Friday, December 30, 2011

Yob - Atma

They'd have to change their name to Yob. 2011's Atma sounds like Black Sabbath tuned a bit lower and decided to play droning, long stoner metal riffs.


Stoner/Doom is the kind of music I usually find boring just because you can go all the way back to the mid-late '70s and still find tons of bands playing in this style. It's not exactly the most original music in the world, nor is it the most exhilarating by default. Oregon's Yob have been playing in this style for almost 15 years and I've never really given a shit for that reason. I've heard snippets from The Illusion Of Motion and some of their other releases, but this is the first time I've ever gone out of my way to procure some of their material.

And I'm not really disappointed. Not that excited either. Atma is fifty-five minutes of downtuned, fuzzy, drone-along guitars and scratchy, hard to place vocals. The vocals are actually my favorite part of the album and often switch between a high-pitched '70s doom style to a mid-ranged rasp. Vocalist Mike Scheidt even hits lows on the title track right before a sample of "his name is Atma" plays over some droning triplets. There's a few distorted cleans as well and not the annoying vocorder shit either.

"Before We Dreamed Of Two" is pretty cool. At least for the first half. As a sixteen minute song it's obviously got its moments, and the last six minutes drag like no other. They're slow, droning, almost ambient rock by this point and it serves as an intro to the next track "Upon the Sight of the Other Shore." The track features a solo and is probably the most dissonant on the album, which concludes with a melodic, noisy final track "Adrift in the Ocean" which is my favorite on the album. Each of the five songs on Atma is hit or miss though, and I often feel like sections of songs could be cut. The drone riffs aren't that special, nor are the doomy ones developed to the point that would make them unique. Is it worth a listen? Yes, but don't expect too much from these modern "legends." Atma is good at best.

7.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Prepare the Ground

2. Atma

3. Before We Dreamed of Two

4. Upon the Sight of the Other Shore

5. Adrift in the Ocean

Atwa

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dark Ritualistic Cacophony: Mitochondrion - Parasignosis

We're winding down towards the end of the year. I need to step up my posting. My goal was to hit at least twenty posts hopefully summarizing 2011 for me in music, but it's tough considering I've listened to so much music and there's not a lot of time for reviews. Thus I'll try to summarize in the next few posts what I feel were some of the better albums of 2011.


Parasignosis was set for an early 2011 release but leaked in late 2010, making it memorable this December because I was listening to it fervently around this time last year. This album shows a rather large progression in Mitochondrion's sound coming from the more primitive Archaeaeon, which is one of my favorite albums for that reason alone. On Parasignosis there's a more cohesive album theme, the rhythmic qualities of Archaeaeon's stellar riffing are downplayed for more "impressive" guitar embellishments, and those layered vocals are as colossal as ever.

The driving theme behind Parasignosis is a dense, dark ritualism stemming from a sort of self-empowerment. Sounds almost like a near-bestial self-help book right? "Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus" as I guess tracks 1-3 are formally titled sets the ritual in motion with a collection of droning riffs, bizarre leads, and even bells. Part III - "Tetravirulence" is undoubtedly one of the greatest tracks of 2011 and easily the best on the album with it's absolutely mesmerizing collection of cult chanting and drone riffs layered on a titanic slab of black death metal. This track summarizes Parasignosis pretty well and is surprisingly powerful lyrically too (yes I give a shit about lyrics in metal). All three parts deal with the concept of quelling inner sadness and negativity, progressing to an "enlightened" state through ritualism.

The drone aspect of certain tracks really nails this ritualistic theme home. The last half of the title track is a great example of this, as is "Banishment (Undecaphosphoric)." The last twenty or so minutes of Parasignosis really capitalize on this with "Kathenotheism" and the odd choice out "Ambient Outro." I still question as to what possessed Mitochondrion of all bands to have an ambient outro on one of their albums, but it serves as a decent if overly long and forgettable conclusion to one of the more dense death metal albums of 2011.

The production here is intense. It almost has an "epic" feeling, with all the chanting and the immense multi-layered vocals. The guitars are more present in the mix than they were on Archaeaeon, however the riffs are not nearly as memorable or as evocative. I feel like on Archaeaeon, the music worked best as individual instruments and as a cohesive structure, while on Parasignosis there's only a lot of the latter. I guess that would make Parasignosis the more cohesive experience, but an arguably weaker one.

9.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Plague Evockation (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus Part I)

2. Lex Ego Exitium (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus Part II)

3. Tetravirulence (Pestilentiam Intus Vocamus, Voluntatem Absolvimus Part III)

4. Trials

5. Rift/Apex

6. Parasignosis

7. Banishment (Undecaphosphoric)

8. Kathenotheism

9. Untitled
 
10. Untitled
 
11. Untitled (Ambient Outro)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vektor - Outer Isolation

Merry Chrimbus kids! I hope you enjoyed your stocking stuffers. I decided to get you a new review.

Vektor. A band I've heard so much about yet listened to so little. I obviously need to get on that because Vektor is awesome and Outer Isolation kicks major ass.



Let me start by saying that I'm extremely fond of technicality in songwriting. If a band can play complex rhythms, intensely difficult riffs, and incorporate odd songwriting elements like atonality or serialism, there's a high chance I'm going to think they're awesome as long as they back it up with evocative progressions. This is what Vektor attempts to do on Outer Isolation, fit to the mold of thrash, not too different from what Anacrusis and Voivod were doing almost twenty years ago. My listening experience with those two bands is pretty minimal though, so Vektor sounds fresh and interesting.

