Saturday, March 31, 2012

Aura Noir - Out To Die

Aura Noir's Out To Die dropped onto me like an unanticipated bombshell fired by Satan's 666th artillery division. I really wasn't expecting a new release anytime soon but then again I only casually follow the band and most blackened thrash in general. It's not my favorite sub-subgenre. However if you want blackened thrash with some balls, you've got it right here.


One of the better and more consistent bands that I've heard in black thrash, Aura Noir doesn't disappoint with Out To Die. It's pretty much everything you'd expect from an Aura Noir album: evil pit-riff madness, fun shredding solos, and d-beats all smeared in a coating of abrasive production. That's the biggest appeal for me coming from Goatwhore.

The warfare started as I descended into "Trenches," which roars into existence with an echoing solo and some solid vocalwork. Aura Noir's penchant for throaty, shouted vocals returns in full force on Out To Die. Other than the opener, "Priest's Hellish Fiend" is a great example of this, and they add to the bouncy nature of the track. Apollyon and Aggressor manage to bring out some denser rasps at times too, like on the track "Abbadon" which climaxes with one of the more frenzied solos on Out To Die. It's an appropriately violent mixture of hellish aggression and thrash metal energy. I can't say I'm a huge fan of "Deathwish" though. The muted riffing feels a bit weak, but it does let the low-mixed bass shine through.

It's tough to write about an album that is every bit the definition of its label. Aura Noir know the staples well, and they execute them flawlessly on Out To Die if a bit predictably. If you've never heard a black thrash album before, then you're in for a treat. If you have, then you have more reliably great cannon fodder to shell the posers with.

7.5 out of 10


Tracklisting:

1. Trenches
 
2. Fed to the Flames
 
3. Abbadon
 
4. The Grin from the Gallows
 
5. Withheld
 
6. Priest's Hellish Fiend
 
7. Deathwish
 
8. Out to Die

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Goatwhore - Blood For The Master

Goatwhore is back. Get your mouth ready and clear your throat, because there's no way you won't want to suck these guys' cocks when you're done listening to the glorious evilness that is Blood For The Master!


Just messing with you. Obviously this is still a Goatwhore album so you'll be about as "wowed" by this album as I was when I woke up and saw that the sky was still blue.

I find it irritating that these guys are considered one of the leaders of blackened thrash in the current metal scene. Whatever happened to killer bands like Aura Noir, Nifelheim, and Sauron? At least Aura Noir has a new album out this year, which I will be reviewing shortly. I guess it's because the sub-subgenre has been dominated by Deströyer 666 and older Goatwhore for so long that they've become associated with the term premiere despite playing pretty standard and predictable music that borrows heavily from more capable artists that came before them. Not that these guys are bad mind you, they are certainly very capable musicians. Just rather unimaginative ones.

Obviously Metal Blade doesn't help either with the way they seem to force producers to record albums in the most sterile way possible. I do have a smidgeon of respect for Erik Rutan because he played in Ripping Corpse and he founded Hate Eternal (who have always been hit or miss), but his production on Blood For The Master leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps the band wanted a more thrash-heavy sound, but not a single track on here reaches the expected level of headbanging brutality. Even compared to their previous releases like Carving Out The Eyes Of God, this one feels like a featherweight. The bass is audible but clean and low in the mix, and the snare is very tight. It gives the album that nice, pleasing sound of a band recording an album with "pro tools" - and that's not something I want to hear from blackened thrash. I want dirty, dark, thrash aggression, not flower-power overproduction.

Other than my hatred for the production, the songs on Blood For The Master are for the most part typical Goatwhore: black metal-styled vocals with thrash guitarwork, mixed with d-beats and the occasional blasts. Nothing on Blood For The Master is above proficient levels of technicality, and the solos often involve arpeggios and slow-moving hammer-ons. "Parasitic Scriptures Of The Sacred Word" and "Judgement Of The Bleeding Crown" feature some of the better solos, and the latter also features some death growls which seem to start becoming prominent on and after "In Deathless Tradition." I like the more death metal-influenced riffing on these tracks. It gives way to some black metal tremolo picking, but I feel like they do the headbanging death metal style pretty adequately.

Single "Collapse In Eternal Worth" and its follow-up "When Steel And Bone Meet" are solid if predictable tracks as well with some of the more aggressive lyrics and vocalwork by L. Ben Falgoust II. It's not really bad per se, but I really just don't feel much when it comes to tracks like the acoustic intro'd "Embodiment Of This Bitter Chaos" and album closer "My Name Is Frightful Among The Believers." They're forgettable at best, and unbearably boring at worst.

The tracks on Blood For The Master range from bland to passable, and are often hindered by the production. At a listenable thirty-eight minutes though, at least it's easy to sit through the album despite its shortcomings. Goatwhore still doesn't manage to impress with their latest effort, but who knows? Maybe someday they'll release a real black/thrash masterpiece.

5.25 out of 10


Tracklisting:

1. Collapse in Eternal Worth

2. When Steel and Bone Meet

3. Parasitic Scriptures of the Sacred Word

4. In Deathless Tradition

5. Judgement of the Bleeding Crown

6. Embodiment of This Bitter Chaos

7. Beyond the Spell of Discontent

8. Death to the Architects of Heaven

9. An End to Nothing

10. My Name Is Frightful Among the Believers

Harder to find than a capable drummer for a speedcore band.

Hour Of Penance - Sedition

Italy's Hour Of Penance is the unstoppable force in the death metal world. Despite some personal setbacks, they keep on churning out brutally technical death metal that puts most modern death metal stars like Behemoth and Nile to shame.


Sedition has all the trademarks and is in many ways the obvious sonic progression from Paradogma, which sported numerous exotic scales, ultra fast blasting, and the rhythmic vocal aggression Francesco Paoli is known for. After his falling out with the band, they hired frontman and guitarist Paolo Pieri to replace him - and to be quite honest he does a good job of aping Paoli's style, although he isn't quite as guttural. That's about the extent of the nuances you'll hear that set Sedition apart from its predecessor. Oh, and there's a bit more soloing too.

