Saturday, January 25, 2014

WE'VE MOVED!

Hello all, and sorry that I couldn't get to you sooner. This blog is now just an archive as we have moved to a new and official website. You can now find all the things you loved about the tower, just a bit spiffier at:

www.thegrimtower.com

Already, Week 97 has been posted there, along with my first round of 2013 mass reviews, several interview and review links and much more! So head on over to our new home and I hope that you'll enjoy it. And if you've already got the old email address, it still works - so you're free to send me any material to review and I'll still review it. I'm working with the web designer to make sure that nothing changes, other than the layout.

Thanks for being loyal to The Grim Tower and hopefully you'll like the new look!

- The Fallen Alchemist 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Week 96 (January 11th, 2013)


Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am not able to present the mass amount reviews that I originally had promised for this week. Instead, I will be offering just a bit more than usual and will try again next week if time allows. Mother nature is currently wreaking havoc, and all my time is being spent on fixing the damage she has done.

























Patrons Of The Rotting Gate - The Rose Coil (PR2013 SPOTLIGHT) - While not ultimately long, the debut album from Patrons Of The Rotting Gate (A name I absolutely fucking love, by the way) is quite promising in it's display of progressive/atmospheric technical death metal grandeur. Obviously, this new genre of extremely experimental atmospheric death metal is a result of bands like Gorguts and Decapitated, one of which has been covered on the disc. The disc truly opens with the blasting melodic fare of "Tri Zaveti 7:35" which as noted, features a lot of drum blasts, black metal melodies that slightly allow for djent and other such ideas; as well as the scowl vocal which could be take as either black or death metal (this reviewer think it's more on the lines of death metal however.) Patrons are the kind of band who wraps their music in thick multi-faceted atmospheres, almost like Aevangelion or Grave Miasma, but a bit more bouncy and not afraid to incorporate a solo. Although that solo portions seems kind of lost in the fog. And yeah, that's just the first song on the disc. "Carnassial 5:29" flows right from the opener, making it all begin to seem like one large piece. With this song, the mood begins to change to more of a tribal fare, replete with concrete vocal growls and distant progressive licks that seem to peer out from beneath the smoke. Whatever is being praised on "Carnassial" had better be pleased, because I'm certainly feeling a strong ritualistic atmosphere from this one. Things do allow for a bit of bashing, because the drummer just has to get his fill; but then we have another sort of guitar solo - this one a bit more audible. Though there is no question that the these gentlemen have crafted something quite surreal.

The next track is an extension of the previous, "Secrets In The Soil 2:57" offering the same atmospheric fare of ritual, yet in a more dulled sense. Not dulled as in boring mind you; but dulled as in less rambunctious. Clean vocals even appear to weave their way through the smoke on this one. "Pride In Descent 5:46" flows the sound into a more crushing context, with the drummer happily bashing on the kit; the black metal melodies blazing and the scowls having a bit of fun. The mood calms a bit to allow for some slight moments of mounting insanity, which seem to evolve into thumps which lead right into "Chest Of Light 7:08." This song seems to give off more of a subdued post metal offering, something that just seems to be another offering from their great big bag of tricks. But they do it justice, with memorable riffs and an atmosphere that though djenty at times, works beyond measure. So far, if there's any band that I could truly say ripped the pants off modern metal, it would Patrons Of The Rotting Gate. It dazzles me that people aren't shitting themselves over this one. "Clandestine Fractures 5:09" takes on from the post metal atmospheres and bring back a sense of post black metal complete with raging drums. One could say that there might just be too much blasting on this album, but he does it only when truly necessary I feel; and does know how to let up at the right moments. Clean vocals also appear on the track, as it fades into atmosphere. "A Perfect Suicide7:27" brings in bits of piano amidst the insane drum thrashing. But that doesn't last forever as melodies begin to entwine throughout the piece, further building on the atmosphere. Drummer gets another round of fun in, as the work winds down to a close. Oddly enough, the disc does not end here. "His Crimson Painting 1:32" follows, sounding like the keys of the piano had been stained by blood. It very much makes me think of the more grim and morbid piano soundscapes. Then the terrifying "...Of All Eyes 1:10" comes into play, something right out of a horror film. It's an uncomfortable way to end the disc, but it certainly works.

Included are two cover tracks. The first is a Gorguts cover of "The Battle Of Chamdo 4:55" which is quite odd, since it just came out. Basically, the band just played the song as it would have been were it not a classical piece. The result comes off rather nicely though, still leaving room for dreary piano landscapes. Following that is an Orgone cover for "Caress Of Vines 3:47." I can't tell you much about this rendition being better or worse than the original however, but I can tell you that it uses quite a bit of piano, subdued drumming and rage. 

