Saturday, December 28, 2013

Scar The Martyr - Scar The Martyr (2013 NN Promo)

"The fact that Joey jumped out of Slipknot should not surprise none of you, especially as he’s now in the follow-up to Slipknot. Let’s not beat around the bush, these guys offer many of the same qualities that the knot offered, but with a more commercial touch that will certainly make more of a dent than Slipknot did with their earlier years. This album features of course, Joey on drums as well as former Strapping Young Lad axeman Jed Simon on the guitar and backing vocals, as well as Darkest Hour axeman Kris Norris also on the guitars. So yes, this equals plenty of duel guitar sessions, which ultimately equal out to some memorable solos for a nu-metal record. As for the vocalist, he’s an unknown by the name of Henry Derek who has a voice made for the radio and grunt that will be instantly familiar with fans of Five Finger Death Punch and Hatebreed. 

But let’s be honest, because this can be a rather light knot. Though you’ve got some heavy numbers on here like “My Retribution” or “Blood Host,” there are also a smorgasbord of radio ready tracks with crisp choruses, ready to plague your mind with constant earworms. For a man like myself, who grew up with this type of music and still considers it palatable, I have to consider a disc like this a godsend. I still listen to music from obscure nu-metal acts like The Clay People and Stabbing Westward, so this stuff stuck on me like glue. As for musicality on this one, at least they do try different things aside from nu-metal riffs, being inspired by melodic death metal ala Soilwork; and djent (of course) on tracks like “Effigy Unborn.” But the fact that I like it because it’s catchy as all hell doesn’t mean that you’re actually going to buy it. But if you love the old style of nu-metal filtered through the sound of modern metal, then this will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth..." 

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Manes - Teeth, Toes And Other Trinkets (2013 NN Promo)

"Teeth, Toes And Other Trinkets is not a new album from Manes, but rather it is a collection of some of their scrapped material and B-sides that show the band still at their respective prime. ”Blanket Of Ashes” was just what I needed, with its return to all things avant-garde and melodic, carrying with it a sorrowful clean approach that more than made up for all the band’s previous work. A live version of “Ende” comes next, sounding a bit fuzzy while still reminding me just how good this song was when it first appeared. “Ease Yourself Back Into Consciousness” seems also a good fit for this album, as it displays tingling electronics with their unmistakable approach to vocal theatrics. It’s a very deep piece, something that carries a heavy weight of emotion behind it. All of the Satanic stuff that followed was like a taking a jackhammer to this beauty, personally. A remix of “The Cure-All” is included, but it’s not as good as the original. “One More Room” sees the band a bit more commercial, definitely injected with pop and radio ready; it’s easy to see why they chopped this one off. But it’s still a good track, nevertheless. “Nobody Wants The Truth” features turntable antics, yet is still quite reserved in its icy magnificence. “Tzolv” is an electronic piece that was likely scrapped, but there was nothing really wrong with it. As a matter of fact, it’s really quite good as it sets up for a frosty atmosphere and makes me think of the northern lights.."

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Wolves In The Throne Room - BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini (NN Promo 2013)

"I hate to say it, but this album really isn’t all that necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a Wolves fan since their debut and have considered the bulk of their work to be respectable black metal of the highest order. However, this is a very short cash grab that sees the band performing just two tracks from their latest album, Celestial Lineage. Recorded in 2011, I have no idea why they didn’t just open this one up as a freebie. How these guys managed to swim across the sea and land on English soil is well beyond me, and how the BBC let them come in to play their raucous form of black metal in a commercial setting also confounds me. But it was done and it is just as you might expect, with “Prayer Of Transformation” being the mostly atmospheric thing that was on the album (to be honest, there’s not much difference in the album recording and the live setting, aside from a large chunk of fuzz) and “Thuja Magus Imperium” being also the mostly atmospheric thing that was on the album. While there are certain black metal injections, I feel that the band abuse these atmospheres just a bit too much and are torn between a traditional black metal act and an atmospheric black metal act..." 

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Celldweller - Blackstar Act One: Purified (2013 NN Promo & Book)

"Klayton’s one of the best there is when it comes to industrial soundscapes, even if his music isn’t quite as aggressive or scathing as many other acts in the scene. He’s molded his own path which seems to mix house, techno, trance and even dubstep together with elements of hard rock. Celldweller has never ventured into the realms of heavy metal, and I don’t expect them to – there’s more than enough great material on previous effort Wish Upon A Blackstar to capture fans with their very accessible touch to electronic rock that should ensnare those who wouldn’t be able to get into it otherwise. The record was undoubtedly catchy, making this atmosphere-laden piece a definite untapped area for the artist. Oddly enough, this is the soundtrack to a book that is included along with the album. I’ve overviewed it, but have not even had the time to skim its quaint seventy-five page length. (I’ll also add that I prefer paperback or hardcover copies when it comes to books, as it’s much easier on the eyes.) So you’ll not be getting a book review from me. At least, not this time..."

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Disfiguring The Goddess - Deprive (2013 NN Promo)

"Cameron Argon has put together the perfect mix of deathcore and brutal death metal that I’ve heard yet, as he puts some real muscle into an aggression that certainly stands out far beyond most of the deathcore bands that I’ve heard. The fact that this is such a marriage of brutal death metal and real death metal, in addition to the fact that Cameron unleashes a real sense of vocal gravel (as in no stomach punch grunts or gang-vocals or wannabe cookie monster stuff) really makes this album appeal to me. The drums do a great job of blasting through these tracks as the slight electronic atmosphere helps to illustrate the piece perfectly. What’s that? You didn’t know that there were electronics on this album? Well, yes – this is the man who also fronts Big Chocolate after all (one of the best names for an electronic act I’ve ever heard, still waiting for a side project called Small Vanilla), so you’d be right to expect the electronic influence. But don’t fret, because this thing is nothing if not uncompromisingly heavy. Sure, it’s got slight bits of experimentation, yet it will still manage to give you that sense of brainless brutality that you wanted to hear in the first place..."

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rhapsody Of Fire - Dark Wings Of Steel (2013 NN Promo)

"Originally just called Rhapsody, the band is well-known for their grandiose take on symphonic power metal that is at most times theatrical. Also, keep in mind that this is the very first Rhapsody (Of Fire) album that I’ve ever heard. I just never sought to get that involved in these guys, and was always busier with more extreme sub-genres. Definitely some orchestral muscle went into this one, even though I’ll admit that the riffs seem a bit buried in the synths. I can also barely hear the Alex Holzwarth’s drums, something that I absolute despise on any metal album. This unfortunate incident kills the intro to “Rising From Tragic Flames,” which started the album out on a bad note. Alex eventually started pounding the kit later on in the track however, which is when we got the first taste of vocals from a frontman who is more than capable in Fabio Lione. His vocal prowess makes for several great moments on the disc, even making the lighter ballads on the album come off quite well. One example of this would be the lighter, but still triumphant “My Sacrifice,” which deserves the eight minutes that it occupies on the disc..."

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Interview With Cursed 13 Now On New Noise!

The world is right now a place of heavy turmoil, and of course those of the mainstream religions look to a prophecy of the end of the world. Yet, (and please correct me if I’m wrong) the Nordic beliefs follow that the end will come in Ragnarok, during what appears to be an ice age. Do you see this sort of thing happening very soon?

There shall be three winters without an end before Ragnarök. I really hope it will and I hope that I will be here to witness it. We have wars, we have overpopulation, we have environmental issues, we have comets threating from space. The odds are getting better every day, still, none of this is new and the planet has prevailed before but I am a dreamer…

I do have another interesting question about your beliefs, but this one might anger you a bit as it did me. Here in the United States, we have of course had a movie about the comic book character Thor, as you well know. An actor played the part of “Loki” which had some sort of effect on American pagans, women in particular. Apparently, some of them have gone so far as to purchase likenesses and images of the actor dressed as “Loki” and are adhering in ritual to this image. What is your opinion on this? Are they being misled?

(Laughs hysterically) What the fuck!? Seriously? Well, ”monkey see, monkey do” I suppose. What people should remember is that those films are based upon characters in comic books. The comic book characters are based upon someone’s interpretation of Scandinavian mythology, made to fit the comic book style. I suppose that this is quite obvious, but who knows? I might enlighten some kid somewhere. I would recommend everyone interested in films about the Scandinavian past to check out the films by Hrafn Gunnlaugsson instead.

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Happy Hellidays From The Grim Tower!

And I'm still waiting for a frost-bitten cover of "Jingle Bells" guys. Maybe it'll be on the 2014 album?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Week 94 (December 21st, 2013)

Rolling out more changes for the Tower, but this will be the last of them. I've been getting a lot of promos lately. And when I mean a lot, I mean a lot. I am not physically able to carry on with a life and review all of these at the same time. This does not mean that I'm not going to try to review all or most of these promos, but it does mean that I'm only going to elaborate on albums that I think are particularly noteworthy in that they're good, unique or horribly awful. If an album is run of the mill or just plain decent/solid work, then it will get a five sentence review. Which isn't bad, because some reviewers don't even do that much and refuse to review albums from bands that they don't like. That's not me. I'll sit through anything.

Personal submissions and physical promos sent to me will always be fully elaborated upon. If you're paying the postage to get it to me, then I am truly grateful and will show you that with a deep review. Splits will also have elaborations as well as very small EP's and albums from big name acts. But just keep in mind that it is easier for me to review albums this way and gets the word out about your material much faster. You don't even want to know how backed up I am right now, so this seems to be the best solution to fixing my problem and eventually getting to work on my next novel.

If you sent me a personal submission and it accidentally gets marked as a five sentence review, then let me know and I'll remedy it in the next week.


Cokegoat - Vessel (PR2013 SPOTLIGHT ALBUM) - Birthed in the fires of punk, but forged in the steel of thrash and death metal, Cokegoat is definitely worth checking out. "Fear The Followers 4:46" had a bit of screamo/punk vibe at the beginning, but the riffs meldoies got darker and started to slow to a halt as churning death metal growls began to change the whole mood of the piece. "Buried In The City 5:05" has a bit of a sludge/stoner vibe to it, but with an odd and gravelly touch to vocals. There's definite doom here, so I guess we'll say that this mix was also tempered by the hammers of doom. It later falls into complete chaos. "Dogs 6:31" brings on a atmosphere that really hits when the chant "...these bones don't hold me up, the wings don't make me fly..." culminates into a harsher rendition. That's when you've got to bang your head. But listen to that - there's a groove melody! One of the heaviest portions of the song, and someone's still got enough time for a little groove melody.

"End Of Your Life Pt.1 5:17" sees things punishing, with the onslaught of extremely oppressing vocal lines backed by extremely oppressive riffs. I also think I'm starting to hear a little bit of keyboard here, but it works. Hey, this is what I mean when I say experiment. I think I'd go see these guys live. This is some really thick shit, then you've got the chugs that start develop in the later part of the song - "this is the end of your life!" being screamed, and hell - I just have to describe it. This is definitely the sound of modern metal at it's finest. Yeah, and they even found time to offer up a solo. "End Of Your Life Pt.2 5:06" comes back in with the doom melodies, as it offers a really intriguing male harsh vocal/female clean vocal duet. I mean, there's no fucking words for how good this one is. "Fly By Night, Pt.2 5:40" comes in pounding, but there's definite finesse to the drumming as the punk-laden vocals come in, but the odd thing about the track is how it changes modes to a light melody piece before jumping right back into the heavy stuff. Then there's some electronics, and then a solo. I'm definitely impressed. "Fly By Daylight 5:23" is a lighter offering, but it still has a hint of doom in the riffing, as female singing decorates the track backed by harsh vocals. It's definitely a heavy track, despite the lighter approach. The disc ends with "Glorious Dead 5:52" which starts out a little creepy, but seems to keep a sludgy vibe about it. It ends the disc with the same amount of unbridled punk fury that you would expect, making for an excellent overall release.