The frenetic yet brutal guitarwork these pasta-devouring monsters are known for comes back in a few memorable ways. The songwriting seem to coalesce around a main riff and lead that grows and evolves as the tracks progress, giving certain tracks a "grower" or build-up feel, like "Decimate The Ancestry Of The Only God" and "Sedition Through Scorn." Others feature more straightforward brutality like "Fall Of Servants" and the tremolo demonologies of "The Cannibal Gods." Both styles are welcome on here and give what would be a predictably stale brutal technical death metal album a bit of variety.

Hour Of Penance take it down a notch on the off occasion, switching from incessant and pummeling blasting to d-beats, often during solos. Perhaps one of the slower tracks on Sedition, "Ascension" is a pretty interesting track featuring potent triplets and a venomous lead spritzed with shouts during the refrain. The production featuring a competent low-end allows all tempos and solos to sound great.  My one complaint is that the bass guitar isn't as present in the mix as I would like it to be although it is audible and the frequencies are certainly present. Other than that this album is a colossal feat by Italy's premiere modern death metal band, propelling them past the heights that they soared to on Paradogma.

It's not as awesome or as absolutely balls-to-the-wall intense like The Vile Conception, but that's beside the point that this is a stellar fucking album.

8.25 out of 10


Tracklisting:

1. Transubstantiatio

2. Enlightened Submission

3. Decimate the Ancestry of the Only God

4. Fall of the Servants

5. Ascension

6. The Cannibal Gods

7. Sedition Through Scorn

8. Deprave to Redeem

9. Blind Obedience

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rise And Fall - Faith

Rise And Fall are one of the better hardcore acts currently active in my opinion. In fact I can safely say Our Circle Is Vicious helped jumpstart my interest in the genre. Come 2012 and they're releasing Faith.


These guys don't fuck around.

Some hardcore acts rely on crust or powerviolence elements to amplify their intensity. Rise And Fall however? These guys play their brand of traditional hardcore in a manner that makes some of those "augmented" bands feel pathetic. In the 28-minutes that Faith lasts, Rise And Fall explore an almost angrily melancholic state of intensity. There is a pervading theme of disgusted hopelessness in the way the songs are written and performed. Tracks like "Things Are Different Now" and the plodding "The Gallows Await" are primary examples of this.

For the most part Rise And Fall have always been competent musicians. They once again utilize and emphasize interesting chord changes, proper melodies that stand and grow on the listener, and a strong harmonic base just like they did on Our Circle Is Vicious. The drumwork is typically d-beat and roll focused with a few cool patterns here and there. There are a few more lengthy tracks this time around like "Faith / Fate" and "Breathe" as well as the slow-paced "Things Are Different Now." The only one that feels a bit out of place is "Breathe" which begins with a simple root-note bassline and then chugs along into an uncharacteristically atmospheric break.

The aggression is obviously here as per usual, but it is focused through crystals of apathy and disdain. The band themselves play these emotions out with plenty of gusto, but the theme of the album is far more subdued. "A Hammer And Nails" is a typically aggro introduction that leads into one of the more pissed off tracks on Faith, "Deceiver." Some of the more aggressive tracks like "Escapism" really embody the hopeless feel that I was attempting to describe earlier. That track is an exercise in pent-up rage with catchy melodic overtones dominating the mix. I love it, and the dense guitar tone and production make it more resonant.

Speaking in a general sense, Faith is pretty solid, but like a friend once told me: "If you like one hardcore release, you're likely to enjoy most of them because they all sound the same." It comes with the genre being so stagnant and focused on treading familiar ground, paying homage to past greats. I'm cool with this since I'm still relatively new to hardcore still - but we'll see how long my enthrallment lasts.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. A Hammer And Nails
2. Deceiver
3. The Gallows Await
4. Burning At Both Ends
5. Things Are Different Now
6. Breathe
7. Hidden Hands
8. Escapism
9. Dead Weight
10. Faith/Fate

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ecstasy Of Saint Theresa - Pigment

Apparently The Ecstasy Of Saint Theresa is really big over in their native country of the Czech Republic, and they even charted in the UK. I'm surprised considering this is the first I'm hearing of them. An e-friend tipped me off to their EP Pigment from 1991.


Pigment is interesting to say the least. I'm not big on shoegaze, and honestly when fronted by a female it sounds significantly better than say, any project fronted by Neige. Kateřina Winterová's vocals are effects-driven and chilled out. Perfectly fitting for this style of music - however to be quite honest I'm not sure if she contributed on this early release. I'm pretty sure she did, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong since I'm still new to the band's history.

Jan P. Muchow is the main driving force behind The Ecstasy Of Saint Theresa, and his work on here is pretty phenomenal. Despite being their first release, every single song on here is memorable, catchy, and noisy. "What's" begins with a nice, chunky clean-tone (at least for what I'm used to) guitar and proceeds to jam away. My mind tends to shut off as the vocalist's whimsical cleans follow the melodic leads. The drumming on here is something to note. The snare hits are wonderfully militant, giving each track a more pulsing, pounding rhythm. "Who's" even sports a d-beat and a great, high-register bassline.

The even numbered tracks are a bit more relaxed, and "Square Wave" is a acid-infused trip to the land of guitar effects and dreams. It gets noisy at times and that is entirely the appeal. The last track "Honeyrain" is a bit overly dramatic and somewhat melancholic, but it does work in context of the album. It's just not a track I'd go back to right away when picking a song off of Pigment.

7.75 out of 10


Tracklisting:

1. What's

2. Square Wave

3. Who's

4. Honeyrain

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Psycroptic - The Inherited Repression

Psycroptic is a band that often garners more hate than they deserve. They release pretty typical technical death metal albums with a bit of every style tossed into the mix. I don't mind that, and even though the vocal direction on Observant was a bit questionable and left a bit to be desired, I still managed to enjoy the album. Sure it's not as good as The Scepter or The Isle, but it has its own charm.

And now we have Psycroptic's fifth studio full-length, The Inherited Repression.


