Thursday, February 28, 2013

Coprocephalic - Gluttonous Chunks

Quick review time!

Generic brutal death metal name?
Generic but slightly amusing brutal death metal album title? CHECK.
Dead Space's Necromorph creatures as album art? CHECK.
Horror film samples? CHECK.
Fun dial set to eleven? CHECK.

I don't know why I love shit like this so much. I was about to blame my low expectations and first impressions after seeing such generic album covers, but then I realized that brutal death metal has some of my favorite extreme metal conventions: chromatic riffs, guttural vocals, unpredictable time signature changes, and hooks in the form of disjointed slams or grooves. With that said, Thai-turned-States act Coprocephalic groove fucking hard. Gluttonous Chunks is a proud statement that reinventing the wheel isn't needed to have a good time. There's loads of quality riffs (see: "Scourging The Obese") and slams (closer "Embryonal Coagulated Genesis") on Gluttonous Chunks. There's even a Wormed cover, which is certified rad just like the rest of the album.

7.0 out of 10

1. Intro (The Nemesis Uprising)
2. Severe Contamination
3. Gluttonous Chunks
4. Inhuman Nerousis
5. Injected With Violent Supremacy
6. Pavement Of A Thousand Torsos
7. Pulses In Rhombus Forms (Wormed Cover)
8. Scourging The Obese
9. Concrete Exhumation
10. Embryonal Coagulated Genesis


Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance

With time at it's scarcest recently I've come to the realization that if I ever actually want to post here, I'll need to keep it short...ish.

I have the utmost respect for Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. From all the interviews, documentaries, and books written about the dead horse that is the second-wave of black metal, I've gleaned that the pair really do love making music. They don't care what that music's form is as long as it's expressive. Death metal, black metal, d-beat crust, '80s speed metal, and I'm sure more are fair game as long as they serve this purpose.

A blast from the pre-Darkthrone past, The Underground Resistance happens to be a mix of their latter day black crust influences, power metal, and '80s speed metal. Darkthrone pull off the mixed style exceptionally well, but that's where my enjoyment of the album stops. Everything on The Underground Resistance is something I've heard before in other places.

Musical variety can be key to writing an engaging album, and there's a lot of moments on here that feel like the beginning of something better but never really amount to anything. The only exception is "Valkyrie" which can be described as power metal cheesiness with some very crusty balls. After the slow intro, double bass lines undercut crossover riffs accompanied by a soaring chorale. Other tracks have moments of greatness. "Leave No Cross Unturned" has a cool jam session-esque portion sandwiched between slices of thrash. "The Ones You Left Behind" is a heavy metal rocker that breaks out the crossover riffs just when you thought it was getting complacent, and it also showcases the pair's vocal phrasing. The rest of the album sounds pretty typical. Just throw genre stereotypes from the aforementioned mix together and you have yourself The Underground Resistance. That seems to be the intended purpose, however.

Obviously the production and mixing job are significantly more hi-fidelity than you would expect from an album of the bygone pre-Darkthrone era. For the most part the mastering and production are pretty good if on the clean side of things. Everything is fine in the mix. Vocals pop out when they need to, drums have a bit of bass to them, guitar sounds like guitar...

Too bad that can't help the fact The Underground Resistance is derivative. Not bad, but nothing special.

6.0 out of 10

1. Dead Early
2. Valkyrie
3. Lesser Men
4. The Ones You Left Behind
5. Come Warfare, The Entire Doom
6. Leave No Cross Unturned

Listen // Buy

My Bloody Valentine - M B V

This one's going to be quick. I'm busy.

Nobody was expecting Loveless, but I expected a bit more than this.

Maybe I let the hype get to me. Maybe the members of My Bloody Valentine have aged beyond repair. Maybe I just really hate synthesizers. Maybe it was this all combined with my opinion that Loveless was more of an archetype than a pinnacle of the shoegaze subgenre, which is hit or miss to begin with. Still the album has its moments outside of the boring-ass middle tracks spanning "Is This And Yes," "If I Am," and "New You." I guess "Only Tomorrow" fits the bill too but the layered effects on the guitar make it more appealing, and all of the above are far more poppy than I'd like to hear. I did enjoy the static rhythm of the droning opener and "Wonder 2." More accessible "In Another Way" features a bunch of harmonics that add some nice texture to an album that at times feels lighter than it should.

Color me jaded, but certainly not impressed.

5.5 out of 10

1. She Found Now
2. Only Tomorrow
3. Who Sees Now
4. Is This And Yes
5. If I Am
6. New You
7. In Another Way
8. Nothing Is
9. Wonder 2

Listen // Buy

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Mere Multiverse - Portal's Vexovoid

Portal have always given me this sinking feeling. For one the hype surrounding their studio releases is enormous, and their following seems to consist of either rabid fanboys or jaded death metal aficionados. Secondly their atmosphere is massive and dismally enthralling. The latter is what originally drew me into their music, but I've always been slightly let down since Lurker At The Threshold. Similarly atmospheric acts rely  heavily on memorable riffs and jagged composition, while Portal rely heavily on effects and strong post production. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it has always put me off of truly enjoying their later music.

Now we have a new album to hopefully dissuade that negative feeling that I get when anyone talks about Portal. On first listen, like any Portal album, it's tough to take in details. Noise and effects are the band's preferred weapon of sonic warfare, and their use on Vexovoid is just as apparent as it has been since Seepia. A quick aside: I don't think Portal have ever managed to top the berserkly schizophrenic sound of that album. If anything stands out though, it's that Vexovoid has far more direct songwriting when compared to their past two releases. This is both a boon and a curse, as tracks like rhythm-heavy "Curtain" and opener "Kilter" are both potent but predictable by Portal standards. The churning riffs and atmosphere are still there, but their structures are quite plain. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a streamlining of their sound by any means though, so long time Portal fans needn't worry.

