Friday, January 31, 2014

Lovijatar: Pimean Tuoja (2013)

Huh.  Of all of the subgenres of metal to combine into a new sound, I would never have expected stoner doom and folk metal to be entwined.  What's next?  Actually, I can't even think of a more unlikely combination.  Thrash metal and funeral doom I suppose.  That is now going to be the genre of my one-man band.  I will call it Speed Reaper.

Before I get to composing though, we need to talk about Lovijatar.  The name comes from Finnish mythology, as might be guessed.  Lovijatar is the blind daughter of Tuoni, the Finnish god of death.  The band is made up of members of Battlelore, a band for whom I am familiar, and Elephant Bell, a band for whom I am not.  Lovijatar is a true combination of those two bands' sounds apparently as Battlelore comprises the folk metal influence and Elephant Bell the stoner doom influence.

The riffs are thick and meaty with a lot of bass.  The stoner doom influence is very evident in the guitar riffs.  The folk metal influence permeates everything else, from the lyrics and vocals to the interludes to the extra instrumentation that is sometimes present.  Some of the melodies are also clearly folk-influenced, at least those that are not driven by the heavy stoner doom riffs.

The songs on this album are shockingly catchy and infectious.  I found myself tapping my foot along with it quite frequently.  The musicianship is incredible and the vocals really drive the album, the dual vocals on "Uhrilehto" in particular.  Some of the songs are much softer and far more folk-influenced, but then something like the High on Fire-esque riff in "Kulje Kuu Pala Paiva" happens, dragging it clearly back into the metallic.

I really enjoyed this album.  Apparently stoner doom and folk metal mix quite well when done by musicians of this caliber.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Incarceration: Sacrifice (2013)

I don't really think of death metal when I think of the name "Incarceration".  I have a fair amount of experience with incarceration, being a criminal defense attorney, and if I had to pick a style of metal that would fit best with the term, it would be thrash metal.  But we are not here to trifle over names.  Just know that Incarceration is a death metal band from Brazil that relocated to Germany.

The music here is a very impressive mix of the early Swedish death metal of Nihilist, Carnage, and Dismember with the more typical South American influences of Morbid Visions-era Sepultura and Sarcofago.  It is incredibly fast and intense with breakneck riffs, pounding drums, and hoarse, shouted vocals.  The guitars have a little bit of that buzzsaw quality that defined the early Swedish death metal scene, but the attitude and swagger definitely comes from mid-80's Brazilian metal.  The three songs presented here are take-no-prisoners barn burners.

The production is a little strange.  It has a kind of bizarre echoing quality, like it was recorded in a cave, or a jail cell.  Maybe that's where the name comes from.  It was a little distracting at first, but over time it is not as noticeable and just adds to the dark atmosphere of the EP.  The drums are a bit high in the mix and not really doing enough interesting stuff to be that noticeable.

I am definitely impressed by this band.  I will be looking forward to more material by them in the future.

Incarceration Bandcamp.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

FMA: Deeds of Flesh: Portals to Canaan (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
There are so many bands that I hear good things about that I keep meaning to check out. The problem is I often simply do not have the time. It is kind of depressing sometimes. Deeds of Flesh was one of those bands. The band has been around for about twenty years now and I just have not gotten around to them. Their albums are typically well-reviewed, but it is just hard to listen to everything.

When I saw this album art, I knew I had to get it this time. Deeds of Flesh is one of a number of bands to combine brutal death metal with a fair amount of technicality. I would not go so far as to call them a technical brutal death metal band, because their sound is so much more organic than that. There is enough technicality in the riffs and progressions to keep things from being too dumbed down, but not so much that it takes away from the music and becomes extremely difficult to listen to. The band is far more similar to groups like Spawn of Possession, Psycroptic, and Origin, than Brain Drill. The songs are complex, but they are actually songs.

The songs on here are typically longer and filled with tons of riffs, some occasional solos and swirling guitar leads, and deep, guttural vocals. There is the occasional odd moment, such as the bizarre effects toward the end of "Entranced in Decades of Psychedelic Sleep". I am not even sure what was being used there, whether it was a vocal effect or some type of keyboard/guitar instrument. I can not even describe it other than to say it sounded like a mechanical buzzing. There is also the introduction to "Celestial Serpents", which sounds like an otherworldly communication to Earth. But strange moments like that are few, yet they add a little bit of color to what is otherwise a fairly typical, slightly technical brutal death metal album.

The songs are mostly sci-fi/horror driven, as clearly shown by titles like "Xeno Virus", and "Hollow Human Husks." "Rise of the Virvum Juggernaut" features samples of dialogue from "The Thing", one of my favorite movies, and is otherwise about an alien creature. The music fits in with the theme quite well.

It took me quite a while before finally checking out Deeds of Flesh, but I am glad I finally got around to it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FMA: Coffins: The Fleshland (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Coffins is what you would get if you played Hellhammer at half speed on your record player. Seriously. The Japanese death/doom trio plays a slow, sludgy, dirgey style of metal that sounds like the soundtrack to the darkest, most disgusting zombie movie imaginable. Coffins is one of the most prolific bands going and releases multiple recordings every year. It has to be exhausting to have to write and record new music this often, but it does not seem to bother Coffins much. Each new album sounds fresh, in a rotted, exhumed corpse sort of way.

This is actually only Coffins' fourth full-length album since their formation in 1996. They typically release their material in the form of EPs and splits. This is also the band's first full-length on a label with a wider audience as Relapse has picked up the band for this release. Whether this results in the band becoming more well-known remains to be seen.

Coffins presents their typical album here. Their songs tend to alternate between the slow deathy dirges with a ton of distortion and a tense atmosphere to songs with more of a galloping, faster-paced crunch. The one constant is the decayed, rumbling croak of band mainstay Uchino. The best songs are typically the ones that combine the groove-driven, faster sections with the disturbingly creepy atmosphere present in the slower tracks. "No Saviour" stands out as one such track. Then there is "Dishuman", which is the fastest track I have yet heard from Coffins, and comes perilously close To Mega Therion-paced Celtic Frost early in the track before descending into the murky sludgy pace the band typically uses.

