Thursday, August 25, 2016

Megadriver - Role-Playing Metal (2016)

The shortest disc in the set is also the last one I have here for review, but it is also my favorite. The theme of this one is something completely different than what Megadriver have done in the past, and it works well for them. Here we have several covers taken from various role-playing games, spanning both the classic and modern eras of the genre. The first is “Tristam” from Diablo II, which is a game I haven't played much of even though I've liked dungeon crawlers for years. I'm not very familiar with the source material, but this is one of the most bombastic (and yes, there are a slew of outside folk instruments utilized) and intriguing tracks that the band have ever recorded. It is more than just a metal track, and shows the compositional power of these guys beyond standard heavy metal pieces. It only gets better from here, folks. Next we have the Final Fantasy theme, here entitled “Prelude.” It sounds absolutely awesome to hear those notes played on a fretboard in this fashion, and I love the added elements to the piece which expand beyond it's rather simplistic (but wholly memorable) origin. Then we have “Still More Fighting” which is of course, from Final Fantasy VII. They're doing a solid job with it here, but I just don't think you can capitalize on The Black Mages version of it, which is of course Nobuo Uematsu's band. He composed the orinal cuts, so it goes without saying that his version of this piece is astounding. Even though I will add that this Megadriver version adds some interesting sections and a nice solo to the cut that work to their favor. This is also a pretty long song, so expect that. Next we have “Title Theme” from The Legend Of Zelda. I've heard this covered more times than I would care to admit, by more bands than you would ever believe. One of them even incoproated black metal blasts (Artifact) into the composition. “Gerudo Valley” is from TLOZ: Ocarina Of Time, which most people would want me stoned to death for not having finished. I've played it several times, I just became stuck early in the game and never finished it. I've heard this piece before from the band, but did not know it was from Ocarina Of Time.

Following that, we have “White Wolf” which is the theme for The Witcher. Yes, I have The Witcher. It is installed on my PC right now, but I can't get the hang of it. One of these days I might go back to it. The piece is thundering heavy metal, as we might expect – and it features loads of chugs and gallops. These guys love their gallops. They always have. The next cut is “Courage and Pride” which is the Guardia Castle theme from Chrono Trigger. This piece was done so well in the latter half of the song that my eyes nearly welled up. What was already a terrific melody became a fantastic lead. Without question, this might very well be the best piece Megadriver have ever recorded IMO. Even the solo fits, which I wasn't sure about at first, since this one is fragile. Break it and I'll be forever pissed. Next we have an equally popular piece, “Frog's Theme.” I've heard it covered in metal by several bands as well (but not Guardia Castle, that was a first!) It also seems to be played a bit slow, but the leads really shine here as they should – Chrono Trigger's soundtrack was all about melodies, melodies that the developers actually heard in their dreams. (That's a fact by the way, go look it up.) Even more special to me is the Chrono Cross soundtrack. Now I know that this one is a bit of a hit or miss with fans, but I've always loved the music. There were times that I would sit and just listen to the soundtrack, it's easily one of the best – if not the best RPG soundtrack of all time for me. “Scars Of Time” is the intro movie's music, which surprises me as they could have done Nikki's theme (which actually incorporated a real guitar.) As such, it's decent. Some of the melodies fit rather well here, the leads continuing to shine through. More could have been done, however. Plus, not even a metal cover could one-up the original composition for me here and there are just some things that you shouldn't touch.

“Dragonborn Comes” from Skyrim is a theme that I've never heard, as I never got very far in Skyrim, but I did play quite a lot of it. Oh, great. There's the band's frontman again... You know it's a bad sign when you dread hearing the band's frontman. This is basically a folk metal piece, but I won't put too much stock into it as the vocals really kill it for me. As for “Song Of Elune” I have only spent a total of ten minutes in the World Of Warcraft, when a friend was trying to get me into the game. I suppose the game's music is decent, and that cut does manage to do something for me near the end, when the shredding begins. Closing on the end of the disc, we have “The End Of The Millennium” from Phantasy Star IV, a game I haven't personally played (as I think it was fan-translated) but have been told was quite good. It has an electronic backing, which works additionally well with the amount of melodies and the shredding apparent. The last cut on the album is “Dungeon” from Phantasy Star. Out of all the others, this one could have also been on Rise From Your Grave as it was also a Genesis/Megadrive title.

