Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mourning Soul - Ego Death Ritual I (2016)

Like many black metal projects, Mourning Soul have actually been around for a while (2003) yet have just now released their debut album. Sometimes it really takes a while to get your footing and that's what these guys show off pretty well here. The record was originally a one man project helmed by Sacrifice (Rovina, SID) but has since become a stronger three-man project with the addition of Decrepit (Legione, Tul, Velchans) on guitars and Nocturnal Fog (Exaltatio Diaboli) on drums. That leaves Sacrifice to handle the bass and vocals, which he does a fantastic job of. The vocal style here isn't the raspy sort of scowl you might expect and features a bit more depth and meat. It feels more mature and almost reminds me a bit of Nergal's vocal approach in Behemoth. Though the music is definitely a bit different from that of Behemoth, even though we're obviously hearing a black metal act that doesn't mind mixing in grooves and thrash instead of just tremolos and blast beats all the time. I like these kinds of records, because they give me something more to chew on then the same damn thing I'm offered time and again. One time a listening session comprised of three “classic style black metal acts” which all sounded the same and literally went in one ear and out the other. Yet when I hear an act like this, it's even tough to call it black metal and it might even piss off the purists, which is good. They need a little change every now and again, and another shade of grim. Again, I feel that what Mourning Soul is doing here is definitely more mature and surely more textured than the vast majority, even adding in all those French Deathspell Omega emulations. Just in listening to “The Cold Embrace Calls Me” I'm hearing several different layers, every one of them sounding no less forlorn or morose than the others. You can definitely bang your head and get a lot of frustration out with this sort of sound, even though you might hear a glimpse or two of keyboards. Granted, these aren't the starlight galaxy kinds of keyboards that create an atmosphere either. They're just there to add a little more depth to the performance and you might not even notice them. There's also a sort of demonic moan utilized on the record at times that make Sacrifice sound like a vengeful spirit.

Mourning Soul are also the kind of act that like to play around with electronic soundscapes in order to make things sound even more frightening, and I love that about them. There are some definite atmospheric pieces here like “Ultima Solitudo” and the unsettling closer to the album that follows after “The Judgement Of Gehenna” that will make the hairs stick up on the back of your neck. But even if you don't like these sorts of things on other albums, I think you'll appreciate them here. As I said, this is what I would consider a very mature and truly grim black metal release that sounds exactly like what we should be doing in 2016. It's also very thick, almost sludgy and definitely carries a bit of fog with it. The leaflet here recommends these guys for fans of Marduk, Temple Of Baal and Watain, but I don't think you even have to be a fan of those bands to like Mourning Soul. They stand on their fucking own and make the kind of music they want to make. If we weren't talking about the Tongue-In-Cheek notions behind our site's moniker and literally focused on records with a grim atmosphere, than Ego Death Ritual I would most certainly be one of the most grim and adventurous records I've ever heard. I repeat myself, if you're wondering what black metal should sound like fifteen years after it's birth in the mid-nineties, then look no further than what has been achieved here. Mourning Soul are by far one of the most interesting acts I've heard in a genre plagued with copycats. They're one band that I can say don't care about traditions or trends – they just want to play music, and they do a rather fine fucking job of that. Definitely one of the year's best black metal releases.

(9 Tracks, 45:00)

9/10

Church Of Misery - ...And Then There Were None (2016 Bonsai Bonus)

Japan's Church Of Misery never really have disappointed as far as I'm concerned and the stoner/doom metallers continue with their anti-trend/anti-corporate attitude in the vein of yet another potent doom release. Needless to say, doom isn't very popular in Japan for some reason and I haven't heard this approach from too many other bands in the region. Needless to say, quality is better than quantity and that's exactly what you'll get here. Musically, it reminds me of something like Corrosion Of Conformity, EyeHateGod, Black Sabbath, Acid Witch, Electric Wizard or Cathedral, except with a much coarser, almost demonic vocal approach at times. The band love playing around with psychedelics as you're going to hear in a few places (the album opener “Hellbenders” begins especially with psychedelics, right after a murder – it could be taken as the soul's ascension to the otherworld in a way) but more than anything else on this disc, I hear the good old blues. There's not a goddamn thing wrong with the blues, and there wouldn't really be a metal or even a rock music in general without them. Elvis certainly had his blues numbers, but what we're talking about is far from Elvis, even though the feeling is definitely still there. Take out the harsh vocal approach and the murder references and you've got yourself a thumping blues album. 

Normally I go through these Bonsai Bonuses track by track, but this is one album where I don't really think that's necessary and that's not because this album is a sub-par disc or not worthy of such coverage, but because it's pretty straightforward and I don't feel the need to have to talk about or defend certain approaches. There's nothing about Church Of Misery that even feels normal for Japanese rock or metal and I don't even think the J-Metal term works to describe these guys. Trust me, the roots of heavy metal are found here, and seeing as these guys have been around since '95, there's really no need to introduce them. The listener is going to get a memorable doom experience that I feel is very classic, pretty grotesque and altogether fucking awesome. If you love really sadistic lyrics and catchy as hell blues, then you're going to eat this one up. It's the kind of disc that you enjoy for the base element (blues, groove, solos, psychedelics) but every now and again the band will add in some extra bits here and there to keep you entertained. You know, if I was looking for a good dose of bluesy doom with enough insanity for my depraved mind (guro, guro, guro!) then I'd definitely find this one a pick up and play. There's not a bad song here, with all six (not counting the instrumental section, “Suicide Journey” which definitely goes out there a little bit) delivering exactly the kind of classic approach we'd expect, with a little bit more modernism in the harsh vocals, and a little more imagination in some areas than you'll get with other bands. If you've got to have doom, you've gotta have ...And Then There Were None.

(7 Tracks, 43:00)

8/10

The Fading - Till Life Do Us Part (2015)

Israel's The Fading are a pretty promising melodic death metal outfit, especially having won the Wacken Metal Battle back in 2008. Their sound is unmistakable for fans of Soilwork, Scary Symmetry, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and you know the rest. The record was recorded in Israel, then handed over to Jens Borgren who mastered it in Sweden. Now I'm not real sure if it's Borgren's mastering or the band's skill that really makes for a memorable album, but I will say that what I've heard here is definitely the genuine article. While these guys aren't really approaching anything groundbreaking with the record, it's still truly solid melodic death metal that I feel purists will completely enjoy. I've been listening to this stuff just as long as many of you readers have and I can tell right where the Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates, In Flames exc, influences are on each song. “A Moment of Insight” for example sounds a lot like Dark Tranquillity, maybe with some In Flames nodes in the chorus line that I wouldn't hear from the former. “Where Last Hope Dies” sounds just like In Flames at their prime and is not too heard to dissect, while “Solitude Express” comes pounding in with an At The Gates feel that could also be compared to Dark Tranquillity/In Flames. Are you getting the idea yet? Till Life Do Us Part sounds like a celebration of melodic death metal at it's best and I really think a lot of people are going to enjoy it, especially if they missed out on it last year. Paul Mitiyanine is the sole guitarist for this project, and he's pretty fucking amazing. Yeah, he hits the familiar melodeath notes, but he also lets loose on some really nice leads and sparkling solos. There are still some sections that could be brightened a bit and I'd really like to hear these guys do a song that's longer than four minutes, but what we're given is certainly not bad.

At least the cuts do have some sections where they break off and form something that doesn't sound so derivative. It's not a big leap as these guys tend to use too much of the same riff structures and I don't remember melodeath being that bland (or maybe it was, until the bright leads kicked in) but it does work for the formula and I won't in any means knock it. Ilia Badrov has a terrific mixture of scowl and growl, but his cleans still need a little bit of work. There are many times through the record where I wish it just stuck to the harsh vocals. Maybe with some clean vocal coaching the guy can pull off some better vocal harmonies, but he can scowl his fucking ass off, so it's not really a big deal for me. For most people, this whole record is going to be based purely on nostalgia and that's what it is for me. Till Life Does Us Part sounds like a classic melodic death metal album and that's it's biggest strength. These Israelis take an “if it ain't broke” approach that clearly works. Two albums in the bucket and they're still going strong. Melodeath purists need to pick up this one for sure. It's as bare bones to the approach as it gets. You're welcome.