This is one of the tighter recordings that I have yet heard from Coffins. Oftentimes the band tends to drift a little with the slower tracks into an almost hypnotic, trance-inducing sound and long drawn-out sections. Those are largely absent on this release. Instead each song flows about as well as this type of metal is capable of. The band has a better grasp on what they want to achieve this time around and are able to do so effectively. That makes this a much more enjoyable overall listen than albums past.

I have been a fan of Coffins for quite a long time, but this is undoubtedly one of the best albums I have heard from the band. Coffins has ceased to be a band in search of an identity. They have embraced their Hellhammer-laced-with-valium style and tightened up their sound.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Paganus Doctrina: Omnipotense Aeternae Diabolus (2013)

I am not sure I have yet heard a metal band from Costa Rica.  That has changed with this release from Paganus Doctrina.  The band released a demo in the mid 1990's that garnered some attention and followed that up with a split before breaking up.  They re-formed in 2006, released another split and finally released this, their debut full-length album in 2013.  So here we are.

Apparently Central American metal is just as raw and filthy as South American metal.  I assumed this was a possibility.  The initial track is incredibly creepy and does a very good job of building a terrifying atmosphere, from the rain introduction to the tortured wailing and inhuman shrieking of vocalist Lord Demogorgon, it is a truly horrific-sounding track.  It is definitely one of the more impressively frightening tracks I have heard in some time.

After that, the band settles into an unholy concoction of the nastiest, grimiest forms of black, death, and thrash metal imaginable.  The reference points are obvious for anyone who knows the bestial South American scene.  Even though Costa Rica is farther north, Paganus Doctrina clearly fits into that sound.  The album does manage to hold up its horror movie vibe and continues to sound eerie throughout.  The absolutely insane vocals continue as well.

So yeah, this album rocks, seriously.  It captures the creepy aesthetic that good occult extreme metal is supposed to achieve.  It is dark and chaotic and downright frightening.  Not one to listen to while alone in the dark.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Countess: Sermons of the Infidel (2013)

Countess is a Dutch black metal band that has been around since the early 1990's.  Yet this is the first time I have had an occasion to listen to them.  Surprising considering how prolific they have been, releasing close to an album per year since their inception.  Countess is made up of two members on this release.  Orlok is the main driving force and sings and plays keyboards, bass and drums.  Zagan provides the guitar parts.

Given their name, Bathory is a band that came to mind when I first began looking into this band.  Countess Bathory, you know.  But that appeared to be a fairly apt association.  Countess sounds very much like a combination of the rawer blackened heavy metal of Bathory's early recordings and the much more epic-sounding material of the more viking metal-oriented releases.  The opening track is a perfect example of this with its keyboard-driven melody and simple blackened riff.

Much of the rest of the album continues along in this vein, trading keyboard melodies, riffs, and the occasional blistering solo.  The vocals are typically delivered in a standard black metal rasp.  The keyboard melodies really stand out on this album and are incredibly infectious and memorable.

The only real complaint that I have about this album is that it seems to be missing the kind of sinister feel that most of black metal is built upon.  This is more of a blackened heavy metal album than a black metal album.  The keyboards and solos are so clean and give off a feel of power and epic atmosphere that the black metal elements are overwhelmed.

That being said, I did enjoy this album and will have to look into Countess's impressive back catalogue.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Murder Cafe/Earth Burnt Black: Desperate (2013)

When something is billed in my email as "the most interesting split EP of the year", I am fairly skeptical.  And with good reason, I am a cynic after all.  This is a short, five-song split that was sent to me by To the Head Records, a small label out of Colorado.  Here we have two bands, neither of whom I had heard before.  So this should be fun.

First up is Murder Cafe, a band from Grand Junction, Colorado.  Grand Junction has some really bad associations for me.  If this were more of a personal blog, I would share my reasons.  It isn't, so I won't, but know that I cringe a little with the mention of that town.  Murder Cafe is kind of an interesting doom metal band.  The bass and drum rhythms are not really typical for metal.  It sounds jazzier than is typical for metal.  The songs are kind of a strange take on metal in general, with some spoken word vocals at times, and the ever-present bass riffs driving everything.  The intro track is a complete waste of a minute and a half.  This side of the split is just very strange.  I am not sure what to think of this band.

Next, we have Greeley's Earth Burnt Black.  This band is heavy.  But the first song is ridiculously slow and does not really do much of anything other than feature power chords and screaming.   The second track is a little bit more conventional, and certainly a lot more interesting in that there is actually some progression and semblance to an actual song, rather than some random rhythmic strumming and singing.  It is definitely the best track on the album, but that is not really saying an awful lot here.

This might be grower material.  Both of these bands are taking somewhat unorthodox takes on doom metal.  On initial listens, it is not terribly impressive, but if you asked me after repeated listens, perhaps my mind will change.  Or perhaps not.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Vorna: Ajastaika (2013)

Kicking things off in a manner lifted from Black Sabbath's self-titled epic is "Taakse jaa".  Every self-respecting metalhead knows the beginning.  The pounding rain and the church bells.  But instead of leading into the pioneer's dark masterpiece, we get a swirling black metal riff.  That eventually leads into some Finnish folk elements, and that is where we stay for the rest of the release.

It has been quite awhile since I have heard a truly worthwhile folk metal release.  When I first discovered the genre it was pretty exciting and every band offered something new and different.  But I have been a bit jaded by the genre for a little while.  I think it occurred when Eluveitie steadfastly refused to switch up their formula on subsequent albums after Slania.  I realized too much folk metal sounds exactly the same.  Luckily, Vorna offers something, while not exactly unique, certainly interesting.