My closing thoughts on Role-Playing Metal mainly consist of high praise, as this is one of the best records that the band have ever done. If we throw the vocal-laden “Dragonborn Comes” out into the ocean somewhere, we still have twelve memorable and lengthy cuts that show the band exploring and experimenting not only like they haven't done before, but unlike other bands in their genre have done before. The melodies truly shine on this record, which has always been the best thing about video game music, especially in those early compositions.

Closing my thoughts out on all three of these, (please read the reviews for Rise From Your Grave and Gaming Hell before you read this) it's almost unreal to think that these Brazilians have released such a vast compilation of music in such a short time. It has also been well-composed for the most part, and is being offered online for a price, or a free download if you're on the fence about it. IMO, Gaming Hell was hell except for a few strong cuts, with the Rise For Your Grave record being a bit more to my liking. Obviously, I like the RPG compositions the best, and you might feel a little bit different, as well you should. I'm starting to think that these guys are running out of things to cover as well, with so much territory having been covered on a regular basis. They keep releasing new music, which is something that will keep them relevant for a long time to come. I didn't see any real reviews for this band, nor any news articles about them since 2011's Metalhog album. It's been a long time since that record released, and these guys have gone unheard for a bit too long, I'd say. They're practically giving you these three albums on the Megadriver website (that's .br by the way) but if you could throw a little bit of support their way, I'm sure they would be grateful.

(13 Tracks, 45:00)

8/10

Megadriver - Rise From Your Grave (2016)

The next album in the set is the longest here, and it is also more in the vein of the band's traditional material. Simply, it's a Megadriver record of tunes covered from the Sega Megadrive soundfont. Every single tune covered here appeared specifically on the console, reminding me much of their early material. It's going to be that sort of “return to the roots” days that people were looking for and it certainly doesn't disappoint. There are twenty-one cuts here and the disc nearly runs to seventy minutes, but I'll try to go through it as best I can. First we have “Another Part Of Me” from Michael Jackson's “Moonwalker.” It's alright, and works as a decent enough intro. I never got into that particular title though, but I've played it a few times. “Rise From Your Grave” comes next, which should have actually opened the disc for some reason, but maybe they didn't want to do that as their Altered Beast album did the same. This is probably about the eightieth time I've heard these guys cover this track since the demo days, and I'd actually think Nino would be tired of playing it by now. Next we have “The Graveyard” from Ghouls n' Ghosts, which doesn't need a very long explanation. It is played a little slower than I expected, however. “Sunset Riders” also comes from the band's demo days, except this time we have a more produced version of the cut. “War Of The Clones” is from X-Men 2: The Clone Wars and it is an odd piece with some keyboard effects and record scratches thrown in to go with the slightly electronic feel of the piece. Clone Wars was a very odd game for me, I never really finished it, or got very far. It was one I had always sat on the back burner and never really understood it. It was an unexpected direction from the original, even with Magento playable.

The next cut comes from Vectorman and it's entitled “Day 1 Terraport/Day 6 Bamboo Mill.” It also has more added electronic effects to emulate the palette of the original. Keep in mind, these were more funk-induced electronic cuts, so hearing them in metal seems a bit bizarre – even though the band certainly seems to capture a great metallic feel to both. The next one brings back a lot of memories, as it's title theme to Battletoads & Double Dragon, here called “Dragontoad.” Probably one of the best (and toughest) beat em' up/platformers ever made, it's definitely worth a play for all of you old-schoolers out there and certainly had some great music in it's own right. The band captures that pretty well here and I'm quite pleased with the rendition. Definitely one of the best here. They even got the cowbell right. The next one is “Turbo Tunnel” from the Sega version of Battletoads. It's a remake of the NES version, but is still just as tough. Especially because of that bike section. This one's alright, but nothing truly amazing. Another game I remember is Aladdin, and we have “Agrabah Market” here, which is basically just a Middle-Eastern folk piece transferred into metal. I never got very far in Kid Chameleon, but it remains as a classic sort of launch-title for the Genesis. This is a decent number, but it doesn't really leave me with anything. It's just kind of there and I don't really love or hate it. “Night Of The Mutants” from Comix Zone (another good, but short beat em' up – it was a rare style of game that we haven't seen since) has some strong leads here and there and follows a good composition. It gets better with the listen and stands out as another one of the most memorable tracks here.

