews as an indictment against them.

Creinium is a technical extreme metal band from Finland.  It definitely starts out kind of weird, with some ambient synth work and some imposing narration but then kicks it into gear on the next track.  Creinium continues to use a lot of keyboards, giving the band kind of a death metal Dimmu Borgir sound, or a more technical Luna Ad Noctum.  The band combines a number of different metal genres into their sound, making a precise description somewhat difficult.  The keyboards are really the star here as they distinguish the group from others.  Without them, there would not be a whole lot to talk about.

This is the second post-metal band I have reviewed in the last week.  I suppose "post-metal" would be far too limiting a term, as Pineal clearly has a lot of sludgy riffs with some Alice In Chains-esque vocals as well.  The band is more of a cross between Crowbar, Alice In Chains, Neurosis, and some Tool for good measure.  The riffs are ridiculously heavy and of course slower-paced, and the haunting vocals add a sense of doom and gloom that carries forward through the entire release.  It is an overall dark and depressing release that sounds great on a cold, dreary night like tonight.

Crushing Axes is a one-man death metal project from Brazil, although apparently a session drummer and bassist were used.  The vocals are the major standout.  Sounding something like Nespithe-era Demilich, they consist of deep, frog-like croaking, though not as extreme as the aforementioned Demilich.  The music is fairly simple mid-tempo groove-laden death metal with some interesting lead guitar work on the melodies.  The release in theme and sound does a pretty decent job of capturing the general feel of the catchier work by Amon Amarth.  I would like to see a Brazilian band like this cover some of Brazil's own badass mythology though.

Monday, December 8, 2014

In Memory of Dimebag

This is my all-time favorite Pantera song, and probably Top 10 songs of all-time:

I don't care for much later Pantera, but Cowboys from Hell is awesome.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ovenizer: Exhibition of Thoughts (2014)

I have never really gotten into post-metal.  Groups like Tombs and Isis were kind of lost on me.  Maybe I just never really heard the right tracks to check them out more.  I did not want to pick something up without really checking it out particularly with that style of music and I guess a lot of that had to do with the fact that I am much more into the ultra-aggressive forms of metal.  The ethereal, dreamlike structures of post-metal don't speak to me in the same way.

So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I dove into this three-song EP from Finnish post-metal/doom trio Ovenizer.  I figured a three-track release would be easy enough to digest though without growing too painful.  I am actually kind of glad I took the chance.  Maybe I was just a melancholy mood when listening to it, but it really did capture my attention and I found myself enjoying it immensely.

It is true that the three song format was easy to digest, but I found myself wanting more.  The songs each move freely with a significant amount of melody and swirling guitar riffs creating a trance-inducing atmosphere.  The vocals are typically clean, though occasionally a death growl emerges.  The vocals though are just complementary to the music.  The band could have just as easily produced the same atmosphere without any vocals at all.

The songs are typically slow and depressive.  The band strikes a balance between the earlier works of groups like My Dying Bride and Katatonia with the heavier works by Isis.  It is a very dark and doom-laden sound that also presents some extremely strong emotions, in particular during second track "Hypnote", the strongest track on the album.

I really enjoyed this release, but the best thing that I can say about it is that it has opened up my eyes to a genre I did not previously get into.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hellcrawler/Wölfe: The End of Humanity (2014)

Do other forms of music even do splits?  It seems like the only splits I ever hear about are in extreme metal and related genres.  Seriously, are there splits in rap music?  Pop music?  

Anyway, this is a split between two obviously extreme metal bands.  You don't get a name like Hellcrawler in the pop music realm.  Each band contributed about ten minutes worth of music, which does a surprisingly good job of introducing the band to someone like myself who is not familiar with either group.

Hellcrawler has taken the Entombed death 'n roll sound and run with it.  The Slovenien group (that's right, Slovenian) has one full length album under their belt before this split.  Their side of the split is three tracks of dirty, filthy death metal with some surprisingly catchy hooks.  Third track "Green Machine" is a cover of one of the greatest Kyuss songs.  They do a decent job putting their own spin on it.  

Wölfe is definitely extreme.  An odd mix of grindcore and blackened thrash.  The band apparently does not actually name their songs, titling them with Roman numerals only.  The production values leave a little to be desired as the sound is a little too high-pitched and grating.  The drums have that certain St. Anger quality.  The vocals are pretty terrible as well.  I will likely not be revisiting Wölfe.

So, two sides, one really good and the other really bad.  I will definitely be trying to track down some more Hellcrawler.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cyrax: Reflections (2013)

If I had to pick just one word to describe the sound of Cyrax, it would be eclectic.  I think that is the most accurate descriptor for a band that combines such a wide and varied mix of music into their sound.  The Italian five-piece can go from blues rock to metal at the drop of a hat.  None of which would be possible if the musicians were not all as incredibly talented as they are.

