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

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

Listen // Buy

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

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


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

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


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

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

Listen // Buy

Devil - Gather The Sinners

Revivalism is a plague upon extreme music. Pop-structured "classic" heavy metal with fuzzed-out doom riffs is the current lovechild of labelheads everywhere thanks to Ghost (now Ghost B.C.). I find this movement to be largely redundant and pointless. Nonetheless it exists and therefore someone out there must be discovering this kind of music for the first time. Maybe they just haven't gotten bored yet. It's baffling either way since this kind of music has limited depth.

Devil is a Norwegian band playing Sabbathian-style doom rock not too distant from the more poppy Ghost B.C., but without all the synthesizer bullshit. These guys like to keep things down-to-earth. Thus their music is heavier and fuzzier, and it tends to stick to metal's roots which is by all means fine as far as crafting a simple doom or heavy metal album goes. Honestly the lack of synthesizer was the only thing I needed to be assured of to give Gather The Sinners a chance. After all not all revival acts are bad right?

The structuring of the tracks on Gather The Sinners ranges from doom to pop, with some tracks ("Darkest Days," "Southern Sun") being spurred on by hooks and choruses. They do work and are largely appealing in the same way that they were thirty of forty years ago. It's nothing new, but where Devil do succeed is in keeping that thirty or forty year old feel alive. Gritty vocals mixed with the aforementioned fuzzy guitars merge to create a portal to a bygone era.

Primitive in it's composition and execution, Gather The Sinners is interesting for that reason alone. The album is nothing new or particularly interesting, but it's filled with memorable slow-to-mid-paced riffs that are headbangable. "They Pale" opens with a solo yet maintains the chorale groove with a cowbell, "Ladies Of Night" has a bouncy bassline that carries a similar groove, and the more vocally driven "Darkest Day" is led on by the high-hat. All of the tracks on Gather The Sinners are about maintaining a groove, and Joakim Trangsrud's vocals serve to embellish that groove with some melody. His hoarse voice is pretty archetypal, but it fits. The supporting vocals and interplay are both nice touches as well.

While nothing original, Gather The Sinners is at least notable for not sounding like outright synth pop-rock. The result is quick gratification: the occasional choral hook will get stuck in your head, but listening to the album has diminishing returns as hooks tend to tire fast.

6.25 out of 10 

1. Coffin Regatta
2. Beyond The Gate
3. They Pale
4. Legacy
5. Restless Wanderer
6. Untitled
7. Ladies Of the Night
8. Darkest Day
9. Mother Shipton Pt. I
10. Mother Shipton Pt. II
11. Demons On Wheels
12. Southern Sun

Listen // Buy

Infant Annihilator - The Palpable Leprosy Of Pollution

Deathcore died a few years ago when every band in the style either started aping Linkin Park (see: Bring Me The Horizon) or attempted to create the next mainstream radio hit (see: Skip The Foreplay). Sure the scenieweenies still ate the shit up, but it didn't have the same fecal flavor they were used to. What happened to the superficial attempts at 'brutality' or 'extremity?' We all missed those hollow efforts in their absence. Good thing Infant Annihilator came along to remind us all that plain ol' deathcore ain't dead.

Infant Annihilator along with Rings Of Saturn are spearheading a new form of noodling revival deathcore. These guys have more balls though and seem like they're out to have some fun with their deliberately composed music. The Palpable Leprosy Of Pollution contains all of your favorite genre-defining elements: breakdowns, sweeps, drop A, pinch-harmonics, mic-cupping vocals, multilayered vocals, and more. At least it doesn't have that obnoxious djent guitar tone that every deathcore band loves these days. Oh and Infant Annihilator also have a ridiculous(ly deathXcore) name but it makes sense given their thematic: The Palpable Leprosy Of Pollution is all about pedophilia and corruption within the Catholic church.

The Palpable Leprosy Of Pollution begins as one would expect: with a fucking breakdown. Luckily Infant Annihilator, while obsessed with pointlessly meandering noodle-riffs, do a good job of relegating them to short instances (minus the instrumental closer "Paedophilic Supremecy"). Hammerblasts populate the opening track and many others, and most of the album plods along at different tempos. Occasionally a more developed riff pops up (hear the opening of "III. Embryonic Fetish (ft. Alex Teyen"), but The Palpable Leprosy is all about arpeggios being played over downtuned chugging before the whole thing collapses into breakdowns so predictable it's comical. I think this was the intent of the band, and while they succeed at almost parodying the genre (and themselves), the music is hardly rewarding to listen to.

There's a small degree of redemption to be found in the production, and while you can tell this band is an internet project, the mixing is pretty acceptable. It's sleek, clean, and doesn't really offend. The guitar is crunchy when it wants to be, the bass is a bit light but at least it's audible, the drums sound predictably fake (the snare is mixed so loudly), and the various vocal effects are completely over-the-top. Infant Annihilator aren't a band that wants to be taken seriously, and that's totally fine by me. There's even a bit of slam influence in their song structuring, and it's fun to at least hear their take on it.

If deathcore is your thing you will love this tongue-in-cheek album. If the stereotypes of the subgenre scare you off, stay the fuck away. If you're like me and can appreciate a solid deathcore release, this album is mediocre. Bonus points for not trying to be pretentious.

4.75 out of 10

1. New Born Porn
2. I. Infant Annihilator
3. Devotion to the Child Rape Syndicate
4. II. Anal Prolapse Suffocation
5. Whorespawn (Bloodline Defiled)
6. III. Embryonic Fetish (ft. Alex Teyen)
7. Immeasurable Foetal Mutilation
8. Torn From the Womb
9. Cuntcrusher
10. Flayed and Consumed (ft. Lucas Mann)
11. Bathed In Placenta
12. The Palpable Leprosy Of Pollution (ft. Bill Williams)
13. Decapitation Fornication
14. An Exhalation of Disease
15. Paedophilic Supremecy