Sunday, August 25, 2013

All Will Gather To The Shores - Deity Of Ruin

And now for the new release.

All Will Gather To The Shores have crafted something far more abrasive and far more interesting with Deity Of Ruin. Sounds and effects blare and fade, intermixed with distinct and heavily distorted harsh vocals on this release much like they did on the previous. Everything feels more refined, and from beginning to end, Deity Of Ruin feels like a grand escapade towards an abstract land or cosmic goal. Ironically the track titled "Journey" happens to be one of the best on here.


The rattling, jarring opener "Captivity" sets things in motion as Deity Of Ruin begins sculpting its sonic landscape from whale bones and the ashes of modernity. "Machine" is interesting in that it features subtle drumwork and even a few fills along with All Will Gather To The Shores' fuzzy, low guitars. The blaring high register notes are the sounds I would imagine the earth would make as humanity scars its landscape with mines and refineries. Some tracks, like these two, are less subtle than those on Their Bodies Clutter The Sea. The distant roaring of "Journey," and the electric guitar-driven "Ashore" are both similar to the openers in this regard.

As the more subtle, dark ambient track "Mist" gives way to the comparatively lighthearted "Relief," the sonic landscape appears to be reaching completion. The general picture of Deity Of Ruin has already been established by the end of "Relief," whose guitar keeps building in decibels as it goes. "Journey" follows up and sets the action in motion aboard the decrepit world stage. Soft, clean guitarwork dotted with a very light post rock sound guides the listener over crevasses, empty valleys, vast oceans, and tortured cities. The vocals on this track are fantastic, subdued and distant in the mix, and a subtle reminder of all that is wrong with the planet Deity Of Ruin has built. They trail off, fade in, and eventually the distorted, gated guitar brings the world to its knees in a calamitous finale.

"Island" is far more quiet and introspective, guided almost entirely by acoustic guitars. It makes for a nice follow up to "Journey" before the catchy drone riffing of "Ashore." The vocals on "Ashore" are raspy and almost black metallish, contrasting from the primal, world-roar of "Journey." Granted they're all heavily distorted so it makes little difference, but just something I noticed. "Beyond" closes the album out with distant sounds of gulls and waves, returning the world to the water in which it was born.

There are numerous instances on Deity Of Ruin which grant it the added tag of doom along with ambient, drone, and psychedelic noise. The riffing is distorted, fuzzy, heavy, and some of it is constant enough to put it in the drone doom realm. The use of strings is honestly what makes this such an interesting release for me, and the atmosphere that All Will Gather To The Shores create on Deity Of Ruin is stark on multiple levels.

Deity Of Ruin makes me think again about Herakleitos, impermanence, and post modernity. Any album that makes me contemplate...things is good in my books.

8.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Captivity
2. Machine
3. Mist
4. Relief
5. Journey
6. lsland
7. Ashore
8. Beyond

Bandcamp

All Will Gather To The Shores - Their Bodies Clutter The Sea

I'm going to cover both of Russian act All Will Gather To The Shores' releases. This is their first release, Their Bodies Clutter The Sea.


Drone and ambient work well with psychedelic. The visual aspect of psychedelic has always been the main draw, and as I'm finding out now, the main draw for drone, ambient, and noise. Unlike most purely electronic or synthetic ambient or drone, All Will Gather To The Shores utilize subtle and limited strings and extremely distorted, low-mixed vocals. The latter pop up infrequently, and on this release only on "Gale" and "Calm." "Gale" is appropriately the least soothing with its noisy, distorted looping and dissonant chord transitions. As a concept it serves quite nicely, although it isn't the most compelling track.

Follow up tracks "Hope" and "Despair" are two sides of the same coin with "Hope" being guided by relatively peaceful string sounds. It's nice coming from "Gale" but since the track is barely over a minute "Despair" slowly kicks in, which is surprisingly less melancholy than the name. It's a lackadaisical track, like basking on the sun-baked deck of a ship left adrift after a monstrous storm. "Calm," the longest and most acutely developed track on the album is much more solemn in its development. The soft strings kick in before the vocals do - as harsh and distorted as ever - until they fade to light guitars and a droning outro.

The guitar tone is of note on Their Bodies Clutter The Sea. It's doomy, heavy, and distorted, and the higher register notes sound like the audio interpretation of sun rays beating down onto sunburnt backs. In a way, Their Bodies Clutter The Sea almost evokes a desert image in that regard.

A solid, but slightly underdeveloped taster of the sound that would await on Deity Of Ruin.

6.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Gale
2. Hope
3. Despair
4. Calm

Bandcamp

Host - Null Pointer

One from the inbox! Felt like doing a bunch of drone/ambient stuff today.


Host are a noisy, dark, ritual ambient group from Australia. Host is the product of Nathan Jenkins, ex-The Amenta, who I have tremendous respect for after he played bass on one of my favorite albums, Occasus. Host have also toured with a bunch of metal artists including The Amenta, Ruins, and others. I have to say I definitely like the name of the album and the whole computing connotations that go along with it. Nothing is more abrasive to the psyche than segfaults, null pointer exceptions, and other programming frustrations. In fact the whole field of computer science is more or less a droning, ritual effort in its incessant but necessary tedium.

Like all good noise and ambient, the tracks on Null Pointer don't just persist in monotony for their entirety. "Know That I Am" opens with a calamitous roar and a pervasive, metallic echo like air being funneled into a bunch of PVC piping. The dull roaring pops up intermittently before the track becomes much more subdued, but following that a repetitious ascending whir takes over in the void of melody. It all sounds like crawling through an air duct and coming upon a vast network of industrial size fans. Very claustrophobic and very picturesque.

The same can be said of the other tracks. "Four Crooked Arms" has a very oceanic vibe with a tidal sound and a droning whistle. The imagery this music evokes for me is astounding, like walking through a glass canyon leading to a frigid coastline. Some of the higher pitched noises sound like rockfalls scratching the glass of the canyon, etching their impermanence into its sides. While I would describe the first two tracks as noisy dark ambient, the title track on Null Pointer is certainly ritualistic with its subtle bass thrums and even - dare I say - a melody. It has a pretty distinct sound compared to the other two tracks before it fades out with a noise reminiscent from the beginning of "Know That I Am."

There's plenty of static and graininess to Null Pointer, so if that's your thing you'll definitely enjoy this. It isn't harsh noise by any means, and it's pretty relaxing and visually appealing to listen to. This is a genre that I'm not wholly experienced with, and writing about it is still new to me, but I've been getting more into it with time. Host definitely have something going here though, and quite frankly I wasn't thinking as highly before I sat down and listened to it while writing. Null Pointer is definitely filled with great concentration sounds and plenty of mental imagery. I'll definitely be keeping tabs on Jenkins' future work.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Know That I Am
2. Four Crooked Arms
3. Null Pointer

Bandcamp

Also I really recommend trying out Host's cool little experiment titled Evolution. It takes various metadata from local financial, social, and meteorological services, converts them to soundwaves, and plays them over Host's music. Use only in Chrome. When I checked it out I got a churning low-end with some wooden sounding clicks and clacks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Flight Of Sleipnir - Saga

The Flight Of Sleipnir are still out near the Rockies releasing sublime stoner folkdoom. Essence Of Nine and Lore were both great releases that merged catchy, dense riffing, folk beauty, and a Scandinavian aesthetic to create fun and immersive listens. Saga is a direct continuation of their now well-established sound.


One thing that I definitely respect about this duo is their use of keyboards. They're not explosive, over the top, or anything like that. They usually play a single chord buried in the mix before fading and repeating in drone fashion (see: "Heavy Rest The Chains Of The Damned"). It's subtle enough to keep them from being intrusive and it adds another layer of texture to The Flight Of Sleipnir's music. Like the keyboards though, the vocals are low in the mix as well and personally I think it works quite well. Clean vocals are quiet yet coherent enough to add poetic beauty, and the throaty blackened rasping echoes like calls to mother nature in a vast fjord.

