Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Reticent Talks Most Emotionally Intense Album They Have Ever Recorded, Thoughts on Religion, Politics and Mainstream Appeal!


Interview With Chris Hathcock

North Carolina's The Reticent have always a been a bit of a cutting edge progressive metal act, but On The Eve Of A Goodbye sees them at the heaviest they've ever been, both musically and lyrically. This suicide based concept album can be very difficult to hear at times, especially since it is based on a dear close friend of group mastermind Chris Hathcock. That's right, all of the pain and misery here is authentic, which makes it a sprawling wave of emotion unlike any other I've heard this year. 

I always start these interviews at the beginning, at what I mean by that, is I’d like you to talk a little about the band and how you came to be. Not mentioning the recent unexpected departure of your drummer, how do you feel about the lineup of The Reticent at present? 

The original intent of the The Reticent was to be a conduit through which I could funnel a lot of the more quiet and morose songs/ideas I had while playing in some different black and death metal bands.  I was writing the more personal and often despondent tunes consisting usually of just my voice and an acoustic guitar.  It wasn’t something that really fit with the hyper-aggressive music I was already playing but was something I needed to write to fill that void.  As such, the first two records (the demo “Hymns for the Dejected” and “Amor Mortem Mei Erit”) were almost entirely acoustic.  After the other bands I was in had come to an end, The Reticent became my sole outlet and so many of my other compositional ideas (many sprung from metal of all types) became a part of the sound.  This is probably clear in hearing the evolution from “Le Temps Detruit Tout” (the last record) to “On The Eve Of A Goodbye”.  The band has seen its share of line up changes in terms of the live performing members.  The core group that I have right now is extremely solid and committed to the vision I have for the band which is very important.  We’ll most likely be adding a member or two soon but either way we’re gearing up to get back out doing shows again presently.

Before we get into the extreme lyrical nature of On The Eve Of A Goodbye, let us talk about the disc musically. I’ve noticed much of Tool as on prior records, but also a great deal of Opeth influence. It sounds almost as if you’ve been studying a lot of those earlier Opeth albums here. What were some of the records that you feel personally may have helped to inspire sections of this piece?

You know, the funny thing is I haven’t listened all that much to Opeth since they released “Watershed”.  I know our styles are similar but maybe that’s why I don’t listen as much to them as I once did.  All during the writing of this album I was listening to a wide array of music as the songs on this album span several years of writing.  Some are 9 years old and some were only months old when I recorded them.  So with something that has been in my mind slowly coming together for a long time, it would be very difficult to pinpoint any albums in particular that had a direct influence.  I can say that the albums I most was moved to write by during this period were:  “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis, “Souls At Zero” by Neurosis, “Symphony No. 7” by Ludwig Van Beethoven, “Option Paralysis” by The Dillinger Escape Plan, “Sideshow Symphonies” by Arcturus, and “Anthropocentric” by Ocean.  I’d have to say my biggest influence overall is probably Neurosis, though.  I know that my music sounds nothing like them but then no one can sound like them.  I am more influenced by their approach and the depth they put into their music, rather than trying to emulate their style.

Lyrically, the record deals with the suicide and the aftermath of the suicide. But before you go into discussing the concept, tell me a little about the writing process for those lyrics. Obviously it was a very difficult process. Were there a couple of songs that you didn’t use the lyrics for, or that you had to re-write a little entirely? I’ve heard that “Funeral For A Firefly” was hard for you to sing. 

Writing lyrics for something like this is a rather difficult journey.  Rewrites upon rewrites upon rewrites.  I’d try to walk the line between being poetic versus literal because though it is my story I would like for it to have enough room for others to be able to put themselves into this as well.  Suicide is not something that is a small time issue.  In the US it is the 10th most frequent cause of death.  Many people have been affected by it either explicitly or implicitly so my hope was that by telling my story in the right way I could purge myself while giving a voice to someone else.  “Funeral For A Firefly” was the most difficult recording/performing experience I’ve ever had.  To this day, I have sung that all the way through only one time - that performance is what you hear on the record (mistakes and all).  I had underestimated how hard it would hit me to be in the dimly lit vocal booth and actually say these things that I had wanted to say for years.  The first attempt at recording it, I got two lines in before I burst into tears.  And I mean sobbing.  I thought - well, actually I even told Jamie (my producer/engineer) that there was no way I was going to make it.  The song was that close to being left off because I couldn’t make it.  But Jamie convinced me to try just one more time and what ended up on the record is the result.  By the time I got to the shrieking ending, it felt like my heart was being torn apart.

Tell me about the lyrical concept behind the record and what is happening within each scene of the piece. It seems to slowly countdown from 24 hours until the time of the event, as well as the aftermath. 

I added interludes through the album that are counting down while simultaneously giving the listener a perspective from one of three vantage points:  my perspective, Eve’s perspective, and an omniscient storyteller's.  The songs progress through the day before and events leading up to Eve’s suicide and then the fallout afterward.  Some songs are very clear in what they are in terms of the overall structure of the story.  For instance, “The Girl Broken” introduces Eve but through my eyes, “The Confrontation” and “The Apology” has to do with an argument and subsequent make up the day before, etc.  Others are perhaps more purposefully vague in terms of whose perspective we’ve taken or the significance - like “The Hypocrite”.  The song “The Postcript” if you were to read the lyrics you would find it was composed of mostly sentence fragments and the music is unlike the rest of the record being far more disjointed and odd - this is because the song is meant to be Eve’s thought process while attempting and ultimately failing to write a suicide note.  The final piece “For Eve” is something specifically written for her - my way I of saying to her “I hope you have found peace.”

Not to go too deep into the personal matter behind the tragedy which inspired this masterpiece of human emotion put into the musical medium, but how do you feel regarding the situation now? It seemed towards the end of this performance, that your heart was literally being ripped out of your chest. 

Well, to be honest, it got much harder for a while after I recorded everything.  Finally putting this all together and on tape had suddenly brought so much to the surface.  There were many things I did not deal with when it happened.  I didn’t even speak to anyone for two months after it happened.  I just shut down.  I believe a lot got buried over the years and came out in other ways.  I think you are exactly right to use the apt phrase that it was like my “heart was literally being ripped out of my chest”.  The album was recorded in album order to allow me to go on the journey and for that to come through to the listener (you can hear the deterioration of my voice as we progress through the record). I am better now than I was.  Unfortunately, suicide remains something that comes up now and again so I don’t know that the wound will ever fully heal.  As I said, my hope is that this record will connect with someone that needs it - not that they need my crappy music in particular but need to know that someone else feels this.  Be it the loss or be it suicidal thoughts, I wanted to give voice to the whole horrid experience.  If I in any way can help someone, then I’d definitely say that will help me a great deal in that something good at all came from this tragedy.

Considering all this, it has to make you think possibly a little more about the afterlife. Would you consider yourself a religious or spiritual man? Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, do you feel that there’s a chance (and I apologize for this one, if it’s bit too much to answer) that perhaps the person that the record was based on might have actually heard it or had been there during the performances? Do you feel that she’s still there in spirit? Or do you feel otherwise? 

I’m not a religious man.  And though I would love to imagine that Eve was there and heard me, I’m afraid she’s just gone.  That’s the tragic part for me.  One shot and she vanished into nothingness.  At the same time, that is what I did on the album.  I talked to her, cried with her, screamed for her.  I think it is summed up in the line from “The Day After” about mid way through the song: “There’s no more you now it’s just me talking to ghosts who give no reply.”

Changing the subject, some of these tracks like “The Comprehension” for example, are quite radio friendly. Would you ever see The Reticent as a radio-friendly act or do you consider yourself more a part of the underground music scene?

I count myself extremely fortunate that anyone at all likes my music so the idea of anything of mine being on the radio seems extremely far-fetched.  I don’t know that mass markets really want something that encourages reflection or introspection, though.  I may be wrong - I mean, what do I know?  I’m not a TRUE UNDERGROUND KVLT kind of guy either.  I don’t really fit in anywhere haha.  If The Reticent found its way on to the radio, I think that’d be great but I can’t write with that kind of end in mind, you know?

Considering this rough election season, do you hold a vested interest in any of the candidates, or do you just wish that everyone would stop talking about it?

I am so very, very much the latter.  I believe that the United States has picked perhaps the two worst candidates I have seen in my lifetime.  This is so emblematic of all the inherent flaws in a two-party system to me.  Nevermind the number of people using bullying tactics to push theirs views and cherry picking facts to push narratives and agendas - and I mean on both sides.  The whole thing has me so very, very sad.  Whereas music may be at its best and most primal when it is fueled exclusively by raw emotion, politics and government are quite the opposite.  Objectivity, patience, impartiality, logic, these are the things that are needed and are absent.  The candidates who were disciples of such things have been pushed out of the way to make way for more rhetoric, emotionally galvanizing chatter, and a population seemingly content to just argue instead of discuss.  I don’t know.  I’m fearful, of that I am sure.