Next we have “Last Springsteen” from Contra Hard Corps. This is when Konami still made Contra games, instead of various disappointments. The track is heavy thrash, features a ton of shredding and even some alarm sounds in the background. A good game with a good soundtrack, so it's no wonder as to why this one also wouldn't be one of the best cuts on the disc. “Stage 1-1” from Mega Turrican has a bit of Neoclassical influence in it, it serves as a pretty strong cut and more or less represents the game. “Military On The Max Power” is from Gunstar Heroes, which enough praise cannot be given. The music to the game was pretty decent, but the gameplay delivered in spades. There are a lot of indie games these days that try to emulate that style, and it works to varying degrees. “From Duckberg To Transylvania” is from Quackshot, which I never played much. The track here is also a bit “there” and doesn't really leave me feeling anything. The second portion of the song is a little better though, and I'll raise it a point. “Alleycat Blues” was a good track, whether you heard it on the SNES or Genesis/Megadrive. This was actually taken from Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, which was a poor man's version of Turtles In Time. It had some bits from the Turtles In Time Arcade game, but other than that, it felt terribly stripped down. These guys definitely did the rockin' piece justice though and it's one of my favorite cuts here. The next track is also a very strong piece called “Tornado Is Approaching” from a game called El Viento. I'm not familiar with this one, but I'll have to play it sometime. Without a doubt, this is another one of my favorite cuts on the disc. Those lead riffs are killer. After that, we have a cut from Splatterhouse 2 called “Back To The House.” As I said, this is from Splatterhouse 2 which was alright; but I would have loved to hear more extreme metal covers of many of the cuts from Splatterhouse 3. That game had such a creepy vibe and atmopshere that was only enhanced by tracks like it's boss music, which begs to be covered in a darker, more guitar-laden format. Splatterhouse 3 was extremely dark for the early console generation, due to all of it's depictions of blood, gore and grotesqueries. The first one wasn't much and the second one looked like a Friday The 13th Clone, but the third one really evolved upon that. Play this one if you haven't. The piece in general is alright, it manages to keep some of the creepy vibe from the original material.

Getting closer to the end, we have “Flash Of Sword” from the Syd of Valis Genesis/Megadrive exclusive title. They may have also made Valis 3 for the Genesis. Valis games have an extremely fascinating backstory. I used to love these, as the gameplay was very interesting as well as the story and it's characters. Syd Of Valis was a weird one with SD characters. The last Valis was Super Valis IV, which was on the SNES as an exclusive. After that, well... the entire fucking franchise became an adult hentai game. Remember those people that you had to fight? The tough bosses at the end of the game? Well, now you're fucking them. This has made me more upset with a franchise than anything else in recent memory. Valis, we barely knew ye. The piece retains the same memorable quality as with the original Valis tracks and many more should be covered from subsequent titles. But what would be awesome, is if someone could create a spiritual successor to the whole franchise. After that we have “Harrier Saga” from Space Harrier II. I sucked at these early shmups, so I didn't play very many of them and for very long at that. It is another strong cut with intricate guitar playing in sections that comes off without a hitch. Perhaps it goes on for a bit too long, though. The last track here is “Du, Du, Du” from Ristar. I'll admit that Ristar was a good platformer, but I think it came out too late in the life cycle of the console to be noticed. By that time, Sega were trying to add more weird peripherals to that thing than were wholly necessary. It's a nice send-off for the disc though, and feels rather dreamlike.

Rise From Your Grave is a much better offering that shows Megadriver doing what they do best, and have done for many years now. Some of the tracks are new, some of them are old favorites given a facelift and a bit more polish. It's definitely worth a listen, but some tracks do seem to just kind of sit there and don't really leave a real mark on you. But that's only because there are so many, and it goes without saying that we will have hits and misses on the disc.


(21 Tracks, 64:00)

7/10

Megadriver - Gaming Hell (2016)

