Sunday, April 7, 2013

Week 76 (April 07, 2013)


Echtra - Sky Burial (PR2013) - Echtra's Sky Burial (Not to be confused with the Inter Arma disc of the same name) is a two track piece focusing on the "dissolution of our mortal coil" or in other words, death. Which for me isn't the worst thing that can happen. At any rate, the disc is composed of two parts "Sky Burial I 23:00" and "Sky Burial II 23:00" which each coincide with the other, so it is integral to listen to both pieces as one whole. There isn't much of a difference between the two pieces either as they are both instrumental - let's use the term "atmospheric" and feature the same use of foggy acoustics with light hints of black metal riffs that help to purvey the subject matter. Atmospheric effects are also used on the disc, making it sort of a transcendental experience. This was actually displayed live once and only once, back in December of 2008 and is available to watch in a visual format (perhaps on youtube) at your leisure. But as far as I cam concerned, I care less about watching the music be performed right in front of my eyes as I do listening to it in the format that I believe was originally meant for it.

There are almost no vocal utterances on either part of Sky Burial, but the enlightening sounds of synths combined with the raw spirit of black metal and almost tribal sense of drumming certainly conveys a rather grim, but unique sense of one's finality. It is very hard for me to actually explain this one, but I could liken it to acts like Nechochwen, as it gives off a sense of mysticism that lingers long after you've listened to it. Sometimes electronics are employed on the disc, sometimes you'll hear the sweeping of guitars and sometimes you'll hear drone. But other times... well, you have the melancholy voice of the acoustic accompanied by the brooding voice of the musician behind the experience. There is a portion on the second track however that really does thrash things up a bit - I'm curious as to why, but it doesn't last long enough to serve as a disruption.

I do say experience, as Sky Burial is not just an album you put on and enjoy for any sort of fun or amusement. It is the kind of music that you listen to when you want to reflect on your inner being. Perhaps it's a meditation as it does cause you to reflect and think on your life, decisions you've made, perhaps goals you have set for the future and other such ideas that run through the labyrinths of the human psyche. A meditation on one's death might sound quite grim, but I am also hearing something else on this album - a sense of hope. I'm hearing not the sounds of forlorn misery, but the sounds of rebirth, reincarnation and a furtherance of existence.

Some might say this is a sort of black/drone, but I have to say that this isn't anything like the crap I've heard from SunnO. It's a ritualistic meditation that I'm just glad to have heard and would certainly recommend to those here on the tower who revel in musical experiences - not just those who "listen to music." I would consider myself in all honesty to be the kind of person who "feels music" and this is certainly the kind of music that you can literally reach out and touch - feel the emotion and the sense of arcanism behind it.

I've never heard an Echtra album before and I do not know if I will ever hear one again or what that album will sound like, but I will tell you that I highly recommend that you take this journey and get the album from Temple Of Torturous.

Highlights: Once again, you can't highlight certain parts of a journey. It is the highlight. (2 Tracks, 46:00)



Total Negation - Zur Späten Stunde / Zeiträume (PR2013) - This is a collection of two EP's placed on one disc, courtesy of Temple Of Torturous. According to the flyer information "Nightly trips and dreams crossing the line between Black Metal and Krautrock." Of course, surprisingly I don't think I've ever heard Krautrock and am curious to who plays that kind of music (though I've probably heard it before and called it something else.)

As for the music, I described it on the first listen as "black metal going on several trips throughout the world." "EinKehr 7:38" certainly conveys that message as the start of the journey with melodic post-metal tinged (Krautrock?) meets raw black metal stylings that continue into the industrial and tribal sensations (yes, shakers and all) of "Abstieg 6:27." Still continuing on our journey, we encounter a militant black metal march that goes into something that sounds very inorganic, robotic and in some ways; quite evil. "Freilauf 3:29" continues that vibe with an exercise in drone that opens "Geist 4:31" which sounds like a jazzier black metal with some unconventionalities that remind me a bit of Japanese black metallers, Sigh. Seeing as how much I love the Japanese experimentalists, this track also peaked as a highlight for me. Though I must admit that the screechy vocal tone is questionable (albeit unique?) on a track of this nature that ends with a pronounced black metal assault. "Zeit 4:46" sees things a little rockier with slight intrudes into black metal blasting that separate with light keyboard work. "Raum 4:05" comes in just the same way, sounding like a black metal band in a crystalline cavern trying to play along with the miners who are playing harmonicas as they toil in their labors. It has a slight slowdown before it plays with rock, black metal and harmonicas - which I never thought would sound so awesome in black metal until now. "Traum 6:06" ends our experience with a turn into the industrial that reminds me a bit of Aborym with some harmonica presence thrown in. The song finally takes a turn into the jungle - yes, it sounds like jungle beats or island rhythms before playing black metal harmonica - and yes folks, that is a good thing.