Thanks for answering my questions, and I apologize if some of them were a bit difficult to answer. On The Eve Of A Goodbye was a very difficult record for me to listen to as well, because I feel that the way this subject matter is portrayed is very close to heart. The disc left me speechless for a few minutes after it ended, to be honest. I didn’t expect that. That being said, it’s also one of the best albums I’ve heard all year and without a doubt, the single best recording that you’ve ever made. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to ask them and I am deeply honored by your very kind words.  Thank you for listening to my work.

Bestial Invasion - Trilogy: Prisoners Of Miserable Fate (2016)

This is the first EP release issued by the Ukranian technical thrash act, which actually comes after a full-length debut earlier last year. Uncommonly, this band did not release an EP before the debut, instead releasing a couple of singles and a split before the full-length. The style of music here seems to reference Iron Maiden's early works, and even frontman V. Zadiev has a little bit of Bruce in him. I'd know that air-raid siren approach from anywhere, and he's nearly got it. That being said, we're definitely still getting thrash here and that's coming on the back of drummer Ivan Semenchuck, with additional bass pounds from Metal Priest. The band features two guitarists (Evgeniy Maestro and Alexandr Klapstrov respectively) who manage to throw in some catchy leads and solos to the mix, even though it is quite obvious that the playing here lends to experimentation. It has some Maiden, but it also seems to take things in a much faster, more technical direction without relying on djent, core or other metal modernisms. I don't mind a little bit of prog and technicality when it works to beef up a record like this to such an astonishing degree. Listeners, you will hear and experience real song structures on this album, complex ones at that – and if the vocal fronted pieces don't work well enough to show it all off, then you have the amazing instrumental cut “Lord Of The Middle Earth” to demonstrate what these guys can really do. Perhaps their English skills aren't so great, but they can play above and beyond that of many other bands in this genre. I'm quite surprised by the sheer level of dedication to craft here and would recommend it to those looking for something a bit more complex that doesn't wander too far off into core or kitchen sink territory.

(4 Tracks, 22:00)

8/10

Emanation - Temple Sleep Crystallization (2016)

Apparently, no one cares about this Spanish black metal act, which is a shame because they've got some real potential. Temple Sleep Crystallization is actually the band's sophomore album, even though the scribes at Metal Archives stopped with the demo. I guess if one guy hears a demo that he only half-likes, he pretty much says fuck all to the rest of the band's recordings. I couldn't find much coverage done on them either sans two black metal blogs, which will make this review yet another promotional step for them as they do deserve it. This record is one of the few experiences where I find it hard to tell if there are any actual vocal pieces. If you listen deeply to the album, you might be able to pull out something that might resemble vocals, but according to the information that I have here, that is definitely not the case. But it doesn't need to be either. The mastermind behind this project is CG Santos and he commands everything that you're hearing on the disc. I still can't tell you if there are vocals here, these might be samples mixed into the whole aura of the thing – it sounds like a mist. A swirling sort of mist, like a tornadic event if you will; but with a heavy backbone of blast beats. The blast beats sound like metal caught up in the storm, almost giving me a slight feel of metal mixed with classic industrial. Even noise elements appear on this record, which make it loom far away from the realms of metal as we'd expect.

Not all of the tracks are quite so heavy, like “Crystallization” which reminds me of the kind of material I'd get from Malignant Records. That's pretty cool in my opinion, because it shows just how far the artist is willing to go to create this soundscape. Sure, you can bang your head to it and enjoy it like a raw black metal album, but it's a bit whirly and twisted – it might even make you think. A man on the internet today just warned me that from listening to too many odd approaches like this, I can totally damage my psyche. If that's the case, Tower readers know that I'm already too far gone. I can understand the man's concern, and there might be (haven't checked myself) some factual evidence behind erratic sounds and the human mind, but I don't find myself losing it until I start staying up far later than any man should. (I am working to remedy that.) Getting back to the album, we'll find a mixture of both heavy things and rather subdued things, making for an experience that is just that – an experience. You don't really say, “Well, I liked this track because it had a good chorus, or a good riff.” It's more like, “Well, that was a bit odd.” At least give the band a chance if you're looking for some slightly different deviations from the normal metal soup. This to me is like when someone puts fruit in cereal for the first time and realizes that it's actually quite good. You don't think something like fruit would work well actually inside the bowl with the milk, but as soon as you've tried it, you realize that the process yielded better results than you would've hoped. I should add that some pieces veer closer to black metal, while others like “Bridges” tend to feel like they would work better with horror films. Yes, I'll admit that I felt a bit of a chill on the back of my neck with that one. Could it have made Blair Witch better? Probably not. Even the album's final cut, “Compulsion” makes me feel a bit awkward, with it's ghastly church organs and ghostly mist. This is usually the music that plays in films where evil triumphs, or demons rise from hell or something. Most people don't like to hear such an approach in real life, which might be why some of the reviewers over at Metal Archives refused to review it. The disc is just a bit freaky, and when the metal isn't playing, I feel as though there's something looking at me from behind my shoulders. Some say that there might be and I'm okay with that. But you might not be...

(8 Tracks, 47:00)

8/10

Moloch/Gurthang - Split (2016)

This is a split between two atmospheric acts, the first one being Moloch from the Ukraine and the other being Gurthang from Poland. Both acts love to use keyboard synths, which is why I deliberately used the term atmospheric, and these synths help to demonstrate a style of atmosphere that I find a bit uneasy.

Here we have something that is the opposite of a meditation with Moloch's opener “Das Uralte Verweilt Dazwischen” which leaves to bring in a vocal influenced piece with spoken word and harsh vocal influence called “Unendlichkeit” which adds in slight guitar drones to accent it's increasingly morose atmosphere. Moloch can't be described as a happy rock act, and the music here is certainly not something for those at the top of their day. If you're feeling a little low, maybe you'll want to give this one a listen. It is certainly depressive, with not even one hint of a drum. It's very ahrd to even consider this a brand of metal, as it seems to want to incorporate industrial bits towards the end.

When we come to the only track offered from Gurthang, we find something that closely resembles black metal a bit more than Moloch did, which might have been the intention there. Gurthang differ, because they actually feature drumming and well, black metal. Their frontman is a bit stronger as well. The lyrics are all in Polish, but the feeling is there. Oddly enough on the only cut we have here, (Of Decay and Solitude) there still remains a spoken word portion like with the latter Moloch track. I tend to prefer this act a little better as far as black metal is concerned and feel that something very grim and awesome could come out of this. It's a bit short though, the band really doesn't kick into high gear until the end, even though drone seems to be a major factor here as well. We'll just have to see how these gentlemen perform in the future as to where the band's next step will be. So far, it's quite promising.

All in all, there are two different styles by which black metal has been referenced here. Moloch seem to want to go into a more industrial or synth-based style, while Gurthang seem more committed to the occult style, even though I don't believe the lyrical matter is that of the occult – it just has much in common with that nearly ritualistic style performed by similar bands. Both acts are worth a listen, so do go ahead and pick it up.

(3 Tracks, 8:00)

7/10

Morbo/Bunker 66 - Into The Morbid Bunker (2016)

Here we have a split between two Italian acts. The first one is Morbo which can be described as death metal, with the other being Bunker 66 which is considered by Metal Archives to be a blackened thrash group.

The first two cuts come from Morbo, which offer up what I'd consider to be a very raw and classic type of death metal. Maybe it's safe to say that they thrash a little more than some death metal bands, but you wouldn't want to call them death/thrash either, as this is nowhere near the speed or potency of an act like The Crowned. Instead, we're getting something of a traditional production value appropriated to what I'd consider to be an almost progressive and quite weird style. “Cross Tormentor” actually changes from the slower approach in “Per Legem Mortuorum” to literally include the speed-thrash that I at first mentioned was absent from the performance. Oh, well. I guess it's a bit tough to classify these guys and two songs really don't seem to be enough to display all that they're capable of either. I guess we'll see in time as to how far these gentlemen are willing to go in order to combine their style of classic death metal with bits of oddity and speed/thrash.

The next two cuts come from Bunker 66, which seems more like a type of death/thrash mixed with punk than the blackened thrash tag that Metal Archives gave them. There isn't any black metal to be found here, as the band instead offer what I'd consider to be a thrash meets punk style of riffing with hardened vocals that feel a bit gravel along with some killer little solo sections. It's more or less the kind of thing that comes in hard and fast, with little time to really observe it. This definitely had the energy of old punk and possibly some Motorhead infusions as well. It's about the furthest thing from black metal that I think there can be and the band's tag needs to be changed to fit that. For a band who has been around for as long as these guys have, (which is about a good six or seven years) it seems like Bunker 66 have changed their sound a bit. Though it is possible that this was only done for the split.

In the end, both bands are pretty decent. I thought Morbo was a bit more interesting because of the odd progressive tinkering, but that's just me. It's a relatively solid split and perhaps you should give it a listen.