That something is the absolutely epic atmosphere of Vorna.  The music is lush and textured, with a lot of stuff musically going on beyond just the guitar riffs.  Vorna's songs are very melodic and this melody contributes to the epic sound of the band.  The band utilizes organs and keyboards along with the riffs that sound incredible.  The vocals are usually delivered in a gravelly growl and they fit the music well.

As I said, it has been awhile since I have heard a really good folk metal album.  This album is one such really good folk metal release.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Metal Briefs: Slovenian Bands

This is another catch-up post in which I put several bands together in one post.  These bands were all sent to me by the same promoter and they have one thing in common: they are all from Slovenia.  Slovenia is not exactly a metal hotbed.  According to Metal Archives, there are 217 documented metal bands from Slovenia.  Here are three of them:

Here we have a fairly young death metal band, releasing their first EP in 2013.  Armaroth plays a somewhat unique combination of slow and fast death metal.  At times, the riffs plod along at a snail's pace, but they often complement that with some surprisingly fast sections.  The slower parts are fairly typical for modern death metal, heavy, down-tuned riffs, and deep, grunted vocals.  The faster parts that connect verses or choruses to verses are often the most interesting parts musically.  The band is able to shift tempos fairly seemlessly, and do so quite often.  "Labyrinth of Greed" is the standout here, with its generally faster pace and rampaging riffs, along with an impressive solo.  This is a solid death metal EP from a rising group.

MIST: DEMO (2013)
Mist is a group of five Slovenian women playing doom metal in the vein of Black Sabbath, Candlemass, and other masters of the genre.  This is the band's first release, a demo of two songs.  Mist play real doom metal, the way that it was played when the genre was conceived.  It is slow and heavy, but with a lack of distortion so that the riffs really shine through.  The vocals of singer Nina Spruk are clean and haunting, adding to the occult feel of the songs.  This is an extremely impressive first recording.  I am anxious to see what else this band can do.

Mothermound was previously known as Expulsion and were active from 1995 to 2005.  In that time period, they only released on full-length.  After a hiatus, the band re-formed in 2009 under the name Mothermound.  Reference points for the band's sound start with the early bands at the forefront of combining doom metal and death metal, groups like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, with a little bit of progressive metal thrown in a la Opeth.  The band kicks things off with the epic length "Aurora Awaken", which is a little unusual.  Typically the epics come at the end of the album, so right away it is clear that Mothermound thinks a little outside the box.  The band typically utilizes clean riffs, with the occasional acoustic section, very much like Opeth.  The band does not follow the typical verse-chorus-verse progression, another similarity to Opeth and the other aforementioned bands.  Vocals are alternated between a gravelly growl and a clean wail which sounds very much like Layne Staley at times.  Not a bad album, although it does tend to drag a little at times, which is not unusual with this brand of metal.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

VladPromotion Quick Reviews Pt. 3: The End is at Hand

Finally, this is the last post from the stuff sent to me from Vlad Promotions.  Most of these bands have been thrash metal bands from a variety of countries.  I always like discovering new thrash metal.

Mad Maze is Overkill-worshipping thrash metal from Italy.  This is a fairly short release, with just four songs on it, but it was Mad Maze's first release.  The band has the same attitude and swagger as the famous New Jersey thrashers and the vocalist even attempts the sneering vocals of Blitz.  The only thing missing is the speed.  Mad Maze does not play nearly as fast as Overkill.  But this is just their debut and there is something here.  I would be willing to check back on them.

Changing things up a bit here, as we take a break from Italian thrash metal and get a Danish death/thrash band.  This is also Roarback's first release and the music sounds most like a combination of early Death, when they were still basically thrash metal, with a little bit of Demolition Hammer thrown in.  It is definitely heavier thrash, but the riffs are a little too simplistic.  The songs do not really go anywhere terribly interesting.  It is a decent attempt, and since it is a first release there is a learning curve.  They have their debut full-length coming out this year.

Polish thrash?  With a name like Rusted Brain, I would expect kind of silly party-thrash/crossover.  Something like Municipal Waste or D.R.I.  It starts off silly with what sounds like a sample of war sounds over classical music, I think it's a sample from Apocalypse Now.  The music kicks in and it is very fast and intense, and yes, fun.  It is just a frenzy of riffs and pounding drums, and it is simply relentless.  This is the kind of energy Metallica had on Kill 'Em All.  The Metallica reference also fits because the singer sounds like a young James Hetfield.  This is probably my favorite of the releases I have reviewed for Vlad Promotions, by a long shot.  It is definitely the most refined.

Alright, Canadian thrash!  This one was listed as Terrifier, so I had some difficulty finding anything about it until I found out Terrifier were originally called Skull Hammer.  I would have stuck with Skull Hammer personally, because Terrifier is too common.  As would be expected there is a fair amount of Sacrifice, Razor, and Slaughter in Skull Hammer's sound.  This sounds like something you would expect to have been released in the mid to late 1980's.  It is very authentic-sounding Canadian thrash, and there is definitely something to be said for that.

Finally, we have Brazilian thrashers Woslom.  Woslom has been kicking around for a few years, releasing a series of demos prior to this release.  In that time they have refined their fast and furious brand of thrash metal.  There is no clear-cut influences on this one, the band seems to take their ideas from a variety of bands.  The singer sounds a little like Chuck Billy of Testament when the band used more clean vocals.  The riffs are very impressive and the songs interesting enough to retain attention.  This is a very impressive release.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Frostland Darkness: Ad Moriendum Dei Gratia (2013)

I generally like those one-man black metal bands that are ambitious musically.  You can only hear so many ultra-lo-fi, raw, bedroom black metal bands.  I like the ones that try hard, like Burzum, Dodsferd, Lament Configuration, and others.  As you must have inferred by now, Frostland Darkness is a one-man black metal band.  Mantus Nord is the man behind the project, and he is from Finland.

