Saturday, May 11, 2013

Week 78.5 (May 9th, 2013)


F.K.U - Rise Of The Mosh Mongers (PR2013) - It would be a grave undertaking to do a song by song review on each and every one of these 17 tracks, (some of them under a minute long) so what I will do instead, is to discuss the main high and low points of the disc and save you a heck of a lot of reading time. Now F.K.U. is a German thrash band that pulls absolutely no punches with this, their fourth release and though it begins with grandiosity of a film (orchestra and all) on "Moshocalypse Now 2:30" the band is absolutely no bullshit when it comes to the first track, "Rise Of The Mosh Mongers 3:15." This track sees the drums on fire, the riffs as thrashy as the old school and the vocals searing throughout the track in only the most classic of manner, in addition to a growl or two.

There are more groove-laden thrash tracks in the vein of "Black Hole Hell 3:24" and "Scream Bloody Mosher 3:20" but also much faster tracks in the vein of "Cannibal Detox 2:51" and "Esox Lucius 2:00" which contains a screaming solo. Of course, my personal favorite here is "At The Mountains Of Madness 3:58" which caught me on first listen, not because of the lyrical content alone - but because the track did the lyrical content justice and that chorus is flawless. As expected, you can hear all of the band's influences like Exodus, Testament, Overkill and various others in this thrash hodge-podge that just seems done right. Could it have used more solos? Yes, of course. This album could have benefited greatly from some dual shredding and some more structure, but for a band that knows what they want to make and delivers on that promise; this is definitely worthwhile. I would have also liked to hear a bit more of the death metal influence that creeps up (sometimes just in the vocals) on tracks like "Marz Attacks 3:19 and "They Feed In The Dark 2:38."

But with tracks like "Terror Train 3:46" and "112 Ocean Avenue 3:06" that come with catchy as hell choruses and stable thrash, it's hard not to like this album. While I wish it could have been a bit better and question the band's use of "The Uberslasher" which is a single song broken up into four different sets of melodies, (I really scratched my head on this one as it kills the flow of the album) I certainly found myself enjoying this disc. It's not the best thrash album I've heard this year, (the new Potential Threat SF was really fucking great) but I would certainly recommend it to fans of classic throwback thrash.

Definitely worth checking out, regardless. I couldn't find any real highlights, but all of the tracks seem to be good in their own right (except for "The Uberslasher" parts.)

(17 Tracks, 43:00)



Gama Bomb - The Terror Tapes (PR2013) - Another thrash record, but this time from the unlikely place of Ireland, (I also just got another promising Irish thrash band named Twisted Wrath who I'll review later in the post) which has been building a peculiar thrash presence in recent years apparently, and right under my nose. The band's 2009 album Tales From The Grave In Space was actually released as a free download which I definitely commend, and all those who got to taste the band on that record now have the chance to support them with this one. Considering themselves "metal geeks" the album's lyrics deal with everything from movies (and parody themes at that) to religion and even metal stereotypes.

The album isn't ultimately long, but it tends to offer more meat than F.K.U.'s fourth opus (odd how both of these bands started up around the same time) which was almost devoid of guitar solos, where this album is chock full of them. While I'll admit that I like the F.K.U. frontman's vocal approach better than Gama Bomb's Joe McGuigan, I definitely think that he could grow on me, especially when the musicality aspect is done so damn well (and they even use some vocal effects "Beverly Hills Robocop 4:21" which offers some differentiation) and with a bit more structure in some areas....

Whoops. Scratch that part about structure. While the tracks are performed well enough and with some good moments of hilarity, that seems to hide the fact that each and every one of them (except for "Metal Idiot 2:20") sound exactly the same. If you don't believe me, just skip through each of the tracks on this album, one at a time. The same speed thrash riffs are used throughout each and every song. Did you hear riff changes? I sure didn't. I was wondering why the approach was so bland, and that's because it literally sounds like the same song on repeat with different lyrics and choral patterns.

Is it heavy? Yes. Do they perform these slightly different variations of that one song right? Yes. But the problem is, that the effort comes off as mindless. These guys are capable of far more than these same riff patterns, and with no differentiation even in the slightest and I don't know how they'll sail above the flood of thrash releases this year. So even though they do some cool things to brighten up what is arguably the same song (or perhaps speed metal riffing style) it might come off just a bit bland. To be honest, I was kind of shocked. I wouldn't have noticed it, if I hadn't replayed every track and skipped through them to notice it (as I didn't notice on first listen) but it's all very much the same.

Needless to say, I don't necessarily recommend it personally; but it will offer some rather catchy thrash when you need it. Hopefully, the next effort will have some more riffs though. These guys have it in them, they just need to shake it up a notch or two.

