Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Mist - Phantasmagoria (Reissued 2017)

Brazilian thrashers The Mist actually have a bit more going for them than the previous Brazilian thrash act I reviewed this week, Mutilator. The most important thing that I can say about the reissue of this 1989 debut album is that it definitely has quite a bit of variety, refusing to stay in the same tempo or even the same style of music that many thrash acts never leave. Also,  frontman Cassiano Gobbet sounds a stickler for legendary Death vocalist, Chuck Schuldiner. Keep in mind that even if these guys were inspired in part by Scream Bloody Gore or Leprosy, they would have to be direct inspirations as the band were more than likely recording this album in '88, around the time that Leprosy would have released. I'll throw in the fact that parts of this record also structurally sound like some of Death's later releases, just because there is almost a progressive sense to these pieces that you wouldn't have expected in thrash. Keep in mind though, this was very close to the nineties and progressive elements were creeping in left and right.

The record has an uncanny 90% score (one review) on Metal Archives, which is one point higher than Leprosy (twenty-two reviews), if you can believe it. Oddly enough, the band are still heavily compared to acts like Sepultura and Mutilator, (which means that their style must have simplified as they went on) which I'm just not hearing here. Like I said, I'm hearing more of Death and Sarcofago with more thrash elements. When the band aren't playing straight-up thrashers, they seem to be at their very best as songs like “Smiles, Tears and Chaos”, “The Enemy” and the title track seem to display very well. It's not that they can't thrash, because they can – and better than a lot of bands, even Metallica during this era. I'd certainly say it's a more interesting and ferocious album than Kill Em' All ever was and despite how much I absolutely love Metallica's early compositions; they were never overly frightening. It's great that these guys actually managed to put a little bit of horror into these tunes with some noticeably creepy vibes throughout and that works for me. The record isn't filled with dread and terror, but it doesn't shirk away from that territory either, still managing to hold a thick steel mallet of pure-bred thrash behind it's back by which to pummel the listener until they are nothing but a gelatinous pool of blood and bone matter. Thrashers are still getting a great thrash album, which I might even want to say is a real lost gem in the genre. If you like thrash metal in any capacity and have not gotten your hands on this one, then you definitely need to do so and as soon as possible. I'm not sure how many copies they will have left, and this is a definite treasure. Not to mention that the remastering on the disc sounds absolutely brilliant, and I can discern ever bass lick and guitar lead as I find myself sucked into a record that I just cannot stop playing. If you've always wished for a thrashier Death, then The Mist might just grant that in spades.

Two guitarists really helped to make the band as melodically great as they are, which would be Fabio Andrey and the now deceased Jairo Guedz, who seems to be a real loss to the world of metal as a whole. He died nearly sixteen years ago, but when you hear just how great his playing on this record is, you might even regard him in the same territory as great axemen like Cliff Burton or Randy Rhoads. Judging from the later albums however, the band could simply not keep up the momentum as this 90% later became an 82% with their next release and then a 58% where the band's legacy ended with their third album. An EP was also released, but it received an unexpected 35% so it must have been rather rough. In any case, Phantasmagoria is literally as good as it gets from these guys and though I'm definitely tempted to check out sophomore The Hangman Tree, not even I think that this recording can be topped. Run, don't walk to the nearest record store and see if they have this one in or might be able to order it for you. This isn't just a great Brazilian thrash record, it is an essential piece of thrash metal history, lost no more. 

(10 Tracks, 39:00)

9/10

Agresiva - Eternal Foe (Reissued 2016)

Originally released back in 2012, this new version of the Spanish thrashers' debut recording contains two extra tracks in addition to the Spanish language version of “Hell Town.” These are “The End Of The Game” and “Sent To War” respectively. Judging the record as a whole, I feel that the three reviewers on Metal Archives got it right, and it currently stands at a 71% even though I'd place it just a few points higher. The early (but should we now say current?) Belladonna era of Anthrax seems to be a major influence on the piece, with fontispiece Samuel being a near emulation of the classic vocal style. You can tell that these blasted the living hell out of Among The Living when you pop in Eternal Foe and that's just fine. They know what kind of band that they want to be, and frankly there's enough firepower and differentiation in riff-structures to make for something of a pleasant listen. As of this review, I'm on my third play of it tonight as I'm trying to really hammer down what I think the issues are.