Summing this up, I believe Patrons Of The Rotting Gate are truly something special and they've got so much more to offer than what's being displayed on this short disc. Not only are they complex musically, but their lyrics are also quite complex, something that require a bit of deciphering. Hell, it's just good poetry to be honest; and it goes great with the musical and vocal aspect. Though they experiment, they don't stray too far from the style and sound that they've set to achieve with this album. I have a feeling that The Rose Coil is just a mere grain of sand compared to the offering that we'll get from these guys in the future. But it's one fucking grand grain of sand that can be enjoyed as a whole piece multiple times over. I highly recommend The Rose Coil. 

(12 Tracks, 53:00)

10/10






















Falkenbach - Asa (Ltd. Edition) (PR2013) - Falkenbach do not offer a very long album this time around, and even with the four bonus tracks; the album only increases by about twenty minutes. As such, the disc is very much a "heavy folk metal" piece with definite excursions into blackened folk territory. Oddly enough, the way the album is set up is quite peculiar as the format dictates that every odd-numbered track is a clean vocal laden folk track, and every odd numbered track is loaded with blast beats, scowling vocals and other black metal fare. But if you don't believe me, then you'll have to check it out for yourself. The quality on the release is very good, showing the folk tracks in a peaceful light, managing to balance out the much heavier black metal influenced pieces on the disc. The clean vocals sound breathtaking and memorable, giving the disc a truly majestic approach. But yet again, the heavier track on the album can be so rambunctious that it almost doesn't sound like the same album. But this bipolarity works for the release, even though it might dishearten fans of the heavier or more folk laden material who would rather have had the light or the dark part of this album separate. Either way, it's a fulfilling forty minutes of worthy folk, and might stand out as the best folk release of 2013. Sweetening the pot are four bonus tracks, two of which are in the much heavier territory, like standout "Return To Ultima Thule 3:25" as well as an instrumental piece which serves well as a closer. In my humble opinion, none of these tracks were throwaways and should have been placed onto the regular release. It's a case of nickel and dime, as I suspected. 

If you can, please grab the special or limited edition version of this album, because the extra tracks are worth it, especially if you like Falkenbach's heavier material. Time and effort was put onto this release and it is definitely worth listening to for all fans of folk metal music. Asa is just the sort of thing I'm looking for when it comes to memorable folk metal and it delivers with every minute. 

(13 Tracks, 60:00 Ltd.) 

9/10






















Girl On Fire - Not Broken (PR2013) - There are few things I can say about Girl On Fire, but for the most part, I can say that they're just the kind of pop-infused hard rock matter that the radio is looking for and that the disenfranchised youth (and adults) could enjoy in a mainstream setting. Listening to "The Takedown 3:19" makes me think that I'm listening to corporate written "rebel against the system" tracks which are created just to give a false illusion to people, assuring them that they can actually stand a chance against the corporate elite. Basically, the track is nothing more than false hope. Then of course we've got "Reminds Me Of You 3:38" which is the kind of fodder that finds a home on the radio as well, something modern rock will play religiously in an effort to create album sales. It's one of those heartbreak songs - can't get you out of my mind songs. I'm also reminded of a younger Three Days Grace. When did Century Media start banging out corporate rock? There used to be some good metal bands on the label. Did they all fly off? 

To cut this review as short as it really needs to be, you can be assured that Girl On Fire offers the carbon copy radio performance of painfully catchy hooks and riffs that never get too heavy. It's about as rock as rock can be, hand-tailored for your immediate consumption. You heard that right, this music is made for you. It's not too unkempt, full of sing-along choruses and the whole formula of modern rock that doesn't seem to gain any momentum throughout the release. With the exception of piano laden "Not Broken 4:38" or acoustic closer "Run 4:25" you have very little differentiation on the disc, but that's just fine for most people who will probably only listen to the singles, and buy the disc just for those singles never paying mind to the other tracks. But that's a crying shame, because almost every track on this album sounds just like the other one. If you've got the disc and are just playing the singles, I hope this review will convince you to try the other tracks that sound just like the others like the others like the others like the others like the others like the others...

(12 Tracks, 42:00)

4/10






















Various - Stahlbar Vol. 1 (PR2013) - Free with the purchase of any release from Artificial Sun, this eighteen track sampler comes packed with singles from bands I've already reviewed, and new ones that I haven't heard of. Like any release of this merit, there will be hits and misses. I will go through each of these tracks and point out my thoughts.