(12 Tracks, 35:00)



Visions Of Atlantis - Ethera (PR2013) - Now we've come to Visions Of Atlantis, a band recommended for fans of everyone from Nightwish to Roxette. But I don't hear as much of Nightwish in here as I do a sort of symphonic power metal, maybe Lacuna Coil if they were more concerned with orchestrations and synths and less with hard-edged hard rock. Perhaps the frontwoman's vocals could be compared to the current Nightwish frontwoman, rather than Tarja's hugely operatic approach. If they meant "current Nightwish" rather than "classic Nightwish" then they certainly have it. None of the songs here are overly long, each one of them offering a large dose of beauty and melody from the gothy opener "The Ark 4:37" all of the way to the slightly jumpier and grandiose closer "Cleric's Emotion 5:17."

But let me make this clear. Visions Of Atlantis is not a female vocal backed act in the vein of what you're expecting. Rather, it's a duet between clean male and female vocals that offer instrumental soundscapes in the background. One might use the term "girlfriend metal" but I certainly think that one who has an ear for more melodic metal in the vein of Evergrey and doesn't mind female fronted synth/goth groups like Theatre Of Tragedy and Tristania (but not as currently heavy) may actually enjoy this album. But he won't tell his other metalhead friends that he does.

In all actuality, it's a good disc. These two compliment each other's voices so well and the guitar soundscapes, pianos and other such elements (like bits of drum thunder and orchestrations) actually help to convey this sound in one of the more pleasing ways that I've heard in years. "Vicious Circle 4:36" is just one of many good examples of this formula being worked out right and proves that the band has promise. The formula works on catchy choruses and strong duets for the most part, so if you like these then you'll probably buy this album. But I do know that there are those who won't consider this metal despite the obvious use of heavy metal elements. What you may not notice on this record are the guitar melodies that make the package come off as well as it does, and the additional use of solos that actually get their time in the sun rather than being shunned quickly in favor of another chorus line.

There are a few slower tracks here though, mainly in the vein of "Cave Behind The Waterfall 3:59" which sticks to a more acoustic approach and "Bestiality Vs. Integrity 4:44" which uses mainly just synth to accentuate the female vocals, which fill the gist of both of these tracks. Again, your girlfriend will love them. And that's cool, because at least it's somewhat metal. Now if you can just get her into that new Suffocation album... Let me guess. That "But they're legends!" excuse didn't work for you.

Definitely a worthy debut from a promising act nonetheless. Yeah, I'll admit it. I really liked most of the tracks on this one.

Highlights: Machinage, Avatara, Vicious Circle, Hypnotized, Tlaluc's Grace, Burden Of Divinity, AEON 19th, Cleric's Emotion (11 Tracks, 48:00)



Russkaja - Energia (PR2013) - Now here's something you don't hear everyday. Former Stalhammer frontman Georgij A. Makazaria started this band a couple of years ago, but I've just now heard of them and this is their third album. When describing the band, I can't help but laugh at the stage outfits which are a mixture of "Genghis Kahn and the Red Army... with compliments of the Tsar, of course." Just as the info implies, this music is a mixture of thrash (like Stalhammer perhaps) but with added elements of jazz, folk, reggae and world music, which are certainly not mainstays for heavy metal music.

In observation I've witnessed the opener "Energia 3:05" which sounds like a sort of party reggae with some thrash and Russian elements, (WTF?) "Barada 3:22" which continues the reggae riffs but utilizes Russian lyrics, "Radost Moja 2:57" which sees the formula follow into punk realms (and those horns are fantastic by the way) and include some spoken word vocals as well as a short guitar solo. But that's just the first three songs, so let's keep going.

"Autodrom 3:06" finally welcomes thrash but then it goes into a Mike Patton style horn theatrics which follow into the thrash, making it one of the most obscure thrash tracks I've ever heard. There's no guitar solo here, but they solo with some violins and a trumpet that sounds like it's being strangled. Is this is as metal as it gets though? "Istanbul 3:27" has a few heavy riffs, but sounds like a Russian party song with some Arabian influence. Yes, I'm not joking. In non-metal realms, this is actually really good. I found myself quite enjoying this one. Yes, you can dance to it... something I usually wouldn't say in the world of headbanging that we mostly deal with hear at The Grim Tower. "Violina Mina 3:45" continues with the reggae style riffs and only offers a bit of heaviness, as it sounds a choir backed violin solo comes into place. "Kartuli Vino 2:57" comes in next but doesn't get a little heavier until a bit later in the track, even though the horns and catchy chorus are enough to have me dancing about for hours.

Keep going? Why didn't you say so?