(12 Tracks, 44:00)

7/10

Coffin Lust - Manifestation Of Inner Darkness (2016)

When I was doing “First Impressions” on our FB page (that's an exclusive to our page, by the way) I had gotten a comment from what I believe to be one of the members of Coffin Lust, urging me to give their album another listen. The Australian act have been around since 2010, released a demo in 2012 and finally got this old slab of death metal together in 2016. According to Metal Archives, they're death metal and that's certainly what I'm hearing here. You know, just in case you didn't see my “old slab of death” comment until now. These guys definitely make that warm and fuzzy kind of death that's a bit old and crusty as well, but damn we can never really get enough of it. You know the bands, you know the sound – and Coffin Lust have it. Surprisingly, the album cover for this one isn't a black and white graveyard or ritual sacrifice scene, but it still looks and feels just as grim as the record itself. This two piece is made up of two gentlemen who are also playing in Azrael's Harem, Impious Baptism, Nocturnal Graves and Sithlord. Previously, they've played in (whoa, this is a lot of bands, folks) Funeral Twilight, Evilintent, Crucifire, Aphasia, Destroyer 666, Destruktor, Hobbs' Angel Of Death (accredited for being one of the first extreme bands in Australia) Cerekloth, Trench Hell and several live stints for Denouncement Pyre as well as Toxic Holocaust and Zemial. Did you see any good bands in that list? Because believe me, I saw a fucking ton of them. So it should go without saying that the crusty slab you're getting here is one made by quality musicians for quality listeners. It sounds classic, because it is classic. Now I will say that on the technical side of things I'm having a tough time discerning some of the more melodic sections of the record and they tend to get buried in the mist (you'll hear what I'm talking about) but that's not really enough to dissuade me from the record, and I'd say the same for you. Coffin Lust bring the worlds of death and doom together, and they do it with the spirit of the old days, which I think is going to appeal to practically every old head out there. I know that some guys are pretty serious when they say, “the rawer and the meaner, the better!” and that's what you're getting here. This thing is raw, it's vile and it's well-meant. It's the kind of record that someone's going to blast as loud as they fucking can, because it's the kind of unruly death metal that grandma used to make many years ago. These guys knew what kind of death metal they wanted to make and Manifestation Of Inner Darkness clearly cements that.

Once again, I'd really love it if I could hear some of the solos a bit louder, but I know there's some guy out there bitching at me right now saying something in the tone of “You can't hear them? Turn up your volume! I've been listening to metal for forty years now and I can't hear a damn thing! But when I turn up these speakers, you can bet that I can hear those goddamned solos!” so if that's really true, then I have to respect that. Manifestation Of Inner Darkness is indeed the kind of classic slab that you'd buy a vinyl for. I've expressed my thoughts on vinyl for a long time now, but there are those guys out there who just never quit listening to vinyl records and this is one of those that they're either going to want in their collection, or they've already got in their collection after having listened to it dozens of times. Sometimes when you make death metal, it doesn't have to have all the newfangled stuff to be relevant. I love experimental stuff, but I also like when a band kills it with a classic style. This record sounds like it was a product of a couple of beers, some great jam sessions and an all-around killer fucking time. If you like classic death metal discs, you'll definitely love this grooving, thrashing, doomy bastard child of Satan. Raise your horns, grab a beer and play it full-blast! Loud enough that not only you can hear the solos, but that the whole neighborhood can hear the solos. Loud enough so that the police aren't coming over to your place because someone called them, but because they can't even think straight due to how loud your music is. (Has that ever happened before?) Whatever the case might be, you'll definitely enjoy this one if you're looking for a truly old school approach.

(8 Tracks, 44:00)

8/10

The Burning Dogma - No Shores Of Hope (2016)

Italy's The Burning Dogma have been around for much longer than you may have expected, even though they've just now put out their first formal debut. The band began in 2006, released a live CD in 2010, followed by an EP in 2012 and then this recording of which I'm listening to right now. As with all albums I review, this isn't the first time I've listened to it, and I can still hear now how the whole “doom/death” moniker might need to be changed a great deal from what Metal Archives has for them. That's because ladies and germs, The Burning Dogma are so much more than a mere “doom/death” act. As a matter of fact, these Italians seem to write whatever kind of metal they want to play and care not for genre-constrictions of concerns. Melodic death metal? Check. Technical death metal? Check. Electronic atmosphere? You got it. Groove death? Yep. While the band never really jump into black metal, they still do quite a bit of genre hopping and really don't mind capping the heavy stuff at times for electronic melodies and whirls. Maybe the new branding for these guys could go something like “melodic death metal/electronic” and yeah, that also involves a female vocal approach at times. She's not credited, but she does a great job from what I've heard and will hopefully stay in the band. In any case, the frontman elicits either a throaty growl or a harsh scowl (which is expectable, but I seldom hear anyone trying a different vocal approach for this genre of music) that I feel definitely goes with the death metal aspect of the band, and certainly compliments the female vocals when they're utilized. He also uses a clean vocal sometimes, as we might expect and I've no complaints with either the harsh or clean approaches here. They're both solid and work with the material. But when you listen to No Shores Of Hope, you can't just expect a song to come off ungodly heavy at the start and to be honest, there are only seven real tracks of real metal on this thirteen track release. The rest of these pieces equal out to seven minutes of electronic interludes which some might find a little unnecessary until you find out what kind of band these guys are. Sometimes they'll throw in electronics for a second just because they can, but it certainly does work to an experimental edge. That really depends on the listener though. If you're willing to sit aside your heaviness for a few seconds while these guys play around with spatial atmospheres, then I think you're going to like what they've crafted here.

This being said, let's talk about what I haven't mentioned yet, the riffs and the playing. There are two guitarists in the band and both seem to give it their all. I'm noticing a great deal of memorable riffs and some rather light but noticeable solos. These compositions feel like the product of a great deal of time and effort, so I'm glad that they're finally getting their chance to shine on this release. When combined with the synths and electronic pieces, they seem to stand out rather well too, but these guys seem like they want to pile on the electronics and that might be too much for the death metal listener. These kinds of bands become more cult-natured than anything else and often lead listeners into confusion. We often wonder as to whether or not these guys want to be a death metal style act, or an electronic one and perhaps that will be revealed in time. They certainly have the elements of both and know when to make things menacing, as well as when to make them sound like they came out of a science fiction movie marathon. It will be a very challenging disc for the listener as it's not easily accessible, but perhaps that's a good thing. One of the lyrical topics that the band are accredited with is left wing politics (oddly enough) which I'm not completely hip to, but even being a bit of a red-pill, I'll recommend this disc. That's because I'm not here to judge bands on their political standings, I'm here to judge them on their musical performances. Saying little more, I think that metal listeners have something to look forward to from Italy's The Burning Dogma and I really hope that this won't be the last one they release. It's a strong debut, a little different (and that's okay) but strong nonetheless. There's quite a bit of promise here and I'd most certainly recommend it.

(13 Tracks, 49:00)

8/10

DAM - Premonitions (2016)

Brazil's DAM have released a new EP, a few years after the release of their latest album, The Awakening (2014). Now the last EP they released was also in 2014, right before the release of said album, so it is possible that they're prepared to do the same with their next disc as well. There's a slight differentiation from the band's previous material here, but it only lasts for about four minutes or so and doesn't really hold a bearing on the rest of the record. If you like Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates, In Flames and a whole lot of keyboards, then you're still going to find something to like here and that has not changed. As a matter of fact, let me just address the elephant in the room right now. That track in particular is called “Untouchable (My Past Mistakes)” and it has a bit of a Goth/death feel, maybe like they tapped into Graveworm or were a bit influenced by The Deathstars. There's no industrialization to be found here, but the track does feature an unexpected female vocalist. It almost feels like they're trying to be early Tristania/Sirenia and I suppose that's fine, but a lot of DAM fans are going to wonder exactly what the hell is going on and I couldn't blame them, as this piece is by and large different from anything else on the album. It's so different, that they should have just released it under a different band name altogether. Folks, when I say that this doesn't even sound like DAM, I mean it.

As for the rest of the tracks? Business as usual, just like I said. Every single other piece is fast paced, full of atmosphere as well as ravenous drum tapping which is ultimately beefed by the guitar and keyboard compositions. What seems to have made DAM so great is their attention to detail in these areas, and I really think that's what the listener is going to hear as well. The clean vocals are strong as well, and they help – but as far as the harsh approach goes, it's not anything that I couldn't do personally and wouldn't consider it that amazing. Let's be honest though, I'm not promoting DAM's new EP among others because of the vocal element, I'm promoting it because they've got skill and talent, which they keep showing on each and every record. Premonitions is the kind of record that only shows the very best of what they're capable of and doesn't really need to be followed up with a full-length right away. Though that will probably be the case with this disc, it doesn't have to be and gives the listener more than enough quality material to chew on, even if we took “Untouchable” off the disc and threw it into the woods somewhere. Chopping away the cut, you'll still get thirty-four minutes of memorable music that sounds exactly we've expected from DAM and that's nothing to whine about. There are even some unexpected jazz and prog theatrics injected into closer “Frustration (Imprisoned Dreams)” which when combined with everything else turn it into a rather memorable moment, and a brilliant place to end the listen. I feel that the listener will feel satisfied after the record has ended, and as I said, we don't really need more right now after this. These gentlemen have literally put everything they've got into these tracks and you can hear that quite clearly. DAM are only getting better, which leads to experimentation that sometimes will work for them, and sometimes will not. As far as “Untouchable” is considered, I feel that it really is a strong song and I'd love to hear more like it in a possible different act, but it just doesn't sound like the neoclassical melodic death metal that we know and love from these Brazilian masters of the art. They've still yet to release their magnum opus, but whatever comes after Premonitions may very well be just that.

