Thursday, August 8, 2013

Last Gasp Of The Maya Part Two (August 8th, 2013)

Last Gasp Of The Maya - Massive 2012 Quicklist

Part Two

In an effort to clear all of my 2012's (and to regain some HD space) I'm going to do each of these reviews in five or less sentences, giving you just enough information to decide whether or not you'd be interested in these releases. The summer of 2013 seemed like a good time to do this bit of cleaning. Week 82 will release shortly, but after that things will be minimal until the fall except where New Noise and PR/Band Requests are concerned. In other words, no major release reviews until Fall.

Note: For certain acts, there have been a few expansions.

- The Fallen Alchemist


Witchcraft - Legend (2012) - This is my first rendezvous with Witchcraft, even though they've had several albums prior to this. At least on this album, I'm hearing a lot of stoner/rock with light doom influence but the vocals at times remind me of Maynard James Keenan in certain places, like "An Alternative To Freedom 5:17" and it's follow-up "Ghost's House 4:17" to damn near everything that follows. In a way, I'm reminded of a slightly hazed version of A Perfect Circle. The band attempts a much longer trek in the vein of "Dead End 12:50" as well as a pretty catchy tune called "It's Not Because Of You 4:13" which is worth checking out for more radio friendly crowds. You can hear the classic rock influences perfectly, along with the beautiful melodies that fill these tracks, but it's certainly not a metal disc.

But is it good rock? Hell yes.

Highlights: It's Not Because Of You, Ghost's House, White Light Suicide, Democracy, Dead End, By Your Definition (10 Tracks, 56:00)



Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - Tree Of Tongues (2012) - When this first started up, I was reminded of the lead singer of Jane's Addiction, but as it went on, I noticed a serious dose of Deftones amongst the bree screams. Maybe you wouldn't think it would be a worthy idea to have a guy screaming over this great Chino Moreno style vocal approach, but I guess without it; you'd just have a very proggy Deftones. Which is alright with me. Deftones fans are recommended to check out "Pharmakokinetic 4:33, Through The Thicket... 5:33, Kapser Hauser Could See 4:44, Gypsy Among The Pines 3:19, and Arcology 5:46."

The best way to describe these guys is a mix between Dillinger Escape Plan at their most playful, and Deftones at their most melancholic. It's actually quite fucking good and if you pass by these guys as just another core act, you've really missed out on a gem. Even if you don't like the bree screams, it's hard to deny that these guys have definite talent and I feel that they're just going to get better. There's a couple of antsy tracks on the record, but you'll find that if you give it a straight shot though, that it wasn't quite so bad after all.

Highlights: Pharmakokinetic, Through The Thicket... Across Endless Mountains, Apis Bull, Kasper Hauser Could See The Stars In The Daytime, Gypsy Among The Pines, Arcology (11 Tracks, 46:00)



God Damn - Back To The Grindstone (2012) - The finish sludge band who's name you can't say in public places is back again, with yet another Pantera record. There's no denying that their frontman has Phil's vocal dynamics down, but it's odd to hear more Pantera albums under another name, by a band about as far away from Texas as can be. But you can't deny that they're one of the best Pantera clones around. And this time they've added some Down influence into the mix and it'll only be a matter of time before some Superjoint Ritual influence also gets injected into their veins. I guess living out there in the Fjords and drinking copious amounts of beer is about as southern as you can get; so perhaps this isn't too out of place for these guys.

In all honesty, I just never thought I'd hear the formula done as well as it is on this album. A definite recommend for fans of Pantera and Down. You might not even be able to tell the difference, even though there are a few notable low points on the disc, as compared to the band's self-titled debut.