The disc starts with Type V Blood and "Resistance 3:53." A strong track to start off with, it seems to communicate the label's intentions very well. Next we have t-U.bus with "Iksaur 3:50" a band that also mixes elements of metal and electronica together. They've got a very interesting approach however, with a deep throated frontman who isn't afraid to let off a powerful scowl amidst bright electronics and fuzzy guitars. Sure, I'll recommend it. Next we have Lord Of The Lost with "Blood For Blood 4:04." This one knocked me off my feet, quite literally with it's extra gothic Type O Negative/Gothminister/69 Eyes style approach. If these guys aren't well known yet, they will be. I managed to track down an old album of theirs, but have not yet begin listening to it. This is definitely something I'd like to promote further, as well as get an interview in. Yes, it's really that good and I've seen potential here. The next track is Сонцесвiт with "Мандрами, Мандрами 3:39" which sounds like a sort of Russian Rammstein with interesting folk elements. Also quite promising. The next act I have is KaaK with "Help Me 4:47" a track that seems to revel in djent, electronics and black metal scowls. Definitely the frontman can scowl, making for an interesting mix here and something that's also quite promising. They actually take a few musical stabs at black metal on the track, again making for something that I haven't heard done with djent yet, and would like to hear more of. Maybe it was only a matter of time before djent and black metal mixed, but adding in the interesting element of electronica makes the effort even more listenable. So far, I'm recommending this sampler and I'm not even done with the review yet! 

The next band is Ost+Front with "911." Rammstein grooves can be heard on the piece, as well as Rammstein vocals. This is the band I remember sounding just like Rammstein. As a matter of fact, they sound like what's going to come after Rammstein. I'm keeping my eye on them regardless. The next track comes from our old friends, Bog-Morok and it's "Bloodsucker 3:35" which is definitely a good track from that disc. You know the drill when it comes to this harsh, Fear Factory-esque track. "Stahlmann comes in with "Suchtig 3:23" and they also sound just like Rammstein or Megaherz, but there's nothing wrong with them and I think that people will gravitate towards them just as well. I would certainly go see a concert with Ost+Front and Stahlmann with Rammstein headlining, regardless of the fact that it would be like hearing the same band for three hours. Once again, definitely my thing when it comes to this sort of music. MINIM now appear with "Start Fire 4:22" doing something much different, as they add some experimental folk elements to a song that features a staggering chorus of "Start Fire!" and manages to balance the much lighter portion with the slightly folky and electronic elements of the song. Interesting. Unfortunately, there's something that threw me off about Panzertank. It just seemed like they were still at a bit of an Amatuer level as far as the vocals went, and it seemed to be really off-key with the music, despite that the electronic portion of the song was appealing. 

"AndrosLand comes next with "Сонце 4:09" which changes the mood of the album, featuring a Russian female vocalist with a great vocal tone and a goth metal element with classical influence intact. But I'll give these guys proper respect for the fact that they at least work a solo into the mix. While not entirely memorable, it shakes things up a bit. But make no mistake that the female vocals are at the core of this piece. Rosa Infra now enters the fray with "Русские Горки 6:52" another heavy industrial song that features a harsh vocal element, but I think it might be a bit too long and there's little meat to the performance other than that. Mind Driller staggers in with "My Own Law 3:47" which I'm having a bit of a time hearing due to fuzziness of the recording. it's very metalized hard rock complete with an almost gravel touch on vocals and female clean choruses. It could become very popular in the native and possibly outside the native, but we've heard a lot of this before. Next we've got GReeNOX with "My Choice feat. Leonardo Rizzo of The Maniac Agenda 5:26." The clean singing vocalist almost sounds American, and he probably is; with an effort sounding much like Linkin Park with added guitar influence. I'm actually reminded a bit of Celldweller to be honest. There's most certainly an audience for this and I'm sure it will resonate with more people than I can even name on the mainstream front. Though this isn't considered a "disc headliner" it should be, because this will appeal to more mainstream listeners of electronic music than more of the heavy bands will. It just depends on what audience this sampler and label are intending to target. It's definitely more emo than goth, but there's an audience for that. TAINA comes in afterwards with "Like A God 3:19" which features a fierce electro-thrash approach with a thick vocal end and some interesting synths. Revelate follows with "Жестокий Романс 4:06" is a dark sort of industrial piece, featuring a clean Russian vocal approach that should appeal to listeners in their native. ARACHNA stands right behind the closer, with "Der Numerator4:04" and the sounds of a woman experiencing pain and pleasure at the same time. The vocal approach is different, unique even. It sounds like the vocals have been chewed up and regurgitated out by a sort of machine, like a trash compactor sort of vocal; the electronic equivalent of the grind "garbage mouthed vocal" approach. At any rate, ARACHNA sounds highly appealing to me and does something definitely different with their sound. Keep your eye on this - it could spawn into a brand new form of grind. The last band on the disc is Игольчатый Смех with "Палящее Солнце 4:17." which is a Russian industrial track with a hard rock approach and electronic beeps, like many of the others on this record. It ends off the disc with sort of a whimper, but there's plenty of good music on here that you can just go back and listen to whenever you'd like. 