There is little more I can say about an act with as much promise as Cokegoat. They're actually a six-piece band, which would explain all of the different mixtures of sounds and ideas laden within the disc. I'm really surprised that no one else is covering these guys, they're clearly better than many bands I've heard who are getting coverage in magazines like Revolver and Decibel. I guess the world isn't ready for a mixture like this yet, but I sure as hell am.

(8 Tracks, 43:00)



Sanity's Rage - You Are What You Swallow (PR2013) - These Belgian thrashers hit me hard from the very first listen, though I'll say that opener "You Are What You Swallow 5:31" wasn't the track that hit me. "Aberration Mandatory 5:10" was actually the first track that convinced me of the power these gentlemen hold, with thick drumming, angst-ridden vocals that sometimes get backed with death metal growls and an overall air of rage. Which begs the question, "why didn't they open the album with this one?" At any rate, "Kisses With Fangs 3:00" comes in like a quick storm of flying shrapnel, as "Shackles and Shades 4:31" continues the assault with welcome grooves and a memorable solo. If I can say anything about Sanity's Rage, it's that they're a thrash band that I wouldn't mind keeping my eye on and I'm curious to hear their future work.

But let's continue with the album, because this one isn't going to be a five sentenced review, hell no. The album continues to ravage my ears with "The Wheels Keep Grinding" a song that goes on a little longer than the others, but proves it's weight in prog melodies, which do in fact feel right here. Sanity's Rage know how to concoct a song, their composition skills are quite strong and they make thrash that doesn't come off as boring fodder. Though it's still a bit rough as far as production, these guys make the kind of thrash that made me give a shit about bands like Sabbat and Iced Earth. There is so much promise from the band on this record, that it's insane. Sure, they're not playing around in too many other territories, but the manage to create phenomenal work with a toolbox through of chugs and memorable melodies; not to mention the frontman who couldn't be more perfect for the band - Kenny Molly is an absolute godsend to the genre of metal, but I'm afraid that people don't know it yet. Hopefully this review will get the word out. There's no point in even continuing to further explain this album, if I haven't said enough about it to make you curious; then you must just not like thrash metal.

I highly recommend You Are What You Swallow, so get your fucking hands on it now. This is what thrash should fucking sound like, as far as I'm concerned.

Highlights: Aberration Mandatory, Kisses With Fangs, Shackles And Shades, The Wheels Keep Grinding, Trinity Of Sorrow, Taste Of Decay, Once You Cross, Thumbs Up For The End Of The World (11 Tracks, 47:00)



Motorhead - Aftershock (PR2013) - Motorhead's new album is just as you would expect, full of thrash and groove and blues... Yeah, you got it. There's fucking blues on this record. If you don't like it, go piss off. Blues is an excellent influence, has been used in rock music for ages now; so it's only right to hear a bit of thrash, a bit of blues and a bit of classic rock all lumped together on this new record, which could only be described as a definite aftershock. The album begins with the thundering "Heartbreaker 3:05" which sees Lemmy and crew doing what they know best and it never fails. This is why we love Motorhead, and after all these years; they've still got it. "Coup De Grace 3:45" is much in the same vein, but it's still a great song - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Now when we get into "Lost Woman Blues 4:09" things change up a little bit, and damn if they're not romantic. This actually reminds me of some of the bluesier work that I've heard from Dio. Hey, don't deny it. It's there. And I will tell you as a fan of music, that there's not a thing wrong with this one. As a matter of fact, it's got a nice little solo and comes off as an excellent tribute to the greats that inspired it.

But if that was a bit too much for you, the thrashier "End Of Time 3:17" brings back the heat on the album, as "Do You Believe 2:59" brings in the dirty rock and roll. With such a good performance, how could you possibly hate Motorhead? They do metal, rock and blues justice on one album that's less than an hour. Let's see you try it. "Death Machine 2:37" has an odd groove to it and doesn't hit as hard as the rest, but that's where the soft rock of "Dust And Glass 2:51" comes in. It's definitely not what we're used to, but it's certainly not bad and stands out from the others in same way that "Lost Woman Blues" did. The band obviously reached into the past for this one, and they pulled out some great material when they did. "Going To Mexico 2:52" didn't really do much for me, but "Silence When You Speak To Me 4:30" is the longest track on the disc, mixing in rock grooves with some metal inspired antics. "Crying Shame 4:28" follows the same pattern, showing more rock muscle and less speed; but still manages to deliver a solid performance. "Queen Of The Damned 2:41" brings us back into the realms of rock-fueled thrash, as "Knife 2:57" brings us right back into rock. "Keep Your Powder Dry 3:54" unfortunately has me confused, even though it's rocky nature is quite strong. The last song on the disc is another thrasher, this time it's "Paralyzed 2:50" which makes for a good end to what is hopefully just another disc in the band's discography as more are set to follow. Lemmy said that he'll definitely make a few more of these, in addition to his solo material which will have another artist I reviewed as a guest on it: Skunk Anansie. Apparently, he's quite smitten by her work and I'll admit that her last album really had some bite, so looking forward to seeing how all that will come together.

Aftershock is a strong release with some definite standouts in "Lost Woman Blues" and "Dust And Glass" being much different than anything we've heard from the band in recent years. They're definitely going into more of a rock territory, but there's nothing wrong with that, as they prove that they've still got it; long after other stone age acts have long since called it quits or are still trying to milk their old catalogs for all they're worth. But it's like Lemmy says, "Buy it if you can, download it if you can't! Just listen to it!"

Highlights: Heartbreaker, Coupe De Grace, Lost Woman Blues, End Of Time, Do You Believe, Dust And Glass, Silence When You Speak To Me, Paralyzed (14 Tracks, 46:00)



Mental Killing Spree - Centrifuge Of Man (PR2013) - These Germans play some pretty mean death/grindcore, even if their English is just a bit broken. But who cares about that? The disc is filled with a thick film of bass and drums that only decorate the harsh riffing and memorable vocal gravel. Almost all of the tracks on the album consist of blazing gut-churners like "Lymph Node Monstrosity 3:54" and "Centrifuge Of Man 3:06" but there is one experience in slow torture by the name of "Creator Of Hatred 5:23" which sees these guys perform a worthy example of slow torture. Though the disc is a little light with the solos, it more than makes up with an unbridled display of aggression that will resonate with you in unforeseen ways. One minute, you're just walking down the hall, and the next you're banging your head during a furious breakdown. Then you turn around and realize that you're still at work.

Mental Killing Spree show that they've got serious potential with this noteworthy exercise in death, groove and grind that should see quite a few spins in your vehicle as you go down the road while banging your head and hopefully not causing a fucking accident in the process. They don't stand still for too long, which makes for memorable songs that don't come off as boring or plodding as with other bands in this genre. The fact that the drummer has really got his shit together also makes for a good album, as a drummer's performance can really make or break these kind of records. The frontman does his absolute best on the vocals, sometimes backed with a scowl; while the guitarist churns out riffs that we've all heard but won't dismiss as he uses a certain finesse that doesn't make them come off as just the same old thing. These three gentlemen really seem to know what they're doing, which makes the album quite lively.

As a reviewer, I've heard thousands of records just like this one that just come off as stale, alright or just plain out boring and forgettable. When I hear music like this, I want my head to bang and I want to feel the aggression, the grooves and the vocals. So many times have I heard bands that just sort of make a fog, leaving their album to go in one ear and quite literally out the other. But I think I can always find time for music like this - it doesn't even matter what song you play; each one of them leaves you with a good impression of the band's strength. While Mental Killing Spree did not reinvent the wheel, they did not need to; as they've done a commendable job with the death/grind mix that they've offered here.

But in much simpler terms: These guys want to bash your fucking head in, so prepare yourself for a battering. This fucking kills!

Highlights: Creator Of Hatred, They Still Have A God (10 Tracks, 42:00)



Harm Wulf - There's Honey In The Soil So We Wait For The Till (PR2013) - Created by an odd individual who hides his face behind a wolf mask; Harm Wulf is essentially a melodic acoustic project with a definite sense of folk atmosphere, and just plain atmosphere in general. Imagine Agalloch at their folkiest, but without the black metal and you've got it. "Oldfur 3:35" brings about a dark acoustic mood, while "Silk Soul 3:44" offers a bit more percussion. Some songs exist mainly to encapsulate these moods, like "When Old Becomes New 2:47" but at it's core, the album resonates a very natural and deep emotional sense. Obviously, it's devoid of heavy riffs and frantic screaming; but will be a reliable disc for those of you who just want remove yourself from all of the more brackish music out there and experience something that is a bit more personal - this comes off almost like a journal, opened wide for your observation.

(9 Tracks, 36:00)



Corrections House - Last City Zero (PR2013) - Some of the hands who helped to form Neurosis, Minsk, Yakuza and Eyehategod are a part of this industrial rock project, so if that interests you, then you should probably pick it up right now. But read over that again, just for clarification. Got it now? This is an industrial rock project from some of the guys in Neurosis, so you should already know what to expect from the work: Atmosphere.

You already know the players, and chances are that some of you have already heard the album or have just finished listening to it well over a dozen times already. But there's no doubt that Last City Zero comes off as a very intriguing industrial project. The first track on the disc is "Serve Or Survive 8:14" which carries definite early NIN and Skinny Puppy (more so, since Skinny Puppy influenced NIN) influence as well as amazing atmosphere. "Bullets And Graves 2:39" is a bit shorter, but definitely reminds me of some of Trent's heavier work on Downward Spiral, or Ministry at their most ferocious. It's such a change in mood though, that you won't expect it. "Party Leg And Three Fingers 6:56" throws the mood completely downward, bringing the bipolarity that NIN was known for. But there's definitely the ritualistic atmosphere here, amidst the frantic shouts and militarism. The bottom line is that these guys have made a successful industrial album, and they've paid tributes to the greats of the genre.

"Run Through The Night 4:03" was probably one of the low points on this album for me, as I just didn't get the mixing of southern acoustic folk and electronics. Though I understand what the band was doing here, this electric cowboy just didn't work for me. "Dirt Poor And Mentally Ill 6:05" brought the sound back into Skinny Puppy realms, almost to the point of infringement. I had no idea that these guys could come together and make a new classic Skinny Puppy track. "Hallows Of The Stream 4:03" brought the damned southern folk influences back into the mix, making me wish these guys would make up their mind. What kind of album do you want to make? Cold industrial, or electronic southern folk?

"Last City Zero 5:05" I found the most interesting, as it's spoken word poetry that is worth listening to, of course it also makes me want to pick the author's brain so that it could be further explained. Some of it doesn't even seem to make any fucking sense after awhile, but it might be the fact that he's just mixing all of these labels together, hence the comment that "labels don't matter." I guess he's trying to say that we're all just full of our own shit and we're all fucked. Then we've got "Drapes Hung By Jesus 9:40" which is an aggressive, mostly instrumental piece with the same Skinny Puppy vibe. But here's what I think - there's enough material (industrial material anyway) on this album to have made a solid industrial EP. It all would've been self-contained. I think that these guys felt it was too short, so they threw some other material on the disc to give it more flavor. Would've been better split into two separate sessions. Give me the industrial shit to praise, and the other shit to sit through and criticize. At any rate, these guys cook up some mean industrial and I can't disregard that. Though I've heard it before, they certainly offer up a respectable dose of cold steel. Just wish there had been more of that.