As far as the musicianship is concerned, I feel that this very much resembles Anthrax at their mightiest, and it may even offer a bit more bite than the records that influenced it. There are also some sections that differ from the thrash formula and tinge maybe a little on prog. The drumming offered up by Chus Maestro is quite proficient and the flurry of varied riffs that we get from guitarists Miguel Coello and Eduardo Chamón more than make up for the slighty lackluster vocal approach that Samuel offers in some areas, especially when wonderful solos come into the mix. The band utilize a slew of soundclips within the performance, but never directly in the songs, which is a major plus for me. All I want to hear in thrash is the guitars, drums, bass and vocals and that's pretty much it. This record gives me exactly that, along with some real energy – the kind that Metallica haven't offered in quite a while. But you can't even really compare a band like this to Metallica, because they borrow so much from early Anthrax and don't even seem to have so much as a bone in their body that resembles Metallica. With an atmosphere that feels warm, yet clean – we get something that is not much offered within the thrash metal spectrum, and that is a bit refreshing. It's a bit less fierce than the two other thrash releases I've covered this week, being Mutilator and The Mist respectively; but it is still a rather rough and tumble experience that fans of the genre need to check out, especially if they miss old-school Anthrax. Daniel Villaseñor's hefty bass is certainly well pronounced and provides a firey overtone to the production here, but there is just enough space within the recording that I can actually make out nearly every melodic lead and drum tap. This is fantastic, because songs like “Pale Horse”, “Hell Town” and the especially progessive title track are only made the better because of this production decision. This record could have been produced with a focus on raw thrash, but it would have sounded like crap and at the same time, would have harmed the band a great deal. Thankfully, that was not the case here.

Again, we don't get many independent thrash albums where the band can breathe and many sound like they're in some kind of box or garage plugging out inaudible tunes with amps that have been turned up far too loud for their own good. I have no idea who mastered this one, but they did a hell of a job with it and they deserve about fifteen medals. I don't know what kind of medals, probably those chocolate medals from the Mario books. In any case, what we have here is something quite profound and promising in the house that thrash built, and I hope that the band's sophomore release The Crime Of Our Time (2014) came out just as good as this one did. If not, throw it to this guy and let him master it as well. I don't care how much money it takes, this is a real bang-up production job and it shows that these guys have some real power in the scene. If they were able to deliver just as good, or even better of a performance with the second one, then I'd be more than willing to hear it.

These guys were independent for a while, but Minotauro Records picked them up and created this version of it, so if you liked the independent release, you owe it to yourself to grab this version of the disc. It contains some nice cover artwork as well, and looks like a truly professional product. There's an undead shogun on the front of it and that works for me! Very cool stuff, guys.

(12 Tracks, 55:00)

7.5/10

Mutilator - Immortal Force (Reissued 2016)

Originally released back in 1987 but reissued in 2016, we have the debut album from Brazillian thrash act Mutilator for the first time ever in a CD format. You may not be all that familiar with these guys as they broke up shortly in 1990, never to reunite again. In that time, this record was released to a solid 80% (five reviews) on Metal Archives, followed by the band's sophomore and final album Into The Strange, which released a year later to a 73% (four reviews) on the same site. If you happened to catch Metallica last night, then you'll soon come to realize that the thrash here is much different than what Lady Gaga performed on stage. Here we have a rather warm and hard-hitting thrash, that actually sounds like thrash metal. Rapid-fire riffing combines with a ferocious amount of drum punch and shouting vocals on the front-end to introduce a band that absolutely defines the very genre compared to what the aforementioned put out last year. Not to mention the fact that we have blazing guitar solos, which are an absolute staple of thrash.