Highlights: Hangman's Rope, 90's, Legends Come Down For Us, I Could Be Jay, Replacing Older Times, Never Look Your Fate Down, The Lambest (11 Tracks, 43:00)



I'm Fine - The Way Of Madness (2012) - This Gothic death metal act was described to be in the same vein as early My Dying Bride and I can certainly hear that here. Classical laden death metal soundscapes back up a gruff male vocal (which isn't quite as gravelly as it reminds me of Chuck Schuldiner's approach to Death's Symbolic) that sometimes goes into a light vocal croon and stays there, "Nothing Nowhere 4:14" while at other times, a Rapture-esque pounding "The Way Of Madness 5:11" begins. Naturally, the band does everything in their power to shake it up, including long epics like "Cold Ashes... 8:48" and "One Last Sight 8:15" which focus on bountiful amounts of brutality and atmosphere; yet there are also rather simplistic acoustic sessions in which sorrow seems more the fashion. Nothing on the disc is "fine" and represents a perfect soundtrack to misery... A soundtrack guided with melancholy melodies and thundering solos, I might add. This will either make you depressed, or even more depressed than you already are.

Highlights: Face In My Mirror, Nothing Nowhere, Cold Ashes... , The Way Of Madness, Happy World, One Last Sight (9 Tracks, 52:00)



Sekoria - Iter Stellarum (2012) - Sekoria is a melodic black metal act with about as much to offer as you'd expect. They certainly make good use of their synths, and their guitars to create an atmosphere that isn't just cold and grim, but also quite classy. All but two of the songs are in German but you probably weren't paying attention to the lyrics anyway. The band also makes use of several orchestral/symphonic instrumentations, so you'll have to deal with some of those pieces being placed before and between songs. But as I'm flipping through this one, I begin to notice that the same pattern seems to envelop most of these tracks, with an extra bell or whistle added to slightly differ them. The only change in tempo I've noticed is on "Summoning The Demon 6:25" which very well may be a cover as it sounds completely different from anything on the album and I'd consider it my favorite track on the record.

For the most part, these guys keep it fast, raw and heavy. If you're one of those metalheads who's pissed about Watain's new direction, these guys might help you to forget about it. Recommended for fans of symphonic, orchestral "extreme gothic" metal like Cradle Of Filth, but I'm also noticing Mayhem and Emperor influence on the disc. It's your call.

Highlights: Ursprung Der Zeit, Summoning The Demon, Do You Repent, Zu Den Sternen (9 Tracks, 49:00)



Olema - Loppu(piste) (2012) - First of all, this is one of two releases made in the same year by a group of musicians who seriously have an abundance of free-time and a drive I can't even begin to imagine. "Sure, that's nothing." You might say, but keep in mind that this release is 114 minutes long, with the other album being a 104 minutes by itself. I don't have a review for the other disc yet; but will review Loppu(piste) as I have promised the band.

First of all, Olema is a melodic avant-garde metal act with definite elements of extreme metal. The album is broken down into ten tracks, which include eight parts of Minuutti. The male vocalist uses a rather thick growl while the female vocalist sings very much in the vein of something I'd hear on J-pop music, so this isn't going to be for everyone. The drums are programmed, but the guitar melodies are real and the effort is certainly here. This really took a lot of work folks, so I really do want you to go check it out. The band also gave the music away, because they don't believe in charging for it. It's a slightly raw, yet produced attempt and comes off pretty catchy at times.

"Minuutti I 13:48" comes off as a very piano driven effort, with some notable drum pounding and gravel vocals. The female vocalist comes in and makes me definitely feel like things have taken a turn to the land of the rising sun; but I guess the Otaku in me who's been drowned in J-pop anime/game anthems thought it was pretty damned catchy.

"Minuutti II 12:02" throws in some electronics and they certainly accentuate the guitar melodies. There's a bit of an Asian twist to the melodies, but I kind of like it. Some metalheads might cringe at the vocal approach here, but damn it; I guess I've been brainwashed by the J-culture. The song takes quite a few turns but stays towards a duet approach, with the band's Finnish folk nature finally coming into place towards the end. even if you can't do with all the pianos and electronics and such, this guy certainly can play guitar.