The album starts off with the track "Doom Against True Hell", which features a hefty amount of synthesizer programming to open things up before diving into a much more standard power-chord-driven riff, which is easily the heaviest riff on the release.  That sound is frequently spliced with more programming, some choral vocal lines, and singer Marco Cantoni's howling vocals.  This sets the stage for most of the rest of the songs, which manage to throw a number of other influences in as the album progresses.

Along the way, there are some strange moments which may be considered missteps depending on the listener.  For instance, "My Kingdom for a Horse" features some vocal segments that can best be described as akin to rapping.  Which is strange, to say the least.  Other sections feature more of the choral style, which is typically done quite well.  Much of the album relies on keyboards to drive the melody, which can be interesting when done well, but some of the more experimental sections can be a little strange.  And of course the track "Feel the Essence of Blues" is much more of a blues song than metal, which is a bit of an unusual and rather courageous addition.

The members of Cyrax are clearly talented musicians, which is the only reason that they are able to pull this album off.  It is a very strange and varied release that sees influences from a variety of non-metal genres, as well as metal.  Is it for everyone?  Probably not.  But it is certainly an entertaining and interesting release.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Neoplasmah: Auguring the Dusk of a New Era (2014)

I'll be honest.  The cover art for this one threw me for a loop.  Based on the artwork of a man floating above a pool of water with multiple planets/moons in the background around him, I was thinking the music was going to be some kind of spacey progressive metal akin to Andromeda, Bal-Sagoth, and the like, or at the very least some overly technical metal wankery.  I was not expecting what turned out to be a death metal album.

To be fair, this is much more of a progressive death metal album in the vein of Mithras and Nocturnus.  The bass in particular reminds me very strongly of Nocturnus's classic The Key.  The science fiction theme, complicated song structures, otherworldly bass sound, and deep vocals combine into a cohesive sound that really does give off the feel of a sci-fi concept album. 

Each of the musicians is extremely gifted at their instruments.  The bass is definitely the star of the album but the drumming and lead guitars are also top-notch.  The drumming, while not as complicated as some progressive metal drummers (i.e. no polyrhythms and multiple time signatures) drives the music with its precision and intensity.  The lead guitar work provides a lot of the melody of the songs and can go from almost neoclassical shredding to dissonant chord progressions fairly quickly. 

The vocals of singer Sofia Silva are delivered in a raspy tone that calls to mind Sabina Classen of Holy Moses, who is one of my personal favorite female extreme metal vocalists, so I am on board.  There is not frequently a lot of dynamics to the vocals, but they nonetheless fit well with the urgency of the music.  On occasion the band utilizes clean backing vocals which provide a nice dichotomy to the otherwise more monotone vocal style.

One thing I did really enjoy with this release is that, unlike a lot of progressive metal bands, Neoplasmah craft complete songs, rather than a collection of musical segments.  Songwriting appears to be just as important to this band as showing off their technical skills.  The band takes things one step further by being able to blend all of the songs into a complete album rather than just a collection of separate and distinct songs.

This is an album that sounds better and better with repeated listens.  There is a lot going on musically that can be missed and revealed in hearing it again and again. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Villainy: The View from My Ivory Tower (2014)

Villainy has not been around for very long.  They released their first full-length album in 2013 and then a collection of their demos in 2014.  This is a follow-up two-song EP from the power trio.  I was not previously aware of Villainy, so this is my first experience with the band.

The music is an unholy combination of doom, black, and crust.  The opening track crawls out of the gate with the pace of a snail slinking to its demise.  The pace increases to a more of a deathly gallop before returning to the dirge.  The song definitely has a Sabbathian feel to it, despite the more modern influences.

The second track is a much more fast-paced song that sounds like Motorhead playing Venom.  As a big fan of groups like Wastelander and Thargos, this song really catches my interest.  If this is what the rest of Villainy's material sounds like, I am all in. 

Unfortunately this is just a two-song EP, but it definitely piqued my curiosity to check out more by Villainy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sinister: The Unborn Dead (2014)

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 3, 2014

You're Probably Wondering Where the Hell I Have Been

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

See you soon.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kult of Taurus: Divination Labyrinths (2014)

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul: Splatterhash (2014)

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Godhunter: City of Dust (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Innsmouth: Consumed by Elder Sign (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ass to Mouth: Degenerate (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fear of Domination: Distorted Delusions (2014)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Verscythe: A Time Will Come (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Mantis: Death Mask (2014)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Drug Honkey: Ghost in the Fire (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


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

Friday, April 11, 2014

Halahkuh: Desecration (2013)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hiss from the Moat: Misanthropy (2013)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Impending Trial

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

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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Little Update

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dementia Senex: Heartworm (2013)

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Terrifier: Metal or Death (2013)

And we finally come to the end of the VladPromotion stuff that has been sent to me over the last year.  It was a huge number of thrash metal, and the occasional traditional metal release, from a variety of countries.

This is Canada's Terrifier.  I have heard a little bit from this band through the stuff that has been sent to me.  They used to be called Skull Hammer which I remarked that I would have stayed with as it is a little bit more of an unusual name than Terrifier.  But to each their own I guess.