Not surprisingly, Mutilator also seem to have a similarity to Brazillian thrashers gone technical groove/thrashers Sepultura, but during their most respected days. Records like Arise and Beneath The Remains come into mind, as well as efforts like INRI and Rotting from Sarcofago. So if you love Brazillian thrash in it's most classic element, you'll love this to. Rodrigo Neves simply pounds the living hell out of the drumkit sometimes, so it's admittedly a little difficult to hear some of (now deceased) guitarist Alexander Magu's leads as well as Kleber's melodies, despite the fact that his vocals are incredibly defined and voracious inside the mix. These guys played thrash the old-fashioned way, long before the Black album and long before Slayer thought they would try to go a bit mainstream and then jump back into their old stomping grounds. This also predates John Bush's arrival into Anthrax, which produced the (still memorable) White Noise album and certainly it comes before Sepultura's Roots (which they're doing an entire tour for). Though the album will undoubtedly knock listeners on their ass, much can't be said for varitey and song structure. Much of the record feels like one big thrash song, which is the same way I felt about Slayer classic, Reign In Blood. If you're looking for more varied thrash, look elsewhere. But if you're looking for hard-hitting thrash that never lets up and doesn't go into ballads or acoustic bits of atmosphere, then you'll find just what the doctor ordered here.

Unfortunately, not even one song stands out above the others, but I'd be a fool to tell you that it wasn't performed with enough bravado and raw power to leave a mark. Maybe Metallica or MetalliGaga should sit down and listen to this one, so they can kind of get a taste of what the genre they made waves in back in the eighties, is supposed to sound like. Without question, Immortal Force comes in as a reminder of what thrash metal music is supposed to be. It's debatable as to whether or not the new sound of thrash is an evolution of devolution, but for you old-school thrash heads that remember what this thing was like on vinyl, now you get another excuse to pick it up and relive the raw energy available on this disc. By the way, it comes with two bonus tracks, “Evil Conspiracy” and “Visions Of Darkness” which are both shorter than any of the tracks here, but are worth checking out in their own right. Obviously these are a bit lower in quality and were taken from a demo recording. Even so, it's great to have them as part of the package now.

(11 Tracks, 42:00)

7/10

Seth - Apocrypha (2016)

Since Seth is first known as a black metal act, and “Seth Rock Band” gives me results for a rapper by the name of Seth Rock, I'm just going to have to say that information is slim regarding this Massachusetts bassed progressive rock act. Now, Seth is definitely influenced by everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Robert Plant, which means we are definitely hearing Zeppelin and Sabbath in the mix. You can tell right off that multi-instrumentalist and frontman Gerry Stafford is heavily influenced by artists like Ozzy (especially with his vocal style, which seems to echo quite a bit of the Ozzman) even though this act goes back to '74 and predates the British metal legends by quite a bit. Nevertheless, I'm still hearing that Sabbath flair here. It's undoubtable that there are several artists not limited to Cream, and The Beatles, Yes and possibly even early Pink Floyd that could have had a hand in this, but that depends on who you ask. The record itself nearly comes in at forty minutes, so there's quite a bit of territory covered here and a great deal to be explored.

Unfortunately, several of the cuts here are not quite as thick as those at the beginning of the album and although we get a rather potent opener in “I'm No Saint” as well as a grooving alternative rock (it almost sounds a bit like grunge, if you ask me) number in “Semaj” there exist two rather light pieces in the ballad “Love's Hallowed Ground” and the even lighter ballad “The First 29 Years” which aren't exactly bad, but might be a bit more airy than one would expect. Sandwiched in the middle of that is a decent enough piece called “Free World” that despite it's length, feels a bit off for some reason. I've listened to this track several times today and it just feels as if something is wrong with it. It honestly kind of feels a bit garage for me, which I'm kind of lost to. The rest of the album sounds a bit more clear than this – whatever it is supposed to be – and I certainly cannot say that it is one of the band's best tracks, by far. Maybe with a slightly less raw production as the others have received, “Free World” will come off a bit more lively. Not only does the piece sound off, but it feels stifled compared to the rest of the album. Seth had the right idea, but it's just a little below the bar for me. I also feel that “There and Now” isn't quite what it should be, even though it is definitely a much heavier cut than some of the others here. That being said, I'm not looking for an overly heavy record here and perhaps it touches on doom a bit too much.