"Minuutti III 10:20" continues this melancholic death metal approach onto what some people might think is one of the best parts of the album. "Minuutti IV 16:28" didn't offer much more than I hadn't already heard in previous parts, but Minuutti V 15:59" did offer up some acoustics, as well as turn into more death metal realms without so much of the female vocal. She's great, but we don't need her on every single track. It becomes very much of a pattern, and that's the last thing you want in avant-garde music. But even though she does appear eventually and last up until about the end of the track, drums fire off wildly and introduce an almost black metal approach to the vocals (as well as some more gravel, wish he wouldn't have done that.)

Minuutti VI 7:50" definitely changes things by offering up an incredible melody from the get-go. When vocals come in, they start out death; but it goes into straight electro-pop. The vocals don't work that well with it though. Is she trying to rap, or what? Slightly confused. Death metal finally comes back into the mix though and a new male vocal comes in. Surprisingly, the female chorus of the first track comes back in. There's probably an interesting story behind all this, I just have no idea what it is. After another death metal chunk, it goes back to electro pop with his vocals this time. We'll get some acoustic atmospheres and then some great guitar/piano work. They're definitely talented musicians and I'd like to see what happens with them in the future.

"Minuutti VII 8:35" starts right out at a chorus. Some black metal influence eventually creeps in though. As the song lightens, the female vocals duet with the harsh vocals and it comes off quite interesting until a major switch-up occurs in the music. But that's nothing unusual for this act.

The final Minuutti "20:44" (Yes, you saw that right.) Is a twenty minute monster that pretty much sums up the disc. It begins with the female vocalist's Asian influence backed by piano. Then some odd electro-pop things occur as atmospheres decorate some pieces that envelop into shoegaze portions, where the guitar is not loud enough and the drums are overbearing. Female vocals and then male vocals separately sing their piece, as things get heavier and open up into a duet. Back to heavy, back to light. It's got ADD. There are plenty of good ideas here, but this track just seems a bit more bloated then it should be.

The album ends with the title track and outro, "Loppu(piste) 5:25." which serves as a finale and sees the female vocalist once again repeating the same chorus. I'm actually curious as to what this concept is based upon and why she repeats that chorus. The track actually gets quite fierce as the duet began at the very first Minuutti comes back with the growls added to it. Something really fucking epic sounds like it composed this lyrics for this album, but I'm not about to go to a Finnish - English dictionary to try to decipher them. The album surprisingly ends on a crushing note, a sign that if this was some sort of story - it didn't end well for the main character. Again, I'd love to know what all this was about.

Olema is different, quite unique and furthermore; not for everyone. I do recommend people who like melancholic doom/death with a side of happiness to check them out, but be aware of the electro-pop moments. Again, the band announced on their Facebook that they don't believe in charging for albums so they want you to have this one and it's shorter sister album, Felis Catus (versus Homo Sapiens) for free on the band's bandcamp page.

I have not listened to Felis Catus, but I will. I just heard some samples and noticed that it has more metal, an actual drum-kit (or a much better drum program) and a continuation of interesting ideas. Again, this guy can growl with the best of them and play some great guitar melodies, so don't think this is anything like deathcore. It's just doom/death taken to another level. The female vocalist is also still used in areas, but apparently not so much as on this disc. I think that Loppu(piste) is the band's starting point, while Felis Catus might have been their next outing. It's profound that a band who put this much work into their releases wouldn't charge for them, but that's what they've said.

The finny thing, is even though I've put so much work into reviewing Loppu(piste) because it was the first one on my MP3 player, you'll probably wind up checking out the other release. However, I do recommend them both. Olema certainly has talent - I'll say it again, and I'd like to hear more from them. I was going to say that they needed to trim down their work a bit, but on Felis Catus they have done that. Expect a Felis Catus review shortly. I'm listening to it right now.

(EDIT: Felis Catus Jun 2012, Loppu(piste) Dec 2012 Respectively.)