You know, Total Negation is made up of just one guy. But this guy's got some fucking amazing ideas and that's what keeps underground music preserved. That's what keeps real music fresh. I'm still waiting for the day when Mr. Corporate decides to unleash some do everything band in this fashion, but fail miserably. Total Negation is the kind of shit I live for, it's why I spend so much time downloading and reviewing albums - I want to hear something that's worth something and when I do, I want everyone to know about it. There's a sea of metal, a whole fucking sea of it that grows larger by the day, by the hour - but deep within the ocean there lurks hidden treasure. And I'm a diver, swimming to the bottom of that sea, looking for timeless albums that people will remember years from now.

Though I didn't like every single track on the first half of the disc which was taken from the first EP, the second EP is nothing less than ingenious. If this is what we can expect from future releases, I'm more than ready to hear what comes next. Yet another band from Temple Of Torturous that I'm keeping my eyes on.

Highlights: Einkehr, Absteig, Geist, Zeit, Raum, Traum (8 Tracks, 44:00)



The New Black - III: Cut Loose (PR2013) - The third album from these rock/metallers sees them trying all sorts of things and as expected, making several hits and misses in the process. The first track "Innocence & Time 2:47" did come off as the PR info stated with the Motorhead influence, but I think the Nickleback rock of "Count Me In 4:05" and "Muzzle & Blinkers 3:31" was a little weak and mediocre. Any band could've hammered out these tracks really, so there was little to interest me there. "Superhuman Mission 3:21" adds a bit of thump to the formula and makes me think it might be good playing in the intro movie for a popular video game. Then we have the title track, "Cut Loose 4:25" which has a blues vibe to it. There's also a harmonica solo utilized, but the song seems to be more concerned with the chorus, which is fine - because it's strong enough to keep the focus of the listener.

At first "Any Colour You Like (As Long As It's Black) 4:04" left me thinking I was about to get a ballad, but that's when the groove kicked up with the blues and left me with another strong chorus, but it's certainly something I could hear in professional wrestling entertainment as it has that "same vibe" as most of the tracks they promote. These guys should give the WWE a call and get it licensed. But that's not the only licensing deal. There's a track called "Burning D 3:33" which sounds like southern hard rock theme to a superhero. I'm not sure who this about, but the name sounds like it might refer to some sort of anime character or something by the title. After that, we've got the thrashing rock of "Not Quite That Simple 3:12" which isn't anything you haven't heard before, but I fucking love the chorus. "Sharkpool 3:33" continues the southern hard rock grooves, but this one didn't hook me - not even with the solo.

"The Unexpected Truth 3:47" makes me feel about the same. From this point, the album sounds very much like American hard rock and could probably hit a couple of singles on American radio (AFM, if you're listening - you should looking into this) but it doesn't appeal to my metal sense as much as it does my rock sense. The next song "One Thing I Know 3:50" starts out like a ballad, but gets stronger and has a pummeling chorus. As in, it'll get stuck in your head. Finally, l we have "Antidote 3:23" which has some harsh vocal influence but I'm not sure why. It is a good note to leave the disc on however and I think that these guys should certainly find fame with this album. It's nothing unique, but it is very marketable. I know for sure that if I played this album for some friends of mine who usually listen to rock and hard rock (and occasionally metal) they would probably find a few songs that they liked from it, if not more. It's for fans of bands like Stonesour, Skillet and maybe Nickleback at their heaviest. I don't listen to much hard rock these days, so I don't really know what's popular in that scene right now. But these are some of the bands that come to mind with the grooves and southern rock influence (which I've noticed in Stonesour and Nickleback in particular.)

If you want a decent hard rock record, The New Black have crafted just that. But if you're looking for something heavier, this isn't going to make you a convert. Still, it's definitely not bad and worth checking out for hard rockers. The Digipack version of the album comes with five bonus tracks that I didn't even get the privilege to hear, so grab that version of the disc from AFM Records if you're interested.

Highlights: Any Colour You Like (As Long As It's Black), Burning D, Not Quite That Simple, One Thing I Know (12 Tracks, 43:38)



Svart Crown - Profane (PR2013) - Svart Crown is back and if you'll remember I considered their first disc to be either decent or solid. That was 2010 when we first started and my memory isn't as good as it used to be (I'm sorry to say, but that's the bullfuckery of getting old) and now they're back three years later, with a brand new disc that features a nude pregnant woman (yes, there are "boobs" on the cover for the 1.337% of album buyers that only buy discs because of naked women on them) with a tidal wave of people in her stomach (I had to zoom in to really see the cover art - clever on their part.)