This is a short three-song EP that sounds even shorter due to the fact that it is so fast.  In fact it's too short.  The music is surprisingly good so that it made me want to hear more.  Unfortunately that just is not possible.

The bass is definitely an important instrument here.  We have come a long way since Metallica turned Jason Newsted's bass way down in the mix on ...And Justice for All.  The bass is playing a lot of the riffs alongside the rhythm guitar and is so high in the mix that it gives the sound a thundering, rumbling feel.

This is definitely a fun, fast-paced thrash EP that is just too short.  Looking forward to more, Terrifier.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sanity's Rage: You Are What You Swallow (2012)

Belgium is not a country well-known for its metal scene.  I had to look back at my post from 2011 to find what I listed as my favorite band because I could not think of anyone off the top of my head.  Enthroned and Aborted have been the only metal bands I have had much exposure to.  Which brings us to the thrash metal band Sanity's Rage, just the third Belgian metal band I have heard.

I'm not really sure of the album title.  Sounds like something that could be a little juvenile, disgusting, or something.  The album cover though has little or nothing to do with the album title, so maybe I'm wrong.  It's never happened before, but I suppose anything is possible.

Sanity's Rage is a fairly impressive mix of Bay Area thrash, Iced Earth-style galloping power metal, and a little bit of German biting thrash thrown in for good measure.  The music is very fast with lightning-fast riffs, jackhammer-style drumming, and impressively fast staccato vocals, somewhat similar to Sabbat's Martin Walkyier.  The riffs fluctuate naturally without feeling forced, which is noteworthy given how fast these songs move.  It is amazing how much you can cram into a five minute song when moving so quickly.

This is Sanity's Rage's first full-length album even though the band has been around since 2002.  You wouldn't know it was a first album based on the crisp production and the tight instrumentation.  This is a band that sounds like seasoned veterans of the thrash metal scene.

If fast-paced, relentless thrash is your thing, this fits the bill.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mad Agony: Chernobitch (2013)

Mad Agony is another of those bands that have recently re-formed even though precisely no one was clamoring for a return.  They previously released a demo in 1992 before disbanding in 1993 and then returned in 2011.  This is their first full-length album.  I do not really know what lead to the re-formation of this long-dead Italian traditional metal band.  All I know is that they have re-formed.

The album starts off with the intro track, "Industrial Waste" building into the title track "Chernobitch", which I think misses the point of what Chernobyl was.  Musically, Mad Agony bears a strong similarity to German heavy/power metal bands such as Primal Fear, Sinner, Accept, and others.  The songs are melodic, but the riffs definitely have a heavy, razor-sharp edge to them.  Vocalist Max Zanetti has a powerful, wailing voice that furthers the comparison to Matt Sinner.  It fits the music very well and calls to mind metal vocalists from the early 1980's.

The big problem with this release is that a lot of the songs tend to drag at times.  Mad Agony is trying to do a little too much musically at times and the band loses focus and the songs suffer.  There are a few songs that could be a minute or two shorter and would be much better for it.  They are at their best when they are playing fast and heavy, loud and proud.  The straightforward material is the best material here.  Mad Agony even succeed with the much slower and acoustic-driven "Eclipse of a Friend", particularly during the remarkable guitar solo work.  The ultra fast, thrashy section in the middle of "The Poetry of Rage" is another triumph.

The album is a tad on the long side, but it is interesting and entertaining enough.  For those looking for some real 1980's-style German heavy metal, Mad Agony fits the bill.  Or you could just turn on those well-worn Accept albums instead.  Your choice.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FMA: Vardan: The Woods is My Coffin (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
As a metalhead, I try to immerse myself in as many different types of metal as I can. I find there are styles I like more than others of course, but I usually try a little bit of everything. One style that I have done only minimal exploration of is depressive black metal. I have heard Xasthur, Leviathan, Silencer, and a few others, but that's really about as far as I have gone. Most of it is a little tedious to listen to, long and very slow songs without a lot of direction. So I was a little reluctant to look into Vardan when the first song started.

Vardan is a one-man black metal band from Italy lead by Vardan, of course. This is as basic as black metal gets, minimalist riffs which are typically very slow, drums doing little more than keeping time, and tortured wailing vocals. The songs are quite long, with the shortest being just over six minutes. Vardan does do a decent job at changing up the riffs to keep things from becoming too monotonous. There are only five songs so it makes the length of each song a little more bearable.

Vardan is not, as it turns out, a depressive black metal act, despite the extremely slow-moving opening track. He does slow things down frequently and there is a little bit of depressive influences in the music, but he also throws in the occasional faster-paced riff just to keep things a little more interesting.