"Surrealnaja 3:14" really gets back into the reggae but welcomes the same formula of horns and trumpets that we've heard. There's a light atmosphere where some ungodly parody vocals are used, and then the song goes back to the horns and drums. "Dikije Deti 3:38" is next, starting off with a thrash riff but goes into a horns and such where it balances between thrash and reggae party polka. "Ajajaj 3:39" is odd... I think that's rapping. But I can't be sure. The reggae party polka continues and more rapping continues. Female vocals come in and they're of Spanish language. When the vocals are finally English, it's definitely being rapped. But you know something? Crucify me for this, but I don't mind it. This track has more forward thinking than most of the rap/hip-hop scene has seen in years. I would go to the "hood" and play this one loud. Hey, it's hip hop... well, sort of. "Tanzi Tanzi 3:20" is hardcore polka. You can annoy the fuck out of someone with this, but it still has some thrash/punk elements. It's ungodly catchy.

If "Sorry 3:28" is a bonus track, you don't need it. As a matter of fact, you don't ever need to hear it. Yes, the track is in English (so I'm guessing an English bonus track?) but in this case, don't bother with it. It's a tear-jerking ballad. Why? I scratch my head furiously as I try to find out why in the world an album that is full of joy and humor and all-around "fun" is ended with this sorrowful waste of studio time. I honestly think that whatever the band was thinking about doing before they decided to record this track, (even though it does have a smidgen of heavy influence later) they should have done. Whatever they were going to buy instead of using the studio time on this track, it should have been bought. Vodka? Beer? Cigarettes? Strip club? Prostitutes? A five star dinner in Vienna? These are things that Russkaja should have purchased instead. Sorry? You're damn right, you're sorry. It's like ordering a glass of authentic Russian vodka, when all of a sudden the bartender says "hold on a minute, got to give it special zest" and you get the glass back to find that the guy pissed in it as a joke. Now here was this glass of great Russian vodka, and now it's got piss in it. As far as I'm concerned Energia has only eleven tracks, and that's the way it should be. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

Major flubs aside, Energia is a delightfully jaunty piece of music that will either excite or greatly annoy you and all of your friends. I definitely recommend it, as I haven't heard anything like it before. That should tell you something. But I do have to reiterate that Energia is NOT a heavy metal record. So don't go thinking that it is. But it's definitely a unique album in all respects.

Highlights: Energia, Autodrom, Istanbul, Kartuli Vino, Dikje Deti, Ajajaj, Tanzi Tanzi (12 Tracks, 39:00) I mean, (11 Tracks, 36:00)



Johansson & Speckmann - Sulfur Skies (PR2013) - I don't know that much about this one really, but what I do know is that it's death/thrash of a very raw quality performed by two older gentlemen, one of which looks quite haggardly. Presentations aside, you've got a relatively solid death metal performance that will probably need to be turned up a bit; but is best turned up to a loud volume anyway. The kit sounds real, the guitars are certainly real, the vocals are relatively old school and slightly vomit-laden, and the entire approach sounds as analog as can be. Which is a good thing if you like your metal to sound as computer free as possible. The band's music can be compared to Grave, Unleashed, Revolting, Tormented, Entombed and several others in that unholy gamut.

Though you're going to have to turn this one up a bit, the raw approach to recording does certainly say something for the music. The fact that these guys went lo-fi (it's not incredibly lo-fi, you can discern everything and it doesn't sound like a fog) definitely draws back to the golden age of the genre and sounds incredibly dirty, which is what some might feel is missing from the processed death metal albums of the current era.

But all this is fodder. Does it kill? Yes. it does kill. I went into this with low expectations, but each one of these songs certainly sticks out in one way or the other. "Sulphur Skies 2:56" is blazing, "Spiritual Wasteland 3:10" contains some absolutely brain-bashing drumming, (if that impresses you, listen to the beginning of "Rotten Lands 2:36") "Vile Stench And Decay 3:21" comes packed with death-groove (and that pounding kit) as well as "The Real Victims 3:02" which also contains some dreary melodies that make the groove-laden bash come well into form. While there are a couple of solos on the record, it is not loaded with them (and some are heard to hear, I'll be honest) but nor does it need to be. The meat of the album lies in it's drumming and grim melodies that go back decades. This is very much an old school throwback, but it's a great old school throwback with a classic production value that's sure to leave it's mark on true fans of the genre.

Again, I came in here with low expectations. But these guys have exceeded my expectations and left me with some very catchy and excessively brutal old school death metal that came in handy while I was unloading an appliance truck. It's working man's death metal that accompanies well the toil and sweat of hard manual labor.

I recommend that you check it out, just make sure that you crank it all of the way up. The raw production was meant to be blasted through the roof and out the windows. Of course, it also sounds great in your earphones while you're working. And if you are, be lucky that you've still got a job in this country.

