Going back to the one paragraph review format of the first 2012 Quicklist, with expansions for certain albums.
Verdunkeln - Weder Licht Noch Schatten (2012) - Verdunkeln is a German black metal band that's worth checking out for all fans of the modern black metal sound, yet it certainly has elements of avantgarde and sets itself completely apart from other acts in the opener "Das Antlitz Des Himmels 6:56" in which a scowl is not performed, and the riffs take on a sort of waltz factor. This style continues, offering thickly layered soundscapes and very little in the way of the black metal blasting that you might expect. It's a thinking man's record in that aspect, something that requires you to sit down and absorb, rather than coming to it at the first bite. Even when the scowls do finally make their way back into the music, it still doesn't come off as an energetically heavy disc and seems to take pleasure in smooth calculations. If you don't feel that you've heard a good forward thinking black metal disc this year, then simply jump back to 2012 and give this one a go. It's definitely worth checking out.
Highlights: Die Letze Legion, Weder Licht Noch Schatten (5 Tracks, 48:00)
Zatokrev - The Bat, The Wheel And A Long Road To Nowhere (2012) - Zatokrev is another rarity in the world of black metal, concerned heavily with sludge and even some punk and avantgarde aesthetics; making the music quite a treat to listen to. "Goddamned Lights 9:12" starts the disc with an evolution of punk influenced black metal into something more in the lines of melodic blackened sludge, complete with a truly memorable guitar solo. "9 8:36" sees sludge and ominous atmospheres becoming a factor, as "Rodeo With Snakes" injects more southern sludge into the mix. "Medium 10:28" sounds like a bad trip, rolling right into the wheel, where melodic post sludge seems to have taken over. "Feel The Fire Pts. 1 & 2 (11:00)" are great explorations of a blacker edged Neurosis, seeing the slow-paced and foreboding nature of "The Bat 9:46" fully realized near the end of the disc. Zatokrev goes out very much in the same way you'd expect, with more blackened sludge and shoegaze solos.
For anyone who wants to hear a mix of black metal, post and sludge, you can't go wrong with Zatokrev. Memorable solo pieces and slight moments of shoegaze add to the band's unique style that is truly their own. The band is original and effective, therefore obtaining a perfect score.
(9 Tracks, 73:00)
VA – Re-Machined. A Tribute To Deep Purple’s Machine Head (2012) - Despite the fact that Deep Purple has had a slew of material beyond this one, most people seem to consider this one their best record. That's probably not true, but there's no doubt that it's their most commercially successful album and made "Smoke On The Water" and "Highway Star" guitar teaching staples throughout the spectrum. Most guitarists cut their teeth on one or both of these songs, and it appears that a slew of artists wanted to cover these tracks in tribute. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't fuck it up. As with most VA albums, there are several hits and misses.
Carlos Santana & Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) lent a touch to the illustrious "Smoke On The Water 5:05" with Santana killing it, replete with Keyboards. But when Shaddix isn't singing about how goddamned emo he is (despite living in a fairly nice mansion with everything that person could want - the guy's a rock star, for crying out loud - it's all a sham) he's doing a decent job on the vocals. Yeah, it's not entirely bad. Chickenfoot takes on "Highway Star 7:05" live, doing the classic justice. Glen Hughes & Chad Smith cover "Maybe I'm A Leo 4:59" performing a respectable cover of the funky original. "Black Label Society put the southern biker edge into "Pictures Of Home 3:30" and certainly seem to have crafted a worthwhile performance. Kings Of Chaos cover "Never Before 4:05" as they get the proggier number right and seem to deliver a fairly strong performance that echoes the original. The Flaming Lips got a hold of "Smoke On The Water 4:25" turning it into a caricature of it's former self, replete with electronics, some kind of weird chanting and computerized vocals. It's just terrible, so skip it. Who ever thought this would be a good idea?
Jimmy Barnes & Joe Bonamassa cover "Lazy 8:53" bringing a sense of classic blues rock to the mix along with some atmospheres and keyboards. It's a joy to listen to and reminds you of the good old days. Iron Maiden cover "Space Truckin' 3:27" but even with Bruce on vocals, they just don't seem to be able to deliver on this one. It's a dirtier side to Maiden though and offers a much different perspective on them. Metallica finish it up with "When A Blind Man Cries 4:37" giving us a sense of what their new album is going to sound like. The band doesn't really offer a heavy performance until near the end of the song where they almost manage to fully deliver. There's also a bonus track here with Steve Vai & Glenn Hughes. It's a cover of "Highway Star 6:18" and not a live version. I don't like it as much as the Chickenfoot version, but Vai certainly delivers on the guitar aspect.
Having not heard the original disc, I'm making guesses here as to what it could sound like, but as seeing the covers are definitely sticking close to what I've heard and expected of Deep Purple's music, it definitely seems like each and every artist did their best to capture the band's music. The only cover that I found truly haphazard was the Flaming Lips. You really don't even need it, and it just seems to ruin a good day; so delete the track if you downloaded the disc from iTunes or something; or just burn another copy and remove the track from the album. It really is deplorable and kills the entire album. Again, it's a cover of a song that already has a cover on the disc; so it's not necessary.