Ultimately this is probably a little too raw and simple for me. I like my black metal to have a little more going on than a couple of endlessly repeating riffs. I could see being able to listen to this in the dark alone, but it is not something that would have frequent playbacks in it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

FMA: Tiger Junkies: D-Beat Street Rock 'n Rollers (2008)

Originally reviewed here.
I had seen mention of Tiger Junkies quite a bit but I never really looked into them. Part of that is probably due to the band's ridiculous name. It is the kind of name you might expect for a hair band. And the "D-Beat" in the album name is more of a reference to something hardcore, rather than metal. I never really looked much farther than that and certainly not enough to see who was attached to the project.

If I had looked at the two individuals responsible for Tiger Junkies, I would have felt a lot different about checking them out. That is because Tiger Junkies is made up of Joel Grind from Toxic Holocaust (a favorite of mine) and Yasuyuki Suzuki of Abigail (who I am not as familiar with but still enjoy). The band began as a tradition between the two in which Grind would play with Suzuki whenever he happened to be in Japan. I am a big Toxic Holocaust fan and also enjoy Grind's work with Yellowgoat, even though both projects are basically the same thing. This is a re-release of the project's 2008 album with some extra material thrown in and one song removed.

With Grind's involvement, it is pretty clear what style of music this is going to be. It is a fast-paced thrash/crossover style that owes a great deal to the music of Motörhead, Discharge, Agnostic Front's Cause for Alarm and early Corrosion of Conformity. It is hardcore punk played with a lot of metallic riffs and a punk attitude. The songs are all fast and short with sneering vocals provided by both Grind and Suzuki oftentimes in a call-and-response style. The songs are not overly sophisticated, the riffs are simple and straightforward and the lyrics are typically about sex, partying, and booze.

Ultimately this is a dumbed-down, simplistic crossover album. There is something to be said for music that you can just put on and trash everything in sight while listening to. This is not for people who want their music to say something as it really doesn't. It's hardcore mixed with metal. That's it. There's nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lightning Lord: All Father Death Stalkers (2013)

This is going to be a really short review, because this is a really short EP.  You see, there are a couple of things people may think of when they think EP.  One is a short, four or five song album that does not exceed thirty minutes in length.  The other is short enough to fit on a 7" vinyl record.  Guess which one this is?

There are just two tracks here, so not a whole lot to go on.  Lightning Lord is a band that came from New York in 2012, yet sound like they came from England in the late 1970's or early 1980's.  Yep, NWOBHM is the sound here, specifically groups like Angel Witch, Diamond Head, Satan, and Hell.  The music is melodic, yet heavy with fast-paced speed metal riffs and soaring vocals.  Both tracks are almost anthemic with fist-pumping choruses and catchy hooks.

The vocals on second track "Children of the Night" are a little difficult to stomach on initial listens, but it gets better on repeated listens.  Other than that the problem I have with this is it's too damn short.  Looking forward to some proper material.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

As I Lay Dying Singer Pleads to Solicitation for Murder


Oh good, some legal news in metal.  Tim Lambesis, singer for "Christian" metal band As I Lay Dying, as well as Austrian Death Machine plead guilty as part of a plea deal to attempting to hire someone to kill his wife, with whom he was in the process of divorce.

The best I can tell, Lambesis was facing a few charges and plead to just the one.  California's penal code is a little bit hard to get through, I am used to Nebraska which is a lot more straightforward and user-friendly.  But I did not find the necessary statutory sections to look into the possible penalties.  It appears that there are three possible penalties he could be looking at: three, six, or nine years.  Kind of strange.  There is nothing in the penal code that lays out what to consider in determining which of the three penalties to sentence.  I suspect it is a weighing of all of the information.  I can not find anything about what recommendation, if any, that the prosecutors will make.

So that's it for Lambesis for awhile.  His sentencing will be May 2.

Iron Kingdom: Gates of Eternity (2013)

I covered an Iron Kingdom album earlier in the year when I was throwing together a bunch of albums into one post.  That album was the band's 2011 debut and I noted that the musicianship was impressive and the band was clearly influenced by Iron Maiden, but I was having problems enjoying it much because of the vocalist's high-pitched voice that was grating on the ears.  This album was released just last year and I guess we will see if they reined in the vocalist or not.

With the first song it is very clear that Iron Maiden is still the principle influence.  It starts off with a galloping riff and a melodic guitar lead.  The vocalist comes in and it is still obvious that he is attempting his best Bruce Dickinson, but he just does not have quite the range.  It sounds a lot closer to Cirith Ungol's Tim Baker than Dickinson, which would not be bad, but he is clearly trying very hard to be Dickinson.

Besides the more obvious aspects that show the Maiden influence, there is also the bassist.  Maiden's Steve Harris is one of the more dynamic bassists in all of metal, alongside Geezer Butler and others.  So it is only natural that a bass player who wants to get noticed would emulate that style.

Most of the songs on this are quite long.  There are a couple of seque tracks that are shorter, but otherwise every single song on here is longer than five minutes in length.  Which would be okay if that band was consistently interesting.  Unfortunately that is not always the case.  The band tends to slow things down at times and drag for long periods of time.  At moments like that, the album seems interminable.  I get that the idea is to combine their Maiden influence with early doom metal bands like Trouble, Cirith Ungol, and the like, but it just does not really translate well on the recording.