Whew. And that's the end of it. Believe it or not, there are several great bands on here; some of them truly unique and others just good at what they do, or emulation in general. Some even manage to evolve upon what others have already done in the past. This just might be the future of industrial music. If you didn't get the Russian rock magazine Rockcor in July 2013, then you missed out on getting this disc for the price of the magazine or subscription. But once again, if you buy anything from Artificial Sun Records, they'll give you a free copy of this disc. So go check it out, if you haven't yet. There is potential here!

Highlights: t-U.bus, Lord Of The Lost, Сонцесвiт, Kaak, Ost+Front, Bog-Morok, Stahlmann, MINIM, ARACHNA (18 Tracks, 76:00)

7/10






















Cronian - Erathems (PR2013) - Cronian is an attempt to make the musical style of Vintersorg and Borknagar even more grandiose than it already is, and a bit otherworldly; thanks to the Theremin on opener "Cold Wave Eruption 7:48." Not surprisingly, many off the riff melodies are the same as what you would hear on both of these musicians main projects (this is Vintersorg and Oystein G. Brun we're talking about here) and sometimes it does come off as an unnamed Borknagar album. The same approach that we all know and love continues throughout "Ecocracy 7:03" except with the addition of some more atmospheric elements and majestic synths. This majesty really continues through "Drifting Station 5:40" when things really start to get interesting. I've never heard this much atmospheric influence in Borknagar or Vintersorg before and in helps to differentiate this work from the other projects quite a bit. "Moments And Monuments 4:41" brings in the trumpeting fare amongst what sounds like the soundtrack to a motion picture. Vocals decorate it, making for one of the weirdest and possibly most overblown tracks that I've ever heard. "Blackwater Horizon 7:03" helps to bring the metal back after that, along with "Core Resiliency 6:14" and "Chemical Dawn6:19" which continue the same approach, just with the addition of more theatrics. "End(durance) - Part III 4:09" ends out the album with an instrumental that sounds just like many of the songs on the rest of this album. A bonus track entitled "Full Moon Inferno 7:19" offers a breath of fresh air however, with a strong and memorable chorus. But isn't this the same kind of hook we look for in pop music? 

Though I've never heard of it until this album, Cronian is nothing new. This is the band's third release and first in four years. I can't say much about the previous releases as I've never heard them and there is little on this album to suggest that I would ever really want to. The thing about the projects that these men create is that they sometimes go too far over the top and become unintentional cheddar, regardless of the effort put forth. Many of the songs come off roundabout the same, not giving me too much to look forward to on the disc. I would just say to grab this one if you feel you need it, and if you're a hardcore fan then I'm sure you've got it already. But I'll just wait for the next Vintersorg or Borknagar album. 

(9 Tracks, 56:00)

7/10






















Enstille - Kapitulation (PR2013) - With their eighth release, Germany's Enstille continue their filthy black metal approach, fronted by former Naglfar frontman, Zingultus. As you might expect, his ravenous vocal punch brings forth the amount of spiraling negative abyssal energy that you might expect from black metal of this type. As for the production on the disc, it sounds quite clean; though the music itself certainly hearkens back to the old days of the genre. "Aborted 5:31" comes off much like a standard black metal track, but with more spite in the vocal venom. "The Refined Nation 4:37" adds the thrash elements in, while still having a bit of fun with blasts and atmosphere. "Reich An Jugend 5:21" reminds us that Hitler and his regime still loom in the shadows of Germany, complete with a frightening exercise in such depravity when the metal portion of it takes the stage. 

