Monday, January 30, 2017

Snogg - Qivitoq (2016)

A weird sort of mixture of black and death metal from Slovenia, this duo created not one, but two EP releases last year. To be honest, I don't know why they even bothered to split them up as there was enough music on both the earlier released Snogg EP and this one to release as a full-length album. Perhaps the rest of the music wasn't quite finished yet, but I do very much hate the idea of being nickel and dimed for another half an hour of music. In any case, the four tracks that we receive here are quite interesting.

The disc starts out with an odd sort of static and keyboards, later heading into familiar black metal landscapes and even progressing right into death metal mayhem. When we arrive at “Nun Attack” we find that we're getting more of a noise approach, not uncommon to the atmosphere albums that I also review here alongside the metal numbers. It's good to hear a good mix of both, and frankly rarely happens. I will say that it is a bit peculiar when we are getting essentially raw scowls mixed in with noise in a way that does not come off like other noise or industrial recordings, but those sectons eventually see a transference into familiar black metal landscapes as the listen continues. These gentlemen also like to take us up into space with their music, as occurs later via the keyboard and rhythm sections in “In Death, Erection!” (Don't think too much about that title, please.) The last track here sounds like the kind of metaphsyical occult rantings I'd remember from early Killing Joke, but it works well with the background music and brings out that authentic occult feel. Later the track turns into something a bit more black metal, which is undoubtedly raw, but nevertheless an exciting listen. I love the amount of progressive elements here, reminding me of some of the mid-era works from Enslaved (Isa and Ruun in particular) and will also add that these progressive bits are splotched throughout the album, so there's plenty of enjoyment for fans of that kind of work as well. I still have no idea what the shave buzzer and rooster crows towards the end of the record are supposed to symbolize, unless it's the band's idea of a joke (referencing a shaved rooster) but it's also here that I would have felt the band's namesake track (Snogg (28:00) could have fit rather nicely, rather than it having been put on a separate EP.

In any case, if you're looking for something very different, I have a feeling that Qivitoq and the earlier released EP will be right up your alley. Again, they should have been packaged as one single recording, but what can you do – right? I'll have to reiterate that the recording quality here can still be a little more raw than some of us would like, but it definitely fits the gritty nature of the genre. Worth checking out, if you're up for the experiment. Not your father's black metal album, that's for sure.

(4 Tracks, 28:00)


Killing Addiction - Shores Of Oblivion (2016)

Floridian death metallers Killing Addiction have been together since '90 and put a slew of records from '91-'98 which I haven't actually heard, unfortunately. One of these was a full-length by the name of Omega Factor back in '93 and that scored a rather decent 70% on Metal Archives. The second release came much later, when the band reformed over a decade later with Fall Of The Archetypes. The score for that one is a tad lower at 68%. Another EP by the name of When Death Becomes An Art was released just a few years ago (2014) with this one of course having been released just last year. The record actually released in October, but I don't think it ended up on anyone's radar. That might be for the unfortunate fact that I kind of found the disc sort of, “ho-hum.” I mean, it's not a terrible death metal disc by any means, but it isn't anything that reall caught my interest, up until the arrival of “Into Shadow” which brought on an almost sort of depression-heavy doom. It's not that I didn't like the outrageous solo performances performed by Chris Wicklein, or the chucky bass grooves offered up by Patrick Bailey. It just felt to me as if the vocal end was a bit lacking. That could all be in production really, as it feels like Bailey's been drowned out in places by detriment of his own damn riffs. There's just something missing with this album and it doesn't kick like it should. Chris York goes to town on the kit a couple of times throughout the listen as well, making for what should really be a great recording. But everything here seems a bit too warm for it's own good. As I said, the vocals are severely drowned out, despite the fact that tracks like “Extinction Agenda” are pretty punchy in the mix and should be all-around headbangers. Do these guys sound better live, I wonder? There just seems to be a sapped energy here, something missing that I wish the band would discover. When I'm sent these discs, I give an honest opinion and that's what I feel I'm giving here. Maybe not the positive review that the band and label might be hoping for, but the honest truth.

I've listened to this EP (it's quite short) again and again and again, as I try to figure out why it's not as engaging as I think it should be. I really do feel that production could be the issue here as there's just so much to be said in the way that a song is produced, period. The drums might actually need to come a little more in the mix, believe it or not. Sometimes Bailey's vocal even drowns out a couple of riffs. I understand that it's impossible to get a perfect mix, but either there's too much fuzz and warmth here or these gentlemen aren't all that good to begin with. They've stood the test of time for many years, but this effort really didn't strike me in the way that I would have wanted it to, which is unfortunate. Regardless of that, check out Shores Of Oblivion if you're interested in a shade of classic death metal with a warmer production value and some intriguing solo work.

(4 Tracks, 14:00)


Sagorah - Control and Create (2016)

Arriving just last night, the sophomore release from this Italian death/thrash and certainly groove metal act was offered to me via social media. I simply posted in one of my notoriously ranty opinions that I was a bit tired of cookie-cutter acts that all sounded the same, and having listened to thousands of albums over the past couple of years (you people should know this quite well if you choose to go back into our Archives and over at the Tower domain backup, where I did the majority of music reviews) you get to the point where you only want to deal with something fresh, unique or just plain awesome.