The real treat on this album (and why it is worth the purchase price) is a wonderful instrumental called “Quadragy” which spans well over ten-minutes and carries me into places that not only execute great prog, but remind me of great classic video game soundtracks. I strongly doubt these were inspirations, but I heard something within the piece that felt like a Mega Man style melody and I definitely jumped on it. It felt like the end credits music to such a game, what you would hear after finishing the final boss and seeing how the story turned out. A veritable time for relection, which is a good idea between games. We often don't reflect on media period, which is definitely not a good thing. We should think about those experiences that we've had with art in all of it's different facets. It doesn't help the Mega Man feeling I get when electronics and keyboards are wholly used to make these sounds, and when something comes off very much like a charge sound, I can't really help it. Later, the piece goes into something that kind of reminds me of the seventies inspired progressive rock that influenced some of the tunes in X-Men: Arcade's Revenge. This is definitely eighties X-Men to me. Then we have what sounds like a ship landing as what feels like classic music for a shmup begins to blare. I'm just missing the ship and the enemies. Very cool, very classic and certainly one of the best things I've heard this year.

I guess this comes off as a bit rude, but with such an amazingly outstanding performance like this one, why did Seth even write traditional songs? I think I would have absolutely salivated over an entire record like this and as much as I really dug “I'm No Saint” and “Semaj” there's nothing like “Quadragy.” That's simply just “cool” and I can't say much more than that. It brings back so many memories, of course – and I feel that ended far too soon. Twenty or thirty more minutes of that would have been awesome. That, is the very essence of this genre. Without a piece like that, this record would probably receive a five, or if I was feeling gracious, a six. But since there's such a monumentally awesome recording utilized as a finale, I have to give Seth the benefit of the doubt. I want more people to hear said track, because it is absolutely incredible. These guys reunited after many years, and even though I didn't think so much of the record at first (it was relatively decent,  but not phenomenal) they unexpectedly blew me away right at the end. It's like watching a film with a good build-up and a lowly climax, only to be shaken by a suprisingly fantastic ending note. I have to recommend Seth's Apocrypha to progressive rock fans sheerly due to “Quadragy”, because such a piece is worth paying for. There's absolutely no question in my mind.

(7 Tracks, 37:00)

7/10

The Silverblack - Self-Titled (Remixed and Remastered) (2016)

This very short remastered and remixed version of the industrial goth rockers debut album feels more like an EP release than a debut. Even though there are ten songs featured here, it feels more like a smattering of ideas that was further realized on the group's next effort. There are obvious references to The Deathstars here, especially right in the vocal tone of album opener “Chimera.” Throughout the album we are introduced to a very dark vocal croon in the background, which would definitely have to be Disarmonia Mundi's Claudio Ravinale and could carry the weight of the record completely on it's own. Unfortunately, this is technically Neroargento's main band with him performing the leads, samples and the majority of the vocals, which are a bit more focused towards lighter and more fragile territory which doesn't work as well for me. For instance, there's a section in “Dandelion” where a clean vocal is used, which feels a bit closer to Manson and far from that deep tongued Bloody Kisses Pete Steele vibe that Ravinale is going for. Aside from that, you're going to find a very interesting mix of guitar and electronica here, which is often as bouncy as it is gothic. It often feels like both vocalists are struggling for supremacy here, as one fellow prefers a harsh approach to the clean approach of the other – you can only imagine how this comes off on the recording, sounding not unlike an utter mess. Less is more, and there is just too much going on as far as the record is concerned. The Silverblack need to find a way to separate vocal duties in this act, or someone needs to go. That's not to say that heartwrenching number “Someone like you” or the catchy “Once Again” (by which the harsh/clean approach is used effectively) are not worthy of merit, but there are definitely some slips and slides here. The most aggravating track on the record is called “B.B.N.C.” which quite literally feels ruined by it's gimmick of a cellphone scammer. I will say that if you're looking for a mix of goth rock and heavy industrial with an almost melodic death metal flair to the vocals, you can't really go wrong with this. It reminds me a little of early Blood Stain Child (are they even still a band?) and that's a good thing. I also need to mention that this disc sounds a bit different from The Grand Turmoil and comes across with more of a bite.