The musicianship on this release is still very impressive.  Unfortunately musicianship is not everything if the band in question can not write interesting music.  There are some good ideas here but they just do not really work out.  The vocalist is a little more bearable this time around though, so maybe there is still time for Iron Kingdom.

Monday, February 24, 2014

FMA: Profanatica: Thy Kingdom Cum (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Here we have the infamous Profanatica, one of the U.S.'s early black metal acts that took shock and extremity to vile new heights. For instance, in their live video, the band's bassist ejaculated onto a Bible and vocalist Paul Ledney licked it up. See? Vile.

Profanatica originally formed when death metal stalwarts Incantation broke up with John McEntee continuing as Incantation and the other members forming Profanatica. Profanatica lasted for about two years in the early 1990's before re-forming in 2001. Despite the fact that the band has existed in some form or other since then, Profanatica did not release their first full-length until 2007, relying on a steady stream of demos and splits until that time. Since then though, they have had three full-lengths.

Profanatica's music is hateful and dark, with an emphasis on the blasphemous. This is shown clearly with song titles like "Ruptureholyhymen" and "Thy Kingdom Cum". Their music is not terribly sophisticated, typically relying on one or two riffs per song, blasting drum beats, and raspy roaring vocals. The music is also highly repetitive. It is fairly clear that Darkthrone's early black metal releases (Transilvanian Hunger in particular) are the principal influences on the work of Profanatica.

Despite the repetitiveness and simplicity of the music (which let's be honest is fairly typical of this type of black metal), Profanatica succeed in bringing about the evil atmosphere and blasphemy that they work hard to create. Darkthrone's albums are considered classics in the genre and Profanatica is not really that far behind. The production is better, with a lot of bottom end and the songs are memorable, at least partially because of how repetitive they are.

The real problem with this release is that most of the songs kind of blend together. Sometimes a song leads directly into the next one, making it hard to identify which song is which.

I had not really heard much Profanatica before this release. I had heard songs here and there, but not a whole album before. I came away fairly impressed. I enjoy old school, hateful black metal and Profanatica is nothing if not hateful.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

HI-GH: Night Dances (2013)

Yeah, you can probably tell some things about this band from the cover of the album and their band name.  If you guessed that they enjoyed pot on occasion, you would probably be pretty accurate.  HI-GH also has a little bit of a weird sense of humor, best shown by their name for their style of music.  They play a combination of punk and speed metal that they refer to as "spunk".  Yes.

The Rome-based HI-GH plays a fast-paced, energetic brand of metal that bears a very strong resemblance to the early days of Metallica, Slayer, and Overkill.  Yes, I named three bands that are well-known for thrash metal.  But I am referring to the early recordings of those groups, back when the punk influences were more pronounced and they were just playing a faster brand of heavy metal (that's really all speed metal is in reality).  Think "Hit the Lights", "Rotten to the Core", and other tracks along those veins.

That being said, some of the songs are much closer to punk than the speed/thrash described above.  Tracks like "Zig Zag Shaped" definitely have a lot more punk than metal in it, with the simple, repeating riff and standard chord progression.  Real punk though, not the pop punk shit that most associate with it.  Dirty and raw-sounding punk.

It becomes pretty clear as the album goes on that this is a very light-hearted band.  Songs are a little humorous at times without a whole lot of heavy themes.  The songs are fun.  Tracks like "Let Me Know" which has a very bouncy and peppy feel to it.  Many of the songs in the middle of the album are a lot more light-hearted than expected.

The final track, which is twelve minutes of experimentation and random noodling, could be lost without any effect on the rest of the album though.  It does not match the rest of the album at all and is pretty tedious to listen to.

Overall I enjoyed this album.  It is not anything terribly special.  It's a bunch of songs that sound like the early days of thrash metal, when most of the bands were playing a combination of punk and speed metal.  It's an interesting retro-sounding album.  Not bad.  Not terrific, but it is a lot of fun.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gorefield: As Dawn Bleeds the Sky (2013)

Thought experiment time.  What would you expect a band named Gorefield to sound like?  You would probably think it would say it would be a death metal band.  You almost certainly would not expect a power/thrash metal band.  And yet here we are.  Australia's Gorefield is a thrash metal band with some power metal influences.  Not at all expected.

This release kicks off in an impressive fashion with a soft guitar melody building into some nice crunchy riffs.  The songs are melodic and powerful with catchy choruses and hooks, particularly on second track "Love Thy Enemy".  I found myself singing that chorus over and over while out feeding my wife's horses.

Gorefield does a very good job at switching up the tempos and melodies.  The band will play some faster, heavier riffs, then immediately drop into a slower gear with some softer moments.   "Playing with Fire" is definitely the biggest highlight on the album with the engaging opening bass riff that comes damn close to resembling funk.  A little unusual for thrash metal.  