(6 Tracks, 39:00)

8/10

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Diamond Head - Self-Titled (2016)

As a first time listener of Diamond Head, I know very little about them. I had a tough time getting into their earlier work, but most of what I heard from them were singles on satellite radio ages ago. I was still a teenager and my tastes in music hadn't quite matured to what they are now (even though I'll admit that I still enjoy a lot of stuff I listened to as a teenager.) In any case, I wasn't expecting a heavy metal album from these guys, and it's not what I got from them either. Diamond Head come from the days when bands like Motorhead, Black Sabbath and even Mercyful Fate were just considered rock n' roll. Lemmy never considered himself a metal musician and he never thought of the band as a metal band. Motorhead were always rock n' roll and that's what Diamond Head has delivered here, flawlessly.

Now I've been reading the Metal Archives reviews regarding the bands last couple of albums, and never have I seen lower scores for an act. They're in the twenties and thirties, which is practically unreal. So I'm not sure what happened, but given the eight years after the band's previous release, What's In Your Head (2008) it would seem that they've gotten their shit together, as a bit heavier sound that's quite reminiscent of Led Zeppelin seems to have formed out of this one. Interestingly enough, the band was poised to become the next Led Zeppelin and failed miserably in that after being signed to MCA Records many years ago. But one thinks, if they'd released an album like this, they might have had a better chance. Simply put, Diamond Head is the kind of record that just sounds like the formula done right.

I'm hearing dozens of solos, loads of memorable rhythms, and a vocal performance from new frontman Rasmus Bom Anderson that I'd just consider pretty mind-boggling. There's absolutely no denying the classic Led Zeppelin influences here, and Diamond Head may as well have made another classic-era Led Zeppelin record with this album, but I think it's the kind of thing that will find a lot of appeal. As I said, you're actually getting riffs and solos here, especially on near-epics like “All The Reasons You Live” and the meditative trance, “Silence.” Yeah, I know. I'm already waiting for it – a reviewer is going to hear “Silence” and immediately think that the band might be completely ripping off Led Zeppelin, but even if it's obvious that things have been borrowed, it still sounds very good. It's like playing a very good fan made game, which manages to come in as as strong (or sometimes even stronger) than the original product. This record even features the orchestrations and oriental soundscapes that we'd expect from the band they're emulating, which isn't a terrible thing. If you're going to copy Zeppelin, at least be sure to do it justice, which has been done here.

As I said, I'm not familiar with the band's first two NWOBHM albums, Lightning To The Nations or Borrowed Time, so I can't talk about what they used to do or how great of a band they may have been in their earlier, heavier era. But what I can say here, is that the listener is getting a 100% classic rock-fueled record that feels very much like Led Zeppelin in their prime. It goes without saying that this is more or less what the band was attempting to do almost twenty years ago, and I'm really glad that they've finally been able to pull it off after a nearly forty year existence. Andersen is a fine new fit for them, as Brian Tatler and Andy Abberley play up an absolute storm. I went into the disc not knowing what to expect, but I found my toes tapping and fingers tapping along while I was buying groceries, and I think that several other listeners will find the same things happened to them. It's just good rock n' roll and it's done right, with the essence and spirit that make the genre what it is today. I'd definitely give it a listen, as it simply has to be better than the last couple of releases they've put out.

(11 Tracks, 48:00)

7/10

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hyperion - Seraphical Euphony (2016)

The debut album from Sweden's Hyperion is already getting some good reviews and has garnered a 93% on Metal Archives from some new reviewer I've never heard of. I just never referred to melodic black metal as a game, but I imagine it would be a pretty interesting one nonetheless. Formed from members of Mist Of Misery, Everwhere and Rest Area Effect, this act has been around since 2010, when they first decided to release a demo, which someone found to be better than this album. Considering the fact that all three of those demo tracks are here on this full-length (Blood Of The Ancients, Moral Evasion and Primal Cosmic Asendancy) there's no need for you to track it down and this nearly an hour long performance will do nicely. I could tell you that they sound like Dissection, but so do many other bands in this style and that doesn't say so much. Just know that you will definitely hear grim tremolos as well as rather bright lead melodies and even some solo sections. In addition to that, we've also a barrage of synths at time, which help to enhance the grandiosity of a couple of these tracks. Synths aren't used in every song, but they do appear here, so if you don't like synths (and some people don't) then you probably won't enjoy the entire record. We have acoustic riffs, as well as some spoken word sections quite like you'll find on melodic death metal albums. Truth be told, it's a formula that we've heard a hundred times over, and we'll be fine with hearing a hundred more times. That's because Hyperion does it right. Sure, we had to wait six years for this record, but it honestly seems like it was worth it. The reviewer over at Metal Archives tagged them as melodic black, even though there's far too much oomph in this record to fall under that kind of simplification. That's why I feel that their actual classification, “melodic black/death” fits a hell of a lot better. “Flagellum Dei” fucking pounds with the might of a steam engine, same with “Empyrean Yearning” and practically every track other than the useless intro “Remnants Of The Fallen.” I understand that it's supposed to be a buildup to “Novus Ordo Seclorum” but I honestly just see most people skipping it entirely or deleting it out of the folder once they've bought the digital from the band's Bandcamp.

That being said, the band still like to begin nearly every song on the record with an acoustic intro (except for “Novus Ordo Seclorum” and “Zephyr Of Grace”) and in doing so, we can appreciate them a little more as part of the songs. You could just go right to the heavy part on closer “Blood Of The Ancients” but it just wouldn't sound quite so damn majestic. That aforementioned in particular, which was obviously more about structure and style than merely blasting the drums and scowling incoherently, which certainly does happen. Yet we also hear something on the track that we don't hear on the rest of the album, and that is frontman Henry Laureans' clean vocal approach. It is dark, forlorn and worked to remind me just a hint of Johan Edlund. Other than those vocals, we of course hear some absolutely immense guitar solos (which shouldn't cut off, cutting off guitar solos at the end of an album is a big no-no, which means I have to wait for a YouTube performance to stream so that I can hear the whole song – he was right in the middle of an awesome melody too!) at the end of the disc of which three gentlemen can actually be accredited to! That's actually something quite rare in bands, as normally I'll either see that there's one or two guitarists in the act, but the fact that these guys have three is pretty insane. Seraphical Euphony is a record that certainly utilizes such a mass number of guitarists quite well, and features hordes of dazzling and brilliant solos on many of the other tracks (which do not get cut off by the way) which really work to decorate most of the musical matter that you'll hear on the disc.

While it's still a heavy album with thrashing black metal moments as well as those with an obviously more death metal and even groove-laced feel, there's an awful lot of beauty here and I think as a whole it's much more than we could have ever bargained for or expected this year. I'm not saying that metal is on the wane, but there are far less intriguing discs than there used to be, as dying trends struggle to survive while truly classy and thought provoking albums like this are usually pushed behind or buried in a sea of more popular and recognizable releases. I really hope that enough people will really sit down with this album as they should, and give it the time and attention it deserves. Mixing dark and light elements like this is somewhat difficult to do, and to do quite so well as these guys have done; so I'd definitely consider it worth your money. Every bit, including the track with the cut-off guitar solo because maybe your autism over it won't be quite so bad as mine. (Deep breaths, Eric.) There are some really stellar hits on this one, which I think you're going to appreciate quite a bit. I've listened to the disc twice already and still don't feel as though I've cracked the shell of it yet. Hyperion have really made a masterpiece of an album and I have no idea how they're going to top it. Some might say perhaps that they've gone a little too much into the realms of common blast-laden black metal and perhaps should step it more with the progressive/technical side, but I feel that the style here will appeal more to fans of that old Dissection style than something a bit more convoluted. I'm not really sure as to whether or not this album is a perfect 10/10 or an awesome 9/10, but I think that's the kind of answer we'll receive in time. If they can outdo themselves in the next couple of years with a new release, they'll definitely get a ten from this reviewer. But for right now, on this date and time, I'm going to consider a smashing album like this something of a nine. Should you still get it? Of course you should. Don't ask such a silly question. If you love superb melodies and solos injected into black and death metal as much as I do, then you're going to love this one. I mean, really love this one. We very well may not get anything this grandiose in the melodic black/death realms for the rest of the year... and it's still only April. I believe that truly says it all.