(4 Tracks, 11:00)

6/10

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Zealot Cult - Karmenian Crypt (2016)

Ireland's Zealot Cult play a style of intelligent death metal that reminds me of a brainier Leprosy. I'm certainly hearing the Death influence, particularly on the vocal side of things and that works for me of course, but there are other facets of this performance which will keep the listener intrigued, the main facet of that being a band that just plain knows how to play death metal music. Folks, there are song structures within this album. Never are we hearing a band forced to swim through the simplicities of core. Zealot Cult doesn't make it easy for themselves, rather they fight through the muck in order to make an EP that seems worthy enough of their name. Jesus Christ, listen to the guitar playing on this record – that's the example for great death metal. Period. Now I'll admit that it's a little sludgy and pretty slimy in some areas as well, but it fits the atmosphere beautifully. If you're looking for good death metal, you're going to buy this one. Doesn't even matter if it's only seventeen minutes long. You'll play it again. Hell, I would. I'm already listening to this album again after previewing it the first time. My opinion of it hasn't changed.

As I mentioned, these gentlemen have just made their mark on the scene with this debut and other than a demo, it's all they've put out so far. So to tell me that these guys are going to go on to make a full-length soon enough, well... I want to hear it! But fuck my opinion, I want you to hear it. Yes, you – the death metal listener looking for something that actually sounds like death metal, not double-bass and cookie monster vocals and core breakdowns, but authentic death metal from musicians who sound like they've been playing it their entire lives. Originally, the drummer (Declan Malone) and guitarist (Mick Carey) had been playing death/thrash in a now defunct band called The Swarm, and while I can't tell you what that sounds like, I can tell you that what you're experiencing here is going to blow your mind. Now there are a couple of clean vocal portions on the hypnotic closer “Suffocation Of The Mind” but I didn't even feel perturbed by them. They simply added to what was an incredibly well-built and finely performed death metal track that merely serves as the topping on an already impressive cake, such as the one I'm feasting on here. Take a trip down to the pub for this one, gentlemen. You deserve it!

In my professionally unprofessional opinion, I think you'd have to be a complete ignoramous to skip out on this one. Ten more death metal records could come to my inbox within the next few days and I can guarantee that not even one of them would be as good as what I've just heard here. The Grim Tower highly recommends Karmenian Crypt and it's without a doubt one of the best EP's I've heard all year.

(3 Tracks, 17:00)

9/10

Assailant/Ubiquitous Realities - Bringers Of Delusion (2016)

We have here a split between two acts from Costa Rica, the first one being Assailant which is technical thrash metal with Ubiquitous Realities which is technical death metal.

Assailant reminds me a bit of Sepultura fused with latter-era Death and with maybe a hint of Cynic. Most of you are going to hear the Death influences though, which I think are quite apparent and show just how well these guys can play. Not only is guitar work completely abstract, but the drumming seems to line-up perfectly with what can be some rather bizarre compositions at times. Assailant have a vocal end as well, but he's not doing anything that I haven't heard from Chuck Schuldiner before and the band make a better instrumental act. It just depends on how you like your technicality. I can say that I would rather listen to the hard-edge of Assailant over a mainstay like Voivod which just bores me to tears and that's saying something. Yes, I'd rather listen to an act that just started out than one who's been around for decades because I think that the act sounds better than the legend. There, I said it. Crucify me. I had the chance to see Voivod live and walked out. They just were never that interesting to me and these guys seem to capture the essence of technical thrash much better.

Next we have Ubiquitous Realities, which is by and large different from the Assailant. First of all, these guys aren't just technical death metal – they're technical brutal death metal. After a slight movie quote, the record takes off into what can be considered the most extreme realms for the heavy metal genre. The bands that you know for playing this kind of music are those that have surgical procedures as monikers and intense gutturals. Also, I might mention that Ubiquitous Realities aren't a one-trick pony. The songs here actually have depth, and even some solo numbers. Opener “Bringer Of Malevolence” at one point had a sound that made me think the frontman was grinding his teeth, an approach I haven't heard in this genre before, even though it sounded pretty silly. There's definitely a lot of kick-drum here, but the fact that I am hearing a slight bit more than that makes these guys a bit more interesting. Sometimes they dip into breakdown or djent territory, but at least they're thinking out of the box. Especially on the spacey instrumental closer “Alterated Perception II” which I don't think anyone wwill see coming. If you like acts like Fallujah and Animals As Leaders, you'll find something there too, but they're still a BDM band. I promise!

Such an extreme partner on the disc makes for an odd split, I must say – but neither band disappoint and there's something for thrash and BDM fans here that I feel both will be happy with. I tend to like the Assailant part more as I think I've heard several better technical BDM acts like Wormed and 7.H Target, but these guys aren't half bad and at least it isn't the same old shit. I could see myself really getting into these guys after they've gotten a full-length out to show what they can really do. Yes, I'm saying that there's something in Ubiquitous Realities that could be very promising if they stick with it. Definitely give this record a listen, as this is a very strong Costa Rican split that just very well might surprise the living hell out of you.

(8 Tracks, 31:00)

9/10

Gnawed - Pestilence Beholden (2016)

Minnesota's Gnawed are back, with a record that I feel is described perfectly by the small amount of text located on the album's digipack. “All scrap metal, performed percussion and natural sounds were recorded within sewers, and rotting abandoned industrial complexes in Minneapolis.” In short, that pretty much sums up what you'll be hearing here as well. It's also quite good, as Gnawed give us a slightly different and surprisingly less ferocious atmosphere this time. When I first started up the record, I was expecting a great deal of unhinged anger and death electronics – but that's just not what I got and was thankful for it. Rather, there's something of an ominous and almost zen-like mist that pervades through the album. It doesn't feel pleasant, but it's not willing to rip your throat out either. As the text above implied, there is a heavy use of scrap metal scrapings on the disc, which help it to feel extremely metallic. We might call certain approaches of extreme rock music “heavy metal” but in all honesty, Gnawed is the sound of literal metal. Steel, iron, copper, aluminum – it's all here for your ears to explore. If this record had a smell, it would be that of a rotted old pipe left out for decades in an abandoned factory mixed in with the stale hint of a musty sewer.

Yes, there are moments of shouting on the disc (heavily masked with an effect) but they didn't reach in until much later, and once again I appreciate that the artist took time to think out of the box with this one. Industrial listeners expecting an atmosphere that matches the horrific imagery of malnourished humans on the album's digipack artwork will find exactly that in Pestilence Beholden. There's absolutely nothing that I couldn't recommend on this one, because it literally feels like cold, rotting metal and that is really what you want from industrial music. Real industrial music, where metal is used instead of rock or metal instruments and/or synthesizers. Admittedly, I like that sort of thing as well, but at least I know enough about this genre now to differentiate it from the dance-friendly distant cousin that exists on the other side of the paradigm. Gnawed fans won't be disappointed with this one, because it is exactly what they should expect from the artist at this point and feels like a more mature approach to the genre, even though it is straight-forward. Certainly worth picking up for any fan of industrial music and can be used as a educative tool to teach those who are unware of the difference in the two industrial genres. Gnawed have made the example with this one, with mastermind Grant Richardson showing everyone else what industrial music is really all about.

(9 Tracks, 55:00)

8/10

Hellgoat - Eden In Flames (2016)

Georgia's Hellgoat is about to release their next EP, with several full-lengths and other EP's just like it under their belt. The band has been comapred to acts like Von, Abysmal Lord, Beherit, Demoncy and others, offering a pretty raw and very rough-necked black metal edge that feels like a more produced version of something that may have come out during the early nineties. The drums do overpower the tremolos here, but that's probably how they'll sound on the stage too – and that's fine, because this is the kind of raw energy that we want to hear from them. It's not always blazing, but even during the lower registers, the frontman still manages a venomous scowl or two and makes for an entertaining performance. The lyrical matter is mostly based in the same Anti-Christian/Satanic stuff that you hear from most black metal acts and we won't beat them up about it. More or less these guys are just sort of emulating the acts and ideas that they enjoy putting forth in their music, and the approach comes off without a hitch. It's not very long, but it makes a mark and includes some interesting introductory and closing notes as well. You hear the sound of goats to open it, and you know – having lived on a farm at one point in my life, goats really aren't all that frightening to me. The ending piece was interesting though, a murky droning atmosphere that I wouldn't have expected. It's worth a listen, but these guys have a bunch of other material out there that comprises of more than just two tracks. I'd listen to those releases first.

(2 Tracks, 8:00)

7/10

Traffic Death/Lurking Corpses - Split Personality (2016)

I don't review much punk here, because I frankly can't fucking stand most of it, or that scene for that matter. Especially now that social justice culture has worked it's way into the scene. That being said, this is a split between two bands from Des Moines and Ft. Wayne with both offering a different approach to punk than I've heard before. Traffic Death started out with a pretty common punk flair, right up there with the Ramones or Misfits, especially in the “whoa-oh” sections. Then they decided to turn a song about their frustration with remakes and new shit into a rather scathing punk cut. The riffs were pretty derivative of the punk genre, but the frontman offered an absurdly harsher vocal approach that I quite enjoyed.