Well, Sagorah answered my call, and while they are an Italian death metal act; we are not looking at another Sadist unfortunately. That isn't a problem though for me, as these guys have potential. They are at least showing signs of an attempt at more than the hum-drum death of some many other acts, and even if it does inhibit L.D. 50-era Mudvayne grooves at times, there's still quite a bit to chew on despite the disc's short length. For the most part, listeners are getting groovy death metal with slightly unexpected progressive sections, and some bits of thrash in an attempt to literally pepper the pot with as many spices as possible. It's this attention to detail that keeps frontman Iwan Holzer on his toes, as we notice several moments on the disc in which he has to be alert enough to change his vocal sapproach and tone to match abrupt changes in tempo.

With “Imagintation Imprinted” we're getting mostly a display of groove, but that quickly changes into prog and thrash later and is appreciated in that respect. The title cut throws in some nice rock solos (which are mostly unexpected at this point) and then rolls into slightly technical chug. That's a nice way to balance out the grooves, especially because it shows that these guys are capable of many different styles within this death/groove and that they'll be able to take it much further as they progress. Axemen Bryan James Bertoldi and Daniel Slaviero show their Six Feet Under worship on “Face Down” where Holzer makes a great stand-in for Chris Barnes, amongst some slightly core breakdowns and air-raid sirens in the piece. Though the piece is a real hunk of meat, there's a rather unexpected and quite melodic tinge to it's opening that doesn't even entail to the listener the kind of song they're going to get at first – which again, is a real piledriver. Now I know that there's some obvious breakdowns here, but they're not enough for me to get too upset about and these guys are a little younger and probably grew up around some of those core acts as well. It's the presentation as a whole that really works for me, and being a lover of great grooves, Sagorah does just that for me. There's a section on “Fire” in which some blasts are incurred, but a solo also manages to sneak out as well. When we get to “Sleepwalker” that's where I actually noticed the L.D. 50-era Mudvayne grooves, but there's nothing wrong with that, I feel. Especially since they're pumping those grooves in with intriguing bits of melody and yes, some thrash as well.

The most unexpected and promising piece here for me was a song called “Disequilibria” which actually relies heavily on piano keys, synths and melodies, showing again the hefty guitar end of this band. There are no lyrics, it never becomes expanded upon and doesn't do much else unfortunately – but it shows that there's a possibility for these guys to do even more than what they're offering. Even the intro to the record “We Are Cancer” features some electronic vocal filtering and effects that are never heard again. Why not? Same with the keyboards and the piano synths. Why not? Same with the beautiful melodies? Why not? Would it be an absolute sin to take a solo node like in “Disequilibrium” and put it somewhere in the title track? I understand that they wanted to isolate it, as they felt it was such a good piece on it's own, but I think it really would have been better used as the instrumental section of a shorter song. There are already three tracks on the disc that approach the five minute mark, so it seems really odd that the first two cuts are average single length and could be doing much more with their time.

The record itself isn't even thirty minutes long, and the band consider it a full-fledged sophomore instead of an EP which is how I would consider it due to length. The normal length of an LP is about forty minutes or so, which Control and Create simply does not compare to. At the end of the day, the record feels full of different ideas and has some real potential as I've said – but we're not there yet. I simply can't consider this record as anything more than another EP in a band's journey that will hopefully end up in a debut LP after they've truly found their place. Control and Create is a great experimentation that fans of death, groove, thrash, Six Feet Under and a little bit of core will certainly find something here.

(6 Tracks, 25:00)


Steve Roach - Spiral Revelation (2016)

The first time I listened to this album, I was having horrible sinus pains. These happen quite often (especially with all the frequent weather changes) and of course I needed some music that wasn't quite as brackish in which to calm my mind and hopefully soothe the pain. Spiral Revelation did just that for me, and I actually played the disc twice in a row just because I literally couldn't risk listening to anything else at the time.

The disc is largely electronic, as most of his work has been as of late and it feels more active than the meditative atmospheres we are used to. “We Continue” begins the record almost with a crystalline cavern sort of feel, and I can almost hear the water rushing. Slight electronic clicks come into play later, which sees more movement in the waves courtesy of a number entitled “Unseen Hand.” As for “Finger On The Pulse”, it takes us directly into space. I'm often reminded of games, possibly something that might suit the setting inside of a spaceship. It feels very cybernetic, quite vibrant and truly active. “A Righteous Thing” sort of reminds me of Metroid, but many similar soundfonts do. That's not a bad thing, as anything that feels like it belongs in the atmosphere of an alien world is certainy worth a listen in my book.
This one truly feels otherworldly, almost like an obtuse experiment that sounds strangely beautiful. “Primary Phase” brings us right into what I feel befits an office building, yet in the year 3047. It sounds as if busy robots are hurriedly filing reports and sending out parcels throughout the galaxy. Without a doubt, it will have your synpases firing on all levels, which this album manages to do very well.

The record itself feels vastly futuristic, making me feel as if I've walked into what I'd consider a very productive and utopian future, where the population has now become more machine than man. Though this is not a bad thing either, it just feels like a sort of transhumanist evolution into what might be a more versatile form of life. The record concludes with it's title track, which is by far the most active of them all. It is nearly twenty minutes long and considered a perfect piece by which to obtain focus and accomplish a task. There's something hugely unique about this album, and that might be the patterns it speaks to in my brain. One's head can feel a bit odd while listening to it, which might have been the real reason I sought to listen to it more than once in a sitting, despite it's length.

