Friday, June 24, 2016

Skeleton Wolf - Skeleton Wolf (2016)

This mostly Indiana-based three piece made up of mostly former members of the black metal act Maax (currently on hiatus) have decided to add some modernization into their decidedly blackened sound with this self-titled debut. Bits of groove, thrash and even melodic death metal have gone into this concoction, making it suitable for fans of everyone from Lamb Of God to latter-era Immortal and even Amon Amarth. Jeff Mason (bass) pumps in the grooves, while Brett Schlagel (guitars) seems to tackle all of the hard-hitting riffs and melodic tremolos. On the vocal end is a rather gruff sounding fellow by the name of Tim Green, who offers the kind of roughnecked approach to the mic as you’d expect, had you seen him in person. The drums are programmed, but I can’t even notice one hint of error there and it works for me. Technology is truly wondrous.

These guys obviously aren’t trying to go for any sort of black metal kvlt status, especially when you have cuts like “MPFF” which is more or less a Pantera-fueled thrash and groove effort with bits of hardcore. Then again, we have pieces like “At the Sixth Foot”, “Whatever Demons” and “Eternal Lies” which alternatively sound much closer to black metal than you’d expect. “Eternal Lies” in particular gave me a rather chilly feel, but like “At the Sixth Foot” I could still hear pieces of that early Amon Amarth (Once Sent From the Golden Hall) sound embedded within it and that’s what made this debut stick out. Skeleton Wolf is a record where you can pretty much ascertain that these guys have got their chops down, they know what kind of sound they’re going for and they for the most part, achieve it. I’d certainly say that while “MPFF” might make a great pit anthem, the closer “Forever Awake” is worth it’s weight in gold, purely due to it’s awesome melodies.

The listener might be surprised to see that they’re actually getting quite a bit of what I could consider memorable melodies, whether those be of the more Norwegian or Swedish variety, as Green’s performance fits this formula perfectly. And yes, there are even some solo cuts that I couldn’t help but mention. Not only does Schlagel show that he can craft some terrific leads, but that he can light up the sky just as well as any other guitarist worth their salt. Schlagel’s actually a rather skilled axeman and the very heart of this project. You can tell that he put a lot of work into these compositions, and while the Maax stuff might not have been wonderously praised on Metal Archives; (both releases sit roughly in the seventies) this more modern and I’m assuming less restrained (I haven’t heard the Maax records) approach might be the best thing he’s got going for him at present. Skeleton Wolf a record that I wouldn’t mind playing again and again, where every song seems to hit it’s mark and doesn’t leave me quickly bored. I’ve always been a fan of black metal, but I love when it’s mixed along with other things. Some bands fail miserably at this approach, while others greatly succeed. Skeleton Wolf is a pure example of the latter, which is why I highly recommend checking this one out. Love or hate it, it sounds good to me. 

(7 Tracks)

9/10



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tamas Katai - Slower Structures (2016)

Known for his work in Thy Catafalque, Tamas Katai's Slower Structures is a little bit different. Here we're exposed to several mostly piano-based compositions which will also include violins, contrabass and electronics. Of these moods, several seem to elicit different qualities. My love for the soundtracks used in Japanese based visual novels certainly reflects pieces like “Music For Breakfast” which somewhat feels like something we might hear in one of those. It's a bit bright, but it also has some rather dark sentiments, so it would have been used in a much more serious visual novel. “Raining This Morning” seems like it could illustrate a more saddening or suspenseful scene. It is certainly morose, I could certainly see it illustrate the scene of what one might call a bad end. Trust me, when you read these things and hear such sad and depressing music as this (Tamas, this is nothing) while you're reading (then it just ends – returns to the title) you kind of stop, pause for a second and kind of reflect on what just happened. This is the kind of piece that tears at your heartstrings, which is why you don't want to hear it during any sort of “game over” in a sense. It makes you feel bad, and can even ruin the rest of your day. “Slowing Waters” actually changes things a bit (and still fits in the context of a visual novel) and feels like it could illustrate a deep, or rather contemplative scene. I wouldn't mind hearing this piece on a loop and it's a certainty that fans of these soundtracks will find something here. As Katai is offering this record for free, I will definitely link it for fans of that kind of work in various channels, allowing for an unexpected amount of exposure for the release. “Colour Positive” flows in much the same way, with it's ethereal vibe. This flows right into “Color Positive” and “Tea In The Museum” which includes the sounds of various people talking and things moving the background. In works like I mention, this sort of atmosphere is good for the reader. It would give them a sense of being there during the read. “A Midday Storm In Marchmont” seems to furthermore embrace the atmosphere I've already come to enjoy a bit, seeming like a more active piece, yet still very moody. That's one reason I find that work like this would be better fitted to a visual novel than something like full on soundscape, as pieces like that aren't used so often, this being the norm. “Waltz For Niau” matches the whole baroque and classical feel that we might hear when reading about gaudy mansions and their many inhabitants, not all of those leaving us with a happy note. Yet after that, things start to change quite a bit and in ways that we do not expect.

It is “Polimer C90” that throws us into more electronic, steely and perhaps even frightening atmospheres. Yes, even these kinds of pieces appear in visual novels, especially when you don't expect them to. You might be hearing something like “Music For Breakfast” and then all of a sudden you hear a sound and this track starts playing, as you come upon the face of a mangled corpse. The combination of such grotesquerie combined with such a horrifying sound (the first few nodes after the girl's voice will make your hair stand up on end) is just enough to make your blood run cold and fill you with an essence of fear. The piece takes a different turn as it continues however, leading into a slightly more contemplative nature, even though we're most certainly being exposed to what I'd consider horrific howls from the dead. “Hydrangea Blue” seems a bit out of place on the record, as it more or less seems like it fits in with the piano-based pieces at the top of the disc. “Thermal” brings in an icy chill that doesn't fit the visual novel soundscape. It can of course, with the right scene, but it feels like the kind of music you might hear while walking through a place of sanctuary. Perhaps a desecrated holy place in which one saves their progress in the midst of a ruinous maze. There are demons and monsters outside, but here you are safe. “Visage” has a world-music vibe to it, which is a little more sparse for visual novels and I couldn't consider it there. This is more towards the kind of actual meditation pieces that one might hear in an effort to reach some sort of oneness, or suchlike. It feels like a sort of “aum” and seems to carry through in just that kind of zen-like fashion. The final piece we have here continues the icy feel of “Thermal” and subtly seems to carry us through a bit of a cold and icy cavern, which is not where we begin. Think of it as traveling through a dark Japanese influenced town, where we'll soon enter a castle, discover a bit of a murder, find a holy place within some ruins, achieve a sense of zen and then walk through an icy cavern. It's safe to say that you'll want this in your collection, and though it isn't metal music, it is definitely worth listening to for fans of Thy Catafalque's more atmospheric moods.

Because he'll no doubt be reading this, I feel that I should also address a concern that Katai might have about this review. Comparing your work here to that of the soundscapes in visual novels should not be seen as any sort of detriment. People over the world have loved these pieces for their soundtracks and have even paid hundreds of dollars to personally import and play these pieces in their own home. What you've done here, is to capture the same spirit of some of the more mature soundtracks in that regard, and in it, there's a masterpiece. What some would pay hundreds for, you've offered here for free. That says a lot about how much you believe the world needs to hear and appreciate these pieces. I am sure that other reviewers will have their own comparisons and that I probably won't be the only one to compare them to game soundtracks. But today's game soundtracks are incredible at times, awfully moving and worthy of appreciation in their own right. When I started reading visual novels a few years back, I was first exposed to pieces like these as I've never really heard them anywhere else prior. Very few mediums combine piano pieces with electronics in the way that the medium I've described does. As with any novel in the medium, it depends on what you read, but I was fortunate enough to have experienced some of the best soundtracks from what the medium has to offer, and I daresay that the music is my favorite part of those particular experiences. I hope that you will continue this solo work alongside the Thy Catafalque material, as both are equally brilliant and no matter what I compare them to, they're always inspiring pieces.