Highlights: Serve Or Survive, Bullets And Graves, Party Leg And Three Fingers, Dirt Poor And Mentally Ill, Last City Zero, Drapes Hung By Jesus (8 Tracks, 46:00)



Judgement Day - Circumcision Of The Martyr 1994-2000 (PR2013) - This death metal band went through quite a bit of changes throughout their six year tenure, and usually it's always interesting bands like this that bite the dust early on in favor of new trends, like the emerging metalcore trend of the early 2000's (at it's peak in 2004) which would eventually spawn deathcore, djentcore and several other thousand types of core that we all know. But this isn't about core, it's about death metal, which is what Judgement Day have offered with this release. "Horror Pain 7:25" starts us off with a light thrashing, the drums certainly the prime point of the performance with an inclusion of a solo backed by an even nicer melody near the end of the piece. This kind of transformation was unexpected for the time and makes the band stand out from the beginning. "Daily Rituals... 4:29" starts out just the same as the last track, except when Death style progression begins to form, giving the songs a certain degree of structure that was virtually unknown in death metal music for that period of time. "The Old Tree 7:52" shows even more ubiquity from the band, opening the music to slower passages and female vocals. But it's still death metal, I promise! At any rate, we've gone through three songs so far and all of them have been noteworthy.

The next song has me vaguely curious, as it's entitled "Sexual Intercourse 5:31." So are there lamentations of women? Yes, but then after those lamentations comes the death metal. I'm curious as to what the lyrics could be about this one, but I think it's supposed to be an pro-lust ordeal, hence the lyrics "The sin does not exist." In other words, they're saying that it's no sin to fuck. There's also a nice solo featured in the piece, which just sort of climbs it way in there. Then it goes right back to bashing your brains out. Nice! Then we have "Invincible Downfall 7:57" which features more melody and prog elements than ever before, however it does them with finesse. Judgement Day really seem to have known what they were doing insofar as the material I've heard and I hope that people won't cast out this album because it's a bit dated. They still say that some of the best things have already been done before. After that, we've got "Clouds Of Mordor 4:05" which begins with the sounds of battle and probably features a lyrical nature that my colleague in Torii would enjoy. The song is certainly well-structured, just as with their other material and doesn't seem to get boring. "Pathology Of Crowding 6:47" has a believable flow toward the middle, there's a "dark melody" that really caught me, which utilized the vocals there perfectly. Oh sure, they got back to bashing; but at least they have shown that they can do more than just blast the hell out of the drums. A solo is also featured, but it sort of faded; I don't know how that happened, but I would like to hear it re-recorded if possible. It sounds like it would've really killed to be honest.

I'm breaking this paragraph because the band changed at this point. They started playing shorter tracks, with higher quality and focused more on the death metal element. There is still structure, as "Near Death Experience 4:07" contains some incredible spouts of vocal gravel, as well as... what I thought was a solo. Damn, now here's where the disc starts to flatulent. While they have the brutality down, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what happened to the some of the greater moments. Again, the structure is still there; but it's a step back as far as I'm concerned. "A Soul So Pure 4:08" picks things up a bit, while "2012 A.D. 4:18" is an exercise in percussory blasts. There are some good things about this song, but it just features a bit too much concrete for me. "Obliterate 4:44" at least begins with some worthy melodies, but they seem distant and pushed into the background with the stone golem getting all the vocal credit. Now I realize that you went through a great deal of trouble to summon a stone golem from the hoary abyss and taught it to sing death metal; but the poor guitar player might as well be playing anything, because I can't hear him over the drums and that monster's otherworldly groans. When "Final Judgement 3:48" comes in, I start to think that this part of the album is starting to sound a little bland. I mean, the new Obliteration and older Obliteration album both kill this thing. There really is a way to strip death metal down into it's most Neanderthal of nature, and it would seem that Judgement Day did just that on this later record. Granted there's a respectable end piece on the track, but it won't save them. "March Of The Apocalypse 2:00" ends this mistake with a decent, but almost lifeless instrumental. After this one, I can see why the band bit the dust. It's like they first offered me liquid gold, then started to offer me liquid salt. Which nearly killed me.

The first forty four minutes of this disc are unforgettable. There's no question about that. But the other twenty three minutes are absolute garbage that's about as bland as hell and completely soulless. But to be brutally honest, the first forty four minutes of this disc are so brilliant and re-listenable that this compilation is worth buying, just to have them. They're really that good. I don't know what the fuck happened, but it clearly caused the music to suffer later in their career. I'll give an eight for this piece, but keep in mind that it opens with several minutes worth of pure gold that was worthy by itself of a ten.

Highlights: Horror Pain, Daily Rituals..., The Old Tree, Sexual Intercourse, Invincible Downfall, Clouds Of Mordor, Pathology Of Crowding (13 Tracks, 67:00)



The More I See - The Disappearing Humans (PR2013) - The More I See is now a corporate thrash band, pure and simple. They might have not been in the beginning, but there's no doubt that these guys are plodding around with the Metallica style of making thrash accessible. But that's not all, folks - and I just have to elaborate on this one because I can't believe it. Not only are there watered down thrash tracks on this thing; but there are also hard rock ballads that are radio ready in a second. "Mourning And Melancholia 4:54" (despite the solo, which I will give him points on as it's better than what Judgement Day did on the second part of their album) is a catchy as hell pop-metal ballad that sounds like it's part emo, part hard rock and part metal. Which is kind of fitting, as it embodies the modern music hodgepodge of sound. Then you've got "7 Deadly Sins 4:24" which comes right after it and sounds like Trivium did this year.

"Spirit Of Freedom 5:08" has a bit of punk to it, then we go back into the pop-soaked ballads. Granted he delivers them well enough to melt the hearts and wet the panties of women worldwide; but he's definitely speaking to the that "beautiful language of money." Forget that "The Disappearing Humans 5:49" exists too. Then you have the band's single "The Eye That Offends 3:38" which is on the end of their record and one of the shorter tracks (remember that short tracks are easier for radio stations to play.) on the disc. It sounds like thrash-era Trivium, just like the major thrasher on here (dare we say thrasher?) called "Alone You Will Enter 7:58."

Despite the fact that The More I See Are Making thrash for the kids who think thrash is old and maybe MIGHT get a few into the real deal, going back and discovering old albums or hearing new albums from old bands; I really don't think that the veteran metal head will find much here than ridicule. As a matter of fact, I will put that to the test; so we'll see whether or not these guys appear on the blank page. He hasn't updated in a while anyway.

(11 Tracks, 51:00)



Heart Of A Coward - Severance (PR2013) - Alright, you can crucify me now if you want to; but this djentcore band wasn't all that bad to me. They had the right idea as well as presentation, even though they're still ass-raping Meshuggah. The tracks aren't all that long, (most of them clock in around three to four minutes) but they manage to get the job done with the right amount of angst. "Monstro 3:33" is a great way to get things started, with "Distance 3:58" opening the mix for clean vocals that are actually delivered with a certain amount of passion. Granted, this isn't for everyone - but it's definitely something that I could see myself listening to while performing labor, which is what I was doing while I listened to it. I'll also mention "Deadweight 3:45" which manages to get pretty thick at times, the vocals heading into death metal territory.

The album tacks on a bonus concert performance that includes well executed live versions of these songs and others at the 2013 Download festival. And yeah, this stuff does sound better live. I'm not a huge fan of breakdowns, but it's hard not to get into them when they're blasting in your ear. Kind of hypnotic. Did they patent that yet? Whatever the case, Heart Of A Coward is deathcore with it's hands thickly in the angst of hardcore and I guess that's why it resonated with me. There are some great melodies here and there and the frontman is full of piss n' vinegar - a full bottle's worth. These guys really don't seem to give a fuck and that's how I like it.

Highlights: Monstro, Distance, Deadweight, Eclipsed, Severance, The Download Festival Concert (17 Tracks, 68:00 - Album is 38:00, Concert is 29:00)



Derogatory - Above All Else (PR2013) - These four young Brazilian technical death metallers definitely blow away anything that you played back in your high school garage band with this raw and heavy disc that reminds me much of bands like Suffocation, Dissection and Obscura without all the cleanliness. From the first listen of "Into The Depth Of Time 3:55" I'm getting a barrelful of drums, vocal gravel that's about a coarse as can be - as well as punishing riffs and manageable solos. The album features some finely structured songs, but they're not so structured that they carry you into other atmospheres. There's also definitely the influence of thrash, which adds meat to the overall performance of the album. Derogatory still have some work to do, but if you've seen how old these guys are; then you'd be impressed just on that factor - so it's still a reputable release with certain promise and I look forward to hearing further progression in the future.

Highlights: Into The Depth Of Time, Twisted Aeons Of Burning Galaxy, To Escape What Is Now (9 Tracks, 38:00)



Valkyrja - The Antagonist's Fire (PR2013) - A friend of mine summoned this one up pretty well and said that Valkyrja were simply "just good black metal." And after hearing this thing, I'll certainly have to agree. These guys know how to write frost-covered riffs with authentic black metal melodies, yet they've also got a competent drummer who isn't just set to blast. Out of many black metal acts, it's usually bands like these that I really flock to. I've no problem with the old sound; but to hear the modern implementation coming off as pure and venomous as this; there's just no comparison. This is as good as the new Negator album (Gates To The Pantheon) was to me and that's saying a great deal, because I really dug the fuck out of that record.

Valkyrja is what black metal should sound like in the current age and they capture the angst and nihilism perfectly. This is truly cold music, even though musically, it's definitely an inferno of no-holds barred chaos. This is what the last Nagelfar album should have been. It doesn't really require ten thousand sentences to describe, as the melodies work well with the structure of the songs as the vocals merely add the topping to this deliciously evil cake. Valkyrja is an album that I will remember from this year, as it gives me the right amount of evil groove and relentless power that I expect from this genre. Though the songs are long, there's nothing on here that overstays it's welcome or feels out of place. It's a solid run that manages to satisfy in it's less than an hour playing time, offering up no surprises or distractions to the music. It's just good black metal.

Of course, that might be the nail for some of you; since maybe you were looking for that atmosphere or that section of rabid blast beats, or maybe something that doesn't have as much melody or rockability to it. These guys definitely don't mind throwing solos into their music either, which I guess that some people won't like. But I'm not one of those people, as I could listen to this album from beginning to end and enjoy the living fuck out of it. This is what I consider to be my personal favorite type of black metal album, a kind of disc that comes off remorselessly heavy and elicits a series of involuntary bangings of the head as well as several fierce air guitar bouts. And yes, I do sometimes play the air guitar at home while listening to metal. Especially stuff like this, where the riffs are sharp and the melodies are filled with fire.

While not reinventing the wheel, they've made an album that I'll definitely be plucking songs from to put on my personal play list. If you've got to have a taste of modern black metal at it's absolute finest, then definitely pick up The Antagonist's Fire.

On another note, I completely hate the way this band spells their fucking name. It's the most confusing fucking thing from a band that doesn't even have anything to do with pagan, heathen, or viking metal. Even though they've been around for about eight years, I'm hoping a bigger name comes along with the same title and forces them to change their name to something more fitting of their music. Come on guys, can't you think of something else?

"The band has, despite the name, nothing to do with pagan, heathen or viking metal. This has been stated several times in various interviews." - source

(7 Tracks, 48:00)



Hell/Amarok - Split LP (PR2014) - Here we have a split EP from Hell and Amarok. There are just two songs here, albeit long; so I will describe each and have an analysis of the disc as a whole shortly thereafter.

