Thursday, December 11, 2014

EP Briefs (I Need to Catch Up)

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

In Memory of Dimebag

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

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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ovenizer: Exhibition of Thoughts (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

Hellcrawler/Wölfe: The End of Humanity (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cyrax: Reflections (2013)

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

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

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

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