The disc is more or less a showcase of the fall of humanity and it succeeds by bringing an extremely dark helping of black metal tinged death metal complete with every shade of malice that can be captured on a disc, save for destroying their instruments, which they might as well have done on this album. Something about today's society really pissed these guys off and they're not going to stop until they've bludgeoned you over the head with their vision of this extremely sick and sad world. This is the disc you go and listen to if you want everyone to literally "just fuck off and die" for a while. That's putting it rather bluntly, but it's true.

Yes, there are some light moments on the disc in which to catch your breath, but that intro "Manifestatio Symptons 1:32" and the calm beginning of "In Utero: A Place Of Hatred And Threat 5:12" is just the calm before the storm, which pounds with a fervor unlike few bands can unleash. The band also plays some slower numbers like "Until The Last Breath 5:01" and the closer "Revelatio: Down Here Stillborn 5:22 " but I can assure you that they are not any less crushing than their faster numbers, which litter about the disc and as noted, contain slight moments of atmosphere just so that you have enough time to recover from the onslaught of their composition. Although if I may point out one oddity in the disc, it would be "Venomous Ritual 3:43" which takes a break from the onslaught for just a few minutes. Despite it's tribal and ritualistic nature that separates itself from the rest of the album, it still comes off as uneasy as the rest of this soundtrack to our demise.

This is by all means an extreme disc. Some might notice a little bit of core influence mixed in with the black and death, but in all honesty this is core in it's very neck-cracking, venom spitting sense. The drum work is fantastic, providing most of the beating, while the black metal and core on meth riffs provide enough uncomfortable confusion to make you insane. The vocals are the perfect topping to this unhealthy mixture of hatred, as they seethe and spit acid with every word and sentence of this nail in the coffin for humanity. This album would make the perfect soundtrack to the world after we've fucked up royally - after a major nuclear war or the effects of climate change (or whatever you believe) have taken their toll, leaving us with the same amount of devastation. It is the soundtrack to the masses who will beg for a death that never comes.

Svart Crown might not have broken ground for me with their sophomore disc, but this one proves that third time's the charm and I'm hearing a maturity in musicianship and an enhanced focus and level of chaos unlike I've heard from a band in quite some time. If you're looking for intelligent music to express your own anger, this one might just be the record to do that. When you grab this disc from Listenable and I know that you're going to... tell them that The Grim Tower sent you.

Highlights: The whole album is a great work in anger portrayed as art. (10 Tracks, 44:00)



Bovine - The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire (PR2013) - Bovine are four-piece metal act influenced by bands like Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, early Soundgarden and Baroness and yes, I can hear it. I'm also going to throw Deftones in there, because I can certainly hear that influence among other post metal acts like Cult Of Luna. The album might start up calmly, but the drummer pounds the fuck out of the kit when he's not reaching for the technicalities of prog. The same could be said about the spacey riffs which seem to ebb and flow about the piece and provide not only the backing for the onslaught, (these guys love to bash your skull in with the most artful sense) but they also build up the atmosphere. The frontman's got an unmistakable sound that certainly reminds me of the Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age material which I ate for breakfast years ago and would love another helping. But he also lets loose with a scream or two that really accentuates the ferocity that these guys can inhibit. In my honest opinion, these guys have a future - and I'm not talking about just playing underground shows. These guys can really be the next big thing if someone markets them right and I'm going to help to do that in the best way I know how - promotion.

Everything that made rock interesting and unique is here. Remember why it is that you still like the Deftones? Remember why it is that you still dig Queens and Soundgarden even though everyone else only knows "No One Knows" and "Black Hole Sun?" because there are some fucking incredible rock/metal songs in every one of those band's catalogues and that's what I fucking hear here. There's no question about it, this one grabbed me and didn't let go for a minute. If I got the choice of what to put on the radio, I'd sneak one of these songs into my local rock radio station and say, "Here. Just play "Battle Of The Sinkhole 4:01" or "The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire 5:41" and see what people will do." I don't get excited for rock bands that much, but these guys are a rock band that I truly want to give a fuck about - every riff is worth hearing, the song structures are perplexing and intriguing all at the same time and the frontman's vocals sound like they were made for this fucking band. How often do you hear that?

It might sound like I'm too enthusiastic about these guys, but I honestly can't help it when I know that I really enjoyed the living hell out of this record. On my second listen, I'm still getting carried away and I hope that you will discover Bovine and begin to restore your faith in hard/alternative rock music.