Hell (and this isn't the UK based Hell) starts us off with "Deonte... Oblitus... Dolore 18:37" and it sounds like a very raw sort of death doom, but with some absolutely scathing vocals, like a little gremlin was being tortured in the band and it's cries of agony were recorded onto the album. Perhaps a tortured soul, which is truly what this sounds like. The band goes into fits of drone that later evolve into doom wherein the monster screams in agony for a while more before the track switches to a haunting classical piece. Quite invigorating. If I was very upset at someone or a certain thing, I would probably listen to this in order to pour out my frustrations in a secure fashion that wouldn't see me behind steel bars.

"V - Red Oak Wisdom 20:43" is much in the same vein, but with a dual vocal style that allows for a mixture of death growls and the same tortured screams, yet with a higher production quality that some might not like as much as Hell. Even so, the performance is certainly viable; there's definite post metal influence laden within this doom and it seems to come off quite well, and very fucking depressing. If you were at wits end (and some of us are during the holiday season) then I imagine that this would help quite a bit. As with Hell, there are also light moments but not so much in the vein of drone as they are with a brooding sort of classical, perhaps Baroque period music. The end of the track features a bit more sludge in their doom, which should appeal to fans of bands like Rwake or The Atlas Moth. Just with much thicker vocals. Though I wish the growl would be used more, I'll let the guy who wants to scream do so. I do both on my record too, so someone is probably saying the same damn thing...

"Gee, I wish he used more death metal growls."

But I guess that's the funny thing about reviewing music and being a musician yourself. And by the way, I'll add a bit more death metal, but only when needed. Back to Amarok, I definitely think that this mix of sludge, doom and classical is right up my alley, as it should be yours. In all honesty, this is a pretty solid split if you like your music uncompromising and pretty damn interesting. Get your ass to the store and buy this fucker. Or buy it online or whatever. I have a strong feeling that this disc is going to do well.

Since I already summed my thoughts up there, you get the idea. It's not for everyone; but the people who love it are really going to love it. Hell and Amarok definitely have potential and I'd like to hear more from both of them. One song works for getting all the shit out of your system, and the other throws a kitchen sink into the death doom and sludge mix by throwing in that obscure bit of classical. This is why we buy split albums, folks. Two great songs from two great bands and it clocks in at close to forty minutes. Grab it and put a copy in each of your little one's Christmas stockings... And that's why I'm not having kids.

(2 Tracks, 39:00)



Bonesaw - The Illicit Revue (BR=BandRequest2013) - The guys in Bonesaw have been patient as fucking saints and I applaud them for that. It's just that I've been backed up and I'm working on it. If you send me your shit, it will get reviewed eventually and I do mean that! As for the disc, I'm offered nine tracks and about thirty minutes of music, which is basically a demo. But these guys know what they're doing - they're playing strong death metal with plenty of promise. The vocals are thick, the drums clatter about and the guitars aren't afraid to let loose with a fucking solo because it works. Nothing on here feels forced, and it feels like a death metal act that's ready for action. "The Forging Of Year Zero 3:35" comes across like classic death metal, with "Riot In The House Of Worship 2:24" carrying obvious punk influence and a strong overall performance. "Grave Insult 4:10" slows things down a bit, bringing a definite feeling of dread which is only heightened by the well-though vocal performance. There's a lot of ways that he could carry that song, but the fact that his vocals matched up to those grim melodies just right, making it fucking evil. It's all about the performance and timing, something I usually beat myself up over because I want it to be fucking perfect, or as close to perfect as it can be.

"Instant Classic 1:50" is an exercise in brutal death metal that comes off speedy and offers no real flavor to the disc, but it gets saved by "Crafted Deformity 5:48" which brings down the thunder in sections which amount to memorable bits of gore. The drums are blasting so thick here that things even get lost in the mix, but it's still a well-crafted performance that surely sounds even better live. The same can be said for "Granite Hell II 4:09" which starts as a basher, but goes into some very odd territory that I quite welcomed. You know what I say about experimentation. I also like what he's done with the vocal lines on the melodies that lead up the eventual prog mind-fuck on the piece. Then from there, things begin to really pound down, bringing forth one of the best songs that these guys have to offer. The next song has the wonderful title of "The Stench Of Dead Dirty Ass 2:23" which brings back the punk influence. These guys really do a great job of mixing punk and death, reminding me of Autopsy. Which is a great fucking band to be reminded of. "The Illicit Grotesque Revue 5:40" starts out with doom as grim as the mountains of fucking Mordor, but then after an exercise in death metal; the track begin a bit of a jazzy experimentalism that I am speechless towards, giving it a major thumbs up. This is the kind of shit that matters and really makes Bonesaw stand out from the pack. Then they resume to bash the shit out the track. The last track on here is "Satori (Part One) 5:55" which I'll probably be googling to find out what that is. Admittedly, it begins to sound like an anime theme. A very heavy anime theme, with doom elements. Jesus, someone fucking sign these guys! This mix of anime and doom and death and evil is just what the doctor ordered and makes Bonesaw stand out from the fucking pack. I highly recommend this one.

So what more do I need to say? Tired of the same old brutal death? No? Well go fucking check it out anyway. This is what I like to hear from bands, new stuff that hasn't been tried. They are reinventing the fucking wheel but aren't there quite yet. Still, it's an absolute must in my book.

Highlights: The Forging Of Year Zero, Grave Insult, Granite Hell II, The Stench Of Dead Dirty Ass, The Illicit Grotesque Revue, Satori (Part One) (9 Tracks, Approx. 34:00)


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Interview With German Thrashers Onslaught, Now On New Noise!

You talk about the New World Order and the mark of the beast on this album (“66-Fucking6″) but do you think that these things could actually happen and bring about the world’s end, or is it all just one big “Cruci-fiction?”

I think a New World Order is definitely in its early stages without question; it’s there for everyone to see. I’m pretty sure there are people in very high places scheming for a world controlled and policed by one core government that has access to all resources this planet has to offer. Ya know where I’m coming from.

66fucking6” is a kind of tongue in cheek track, actually. It’s inspired by a review that some Christian dude gave us for the Sounds of Violence album on the Amazon site. It basically said ‘we are the personification of all that is bad and evil and that we play the devil’s music.’ We thought it was probably one of the best reviews we have ever received. [Laughs] Religion = Cruci-fiction.

Read More Here:

Emphatic - Another Life (2013 NN Promo)


"Just like any other band, Omaha’s Emphatic have worked their way up from the bottom and have since signed a major label deal, with their brand new album Another Life being a major part of it. While not my personal cup of tea, I would be a complete fool to admit that these guys don’t have the hard rock muscle to make it so big that my review won’t even matter. And by big, I mean ten million screaming fans, women practically stripping themselves to the bone and tossing those clothes onto the stage, Grammy nominations and worldwide notoriety. Yes, that’s right. You’re looking at the new Nickelback, the new Hinder, the new Daughty, even the new Three Doors Down. Yes, these guys have it as the thundering chorus of “Life After Anger” proves. This is a track that I could see on the radio in full circulation in just a matter of months..."

Read More Here:

Alter Bridge - Fortress (2013 NN Promo)


"This new Alter Bridge album actually fared quite well on a metal site that is normally well-known for its rough reviews and I became a bit curious as to why it did so well. Alter Bridge is as you know, a sort of Creed spin-off, but with a guitarist who’s clearly not afraid to voice his metal opinion, such as with Blackbird’s opener “Ties That Bind” clearly reminding me of power thrash acts like Brainstorm. Yes, really. Have you actually heard it? There’s been such an unwarranted stigma about these guys that not a lot of metalheads have really gotten the chance to sit down and listen to these albums, but like most things, I gave it a shot and was actually impressed with some of the band’s past material. This leads us into the new album, Fortress. At first glance, I could tell that there were some meatier songs on the release as far as length was concerned and that was a good sign. It is widely known that pop tracks are usually around the three or four minute mark, because it makes it easier for the radio to play multiple tracks in one session. But when the album opened up with “Cry Of Achilles” and its multi-structured approach, and powerful chorus – I was certain that this was going to be a winner for me. This is a band that is truly trying to put as much metal as they can into the pop construct, which isn’t terrible – there are certainly some wonderful solos here and it’s an amazing effort like Creed’s earlier work..."

Read More Here:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unhuman - Unhuman (2013 NN Promo)

"From the mystical land of Canada, who brought to us such intriguing technical progressive death metal acts as Gorguts, Cryptopsy and Quo Vadis, enters a new breed of Canucks that come forth with staggering potential, throwing their instruments about in a fashion that reminds me of Jackson Pollock and his paint cans. Yes, there’s nothing that isn’t sporadic about these guys and the frontman has an ultimately unbelievable snarl (“Mutants War”) that has since grown on me from the first listen. If you’re looking for something that just throws all semblance of structure out the window and plays with technicality until the point of sheer madness, then I would highly recommend this highly skilled act. In all the guitar solos I’ve ever heard, I’ve never heard them quite the way they’re done on this album. These guys just don’t play their guitars; they dissect them right in front of your eyes. These guys don’t just growl and scream and holler and snarl, they use about a hundred pieces of each whenever necessary. The drummer just doesn’t drum, he shows you what each and every sound that can possibly be made on a drum kit sounds like, and then some!"

Read More Here:

Interview with Eden's Curse Now On New Noise!

With a brand new lineup, Eden’s Curse sounds stronger than ever. How did you go about recruiting the fantastic pipes of Nikola Mijic and the nimble fingers of Steve Williams? What do you think that the inclusion of these two powerful entities does for the band?

When we parted company with Marco we decided to hold some public online auditions, similar to what Dragonforce did, and even though the quality received was very high indeed, we were looking for that certain “je ne sais quoi”. I was researching on the internet through various media streams and I happened to be browsing on the website of Lion Music, who have some killer bands. I came across Dreyelands and liked what I heard from their singer. I jumped to Facebook to see if he had a profile and what he was doing and low and behold he did. I reached out to Nikola and invited him to audition, which he did. He recorded three songs and we got to know him quite well and he really met all the requirements we looked for in a vocalist and a band member. Nikola is an extremely versatile vocalist who can sing pretty much anything. He is a great live performer and is also a professional sound engineer owning his own studio in Serbia recording bands there and also mixing live at concerts. He plays multiple instruments and is a really fantastic, easy going person.

Steve actually auditioned for the band when Ferdy Doernberg left after the second album, and was beaten by Alessandro and his magnificent voice. We have remained good friends since and it was a very natural decision to ask him to join as he is a great player, songwriter and person, and Power Quest had split and he was contemplating his next musical venture. He asked to hear the new demos and once he did, he jumped on board. When God made Steve Williams he threw away the mould. Talented, intelligent, thoughtful, witty, fun and one of life’s absolute Gentlemen… they don’t make them like him anymore!


Dream Theater - Dream Theater (2013 NN Promo)

"The second album without Portnoy in tow feels a little odd to be the self-titled Dream Theater release, as Portnoy provided much to band in terms of lyrical content, as some of you are surely aware. Nevertheless, it’s an album that definitely sees the band with new found strength and well… prog. Yes, there’s always been that sense of prog in the band, but this album actually feels like it’s communicating on all the right levels insofar as progressive music is concerned. After the unnecessary “False Awakening Suite” comes in, “The Enemy Inside” actually treats us to a profound musical performance, as well as a memorable chorus from Labrie. Ruddess’s keyboards really seem to stand out on this one, bringing something to the band that we’ve needed to hear for years now, and we all knew that he’d be the one man who could put the keyboards firmly back in their place again. Petrucci still lights up the sky as always, so there’s no shortage of guitar antics to be found. Yet what really made this one click for me was the new skinsman Mike Mangini, oddly enough. His work on the kit gave the track the meat that it needed to truly show off and provide the thunder for the rain..."