As I mentioned, Vektor is pretty goddamn technical. There are jazz interludes and bridges like on "Venus Project," fret-melting solos like on nearly every goddamn track, even a few chromatic basslines, all with a ridiculous tempo. There's also a buttload of banshee screeches that make Tom Araya's squeal at the beginning of "Angel Of Death" seem pedestrian in comparison. "Tetrastructural Minds" starts with one which leads into one of the best and most catchy riffs on the album. "Dark Creations, Dead Creators" is an underrated thrash monster of a track and the title track wraps everything up in a spaceship-sized gift box and shoots it straight into orbit with one of the more jazz-influenced solos on the album.

Outer Isolation as a whole is a very cohesive album with a strong unifying theme. The production is almost geared towards a more progressive sound, with a dry, poppy bass tone. This contrasts with the more aggressive and thrashy Black Future, but it is also nice to see the band evolving in some direction rather than playing the same damn thing over and over. This album is definitely a hit with me.

8.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Cosmic Cortex

2. Echoless Chamber

3. Dying World

4. Tetrastructural Minds

5. Venus Project

6. Dark Creations, Dead Creators

7. Fast Paced Society

8. Outer Isolation

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gigan - Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes

Gigan are one of my favorite bands and always have been since I first heard The Order Of The False Eye. What a damn fine record it was in all its complex, noisy, esoteric, and bizarre glory. Naturally I was really stoked to hear Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes when it released. I picked it up a few days after release and listened to it nonstop along with the new Origin for a few more days. Musically Gigan is a band that tends to require time to digest, so I feel that now I can safely review Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes without feeling like everything I said was wrong. We'll have to see how it turns out.


Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes is essentially the continuation of Gigan's sound on The Order, but with the noise turned to eleven. Given tracks like "Unnamed" and "Hiding Behind The House Of Mirrors" on the previous album, guitar effects were always present in Gigan's music. Here we have Gigan experimenting with enough effects to make a shoegazer's ears bleed. Phase shifters, loops, vocal distortions, whatever, it's all on Quasi-hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes at one point or another. Sometimes this muddles up the sound a bit but it generally makes the songs have a more dense feeling.

I find it really tough to describe the songs on the album without just saying they're fucking technical. Every instrument is played with a high degree of finesse, and each song feels like it was almost overly composed. My only complaint with the album is a rather large one and its with the riffing. Sometimes the riffs become so cacophonous that they lose their memorability. For example I couldn't remember the opener if I tried. This wasn't a problem on Gigan's previous release, where everything had a bit more memorability. Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes is still a quality release though, no doubt about that.

With that said there are some really cool tracks on here that fit the full range of speeds and intensities one would expect from a technical death metal band. "Suspended In Cubes Of Torment" is chock-full of schizophrenic riffs on speed, while the bizarre "Transmogrification Into Bio-Luminoid" slows to a mushroom-induced vegetative state (there's also a bunch of robot vocals). It almost sounds like Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes could be the soundtrack to an alien invasion. "The Raven And The Crow" even manages to be catchy and fun while still retaining Gigan's whole techdeath-plus-acid vibe. "Skeletons Of Steel, Timber And Blackened Granite" is a really cool grindcore-esque track that builds to a squeaking crescendo. The album ends with "Fathomless Echoes Of Eternity's Imagination" which has some killer riffs and a noisy, blaring outro. The album certainly has variety, and each track displays a degree of hypnotic qualities which make it at the very least a unique listen. Vague descriptions aside, Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes is one that really has to be heard to be understood.

8.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Mountains Perched Like Beasts Awaiting the Attack

2. Suspended in Cubes of Torment

3. The Raven and the Crow

4. In the Tentacled Grasp of a Buried Behemoth

5. Transmogrification into Bio-Luminoid

6. Skeletons of Steel, Timber and Blackened Granite

7. Vespelmadeen Terror

8. Fathomless Echoes of Eternity's Imagination

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Antlers - Burst Apart

Time for something different. Don't worry, it's just one review!

"Hipster" has become such a meaningless term with all those forum-reading internet dipshits throwing the term around at everything that doesn't fit their opinion. I know because I am one of those forum-reading internet dipshits, but at least I try to use the trite label with a degree of integrity.

With that said The Antlers are a very "hipster" band. Their music is comprised of simple, mellow indie rock songs with a lot of subtle ambient nuances. Sounds like it could be cool if done right, right? Indeed. And it was pretty awesome too back on Hospice. With Burst Apart The Antlers took a page from Pitchfork's guide on how to appeal to idiots and replaced their fleeting yet powerful wisp-like atmosphere with a more boring and predictable pop approach. However the atmosphere is still there, buried under a thick, crusty layer of banality.

The first three tracks on the album are a testament to this and honestly hardly worth paying attention to. Both the opener and "French Exit" are boring and uninspired, play off of beats and chord progressions we've all heard before, and not worth listening to. "Parentheses" - the Itunes (iTunes?) single is an absolute mess of a track with an emphasis on rhythm, but I feel like it does a good job of leading into "No Widows" which is actually pretty good. Here that dreamy atmosphere from Hospice seems to manifest itself due to a great use of (subtle) keyboards.