The vocals are definitely interesting.  Much more power metal-influenced with a lot of emotion and some impressive harmonics.  It is a bit of a different take on thrash metal vocals.

I enjoyed this album quite a bit.  The songs are all very catchy.  This is not particularly brutal, heavy thrash.  It is much more appealing to people looking for something that is infectious and fun, not someone looking to break their necks headbanging.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Ultimately, they would probably be better served re-naming themselves though.  Gorefield is a misleading name.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Eternal Judgment: Fatal Virus (2013)

I have been doing a lot of these short, international thrash metal EPs lately.  It is good to see the thrash metal scene alive and well, and not just the bands aping the style of the Bay Area in the mid to late 1980's.  Fatal Embrace is a Canadian band that owes its existence to Sacrifice, Razor, and the highly underrated Canadian thrash metal scene.

Eternal Judgment is not a technical band.  Most of their riffs are fairly straightforward and simple, but heavy and razor-sharp.  The goal is just to rock and have fun.  The songs are centered around the verses and choruses.  There are not many long, drawn-out musical sections.  The band just rips through the songs without a whole lot of filler.

This is a fairly short EP, with just five songs.  The songs are typically on the shorter side and well-crafted, they are more moderately-paced, nothing too fast or too slow.  What is impressive is how mature these songs sound.  For a band that has only been around for a few years, these songs sound like they are performed by seasoned veterans.  The production is also crisp and clean.  This really does sound like a very professional job.

I was impressed by this EP, as I usually am by Canadian thrash metal.  Eternal Judgment is another band to keep an eye on in the future.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

FMA: Convulse: Evil Prevails (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
In the early 1990's, a couple of death metal bands formed in Finland that would prove to have a very unique style. Demilich was an extremely unusual band with oddball riffs and frog croak vocals. And then there was Convulse. There was just something unsettling about Convulse's sound. It was not massively different from other bands, but their ability to develop a frightening atmosphere was uncanny.

Unfortunately Convulse did not last long. They had just two albums, including the amazing World Without Godbefore breaking up in 1994. With the resurgence of old school death metal and the multiple reunions going on, it came as no surprise that Convulse came back together in 2012. Original members Juha Telenius and Rami Jamsa re-formed the band in 2012 and already have a two-song EP that released that year. The band followed that up with this album.

A lot of the problem with bands re-forming is that they are unable to capture the sound and atmosphere that they once defined them. Some bands achieve notoriety for the brevity of their careers and the few releases they have are lionized. This is unfortunately the fate of Convulse here. There is nothing really wrong with this release but it feels like a desperate attempt to capture the sound of their beloved 1990's albums. Since that time, a number of bands have attempted the same sound to the point that it is not really that unusual any more. Convulse comes out sounding like another copycat.

As I said, there is nothing really wrong here. The songs are well-crafted slabs of sepulchral death metal. The vocals are still as desiccated as ever, sounding as if the vocalist had just risen from the crypts. The riffs are impressive and the leads and soloing adds some nice flair. Some of the songs are downright vicious. These are definitely some great songs and a worthwhile addition to the recent old school death metal wave, especially coming from a revered act like Convulse. The only problem is that it just does not feel like Convulse. It feels like an imitator.

I think this is a decent album, but it feels more like a World Without God imitator rather than a follow-up. I wonder if I hold it to a higher standard because it is a Convulse album. If it were a different band's name on the cover would I give it a higher score? I don't know the answer to that question.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Deathinition: Art of Manipulation (2013)

This is a very short four-song EP from Poland's thrash metal act Deathinition.  Previously the band has released a single and a demo in their short career so far.  But Deathinition gets a lot of stuff packed into this 16+ minute EP because they play very fast.

Deathinition plays lightning-fast riffs with an incredible amount of precision.  The riffs are razor-sharp with some impressive melodies in the lead guitars and solos.  The vocals are interesting in that a very obvious accent can be detected.  That is somewhat unusual in a lot of music.  I have not noticed much of an accent in Vader or Behemoth, two other Polish metal acts, so this is kind of unusual and makes the vocals really stand out.  There is also a bass solo in the second track.  When is the last time you heard one of those?

This is largely a retro-sounding thrash metal album that is influenced by a variety of thrash metal styles thrown together.  Early Destruction seems to be the biggest influence with the fast riffs and ferocious vocal style, but there is quite a bit of Bay Area thrash in there as well.

I liked this release quite a bit.  It has a power and energy that is captivating.  It is just 16 minutes long, but it is a highly enjoyable 16 minutes.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Besegra: Infortunium (2013)

First off, let's talk about the album cover.  What the hell is going on here?  We have the band members rendered as some kind of armored medieval battalion taking on what looks like goblins or demons or something.  It's pretty ridiculous.

Besegra is a Canadian thrash/melodic death metal band releasing their first recorded material on this six-song EP.  I will give the band credit for their energy on this release.  The band typically plays fast-paced thrash metal with a lot of enthusiasm and winding riffs.  Leads and solos twist and turn throughout the EP.  The vocals are consistently delivered in a rougher style.  They do not really have much in the way of dynamics throughout the EP.