You can find the album on Tamas Katai's Bandcamp page, where you'll also find the work from Thy Catafalque. Please give this a listen if you think that it'll be up your alley. Once again, fans of passionate video game and visual novel (there's still a debate as to whether or visual novels are the same as video or computer games) soundtracks will certainly find something here in Slower Structures. I'd certainly recommend it to lovers of music in general.

(13 Tracks, 38:00)

9/10




God Enslavement - Consuming The Divine (2016)

Hailing from Germany, the debut album from these death metallers is actually quite solid. Now the death metal that these guys produce isn't the kind that you'd expect from many of the cemetery slabs I've reviewed here on a day to day basis, but rather feels a bit more modern and technical, which might make some of you stop reading this review already and that's fine. But what I think really matters here is Adam Jarvis (Pig Destroyer, Misery Index) on the kit, and the extremely technical riff-matter crafted by either Deha (Black Sin, Clouds, Sources Of I, We All Die Laughing – remember that one?) Bjorn Koppler (Maladie) or Kevin Olasz (Aardvarks, Deadborn, Maladie... the Aardvarks are still relevant? That Conglomerate compilation was great, I thought.) In any case, one of these three men is responsible for such awesomeness and it certainly beefs up what can be rather chunky at times. Vince Matthews (ex-Dying Fetus, ex-Criminal Element, ex-Biovore, all great death acts) sounds like he's on a high fiber diet, as a large amount of grunt and groan mixtures vomit out, while familiar death metal (and this is the only real thing about the band that remains classic) riffing and drum pummeling erupts from the kit. The disc is very fast paced, but it feels almost as if a little more work is needed as Matthews' approach sometimes seems a bit heavy handed. That being noted, the amount of solos utilized on the record stands as a strong point, and keeps the material from becoming entirely bland, which it can do every now and again.

When I listen to an act like this, I feel like they're not completely at their prime with this approach and perhaps it will sound a bit more composed next time. At any case, I couldn't turn it down because the disc is real fucking pummeler and definitely will get you pumped for some heavy lifting. As we can see, there are a lot of great musicians here with a very stable that contains a great deal of potential. I just need to hear a little bit more before I can really call it grandeur. Much as I like this, it's no Dying Fetus, Criminal Element, Pig Destroyer or Aardvarks (yes, I really do like those Aardvarks) and therefore doesn't really stand out as a superior project to any of the acts that these guys have already been in, or are still playing in. That's not to say it's bad, because these guys are more or less just going out there and having a great time playing some really gurgly death metal stuff (but not gurgly enough, if you ask me) that I'm sure fans of their other acts will enjoy. I've just heard a bit better, and feel that much of the problem might even be in Matthews' vocal approach, which seems to weaken the whole performance for me. Give it a listen and see what you think, as it's not all that long and offers just enough for the time allotted.

(11 Tracks, 36:00)


7/10


Ionophore - Sinter Pools (2016)

A collaboration between the London and San Francisco Bay Area, Ionophore is a trio of neoclassical and electronic artists that I couldn't place completely within the realms of static-laden power electronics or dark industrial. Rather, the sound is quite contemplative and will put you in the right frame of mind, or any frame of mind that you feel is necessary for the task ahead. As a writer, I'd definitely consider this good writing music, especially for the scenes of a book that might be a little bit deep and atmospheric in themselves. Of the eight pieces, there are several moods in which we are to grasp. Some of them being quite ethereal, while others a bit ominous and even romantic. The title track itself actually feels very frightening, with sharp violins, saxophones, eerie vocalizations and an all-around oppressive atmosphere. It feels as if I'm walking into a dungeon area of sorts, where all manner of evil awaits me. The last few notes in the piece are equally ominous and make me feel a bit funny, albeit not in what one might consider a pleasant fashion. “Infantman” seems to continue the slightly twisted atmosphere, but it doesn't feel quite as overbearing and injects some calm female vocal lines to bring about a sort of fragile performance. It even starts to become a bit romantic, even though I somehow feel as if the voice here isn't quite human, or that this is a cold love song from the future where an android programmed with no emotions attempts to emulate feelings of love. I feel that it is the electronic nature of this piece that gives it a bit of a cyberpunk vibe, even though there's definitely a lot of classical here as well. It would make an awesome soundtrack for a film that I can see playing in my head. 

“Underground Man” is where the mood changes to a meditative one as I referenced earlier. “Unchecked” was a bit harsh (but still a fine atmosphere) and this piece feels like it slows things down just a little. I almost feel a little bit of Steve Roach creeping up here,which I certainly won't turn away. The last half of the album has an airy feel, which seems to just build right from “Underground Man” and continue all the way to the nearly angelic, but still quite morose “Checked.” There's nothing here that sounds completely serene and doesn't feel tainted by the industrious future world landscape, and I'm quite pleased with that. Even when it touches on ethereal and romantic territory, it is still very inhuman and feels like the sort of atmosphere you might find while making love to a machine. That being said, I love it. It very much feels like the soundtrack to what might be our possible future, making Ionophore something of musical prophets. I'm almost curious as to whether this would work in the background of some games, or during muted films. Could it build the same atmosphere in certain scenes that it would here inside my head? Whatever the case, if you're a fan of soundscapes and are looking for something not so harsh and abrasive, (like a lot of these are) you'll find something here in Ionophore. It's like making cold love to an inorganic being, which might just be the future.

(8 Tracks, 38:00)


9/10 


Tvlpa - Mountain Of The Opposer (2016)

A tulpa or what is also known as an egregore, is a type of thoughtform. Most gods are tulpas, yet our images of superheroes or other fictional characters could also be considered tulpas. For instance, among the pagan community (this was years ago) there was an instance where Tom Hiddleston's Loki derived a lot of interest in the Nordic archetype of that being. Particularly among women. The whole thing brought about it's own tulpa/egregore which only became further fueled by the amount of emotional passion and energy put into it. Almost like religionists who pray to various deities, or rather, their imagined view of such deities. The archetype is given energy through their tulpas, even though one can use an archetype to create a tulpa as long as they make sure to give it a purpose. Here we have what I'd consider a Swedish mix of Dragon Rouge and Chaos Magick formed by a group of anonymous musicians. Though calling this “music” doesn't really fit. I've studied the occult long enough to know when I'm listening to a full-on ritual and this hour's length of such nodes is most certainly that. So, if you're religious and afraid that you'll burn in the fiery pits of the fetid inferno from listening to this, you had better stop reading this now or risk being infected by the “devils” laden within such music. Sometimes we get really grim here, and that goes beyond guitar solos and pounding drums. There's a much different nature of grim here, which some of you just might not be able to accept. These musicians consider themselves to be members of the left-hand path, which is seen by some as a much darker and volatile form of magick. If you find the right magician, you'll argue for hours as to the validity of that (which is why I've given up in that regard) but for all sakes and purposes, it is true here.