Highlights: Smoke On The Water, Highway Star, Pictures Of Home, Never Before, Lazy (10 Tracks, 52:00)
Bitcrush - Collapse (2012) - Labeled as IDM (not exactly sure what that means, maybe Intriguing Depressive Music?) the band certainly seems to make a rather depressive and beautiful flight through five long ventures. The cotton candy riffs and subdued vocals help to pervade a sense of bright melancholy in the piece that is absolutely surreal in most aspects. Though things get a little dirty, and there's some sense of warmth through the disc, it doesn't change much in style. This is one of those discs where vocals aren't the standpoint of the album, and it seems to enjoy it's melancholy cotton candy beauty. Collapse is an absolutely beautiful, albeit depressing release that makes me think of what one must feel like after they have died and now gaze on the splendor of the afterworlds before them. It seems to capture pain and pleasure perfectly within the confines of a small plastic disc. I highly recommend this piece as it's one of the most wonderful atmospheres that I've ever heard, bar none. Whatever this IDM shit is, I certainly would like to hear more of it.
(5 Tracks, 49:00)
Ojo Rojo - Painkiller Hell & Damnation Soundtrack (2012 - Though other artists were featured on this video game soundtrack, they were regurgitated material that has been used sine 2004 and should not even be on the disc at all. But for all sakes and purposes, I am reviewing the Ojo Rojo tracks. There's a full EP of music here, displaying a hard rock act with slight tinges of metal, and believe it or not - some promise. There's only six tracks on here essentially, (and then instrumental versions of those tracks) but they are still worth checking out.
The disc opens with "Run In Circles 4:25" which offers a bit of groove and a whiskey throated frontman with a southern tinge floating through it. The chorus is strong, but it could be better. There's no doubt that these guys are certainly trying though. "Flies On Strings 4:07" is certainly my favorite of the tracks here, with a powerful and interesting chorus. The music of Ojo Rojo is quite light though and doesn't seem like the kind of music you'd want to slaughter hundreds of demonic entities to. When will these game companies get it right? Go to a fucking Bandcamp page, find a heavy as hell band and ask for a track from them. Find another heavy band, get a track from them. Find another heavy band, I mean - think of what kind of music invites death and destruction. Not what sounds good on the radio. You'll just have people muting the music and changing it out for the death metal they'd have played anyway.
At any rate, I really like "Flies On Strings 4:07" which has that nu metal when it was good feel to it. "Monkey Nation 2:54" features thrash injections and protest notions that don't have anything to do with the game. But I agree with the lyrics. Also, game companies - find a band who actually likes the music so much that they'll write an album based on the game. Yes, some musicians fucking love games so much that they'll write a full album based on the game. Hell, I already wrote lyrics for a song from the game and it's up on Youtube. People seem to like it. Which I think they would, since it's accurate to the storyline. You've got a game about a guy in hell, so why not something with a bit more bite? I used the last Dodsengel disc while playing the first one and it worked perfectly. If you can find a band who's good with ominous and foreboding atmospheres, that can work better than spoken lyrics. Boss battles should be blazing death/black metal, and tight/dark spaces should be something that instill fear in the player. Trust me, while listening to that last Dodsengel disc during the last game, it really improved my experience of the game.
"Cazzo Milano 4:10" is another strong song with good lyrics, showing that Ojo Rojo makes some rather fucked up hard rock. As far these lyrics go, this shit is pretty psychotic and I like that. But it's not the kind of music for this much blood and gore - maybe for a ride down to the liquor store. "White Knuckle Ride 3:33" provides about the same kick, these guys have studied their hard rock, nu metal and thrash pretty well and are able to utilize a couple of decent solos on the disc. "Linus 4:25" is the album's light atmosphere piece. It doesn't offer much and I hope they didn't use it in the game at all. It just doesn't fit with Painkiller. But neither do the rest of these songs. Nordic clearly wanted a band that was accessible and I guess some people might be turned off by more extreme forms of music. But then again, those people might be just as well turned off by the extreme amount of gore and violence in the title. Isn't there a Dance Central game you should be playing?
You see, back in the old days there were games that synthesized heavy metal and it was more appreciated in that aspect, because I guess it was synthesized. But now you have to use accessible bands, because we don't make synthesized heavy metal music anymore and you might offend someone. What Nordic needs is an industrial/metal act that can deliver the kind of material that they tried to go for with the whole series. This is why so many people love the NIN Quake soundtrack, because it did fit the mood of the game.
Ojo Rojo would have been better off releasing this EP in the same manner as a bandcamp act. It's certainly strong, but has no place in a game like this. But because the gaming community is shallow, we get Beyonce singing in the back of a Call Of Duty ad (who in the living fuck is going to play Beyonce music to a game where you fucking kill people) or Linkin Park who did the same with "Castle Of Glass." Yeah, that's a real heavy one guys. Great way to advertise a game where you spend most of your time fragging and cursing into your headset. A friend of mine was talking about that shit a few days earlier. "Nobody is going to listen to Beyonce while they're playing that fucking game." The whole gaming industry is nothing more than a billion dollar corporation who gives little of a shit about delivering good products, just making money. When a pop star advertises a shooter, we're headed down the road of Atari collapse. Fuck you, gaming industry.