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Stryper - No More Hell To Pay (2013 NN Promo)

"Stryper are back. Well, to be honest – they’ve already released Second Coming and it offered up a pretty healthy slab of Christian heavy metal. No matter what your religious (or lack of religious) beliefs are, I’m sure that after the very first listen, you too will agree that this is also a really weighty slab of heavy metal that works due to its strong leads and impressive vocal performance. The frontman belts it out with the best of them, making opener “Revelation” and its follow-up in the album’s title track ultimately memorable. But not only that, this album is chock full of high-flying guitar solos that will resonate with fans of metal who once considered these guys a bunch of weak-willed ninnies who threw Bibles out during their concerts and offered half-spirited metal romps that had already been paved over a thousand times by greater acts..."

Read More Here:

Friday, December 13, 2013

An Interview With Heavy Metallers, Witches Mark!




Interview with Robb Bockman, By Eric May

Witches Mark are back with another metal release that keeps it true, but allows influences of black and death metal into the mix. But you won’t hear any djent, core, or prog here. Robb doesn’t even know what they are! And if that sounds good to you, then chances are that this is the band you’ve been waiting for. I spoke with Robb for a bit about the new release, Witching Metal Ritual as he assured me that his Mercyful Fate and Venom records do not and never will have an inch of dust on them. If it’s too loud, then you’re too old!

The debut album, Witching Metal Ritual sounds like a hearken back to metal's roots. Did you guys think that it was finally time to start dusting off those old Mercyful Fate and Venom records and bring that inspiration back into the scene?

My Mercyful Fate and Venom records have not and will never have dust on them. I think Witching Metal Ritual speaks for itself as a collection of metal anthems, as true fans of the craft we just set out to make a heavy record. It is an honour to hear those comparisons but there is no comparing to those bands. Metal has never left the scene and cannot be destroyed. If more people looked beyond their iTunes collection and actually ventured out and discovered some of the truly killer metal that is coming out of the underground scene there would be less of the generic bullshit that has been dominating as of late.

The album really has a bit of everything on it, except for modern nuances like core and djent. What do you think of the core and djent usage in metal and do you think these are "true" evolutions?

I have no fucking clue what "djent" is or "core" for that matter. As time goes on more and more sub-genres get attached and labelled, too many people pay attention to that shit and miss out on some great metal. Does it kick ass or does it suck ass? That is all the labelling it should take.

What was it like recording the album? Did you just knock back a few and jam out?

This album was far different than anything I've ever done in the past. We handled tracking for everything ourselves except for drums and mixing/mastering. We commissioned Stuart "Batlord" Laurence and Brendon Bigelow from Isotopia Studios in Austin. They also play in Ignitor who fucking slay and we knew they would get the results we were after. As for my tracking, I did the guitars and vocals in my studio, which was gruelling for me at times; but on the other hand it gave me the opportunity to be my own taskmaster and really create without the usual financial restraints. Many rituals were performed during the making of this album I can assure you.

How long did it take to write the album? Is there anything that you'd go back and change if you had time?

We started writing for this album just after A Grim Apparition was released in 2009. During this time we went through some line-up changes. Scott Palmer signed on to play drums, we knew of Scott from another Austin based band (Demontuary). We all knew his brand of maniacal drumming would give us the foundation of steel we needed to forge some epic fucking metal. The first incarnation of Witches Mark was fronted by Michael Lance, (Ancient Cross) but we eventually decided to go a different way and that's when Robert and I came up with a kind of hybrid of Black/Death with a more traditional vocal approach. If I could’ve gone back and changed anything I would have preferred to be sponsored by Ninkasi Brewing Co. and have a recording facility/distillery/strip club and dispensary to write and record in.

What are your promotion plans for the album? Are you guys going to make a video or just do a heck of a lot of touring, or a combination of the two?

A combination.

What do you want people to feel when they listen to this album? Do you think that younger heads will appreciate it? I've heard that some of these younger guys won't listen to shit like Slayer and Venom because it's "too old."

I want people to take this disc, put in their stereo and turn that shit up until blood and beer are flowing with horns in the air. If the younger crowd can’t appreciate it, then fuck them.

What bands are you guys currently into these days? Just the old favorites, or is there any new blood that you want to tell us about?

I know Robert and I have been listening to Skeletor, I tend to like more classic metal like Holocaust or Candlemass. I've been listening to I as well, fucking brilliant!

If heavy metal in its true form had a recipe, what would that recipe entail? What are the ingredients that make up true heavy metal?

That is a recipe to be discovered, not elaborated upon.

What kinds of guitars, bass, drums did you guys play on the album? What kind of tuning did you use to capture that old school tone?

I used an Ibanez 7 string which was tuned a whole step down to A which would put it to D tuning for a six string. I used the seventh string in Bringers of Heavy Metal Death and Slaves To Their Own Sin which added a unique tone to the punches I thought. Robert used a Les Paul and Andy used some Ibanez.

Do you think that metal just sounds too polished these days? It's even kind of funny when you hear these re-masters of old albums like Blind Guardian's Guardian Of The Blind, Death's Leprosy and Morbid Angel's Altars Of Madness and they just sound a lot clearer than they ever would have back in the day.

A lot of re-released albums are just heavily processed and compressed for maximum signal. The kicks and snare lose major impact; I tend to like records with maximum dynamics. You don't need the loudest track on the block, just the best riffs. People can turn up the volume for themselves.

What do you guys do when you're not serenading foul demons of the abyss through the alchemical practice of heavy metal?

Metal is our way of life. It is all we do. It is why we are here.

What was it like working with such legends as Ross "The Boss" Friedman, Jack Starr, Jason McMaster and Martin Debourge? How did these awesome interactions come about?

Working with everyone was an unparalleled honour. Who could ask for more than having your Metal Idols contribute their take on your music? There is no way to describe it. Obviously Manowar, Virgin Steel and Damien Thorne were huge influences for all of us. For me, working with Jason Mcmaster was so fucking rad. When I first listened to Dangerous Toys growing up, his raspy vocals were such an influence on me and to have that voice on a Witches Mark track was like none other. We just reached out to everyone with the tracks we wanted their sound on and luckily got a green light, so the rest is history.

Thanks for your answers and for a true heavy metal record. Glad to hear it, the scene really needs a good kick in the ass right now!

Thank You for supporting Witches Mark, Hails!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Week 93 (December 12th, 2013)

Got some band requests this time, from Shadowgrave and Dying as well as some new material from the independent label No Visible Scars. Plenty of big names here too, as you can see. My apologies to Disfigurement for not spotlighting your disc at the top as normal. I promise that all future spotlights will be at the top of review week posts. Review week posts will be added anywhere from Thursday to Saturday. So check back at the end of each week for another 12-15 reviews.

I'm also killing the .5 system. In NN we use .5's because it's technically a 1-10 system, where 0=1 and 5=10. So .5's essentially equal the numbers in between (.5=2,1.5=4,2.5=6,3.5=8,4.5=9). Here, the .5's don't necessarily stand for anything. They're unnecessary padding that isn't used much on other review sites. (Although Metal archives grades out of 100, plus the point system which is almost ridiculous!) At any rate, this I think makes the reviews a bit more structured and honest.


Khaos Aeon - Koenigreich (PR2013 SPOTLIGHT) - Finally, the follow-up to 2008's Exitus has released, and I'm not sure if I reviewed that one earlier or not. It does sound vaguely familiar to me and I do remember the Enslaved cover for "Frost." Well, now things have changed a bit and there is no bonus cover to speak of. While not an awful long disc, Khaos Aeon gets the job done and do it in in a mid-era Samael/Rotting Christ kind of way. Which to me, is most intriguing. "Death 6:37" opens the album with a subdued approach and an opening riff melody that reminds me a bit of John Wayne's theme. As the song moseys on however, it welcomes clean vocals with a continued sense of grit. At any rate, it's a powerful opener. "Pyre 5:37" is a bit quicker in the beginning, but also follows the same subdued approach replete with melodies as "Death." In that fashion, the album is very easy to describe. The vocal lines, certainly remind me quite a bit of that mid-era Samael/Rotting Christ I was describing, of course this track also features a throaty growl in the background. A passionate guitar solo rises up from the muck, proving to be unexpected but completely necessary. The ending to "Pyre" also proves to be quite memorable.

"Night 5:48" unleashes a bevy of slightly darkened melodies, reminding me now of mid-era Rotting Christ. If you haven't already guessed it by now, Samael and Rotting Christ are a massive influence for this disc and everyone who loved those mid-era periods will walk home with bold enjoyment for this disc. Naturally, "Night" scores another five stars from me. "Koenigreich 5:54" comes next, with a ritualistic approach that further builds into one of the disc's brashest tracks. Of course, there's always time for another great solo. The ending really brings it home with impressive vocal fury. Nothing more can really be said, as this is the kind of black/death metal that I've always loved. I'm just glad to see that someone picked up the formula. "Sutech 5:39" warms my fucking heart as far as this music goes, with a dreadful set of slightly middle-eastern influenced riff melodies that couldn't be complete without the ever-memorable vocal rasps from the frontman. Yet another five star track. "Blood 4:10" brings back the muscle, as the band really kicks it into overdrive with this track. There's also a slight bit wherein some ritual enriches the piece, making for another ultimately memorable song. I certainly have used the word memorable quite a bit on this album, but it just certainly is that and more. This record is going to get trapped under the weight of other releases and be forgotten about, which is dreadfully terrible since it's so fucking good. "Khaon 5:38" continues much in the same fashion, very much the Rotting Christ/Samael influence, but with a bit of pounding from the drummer that slightly kicks it up a notch. The album ends with "Life 5:20" which fills the finale with beefed up melodies and some quite subtle areas. There's also a few hundred worthwhile solos on the piece that seem to bring a satisfying close to what is a very unexpected album.

Koenigreich is strongly different from 2009's Exitus and I say that with great pleasure. Exitus saw the band very much in the vein of Dissection, where as on this record they've channeled the energies of Rotting Christ and Samael during their nineties periods. Though I discovered those albums a few years later, there's no denying that those albums are absolute metal classics in this age and I couldn't even think of them to be emulated. But that's what Khaos Aeon did with this record, certainly putting their own spin on things. Even the band pictures emulate what I've seen from earlier Rotting Christ and it does the act sort of a tribute. But there is not a single thing wrong with that, as they've fucking done it justice. They've done it right. They've made it memorable.

(8 Tracks, 44:00)



Deathklok - The Doomstar Requiem: A Klok Opera (PR2013) - First of all, I don't recommend that you buy this album. It's merely the soundtrack to the final episode of Metalocalypse and the only addition to the piece is the bonus track "Blazing Star 4:36" and "Doomstar Orchestra "23:22." which is merely just the orchestrations on the piece itself. Yes, it took a long time to make this and they did hire a large orchestra to compose it. But to be honest, I wasn't happy with this at all. Considered by Brendan to be a "metal opera" it didn't have a whole lot of metal to it, sans the guitar solo battle "The Duel 2:35" and the Corpsegrinder backed "Morte Lumina 4:07." There are some good ones however, like "Givin' Back To You 2:44" and it's good use of clean vocals, as well as "How Can I Be A Hero 2:28" which is an unexpected ballad. To be frank, this is definitely more Metalocalypse cartoon than it is Dethklok metal; and it doesn't really have much to offer if you're not a fan of the television show.