The first of three full-length releases from the Brazilian VG Metal stalwarts, this compilation features a lot of material that differs heavily from their Genesis/Megadrive roots, as well as their 8-16 bit roots. There are still some classics to be found, but some of the stuff I found completely uninspiring and not at all memorable. “The Way Of The Assassin” features the band's frontman on vocals, and the guy has not improved any. It's a chore to get through and still makes me wonder as to why these guys have a singer at all. It's absolutely pointless for them. His tone is like an out of range Rob Halford and it's not pleasing to listen to. Most of you will probably skip that one right out. Then we get to “Revolution” which is also an Assassin's Creed track. I've never heard this one before, and am not sure if the original was done with guitar. It is however, one of the stronger tracks. We get a medicore cover of “Sons Of Liberty” from Metal Gear Solid 2, as well as the title theme for GTA Vice City. But then we get a real classic, which is “Streets Of Desolation” from Konami Batman (because that's just what it's called.) I'm thankful that the tune is faithful to the original and doesn't feature any clean vocal pieces from their frontman about Batman fighting the Joker. I'd have stabbed myself in the stomach and bled to death right then and there. I'll also add that this one has a nice solo on the end of it (not in the original, obviously.) Next, we have “Gank-Plank Galleon” from the original Donkey Kong Country. There was more of a funk and groove to the original when it kicked up to add guitars, but this rendition seems to carry more chug with it. After that, we get “Fire” which is actually from both the Ninja Turtles II Arcade cabinet (which you can play on your damn phone these days) as well as the NES port. It's quite close to the original and was one of the tracks that got me into heavier music, along with Konami Batman's “Streets Of Desolation” of course. Keep in mind, I was seven. I had no idea who Slayer or Metallica were. But I knew that I liked the sound of emulated guitars and wanted to hear real ones. Now here I am at thirty-one years of age, hearing more real guitars than I'd ever imagined.

The next one is “Wings Of Liberty” from Starcraft II, which is a game I've never so much as booted up. The next track we have actually has a funny story behind it. Here, it is called “Maximum Carnage.” But those of you who know your metal and rock history might remember the song's original title, “Carnage Rules” performed by Green Jelly. I've loved this song for years and have been chomping at the bit to do a vocal cover of the piece with more of a sinster and black metal edge – kind of like if Carnage himself had sung it. I also think that it's one of the heaviest punk songs I've heard, it has a ton of bite and remains on my playlist to this very day. I jam the shit out of that song and have for years. And yes, the lyrics are loosely based on Spider-Man. Now as for Megadriver's version, it is a little peculiar. I think Nino wanted to change the composition a little to sound different from the Green Jelly version and they also added some extra elements to it. It's not bad, but it has nothing on the original Green Jelly cut. After that, we have the worst abomination in the entire VG Metal genre and something I hope that I never hear again for the rest of my life.

Those of you who remember Valve's first Portal title might remember the little song “Still Alive” at the end. Well, these guys decided to give us a traditional metal version of the cut which is terrible. It has a one-star rating here on my WMP list and it will stay that way. This is just... cancer. I'll pretend that this one doesn't exist. Next we have “Get To The Choppa” from Tiger Heli and man, is it ever a welcome change of pace. After that we have “Area 7” from Blaster Master, and I've never gotten that far. It's a pretty traditional rendition and stands on it's own. Next we have “Warriors Of Metal” (almost to the end here, folks) which comes across as a very clean composition. It's definitely one of the stronger cuts on the record and fills with some very potent nodes in areas. Then we have “Brazil Stage” from a game called Sonic Wings 2. It's actually quite good, and stands as one of the best compositions on the album, if not the best. Now I'm not sure if that was because the piece itself was well composed, or that they added extra elements – but the end result comes off pretty memorable. Following this, we have another sung vocal piece in the form of “Song Of The Lonely Mountain” from The Hobbit. It's actually not too bad and the frontman manages to hit some pretty decent notes here. As you might expect, the track is a mixture of folk and power/thrash.

Finally, we have something a bit “interesting” for me to talk about, as I know this piece very well. Extremely well. I've put my own vocals on it and you can listen to the track right on my YouTube channel, except it'll be buried under gameplay videos. I recorded the cut for my solo record back in 2010 Black Therapy, and it was essentially done as both a hobby project and a way to get the word out about the bands that performed many of the instrumentals I used. Note the version of the track that I recorded my vocals to is a much lower quality version than this one, but comparing “El Origen De La Oscuridad” to “Into The Sea” leaves me with the feeling that I completely obliterated this guy. You can listen to both cuts back to back and let me know what you think. My version is a bit more chorus-heavy and possibly a bit darker than the one Megadriver did here, but they went for a more traditonal sound and style. It's a shame, because these guys did perform some much heavier material, like “Grim Lord Of The Mound” which was a sort of factor in how I got my title and named this place. It all started with an inside joke started from a demo instrumental I did to that cut and showed to a local guitarist I knew. The name “Grim Lord” stuck after that, and hence; the Tower. So I have a lot of respect to these guys, GWAR (which inspired the silly lyrics I was doing on that cut) and the guitarist I knew for helping to bring all of this to form. That being said, Gaming Hell is probably the worst of the three releases in this set, even though there are some strong and rather exceptional pieces to be found here and I certainly won't deny that.