All rants aside, Ojo Rojo is worth checking out for fans of hard rock and metal. I want to hear a full length from these guys and will definitely review it if it's as good as what I've heard from this EP.
(6 Tracks, 23:00)
Pyramids/Horseback: A Throne Without A King Split (2012) - This is probably the direction that Painkiller should have gone, especially in some of the deeper areas, as it invokes a sense of discomfort on the main meat of the album (A Throne Without A King 1-4). Pyramids starts the simple yellow covered disc off with "Phaedra's Love 6:48" which is quite beautiful, yet mechanical and that one goes into Horesback's black metal influenced electronic track, "Thee Cult Of Henry Flynt 7:05" which plays with standard melodic black metal (with a unique electronic edge) and goes right into an odd, static-laden atmosphere.
This begins the collaboration between Pyramids and Horseback, which makes in all reality, one hell of a soundtrack. Remember Fallout 3? Here's your soundtrack for Fallout 3. These four, also static-laden tracks seem to invoke the feeling of a world who like King would have said "has moved on." You can hear the cackle of broken power lines, electricity buzzing from them as you walk down what was left of your childhood homestead. The winds are blowing, as the nuclear winter sets in, for what might turn out to be a very long time. Hope you've got some Rad-X.
This is ultimately, a phenomenal post-apocalyptic atmosphere. The best I've ever heard for a post-apocalyptic world. The first time I heard it, I imagined the landscapes of Fallout, and just found this as a perfect atmosphere to just such a game as that one. The music itself seems to have been orchestrated to create this horrible wasteland future, quite like the kind you'll be reading about in my next novel. But my only qualm with this is the first two tracks. Pyramids and Horseback both perform two tracks at the beginning that have nothing to do with the album at hand. If you're going to make a dark ambient disc, then don't give me black metal. This album would have been better if it had just been the 45 minute piece that covers "A Throne Without A King 1-4." 45 minutes is enough, and the material is plenty strong without having to hear new material from you guys. I would have rather waited to hear "Thee Cult Of Henry Flynt" then to have it ruin the beginning of what is a fantastic atmosphere. Also, whoever designed this cover needs to be shot. It just doesn't capture the feel of the piece and looks bland. It should have been a desolate landscape on the front cover, something that would make me understand what exactly this music illustrates. Not some ridiculously thrown together yellow background with black text. How goddamned pretentious can you get?
So to cut it short, take off the first two track on the album, or put them at the end of the disc. They're nuts to have started this collaboration with their own two tracks, as it holds better weight as one full piece. Once again, I highly recommend those who want to hear the sounds of a post apocalyptic wasteland to check out this disc. I'm giving this album a perfect score, as I've heard nothing like it to date. I loved it the first time, and this second time proves how damned chilling the piece is. But the question I ask to you is, is this just a musical work of dystopian art, or a vision of the future?
Highlights: A Throne Without A King. That's it. Forget the other two tracks ever existed.
(6 Tracks, 59:00 but should only be 4 Tracks, 45:00)
Ashes You Leave - The Cure For Happiness (2012) - Ashes You Leave are a gothic/doom metal act with a female vocalist. They certainly have some promise, as the band does more than you would expect them to do, complete with meaty song structures and catchy songs. There are even some well-crafted solos on the piece which seem to do the band justice. The female vocalist really proves her salt on "For The Heart, Soul And Mind 4:54" and the band prove their salt on every damn track on the album. There's also a growler in the band who manages to evoke the same sense as first era Theatre Of Tragedy, which I'm getting reminded a lot of on this album. It's a combination of pianos and violins, complete with thick riffs and once again - notable song structures. These guys just don't play goth metal, they do the genre justice and return it to it's less poppy roots. If you're in the mood for something that's depressive and well played, then look no further than this awesome goth metal act. They deliver so much more musically than I can even describe here, so I would rather you hear the disc for yourself. Definitely one of the most interesting female-fronted goth metal bands I've heard in recent memory. Highly recommended for Theatre Of Tragedy fans who remember the Liv Kristine era of gothic doom/death.
Highlights: Devil In Disguise, For The Heart, Soul And Mind, The Ever-Changing, Meant To Stray, Summer's End, Reality Sad, The Cure, ...For Happiness (9 Tracks, 49:00)
Yngwie J. Malmsteen - Spellbound (2012) - I'll be honest and mention this album kind of buzzed right by me. It's got a lot of great guitar playing on it, but nothing I really haven't heard before. "Spellbound 4:29" offers plenty of Neoclassical Castlevania shredding, and "High Compression Figure 3:20" offers the same when he's not shredding. "Repent 3:15" features vocals from the man himself, but they aren't done so well. "Let's Sleeping Dog Lie 4:40" invokes blues and barely audible vocals. Then there's "Majestic 12 Suite 1,2 &3 9:03" which is more shredding, and "Electric Duet 1:34" which is more shredding. "Nasca Lines 2:56" comes in, where the man begins to flamenco shred, eventually switching to an electric and shredding some more. "Poisoned Mind 3:04" brings back the barely audible vocals, a classic metal atmosphere and more shredding. "God of War 7:21" is like "Nasca Lines" but much longer, and with more shredding. "Iron Blues 3:26" is just that, shredding and blues. "Turbo Amadeus 1:12" is classical guitar, as one might expect. "From A Thousand Cuts 3:24" is more shredding. The shredding ends with "Requiem For The Lost Souls 6:17" which also sounds very Castlevania.