The only thing that really blew me away on the disc was in fact, "Blazing Star 4:36" which shows Brendan Small using his raspier chords that I always thought were much better than his gravel, as it sounds half-ass most of the time. I could do a much greater vocal performance on more than half of his material, including "The Hammer" which I've wanted to cover and show him from the first day that I heard it. However, the man can play guitar much better than I, so he has me beat there. Yet I've always thought that Dethklok would have been better if he just sat the vocals out and used a real death metal vocalist. Come on, Corpsegrinder would be more than willing to do a full album with these guys. Cannibal isn't really doing much at the moment, and I'm sure that The Dethalbum IV wouldn't take all that long to create. It would also give the project more metal credentials and not seem like so much of a death metal cash grab. I've always respected Brendan's sense of melody and will attest that Dethklok has some of the greatest melodies I've heard in the death metal genre, bar none. But with Brendan's sloppy approach, the work doesn't come off quite so well.

As for this disc, the fact that it isn't the "death metal opera" I expected was really disappointing. But then again, Eternium sorta made that disc this year, in a sense; along with Xanthochroid last year. So there's plenty of that to go around. But it you're not a fan of the Metalocalypse TV series, then it's probably better to just sit this one out and wait for the next Dethklok release. If Brendan sticks to guitar this time and stops trying to be the best metal vocalist who ever lived, maybe it'll come out much stronger than previous efforts. Hell, he could even have a different death metal vocalist on every song. Surely people have the time, and that's what file transferring is for anyway. "Yeah, Mr. Ihsahn would you be interested in doing vocals for track x? Yes, Mr. Fisher - I'd love it if you'd come back and do vocals on track y. Mr. Diamond, would you care to do vocals on track z?" These are easy emails to send out from musician to musician, from PR to musician, from musician to PR to musician. Text messages, Skype calls, something of that nature. Collaborations this day and age aren't nearly as difficult now due to the advent of the internet and social media. I just hope he does them, because this guy really knows how to butcher his songs with his own vocal chords.

Just skip this album and get a copy of "Blazing Star." Consider it a strong holdover for the next Dethklok album which we'll probably see next year as the show has finished it's run.

Highlights: How Can I Be A Hero, Abigail's Lullaby, The Duel, Givin' Back To You Morte Lumina, Blazing Star (21 Tracks, 75:00)



Sordid Flesh - Torturer (PR2013) - Sordid Flesh deliver death metal in the old school fashion, much in the fashion of the greats. The music comes on thick and sounds like the whisk of the wind through a cemetery. Sharp but eerie melodies pervade through every inch of this thing, with the frontman's gravel serving as the unholy sounds of the dead. While the first two tracks, "The Thelema Way 4:00" and "Mark Of The Fallen 3:59" focus more or brutality, "Rites At The Cemetery 5:33" comes off as exponentially strong, with some powerful leads and solos to boot. "Gravebitch 4:16" manages to get a bit dirtier and at parts is subdued to encase the gravel. "Torturer 3:37" also dials up on the melodies, but still remains as grim as you might (and very well should) expect. "Where Art Thou, God? 4:11" completely pummels, while "Until You Are Dead 3:28" manages to come off merely solid, with a strong chorus. The disc finishes with "Rise From The Abyss 3:54" which ends on a thundering note.

Sordid Flesh do a respectable job on this album, but it's not really that memorable. It is a decent death metal album that some might certainly enjoy however, with the rough production just a dab of icing on the demonic cake. If you've got to have it, certainly pick it up. This is the sound of classic death metal at it's most grim.

Highlights: Rites At The Cemetery, Gravebitch, Torturer, Where Art Thou God? (9 Tracks 36:00)



Psychocalypse - Crying Moon (PR2013) - With a name like Psychocalypse, this could have really been anything. And even though the drums start to sound like they're going to bring me into the Mortal Kombat intro, that is certainly not what this album offers. While admittedly raw in nature, it's got the best of intentions and sees this one man project having a great deal of fun with what sounds to me, like somber melodic death metal. As such, one may expect the melodies as highlighted heavily on "Stray Souls 5:28" the album's opener. Psychotic utilizes sharp vocal rasps with a bit of grit under his tongue, the Frenchman certainly getting his inspiration from latter Insomnium, Swallow The Sun and Black Sun Aeon among others. This is depressing and beautiful stuff, even if it is a bit rough. However, the rough quality of the material might also entail a slight bit of charm. The band also labels themselves as a bit thrash and you will hear that from time to time, but it is rather subtle hiding behind the symphonics and melodies. You know what? I'm also going to go ahead and throw the Dark Tranquility influence in here, because it's clearly unmistakable.

However, one gets to flipping through tracks while looking for a major standout piece and cannot really find a track that sounds differently from the others. While that's not a bad thing, it certainly won't appeal to everyone because of that factor, and most of us can just put in a CD of the influences to get the same style of atmosphere. So basically, it's an album that remains catchy, melodic and dismal all at the same time, but doesn't manage to really bring anything new to the table. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't check it out if you're a fiend for this style of music however, as some of us are. He's certainly made a worthy attempt with this album, as the melodies and performance are both memorable. Definitely check it out, if it's something you'd like.

(11 Tracks, 46:00)



Angelica - Thrive (PR2013) - Angelica, known for being in symphonic metal band The Murder Of My Sweet; has decided to spin herself off into a solo effort which channels the AoR rock scene and artists like Pat Benatar, Bonnie Tyler, Ann Wilson, Robin Beck and Lisa Dalbello. It's very much a pop/metal act and won't be for everyone, but I can certainly say it's sugary sweet and will appeal to fans of things that aren't quite grim and rather catchy. "Breaking My Heart Again 4:51" is a perfect example of this, with Angelica really cashing in on the chorus - but Gods bless her, it's certainly a memorable enough one to get stuck in your head, no matter how tough and ruthless that Dying Fetus shirt portrays you to be. But one thing that I really like about this album, is that there's an awful lot of guitar influence on the disc as well as solos, which reminds me of those 80's female fronted rock ballads. Some of the tracks even feature slight bits of electronics like "To Your Rescue 3:23" and "Nothing Else You Can Break 4:41" bit the whole disc has a definite 80's nostalgia factor that will certainly appeal to those of us (like myself) who grew up with this kind of music. It's like a reinvigoration of an ancient era of music, a disc jam packed with the heart and soul of that time period, packed into an hour's worth of memorable tracks.

The disc doesn't offer any more than it is, but it doesn't need to either. It's a great throwback that really shows Angelica is a powerhouse to be reckoned with. It's been a long time since pop has sounded like this, way before the sugary cancer of Katy Perry who definitely rips off quite a bit from this era, but without the guitars. Which begs the question... would I like Katy's music if she added the guitar influence and thundering drums found here? Maybe. But that's probably not going to happen, since metal hasn't really found it's way into the mainstream in this country since the 80's. And we all remember the hair days. There was a reason they called them Poison, after all...

(12 Tracks, 50:00)



Benedictum - Obey (PR2013) - California's Benedictum come right out of the gate with the thundering power of "Fractured 4:08" (and yeah, I use that word a lot too - but it fits) which comes with a high pitched vocal and some really unique melodies. There's also a hint of prog in the piece, right before the solo. If I bet my bottom dollar, I'd say that this one's a winner for sure. Might not be the crispiest thing as far as production but it'll find it's way into your head and get it banging. At the end of the day, isn't that what you want? Hell, she even utilizes a bit of a tortured scream on this one. How about that? "Obey 5:05" comes in next with some southern grooves. Wow, that's not something I expected. This is shaping up to be a memorable thing. Damn, now it's starting to sound like Alice In Chains a bit. You can't judge this one by the cover, that's for sure. These guys thrash and they do a good job of it. Nothing "pretty" here. "Fighting For My Life 3:07" brings in that middle-eastern influence, but the dirty (and I do mean dirty) vocal approach that has been coming into the album as of late certainly makes it all work together very nicely. "Scream 4:20" starts with hungry drums, almost harsh vocals and a great deal of oppression. At first, I thought this was a male fronted band, but it's actually been spear-headed by Veronica Freeman who does an immeasurable job on the disc, proving that the opposite sex can and will thrash with the best of them. Spynal pointed out that her image isn't necessarily so great, using words that I won't in this review - but she's said the same about Jill Janus of Huntress as well. Nevertheless, I was sort of shocked.

"Evil That We Do 4:01" features a bit of groove as the chorus rips in with a slight rasp. The spirit of thrash is with these guys for sure, and I think with more promotion they could really go far. Female fronted thrash acts are starting to gain more popularity these days and I think that this one definitely needs to join the ranks with the best of them. "Crossing Over 6:17" also showcases the best that these guys have to offer, with plenty of structure and just everything that I'd expect from great thrash. There are great melodies here, thumping riffs and powerful solos. Veronica also kills it on the chorus - you can't deny that. "Cry 4:15" features Tony Martin on guest vocals, but is a bit of subdued ballad that seems a bit off for all the thrash that's on here; but they definitely gave a good attempt. "Thornz 4:38" seems like it's from that Angelica album that I previously reviewed and I don't really like it all that much as compared to the other tracks on this disc. They try to get heavy, but it doesn't work so well in the end. "Die To Love You 3:50" is next, with a symphonic intro that delves into another of these power ballads. The symphonics continue in places throughout the track, but I hear this and I'm wondering... what the fuck happened? Did they tire of the thrash already? Granted these solos make the thing more viable, but what happened to the thrash? It's like a heavy ballad. Maybe there's a metal chick somewhere who likes this one. She's probably attractive too. Perhaps.

Alright, next we've got the real spirit of heavy metal with "Apex Nation 3:48." Now this is where things get quite intriguing, as Veronica makes herself sound extremely masculine with the rest of the band giving off a Judas Priest vibe that can't be denied. This is heavy metal, for sure. It definitely makes up for the confusion I had with the latter half of the disc. That solo also kills. But why aren't there any other songs like this on the album, guys? What kind of sound are you going for exactly? Then we've got this long closer at the end called, "Retrograde 7:18" which has a definite Brainstorm vibe. Yes, I know that I overuse those guys, but they're definitely one of my personal favorite power/thrash acts (especially Ambiguity) and this album sure doesn't sound like Iced Earth or early Falconer. There's a memorable solo at the end of the track, with some worthy leads and vocal acrobatics right towards the end of the song. It doesn't feel that it's overstayed it's welcome and I could very well listen to this one again. I daresay that it's my favorite song on the album. Once again, definitely making up for those "other" songs.

Despite what you think of Veronica's fashion sense, Benedictum is one hell of a band, with one hell of an album. They thrash like they mean it, they perform power metal like they mean it, they perform classic metal like them mean it, and they even managed to bore the shit out of me with those power ballads, because they also played them like they mean it; and those are hit or miss for me. So without another word, I do recommend that you check out this album from these California female fronted power/heavy (and certainly thrash) metallers; especially if you like other female fronted acts of this type like the more popular Huntress. I have a feeling that these two might be sharing the stage someday. Oh, but I said "not another word." Well, I fucked that one up. But go get the album, for further proof that female fronted thrash is here to stay.

Highlights: Fractured, Obey, Evil That We Do, Crossing Over, Apex Nation, Retrograde (12 Tracks, 51:00)



Torchure - Beyond The Veil (PR2013) - Torchure is a legendary death metal act, one of those that got left behind in the wake of more popular material. But just like several of the other obscure death metal acts that are thankfully getting reissues, these guys are certainly worth hearing. As this album is filled with several different layers, a track by track observation shall determine the verdict.