Opening track "Rienaaja" is slow-paced with the same riff repeated over and over.  It does speed up in the final third, but the riff does not really change, making for a fairly dull listen.  Much of the rest of the album follows in the same general pattern, though most of the tracks start out much faster and just never really relent in speed.  The problem is that this is definitely more along the lines of the simplistic one-man black metal bands as mentioned before that I do not care as much for.

That is not the case for the entire album.  "Tuhon Kirkkaudessa" has a melodic opening and is probably the most dynamic track on the album, even though it does settle into the familiar single riff song.  It definitely has the cold atmosphere that good black metal is supposed to have.  In fact, the atmosphere is one thing this album has a decent amount of.  The other interesting aspect is that all of the lyrics are in Finnish, as could be concluded from the song titles referenced.  However since it is black metal, the lyrics can not really be understood anyway.

The biggest problem with this album is that it is fairly boring.  Since it is pretty simple and there is a lack of dynamics, not much really stands out about it.  It is not particularly impressive musically and it is not different enough from any other black metal band out there to capture attention.  As such, repeated listens are not likely to be frequent.  

I do not think this is a bad album.  Far from it.  It is just kind of boring.  I have said before, sometimes that is worse.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Metal Briefs: HellDProd Splits

Over the last several months I have gotten a number of stuff sent to me from the label HellDProd.  Since most of these are short demos or two-song splits, and older, I figured I would throw them all together in one post.

This is a two song split between German black metallers Augrimmer and Brazilian blackened death metal band Grave Desecrator.  I was previously familiar with Grave Desecrator and own their 2010 full-length.  Augrimmer was new to me.

Augrimmer's contribution to this is the track "This is How You Do It (With the Devil)".  I doubt it has anything to do with the Montell Jordan track "This is How We Do It", which was popular when I was in junior high.  Instead it appears to be a Darkthrone-esque track, mixing simple black metal with a little bit of a traditional metal flair and some impressive soloing.  The production value was actually a lot better than I thought I was going to get.  I was actually pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed this track.

Grave Desecrator, on the other hand, stick to their really raw and murky production values and their downright filthy blackened death style that is clearly influenced by the South American pioneers of their scene, Sarcofago and Morbid Visions-era Sepultura.  Grave Desecrator is not re-inventing the wheel here.  But I love the dirty style.

Both tracks on this release are impressive, but this split is not a necessity because it is just one song from each band.  It does make me want to check out Augrimmer, and would do the same if I was not already familiar with Grave Desecrator.  I guess that is the purpose behind these.

This is a much more worthy split.  Here we have a three-way split with each band having between four and seven songs.  On this one, the only band I was previously familiar with is Inquisitor who had been sent to me previously by the label for their two-song EP Dark Ages of Witchery.

Decayed is first up.  They are a Portuguese black metal band that has apparently been around since 1990 and put out a large number of demos, EPs, and splits during that time.  They have also had nine full-length releases.  I had never heard of them before.  This is fairly lo-fi black metal, but it is thrashy and hateful, just the way I like my black metal.  There is absolutely nothing pretty about any of the sound here, this is just straightforward dark and dirty black metal.  The vocals are impressive with a kind of echo effect that gives off the feeling of a demonic voice.

Irae is another Portuguese black metal band that has been just as productive in releasing material, though Irae has not been around as long.  Irae is a one-man band in which sole member Vulturius performs all of the instruments.  Irae sounds like you would expect from a one-man black metal band, raw and cold, yet fairly simplistic.  What is surprising is that the production values on this are pretty decent, which is somewhat rare for one-man black metal.  Irae also is significantly more dynamic than a lot of one-man black metal bands.

Inquisitor stands out a little bit on this split.  Not a black metal band, Inquisitor plays more of a thrash/speed metal style.  So the last third of the split is significantly faster and lighter than the previous two-thirds.  Even more surprising is the fact that the thrash metal band seemed to have the worst production of the three.  But I enjoyed Inquisitor on their EP and I enjoy them now.  They sound a little like Skeletonwitch in that it is an impressive style of blackened thrash metal with a lot of speed and intensity.

This is a much more worthy split and all three bands are impressive in their own ways.  I still prefer Inquisitor, but Irae and Decayed both impressed me.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Metal? Briefs: More Random Stuff

I figured I would tackle a bunch of the albums that have been submitted to me over the last few months.  This next collection were albums that do not quite qualify as metal.  This is a metal site, so from this date forward, it will be very rare for me to review a non-metal release.  I just wanted to get some stuff out of my email for now.  Some of these were decent, some were unlistenable, but I tried.  Again, from this point forward, I may not review a submission that is not metal.  I will still likely listen to it, but I will probably only review it if it is truly exceptional.

I tried to parse that album title, and I just can't.  I don't know what it means.  The music is some sort of industrial/drone/noise, something or other.  Two tracks, each one over 20 minutes, and just noise.  Nope.  Not for me at all.

Black Depths, Grey Waves.

Okay, what in the hell is this?  It appears to be metalcore/screamo mixed with techno or something like that.  Seriously, I cannot even get through this thing.

Cold Feet Control.

I have gotten three or four emails pushing me to review this thing so I finally relented.  It was not worth it.  Dead Dark Slide is a gothic rock band with a lot of Marilyn Manson-isms in their sound.  The promo materials were incredibly deceptive, referring to this group as "industrial goth rockers" and mentioning "shredding guitars" and "death metal with a twist."  There is not a lot musically going on.  There are no riffs to speak of, just some atmospheric keyboard parts, drumming, and the occasional strumming on the guitar.  This is basically a heavier version of The Cure or Bauhaus.  Absolutely nothing metal about it, with the exception of the track "F-ck Haet", which does actually feature riffs and some more guttural vocals, but that's it.  And since I am not a goth, this really does not do much for me at all.  Pass.  Some of you may like it, I am not among you.