Besegra does slow things down once in awhile.  It is there that they play a softer melody, usually by the lead guitar before leading back into the heavier, faster sections.  However these slow sections come across as largely unnecessary.  Perhaps if the band was a little bit better at making the segue not feel as jarring, it would work a little better.

Besegra are very talented musicians, but they have a little bit of trouble making cohesive musical choices.  They are a young band so the chance is there that the band will improve over time.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bane of Bedlam: Monument of Horror (2013)

Ah, Australian thrash metal.  I should be more clear.  This is not a band that would fit in with Destroyer 666, Abominator, or the rest of the war metal scene.  No, Bane of Bedlam is a fairly straightforward thrash metal band.  No black metal influences here, though there are some death metal influences based on the extremity of the sound.

Bane of Bedlam is a very rhythmic thrash metal band.  Their riffs are not terribly melodic, nor is there much melody to be found here at all.  There are a few guitar solos, but not as many as other thrash groups, and typically the riffs are a little lacking in dynamics.  Nevertheless, this is absolutely brutal for thrash metal.  The songs speed by like a runaway locomotive, but with a surprising amount of precision in the riffing style.  The vocals are reminiscent of early Mille Petrozza, only a little more gruff (that's saying something).  They are far more closely related to melodic death metal than thrash metal.  The band seems to draw most of their thrash metal influence from the German scene, it is a far more brutal and intense form of thrash metal.

The songs on this release are typically longer, with only one track clocking in at less than five minutes.  This leaves plenty of time to throw in as many riffs as possible.  And Bane of Bedlam certainly excel at that.  Like the best albums from Dark Angel, this is a non-stop riff-fest from start to finish.

The most impressive moment is toward the end of "Atrocity Divine" where the band really switches things up.  This is one of the few moments where the melody really comes through.  The band goes into a brief acoustic interlude then transforms into a guitar melody reminiscent of early Iron Maiden with some classical-style picking and a driving drum beat.  It is an incredibly pretty moment in an otherwise rough and brutal album.  One that really stands out because of how unexpected it is.

Bane of Bedlam is yet another band just now releasing their debut album.  But I have to say, this is one hell of an impressive one.  If you like thrash with a lot of riffs, this is for you.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

FMA: Satan's Host: Virgin Sails (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
I love Satan's Host. I have made absolutely no secret of that over the years. Their last full-length of original material nabbed the top spot on my end of the year best albums list. I even enjoyed a lot of their black metal material when their Satanic lyrics and image were overwhelming. Of course Patrick Evil's stunning guitar work was the star attraction, as it has always been throughout the band's history. Their blackened power metal style of their last album is still my favorite. So I was pretty excited when Satan's Host released a new album.

This is the long-running evil Colorado band's second album since Leviathan Thisiren, aka Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer, returned to the band for the first time since their 1987 EP. His return had brought back a clean vocal style instead of the blackened rasp of former vocalist L.C.F. Elixir. This change in vocal style brought a significant amount of attention back to the band, even though their black metal material was actually pretty strong.

This album is a continuation of the blackened power metal sound that reared its head on Satan's Host's last album. There is still definitely some black/death metal style riffing that can be heard on occasion, hearkening back to the band's older material before the return of Conklin. Every once in awhile, I expected a song similar to their re-recorded album. But the band would quickly return to the more traditional metal style in both riffs and vocals.

Of course the real stars on this album, as with the last album, are guitarist Patrick Evil and Conklin. Evil's songwriting and riffs continue to be top-notch. He is definitely at the top of his game, even in his 50's. He does a terrific job of combining traditional-sounding riffs with much heavier blackened-death riffing style. What results is an album that is powerful and yet extremely dark. He also throws in some impressive solos.

Conklin's voice is as strong as it has ever been. His soaring wails and harsher backup vocals during call-and-response moments truly drive this album. Conklin is easily one of the more underrated vocalists in metal as his work in Jag Panzer and on this album can attest. Even more impressive is the fact that this is likely his best work.

Satan's Host has definitely continued their excellent string of albums. The only knock is that this album does not have one truly standout track on it. It does not have a "Fallen Angel" like the last one did. But it is an overall excellent release.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Animator: Blacklisted (2013)

In the pantheon of possible thrash metal names, "Animator" is somewhere near the bottom, especially when considering the fact that they used to go by the name Heresy, which is cliche, but more appropriate.  I am not sure of the meaning in regard to a metal band name.  "Re-Animator" would make sense, after the Lovecraftian movie.  "Animator" does not.  Nevertheless, there have been bad band names before and there will continue to be bad band names.

Animator is an Irish thrash metal band.  Ireland does not have a real large metal scene, but the country has developed some decent groups, including Gama Bomb, a pretty good thrash metal band in their own right.  Animator is a bit more underground than Gama Bomb, without nearly the exposure that that band has.  But that does not mean anything with regard to quality.