In any case, I definitely feel that this is one of Steve Roach's very best albums and it's probably the most active and vibrant electronic atmosphere that I've heard in my life. It is the complete opposite of meditative, and seems primed to get you going. Definitely give it a listen during those times when you feel that you will be at your most productive, as it will certainly work in your favor. It certainly got me writing.

(4 Tracks, 40:00)


Suppressive Fire - Nature Of War (2017)

North Carolina's Suppressive Fire are back with their sophomore outing and from what I've heard, there's nothing really wrong with it. We're getting a very solid offering of black and thrash metal that feels raw, dirty and truly authentic. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of acts like Toxic Holocaust and Goatwhore. The vocals come off with a menacing snarl, coupled with malicious drumming and screaming guitar solos – loads of them. Maybe at sometimes it can feel a little muddy, but that's to be expected with this approach. I'm just glad that some melodies are given a chance to shine here, and that the man behind the kit decided to do much more than simply give us blast beats, of which he never really offers on this album and I'm thankful for it. Suppressive Fire sound more like an angry thrash band, rather than a black/thrash act and they seem to put more grit and grime into their approach than a lot of the thrash acts out there who are merely looking to copy the legends over and over again. There's a little bit of Testament, Overkill, Anthrax, Exodus and Sarcofago to be found within this one which will make it a worth offering for any thrash fan.

Unfortunately, what you see is what you get here and there are no real prog elements or melodic interludes to be found. Though is that really such a bad thing in retrospect? When I pick up an album from a band that mixes the raw grit of black metal in with thundering thrash, I'm more or less ready to accept that package, even if that comes live. I saw Goatwhore for the first time around the end of last year, and they delivered pretty much the same performance that I feel Suppressive Fire will offer on the stage too. Only difference is that there will be far more guitar shredding on this one than I think I've heard from practically any Goatwhore record, and far less blast beats. Though similar, Suppressive Fire have taken more of a thrash approach than their peers and I feel that will be much more appreciated by the thrash community than the black metal hordes out there.

Regardless, I feel that Nature Of War is a record for metalheads. It's just plain metal for fans who love it. I don't feel that anyone is going to have a problem with it, nor do I think it'll be the best album of the year. I do feel that it's a band doing exactly what they should do, and exactly what they want to do. So definitely grab a cpy of the disc and go seem them live, where this music truly thrives.

(8 Tracks, 39:00)


Monday, January 16, 2017

1914 - Eschatology Of War (2015)

Hailing from the Ukraine, this black, death and doom act released their debut just a few years ago and it's definitely still worth checking out today. This was a personal submission that I had not expected, featuring a very interesting way of looking at war. Now the war by which this album is centered on is the bloodiest one we've ever had, and that would be World War I. It was so barbaric that it's surprising it ever warranted a sequel. In any case, the most interesting thing I find about this band outside from their crushing metal outputs is their “dare we call them atmosphere” pieces. Often a very popular song for the time would begin to play from a scratched record or an old vinyl, and then suddnely fill with the sounds of warfare. I may have said this before, but if anyone ever decided to make a music genre made of classic songs from the forties and the sounds of battle, I would become a quick fan of it. Aside from that, these guys certainly know their grime. The record feels often carnivorous, terribly morose and uncomfortable and even quite horrific in the vein of Cpt. John B. Kumar's vocal expressions. Lt. Serge Russel's drumming was heavily felt in both “Gasmask” and “Frozen In Trenches” as it really brought a paramount degree of force and fire. Yet in “Verdun” the band takes a much different approach altogether, which is slow and melodic courtesy of Sgt. Andrew Knifeman and Pvt. Liam Fissen. Said piece even fills heavy with majestic choirs. The entire album places you dead center into the middle of European warfare, in possibly one of the most realistic ways that metal can do. If you watched a WWI documentary while listening to this album, you may even feel as if you're there. Word has it that Tolkien wrote some of his books down in those muddy trenches, and the world of modern fantasy has him to thank for making it out in one piece.

I'm actually hearing a lot of God Dethroned here, which is quite peculiar as they've also done their war epics, and actually went out doing them. The difference here is that there is definitely more of a fiery black metal edge to the performance than that of the death metal pummelers, which adds a much different feeling to these songs of warfare. Also, God Dethroned's work with similar material felt much cleaner than this record, which has a gritty rawness that feels more believable. Cpt. Kumar displays his vocal range perfectly as well, which translates to horrendous scowls and pained clean vocal moments, nothing ever feeling overly happy. Nor should it. This was a hell of a time for the whole of humanity. “Zeppelin Raids” gives me the right amount of ominous doom, as “Ottomon Rise” gives me an absolute splattering of mud and chaos. The riffs here sound downright demonic, once again making me feel the sorrow and fury of the war. Once again, this record puts you right in the middle of a war. You might want to put on a flak jacket before you even sit down to listen to it. That's not to say that there isn't any light-hearted bits of atmosphere to be found on the same track, but the howling and shrieking in the background certainly dirties up the clean guitar nodes used on the piece. There's no remorse here, not even in the twinkly bits. It's war! Have you forgotten?