And that's it. If you want a disc that is nothing but shredding, then here it is. The man's good, but there's little variety. I think Vai had a better one this time around. As much as I love solos, I love them where they should be. Not just all over the place. Almost all of these songs contain nothing but solos, with good melodies hammed in every now and again. Of course, the whole damn performance is hammy.
(13 Tracks, 54:00)
The Way Of Purity - Equate (2012) - Blackened Deathcore is an oddly funny genre that some of us are wondering how it even came to be. It was bound to happen eventually, with some bands doing a reputable job of it and others not so much. As for The Way Of Purity, the band revels in a scowling vocalist and metalcore melodies with some slight black metal influence. it's not bad, but it's certainly blackened deathcore. I'm also thinking that the singer might be a female, I can hear the vocal inflections and it comes off as such. She's certainly good though. When I get to "Eleven 3:26" I'm completely sure of the fact, as she offers a palatable clean vocal. Now that you mention it, I don't think that blackened deathcore works for this band. I'm hearing more Dark Tranquility than I am black metal, so I would consider it melodic deathcore. And yes, there are certainly breakdowns. There's even some djent riffs on "The Mighty Fall 3:33." But then again, I may have misspoken as the closer "Lijty Crjsty 3:49" certainly sounds like black metal.
Whatever you want to call them, The Way Of Purity are certainly promising, in the fact that they actually know what they were doing when they mixed deathcore with melodic death metal and black metal as well, in some instances. Imagine it in the vein of bands like Iwrestledabearonce, but with more firepower and attention to detail. It's actually good, in that instance - something that doesn't fuck up black and melodic death metal by throwing core into it. While there are clean vocals on some of the songs and not everything is as volatile as it begins, they certainly help to diversify the disc and make it something worth checking out if you like deathcore music. I would rather listen to these guys then most of the mainstream deathcore acts that I've been approached with, so that should say something.
Highlights: Artwork Of Nature, Keep Dreaming, Lijty Crjsty (10 Tracks, 37:00)
The Black Rain - Night Tales (2012) - The Black Rain is a rock band who I probably downloaded by accident, while trying to download someone else. Oh well, the rules are what they are - if it's a recently released album and I've downloaded it, then it gets a review no matter what it is. As for their sound, it's definitely a commercial style of classic rock that's certainly catchy. "Lake Trip 3:45" comes off better than "Won't Let Go 4:19" even though the chorus on the latter track is quite a grower. "Plastic Love 5:38" has that hard-edged hair metal feel to it, while "Sugar In Poison 6:44" manages to bore me with a ballad, despite a decent solo piece. "Hot For A Night 4:29" also comes off with a catchy 80's vibe, and "Mama Let It Be 5:56" reminds me a bit of something I've heard on recent Stonesour ballads. "My Sweet Mistake 5:16" is decent, with "The Black Rain Motel 4:13" following the same 80's vibe that mostly flows through this album. "Coming Home 3:10" has a Crue injection that works for it, but the disc ends on a whimper with "As I Lie 4:28" which is a light ballad with a memorable guitar ditty. But isn't the solo the most memorable part about most ballads? Not that there aren't any good ones, (take Nevermore for example) but there are quite a few that don't manage to elicit any feelings in me. This was one of them.
All ballads aside, The Black Rain have made a decent 80's throwback that offers the best of that era as translated into this one. If you're in the mood for classic rock and hair metal poofiness, then give this album a go.
Highlights: Lake Trip, Plastic Love, Hot For A Night, Mama Let Me Be, The Black Rain Motel (10 Tracks, 47:00)
Tech N9ne - Boiling Point EP (2012) - While I'll be reviewing the latest Tech EP for New Noise Magazine, this is the last one he released before the new album, Something Strange. The disc features black blood gushing out of his eyes and at first seemed like it might be something a bit darker in lyrical terms, maybe even a nod to horrorcore as he sometimes does. But, to be honest, I think that Tech struck out with these seven tracks, offering very little to like. It opens with "URALYA 4:08" which features a few guitar riffs along with Tech's speed rapping, and some rough shouts, which make it a little abrasive. "Fire In The A.C. (Feat. Krizz Kaliko & Smackola) 3:47" is a rap about last year's James Holmes incident. Of course, Tech labels him as just a demented breed, not bothering to research the information about MK Ultra and Monarch mind control methods and what was clearly a government experiment. The man was absolutely brilliant, but clearly stated that he had been given some sort of pills - nobody bothered to research them however. Of course not, because nobody wants to know the truth and believe that our government would never experiment on it's own citizens. As for the track, I'm turned off by it completely for this reason, despite that overall performance is decent.