The second half of the album is much stronger and even a bit folksy at times. "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" even has a banjo, and it's actually used competently. The track "Hounds" is a grower, with an almost post-rock like vibe to it. It's pretty cool, especially when the trumpet comes in though I've never liked when vocal melodies become the mainstay of any track and they do prior to the trumpet. There's also a lot of ambiance with songs like "Tiptoe," "Corsicana," and "Putting The Dog To Sleep," but sadly most of these tracks are more about making up for the atmosphere that the first half of the album sorely lacked. Overall the album really isn't worth more than a listens and perhaps a song or two.

5.25 out of 10

I was actually going to see this band live with my girlfriend but the tickets sold out before we could buy them. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't if they were going to play most of this album...

Tracklisting:

1. I Don't Want Love
2. French Exit
3. Parentheses
4. No Widows
5. Rolled Together
6. Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out
7. Tiptoe
8. Hounds
9. Corsicana
10. Putting the Dog to Sleep

Belphegor - Blood Magick Necromance

Back in January a lot of new 2011 releases were flooding in. Mitochondrion's Parasignosis was always spinning while I was scouring the internet for any potential updates on Ulcerate's The Destroyers Of All. Instead I came across Belphegor's Blood Magick Necromance, and it caught me completely by surprise for three reasons. One being I hadn't heard anything about it other than the announcement that it was being recorded, two being I was planning on seeing them sometime in April (I did, they were pretty fun live), and three being that it was actually a kickass Belphegor album.


Over the last few years Belphegor have been one of those hyper-prolific, spam releases kind of bands. 2008 saw the release of Bondage Goat Zombie which had it's fair share of decent tracks. Then 2009 saw the release of the garbage Walpurgis Rites - Hexenwahn, arguably the worst Belphegor album ever. It was like hearing Belphegor at their most formulaic, insipid songwriting and all, but with the added "benefit" of Peter Tagtgren's horribly clean production. Now I'm not expecting something as good as Necrodaemon Terrorsathan from Belphegor ever again, but somehow Helmuth and crew managed to really impress with Blood Magick Necromance while still retaining their newer Nuclear Blast propagated sound.

With Blood Magick Necromance you can literally hear the growth that Belphegor's songwriting went through since Pestapokalypse VI. The band has been trying to incorporate slower songs into their often blast-heavy albums. This made each Belphegor album a collection of hit and miss tracks, usually the slower ones (for example "Sexdictator Lucifer" on Bondage Goat Zombie) being snoozefests. There are a lot of slower tracks on Blood Magick Necromance, like the title track and "Rise to Fall and Fall to Rise," but unlike their predecessors these tracks aren't too boring and instead are kind of...emotional? Not sure if that's the right word, but it seems to be the feel they were going for with this album and it's predecessor. The difference between the two is that where it felt contrived and forced on Walpurgis, it feels significantly more natural here.

That's not to say there isn't traditional blast-a-thons on here either. "Angeli Mortis De Profundis" is purely aggro and "Sado Messiah" might just be the best Belphegor track in years. It's got the melodic, somewhat mellowed out minor black metal riffing that I've always loved Belphegor for, but with the speed and intensity that harkens back to Lucifer Incestus. Not to mention it's layered with hooks, making it a great album closer. A wide variety of songwriting and an easily accessible (but weak) production on Blood Magick Necromance make it a great starting place for new inductees into Belphegor's blasphemous sex-cult. It's just a shame that the cover is so fucking lame.

7.75 out of 10

Seeing them perform this album live helped my opinion a bit, but it is still a worthwhile release from a band that's been putting out mediocre albums for the past few years.

Tracklisting:

1. In Blood - Devour This Sanctity

2. Rise to Fall and Fall to Rise

3. Blood Magick Necromance

4. Discipline Through Punishment

5. Angeli Mortis De Profundis

6. Impaled Upon the Tongue of Sathan

7. Possessed Burning Eyes

8. Sado Messiah

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Obsequiae - Suspended In The Brume Of Eos

Shit's getting fantasy up in this blog.


"Medieval black metal" - when I think this I imagine nerds in corpsepaint doing some live action roleplaying in their parent's backyard, wooden swords, Halloween costumes, and everything. Obsequiae hasn't done much to change my view of "medieval" black metal with Suspended In The Brume Of Eos, but they have convinced me that these nerds are fucking great at making music.

Twelve tracks of very melodic, semi-folksy, somewhat technical black metal. That's exactly what Suspended In The Brume Of Eos is, but unlike the bands those descriptors generally apply to, Obsequiae doesn't sound stupid or appeal to the Hot Topic demographic. The folk influence is also limited to the numerous between-track interludes like "Sidhe" and "Wildes Deer." All throughout the album the technically proficient and memorable "medieval" riffing pops up, notably on the superlative title track, "Altars Of Moss," and "Starlit Shore." Like the riffs, the drumming is also a highlight. There's plenty of sweet fills, good use of cymbals, and the staple black metal blastbeats. These elements combine to produce a strong pre-Renaissance atmosphere that'll have you headbanging while imagining yourself at a jousting contest drunk off your ass in revelry.