I will say that more progression finds it's way into the mix later on, and that's fine. I do prefer records with more texture and depth, and these guys could have just given me pounder after pounder, by which I'd have been sick with the record by then. Rather, 1914 decide to give me an actual performance worthy of being on a disc, with many twists and turns in lieu of songscape and that's when I start to give a damn. I'm aware that this is an older record, but if you have not heard it yet, now is your chance to do so. I will warn you that it is absolutely gruesome, not for the feint of heart and drenched in the blood and guts of merciless warriors who fought for several things, but namely their own lives. Nothing I've seen in the metal market puts you right in the heat of battle faster than 1914, especially with album, which should be heiled as a modern classic.

(10 Tracks, 51:00)


Carved - Kyrie Eleison (2016)

I have been meaning to cover this one for a while now and I knew that I couldn't simply hold off any longer. When I first saw that Italian metallers Carved were described as “melodic death metal” I didn't really expect much seeing as many melodeath acts just seem to copy each other these days, but this one really blew me away. According to Metal Archives, Carved are actually considered symphonic death metal and the SepticFlesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse similarities are certainly here, making this act seem like a bit more than just a normal melodeath act. There's also a bit of a folk element here, which brings up obvious nods to Amorphis. Symphonics obviously lie heavy on the record, combining with folk elements to make it seem as if some sort of monumental war is being waged through each of the tracks. This is also produced with such a clarity that Carved do not feel like some bottom of the barrel underground act that you simply forgot about, instead they're the kind of metal act that has the ability to rise to the very summit of the mountain. What I like most about this record is how bombastic they've made it, almost reminding me of early Battlelore. But that bombast doesn't seem to come into blandness like Ex Deo for example, and it instead measures a sort of satisfaction in it's attention to detail. Carved aren't necessarily trying to be the most brutal act that ever smashed you in the face, and would prefer to dazzle your ears with many different shades of color and flavor. The guitar solos on this one are simply astounding at times, and when they double with the piano as in “Malice Striker” you can certainly feel the very passion on this album. That's not to say that they've completely stripped out pummeling sections of death metal, there's just a bit more offered here in lieu of bands who seem to only know how to do one or two things on an album. Yes, I know that a drum kit can be played realitively quickly to sound uncompromising. But there's more that can be done with a kit than that. There's also more that can be done with a bass guitar than to creat thick, heavy grooves, but some bands just want to throw everything into downtune and seem to forget that people love to hear the sound of a guitar simply played well. I get that with this album. Damiano Terzoni and Alex Ross (Souldeceiver) perform the dual-axe wield that decorates that point to me, and it decorates it beautifully. Unlike some reviewers out there, I haven't forgotten that a big part of heavy metal still lies in riffs melodies and leads, which Carved have not forgotten about.

Christian Guzzon performs both the harsh and clean vocals, with bassist Lorenzo Nicoli performing the backing growls. Their style is definitely more tinged to death metal, but that doesn't mean that Guzzon doesn't get a full-on clean moment in “Heart Of Gaia” which offers a much different side to the band than we might have expected judging on the previous cuts. Some bands would be content to continue the metallic onslaught throughout, but giving us a little more as Carved tend to do, is just what separates them from so many of their peers, even the more popular of those. The band also manages to mix saxophones together with djent riffs and hefty growls on “Swamp” which comes off as something else I wouldn't expect. Another thing I wouldn't have expected is the band's cover of The Bloodhound Gang's “The Bad Touch” which is going right on my phone playlist right after this review. Not only does it have the Carved touch to symphonics, but the death growls actually translate well into the rapped vocals, and the guitars actually emulate the keyboard sections in the original piece quite well also. It's definitely folkier than we expected, but much more interesting than some of the out of touch covers Andy Rehfeldt has done lately. It follows the tone of the original, which I love.

It's safe to say that Carved have much to offer to fans of symphonic death metal, folk instrumentation and unexpected pop covers. There is an increasingly large amount of bands jumping on the symphonic death metal bandwagon, but these guys actually know what they're doing. As with most records of it's type, it could use a bit more differentiation and is certainly no Mystic Places Of Dawn, but what is these days? Kyrie Eleison is a disc that gives us more than most bands in this genre, at least those I've heard for the past couple of decades – and that's a good thing in my book. It's the band's sophomore album and shows that they're still going strong. It would be great if someone recognized them or even decided to review them (reviews are a bit scarce for this one) but often acts, even of a great caliber get left behind for more popular or more heavily publicized acts. Don't worry though, as Carved are just as good as any of those bands, if not even better.

(12 Tracks, 63:00)


Mindahead - Reflections (2016)

Formed from former members of Evergaze Eternity, Hellrage, Athena, Exsecror and more, Italy's Mindahead prove that they are a bit more than anyone ever expected. Mixing together seventies prog landscapes with pounding metal and the Lacuna Coil style gothic metal approach is something quite new, especially with the fact that these guys are also willing to experiment and incorporate bombastic solos in areas where acts like Lacuna Coil, Theatre of Tragedy and Theatres Des Vampires wouldn't have even given them a second thought. Now it does have some modern core elements within Francesco Novelli's harsh vocal approach which could be a turn-off to some, but shouldn't really be as the band can actually save face due to their incredible approach to musicality. If you were looking for an artier approach to the gothic metal/hard gothic rock style that we've hard so much of in these days, you might just find it here. Now they're no Ram-Zet, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. To be fair, Novelli also attempts some unusual vocal styles aside from his Trivium influenced crap, which also adds to the building blocks here. A female vocalist is also featured quite a bit through the album in the form of Kyo Calati, but she doesn't necessarily have the microphone ninety-percent of the time, which is refreshing. In other words, Mindahead aren't trying to sell this band on female vocals and attractive eye-candy like so many of their peers, but overall skill – which they have tenfold.

