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.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FMA: Pyrexia: Feast of Iniquity (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Pyrexia used to be amazing. The band formed in New York in the early 1990's and helped usher in the slam, technical, and brutal death metal scenes. They were part of the same scene as Suffocation and Internal Bleeding and their debut album Sermon of Mockery is cited as one of the principle influences on the slam death scene in particular. That was then, however.

Since that time, more and more groove influences have crept their way into Pyrexia's sound. I enjoy a strong groove in death metal, but sometimes bands can take it too far. Just look at the latest Obituary album for proof of that. But then Jungle Rot pulls it off quite well. Unfortunately this album by Pyrexia falls a little bit closer to the Obituary example than the Jungle Rot.

The first track starts off great and features a lot of energy and some killer riffs. But then every song after that is basically the same. Pyrexia is just rehashing a bunch of old ideas that sounded a lot better by the many bands that they are trying to sound like. It's unfortunate to see the once-great Pyrexia come to this, but here we are.

The vocals are another problem. I like my death metal vocals brutal. These are not nearly brutal enough. In fact it is far too easy to understand the lyrics here, and that is a problem when they are particularly juvenile. Death metal is not well-known for its complex lyrics, but these are pretty laughable.

Pyrexia has run out of ideas and now sounds like a Six Feet Under knockoff. That is a big problem.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Desecrater: Wretched (2014)

I think they spelled their band name wrong.  Oh well.  I suppose that should be expected from band members who have spent time in groups like Striktnyne and Arsnic.  Apparently it's an epidemic.  Or "epedemyq".

I can overlook all of that if the music is good and Desecrater does impress.  Playing an unholy mix of death metal and thrash metal, Desecrater have some downright killer riffs and pounding drums, resulting in a chaotic and ugly sound that will make you bang your head.  Shockingly, this is only Desecrater's debut album.  It is one hell of a debut.

Desecrater is absolutely relentless in their onslaught.  They hammer the listener with riffs that steamroll the listener.  Songs like "Cursed", "Avenge the Dead" and others do a terrific job of maintaining a slow burn throughout the entire runtime.  "Dark Holocaust" starts out with an extremely impressive guitar solo and builds on from there, and it is the best track on the album.

Desecrater's debut is a very impressive thrash/death hybrid with some great riffs and great songs.  I will definitely be keeping my eye on Desecrater.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Torchia: oNe (2013)

I have been getting a lot of melodeath bands sent to me lately.  Torchia is yet another one.  I have mentioned before that Finland has an impressive melodeath scene these days.  And Torchia is another Finnish melodeath band.

This is a short, three-song demo from Torchia and it exhibits the stereotypical characteristics of the genre.  The vocalist snarls and growls throughout the release, the riffs are pretty standard Gothenburg-style riffs, and the songs fly by pretty fast.  The lead guitarist is pretty impressive and his blazing soloing throughout the songs is probably the most impressive aspect of the sound.  They do also show some influences from Finnish bands like Children of Bodom, Norther, and Kalmah in their riffing style, in particular with regard to how fast some of the riffs are.

I will give credit to the band for their enthusiasm for the music.  They had a blast recording this thing and it is very clear from listening to it.  This is certainly not the most original-sounding band ever.  But this is just their first release.  With time some more original ideas may creep their way into the music.  Only time will tell.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Eternal Storm: From the Ashes (2013)

It is possible that Spain is becoming a new hotbed for melodic death metal.  Possible, but I am not totally sure about this because so far I only know about this one and Dawn of Tears.  My knowledge of Spanish heavy metal scenes is not remarkably high so I am likely just writing stuff for the sheer purpose of writing stuff at this moment.  I will stop now.

"Unfading Memories" kicks things off with a very pretty acoustic guitar melody.  Metalheads know what is coming next.  The title track kicks in and features a lot of Slaughter of the Soul-esque riffing.  That is pretty much how this album unfolds.  Eternal Storm is clearly influenced by a lot of the bands from both the Stockholm and Gothenburg death metal scenes of the early 1990's.  The band lists In Flames, Edge of Sanity, Dissection, At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Hypocrisy, and others as their influences and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know right there.

The songs are all fast and reasonably melodic, and most are fairly short, reinforcing the comparison to the At the Gates masterpiece mentioned earlier.  Some come across as surprisingly brutal, such as "Boundaries of Serenity", which has a much heavier main riff and deeper, more guttural vocals.  The songs are catchy and the album is short and fast enough to be an enjoyable listen.

Eternal Storm do a pretty decent job at combining the sounds of the two major Swedish death metal scenes.  What results is an often-powerful, yet melodic take on the style.  This is not the most original sound in the world, but it is an impressive enough debut.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Alghazanth: The Three-Faced Pilgrim (2013)

This cover reminds me of Black Swan.  I don't really know how to feel about that.  On the one hand that movie bored the crap out of me, on the other hand Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman lesbian scene.  So there's that.  But really, Black Swan has nothing to do with black metal, at least I don't think it does.  So this album cover does not really seem to match Alghazanth's sound.  But that wouldn't be the first time an album cover was deceptive.