Now for the record itself. We've got several drones here, among some rather ominous whispers and what some might even consider dark, or at least demonic vocalizations. I know not what archetypes are being referenced here, but I do have a few ideas. I know that Karlsson wrote a lot of material about Lilith, who is indeed a very dark mistress beyond what some of you might have seen beyond television and comic books. Although, I have a feeling that this relates more to Kali Yuga. Makes perfect sense, as she has come up several times within the Therion heavy metal soundscape. Considering these pieces, this is definitely work that I would liken to her level of existence. Some pieces are even quite electronic, like “Mounatin Sermon” and everything sort of takes a very simplistic, yet atmospheric approach. Tvlpa aren't barreling over themselves to create this atmosphere. They're using small effects in order to make something that feels awfully mantric, and could effect the subconscious in ways that I'm not even so sure they full comprehend. “Ko-Phu” yields a similar effect, although much shorter than the previous, as it is the disc's shortest overall cut. I'm definitely getting the Steve Roach vibe here, especially in the electronic areas. That being said, Tvlpa are not an electronic act – not completely. There are sections of electronic synthesizers, but most of the work here is ominous and creates a misty soundscape. I'd almost say that eighty percent of the album is just that, which amounts to a rather disturbing or dark meditation. It's not zen, rather it's the anti-zen. Pieces like “Dragon Mound”, “The Becoming I” or “Daka Yantra” might actually end up frightening you more than soothing you, and chances are that you wouldn't want to play this record as “fall asleep music” or something by which to relax to during the twilight hours. There's nothing here that even feels so much as remotely pleasant and once you've jumped in, you've got to deal with the effects of this abyss. I could say that the disc's closer “Descent and Rebirth” feels the least oppressive to the senses, but it also feels as if a dark god-being is being hailed or worshiped by the piece. If you enjoy hearing very deep, mantric compositions that are not for the faint of heart and might scare tree-hugging hippie New Agers to death, then you might opt for a purchase of this record. Once again, Tvlpa do not create calm, zen-like meditation. If you choose to put this on and attempt a trance, I have no idea what you'll see and experience within the context of it. Having been more familiar with the heavy metal approaches to Karlsson's darker approach to Swedish magick, it's definitely interesting to see an atmosphere that also embraces it. I can certainly say that the piece is just as dark here as anything that we'd expect from The Dragon Rouge and it's worth picking up. Just don't expect peace and happiness. Mountain Of The Opposer is just not that kind of record.

(9 Tracks, 59:00)


8/10


Konflict/Reek Of The Unzen Gas Fumes - Split (2016)

I've been waiting a long time to review this split, which actually came out sometime last year. The first act is a black/death/grind/noise/industrial act called Konflict from Sri Lanka. We know there are three members in the act, but have no idea as to who does what, or what bands they've been in prior to the act – nothing. Yet when you hear a band like this that mixes industrialism with fiery black metal riffs, thick drum abrasions and a sort of gurgling that sounds like they've captured a beast from the Necronomicon and gave it the fucking microphone (seriously, this thing sounds inhuman as hell, what are they up to in Sri Lanka?) you start to get a bit curious. The sound is obviously raw, but it seems to fit the absolutely heinous nature of the material, which is by far unlike anything I've ever heard. I'm telling you folks, if you put the fucking Cloverfield monster on the vocals, this is what it would sound like. This is beyond the normal gurgle... this is something, I just can't even fucking describe. Summon a literal demon from the abyss, give him a microphone and this is what you get. This is the kind of sound that would preachers shit their pants (Not sure if that includes Jesse Custer though) and convince religious congregations that the devil is real. The interesting thing about these demonic pieces is that they all have relatively intelligent titles. For instance, we've got “To Erase The Eelam Parasite” , “Decoding The Aryan Survival Cipher”, “Epignetic Hate Transmission” and others. Sometimes throughout the twenty-four minute EP we'll even get utterances that sound like they're on two different dimensional planes. What in the hell is going on over there? Sometimes we're even barreled over with torrents of noise. Huge mounds of atmospheric noise such as the album's opener “Aryan Cytoarchitecture and The Handle Of A Weapon Or Tool” or the aforementioned “Decoding The Aryan Survival Cipher.” I'm not sure if these guys play live, but they're definitely not the kind of act you hear everyday. I'm rather quite impressed and I hope that we'll get to hear more from this awesome trio in the future. Maybe somewhere deep within this thick monstrosity lies the future of grind itself. That remains to be seen.

The next act we have on the split is Reek Of The Unzen Gas Fumes, which is a blackened grindcore act of complete insanity whose lyrics seem to be based on anti-Buddhism, sadism and radical Japanese nationalism according to Metal Archives. That third one's a real whammy, especially if you're a US citizen because of rather obvious reasons. From what I've researched, some of these right-wing (yes, they have right and left winged political movements in Japan as well) movements are tied directly to the yakuza, which doesn't surprise me. In any case, the approach the listener is getting here is one of force, fire and absolute insanity. It's not always as crazy as “Dehumanizing Cesspool For Future of Humanity” as “Doku” displays with it's weirdness and much slower tempo, but for the most part these guys feature an extremely raspy vocalist that melds with static in a way that he sounds like an angered television set. We do know that INHKR is behind the guitar, bass and drum programming and that 9300FGB is the vocalist, but no one knows what Warcrime Rapist does. At any rate, this an entirely interesting grindcore act with enough depth and originality to stand out among their peers. I realize that while I've mentioned it already, I need to reiterate that these guys are completely fucking insane as far as the performance is concerned and the complete polar opposite of what we're seeing portrayed as Japanese heavy music as far as the media is concerned.

This is the extremely heavy underground shit that you were looking for and you'll be extremely happy to have one of only 66 copies in print of this cassette only release. You'd also be extremely lucky. I'm going to give this the highest possible score I can give as I've heard nothing quite like it in the grindcore scene, but it was released quite a while ago and I can't spotlight it as I normally would have. Just take it as a sign that you need to find a way to get a hold of this split somehow. Some of the material from both of these bands is surprisingly available on Bandcamp, but this split cassette is limited and not even I have a copy of it, just a digital promo with a low bit-rate quality. Even so, that's enough for me to prove to you that these bands are fucking phenomenal in the grind scene and you've really got to hear them both for yourself. I tend to like Konflict more, but wouldn't turn down either act. The Grim Tower highly recommends this split EP, so definitely give it a listen. You'll find a way.

(18 Tracks, 46:00)


10/10


Solanum - I.T.S.C. (2016)

Solanum are a Canadian punk/thrash act that have crafted a record that I feel is more or less a decent effort. As I listened to these seven tracks, I noticed that I heard barely a difference in any of them and the disc just kind of came and went. I can honestly say that I.T.S.C. Is definitely not the kind of record I would have reviewed had it not appeared in my mailbox, and I'm certainly not one to completely recommend it. Being that I'm not much a fan of the punk scene and the social justice movements by which it now almost completely consists of (because that's the new form of rebellion) you can almost foreshadow my opinion on the piece as a whole. These guys are loud, rowdy and full of spite, with sharp thrash-gone punk riffs and a frontman who belts out every line as if he's willing to drill into your forehead. It's almost like a hardcore approach, similar to something from Pro-Pain or other acts that I like. His voice is also tolerable and not the kind of absurd gut punch vocal style that many of these kinds of bands will employ. Why? I have no idea. In any case, there are no real “dude-broisms” here to be found and these gentlemen mainly stick to their guns. The record comes in hard and fast, screaming loud enough to give you tinnitus (which I think I now have after listening to the piece, and I don't remember my ears ringing that badly before) which is why it is almost certainly not for the feint of heart. There's not so much an atmosphere here as there is a sense of “I'm pissed off and I'm not going to take it anymore” which will definitely work for listeners. 

These tracks are a bit longer than you would expect however, with the majority of them being well over five minutes and the longest (Into The Sinner Circle-Self Righteous Refusal) clocking in at a little over seven minutes, and I suppose offering a little more meat to the production. I'm not sure, I literally can't remember and the whole thing feels like a blur. It's the kind of record that you'd play if you were really upset about a lot of things and wanted to stew in that anger for quite a while. It's the kind of record you play before you're going to get into a fight with someone. It's the kind of music that you might hear playing as the soundtrack to a fan created video of “MMA's greatest hits” or something of that nature. Certainly not my thing, nor to my taste. I gave it a listen the first time and wasn't digging it, I gave it a listen the second time (just a few minutes ago) and still am not able to get into this kind of release. There's an audience for it, but I just don't know how loud, rowdy and angry I am. From my rants and raves online, people might think that I embody this kind of record, but I most certainly do not. Punk music, even fused with metal, is still a very tough genre for me to absorb and I'll either like an approach or not like an approach. In this case, I can't say that I prefer I.T.S.C and would like to hear a bit more than what I'd consider the bass product. If I can't remember your record after the second time, then it just doesn't work for me. I guess I'd compare this kind of stuff to Nails, which just sounds like a bunch of guys playing loud music and screaming in a room. Some people love that kind of stuff, but for me... well, I'd rather eat crow.