Then there's "Should I Killer 3:59" which he apologizes to people before the song starts. Why? Man, you've lost your edge. God forbid we fucking offend someone. At any rate, this is commercialized horrorcore. It's going to offend women, but the same ones who would be offended by death metal lyrics. "Hunger 4:49" is next, featuring one of my personal favorite horrorcore acts, Brotha Lynch Hung (who did not apologize for any of the material on Coathanga Strangla btw.) At any rate, it's still commercialized horrorcore. Which is what Tech is doing with his new label, doing the unreal and trying to market "murder rap" to the mainstream audiences. Then there's "Paint On The Pillowcase (Feat. Aqualeo) 4:37" which is also commercialized horrorcore. Seeing a pattern here? Yes, it's a darker disc. But it's commercial, with all the fat removed. "Heavy 4:08" brings back the guitar and seems to be about a song about a guy with deformities. Technically, this also classifies under horrorcore as I've seen ICP do songs like this. The disc ends with "Alone (Feat. Krizz Kaliko & Eric "Ezikuhl" Boone) 4:38" which features this soul singer. And that's how it ends.
For the most part, what Tech tried to do was to market a horrorcore disc to the mainstream hip hop audience. Still, not many people were interested in it. While it doesn't feature the "booty shaking" songs of the newest album, it still doesn't hit as hard as anything that's underground horrorcore. The other thing I don't like about this album is how he tries to play as religious, but on the Klusterfuck EP describes himself as a klusterfuck of different ideas. One of those includes damnation? He says "the gates of hell will swallow you whole" to the mind controlled patsy, but then on the opener to Something Strange he talks about being the devil and then of course, Serj Tankian sings about how people worship all these false ideas - like the kind that Tech seems to promote in this album. It's very much a "I'm a Christian, but I'm going to sing about murdering people album, so forgive me for this." but I could have sworn that the Bible mentions that thinking about an act is the same as committing it in the eyes of God, and he's a quite rough fellow from what I'd imagine. Yet again, it says thou shalt not judge, which helps millions of hypocrites get by everyday. Isn't religion wonderful?
I don't really recommend this one, because there are much better discs out than it. For instance, if Tech let me rap on a song; he couldn't put it on an album because people would be too offended and think the guy's a devil worshipper now. Go old school, like Esham, ICP, Twiztid, Dark Lotus Necro, Ill Bill, Jedi Mind Tricks, or anyone but this disc.
Highlights: URALAYA (7 Tracks, 30:00)
Veiled In Scarlet - Idealism (2012) - I'll apologize for keeping these guys a secret, but Veiled In Scarlet (formed from ex members Hiroki and Kaija of Serpent, whose last release was xGodx) play a wonderful brand of Neoclassical melodic death metal that's not just worth checking out, it's absolutely imperative in my opinion and is one of my favorite discs of 2012. But not only that, it's one of my favorite melodic death metal discs out of all the melodic death metal discs that have ever been released in the history of mankind. These Japanese guys took the great feel of Neoclassical soundscapes and mixed them seamlessly with hard hitting melodic death metal with a strong gravel backing vocal (Shun, who has now left the band) and eccentric solos that sound just as you would expect. Yes, it certainly has that video game feel to it; but I won't apologize for being a fan of video game music.
These guys literally manage to inhibit every quality of melodic death metal that I find brilliant and offer such dazzling Neoclassical solos, creating an act that is absolutely unforgettable. Though the production quality isn't extremely clean, I can still hear and feel every aspect of each one of these songs. Keyboards and pianos also sometimes fall into the mix, making a Castlevania soundtrack that rivals even the original. As a matter of fact, I'd love to hear these guys cover those classic Castlevania tracks. They'd kill them. Have you ever heard a band that captured you so much that you wanted to know more about them? This band did that for me. Veiled In Scarlet is the Galneryus of melodic death metal and I don't think that any act can touch them right now. Care to try?
Some of the best metal I've ever heard in my life. Got to see if these guys are doing another one, would love to interview them if possible. But how in the hell can you one-up this? I'm in awe. You see that ten? It was an eleven until I considered it unfair to the other acts. But yes, these guys are really that good. At least in my opinion. You may not like them however and that's completely fine. Forgive me, I'm babbling about like a schoolgirl.
(9 Tracks, 44:00)
The Konstellation - Order Of The Universe (2012) - The Konstellation may be a thick-sounding progressive death/black act with lots of djent riffs, but they should still appeal to the many people who passed them by the first time. The formula is easy to explain without a song by song commentary, as it contains the raw edge of black metal along with a little big of prog, as well as some drum heavy moments where the growls take over - and yes, they are thick growls. Yes, the band does utilize a few breakdowns on tracks like "Surrounded By Smoke 4:21" but then again, they utilize odd chants on "Juggernaut 4:21" and offer a weird atmosphere in "Ancient Chaos 1:31. You'll also find another dose of the odd on the closer "Microcosmos 1:20." Whatever the case, these guys really love djent riffs. But that's not bad, as this isn't djentcore. It's progressive death/black metal with loads of djent riffs and more of a focus on the black metal side of the spectrum. I would certainly recommend it, as it has more kick than most bands who utilize djent riffs these days, regardless of that fact that some will think it's blasphemy and feel that death/black metal never really needed djent riffs in the first place. Give it a shot first, before you pass up on it.