Dead Dark Slide.

Huh.  This is decidedly not metal.  It is definitely more of a rock feel, the occasional heavy riff complemented by some softer sounds.  Definitely melodic and emotional.  The songs are reasonably interesting but not really all that different from a million bands we have polluting the airwaves.  Think most modern rock radio.  It's not bad, but definitely not something I am all that interested in.

End All Elegance Soundcloud.

LAZY BONEZ: VOL. 1 (2013)
Lazy Bonez is billed as a "heavy metal-oriented" (bad sign there) band featuring some members of Tarot, a Finnish metal band.  There are some decent-sounding songs on here, definitely some catchy stuff.  "First to Go-Last to Know" is an interesting track featuring vocals from Marco Hietala (Nightwish) and Udo Dirkschneider (if you don't know who he is, you shouldn't be reading this site).  But beyond that and the ridiculous "Poker Face" cover, there is not really a lot to say about the album.  It is not original in the least.  The talent is there and it is kind of a fun listen, but I would not say it is essential.

This one is kind of interesting because it really sounds like something that would have been released in the 1970's.  The guitar tone, use of keyboards, and the vocals all sound very much like classic rock from the '70's.  Think Kansas, Edgar Winter Group, Foghat, and others.  There's something to be said for something like this, but really, why not just listen to the bands from that time period?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

VladPromotion Quick Reviews Pt. 2

Last year I was sent a bunch of promos from one individual that I just did not get around to.  Seriously, there were a lot.  So I am now tackling them.  No time to do individual reviews, just a quick and dirty look will have to do.

Eradicator is a fairly young, German thrash metal band that plays a style that bears more of a sonic similarity to the earlier, more melodic style of Destruction when speed metal was still a major part of their sound.  In other words, this is not the type of proto-black/death metal that Sodom and Kreator, um, created when they first started recording.  It is more of Motorhead on steroids, mixed with Testament and Megadeth.  The riffs drive the music, which is what good thrash metal does, and make no mistake, this is definitely good thrash metal.  It is decidedly old-school in sound, but manages to sound fresh at the same time.

Alright another acronym!  Is it Hogs of Steel?  Hell on Skis?  Horatio Octavio Sanchez?  Nope, apparently it is Harvester of Sorrow, a Metallica reference for those of you who don't know.  The title of the album is helpful because this is the Italian band's debut album.  And despite the Metallica reference in the name of the band, they do not really show a ton of Metallica influence in the music, apart from being a thrash metal band.  The vocals resemble Mille Petrozza of Kreator, particularly after taking over full-time vocal duties, and the riffs sound closer to other Bay Area bands such as Heathen and Forbidden.  Italy is not really known for thrash metal, other than Bulldozer and Necrodeath, so it is not much of a surprise that a band from that country would take influences from both the Bay Area and Germany.  The combination works well for H.o.S.

Taking a break from the thrash metal of the last couple of reviews is Iron Kingdom's debut album.  Iron Kingdom is much more of a traditional metal band with roots in the music of the NWOBHM and the American power metal scene.  I kind of like the music to this one.  It's strong traditional-sounding metal, but I absolutely cannot get past the vocalist.  His voice is high-pitched and ridiculously annoying.  As the album goes on, it gets a little better, but that might just be getting used to it.  It's unfortunate that something like that would detract from an album that otherwise is interesting from a musical standpoint, but that's the way it goes.  They do pull an Iron Maiden with a historical epic at the end of the album, this one about Montezuma.  So points for that I guess.

Huh.  Apparently Italy is developing a thrash metal scene.  This is the second band just in this group of bands from this promoter.  This is just a five song EP, but a couple of the tracks are more than seven minutes in length so it is a worthwhile length.  This one is much more similar to the Bay Area thrash metal scene with an emphasis on melody over brutality.  It also utilizes a bit more experimentation and progressive structures, with some similarities to Anacrusis, Heathen, and others from when thrash was expanding their sound.  The buildup to the second track "Walking in the Rain" is incredible and once the vocals kick in, it is even more impressive.  The vocals soar over the riffs like air-raid sirens and are incredibly powerful for this genre.  In the third track they are even joined by some death growls, creating an unusual dichotomy.  Kaosmos is definitely impressive.

And now we check in with Paraguay.  And not shockingly, Kuazar exists on the more brutal end of the spectrum.  Not surprising when South America's most well-known thrash metal bands are Sepultura and Sarcofago.  Kuazar takes their sound from the early blackened/speed/thrash of Sodom and Kreator with a little of their South American brethren thrown in for good measure.  Speed and intensity are the name of the game with Kuazar.  It is not particularly brutal for this type of thrash, relying instead on the precision of the riffs and the manic vocal style.  Very impressive as well.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Talbot: Scaled (2013)

Increasingly, I find myself in the mood for some good sludgy doom metal.  I am not sure what that says about my current mindset.  Maybe it's okay though because my usual choices are death and thrash metal.  Lately I have been listening to a lot of Cianide, Morgion, Lord Dying, and High on Fire.  So this one hit me at just the right time.

If you haven't guessed already, Talbot play some sludgy, murky doom metal.  What is most impressive though is the varying influences that can picked out of it.  At times they have the poppy sensibility of Type O Negative at their Beatles-obsessed best.  At others, the music is almost terrifying, true doom.  At still others, the band is heavily groove-laden and gallops along at a frenetic pace.  In short, there is a lot going on on this release.

Talbot is a very promising doom metal duo from Estonia, which is honestly not one of the first places I think of when I think of doom metal.  Such is the proliferation of metal in general I suppose.  And that is one of the most fascinating aspects of being a metal fan, finding metal from different countries.

The majority of the album is made up of some hard-hitting doom riffs.  There is the occasional bit of experimental and almost psychedelic moment here and there, but for the most part it keeps thundering away.  The vocals are impressive, typically clean and shouted, but once in awhile they are performed with a decently frightening death growl.  The real star of this album though is the bass.  It is high enough in the mix to be constantly heard and sounds amazing.  More bands should make this effective use of the often-overlooked instrument.