With only seven tracks and thirty-four minutes to work with, Vexovoid does a solid job of immersing the listener. Each track has its own murky atmosphere like anyone would expect, and there are quite a few highlights scattered throughout. "The Back Wards" previewed earlier last month is one of the better tracks on Vexovoid and the audible, atonal tremolo guitarwork does hark back to their older days. "Curtain" is one of my favorites with its dissonant melodies that play to the vocal performance by The Curator. Other tracks feel unfinished - "Plasm" in particular feels like half a track tacked onto a derivative noise segment that isn't interesting from that particular musical perspective either. Transitions are something that the band has always had a problem with in my opinion. Not just between tracks, but in gluing together the instrumentation, noise-heavy parts, and swapping out segments of riffs.

The mixing and production took a step in the right direction. That was a big problem with Swarth for me. The guitarwork was so feeble and wispy, and it just couldn't compliment the overbearing nature of the high-gain noise. The drums on Swarth were pathetic as well, sounding more clicky and pillow-filled than is normal for a band like this. Vexovoid remedies this with a very powerful, deeply resonant low-end to not just the toms and bass drum, but to the guitar as well. This compliments their atonal riffing style better, but from a contextual perspective Vexovoid just feels less thematically together than their past two full-lengths. Take of that what you will.

7.25 out of 10

1. Kilter
2. The Back Wards
3. Curtain
4. Plasm
5. Awryeon
6. Orbmorphia
7. Oblotten

Listen // Buy

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dephosphorus - Night Sky Transform

2012 saw Dephosphorus release their second album (although I've heard Axiom called an extended play by some, so feel free to comment and tell me I'm a dumbass if I'm wrong about it being a full-length). Titled Night Sky Transform, it's nice to see these Greeks have stuck to their successful space aesthetic.

Night Sky Transform is much less immediate than Axiom and definitely requires more dedicated active listening sessions. Luckily the album is nearly as short as its predecessor, clocking in at just over twenty-five minutes. On first listen its easy to pick Night Sky Transform apart. The production is a lot more compressed sounding, the bass is less audible, and there are a handful of hardcore moments on this release that are significantly lighter than their grindcore counterparts on Axiom. They do a decent job of injecting variety into the rhythm. This isn't really a bad thing, but there are a bunch of quasi-clean vocal sequences which conflict with the aggressive-yet-otherworldly sound they established with their past release.

Wait a second, clean vocals on what is essentially a deathgrind release? Not exactly, but they might as well be. They crop up on "The Fermi Paradox," "Unconscious Excursion," and "Aurora." They work best on "The Fermi Paradox," which is basically a slow-paced mid-album intermission track. On "Unconscious Excursion" they follow a similar formula, but luckily the track ramps to a violent conclusion. The last half of "Aurora" gets away with it only because it's a conclusion track. Essentially what I'm getting at is that these sections that are deliberately trying to create a sense of atmosphere or thematic do not work for Dephosphorus and they originally put me off of Night Sky Transform.

Over time I've grown to not mind the quasi-clean vocal sequences, and the rest of the album is pretty good bar the production. The groovy riffs of my personal favorite "The Astral Putsch I: Plateau Of Initiation" and "Starless" are a welcome diversion from the usual blasting. The title track is a hardcore romp that gets down to grind business about halfway through, featuring vocals from both Panos and Nikos. It lends some energy to an album that at times feels lacking in it.

Night Sky Transform's "weak" moments aren't particularly bad, they just weren't what I was expecting coming from Dephosphorus. Axiom spoiled me with atmosphere created through the use of infectious melodies and aggressive songwriting, and I expected the same from this release. I don't have a problem with the band trying out new styles and trying to innovate their sound, but I did not think that the means by which they attempted to do so on Night Sky Transform worked out so well. Still a solid album nonetheless!

8.0 out of 10

1. Cold Omen
2. Starless
3. Night Sky Transform
4. The Fermi Paradox
5. The Astral Putsch I: Plateau Of Initiation
6. Identify The Encapsulator
7. Unconscious Excursion
8. Aurora


The Axiom Of Being: Dephosphorus - Axiom

Ulcerate reference in the title? I'm not going to stop so don't bother telling me to.

Dephosphorus' Axiom was a contender for album of the year 2010. Shame I didn't create this blog until 2011 or else this album would've been near the top of my year end list. Let's see how it holds up.

Greek act Dephosphorus bring a new dynamic to the largely stagnant grindcore game. They fuse elements of the black metal aesthetic with frenetic death metal riffing, packaging them into a concise little album that delivers a sucker punch to the brain. The band coin their style "astrogrind," which is surprisingly fitting given more than just the thematic of the album.

Coming in at just over nineteen minutes, Axiom is easy to pick up and listen to multiple times in a sitting. This is often the downfall of grindcore bands as they get mired in their own repetitive nature. Song structures repeat, riffs sound similar, aggression falls flat after it's been let out of the metaphorical bottle, etc. Dephosphorus excel at making their music engaging and fun to listen to. Bouncy d-beater "Continuum" and band-titled "Dephosphorus" are both incredibly entertaining tracks. This is because Dephosphorus often play higher register melodies that add a new dynamic to what already comes across as filthy, bass-rattling grind. Later track "Indulge Me In Silence" begins with a very cool bassline and a subdued dissonant melody. Over the course of the song the melodies are brought more to light, and the concept is again revisited on "Knife Missile." Despite being short, each of these tracks feels developed and like they could stand alone.