Suspended In The Brume Of Eos features a strong production for black metal that keeps the instruments clean and treble heavy without sounding fake or overcompressed. The vocals are low in the mix, which is perfectly fine since the riffs are the highlight here. Overall the album pretty much just kicks ass and you should check it out. In a year that's been piss-poor for black metal, Obsequiae really shines.

8.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Altars of Moss
 
2. Sidhe
 
3. In the White Fields
 
4. Suspended in the Brume of Eos
 
5. Wildes Heer
 
6. The Wounded Fox
 
7. Atonement
 
8. Estas Redit
 
9. Arrows
 
10. The Starlit Shore
 
11. Boreas
 
12. Cabin Lights

Monday, December 19, 2011

Natrium - Elegy For The Flesh

I was getting annoyed with scoring albums last night, and I was thinking of a solution to my recurring indecision. Thus I will be converting everything over to the 0.25 scale because it's significantly easier to dole out scores and there's enough variance for me to get my point across. Like anyone who spends time writing reviews, I would like the words to be the focal point of each post, but I know how many people just read the score and download, so I'm making the change on all the past reviews as well. The change will keep things more organized so it's probably for the better. I promise this will be the last change I make to the scoring system (yeah, right).



Italy's Natrium has apparently been around since the early 2000s. That comes as a big surprise to me considering they only have two full-lengths. Their first album The Day Of Pain has a hilariously inane and amateurish album cover, with it's Microsoft WordArt logo and shitty photoshop fire effects layered on top of some engraving. Their 2011 album Elegy For The Flesh has a much more professional if still computer-edited album cover done by the (in)famous Pรคr Olafsson. Recently he's garnered a lot of hate due to "a lack of variety" in his style. Whatever, I think it still looks cool and fits the mechanized, technical element of Natrium's brutal death metal.

If I had to describe Natrium in a few words, it would be Severed Savior in Italy. Elegy For The Flesh isn't your typical "no balls, all wank" brutal techdeath album either and on first listen I honestly felt like a good chunk of the songwriting borrowed from slam death. Every riff feels meaty and dense, and although the guitar tone has that sterile "dryness" to it, the songs still feel brutal, much in the same way songs like "Sphacelated Nerves" by Abominable Putridity manage to. I guess that wasn't the most apt comparison, but you get what I'm trying to say. The guitar tone sucks, but it doesn't detract from the brutality of the music. All of the songs on Elegy For The Flesh tend to play on the lower register anyway, and the majority of them top out at mid-pace. This makes the faster tracks like "Ravenous Theophagists" and my album favorite, "Allograft Harvesting," stand out that much more.

Natrium explores a wide range of time signatures and interesting rhythms on the album, often using triplets to their advantage. There are a few solos as well, which usually don't reach flamboyancy and often are a backdrop to the drums and bass. This is totally fine by me, because we all know how fucking annoying Necrophagist is. That doesn't mean the solos aren't technical either. "Breastfed With Mendacity" basically ends on a riff explored during the solo, which is an interesting touch. I applaud Natrium's attempt at being original in a genre plagued with copycats, and there are some interesting ideas behind forging a rhythmically-driven technical brutal death metal band, but they could definitely polish up the songwriting a bit and fix that disgusting guitar tone. Otherwise a solid release.

7.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Elegy for the Flesh

2. Memetic Infection

3. Breastfed with Mendacity

4. Sarin Benison

5. Ravenous Theophaghists

6. Allograft Harvesting

7. Clinical Savagery

8. Plastinated Birth

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rotten Sound - Cursed

And I did want to cleanse my ears after listening to their new album. Rotten Sound's Cursed is a filthy grimefest of grinding guitars and brutality with no lasting impact whatsoever. Is Cursed aggressive? Yes. Do the riffs have that awesome fuzzy Scandinavian sound? Yes. Is it memorable at all? No, not really.


With Cursed Rotten Sound have created a completely forgettable but completely serviceable grindcore album. All the aggression is here, the production is barely passable, and the album does have a degree of variety, but none of the songs stick. The riffs are forgettable, the drumming is predictable, and the vocals are lost a bit in the mix as is the bass (except on "Doomed"). In fact I'd go so far as to say the latter half of the album is more memorable than the more aggressive first half due to having a bit more variety. Songs like "Declare" and "Exploit" slow to a relative crawl and "Addict" even features a solo that you won't remember two seconds later.

The production is professionally done but probably the weakest aspect of the album. There is no brutality to hear on Cursed, and if you're like me and want your grindcore to be a soundtrack to you smashing faces, that really sucks. "Superior" and "Hollow" hint at the brutality, but once again the shitty production really takes that feeling away before it manifests. Someone else described the production in a positive light with the word "industrial," and that might just be a testament to how mechanical and artificial this record feels.

I guess this combination of mishaps makes Cursed a marketable, mass-producible grindcore album since it has all the highlights of the genre, but absolutely zero uniqueness. A disappointment for me, but perhaps going into it without expectations would lead one to be pleasantly surprised.