(12 Tracks, 34:00)


(Album Art Not Available)

Master - Unknown Soldier (PR2013 - Unreleased 1985) - Like it says there, this is an album that was originally supposed to be released upon the glorious year of my birth, but was pushed all of the way back to be released on my 28th year of life. Nevertheless, this three man thrash group definitely had some potential amongst some of the straightforward thrash that you'll see here. The frontman almost went into death metal with some of his vocal antics, and at times they would be joined by the other guys in the band who would let loose gravel worthy of any death metal band. But remember, this was still thrash.

Yes, all the trappings of thrash are still here; but what I think I'm hearing is an undiscovered classic. It's difficult to say what this could have influenced, but it sounds like we'll never know. I'm telling you, this vocal approach is something I haven't heard before and it really would have been innovative for the time. It really sounds like the bridge between thrash and pure death metal, despite the sound quality being just a bit raw on some of the tracks (which I'm guessing were demos) "Master 2:56" is the anthem to a band we've never heard, but should have long ago. "Unknown Soldier 2:49" further enhances that and "Mangled Dehumanization 1:55" contains some stellar solo work within the catacombs of it's fury. Most of the tracks here aren't very long and don't really deviate from the formula, until...

"Re-entry And Destruction 2:53" which actually uses some extremely demonic vocal effects that make the lyrics sound like they're coming straight from the mouth of Beelzebub himself. Then there's a solo. All that, and then a solo. Yeah, these guys definitely had something here. But what I'm really going to mention is the majesty of the album's closer "Cut Through The Filth 3:40." This was groundbreaking. You DID NOT hear this back in 1985. The track begins with flute. Yes, that's a fucking flute. How many death metal bands do you know that used a flute in 1985? Then we've got some shakers. How many bands do you know that used a flute and shakers back in 1985? The song is a beast in the first place, but adding the flute and the shakers really said something. This is early experimentation at it's finest. But before you say, "why are you getting so excited for a fucking flute?" I'll tell you that it's the way that the flute is used on this track that makes it especially unique. Then the 70's feel of the shakers, and it's STILL FUCKING THRASH.

Let's fast forward to 2013. How many bands do you know now that have incorporated the use of flutes and shakers in legitimate thrash or death/thrash metal? What about blackened thrash or core thrash? I'm not talking about folk thrash, because this clearly wasn't folk. It was thrash metal. "Cut Through The Filth 3:40" had the ability to influence so many acts back in the day, but because it was never released; this influence went unheard. The vocal effects alone that these guys used were commendable. People autotune their vocals now in pop music, but these guys filtered them to sound as demonic as humanly possible and it worked. It worked back in 1985 and I can't even tell you who does this now. Even the shit that Nergal did on Demigod (which is the only thing I hate about that album by the way) doesn't add up to what was being done here. What it boils down to, is that one band decided to do something different. Why they never released it, I have no idea. But they really should have. However, I'm sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unused ideas that would have revolutionized the genre of heavy metal. I'm sure that there are bands both famous and not that have little demos, little snippets of interesting stuff that they cast aside because of trends and whatnot.

Master didn't follow trends, and it's sad that we had to wait twenty eight years to hear this album prove that. These guys weren't just another thrash metal band, they were a damned good one. They could have been so much fucking more...

Though I don't recommend the whole disc, (because most of it's demos and they're hard to hear) there are a few songs that I want you to hear anyway which are quite audible as it's a mix of different quality recordings. I've laid those songs out as highlights. Unknown Soldier is a fucking diamond in the rough and it's sure to be collector's item for metalheads worldwide.

Pick this one up, for a piece of metal history!

Highlights: Master, Unknown Soldier, Re-entry And Destruction, Submerged In Sin, CUT THROUGH THE FILTH (11 Tracks, 32:00)



Phlebotomized - Devoted To God, Preach Eternal Gospels (PR2013) - Another one that you're going to want to have in your collection is this reissue of some classic demos from experimental death metal act Phlebotomized. Abner's going to pick it up and I'm quite fucking sure that he's not going to be the only one, especially after I get finished with this review. Let's just call this review the first of my forthcoming Abner's Picks where I go through some recommendations from a gentleman who will be clouded in mystery as he prefers best. Nevertheless, he knows metal quite well and was extremely elated when I told him the news of my upcoming Phlebotomized review. I see no other way to do this review then in my patented SxS style, as each of these songs have their own feel and atmosphere. This album is a collection of the band's two demos: the Devoted To God demo tape and the Preach Eternal Gospels MCD (The two LP's will be reissued later, I've been told) but for now the world will finally see these two demos reprinted and readily available - not to mention digitally remastered and released on Vic Records.