"Sick Heil 1:50" is the album's shortest track, showing how fast one deliver a fist to the face in their patented musical style. Nothing about this release is enlightening. It's all quite morose, mechanical and monotonous; yet in a good way. The Sodom cover is placed oddly in the middle of the album, with "Blasphemer 3:08" being a fierce interpretation of the original. "Monotonous 2013" comes next, further adding to the "Monotonous" collection that they've made throughout the years. "Nostalgia 4:29" brings in the groove elements, as "Stalin Note 2:58" reverts to the bashing. "KDF 511 5:15" slows things down a bit, bringing dreary landscapes into the mix; while adding grooves into those same landscapes. The final track continues their style of "Endstille 4:26" showing that they're namesake spans many different ideas. This one is not my personal favorite however, as the band's black metal does not do well against spoken word pieces. Most people will end up skipping this track after hearing it once. 

All in all, Endstille manages to craft the very same sort of sound that they've done for years now, playing by an "if it ain't broke" mentality. But they have slightly updated their sound, making it much crisper than previous releases, and Zingultus makes for a healthy addition to the band. Grave Violator's appearance on the guitar for their Sodom cover also helped a bit. 

(10 Tracks, 42:00)

8/10






















Solstafir - In Blood And Spirit (PR2013) - This is a re-release of the long out of print Solstafir debut album, and with it comes an early sense of amateurism, like you might expect. Opener "Undir Jokli 4:39" is very much more of a punk track than it is black metal, with enraged screams and an energy that doesn't appear much on the later releases. Though prog melodies still exist, the band sounds quite different in this era. The title track (4:32) comes next, and even though slower portions related to atmosphere exist; the track still contains the same frantic punk nature. "The Underworld Song 4:22" is where things begin to change and we hear more of the progressive atmosphere that the band was later known for. Instrumentally, it shows a lot; but I'm so glad that Adalbjorn Tryggvason no longer screams like this. "Tormentor 2:04" is nothing more than black/punk, with "2000 Ar 4:20" featuring a bit more muscle in so far as songwriting. Next came the thicker black metal influence of "Ei Vid Munum Ldrast 9:06" which still manages to mix some skater punk melodies in. It's an odd combination which might come off as a bit blasphemous and perhaps "nu" to black metal listeners. The main point of this song however, is in it's atmosphere where the band grows later stronger. The next track is "Bitch In Black 8:30" one of my personal favorite tracks on the disc. It also signifies a point in which the band began to change their style. The clean vocals of Kola Krauze from Dark Heresy definitely show the band in another light, moving further away from punk and into the progressive black metal atmospheres that we remember. This one is a definite standout and the lyric "eyes that blaze like burning churches" is so fucking classic that I'm surprised more people haven't noticed it. To be honest, it sounds like something a black metal couple would say to each other. "My love, you've got eyes that blaze like burning churches." The next track is "I, Viking 9:03" which demonstrates further atmosphere in it's instrumental soundscape presentation. The guitar solo is also a nice touch. It's short, but sweet. Now the last track is "Arstidir Daudans 10:33" which features the female vocal approach of Hulda "Dula." And yes, this progressive atmosphere is still on the same disc that began with black/punk. It really is an odd album, in that I think it should have been two. The first couple of tracks are quite vicious, laden with the anger of punk expression; while the rest of the album is something of a different beast - again, more in the vein of music that we remember from Solstafir. 

Personally, I prefer the latter pieces on this disc to the beginning tracks, even though I'll certainly count "The Underworld Song" as another personal favorite. The disc actually comes packaged with a bonus disc of demos from these sessions as well as 1997 rehearsal track "Undirheimalagid" which I'm sure that the kvlt black metal fans have already found and hunted with their spears, wondering why it has just now resurfaced. "These demos offer them at their best" they would say. But now I'm just poking fun at the kvlt crowd. But all joking aside, I do recommend listening to this Solstafir debut as it shows an interesting evolution from one of black metal's most interesting acts. Though not amazing, it's still quite spectacular and places and showed that the best was yet to come...

Highlights: The Underworld Song, Bitch In Black, I Viking, Arstidir Daudans (9 Tracks, 57:00)

7/10






















I Exist - From Darkness (PR2013) - A dirty mix of hardcore, sludge and progressive metal, I Exist is certainly a band worth checking out. They've got the punch of Pantera, the atmosphere of Neurosis and the groove of hardcore, albeit drenched in the thick smoke of bass riffs and pungent drumming. Of course, the whole record just sounds plain pungent, smells of sweat and reeks of human labor. As I've mentioned, certain music is just plain good for heavy labor and I Exist are definitely one of those bands. Unloading a truck became an enjoyable job whilst these gentlemen pounding their dirty hymns into my skull. There's also a notable stoner/doom influence in these guys that help the thick atmospheres to tickle those parts of the brain that resonate with catchier melodies. There's only two thinks that you can do to make I Exist more exciting, and that would be to perform heavy labor, or to smoke marijuana which is now on it's way to becoming legal in this country after so many years. 