The only real complaint is that the second half tends to drag a bit.  The psychedelic and slower parts are almost all relegated to that half and it does tend to lose focus at times.  The title track in particular drags and the vocals take on a Perry Farrell-esque quality.

Nevertheless, this was a fairly impressive release from an up and coming band.  It definitely fit my recent mood.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Decibel Hammer: Culture of Extermination (2013)

I can not confirm whether Decibel Hammer's name came from combining two of the current still active metal magazine names.  They were not completely obvious about it after all.  It could have been Revolver Terrorizer I suppose.  But no, it's Decibel Hammer.

Anyway, Decibel Hammer is a Finnish death/thrash metal band who released their first EP last year.  It is a short slice of extreme metal that flies by in the blink of an eye.  It is filled to the brim with blasting drums, rampaging riffs, and some half-crazed vocals.  None of the six tracks here reaches the four minute mark.  Each song is a relentless, full-throttle mass of riffs and screaming.  And after a little more than fifteen minutes, it's all over.

Musically, Decibel Hammer sounds most like a combination of the early German thrash metal bands Sodom and Kreator with some Demolition Hammer thrown in.  It is a very extreme form of thrash metal.  The riffs are fast and incredibly heavy, even machine gun-like at times.  The vocals sound like Attila Csihar singing thrash metal.  They just have a kind of demented quality that Attila used to terrific effect.

This is a fairly impressive little EP.  I like my thrash nasty and loud and this definitely qualifies.

Decibel Hammer Bandcamp.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FMA Review: Nocturnal Fear/Seges Findere: Allied for the Upcoming Genocide (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
I love splits some times. What could be better than picking up an album that has new music from two different bands? Especially when the bands have wildly different backgrounds.

I will admit that Nocturnal Fear was the big draw for me here. I own several of the band's albums because I thoroughly enjoy their take on Sodom-esque Teutonic thrash metal. Nocturnal Fear do a lot of things that Sodom did, from their blazing fast riffing speed, to the throaty growls of singer Infernal Desekrator, to the fact that the band uses similar war-ravaged scenes on their album covers. Nocturnal Fear even has a similar character show up on all of their albums.

Nocturnal Fear gets four of the six tracks on this album, but their songs are typically short, fast jolts to the jugular. They come in, thrash around for a few minutes and the song is over. And they definitely make the most of their time here. Each of the songs is a perfect example of what makes Nocturnal Fear one of the most impressive thrash metal bands to come from the U.S. in years.

I was not previously familiar with Seges Findere and had to look them up. Apparently they are from Brazil and feature a very different sound, but a similar warlike theme to Nocturnal Fear. Apparently the band's name means "The Final Harvest" in Latin. So yeah, there's that.

Seges Findere's half of the split starts out with the unmistakable sound of a fighter plane flying overhead. This is fairly lo-fi, yet hateful blackened death metal. The drum sound is a little too high in the mix and tends to drown out the riffing, which is a shame because that is probably the most interesting thing here. Seges Findere is okay, but they don't really reinvent the wheel here.

I doubt it is a surprise that Nocturnal Fear wins this split.

Metal Briefs: Inverse Records Stuff

I am going to be throwing a bunch of stuff together a lot in order to catch up.  Usually these will be albums that do not really meet my standards and I do not feel like doing a full review.

Cardiant is a Finnish power metal band.  Finland has produced some great metal bands across a wide variety of subgenres, but I have yet to hear a great Finnish power metal band.  That is still the case.  This is okay but it really lacks any real power.  It reminds me more of later-era Sonata Arctica and Edguy, periods in their respective histories of which I am not really a fan.  It's mostly melodic hard rock/metal with some catchy sections, but overall somewhat weak.  "Heaven's Calling" is a representative track with its faster-paced riffing style and a general sense of urgency in the beginning, but the chorus kind of screws it up and makes it sound like an 80's hair band.  There are some decent tracks on here but as a whole, the album kind of falls flat.

Gothic metal is a subgenre that has not done much for me in the last several years, besides the occasional Moonspell album and the more extreme bands like Cradle of Filth and Rotting Christ's gothic-oriented stuff.  Mostly because I am not a Hot Topic-frequenting teenager.  Musically this is a little more exciting than the Tiamat stuff that bored the hell out of me.  But the vocals really kill it for me.  They are often out of tune with the music and just do not mix well.  The music was simply not interesting enough to keep me from falling asleep, which is a big problem with a lot of gothic rock/metal.  This just does not do much for me.

Nox Ultima is a Finnish black metal band whose mission statement explains that they are out to create and manifest black metal.  I am not sure how you manifest something, or really what the verb "to manifest" means, but I suppose I won't hold that against them.  Anyway, Nox Ultima plays old school-style black metal, bearing similarities to the Norwegian and Swedish scenes, although with impressive enough production values that everything can be heard well.  This is hateful black metal with a lot of aggression and speed.  That is just the way I like my black metal personally.  So this one was pretty good to me.  I will say, there is not a lot of delirium here either, but that should not be surprising for black metal.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Simpsons Apologizes to Judas Priest

I thought it was hilarious to refer to Judas Priest as death metal, misguided as it was.  Yes it was wrong, but seriously it does not really matter that much.  Metal is not mainstream, so it's rare that it is even referenced at all.  And it may be annoying when they get it wrong, but at least they apologized.  Still waiting on that apology from Bones.

Metal Briefs: Odds and Ends

I am working on emptying out my email of stuff that has been sent.  I assure everyone that I did take the time to listen to each submission in their entirety.  I am not writing full reviews for most of this stuff because I want to make sure that I get stuff out, but I think I was able to be succinct and effective in these short reviews.