Highlights: All (10 Tracks, 37:00)



Revel In Flesh - Manifested Darkness (PR2013) - It's only been a year, but Swe-death metallers Revel In Flesh are already about to release their next album Manifested Darkness and even though I loved Deathevokation, I think that this one needed just a little more time before it went to press. Opener "Revel In Flesh 4:09" sounds great and all, but it just doesn't really bring much new to the table and I think that Revolting could have served it up a little better in the grim melodies department. But that same statement could be applied for the track that immediately follows "Dominate The Rotten 4:32." By about the third track, we've got something that bashes a bit more in the vein of "Deathmarch 6:10" which I would certainly consider a highlight on the album.

The title track sounds way too much like a Revolting tribute and I guess that's what puts it off for me. As I said, I'm a huge fan of Revolting but I feel for the most part that this track plays a little too much to their style, despite the fact that an added heaviness does creep into it and some groove sections that you probably wouldn't find in Revolting. Then we go to "Torment In Fire 5:17" which didn't impress me much either. I just don't remember them like this on the last album and I feel that playing too much along the lines of established acts could be their death knell. However, not everything on this record is regurgitated Revolting and I find that "The Maggot Colony 2:48" while short, comes on fast and heavy making it a surefire must for the stage shows. Just hearing this guy growl "MAGGOTS!" puts a smile on my face from ear-to-ear.

There's also the carefully crafted "Operation Citadel 6:54" which seems to trudge a little slower than the others, but it invokes some maturity and shows that Revel In Flesh isn't a one trick pony. This song is killer throughout and really should have composed the cover idea and title of the album. It really feels like the unspoken title cut of the disc, as so much work was put it into it that it almost comes off as timeless. "Warmaster 4:02" continues this trend, seeing the band bludgeon in with a Bolt Thrower and Deicide like quality. But my favorite track on this album is the closer "Rotting In The Void 6:10" which starts out with the piano and then thumps into death metal while keeping the piano keys intact until those notes are transferred to the guitars which really gives me the sense of dread that I was looking to hear from the first half of the album. It ends the disc out on the same unwelcoming piano keys that began the song.


Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay 2:24 - Hey guys, why is this a bonus? This is the kind of stuff I praised from your last disc. It has the eerie quality sure, but there's a hell of a lot more death metal to be had here. It's got the brutality factor, something that I just don't feel that I was getting from the first half of this disc.

Revel In Flesh are back, but with hits and misses and I think they might have just gotten a little too much influence from Rogga and company. Those guys are great, but when your styles sound almost identical, it's time for a slight change of plans. That's why I'm glad that even though it took almost the entire album to reach some work that differentiated from the Revolting influencza that the seemed to be suffering from, it finally came and was well worth the wait. Songs like "Operation Citadel" and "Rotting In The Void" showcase the very best of these guys and hopefully we'll hear even greater things to come on album three. Until then, I'm just going to have to call it a decent effort and recommend the first album Deathevokation, if you don't already have it.

Highlights: Deathmarch, The Maggot Colony, Operation Citadel, Rotting In The Void, Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay (10 Tracks, 46:00)



Satan - Life Sentence (PR2013) - It's probably been more years than I've been alive since these guys have split up, but here in 2013 they've come back together. As a matter of fact, the only Satan track I've ever heard wasn't even done by Satan. It was a Blind Guardian cover of "Trial By Fire" from their 92' album Somewhere Far Beyond (And you can get all those wonderful albums remastered as part of A Traveler's Guide To Space In Time.) But the cover gave me a good sense that Satan was and is all about thrash. Good old thrash metal, the way that mother used to make back in the good old days.

However, Satan has changed things up just a little bit on this triumphant return. Now don't lose your mind and start throwing things at the computer screen while thinking about setting all of your old Satan LP's on fire due to the crime of "metal blasphemy." Because this is most certainly not the case. Though Satan has added the p-word into their mix of thrash, it still sounds pretty fucking remarkable. And yes, it does still thrash. Normally, a review would end here. But you came to the Tower to get the whole story, not just half of it. So here's my full verdict on this disc:

First of all, Steve Ramsey and Graeme English of Skyclad (the band who started the entire folk metal genre - prove me wrong, I dare you) have rejoined the band along with the original vocalist, Brian Ross. And let me tell you something, these guys have never sounded better. They alluded to thrash in the last Skyclad album, but it really comes to fruition in tracks like "Twenty Five Twenty Five 4:59", "Cenotaph 4:13" and "Incantations 5:29" for starters. I'll also have to admit that Ross's vocals and Hansi Kursch's vocals sound much alike, I guess that's why the cover worked so well - but Ross doesn't have quite so much of an operatic emphasis that Hansi has which might appeal more to some people who are turned off from Blind Guardian due to Hansi's vocals.

Unfortunately, the band might have the name Satan but there is nothing here that would even reference the dark lord's namesake. Satan's lyrics deal with the stuff out of my books actually, fantasy and sci-fi topics with some metaphysical afterthoughts ("Another Universe 6:29") so don't be fooled by the name or album cover. But even so, this is classic prog power/thrash that I would recommend to almost anyone. This is the album that these guys wanted to make for twenty years now and they finally got together and did it.