(9 Tracks, 52:00)

9/10

Ritual Chamber - Obscurations (To Feast Upon The Seraphim)

This Californian death metal project completely composed by a man by the name of Numinas is just one of his many, many acts. Most of these he has no longer taken a part of or has disbanded, but apparently he still plays in Krohm and Vetus Obscurum. Most will remember him for his work in New Jersey funeral doom/deathers Evoken. Ritual Chamber however, doesn't really sound anything like Evoken – well, not entirely. We're still crypt crawling on this one, as we are faced with extremely fuzzy and terribly misty atmospheres which work perfectly with the oddly eerie riff structures and horrendous vocal growls emanating from the artist. Synths are even used to paint an even darker and more mysterious portrait. I won't even beat around the bush here, this is the kind of music that I'd switch out the soundtrack of a good horror game to play in the background, because it just sounds more dreadful than the shock of angry violins at the moment of jump scare. It would also work for a horror shooter, something where you take on Lovecraftian demons. Not surprisingly, the band's demo was called The Pit Of Tentacled Screams (How do screams have tentacles?) and I feel that this kind of music fits that kind of virtual atmosphere perfectly. Though there are actually some guitar solos featured on the disc (I was actually a bit surprised by this) it's the kind of disc that you could consider more of a soundscape if only the lead riffs didn't make such a strong appearance. Granted we have an awful lot of tunneling bass nodes here, but the leads come in at times which I'd say disrupt the atmosphere he's trying to convey. There's enough structure here on the performance to keep us from lulling off into a nightmare world (the disc can be admittedly slow) and sometimes those riffs that can break the atmosphere actually work to build dread, so it's a literally “damned if you do” sort of sensibility. “A Parasitic Universe” for example, sounds like the most dreadful thing to hear at either the opening or the credits for a horror film (probably would be better without the vocals there though) but then it slowly merges it's way into becoming an unexpected death metal basher. Obscurations... definitely feels like the kind of record that you can't completely predict, with absolutely horrifying pieces trudging up out of nowhere. If Numinas' goal was to make a spine-tinglingly death metal induced atmosphere, then he's most certainly done it with this one. If feels like you're trapped in an underground tunnel with no source of light and who knows what else lying in wait. If you're looking for music to play while horrendous beasts are sucking down your entrails like Twizzlers, then you'll want to pick this one up immediately.

(9 Tracks, 59:00)

8/10

Palace Of Worms - The Ladder (2016)

The Ladder represents this Californian black metal act's first full-length effort in six years. After years of splits with Mastery (good in small doses), Botanist (good, depending on the kind of album he releases) and Thoabath (I've never heard these guys) the one man project finally decided to release something a little bit different than his work in Botanist. Yes, Balan here is also the mastermind behind Botanist and he's giving us something much different than we'd receive in said act (of course.) We start out with “The Twilight Divide” which definitely gives off that black metal atmosphere and attitude, though it also injects some actual atmosphere into the mix, as in a lengthy middle-piece in which to contemplate. Then we have “From The Ash” which seems to be a little more simpler and does it's job. After that, things begin to change and genre hopping soon begins. Death/Doom is heavily explored with “Nightworld” even though it defaults back to black metal (as well as some unexpected female chanting and vocals) yet once again goes back into the cold and forlorn tones of doom once again. An electronic piece comes in shortly thereafter, seeming a bit out of place and perhaps like something that might play during a science-fiction based FPS, but that rolls back into what I would consider an even more sullen form of metal in “Strange Constellations.” Like most compositions here, that doesn't quite stay the same and soon involves progressive sections as well as another moment of silence and some more good old doom. Then we get to “Wreath” where things start to take a major turn, which isn't black metal at all. As a matter of fact, it reminds me a little bit more of the Gothic rock of mid-era Antahema or even Sisters Of Mercy. Didn't see that one coming did you? But I certainly can't say that I'm upset with it, because finally this guy gives me something that I can really sink my teeth into. We get one more black metal cut in the form of “Ephemeral Blues” which isn't really blues at all. Despite it's length, it's pretty straight-forward, a bit bland and I could have done without it. Just sounds like a track I've heard before done by a different artist.

In any case, the performance here delivered shows a much different and far bleaker side from Balan. Apparently he's going through some rather difficult things in his life right now, or has been exposed to the very worst of Tumblr (either will drive one to insanity) but the end result has been one of presence, it feels very much alive and evokes the sort of personal sense that one can only get when they're making a record that isn't only coming from their ideology and worldview, but from their own sense to explore the medium of music in a much different way than others might expect. Those who know this gentleman by his real name know that he's an experimental black metal artist (well, some of them – I doubt his grandmother knows) and probably never would have suspected such doomful dirges to ready their approach into familiar frostbitten corridors of which most listeners are quite familiar. It's still black metal, I suppose – there's definitely the black metal/doom/experimental tags being thrown around here and that simply goes without saying. Though compared to his work in Botanist, I'd consider Palace Of Worms by and large more interesting. I hope it won't be another six years before we get another helping. Balan needs to let his plants soak in the sun lamps for a while, and tend to his, uh... worm-ridden palace. At least I tried, folks.

(7 Tracks, 46:00)

8/10

Ragestorm - The Thin Line Between Hope and Ruin (2016)

Italy's Ragestorm originally started out as a joke back in 2004, but the band have been going on for more than a decade now. In all that time, they've never released a major debut and we finally have that here in the raw, but meaningful The Thin Line Between Hope and Ruin. The lyrics are based on various conspiracies, some of which I believe are possible, while others are truly science fiction. (I believe that Reptilians are a joke that Icke personally uses to discredit and not draw too much attention to some of the other more considerable things he mentions, yes – regardless of the books he's written. You'll do a lot when you're trying to government agencies off your back.) In any case, we get a mixture of melodic death and groove metal, which still sounds at a bit of an infantile stage, yet still manages to make a dent. “Acid Tears” sounds like one of the better mid-era Hypcorsy tracks, while closer “Reaching The Impossible” reminds me a little more of Insomnium. You'll also hear Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and At The Gates references here, there's no getting around that.

My only problem with the record is that there simply isn't enough here to really differentiate them from other melodic death metal acts of both the past and present. I'm hearing some nice leads here and there, some sweet guitar solos every once in a while and whatnot – but aside from a little electronic piece in “Hari Sheldon's Speech Feat. The Boylerz” there's not much here that really distinguishes these guys from other acts. They're just kind of run of the mill melodic death metal, and they'll need to really step it up a notch before I can really take notice of them. Granted, the record is a solid listen that has it's share of memorable bells and whistles, but I don't think it's anything to write home about yet.

That being said, these guys should definitely keep going and hopefully the next record will offer a little bit more or even a great deal more than this one. You know, it could be the fact that the vocals are so damn loud and the guitars are pushed so close to the back that the whole listen just rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps the frontman just needs to turn himself down a notch or two and see how it sounds. Go back and listen to some of those early melodic death records – I never remembered the vocals being that high in the mix. As a matter of fact, I'd rather it if I could barely hear the vocals among the instruments because that's how it used to be. The vocals were there, but they were just a different instrument. Think of In Flames Whoracle for example. That's a favorite of mine and I'm sure it's one of yours too. Never were Anders' vocals that loud in the mix. Let's even go to Japanese melodeath like Veiled In Scarlet. You can't really hear the vocals that much, but they're there. What you do notice is the melodies, the leads. I know it's too late to repress the record, but these vocals have just got to come down. I want to hear more of the guitars, more of the drums, more of the performance – not blaring vocals in my ear. If they'd fix this, maybe I could even come to give this record a better score. When one element is louder than the others, it kills the performance as a whole and I learned that while mixing our third album. Less is more.

All this being said and noted, The Thin Line Between Hope and Ruin is still just a first step for these guys, and it shows that they definitely want to be a serious melodic death metal act. They just need a little bit more work and we'll see where they go from there. It's a bit tough to recommend the disc, but I wouldn't shy you away from it if you were interested.

(11 Tracks, 52:00)

7/10

Imperium - Titanomachy (2016)

Formed from members of Trigger The Bloodshed and Cenotaph as well as former members of Boodshot Dawn and Prostitute Disfigurement (that would be the band's new vocalist, Doug Anderson) we have what is the first record from these guys since the Mayans predicted an apocalypse that never came. In any case, fans of Hate Eternal and The Black Dahlia Murder will probably enjoy this sophomore effort quite a bit, but there are just a ton of bands playing in this style and I feel that's one of the main weaknesses here in Titanomachy. A similar style might be fine for some, but I've heard this already and own several albums that sound very much the same. Just in flipping through these cuts a second time, I've noticed that no matter how killer these guitar solos are, they always seem to appear in the same spot for practically every song. That's completely fine too, but it doesn't really give me the listener anything new to chew on. Other than a lot of technicality and some rather engaging solos by the twin-guitar team of Mike Alexander and Rob Purnell, there's not much more to engage yourself with. I will admit that the playing certainly sticks out in the mix, but the base matter of the act just seems like a vehicle for these two to simply shred the hell out of their guitars. They could have just as well done this in any type of band, but it just happens to be this modern death metal act where they've chosen to do so. It's the kind of record where many things seem shoveled in despite their obvious brutality and aside from what I'd consider rather tasteful guitar engagements, I'm just getting a big heavy block of metal. You can definitely pick up this record for the shredding, but the rest of it really doesn't offer that much unless you like run of the mill modern death outputs. It just doesn't have quite enough of a bite for me, but I probably would have dug it years ago, especially if I hadn't listened to many other bands of this style before.