Next we have the equally scathing Lurking Corpses, which aren't strangers to me as I've reviewed them before – but this time around they're experimenting with thick, heavy bouts of doom as well as some death metal growls on “Human Scar.” It's also the longest cut on the disc. Considering the length of this thing, that's not long. After that, they just go into fast numbers that come in and out and don't really leave a mark. It's like when an artist just kind of says, “Eh, fuck it – we'll just write two quick tracks and clal it a day.” But that's what they did. It's a decent disc with slight bits of promise and even though I don't really like a lot of punk, I'll accept this as a relatively decent disc.

(5 Tracks, 8:00)

6/10

State Of Mine - Devil In Disguise (2016)

Hailing from Michigan, these alternative/hard rockers certainly have something for fans of acts like Five Finger Death Punch and early Motograter, which is what they sound like. Even more so than the acts they've been compared to on the press release: Mice & Men, Shaman's Harvest, Sevendust and Gemini Syndrome. While I haven't quite heard of all of those bands, I know for sure that State of Mine have not even the clearest resemblance to Sevendust as I've been a fan of those guys since I was a teenager. What we have here is an act that channels quite a bit of Five Finger Death Punch in their most modern and accessible era, which will do great for record sales, but not strike so hard for originality. What surprised the hell out of me though, was how close to Moody's vocal tone the frontman got on this record – it's unreal. Put those two together in a music program and you'll be quite astonished by the similarity. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but I don't know how well it's going to do for these guys to go so close to an approach that sounds just like that of the current kings of radio rock. “Curtain Call” is the track they're promoting and even have a video for, which certainly seems to have a lot of FFDP worship especially considering the chorus. Now Flaw could also be cited, but Flaw was performing their style long before Motograter joined Moody (and if anyone's ever heard Motograter before Moody, you'll know that they were an entirely different band at that point) and it could even be argued that Ivan Moody borrowed from Flaw in their early days (even though that's highly debatable.)

In any case, fans of a familiar radio rock approach (with added electronics) will find something here within the downtuned riffing and catchy chorus matter that pervade through the disc. There are some strong nodes in the chorus line for “Stones” as well as the closer “Broke By Monday” which reminds me of some of the good times during my teenage years, where we would all ride around on the back roads and listen to radio rock while getting stoned. I'm far too old for that mess now, but back then it was quite an experience. Devil In Disguise is chock-full of radio hits from front to back and I'd certainly recommend it to those who have no problem with commercial approaches. It's not too bad, but certainly nothing I'd outright recommend unless you want to have more radio-friendly hard rock music in your life. I have more than a few friends that would enjoy it, and I think personally that these guys are just one hit away from a major radio breakthrough. But I feel like I've personally heard it all before as far as this goes and it's really nothing all that special. Feel free to check the video and give them a listen for yourself, if this is something that interests you.

(7 Tracks, 25:00)

6/10

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ludicrous - The Stoic Ideal (2016)

This is the sophomore album from the Finnish industrial/death output, featuring members from End Of You, Dead Shape Figure and GAF. According to MA, there's only one member in the act right now and no one knows what he plays. That doesn't seem quite right to me though, and later checking the band's FB profile warrants a much better description. There are five members in the band here who apparently play various instruments. There, now that we have that covered (stifled laughter) let's get to talking about the damn album, shall we?

First off, Ludicrous are not the kind of band to stay stuck in one style for too long, even though they have a base of thumping bass (yes, I made a pun) and furious industrial elements. It can be said that some djent is used on the recording, but it only feels like an element instead of a backbone. Keyboard atmospheres gently decorate sections of the disc, but occasional piano can appear as well as a myriad of other things. Much of the record seems to mirror Swedish death metal, particularly cuts like “Crucifix-State-Of-Mind,” “Deathjog” and the album closer “Delta Male Supremacy.” The band does hit into more alternative rock territory with “Inside Out” and of course, the unexpected Slipknot cover of “Duality” which is definitely one of the act's most mainstream and popularized songs. As for that cover, it does maintain the same vibe, but features more of an industrial background and a much deeper vocal style than Corey Taylor might be capable of.

The record isn't all that long, but it certainly manages something a bit new and different with the death metal genre that people won't be expecting anytime soon. Just in case you passed it up, you might really want to get your hands on it. Bands like Ludicrous are just what we need in the metal scene today, because these are the kind of acts that truly think out of the box. For a real shocker, check out “Ponyrides and Ceilings.” You might not know what to think after hearing that one! Hopefully there will be more of this to come in the future.

(8 Tracks, 31:00)

8/10

Black Royal - The Summoning Pt.2 (2016)

While I don't remember the first part of The Summoning from these Finnish /stoner/death metallers, this second one definitely caught my attention. Musically, we're getting a doom approach with some extra bells and whistles (especially in the vein of melody) that help to accentuate what can be some rather rough growls from the frontman. Maybe there's a little bit of thrash to be found in sections as well, it just depends on the track. We even get some rather ethereal keyboard sections on “Reclaim The Throne” which starts out as a downright pounder. The track pounds you into the ground as if lifts you up and carries you into an enchanted forest. Go figure.

The rest of the cuts after that one are quite heavy, more along the lines of what you were expecting and they all feature a great deal of heavy bass and harsh vocals coupled with some bluesy guitar solos. I don't feel that anything goes as out of bounds as the ending of “Reclaim The Throne” even though “Demonspawn” does have a few more light-hearted moments, particularly when the keyboards return just slightly to give it an unexpectedly angelic feeling right before one last pounding.

Black Royal proves that they've got something a bit more to offer the stoner/death scene, even if that's the mere addition of melodies and keyboard bits. In any case, it's worth checking out if you're looking for a slightly different flavor than many similar bands in the genre.

(6 Tracks, 25:00)

6/10

Devotion - Words and Crystals (2016)

I decided to cover this, because the only English review I could find of it was negative and there has to be a reason that I would have it in my promise pool if it was worth checking out. The reviewer in particular said that he didn't really care for the Deftones style approach that this band dish out, but I on the other hand do like that sort of thing, so I think it's only fair that these guys get a review from someone out there who actually gives a damn about their sound.

First off, Devotion come from Italy and they've played a few shows with the Deftones as well as The Dillinger Escape Plan, two bands that actually match their sound perfectly. They're also on the soundtrack to All Points Bulletin which is some game that EA put out and apparently didn't do very well. That being said, these guys are quite talented if you're into the whole alt/rock and post metal style, and I think you'll find that the frontman has a pleasant voice and a high vocal range at times. He also tends to have a bit of a ferocity within his lines, which can lend very well to some of these pieces. Devotion have a very aquatic sound, despite the occasional tidal waves that occasionally launch waves of Nu-Metal angst, reminding me even a little bit of Filter. No, not Title Of Record Filter either. Those guys have had their share of heavy cuts, just like “P. Hamilton” manages to showcase here. Devotion have not forsaken the Nu-Metal genre, which of course is a thumbs up for me, regardless of the fact that some people don't care for it.

As far as the Deftones influence, I'm going to put this one at a mix of Adrenaline, Around The Fur and Diamond Eyes. Yes, I remember Adrenaline and it was definitely heavy – the right kind of Nu-Metal heavy. Yet what Devotion manage to achieve with such a sound, is waves of atmosphere which always allow the music to breathe. It can be a sledgehammer or a sandwich, depending on the song and mood conveyed within. Perhaps some of the harsher approaches can grain on one's nerves (simply depends on the listener) but I find that for the most part, there is enough variety here within all of the different styles that they attempt to make for a pretty solid listen. I'd definitely give it that much, as you may find that you like it.

(10 Tracks, 39:00)

7/10

In White - Heredity (2014)

I dug this one up from the grave, because there is next to no coverage on these Turkish melodic death metallers. In fact, when I googled the band's name and album title, I found all these bullshit news articles that had absolutely nothing to do with the band. It was showing me articles about “white heredity” in all actuality, which is certainly not what I was trying to ascertain information about.

So why doesn't anyone give a shit about these guys? Beats me, as they're pretty decent. Heredity is their debut album, released just a few years ago on a label called M2K Productions. Listeners are going to get a familiar dose of early In Flames/Dark Tranquillity style melodic death metal, but they're also getting a lot of crunchy grooves, perhaps something out of Chimaira or Heaven Shall Burn's playbook, which certainly isn't a problem for me. Problem is, we have another case of the vocals being raised too high in the mix, which can work to drown out the two guitarists in the band. There's also some downtune mixed in here and there, which can somewhat give off a bluesy nature to the material. The solo pieces are pretty decent though, but the songs themselves are pretty short with the longest cut (The Pier) being about five minutes. Most of these tracks are about three or four minutes long and seem kind of stripped down. In White are the kind of melodic death act that fans of groove metal would enjoy, which almost seems like an oxymoron.