Saga fits pretty well in The Flight Of Sleipnir's. Unlike some bands who try to repetitively release the same album however, these guys' add a bit of unique flavor. Lore felt a little unpolished with its denser mix, and Essence Of Nine took that sound and added more complex riffs and rhythms as well as more acoustic passages. Saga feels more subdued than both of them, at least in terms of their mainstay in the fuzzy guitar tone. David Csicsely's snare still sounds as great as ever. "Harrowing Desperation" is a good example of that and the mellowed guitar-plus-effects add a lot to the track. I always liked the long, drone-like outro lead of "Reverence" as well. Not that they haven't had these qualities on their previous releases, but it took me until now to really put my finger on them.

The Flight Of Sleipnir's albums are something you have to listen to in their entirety to appreciate despite having a few standout, hook-based tracks on each (looking at you, "Of Words and Ravens"). They're solid active listening experiences and great passive listening ones. If the interlacing of acoustic guitars with electrified doom and a light folk atmosphere appeals to you, then there's no doubt that you'll enjoy all of their releases. Saga is no different, and I guess that's why I'm having trouble writing about it since I've covered their other output already - but that's definitely not a bad thing.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Prologue
2. Reaffirmation
3. Reverence
4. Harrowing Desperation
5. Heavy Rest The Chains Of The Damned
6. Judgment
7. Dmise Carries With It a Song
8. The Mountain
9. Hour Of Cessation
!0. Remission
11. Beneath Red Skies
12. Epilogue

Bandcamp

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Paganizer - World Lobotomy


The world can't go for more than a few months between releases featuring everyone's favorite guitarist Rogga Johansson. Paganizer's newest release World Lobotomy only continues his reign as one of the most prolific names in death metal. Paganizer never leaves much to the imagination. They've always sounded like a less abrasive Putrevore mixed with a less catchy Revolting or Bone Gnawer. It's very standard death metal even if none of it is really bad.

World Lobotomy is no different. Like Into The Catacombs before it, there are groovy moments of catchiness hidden between the recycled riffs. The closing melody on "Mass Of Parasites," the main riff of "You Call It Deviance," closer "Hunt Eat Repeat," and the d-beat sections in the second half of the album tend to stick around a bit longer than the occasionally shoddy verse riffing. It's a shame since Paganizer has always been a second-rate project in Johansson's catalog at least for me, and this album doesn't really do much to change that. Some tracks just feel like they were throwaway ideas that end before going anywhere - "As The Maggots Gather," the pointless intro track, and "As Blood Grows Cold" all fit this description.

The production and mixing is fine and archetypal. There's a little bit separating this one and last year's Macabre Kingdom by Putrevore but it's nothing worth even discussing. In a year starred with great death metal releases, Paganizer have to try a little harder to impress me.

5.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Prelude To The Lobotomy
2. World Lobotomy
3. The Sky On Fire
4. Mass Of Parasites
5. As Blood Grows Cold
6. Ödeläggaren
7. You Call It Deviance
8. As The Maggots Gather
9. Trail Of Human Decay
10. The Drowners
11. The Last Chapter
12. Hunt Eat Repeat

Listen // Buy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gorguts - Colored Sands

Twelve years is a long time.

After the release of From Wisdom To Hate, Gorguts went silent. We saw new bands rise up and push the boundaries of the extreme metal umbrella. Gigan with The Order Of The False Eye, Ulcerate with Everything Is Fire, Deathspell Omega with Fas, Flourishing, Crowpath, Mitochondrion, and more have all experimented and taken extreme metal beyond the archetype much like Obscura did back in 1998. The forward-thinking metal movement doesn't have an end goal in mind. To quote Ulcerate, "the axiom of being is infinite."

Gorguts have returned with one of the most exhaustive, powerful listens of 2013: Colored Sands, a thematically singular slab of death metal that oozes Himalayan beauty.


Merging melody and dissonance is hardly an easy task yet Luc Lemay and co. have done it seamlessly here. Riffs roar into life, meander, and rediscover their original purpose but with no detriments. Many of these riffs are vibrant, colorful in texture and with plenty of compositional decoration. Like an ode to the convoluted nature of life, Colored Sands is wonderfully complex. Time signatures blur together, effects trail off the end of tracks ("Forgotten Arrows"), and some of the most mindbending solo guitarwork I've heard in recent years ("Enemies Of Compassion") all culminate in this release being one of the best this year has to offer.

Everything on Colored Sands has a purpose; everything is intentionally composed in such a way to give meaning to the individual tracks. Like all great albums, it's the little things that make Colored Sands so special and separate it from the rest of Gorguts' discography. As preview track "Forgotten Arrows" begins blasting itself into oblivion, it pulls itself from the brink stronger and more massive than ever with a bunch of bass hits to the face. "The Battle Of Chamdo" is an exercise in Luc's classical training with a real orchestra and unlike most 'orchestral' sounds, it fits the theme and feel of the album. The soft orchestral moments blur over into the explosive intro of "Enemies Of Compassion," my favorite track on the album. The main riff bursts and bubbles like superheated magma, and the track explores the sonic scenery a little before returning for an incredibly chaotic solo. The sustained notes that pop up towards its end are magnificent and send chills down my spine every time.

I can't say I wasn't a tiny bit skeptical with Colored Sands, as I tend to be with most things. I liked the crew Luc assembled for this album, although each members' individual acts are a bit removed from the Gorguts sound. The preview track from 2011 was alright but left me wondering if the new members' influences would overshadow the Gorguts' feel and luckily I was wrong. Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel, and John Longstreth have all proven their versatility before but on Colored Sands you can hear them adapting perfectly to a different sound. Speaking of outside influence, the angular "Absconders" is an interesting track in that it distinctly sounds like something Deathspell Omega would write with Ulcerate-esque effects and linearity. Even the name sounds very Deathspell Omega-ish. I like it, and to me it's like Gorguts' giving the nod to all the bands which are similar in musical ideology.

Now comes that obligatory time in which I mention the production and mixing - it's borderline perfect perhaps minus the bass drums' sound which sounds a bit too tinny but at the higher speeds it keeps the mix from being muddy. I'm sure a select few will undoubtedly complain how Colored Sands is heavy and complex without the "darkness" they associate with death metal, as most of the composition is very odd or melodious.

They've missed the point completely.

9.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Le Toit du Monde
2. An Ocean Of Wisdom
3. Forgotten Arrows
4. Colored Sands
5. The Battle Of Chamdo
6. Enemies Of Compassion
7. Ember's Voice
8. Absconders
9. Reduced To Silence

Bandcamp (I assume it'll be available on release - it's currently streaming on Spotify)

Here's a cool interview about the concept of the album.

Thou Art Lord - The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer

Sakis Tolis is an interesting figure. Rotting Christ started out as a pretty sweet grindcore outfit before moving towards black metal and eventually a dark, ambiguous extreme metal sound. As a side project he founded Thou Art Lord with George Zacharopoulos (of underground Necromantia fame) under the pseudonym Necromayhem in 1993 and since then they've served as Sakis' vehicle for a more abrasive, guttural sound. I've only heard Thou Art Lord's material post-2002 in which Sakis became the primary vocalist.

Now on NWN! Prod, Thou Art Lord continue their satanic Greek terror campaign.


The more conventional Rotting Christ and subtle Necromantia influence has always been present in Thou Art Lord's music from the occasional subtle synthesizers to the Sakis' signature abuse of tremolo harmonics. The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer is no different with opener "Nine Steps To Hell" being littered with those signature riffs. Thou Art Lord differs in quite a few ways from both Rotting Christ and Necromantia in that the project has plenty more thrash and death metal influence. "ΠΟΛΙΤΕΙΑ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΩΝ" being the obvious pick out of the tracks on The Regal Pulse. The stereotypically descending chromatic riffs, d-beats merged with blasting and tremolo riffing, as well as the occasional guttural vocals really describes their overall feel best. There's just something so distinctly Greek in style about it that makes it special. The Hellenic metal scene is hardly dead, but The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer is almost like an ode to the scene.

Sakis' guitar leads are fantastic when they pop up. All of his material tends to lean on the simple side but they're damn catchy and that's what makes them so good. They never sound like needless fretboard exercises, always fitting the flow and feel of the track. "Justicia Profana" is a great example, where the lead and minor solo bit becomes entwined with the main riff for the final third of the track. That's not to discount other cool guitar moments like the subtle lead on "Artificial Malevolence."