I had no idea that metalcore bands were still forming.  Fear Control lists their influences as Trivium, Lamb of God, and Bullet for My Valentine.  Yep, that pretty much sums this up.  They are decent at what they do, but I am just beyond being interested in this type of metal.  I would have loved this about ten years ago.  Some of the riffs are fairly impressive, in particular the opening riff to "Chains".

Fear Control Bandcamp.

I find multi-instrumentalists fascinating.  People who can write and arrange complex music and then play most, if not all, of the music in the recording is incredibly interesting.  I guess some people are just more musically-gifted than I am (I can play the saxophone and piano, but have done neither in a very long time).  Graeme Swallow is one such multi-instrumentalist.  He wrote and arranged all of the songs on this album, only handing over vocal duties and the occasional solo to other individuals.  The sound is often power/progressive metal (think Symphony X and Kamelot) with some elements of orchestration and a strong feeling of theatricality.  But it is a hugely varied album as a whole as many other songs lack metal or rock influences entirely and are much more classically-based.  The music is actually very infectious and I found myself enjoying this album with repeated listens.  There is a lot going on and the musicianship is really incredible.  The guest vocalists are all extraordinarily talented.  There is definitely some Christian themes present but they are not overwhelming so it is not a problem, and the musicianship really is incredible.

Graeme Swallow Soundcloud.

Holy shit, calm down on the synthesizers a little bit guys.  Hammerforce are about what you would expect they would be when I tell you they play power metal and are from Europe.  Yep, "flower metal" here.  That being said, I do like the sound when it is played well.  Yes there are a ton of synthesizers in this album, but they complement the music a lot better than I thought they would when I first heard them introduced.  Musically, Hammerforce bear a strong similarity to Sonata Arctica circa Silence and I really liked that sound so I found myself enjoying this one quite a bit.  It's fast and fun and melodic all at the same time without becoming completely cheesy.  That's probably about the best I can say for a "flower metal" band with tons of synthesizers.

Hammerforce Bandcamp.

Whenever a band has success there are inevitably going to be some imitators popping up, bands that play a similar sound.  This is nothing new and it really is not that bad of a thing.  Meshuggah is a very popular band in the extreme metal scene so of course there will be bands that play a similar style of music.  Atonal riffs that provide the rhythm of the song, complex drum patterns, and vocals that are a mix between a shout and a growl.  That is what Kinetik sounds like on this release.  They produce a powerful wall of sound with some interesting rhythmic riffing.  It is an interesting listen while it is playing, but it is quickly forgotten when it is not.  Not a bad album, just not terribly memorable.

Kinetik Bandcamp.

Thornwill is a Hungarian traditional metal band.  I think the only Hungarian bands I have previously heard were black metal bands, so this is a little different.  This is actually a fairly impressive album for a country that is seemingly isolated from the rest of the metal scene.  It reminds me a little bit of Primal Fear.  It is faster-paced with some dynamic lead vocals and some impressive riffwork.  The songs are infectious and fun.  This is a little bit of a longer album, but it never feels like it is dragging.  A fairly impressive slice of traditional metal.

Thornwill Soundcloud.

Apparently I was just sent the single for "Run to You" which is off of this Italian band's 2013 album Beyond the Sea.  So that is all I am going to review then.  Tothem is a gothic metal band from Italy with a female singer, so immediately I was expecting something similar to Lacuna Coil.  That is not quite what this is.  The most notable difference is the emphasis on the metal.  Unlike their countrymen who have become much more of a pop/metal Evanescence clone, Tothem utilizes real metal riffs.  The vocals of singer Roslen Bondi are impressive, though she does have a tendency to be a little too operatic.  I hope this band stays true to this sound on the rest of their material.

Tothem Soundcloud.

Monday, January 13, 2014

FMA Reviews: Lord Dying: Summon the Faithless (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Over the last few years, the face of sludge metal has shifted. The genre was mostly created in the swamps of Louisiana with groups like Crowbar, Acid Bath, and Eyehategod. An unholy union of hardcore and doom metal, the music was extreme in its way. However it has become bastardized and changed over the years as groups like Mastodon and Baroness have taken it out of the boggy depths and made it almost radio-friendly. Oh the horrors.

Enter Lord Dying.

Lord Dying hails from the Pacific Northwest, but their sound is rooted in the low rumbling riffs of the New Orleans sludge scene with some High on Fire thrown in for good measure. Despite a relatively short history, Lord Dying comes across as veterans that have been throwing out stampeding riffs for years. Yet, this is a debut album by four members who do not appear to have created anything else with any other bands. Let me tell you, that is positively shocking. Because this album really sounds incredible.

From the opening riff building into a steamroller to the closing strains, this is one of the best sludge metal albums I have heard in a very long time. I have been a fan of the genre since I discovered it in the early 1990's, but it had been on the decline for several years. Lord Dying bring it back in a big way.

Reader Submissions: Xpulsion: Hunted (2013)

Nic from Xpulsion contacted the first time a year or so ago to take a look at his band's stuff.  He contacted me again last May, unfortunately that was right before I went on a long hiatus.  So I want to start things off by apologizing about not getting to this sooner.

Anyway, here is Xpulsion with a two-track demo called Hunted.  Xpulsion has become significantly more brutal this time around, as clearly evidenced by the gore-soaked cover art.  Previously they sounded more like a combination of Exodus and Overkill, but this time around, there is much more sinister side, with influences from the more brutal-sounding thrash of the German trio of Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction.  The riffs are heavier and with a sharper edge, and the vocals are delivered in a blackened thrash metal snarl than the shouted vocals from earlier.

The second track, "Intent to Kill" is my favorite of the two.  The break towards the end where the vocals shift to a shouted style and then the thrash break definitely stand out.

I love this new development.  I have always been a fan of thrash metal, but the more brutal, evil styles are definitely my favorite.  Xpulsion has improved for the better.  I am looking forward to more.