"In Search Of Tranquility & Subtle Disbalanced Liquidity 8:15" starts off with light acoustic and atmosphere, which is certainly not the way you'd expect a death metal album to begin. But these guys did their own thing and that's what makes them worth checking out from the get-go. When the guitars come into play, it evokes a sort of slow paced doom-laden atmosphere that quickly erupts into death metal fury of the most ravenous order (yet there are still synths) in the background. Growls come into play as well as a scream from one of the other six members in the band. (Remember Slipknot fans, that this seven-piece utilized every musician and didn't just have two guys playing large drums. They also didn't need to wear masks and are significantly more groundbreaking.) The death metal elements come bleeding out mixed in with slight bits of melancholy from the keyboards, and that's when some groove enters the mix accompanied by the same gravel. Then comes a guitar solo highlighted by keyboard atmospheres. Then light female vocals can be heard for a bit. After that, you'll hear some top-notch (a word I haven't used in a while, but it definitely fits here) shredding amidst a drum barrage that ends the song out on a grunt.

"Desecration of Alleged Christian History 5:47" comes in next with 80's synth effects, but this is before computers could emulate them and you had to use your own hands. The guitars kept in line with the electronics going on here, predating modern industrial death metal by an obvious amount of years. The song gets a bit more chuggy as it begins to obliterate (that's a real kit, folks) and then the synth effects come in and there's some odd lines that sound a bit proggy, maybe Death influenced. A solo comes in next but is stopped for some drum and gravel (maybe you heard the piano there?) as the death metal and synth combo come back for a second just to go back into the prog riffs. Synths have their fun as the guitars thunder their background and then a melody highlights this idea and ends the song out on an awesome note.

"Fate of a Devotee & Devoted to God 6:00" is next, starting with a movie clip that ends on a tortured scream and begins the song with doom riffs (slight prog here and there) and some church organ. The song begins to chug a little bit and goes into an even holier synth sound now, but this works extremely well with the metal that comes thrashing forth. A guitar solo escapes and makes itself known as the drums join in on the fun. The gravel comes in backed with chugging riffs which go into drums blasts and then turn to something altogether more interesting and slightly theatric. It switches between this approach and the chugging riffs/growl vocal approach. Synths come in as the vocals continue and drums begin to thunder again, ending the track on an odd; but interesting note.

"Tragic Entanglement 7:24" starts off with riffs and synth, but goes into a brutal death approach (much like with the gist of the album thus far.) Synths will come back into play as things begin to slow down but get otherworldly. As things speed up, that otherworldly synth continues and it certainly works. The bashing continues though so there's still plenty of time to bang your head to this. The song slows to allow prog and synths, but man - this is fucking beautiful. Then the drums come in and blaze a path as the growls come in backed with synth. Chugs continue as does the synth. When the synth stops, the guitars come in with a massive solo (I'm guess this ended out the demo, so it's a finale.) Of course, you've got to end it all out on bashing (Nile is this where you got your influence?) and some more synth.

Either "Ataraxia 1:04" is the closing outro for the demo tape, and this light instrumental piece backed with acoustics and synths is a great ending to what was an extremely promising demo tape. I would have signed them, what about you?

The demo tape was 28:00 long, but the MCD is only 18 minutes. Nevertheless, I've heard bands do more with less time. It begins with the light acoustic "In Memory of Our Departed Ones 1:11" which goes into what appears to be a thunderstorm. When the metal starts up with "Mustardgas 7:16" it's another day at the office for these guys - synth laden death metal with better production. Just like the demo tape, you can expect the same sort of awesomeness out of this. There's some sort of odd sound effect on this one, it almost sounds binaural and that's pretty fucking interesting. As the drums quake, the synths come back into play and lead back into bashing. Things slow down again to allow some acoustic plucking backed with more... you guessed it - synth. And of course, the synth here is great (and that lead melody isn't half bad either.) Whoa... what the fuck is that? Is that a guitar? I haven't heard a guitar make that noise in the history metal. Then the drums start to pound and a solo comes into play that shreds with the already awesome synths. Goddamn, is that a good solo. What an impressive demo. Then the bludgeoning begins as the solo continues, and the vocals finally come back with the changing synths. The synths end and death metal ensues. The synths come back along with a few riffs and a snarl. The song ends on a couple of growls.

"Preach Eternal Gospels 9:59" starts out with some synths and a sort of mystical nature that brings in a harmonica as the drums continue. To be honest, the backing of this one reminds of some of Mortiis's atmospheric material and that's a good thing, because I love that stuff. I definitely see where Nile got it now, I'm hearing the influence. A solo screams in, from just out nowhere - and it does exactly as it's expected. Drums continue to pound as complete chaos comes into place. But not for long as synths and death metal resume (this drummer's fucking godlike to be able to keep up with this shit) and then the guitars come back in, just fucking raging. You know, it's hard to make shit like this up, that's why I'm glad what I'm hearing is fucking real; because I wouldn't have believed it otherwise. The synths continue for a while more and the death comes back in as well as lead melody that fades for synth and drums. The gravel comes back and then the song slows to welcome some more of that flute or harmonica or whatever. The riffs are still chugging though. But that's when things get downright folky. This still the same band? Now the riffs come back into place thundering the doom as the gravel comes back for a while, eventually going into folk and spoken word. The song seems to end out with a violin.