Though there are clean backing vocals, these guys seem to be more interested in grit and grime, which is certainly going to drive away fans of much cleaner approaches to this genre. It's interesting to note that the band's demo was closer to alternative or modern metal, whereas this one added in more melodic death metal elements. We can hear the old sound of the band peeking in on awkward ballad “Unsaid” which at least has the right amount of passion behind it. Sure, it's not quite the most vocally tuned approach that I've ever heard and I wouldn't advise the guy to quite his day job, but you know – there's spirit behind it.

After that one, we have the acoustic “Colors” which sounds a little bit better. Following that, we actually get a track which originally appeared on said demo by the name of “A Scarlet Road” which shows a much different approach for the band as I mentioned. It's not bad – still out of key a bit, but there's at least a sense of emotion behind it. They tried, you know? That's really all I can say.

(11 Tracks, 41:00)

6/10

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Neoheresy - Potop (2016)

You know, it really says something when one guy can make an album that sounds like an entire band and orchestra composed it. Now, to be fair – it doesn't sound quite as full as a performance of that nature might, but it is definitely still able to embody the same effects with little effort. I don't know where the male and female background vocals are coming from (as they aren't credited) but composer F is quite something. My leaflet here tells me that the performance has guitar nodes similar to Bathory and I'll certainly agree there, but it also states that quite a bit of folk is in use here and I like that as well. All of the lyrics are in native Polish, but this should not come as a detriment for open-minded listeners who just plain enjoy a nice atmopshere. It's not even so much about the vocal sections for me here, nor is it about the recording. Neoheresy have a raw and organic sound that really comes across rather well in what I might describe as a rather harsh, yet rather stereoscopic production that almost sounds like something of a metallic film score.

Obviously this isn't Neoheresy's first record, but it's quite a bit for an EP release and shows that this artist isn't going away anytime soon, for he has far too much to offer us in the future. If I might recall, the record before this one (Talionis) had a bit of an industrial flair, which you aren't getting with Potop. Once again, this just goes to show listeners that one man is capable of musical miracles, with thirty-six minutes of proof to back my claim. The disc often feels ritualistic, and probably is. It also has a tinge of black metal, which early listeners might recall being a major part of the act. Maybe there's just a touch of electronics here and there, but I'm certainly not going to hold it against F and wish him the best with these works. Can't turn down a solid blackened fok metal record with experimental touches. It's just not in me.

(8 Tracks, 36:00)

8/10

Dulvitund - Huldar Slóðir (2014)

A one man Icelandic ambient project, Dulvitund have submitted to me a very impressive EP release here in Huldar Slodir. It's a bit cold, yet quite electronic. I'd almost feel that this kind of music would work in an indie-platformer, particularly in a dark space station area. At least that is what I'm getting from opener “Minningar Um Þjáningar” which is a nice place to start. There's also a bit of what sounds like rustling of leaves, perhaps making me feel that this “base” area of which I imagine myself to be in, is near a forest or jungle. “Huldar Slóðir” feels like it might be found in a cave, on another planet somewhere. The composer here could do quite well for the world of gaming, which I've said before of other similar electronics composers, because simply I'd prefer much of the to the orchestral approaches we've been getting in a lot of games. At least here, the common chiptune reference is still there, which is what I feel is missing from a lot of AAA titles. But that is a rant for another time.

The sound here is definitely of an atmosphere, invoking the ambience that I spoke about in the very first sentence of this review. It is a very kind of “chill” album, but it doesn't quite spell “relaxation.” No, this is something that still feels a bit dark, grim – you might say. Wherever you've found yourself when you start to play this album, it is definitely not a happy place. Saying little more, (as the third cut is in much the same vein as the others) it's safe to say that the soundscapes intended by the cover art have come across very well on this recording. It looked like a black metal album cover, or possibly something of black/death. But that's not what we have here, even though the same sense of dread is roughly apparent.

The artist also released a full-length (Lìfsins Þungu Spor) which you can also find by easily accessing the artist's Bandcamp page. I just purchased a copy of that particular record for a NYOP, which is the best price that I think one can have for anything. Definitely check it out if you're into positively grim electronic atmospheres.

(3 Tracks, 30:00)

8/10

Detonation - Reprisal (2011)

Netherlands based death/thrash and melodic death metallers Detonation sent me this all of the way back from 2011. It's also the last disc they released before going on a long hiatus, by which another full-length has not yet appeared. I don't think we'll hear anything else from these guys again though, especially seeing as bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije is now in a very famous female fronted act by the name of Delain and guitarist/frontman Koen Romejin is is currently playing in four other bands right now. There's still a possibility, but will it ever sound this good? The best of Dark Tranquillity, Dissection and a little bit of Opeth are here, along with some groove bits that really stick. Fans of At The Gates and Nightrage will also find something here in Reprisal, as Detonation will sound like long lost friends that you never knew you had. Without question, everything that I love about melodic death metal is here, but the disc is not overly beautiful. Instead, it's main concern is to plunge your carcass directly into the ground with no remorse or even a hint of a clean vocal. Yes, this is melodic death the way we remember it, albeit with just a few injections of modernism.

These guys are ill-reviewed on Metal Archives, almost as if someone completely forgot that they made two records in 2005 (Portals to Uphobia) and Emission Phase (2007). Their debut (An Epic Defiance) has an astonishing 90% however, which makes me think that it must be even better than the disc I'm reviewing, which only has a 70%. That being said, only one person reviewed each album, so that's a very biased opinion to judge I feel. Autothrall did provide the review for this one however, but he can be a bit biased towards some of the discs I like, himself preferring a much different quality of metal than myself, apparently. I can guarantee that if I sat down with the guy and listened to some of the records he gave 100% to, I'd probably find something wrong with them, or that they aren't quite so good. The likewise could be said about some of my favorite albums as well, because reviews are merely opinions and only resonate with listeners that feel the same. This is just my opinion, it is just my observation. I always encourage people to listen to the discs themselves.

This disc is pretty damn old and from what I can tell, it's certainly not a reissue. Hell, the sound quality is low for this promo, so it's awful fuzzy to begin with. Too bad, because these guys are good and they don't even have a proper Bandcamp. They have a Facebook and ReverbNation as well as a home page, where two of their records have been sold out for quite a while. (They're also the two that have not been reviewed on Metal Archives, strangely. Does anyone have these fucking records?) Apparently, you can buy this disc for thirteen euros along with the debut which only sells for eight. If you don't want to do all that, you'll probably just listen to the damn thing on YouTube. The band's home page hasn't even been updated since 2013 and that was just a “we're not dead” update, so go figure. Anyway, these are a great bunch of tunes in the old school style of melodic death metal and maybe they'll make some more of them in another ten years or so. If you want to hear what the frontman/guitarist is up to now though, you can check out Apophys which released their debut album Prime Incursion last year. They play tech-death, so it's a little bit different than this record though. Give them both a listen, I'm sure they're worth it.

(8 Tracks, 35:00)

8/10

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mare Infinitum Talks Eternity of Space, Lovecraft, Gaming and Tips for Russian Travel!



Interview with Georgiy (Guitars, bass, programming) and Ivan (Vocals)

I have no idea what happened here and how this one got lost, but here is my interview with Russian experimental death/doom duo Mare Infinitum, originally planned for post in July of 2015. In it, we discuss the album, the background of the musicians, thoughts on America and things to explore if you ever choose to travel to Russia. Great interview, it upsets me greatly to see that it fell behind. 

For those who aren’t familiar with the band, tell us a little about yourselves.

Georgiy: Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions! We are the band Mare Infinitum from Moscow, Russia formed in 2010 and we play doom/death metal. Our debut album called Sea of Infinity was realized in 2011 and the second album, Alien Monolith God came out this spring. Our current studio line up is a duet that includes Ivan Guskov on clean vocals and Georgiy Bykov handling guitars, bass and programing. Our former growler and lyricist Andrei Karpuhin left the band in 2014.

Ivan: Hello, everybody! My name is Ivan Guskov. I am the voice of Mare Infinitum and a few other bands from Moscow. I am also working as an actor in Moscow Music & Drama theater.

The new record is called Alien Monolith God, which sounds truly intriguing. Tell me a little bit about the concept behind this.

Georgiy: Our new album doesn't have any concept at all in terms of lyrical ideas. Each song has it's own different story behind it. There are lyrics about madness, horror, solitude and apocalypse on the album. My personal associations with Alien Monolith God deal with the eternity of space, stars and galaxies.

Tell us a little bit about the recording process for the disc. How long did that take and are you pleased with the final result? Because I know I am.