Some of these songs are quite long folks, even ranging into the seven, eight and ten minute marks. You're not getting a bunch of “quick to the chorus” numbers here, and instead are being challenged to listen to full-fledged music tracks with a great deal of depth and texture. This is definitely due to the Matteo Ferrigno's (any relation to Lou?) carefully calculated drumming as well as the dual-guitar tag team of Nicola D'Alessio and Guido Scibetta, which combined work to create a chemistry that listeners will notice right from the start. If the overall riff and lead structures (even though I'll admit that the band throw into down-tune probably more than they should) don't work for you, then the instrumental sections and solo moments will definitely sell you on this band. You're not getting Lacuna Coil, you're not getting Dream Theater and you're not getting Trivium either. It's something sort of halfway between all of those mainstay acts and it has the possibility of becoming even better in the future.

There's an hour of music to challenge your mind here, and it most certainly will. As I have stated, there's definitely room for improvement, but with such a tremendous leap at the debut level as I'm offered here, I can't honestly see much. I can almost say without being challenged that nearly eighty percent of bands in this industry do not offer this much at a debut level. Reflections is a record that certainly requires several listens to understand, just like I remember when I was a teenager enthralled by Ram-Zet's Escape. I didn't know a record like that could possibly exist and that's just one reason I'm really excited about this band as well. Even though the band are considered progressive, they definitely incorporate slight elements that I would almost consider avant-garde, and the electronic sections utilized within some of the pieces help just as much as those of a purely atmospheric nature. I haven't heard this kind of music done this well in quite a long time, so I certainly recommend checking out Mindahead. This is the kind of music that works it's way out of the box and goes every which way but loose in order to create something that is truly worthy of the term “art.”

(11 Tracks, 61:00)


Ols - Ols (2016)

Poland's Ols is a neofolk project that it's female mastermind describes as being influenced by black metal. While I can't exactly give her the benefit of the doubt on that, especially after listening to the disc itself, I can say that the Katatonia and Agalloch covers certainly seem to place it into that category. But what we've got here is a bit more etheric, and it sometimes even sounds a bit jaunty. I'm quite reminded of various pieces from The House In Fata Morgana soundtrack, especially in the first few tunes that play during the novel's opening tale. In fact, one of the cuts entitled “Krew Na Mchu” reminds me almost directly of the music that you hear while playing the game, and makes this record almost a must if you loved the folk interpretations utilized there. Her voice is absolutely hypnotizing, almost making for what feels like a ritualistic sort of sound similar to something from Qntal or possibly even Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance. “Kolysanka” is one such piece where vocalization seems to prove stronger than actual phrases, making what again feels deeply spiritual and inhuman. If the sounds of a woman chanting amidst a sea of folk instrumentations entices you, then you will certainly find something here. It isn't a heavy metal album obviously, and is something that you would probably want to put on later at night to cool off a little before slumber. Thirty-four of the forty minutes on this record consist of original pieces, but the final two tracks on the record are “Unfurl” (Katatonia) which works extremely well as an acapella piece and “Bloodbirds” (Agalloch) which forms a nice closer, but is too short for me to truly recall. That being said, overly impressive and heartfelt neofolk is being utilized here and I do believe that fans of folk, ethereal, darkwave and other genres will find something in it. I don't really hear the frozen chill of black metal here, but it certainly comes off as something intriguing enough to get your hands on. Ols is definitely worth a listen, but just make sure that you're a place of quiet contemplation when you listen to it, as some parts can get a bit deep.

(8 Tracks, 40:00)


Viranesir - Supports Flag Burning and Female Raping (2017)

The Turkish experimental black metal project Viranesir has returned with a new album, this one more influenced than black metal than the previous disc I reviewed. It's a bit different, a little more raw and far less experimental than the previous as well. I can't say that I like it as much, but nor would I suggest Viranesir repeating itself, which to my knowledge has not happened. Emir Merdumgiriz recorded the record earlier in 2016 and it's filled with treatises on everything from politics to an overall hatred of the modern metal scene. The Turkish born composer has been through quite a lot during his career, and mostly the dissension seems to come from him being the exact opposite of politically correct. Some artists apparently fear for their image and have obviously taken a strict liberal basis (metal is far more liberal by nature) which actually feels more conservative in the sense that they're almost afraid to be on an album release with this artist. Such a dispute was handled in the same form similar of a hip-hop diss track, entitled “Metal Is Full Of Faggots” which comes off pretty well until Emir starts using the high pitched vocal for the other unnamed band member that he was quoting, and it becomes a bit funny. Emir seems to be going for an almost G. G. Allin approach to black metal in a politically correct age, which is going to lead to more and more issues in the future. I don't take issue with it, rather I champion it. Because Viranesir is taking a path that artists seem afraid to do. Satan no longer really invokes fear among metallers, so in order to upset and offend them in the way that early black metal records used to do, uncomfortable topics like rape, murder and siding with terrorists are satirically hinted around at, more than likely in a way that will offend and upset the scant few who actually pick this one up. I haven't seen anyone actually covering this record nor this artist, and it maybe be all the Bandcamp hassles as a reason for it. I think Viranesir was also banned from social media. Hell, just mentioning these guys for some reason may result in people thinking I support the myriads of horrible things talked about on a record, but I also know the difference between reality and fiction, satire and the actual intent or belief in these items. The record explores many instances of raw black metal, death metal, doom and even some experimental quirks in places – but it's definitely not as uncomfortable as the last and feels full of anger. Emir is seriously pissed.