This collection also contains three live tracks for "Tragic 7:31", "Subtle 6:32", and "Desecration 6:09." These tracks are all of bootleg quality and very hard to hear, with "Tragic" being the most clear of the three. These are just special additions to the album, and I won't consider them as part of the score. I'll just be patient and wait for Vic Records to remaster and release the other two albums.

If you're a fan of Nile, Lykathea Aflame, Timeghoul, early Septic Flesh and other bands in this nature, then I would highly recommend that you purchase this disc. It's essential in my personal opinion, there shouldn't be a metalhead without it. The disc of course, will be a collector's item given the obscurity of the band and rarity of the material. Definitely pick this one up for another taste of metal history from our good friends at Vic Records.

Highlights: All (8 Tracks, 46:00 + 3 Live tracks = 67:00)



Swazafix - Anthem Of Apostasy (PR2013) - On first listen, nothing about this disc really came out at me. I can definitely hear the early Death influence and it really does remind me quite a bit of Scream Bloody Gore, so if you like that kind of raw mayhem with some slight prog moments and tech here and there, you're getting that with this one. The first three tracks on the disc are good, but after you've heard "Plaintive Parallels 5:06" you pretty much know what to expect from the band by now. "Insaniac (Intro) 3:31" sounds like the intro to the band's demo tape and that's what I get for the feel of it, as the track also lowers in quality.

But the other half of the disc seems to be much thrashier in quality. There's no real emphasis on prog or tech or anything of that nature. There might be a glimpse here and there, but the thing just seems a bit more ferocious after this. The drums completely eradicate most of this half of the disc as the growls come off just as fierce. Though there are low portions in the recording, this is when the vocalist just seems to lose his fucking mind and it makes the dips in these tracks worth it. Hell, most of the time this guy sounds like he's off his meds and that's a good thing for most people, as it comes off as utterly insane as possible.

I can rattle of names like Entombed, Vader, Deicide etc. but you know the deal. It's got it's elements of prog in the beginning, but goes right into old-fashioned death near the end. You get three proggier death tracks, and then five much faster and heavier tracks that only let up to allow the insanity flowing forth from this man to surface as he begins to fill your ears with rage.

Worth checking out if you're interested.

Highlights: Plaintive Parallels, Mass Chemicide, Burdened Sufferance, Sanctimonious Godz, Where Chaos And Order Are One (8 Tracks, 32:00)



Odium - Monolith Of Hate (Band Request 2013) - This is the sophomore release from French "hostile brutal black" metallers, Odium. They're shopping this out to labels right now, so I'm going to be as real about this as I possibly can for any labels and PR who might be interested in working with new acts. The Monolith Of Hate is indeed a beast, but what you need to know is that these guys can do a hell of a lot more than just what you might expect from the first track "Procreating Insanity.3:00" which is straightforward black metal with some bells and whistles. In all actuality, things get better. When "The Last Dawn 4:19" comes in sounding like black sludge in portions and welcomes an unhealthy dose of the "brutality" that the band's moniker suggests, you will find yourself already getting sucked in.

First of all, Sotaa's vocals come in which a psychotic sense; he's not trying to sound like anyone other than a man who is completely disillusioned with society and awaits the bitter end. There's no trademark scowl or "let's see how much we can sound like a goblin" this is definite rage bellowed forth with an approach that melds with the ashen riffs and top-notch drum fury in a way that certainly makes the band unique.

When "Decade 3:14" comes in, it's all over. If these guys haven't hooked you by now, then you're hopeless. The mix of brutality and melody here is just as good as anything else I've heard from the black metal scene and proves that these guys have got the formula to make black metal down. But further tracks like "Bipolar Disorder 3:18" and "Until The Nations Fall 4:03" show that they can perfect it. Then you have to listen to the experimenting on "Legioness ODII 4:15" and the drone experiment on "Into The Void 1:28." which shows that these guys have the capability to do more, much more with their sound in years to come.

Still, there's "The Reign Of Those Who Die 4:06" which begins with soul-crushing riff melodies that erupt into all out brutality. But these guys follow that up with constant structural changes that show that they're more than capable musicians. This is by no means a bunch of French guys with no musical training and no understanding of their craft. This is a budding French black metal act that has the possibility to get just as big as Deathspell Omega and deservedly so. To tell you the truth, I won't get into everything; because I literally can't. There are so many little bits of ear candy on this album that will prove themselves wholly to the listener. This is most certainly the way to do roaring black metal with all of the experimenting that one might expect from the French metal scene.