Remember that this version of the band's debut is different from the initial release and may come off better or worse than that version, depending on taste. Some of you might feel that the original mix was better, but I can't confirm or deny that, not having heard it. I will say that even though the record is pretty short, it does feel a bit longer than it does due to all of the different ideas utilized within each track. As the record literally overflows with differing structures, there exists a brand of substance that you just won't hear in similar bands. Perhaps this might even come across as a heavier version of industrial era Linkin Park, which is not a problem for me, because even if Neroargento is going for something like Chester Bennington with the cleans (who actually always wanted to emulate Ministry during their With Sympathy days – did you know?) the rest of the album features so much more bite than anything I've heard from the experimental alternative pop rockers in years. I'd definitely recommend this one over that style of music, even though I am admittedly a fan of some of their music as well and do not recognize boundaries when it comes to music. Perhaps one of my favorite tracks on the album would be it's closer “Blessed By A Curse” where we get a nice bit helping of frightening dark vocal tones, something that I feel could have been utilized better on the album as a whole. Even so, you're never going to hear anything like that on a Linkin Park album. Speaking of, the band just jumped the shark and is getting hammered by people for putting out a very lackluster track and this might be just what you need to cleanse your palette and get the fucking taste out of your mouth. As a secondary defense, I'll also state that NeroArgento's clean lines are not as whiny as Chester Bennington's often come off. We can be rather thankful for that. I was on the fence during the first listen of this recording, but sometimes it's the second listen that really allows the material to sink in. I would certainly recommend it to those looking for a good mix of many genres, set to a bouncy and brackish musical backbone.

(10 Tracks, 34:00)

7/10

The State Of Metal Address 2017

I vowed not to get political here, but things are definitely changing around the world. That also means the metal scene. So let me state my politics immediately. I am not a liberal and I am not a conservative. I stand somewhere in the middle and consider politics a little bit of a game. Do I consider Donald Trump to be the devil? No, not by any means. But I cannot say that I agree with what he is doing either, at least as far as the environment is concerned. The man simply refuses to understand that the Antarctic is melting more than it ever has, which will have some rather horrid effects on the world as a whole and is already beginning to take effect. I read science books as a child, detailing the effects of global climate change on the world and apparently this wonderful pipeline is only going to make things worse through pollution, no matter how many jobs it creates. It's a very interesting situation.

I will say that since I have not gone to sign waving and pussy-hat wearing protests, and because I have not completely demonized the president in every way, shape and form as well as stood behind social justice ideals, I've ended up with more people blocking and unfriending me than can add me on social media. It's almost a joke. I'm making myself Public Enemy #1 in this industry because I'm one of the only people with enough sense to see a manufactured revolution is on the rise.

First of all, we have to realize that millionaires with power and connections are telling peasants to rise up and rebel against another millionaire that they didn't want to win the political game. There's a nice little conspiracy here (dare I call it a theory?) that makes a lot of sense to me. In the past, people did not trust their media or the entertainment industry. In comes Donald Trump, who criticizes both beyond recognition. Now the same industry that people didn't trust and put much stock in before, sheds crocodile tears and makes the peasants fear for the future of their existence. Eventually, the mean tyrant will be ousted, by which a new millionaire that the entertainment industry, media and elite members of society will openly support. Soon, the rest of the country and world as a whole will consider this choice to be a victory. The result of that victory will see an entire group of people once again lipping tongue to the entertainment and media industry, more than ever before. This will allow any corporate agendas to pass through without any real conflict from the people and much of that will be a form of socialism/globalism which is what other countries already seem to be working towards.

There are definitely some fears in globalism, which will change the way the world works, as well as the way that money is handled (a one-world digital currency) and some of these effects will actually be quite useful. I do support the Universal Basic Income, which will allow people who cannot find a job or refuse to work, some sort of income by which they can survive, rather than protesting higher wages. People don't want higher wages, they want liveable wages. They want any form of currency that will allow them to provide for their families. This may mean throwing the dollar out the window completely, or combining it with the euro and other means of currency in order to make something sustainable for all people on the globe. Of course, that also means that such a currency has the possibility of being corrupt. Aye, everything that man can put his hands on has the ability to become corrupt or to fail altogether. Some say that capitalism itself has become corrupt. That's more or less the truth, unless you are a millionaire yourself. Most millionaires in this country don't want to be less than millionaires. But everyone wants to be a millionaire!