Go grab the albums from the band's official Bandcamp page:

Highlights: Minuutti I, V, VI, VII (10 Tracks, 114:00)



Darkenhold - Echoes From The Stone Keeper (2012) - Darkenhold is an atmospheric black metal band that utilizes melody and synths in order to achieve their sound. I'm kind of pissed about "Under The Sign Of Arcanum 3:33" though, because you see most of the tracks have nothing at all to do with Satan, there's a dungeon door on the front cover and the tracks sound like they'd be in some mythical realm, but the guy signs "Under the sign of Satan" on that track, and I just want to punch him. [RANT] First of all, you're giving the guy too much credit. Not everything arcane has to do with Satan. People have created hundreds of thousands of millions of Gods in the last thousand years of mankind, and for all matters arcane you go to a creation that might not even be old enough to drive compared to the others? I really, really wish I had a time machine. I would use technology to enslave the entire council of Nicea into writing the most ridiculous sci-fi related tale, after which they've called me a god (which means I would be in it too somewhere) and there would never be a word about Satan. If I did put him in there, he'd be like the name of a peasant who gets zapped with a gun or something. "...And poor Satan, he didn't have a chance after which thine divine rays hurtled into his skull, reducing it to fine ash."

Then after I came back, there wouldn't be a word about Satan because the world would believe in something else. Same thing with other Judeo Christian religions. As an author, I believe that no book written by the hand of man should be sacred. And so called "God helped him" doesn't work. Because I can say that "God helped me" to write my own books. You can't disprove me, because there's no proof as to whether it did or did not happen. At any rate, I'm rather upset about more Satanic imagery in the form of a black metal band who sounded different. When are we going to grow out of this stuff? [END RANT]

Well, at least the band manages to keep up a traditional black metal approach and follows a melody path as intricate as Sekoria. But neither band would be doing this stuff if not for In The Nightside Eclipse, which has still influenced fantasy inspired melodic black metal bands for years to come. But despite my lyrical mishap, I cannot lie that this album is definitely worth checking out for fans of raw symphonic black metal. The scowls are low in the mix, the synths real heavy and the guitars at the forefront. It doesn't feel as though it has to constantly blast all the time and showcases the vocals as a necessary instrument and not just an addition. But I will say that there's no real use in having "Subterranean Corridor 1:21" or "Interlude 1:02" on the album as these just waste time. Also, it's very true that many of the songs sound round-about the same, but they're all done right and it shouldn't get boring easily.

Yes, we've heard it before; but I can't deny a thrilling performance as the one given here. It does seem like the kind of music for a background accompaniment in a dungeon (Maybe the one in Legend Of Grimrock) and could prove good atmosphere for slaughter and looting as one does in a dungeon. Of course, I've never personally been in a dungeon (has anyone ever seen one?) but if one did pop up in my yard one day, I don't think I'd enter it. I dunno... might not be a bad idea to bring out a goblin or two and have a nice chat with them.

In any case, you certainly can't go wrong with the Nightside flavor of Darkenhold's rousing dungeon hymns. Even if they got lazy and had to resort to Satan, rather than the countless number of fantasy worlds that we've created in the past hundred years.

(10 Tracks, 42:00)



Soundgarden - King Animal (Deluxe Edition 2012) - Love em or hate em, Soundgarden's back after all these years with another post-grunge album. I'll say post grunge, because the grunge scene is pretty much non-existent now and has been taken over by metal, proving that we came back with a vengeance and ate them whole, leaving nothing more than their influence to remain in certain bands. But what can I say about Soundgarden that hasn't already been said? More or less, it's another drop in the bucket for the band, not nearly as good as Badmotorfinger.

Some people might think that this isn't really Soundgarden though. It's corporate, safe and radio ready. A friend of mine is a hardcore Soundgarden fan and was quite skeptical about the album. His skepticism was warranted and he only likes the ballad "Bones Of Birds 4:18" which is certainly a good track. But my personal favorites on the disc include a bit more of a proggy punch like "Non-State Actor 3:54" and "By Crooked Steps 3:57." I also like the disc's closer, "Rowing 5:04." It's quite catchy and has a serious blues influence. As far as the overall sound of the disc, it's quite watered down compared to their other works and sounds like a more mature disc. It's decent, but that's about it.