Despite the rather boring album cover, The Inherited Repression brings better songwriting to the table when compared to its predecessor. The technicality of the guitarwork has been amped up significantly, and the guitar tone is pretty solid if a bit on the light end of things. It is distorted enough to retain some potency without muddying up the intricacies. Tracks like "The Throne Of Kings" feature some nice leads and drumwork that shows the Haley brothers do really know what they're doing when playing together. I definitely dig the semi-flamenco acoustic intro to "Deprivation" too.

However there's one thing I have to say about The Inherited Repression, and it's something I noticed on Observant too: there is a stark lack of bass on here. In fact most of the time I feel like Cameron Grant's basslines are completely insignificant, considering they're not audible 95% of the time. They pop up occasionally on "Become The Cult" and "Carriers Of The Plague," the latter of which makes for a nice intro and is the longest track on the album.

Another thing people often complain about when it comes to newer Psycroptic is the shouted "core" vocals. They don't particularly sound "core" to me, but whatever. They are a bit grating at times on both Observant and they make their (un?) welcome return on The Inherited Repression. They are still shouted, still a bit dominant in the mix, but this time around there is some vocal layering effect added to certain parts that gives the shouts a resonant feel. I don't know whether to like this or not. It's pretty unremarkable in general but it isn't outright offensive like some people claim.

Psycroptic aren't afraid to use arpeggiated chords like it's their business either. They utilize the fuck out of this technique on "Forward Into Submission" and the intro, as well as sporadically on other tracks. It works to their advantage and is typical for Joe Haley's style of songwriting. I definitely found myself enjoying a lot of the tracks on here although I personally didn't find the album all too memorable after the first few listens. In the end The Inherited Repression feels like Observant Pt. 2 as opposed to a standalone release, and ultimately that's its greatest downfall.

6.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Carriers of the Plague

2. Forward to Submission

3. Euphorinasia

4. The Throne of Kings

5. Unmasking the Traitors

6. Become the Cult

7. From Scribe to Ashes

8. Deprivation

9. The Sleepers Have Awoken

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Macabra - Blood-Nurtured Nature

Wow this album is hilariously bad.


I don't really know what to say, other than this is probably the most insipid and derivative death metal album I've heard in the last two years. It has some of the ugliest pinch harmonics, some of the saddest production, some of the most pathetic sounding guitar riffs and half-hearted rasps, and dear god the title track...where to begin? It's got some of the most trite, obnoxious keyboards I've ever heard. Not a single track on here is worth devoting your time to. Everything sounds like it was recorded in my fucking basement.

It's a pretty funny release though solely for that reason.

There is an appeal in that humor. It's in the fact this album is absolute garbage. It feels so unclean, so unwashed, and so vile, that I can totally see this album appealing to some people for those reasons. The shitty production, uninspired riffing, and dull song titles and artwork...it all feels very DIY and honest. Actually on first listen it reminded me of a terrible version of Autopsy's sound on Mental Funeral. So if that's what you're looking for, be my guest. However I look for good music, and you certainly won't be finding that here.

2.25 out of 10


Tracklisting:

1. Life Is the Symptom
 
2. Fragments of Torpor
 
3. Hominal Peel Diggers
 
4. Blood-Nurtured Nature
 
5. Consuming the Fleshly Wax
 
6. Thick Slabs of Moribund Fat
 
7. Contribution to Your Dis-Elaboration
 
8. Exile of Sanity

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black Breath - Sentenced To Life

Southern Lord clearly wanted to start 2012 off strong. Thus they decided to unleash Black Breath's new crustcore beast Sentenced To Life onto unsuspecting fans of punk and metal alike.


Sentenced To Life. The album has a very Entombed-esque ring to the title, and the ultra-recognizable Sunlight Studio sound is certainly present on here. Like a buzzsaw through cranial plating, the guitar tone on here is crunchy, distorted, and all around heavy. In fact this is probably the most heavy crustcore album I've heard in a long time. The obvious Swedish death metal influences are probably enough to make it qualify for that award.

The whole album feels as relentless as it is heavy. Your only salvation comes in the form of "Endless Corpse" which is a plodding, horror-influenced track. The rest of Sentenced To Life is high octane aggression, especially the more crusty tracks like "Mother Abyss," the title track, and "Forced Into Possession." These tracks are pure unbridled fury and the mix of the two styles makes them feel that much more pissed off. Not in a negative way mind you but in a positive, energetic way. The album embodies this aspect really well for that reason.

The production is obviously dense and electrifyingly addictive. The distortion is great and the d-beats echo appropriately. The mixing is pretty solid as well, but I honestly wish the bass was a bit more present. It's there but buried underneath the buzzsawing guitar. It manages to make an appearance on "Of Flesh" which oddly sports a blastbeat as well. Sentenced To Life otherwise is a pretty solid exercise in crusty d-beat death that is at this point the strongest crust release of 2012.

8.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Feast of The Damned
2. Sentenced to Life
3. Forced Into Possession
4.  Home of the Grave
5.  Endless Corpse
6.  Mother Abyss
7.  Of Flesh
8.  Doomed
9.  The Flame
10.  Obey

Monday, March 19, 2012

Elizabeth - Where Vultures Land

Elizabeth are a hardcore band from Geneva. My friend tipped me off to their debut full-length Where Vultures Land a few days ago so I decided to check it out.


Drenched in reverb, the album opens with a twang and ends with a bang. Where Vultures Land is a pretty stark exercise in the hardcore mentality with some infectious grooves on tracks like "Sharp Teeth And Knives" and some slower tracks like "Sailor's Grave" and "The Call." There's plenty of classic hardcore aggression on here too, with tracks like "Candles" and the closer "Rising Kingdom." In essence the album has got a bit of everything you're used to in the hardcore scene. It's Elizabeth's execution of those staples that makes this album enjoyable.

Coming from more abrasive hardcore and crustcore bands like All Pigs Must Die, Black Breath, and Pulling Teeth, it's easy for me to see Where Vultures Land as a bit more soft and fleshy. The treble is kicked up in the production and from the start of "Darkness" you can tell that the lead guitar tone is going to be rather twangy. This is something I never really got used to on Where Vultures Land but I guess amongst my rather small library of hardcore artists it makes Elizabeth stand out.