I literally cannot believe that these gentlemen are not signed and I'm sure that word will spread around the internet of their abilities soon enough. This is professional black metal with the right bit of technicality and structure that should appeal to fans of not just black metal, but other genres as well. This album is the result of hard work and a great deal of money and that result is spectacular.

One more time: Drums: This guy is a machine. Guitars: Both unconventional and incredibly frostbitten at the same time. Vocals: Scathing, downright psychotic.

This is what I want to hear in black metal. If someone doesn't sign these guys, then the world of metal is in fucking trouble. I've heard a lot of bands in my life and there are those that I can say "how did they ever get signed" and those that I can say "why in the hell aren't they signed" and this is just one of those many bands out there, undiscovered talent that goes unheard due to flavor of the week groups like Dark Sermon who look like they're only 17 in their band photo. Why don't we sign some seasoned musicians like these guys, who have an EP and a full length album under their belts, plus this sophomore disc?

I'm going to recommend this one highly, especially to fans of extremely erratic and psychotic black and death metal. These guys are chaos made form and someone needs to fucking sign them!

(By the way, no one paid me anything for this opinion and that's the way I like it. I won't take money (no matter how much) to say that something's good or bad, because that's not genuine and if you're going to review music, then you'd better be fucking truthful about it. The disc came in the mail, I ripped it to my laptop and gave it a full listen; just like I do with every album. I liked what I heard and it's as simple as that.)

Highlights: Decade, Demiurgic Pulse Of Eradication, Bipolar Disorder, The Reign Of Those Who Die, Altar Of Chaos, Monolith Of Hate, Until The Nations Fall, Legioness ODII, Into The Void, The Grand Final (14 Tracks, 45:00)



Dirigiri - Dirigiri EP (Band Request 2013) - I wasn't quite sure how this EP from death metallers, Dirigiri was going to sound. All that I can say is that I like the cover art with the metalhead being attacked by the horde of demonic appendages attempting to escape out of the vinyl metal album that he's holding, which I expect might be the Dirigiri EP. While I'm not sure if I've got the entire EP, the fourteen minutes of music that I have here is more than enough to lay these guys out for you.

The first track that plays is "Boiled In Blood 4:13" which starts out with some lead melodies and gets into a sort of Exodus style groove with a mix between gravel and scowls that work well with the chorus which bellows forth "BOILED IN BLOOD" in the vein of Deicide's "DEAD BY DAWN!" There's a slight guitar solo as the grooves start to kick back in and bring forth the chorus which is the main killer here. This probably would do great live too. Then you've got the soloing again, but the main part of this song is that chorus which is going to be the selling point.

"Bone Collector 2:38" begins with all sorts of off color oddity, but regains itself as it starts as a groove-laden death track. Eventually, the drums perk up and some Revolting style melodies come into play. As well as a solo (which doesn't ever seem to get the light of day) The groove continues in a sort of Hooded Menace vibe that of course perks up into a slightly more thrash laden attack. "Death By The Hands Of An Angel" continues the band's assault and certainly sees as much promise as the others, it's just a little too short for me to really absorb it.

"Riot 2:20" comes next, thundering a bit more but I don't think it's ready yet. These guys still obviously have some work ahead of them, but what I'm hearing certainly has some merit and will be more cohesive with time. There's a sort of outlandish death/thrash mix here that will definitely appeal to certain types of people in it's approach and those solos definitely work well (I'd just like to hear more of them.)

"Toilet Examination 2:47" comes in with a death/punk vibe that sounds completely no holds barred. Yes, this track will appeal to people. I'm sure of it. But it shows that this band could be really anything at this point. It just seems like a bunch of guys trying to find their direction and eventually, they'll settle into something. But rest assured, it'll be fucking unique.

Right now, I'm going to give these guys one step above mediocre. They've definitely got a vigor and "no fucks given" attitude which is a great thing for the death metal genre. Also, their forays into punk also make me smile quite a bit, showing that they've got the ability for almost anything. If you're the PR, don't drop them! These guys are just getting started as far as I'm concerned. They've got a little bit to go, but don't we all? I've heard shit and I've heard potential, and this is potential. It's nothing more right now, but it's definitely worth knocking around at.

I'm not sure where you can grab this album, but definitely check some of these tracks out and see what you think. A little raw, a little gory, a little punk and a little wet behind the ears. But I'm curious to hear more from them.

Highlights: Boiled In Blood, Bone Collector, Toilet Extermination (5 Tracks, 14:00)



Twisted Wrath - Madman's Chorus (Band Request 2013) - Twisted Wrath, like the signed Gama Bomb; are an Irish thrash metal band. But unlike Gama Bomb who decided to play a million variations of arguably the same riff structure, Twisted Wrath have done something more on their Madman's Chorus EP.