But to put it in greater perspective, you've got the sludge/thrash of "Heal Me In Smoke 2:57" and "Ride To Hell 4:24" the stoner grooves of "Sorrow On Hill 105 6:06" and the atmosphere of the title track (11:41) which all make for a promising metal act. But most of this album really does seem to indulge in the sludge/thrash aspect or the pound with hardcore and groove. That's fine as I've said; this is the kind of music that one wants to hear while working - but I hope that the next disc will offer a bit more variety than just the grittier side of the act. I Exist have so much going on, but at this point they're still getting their bearings and with future albums could work all the kinks out. Nevertheless, I don't think that fans of sludge, groove and hardcore are going to be too upset with this one. Came out a little late, but still worth checking out. Don't get too lost in the 2014 releases and end up missing out on hard hitting albums from last year, like this one. 

(13 Tracks, 57:00)

8/10






















Human Fortress - Raided Land (PR2013) - After a five year hiatus, the legendary German based epic melodic metal (sounds like power metal to me) band is back with a strong release that's supposed to be more like Lord Of Earth And Heavens Heir and Defenders Of The Crown; the band's first two albums. It's definitely full of catchy hooks, familiar melodies and a strong vocal presence in new vocalist, Gus Monsanto (formerly of Revolution Renaissance and Adaigo). The man delivers strong vocal lines how the should be delivered, as tracks like "The Chosen One 3:52" and "Gladiator Of Rome Pt.2 4:27." show. Honestly, I find Gus a perfect fit for the band and cannot believe how well he steers the ship on this breathtaking release. 

I've got a little bit of a qualm on this disc in regards to the guitar solos, which really don't show much meat and seem to be in a hurry to get back to Gus's chorus lines. Yeah, I can understand that the man's a great vocalist; but do you really have to cut Todd and Volker's guitar solos off just like that? I mean, there's a portion in "Gladiator Of Rome Pt.2" that just sort of ends the solo on an unfinished note. It just sounds like it was cut somehow and that concerns me. But obviously this band is more than just power melodies, guitar solos and strong vocal lines. Human Fortress wanted to go a bit further with this one, adding medieval and folk elements to the mix which do help to give it a more unique identity than other albums of it's type. The "Prelude 1:39" and "Pray For Salvation 3:53" piece seem to work well together in this aspect, flowing seamlessly; even though the damn solo still seems to cut off a bit too soon in the track. Yet again, they really want to show Gus's vocal capacity on this one and I do think that they really succeeded with that. You've also got orchestral elements on the disc with "Restless Souls 5:07" which sort of reminds me of Evergrey a bit. On another note, I've also noticed that there are two nods to Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian on this album in "Wasted Years 4:48" and "Guard The Blind 4:39" And no, "Wasted Years" is surprisingly not a cover. 

Without saying a word further about the disc, I would certainly recommend giving Human Fortress's Raided Land a spin. It's their first album in five years and sees them coming on strong with a memorable vocalist and some intriguing ideas that feature catchy hooks, powerful melodies and several memorable moments. While not the best melodic metal album I've heard this year, it's certainly a rather decent disc that you'd be proud to add to your collection.

Highlights: Raided Land, Child Of War, The Chosen One, Gladiator Of Rome Pt.2, Pray For Salvation, Restless Souls, Guard The Blind (13 Tracks, 54:00)

8/10






















Lyfthrasyr - The Engineered Flesh (PR2013) - Lyfthrasir are an electronic-influenced postmodern black metal act from Germany, and they're quite promising to fans of the several million other postmodern industrial electronic black metal acts that I have reviewed and heavily enjoy. One might claim that I live for this kind of music, and that statement would indeed be true when the music is good. The disc starts out with a fucking solo, which is already good news for me right from the beginning. That's how you open a third offering. But not only that, these guys have the electronic portion of the band down. The drums do quite a bit of bashing, amidst some piano and an oddly gravelly vocal approach for black metal (it could also be death metal with this approach) so we might as well just call industrial black/death, which is what it is. 

