Thursday, May 22, 2014

Verscythe: A Time Will Come (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Mantis: Death Mask (2014)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Drug Honkey: Ghost in the Fire (2012)

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

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

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

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

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