The rhythmic elements on Axiom are what makes each track so appealing to listen to. The bass is active, generally populating the low-end with dry rattling sounds, and the drums are wonderfully organic. The kicks have bass, the snare sounds loose, and the cymbals are resonant. Panos' vocals are varied and shift between high, hoarse squawks to guttural roars. Thanos is no slouch on guitar, and he riddles chunky grindcore riffs with high pitched notes that don't quite sound like they belong. The effects are audible throughout Axiom, giving it an otherworldly sound. The occasional and brief use of electronic elements (usually denoting the end of a particular song, like with album closer "On the Verge of an Occurrence") add to this ambiance.

Exploring otherworldly ambiance through an aggressive medium like grindcore is worthy of commendation. Sure death metal bands can do it, but usually they tend to be on the doomier side of things. Technical death bands like Origin attempt to do it too, but it hardly ever builds any sort of resonating atmosphere and instead serves as fleeting imagery for drunken lyrical inspiration. Axiom literally sounds like an extracosmic voice screaming as worlds are created, destroyed, and changed by the winds of the universe. A welcome surprise and come 2013, still a welcome listen.

9.0 out of 10

1. Collimator
2. Continuum
3. Dephosphorus
4. Indulge Me In Silence
5. Knife Missile
6. The Long Crossing
7. On The Verge Of An Occurrence


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mirrorring - Foreign Body

Before you decry my will to check out singer-songwriter music from the west coast as being "hipster," I suggest you actually listen to some of it. This kind of music can be pretty intricate, emotive, and is very leisurely to listen to.

Mirrorring are labeled by some as a dreampop band and I don't see that at all. Made up of Jesy Fortino of Tiny Vipers and Liz Harris of Grouper, this album blends folk sounds with psychedelic new/no/ethereal/whatever-the-fuck-wave music. The result is a surprisingly heavy record titled Foreign Body, and the whole thing feels quite dreamlike. Perhaps that's where the misnomer dreampop came from.

There's just a single, traditionally structured track on Foreign Body. It's relatively deep-voiced Fortino's gorgeous "Silent From Above," which reeks of mournful nostalgia. Other tracks all follow differing structures, some taking influence from the artist's previous work, and some from other subgenres. "Cliffs" for example borrows heavily from post rock. It builds from a simple, repetitive acoustic intro into a densely layered middle with an electro-ambient conclusion. The result is impressive and evokes a sweeping panorama of the Great Basin and its harsh climate. "Mine" is probably the strongest track on the album, with rising electronic harmonies and some great vocal interplay between the duo halfway through. Harris' electronics envelop the track, subtly building tension that is never quite resolved. It's quite disconcerting.

In fact the entire album pretty much feels like falling asleep and then having a bout of sleep paralysis. Closer "Mirror Of Our Sleeping" really touches upon the feeling of waking up weary and anxious, and then going back to sleep in the middle of the night. Something about it sounds so troubled, yet complacent in how lost it is.

The production throughout Foreign Body is filled with haze and a heavy dose of reverb. Each pluck of a string by Fortino feels like it's amplified and echoed through a tunnel of ions created by Harris. Yes, that was a Wormed reference that I somehow managed to work into this review, and no I won't do that again. Anyway while it fits the theme of the album, I don't think ambient droner "Drowning The Call" works so well in context. Luckily the more straightforward and somber "Silent From Above" had come earlier or else I probably would've felt the same way about it. There are a few plucked guitar melodies that add some texture to what feels like a smooth electronic track that goes nowhere with its sound. One of the few times the dynamic doesn't quite work out in the duo's favor.

For the most part though, Foreign Body is a powerful piece of work. Soothing electronics and vocals, building song dynamics, and a (blatant) dreamlike atmosphere make it a more complex and multi-dimensional release when compared to some of Fortino and Harris' previous efforts (at least from what I've heard - which is quite limited).

7.75 out of 10

1. Fell Sound
2. Silent From Above
3. Cliffs
4. Drowning The Call
5. Mine
6. Mirror Of Our Sleeping

Listen // Buy

Weapon - Embers And Revelations

Calgary's Weapon impressed me with their melodic interpretation of black/death metal on 2010's From The Devils Tomb. After a copyright fiasco with the United Kingdom's Weapon, many of the "Elite-ards" and internet-dwelling kvlt kiddies began to rage over how they had sold out and become some breed of melodeath poseurs unworthy of bearing the tattered flag of black/death metal.

This is stupid for a few reasons. One being that complaining about a band "selling out" is only relevant if the actual content of their music changes significantly. Two being that Weapon's music has always been driven by highly melodious riffing. On Embers And Revelations, I got exactly what I liked about From The Devils Tomb.

Well, somewhat. My problem with this album stems more from how those highly melodious riffs don't work this time around.

Embers And Revelations feels like nothing more than a pale shadow. From start to finish all the album does is make me think about how much I'd rather be listening to From The Devils Tomb, or that much better Azarath record from 2011. "Crepuscular Swamp, Unhinged Swine" is a prime example of this style not working. Groovy and toothless, it bounces along like a child skipping through an enchanted forest. I think Weapon realized this and decided to put "Liber Lilith," one of the few tracks with balls, right after it. "Vanguard Of The Morning Star" is the only other track on Embers And Revelations with balls. "Disavowing Each In Aum" however is a blast-ridden cocktease that ends with some drawn out riffs, some cymbal ting-a-lings, and a retarded phase effect.