(7 tracks, 38:00)


6/10


Fister/Teeth - Split (2016)

This split brings Missouri and California together in the name of doom, death and sludge metal. Sounds promising to me just in that regard. It's not a very long split (roughly about thirteen minutes) but these things usually aren't. 

The first act we have is Missouri based doom/death/stoner and sludge metallers, Fister. They come on strong with some extremely pungent nodes, proving the strength of Kenny Snarzyck's bass work as well as Marcus Newstead's (this guy used to play in The Lion's Daughter) extremely melodic, slightly depressive and all around powerful lead work. Opener “We All Die Tonight” actually features one hell of a solo stuffed right into the middle of it. When I say one hell of a solo, I literally mean one hell of a fucking solo, folks. That's the kind of thing that made me take notice. Only problem is that there's about a few seconds after that with what I think is just filler with no real point, unless it was lyrically called. Even so, (and this is nearly a damn first for me) it kind of kills the impact of Newstead's solo work, which should have ended the piece.

California's Teeth are a completely different animal. There's still the doom and death metal elements, but it feels like they wanted to beef these extremities with the magic of post metal. Justin Moore and Erol Ulug (Apparently that's his real name. Perhaps they have a literal cave troll in their band?) both makeup the guitar and vocal end, which seems to meld together to form this inhuman and rather gruff semblance. There's a little bit of crystalline psychosis to these pieces as well, making the approach sound sometimes pretty, but most often insane. To be dreadfully honest, the soundscape is rather creepy and unnerving for an act of this nature, which I find amazing as the hairs prick up on the back of my neck. Two songs and less than seven minutes is more than enough to tell me that there's something very freaky about the music that these guys play. They're the definite winner of the split for me, regardless of the fact that both bands do a great job. This is what I'd consider a great split, just kind of wish these things were a bit longer.

(3 Tracks, 13:00)


8/10


Celestial Ruin - Pandora (2016)

You might wonder why I'm covering a Vancouver based rock and Gothic metal band that has been tagged for fans of Nightwish, Evanessence, Delain, Kamelot, Within Temptation and others. There's a simple reason for that, which is mainly that I found the record very catchy and rather enjoyable. Aside from Larissa Dawn's potent vocal prowess on the microphone, we have the pounding drums of Adam Todd as well as some notable leads and solos from Eriz Crux. Ruben Wijga performs the keys here, which add much of the bombastic atmosphere you'll hear on the disc, far different than what you might expect on a regular female fronted rock record. These guys are actually taking the term “metal band” seriously, which definitely warrants the Kamelot comparison, regardless of how much the Delain tag fits as well. It's actually not too out of character to consider Celestial Ruin a more thrash-influenced and bombastic version of Evanessence, but not Nightwish. There's nothing operatic here, but there are about ten tons of sing-along choruses to be found on a disc that's surely just the start of something larger and more commercial. I would just hope that as Celestial Ruin matures as a band, they won't decide to sand down the metallic elements here in favor of giving people easier to digest fast food music with only the pop choruses intact. It's kind of funny that the single for the EP is “Sense Of Exile” even though “Nevermore” is about ten times more commercially viable and would make the band stick out far more among casual rock listeners. Then again, in listening to the two cuts side by side, I've noticed that the chorus numbers sound nearly identical to each other in tone. But whatever sells, right? In any case, this act is an absolute goldmine and I'm quite sure that it doesn't even need a small site like mine to promote it. After all, there was something of an interview with the frontwoman over at the AXS TV website, and that's Mark Cuban's channel. He has way more fans than I do here, or than I could ever dream of here. He's actually making money, and enough of it to sell me into slavery if he wished. In any case, I actually found this record extremely catchy and I'll bet my bottom dollar that this isn't the last we'll be seeing from this act. An EP today, a Grammy tomorrow... but to do that, they'd have to kill the metal, wouldn't they? Yep. It'll be interesting to see how much they're willing to sacrifice in the future.

(4 Tracks, 24:00)


8/10


Forged In Black - Fear Reflecting Fear (2016)

Attempting to follow in the footsteps of influences like Judas Priest, Helloween, Memory Garden, Grand Magus and more, these UK heavy/thrash and progressive (definitely progressive) metallers have offered up four songs and a little over twenty minutes of new material within them. These guys used to play in a band called Merciless Fail, but decided to kick things up a notch with their new moniker and a much heavier band to boot. That being said, we actually get a lot of little prog-jam sessions and even some Maidenisms that I certainly won't turn away. There's definitely a doom feeling to the music here, reminding me a lot of Candlemass with opener “1000 Wings” and the title cut, which almost sounds like it was ripped right from a Candlemass record. Only difference is that we have a little more attention to detail in the form of the prog, which not only gives these tunes more melody, but also allows them to escape into unforeseen and rather brilliant realms. “Renegades Of Last Rites” explores more thrash, while closer “Shadows Still Remain” adds a bit more progressive influence into what brings back the doom feel of the first two cuts. For some odd reason there's an obnoxious harsh vocal roar utilized on the record that just doesn't fit in with the rest of the material and rubs me the wrong way every time it is used. Though I haven't heard the band's earlier debut, I certainly can't find any other problems with this disc other than the aforementioned and would heavily recommend it to fans of the bands I mentioned above, as well as the doom influences like Candlemass (which I'm kind of surprised wasn't mentioned on the band's press leaflet) and numerous others in that vein. It's good stuff regardless, and I wouldn't pass it up. I'm quite impressed otherwise.

(4 Tracks, 21:00)


8/10


Nocturnal Hollow - Deathless and Fleshless (2016)

Venezuela's Nocturnal Hollow are back with their third full-length album, which sounds like a meat tenderizer in the realms of classic death metal. Think bands like Entombed, Grave, Bloodbath and you've got it. The production value remains classic, but everything is still very audible. Deathless and Fleshless is still a very warm record, a disc that you could use as a heater in most regards and it captures the spirit of old death perfectly. There's some Slayer nods in the solo sections, as well as a slew of doom riffs to mix in with the thrash and pummel of the drums, making for a disc that comes in and does what it's meant to do. Thankfully, all of the songs here don't sound the same and that's going to come as a relief. The disc contains it's share of slow kills as well as quick massacres, as a few melodies are showcased here and there amongst the old-school solos. It's a pretty solid death metal disc in the end and I don't think that many people will be upset with it, even though it doesn't really deliver anything that we haven't already heard before from the genre. If you need another good slab of death, grab this record. If you're looking for something more, than you may want to look elsewhere. That being said, Deathless and Fleshless offers what we expect from classic death metal and it does it without even a hint of modernism. Chances are that you have a lot of records that already sound like this one, however. Maybe you could use just one more.

(10 Tracks, 39:00)


7/10


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Perihelion - Hold (2016)

Hungarian post-metallers Perihelion never cease to amaze me, which can certainly be said with their beautiful new EP release. Although it's rather short, there's still enough here to fill the void between their next release and I can honestly say that fans will not be upset with this one. If you don't know much about Perihelion, they can be compared to Thy Catafalque, Alcest, Vintersorg, Solefald and even Borknagar. The only difference here is that the black metal sections of each would be removed, as well as the scowls. Perihelion give us more a mix of powerful lines and melodies, where choruses aren't even as necessary as the verses themselves. Anyone can write a hooky chorus, but how many times can you catch someone's attention with mere set of verses? Frontman Gyula Vasvari challenges that with three strong and entirely memorable songs that wouldn't have changed my score one bit if they'd been added to Zeng. There's nothing here that sees the band faltering, and if nothing else, they're sounding even better. I still can't tell you what these lyrics are about, but it's all so wonderfully ethereal that it doesn't even come as a concern. To think that three men can be capable of such a powerfully emotionally performance is nothing short of amazing. There's nothing threateningly heavy or even dark to be found on this one, even though I do sense some deep emotional pain within the vocals here. In other words, it's a performance that you can feel and that's just not something I can say for a lot of bands. There's just no one out there like Perihelion. Interestingly, they covered “Sycamore Trees” from Twin Peaks (still kicking myself for not having watched that yet) in English, which I believe is a band first. The fact that Vasvari can sing in English I don't feel is a real issue, because it's quite obvious that the performance itself is what's memorable, and if the Hungarian dialect sees these verses and choral lines much stronger, than I'm all for it. I learned long ago that music doesn't have to be understandable in order to enjoy it, which is what these gentlemen perform here again. It's a little short, but I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I didn't highly recommend it. Like many of these short records, I'd rather have waited to hear these put on a full-length but certainly won't complain with the performance laden within. This is probably the third time I've heard this record, and every time it has been just as captivating. Very few acts are able to move me like Perihelion, so make sure that you pick it up if you're looking for a real dose of raw passion.