The production and mixing is solid and grainy. The catchy guitar leads shine through the high-gain rhythm support and The Magus' (George) bass has plenty of low-end to it although naturally it doesn't come up in the mix on its own much. One thing I found kind of silly though was the use of samples and short intros to tracks. The humorously pitch-shifted vocals at the beginning of "L'Evangelium de Diable" heralding the start of the track were a bit out of place. The synthesizers on "Infernarium" were a bit over the top for my taste too.

The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer is a solid album and the only Thou Art Lord release that really stuck with me after a single listen. I should really get around to hearing Rotting Christ's newest but I have to say AEALO left a bad taste in my mouth.

7.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Nine Steps To Hell
2. ΠΟΛΙΤΕΙΑ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΩΝ
3. Das Messer
4. The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer
5. Artificial Malevolence
6. Justicia Profana
7. L'Evangelium de Diable
8. Infernarium
9. Fire And Blood

Bandcamp

Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth

Life takes unexpected and often frustrating turns that require you to mull and contemplate over issues that end up being trivial in the end anyway. That's why I haven't posted much of anything in over a month, and quite frankly I needed the time off.

In better news I've been listening to a boatload of new music. Some of it awful, some of it fantastic. Since I've been feeling pretty down lately I'll start with one that you really don't want to listen to: The sequel to 2011's Agony: Fleshgod Apocalypse's Labyrinth.


Let me clarify: it is stupid to expect anything akin to Oracles from these guys at this point. I certainly wasn't, and part of me only listened to this album to see what overblown monstrosity these Italians would churn out next. Agony was one of my most reviled releases of 2011 for its disgusting use of an orchestra and bombastic, plastic sounding instruments. That's not to mention the awful, incoherent mash-up that sounded, as one internet-dwelling metalnerd stated, like a "Disney soundtrack thrown into a blender." The emphasis of Agony was solely on the 'orchestral' elements and the guitarwork took a backseat to everything.

I don't even think there was a bass.

Anyway Fleshgod apparently noticed some fans' reactions to the lack of intricate guitarwork and claimed that with Labyrinth they would merge more technical guitars with the 'orchestral' elements of Agony. I have to give them credit there. They did make good on their promise. There are a bunch of solos ("Minotaur," Pathfinder," "The Fall Of Asterion," etc.) and significantly more riffage compared to Agony's monotonous chugging.

Songwriting remains an enormous issue on Labyrinth, and the orchestral elements are still left on their own more often than not. There is no real merging of metal and a symphony here, just two completely separate entities playing at the same time. It's like playing Bach in one ear and Suffocation in the other and calling it symphonic death metal. The female supporting vocals are atrocious when they're not negligible. Opener "Kingborn" is unbearable for this reason and "Towards The Sun" is an absolute abomination of a track even with them being used sparingly. We will not even speak of "Under Black Sails." Seven-and-a-half minutes of nauseating ear-pain...

The mix is just as depressing as it was on Agony. Everything is muddled and compressed and it makes listening to the album a more frustrating experience than it's worth. The most straightforward and metal track on the album, "Pathfinder" (and by far the best), sounds like it would've fit at home on Mercenary's B-sides, or maybe as an extreme extension of what Fleshgod Apocalypse tried to do on Mafia. The absolutely shitty production is largely to blame for that.

Now I wasn't expecting much from Labyrinth and I can't even say I'm disappointed. What I still don't really understand is how Fleshgod Apocalypse still have fans after they went to Nuclear Blast. Even the album art screams "recycled lukewarm bullshit." However they clearly have gained quite a following as you can glean from all the internet buzz surrounding them, so good for them. Maybe someday if Fleshgod Apocalypse continue down this path they'll be able to fill the shoes Septicflesh filled nearly a decade ago.

2.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Kingborn
2. Minotaur
3. Elegy
4. Towards The Sun
5. Warpledge
6. Pathfinder
7. The Fall of Asterion
8. Prologue
9. Epilogue
10. Under Black Sails
11. Labyrinth

Listen // Buy

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wormed - Exodromos

I've been meaning to complete all these half-finished reviews I've had sitting around since...forever. The problem is I never get around to it, and then I get sidetracked with life's many nuisances. Having a smidgen of free time over the next few days should allow me to finish a few of these drafts and hopefully cover newer material as well.

But we'll see.


Wormed's Planisphærium remains a powerhouse of brutal slam; its technicality nearly unmatched and its uniqueness equally as elusive in the subgenre. The production value of Planisphærium was apt for the style. The scooped mids and loose, loud snare tone all contributed to making the album memorable, even if it was the brilliantly executed guitarwork that really delivered the 'technical cyber space slam' vibe that Wormed became known for. Exodromos' mix differs in that the mids aren't scooped, and the low-end is completely brought up. The bass range is limited to higher frequencies and there's really not much variation on the bottom end. It's a disappointing release on that front, and as soon as I got over that I was able to enjoy the album for what it was, kind of.

Still not as good as Planisphærium.

Pulsating and occasionally brilliant riffs radiate from Exodromos' sub-supermassive core. Wormed like to play with their listeners; they shift and blur riffs as to make predicting their next move impossible. Highlight track "Tautochrone" is a good example of this. About a minute in and the heavier, chugging riff shifts into a blastbeat segment before the main melody of the track breaks through right into another thick, chunky riff. I can appreciate the songwriting decision, and it makes the more direct tracks stand out like pulsars amidst the cosmic void. "Stellar Depopulation" is one of the more straightforward tracks and features a short-lived slam that decays into stop-start blasting and a chromatic melody that eventually evolves into something more beautiful.

Much of the previous standout riffing comes together during the album closer "Xenoverse Discharger." This track brings the best elements that you heard earlier into a singular(ity) fold. It makes for an atmospheric end, and is easily one of the best tracks on Exodromos. Speaking of atmosphere, the random spoken word ambient tracks are boring as all hell. "Solar Neutrinos" totally kills the momentum of the album for me.

Maybe I miss the standout slams of Planisphærium a bit too much or maybe it's just the production, but either way I find Exodromos to be a second-tier release. It's certainly not bad by any means, but after listening to "Xenoverse Discharger" you realize that the majority of the albums' best moments can be summed up in just six minutes.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Nucleon
2. The Nonlocality Trilemma
3. Tautochrone
4. Solar Neutrinos
5. Multivectorial Reionization
6. Spacetime Ekleipsis Vorticity
7. Darkflow Quadrivium
8. Stellar Depopulation
9. Techkinox Wormhole
10. Xenoverse Discharger

Bandcamp

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tribulation - The Formulas Of Death

For anyone who heard Tribulation's The Horror back in 2009 I'm sure The Formulas Of Death was a hype piece. The Horror was brutally refreshing coming from the revival scene. It was crammed with stunning, nigh-perfect riff progressions at a breakneck pace, all backed with plenty of hooks and a solid production.

The Formulas Of Death is a different beast, and I can only commend Tribulation's willingness to experiment with such a successful formula (intended puns are the best puns). Perhaps Tribulation realized that the revival movement was full of enough knuckle-dragging apes and that there was nothing new they could add without becoming redundant and falling prey to fans' fleeting memories. Whatever the case, they made the right decision with their newest release.


Progressive music is a mixed bag of brilliant ideas and haphazard, fruity garbage that I wouldn't deign to listen to. Progressive elements are generally a good thing as they can add variety and enhance the dynamic of many songs. They can be overbearing and obnoxiously obvious in the case with popular progressive acts like Opeth on their later material, or far more subtle and nuanced in the case of a band like Anata. The Formulas Of Death falls under the latter category, and progressive is the last thing anyone would associate with the revival movement. There's loads of atmospheric interludes, guitar effects, eastern scale progressions, dissonant arpeggiated chords, and free-range breaks to the typical Swedish sound. For example the middle of "Suspiria" is slow, backed by a two-beat and flanged harmonics before falling into a bass groove sprinkled with dissonant muted notes. Eventually the track phases (quite literally) back into reality before phasing out again to explore a few more areas of the aural plane.