Another thing that I noticed about Weapon was that they enjoy mid-album intermission tracks. "Grotesque Carven Portal" is the one for Embers And Revelations, and it's really fucking boring. The "solo" at the end obviously wasn't supposed to be a technical display of musicianship, so I can't fault them for it being completely flaccid in every way whatsoever. Then again that's how this whole damn album feels: like a collection of riffs that don't work.

At first it took me a little to figure out where things went wrong for Weapon. The production and the mix is good enough on Embers And Revelations. I guess the snare and kicks are a little flat compared to their previous efforts, but I find it tough to place the blame on that. The vocals are generally monotone rasps, but I can't entirely fault those either. The only thing to blame here is the songwriting. As a band that relies so heavily on writing memorable riffs and melodies, when those riffs and melodies fall flat so does the album.

4.5 out of 10

1. The First Witnesses Of Lucifer
2. Vanguard Of The Morning Star
3. Crepuscular Swamp, Unhinged Swine
4. Liber Lilith
5. Grotesque Carven Portal
6. Embers And Revelations
7. Disavowing Each In Aum
8. Shahenshah


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Defeated Sanity - Passages Into Deformity

Defeated Sanity have alway's been a crushing brutal death metal act driven by technical instrumentation and a groove that makes their music damn catchy. Both Chapters Of Repugnance and Psalms Of The Moribund are exceptional releases and should be at least checked out for anyone into brutal or technical death metal. They throw in the occasional slam but don't go too far with the style, so don't get your basketball jersey in a twist if you were expecting as much.

Sticking to the theme of using the plural form of a noun to begin the title of their albums, Defeated Sanity released Passages Into Deformity. The band themselves stated that it has a bit more of an old school feel to it, and I do agree even if it is only a slight one. The chunky guitar tone and lighter vocals all hark back to those old days in essence, but feel distinctly modern. The result is something that I find tough to enjoy in its entirety.

Don't get me wrong, there are many great moments on Passages Into Deformity. It's just not what I was expecting. I have to get this off my chest first though: "Initiation" isn't just a worthless ambient or sample intro track! This is such a rarity that I have to give the album points just for including actual music in the poorly titled opener. "Initiation" gives way to "Naraka," which is a solid bass heavy track that lays down solid grooves to remind you what Defeated Sanity is all about before bludgeoning you with its conclusion.

Passages Into Deformity follows the conventions we all know and love Defeated Sanity for. Unlike previous releases though, I find myself zoning out during particular tracks. I don't know if its the oddly organic guitar tone (one I'm admittedly not used to hearing coming from this band), or just that the off-time rhythms haven't stuck with me this time around. "Verblendung," "Lusting For Transcendence." and the hammerblasts of the semi-title track "Verses Of Deformity" blow right by without leaving even the slightest scratch upon my memory.

There's still a bit of memorable fun to be had with Passages. "The Purging" is a highlight with tons of blasting grooves and catchy vocal rhythms. There's even a few pit riffs and d-beats thrown in as well as some interesting phaseshifter effects. "Perspectives" could probably have been shortened as it's quite long for a Defeated Sanity track, and the length aside, the track is still a standout for them. There are a few slower moments and a bunch of frenzied polyrhythms that make it interesting throughout. "Frenzy" (hindsight pun) is a blastfest that leads to another drum showcase and solo in "Martyrium." All of them are tracks that I feel will grow on me with time, but even on first impression they're pretty damn good.

The staunch focus on rhythm is one of the reasons I've always loved listening to Defeated Sanity. The problem with this release in comparison to their previous ones is that it occasionally gets bogged down by that focus, and is less memorable because of it. Since this is the main issue I have with Passages Into Deformity, I think a few more listens might make it the grower I wasn't expecting from Defeated sanity.

7.25 out of 10

1. Initiation
2. Naraka
3. Verblendung
4. Lusting For Transcendence
5. The Purging
6. Verses Of Deformity
7. Perspectives
8. Frenzy
9. Martyrium


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Primitive Man - Scorn

Hate is one of the most frustratingly hackneyed words thrown around every day by everyone to describe a multitude of negative feelings towards pretty much anything. Everyone does it, myself included. When associated with music, people point to the punk scene. Powerviolence, grindcore, and hybrid genres like sludge bear the brunt of this vacuous word. Occasionally you see it tossed around to describe metal as well, although for the most part most metal tends to be emotionally exploratory, often looking at things from an outside or distanced perspective as opposed to the in-your-face perspective of say hardcore.

Primitive Man know that while hate can be a legitimate feeling, they needed a stronger word if they wanted to title their music appropriately. Scorn is the one they chose to christen this vile beast, and holy fuck does it sound pissed off.

I went into this album expecting abrasive sludge with the occasional hardcore elements, but I got something much more oppressive. Scorn feels more akin to a funeral doom album thematically. Replace the empty void of death with an oil-coated ocean of bodies set to ignite and you'd have a pretty apt comparison. The second title track "Scorn" comes on, that writhing mass of flesh is set ablaze with flames of hate.

The 11-minute opener is an album highlight. One thing that grabbed me right away was the filthy bass tone and the barked vocals by Ethan McCarthy. There's something primal and furious about them that allows them to resonate so deeply within me as a listener. "Scorn" builds at a drunken pace, and the riffs are equally slow to match its plodding nature. The guitarwork is deliberate, littered with feedback, and thick with gain. Other than the minor tempo change in the middle of the track where some hardcore elements pop up, "Scorn" wallows in its own disgust and by the end all you hear is McCarthy vomiting up his own disdain into a storm of feedback. It's beautiful, really.