Having said this, I am by know means shoveling waste upon the guitar compositions here. I love my solos and could absolutely recommend the record based on those alone, but that seems to be all that it really offers. Take something like Whitechapel and add tons of solos, tons and tons of solos – and that's what you're getting with this one. Once again, there's nothing wrong with that and I know that some people are really going to dig it, but it's just not quite my bag. Maybe with a couple more listens it could grow on me, but as of right now I'm not getting the best second impression. If you've got to have your technical riffs and more solos than you can fit in a Greyhound bus, then go for it. I just need a little more substance, possibly not so much of the same style or tempo used in practically every song. That leans me to boredom, as not everything should just be ungodly hard and fast. Slow it down a bit gentlemen, you're not going to a fire.

(12 Tracks, 44:00)

7/10

Ferium - Behind The Black Eyes (2016)

Israel's Ferium are back again with their “ain't quite death metal” style of death and core, which doesn't seem to have changed all that much on this second outing, surprisingly. I'm almost shocked to see the band on Metal Archives, but I'm sure it was hesitantly. I guess like Heaven Shall Burn, Ferium seem to straddle the boundary between death metal and deathcore so well that they deserve a place among the halls of the mighty. That being said, I've always loved Heaven Shall Burn and still do. Though it is there that I notice a glaring problem, which is that I”m being exposed to a thirty-six minute deathcore album with only a few bells and whistles to make things interesting. Tiran Ezra's vocal style here is one step away from a gut-punch, and all of the breakdowns being hit on this record aren't helping matters any. There are some thrashy moments to be had here, but I feel that I have to literally skim through this thing in order to find something of merit. Case in point, “She Feels Like Home” which is the disc's interlude of sorts. For once, I'm actually hearing melodies and something that isn't a fucking breakdown or a gang-vocal. Following that we have “Seven Years Of Seven Level” which seems to continue the mood continued in the previous song with added piano and electronic influence. I hate to say it, but these might be the two most entertaining tracks on the whole album. Interestingly, there's a nearly eight minute cut here called “A Free Man” which seems to add the spoken word elements we heard during the interludes into a full track. The disc does end with a very good melody section, which proves that at least it manages to do something right on the metallic side. Though after my listen, I only have to ask myself the mere question; “What in the hell happened here?” I honestly didn't think these guys could do any worse than their debut Reflections, which actually had some merit. There were some good moments on the disc in spite of things. Yet what I've been exposed to here is nothing more than angry deathcore with little rhyme or reason. There is NO SUBSTANCE on this album period. It is literally the same song over and over again, sans the interludes and the disc's closer perhaps. The same angry grunts, the same basic breakdowns and the same djent, djent, djent, djent, djent. What am I supposed to do with this? I believe I passed this by until I received a physical copy for review, which now meant that I had to give it a full write-up as I'm doing right now. I know I have a friend that tends to enjoy this kind of stuff, so I think I'll pass it to them when I see them in a few months. That being said, there are people like him that will actually enjoy this one so I can't just completely tear the band apart. They made the kind of record they wanted to make, made a worse record than what they started with and gave me an utterly bland performance. I'm almost insulted. Even so, the interludes show that there is still “something” here and maybe they'll build from this in the future. It certainly can't be much worse than this. Anyone could have made this, so I wouldn't recommend it and there are much better acts out there. Even so, if you like deathcore, you certainly could do worse.

(9 Tracks, 36:00)

5/10

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Enthean - Priests Of Annihilation (2016)

Coming out of South Carolina, fans of Dissection, Frosthelm, Dimmu Borgir and Emperor need to take notice of technical black metallers Enthean. Priests Of Annihilation is their debut release, coming three years after the band's demo Tombs Of Desecration back in 2013. The album is a thunderous, yet rather grim and evil affair that utilizes as much of the keyboards as it does clean vocals and thrash riffs. There are also some symphonic nodes of atmosphere here, which sort of purvey the whole “epic” feeling such a band wants to embody. From the eerie synths and the blackened melodies, we can tell that these guys really love their symphonic black as much as they like their melodic blackened death. Yet there's also that groove/death kick, which none of us might be expecting, as well as some really tasteful and quite plentiful solo cuts that show a band not afraid to do some technical shredding. Brian Kingsland and Adam Broome make up the guitar and vocal section of the act, while Mitch Moore handles the drums and it's more or less a twin guitar solo frenzy akin to the Amott brothers on a couple of these tracks. We also get some rather tasteful progressive rock influence on longer tracks like “Before You, I Am” and the album's closer “Invalesc De Profundis” which injects a classic rock solo into the mix, just before we're pounded with a hefty triumphant march. I'll admit that it's a bit odd to hear more of a growl vocal on this record and I think I might have personally liked it more with a scowling black metal touch. That being said, I certainly think there's a lot of talent to be had here and that's in the playing in general. When the record sounds this good on an instrumental level, the vocals really aren't so important in the long run. Many people like to ask the question, “Well, how well can they play?” and my answer to that is “Very well.” Enthean play on this record as if they've been playing for decades, even if there are still some kinks to be worked out in all the symphonic stuff. This is the kind of band that's all about substance, regardless of the whole “epic synth” thing. Even if you removed all of that influence from the record, it will still perform just as strong as it does with the orchestral flair. There's quite a few symphonic death metal acts that I don't think would be as strong without their synths and orchestras, but these guys aren't one of them. Priests Of Annihilation is still a bit rough around the edges, but it's still worth picking up and certainly worth supporting. These guys don't even have a label yet, but after a performance like this one, they should soon. If you like technicality and orchestral flair in your black/death metal, then you owe it to yourself to embark on this musical adventure.

(8 Tracks, 46:00)

9/10

SOV - Aklamerad Kalamitet (2016)

SOV are a raw black metal act that differ a bit from other acts of their type, which is why I'm reviewing them. These guys like to utilize slight industrial elements, out of place guitar solos and completely out of character folk pieces that show the listener immediately that SOV aren't just another black metal band. While the tremolos are still there, and for the most part the blasts, there's enough in lieu of experimentation to make this kind of thing stand out a bit more than similar styles that you've already heard. The final two tracks on the album actually break the black metal formula completely for more of a dark/death metal feel, which once again utilizes more electronics. Especially on the disc's finale, where female vocals appear just as much as Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Rammstein level industrial electronic beats. SOV are a little hard to hear right now and I'm not really sure if they're going to get the recognition that they deserve from this effort. But if they keep up this level of originality and out of the box thinking when it comes to metal, there's no telling where they could go from here. I do recommend this one and I think you'll find something in it. Please give it a listen.

(6 Tracks, 24:00)

7/10

Illusions Dead - Celestial Decadence (2016)

Hailing from Finland, we have the debut from death/blackers Illusions Dead, which like Enthean proves that three people is really all you need to make a great band. It's admittedly a thick record where much of the production seems to have made many of the riffs a bit tough to discern, but if you turn it up a little you'll be able to hear much more of the melody and perhaps some of the technical moments fueling this onslaught as well. Johannes Katajamaki manages to put forth a hefty scowl, which certainly works a lot better with this than I think a growl would have. It would have honestly made things sound even muddier. (A growled vocal approach does appear on “Tormentor Of The Weak” and “The Way Of The Deceiver” however.) Nevertheless, his performance can be audibly heard and is quite fierce in spite of everything else. If you've got your volume turned up at this point, then you should be able to hear some of the truly gorgeous fucking leads on this record, so unfavorably stuffed behind the mist as “Shadow and Flame” portrays.

Katajamaki and Jake Lastujoki are both on guitar duty (also like Enthean, very bizarre) which admittedly leads to a great deal of expression in that department. You won't actually be hearing as much of a vocal implement here as you will the guitars, especially on a longer piece like “Revolution (Celestial Spheres)” which rounds out to almost seven and a half minutes in length. The drums also play a large role in the instrumentation of the band, as Akseli Auralianna blasts the kit as much as he provides an unexpected doom thunder. The Finns love their doom, so it doesn't surprise me that they'd experiment with that here and it definitely adds another notch to what begins as a rather melodic, though extravagantly evil during these doom moments that the musty atmosphere works to their advantage however, as I find myself grinning from ear to ear when my foot is placed in my mouth as that very growled vocal approach that I felt would make things more muddy actually seems to set them off without a hitch. Problem is, they can't keep it up for “The Way Of The Deceiver” which sees the growls drowned out completely by everything else. But I'll be lenient, as Celestial Decadence is still a rather solid disc and it's certainly worth listening to despite the fog... and yes, I do realize that some of you out there will actually like the foggy production as well. In any case, I think that these Finns have quite a bit to offer insofar as I've heard in this forty-five minute offering and so much ground is covered (especially the unexpected doom) that I think there's a lot of promise to be had here. Celestial Decadence is an album full of great riffs, powerful vocal performances and the very spirit of black/death/doom that I feel speaks for itself. Like some of the other bands I've reviewed this week, you'll need to give a couple of tracks a listen before you fully submit to this one, but it reminds me a little of some of those rougher Amon Amarth discs like The Crusher, so I wouldn't pass it by. As I said, turn up your speakers and then give it a listen. I think you'll like it better at a loud volume and the atmosphere it conveys seems to require a high amount of decibels. It's almost akin to haring them live, which certainly isn't a bad thing. At least we know that they can pull it off on the stage just as well as they have done here. There aren't a lot of bands that can actually say that these days, much as they would like to have you believe.