(4 Tracks, 14:00)

9/10

Dominhate - Emissaries Of Mourning (2016)

Fans of dark and foreboding death metal mayhem will completely devour this new EP from Italian four-piece, Dominhate. The disc is short (or it wouldn't be in the shortlist) but it's quite punishing, throwing us directly into a cavern by which we're forced to sift through all of the dirt and the monsters which lie within it. Doom is very much a focus of this album, with bass riffs that sound so low in the mix that they might be mistaken for the roars of demons along with a drumming performance that feels every bit like we should expect for this kind of music. I'm brought to mind acts like Morbid Angel and Immolation, by which flaming guitar solos rise up from out of the muck and bring the metal pounding right to your face. I've listened to this record twice during the review and I honestly can't find even the smallest issue with it. These four guys know what they're doing and seem to have a good grip on it, which is no doubt going to make for a full-length release that's literally just as good or better. I've heard ten thousand pounds of death metal in the past number of years, but acts like this one are the kind that really stand out. I'd certainly remember Emissaries Of Mourning over bland efforts from others, by which there is no real thought to atmosphere, vocals or composition. The record is certainly a no-nonsense approach and isn't trying to achieve anything new with the genre, but with so much doom and gloom pumped into this oppressive death metal terrorizer, I don't really feel that reaching for new heights is what this band needs to do. Rather, they're doing a damn fine job as it is. If you're a death metal fan, you shouldn't be upset with this one, and if you are, then I'm going to slap you. Suffice it to say, Emissaries Of Misery is definitely an EP worth picking up and spinning a few times before their next full-length, which hopefully won't be too far away.

(5 Tracks, 19:00)

9/10

Flourishing - Intersubjectivity (2012)

Let us crawl into the infernal depths of the fetid abyss, where we find the rugged and dehumanized sound that makes US trio Flourishing the kind of weird entity that they are. It's awfully funny that these guys would call themselves Flourishing, as there's nothing about this sound that even feels like it should flourish in the way that one might plant a field of flowers of something. There's nothing but a bed of dead roses here, albeit some very well crafted roses with a very rustic sort of feel. Perhaps they're the kind that double as spy cameras or something of that nature. When the harsh vocal approach isn't being utilized, these guys actually treat us to a bit of what I might actually term to be “progressive” instrumentation. I love the approach to the drumming here especially, as it sounds far from the blasts I'm used to and feels more subdued in the sense to build up an atmosphere. This whole EP seems much longer than it is, sheerly due to this more calculated nature of performing music. Flourishing don't sound like they're trying to blast your ears out, and instead make me think of a rather devious form of metallic calculus. The compositions here sound like mathematical equations when they're not wholeheartedly morbid and most certainly misanthropic. I'm not really sure what you would consider these guys in terms of a genre tag, but there's obviously some elements of post-metal to be found within this very terrifying mixture that actually takes enough time out for guitar solos, and what I can consider to be a moment of pure, twisted awesomeness within it's closing note. I really don't want to spoil too much of this one, it's a real treat and a bit of a trick as well... the kind that has you on the floor bleeding, while you're pondering your place within the span of existence. Whatever it is that Flourishing are trying to achieve with this EP, it definitely caught me by surprise and I'd certainly recommend it to all those who are looking for something a little unconventional when it comes to extreme metal and even atmosphere in general. I'd like to hope that this one wasn't just some unfortunate fluke and that we're just starting to ascend a rather rickety, yet elaborate staircase into some kind of tortured grandeur.

EDIT: Unfortunately, it is. Enjoy it while it lasts, as these guys have been split up since the release of this record. It doesn’t seem like either of these three gentlemen are in any other projects. A real loss.

(3 Tracks, 20:00)

9/10

Abstracts - Hologram (2016 Bonsai Bonus)

Actually a full-length album, this nearly thirty minute release is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I'm a huge fan of Japanese tunes (as you know) so I actually found it a bit more interesting than perhaps an American approach to the music. Abstracts are a melodic sort of djent-core that I normally wouldn't review, except for the fact that I found their clean vocals to be rather memorable, as I've always felt the Japanese clean vocal style to be heavily more passionate than that of the English language. Take the title cut for instance. Regardless of the fact that there's a kind of ham-fisted harsh vocal approach utilized on the track, the clean chorus is so powerful that it completely overshadows the background harsh vocals. The same can be said for “Carat” which actually uses the harsh approach a bit more, but seems to deliver in the chorus number. The band also use some electronic effects and filters with the vocals, which I think are pretty cool. Musically, we can't really expect much different than we've heard with several djent acts which is kind of a wash, but that's the sound they were going for. I will say that there's a little bit more melody in the guitar here than with some acts, but that harsh vocal approach is going to absolutely ruin the disc for most of you. Even I can't get around “Vision” which has no cleans and “Mirror” which just didn't gel all that well for me. I did find a pretty killer cut in “Ancient” which almost equals out to the title cut for me and that's more or less the album's closing cut with “Gemini” being a decent enough instrumental. It really takes off when we actually hear a very strong lead melody come into the mix (something they could have used on the rest of the album) but that's really about it, aside from the background electronics which make the piece sound a bit shiny. There's also a bonus cut called “Siberia” which should have benefited from not being a bonus cut at the end of the album. In any case, it's obvious that these Japanese are trying to emulate their western peers and certainly have the style and flow down, it's just not really my type of metal aside from most of the clean portions, melodies and the soft atmospheric vibe that some of these sections contain when they're not being saturated with djent riffs. If you like this kind of music, then you may like the Japanese take on it, but I don't think I'd recommend it to any random metalhead. There are much better acts doing this kind of stuff right now, but perhaps with time Abstracts will branch out a bit more and become something truly unique.

(10 Tracks, 27:00)

6/10

Maleficence - Realms Of Mortification (2016)

Boasting two tracks on this 7” these Belgian death/thrashers deliver a memorable performance right form the start. After some atmospherics that remind me a little of hell, we get right into the thick of it with driving rhythms, razor-sharp vocal lines and pumping leads. This is the way that The Crown and other acts have done it for years, and damned if I'll complain about it. It's raw, rough and rowdy; which I'd simply have no other way. But that's just the first track. After the death/thrash ensemble, we get into something with a little bit more groove and melody. Obviously these aren't pretty melodies, giving us a record with that same sense of dread and bite that we'd expect. Oddly enough though, it takes about two or three minutes before the vocals come in and I'd almost thought I was listening to an instrumental cut. Then wouldn't you know, these guys go right back to thrashing. What I've gathered here is a death/thrash act that wants to play out of It's comfort zone a little bit, which might be a tough sell for some; albeit a godsend for others. From listening to the album during a quick refresher I can already tell that these guys can play, and they manage to put on a pretty pleasing performance even when it's all said and done. The band's use of atmosphere works very well to bring them in, while the unexpected dips into other metallic territories give them a chance to shine beyond the thrash. As we know, almost anyone can thrash with death metal vocals these days, but only a handful of bands can actually get it right. Maleficence are definitely one of those bands, with this short offering being a great sampler to what will know doubt be an even stronger performance in the future. It's definitely a promising little 7” vinyl and I think you're going to want to get your hands on it.