As for the musicality on the disc, the riffs are absolutely breathtaking and I literally mean that. Yes, you've got your classic heavy metal crunch here and there but these melodies are spectacular and I can't compare them to anything else out there. When these guys wanted to make a comeback, they really meant it with this one. It doesn't even sound like these guys are one bit rusty. It literally comes off as if these gentlemen have been playing together for years - but they haven't!

Whatever the fuck you want to call this miracle of absolute earth-shaking awesomeness, I just call it metal. Metal the way it was before core and such happened, before people started throwing tech and djent and all those other nuances we have nowadays. Sure, I'm grown to like many of these things, but Satan's Life Sentence is a time capsule that lays a testament to the power of heavy metal music in it's purest form. Yes, there's a lot of prog, but that really helps to make this album what it is - and it's an album that you can really just sit back and do what you used to do on old Iron Maiden records way back when... sit and listen to the guitar. Don't tell me you didn't do that, you're lying.

You know what? I would even give this album to a child. Yes, really. If I wanted to expose my future children (if there will ever be any) to metal, I would definitely play this one along with Sabbath, Judas Priest, Maiden, early Metallica, Iced Earth, Blind Guardian and anything else that's not too rough for them (sorry, but there's just some shit out there that I don't want to expose young children to, even though I've heard about a guy that puts his kid to sleep with black metal.) That's the stuff I started out on and really grew to like. Satan gives me the same feel here with a perfect masterpiece of an album. This might even be my pick for the best album of the year so far. It's definitely on the list.

So you really want to know whether or not you should buy this disc? First of all, just check out a track or two on youtube. It's got a classic production value, not too overproduced and sounds just right. All the instruments are discernible and sound amazing, from the drums to the dual guitars - the vocals are the icing on the cake. I think I've explained this one well enough. Yes, it's that good - especially if you like to hear the sound of a guitar carrying out it's true purpose.

Go buy Satan's Life Sentence and keep the spirit of real metal alive. I definitely want to get an interview with these guys to appear soon in the Tower!

Highlights: ALL. GO BUY THIS DISC. (10 Tracks, 45:00)



Six Feet Under - Unborn (2013) - I really don't know why, but Six Feet Under thought that they just had to release another record right after Undead. And the sad fucking about it, is that this record offers almost nothing interesting beyond the first track "Neuro Osmosis 3:10." Sure, "Prophecy 3:19" is alright, but I've already heard the same approach on Bringer Of Blood and a couple of new riffs don't help things any. This sounds like a band that's prolonging it's own death. A half ass record like this deserves a half-ass review.

Let's see:

"Zombie Blood Curse 4:08" - Yep. Heard that before.
"Decapitate 2:50" - Has potential, but it sounds like death metal vocals fronting deathcore.
"Incision 2:48" - Quite boring.
"Fragment 2:56" - What's with the core? Seriously? There's a nice melody here, kinda trippy, then there's a little solo. Cute.
"Alive To Kill You 3:17" - I wanna be in Cannibal Corpse again guys!
"The Sinister Craving 2:16" - You can do more with that guitar, can't you? Yes. Those ARE breakdowns.
"Inferno 2:53" - Extremely lifeless.
"Psychosis 3:47" - Nothing I haven't heard before, groove-death.

Then we end with "The Curse Of Ancients 4:37" which actually has some merit to it. just as long as you don't call it a death metal song. Never thought that Chris Barnes would go back to making schlock after the masterpiece that was Undead. I still stand by that album as enjoyable, but can someone please tell me what in the fuck this is? I've checked some other reviews for the disc and people consider this one better than a couple of their other albums, but I honestly don't see how much better this is. Should I give it a 5? or a 4? Most of these songs are just glimpses and they all seem to run into each other and it just seems that it was sloshed together like a suicide drink that I used to make when I went to a restaurant by pressing mixing every flavor in the machine together to create something that would be mixture of Coke, Dr. Pepper, Tea, Orange Juice, Sprite and whatever the hell they called their fruit punch.

It's a big mess and we didn't need it. Wait a couple years before putting out another one, Chris. Please! Or go back to covering rock songs in death metal. I'd rather hear Graveyard Classics 4 than this. Or have you run out of ACDC?