To some, the record might come off a little bit soapbox, but that's fine as I've made similar records and will continue to do so. It allows Emir to get some things off his chest, which I think is truly great art. Even when the message may come off as grossly offensive, rather harsh and undoubtedly pungent, it is still art at it's core and must absolutely be respected. Viranesir has made an album by which to shock and upset a great number of people and we're certainly not going to shame him here for doing it. There's no money here, no big corporate agendas and most certainly no safe space garbage to be had over at The Grim Tower.
Judging it in the vein of raw black/death record, it's pretty strong and I think that fans of extremely raw approaches to what can be considered heavily aggressive genres well find something in it. If the song titles turn you off or suchlike, there's not much I can say there. Obviously not everyone is going to love this thing, but it hearkens back to the days when metal was actually considered evil and dangerous. To be honest, the last couple of tracks (in native Turkish) were my favorites on the album and definitely show the act's strong suites. If you can get around some of the more comical sections of the disc, you'll find that it's what we need in extreme metal today. Viranesir makes no compromises here and the entire album is better because of it.

(10 Tracks, 37:00)


Friday, January 6, 2017

Khonsu - The Xun Protectorate (2016)

Earlier we reviewed the 2012 debut album from these Norwegian electronic experimental metallers entitled Anomalia, and now after several years, we finally have a follow-up in The Xun Protectorate. This album marks their second release and could very well be their last one, at least from what I observed while reading a recent interview with the band. If that is to be the case, this album sees the Nords with an impressive amount of attention to detail, vibrancy and downright variety. Regardless of the album's overall concept, there isn't a necessary structure that flows in between all of the songs here and it is a bit of a Baskin Robbins album. But you really can't go wrong with thirty-one metallic flavors instead of vanilla, and when I describe each of them to you, I think you'll have even more of an interest in this material.

The first track here is “A Jhator Ascension” which is also the first single released from the band. The track pounds with blazing drums and blaring black metal tremolos. In all instances, it is the essential “black metal” track on the disc and feels inspired by Emperor. After that, things dramatically shift to a sort of electronic/industrial metal in “The Observatory” which features the first of many clean vocal spots from Rune Folgero of Manes. It sounds almost like eighties industrial, and I would have never expected it here. But as I am a huge fan of that style, I welcome it. With the guitars and electronics combined here, it almost sounds a bit like the final satellite stage from Mega Man X4 in some areas. There is still some black metal to be had here, and even some death metal bits before an astonishing solo effort. After that unexpected moment comes yet another in the fearsome black/death of “Liberator.” This is what happens when Khonsu fuse with latter-era Behemoth and tack some Cannibal Corpse onto the end of that. It's also nearly ten minutes long, so you're getting more than just a pummel. S. Gronbech knows his way around entertaining melodies, which have so far been one of my personal favorite things about this album. The track is still going to pound your face off, but then it goes straight into Manes style territory complete with a barrage of trumpets that almost sound like a king is being welcomed in. As the track ends, it gets hugely theatrical, which you may not expect – but keep in mind that this one battles between pomp and pulverisation at the same fucking time. It's quite unprecedented. The death metal continues as well, with frontman T'ol showing his hefty pipes on what soon sounds like a mixture of old-school Swedish death, robot rumblings and even more of Gronbech's melodic and moon-faced riffs. That guy knows how to write one hell of a nighttime melody and proves it here. There's even another strong clean vocal performance from Folgero.

I know that Manes is dead (I have no earthly idea why) but it's good to hear Folgero still able to perform similar material today. Do you even remember Manes? Have you heard any of their albums? Even the disc where they experimented with more modern and alternative approaches (it has rapping, for instance) is worth checking out. I'm not going to mention it by name, as I kind of want you to do that research and start from their first record, working your way up as I did. It is also necessary to do that with the band I'm supposed to be reviewing here as well (No, I didn't forget about you, gentlemen.)

Getting back to the record, we get a nice mix of harsh and clean sections within “The Death Of The Awakened One” as well as a decent solo section in the middle. Gronbech doesn't use a solo on every cut, but he does utilize similar melody lines, which manage to bring a little bit of uniformity to the album. Perhaps it is not quite the chaotic mess I may have described in the beginning, but it is still chock full of variety nonetheless. “Visions Of Nehaya” throws the most extreme moments of black and death metal together for a little less than three minutes and offers a filthy sledgehammer to the face. There are no clean vocals to speak of here. “A Dream Of Earth” sounds like it was written in space and is wonderfully filtered in the vocal region to sound like a machine is singing the lines. This piece heads even deeper into electronic territory as a female vocalist (uncredited, but a wonderful perfomance!) comes into play and fades out leaving us with a very familiar sound effect around the 4:15 – 4:19 mark. Yes, that very much sounds like the noises that the metroids made in games like Super Metroid and AM2R which only gamer nerds like myself will probably notice. Let's just hope Nintendon't!