So honestly, I don't see the Trump presidency going on for very long. Because people will keep complaining and the media will keep spending thousands on all of these ad campaigns, program guides (yes, there are daily program guides for people in this country to protest and march, and they have to be paying them some kind of wage in order for these people to leave their places of employment for so long, unless they are on some sort of welfare). I dunno folks, the whole country is pretty much in shambles and now even metal is becoming a part of it.

Last night, a Marduk show was completely cancelled because of Antifa and BLM members. Wow. Are we in pre-MetalGate times, already? Has the dragon that we'd long thought vanquished over a week's time in 2014 decided to rear it's ugly head again in 2017 as hordes of brainless trendhoppers attempt to destroy a music that they know nothing about? People who only know about a topic based on what they've read and not what they've experienced? Is this what 2017 is going to be like? Every black metal act on the face of the fucking globe thrown into a Neo-Socialist pile? Boy, I'd sure hate to be a real Neo-Socialist black metal band these days. Good thing that nothing like that actually exists... (sarcasm). But seriously, folks. I think we are for some very interesting times here in the heavy metal scene. Not to mention we have that awful repugnance, Lords Of Chaos releasing this year, which is only going to make it worse for black metal bands and fans. Just think, a whole fucking western culture that now considers black metal listeners to be killers and satanists. Not the kind of satanists you're thinking of either. Rather the murdering devil worshippers of a Satanic Panic film.

Good gravy, metal is really taking a beating this year. Sabbath is done, Lady Gaga (Do I embolden that?) is being considered a member of Metallica, Marduk was banned, Lords Of Chaos is set to release. What else can go wrong? Oh, I cannot wait for the days when I check out the comments section on a topic from Metal Injection or Blabbermouth (or the newly reformed Metal Hammer... did not see that coming) and find tons of religious-minded people and/or normal folks that have watched the film and it becomes the next fucking Deliverance, because of what some teenagers did two or three decades ago. Soon, all metal listeners would be branded with the same shit, as the republican house declares another war on metal - again. (We already had this once, during the Tipper Gore years). Then I guess Corey Taylor (since he doesn't have the balls of Dee Snider and Rob Halford) will get on his hands and knees and bawl into the defendant's table just like he does on his little Hello Kitty pillow every night and complain about how he's sorry for making such violent and offensive heavy metal albums. Who knows, maybe the guys from Avenged Sevenfold will get a shoulder up from Metallica as Gojira heads back to France where people aren't so closed-minded, and Nergal just gives the whole country a finger as the new Behemoth record releases exclusively to Poland in a compact disc format only. Little blogs like this will just go down in an instant, as Google succumbs to pressure and everything I worked for falls apart in front of me. I know, maybe all of this is an exagerration; but you'd be surprised all of the flack that one little fucking Hollywood movie can create. Or maybe you wouldn't.

In any case, between Trump, a manufactured revolution and all of the bullshit that is happening to heavy metal in the media (or is about to), this year is turning out to be just as great as the last one. I should also mention that I have not heard from my colleague since late October. He may never do this kind of work again. Who knows? I haven't heard from my other friend in quite a while too. I'm also at odds right now with another friend, which I hope we will work out. I am tired of people in my life walking out the door for one reason or another. Hopefully, I can bring some great heavy metal reviews (and other music too) in the months to come and maybe we'll all make it through this shit unscathed. If not, well... I don't even want to think about it.