(16 Tracks, 53:00)

6/10

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TMHM - Stage Names (2016)

Canada's TMHM (The Man and His Machine) have been around for five years now and have self released three EP's as well as two live discs throughout their lengthy tenure. This recording marks the act's first full-length and official debut, which as of this writing is also a self-released recording. The only difference here, is that that album was recorded in Rain City Studios, where acts like Misery Signals, Japandroids and Baptists were also put through the three-step process of recording, mixing and mastering.

Although this is the act's first debut release, it still feels like an EP due to length, but I guess that is to be expected from a band who is most likely (and I'm just taking a guess – not even an educated one) used to writing and recording smaller albums in an EP format. It merely graces over twenty-two minutes of overall playtime. The sound I can describe as a mix of Nu-Metal, post, punk and core, which certainly doesn't turn me away due to the Nu-Metal elements alone. Those of you who've been with us a long time will know that I grew up in the age of Nu-Metal and first cut my teeth on this music. Though I've reviewed and enjoy more extreme approaches as well, I've always had a soft spot for this kind of music.

We start right with the very Nu-Metal style of “Bad Luck In Belleville” which seems to echo some of the heavier moments of acts like Primer 55. The vocal end of things is definitely a bit loud and even somewhat obnoxious in the mix, but I think that adds some real heart and feeling to the music. When we get into “Toxic Mix” we're listening to a post-metal piece which almost carries a bit of punk with it. The punk and groove elements punch up with “18 Oz” which might not be for everyone, but it's got a hell of a lot of piss and vinegar. “Threadcounts” changes the style of the band to a punk influenced core or powerviolence if you will. I guess I'm a bit reminded of Gallows without the sing-along parts. The powerviolence seems to carry right on over into the title cut, which is quite raucous, but I'm almost afraid that the frontman is about to blow a blood vessel.

“Better Half” changes the style a bit to aloow for more down-tuned bass, but the Nu-Metal influence has been removed almost completely in favor of something that sounds like more of what we've just heard. It's not a bad approach, but it makes me feel that the beginning of the disc might be a bit misleading to listeners. TMHM certainly have a lot of fight in them though, I can say that. The rest of the record doesn't offer much more than we've heard at this point, so you should already be aware of what you're getting now. Saying little more about the album, if you like incredibly noisy approaches that combine punk along with various metal elements, you'll certainly find something in what I can consider a rather solid and outspoken release.

It sounds like the voice of a generation, in which a cacophony of words amount to distress and frustration towards society and it's machinations as a whole. I believe this is the sound of the rebellion, though I'm not quite sure what the rebellion is against these days. The wealthy capitalist machine cannot be beaten in a physical manner, one will merely have to wait until it finishes it's tenure and goes kaput all on it's own. 

People obviously seem a bit disrupted by the current system of economics and government, which of course will bring about some sort of change in paradigm. Though that change in paradigm, I believe; had already been planned from the get-go. It is much easier to get people to rebel against and remove something themselves, than to just completely have it removed altogether – especially when they'll find that the next system probably won't work as well as this one. But what can I say? Progress has a price. Give this one a listen if you're full of rage and angst against the infernal machine.

(8 Tracks, 22:00)

7/10

Nox Formulae - The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy (2016)

Hailing from Greece, The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy is the group's debut release on Dark Descent. The act consider themselves to be a bit more than an act, actually and would consider The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy to be a “sonic grimiore” of some sort. As in, it is a literal book of black magic in the form of black metal. They also consider themselves to be Luciferian fanatics, and seem to have developed an entire foundation based on several orders of LHP. While that is all well and good, I'm not here to review the disc for it's occult qualities, but for it's musical qualities – and I found those to be quite pure and fresh. Nox Formulae sound like the kind of black metal act that actually has force and feeling behind it. It has that “raw yet produced” quality that makes it stand out, especially in craftsmanship.

Wolfsbane 1.1 is a hell of a guitarist and he's capable of bringing out some very bright leads to what can at times be rather dark and oppressive soundscapes, just like we like them. Mezkal also stands out well in the mix, utilizing a large variety of drum frills which change the music from everything to standard-fare black metal, to something a bit more groove-laden, like mid-era Satyricon. If you're looking for something truly traditional from these Greeks, beware – because you're not going to find it here.