I can definitely say I'm a fan of Elizabeth's "breakdowns" (not even sure I'd call them breakdowns), but tracks like "Heartbeats" end with a technical flurry of notes prior to descending into a chugging break. "The Call" utilizes a similar breakdown too and it sounds fucking great. This gives the tracks a lasting feel, like what I just listened to was pummeled into my skull and the imprint is still there for a few more tracks. Some of the more slow tracks like "Sailor's Grave" really didn't do much for me, and honestly from what I can tell it isn't a style Elizabeth really excels at. Awkward, semi-clean vocals permeate the track with a droning chord progression that evokes a sense of...boredom. However the end to the track has the use of a sweet jazz chord and that is something I can endorse.

Where Vultures Land is a good, interesting start for Elizabeth and for the hardcore genre. There's definitely enough substance here to keep me coming back for repeated listens, and the album is short enough and inexhaustive enough to listen through several times in a single sitting.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Darkness
2. The Call
3. Sharp Teeth And Knives
4. Sailor's Grave
5. Candles
6. Black Eyed
7. Heartbeats
8. Rising Kingdom

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dying Clarity - Conqueror

This will be quick, I promise. There's not much to review here anyway.


Dying Clarity is a melodic technical death/thrash metal band from Spain. That sums up Conqueror rather nicely. If I just summarized the album, why am I going to write a review on it? Because I feel like writing down my thoughts as I listen to things. Fuck you. They released a demo and an EP but failed to promote themselves, and they released their debut Conqueror in 2009 after they disbanded. The album is entirely instrumental - and I know it's a bit weird to review something like this, but honestly I haven't been in a very musical mood lately, and this came on shuffle so I was like why the hell not.

Melody and aggression are two things that don't mix entirely well.  I feel like Dying Clarity does a decent job with it though. There are some cool melodies on here, some of which are borderline progressive. "The Deadly Planets Theory" begins with a melodic tremolo riff and toms, and honestly their style doesn't really change much on the following tracks. There's plenty of arpeggiated riffs, blastbeats, tremolo picking, melodic basslines, and it all feels rather mid-paced. Similar to Symbols Of Failure-era Psycroptic, some of the songs feel a bit random, like "Hidden Words In A Silent Valley." It's not a bad thing though as the track certainly has a theme to it and Dying Clarity stick to it. I have to say that as background music though, Conqueror works rather nicely due to its instrumental nature. It's not heavy enough to startle even a mouse - and that's a good thing this time around.

In fact I'd go as far as to say that a lot of the songs on here are "pretty." They ebb and flow, wind around each other, and then descend into metal fanfare. This is where the progressive elements really show through, on tracks like "Conqueror" and "Under Black Water." I don't really mind this on an instrumental album, although usually I'd bitch about how fruity it is.

I have one serious complaint with the album though. And that is the track "Frenetic Eclosion." That track, whether intentional or not, bears a striking similarity to this Martyr song (primarily the intro). That's pretty weak on their part if they stole that riff. Anyway if you're looking for relaxing, progressive, instrumental extreme metal then this might be a good choice for you.

6.25 out of 10

Fuck that intro riff.

Tracklisting:

1. The Deadly Planets Theory
 
2. Eyes of Trust
 
3. Conqueror
 
4. Frenetic Eclosion
 
5. Instrumental

6. Hidden Words in a Silent Valley

7. Whenever a Breath is Lost

8. A Higher Level of Wisdom

9. My Desire of Blood

10.  Under Black Water

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gorod - A Perfect Absolution

Gorod's A Perfect Absolution the fourth full-length entry into the ongoing saga of these French metallers' discography. After 2009's Process Of A New Decline I was pretty damn skeptical. That album failed me on several levels. I initially enjoyed it, blinded by the glistening, mechanized guitarwork. As I listened though, I grew bored and eventually found Process to be a dull, uninspired and overproduced album compared to their high-profile early material (Gorgasm to Neurotripsticks and Leading Vision). It was a big disappointment in a year of great music.


So then Gorod released A Perfect Absolution this past Monday, and after seeing the cover, many people cried foul. The bright colors and odd design made people wary of just how poor Gorod's last release was, and many approached A Perfect Absolution with skepticism.

I was included in that group, but I came out pleasantly surprised. On A Perfect Absolution we have a more mature Gorod that realizes the importance of rhythm. Bassist Benoit Claus is a fiend on this album with layered, heavily textured basslines that keep time with the melody. The low-frequencies are present in the mix, even though it is pretty clean overall. The fact the mixing is vastly improved is enough for me to enjoy it over the previous release, where the mixing was awful and the bass was all but inaudible.

Add in inventive neoclassical and jazz-influenced riffs and you have yourself a winner. That's exactly what Gorod do.

Guitarists Nicolas Alberny and Mathieu Pascal weave in and out of tracks like two ancient dragons entwining out of Asian myth. Their movements are precise, fluid, and often long-winded. Their riffs often reach beauteous breaks and apexes, like on "The Axe Of God" or "Elements And Spirit," and other times they find themselves furiously flailing around like on the headbanging closer "Tribute Of Blood."  There's a few clean vocals scattered throughout, like on "The Axe Of God," and I'm not entirely sure how I feel. They fit the progressive nature of the album at least. "5000 At The Funeral" is another track that makes use of progressive elements to further its long, fluid introduction. Other tracks like "Varangian Paradise" with its tropical interlude and "Elements And Spirit" with its jazziness make A Perfect Absolution feel quite progressive as opposed to their more technical earlier releases.

The concept behind all these interesting tracks is the story of a 10th century King Of Kiev who traveled to gather tribute from a neighboring people known as the Drevlians. They tied his limbs to trees, bent down, and released them causing him to be torn limb from limb. His wife took revenge in creative ways such as agreeing to a proposal to meet with the Drevlian ruler, after burying all his messenger's alive. All the high ranking members came to the feast and she had all 5,000 of them killed in the night. Then she forced the neighboring power to submit to her will, and afterwards ironically converted to Christianity. She became a saint for her actions. The cover image is supposed to be of her in some mystical fury-driven state, and I find it pretty fucking sweet despite the design being a little bizarre.