So entrancing is this vitriolic, negative atmosphere that it really colors the whole album and drags you down with it. At times you feel like the music shouldn't be as oppressive as it is, but the atmosphere makes it suffocatingly so. Even the heavily hardcore driven track "Stretched Thin" feels parched of all positive energy. There's a few semi-harsh noise tracks interspersed through the album ("I Can't Forget" and "Black Smoke"), but for the most part Scorn tends to play its tune to that started by its title track.

The gratuitous and downright sexy bass tone and playing by Zach Harlan helps further the all-encompassing mire-of-negativity feel. Slower tracks like "Antietam" and "Rags" all use this to their advantage. The guitar tends to find itself playing dissonant melodies, and at times is surprisingly layered (the brutalizing end of "Antietam" comes to mind). Drums are generally simple and drive the primary pulse of the tracks, but there are occasional fills and cymbal embellishments that make your ears perk up, usually when the tracks delve more into noise. The production and mixing is also stellar if a bit bass heavy. Something I never mind as you should know by now.

While I can see the noise, high gain guitar, and singularly pissed expression putting some people off of Scorn, for me it only made getting dragged into the mire it creates even better. Check out these guys' grind band too, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest fire.

9.0 out of 10

1. Scorn
2. Rags
3. I Can't Forget
4. Antietam
5. Black Smoke
6. Stretched Thin
7. Astral Sleep


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Katalepsy - Autopsychosis

Katalepsy are Russian slam gods to some, but despite my enjoyment of the sub-subgenre I don't think I've ever enjoyed one of their releases. I reluctantly tried Autopsychosis hearing that they tech'd up their style to compete with all the goodness Russia seems to be pouring out lately (7 H.Target, new Abominable Putridity, etc.). The result is more brutal death metal than slam.

If there's one element I've always thought Katalepsy nailed on their past releases, it was their absolutely incredible bass tone. It's high in the mix, overdriven yet dry, and fucking heavy. Their bassist Anatoly is the only original member of the band left and goddamn is he talented. His fingerpicked basslines are the powerhouse behind every track on the obliteration machine that is Autopsychosis. They literally carve canyons into the earth upon which musical blood spills in rivers.

High register, time-signature-changing melodies aren't unheard of in slam, but the predominance of them on Autopsychosis in place of a consistent underlying groove is what makes it feel like less of slam album and more of a brutal death metal one. Opener "Lurking In The Depth" is a great example of this, being filled with a bunch of harmonic melodies. That's not to mention that the entire album is littered with pinch harmonics and chromatic riffing. You'd have to be psychotic (pun intended) to expect otherwise.

Nearly every track on Autopsychosis is memorable and thematically fitting. Slams occasionally pop up in rudimentary form, altering time signatures and playing to expectations. Potentially my favorite track on the album, "Cold Flesh Citadel" is rife with groove and descends into a prototypically beautiful slam at the end. It's followed by "The Pulse Of Somnambulist" which is equally compelling and bisected by a similar breakdown of convention. Short solos are interspersed throughout the album, but the guitarwork in general is impressive and fills any musical masturbation needs you may have. I know because I have quite a lot when it comes to brutal and technical death metal.

After awhile I would think this kind of music would become stale, but Katalepsy manage to needle your auditory receptors with little bits of groove during each riff, and then yank on them when they've got enough under your skin. I get pulled back into river of gore just in time to hit the rapids. Even the latter tracks on Autopsychosis have this effect. "Gore Conspiracy," slam-ringer "Amongst Phantom Worlds," and "Taedium Vitae" are all equals to their early occurring counterparts. The vocalist Igor is primarily to blame for this intoxicating effect, and his myriad styles carry the groove when the music wants to deviate, keeping the listener involved in the album.

The sound engineers at the Cosmos Studio in Moscow have outdone their previous efforts with Cephalic Impurity. Autopsychosis sounds phenomenal. It is surprisingly clean which I can see putting off some old fans and some individuals in search of dirty brutal death metal. The guitars are crunchy yet clear, the bass is brilliantly mixed, and drums are crisp. There's no ridiculous snare sounds here (sadly), and I guess the kicks could use a bit more 'oomph' to them, but for the most part this production works wonderfully.

Autopsychosis is a change of heart for me, and I would imagine for the band too having gone from playing slam to a more brutal death metal oriented style. Hopefully their next is as addicting as this one.

Disclaimer: I did not once listen to this while hitting the gym. Should get on that.

8.25 out of 10

1. Lurking In The Depth
2. Evidence Of Near Death (E.N.D.)
3. Body Bags For The Gods
4. Cold Flesh Citadel
5. The Pulse Of Somnambulist
6. Unearthly Urge To Supremacy
7. Gore Conspiracy
8. Amongst Phantom Worlds
9. Needles Of Hypocrisy (Interlude)
10. Knifed Humility
11. Taedium Vitae

Listen // Buy

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vorum - Poisoned Void

Revival scenes have been raging the world over. Finland is obviously no exception to this as we saw with Desecresy last year. Vorum milk the sound further on their debut full-length, Poisoned Void.

The milk is a tad bittersweet. Vorum have achieved that which they set out to do: create blasphemous death/black metal. For one, I'm glad they changed their name from Haudankaivaja. Despite obviously being more marketable Vorum sounds like an amphibious muck-creature that swallows it's prey whole. Or maybe it sounds like the twisted, gluttony-fueled opposite of a vomitorium. It certainly sounds more direct and more evil than Finnish for "Gravedigger" either way.