- The Grim Lord

Friday, February 10, 2017

Malacoda - Ritualis Aeterna (2016)

Who are Malacoda? Well, the Canadian quintet have been together since 2015 and they've released one self-titled album along with an EP just last year. This of course, is a review for that EP. You can grab it on Bandcamp right now and it's definitely worth it if you like Gothic, doom and power metal. The band is composed of current and former members of Annihilator, Phear, Echoterra, Pyramaze, Structure Of Inhumanity and Universal Mind Project, but it doesn't have a very strong budget yet and needs some level of promotion in order to possibly get further in the game. That being said, this blog probably won't be much help. (Chuckles) In any case, we first have to wager as to whether or not Malacoda are actually worth being a big name act in their own right and in my book, I was quite surprised by what I thought was going to be some kind of generic metal album. I'm already aware that if you'll look at the Metal Archives review for the record, you'll find that the score is relatively low at 60%. But judging by the inexperienced nature of the writer, I wouldn't trust it. Seriously, looking at that load of proverbial chicken scratch tells me that he doesn't have the faintest idea as to what in the hell he's talking about.

So let's get down to brass tacks – Malacoda are an act worth watching. Not only do I hear resemblances to Candlemass, Ihsahn and even Nevermore within the powerful clean vocal structures of frontman/guitarist Lucas Di Mascio, but I'm also noticing superb keyboard atmospheres from Jonah Weingarten which really add to the whole gothic nature of the piece. Adding to that, we have some pretty killer solo work as Mascio and secondary axeman Brad Casarin prove that they can recreate the same incredible effects with their guitars that Weingarten is creating with his keys.

Malacoda aren't just a band that excell mainly in their dark and gloomy keyboard atmospheres, as they also hit strong choruses (there are no ten minute epics here, so it's mainly verse/chorus) in nearly every track that will actually get stuck in your head if you give them enough time. It feels a bit rock sometimes (I Got A Letter) but that's a large part of classic/heavy/power metal anyway, so you can't blame them for wanting to make catchy songs out of this. I do think they should branch out a little more, maybe offer some longer pieces in which the guitars and keys can have a free-for-all, but I'm definitely not unhappy with this. Di Mascio still needs a little work in his clean lines, but don't we all. I definitely can't pull off those highs in “Pandemonium” without sounding like I've grown breasts. I'd definitely have to compare them to Ihsahn's clean lines as well, which is what I was most reminded of when they came into place. This EP feels like an experiment, with every song offering something new from the band. It seems that they want to show what they're capable of and sort of find a middle ground for all of it. I'm guessing the first record was a bit of a mess because there were a million ideas utilized on it, only few of which will be further carried on. When we continue listening, we find that “The Wild Hunt” actually comes across as one of the band's strongest by far, pulling off a familiar sound and style that fans of darker power metal acts will catch right away. The only real piece I could do without is “Linger Here” which is mostly a little piano ballad that never catches on due to it's unexpectedly short length. I guess I was expecting a “November Rain” moment with this, where the guitars are finally turned on and we manage to get a brilliant solo out of it. Even BabyMetal did that with “No Rain, No Rainbow” which still surprises me to this day. I have never really cared for piano based ballads in this fashion and this one didn't win me over either. Fortunately, the record ends with a heavy-hitter called “There Will Always Be One” which is appreciated, as the prior cut nearly put me to sleep. Not only does the piece contain it's share of awfully creepy keyboards, but it features as strong of a chorus number as that of opener “Penny Dreadful” and “The Wild Hunt.” We also get several infusions of guitar, like we wanted from the very beginning.

I think Malacoda know what to do, they're just not exactly doing it. What I'd like to hear from a future release is much longer songs with more guitar influence, less of the teary piano ballads and without question, an album worthy of the title of gothic power metal. There's so much promise in Ritualis Aeterna that labels should be taking note, and I'm sure they are. I really just hope that the band are able to evolve naturally and don't end up getting thrown into the core and djent trends, of which I'm proud to say that I'm not hearing one bit of throughout the entirety of this release. Thank the metal gods for small favors. As I said, you can pick this one up on Bandcamp and you should, especially if you're interested in a couple of catchy dark tunes that have me hopeful for the future of this genre. You see, gothic power metal is not all that prolific within the heavy metal spectrum, nor should it be. I like to see that bands like Malacoda are trying new things within what has seemed to hit a sort of a slump as far as the power metal genre is concerned. Many of the bands are putting out good albums, but no one is really putting out anything all that unique. At least these Canadians are trying, and that's saying something.

(6 Tracks, 24:00)

8/10