Highlights: Neuro Osmosis, Alive To Kill You, The Curse Of Ancients (11 Tracks, 36:00)



Torture Killer - Phobia (2013) - After washing the Six Feet Under out of my mouth, I needed a good death metal palette cleanser and that's where the new Torture Killer came in. Now as you know, I fucking loved last year's EP I Chose Death, but I think that they should have waited and left those songs on this LP which sadly doesn't hit quite as hard. But first off, it's not even hear as bad as the new Six Feet Under. Yes, Chris sang vocals for this band for a few albums and that's how I discovered them, but I will certainly say that these guys have far evolved beyond the level that SFU is at right now. Hell, they're in a whole other world of musicianship. From the very first note of "Devil's Reject 4:02" you can already tell that you're in for a pounding torrent of brutality that only these guys can deliver. "Devil's Reject" isn't even vocal laden, the first verse doesn't even creep up until a little more than halfway in the song, and it still has more to offer than just about the entire new release from Six Feet Under.

But the title cut "Phobia 2:29" takes a while to warm up, however. So that's a little disappointing. "Await His Third Arrival 4:17" thunders in a little better - but it's still nothing close to the material unleashed on the EP. "Written In Blood 4:54" starts out with atmosphere but also features Chris Barnes on vocals as a guest, not helping his or the band's reputation any. However, there's an interesting solo piece on the track that livens it up quite a bit. Think you can play a couple more solos next time guys? "Faces Of My Victims 3:31" leaves me indifferent but also makes me think that these guys are trying to be Six Feet Under. Not Cannibal Corpse, not Deicide - Six Feet Under. And I'm just kind of wondering why.

"March Of Death 4:25" finally breathes some life into this dead husk and lets loose with an impeccable solo. I will not lie, my ears perked up on that one. There's also a hint of experimentation that certainly couldn't hurt at this point, but some might say that it's just a mess of riffs with no structural integrity. "The Book Of A Dying World 5:09" sees a little more experimentation in it's almost droning sense (a few good bits of groove here and there) but I'm also left unmoved by it. "Epitaph 2:04" is a short instrumental that displays good guitar work, but seems misplaced on the album. This is more of an intro piece if anything else. But if that is the case, it's an intro piece to something that sounds 900% like something other than death metal - until the growls come in. To be honest, even with them, it just sounds like Torture Killer is becoming something far different than their namesake might imply. I don't know what these evolutions are, but they aren't death metal... at least in terms of what we'd normally expect from the band.

Definitely different. But I would still recommend I Chose Death over this.

Highlights: Devil's Reject, March Of Death (9 Tracks, 35:00)



Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal (2013 Deluxe Edition) - No, we've never done Bring Me The Horizon before. I usually review bands like this to poke fun and let you guys in on what's making a buzz in the diet metal scene, but this time I'm reviewing these guys because I'm extremely confused. Perhaps the same rules that apply in the trailer for Shadows Of Liberty (as I have not yet seen the film) might also apply to the journalism in metal magazines these days. This record has received an outstanding score from Decibel, Outburn and Revolver magazine. Now I can see the handsomely paid Revolver writers not having a problem calling this the best album they've ever been sold, but when it comes to Outburn and of course, Decibel - I start to wonder how true my words might be. Sempiternal has gotten such high marks and I'm scratching my head and wondering why. I skipped a few of the band's releases, only hearing one of their older ones and likening it to "Cradle Of Filth gone core" but years have passed and metalcore has become more a part of their repertoire, as well as a sound that might be found more pleasing to the ears of mainstream listeners. I literally just heard this album today, which is unusual because most records I review I've heard weeks beforehand and throw on a second time during the review as a refresher.

But in this case, I had to get this one a verdict as quickly as possible. I'm going to start by saying that calling this even a diet metal album is erroneous. It's a hard rockcore album that I could liken to the band's earlier metalcore related material meeting Linkin Park's current electronic material in style and sound. Yes, even in vocals, there is a serious Chester Bennington impression going on here and it's unmistakable in opener "Can You Feel My Heart 3:47" and "Sleepwalking." I will say that Bring Me The Horizon have in some ways written one of the best Linkin Park albums that the band never actually wrote, mixing the heavy core sound well with electronics that actually don't sound all that bad. As a matter of fact, I found "Sleepwalking 3:50" to be quite catchy and did like some of the band's experimenting on the disc. But I do recognized this as a hard or alternative rock disc that I would still recommend Bovine's debut over as it still retains the spacey riffs that compose this album, but the effort is done with more dignity and less of the plastic that I get from this album.

"The House Of Wolves 3:25" lets loose with fake thrash, while "Antivist 3:13" deliberately steals the riff arrangements from Hatebreed, whose new record was actually worth a damn. However, I can see what the critics say about the chunk in the middle of the record "Go To Hell, For Heaven's Sake 4:02", "Shadow Moses 4:03" and "And The Snakes Start To Sing 5:02" as all these songs offer some potential in their multi-structural arrangements and experimentation - but as for the rest of the disc just seems scripted despite the fact that I like the ideas implemented in the last two tracks "Crooked Young 3:35" (orchestral metalcore) and "Hospital Of Souls 6:44" (uneasy atmospheres) but mixed in with all the Linkin Park, it's kind of hard to not see this disc as one big youth caterer. It's more like a product than a work of art... and again, it's not metal.