Poisoned Void is a riff-heavy construct as it should be. Guitars spit out fast phrases that are often repeated many times, chromatic, and at the best of times addicting. Harmonic tremolo riffs and the occasional solo carry memorable melodies that soar over the murk of the underlying rhythm. "Rabid Blood" is full of them and is one of the stronger tracks on the album for that reason. The occasional d-beat pops up on Poisoned Void, always bringing you back into the album when you start to lose interest which admittedly happened to me at a few points. The tracks do have a bit of variety to them though, which is something I always find lacking on revival albums. "Thriving Darkness" and "Dance Of Heresy" for example begin heavily in the doom spectrum, and wouldn't sound out of place on a Slugathor release. The only track I couldn't properly enjoy was the closing title track which at seven minutes feels like it overstayed its welcome. The ideas are developed, but only there's only so much you can do with the style. It takes awhile to cut to the chase and the reward isn't that great.

The mixing and production are exactly what you should expect from this kind of music. The bass drum sounds legitimate, the riffs sound murky and properly distorted, and the driving melodies stand above it all. I can't stress how important that is for a band like this, and they achieve it perfectly.

You could easily point to their '90s influences in Convulse or especially Demigod, with a small dash of Purtenance as being components of their sound. This isn't a huge issue as the type of music Vorum have set out to create is exactly that. It's a revival take on an old style, and it might have just been what I was in the mood for tonight, but I don't know how I'll feel about it down the road.

7.25 out of 10

1. Impetious Fires
2. Death's Stains
3. Rabid Blood
4. Thriving Darkness
5. Evil Seed
6. In Obscurity Revealed
7. Dance Of heresy
8. Poisoned Void

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Monday, February 4, 2013

The Serpent's Breath VII: Vanitas

Late 2012 rolls around and the prolific duo release Vanitas.

This is what it's been building to. I hate to say it, but I've grown to expect everything Anaal Nathrakh can possibly throw at me. Hunt's vocals are still technically magnificent and varied, but the emotion behind them has been played out throughout the past decade. The band's one-dimensionally pissed expression no longer works as well as it used to. The songwriting and instrumentation have dragged themselves into a rut too. I can tell where each track will go before it gets there, where each melody will take me, and where each cry of disdain for humanity will end.

Vanitas is even less unique in Anaal Nathrakh's rapidly growing discography than Passion. This helps and hurts it in a few ways that I've mentioned many times already in the other reviews. You get exactly what you expect and exactly what the duo excel at: catchy, melody-driven black metal thick with death metal and grind elements. The result is so prototypical at this point that I don't even feel like describing it anymore, and I'll just dive right into the actual music.

The mastering of this album is oddly loud. Everything is amplified to skull-shaking levels, but at least the mix sounds good. There's more texturing this time around, and the better riffs sound layered and full. Many of the early tracks on the album are typical works for the Nathrakh, but are potent nonetheless. Sing-along "Forging Towards The Sunset," bouncy "Todos Somos Humanos," blast heavy "In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas," and the melodic ballad "A Metaphor For the Dead" are all decent tracks with standout moments. That's how I feel about the majority of Vanitas actually, but it just doesn't hold up. Distinguishing new albums from a rich back catalog is something I have problems with in regards to any band, but it's more apparent when the new albums are merely pale reflections of those old albums.

If there's one good thing about this being the state of their music, it's that it makes jumping into Anaal Nathrakh's discography insanely easy for newcomers. Shame it makes getting hyped for a new release so underwhelming.

6.5 out of 10

1. The Blood-Dimmed Tide
2. Forging Towards The Sunset
3. To Spite The Face
4. Todos Somos Humanos
5. In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas
6. You Can't Save Me, So Stop Fucking Trying
7. Make Glorious The Embrace Of Saturn
8. Feeding The Beast
9. Of Fire, And Fucking Pigs
10. A Metaphor For The Dead

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Serpent's Breath VI: Passion

The formula wearing thin, Anaal Nathrakh have opted to mix it up a bit on Passion. The duo break out the grind and industrial elements with more abundance this time around.

It works to an extent. A very limited one.

As musicians, both Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney have grown far past their primitive, honest origins on The Codex Necro. Kenney's chops have been getting progressively more varied, aggressive, and melodious, while Dave Hunt has shown numerous feats of technical harsh-singing prowess by changing styles on a whim. These elements of instrumentation carry over onto Passion perfectly fine. The production, something the band has always had an issue with, hurts them in every way possible. Guitars are subdued in the worst of ways, the bass is virtually inaudible, the drums are once again sterile and that damn snare is clicking again.

High-speed grinders like "Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria" and "Locus Of Damnation" are as aggro as you would expect from these guys. Dave Hunt's vocals on "Tod Huetet Uebel" are technically brilliant and as deranged as ever, and the slower second half of the track is a unique touch for Anaal Nathrakh. "Drug-Fucking Abomination" is another pseudo-experiment on their part: it features a prolonged intro and eschews the typical popular song construct that they tend to follow. That dynamic pops up on "Paragon Pariah," which is decent at best coming from a back catalog of so many similar tracks.

Passion at times feels like a vain attempt by Anaal Nathrakh to avoid stagnating in their own filthy, misanthropic mire. The duo love their trademark sound but don't seem to know where to go with this release, and it leads to half-baked tracks on the latter half of the album. The last three are inane, lifeless tracks that don't do much to further the sound they started toying with early. The redeeming qualities on Passion, ones we've seen time and again, aren't enough to make it worth listening to over their vastly superior back catalog.

5.0 out of 10

1. Volenti Non Fit Iniuria
2. Drug-Fucking Abomination
3. Post Traumatic Stress Euphoria
4. Le Diabolique Est L'ami Du Simple
5. Locus Of Damnation
6. Tod Huetet Uebel
7. Paragon Pariah
8. Who Thinks Of the Executioner
9. Ashes Screaming Silence
10. Portrait Of The Artist

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Serpent's Breath V: In The Constellation Of The Black Widow

Goddamn I know these guys have bad or cheap album art but did they really have to use a work of art that's been on tons of albums (and that awesome Timeghoul demo) for In The Constellation Of The Black Widow?