5.5 out of 10


Tracklisting:

1. Alone

2. Superior

3. Self

4. Choose

5. Hollow

6. Ritual

7. Green

8. Machinery

9. Power

10. Plan

11. Declare

12. Addict

13. Exploit

14. Terrified

15. Scared

16. Doomed

Necromorph - Grinding Black Zero

Necromorph started out as a German black metal outfit, switched to death metal, and slowly progressed to a very Scandinavian grindcore sound. Their first full-length Grinding Black Zero is a pretty predictable mishmash of grindcore, crustcore, and death metal with a lot of that buzzsaw fuzziness that we all associate with the Scandinavian death metal and grind scene. And this shit is better than the new Rotten Sound, so don't be too quick to dismiss it just yet. Also the name "Necromorph" is applicable to the Dead Space graphic novel and videogame series, which is awesome.

Badass orgo-evil shit. Be glad it's common knowledge how to use simple power tools.
As with most grindcore albums, there's not really much to write about considering the genre is generally comprised of a flurry of blastbeats and d-beats, crunchy riffing, and aggressive vocals. The musicianship displayed by these German grind-brutes is pretty competent. "Brainless" opens with a pretty killer bassline littered with some fun rests and a solo, while "Convicted To Breath" has some almost rock-ish riffing towards the end. "When A Whisper Breaks a Neck" is a pretty melodic track as well (especially with those harmonized guitars that pop up for ~10 seconds), but its still got all the aggression of Nasum and then some. Necromorph do enter deathgrind territory a few times on the album which could be a negative for those who only like their grindcore punk influenced, but nobody likes those people anyway.

The production is goddamn chunky like Campbell's soup. Like bonesaws grinding into skulls, the guitar tone reaches a level of intensity similar to that of Entombed. Overall Grinding Black Zero is pretty derivative, but it's also pretty fun. If it pops up on shuffle, well then fuck it I'll listen through all twenty-eight minutes, but its not really something I'll find myself going back to from 2011 unless I listened to the new Rotten Sound and wanted to fix my ears...

6.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Nautic Noise
 
2. Idiotus Maximus
 
3. Convicted to Breath
 
4. Serve to Lead
 
5. Exclusive Suffering
 
6. Diary of a Disease
 
7. Brainless
 
8. Shot
 
9. Stagnation
 
10. When a Whisper Breaks a Neck
 
11. Panic Worldwide
 
12. Necroville
 
13. Forthcoming Emancipation
 
14. Black Zero

Friday, December 16, 2011

Skeletal Spectre - Occult Spawned Premonitions



Skeletal Spectre brought the October spirit just in time for Halloween with another cult-horror meets Swedish death metal release on the horror-obsessed label Razorback. Although Razorback recently lost most of their appeal as a record label (they lost most of their best like Ghoul and Revolting), Skeletal Spectre's newest delivers. Occult Spawned Premonitions is a bit more mature and fun than their chunky-as-fuck 2009 debut. That's not to say this album isn't chunky either, as the riffs are ridiculously dense and bassy, and once again they never reach past a slow-headbang in tempo.

Actually tolerable female vocals, headbanging, and simplistic fun describe Occult Spawned Premonitions pretty well. "Scalped" and "Master Of The Muck" set your neck in motion while "Raw Head & Bloody Bones" slows things down to a crawl, but that just means you're making less repetitive neck movements, not that they're stopping altogether. The mid-paced nature of Occult Spawned Premonitions leaves a bit of room to breath and keeps the atmosphere from being too doom-esque like that of Tomb Coven. Vanessa Nocera's vocals are surprisingly fitting, especially on tracks like the aforementioned "Scalped." They reach their peak prominence on "Untimely Tomb" though, and get a bit grating without treading into annoying territory.

The album is littered with hardcore influence, as is traditional Swedish death metal. "Screams from the Asylum" is the most obviously influenced with its D-beats. The bleeding over of the notorious Razorback sound is pretty apparent with the opening riff to the title track. It's relatively similar to Revolting's "The Devil Witch" from their 2011 release as well. I guess since Revolting is no longer on Razorback it doesn't matter, but it is something I noticed. Otherwise a worthwhile but somewhat forgettable cult-horror romp from a cult-horror themed record label.

7.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Scalped
 
2. Master of the Muck
 
3. Sekhmet Prowls the Azure Night
 
4. Raw Head & Bloody Bones
 
5. Untimely Tomb
 
6. Screams from the Asylum
 
7. Occult Spawned Premonitions
 
8. Domain of the Fleshless Ones

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Antediluvian - Through The Cervix Of Hawwah

Finals are coming to an end, meaning I can finally update on a regular basis soon! Get excited. I'll be updating two-three times a day to make up for the shit I missed. Meanwhile enjoy one of 2011's best.


Unpredictable and cavernous, alien but all-too-familiar, Antediluvian stirred up the bowels of creation and shit primordial soup all over my face with this glorious 2011 release, Through The Cervix Of Hawwah. The murkiness of this release isn't a testament to Incantation as it seems to be for a lot of death metal in 2011, and instead it builds an atmosphere described only by the words "archaic" and "fucking awesome."