Georgiy: The recording process begun at the end of December, in 2013. We choose Primordial Studio to work with as we did with the first album. Drums were recorded first. I offered session drummer Vladimir Lyashkov and he did a great job. Rhythm guitars, clean guitars and bass were recorded second by me and then our producer Michael, who also recorded solos. Vocal tracks were done at the end of the process around April 2014. Unfortunately, the mixing process was a bit long because of some technical problems in studio so we finished the album in October of 2014. I have to say that I’m very happy with the result.

Ivan: For me it was a great experience. Not as difficult as it was for Georgiy and the other musicians. I had two sessions in studio. One with our growler, Andrey and one with my good friend Olesya Levina, who did all of the female vocals on this record. I am very happy with results. Feedback from foreign countries tells us that we did something special this time.

Let me tell you, there are some really odd things here that I’d never thought I’d ever hear on a doom death record, like the Dead Can Dance influenced stuff, for example. How did you come up with these ideas?

Georgiy: That was very natural. I always try to do things I like. I never thought that because something wasn't in the doom/death genre, that I wouldn't use it. I don't think this way at all! I try to listen to my songs in general and always ask myself if they are good enough. Did I say everything that I needed to say in the song? If some parts work together well I use them. It doesn't matter if it would be natural for the doom genre or not. I feel that you have to do something unusual instead of just doing the same thing as others around you. 

Lovecraft’s ancient ones still hold sway on the public nearly a hundred years after his death. What do you think was so monolithic about H.P. Lovecraft and the way that he wrote?

Ivan: I think, it's all about an unexpected fear that lives inside us. Fear, that you can't explain or describe. Fear of the unknown.

Seeing that you’re fans of horror and sci-fi novels, what are some other authors or perhaps even some films that you’d recommend we check out? One of the best Lovecraftian films I’ve ever seen was Dagon, but that was particularly due to the ending. Can’t help but think that there’s a better one that I’m forgetting here…

Ivan: I am not a fan of horror movies. When I was younger, of course I saw “Nightmare on Elm street”, “Hellraiser” and other classic horror movies. But now I prefer cartoons. I think the world itself has enough pain, anger, fear and other negative emotions to spend my time watching these on the big screen.  
I know a few horror video games that have a good atmosphere. Like “Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth”, “Dead Space” or “The Suffering."

What are some interesting things that you gentlemen do for a hobby that people here in the states really wouldn’t be able to do? What are some parts of Russia that you think we need to visit and experience for ourselves?

Georgiy: I don't think there are any activities here that you are unable to do in the US. I used to do quite simple things like meet my friends, go to rehearsals, go to the gym, go to the hot bath (Russian sauna) and travel sometimes. If you want to visit Russia, there are lots of places you could explore. You could find very interesting things everywhere from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. If you are interested in seeing more civilized (and more "classical" I would say) places, your could go to Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Vyborg, Yarolavl, Vladimir, Suzdal etc. If you prefer more wild and silent places, you have choices everywhere from Ural to Far East, Kamchatka and Chukotka. As far as I know, James Hetfield of Metallica visited Kamchatka for hunting.

Ivan: I like to travel around the world, spend time with my girlfriend, play video games, eat and of course, I like to make and listen music. I am a huge music fan! And it doesn't matter where I am – singing on stage or in the crowd with other fans. I like to go to the gigs and festivals here in Russia and around the world. Nothing special. I think we are very boring people.

Being Russians, what are your thoughts on the culture and political ideologies of the United States? Do you think that we’ve all gone crazy, or do you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Silly Americans?”

Georgiy. I think that if Americans were able to launch The New Horizons and the Voyagers 1 and 2, and if they reached the Moon and have about four-hundred Nobel Prizes as well as Hollywood, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley, Gibson guitars etc. how could I say they are silly? I think people in USA live their own lives, have their own problems and dreams as well as we do in Russia. I don’t think we have such large differences between us. Some Americans become Russian citizens, like Olympic champion Vic Ivan Wild or Jeff Monson (he is going to become a citizen of Russia). Both of them are very popular in Russia. If you ask me about the political aspects of the US as well as about politics in general, I don’t think this is right place to discuss such things. I think politics is something that divides people and music is something unites them. Thus, I prefer music.

Ivan: I was working with Americans in 1999 when we were doing Russian version of hippie-love-rock musical “Hair” in Moscow. In 2006 I was in LA with the show. I have friends in the US. I  don't think that people are so different around the world. Most of us have the same problems. It's all about culture and education, I think. If you want to discuss political problems, you should visit my Facebook page. In this direction, I think that we Russians need to think about our own political problems now. Not about America. 

Where can we pick up the album and see you guys live? Would you ever be open to playing here in the US?

Georgiy: We would be very happy to visit the US and play for our listeners! If you know some local promoters who would be interested in us, just let us know!

Ivan: You can pick our records from our label Solitude Productions, Bandcamp and maybe iTunes, but i'm not sure about this service. Of course we want to play around the world. Not only in the US. We are just waiting for a call from the local promoters.

What are some other projects that you are working on, which we might be able to check out in the future?

Georgiy: I have numerous ideas for the next album from Mare Infinitum. I have no idea when it will be realized but we will try to do it as soon as possible. Also, I play in the post-rock band A Young Man’s Funeral that is a project of a friend of mine.

Ivan: I have a few bands here in Moscow, with albums that will be released later this year. First is the southern rock-blues band called Red River Hog. You can check it on Soundcloud. And other one – it's my sludge-doom project with Andrey from Mare Infinitum. It's called Dopehaze. It was recorded in 2013, but because of many problems it will be released later this year.

Thanks for making one of the single best death/doom albums I’ve ever heard in my entire life. This is thing is absolutely astounding. There’s nothing quite like it, and nothing quite like your band. I thank you for taking the time to answer this interview and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Georgiy: Thanks for such great support!! I hope we will face all of you live someday! Big hug.

Ivan: Thank you for your support! I hope that someday we will meet! Keep on rockin'!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dakhma - Passageways To Daena (2015)

Swiss blackened death metallers Dakhma are part of something called the Helvetic Underground Committee, which seems to be an underground religious movement dedicated to bringing back pre-Judaic belief in the form of Zoroastrianism. It seems that old Ahura Mazda's coming back after all! Although the music here definitely seems closer to that of his counterpart Angra Mainyu, which is where we eventually found the building blocks for the devil. Setting mythology aside, we have a rather interesting and quite foggy mix of progressive death metal with some black metal elements, as described.
The band is made up of just two people, with Kerberos handling everything but the drums, which H.A.T.T. manages to perform rather well. Seeing as the drumming is a huge part of the record, H.A.T.T. seems to have just as an important a job as Kerberos, especially in the atmospheric cuts which can change the nature of the band entirely and work to slowly chip away the genre tag thrown to these guys by the scribes at Metal Archives. “Ascension II” is definitely more of an atmosphere than a sort of death metal song, even making me wonder how much of it is song and how much of it is an actual ritual. Kerberos's droning mix of growls and scowls actually enrich such a performance even more, making me truly feel witness to something rather awesome and unique. They aren't attempting to be an act like Portal, Aevangelist or Teitanblood even though semblances can be drawn if one wants to look far enough. We could even compare some of the riff melodies here to something like Deathspell Omega and the hordes of other acts in the French black metal scene. The production is raw here, at times very raw – but I feel that this organic approach makes for an absolute inferno that will surely require quite a bit out of listeners.

I happened to read an older review of the disc just before I wrote this one, where the listener claimed the record was too long, but when you have a piece like “Chinvat” which requires you to sit and meditate (no death metal, or any metal to be found on that one, folks – it is a literal soundscape) such a thing can be expected. After all, this is really not a “jam album.” It doesn't really make me want to bang my head or anything similar. Instead, I feel that I am being thrown into something ancient (as I've referenced earlier) and it will require a lot more out of me than throwing up an air-guitar. This is something that nearly transcends the boundaries of music entirely, which is why I feel that it is nearly an essential listen. There are oddly enough, guitar solos in use here, but anything that I'd really consider “metal” just sort of takes a backseat to what is something that you can tell the musicians take very seriously. It's not that “Of Charred Flesh” doesn't have a fiery little guitar solo and flaming hot tremolo riffs, it's that it also contains several elements that might seem just a little out of place for a heavy metal performance. I see nothing wrong with that however, as it shows that Dakhma just want to do more. Even “The Silent Tower” takes a break for atmosphere and melody, showing that the record has much more to offer than what you might expect from the first couple of tracks. There are some rather bizarre occurences here and I hope Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu are happy with this, as I would quite be had I been of their stature. An interesting bonus feature in “Call From The Grave” also appears, which of course is a Bathory cover performed in a slightly different style than Quorthon might have intended. It still has the spirit of the original, but is a little bland as far as the lead riffs are concerned. Another bonus cut for the disc is “Ritual Of Daebaaman” which is literally half metal and half ritual, depending on where you arrive in the piece. If metal music can be used as a ritual tool for religion, then such has been demonstrated here on Passageways To Daena. It came out last year, but it's definitely worth tracking down. I'm sure Godz Of War still has some left if you're interested!