In The Constellation Of The Black Widow had some big shoes to fill. I was pretty hyped for it, even going out of my way to buy the "More Of Fire Than Blood" single. In the end I wasn't disappointed, but it became clear to me that innovations in Anaal Nathrakh's sound were wishful thinking. They found what worked on Eschaton and the more death metal-oriented Hell Is Empty, and now they decided to stick with that sound.

Thus for me In The Constellation became about the tracks that didn't fall into the pop-structured rut. I really enjoyed the breaks of the rhythm dominated grinder "The Unbearable Filth Of The Soul" and the pummeling anger of "Oil Upon The Sores Of Lepers." Some of the middle tracks became forgettable as I focused on the standouts. "So Be It" and "Terror In The Mind Of God" are both tracks that are at their best merely present. "Satanarchist" is interesting solely because of it essentially sounding like Anaal Nathrakh's take on traditional black metal, while "Blood Eagles Carved On The Backs Of Innocents" fits the bill of aggressive, memorable closer.

Anaal Nathrakh's formula withstanding the test of a few albums, the only huge differences on In The Constellation was the production which is far more...budgeted for lack of a better word. The drum machine dominates the mix, bass is sometimes audible ("Unbearable Filth Of The Soul"), and the guitar has a harsher edge. There's a prevalence of blastbeats on this album too, and you rarely hear the d-beat verses of In The Constellation's predecessor.

Still a successful album thanks to the talent of the duo and a formula that works.

7.5 out of 10

1. In The Constellation Of The Black Widow
2. I Am The Wrath Of Gods And The Desolation Of The Earth Music
3. More Of Fire Than Blood
4. The Unbearable Filth Of The Soul
5. Terror In The Mind Of God
6. So Be It
7. The Lucifer Effect
8. Oil Upon The Sores Of Lepers
9. Satanarchist
10. Blood Eagles Carved On The Backs Of Innocents

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The Serpent's Breath IV: Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here

I grew to like Eschaton over the year and Anaal Nathrakh would gear up to release a new album. Hell Is Empty, And All The Devils Are Here was the result and at the time my mind was blown. I remember my excitement when I found this album in a bin at a record store along with some of their older material that I only had digital copies of. That was a good day.

This album was the first released through Kenney's label, Feto Records, and some people didn't find the production to be as strong as Eschaton's on Season Of Mist. I disagree and although the guitar was subdued in the mix, Dave Hunt was doing more experimentation with his vocals, and for once the drum machine sounded entirely legitimate.

Hell Is Empty is a monstrous album. Mister Hunt aka "V.I.T.R.I.O.L."'s vocals are all over the place: screeching bird cries, Barney Greenway-esque barks, black metal rasps, thick brutal death gutturals, and soaring cleans. "Screaming Of The Unborn" is the first track where you really feel like saying "Is this really still Anaal Nathrakh?" The black metal influence is still apparent, but they've fully taken on the more dense, death metal oriented riffing along with some classic d-beat aggression that I hadn't heard since The Codex Necro.

The choral hooks are still an engrossing aspect of the album. "Virus Bomb," "Shatter The Empyrean," and "Until The World Stops Turning" are all in the style, and although none reach say the greatness of the hooks on "When The Lion Devours Both Dragon And Child," they all sound more individual and less formulaic than those on Eschaton where they generally followed popular song structuring. Hell Is Empty isn't devoid of the typical verse-chorus-verse-etc. nonsense, but the fun is all in the variations on that formula.

The latter tracks on Hell Is Empty are all highlights in my opinion, starting with the wonderfully titled throat-destroyer "Genetic Noose." It's Hunt's most guttural track, and it really shows how talented he is. "Sanction Extremis (Kill Them All)" is perhaps my favorite Anaal Nathrakh track of all time, featuring some great chromatic riffing late in the track from Irrumator and a great build-up with a demented vocal bridge. It ends fittingly with repeated gutturals from Dave Hunt: "kill them all, kill them all, kill them all." The closer "Castigation And Betrayal" is the ONLY track I've heard by modern Anaal Nathrakh that matches the ferocity of The Codex Necro. Its blistering speed, bass blow-outs, frenzied "solo," and colossal vocal finish are all visceral and stunning. Definitely the peak of their style.

9.0 out of 10

1. Solifugae (Intro)
2. Der Hölle Rache Kocht In Meinem Herzen
3. Screaming Of The Unborn
4. Virus Bomb
5. The Final Absolution
6. Shatter The Empyrean
7. Lama Sabachthani
8. Until The World Stops Turning
9. Genetic Noose
10. Sanction Extremis (Kill Them All)
11. Castigation And Betrayal

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The Serpent's Breath III: Eschaton

What many would consider their seminal work, Eschaton is quite a revolutionary album for the duo. Here the development of the crescendo'd chorus that occasionally popped up on Domine Non Es Dignus would become the definition of Anaal Nathrakh's sound through today.

When Eschaton came out I had trouble getting into it. At the time I was put off by clean vocals in my heavy music, and I felt like the band really was heading to that metalcore route. Mr. Hunt's subdued vocalwork on tracks like "The Destroying Angel," and  new, lower-pitched variations on his style only exacerbated my fears. As time wore on though I grew to like Eschaton with its more textured sound.