Without spoiling any more of the listen, it's safe to say that the work done here is nothing short of exemplary. If you're looking for something heavier than you might be getting with other electronic metal acts, you're definitely going to find it here. As a matter of fact, I need to mention that some of the solos and riff-melodies I've accredited to T'ol may actually have been performed by Keep Of Kalessin's Obsidian C. That's because he performed additional guitars throughout the entire record, along with Rune Folgero's many clean moments. Altogether, it sounds like a full band with a highly produced and undoubtedly professional level of production quality. I'm surprised that I didn't hear much about Khonsu in mainstream heavy metal news media, but seeing as they are too busy talking about bands that I listened to back in my teenage years, it makes perfect sense. I think it goes without saying that the late release of this album might have placed it well under the radar for many of you – and since it seems to be their last, you may want to pick up on it now. If you're a fan of acts like mid-era SepticFlesh, mid-era Satyricon and of course Manes, then you'll definitely want this one in your collection.

(10 Tracks, 58:00)


Deathblow - Demolition Deployment (2016)

With the single from this Utah thrash act, I feel that I'm getting a good mix of Slayer style thrash along with some extra fixins in lieu of structure that even Slayer have yet to offer these days. I'm talking about muscular guitar where it matters, taking what could have been basic thrash plodding into a slightly more listenable and intriguing experience. I especially loved the band's old school Motorhead cover of “Mean Machine” which changed the whole playing style that I heard in the beginning and really worked to show their old-school grit.

When you first hear the opener and title cut, you're immediately going to want to cast these guys off as Slayer knock-offs, and that's definitely a bad move. Both instrumental sections on this song alone seem to deliver and change the whole feel of the piece in a way that I feel paints a much better picture of the kind of thrash band Deathblow want to be. Sure, they're a thrash act. That's not going to change. But like so other few thrash acts out there, these guys want to do a bit more than cookie-cutter thrash and they prove it in the way that classic bands have always done, with memorable riffs and melodies flowing throughout this composition, sometimes so quickly utilized that you'll wind up having to play the track again to understand what I'm talking about. “Implements Of Destruction” is a little more straight-forward and almost feels like a slightly more technical Slayer, but I've always found the more technical and progressive thrash acts to be my cup of tea.

You know, when I first listened to this thing, I didn't think much of it. But now that I'm sitting down with it again, I can see where there might be some real talent, and the kind that you just don't hear in thrash these days. Not even Testament's latest carried such soundscapes within the compositions as these do here. Sure, Testament might be good at writing hard-hitting thrash cuts, but they never wrote such highly spirited and truly dynamic pieces as the one's I'm hearing here. There were never any truly technical or proggy bits to their song structures and that of course is expected. Overkill never did the same either, as it's just not something that people were into at the time. It was about making music sound raw and aggressive, not artistic. I think thrash acts like this were trying to move away from the more technical and progressive epics that bands like Iron Maiden and on occasion Judas Priest, were creating. Sabbath in those days was pretty much a prog rock band without Ozzy, so you can kind of understand why thrash had to be the way that it was. But this is 2017 and thrash doesn't have to sound the same way that it has since 1980. I hope that this is just the start of progressive thrash movement, because in all honesty; I can only count a handful of bands that did anything remotely similar. And when I say that, I mean bands that have progressive elements, rather than just mixing the two together. DAM is a good example. I'd like to see these guys get to that level, and then outright surpass it.

In any case, Demolition Deployment is a short but very sweet single release that I think showcases a possible grand slam in the thrash department. These guys do what so many other thrash bands just don't these days, and that says something. I am going to say that perhaps they need to tone down just a little on the Slayer worship and sort of take it outwards towards their own unique style, but sometimes you just have to accept that it's tough to write new thrash without incorporating the roots of the genre. Like trying to raise a plant without soil.

(3 Tracks, 12:00)


Monday, January 2, 2017

Wings Of An Angel – Princess Of The Nile Returning From Manhunt In Honor Of Her Particular Religion Of Peace (2016)

It's absolutely impossible to keep up with albums from both Scott Lawlor and Wings Of An Angel. These musicians nearly release a new album every month or so, and that means there are literal dozens of albums from each. Wings Of An Angel actually offer their entire discography (which is nearing a hundred albums) for a name your own price equivalent, but you should first know what you're getting into with this kind of music. Of the many albums, he particularly chose to submit this one and I'm not really sure how much of these tracks I could stand for a long period of time. But keep reading, as this dark cloud does have an intriguing silver lining. The beginning of the record began with an almost unbearable and excruciating noise that felt far worse than nails scratching on a chalkboard. It took an awful lot of willpower to make it through, and there were times where I just had to completely tune it all out to preserve my sanity. You have to understand that these pieces are very long, most of them ranging in the double digits and one in particular being a half an hour.

Fortunately, the record eased up as I went on (and yes, I listened to this disc from beginning to end) and by the time I reached the third of four tracks, (the song titles are ridiculously long, so let's just call it the third track) I was starting to hear something of an intriguing sound pattern. I mean, this record can carve your soul. It is downright painful to listen to and not meant for the squeamish. If this is the sound of terror, as horrifying and pungent as such a thing can be – well, Wings Of Angel have done a fantastic job capturing that. There are people who might succumb to madness if left alone with this kind of music for too long. You might even be able to turn a sane and relatively normal person into a raving lunatic after long periods of exposure to these albums (if they are similar, I do not know) and I'm not kidding. Obviously the composer works very hard on these pieces and I don't want to shame his art here as I wouldn't like it very much if mine was torn to pieces either; but I will say that it makes for a very taxing listen to which only those with a cast-iron stomach would be able to endure without issue.