Each track on The Formulas Of Death has elements which set it firmly apart from whatever The Horror was doing. While this might be a disappointment to some, the music is equally compelling and in many aspects better. I love the subtle displays of musicianship throughout the album. Solos are (obviously) technical and almost feel improvised, and other times the effects dominate the sound of them to the point that the notes are almost unrecognizable. In the end they always fall back into a traditional sounding mold which keeps them entertaining. "Through The Velvet Black "is a solid example of this. Jakob Ljungberg's rhythm work is highly varied and in the middle of a riff progression he'll switch beats, either increasing the speed of the kicks or adding cymbal embellishments where necessary. Every member of the band does their part to create a refreshingly experimental-lite, death metal album.

There aren't any truly standout tracks on this album either. There are no headbangable crusty death metal d-beaters or anything like that. I guess "Wanderer In The Outer Darkness" might be the most approachable from that mindset, but even with how direct it is, the track is anything but stereotypical. With an underlying atmosphere evoking imagery of a wandering trek through the desert, swampy marshlands, or foggy moors, The Formulas Of Death is a very visual album. The production and heavy use of effects add to this feel, giving each track its own personality like the listener is traversing different aspects of a deranged psyche. Their use also keeps the album's variation and my attention at a high. This makes The Formulas Of Death memorable even after quite a few listens.

It might be a bit of a risky move, but I think Tribulation have really caught onto something with The Formulas Of Death. The seamless merging of progressive elements, dynamic songwriting, and Swedish-tinged death metal is something that isn't all that common. They execute it damn well.

8.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Vagina Dentata
2. Wanderer In The Outer Darkness
3. Spectres
4. לילה
5. Suspiria
6. Through The Velvet Black
7. Rånda
8. When The Sky Is Black With Devils
9. Spell
10. Ultra Silvam
11. Apparitions

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tormented - Death Awaits

I'm not really sure which new release is worse. Death Awaits is frustrating in the same way Entrails' Raging Death is. Much like their boring titles, the music contained in both is predictable and forgettable. The only difference here seems to be that I was expecting more from Tormented since Rotten Death was great thrashy fun. I can still jam out "Death owns the Night" and get stoked for the section where vocalist Dread is like "With deadly force it'll take control and bring you to your death!" Damn these guys love to use 'death' in literally every lyric and song title...


This is an an album that would've satisfied me had it been more of the same. The massive production, focus on d-beats, and simple but entertaining riffs were all highlights of Rotten Death. Opener "Death Awaits" lets on that same feel but quickly devolves into slow double bass and mid-pace riffing. "Blood Orgy" luckily cuts to the chase but doesn't really do much when it reaches its destination in d-beat town. The same can be said of "I.O.T.D." and nearly every track on Death Awaits. It's like one giant cocktease that blueballs you and instead of leaving decides to take a knife to your jugular. In other words this release is painfully disappointing.

The slower, even mid-paced tracks are pretty much unbearable. "To Spill Her Blood" is inane even when it gets faster. Luckily it's followed by "Funeral Fire," one of the few solid tracks on the album along with "Black Sky." What's weird is that the rhythm element seems even more underdeveloped this time around, and it was already pretty rudimentary on Rotten Death. I guess Jocke Ölund's drumwork has gotten a bit faster, but the band doesn't utilize that slight increase in speed to their advantage. There's not much in the way of memorable riffing here either, and much to my dismay there's no infectious tremolo melodies or obnoxiously loud scale fondling.

As I briefly mentioned, the production is significantly more subdued and compressed compared to Tormented's previous output. Rotten Death was awesome for it's bombastic guitar tone and loud, crashing cymbals. This album has none of that. The production and mixing isn't awful, but the music on Death Awaits can't really stand on its own like it could have on Rotten Death. A disappointing but not inherently bad release, I'll wait for Tormented's next.

5.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Death Awaits
2. Blood Orgy
3. I.O.T.D.
4. Insane With Dread
5. To Spill Her Blood
6. Funeral Fire
7. Into The Crypts Of Death
8. Black Sky
9. In The Presence Of Death

Listen // Buy

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wreck And Reference - No Content

This one will be quick - there's only two (short) tracks to cover.


Wreck And Reference released a brilliant LP, No Youth, last year. Now they've released a companion piece, No Content, for it.

Both tracks are noisome, hypnotically engaging pieces of work. "Absurdities & Echoes" is a potent piece of buzzing guitarwork and sustained notes. The vocalwork is engrossingly anguished but very dreamlike, sounding more like traveling through some sort of nightmare realm as a voyeur than as a subject of the horror. The second track "Abhorrence" takes the frightening aspects of that realm and submerses you in them. "Abhorrence" features the same sustained notes with an ascending progression that eerily stops while belted vocals scar the reverberating air. The vocals are harsher on the second track and it takes you into the nightmare realm again as the victim of some sort of self-inflicted mishap.

Cool stuff, although the ending of the second track leaves me wanting more from both that track and from Wreck And Reference, who have proven their worth, in general.

7.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Absurdities & Echoes
2. Abhorrence

Bandcamp

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Entrails - Raging Death

Entrails are a death metal band with a history in the scene but no real material prior to their reformation in 2008. Their album covers look like other big name releases, and their music sounds like other bands. They reformed just in time for the revivalism fad and are proving to be prolific.


Raging Death is their newest album, and their first release on Metal Blade. I can't be the only one who gets an uneasy feeling in their stomach when I hear that a band is signed to that record label. Every artist who paid in blood to be signed to Metal Blade might not be terrible, but damn do they try their best to castrate great artists. Some manage to avoid falling victim to their obvious marketing ploys, and others are great at self-marketing (ie: The Black Dahlia Murder) so they can get away with personal influence on the sound of their material. I don't even know if it's solely Metal Blade's fault but there's certainly a strong correlation between dull music and getting signed to one of the big labels.

Entrails obviously couldn't. Metal Blade de-clawed and neutered this Swedish death act. Gone is the thicker production of The Tomb Awaits, replaced with a soulless cadaver of the Swedish death metal aesthetic. One listen to "Headless Dawn" or "Cadaverous Stench" will have you shaking your head in shame and disappointment. There's really no excuse for this frustratingly lifeless sound on such a plainly constructed record. Raging Death fits the Swedish death metal stereotypes otherwise: melodic choruses interspersed amongst d-beat and blastbeat verses, barked vocals, and the occasional clean interlude or attempt at building a sort of visual atmosphere.

At its best the formula is lighthearted fun, fueled by energy, and is rampagingly aggressive. At its worst, the formula is throwaway tripe that goes in one ear and out the other. Sometimes the difference is separated by a thin line and unfortunately Raging Death falls on the latter's side. The few standout moments the album does have (the solo on "Death League" and the d-beats on "The Cemetery Horrors" count, I guess) are thrown to the wind for the generic dynamic of the album. There's nothing really wrong about the musical element of the album though.

I don't ask for much, but I would like my Swedish death metal to at least not annoy the hell out of me when I have it playing as the soundtrack to whatever mundane task I'm currently involved with. While musically Raging Death might be alright, that damn production is too frustrating to satisfy even this small request.

3.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. In Pieces
2. Carved to the Bone
3. Bloodhammer
4. Headless Dawn
5. Cadaverous Stench
6. Descend to the Beyond
7. Death League
8. Chained and Dragged
9. Defleshed
10. The Cemetery Horrors

Listen // Buy

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cultes Des Ghoules - Henbane

I haven't heard Polish act Cultes des Ghoules' previous LP Häxan but the hype surrounding Henbane prior to and post-release has been substantial. I decided to give it a spin because my interests have fallen far from black metal, and for about a year I haven't really given a damn about the stagnant subgenre.


Henbane does not reinvent the torpid wheel of blasphemy. I can't say I'm surprised or really disappointed by this. Henbane is far from boring though, and it provides a fulfilling take on a popular thematic in the general metal microcosm. Metal has always been obsessed with linking human nature to the natural elements. Occult ritualism, retro-themed witchery, and shamanistic endeavors have all been popular themes in metal throughout it's beleaguered existence. Recently occult rock acts Jess and the Ancient Ones and ilk have been paying homage to this in a sort of B-grade '70s horror film way. Cults, witches, and natural rituals are all prevalent lyric and songwriting themes with the occasional folk interlude or rhythm being used to justify the aesthetic. 