The production is a bit clean at times (during solos, which I guess is appropriate) and sometimes the sweeping in say "Birds Of Sulphur" feels a bit trite. Other than that I feel like Gorod have released a pseudo-return to form album with some really catchy riffs and a better understanding of their appeal. I find A Perfect Absolution  an impressive feat from a band that I nearly dismissed when their last album released.

8.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Birds of Sulphur

2. Sailing Into the Earth

3. Elements and Spirit

4. The Axe of God

5. 5000 at the Funeral

6. Carved in the Wind

7. Varangian Paradise

8. Tribute of Blood

Unique Leader.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Napalm Death - Utilitarian

Napalm Death - one of grindcore's elders - has once again unleashed a new leftist onslaught into the burgeoning pool of 2012 releases. Titled Utilitarian, it emphasizes everything they are about but with a few new twists. Some hit and some miss.


Grindcore has it's staples, and although Napalm Death has often been entwined with the metal scene, they're not afraid to revert to their more energetic if simplistic stages. That's how Utilitarian feels from the beginning, and compared to Time Waits For No Slave this album really brings the grind with more d-beats and more impulsive ferocity. "Errors In The Signals" is a great introduction to Utilitarian (after the "intro" track "Circumspect"). Other grinders like "Think Tank Trials" are "Opposites Repellent" are awesome as well. There's a healthy dose of their death metal style on here as well with tracks like "Fall On Their Swords" and the closer "A Gag Reflex." It's alright and grind-tinged enough to win over exclusive grindcore fans, but most of the time the tracks just manage to make themselves present before ending, like the teaser track "Leper Colony."

Barney has a new, slightly thinner look about him but don't let that fool you. His vocals on Utilitarian are as ferocious as ever. One oddity is that there are clean vocals (performed by the guitarist as opposed to Barney). They're strangely melodic and don't particularly sound fitting on "The Wolf I Feed." Honestly they kind of sound like something Fear Factory did on their big-name release Archetype back in the early 2000's. I can't really say I'm a fan. Other than the vocals, another thing to note is the spastic use of a saxophone on "Everyday Pox." I like it, and it fits the track a bit better than the cleans in it's chaos, but it kind of feels gimmicky.

The production seems fine if a bit thin. I'm not going to complain though since it all sounds pretty nice with how the songs are arranged and written. Utilitarian is a bit exhaustive though, and I just feel like the album could've been a bit more fun for it's rather long length of 46 minutes. I also find their combination of death/grind to be lacking in memorability. It feels half-baked on Utilitarian, with the entirety of the album being a blur. Although it is fun, when it's over sometimes I forget I even listened to it.

6.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Circumspect

2. Errors in the Signals

3. Everyday Pox

4. Protection Racket

5. The Wolf I Feed

6. Quarantined

7. Fall on Their Swords

8. Collision Course

9. Orders of Magnitude

10. Think Tank Trials

11. Blank Look About Face

12. Leper Colony

13. Nom de Guerre

14. Analysis Paralysis

15. Opposites Repellent

16. A Gag Reflex

Capitalists stole the link!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spawn Of Possession - Incurso

Christian Münzner has been rather prolific in the past few years with Obscura and now Spawn Of Possession. Now if you read my earlier reviews of Spawn Of Possession, you'd understand that I found their debut Cabinet to be pretty fucking cool and the overproduced Noctambulant to be an impotent mess. I was hoping for Incurso to be like the debut but expected it to be even more superficial than Noctambulant. I was pleasantly surprised as the album is a pretty healthy medium between both previous releases, but with a more progressive-tinged aggression.


Progressive technical death metal is a subgenre that often falls to self-indulgence and needless guitar fondling. Spawn Of Possession fell to this long before the progressive elements began to shine through their music, and on Incurso these elements are realized and implemented quite well. "The Evangelist" is the first real teaser of this new style. Although the sweep-filled intro isn't necessary, the main riff is pretty memorable and crops up several times throughout the ten-minute track that evolves as it goes. The guitarwork is more melodious and flows better, but obviously this might make the album feel flimsy to some death metal purists. Unlike on Noctambulant though, I'm not offended by this as the improvements to songwriting and structuring make up for it.

There are some heavier tracks on Incurso to make up for the more flowery progressive tracks as well. "Servitude Of Souls" is by and far the heaviest track on the album with its pounding drums and addicting refrain. "Deus Avertat" is no slouch either with it's blend of fast-paced noodling and heavier riffing. Some of the initial tracks like "Where Angels Go Demons Follow" are really insipid though and actually made me feel a bit disappointed prior to listening to the rest of the album. However the musicianship throughout Incurso is, obviously, fantastic.

New Spawn member Erland Casperson (ex-Blood Red Throne) applies some highly talented bass playing to the mix with his varied fingerstyle techniques. I have a lot of respect for Casperson and his work with other bands like Decrepit Birth and Deeds Of Flesh as well as the aforementioned Blood Red Throne. His work on Incurso and in particular the tracks "Deus Avertat," "No Light Spared," and "The Evangelist" further reinforces my opinion of him as one of the best Norwegian bassists of the last decade.

Christian is no slouch either. He's a guitar monster and this album features his most potent chops to date, although once again the album is lacking in the brutality department. The mixing leaves for a weak if barely audible low-end, and the dry guitar tone is pretty irritating. It sounds a bit less overproduced than Noctambulant though, which spawned (pun intended) hordes of mindless clones. It just goes to show how lifeless music is so easy to compose and copy.

I can't say I enjoy the stupid symphonic tracks like the intro "Abodement" and the eight-minute progressive symphonic mess that is "Apparition" either. Symphonics in technical death metal are absolutely worthless and have no place amongst the flurry of ferocity that the music is supposed to embody. However they do attempt to merge these concepts on these two tracks just like they did on the intro and outro of Noctambulant. It's a failed attempt, but an attempt nonetheless.