As far as the band's frontmen, they perform in much of the same fashion that we'd expect from occult black metal, like theatrical shouts and spoken word sections in addition to the harsh scowls (which are definitely the best point of their vocal work.) It's a bit unusual for a band to have three vocalists, but Monkshood 333 (which I am assuming is responsible for the scowls) along with added bits by Nightshade (probably not named after the NES classic) and Kurgasiaz seem to work well enough together to make a listener believe that these three voices are coming from just one individual. In my book, that's quite stellar.

The record itself is only about forty-five minutes long, but it's approach of mixing what at times can be bludgeoning black metal with more disco-friendly beats (and hey, I'm not judging here – I love that kind of approach) while at the same time peppering the disc with sections of atmopshere and lead melodies (we might as well call them guitar solos, even though they seem to be pushed towards the back a bit) makes for a listen that doesn't get old.

Most of what I've read as far as the concept of the record is concerned seems to mix various occult schools in with something like H.P. Lovecraft, but that to me represents not only a modernization of the sound as a whole, but of the occulticism behind it. It would not be foolish or erroneous to consider The Hidden Paths To Black Ecstasy a new-school approach to black metal, as by all means; that is what we are getting here. It still resembles black metal to me, but it doesn't leave me with many of the lumbering approaches that I have heard from hordes of black metal acts on a day to day basis. I still cannot tell you why most of the end sections of these tracks, which consist mainly of a notable guitar solo or melody, sound so muffled in the back – I'm still not sure why that is. Even the creepy melody that begins “O.D. Dominion” sounds a bit muffled, but it's really nothing to complain about too much. At least it is an audible melody, which is more than what I would get from some of the other bands in the genre.

Greece has always had a certain touch which black metal that I've always considered very interesting and efficient, which might have something to do with how popular the Luciferian archetypes have become over there within it's rock scene (keep in mind that Rotting Christ are considered a rock band in Greece, and are considered one of the country's best) and the possible influence that many of those could have within the collective subconscious of these musicians. Greek black metal aways seems to have a very artistic and sometimes even a beautiful approach, depending on the act – which I think has much to do with that beautified Luciferian egregore by which an entire belief basis has been molded from. Truly Greece is becoming Lucifer's country, which I see no issue with, especially if they continue to make impressive black metal like this for many more years to come.

It's worth mentioning that aside from the large number of atheists in France, there had been (and still is to some extent) a great deal of Luciferian related occult black metal acts there as well. I don't tend to like the French approaches as much as the Grecian ones though, there's just something truly unique about them. However, I do not think it's fair to say that Greek black metal has ever had a subpar release, or that French black metal has never had an amazing release. The reviews on this blog would allow a listener to discern both of those points easily.

In any case, I think Dark Descent really found a great acquisition here with Nox Formulae and they continue to show the strength of that mighty Luciferian archetype, by which I hope never falters or fails to inspire these great works of modern art.

(9 Tracks, 45:00)

8/10

Beyond Enclosure - Dungeon Of Total Void (2016)

Portugal's Beyond Enclosure is an S&M themed industrial project molded by the hands of Samantha Diabolik, who handles commands, devices, electronics, metal and research with additional influence by The Analyst (ex-Sektor 304), who is also responsible for some of the record's electronic pieces. They're recommended for fans of IRM (which as you remember, made me feel uneasy) and Sewer Goddess (although I wouldn't consider this record to be even remotely close to what I've heard from them.)

I've listened to gobs of industrial material from Malignant Records over the past few years, but this one proves to be a little stranger than some of the material I've heard previously. Aside from the whirs and industrial scraping that we'd expect, there's a very odd vocal element here, which makes me think that I'm almost privy to some sort of conversation between two or more humanoid robots. “Autoerotik Punishment” seems to throw me directly into an atmopshere in which a pained robot seems to be reflecting upon it's life while standing on a soapbox at the same time. A shouting voice in the background seems to work in tandem with this fembot, which seems a bit more human. Not all of the tracks feature such a heavy vocal presence (which I actually seem to prefer a bit more) and allow a steady metallic landscape to permeate throughout, leaving more of a traditional power electronics feel to the music as a whole. The weirdness of the aformentioned is appreciated, but sometimes it is the more subtle approaches that work best. Though I do have a major complaint about the level of feedback featured at the end of “Electronic Submission” and I feel that it is something worth letting you know ahead of time.