At any rate, all of that pretty much explains the album's first track "The New Era Of Immortality 5:08" but things don't stray much farther from that approach, nor should they. This is what the band knows best and few people can get this style right. However, with the slower-tinged groove of "Technological Singularity 3:55" you really can't classify this as black/death metal anymore. To be truthful, some people might not like the whispering of their frontman Aggreash and find it sort of funny. But this actually come off rather catchy to me and I wish that it hadn't began with the whispering. Next we've got the punishing death metal of "Evolution 3:58" which... alright, forget what I said about the band sticking to the formula. Because they don't, and hell - maybe that's a good thing. This track actually has the right amount of calculated thunder that gets the head banging and makes me think of Septic Flesh or Behemoth in the drum aesthetics. Nefastus does a great job on the kit, making for a performance that's literally punishing and ultimately memorable. But maybe that's why this one stuck with me among many of the other discs I've had to review this week. 

Since the disc seems to be changing so rapidly from what it began, I'll have to start describing these next few tracks. We've got "Mind Simulator 5:07" which features the band in a much slower, but no less devastating construct. These riffs are absolutely fiery, and when the actual black metal scowls start they seem to go well with the backing piano. This has the feeling of gothic black metal, yet with an industrial tinge and that's something I find very much intriguing. Next we've got a return to death metal in the battering "Preserved Identity 5:05" which succeeds again in the drumming, but especially in the vocal lines. It's something that you'll have to hear, but the beats are laid on quite thick in the beginning; allowing for some moments of experimentation. We here at the Tower champion experimentation, and I'm certainly impressed by the effort that I've heard thus far. I'd certainly tell others about this band, as they've got an interesting, yet familiar sound and style that I'd stand thickly behind and hope that others would pick up on. But we're not done yet as "Wisdom In The Loop 5:10" offers up yet another experimentation in the fact that's it's covered in electronic samples, yet still soaked in black metal (along with the same gothic elements that we heard earlier on the album). The effort is flawless and highly intriguing. But then we have our ending, the nearly eight minute "Life Overdose 7:26" and it's veritable finale featuring all of the elements that we've heard explored on the release. Yes, even the whispering. But make no mistake, the band know how to end an album and this track is proof of that. 

The bottom line is to pretty much forget everything that I said in the beginning about this act, as they're anything but formulaic; yet still retain a style that comes off as both unique and familiar in the mixing of electronics, furious drumming, calculated vocal barrages and molten riffs that emanate from the thick steel of this transhumanist powerhouse. While not a big proponent of the idea, I really fucking love the music that these guys create and would definitely love to hear more of it. This is definitely industrial metal at it's most furious and intriguing. Though I didn't like the whispering, I can't really give them too many points off for that and it's not nearly as bad of a nuisance as little quirks that I've heard from other bands.

(8 Tracks, 41:00)

9/10






















Midnite Hellion - Hour Of The Wolf (PR 2013) - This short EP from New Jersey metallers Midnite Hellion features a new vocalist by the name of PJ. Berlinghof. But also, he's a she. And the difference is definitely felt, though in a good way. She makes up for her short stature with some incredible vocal lines, kind of in the way that Dan Scalvi was trying to do before; but to a greater effect. I don't really have to tell you how much of a fit she is for the band, as it's clear just by listening to the EP's title track (4:51). But not only that, the album also comes packed with strong song structures and just as impressive solos as the material which came before it. The production this time is much better, the drums especially; and everything sounds just as it should. As for the second track, "The Morrigan 5:33" it features more of the vocal element and not so much in the way of instrumental breaks; but PJ is such a good vocalist that the band doesn't need to have such long passages anymore. Midnite Hellion is shaping up to be a promising heavy metal act, and this short EP is proof of just what they have to offer in the future. 

(2 Tracks, 10:00)

8/10






















Maverick Hunter - Enter The Unknown (BR2013) - Maverick Hunter is a melodic death metal act from Florida, and they've definitely got an intriguing sound. Now I'm not exactly sure if they've taken their name from the Megaman X series, of which I'm a huge fan (but you all should know that by now) because they seem to head more towards the wild west style portrayed on their cover. The cover also makes me think of an old SNES title that I can't remember the name of, especially the sight marker used in their name. The disc begins with "I, Of The Storm 4:12" which sounds a bit like Kalmah in the beginning, but plays with Neoclassical keyboards and features a memorable guitar solo. So we've got Kalmah in their prime with Neoclassical elements and great solos? I'm already saddled up. "Out Of Exile 4:33" features a slower, more punishing sound; but sees the symphonic elements of the band in greater display. Kind of sounds a bit core in the vocal approach, but I'll let it slide as I've been guilty of the same thing. "The End Of All Light 4:30" brings back the Neoclassical synths while death metal certainly takes the stage. "Seer And The Sage 4:43" seems like it could use some work vocally, but musically sounds quite capable. I see what they're trying to do here with the video game influenced soundscapes, but the clean vocals here are a bit bad. That's the only way I can say it. I do like the atmospheres used in the piece though. 