(11 Tracks, 44:00)
Astor Voltaires - Black Tombs For Dead Songs (2012) - This Spanish melodic doom/death metal project is a side project of another band, but I'm not sure who; because I read that review a few months ago. The majority of the lyrics are in Spanish, giving the work a decidedly Latin feel within bright leads amidst thunderous backing riffs and a mix of harsh vocals, beautiful clean and at some points female vocals. There are even keyboards used in the project. Unfortunately, at least for this album; the band seems to focus more on the clean vocals than the death metal, and while those vocals are good; it's really monotonous to hear a tinge of death metal vocal and then find out that the rest of the song is mostly done in the clean vocal sense. There are little tracks on here too, like "Quark 1:36" which is just piano and "Gold 1:50" which is also just piano, but better played. Sometimes the band creeps into atmosphere, like on "An Orphan Heartless 5:58" and on "Solo un Sueno 3:56" which I didn't like at all. Maybe it's the vocal inflection, it's too much in the vein of Latin American pop music; and the frotnman could probably do that just as well as here. Offering a few more growls might have made me care more about this act, which is musically decent. Though the doom is strong with them, this might be a little more lighthearted in the vocal (do you really have to reach up to those high octaves all the time?) range than some of us wanted, despite some strong melodic riffs. To be honest, this just wasn't my bag and I probably won't check these guys out again.
But if you think you'd be interested in it, then go check out this Latin melodic death/doom act.
Highlights: Como Un Desierto, Tummasilmainen, Gold (12 Tracks, 56:00)
Black Magician - Nature Is The Devil's Church (2012) - Black Magician is a doom band more in my style and sounds right out of the 70's with this warm throwback to occult laden lyrics, devilish riffs and powerful leads. "The Foolish Fire 0:59" may only be a lead in to our journey, but "Full Plain I See, The Devil Knows How To Row 10:25" brings us right into Sabbathy goodness, complete with ominous keyboards. The frontman has a very "unique" vocal approach, it sounds like it may be English; which is the home of the very genre, so I'm going to expect greatness. While it does take a while for the devil to get rowing, the band finally closes out the piece with a truly worthy solo moment that also sounds right out of Sabbath. "Foul Thieves Vinegar 10:19" evokes the same dark atmosphere, complete with creepy keys and the frontman's thick English accent. Once again, it picks up the pace near the end, where the keyboards have a bit of a frenzy before the big thump.
"Of Ghosts And Their Worship 5:52" is next, taking on a bit of a different atmosphere. This track comes off as a sort of acoustic guitar and keyboard laden free-for all, complete with maracas and an occult rock vibe. It's still quite ominous, however. Nothing on here is, well... happy. That brings us to "Chattox 15:21" which might be one of the best doom metal tracks ever conceived. It evokes the spirit of what I've come to expect from the doom metal genre - doom, gloom, and an eerie atmosphere. Remember that when the genre was first being created, people were afraid that Sabbath was playing the Devil's note and even Sabbath themselves sometimes felt frightened to play the music as they have admitted several times. Apparently even some "odd shit" happened during the recording of the album, but you could also chalk that up to a bit too much of the drink or the drugs that have somehow worked to preserve Ozzy. At any rate, "Chattox" is the major highlight of this album, showing all other doom bands how it's done and I hope that Black Magician continues to role out doom like this in it's most classic aspect. The track ends with some wonderful guitar solos that only help the decorate this dastardly evil music that Sabbath created, Candlemass perfected and Black Magician continue to refine.
I certainly recommend this album. It is a must for classic doom aficionados, though I will admit that some of these tracks certainly take a little while to get started and could come off as monotonous to some listeners. But if you want to hear doom done the old fashioned way in this day an age, then look no further than here.
(5 Tracks, 42:00)
The Cory Smoot Experiment - When Worlds Collide (2012) - Cory Smoot, or more commonly known as GWAR's recently deceased guitarist, Flattus Maximus; (Now Pustulus Maximus) released this album as a solo project but it became greater popularized after his death. Alternatively, buying this record constitutes to his fund. So if you want to support him, then go buy this album. Naturally, this is a guitarist's record, so you can expect a lot of his signature style on these tracks.
Opener "The Blood Red 4:17" begins the disc with Cory's signature guitar solos and starts the album off with an abrasive number complete with some growls. "Fortunate Sun 2:12" is much different though, sounding to me a bit like GWAR's "We Kill Everything" as it sticks to a doom metal style. "Religion Is Fiction 2:29" brings djent riffs into the mix and is mostly instrumental apart from some harsh vocal shouts. "Rebirth 1:33" sounds like more insanity and it sounds like Corey might be losing his mind too. "Brainfade 2:08" features more acoustic material, but includes a much heavier and growl-backed solo portion. "Mandatory Purgatory 2:13" sounds like GWAR with a heavier touch to the vocals. "Countdown To Oblivion 4:15" is a djenty melodic death track with a bad touch on clean vocals. The whole thing has a very GWAR vibe to it, expectedly. "The Gauntlet 2:21" coming off much the same way. "When Worlds Collide 5:03" is a more eccentric piece, that really shows off Cory's Skills. It's also got some creepy melodies in a few areas. "Mutilation 5:38" comes off like angry djent, with some punk influence. It's definitely GWAR influenced. "Hollow Tree 4:27" is much the same way, albeit with a lot of experimentation. The last track is "Sloth Loves Chunk 3:38" which is a little bit lighter and offers a bit of trip-funk.