(2 Tracks, 11:00)

8/10

Mean Machine - Into The Night (2016)

Falsely labeled as well over twenty-five minutes (don't ask me why?) the single from these UK classic heavy metallers seems like it has all the class that makes Maiden, Priest and Saxon shine. The song comes on the back of a memorable riff melody, wherein a strong chorus is displayed as a potent solo appears and brings back in the chorus line, which then turns into a strong vocalization that repeats until the end of the track. It's worth noting that the frontman has a rather memorable vocal tone, controls a strong set of pipes and more or less comes off notable. There isn't really much else than that I'm afraid, but looking back on the piece it doesn't really seem to me that there needs to be anything else. It's served up on the back of a hummable lead, follows a clean set of vocal lines and gives us the main course in the form of it's catchy chorus. There's also a pretty strong solo, so I'm not upset about that. It's a strong little single and it shows that the band certainly have some merit, but it's very tough to judge any act based on one song and I'd wish that people wouldn't do it. We'll see what the band truly have to deliver when their debut EP or full-length album releases later on in the year or next. You can actually watch a promotional video for it right on YouTube, so go check that out and tell me what you think.

(1 Track, 3:48)

6/10

Qrixkuor - Three Devil's Dance (2016)

The first EP release from these extremely rough and sadistic UK death metallers sees a surprisingly heavy performance that doesn't feels quite as atmospheric as it does blistering, complete with some flying solos as well. M seems to be responsible for most of that, since no one told him to slow down and he's going to keep pounding on that kit like his life depended on it. For some this might be too much, but in all honesty I think they can jump off a cliff if they're not satisfied here. There are usually acts where the blasts seem a bit too out of control, but here there is so much of a keen sense to rhythm and melody that we're not being asked to toil through what are some very long songs in all respects. “Serpent's Mirror” is a little over fourteen minutes in length, but due to the fact that A (guitars, vocals) and S (guitars) aren't afraid to change styles and tempos at the drop of a hat, we get more of a soundscape rather than floating in the mist. Three Devils Dance definitely has it's moments of that, but we can bang our heads as well as pull out our air-guitars. That's not a bad thing in my book, and I really hope that you're not shocked to see an atmospheric metal band actually playing heavy metal music. Three Devils Dance has a lo-fi quality that seems like it would benefit more from a vinyl, and almost feels like an old death metal record from back in the day. As we get into “Crypt Of Illusions Bane” things do get a little bit foggier due to the tone of R's dreadful bass riffs and it starts to sound like you are indeed inside of a fucking crypt; but the leads are still able to shine through it and we're not completely wading through the murk of similar acts. There's nothing wrong with murk or wading in it, but when you start to hear a lot of similar trends in this kind of metal, it often becomes a breath of fresh air (ironic, since we're talking about a crypt) when you start to hear the guitars really giving it their all as if we're watching a classic Slayer performance. But if they want to throw some Hell Awaits in here, I'm not going to be entirely opposed to it. Neither should you.

“The Divine Architect” really throws the mist on top of us, so it seems that “Serpents Mirror” is a bit of a clever fluke and more or less a warm-up for the foggy aftertaste that we're about to receive much later in the album. For the rest of it, you can pretty much think along the lines of Portal or Grave Miasma, which isn't so bad and gets the job done. This is their first EP so it's obvious that they're still getting things set up as far their sound and style is concerned and this is more or less a showing of what they can do. It's definitely enough for a live setting, even though they'd only really be able to play one song if not headlining, but there's just enough mystique here to do that one song justice. That to me really says something about these guys, as it's not exactly easy to craft a song of this structure and length, no matter how much you might think it is in the beginning. A listener that has never really composed music before might come into the line of thinking that just because a song might sound simplistic to them, means that it's very easy to craft. Unfortunately, that is definitely not the case. We often think that because of the foggy tone and texture of the music coupled with the drum blasts, this kind of death metal is very simple and very easy to make but as “Serpents Mirror” described with only a mere hint of the fog that would later fill the album, there's a great deal that goes into each of these pieces, especially if you're a band that doesn't want to bore the hell out of your audience. When I saw Portal, the show was physically draining. It had been an experience like none other that I've seen in my life. Though that wasn't because the band was a slog to get through, it's because they left a major impact on me. That's the same way I feel about Qrixkuor. The band still have a bit more to showcase and I'm sure that they will in time, but this is a respectively solid EP and I'd definitely recommend getting your hands on it, murk raiders.

(3 Tracks, 38:00)

8/10

Blodspor - Only Sheep Cry Wolf (2016)

Norwegian black/deathers Blodspor have changed an awful lot since their 2011 release, Laughing Through The Violence. Either that, or I really have a distaste for black and death metal being mixed in with core breakdowns and gut punch vocal emissions. Yeah, you heard me right folks, even though guitarists Bent and Kris tear it up along with drummer Lage, frontman Audun (also plays in Silence The Sky – three words, there you go) really seems to defecate all over the approach with his hardcore gut punch vocals that sound a lot like Agnostic Front, of which I could never get into for that reason. Sometimes he does use a bit of a rasp or something a bit deeper (that could also be coming from bassist Andreas) but the overall effect remains the same and I know some people that are absolutely going to loathe this band in every sense of the word. It's not that these guys aren't any good musically, they're just going for something a bit more core-influenced and that can make or break them. They certainly have a marketable quality among core fans and I admittedly liked “By Your Own Fire You Shall Burn” quite a bit, but I wouldn't never openly admit that to you. Whoops, I just did. The record is actually quite heavy all things considered and offers a pretty significant beating, but it's a definite “try before you buy.” There are probably a few reviewers out there who will say much worse about these guys and whatever full-length record they will eventually create in the coming months, but I'll be a bit more lenient as this could be far worse. It sounds a bit biased and perhaps it is, but the fact that one of the tracks came off a little more than just listenable means that perhaps these guys are worth a listen after all. It's just not something that every metal listener will enjoy and should appeal more to fans of core that don't mind the extremities of black and death metal.

(4 Tracks, 12:00)

5/10

Front - Iron Overkill (2016)

Formed from members of Finnish black metal group Sacrilegious Impalement, these black/death thrashers have unveiled a debut album that sounds about as raw and furious as you might expect. The vocals are very high in the mix, but they're quite fearsome and match the nastiness of the performance, which is going to sit right at home in the collections of classic heads. It's a bit hard to hear some of Von Bastard's leads and he doesn't really play an awful lot of solos (see “Wargods Unbound” for a great one though) but despite that, we still get a pretty pungent package with Revenant's drum abrasion and choral duetting (if you want to call it that) with frontman Kaosbringer. Revenant has an extremely throaty roar, which melds in with Kaosbringer's scowl as something simply unholy. Add in the drum pummeling and you'll got a pure exercise in destruction. Von Bastard fills the disc with eerie tremolo riffing in an attempt to bring about a rather horrifying atmosphere that I certainly found effective. Though it's still a rather low quality performance, it's definitely a good one. I'm sure that these guys are going to sound better on a live front, so if you get a chance to see them, you'll get a much better performance than what this disc offers. It's also taken from my own personal observations and experiences, that music is much better performed live. If there's anything I can really complain about here, it's that the disc feels very claustrophobic and these gentlemen seem like they've been cramped into a tiny box by which the sound reverberates off the walls. The sounds of war definitely help the experience here, but there's no doubting that you're getting a truly bare bones production with this one. If you've simply got to have it as raw and kvlt as can possibly be, then you'll certainly find something here. It's pretty decent I'll say, and I think these guys will go pretty far with this material. That being said, they're nearly in five other bands at least and aren't going to quit music anytime soon. I see Front as another project, and it's more or less in the same vein as their previous metal work. Go check it out.