(8 Tracks, 41:00)

8/10

Efpix - Evil Sides (2016)

Evil Sides is the debut album from Russian industrial/melodic death metallers Efpix and if you're a fan of Russian electronic metal as well as acts like The Monolith Deathcult or doom/death like Swallow The Sun, then you're definitely going to find something here. Efpix aren't a band that like to beat around the bush, as bright synths and heavy riffs form the background instrumentation for harsh vocal choruses like “Now it's time to die, motherfucker!” in a song with virtually the same title. What's interesting about these guys (other than the obvious electro-death metal notions) is the fact that while they're basically a groovier form of death metal, the melodies in question seem to be emanating from the electronics rather than the guitars. It's sort of like Blood Stain Child in a way, but with much less of that In Flames/Dark Tranquillity influence. Admittedly, we will hear some melodic leads in places, but none more stronger than the album's strange closer “Above My Mind” which sounds more like something from Swallow The Sun or In Mourning than much of the previous work on the disc. While some of the compositions here can be seen as quite simplistic, the band are able to utilize them to the best of their ability and really create some powerhouse numbers like the more light hearted “Don't Try To Escape” and dark-tinged “Forget Me” which shines a little more than other tracks in that style due to it's use of starry electronics and a solo piece that I would love to hear a little bit better. Evil Sides does seem to suffer a bit from a very thick and hard to discern mix, as thick grooves and electronic elements all seem to sound like they've been mushed together. If they could get a bit more clarity with the next release, then I'm sure that they could really strike gold. Compared to other Russian electro-death acts of it's type, I find that I like the musicianship and the vocal performance especially, which usually is a make or break with a majority of these kinds of bands.

The record has enough going for it to stand on it's own, as this odd mix of death metal, gloom and electronica proved to be far more palatable than what you I expected. Evil Sides has a lot of substance and depth which is clearly the result of a band more apt to exploration and I very much champion that. The album's title track alone is well worth the purchase price, and even despite the mixing and clarity problems I've noted here, I still couldn't possibly turn down such a promising release. I definitely recommend you check out Evil Sides, though I'll add that it is important to give every track a chance. These guys didn't make an album where most of the songs sound the same, so keep flipping through until you find something you like. I have a feeling that you eventually will. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on these guys. You should do the same.

(10 Tracks, 45:00)

8/10

Sarvas - The Throne (2016)

In actuality, there are five people in this Finnish sludge/groove act, but it only sounds like there are about three or four. That's not always a good thing, but it does make for a pretty solid listen here. You're definitely getting a kind of post-metal and doom mixture, which some tend to categorize as sludge for some reason, but The Throne is not all it seems to be on the outside. Deep within the recording we'll find a more Finnish take on the performance, which includes a bit of folky acoustic guitar. There are still some electronic soundscapes to be had (at least from the intro to opener “Revelation Apparition”) as we might hear from similar acts, but these Finns haven't forgotten where they came from, nor do they overload us with so much doom that it becomes tantamount to staring at a large rock. Tatu Hutri (lead) and Tommi Blum (rhythm) actually help to offset most of the pounding riffs that Jonne Kekki (bass) brings to the table, and it keeps the listen interesting. Samuel Lindroos (vocals) is a pretty one-dimensional frontman though, which is where I think some improvement can be had. Clearly there's a lot of technicality as well as some extreme metal injections being implemented into this thick and sludgy mess, but a gritty roar seems to be all of the vocal capability that Lindroos possesses and that can make things a bit dull. Even so, he does put a lot of passion into those notes, which definitely pack more of a punch when combined with the attention to detail from Hutri and Blum that I mentioned earlier. I think the EP will still come off pretty entertaining and rather damn fierce anyway, especially for fans of the genre like myself. While Sarvas aren't the best sludge act in the world, they're extremely far from being the worst, and I'd definitely recommend The Throne to anyone looking for something more from their sludge. It's safe to say that this is a step in the right direction and it gives the genre some well needed ingenuity.

(3 Tracks, 28:00)

7/10

Putrisect/Scorched - Final State Of Existence Split (2016)

We have a two band split here, the first being an eleven minute offering from Maryland's Putrisect. Their side of the of the split offers both an intro and outro, while Scorched just give us an intro and in truth; I'd prefer that neither existed. Removing those, we're left with about nine minutes of grimy death metal, which sounds just like it came from the greats. Creepy leads? Check. Thick bass riffs that make it sound like they're playing from deep inside a crypt? Check. A drum performance that brings the right amount of heat and bravado to the record? Check. But there are also some modernisms here, maybe a little bit of technicality and whatnot to appeal to more modern death metal listeners and that's fine. In all honesty, I could do without some of the little technical whizzings on the record, but it later becomes apparent that they're trying to a make a sort of Swedish influenced tech-death and I guess I can accept that. It certainly comes off entertaining and brings more to the table than similar bands I've come across. At least these guys are trying to take the style in a different direction, and here's to hoping that they'll achieve success with it. At least there's more meat on this rotting corpse than I normally get and I can be thankful for that.

Scorched come from my home state of Delaware (born and raised there for the first sixteen years of my life) and they give us an eight minute performance with a similar style of technical death metal to Putrisect. I'm still getting the sloggy tombstones of the genre's past, but I'm also hearing some really great segues and notions of technicality than I heard with Putrisect. While I don't like the Gojira-influence in the first part of “Lust For Strangulation” the track soon moves past that and gives me a pretty interesting little death metal number. “Visceral Ascension” is even better and shows me a band that I can only recommend based on the sheer level of talent that I've heard here. These guys do classic death metal justice, but they put a spin on it that really seems to make it stand out. Putrisect are very much in the same class, and if this is something new in the scene, I'm all for it. You can dress up old death as much as you like – just make sure that it still sounds like old death!

In any case, my pick on this split would be Scorched, but both bands are highly recommended and I think even the older heads might be a little pleased with what they're hearing these young guys do. Face it, these guys could be grooving out to FFDP or whatever mainstream stuff is out there, but they decided to give those old discs a spin or two and saw where they could add on to that formula. I know, I know, If it's not broke... but there's no harm in attempting something a little different. Give this split a listen.

(8 Tracks, 20:00)

8/10

Monday, April 18, 2016

Entheos - The Infinite Nothing (2016)

Entheos is a technical death metal act made up of former members of The Faceless and Animals As Leaders. You can sort of imagine what this leads to, as the record not only contains the sort of progressive/technical influx that we'd expect from such an act, but it also seems to embrace electronic atmospheres, some of which are used in the background of certain tracks, while others become standalone pieces entirely. Those expecting a severe technical performance are certainly getting one here, complete with all the trimmings from thrash, death and even core semblances; even though I still feel the whole thing sounds like an indiscernible jumble of various ideas and extremities that sometimes work and other times simply do not. Guitar solos just seem to creep up sporadically, just as much as the electronic bits I've mentioned and there doesn't really seem to be a flow to this substance.
The Infinite Nothing can sound very ADD at times and seems like it's missing a real sense of riff-matter. I'm certainly not going to turn it away because of that, as the guys do come off rather fast and furious and what they deliver certainly comes off pretty interesting, much more than similar acts, especially in the deathcore realm of things.

If there's anything that I can really say came out to me here, it was indeed the electronic pieces and the tiny prog parts that gave the music a chance to breathe. You and I both know that there are several acts playing this kind of tech-death who've completely forgotten to give their songs air, and their records have caused me to suffocate quite a bit in the process. Yet here, I'm not getting that. While The Infinite Nothing is still a bit thick, slightly raw and mightily heavy; it does carry with it a sense of purpose and I feel that's what makes all of it's chaotic sporadity stick out. Even though you have to really dive in a bit before you start hearing some real riff-melodies (An Ever-Expanding Human) it's still worth checking out for those looking to stay in the more commercial realms of this genre. I hope that with the next album they'll branch out a little more. This is fine for now, but I want to hear something grander, possibly not so sporadic and not quite so one-dimensional in the vein of tech-death in the future. I feel that many of the same riffs and riff-structures are being used, with the band defaulting to breakdowns or little prog-parts when they're tired the speedy stuff that makes up most of this listen. Ultimately, the record is relatively solid and still worth checking out, but I'm afraid that I'm just going to have to hear a little bit more from them before I can really say I'm a believer.