As I 've said, I have listened to several records in this vein of all sorts of different electronic and industrial landscapes, with very little issues as far as what I would consider harmful or damaging to one's ears. I'm not exactly sure what these two were trying to do, but while I was listening to this and reading a digital comic, I soon noticed an ear-piercing amount of feedback that was very painful to listen to. This is no fault of the band, but it is definitely a track that I would recommend cutting off before the ending, because it quite simply can harm your ears a bit. This is a first for me, I've never experienced a record that was actually able to cause pain in my eardrums before, so I'll have to give it to Beyond Enclosure for this one. I should also mention that there are a few more painful sets of feedback in “Vortex Of Steel Into Flesh” but not nearly as bad as “Electrical Surrender.”

As we continue with “Basement Paraphilia”, the approach becomes more mechanical with Diabolik using her natural tone of voice, rather than the pained robot I heard earlier. There are still some sections where effects appear to bring in a sort of robotic quality, especially towards the end. It often feels like many of the vocal sections are spoken word pieces, which is also not uncommon for the genre. Industrial seems to have always been a vehicle for opinion, in which the electronic elements have always explored quite well. “Forceful Aquisition Of Faith” sees Diabolik's vocals horrendously warped and changed to sound like that of a terrifying robot overlord. There is very little to be said in lieu of atmopshere here, it is just a slight muffle of static, but it sets the tone for the rustling winds. S&M is supposed to have a strong sexual nature, but from the sounds of the vocal sections that I've witnessed on here, I don't think I would ask for pleasure from the monstrous tank-like robots by which I'm witnessing on the disc.

Dungeon Of Total Void feels like the kind of indie S&M horror film that should be made, where alien robots attempt to dominate and submit mankind to all of their fiendish pleasures before taking over the world completely. I'm thinking about something far worse than the Decepticons as well, imagine if Giger had the chance to design these things – it would have almost been like another Alien. It's not like something I've heard from Malignant Records before, in it's slightly minimalist yet foreboding structures. What the electronics don't exactly accomplish, the vocal end of the performance does – and that's where industrial fans will find favor with it.

Definitely give it a listen, preferably while in the throes of a good science-fiction tale (book or comic, it doesn't matter) as this record could really spruce up that reading session and provide a proper atmosphere, especially if you happen to have gotten hold of something which literally involves sadomasochistic robots out to destroy the human race. I'm not sure if a story like that has been written yet, but I wouldn't count out that kind of subject matter so soon.

(8 Tracks, 56:00)

8/10

Skognatt - Landscape Of Ice (2016)

Skognatt is a German one-man symphonic black metal act, and having listened to it a couple of times, I've got to agree with some of the other reviewers here on the Bandcamp page. This record is just a ten minute taste, but it's enough of a taste to get you sucked in.

From those opening gothic organs, I immediately thought of Necromantic Worship and the vocal end of things didn't disappoint either. There's not much said regarding the man behind the act, and I feel that it adds to the mystique if I don't say anything at all regarding those details. If he wamted to be known, he would have posted that information on the page.

The atmosphere remains chilly, fronted with a bloodcurdling scowl that nearly sounds inhuman. Judging by those doom riffs, there's a little bit of dread to be felt within the performance, as well as some well-placed acoustic folk. The drums are programmed, but this is a situation in which the program fits the music quite well, and it is admittedly very tough for me to tell the difference with today's technology.

Both “Winter Nights” and “Landscape Of Ice” seem compositionally similar at base, but I'd certainly rather two strong cuts on a disc instead of just one. There are also some rather indelible riffs to be found within the recording, particularly at the very end of it's title cut. Those show real warrant, which I feel will be greater expanded upon with future outputs. Skognatt is a project which seems to beat at the very core of the frozen black heart of the genre.

Not only is it morose, but it also retains the metallic semblances that keep it both heavy as well as frightening. I'm certainly keeping my eye on what I'd consider to be an unquestionably grim and emphatically necessary act. The smile that crept across my face when confronted with such a gothic frozen treat truly said it all, and I merely wish to share the same devilish desserts with you.

At just one euro, you would be a fool to pass up on this one. If you were waiting for us to actually review something grim, well... here it is. Enjoy!

(2 Tracks, 10:00)

8/10