(8 Tracks, 36:00)

7/10

Black Absinthe - Sounds Of Denial (2016)

A mix of thrash, blues rock, alternative and even death metal, we have something rather unexpected from Canada's Black Absinthe. Apparently this is a bit of a new direction for the guys as their Metal Archives definition is considered to be Heavy Metal/Punk Rock and I'm hearing something completely different. Let's take, “Is This Life” for instance. It starts up almost with a Metallica style thrash, but then rolls into something that sounds more like chorus friendly radio rock. Maybe a little like Fozzy. Then you've got the fiendish death growls which seem to come out of nowhere. Technically this doesn't make them death metal, but there are a lot of thrash bands out there with death metal vocals. “The Wild” opens the disc with a sort of southern blues rock, while we hear a sort of progressive touch on “Berj Khalifa.” Maybe it's a bit more melodic, like the Police. Whatever the case, there's definitely some experimenting going on here and it's working for them. Jack Cerre isn't the best vocalist in the world by far, but he's a great guitarist and really seems to be stepping out of his comfort zone with this one. “Now” definitely shows one of his best sing-along moments, proving that this debut (it's not actually an EP) has the band with their feet in the right direction. No one needs to point it out, they're already there. I have a really funny feeling that an act like Black Absinthe could become very popular due to the type of formula they have here. Now this is just me speculating, but I'm going to break it down for you.

First, I've noticed that these guys have a very commercial vibe when it comes to compositions, but they still manage to stuff it with just the right amount of raw meat in the vein of extreme metal (Winter) to appeal to the metal community. Those heavy parts, as sparse as they might be on this disc, are just enough to appeal to metal fans and will make the act loosely fit the metal genre tag. Cerre even employs a darker tinged sort of riffing in sections that kind of sounds like black metal and that's usually enough in itself. That being said, they still have that very commercial, very marketable aspect and could have some songs play on alternative rock radio. “Now” would work for that, which brings a very catchy chorus right into the hands of new listeners that will more or less purchase the disc just for it. But none of these casual listeners would expect the band's powerful display of darkness in “Winter” which hopefully is a sign of much greater things to come.

Early Signs Of Denial is the kind of disc that can reel you in and keep you entertained on mid-era Metallica/latter-Trivium/current Avenged Sevenfold style pieces, but will also come with a slight bite in the realms of more evil metal (some of the people that unexpectedly hear these utterances will not be familiar with them and will consider them evil, after all I just had a guy ask me if Stephen King was the devil at work earlier this evening) which many of those casual listeners might not be expecting and will open up to. It's a possibility, just as BabyMetal has opened the doors to an entire genre for non-metal listeners. Necessary evils, I'd think. While not quite as extreme as you like, or not quite as family friendly, you'll definitely get a great variety of material here with the record and it's definitely not the kind of record that would upset members of your religious congregation. These guys are very much in the same vein as Metallica as far as I'm concerned and they're mostly quite harmless. Just be careful, because it does bite.

(6 Tracks, 27:00)

8/10

Colemesis - Viviseccion (2016 Rerecorded)

Costa Rica's long running death metal act Colemesis are back with a new album, which I think I've listened to this three or four times already. It is actually a rerecorded version of the band's demo, which isn't something you hear from bands all that often. If you like acts like Sepultura, Testament, Slayer and Brujeria, then you'll more than likely love the performance being offered here. The album's intro is a little long, but once you get past that (trust me, it's in no way a band note) we'll start getting into more metallic territory. The disc has that feeling of pounding, chunky death metal with bits of technicality that give it a little more edge after all these years. These guys have been around since '92 and have only released two full lengths, this record in fact being considered something of a single. It's much longer than a mere single though, with a total running time of twenty-five minutes, especially with an extra cut “La Malediction De Malinche” tacked onto it. For the most part, the record is well enough performed but it can grow a little bit tiresome on the ears after awhile, which is in most due to the extremely lengthy sections of vocal roar from the band's frontman Fabbian Bonilla. Though he's a seasoned player and can really craft a few striking portions on the record along with Gabriel Morales (also guitars) this elongated vocal approach can sometimes just feel a bit overbearing to me and can get on one's nerves – it just kind of sounds like it's there, with no real emotion or thought put into the pulverisation.

There are definitely a few tracks here that benefit from this traditional death gone technical, but the real hit on the record is actually the disc's bonus track which adds a native touch to the work and gives off a decidedly Latin American vibe to the metal that these guys play. There are acts that do it far better, but these guys have been around for decades and this record shows that they're not ready to give it up just yet. Aside from the vocal nitpicks, there's nothing that I couldn't recommend here and death metal fans will be just as pleased with the band's attention to detail as well as their dedication to the dirt and grit that makes this brand of death metal as memorable as it is. You're getting a rough release, but you're going to want it rough and heavy, which is just what these guys manage to do.

Colemesis aren't the best Latin American death metal act I've ever heard, but they're still worth checking out and giving a listen for fans of the genre. You'll find some great things here if you're a fan of that mid-era Sepultura sound as well as other thrash acts and the death metal of Brujeria. Worth a listen.

(7 Tracks, 25:00)

7/10

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Necromantic Worship - The Calling... (2016) (RIP)

Well, it pains me to say that this will be the final output from the Netherlanders Necromantic Worship, which I've always enjoyed. The reason for this is a bit strange, even to me – but it appears that frontman and project mastermind Xarangorth wants to pursue study in the occult. I certainly wish him the best of luck in that endeavor as I've found little and he may find more, but in any case, we have yet another memorable act from the band. I'm not even really sure why I should review this disc, but maybe he'll see it and know that people did enjoy the synth-influenced mystical black metal he made years ago. Xarangorth is a master of the keyboards, which really seem strong on this effort, as well as his effects. These combine together to make a Summoning type feel to the perfomance, and I've always loved that about Necromantic Worship. Also, Xarangorth has a very frightening whisper, which doesn't really sound like anyone else you'll hear out there. Or at least anyone I've heard.

These guys were one of a kind and to quit music to pursue the occult is one of the most interesting reasons for breaking up a musical project that I've ever heard. Zagan also belts out some amazing guitar leads and solos on the disc, which we'll able to hear in his other projects Countess and Morte Noire (at least we hope.) Just listening to the title track is absolutely unreal, I can't say I've ever heard a piece quite like it, with it's mixture of whispery vocal and whatever in the hell is going on in the background. Is Xarangorth performing this music in another plane? Maybe he left to jump directly into another spiritual realm by which to pursue the occult, because I can't honestly tell you where any of this is coming from. Furthermore, I'm not sure if I want to know.

I've mentioned it enough already, but I'm really going to miss this fucking band and I just feel we lost such an interesting act too soon. I wish all these guys the best of luck, and as my own occult studies have taught me; there is perhaps a realm where they continued on to greatness. Unfortunately, that's not the realm in which we currently reside. What was next? We'll never really know, I suppose. Truly a shame.

(5 Tracks, 20:00)

9/10

Earth Rot - Cthonian Virtues (2016)

Formed by two former members of Advent Sorrow, this four-piece act crafts a sort of chuggy groovy death with some black stuff mixed in. Aside from tremolo riffs, we have a hammering drum performance as well as a vocal front by Jared Bridgeman that switches between hoary grunts and fierce rasps. Earth Rot aren't simply just a bunch of death chug and tremolo riffs though, as Tom Slaughterhouse performs several ripping and memorable solo performances in manners that we just wouldn't expect from an album of this nature. Aside from that, Slaughterhouse also seems determined to not stick to any one single style, which gives us both the thunderous title cut and the blackened “Martyrdom Unsealed” on the same record. Earth Rot are yet another sign that the metal scene in Australia is not to be missed, as they rip and tear through every performance as if their very lives depend on the quality of it. These gentlemen released a full-length back in 2014 of which I don't remember ever remember abusing my eardrums to and I feel rather shameful for that.