(8 Tracks, 40:00)

7/10

Friday, April 15, 2016

Occult Burial - Hideous Obscure (2016)

At first listen, this record sounds like it might have come out thirty years ago, but it's actually brand new. Yeah, I know. It's hard to believe that three dudes from Canada were able to unearth the spirit of eighties black/thrash in a fucking basement somewhere, but that seems to be the case. Obviously you can already guess who inspired this band, acts like Holocausto, Venom and Sarcofago among many others – although I admit I'm hearing an awful lot of venom from this performance and that's just fine. This is actually the band's first full-length album and I'm enough of a believer in it to think that it'll even make old heads believers too. I'm just amazed by how lofi the production value on this thing sounds and how classic each track comes across. Joel Thomas is a hell of a scowler, who puts a lot of passion into his work. I'm even hearing some Mercyful Fate there when he hits the highs. You could also consider Mercyful Fate an influence here, and by all means early Bathory as well. Did I cover all the bases? Good. Dan McLoud's riffs sound literally like the very best of this genre, bringing in all the memorable thrash and gallops of the eighties roaring right back at us in all of their retro quality. Again, this record sounds like it was made in 1983, which is also why Dan Lee's drums sound like rat-tat-tats throughout the performance. The eighties weren't necessarily about destroying the kit, they were about really showing what you had on the guitar and delivering a great performance overall. You had to have riffs, because you couldn't get by with some of the other things that you can get by with in metal now. If there's one other musician that I think would dig something like this, it would be Sigh's Mirai Kawashima. He absolutely loves shit like this and posted online asking for some band requests a while back. So Mirai, if you're reading this; I can assure you that you're going to dig this one. It might be a new band, but these guys have truly captured that whole raw aesthetic that heavy metal music used to be. The songs aren't bland either, they actually have structure and purpose instead of just trying to utilize the same tempo or style for every piece. The fact that I am once again hearing real “riffs” make me very happy, in addition to some really incredible and quite audible guitar solos, despite the crackly production. If you're interested in getting your kids into metal and showing them what the music really is, and what it sounded like in it's prime, give them a copy of this. Occult Burial captures all the best of the genre's golden age in just a little more than a half an hour. I'd definitely give it a listen, even just for a history lesson. These guys show us what happened before Nu-Metal, Core, Djent and all that other stuff. Occult Burial is true heavy metal, hands down.

(9 Tracks, 31:00)

9/10

Prisoner Of War - Rot (2016)

There are two other bands by the name of Prisoner Of War/POW on Metal Archives as well, but these guys are nowhere to be found. The first band was a Jersey Groove/Thrash act, and the other is a North Carolinian Sludge/Doom act. All released EP's, which is what this record is as well. But can this New Zealand death and thrash combo do what the other POW's could not? They already released a demo back in '14 which gives them at least one more release than the other guys, and by releasing a full-length later, they'll officially be the only registered POW that managed to make it beyond demo days. Thankfully, the music here is well worth it, with a distinct war metal sound that goes equally well with the band's warlike lyrics. Yes, we can compare them to the great Bolt Thrower in that respect, but there's a bit more thrash, kick and groove here so it's not a slow trudge through the battlefield. Vocalist/Bassist Charred Remains gives us a fiendish approach here on the microphone with both his thick growls and horrendous scowls, which seem only beefed by the attention to detail offered up by Typhoid's guitar licks. This guy doesn't really mind pounding us with a little but of progressive-era Death, then rolling right into Destruction or early Venom territory right after. Sometimes they just want to take us right back into nineties death slabs with “Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay” which is just fine, because they prove that they can pump enough song structure and musicianship into a track that's only about a minute longer than your average grindcore number. That's pretty damn impressive, as I know very few bands out there that can even come close to that. These guys sound like they've been playing for a long time, and I think that's another thing I like about the New Zealand scene. A lot of metal acts over there seem to have respect for that classic sound and production, like their peers in Monsterworks – a band that I find just as good and praise rather heavily. POW are a much different sort of act though, and they've got a harder edge that I really think people owe it to themselves to go out there and discover. Rot offers an awful lot of potential within it's short playing time and only anticipates me for the band's next release. It's death, it's thrash, it's groove, it has a little bit of doom and some creepy prog parts. Simply put, it's the kind of thing we need right now in a scene where bands are either hopping on the bandwagon, or just trying to outright copy their influences. POW are familiar, yet different – and that's where the appeal to such a terribly horrifying death metal laced experience comes in. Get your hands on it now.

(5 Tracks, 21:00)

9/10

Piss Vortex - Future Cancer (2016)

I find it funny that while looking up some information on this act, I see “for booking or complaints, contact us.” Complaints? What kind of complaints could possibly arise from the sound of what seems a war in the underworld? These Dutch grinders released their record on the first of April, but Future Cancer is absolutely no joke. Between the fierce barrages of drums and guitars as well as the positively unruly vocals, the listener will feel as if they are being flattened by an oversized vice. These eleven minutes of mayhem will sound a lot longer than it actually is, yet it will feel like your eardrums are splitting apart, along with the rest of your world. I don't know if it's death, thrash, black, punk or prog, but I know that it has a little bit of all those things and makes for a sound that will wake anyone up from a sound sleep when played loudly enough. Piss Vortex make the kind of music that you'd be able to scare the shit out of people with, it's the kind of stuff that would jolt people awake and make them fiercely aggravated with you upon such a rude awakening. That being said, the disc does observe some lighter sections during it's final track, “Patterns Of Repetition.”

As you know, I'm not the biggest fan of most grind and find it a tough genre to get into, but there's something about the grind that these guys make that allows such a performance to stand out. They still aren't recognized by Metal Archives and I've no sane idea why, as there's enough chaos and metallic sensibility here to classify as such, but those guys have some very weird guidelines as to what classifies and you'd be debating until the cows came home, left again and then decided to come back home for the second time, before the crew over there came to some kind of agreement. Perhaps it's not true metal, but it is raucous, insane and the equivalent of madness. It's very hard to describe what is a tornado in a box, a hurricane in a box, a storm of blood and hellfire stuffed into a little eleven-minute box... but that's indeed what it is and I'd definitely give it a listen.

(6 Tracks, 11:00)

8/10

Project F - The Butterfly Effect (2016)

Project F are a sort of industrial Nu-Metal act with an interesting look that I can get behind. There are only five real tracks here aside from an intro and interlude, but if you like thick grooves and hard hitting choral angst like I did back when I was still cutting my teeth on heavy music, you'll find something here. I'm reminded a lot of the early stuff from acts like Deftones, American Head Charge, Mudvayne and Coal Chamber as well as the mid-era stuff that Transport League was doing. “Tongue” sounds so much like a Nu-Metal track that it's pathetic, but with such a loud and catchy chorus line, it works just as it's supposed to. “Cut Your Wings” doesn't really hit me so hard, but “Unbegun” hits a little harder and contains that sort of psychotic sense that I've always liked from this kind of music. Many of the electronic compositions work well with the more metallic elements of the band, so that helps to create the whole rusty industrial atmosphere of so many similar acts. “Fat Man” has the right idea as far as the angst, rage and punchy grooves of Nu-Metal are concerned and it makes it's point known pretty well. I'd definitely consider it one of the stronger points on the disc along with “Tongue.” These guys know what kind of music they want to make and are doing a great job with it. The last song is an outro, so technically there are only four heavy cuts here instead of the five I'd first mentioned, but that last track is technically nearly five minutes long even though it's a rather classy piano piece. “When The Angel Fell From The Sky” also contains that quote I've heard on ten and twenty albums, where Vishnu declares himself “death” and “the destroyer of worlds.” We're using this so much in metal that it might be a sort of unspoken mantra, but that's entirely beside the point. After my observance of this album, I consider Project F pretty promising even though I feel that this sounds like the early demo records from many bands during the Nu-Metal era. That being said, more often than not, they got better and I feel that the same will happen with Project F. Let's give them a chance, I think they have so much to offer to a sub-genre of metal that while some people hate, I was always a fan of. Old habits die hard, I still love this stuff and I like to see that there are still some bands out there doing it justice.