(10 Tracks, 67:00)

9/10

Eteritus - Following The Ancient Path (2016)

Hailing from Poland, we have death metallers Eteritus here with their debut album. It's not all that long and it's definitely rough around the edges, but it seems to have the right idea, which is classic death metal. The production is definitely a bit thin though, which is my biggest issue with the album. It feels like all of the instruments have been constricted to a very tiny room, by which there are only slight bursts from the kit and vocal end by which to strengthen the performance. Greg's bass is pushed far to the back, which I think is a very noticeable issue here and takes away from the warmth that such a performance should have. It's just too cool for me, folks and that's where I find that I'm having a tough time getting into it. It's not that Nitro isn't pummeling the kit to literal death, or that frontman/guitarist Liam Tailor isn't belting out some of the most venomous barks I've heard in quite a while (because I'll give him that) as well as some rather capable melodies entwined within the mix. It's just that there's a constricting grain throughout this performance that is making it very hard for me to keep focused.

That being said, there's a definite effort being displayed here and I can't ignore that. This is only their first album after all and I can understand if it doesn't sound exactly perfect. These guys have the amount of skill needed for proper death metal and display that well enough here. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but it is definitely something that I would recommend giving a listen as there are those who will not be as anal rententive about the mix as I am. If we ignore the mix completely, there's a pretty solid death metal disc here that is representitive of that classic Swedish sound and that's what is most important. Eteritus have brought another slab of powerful death metal to old school heads and I'm sure they'll eat it up regardless.

(9 Tracks, 32:00)

7/10

Profanal - Supreme Fire (2016)

Profanal sounded to me like a type of medication and if that's to be the case, then these Italian death metallers have made a pill that will burn immensely as it heads down your throat, resulting in severe convultions and heavy bouts of vomiting. According to Metal Archives, Profanal can be compared to the likes of Dismembered, Entombed a little defunct band called Nirvana 2002 (now Under The Church) and Funeral Whore. They're closely related to Sweden's Dismember however, with the Entombed influence being their earliest work. They definitely know how to play revolting death metal, with all the heat and warmth of yesteryear, jam-packed with guitar solos and literal riffs that you'll actually remember. Supreme Fire sounds like it came out during the heyday of death metal and is definitely a disc you want to get your hands on, just for the sheer amount of work put into the performance. The frontwoman's vocals are absolutely scathing, coupled with pounding drums and bass, along with dozens of bloodcurdling riffs that simply reek of this stuff. The only issue that I had with this disc is going to surprise most of you, being that it is the less than a minute acoustic instrumental “Across Death's Path.” It is literally just a small acoustic number that does nothing more than to take away from such a fearsome performance. I feel that a lot of heads are going to be upset that there's a slight break in the slaughter and I'd definitely skip that cut every chance I got. Maybe they should have placed it at the end, where it wouldn't have taken away from the classic feel they were going for. When you're listening to a cohesive and absolutely unrelenting experience like this, (it's just plain classic) you don't want any frilly pieces getting in the way. If they were going for more experimentation, I could understand – but I'm just not getting that from Profanal right now. Cutting that piece out of the mix, you still have a solid thirty-five minutes of solid death metal and I'm not going to complain about that. Still worth a listen, and I think you'll enjoy it regardless of the acoustic hiccup.

(9 Tracks, 36:00)

8/10

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sea Of Bones/Ramlord - Split (2016)

We have two similar, yet different acts here, the first one being Connecticut's sludge/drone/doomers Sea Of Bones and the other New Hampshire's crust-punk/black metallers Ramlord, which sounds more like Neurosis in their early era, just with more of a blackened tinge. I say that both acts seem similar because regardless of genres, they both seem to be going for the same style of sludge and doom influence on this EP.

Sea Of Bones haven't had a great deal of records, certainly not as many as Ramlord; but they do have the potential to go quite far if they continue to do exactly what I'm hearing here. They consider their band to be “a dissonant wall of sound” and would compare themselves to Neurosis and Buried At Sea, which I would say is most comparable among the others here listed. It sounds exactly like that, feeling like a literal fucking wave of monolithic thunder, replete with hoary roars and what feels like a great fog. When I listen to the record, I feel like I'm in the middle of a storm and about to be demolished by a tidal wave of grease, slime and sludge. There is a bit of a calm after the storm however, which allows the piece to breathe well.

Ramlord definitely pump doom into their performance and I'm getting a sort of blackened punk feel, right from the vocals especially. There's even a bit of death grunt to be had, fronting a performance that feels just as foggy as the other. Ramlord aren't big on sludge, but there's definitely a pounding sense of doom here and that's going to be what matters as a whole. The track does feature a big kick as it continues, observing a much different atmosphere than what we got with Sea Of Bones. You can really hear the punk roaring in along with a big tempo change that completely wipes over the doom and almost carries as sense of grindcore with it. Then the doom comes back in, albeit with a sort of celebratory node. It feels like they're having a little bit of a party towards the end of this song, and that's fine.

Closing out this observation, I think both bands prove their worth rather well on an EP that should please fans of both varities of metal. It's not quite doom, sludge, punk, post, drone or black metal, but there are enough elements of each inside of this grimy snack mix to suit your tastes.

(2 Tracks, 20:45)

8/10

Aggravator - Sterile Existence (2016)

Note: The following release is cassette only as of this review.

This is the second full-length from Texas thrashers, Aggravator and it's far from aggravating. But I'm sure these guys have heard that one before. In any case, this is the kind of thrash I like. You can hear the Slayer, Sodom, Metallica, Destruction and company influence on the record, but Aggravator are the kind of band that come forth with more force than acts like Slayer have in years (not Sodom though, they killed it this year!) especially with the blood-curdling rasp offered up by frontman Derek Jones. I love it when metal sounds evil, and I think his Jeff Walker approach to the genre comes off completely ravenous. But it's not all about Jones, as the other three dudes in the band show that they can play thrash with the very best of them.

Let me tell you why I would prefer a band like this to something like Death Angel, for instance. First of all, the last Death Angel record I heard just sounded like the same couple of riffs repeated over and over with no real rhyme or reason. There wasn't anything about the record that really appealed to me and I felt that listening to it was a waste of time compared to the new Sodom or something like this. Aggravator are the kind of act that I'm not even sure if I should call thrash or death/thrash, with influences that sometimes seem to veer in mid-era Death territory. They definitely mainly play thrash, but they play thrash with enough attention to detail that you're not completely bored.

To thrash purists, there's probably not too much going on here that they haven't heard and I'll meet them on that end. Yet you have to take notice of some of the little interjections that will appear on a cut like “High Impact Homicides” for example. I always preferred thrash acts like DAM and Vektor who tried to do something a bit more with the genre, rather than rehashing what has already been done on each additional output, which is what Aggravator are trying to attempt here. I never said it was perfect, but it's better. I'd much prefer them over an act like Warbeast, but wouldn't shy away from seeing both Texan based acts in a show together.

If you like to hear the sound of angry guitars and dueling solo efforts (Jesse Lopez delivers well in that area) as well as as barrage of drums (Martin Cortes) and classic bass nodes (Tristan Hernandez) then you've certainly come to the right place. It won't quite reinvent the wheel, but it certainly makes a mark among several of the thrash acts I've heard this year.

(9 Tracks, 33:00)

7/10

Tortorum - Rotten, Dead, Forgotten (2016)

When I first happened upon this record, I hated it as I felt that there was nothing really all that special about it. It all sounded quite similar to approaches that I've heard before from the occult black metal genre, and took at least four listens before the disc originally grew on me. After the ominous intro “Iao AI” I was greeted to three cuts that all contain the same exact tempo, which can be a bit boring, if not for the fact that the band have enough skill to keep the songs as a whole, generally entertaining.

Aside from “Life Is The Enemy” and closer “Black Mantra Mysteries” which both contain a bit more kick from the kit, we're generally immersed inside of a slower atmosphere (which I will admit is accentuated heavily by frontman Barghest) that seems to have been dragged out a little too much. This is just a little different from their more experimental stuff – it's a bit straight-forward and I suppose such an approach comes with time. You can only make really weird records for so long, after all. At least when they're playing more traditional black metal, they really seem to have a good handle of it, so surely that means something.

I feel that a lot of black metal fans will gravitate towards this one just for it's unhinged and horrific atmosphere – it feels very “black metal” and that's usually enough for most of the hordes who will undoubtedly praise it. This is their first EP after two full-lengths, but the band are still relatively unknown at this point. Hopefully, this more streamlined approach should cement them some popularity. I suppose for me, it's the simple fact that I've heard this style so many times that it's tough to really find an act that stands out.

Obviously, fans of occult black metal acts like will dig it, but users on Metal Archives have compared them to Valkyrja, Dysangelium and Watain (even though I'd stress early Watain.) This is all a convoluted way to simply say, “Well, the new Tortorum sounds like black metal” and to me, that's certainly not a problem.