There's only fifteen minutes of music here, but it's definitely worth listening to, with my only complaint that it should have been longer. I really hope these Aussies have another full-length planned for us either this year or the next, because I would have been fine with holding off on these four quality pieces (and I do mean quality, the record sounds even better than I can give it justice) until that particular album. I'm not sure what's in the future for Earth Rot, but as far as I've heard, I enjoy them quite a bit more than Advent Sorrow and hope this won't be the last I hear from them. These guys could really become something in the next few years, and with a record like this, I'm sold.

(5 Tracks, 15:00)

9/10

Absorb - Vision Apart (2015)

With a cover that resembles a traumatized Muppet, these German death metallers have returned with their first effort in five years. They released a full-length back in 2010 by the name of Dealing With Pain and fast-forwarding to now it seems like they've finally been able to get over it. These Germans definitely have their fingers on the trigger of both thrash and death metal, toying around with latter-era Death prog and making for a rather tasty meal right off the bat. Now we don't get right into the proggy stuff right away, as “Los Muertos De Hambre” gives us a bit of a chuggy death with clean/thrash vocals that I felt was a little weak. Memorable in that chorus, but pretty weak compared to the rest of the disc. Don't let that track fool you, because that's got to be some kind of fluke. Of course, all these songs sound different and it feels like the band are going through an identity crisis. The next track “Perfect Whore” has that whole prog/death feel and they've certainly got it down pact. Then you have “Undead” which almost sounds like grueling brutal death metal. It does change a bit to allow for some clean vocal sections and a bit more prog, but it sticks to it's guns. The last one here is “World Stops Turning” where the ridiculously thick growls emanating from the mouth of mutant monster Volker Schmidt continue their onslaught followed by even more prog and thrash riffs. I'm not really sure as to which direction these guys will turn in the future, but I wouldn't mind hearing more from them at this stage in the game. I'm sure they'll come out with a heavy hitter, as this little EP feels like a new demo and shows that the band is capable of a whole lot of really great things. Give it a spin, I think you'll like it.

(4 Tracks, 16:00)

8/10

Peripheral Cortex - Rupture (2016)

Hailing from Germany, these guys decided to move far away from all the hipsters and techno in order to play music that sounds more like Death, Morbid Angel and Necrophagist. Judging from this two-song demo, I can hear exactly that technical death metal mentality and it's good enough that I'm reviewing it here, I can tell you that. Even though they've just formed, there's enough meat here to chew on already with a potent approach to vocals that sounds as if the frontman has swallowed broken glass, as well as lot of tinkering in the guitar department that makes for not only something that kind of sounds like Carcass, but has some very nice solo moments as well as some flashy bits here and there. The record actually contains a rather strong production quality, which helps all the tiny leads to be heard throughout the mix and really makes a difference, as it shows off the band's skills. These guys definitely seem like they want to be the next Necrophagist and they're certainly welcome to it, but I'm going to need to hear more than two songs before I could even think about making that call. Necrophagist were monsters, there's no replacing them. That being said, this is still a very strong performance that technical death metal fans will love, especially if you love any of the aforementioned acts. Definitely worth a listen.

(2 Tracks, (9:00)

8/10

The Eyes Of Desolation - Awake In Dead (2016)

Costa Rica's The Eyes Of Desolation seek to be in the same vein as many of your favorite doom/death acts (Swallow The Sun, Daylight Dies) but they still have a bit of work ahead of them. This EP comes three years after the release of their debut, Songs For Desolated Hearts and shows the band more or less continuing with the same lineup they had on the previous recording. Dreary riffs, twinkly keyboards and sullen melodies make up this act, which actually does contain a rather potent backing growl as well as a pleasing vocal performance from frontman Carlomagno Varela who seems to have Peter Steele firmly in his heart. He still needs a little bit of work, but with time and practice he could definitely become something. The mix of scowls and gravel in the harsh vocal segments of “Crimson Sky” certainly give the song some staying power, in addition to Carlos Carazo's memorable keys. They have the right idea but there's some polishing needed here and I really want to be be to appreciate this act more in the future.

I'd actually still recommend the EP as you'll definitely find a few memorable cuts on the one I mentioned as well as “I Found My Place” which proves that The Eyes Of Desolation are a noteworthy act. “Fighting For Your Cause” was a bit too Goth-Pop, but I'm sure that there are people who'll dig it. Whatever the case, I'd hope that these guys continue and I'd certainly love to hear more from them in the future. While still a bit rough, this EP proves that these gentlemen have the right idea and I'll be keeping my eye on them.

For right now, it's a decent album. But that's okay, because it feels like a fresh start from an act with it's fingers firmly planted in right direction. I'm not sure what the LP sounded like, but this EP certainly has promise and potential. Goth metal fans are encouraged to give it a listen.

(4 Tracks, 23:00)

7/10

Enlighten - Illvmantithis (2016)

The second EP from this Portuguese black metal two-piece, Illvmantithis certainly sounds different, and that's in a good way. I have no idea as to what method they're employing to make the riffs sound so oblong and twisted in the mix, but it's definitely working for me, almost as if Cynic played black metal. The scowls feel absolutely feversome in the mix, with K really nailing it there and giving me a rather bleak and misanthropic performance that seems to go hand in hand with his bizarrely progressive playing style. A is the drummer here, pretty much giving you the kind of tap tap tap performance that you would expect from the kit, the real star being in K's wonderfully bleak and awesome melodies. Yes, this is the reason why I chose to review this one as you all know how much I love bleak leads in black metal. Though we only get “Pallor” and “Shroud” here, it's enough for us to go on and gives us a feeling for what these guys might offer with a full-length. They don't want to play the same old black metal, especially now, with a record that feels nearly removed from traditionalism and seeks more dreadful and depressing territory. I'm fine with that, just so long as a K doesn't switch to a godawful howl. They have a bit that they could work on, but I certainly wouldn't turn this EP away either. It just depends on how you like your black metal, which can be as different as how you take your coffee. Usually depends on the person.

(2 Tracks, 11:00)

7/10

Tengger Cavalry - Mountain Side (2016)

Originally around twenty minutes long, I have a couple of bonus tracks (yes, on an EP) from these Chinese born (but now New York implants) Mongolian folk-metallers. That's not something you hear every day, which is the reason I'm reviewing it as well. If you've ever checked these guys out on YouTube or social media, you'll see that they use a lot of battles from Chinese films as music videos and the music fits quite well. But why wouldn't it? That being said, Mountain Side is much different than the band's Blood Sacrifice Shaman record released last year. Instead of heavy death metal influenced pieces, we're almost getting something that sounds like a mix between modern metal and traditional Chinese acoustic folk music. There are a lot of outside elements on this record that make it more of an atmopshere and appreciation for traditional Chinese music, though I'm not sure how the country feels about metal these days. I remember watching the documetary Global Metal a while back, and learned that things are not as tolerated over there as they are here. Which is why I'm glad they came to the states to give us a taste of China.

The vocals here almost feel like a mutter, as the guitars wail and the drums carry on a more traditional and less metallic vibe. There are still moments where the electric is plugged in, but you have to respect the fact that they wanted to something a bit different than their previous seven releases. In addition to the main track, we also get an interesting acoustic version as well as an um.... club mix? We also get an instrumental of the track, so let us hope you like it. In addition to that, we have a new recording of “War Horse” in this style, as well as “Krutaya Goya” and an interlude. All of these sort of mix together to form an atmosphere quite unlike any that we've heard from the band before and it sounds quite spiritual in some instances.

There are three bonus tracks as well, like I mentioned. We get a fiery version of “Tengger Cavalry” that features the band in a raw, live setting and sounds completely unfiltered. It might be a bit tough to hear, but Tengger Cavalry have yet to make millions of dollars in which to gain a high quality performance. This is just fine, and it sounds like what you'd expect from one of their shows, which is pretty damn amazing. There is absolutely NO ONE doing this kind of metal, so you'd better get your ears on this EP as soon as you can. Even the two bonus folk jams are worth checking out. They'll give you a little bit of insight as to how such a large ensemble of metal and Chinese mysticism combine to form a sound like none other.

(11 Tracks, 31:00)

7/10