The sound of Animator is typically fast-paced and energetic, bearing a strong similarity to East Coast thrash metal acts like Anthrax and Overkill.  There is a highly infectious punk rock energy to the band's songs.  There are some pretty strong riffs on here as well.  Animator slows things down once in awhile, particularly on "In God We Trust", which is more of a mid-paced cruncher.  The band is a little bit better when they are playing balls-to-the-wall fast.

The vocals are really nothing to write home about.  Typically shouted without a lot of dynamics or range.  The band does make use of gang vocals on occasion, another obvious punk influence.

I enjoyed this release.  It was not particularly groundbreaking, but it was a fun listen.  Not bad for a debut.

Friday, February 14, 2014

FMA: Revocation: Revocation (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Recently I covered Havok. I was a little disappointed with their most recent album and cited them as a reason that a lot of people are disenchanted with the retro thrash metal movement that arose in the last decade. They just do not really do anything new with their obvious influences, content to rehash ideas that were a little stale 25 years ago. Thankfully not all bands from Havok's peers fall into the same trap. Enter Revocation.

Revocation is a band that easily takes their old-school influences and makes an intriguing, unique sound that stands out from their retro thrash peers. Revocation does not entirely fit within that movement as their sound is much more modern and refreshing, but they obviously still have a lot of old-school thrash metal influence.

The Boston-based band melds face-melting riffs, incredible guitar leads, and blazing solos with technicality and skill that has not been seen often in other bands that have come from the same scene. Their songs are often complex and progressive but remain listenable. Their sense of songwriting remains sharp.

There are some kind of odd moments here that just seem to work surprisingly well. The most obvious example of this is the use of a banjo on "Invidious". It is a rather bizarre use of an instrument that causes chills for anyone who has seenDeliverance. But despite its non-metal associations, the banjo actually fits in well with Revocation's sound.

Then, of course, there are the more standard ripping songs on this. Tracks like "Fracked", "The Hive", and "Archfiend" are typical Revocation songs, complete with ultra-fast tempos and technical riffs.

Revocation is one of the more talented bands to come out of the retro thrash metal scene and they once again prove why that is on this release.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

44Mag: Outlaw Psychosis (2013)

Hmm.  My first thought looking at the band's name, logo, and the album title was that this would be some kind of Southern rock/groove-Hellyeah-style-whatever.  It would appear to be hard-rocking, beer-swilling dumbed-down music.  Some of the song titles don't really help with that.  Just look at "Brain Douche", "D.U.I.", and "Rock Smoker".  So I was prepared to hate this.

Despite all of that, the band is much more of a thrash/groove metal band, though one with a definite swagger that you would expect from a band fitting the description above.  There is a rather large amount of other influences in this, including straight-up hard rock, such as on "50 miles" which sounds like Guns 'N Roses gone a little more metal.  Other times they pull off the tough-guy groove metal sound of later Pantera, complete with Phil Anselmo-esque vocals.

It is pretty clear from the lyrics and song titles that this is a band that likes to party, get drunk, and have fun.  "D.U.I." is fucking stupid though and we don't need some meatheads glorifying driving drunk.  I have images burned into my mind from an alcohol-related motor vehicle homicide case that I had to defend.  It was a terrible case, and the two that died were not the drivers of the car.  I just don't care for this song at all because of it.

This is not a band that takes themselves too seriously.  Sometimes that is just fine.  We don't always need something that is overly thought-out, sometimes simple is just fine.  I did not hate this like I thought that I would.  It is fairly simplistic and the intentions of the band are very clear, it's dumb party metal.  Overall this is probably not something I would revisit often.  But others may like it a lot more than myself.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Teleport: Stellar Damnation (2013)

A lot of Slovenian bands have found me lately.  The latest is this thrash metal band that owes a lot of their sound to bands like Voivod, Vektor, Coroner, and other technical bands.

This is a short, three-song demo, Teleport's third such release since 2010.  The first track is simply an introductory instrumental track that builds up into the second song, which is far more representative of what to expect from Teleport.  The sound is definitely a much more progressive and technical one, with mechanical-sounding riffs and frequent time signature changes.  The sound is one which would have been at home in the late 1980's when technical thrash was becoming more commonplace.  It is truly a whirlwind of riffs and once one settles in for awhile, it quickly changes to something else.

The lyrics deal with a lot of science-fiction and Lovecraftian themes, furthering the comparison to Voivod and Vektor.  The vocals are delivered in a raspy shriek that calls to mind early blackened/death metal bands.  It fits in reasonably well with the music and lyrics but may not be the most appropriate style.

The only real issue I had with this is that some of the riff and time-signature changes seemed a little jarring.  This has the effect of feeling like multiple recorded sessions that were thrown together in editing.  This is a young band though and the chances are pretty good that they will be able to write more fluid songs in time.

I was impressed by this demo.  I like the style of metal, there are just a couple of minor things to work out, and I hope that they do.  I will be watching for a full-length.