This also brings me to the question, "If someone screams in the song, is it metal?" which is what society has been led to believe. Sure, some people believe metal music to be nothing but relentless screaming (and sometimes, it very much is) but there are bands and labels and radio stations out there that think a band is metal because the vocalist screams every once in a while. This should not be a qualifier for metal and I do believe that if we took this out, we'd have a hard rock album indefinitely. As a reviewer of music, it is very hard for me to see this disc as a metal album. If I had the chance to sit fellow Englishmen (Bring me The Horizon are from the UK) Graeme English (Skyclad/Satan) and Rob Halford (Judas Priest/Halford/Two) down and tell them to just listen to about one or two tracks from this record and describe what you hear, I don't think they'd be rather harsh about it, but I think that both of these hardworking gentlemen would agree that there is a considerable difference in the music that is being made here and the aspect of the music coined heavy metal.

Calling this "prog" also does not sit well with me. I haven't heard any. Trust me, I opened my ears to listen. A couple djent riffs and some atmospheres do not equal progressive metal or progressive rock music even. Sempiternal is nothing more than an experimental hard/alt rock album for the new generation. I will certainly say that some songs are interesting enough, but couldn't see me playing this one quite as much as I might enjoy Bovine's approach and admittance that they are alternative hard rock or alternative metal if you will.

The deluxe edition of this album comes packaged with an EP containing three extra tracks. It's entitled Deathbeds and has some merit in all actuality. The band sounds much different on this EP than they do on Sempiternal and this could have been made before the Sempiternal sessions when the label wanted x product from the band. "Join The Club 3:04" sticks out to me from the first listen, as it's a product of the band's punk roots and would make a great English punk track if performed in the style of punk. The lyrics do not go with this odd musical interpretation however, but I do like the fact that the punk in the frontman comes out, and the screaming emo sense is left behind for a few minutes. I can also hear the British inflection, making it more authentic and less American. "Chasing Rainbows 4:00" seems like a group of gentlemen trying to chase after a song in all honesty. But they don't ever catch it. Then we have the haunting "Deathbeds 4:57" which features odd symbolic lyrics that some might want to further research (but I won't pull out the Illuminati card, because I think this is just a poetic "love lost" song and those have been written for ages) on, but the coupling of sullen atmospheres and female backing vocals make this one a little darker than Linkin Park, but not completely out of their current musical repertoire of work.

If I can say anything about Sempiternal, it is that it is a hodgepodge of ideas with some proving to be effective and others proving to be as marketable as they were created. It is a package and an image that I am sure the band will wear upon their sleeve, perhaps they will be hailed for it come 2014 when the album of the year conversation comes up. Either way, I will stand by my score. This disc is little more than mediocre, but has a few charms here and there. I do not think that current fans of the band will be upset by this one, but I do know that some would like the band to hearken back to it's earlier time when they were much more extreme and yes - metal.

It is up to you as to whether or not you choose to take this trip, but I do believe that I've experienced better trips that are less marketable and more enjoyable to the ears.

Highlights: Sleepwalking, Go To Hell, For Heaven's Sake, Shadow Moses, And The Snakes Start To Sing, Crooked Young, Join The Club (2 Discs, 14 Tracks, 57:00)



Clutch - Earth Rocker (2013) - It has been a while since I've heard the voice of ol' Neil Fallon and let me tell you that it's just as unforgettable as always. I don't believe there's a Clutch album out there that I haven't liked and Earth Rocker is no different. A big departure from the slow-natured 2009's Strange Cousins From The West (and one of my favorite songs in "Abraham Lincoln") the boys thought that it might be a good idea to kick it up a notch and go back to the grooves of Blast Tyrant and even Transnational... which should put many a smile on the faces of fans who have been wanting to hear a little but more metal in Clutch and these guys have delivered in the best way possible. Title cut and opener "Earth Rocker 3:31" comes rip-roaring with fury and soul that's already worthy of that awesome space Indian album cover. "Crucial Velocity 3:59" has a jazz groove with a chorus section that sounds like it was made for the highway. "Mr. Freedom incorporates a sort of proggy funk that makes me think of tracks like "Sinkemlow" and "D.C. Sound Attack! 4:37" exerts only the best of Clutch.

Do I really need to go through this whole disc? Well, maybe I'll go ahead and explain the light thrash notion of "Unto The Breach 3:29" (Seriously guys, this one's great.) and my confusion with "Gone Cold 4:20" which is a little slower than I'd expect but I think it's not one you can just get from first listen. You might just have to sit down and listen to this atmospheric twangy blueser as it doesn't make it's intentions known as quickly as the others.