"Run With The Hunted 5:51" begins with a solo and synth, but builds into groove-laden death metal that sees the return of the clean vocals. The guitarist is certainly putting on a good display though, as his performance takes up most of the track, making it quite memorable. "Black Ocean Overflow 6:54" features the act a bit heavier, yet still allows for something interesting things, like vocal chanting. I can read the influences in this one from a mile away. Once again, the guitarist makes his presence known. There's definitely some interesting things going on in the piece and I'll give them full marks for it. "The Madman 4:17" is next and it sounds like psychobilly. A definite change of scenery, you can tell they're trying and I'll give it to them. But they've still got a bit of work ahead. "Death's Head (Fear) 5:28" offers up another solid track however, one which really delivers in the instrumental section however. That's where these guys seem their strongest to me and I think they'll show more of that in the future. With a blazing solo and some killer drum work, I'll also have to give them points here. Now the last song on the disc is a nearly eleven minute monster called "To The Seven Cities Of Gold 10:58" which features the band at a definite best, filled with a strong chorus, memorable riff melodies and definite instrumental muscle. This is the very heart of Maverick Hunter, saved for the very end of the disc. 

Maverick Hunter certainly have potential, but there are a few songs that don't seem to work so well. I respect that they're experimenting however and would assure them that they need to continue experimenting. What's being offered here is quite memorable, I just feel that not all of it was to my taste. I wish them success in the future though, and think that this album definitely shows a band with their best days ahead of them. At any rate, they do manage to live up to the name Maverick Hunter. But damn, now I'll have to use the name X Hunter if I ever want to make a electronic death metal project based around Megaman X lyrics. Which won't probably ever happen to begin with. All joking aside, these guys can play their instruments proficiently and they know how to craft some well-structured songs. It just remains to be seen as to how far they'll go in the future. 

Highlights: I Of The Storm, Run With The Hunted, Black Ocean Overflow, Death's Head (Fear), To The Seven Cities Of Gold (10 Tracks, 53:00)

8/10


















Butterfly X - X-FX (BR 2013) - A side project from Scream Machine/godMONSTER frontwoman SinDelle De Morte, Butterfly FX is probably her most commercial attempt at electronic. It's more of a dance record, and is definitely not my thing. "I Play The Bass Loud 3:15" comes off a bit annoying, with "Gets Me Off 4:01" only performing slightly better. Though the electronics are good, Sin's vocal approach here isn't that great. "Gimme Hard Beats 3:12" doesn't work for me either. "All The Good Drugs 3:04" is basically a song about wanting to get high, which works with the electronics. It's actually one of the better efforts on the release. The last track is "Planet Bass 3:19" which proves that Sin's still a great composer and manages to throw out some worthy music with this instrumental. A bit 80's, but it works well for the track. 

All in all, Butterfly X isn't my thing. Guess the only X I'm a fan of is Megaman X. At any rate, it's kind of odd and surprisingly that the she would use the butterfly symbol, especially after knowing what it means in Monarch mind control. There's a reason behind it as the world's most popular "tramp stamp" or tattoo choice for women in general, but no one ever stopped to think about it. A butterfly/monarch is not "cute." it represents the mark given to victims of a horrific mind control experiment (which may to some extent still be going on in the mainstream media) known as Monarch Mind Control, and from that assimilated into popular culture. Look through magazines, t-shirts and movie posters, even logos and you will find this familiar draped everywhere. I despise what the butterfly represents in all forms, especially one t-shirt in particular that spelled the meaning out crystal. There was at one time a t-shirt from a familiar retailer which represented a skull made out of butterflies. It took everything in me not to purchase and then set fire to all of them. The two that were left, that is. Apparently mind control and death are popular items these days for young women.

Symbolism aside, as much as I like Scream Machine and godMONSTER, I don't think I'll be dealing with this particular project anymore. It's just not for me. I also hope that you'll google some of the stuff I just talked about regarding butterflies and why I so loathe them.

(4 Tracks, 20:00)

4/10