I do like Incurso though. It's a good album that improves upon its predecessor while still retaining what made that album popular. The progressive elements fit this style of technical death metal perfectly, and it might be Christian's influence on the songwriting process that caused this change. Whatever the case, although it might not be as good as Cabinet or very original in general, Incurso is still a solid release.

7.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Abodement

2. Where Angels Go Demons Follow

3. Bodiless Sleeper

4. The Evangelist

5. Servitude of Souls

6. Deus Avertat

7. Spiritual Deception

8. No Light Spared

9. Apparition

Friday, March 9, 2012

Obscura - Illegimitation

I've had the pleasure of meeting Christian Münzner and he's a pretty nice guy. A bit shy, especially about Obscura's earlier material. I actually asked him if I should pick up Retribution and he told me "No, get Cosmogenesis you don't want Retribution. We were shit back then." Well I already had bought Cosmogenesis, and although I wasn't the biggest fan of the band back then (or now), I liked them because their live performance was solid. They knew how to rile the crowd up, and their playing was precise and not overproduced as happens when you don't have all the studio effects miring everything up.

Personally I didn't enjoy Omnivium one bit. It barely felt like death metal if even extreme metal. Now come 2011 and they've released a compilation like all big name bands in metal seem to do, titled Illegimitation.


Generally compilations are pretty worthless to me. Taking a bunch of tracks everyone has heard before and pulling them together on an album to be marketed to fans as a new release is just a cheap way to make a buck. Obviously that isn't always the case and in particular I love when bands happen to re-record old tracks just for the compilation. Otherwise it just feels like a waste of time and money, although occasionally they'll include a few new tracks to tide over people like myself.

Obscura however, didn't.

Instead we've been given three "new" tracks. In fact they're covers of bands that may have had some sort of influence on Obscura at some point. One cover of Death, one of Atheist, and one of Cynic. Tracks one to four are from Obscura's demo (also titled Illegimitation). Funnily enough, "Fear" is pretty badass. I gotta say it sounds like a less polished, more bass-driven Obscura with a degree of heaviness that their later material seems to lack. Obviously as comes with these first four tracks being demo quality, they're significantly less polished than their recent output. The drumming is imprecise, the guitarwork is much more simple, and the basslines are more mid-paced and groovy. Everything seems to flow well in my opinion, although if you're a fan of Obscura you've heard these same tracks before.

Tracks five to seven are from a preproduction of Cosmogenesis, and I definitely like the sound on these more than that of the album. "Incarnated" sounds more aggressive and "Headworm" is pretty dense for an Obscura track with its chugging triplets. I mean there's nothing special about any of these tracks, but I guess if you wanted to hear how Obscura would sound without the studio overproducing everything they do, this is what it'd be like. The covers however are awful. I cannot stress how horrid the cover of Atheist's "Piece Of Time" is. The vocals are horrendous and there just seems to be some big disconnect between the band and the song. The "How Could I" (Cynic) cover is significantly better but it doesn't really make up for the Atheist cover. The Death cover is pretty passable as is everything Death did post-Human.

There's not much fluidity to the tracks on here and the theme seems to be "unreleased tracks," which is never a justifiable reason to create a compilation unless those unreleased tracks share a similar theme or style. Illegimitation doesn't really show this, with different members, production changes, and stylistic changes all making their appearance on Illegimitation. Oh well. It just further reinforces my opinion that compilations are worthless.

4.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. ...And All Will Come to an End

2. Crucified

3. Fear

4. Immanent Desaster

5. Incarnated

6. Open the Gates

7. Headworm

8. Flesh and the Power it Holds (Death cover)

9. Piece of Time (Atheist cover)

10.   How Could I (Cynic cover)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Revolting - In Grisly Rapture

"Revolting. And Revolting. And Revolting. And Revolting. And Revolting." That's the sample used to end Revolting's genitalia-covered, In Grisly Rapture.


Melody is a term applied to bird songs and shitty Gothenburg bands. However to Rogga Johansson the term means "Leads. Leads everywhere." Rogga's infectious leads are back, but this time their prominence is dominating and a bit forced at times. "The Plague Of Matul" features some fun yet aggressive melodies, and "Dr. Freudstein" follows up with some nice arpeggiated riffs in the verse and holds some melodious notes in the chorus. In Grisly Rapture loses the fun horror-schlock feel of it's predecessors though in exchange for a more serious, sombre tone. Honestly it hurts the sound when coupled with the more melodic riffing.

I'm not sure how I feel about this change in direction. Each track remains catchy, hook-laden, and fun, but to a lesser extent now that the melodies have been amped up and are now more prominent. Part of the reason I enjoyed the other Revolting albums so was the heavy, headbanging grooves. In Grisly Rapture trades most of them away. The track "The Devil Witch" which seem to have grooving potential devolves into boringness while more intense tracks like "(Beyond) The Book Of Eibon" and "Human Exterminator" are shadows of former glories on The Terror Threshold, although "Human Exterminator" is one of the better tracks on the album.

The production is a bit weaker as well and less bass-heavy. The mixing job isn't nearly as good this time around and it makes In Grisly Rapture feel somewhat subdued. Everything about it is weaker than it's predecessor, although there is always fun to be had with some hook-filled Swedish death metal.

7.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Hell in Dunwich
 
2. The Plague of Matul

3. Human Exterminator

4. Dr. Freudstein

5. "Died of Fright"

6. Sucked into the Sand

7. (Beyond) The Book of Eibon

8. The Devil Witch

9. Hideous & Revolting

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Revolting - The Terror Threshold


The Terror Threshold is Revoltings fifty-two minute 2010 release that I really enjoyed back when it came out. FIFTY-FUCKING-TWO-MINUTES of Swedish death metal. It does get a bit exhaustive as a listening experience, but the album features some of the best riffs and most addictive songwriting I've recently heard in Swedish death metal. With most of the subgenre being stagnant and predictably boring, Revolting takes the predictable and makes it fun again.