I can't tell if the majority of these groups are just milking the the visual aspect or not. I guess that's what a majority of music marketing boils down to anyway.

Luckily Cultes Des Ghoules aren't doing any milking. The aforementioned paragraph only applies to the latter half of the Henbane where the lyrics and music take a stylistic change. "Festival Of Devotion" and "Vintage Black Magic" (appropriately titled) are full of prototypical nature-magick lyricism. "Bat's blood and tongue of dog / sting of snake and eyes of frog / juice of hemlock and silverweed / opium, mandrake and henbane's seed / foreskin of birth-killed babe / hell-broth tastes like Satan's grape / black cat's wool and lizard scales, how sweetly the cauldron exhales" Unlike many of the recent occult rock acts Cultes Des Ghoules' music is sinister enough to pull the silly theme off.  By comparison the first two tracks on the album, "Idylls of the Chosen Damned" and "The Passion of a Sorceress" are far more direct in their approach. This isn't a bad thing and while each track is pretty long, they do a good job of keeping you engaged. I definitely approve of the slower riffing on "The Passion" after the more predictable opener.

Henbane is surprisingly heavy for what is essentially a black metal release. The bass is audible in the mix and the kick drums sound nice. The vocalwork by Mark of the Devil is fantastic and varied throughout the entirety of Henbane. He cycles through high-pitched black metal rasping, harsh but intelligible mid-range growls, occasional screaming, and on "Vintage Black Magic," laughter. While the musicianship is pretty much archetypal during the more black metal moments ("Idylls"), Mark of the Devil's vocalwork keeps it compelling and interesting.

Now that I'm listening to Henbane while writing this, I realize that there really aren't too many high-tempo moments on the album other than the opener. After the brief blasting section at the beginning of "The Devil Intimate," it only ramps up to a mid-paced blast section towards the end. I definitely like Cultes Des Ghoules slower style of playing - it sets them apart from similar acts even if their slower sections are essentially leisurely black metal riffs.

8.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Idylls of the Chosen Damned
2. The Passion of a Sorceress
3. Vintage Black Magic
4. Festival of Devotion
5. The Devil Intimate

Bandcamp

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sacriphyx - The Western Front

Trying to finish up these drafts that have been sitting around...

World War I was obviously devastating for all parties involved. What interests me so much about that period of history was the technological advances made prior to the war, the effect it had on the conflict, and all the odd experimentation that inventors and manufacturers did during the conflict to help improve the odds of their side winning. Sure experimentation and invention happens during every major period of war, but during World War I some of the ideas seemed humorously out of touch with reality and thus resulted in spectacular failures. Knight-like plate armor, horse cavalry charging tanks...

Australian duo Sacriphyx's The Western Front is a romantic take on that era, filled with the horrors of what is arguably the most dismal and oppressive conflict of the last century.


Nuclear War Now! is known for catering to bestial black and war metal fans. The Western Front doesn't really fit into either category and is instead far more melodic in nature. There are elements of death and black metal, but certainly more of the former. While the atmosphere lends itself more to doom or black metal, the instrumentation is pretty strictly death metal. Harmonized guitars with plenty of melodies dominate the soundscape, all plodding along at a Mark V tanks' pace.

The melodic nature of the music combined with the pacing of The Western Front is what gives it such a strong atmosphere. Romantic in the painfully nostalgic sense, the instrumental intro title track sets the scene perfectly before parading into "Buried Behind the Lines," a rallying track guided by a bouncing rhythm. There's not a single bad track on The Western Front - although I'm sure "Damn Passchendaele Ridge" might be a bit of a shocker. It's an acoustic track with spoken word lyrics that I quite enjoyed. Anthony Till's voice may not be perfectly suited for it, but at least the lyrics keep to the theme. The acoustic melody is appropriately somber too. Actually most of the melodies on The Western Front are to some degree bar "The Crawling Horror" and "Buried Behind the Lines" I guess.

Guitar really dominates the mix on The Western Front, and some distant mid-range vocals drenched in reverb aren't too far behind. There's a distinct feeling of emptiness to the music, and instead of feeling claustrophobic like one would imagine trench warfare, it sounds like there's plenty of room for the music (in particular the melody) to explore the soundscape. This only adds to the romantic, nostalgic feel of The Western Front. It's like exploring the tormented flashbacks of an old veteran.

Sacriphyx's The Western Front is a high quality release with a war aesthetic and a nostalgic atmosphere - probably the best album I've heard from NWN! in 2013.

8.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. The Western Front
2. Buried Behind the Lines
3. Fatal Fromelies
4. Without a Trace
5. The Crawling Horror
6. Damn Passchendaele Ridge
7. Food for the Front
8. Wells of Beersheba

Enos - All Too Human


Enos are a stoner and space rock trio from the UK whose music blends fat bass tones and psychedelic melodies into an accessible concept album package. The artwork for All Too Human caught my eye so I decided to check it out. All Too Human is pretty exemplary of the subgenres it plays to, but there are some light doom riffs and classic rock-isms that keep it interesting.

After a few listens I've decided that Enos' music works great, like many stoner and space rock bands, as a jam piece. There's plenty of quality riffs and guitar phrases hidden amongst the strong song dynamics of "Left For Dead," instrumental "Obscured," and the Pink Floyd-esque "Collisions." Enos utilize acoustic guitar melodies, numerous effects, and briefly interspersed female backing vocals to build a light atmosphere throughout All Too Human. "Another Solution" is notable for its heavier, fuzzy doom style riffing which is a heavy jump from the previous tracks.

Chris Rizzanski's vocals are oddly harsh throughout most of All Too Human. They work well at the end of "Left For Dead" and on "Collisions." I'm not too big on his raspy, occasionally grungy vocal style though. The title track is boring, predictable hard rock to begin with, but Rizzanski's vocals take it from dull to sharply annoying. The production and mixing are standard fare, which isn't a bad thing as long as you enjoy your bass (which I do). It can't be too hard to imitate the "classics" like Hawkwind and Kyuss in this regard.

7.25 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. ...And Beyond
2. All Too Human
3. Left For Dead
4. Collisions
5. Another Solution
6. Obscured
7. Devil Makes Work
8. Up 'n' Down
9. Who Knew

Bandcamp

Friday, May 24, 2013

Altar Of Plagues - Teethed Glory And Injury

Altar Of Plagues impressed me yet again with Mammal. I'm not big on the whole 'cascadian' black metal thing, so to do so was quite a feat. Mammal resonated well with me and it was an emotionally compelling release. When I heard they were making Teethed Glory And Injury I wrote it down as something to keep tabs on.

Then the video for "God Alone" was released, and I was a little confused.


I don't give a fuck about 'hipsterism' or some stupid label attributed to a band's aesthetic by metal dorks in an attempt to discredit the music. I just want to hear the music. If the band thought that interpretive dance was fitting imagery for the song then I'll try to see it from their point of view in an attempt to get the most out of the experience. So I decided to give Teethed Glory And Injury a chance rather than dismissing it outright, and to be honest I quite liked the music video and song. "God Alone" is one of the best tracks on the album.

Altar Of Plagues have always straddled ambient with long synthetic passages buried throughout their albums. They've had their flirtations with drone as well, and both drone and ambient are bigger elements on Teethed Glory And Injury. Dissonant drone chords are at the forefront of the Altar Of Plagues repertoire and they're present on nearly every track. The same dance-esque rhythm is featured multiple times. "God Alone," "Twelve Was Ruin," and "Scald Scar Of Water" all feature a very similar guitar rhythm that is both catchy and irritatingly redundant. New rhythms on "Found, Oval and Final" and the final track "Reflection Pulse Remains" are a welcome change, but by that late in the album the damage is already done. The weak drone element is one of my biggest complaints about Teethed Glory And Injury. Where drone can be interesting in its simplicity, here it feels bombastic and underdeveloped.

The occasional clean vocal sections do rear their head. They generally serve as interludes and outros, keeping themselves unintrusive. They're mixed low enough to avoid being distracting, and serve to add texture and context to tracks. The production is fine for this sort of  'rhythmic' black metal approach too. I just don't know how well Altar Of Plagues have executed that approach...