(6 Tracks, 30:00)

8/10

Serpent Ascending - Ananku (2016)

Finland's Serpent Ascending are about to release their first (or I should say, his first) album on I, Voidhanger. There was a little compilation record as well as a demo released earlier, but this is the first offering of completely new material from the one man act, helmed entirely by Jarno Nurmi. I can't really tell if the drumming is programmed or being performed by a real kit, chalking that section of the performance up to technology. This is definitely a death metal performance, but it is not the kind of death metal performance that is afraid to shun texture or melody. The bare-bones of the record clearly sound like any classic death metal act, but there's a sense of progression as well as some occult black metal influence (say Deathspell Omega) that sort of turns the nature of the recording on it's head. Nurmi controls a powerful bark on the record, but he doesn't relegate himself to that approach, sometimes going into a sort of cleaner, yet more hypnotic approach. The record doesn't have a lot of bite, but it doesn't seem to be going in that sort of direction. What I'm hearing here is a little more intelligent than just sheer brutality, and as the record goes on, it just becomes a bit more varied in terms of tone and structure. There are sections where the drums blast a little and allow Ananku to bare it's teeth, but nothing on here came out completely fearsome to me. Serpent Ascending has the right idea I think, but this sounds like a project that I hope will see more evolutions in the future. It is worth a listen if you're looking for something a bit more than unhinged brutality.

(8 Tracks, 30:00)

7/10

Sunlight's Bane/Geist - Split (2016)

This split features two tracks each from Michigan based Sunlight's Bane, as well as Englanders Geist. The difference is that both bands are a bit different than each other, with the guest being a little more intriguing to me than the mainstay act.

Sunlight's Bane starts out the disc with what is an absolutely grueling round of pure musical chaos. It's pretty damn rambunctious folks, with influences ranging from brutal death to black metal and even some core semblances. I'd definitely consider it a flavor of extreme grind, with two vocalists ready to tear your ears off and throw them in a waste receptacle. There IS a little bit of a punk influence here, but only if that punk was fiercely injected with the very blood of a living inferno. Sunlight's Bane is what happens when you mix punk in with hellfire and makes for something that I'd consider leagues better than ninety percent of the punk music I've heard recently. We at The Grim Tower hope that they'll make plenty more of this, as I am all ears.

As for Geist, I'm not going to sit here and trash them. Let's give these hardcore punks a respectable observation. While not as extreme as Sunlight's Bane, they still manage to kick up enough piss n' vinegar to make a mark. The drums frantically pound throughout the release, fronted by a man who reminds me of Jamey Jasta at his angriest. I mean, it's not as preferable to the inhuman approach of the other act, but I think it has just enough firepower going for it to a make a statement. It does sound a little bit more realistic though and may bring listeners back down to earth after surviving the horrifying abyss that was Sunlight's Bane. The drums I feel are the best part of the performance, but at times they are also the only thing that I can hear on the record and even work to drown out the guitars (and vocals even.)

Obviously, I'm going to praise the hell out of Sunlight's Bane as far as this split is considered. But both bands are definitely worth checking out and I'd recommend this split to anyone looking for a short and raucous shot of pure fucking adrenaline.

(4 Tracks, 10:34)

8/10

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Void King Talks Influences, Star Wars, Danzig & Passionate Politics



Interview with Tommy Miller (Guitar)

Indiana's Void King create a blend of doom and post metal/rock that seems to take on a life of it's own, and carry a bit of a bluesy twang with it as well. I spoke with axeman Tommy Miller about a variety of topics ranging from the album, to his media preferences, personal collecting habits and political stance. I wouldn't consider Void King a political band, but I definitely feel his views are valid here. More so than mine, as I didn't make the cut for military duty and he's been there and done that. 

Let’s start by talking a little about the band. How did you guys get together?

This band has kind of been a journey to get to where we are. Derek, our drummer, and I started this thing as like a two man doom band. We were going to do a “Dark Castle” or “Black Cobra” kind of group. But then it occurred to me that I wanted bass harmonies and the like. One thing led to another, a couple of guys came and went, and we eventually got our first bass player Jake. Jake was with us for some time, and then he decided to head back to school, so we got my brother in the band. Jason started singing for us as kind of lark, and then it turned into a full time gig. Ultimately, it’s me, my best friend, my brother, and one of our musical idols. It’s kind of the best of all worlds.

What was it like working on this record? Did you have any struggles with it?

For the first time in my life, I enjoyed recording. Typically I gripe and moan about the studio and having to take time off from playing live, but this was different. Carl is a great guy, that has played in a bunch of amazing bands (Coffinworm, Kvlthammer, Final Void) and it really helped to have him in the room. He totally got the vibe of the record and wanted us to sound like us, and not some digital, clean version of us. If that makes sense. So many people come out of the studio with this thing that doesn’t even resemble the band. We didn’t want that at all. Carl totally got that.

There are a lot of influences on this disc, I’m reminded a bit of everything from Sabbath to Black Label Society and even Clutch. What are some of the bands that you think may have inspired your sound?

From my end, I listen to things all over the place. I do love Sabbath. No doubt. But I don’t listen to them all that much. From a guitar perspective, I love Crowbar, Danzig, YOB, Red Fang, and a whole host of other bands. I also listen to a LOT of post-metal bands. Isis, Pelican, Red Sparowes. I love all of that stuff. From the other guys’ side of things, it’s a great mix of music. Jason listens to a lot of traditional stoner rock stuff, and some more spacey music. He’s big into old hardcore too. Like, when hardcore was hardcore and not breakdowns. Derek leans more towards the rock thing. He’s a big QOTSA fan. I think that influence can be heard in how solid he is back there. Dude is a metronome. Chris used to play tech metal. Like, Periphery and Between the Buried and Me type stuff. He comes from a world where more notes was better. He’s done such a great job of adapting that to our style, and I think it has taken the band to another level. Truly.

When it comes to song topics, do you write more from personal experiences, or do you write based on different mediums, like novels or films?

Movies. Documentaries. Real life experiences. Whatever seems interesting at the time. Jason has written about things that don’t make a lick of sense unless you know a certain person, but the lyrics still have some kind of personal impact on you anyway. He does a great job of being to write in such a way that everyone can extrapolate some sort of meaning from them and connect.

What are some of the albums that you guys are currently jamming to? Do you prefer vinyl, CD’s or MP3’s?

I got turned on to MGLA like a month ago, and it’s about all I listen to right now. Something about that record was exactly what I needed when I heard it. You know? Generally, I don’t prefer black metal. But this is produced well, it’s mean, and it hits me in the right place sonically. And I listen to all forms of media. My vinyl collection continues to expand, but that’s an expensive habit. I like having the album art in my hands though. Something about the smell and the visceral experience of opening a record makes the music yours. Digital stuff is fine. I’ve discovered so many amazing bands because of the web, but I don’t feel as connected with a Spotify play list.

Where do you throw your hat in this year’s election? Do you think the country is screwed as a whole? 

I can’t speak for anyone else in the band, but I am a fairly political person. I pushed for Bernie while he was still in the race. We were going around and knocking on doors, making calls, etc. He was the first person to run for president that actually felt genuine. I don’t think that Obama is a bad dude or anything, but he still feels like a career politician. Whatever. But Bernie gave me a lot of hope. “hey, here’s a dude that has a record of working for people and not for the giant corporations”. And I honestly think that if he had half the name recognition that HRC has, he would have mopped the floor with her in the primaries. That said, both of the people running for president now scare me to death. I’m an active duty Army veteran, so I have a pretty vested interest in the current military strategy, as well as how vets are being taken care of. Both of these chumps are great with war, and neither one of them have a foreign policy that I’d line a bird cage with. But if we’re being terribly truthful here, Trump is worse than HRC. I won’t be voting for her, but he is definitely the bad guy in that scenario. Not to get more wordy, because I know that politics gets on everyone’s nerves, but I predict that Trump will lose the election by 30 points. And I’m not so sure that he’s not losing on purpose. I don’t think he actually wanted to be president.

What kinds of things do you guys do when you’re not playing music?

I travel all over the country and play disc golf. I still also play way too many video games and collect Star Wars stuff. Specifically, anything with Boba Fett or Kylo Ren on it.  My brother is a professional photographer. Derek has made music his life and subs in some other bands. Jason is a working man. He has a couple of jobs.

What are some legendary musicians that you would love to play a show with? 

Danzig. When I think about it, Glenn has shaped every step of my life musically. When I was a skater kid, I liked SamHain and The Misfits. And then of course you hear those first few Danzig records and your musical life is turned on its head. My other one would be Kirk from Crowbar, but we were fortunate enough to open for them this year. Just a super nice guy. It’s always great when your idols are good people.

https://voidking.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-nothing

www.facebook.com/voidkingband