"The Face 4:22" is another strong one. It's got some good lyrics to it, I suggest you give them a listen. "Book, Saddle, And Go 3:43" is a great bit of blues that you just can't deny and the groove kicks in right where it counts. "Cyborg Bette 3:13" is great track about an ice-cold woman being compared to a robot. It's actually a clever take on those "that no good woman" blues songs that have been the genre staple for years. Love this one. "Oh, Isabella 5:17" might take a while to congeal, but it's got some awesome instrumental masterwork woven in that's going to make it worth a full listen. But the disc's final gasp is "The Wolf Man Kindly Requests... 5:02" which starts up slow but builds up with a thunder that exudes right into a solo - little bit of prog riffs here too, so look for them. These guys clearly went out with a bang and I'm glad they did.

The bottom line, is that Clutch is still here and they're going strong. It took them a few years to get off DRT and settle their business with the label, but this was worth all that - and the reissues (the band wants to get all that old stuff back out there to the people) are going to be too. For some young'uns, this will be the first Clutch album they've ever heard in their lives and they're going to want to get all that old shit. So the band's going to make them all available again. By the way, Clutch knows that people download and stuff - they aren't raising the roof about it. But they're on their own label now, so every bit of money you shell out to these guys for the disc, goes right in their own pockets. They even support whatever the hell this "concert trading" mess is I've been hearing about. Apparently, people record shows and put them up online through P2P. Clutch doesn't mind people watching their shows in this manner and even lets them know when new ones are out. I won't jump on that bandwagon anytime soon, don't even have time to watch the concerts I bought.

Oh, and I bought a Clutch shirt a long time ago. It had a pretty awesome graphic on the front, but I had to move from the house before the shirt came in so I was never actually able to wear it. I really did want to wear that shirt, but whoever moved into that place must've discovered and wore my Clutch shirt. Probably didn't even know who Clutch was. But yeah, it's safe to say that I'm a big fan of these guys and being a fan, I'd say that this album proves these guys are worth that fan support.

So go out there and pick up Earth Rocker and get your groove on!

Highlights: Earth Rocker, Mr. Freedom, Unto The Breach, The Face, Book, Saddle, And Go, Cyborg Bette, The Wolfman Kindly Requests... (11 Tracks, 44:00)



Lordi - To Beast, Or Not To Beast (2013) - Oh, Lordi - where in the hell did you go wrong? Or rather, why are you still making music? By this time, Finnish rockers Lordi (who even have a drink with their images on it) have gotten tired of their anthemic rock tracks and have decided to mix some metal elements into their haphazard formula. But how bad does it get? Simply listen to marshmallow thrasher "I Luv Ugly 3:47" and "Candy For The Cannibal 4:42" which sounds like a bad 80's hair metal outtake. But there's a few tracks here that might be worth a damn to the right ear like "The Riff 3:44" which makes fun of hip hop in the lyrics (but what in the fuck is that effect?) and has a decent power metal-esque chorus.

"Horrorfiction 3:28" is some odd track that seems to be pointed at parents (are kids really listening to this shit in Finland?) and tries to tell them that "movies cannot make you a killer, it's horror fiction." Are people over there really worried about their kids turning into killers because Lordi sparked up an 80's horror movie revival for the youth? (If that's the case, who knows what kind of metal we'll get out of Finland in ten or twenty more years.)

"Happy New Fear 4:45" is another song that seems to be targeted toward kids. Wow. These guys have really changed. Though I hate the intro to "Schizo Doll 4:34" I really like the track and would consider it the album's only highlight. But maybe that's because actual power/thrash is kind of sorta being attempted here. I would also add "Sincerely With Love 3:14" which isn't targeted to the kids and goes "Fuck you, asshole - sincerely with love." That one I guess I can also consider a highlight, just because it's useful in some situations. The disc ends on an odd electronic piece that includes a drum solo from the band's drummer, "Otus" (Or that might be his real name, I dunno.) and it's a decent enough gift for the end of the disc, the production on the live session is done well - I think fans will like it. There's also a lot of cheering so these guys are quite popular somewhere.

Needless to say, I don't recommend this one. I do like the Arockalypse and Deadache but after that, don't even bother. Lordi is just going through the motions now, getting old and writing both kid songs and adult content on the same album. I'm just confused at this point.

If we're going to go Shakespeare, I say "Not to beast. Definitely not to beast."

Highlights: Schizo Doll, Sincerely With Love (11 Tracks 43:00)



Looks pretty badass, right?


Not so much now, eh? This describes the music too.


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