Something that bothers me about Teethed Glory And Injury though is that where Altar Of Plagues' previous output felt coherent and each album felt single-minded in its attempt to convey a particular message, this one doesn't. I guess it's because the music feels like it clashes with itself - the ambient mixed with the bombastic, almost djent-like rhythms. The reappearing of the same drone patterns throughout the album reminds me of a poorly handled rendition of Deathspell Omega's "Epiklesis" on Paracletus. Sadly Teethed Glory And Injury isn't nearly as compelling as that album though.

5.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Mills
2. God Alone
3. A Body Shrouded
4. Burnt Year
5. Twelve Was Ruin
6. A Remedy And A Fever
7. Scald Scar Of Water
8. Found, Oval and Final
9. Reflection Pulse Remains

Behold! The Monolith - Defender, Redeemist

Behold! The Monolith's sophomore effort was one of my favorite albums from 2012. I generally thought the year was shit though, so if you read my list you probably weren't too impressed. However if you enjoy stoner doom and passive listening music, this album is great and holds up very well to multiple spins.


I garnered a few conclusions about Behold! The Monolith's brand of stoner doom from their debut:

1. They like to play slow, jamming tunes
2. Mid-range, nearly monotone rasping can be sufficiently entertaining
3. Multiple listens allow the listener to appreciate the nuanced songwriting

I came to these conclusions again on Defender, Redeemist, yet I came to every conclusion faster and more readily. Behold! The Monolith had successfully amplified their debut's successful formula and created a beast of a stoner doom jam-fest. Defender, Redeemist became one of my most played albums of 2012 because of that. From bombastic intro "The Guardian's Procession" to the slow dregs of "Redeemist" and "Bull Colossi," every track is resonating with powerful riffing and grooves. "Witch Hunt Supreme" in particular is chock-full of headbangable, classic doom grooves.

I'm a big proponent of the completely fantastical lyrical thematic in stoner doom. It reeks of pure creativity, even if at time that creativity is a bit stigmatized by the whole 'stoner' aesthetic. I guess that only makes sense considering the music though. Behold! The Monolith like to use this theme to their advantage and thus you get belted lyrics like "Fear me son of the red priest fire for eyes / sent down from the cosmos / paid with untold lives / demonic wave from the sky" It's simple, it rhymes, and best of all it's colorful. I really appreciate that Behold! The Monolith try to inject a bit of personality into the songwriting process. It shows through in the end and makes the album more compelling.

The production and mixing job on Defender, Redeemist is comparable to the debut, with chunky guitars dominating mid-ranged vocals and a fat bass tone. There's significantly less 'building' song dynamics on here too, which is a huge plus for me. Even the thirteen-minute "Cast on the Black Tormentor Guided by the Southern Cross" is completely devoid of useless filler.

If you enjoyed the debut or you're just looking for some fun, easy-listening, deliberately paced and executed stoner doom, then Defender, Redeemist should be right up your alley. There's no ridiculously named tracks on this one though.

8.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Guardian's Procession
2. Halv King
3. Desolizator
4. Redeemist
5. We Are The Worm
6. Witch Hunt Supreme
7. Cast On The Black Lamentor Guided By The Southern Cross
8. Bull Colossi

Bandcamp

Behold! The Monolith - Behold! The Monolith

I'll get back to my inbox soon enough. For now...

Behold! The Monolith are an absolutely ridiculous stoner doom metal outfit with an emphasis on jamming out delectable riffs and grooves. Their album art is silly, their song titles are sillier. 
Some self-proclaimed scrupulous individuals make arguments against such direct, fun music because of the aesthetic of entertainment when compared to that of art. These people are soul-sucking sycophantical pieces of shit.


Perhaps the above generalization was a bit strong. I just never understood the use of that argument as a valid reason to hate everything that a particular medium has to offer. People love to make that argument against stoner or psychedelic metal too, and even stupider individuals proclaim that Electric Wizard are a bunch of image-obsessed teenagers - see Metal-Archives. Anyway rant over - here's a review.

Over the multitude of times I've sat through Behold! The Monolith's self-titled, I've come to the conclusion that they don't write catchy music. There are no ridiculous hooks, no catchy chorales, the vocals have an odd mid-ranged timbre to them, and there's plenty of droning riffs that aren't immediately impressive. These elements combine to create a solid release. It's just not the individual pieces that make it strong.

Unified the album stands perfectly fine as both active and passive listening material. Occasionally I'll find myself getting into the album when I don't even realize it's currently playing. "Battlestagg" and "Elders" are more traditional 'rocking' stoner doom songs with a load of groove and a pinch of improvisation. This is my favorite element of Behold! The Monolith's music. They sound like a bunch of guys just trying to have fun playing music, jamming out tunes that have a bit more to them than meets the ear. I'm not too fond of the building song dynamic on "Phantasmata / Waking Life" and the slow decline at the end of "Battle For Balls Deep," though.

Guitar tone is hugely important in stoner doom and while it is nice and chunky here, I'm not sure that I wouldn't mind a bit more massive, say Boss-FZ2 sound. The production and mixing are also solid. Every instrument is audible, vocals aren't at the top and there's plenty of bass to go around.

Behold! The Monolith have a nice idea here and they certainly improve upon themselves on their 2012 release.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Battlestagg
2. Battle For Balls Deep
3. Elders
4. Phantasmata / Waking Life
5. Guardians of the Abyss / Primal Extenuation / Rise of the Brohemoth

Bandcamp

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Suffocation - Pinnacle Of Bedlam


It's Suffocation. We know exactly what we're getting from them since the band hasn't strayed from the brutal/technical death metal formula since their inception. However it's the little things that always tend to irk the longtime fans. After seeing the cover art for Pinnacle Of Bedlam, many people decried Suffocation as falling into the generic, computerized brutal death metal rut that similar acts like California's Deeds Of Flesh have in the past. Though it's not like elements of that sound haven't existed on Suffocation's past releases, here Raymond Swanland's concept art only made that fear seem much more real. Not to mention the abysmal title font...

Pinnacle Of Bedlam is a mixed bag. While the fears based on the album art were brushed aside shortly after people began listening to the album, Pinnacle Of Bedlam is far from perfect. There's chromatic rhythms, melodic solos, and the rare d-beat hidden amongst the more pervasive blasting ferocity. In essence, Pinnacle Of Bedlam is pretty archetypal post-Despise The Sun Suffocation material. Teasers "Cycles Of Suffering" and "As Grace Descends" were nice blows for the naysayers and the morons who claimed that "Suffocation has gone deathcore."

The problem isn't in the predictable songwriting though. That's by far the best aspect of Pinnacle Of Bedlam, despite Suffocation not being as focused on the 'brutal' element as they were in the past. Frank's vocals have become more subdued with age and Terrence's riffing style has gravitated towards melodious technical death metal. This comes as common knowledge for myself since I've given their recent output a listen, but I know some brutal death metal aficionados complained about the lack of 'brutal' elements on the last few albums. I just wondered why they were expecting such in the first place. The clean guitar moments on "Sullen Days" did still manage to surprise me though, and I can't tell whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I may have made a mistake myself in hoping that a Suffocation album would have solid production values for once. The focal point moving away from 'brutal' death metal isn't wholly to blame either. They've always had issues - Breeding The Spawn, their self-titled, Blood Oath, and now Pinnacle. I can overlook a bad production on a personal level as I did with their previous releases, and usually in the end I find elements I like about the album. However this is a review and no matter how much I try to sugarcoat it, the production is still shitty. The drums click like the sound of a mechanical keyboard and the guitars are all treble. At least they have gain and their tones make them distinctly audible while casual listening even if the mix is muddy. Overall it sounds ugly and unappealing though - not something I want to hear out of any album let alone a Suffocation one. Ironically fitting, this album features a rerecorded track from the aforementioned Breeding The Spawn too.

Essentially Pinnacle Of Bedlam looks and sounds like a typical Nuclear Blast release with an undercurrent of Suffocation greatness to it. While the songwriting is standard fare, the production and presentation is subpar. A predictable shame.