The Deluxe version contains demos of "Worse Dreams 3:20, Black Saturday 3:16 and By Crooked Steps 4:22." That's all you get. I waited so long to review this disc that it's already long from people's minds, but it was the first Soundgarden disc I listened to before I checked out Badmotorfinger. You might just want to stay with that one, if you're still on the fence.

Highlights: Non-State Actor, By Crooked Steps, Bones Of Birds, Rowing (16 Tracks 62:00)



Demented Are Go - Welcome Back To Insanity Hall (Ltd. Edition 2012) - I'm still getting into this psychobilly genre. I remember of course, rockabilly; but I guess the genre title comes from Rev. Horton Heat's "Psychobilly Freakout" which is classic. The difference between these guys and regular old rockabilly is that it features a lot of punk riffs, which sometimes veer into metal (but not so much as you'd think) and the lyrics are drenched in the same manner as death metal and horror films. But don't worry, because if you think that the original nature or rockabilly has been lost in this new offshoot, you'd be wrong. There's plenty of the original genre here and the solos are just as powerful as you'd expect. Even with song titles like "Retard Whore 2:26" and "Heads On Poles 3:08" there's a definite nod to the original genre here, but it should now appeal to punks and metalheads. Man, we're a fussy group. Just can't do with regular old rockabilly, can we?

Being completely honest, I enjoyed damn near every song on this disc even though they don't last very long. Nope, there's no sign of a "psychobilly epic" or any of that nonsense on here, but I didn't expect such from an album with a song called "Engine Trouble 3:07." And yeah, it's literally about engine trouble. There's even a bluesy ode to the femme fatale (AKA my kind of woman) on here called "Dark Angel 4:02" which is probably already a staple at alt-strip clubs everywhere. The grizzled vocal approach of the frontman and the "don't fix what ain't broken" approach to the music is what make Demented Are Go fucking great. Anyone who isn't familiar with this kind of music should get familiar with it. Check it out before you die.

The bonus tracks are "Agitated 2:41" (which is one of the only songs I don't like) and the beach bopper friendly "Another Thing Coming 2:28." The latter track is funny, but it just doesn't come off as well as the others. The bottom line is that you don't need to buy the limited version of the disc, because you're not missing anything.

Highlights: Everything but the intro and bonus tracks. (16 Tracks, 45:00)



Grave Slaves - Roam With The Dead (2012) - Well, what do you know? I've got another psychobilly band for you guys to check out. This one's called Grave Slaves and they're a bit different from Demented Are Go, especially because they have more of a punk feel and a deeper frontman. Think Misfits. What separates these guys from Demented Are Go, is that they don't sing about engine trouble or relationship drama. It's only horror and gore. Though the drum patterns are the same and the melodies also appear to verge along the same lines as Demented..., it definitely has a clearer sound that doesn't make it sound so much like the source material.

Oh shit. Well, forget the "they don't sing about relationship drama" as there's a song on here called "Maybe Some Day 2:45" which does deal with that. The band aren't quite as good as Demented though, even though they deliver with Misfits style horror/punk, Goth blues and of course; psychobilly - but not all of these tracks hit their mark and wind up being kind of boring filler that bleeds together. The tracks aren't long and neither is the disc itself, so you won't have to suffer too much if you just can't get into it. But it's hard to deny tracks like "Devil In Disguise 2:06, Suicide 3:16" and "Crazy Psycho 2:59." Then again, it just really depends on who you are. But it's got some good solos, so there's that. Doesn't help much, but that's all I got.

Highlights: Suicide, Outlaw, Maybe Some Day, Devil In Disguise, Crazy Psycho, Stupid Girl (14 Tracks, 38:00)



Bloodbound - In The Name Of Metal (W/ Japanese Bonus Track 2012) - Swedish power metal act Bloodbound more than likely took their name from Hammerfall's "Bloodbound" and being that they are also a Swedish act, it doesn't seem so out of place. But these guys aren't just a bunch of poseurs without talent and spirit; this is really good shit. The disc opens up with one of the best (and slightly hilarious) metal anthems that I've heard in a bit, and "In The Name Of Metal 4:16" is completely worthy of being a title track for the album. It will warrant several plays just by itself. Trust me, I know. That being said, is the rest of the album as good?