(7 Tracks, 25:00)

7/10

Imperial Triumphant - Inceste (2016)

With a rather weird (or revolting, some would say) album cover art depiction, it's really hard to tell what kind of music you'll be getting from this album. With a name like Inceste which speaks for itself, I would consider the performance to be a type of French nihilistic black metal with some industrial elements. Though that's just me calling it right off the top of my head. In reality, Imperial Triumphant sound as they always have and deliver us another dose of black metal from New York. If you could call it that here, however. On Inceste it sounds like what would happen if Primus got into the black metal scene and sounds about as oblong as you could possibly imagine. Some people would be hard-pressed to even call this music since it sounds so unlike the band, or any band for that matter. Most guitarists would wonder why the guitar here is being played quite literally so far out of key that it doesn't even sound like rock-based music anymore, instead sounding like an above and beyond the call of duty style of avant-garde metal that in actuality, feels as French as it could possibly be. The cover, the style and performance all sound like they're coming from some sort of French experimental act and that's no exaggeration. In order to really talk about something so bizarre though, I'll have to take it track by track. “Libertine” starts us off by playing a classical piece completely out of tune, to the point where it sounds almost demonic and certainly a bit deranged. “Kaleidoscopic Orgies” takes that out of tune style and converts it into metal, but what will be an arguably erratic style for most people that I feel will be a very hard sell. I can see how the band is trying to reach into this classical, even noire territory, but I just can't tell you how many people will really be able to get into it. Some might even call it literally unlistenable, so you really have to listen to at least one track before you make this purchase. What sounds like it is played badly, is played badly on purpose. I can see that they're building an atmosphere with this and at the same time trying to do what hasn't been done before, but I think to myself and wonder if this is reality at all. Whoops. I guess I had a moment of non-existence while I was trying to dissect this thing, which sounds like worlds coming apart. “Oblivion In Morsels” still contains some weirdness, but it is a little bit more rambunctious and overall, heavy. We're getting our face smashed in by this one, regardless of how odd it sounds. “Breath Of Innocence” opens with some choral harmonizing, but then it goes back into obscure black metal after entering a realm with pianos, where someone got stabbed. Don't ask me how I know this, I just felt that they were killed during that moment. But the band kept on playing as it was just some guy in an alleyway over in some other state of existence. I almost feel like the sounds uttered here crack the third-dimension of reality and head towards four-dimensional space. What in the living hell are they doing with music, I wonder? That's what I think when I listen to this one. I can guarantee that what these guys are doing, no one else is and maybe there's a really good reason behind that. To some that feel this is splattering paint on the wall, Inceste is the literal equivalent of mixing together every single color in the Sherwin Williams paint guide and then using that to paint your entire house, upon which it disappears completely into another dimension that you'll never be able to reach. I have no idea what is going on this album and no idea as to what I should score it either. I literally don't know. Do you? Someone tell me why my face is melting... face is melting.... face... is...melt...ing...

(4 Tracks, 21:00)

?/10

Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus - Madness Incarnate (2016)

US ambient black metallers Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus have returned with a new EP that boasts about twenty minutes of new music. What's different here however, is the fact that there are several different vocalists here instead of one as well as an unexpected style of music for the instrumental closer, “Comte-Sponville.” We'll start out with the rather expected “Traversing The Frozen North” which sees a bevy of familiar tremolos and misty synths, as well as Gary Hadden (Lesch-Nyhan)on vocal duties. Hadden's vocals are closer to the black metal scowls that one would find compatible for such a tune and it works out fairly well. The next track and title cut has a little more of a doom nature and also features former Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus frontman Joel Robert Thompson on vocals. Thompson lends more to death metal, and the track itself is surprisingly a welcome change of pace from the band's more icy material. These powerful doom dirges work pretty well for the act, even though I feel the vocal filtering here isn't necessarily needed. The song is still relatively strong though. After that we have “Virgin Essence” which features James Dorton (Black Crown Initiate, Nightfire, others) whose main band has seen quite a bit of popularity as of late. There's also some weird vocal filtering here that sounds like an echo effect. I don't really see the use of this, but I will say that the leads here are pretty catchy, if not a bit folky and mysterious. The band are definitely getting better musically and I'm quite happy with several of the performances here on an instrumental level. Hadden returns for “Immaculate Deconception” where the band's common melodic black metal excursions are offset by slight bits of atmosphere and some spoken word vocals. The leads are exceptionally powerful in some areas here, almost reminding me a little bit of classic melodic death metal. I also like some of the drum frills here, as I can understand just what Mika Mage is trying to do with them. It works pretty well in some sections, leaving us off with a pretty good representation of what the band is and what they stand for. Though most importantly, it shows that they're getting better. The final track is “Comte-Sponville” which as I said, comes off as an unexpected surprise. The track seems to observe a more Latin style of music, something that comes off a little folky and perhaps even a bit western. Perhaps the band are going to employ this style on the next one, adding more credence to that budding “western black metal” movement I've heard coming out of California? Some listeners might compare such a piece to “elevator music” but I actually think this piece is kind of nice. It works like an ending credits and leaves us with a relatively satisfying listen all around.

(5 Tracks, 19:00)

8/10

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Iotunn - The Wizard Falls (2016)

Iotunn are hugely promising, and this isn't the first or even second time I've heard this EP either. From what I've observed, these guys mix together a brand of what could be a mix between heavy, thrash and power metal, albeit with added doses of death metal, which I didn't expect. It reminds me a little bit of the Nevermore debut with a little more bite and energy. I always thought that it was a decent album, but I never thought it offered so much vigor, which is what I'm certainly hearing from Iotunn. Oddly enough, these guys will probably get confused for some damn Viking metal or black metal act, even though they're clearly not. Iotunn are actually one of the best modern heavy metal acts I've heard in several years and it's easy to see why. When I say structure, I mean structure. There are so many wonderful little layers ebbing and flowing on this disc, making such a powerful Warrel Dane influenced frontman sound all the more greater. The drumming on the record is also quite potent and that's not just in the vein of beating the hell out of the kit. No, this guy does far more than that, and that's what you're going to notice. Listening again, maybe the “death metal” part isn't all that noticeable with a slew of growls interjected here and there but if you listen to the work as a whole, does Iotunn really need them? I don't think so. Surely they've got a strong enough front end, a magnificent guitarist and a more than suitable drummer to round them out plenty without the need for gimmicks. I mean, there's no real “death metal” sections that require such a vocal performance. The disc stands well on it's own two feet and may bring us the next damn Sanctuary or Nevermore. Though the disc is quite raw in terms of production value, it doesn't splotch the insurmountable performance issued here. Recommend this disc? What, are you fucking kidding me? I'm keeping my eyes on Iotunn after this masterful metal achievement, and whatever else they do after this, I'll be sure to cover. If there was ever a band to take notice of in 2016, it's these guys for sure. Please don't stop what you're doing, as it would be a great disservice to metal music in general. The mighty gods of metal implore Iotunn to continue for many years to come! May they take the torch and hold it ever proudly.

(5 Tracks, 25:00)

9/10

Gigantic Brain - Self-Titled (2016)

Gigantic Brain are back after a long time of silence, and despite being a very experimental act, one might think they're having a little bit of an identity crisis? I know that's odd coming from a man like me, who revels in all things obscure and unique, but I'm not really sure what's going on here. The previous recordings from Gigantic Brain were all very much rooted in a much heavier vein of death metal, but this Self-Titled seems like a reinvention for the band. There are still loads of electronic elements, vocal filters and harsh vocal elements. I see what they're trying to do here, but it seems lessened a little bit. Most interestingly is the inclusion of clean vocals, which I haven't heard on any of their records prior and seems a little bit off-kilter for the band. This is almost as big a change as when Ulver quite playing black metal to pursue electronica. Gigantic Brain were very death metal and were rooted mainly in experimental brutal death, but this... well, this almost sounds commercial. There are even a couple of tracks on the disc that go a little over the three minute mark, which is pretty uncommon for these guys. Even the death metal portion on “Leaking Out Of Your Mouth” sounds more like modern groove-influenced death metal, rather than you know, the kind of stuff they had been playing. Most of the cuts mainly offer a short atmosphere here and there and just add a little more wind to the album, but when we get to “Our Dam” I'm very closely reminded of industrial alternative rock/Nu-Metal acts like American Head Charge or The Deftones. One might really wonder as to what in the hell these guys are doing, but there's no doubt that the music encapsulated here could appear to a big-wig in the recording industry, as soon as he decides that the band be ever further watered down to the point where they literally are just an Industrial/Nu-Metal act and 9/10 songs sound just like the aforementioned. Though I will commend the band on continuing to experiment, this record shows that they are going in a more accessible direction with their music. One thing can be ascertained from the listen though and that's the band want to be more of an electronic rock act than a metal one, period. Even closer “I Fly The Unicorn” uses programmed drums, short acoustics and piano pieces instead of any real guitar influence. It still sounds like Gigantic Brain in some sense and it still has merit, but I think people are going to be more interested in their early work after the band become commercially famous from whatever proceeds this. IwrestledABearOnce showed us that a band can still be as experimental as hell and get signed to a big label, so I think these guys could very much end up the same way. This Self-titled is definitely out there, but it's still pretty simplistic and a little more straight-forward than some of their past work has been. It's not anything I would have personally expected from the band and shows that they're really not sure what in the hell they want to do yet. I really hope they find out, or go back to doing what they do best. Maybe they'll release some more material to give us a better understanding as to what they want to do, because I'm going to admit that I'm kind of lost.

(11 Tracks, 25:00)

7/10