These ex-Razorback monsters still have some shocks in store for us. With The Terror Threshold they peel back rotting flesh to reveal more fluid guitarwork and layers of thick bass that Dreadful Pleasures only displayed in passing. "The Grip Of Death" is melodic, powerful, and catchy, while "Heads In The Fridge" has a memorable chorus, and "Harvest The Humans" features one of the best leads I've heard in awhile (well, at least at the time of listening to the album). If there's one thing every track on The Terror Threshold has in common, it's that they're all filled to the brim with hooks and memorable parts despite their simplicity. This is an example of how Rogga's straightforward approach to songwriting shines.

My biggest complaint about the album is the exhaustive length. Fifty-two minutes of Swedish death metal? That's like listening to an hour of grindcore. It doesn't work atmospherically or aesthetically and ultimately makes me bored, so I usually find myself listening to The Terror Threshold in halves. The first half is superior to the second with a blistering assault of catchy tracks from "Gulp The Blood..." till "Trigger The Trap." The second half of the album has its moments too with tracks like the closer "Skull Scavengers," but ultimately is less exciting. This is because tracks 10-17 are from the unreleased Bonesaw Leftovers EP, and although it's still passable Swedish death metal, Revolting has clearly improved in their songwriting prowess and ability since then. The production also takes a sharp turn for the worse as the album goes on. The transition is jarring and it makes me feel like the EP should be released separately, or the tracks should've at least been re-recorded for the the full-length. Whatever. I guess I shouldn't be complaining about a free EP being included on this release. The album still rules regardless.

8.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Gulp the Blood...

2. The Grip of Death

3. Grotesque Beyond Belief

4. Heads in the Fridge

5. Rise of the Revolter

6. Harvest the Humans

7. Trigger the Trap

8. Bloodthirsty Bitches

9. Destructive Organism

10. Horror Hooker

11. Gorezone Obsession

12. Vengeance of the Nails

13. Slimetime

14. Grizzly Aftermath

15. Welcome to the Shredshed

16. Bonesaw Leftovers

17. Skull Scavengers

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Revolting - Dreadful Pleasures

Swedish death metal is awesome. It's got all the stylings of '80s Swedish hardcore like Mob 47 and Anti-Cimex, but with the aggression and brutality of death metal. I don't know how anyone can not like this stuff, and Revolting is pretty much a modern exercise in oldschool d-beat brutality that any fan of Swedish death metal will love to get their hands on.


Revolting Rogga - Revolting's aptly name frontman, guitarist, and songwriter is quite possibly one of the most prolific musicians of the last few years. His credits include: Bloodgut, Bone Gnawer, Megascavenger, Paganizer, Putrevore, Ribspreader, Swarming, and The Grotesquery, and obviously Revolting. Their first release Dreadful Pleasures dredged itself out of hell in 2007 and with its cult horror theme, it was bound to be a fun little romp.

Fun it is indeed. "Tenafly Viper" sets the tone on Dreadful Pleasures. As one solid slab of campy schlock and gore, the '70s and '80s horror themes are realized perfectly by tracks like "Terror Has No Shape" and "Moonshine Mutation." Each track flows together like a B-movie horror marathon. There's numerous d-beat sections and simple chugging riffs on Dreadful Pleasures too. Although it might sound a bit shallow and simplistic, Rogga manages to weave hooks into each of them with the occasional lead interspersed amongst the heavy-ass riffing. It works wonders and gives Dreadful Pleasures a depth that might go unnoticed similar to all the satire and political undertones in the B-movies the album is inspired by.

Musically the album is entirely hook-driven. There are vocal hooks, lead hooks, and d-beat hooks all throughout the entire thirty minutes of Dreadful Pleasures. The production aids the simple riffing and guitar tone by creating a solid low-end with extra texture. Some of the tracks are a bit more derivative, which can be expected in a sub-subgenre where you essentially have to sound like everyone else to be a part of it. "Video Vixen" is a bit uninspired, and the slower tracks like "They're Not Human" and the title track take a bit to get into. Otherwise the album is a solid debut by what is quickly becoming a force in the Swedish death metal scene.

7.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Tenafly Viper

2. Terror Has No Shape

3. Overtaken by the Crawling

4. They're Not Human

5. Moonshine Mutation

6. Video Vixen

7. Brainwaves of Death

8. Sheetar the Bloodqueen

9. Dreadful Pleasures

Monday, March 5, 2012

Earl Sweatshirt - EARL

Earl Sweatshirt is another member of the ultra-hip now ultra-popular OFWGKTA crew. Earl joined the crew after contacting Tyler in '08 about doing a track together, and after they did "Assmilk" on Bastard, Tyler decided to help Earl release his own album. Despite being sixteen at the time, Earl displays a competency few big name rappers can match on his self-titled debut.


After the intro "Thisniggaugly," the title track rips with a percussive beat and some great flow by Earl. As one of the best solo tracks by Earl, it stands out on the debut. It showcases Earl's flow, and his Tyler-influenced abrasive lyric styling. In fact Tyler shows up pretty often, on "Couch," "Pigions," and in spirit as he composed all the beats on Earl. The beats are great on here - perhaps even a bit more developed than Tyler's on Bastard. There's plenty of piano, classy beats with some dark synth undertones on tracks like "Luper" and "Couch" - which belies the lyrical nature of the album perfectly. There's lots of less harsh lyricism about simple everyday activities like drinking orange juice or talking to mom, but there's also lyrics about stabbing cops and rape which often come up later in the more misleadingly soft tracks.

Some tracks are a bit more boring like "Kill" and "Stapleton," and that's fine since they still have enough hooks to get stuck in your head. However "epaR" is my favorite track on Earl by far with it's piano embellished beat and badass lyrics. Earl pulls some left turns and even works "Chronicles Of Riddick" into a rhyme lyric. It's a bit unexpected but very welcomed and the cop-killing lyrics later in the track are absolutely ridiculous yet so fluid. "Moonlight" is alright if a bit mellow for an Earl track, and "Pigions" has the infamous hook: "kill people, burn shit, fuck school." It's a mob anthem and something everyone can sing along to at concerts or when they're alone like me when the track comes on.

As I said, the beats on here are great and a big reason I enjoyed Earl so much along with the young rapper's solid flow and black It's a shame he's disappeared from the face of OFWGKTA for the time being, but it seems like he'll be back real soon...