Not surprisingly, yes. Ladies and gentlemen; here's your next Hammerfall. Sure, they don't forage the same D&D epics that you'd expect from a Hammerfall album; but it's definitely hard not to look at the following track "When Demons Collide 4:11" and tell me that they don't have the potential. I looked in the booklet and these guys are young. But they sound so fucking good, so I can't wait to hear what happens on later discs. "Metalheads Unite 4:58" definitely has Manowar influence (done right) and "Mr. Darkness 3:15" features some impressive guitar wizardry. "I'm Evil 3:55" feels like Edguy, while "King Of Fallen Grace 3:19" might as well have been written by Helloween. I'll also have to mention "Black Devil 3:47" because it thumps in the way that good heavy metal should and contains a truly strong chorus is the same way that we've heard a million times, ever since the days of hair metal. It's definitely a "find the influence" album, but that's certainly enjoyable for the most part. I mean, there is little that we can do with traditional heavy/power metal these days and these guys are doing as well a job as they can trying to keep one of metal's eldest sub-genres alive.

The Japanese track is a re-recording of "Book Of The Dead 3:54." which is a rousing anthem that is worth getting your hands on by ways that you're all familiar with (none of which include high import costs from Japan.)

Bloodbound offer a worthy slab of heavy/power metal that is rife with as many influences as it is with different kinds of cheese. Not the best traditional metal disc you've ever heard, but it's certainly a solid one.

Highlights: In The Name Of Metal, When Demons Collide, Metalheads Unite, Mr. Darkness, I'm Evil, King Of Fallen Grace, Black Devil, Book Of The Dead (JP Bonus) (12 Tracks, 45:00)



Vorkreist - Sigil Whore Christ (2012) - The new album from black metallers Vorkreist is finally upon us and it delivers a crushing, yet intriguing blow that should fulfill the ears of all the band's fans and then some. "De Imitatione Christi 5:48" starts out light but pounds into action and features a good dose of experimentation and Satan. "Maledicte 4:43" sounds a bit odd, since they use a lot of delayed leads on the track, with a heavy piece sandwiched in between and finally a brooding moment that comes off great. Uh, oh. Death metal growls... does that make it black metal anymore?

Instead of worrying about silly things like that, let's roll right along with "Deus Vult 5:32" which opens up for more atmospheres and plenty of structure. This is certainly modern black metal, but it's modern black metal done right. "Dominus Illuminatio Mea 5:34" retains the same crushing blow and atmosphere, as does "Memento Mori 5:16" until the moment where it slows down unexpectedly to deliver another death metal drenched helping, which I see no problem with. The track goes back to blasting and finally enters a slow-down period. Most of these songs seem to be filled with the same substance - modern black metal and atmospheric sections. There are no beautiful melodies or even guitar solos to speak of on the disc, it's as oppressive as humanly possible - which is what listeners want.

The only real difference in tempo comes during the subdued nature of "Ad Nauseum 5:02." It's much slower pace communicates the message just as well as if it were blasting, yet I think that this one contains so much more from the vocalist. Saint Vincent seems to lose his mind in a few sections, which is something I like. The sounds of one's impending insanity supplement the material quite well. The album ends with a long closer "Scalae Gemoniae 8:05" which begins with fury, but like most of the tracks here; it whimpers down. The sad thing is, they resort to this formula for more than half of the album.

Yeah, you can make great modern black metal. That's fine. But at least try to keep a fucking pace. Only "Per Aspera Ad Astra 2:19" features a continual onslaught, but then again - I'm not hearing anything I haven't already heard from Satyr's most recent albums. The riff melodies are the same and so are the atmospheres. Only the lyrics have changed. This album seems very safe to me, and I wanted much more from it. Saint Vincent, do something else! Take a cue from Secrets Of The Moon.

(9 Tracks, 47:00)


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