Unlike the mediocrity that was Domine Non Es Dignus, this album is filled with memorable moments and tracks. "Between Shit And Piss We Are Born" is a classic in Anaal Nathrakh's discography, "When The Lion Devours Both Dragon And Child" is a choral powerhouse, and my personal favorite "The Yellow King" features one of the best melodies from Mick Kenney. In fact there's probably only one track I'd consider subpar on the album, and even then it functions as a solid intermission between the more hook-driven tracks: "Waiting For The Barbarians." I guess the second last track, "The Necrogeddon," isn't super interesting either, but it's context in the album is pretty minuscule compared to the others.

As I mentioned previously the production on Eschaton is leagues ahead of its predecessor. The bass is audible and high in the mix, the guitar has a bit of midrange to it, and the drumming doesn't sound hilariously fake, although it is still obviously a drum machine. The sound on Eschaton is one that is more reminiscent of death metal than of black metal, and it marks a shift for the duo in instrumentation as well.

The massive emphasis on hooks is something that these guys excel at. Dave Hunt's nigh impeccable clean singing and massive range allows them to explore a myriad of sounds on Eschaton and future albums, while Irrumator's glorious chops and quick melodic phrases as well as the occasional solos keep the music from being technically stagnant. It's a winning combination.

8.25 out of 10

1. Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes
2. Between Shit And Piss We Are Born
3. Timewave Zero
4. The Destroying Angel
5. Waiting For The Barbarians
6. The Yellow King
7. When The Lion Devours Both Dragon And Child
8. The Necrogeddon
9. Regression To The Mean

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The Serpent's Breath II: Domine Non Es Dignus

My nostalgia for this album can't save it.

Domine Non Es Dignus is often described as "blackened metalcore," and it did set the blueprint for the style that would soon make Anaal Nathrakh popular amongst the underground. Tracks like "Do Not Speak," with its vocal crescendo, would become their staple.

Dave "V.I.T.R.I.O.L." Hunt's harsh vocals are still intense as ever, and the samples on the album add a bit of flare to tracks that are stunted aurally. There are a few memorable riffs (early in "To Err Is Human, To Dream (Futile)" and "Do Not Speak"), but for the most part the sterile production kills it. The drum machine is invasive and as lifeless sounding as you would expect from the two words "drum" and "machine" being paired together. Many of the later tracks are unlistenable due to how boring they are, like "Swallow The World" and the dull blast-fest "The Final Destruction Of Dignity." Shame the final track "Rage, Rage Against The Dying Of the Light" has such a sweet title yet it can only disappoint with a production this bad. Still it's one of the stronger tracks on Domine Non Es Dignus.

The Nietzchean overtones are still there, and some of the track subtitles are even in Deutsch, but it comes across as half-baked when it's predecessor explored the themes in a much more appealing way. Domine Non Es Dignus might be mildly entertaining if you're looking for something proto-Eschaton sounding, but for the most part the album drags its feet through mud on the beaten path of extreme music.

I'm giving the album a bit of a bonus for being nostalgic, but even then the score isn't looking too good.

4.0 out of 10

1. I Wish I Could Vomit Blood On You... ...People
2. The Oblivion Gene
3. Procreation Of The Wretched
4. To Err Is Human, To Dream (Futile)
5. Revaluation Of All Values (Tractatus Alogico Misanthropicus)
6. The Final Destruction Of Dignity (Die Letzten Tage Der Menschheit)
7. Swallow The World
8. This Cannot Be The End
9. Rage, Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

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The Serpent's Breath I: The Codex Necro

Anaal Nathrakh are a band that I've been listening to for almost as long as I've been into extreme metal. The Codex Necro and Domine Non Es Dignus were always in rotation in my late middle school-early high school years. Instead of listening to pop-punk ballads or the whiny, musically devoid aging grunge scene, I got my angst out to Dave "V.I.T.R.I.O.L." Hunt's harsh screeches and the distorted melodies played by bandmate Mick "Irrumator" Kenney. With the release of Vanitas late last year, I figured I'd go through their discography again.

The Codex Necro is perhaps the epitome of their pent-up rage. They have yet to match the scathing venom that the combination of "Submission Is For The Weak," "Pandemonic Hyperblast," and Nietzschean "Human, All Too Fucking Human" ooze. These tracks are fantastic for this reason alone, not to mention the infectious melodies pumped into them by Kenney's guitarwork. It's less noticeable on this release, which has a black metal sound to it, but he has said that he takes a lot of influence from metalcore and melodic death metal. The hooks are present on here though, and there's plenty of memorable riffs and phrases.

There's something so primal and disgusted in Anaal Nathrakh's music on this release, and it sounds fucking grimy to boot. The guitar is heavily distorted, industrial elements dip the riffs in oil, and the static-laced shouts of Hunt set them ablaze. This album is perhaps notorious in their discography for having the most blatant industrial elements up until Passion, but it doesn't hurt the music at all.

If there's one thing that bothers me about The Codex Necro that keeps it from being great is that it feels very single-minded. There aren't a lot of ideas here - just pure, unbridled aggression. The idea becomes stale when the more furious tracks give way to slower, more boring ones like "Incipid Flock" or the title track. However there are some surprises hidden on the later half of the album, with "The Technogoat" and the awesome d-beat of "Human, All To Fucking Human." Definitely an adolescent classic for me and one that is still enjoyable (what a rarity).

8.0 out of 10

1. The Supreme Necrotic Audnance
2. When Humanity Is Cancer
3. Submission Is For The Weak
4. Pandemonic Hyperblast
5. Paradigm Shift - Annihilation
6. The Technogoat
7. Incipid Flock
8. Human, All Too Fucking Human
9. The Codex Necro

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