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Thisniggaugly
2. Earl
3. Couch (Featuring Ace Creator)
4. Kill
5. Wakeupfaggot
6. Luper
7. epaR (Featuring Vince Staples)
8. Moonlight (Featuring Hodgy Beats)
9. Pigions (Featuring Wolf Haley)
10. Stapleton

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tyler The Creator - Goblin

Tyler The Creator remains extremely popular to the extent that he now has his own TV show debuting March 25th, is working with Sony Red to establish an Odd Future label, and has a big mainstream hip hop release with Goblin.


And Goblin is really weak. I'm sorry, but what the fuck is with this album? People praise it for being different, people praise it for being an insight into the anxiety expressed by Tyler when he was picked up by a big name label, and I understand those...uh...emotions can be expressed or have an impact on the music. However I feel like how these bleak emotions were expressed is the worst way to go about doing it. Thus Goblin is dull. There are sparks of ingenuity with tracks like "Yonkers" and "Tron Cat" or even "Nightmare." However the rest of the album pales in comparison to the few solid tracks, evocatively and musically.

Once again the title track starts the album, and this time serves as less of a song and more of an intro. That's fine, as it leads into the killer "Yonkers." Here we have Tyler at his best, talking about stabbing Bruno Mars in the neck (who wouldn't love to do that?) and insulting fake ginger Hayley Williams. It's a bit of black comedy, angst, and theatrical brilliance. Something that more hip hop artists need to adapt. There are a few other instances where this shines through on Goblin. Notably on "Tron Cat" where the aggressive beat compliments the lyrics perfectly.

However most of the time you're stuck with lackluster beats and lyrics that are either too devoid of flow to be entertaining, or are too mundane to be threatening. "Radicals" features throwback lyrics from Earl's Earl, and tracks like "Window" are just boring. "Fish" features some cool chromaticisms but otherwise isn't notable, and there's another fucking swag song on here: "Bitch Suck Dick." Fuck this swag shit. It sucks. Lil B sucks. Based God is my bitch and he isn't deserving of any bitches. Fuck off. At least "Golden" makes for a solid conclusion referencing Tyler's relation to the missing Earl (who is now back a year later to everyone's joy). It's a bit emotional, has a decent beat, and as a fan of Earl, something I can relate to.

The beats on Goblin are significantly weaker than on Bastard and are often extremely uninspired. There's no abrasiveness, no eerie sounds, and not much in the way of texture. Plus the samples are god awful and sound like something out of fruity loops. There's not much more to say here other than Tyler should be given more creative control over his own music and mixing.

Tyler also feels it's necessary to point out that he's not serious everytime he gets a bit aggressive in his style. He did it uncannily on Bastard, but on Goblin it feels forced and like the label asked him to do it. If he (or the label) thought it'd stop people from being offended, he was clearly in the wrong since after Goblin's release he was called out for homophobic comments and misogynist comments as well. My suggestion? Stop giving a fuck by trying to apologize. People will still see "evil" where there isn't any regardless, and those people are so worthless as human beings that their opinion is insignificant. However mine isn't because I'm not a dumbass, and I gotta say this album is pretty weak.

2.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Goblin
2. Yonkers
3. Radicals
4. She (feat. Frank Ocean)
5. Transylvania
6. Nightmare
7. Tron Cat
8. Her
9. Sandwitches (feat. Hodgy Beats)
10. Fish / Boppin Bitch
11. Analog (feat. Hodgy Beats)
12. Bitch Suck Dick (feat. Jasper Dolphin & Taco)
13. Window (feat. Domo Genesis, Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats, & Mike G)
14. AU79
15. Golden

You won't be finding (or wanting) a download for this.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tyler The Creator - Bastard

And I'm about fourdays late on finishing this post. See, sometimes I like to plan out my...erm...features and then take forever to finish the damn things. Time for some fucking hip-hop.


Tyler, The Creator. Eponymous with silliness, hipsterisms, and lyrics ranging from archetypal to brutally ridiculous, this guy has become quite the hit in the last few years. 2009 saw the release of his best work to date titled Bastard. Herein lies Tyler's innate talent: great flow, abrasive lyrics, solid self-done beats, and a reverberating and recognizable voice.

Bastard begins slowly with the title track - which explains why Tyler named the album Bastard. It serves as a simple intro with some personal meaning behind it, and it leads right into the fucking awesome "Seven." The track is everything about Tyler The Creator in a nutshell. It features lyrics calling out Bruno Mars, Kid Cudi, etc. and it all flows excellently with the most intense beats on the album. Lots of other tracks don't hold up - or even compare to "Seven," but that doesn't make them bad. "French!" is great and it's one of the few times I really enjoy Hodgy Beats' featured work. "Blow" has a nice bluesy sound to it with some nice textures when Tyler's layered voice comes in. "Assmilk" is another solid track with Earl who at the time was a 15-year old monster.

There's a lot of vocal distortion and pitch shifting on Bastard but it tends to be limited to a few quick sequences. Some of the later tracks are a bit dull as well, with "Tina" sounding like a fucking Lil B song. If you've ever listened to Lil B you know how shitty that sound can be, although the lyrics are a bit above the "Wonton Soup" level of stupidity. There's still too much fucking "swag" though. Beats on Bastard tend to be pretty solid if "eerie." It's not the best description, but Tyler likes to use a lot of odd minor chord progressions when composing his beats which does work, and the sounds don't feel cheap. "Inglorious" is a nice piano-based track that gives the album a circular nature with references to the meaning of the title track. Whatever the case, Bastard is pretty solid for a self-release and debut.

7.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:

1. Bastard
2. Seven
3. Odd Toddlers (feat. Casey Veggies)
4. French! (feat. Hodgy Beats)
5. Blow
6. Pigs Fly (feat. Domo Genesis)
7. Parade
8. Slow It Down (feat. Hodgy Beats)
9. AssMilk (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)
10. VCR/Wheels
11. Session (feat. Hodgy Beats & BrandUn DeShay)
12. Sarah
13. Jack And The Beanstalk
14. Tina (feat. Jasper & Taco)
15. Inglorious