Well, this is the last we have from former GWAR guitarist, Cory Smoot. But it's actually interesting material that goes a bit beyond what he's done in GWAR. It's certain that the disc contained plenty of GWAR influence, but he also utilized some things that GWAR never would. I definitely recommend that you check out this unique piece of music and remember that buying it donates to his personal fund.
Highlights: The Blood Red, Fortunate Sun, Rebirth, Mandatory Purgatory, The Gauntlet, When Worlds Collide, Mutilation (12 Tracks, 40:00)
Umbah - Enter The Dagobah Core (2012) - I went into this album expecting one of the best and most unique death metal albums that I've heard. It's a sort of space/cosmic avantgarde death metal, and I usually love that sort of stuff; but this became one of the worst albums that I've ever heard in my entire life. To be honest, there's just too much weirdness on the disc for me and that's entirely unusual. I don't care for the vocals, I'm not sure if this guy's trying to sound like some kind of professor or alien being or what; but it doesn't work for me. This disc is really something that would take entirely too long to run through, because very song has hints of odd electronics and at times just sounds incredibly like something that isn't music. There's shit here that doesn't even work in the most basic extent, like "Enter The Dagobah Core 4:02" which is the fucking title track, for fuck's sake. Or "Oberon Tales 4:43" which doesn't do much either. Though these guys can blast the drums and shout like weird aliens, it just doesn't do anything for me at all. I want to like this stuff, because I respect the weirdness; but this just doesn't work for me at all. Better luck next time, I guess?
Apparently Autothrall loved it, so there's a second opinion from another respected reviewer.
(13 Tracks, 53:00)
Slaughter Messiah - Deathlike Invasion (2012) - This is a four track EP from the Belgian black metal band, Slaughter Messiah. They certainly pride themselves in the old way of doing things, as I had to raise the volume on this one right at the start of "Slaughter Messiah 3:44." The influences on this thing are quite apparent, you can hear the Bathory riffs and even some Slayer that creeps up every now and again. The vocals are very odd however, they sound like a little ant that had been given a megaphone, maybe some goblin thing that sits on your shoulder normally and feeds you cookies. If you're the kind of person who would eat cookies from a shoulder goblin. I wouldn't, because I don't have one. But I've heard from people that have them, that if you run out of cookies, they get angry and you have to summon the fourth realm and force them into the portal. Wait, what am I talking about?
The next track "NWOBHM (New Wave Of Belgian Heavy Metal) 4:12" continues the shoulder goblin rattlings, but the band does seem to make a viable presence. "Visual Aggression 3:16" proves to be their strongest track, but not by much. It ends with a Terrorizer cover of "Dead Shall Rise 2:37" which is decent enough. I'm alright with Belgian heavy metal, but it's not quite as good as Belgian chocolates. Slaughter Messiah definitely craft a decent performance with this record, but it doesn't do much for me. I've heard the same thing a thousand times before.
(4 Tracks, 13:00)
Blunt Force Trauma - Vengeance For Nothing (2012) - My thoughts on this Abner recommended album are quite simple. It's fucking great. But to describe this new project from members of Jenovavirus correctly, I would have to add that it sounds a hell of a lot like Dying Fetus. Some might even call them a Dying Fetus clone. But I'll be honest, these guys definitely know what they're doing and do Dying Fetus justice. The whole fucking album reminds me of that Dying Fetus concert I went to, with all the thick death metal and groove that I should expect from a Dying Fetus album. The drums blaze, the vocal gravel is just as it should be and the whole disc sounds like another great Dying Fetus disc. There are some bits of technicality here than Dying Fetus would use, but other than that; you're getting a fucking great album for fans of the death metal that Dying Fetus craft.
For people that don't get it, this kind of death metal isn't about the lyrics, it's the fucking vibe of the music. The grooves have always been thick on a Dying Fetus album and the vocals only help to illustrate that sound. Even if you can't feel it on the record, you can certainly feel at a live show. Speaking of show, these guys should do a tour with Dying Fetus. It would be like seeing the same band twice.
Highly recommended to all Dying Fetus and death metal/grindcore fans! Sure they ripped off Dying Fetus, but they did a damned good job of it! Japanese knockoff, hell! These guys are just as good as the original!
(10 Tracks, 32:00)
Back Door To Ayslum - Akathisia (2012) - We have another Abner recommend, this time from technical brutal death metal act, Akathisia. While I love the intro "Snuffed Out 1:58" which sounds quite volatile in the way of atmospheres, the band doesn't seem to offer much of anything from "Entozic 3:26" up until their Cryptopsy cover of "Graves Of The Fathers 4:10." The first two tracks sound the same, but the latter piece does seem to invoke a slightly different atmosphere. Their Cryptopsy cover kills and the skinsman delivers on a cover where drums will count the most. "Rabid Dogs & Hungry Jackals 4:09" is next, finally adding a solo into the mix and also changing the style of the band a bit. It proves that they can do much more than what the second and third track offered and will mean more in their future. Not everyone can get away with a Blunt Force Trauma, (and those guys did try very hard to be Dying Fetus) so seeing them branch out is great. "Detachment 1:35" is an odd acoustic backed with some uncomforting atmosphere, as "Embrace The Pain 3:36" sounds more like Cryptopsy. The same can be said with "Restless 5:12" and it's overbearing technicality as well as soundclips, (do we really need to interrupt the music with these?) which finally culminate in a good, but unnecessary atmosphere piece. So out of 33 minutes of music, you're only getting 17 minutes of metal. Enjoy.