Hence, there is a silver lining in the only real track that I liked here, but felt was phenomenal – namely the finale entitled, “In A Typically Histrionic Despair Attack, She Joined Circus Training For Sexually Vulnerable Clowns” which rounds out to a mesmerizing and wholly deep meditative atmosphere. The artist here in question does consider himself a magician and most likely seems to delve into that of chaos. The music here must then be an extension of his own emotions, whether they are that of severe trauma or meditative tranquility. In any case, the finale for this recording consists of what I might consider to be one of the most relaxing and overall uplifiting pieces I've heard outside of my personal atmosphere collection. I am hoping there are more pieces like this within the artist's lengthy discography and I will enjoy using this music for the doctor recommended meditation that I was asked to undergo regarding my severe anxiety regarding the world and society at large.

"What begins as utter insanity ends with the most lulling and unexpected feeling that I could have ever foreseen from a disc of this nature." I'm quite sure he'll add that quote into the Bandcamp along with the many others sampled there, of which John Zorn is mentioned, but I don't really think you can speak about these kinds of approaches if you don't thow it to people like Zorn, Roach and several others who've made this music what it is. Quite obviously the chaos in the beginning is not very indicative of Zorn's work, but that isn't to say that he wasn't an influence.

Oddly enough, what is actually more interesting to me than the piece itself, is the title. When I first saw it, I kept thinking that it translates roughly to “Isis or what we should say ISIL/Daesh and of course, Islam which is referred to it's followers as a religion of peace.” Alan Moore always called them “Mohammedans” and they've of course been fighting the same wars since man was a thing. Yes, it's been that long. Even more peculiar was the fact that I happened upon a man practicing Zoroastrianism. Apparently that is also coming back. So I'm waiting on people to start anointing graves with menstrual blood again as they worship the Venus of Willendorf. Let's just go all the way fucking back, why don't we? Obviously, seeing a man (here in the US, actually) seriously practicing Zoroastrianism (he apparently came into an occult group asking for some sort of way to increase the size of his member, which is how I happened upon him – but that isn't important) in this day and age was something I thought was profound, as it literally predates both Christianity and Islam by a vast number of years. In any case, mankind is certainly changing for some odd and unknowable reason, by which I find myself kind of stumped on. In this day and age, I wouldn't be surprised if the news over in the Nordic regions started reporting frost giants. I'd simply sip my coffee and watch as they over powered our frail human armies and played basketball with their rolled up tanks. Slam Dunk!

In all honesty though, you should really give this one a listen as I find it quite disagreeable and agreeable to my senses at the same fucking time. It literally is a bizarre sense of balanced chaos, by which I am a bit curious to further discover. But I only have ninety-three more albums on this list to go, which you can also check out when you give the artist's Bandcamp page a view. Just make sure that you search for “Wings Of An Angel” and not “On The Wings Of An Angel” where you will find that ridiculous Sarah Mclachlan track which played repeatedly on oversaturated and unbearably long ASPCA commercials. I've heard that most of those animals are sent off to China anyway, and if that concerns you, then you should probably get your pets spayed and neutered as the great Bob Barker recommended. Blam!

(4 Tracks, Over 100:00)


Nick Noro - Vietnamm (2016)

Nick Noro of Survival1 fare is back with a new solo EP project which was supposed to be released earlier this month. It's only about eleven minutes long, but shows that he's still got it. The very beginning of the record revolves around a man who was shot in the head (was this Nick Noro?) and apparently survived (as it is quite possible to do, depending on where you were shot – rare, but the human body can be a bit more resilient than you'd expect) as it then began to play with punk, a little bit of thrash and even some kicking guitar solos that I would not have expected. It actually feels a little more streamlined, if I can say that. Bits of electronics can be heard here and there, but they aren't a primary factor of the act so much as the guitars are. The vocal approach oddly consists of many duets, which can be hit or miss and sound often like spoken word. So say what you want about it, but this is definitely different.

Though at the same time, Vietnamm reminds me just why it is that I like Nick Noro's music in the first place. Even though I'm still upset at the $100 price tag for No Grief, this (still unreleased) EP release is quite fairly priced at just five bones. That's a fair deal, as you get several different and unique tracks here. “Daywalker” and the Kiling Joke inspired “Yugen” are definitely two of the best songs I've heard from the three-piece (also, there are some nice little “tings” in the latter which I felt added depth) which seems primed to conquer the world with their next one. While this record is a bit bizarre in some instances, it still mixes together metal, electronics and classic punk in a way that rounds out to a much more accessible experience. I'm quite surprised to see this released by Turkish label Merdumgiriz, but it's also coming out on his own label, NBRD.

The music here is definitely good, and it's worth giving a listen for sure. I actually think this work is a bit better than the Survival1 material of the past, and I'm not sure if he's going back to that project anytime soon as this one sounds so similar to it. But however Nick chooses to brand himself, it still comes off entertaining, unique and unlike several other artists out there, even those of a similar style. I recommend giving Vietnamm a chance, if and when it finally releases. There's always been something here as far as I'm concerned, and I am continuously curious to what the future holds for this act. No matter what they choose to call themselves.

*I recieved an email notice today stating that the record is now available for purchase. So check it out!

(6 Tracks, 10:39)