The "Veil Of Sanity 1:52" intro is actually worth mentioning, due to it's creepy synths and odd use of vocal gravel. While one might say that these growls, screams and other otherworldly noises of the mouth were not necessarily needed, it certainly isn't something that one hears everyday. "In His Grip 6:52" starts us off with slightly synth-laden death metal of the raw, yet raucous variety. The song entertains many sections, from blazing solos to machine-gun fire bouts of percussion. It does tend to drone just a bit however. "Abysmal Malevolence 4:07" marches into the fray next, beginning with a Slayer-esque solo and moving into groovy jungle realms. As such, we can expect our moments of ferocity, although replete with satisfying guitar harmonies and more Hanneman emulation. But that's certainly not a bad thing. "Mortal At Last 3:41" is where the real experimenting begins, as it sees the band removed from elements of death metal as they instead rely on creepy synths and ghastly vocals. You can't call them clean, but they certainly aren't growls. (Even though there are a few strewn about the relatively short piece.) "Resort To Mortality 11:16" is the disc's longest track, but despite all that it attempts; it comes off a little slow in nature which really makes it drone and start to seem awful repetitive at that. "Genocidal Confessions 5:54" comes off as a godsend at this point, because anyone who trudged through that last menace deserves the onslaught that this track offers. Though we know where the riff melodies came from, there's no doubt that it all sounds just right packaged here. "Apathetic 5:38" offers another great slab of death metal, not really deviating from the path; but decent enough. "Depressions 6:56" plays around with prog a bit, but actually sticks to groove as it welcomes back the synths which seem to have been missing from this latter part of the album. "Vortex Of Thoughts 1:17" opens up to a bit of an unnecessary instrumental, it should have been used just once at the beginning of another track, quite possibly the closer, "Beyond The Veil 6:08." As for the closer, it seems to be an experiment in Death-laden prog/technical soundscapes with great attention to detail and a continuation of the vocal gravel that is ever enjoyable in this genre of music. A solo isn't really given the time of day, as thundering drums lead us to the end of the album.

While worth hearing, I wouldn't recommend these guys over other acts like Phlebotomized or Timeghoul. Though they perform terrific death metal, they seldom do more than that on this album, even though there are a few interesting things to be had on the disc.

Highlights: Mortal At Last, Genocidal Confessions, Depressions, Beyond The Veil (10 Tracks, 53:00)



Exivious - Liminal (PR2013) - I'll never forget the time that I spent with Exivious's first, self-titled album. It was one that I'll refer to as a goddamned masterpiece, and one that these guys just can't jump over in terms of quality, passion and amazement. And apparently, even though Liminal tries, it just can't get over the hurdle without nudging a foot on the bar. While great music certainly surrounds the piece, I am now more reminded of acts like Animals As Leaders, Scale The Summit and many, many more. Liminal is truly an expression of art and speaks more as a painting than it does a musical piece that one can merely "jam" to. Although some of you might feel completely different about that statement and others are wondering what in the hell I'm going on about.

Eight tracks form this monolith of sound regardless, starting off with the subtle yet thunderous "Entrust 6:27" and the playful prog of "One's Glow 4:38." It actually sounds a little islandy to me, some of the melodies reminiscent of beach stages in video games. "Alphaform 4:51" has a bit more romance laden within it, one could probably make love during the track, which runs at about the speed in which most people do the act these days. It even has a moment for climax and cool down. "Deeply Woven 6:53" reminds me of a race. I'm not quite sure why, but I can just see cars neck and neck to the finish line whenever I hear this track. There's even a spot for some saxily sexy, sax. Yes, I just made up that word. "Triguna 5:09" sounds like a sunset, with bits of wild riffs injected into it. It seems like time starts to run out in the stage near the end of the song though and a game over is ensued. Sorry, Mario! "Movement 4:52" slows things down a bit, perhaps getting a little meditative, but still opening up for a bit of groove to back the clean melodies, which these guys revel in. There's nothing on the album that doesn't sound beautiful, peaceful, or euphoric. Even the racing cars still have a bit of cheer to them. "Open 6:34" has a lot of delay to it, but it still has melodies that sound like they're something from Sonic Team. The last track on the album however, seems the most erratic and well; it's not quite so beautiful. It reminds me of scribbling, or quickly doodling along a piece of paper. Even though it has a slight break in which to erase the mistake, the drawing begins again, with thick lines of shading before an all-out explosion of color experienced by the use of several different pens. If you can't hear the colors, then something is clearly wrong with you. After the rainbow ejaculate has been spewed, the album finishes, leaving you hungry for another foray. It's kind of like sex, but more satisfying as it lasts longer.

Though I've heard many albums like it in the past few years, Liminal certainly proves that it was worth waiting around for. Fans of progressive rock, beautiful melodies and classic video game music laden with guitars will find this most excellent. For some odd reason, I really want to play a Sonic The Hedgehog title now, just for the riff melodies. Damn you, Exivious!

(8 Tracks, 45:00)



Kill Devil Hill - Revolution Rise (PR2013) - The sophomore Kill Devil Hill brings us right into the barroom, whether we wanted to go or not and it certainly reminds me of the same southern groove-laden alternative metal that we'd also expect from Hellyeah or Five Finger Death Punch. The band starts out with "No Way Out 4:01" which comes off as heavier number from the beginning, definitely reminding me a lot of Hellyeah. So if you like those guys, just pick this one up if you can't wait for the next one (Of course, I'm waiting for a new Mudvayne personally. Guilty!) they release. "Crown Of Thorns 4:39" sounds like Alice In Chains with a bit more southern comfort and it'll sound good on the radio. I could get into this one. "Leave It All Behind 4:41" tries to crawl it's way into greatness... hold on. What the heck was that? You call that a solo? That was a squeak from a guitar. Alright, so they do pick it up towards the end and really deliver at that point (I can certainly say that the solos on this one are noteworthy) but this is most certainly a hard rock track. "Why 3:30" is kind of filler more or less. If not for the solo, I'd not have cared. Alright, so there's a bit of a chorus there. But nothing ultimately special. "Wake Up The Dead 5:22" plays with Alice In Chains again. Boy, I had no idea that Kill Devil Hill was making an Alice In Chains album. But didn't the band just put out The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here? Why, if Alice had known that, they could have just stayed at home and let these guys make their album. Ah, but fuck it. I'll give them points for trying.

"Long Way From Home 5:34" is another hard rocker, you get the idea. Except it's not hard rock, it's hard ballad. "Where Angels Dare To Roam 5:05" throws in some electronics, so there's a good sign. And finally the guitars are attempting a little bit of crunch. While eating Cap'n Crunch no less. I'm gonna give this one some points to, there's obviously been some effort here and it sees the band really giving it their all. the chorus is the forefront, but he's doing a great job of it. "Stained Glass Sadness 4:43" is just about what you can expect, it's a hard rock track with some intriguing wah-wah's but as far as the rest of track goes, it's not the best I've heard. Still, they're putting in an effort. "Endless Static 4:01" just jumps right to the chorus if you let it. No need to chew folks, just drink this one right on down. Kudos on the classic rock solo though, however short it was. They could probably put this one in a Sonic The Hedgehog game. "Stealing Days 4:20" sees the band playing with Soundgarden now, getting to grunge for their own good. It's a bit melancholic though, like The Cure meets grunge and did anyone really want to hear that? The disc ends with "Life Goes On 9:53" which doesn't have to do anything with a "little story about Jack and Diane" unfortunately, as that cover wouldn't be too far out of their spectrum. After this hard rock ballad, a piano type ballad comes in right after a short pause. I would have rather heard the John Mellencamp cover, to be honest.

Sorry guys, but the disc was about an hour too long and it just didn't seem to catch my attention. The radio loves it though, as it's catchy and easy listening compared to most of the stuff I listen to in a day's time. I'd recommend the heavier acts over this one, but I'm still going to have to consider Alter Bridge's Fortress album to be my pick for hard rock album of the year. Yes, it's that good. But this... well, this is just run of the mill corporate rock.

Highlights: Crown Of Thorns, Where Angels Dare To Roam (11 Tracks, 55:00)



Necrophobic - Womb Of Lilithu (PR2013) - This is my first Necrophobic album, though I've heard that they're a really great act for the most part. This album certainly seems to have me thinking in that fashion, as "Splendour Nigiri Scrolls 4:24" seems to meld black and thrash with ritualistic elements, doing every damn thing in the mixture justice. Next, they call down my good friend "Astaroth 6:01" for a little bit of a visit and take things into Rotting Christ territory. But they've done a much fiercer job of this than Rotting Christ did on their latest album. Plus, the solos - the fact that these guys still care about crafting well-written solos amidst the ritualistic chaos that is this disc, makes me smile with glee. "Furfur 4:08" definitely throws some punk into the mix, but doesn't forget the solo amidst those grooves. "Black Night Raven 6:56" has some good sections, but it doesn't come off as well to me as some of the other tracks. The latter part of the track is phenomenal, but it takes too long to get there. "The Necromancer" is heightened by it's use of background chants, which helps to really push the chorus forward. Necrophobic is certainly trying their best to push the bar with their music and I certainly applaud that effort. Yes, another worthy solo is packed in here. Somehow.

"Marquis Phenex 5:06" manages to end up solid, packing in the Satyricon grooves and little more. "Asmodee 4:01" also ends up as almost filler, minus the solos. This guy could make a record of just solos with black metal riffing to back them and I'd buy it. As I listen to the album, I'm also becoming reminded of Naglfar, particularly their Pariah album. It just has the same feel. Thankfully, "Marchosias 6:03" adds some nuances to the mix which see the formula working a bit better, though I feel that the album might be too long at this point. It's fast, it's vicious and certainly evil, but I've heard little else on this latter half of the disc; which worries me. If not for the solos serving to pepper everything up, I have a feeling that things might be rather bland. But once again, if you prove that you can wait, the band throws a few interesting nodes in later on the songs.

"Matanbuchus 4:40" start with light atmosphere and kicks up into a track that includes backing death growls. These serve to add well needed diversity, yet there is also the continuation of atmosphere on this piece that is not found on the others. The solo section also fits rather well on here, if it's not anything but too short. The track ultimately sounds like a confused experiment, but it's got more meat than some of the later tracks. "Paimon 4:49" is next, and one thinks that sooner or later, Necrophobic will run out of names to use from the Lesser Key Of Solomon. There's only seventy-two you know! But the song itself is much like the others, just with a bit more punch, melody and some points for atmosphere. At least they're trying again. "Opium Black 5:03" is the ultimate experiment however, as it opens for clean vocals. Yes, clean vocals. The song still has plenty of bite, but with the clean vocals performed so well; it hits much harder. As usual, there's also a solo. But the fact that clean are used and successful makes me hope that he'll use that vocal style a bit more in the future. Hell, I wish I had a deep tone like that. Have been trying to perfect that for a while now.

But the disc isn't over yet, as "Infinite Infernalis 6:15" seems to pull out the stops as it opens with a piano-laden atmosphere, that builds into blackened thrash which slightly adds the death metal growls and the operatic effects into place. It even closes with the piano driven orchestration. But that's not the last song, as "Amdusias 3:08" does that with a gothic piece that slowly allows for guitar and drums. It's a nice way to end the album and serves as a finale that they couldn't really find another place to add on the album. But you don't want to kill this piece, as it's too good. I hear many voices on the disc, one of them appears to be female and the other sounds like it could be from a stone golem. There's definitely something going on in this track, however.