After Antediluvian's barely mediocre 2010 release Watchers' Reign I was less than thrilled to sit through another forgettable death metal album. Through The Cervix Of Hawwah is Antediluvian doing a full 180, exploring tasteful tempo changes, fun time signatures, and a degree of dark brutality that is unmatched by anyone that isn't fellow Canadians Mitochondrion. As opposed to the completely ritualistic, cult-like feel of their rivals' music, Antediluvian's atmosphere is significantly less droning and evil, and more bizarre and amorphous. Vague descriptions aside, this stuff is killer. "Intuitus Mortuus" is the very meaning of abyssal and that riff at around ~30 seconds gets me every time. Songs like "Gomorrah Entity (Perversion Reborn)" features dissonances that all coalesce into a sonic maelstrom that pulls you down into the centre of the earth. This isn't the only song with those traits either, as pretty much every track on Through The Cervix Of Hawwah shares this atmosphere, making it a coherent and enjoyable record from start to finish.

As with most bands of this style, there's a lot of black metal influence in the drumming, and ironically it's also where most of the brutality comes from with the winding blastbeats and fills. Running at a mere 36:16, Through The Cervix Of Hawwah is the perfect length for this intense black/death metal, and it keeps the album from feeling exhausting. The high-gain guitar and the organic feel of the production really pounds home that "Abyss Of Organic Matter" feel (dohoho). Easily one of the best releases of 2011, you'd have to be a degenerate to not pick this up.

9.0 out of 10


Tracklisting:
1. Rephaim Sceptre...
 
2. ...Through the Cervix of Hawaah
 
3. Intuitus Mortuus
 
4. Scions of Ha Nachash (Spectre of the Burning Valley)
 
5. From Seraphic Embrace
 
6. Luminous Harvest
 
7. Turquoise Infidel
 
8. Gomorrah Entity (Perversion Reborn)
 
9. Erect Reflection (Abyss of Organic Matter) 



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Necrovorous - Funeral For The Sane

What a year for death metal. The frothing-at-the-mouth horde of OSDM fanboys has to be sated by this point. Greece's Necrovorous hit the scene to force-feed more reverb and subterranean production to the old school death metal fan in you.


Hmm. Let's take a dense slab of death metal and slather it with a bit of d-beat, and sprinkle it with a pinch of doom.That must have been what Necrovorous were thinking when they wrote Funeral For The Sane. Necrovorous for some reason sound very modern although typically combining the aforementioned elements that comprise the early-mid '90s sound. In a similar vein to Swedish acts Tribulation or maybe even Revolting, Necrovorous' Funeral For The Sane plods along at a familiar mid-pace. "Succubus Dormitory" sets the tone for the album but is soon forgotten as Necrovorous plunges into the pit-opener "The Flesh That Smiles." I just love how you can hear A. Devilpig's (what a retarded name) fingers sliding around the guitar strings, and the basslines close to the end reverberate with a nice intensity. The production is really something to talk about here. It's dense, dark, and every instrument stands out in the mix. This is how old school death metal in general should sound with 2011 production techniques.

There's a lot of groove to this album. Songs like "Malignant Entrapment" and my favorite on the album, "The Vilest Of All Dreams" are chugging monstrosities. The latter begins with a solo and some doomier riffs which lead into a fun mosh riff backed by a d-beat. As with most OSDM, there isn't much in the way of technicality on this album, and the musicians get by with some of the more simple riffing this side of Dead Congregation. That's totally fine by me.

Obviously this is all stuff you've heard before, and that does make Necrovorous' latest seem a bit less appealing. Now you might be one of those asshats (don't worry I'm one too) that's like "Oh shit another OSDM clones' release to throw into the folder already filled with a hundred other albums." Funeral For The Sane is actually worth listening to. It's a catchy departure from the usual noisy riffs and Incantation worship bands that seem to be the current trend.

7.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Sanity's Fall (Intro)
 
2. Succubus Dormitory
 
3. The Flesh That Smiles
 
4. The Vilest of All Dreams
 
5. Deathknells
 
6. Mind Lacerations
 
7. Malignant Entrapment
 
8. Spawn of Self Abhorrence
 
9. Funeral for the Sane
 
10.   Dwellers of My Flesh

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fleshless - Slaves Of The God Machine

I know I know, I'm behind. Don't worry though. I plan on adding three reviews tonight to make up for the last three days. Here's Monday's.



Fleshless is notorious for having silly album covers. Disproportionate people doing odd things ranging from implementing bizarre torture methods to wheelbarrowing corpses, each cover features their own demented Eddy-esque mascot. Having picked up Slaves Of The God Machine hoping for some brutal death metal (or maybe even grindcore) fun, I was quite surprised when melodious hooks and even an "emotional" synth blared out of my speakers.

The surprise wasn't too long lived as I began to digest the tracks. Each had its share of predictable, forgettable chug-along riffs. In fact Slaves Of The God Machine is pretty much littered with them, the occasional hook or lead bursting through the mire of mediocrity to send you into a headbanging frenzy for 10-15 seconds before you're forced to endure another minute of insipidity. There's a few solid highlights like "False Ascension," the mosh-friendly "Truth In Flesh," and the brutal death metal tinged "Mechanic Pregnancy." The rest of the album has a few decent mid-paced thrash-along riffs (like on "Sins Reversed"), but it's nothing I haven't heard a hundred times before.

Vocally speaking, there's still a hint of brutal death metal in the music. Vladimir Prokos' vocals drop to the occasional abyssal gurgle, which is a bit odd considering the melodic leads usually playing at the same time. The musicianship on Slaves Of The God Machine is entirely competent, and the production suits this kind of music well. Sadly the songwriting itself isn't nearly as interesting, and you'll find yourself saying "I've heard this before" several times throughout the album.