Xpulsion Bandcamp.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Metallattorney's Top Twenty of 2013

I am sorry I am late, I was working on this for quite awhile.  I have not been as active in the last year with the blog or listening to music in general.  A lot has happened in the last year, including buying a home and the long process of moving.  I have also been working a lot.  Nevertheless, I did hear a number of impressive albums.  Many of these have yet to appear as reviews here, but they will soon.

So without further ado, Metallattorney's Top 20 of 2013:

Okay, this one is pretty weird.  Every time I pick up a Watain album, I have a certain sound in mind that I am expecting to hear.  I expect them to sound like Dissection at the height of their sound.  This completely blew me away.  Obviously the biggest takeaway is the slow song with clean vocals.  That came as quite a shock, let me tell you.  But when you get past the shock, this is a very compelling album.

Revocation is the best of the retro thrash metal bands.  Although they do not entirely fit in with that group because of their late 80's death metal influences and an ability to take influences from a variety of other musical styles.  Banjos anyone?

Probably my favorite album by the Japanese doom/death band so far, which is really saying something as I have enjoyed everything I have heard from them.  This album finds the band incorporating a lot more faster-paced, crunchier sections while retaining the same Hellhammer-at-half-speed sound the band typically had.  Yet it has not lost any of the grime and decay from previous releases.

There is something to be said for simplicity.  Toxic Holocaust has been doing their thing for years now and their thing is a mix of Motorhead, Venom, Bathory, and Hellhammer.  Every album is about a half hour of rampaging speed and proto-thrash riffs.  It goes by quickly but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Yet another terrific album from the undisputed masters of brutal death metal.  Suffocation proves they still have it on this release.  The pioneering band is still going strong as always.

Canada has some damn good thrash metal.  Mortillery is the latest thrash metal band to arrive out of the Great White North.  This is an underrated thrash metal album that went largely unnoticed.  That's unfortunate.  Cara McCutchen is a vocalist on par with Sabine Classen.

Is it possible to both anticipate and dread something?  Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne reunited to write new music for the first time in several years and this time we got a full album out of them.  This reunion resulted in a surprisingly strong album that did not disappoint.  It is, quite simply, a Black Sabbath album played with a modern flair.

Blackened death metal the way it should be.  Denouncement Pyre is one of the darkest, most brutal bands still going out of the Australian "war metal" scene.  They were always a little too blackened to really fit in with Destroyer 666, Atomizer, and the like, but that just made them that much more interesting.  This is their best album yet.

Not an easy album to digest, but Defeated Sanity continues to impress.  Their brutal technicality is on display in spades here.  I considered their last album to be one of my favorite slam death albums of all time.  If anything this one tops even that.

I liked their black metal sound, but their blackened power metal is absolutely incredible.  Since reuniting with Harry Conklin from Jag Panzer, their original singer, Satan's Host has been on a completely different level.  This album, while not as powerful as its predecessor, continues in that vein.

Hypocrisy does not really fit in with either of the two big Swedish death metal scenes.  They are too melodic for the Stockholm sound and too heavy for the Gothenburg sound.  But what they do is continue to put out fiercely powerful albums every single time.  And they continued to do so with this release.

I love good sludge metal and Lord Dying definitely qualifies.  Sludge has become known more for groups like Baroness in the last few years.  It is great to have a band step in and play it the way it should be played.  Much more like Crowbar.  This was one hell of an impressive debut and I found myself listening to it over and over again.

This is one I have not heard a lot yet.  I just recently decided to check it out due to its placement in Full Metal Attorney's Top Albums list, but I like it a lot.  It is decidedly old school death metal, sounding like the genre did back when it was truly evil-sounding.  Vastum does a terrific job of bringing back that vibe, sounding like a mix of old Immolation, Incantation, Sinister, and others that made death metal terrifying.

It was a good year for good slam/brutal death.  Especially the more bizarre groups like Wormed and Defeated Sanity.  This album has been a very long time coming.  Wormed's last album came out in 2003 and we have only had a split and an EP since then.  But the band definitely made this one worth the wait.  The technical slam death metal band from Spain has put out an amazing album.

I am a big fan of the sort of melodic metal that Amorphis has been putting out over the last several albums, since Tomi Joutsen joined the band, but even I admit that it was in danger of becoming a little too predictable.  Then we got this one which reinforced how truly great Amorphis can be.  This album marked a return at least somewhat of their harder-edged sound.  There are still elements of the previous sound, but this is Amorphis's heaviest album in years.

I know I say this every year, but each year some album by a traditional metal band comes around and completely blows me away.  Enforcer, Christian Mistress, Grand Magus, and others have all done this in the past.  This last year, it was Huntress.  From the Judas Priest-inspired music style, to the sultry, yet commanding vocals of Jill Janus, Huntress's album is an incredible listen.  Or maybe I am just taken with the singer.  I don't really know.

Voivod has released their first album without any input from the late Denis "Piggy" D'Amour.  After his death in 2005, the band used recorded material he created to continue to put out music.  This album saw the band recruit Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain to take over the guitar and the album was their best in years.  Voivod still has it and remains one of the most unique metal bands ever.

Holy shit this band just keeps getting better and better.  The Italian band proves that a band can have symphonic elements and still be brutal and powerful.  The symphonic elements never threaten to take attention away from the death metal foundation.  If anything, it works incredibly well in conjunction to create an incredible, theatrical metal album.

Skeletonwitch never fails.  In fact, if anything they continue to get better.  Every time I hear a new album by the band, I am blown away.  Yes, this is their best album to date, the same thing I said about each of their last few albums.  So here we are again.

Holy shit.  That's all I have to say.  It was not until this year that I really started to enjoy crossover in a big way.  And the major reason for this was this album.  Power Trip absolutely crushes on this album.  It is fast, heavy, loud, and I keep coming back for more.  It is Metallattorney's 2013 Album of the Year.