Alghazanth is another of those bands who have been around for quite a long time, yet their existence has completely alluded me.  The Finnish black metallers formed in 1995 and have released seven full-length albums now.  But since Finland has not been the site of any big black metal scenes, Alghazanth has flown under the radar for quite some time.

Alghazanth pepper their Second Wave Norwegian-style black metal with symphonic flourishes, lengthy and progressive song structures, haunting melodic interludes, and some surprisingly impressive musicianship.  The songs are all epic-length, but the band really does a terrific job at composition because the songs do not really drag.  The mention of "symphonic flourishes" probably caused some people to envision bad Dimmu Borgir moments, but that is pretty far from reality.  Yes there are moments, but they do not overwhelm the song and they are more there as complementary elements.

I was pleasantly surprised with this one.  Alghazanth is not reinventing anything here and they do not do anything a bunch of other bands have done, but the music is effective and interesting to listen to.  Sometimes that is enough.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

FMA: Havok: Unnatural Selection (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Ah yes the retro thrash metal scene. This movement rose to prominence around 2005 to 2009 or so. There were a lot of people who loved this, myself included, and a lot of people who just wanted nothing to do with it. I think the scene resulted in a number of good bands who continue to put out excellent releases, such as Warbringer, Evile, Revocation, and the amazing Vektor. But there have been a number of short-lived or forgettable bands as well, such as Merciless Death and Bonded by Blood. After their first album I was pretty convinced Havok would end up in the first category.

I am not really sure what happened with this release. I never did hear the band's sophomore album Time is Up, so I am not sure if there were any issues at that time, but I did hear their EP from the next year and I was still very impressed then. The song compositions are still reasonably impressive and Havok still plays with a lot of speed and intensity, most of the time. It just does not sound as fresh and invigorating this time around.

The first two tracks, "I am the State" and "Give Me Liberty...Or Give Me Death" are definitely impressive, old-school Exodus-style romps. Things get a little weird after that though with the kind of strange riffing of "It is True", which still reminds me of Exodus, but much more of their experimental Fabulous Disaster era. That added to the Voivod-esque group vocals at the chorus lead to kind of an uneven track. And that's before the rap section completely derails everything.

From there the band has several more ultimately forgettable tracks. There are some nice moments, but there are some strange ones as well. The first two tracks hold up as surefire repeat listens, but most of the rest of the album is just too uneven or middling. The vocals get a little annoying at times. I am not sure why this is much more of a problem on this release than on others, but it is. Also the "Children of the Grave" cover is weird.

Havok does sound very much like Bay Area bands of the 1980's. The problem is that they do too good a job of sounding like those bands and they picked the era when many of those bands were doing some kind of weird things which was leading to the demise of the scene. We already had Forbidden, Death Angel, Exodus, and others. For a band to really thrive, they need to take their influences from those bands and deliver something new and interesting. This does not do nearly enough of that. I feel bad saying that because I really did like Burn. This just does not hold up to that standard.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dawn of Tears: Act III - The Dying Eve (2013)

Dawn of Tears is a band that I am very familiar with.  Their 2007 debut was one of the strongest melodeath albums in years.  Seriously, it is that good.  The Spaniards captured just the right balance between extremity and melody.  Since that release though, Dawn of Tears only released a less-than-impressive EP in 2009.  Until now.

Six years later, Dawn of Tears has finally released their second full-length album and it definitely recaptures the sound that made their debut so impressive.  This is melodeath, but it is still heavy and it still kicks ass.  Which is much more than I can say for a lot of melodeath bands out there these days.  Obviously the songs are very melodic and infectious as the plague but the band writes some killer riffs as well, keeping things interesting.

Dawn of Tears follows the Insomnium theory of melodeath, which is to write somber, dramatic melodic death metal.  It is all very emotional and powerful.  There are some definite moments where the band comes perilously close to gothic metal, with the female vocals and the keyboards and the overall dark and moody atmosphere.  Luckily a well-timed blazing guitar solo or crushing riff typically comes in to rescue it from going too far down that rabbit hole.

This is an incredible album, very close in quality to their debut release, which is still one of my favorite underrated melodeath albums.  This one will likely join it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mad Hatter's Den: Welcome to the Den (2013)

My knowledge of the stories of Lewis Carroll is very slight.  So I really do not know much about the Mad Hatter.  I saw the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland many years ago and remember very little about it.  I did not see the Tim Burton version with Johnny Depp.  All I think of when I think of the Mad Hatter is the tea party.  So the Mad Hatter does not strike me as a terribly metal character.  Maybe that's just me.  But I was a little apprehensive about checking out a metal band using the Mad Hatter to name their band.

It does not shock me in the least that Mad Hatter's Den plays a kind of middling heavy/power metal.  I could guess that just based on the album cover.  Mad Hatter's Den definitely have some impressive moments, but this album is largely a forgettable standard modern heavy metal album.  The band is definitely at their best when they focus on shorter, harder-edged tracks such as "Shadow Lord".  At those times, Mad Hatter's Den is compelling and fun to listen to.