Oh and did I mention they totally have songs called "Intro" and "Outro" on here? I fucking hate that.

5.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Intro

2. Fixed

3. Truth in Flesh
 
4. To Dethrone God
 
5. False Ascension
 
6. Sins Reversed
 
7. Industrial Abuse
 
8. Mechanic Pregnancy
 
9. Their Sanguinary Doctrines
 
10. Promised Salvation
 
11. Mindseething
 
12. Outro

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Unexpect - Fables Of the Sleepless Empire

This album screams cheese. If you enjoy this stuff then I don't know whether to be sorry for trashing it or sorry for you,



I've outgrown this stuff. I might've enjoyed this years ago, but Unexpect's Fables Of The Sleepless Empire is everything I absolutely hate about flamboyant, noodling "progressive" metal. The band's juvenile attempts at being "avant-garde" come off as half-baked and cheesy. Symphonic elements - violins, operatic female vocals, neo-classical guitars, and some of the most fruity keyboards this side of Cradle Of Filth - rule Fables Of The Sleepless Empire from beginning to end. There was a time where I thought Kalisia was tolerable, and Persefone was pretty badass, but now is not that time.

As long as you understand that, you can go ahead and dismiss (or applaud) the rest of this review.

Structurally speaking, most of these songs are actually fairly predictable in that they have different movements that build to a particular climax. That's about all they have going for themselves though. Otherwise you're subject to a forgettable and disorganized blur of arpeggiations emanating from both guitar and keyboard. Talented but trite female vocals really dampen the excitement offered by the flurry of instruments. Add some forced, high-pitched harsh vocals underneath the female lead and you have a recipe for me getting a headache. This headache peaked during the first half of noodle-synthfest "Mechanical Phoenix" and didn't go away until I walked away from my damn speakers.

Now that I think about it, my hatred for this album - piss poor songwriting aside - might be due to it not being "heavy." I've heard acoustic folk albums heavier than this. Atmospherically speaking Fables Of The Sleepless Empire falls flat on its face. Why? Because there isn't any atmosphere. Unexpect even manages to botch the atmosphere in longer tracks where they have time to build like "Unfed Pendulum," and did I just hear fucking palm-muting? Seriously that was some of the weakest palm-muting I've ever heard this side of newer Whitechapel. This is largely because of the no bass, ultra compressed production values present throughout the album. The snare sounds flat and the pillow bass drum is insanely aggravating. There's no escaping them either, except for when this shit stops spinning.

At least the musicians have a degree of talent. It's just a shame they decided to waste it on this pretentious, musically inept album.

3.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest

2. Words

3. Orange Vigilantes

4. Mechanical Phoenix

5. The Quantum Symphony

6. Unfed Pendulum

7. In the Mind of the Last Whale

8. Silence this Parasite

9. A Fading Stance

10. When the Joyful Dead Are Dancing

11. Until Yet a Few More Deaths Do Us Part

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hella - Tripper

I'll post twice today since I missed yesterday.

Hella's an interesting band in the math rock subgenre. They're an instrumental duo from California consisting of extremely talented musicians Zach Hill on drums and Spencer Seim on guitar. If you haven't been introduced to their brand of schizoid songwriting, then 2011's Tripper is as good a time as ever to jump on the bandwagon.


Hella isn't a band that reinvents the wheel with each new release. They might play with the mixing, effects, and they did have a few more members on 2007s There's No 666 In Outer Space, but otherwise they tend to stick to their formula. There's a reason for this. Their formula fucking works. Frenetic but memorable, all of their tracks are intensely technical. The first half of Tripper really showcases this on tracks like the opener "Headless" and "Yubacore." After the schizophrenically dissonant ending of "Netgear," things get a bit more odd - or more typical if you've heard Hella's earlier material. "Furthest" and even to an extent "On The Record" harken back to the upbeat, meandering glory days of Hold Your Horse Is.

Songs like "Psycho Bro," "Long Hair," and "Self Checkout" are a bit heavier than most other Hella tracks and I guess it makes sense given the psychedelia-themed nature of the album. There's a lot more noise and grain in the production on Tripper which really accentuates that feel. The problem is that it kinda sounds like their way of easing fans of the previous album's lineup back into the original duo's styling. If that makes sense.

Anyway Tripper is a good album that's worthy of a dedicated listen (or a few, I love math rock for those long nights where I gotta do work). Sadly though as a Hella album it's only a bit above average - which is still better than most bands.

7.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Headless
2. Self Checkout
3. Long Hair
4. Yubacore
5. Netgear
6. Kid Life Crisis
7. On the Record
8. Furthest
9. Psycho Bro
10. Osaka

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ulcerate - The Destroyers Of All

Oh wait it's the 2nd already? Damn it's my birthday so I guess I'll review one of my favorites this year.

The Destroyers Of All
sent seismic waves through the technical death scene with its release early this January. I had this shit preordered when it was announced, and it's no wonder that it is one of my favorites this year. However I feel like my love for Everything Is Fire is so great that I compared The Destroyers Of All to it a bit much.



A worthy sequel to what in my opinion is the epitome of the technical death metal genre, Ulcerate have become a bit more subtle with their technicality and focused more on creating subtle atmosphere. This atmosphere bears none of the crushing, gravitic similarities to Everything Is Fire, and is instead more focused on the spacier aspects that Everything Is Fire explored in moderation.