6.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Cycles of Suffering
2. Purgatorial Punishment
3. Eminent Wrath
4. As Grace Descends
5. Sullen Days
6. Pinnacle of Bedlam
7. My Demise
8. Inversion
9. Rapture of Revocation

Listen // Buy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Australasia - Sin4tr4

I've been listening to a lot of instrumental music as of late. Jammy stoner doom, some math rock here and there, the occasional 'extreme' instrumental release; it all makes for fantastic background and compelling foreground music.

So it should come as no surprise that I was happy when I saw that Italian duo Australasia sent me their instrumental post metal and ambient synth debut Sin4tr4. It fits perfectly with the theme of music I'd currently been listening to.


Australasia's music on Sin4tr4 is a little different than I was expecting. Rather than the "build-release" formula of many post rock outfits, Australasia jump right in with relatively little build up. I guess being just over twenty-two minutes long doesn't leave much room to work with. Sin4tr4 still has dynamic though, and many tracks feature the "beautiful" chords and progressions that people associate with post rock and post metal.

There are ambient synth elements added for atmosphere, and you can hear light vocal samples throughout all of Sin4tr4. My least favorite track "Apnea" has a female humming sample and a very weak, lo-fi electronic sound to it. The track doesn't mesh well with the rest on Sin4tr4, which is at best left as an instrumental experience. The duo do a great job of writing catchy 'release' moments in the form of tremolo riffing melodies a la black metal. There's an abundance of very memorable - some subtle, some blatant - 'release' moments on just about every track.The riffs flow like streams that cross at intermittent points to create a richly textured sound.

I really don't mind the electronic and synth element in Australasia's music. I think it puts a new spin on an aged sound, but its use needs some refining. It is used fine on Sin4tr4 but in the future it would be interesting to hear it become more prominent, yet preferably not over the top. The riffs are clearly where Australasia shines and it should stay that way.

I'm also not big on the clean production, but that's a personal preference and something I tend to avoid when listening to post rock in general.

7.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Antenna
2. Spine
3. Apnea
4. Scenario
5. Satellite
6. Retina
7. Fragile

Monday, May 13, 2013

Heartless - Certain Death

Well I figured I should finally get to my inbox! There's some requests I won't be able to cover in time, but I'll try to do what I can. Sorry guys.


Heartless are a metallic hardcore act out of Pittsburgh. They play an abrasive, bass-heavy style not too dissimilar from Nails. After the disappointingly tame Abandon All Life though, Heartless' new 7" Certain Death feels refreshingly crass. The slower moments of the album ("Wrung Out," the beginning of "Mute," and the title track) don't drag which is perfect. There's nothing I hate more than listening hardcore band with loads of slow, boring tracks. It's a genre dominated by energy in both performance and composition, and if the music doesn't reflect that then what the hell am I listening to? Downpicking powerchords in a slightly lower than standard tuning? Worthless.

Certain Death avoids this, and appropriately Cory's vocals match the up-in-arms tempo of the album. Angry and disdainful, bleak yet not entirely lost, the lyrics convey this feeling perfectly. Blaster "Mute" in particular is strikingly pissed off and rightfully so. Frustration is as much a part of our society now as it always has been, but the rampant anonymity and the byproduct of futility in this era is truly aggravating. It struck a chord with me and it's also one of the best tracks on the 7".

At 11 minutes you get what you came for: fast, pissed off music. The closing title track serves the elements of Certain Death up on a platter: an entree of blasting hardcore, a side of d-beat, and a lethal injection of rage. That's what I like to hear. I kind of wish the vocals were mixed a bit higher though.

8.0 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Ruin
2. Unsewn
3. Vignette
4. Wrung Out
5. Excess
6. Mute
7. Unhinged
8. Certain Death

Listen @ CVLT Nation // Buy

Cerekloth - In The Midst Of Life We Are Death

Cerekloth are another "old school" death metal band signed to the now ubiquitous (in the scene, at least) Hell's Headbangers Records. Their debut EP Pandemonium Prayers was wholly predictable old school revival with a thrashy tinge. Not bad, but nothing extraordinary. Continuing on that path would've doomed Cerekloth to forgettable mediocrity.


Luckily that isn't the case. Cerekloth have evolved. Still tapping into the nearly-dry veins of the old school, In The Midst Of Life We Are Death may surprise you. Instead of relying on the tried and true conventions of the revival scene, Cerekloth mix it up with some very well-written and varied material. Songs have dynamic that I personally wouldn't associate with the revival scene, and instead of adhering to the formula Cerekloth let their music guide itself.

The musicianship on In The Midst Of Life We Are Death is top-notch, and while not comparable to say a technical or progressive band, these guys wield their hellish weapons just as effectively. Interesting arpeggiated chords, sustained leads, and a varied vocal performance by both main frontman JBP and back-up Martin Leth Andersen are the main daemonic culprits. There's a nice bounce to the bass too, and some of the more low-end driven tracks ("Within The Hollow Crown," and "When Outcast Become Kings") are the most entertaining. It's a breath of fresh air coming from an unlikely suspect.

In The Midst Of Life We Are Death is undoubtedly packed with solid material, but this still leaves the question as to the production and mixing. To answer that question in brief: both are perfectly fine. Guitars have some nice gain, leads and the larger intervals in the chords are accentuated perfectly. The production might come off as a bit clean to those who expected a more down-and-dirty HHR release, or even something similar to the debut EP. However I found it to be appropriate and not annoying in the slightest.

In The Midst Of Life We Are Death is one of the must hear "old school" death metal albums of the year. If you haven't listened to it yet, you should.

8.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Praeludium + Born of the Void
2. Within the Hollow Crown
3. Halo of Syringes
4. Nest of Disease
5. Mesmerizing Holy Death
6. When Outcast Become Kings
7. The Reapers Instant Is Our Eternity

Bandcamp

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Svart Crown - Profane

Finals are over. I don't think I did too well but I don't think I did too poorly either. Now it's back to the job search and blogging. I promise I'll get to my inbox soon! There's so much I want to cover though.

I saw French act Svart Crown last year with Ulcerate and Tombs in Philly. I wasn't disappointed in them, but more the lack of audience for their bending, very French sounding style of black/death metal. I briefly listened to Witnessing The Fall and Ages Of Decay after seeing them, but both were fleeting enjoyments.


Profane, their 2013 release, has more staying power. I'm sitting here trying to compare the albums as I write this and while the production is the most noticeable step-up, the songwriting is more coherent and direct. It still plays to their strengths - atmospheric black/death sounds with small nods to atonal songwriting thrown in. This should leave fans satiated and those who were hoping for Svart Crown to transcend the French scene a bit disappointed.

That hope is inane. Svart Crown's sound has long been somewhat independent of the long developed French scene and they've been developing their varied take on black/death metal in a different way. While I'm sure some people point to their previous tour mates Ulcerate and Tombs, or to the rising 'occult' black/death metal scene as obvious extraterritorial influences, and while elements of their sound exist in Svart Crown's music, it's hardly derivative. "Genesis Architect" and "Until the Last Breath" are good examples of these elements cropping up but maintaining their own identity.

There are some leads and phrases on Profane that are magnificent. The title track in particular is enthralling with its dynamic. Svart Crown love their harmonics too, and usually black/death suffers from piss-poor rhythm, but not here. Drum fills are captivating and at parts overshadow the guitarwork. The bass is pretty nonexistent though. Svart Crown also have this odd obsession with triplets which pop up periodically throughout the album, and have also been present on their previous releases.

All in all Profane is a solid outing by a band that is consistently overlooked, but their niche keeps them that way.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Manifestatio Symptoms
2. Genesis Architect
3. Intern. Virus. Human
4. In Utero: A Place of Hatred and Threat
5. Until the Last Breath
6. Profane
7. The Therapy of Flesh
8. Venomous Ritual
9. Ascetic Purification
10. Revelation: Down Here Stillborn

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Sorcery - Arrival At Six

DEATH METAL TRAINS! Doesn't get much more metal than sixty-thousand tons of steel rocketing towards a destination, which I hope for metal's sake is hell.

Sorcery are an old school death metal band in the vein of the classic Swedish crust-influenced style. To give them credit, Sorcery were also around in that early scene and have a full-length titled Bloodchilling Tales from 1991. Regardless it's still extremely easy to point to a billion similar artists in 2013, but Sorcery sound more like Tormented or Dismember than say a band like Blood Mortized or The Grotesquery.  However where Tormented are fast and d-beat driven, Sorcery occasionally take things a bit slower and plenty of their tracks peak at mid-tempo with chugging riffs.