Well, this is definitely one of the longer reviews I've had to do. But it's all just to tell you that Necrophobic's Womb Of Lilithu is a solid album at best. They have the right ideas, surely. Definitely. But they really need to trim the fat and not use everything that they though someone would want to hear. The album is almost an eighty minute undertaking, which is something respectable for prog, but there's just not enough substance here to last on someone that long. Eventually, you wish that it was just an hour long release and it very well could have been if the filler was removed. I do recommend that you check it out however, as it's much fiercer than the latest Rotting Christ, yet still in the same vain.

But again, it's just too fucking long. And where's a song about Lilith? The album is called Womb Of Lilithu, right? So where in the hell is a song honoring her dark majesty? Oh well, it seems he'd rather sing about Satan instead. Just like everyone else.

Highlights: Splendour Nigiri Scrolls, Astaroth, Furfur, The Necromancer, Matanbuchus, Opium Black, Infinite Infernalis (14 Tracks, 68:00)



Various Artists - No Visible Scars Promo CD (PR2013) - This is an exclusive promo CD that arrived to me on a burned disc. It features music from five promising bands on the No Visible Scars label. I'll separate each band into a different subsection.

Satantic Dystopia starts us off, with a raw and punky style of blackened thrash that's actually quite venomous and well worth hearing. The amplifiers are raised so high in the mix that you might complain of loose shrapnel shards flying into your ears. But these guys would have it no other way, as the frontman shouts with remorseless torment on scathing tracks like "Steel Breeze 2:49" and "Blood, Spit & Concrete 2:42." These guys are certainly masters at what they do and I'd definitely recommend that you give them a try on this release that's full of piss n' vinegar. Later, they dip their hands into more punishing realms like doom "Tombstone Queen 2:52" metal, as well as the astonishing closer in "Black Stallion 3:09."


Earthlord starts next, with a trippy sort of stoner rock that smells like Sabbath from a mile away. "God Of Antiquity 4:22" is what you play when you've first lit the joint and while you're passing it around. "He Who Is Of The Water 3:51" is what you play after you've got nothing left but a roach, and you're thinking about ten million universal mysteries at once. It's a much slower track that lets you glide along the riffs, which you'll probably do; considering how whatever else was mixed in with the stuff that you just smoked. It's a short release that starts off rough, but has a smooth exit.


Scorched Earth blaze in afterwards, bringing a raw blackened sense to what is a punky sort of thrash. These guys are a bit clearer than Satanic Dystopia, but they've clearly got bit and they're certainly memorable. The riffs are thick, the vocals on the cusp of black metal, making me think of later era Darkthrone and altogether bringing back much of what inspired the early black metal scene. Yes, there's certainly some Venom influence to be had here too. But there's that in just about all forms of black metal. The highlight of this one is "Thy Kingdom Doomed/Marauders 6:23" which also has that anti-elite theme lyrically that I'll stand by. My music is now out there, so you know how I feel about those guys in the Illuminati/NWO. Definitely check these dudes out though, as they're showing some definite promise. There's also a cover of Scepter's "Fucking Metal Motherfuckers 2:17" which is performed well enough to earn my vote.


Slumber Room is the last band here, but they certainly aren't a snooze. Granted the opener and the band's namesake track is quite relaxing, "Some One... Everyone... No One... 9:10" is a moment of absolute grandeur, followed by "Under The Dying Moon 7:28" which sounds extremely nihilistic in approach. The band takes a minimalist approach that allows for slight electronic influence, but definitely delivers on the ultimately scathing vocals. "Stellar Death Rites 7:44" really puts forth the vocal pounding, coming off as both eerie and devastating all at the same time. While a bit long, it certainly gets the job done earning these guys (or guy) a definite high mark in my book.


Altogether, you've got some really capable bands on this sampler and I'd certainly like to hear more of these acts and others from the label. If you're interested in any of these bands, all you need to do is look them up!

Highlights: Satanic Dystopia, Slumber Room (17 Tracks, 71:00)



Abazagorath - Abazagorath EP (PR2013) - Abazagorath is a promising black metal act from Pennsylvania. The music is much clearer than what some might expect for kvlt, but the music is also itself quite good and true to the spirit of black metal, providing a good showcase of eerie melodies, thick vocal rasps and solid drumming. This is how I would expect black metal to sound and they've done a memorable job with this short EP. "The Antigod 5:25" comes bursting outward with a fast-paced black metal performance that most certainly delivers, flowing right into "Lapse 4:23" which displays plenty of riff and structural changes, channeling the spirit of the black metal atmosphere. Certainly, Abazagorath is a name to familiarize yourself with. "Immortals 4:58" comes across like yet another page of the black metal handbook, with all of the Immortal and Emperor worship that one could ask, yet Mayhem have also found their way in. I really have to highlight the vocal performance from Nihilist, he's really got a great approach on the album and I'm guessing that I'd know what I'm talking about, seeing as my band also put out a sort of black metal album this year which has been well received (much more than I expected, to be honest.) This guy has the kind of vocal touch that really makes these riffs and melodies stand out, just as I'll mention Maelstrom's solos which help to pepper the atmosphere with melodic might. The final track on the disc, "Storms Of Destruction 6:21" also features some vocals by the album's producer, first beginning with a bit of a solo intro piece. The producer uses a thick death metal gravel which might kill the whole kvlt vibe that you wanted from the album, but fuck it. It sound's good and doesn't exactly feel out of place. There's also a slight acoustic and several other nods to the greats on this one. The disc itself ends with a frantic solo, truly showing the metal prowess of these guys. If this isn't black metal, than I don't know what is.

I certainly recommend this debut EP from Abazagorath and can't wait to hear what they've got to offer in the future.

(5 Tracks, 22:00)



Exmortus - Immortality Made Flesh (Single) (PR2013) - Here's a single from melodic death metallers, Exmortus. It's not all that long, only being about six minutes in length (5:49) and featuring loads of melodic leads (some of them even a bit Dethkloky) that seem to be slathered over dirty bass chugs and even grittier vocals. The solos are the track's greatest achievement, with them almost being in the vein of Dragonforce; yet with more class and less cheese. Exmortus certainly shows that they've got plenty to offer with this forthcoming release and I look forward to reviewing it.

(1 Track, 5:49)



Shadowgrave - Demise Of The Forgotten (BR2013) - It's no secret that I've waited for this release, after hearing them on a split that I reviewed some time last year. Now the band has given me a three part, hour long release which shows more of their death/doom side than ever before, with a definite splash of gothic architecture that makes the album come off quite like something you'd play in a candlelit castle. Even the album artwork suggest that it would look at home in a dark castle somewhere in the middle of the night with the moon shining high above.

The album starts with the first portion of the disc, marked "Ω" and begins with "Elegy Of The Moribund 2:01" which is a rather cinematic intro piece, replete with piano, choral effects and other fare that sets up the rest of the album quite well. "The Last Empire 8:20" then comes in with a rather morose and dry feeling, seeing the guitar bellow out a few nice melodies as the drums tap here and there and the gravel vocals illustrate the story. it's very comparable to acts like Saturnus and early My Dying Bride for example. I do believe that it runs a bit long however, and it takes far too long to really get to a proper change in the track. It's a bit much to expect for a person, and needs more meat. "Shrine Of Sins 4:15" wakes the drummer up, while light riffs illustrate the keyboard and dual vocal approach of the two vocalists (there's a growler and a scowler here) which sometimes duet on the track. It's definitely a solid track though, could use a light solo perhaps. "Carving Genocide 4:03" lets the scowler take over the mic for a bit, with the drums still wide awake and doing a great job in keeping beat with the melody. I just feel that it could use more kick. The bad thing about this track, is that's all it is. I mean, there's just not much fleshing out here; but you can tell that they are trying very hard and just need to find their bearings.

The next portion of the album, marked "Θ" begins with the title track (7:29) and begins with a well executed set of clean vocals as the growls take over after that. Again though, not much is going on here as far as structure is concerned. It's a bit too slow, too morose and despite the worthy vocal performance, I really wish they'd kick it up a notch every once in a while. There are sections where the drums feature a bit more, but other than that, it's like wandering through a desert in the dark. "When Death Comes Grieving 10:47" is next, the longest track on the album; although it does adds some nice nuances in the way of sound effects and piano interludes. Still, it's a bit too long; without much really going on in retrospect. "Lugubrious Silence 4:21" proves to be the most lively of the corpses on this album, with the drums a bit fiercer and the riffs a little livelier. The gothic organ is a nice touch too. "Windless Winter 5:31" comes right after, making the disc sound much livelier and a bit more black metal. Wow, there's actually something going on here! Definitely glad to hear that there's at least some variation on the disc.

The final portion of the disc is marked "ἀ" which begins with "The Omen 7:42" which goes back to the slower-paced nature of the disc. I do feel that people who really love dark funeral doom will love this album, as I've never heard a band that trudges as much as these guys. If you like your music as lifeless as a morgue, then you'll definitely love this music. And that's not a complaint, it's actually a compliment; because there are some people out there who really like their music as devoid of hope as it sounds here. The disc ends with "Ode To The Fallen 3:47" which is another melancholic instrumental. It ends the disc on the right note.

If you've got to have brooding funeral doom with an emphasis on brooding, slow and cadaverous, then look no further than Shadowgrave. These guys have made some of the most bleak and lifeless death metal that I've ever heard, yet there are sections of black metal and a few livelier portions that help the disc to breathe. I understand that they've tried their best on the album and you can clearly tell that an effort was made. It's just not as good as what I remember from the split. Nevertheless, this album is a stepping stone for the band; and surely they will get better with time. They do however, make some impeccably good instrumental pieces. If it's something that you'd be interested in, then head over to their Bandcamp page and try it out.

Highlights: Elegy Of The Moribund, Lugubrious Silence, Windless Winter, Ode To The Fallen (10 Tracks, 58:00)



Dying - Arkansas (BR2013) - Arkansas' Dying have released what they say will be their final album as most of the band has spread apart and it's apparently going to be tough for them to get back together and make new music. But this final offering is called Arkansas and apparently seems to continue with the atmosphere of the previous album. "Cherokee Bill 6:59" comes off a little rough necked in the beginning, with it's hoary shouts and outbursts, yet it finds flavor in an unexpected series of progressive rock melodies that serve to soothe the harsh sentiment expressed in the beginning. It's reminds me of what happens to my angry stomach after I've taken a mint. "Hell On The Border 3:58" continues the band's foray into light melodies, but it seems to perk up like excited nipples and comes crashing into an approach that reminds me quite a bit of Clutch in their Transnational... days. The song later melts into a solo which rides right back into the realms of soft melodies. This album is much less abrasive than previous effort Born, but reflects the image of the kindly tree on the album cover. "Belle Starr 4:34" begins with a sense of bipolarity, as it switches between darks and lights and it seems a bit unsure of itself. Even so, the song still comes off as quite listenable and about as mellow as the rest of the piece. It's obvious that the band have heavily changed direction, switching from the fuzzy sludge scene that Arkansas is known for as they head into something altogether different, yet still interesting. "Reprise 1:25" ends the record on light noise, sounding in the way of spurs.

While much different than the band's previous effort, I would still recommend this album to fans of atmosphere. These guys obviously prove that they've still got it, even though this looks to be their last day in the saloon. But I guess that Born which focuses on The Dark Tower and newest release Arkansas which seems to focus on Cowboy lore are both admirable records in their own right. These guys have always tread their own path and this album is a result of that. Go pick it up on the band's bandcamp page.

(4 Tracks, 16:00)