And this atmosphere works wonders. Although subtle, it allows Ulcerate's numerous technical nuances to shine through the music clearly. Everything from ghost notes and looped (layered) riffs to those glorious tremolo picking crescendos that Ulcerate is notorious for is present on The Destroyers Of All. Rhythmically speaking, the album is brilliant - although a bit less so than it's predecessor which emphasized a bit more improvisation. Here you have drummer and songwriter Jamie St. Merat playing some very technical, very jazz influenced beats, with Paul Kelland's organic basslines setting the backdrop for the sound of the apocalypse. There's also the appropriate amount of time signature changes that keep the music feeling fresh, with a degree of unpredictability. Something I noticed (and it's somewhat of a minor complaint), is that the production isn't nearly as strong on this album. The bass doesn't crush your skull and the drumming doesn't whirl you into the black hole of unpredictability that it did on Everything Is Fire. This is (almost guaranteed) to be because the band got a professional production job done as opposed to Jamie doing his own.

Angular and dissonant, Hoggard's no slouch on guitar either. Tons of jazzy, emotionally resonant chords create dizzying, alien soundscapes. With all those time signature changes comes some brilliant melodies that will have you humming along for weeks. I swear I had "The Hollow Idols" stuck in my head forever. "Burning Skies" and "Cold Becoming" were there too at other points. The best part about songs like this is that they all build to some sort of apex. In interviews the band has strongly emphasized linear songwriting, and on The Destroyers Of All it's easiest to hear it in practice. There are no stale riffs. No boring rhythms. There are droning sections, but it's all done in the name of a unifying atmosphere just the way it should be. There are some slower songs though, and both "Omens" and "Beneath" are quality tracks, although the former is probably the least Ulcerate-esque on the album.

Lyrically the album deals with the themes of the human condition, with a degree of nihilism thrown in. As opposed to the all-truth and absolution of Everything Is Fire (the idea that truth itself is an ever-changing and illusive ideal that doesn't really exist), this album applies this directly to humanity. This in some ways makes it resonate better. For example the apex of "The Destroyers Of All" is one of the most emotionally resonant pieces of death metal I've ever heard. "Bring me the comfort of cold inertia / Bring me the graves, poised for our leaden demise" - combined with that riff it truly does sound like absolution incarnate.

Although the songwriting is arguably more atmospheric and less intensely technical this time around, Ulcerate still prove to be spearheading the "other" (aka non wank-a-thon) kind of technical death metal. The production is the one thing that really hurts the album, and personally I did prefer the more wall-of-sound approach that Everything Is Fire had, but it's impossible to top perfection.

9.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Burning Skies

2. Dead Oceans

3. Cold Becoming

4. Beneath

5. The Hollow Idols

6. Omens

7. The Destroyers of All

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Virus - The Agent That Shapes The Desert

For the last thirty-one days of the year I'm planning to do a review on a 2011 album every day. It'll get me in the writing mood and serve as a break from studying for finals.


Tritones out the ass. That's what Norway's Virus' The Agent That Shapes The Desert sounds like. This agent is rhythmically jazzy and dissonant, with a pinch of metal. Although pretty much avant-garde rock, Virus has made quite the name for themselves in the metal scene as well. In this way they're kind of like Porcupine Tree after they assimilated a bunch of pretentious metalheads into their fanbase.

Except Virus is significantly better than slightly above-average progressive rock.

The Agent That Shapes The Desert is a very cohesive album. The instruments are all extremely bright, noticeable, and really pull you in. There's a degree of production here that's unprecedented in this kind of music, and it captures the atmosphere that the music is trying to convey perfectly, making it extremely memorable. Songs like "Chromium Sun" open with a galloping (no not triplets) bassline and keep the tritones and major-sevenths flowing. Others like "Continental Drift" manage this speed over slower chord progressions, creating a slow-moving, geologic feel to the music. The deep bassy distortion at the beginning of the latent track "Dead Cities Of Syria" is addicting and droning, and the song builds nicely on that strong foundation. All the songs are very well-crafted, and it really conveys the precambrian-mesopotamian theme of the album well.

Much to my dismay they had to ruin the fun and add in some of the more boring vocals I've heard this year to each and every track. They almost have an operatic-symphonic quality to them similar to other progressive rock or metal bands, and I always tend to find this style hit or miss. Sure sometimes it's fitting and you can hear the lyrics clearly, but the sheer enunciation of the vocals really kills the atmosphere. Had this been an instrumental avant-garde or even math rock album it probably would've been a bit more tolerable. There are some instances where I feel they work really well though - "Parched Rapids" comes to mind first. The song's innate dissonance and the good use of rests resonates with Czarl's off-kelter vocal approach.

If you're looking for well-written avant-garde rock with several degrees of jazz, metal, and progressive music in its sound, I wouldn't put it past The Agent That Shapes The Desert for it to be exactly what you're looking for.

7.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. The Agent That Shapes The Desert

2. Continental Drift

3. Chromium Sun

4. Red Desert Sand

5. Intermission: Furnace Creek

6. Dead Cities Of Syria

7. Where The Flame Resides

8. Parched Rapids

9. Call Of The Tuskers