"Master Of The Chains" is one such track and while the sustained notes halfway through do herald in a new melody and break up the monotonous simple chugging riffs, I can't say I'm too engrossed in Arrival At Six's slower tracks, the title track being the exception. I prefer the more direct and energetic riffing style of "Created From Darkness And Rage," "Warbringer," and "United Satanic Alliance." Can you tell I've been on an energy kick recently? I need it to keep up my work ethic somehow I guess...

I can see some people questioning them, but if you enjoy Matti Kärki's vocals on Like An Ever Flowing Stream, then you'll definitely enjoy the vocal style here despite the noticeable filter. It's an appropriately shouty style tinged with guttural thrash. There's plenty of tremolo riffing goodness and quick melodic phrasing over basic punk-based bass and drum rhythms, and everything is audible in the mix just fine. There's really not much else to say about the album. If you listen to a lot of similar material you won't be blown away, but you won't be disappointed either. This is one of the "true" old school bands after all.

Despite the great album art, Arrival At Six is an exercise in archetypal Swedish death metal, but that's totally fine. It is still a fun formula when you're in the mood for it. That mood just becomes less and less frequent as time goes on.

7.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. We Who Walk Among The Dead
2. Created From Darkness And Rage
3. Master Of The Chains
4. United Satanic Alliance
5. Arrival At Six
6. Warbringer
7. Maculated Life
8. Beyond The Wall
9. Reborn Through Hate

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Left For Dead - Devoid Of Everything

Hey remember when all hardcore bands didn't sound the fucking same? Me neither.


Metallic hardcore band Left For Dead's recent compilation Devoid Of Everything at least feels honest. Perhaps it has to do with the late '90s-early '00s Toronto scene, but there's something on here that's missing from most recent hardcore: frustrated energy. These guys aren't just going through the motions to appeal to the hipster hardcore or straightedge crowd like popular acts Have Heart or Defeater. These guys sound legitimately pissed off. Glad to see that they've reformed.

Vocal interplay is the key to Left For Dead's success. Fast, traditional punk vocals overlaid with screams and guttural shouts not too far removed from Barney Greenway's style are all present on the compilation. Simplistic and memorable repeated lyrics like "you don't know shit", "sleep in the middle, die in the middle" or "as if you have a choice" are all as cynically fun to listen to as they sound. It's obviously not the actual content of these lyrics (let's be honest, they're pretty one-dimensional), but it's their delivery that keeps things interesting.

Musically everything is pretty prototypical and glossed over for the compilation. Crunchy power chords dominate the majority of the songwriting with some light feedback. D-beats and a bouncy, audible but forgettable bass lead the rhythm. The occasional sample crops up, but they're pretty uninteresting. The later tracks starting at "Eight Floors Above" are from Left For Dead's earlier material and naturally sound more raw and distorted. There's nothing remarkable about any of the instrumentation, but it's high-tempo and serves as a nice backdrop for the vocal interplay, which is where Left For Dead really shines.

A successful compilation that I definitely recommend if you've never listened to Left For Dead before.

7.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Six O'Clock (V1)
2. Pliant
3. Who Do You Know?
4. Skin Graft
5. Second Guess
6. Nice Place To Raise Children
7. Nothing There
8. Standing By
9. Kept In Line
10. Dirt
11. Didn't I
12. Left For Dead
13. Eight Floors Above
14. Pulling Teeth
15. Six O'Clock (V2)
16. Plant The Seed
17. Ripped Up

Bandcamp

Lecherous Nocturne - Behold Almighty Doctrine


Sure to incite statements of "riff-salad," South Carolina's Lecherous Nocturne's newest album is as schizophrenic as you would expect. A whirlwind of chaotic riffing, drumming, and midrange vocals, Behold Almighty Doctrine is a tough record to bite, and not for these reasons. If this kind of music daunted me I wouldn't make the claim that technical death metal was my favorite subgenre.

Behold Almighty Doctrine is populated by shorter length tracks that would probably benefit from a bit of grindcore aggression. One thing I noticed is that while many different riffs are cycled in and spammed at the listener, few of them stick. The vocal and rhythms on "Bring The Void," the slowed down mid-section and ending of (album favorite) "Archeopteryx," and the fills on "Lesions From Vicious Plague" are the closest you'll ever get for memorability. Other tracks while chaotic are lacking in aggressive energy where even something as simple as a d-beat could give the listener a reason to get into the music. The dry guitar tone and heavily palm-muted chromatic riffing is partly to blame, but there seems to be an overall lack of harmony here. I'm sure the bass audibly imitating the melody for the majority of tracks doesn't help either.

And those cheesy synth and piano parts need to go. Including the useless "Intro" and "Outro."

Instead Behold Almighty Doctrine falls into the same rut that bands like Hate Eternal do. The music lacks any sort of memorability, and not in the form of shitty half-baked hooks or repeated chorus song structuring. The number of riffs that are crammed into each track isn't enormous compared to some other bands in the subgenre, but when so little of them are quality it's hard to call it "songwriting" so much as just jamming out some pseudo-technical bullshit.

5.5 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Intro
2. Ouroboros Chains
3. Bring The Void
4. Archeopteryx
5. Those Having Been Hidden Away
6. Prelude #2
7. Judgments And Curses
8. Lesions From Vicious Plague
9. Caustic Vertigo
10. Creation Continuum
11. Outro

Bandcamp

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sulphur Aeon - Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide

Metal has some unhealthy obsession with H.P. Lovecraft. The guy was ahead of his time, and his short stories and works of horror-fiction were interesting in how deranged and weird they were. The fantastical mythos that he created inspired many other authors as well, but I guess the blurring of mediums with the help of the internet has only increased his popularity. 


Sulphur Aeon is the current circlejerk of the metal community. I've heard quite a few opinions about the German act's debut Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide - almost all of them positive. I've also heard the album  being labeled ridiculous things like "Cthulhu-worshiping melodic technical blackened transcendental old-school death metal," which is retarded, but I digress. The album is pretty solid.

Melodic death metal is definitely the first subgenre to point to here. Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide doesn't have the annoying NWOBHM-isms of the Gothenburg scene, but it is still more melodic than most old school or blackened death metal. Solid examples of this sound are found all throughout Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide: "Where Black Ships Sail" with its melodic main riff, the solo and tremolo riffing on "Inexorable Spirits," and the second half of "Those Who Dwell In Stellar Void." However with all the double-bass patterns and dominant tremolo melodies, I can kind of see why some would label it blackened death metal.

Genre-fucking aside, Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide is chock-full of memorable riffs. The melodic element really adds some depth to them, and the tracks don't suffer from a lack of aggression because of it. M.'s vocalwork populates a generally monotonous range, but it only adds to the Lovecraftian atmosphere. It's the structuring of the tracks that really makes this a standout release. There are no frustrating verse-chorus-verse song formats or any serious redundancies on Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide. The varied structures eventually coalesce to create a particular atmosphere on each track. This creates makes for an engaging listen that pulls the listener in with the ebb of the sea.

However the production does take away some of Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide's bite. The tight snare while fitting is arguably the most noticeable flaw (or at least unlikable aspect) in the sound of the album. Otherwise drumrolls and fills by D. crash on the listeners ears like tidal waves, and the bass...well, it's not really present. T. must have forgotten to have it mixed higher up. His guitarwork shines though it could use some 'oomph' on the low-end, or perhaps a more menacing tone.

While not wholly original thematically or musically, Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide is still a rewarding listen that is only held back by a wimpy production and weak mixing job. Oh and if you didn't notice, the band members' names collectively spell DMT. That's pretty awesome. Definitely worth keeping your eyes on these guys.

7.75 out of 10

Tracklisting:
1. Cthulhu Rites
2. Incantation
3. Inexorable Spirits
4. The Devil's Gorge
5. Where Black Ships Sail
6. Swallowed By The Ocean's Tide
7. Monolithic
8. From The Stars To The Sea
9. Those Who Dwell In Stellar Void
10. Beneath. Below. Beyond. Above
11. Zombi

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