"North Titan 3:36" starts out like a traditional thrash track, there's certainly some groove portions in it later and it lets loose with a nice solo. It's very much in the vein of Metallica, Destruction, Testament etc. This is what I expect with thrash as far as solos are concerned.

"Madman's Chorus 3:55" is next bringing in another structure, which is definitely refreshing. There's actually some core elements here, but they're welcome and help to illustrate the track. It doesn't sound so much retro as it does a new era attempt. Personally, I like it and the blazing solo doesn't hurt either. The chorus on this one is very strong, despite the fact that the frontman's vocals might take a while to grow on you. But trust me, it's definitely strong thrash for the modern era.

"To The Sword 3:04" comes in thrashing right from the start. No bullshit with these guys. I really think that people who are into bands like Trivium and Lamb Of God could also get into this act, there's a lot of influence from those acts here. But that influence really helps these guys. They're not core screaming, or fake growling or doing the shit that Persefone ruined their new album with. The frontman continues his approach throughout the disc and nothing feels "forced." It all comes off as very natural and has more than just a little bit of potential.

Then "Smoke 5:10" came in and blew me away. I love those fucking riffs, the melodies, the catchy as hell chorus and the shouting portions of this one. I actually found myself singing along with this one. It's hard not to, that's a great chorus. Then we get another great solo. Gama Bomb could learn something from these guys, and they're the one's who got signed! How the fuck did that happen? Sometimes I have to question my own sanity when I witness things like this. But living in a nation that profits from the death of others overseas, nothing really surprises me anymore. Nothing.

I'm going to end this review with a simple "please sign these guys!" as they really deserve it. The recording, the music, the performance, it's all top-notch. I'd buy it. I banged my fucking head to it and threw up the horns. It must have been good for all that to occur.

You can get the EP from Twisted Wrath's Bandcamp page. Please do that!

Highlights: Madman's Chorus, To The Sword, Smoke (4 Tracks, 15:00)


Astronoid - November EP (2012) - When I happened upon something on Rockbox labeled as "Shoegaze Black Metal" I was at first skeptical. I already reviewed a band who claimed to be that, but was horribly let down. That project will remain unnamed. However, this act has definitely peaked my attention greatly. As a matter of fact, I'm mind-blown. I put one of these tracks on my personal MP3 list and that is a rarity.

Now to be fair, the first track on "November 5:48" is not black metal. It's heavy and it's well produced and has a wonderful duet on it. Just the sort of shoegaze that you would expect, but not necessarily black metal. But what it does have are some killer melodies and drums that sound like they're being pounded during a rainstorm. It's the kind of thing you'd expect to be performed during a heavy drizzle, it just feels like a sort of aquatic cleanse. Perhaps I'm the oddball who heard water in this track, but that's what I think of when I hear this one. Rain. Beautiful, cleansing rain.

Now the next track is the one I've had to personally add to my MP3 list, because it was so fucking fantastic. This one is melodic black metal shoegaze and it's goddamned brilliant. The drums blast as the dynamic clean vocals accentuate what normally would be rather harsh riffs. But yes, there are some great scowls here. I'm still hearing rain on this one (or feeling it rather) as the duet comes in with female vocals in a way that just makes me want to say "please release a full album soon!" Damn, this so fucking beautiful. I mean, this is the first release and it sounds like this guy's been doing it for years. That's talent. If I was a record label, I'd sign him in an instant. These melodies are absolutely wonderful, there's really nothing more to say about this masterpiece. The whole thing's simply orgasmic.

In closing, I recommend this album to fans of shoegaze and the coined "metalgaze" genre. I finally did it, folks. I finally found a black metal shoegaze act that's the real deal. And it's not just the real deal, it's above and beyond my extremely high expectations for what I wanted from this genre. I'm elated! Completely fucking elated.

Grab it from Astronoid's Bandcamp page. I hear he's working on a new EP. When that comes out, I'll have it up here for review and hopefully there will be enough music there to do a proper interview. That's something I want to support.

Highlights: November, Astronoid (2 Tracks, 12:00)


Keep on the lookout for my Arena Battles and other segments coming soon like Abner's Picks and 2012 releases you may have missed, as well as some underground 2013 discs. Also remember that I try to throw a bone whenever I can to stuff that I find online. I want to promote the shit that no one has ever heard! Eventually, I'll post old shit again. But I've been saying that for about a year now, so we'll see what happens. May looks to be a dry month for metal, so I should have some chances to do that. I live to promote, after all. Or so it seems. I mean, it's 12:00 AM here and I'm still doing this despite the fact that I have to be at work in the morning.

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