Yeah, Back Door To Asylum isn't so bad; but I've heard better acts. I also think that more metal and less atmospheres would have been in order. Unless these guys are trying to be an atmospheric brutal death metal band. But I don't think that's the case. Someone just needed a lot of filler for their short EP.
Highlights: Snuffed Out, Graves Of The Fathers, Embrace The Pain, Restless (10 Tracks, 33:00)
Neosis - Neosis (2012) - I wasn't sure what to expect with this industrial metal act, but even though they employ lots of djent riffs and deathcore vocals, I can't help but note how catchy they are. There's obviously a thick grunt used here, but there's also a wonderful clean vocal that sounds like it's going for Into Eternity territory. He sounds like he could be a younger version of the former Into Eternity frontman, Stu Block (Now of Iced Earth) and proves it first on "Everlasting Mind Collapse 4:57." His vocals are spread out through the entire album, so I would definitely consider these clean vocals a major highlight of the piece and why I would recommend listening to it at all. Again, while these guys use more than enough djent riffs; they at least sprinkle some electronics over them and attempt some interesting enough things with the background music so that it doesn't come off too hokey. There are little melody portions in "Fragmentary Alteration 3:59" that leads me to believe that these guys are capable of being much more than a djent band, and I'm just sitting here; waiting for them to break out of their shell. The album even has a couple of solos if you look for them. So there's definitely something here, I just feel that I swim through all these djent riffs in order to find it. Even if you don't like the djentcore part of the band; the electronic, clean vocal and melodic part are still worth checking out. Yeah, there's something here alright - I just hope that they'll experiment enough so that it unearths itself. I'm giving these guys an 8, because I want them and you to know that they're going in the right direction and it is an incredibly solid piece of work, all djent riffs aside.
Highlights: Everlasting Mind Collapse, Fragmentary Alteration, Cerebral Helix (10 Tracks 48:00)
Bloody Hammers - Bloody Hammers (2012) - The first Bloody Hammers is, unlike the newly released one; highly recommended. This album saw more Type O Negative and My Dying Bride influence, whereas the other one seemed to be influenced by the lack of time needed to properly write and record it. Not that the new disc is terrible, but I'm quite partial to this release. Maybe it doesn't soak in on the opener "Witch Of Endor 3:53" but "Fear No Evil 4:01" really starts to hit the point home. With a catchy chorus and wonderfully gothic keyboard play; it's not one that will get out of your head anytime soon. "The Last Legion Of Sorrow 3:58" has more of an Alice In Chains feel to it, but that's not the pinnacle of this album. You see, these guys wrote one of the best Vampire tracks I've heard in years, since the days of Type O Negative's Bloody Kisses and that song is called "Say Goodbye To The Sun." If there's just one song I recommend for the fan of grim gothic rock and metal, it's definitely going to be the piece. It struck me like a stake to the heart, especially on that last part where he sings, "please understand, and say good bye to the sun." If anyone's going to take the Type O Negative crown, it's going to be these guys.
"The Witching Hour 4:16" follows with just as much of a bite as the last one. This is when the record really grows on you. So can "Black Magic 4:06" do the same? Yes. It's a bit punchier, but certainly worth of any Halloween dance. These are the guys that you would especially want to go see on Halloween night, with their lyrics about witches, vampires, the occult and all other creatures of the night. I'm personally glad for their existence and hope to hear more from them in the future. "Trisect 4:26" comes off just as strong, but it seems to be the final bite before things begin to slip a little. "Beyond The Door 4:03" throws that little bit of blues in, just like in "Black Magic" but I think "Black Magic" does it much better. Then there's "Souls On Fire 3:53" which also seems to come off as a misstep for me, it's just not as strong as the other tracks have been. Finally, we end the disc with "Don't Breathe A Word 2:51" which is a dark acoustic that I should like a bit more, but it doesn't just seem to capture me quite as much as the other tracks here have. But that's in no way saying that this is a bad album. The disc has ten tracks and seven of them are just about perfect, with some of them going far beyond that term. I still think that "Say Goodbye To The Sun 5:40" is absolutely timeless, proving to me that these guys have a lot of staying power. And to be honest, we need a good heavy goth band again. The emo shit has died down and all the trends are starting to fade into another territory (geek culture) so it's a great time to start dressing in black again. As long as you're not going to commit to it on a daily basis.
I highly recommend Bloody Hammers self titled release and hope that it gets reissued or just becomes as readily available as their newest one. If you didn't like the new album, regardless of the great looking cover art; this one will definitely fill that deep gothic hole that you've been trying to fill with sub-par acts. These guys are the real deal and this album proves it.
Highlights: Witch Of Endor, Fear No Evil, The Last Legion Of Sorrow, Say Goodbye To The Sun, The Witching Hour, Black Magic, Trisect (10 Tracks, 41:00)