Then there are the other moments.  Some of the songs in the middle are much longer and much more of a chore to make it through.  "Sinister Monologue" is the metal equivalent to R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" debacle: long, melodramatic, and boring as all hell.  The dueling guitar and keyboard solos are definitely outdated as well.  And then there's the ridiculously slow and boring "Journey" and...holy shit is that a harp?!

Thankfully the band does get back on track to close out the album with some harder songs again.  I like heavy and power metal as much as the next metalhead, but it is a really easy genre to mess up.  Although "Sharks of Power" is one of the oddest song names I have ever heard.  I'm not even sure what that means.

This is listenable, but it is ultimately forgettable.  There is just not much here that really stands out.  And they don't even attempt to tell us the similarities between a raven and a writing desk.  Damn them.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

FMA: Exhumed: Necrocracy (2013)

Originally reviewed here.
Exhumed perfectly captured their sound with the title of their 1998 album Gore Metal. The California-based bashers have long played a disgusting, blood-soaked mix of death metal and grindcore with lyrical themes running the gamut from gore to death and everything in between. Not exactly subtle, but then some bands can get away with that.

My only real previous experiences with Exhumed have been with their covers album Garbage Daze Re-regurgitated and the fact that two former Exhumed members are in Ghoul. Not the most helpful foundation to get a feel for their real sound.

At this point in the band's existence, Exhumed is mostly a pure death metal band. Some grinding riffs continue to sneak in now and again, but this is basically unadulterated death metal, with all of the expectations that that entails. Thick, nasty bottom-end, bone-crushing riffs, and deep, guttural roars. The band does use some impressive melodic guitar leads and solos that complement the crunching riffs well.

Exhumed changes things up a bit by including two vocalists. Bud Burke handles the more stereotypical death metal growls while Matt Harvey (not to be confused with the New York Mets pitcher) contributes shrieking, almost hardcore style vocals. The vocal dichotomy is one of the reasons that Exhumed stands out from their much more one-note peers.

Exhumed perform all of this with tongue planted firmly in cheek, much like Cannibal Corpse, proving that death metal can still be a lot of fun. And this album is definitely fun.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dead End Finland: Season of Withering (2013)

I have said it before and it bears repeating: Finland has taken over the throne of melodic death metal from Sweden.  Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum, and several other bands have continued to succeed where In Flames, Soilwork, and others have fallen by the wayside.  Well now add Dead End Finland to the list.  Despite the regrettable name, Dead End Finland are another fairly impressive Finnish melodeath band.

The opening title track sounds very much like Raintime, the now-defunct Italian band.  The combination of the reliance on keyboards for atmospheric effects, crunching guitar riffs, and clean-and-extreme vocals have been a staple of that band's catalog.  Dead End Finland definitely focus far more on the melodic side of things for this genre.  Those going into this expecting a straight-forward melodeath album will likely be disappointed because of the focus on melody and catchiness.

This is not to say that the death metal parts have been lost, there are still frequently heavy parts.  Extreme vocal styles do show up from time to time.  There are some crushing riffs and pounding drums.  It is just that these moments are combined with more melodic elements, such as symphonic-sounding keyboards or cleaner vocals.

Above all else, this is an infectious album.  It is a fun listen and this means that replayability is high.  Those seeking something really extreme will likely be disappointed.  This is just a good time album, and there is something to be said for that.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lycus: Tempest (2013)

I discovered Lycus some time ago when I was seeking out funeral doom metal bands on Bandcamp.  I had looked into their 2011 demo at that time.  I noted that the band was a little faster for a funeral doom metal band and that their sound was probably more closely-related to doom metal bands with death metal vocals.  Overall, my impression was pretty positive and I even mentioned looking forward to this release.  Well here it is.

Lycus has put together a very worthy successor to their 2011 demo.  They still play a little bit faster than many of their funeral doom contemporaries.  The riffs move a little faster and the atmosphere is not quite as hopeless and desolate as say Evoken.  The melodies flow a little bit smoother and the compositions feel much more like complete songs than like random instrument noodling.

The band does a great job at creating a bleak atmosphere that is driven by the ultra-deep guttural growls and the incredibly slow guitar melodies.  The pounding drums keep things nice and heavy.  Once per track though, Lycus speeds things up to the point that it is almost a slower death/doom.  These moments are complemented by tremolo riffs and shrieked vocals.  These are often the most impressive parts of each track.  But these moments are fleeting and soon the devastation and desolation returns.

The last seven or eight minutes of closing track "Tempest" are a little unnecessary.  The song is basically over, it just keeps going with some ambient noise for awhile.  Not much else.  Cutting it out entirely would help the flow a lot more.

Funeral doom is still a very underground genre with very few well-known bands.  If Lycus keeps putting out records like this, they stand a very good chance of leaping to the front of the genre.