DRUDKH – Handful of Stars CD
Season of Mist Records
I had thought last year’s Microcosmos was going to be Roman Saenko’s last release under the band name DRUDKH and he was going to turn his newer side project, BLOOD OF KINGU, into a full time thing. Well so much for believing online chat and forum rumors. I already think BLOOD OF KINGU’s release, Sun in the House of the Scorpion, is damm good and this one is interesting to say the least. Since DRUDKH doesn’t tour nor does promo work at all they have plenty of time to spend writing and recording. This gives them a great advantage over their contemporaries by being on the constant creative flow. It also makes them the leaders of the real post black metal genre and others as followers. When I say “real post black metal”, I referring to bands or individuals who’ve come from the black metal scene and not a bunch of indie rock losers riding coattails.
Handful of Stars is essentially four impressive numbers which are book ended by two short somber instrumentals. This is nothing new except that in the past they were actually part of longer songs and DRUDKH would set things more in Folk but here it’s Classical. The opening cut “Cold Landscapes” is simply a piano played opening which sets the melancholy tone. The closer “Listening to the Silence” uses the same effect except the main instrument is acoustic guitar. The meat of this release starts on the second track “Downfall of the Epoch”. The signature of this song is the basic non black metal riff which lies more in the post punk realm of bands like SONIC YOUTH, HUSKER DU or THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE. It’s jangly as well as melodic and the vibe is something which other bands like Neige’s ALCEST and AMESOEURS as well as Ireland’s ALTAR OF PLAGUES have been experimenting with. To all of you out there clutching copies of Forgotten Legends to your breasts it’s true, Roman Saenko has traded BURZUM in for Thurston Moore and Bob Mould.
Is it a bad thing? Well yeah if you’re a hipster because you’ve got two strikes against ya for jumping on the DRUDKH bandwagon to start with and this curve ball will strike you out. For black metal truthers well they never liked this band or post BM to start with so they’ll get their spiked leather belts twisted in a knot anyways. Finally the trendy Hot Topic crowd won’t care at all because they download everything for free anyhow. As for the rest of us there’s alot here to consume. On “Towards the Light” the band takes that savage yet sad beauty and simply subtracts the thundering ambiance. Thurios’ vocals are still painful cries from the wilderness. That’s something DRUDKH will not take away. There’s some post BM which really sounds like JOY DIVISION meets DARKTHRONE at a gay bar, thankfully this isn’t like that. Amidst the jangly rhythms on “Towards the Light” Saenko tosses in a solo worthy of progressive tastes.
“Twilight Aureole” and “The Day Will Come” are the two cuts where the band really dives into shoegazer territory the most. They’re also my least favorites. “Twilight Aureole meanders along for five minutes and then the anger of past releases enters into the picture. “The Day Will Come” is similar although there’s some excitement near the end with an almost psych damaged solo. The song cuts off sharply leading into the earlier mentioned acoustic guitar outro. Yes Handful of Stars is interesting in that they’ve broken themselves down to a cleaner sound, kicked aside the folk elements and left the transcending soundscapes in the past. When I first listened to this the different experimental style had me excited since I’m a fan of early SONIC YOUTH. I figured why not since Thurston Moore has admitted to liking black metal. The first half of this is decent but the second half sounds as if the band lost passion and just went through the shoegazer motions. Their early stuff will stand the test of time. Handful of Stars will be a career curio.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
THULCANDRA – Fallen Angels Dominion CD
There are so many new bands out today who claim to be original but are not. Secondly you have these scoundrels in the Metal media masquerading as objectionable reviewers all falling over themselves lying their asses off about said bands. Thankfully this German act is a breath of fresh air and honesty. This band’s goal was to follow in the footsteps of one of their influential Swedish heroes and made no excuses about it. They simply wanted to create a body of work that was extreme blackened death like DISSECTION. They have definitely achieved that on Fallen Angels Dominion. WATAIN will always be the true heirs to the throne of DISSECTION but they are Swedish anyway and don’t sound like em. Out of all the bands of the past who claim to have conjured up the spirit of Jon Nodtveidt with their music (yeah right did your Ouija board tell you that?) THULCANDRA is the only one who I believe have truly done it. This band also has the balls to put their cover version of “The Somberlain” on here.
The thing that makes this release and band so great is that they get what Nodtveidt was doing. You can swing a dead melodic death metal guitarist on a Gothenburg street and hit a band member from a blackened death metal band or a former MARDUK member, whoever screams first. Sure there are plenty of good blackened death metal bands out there and they get the easy parts right. But Nodtveidt added alot of melody and incorporated his love of thrash as well as classic metal from the late 70s early 80s into his compositions. Nodtveidt also added some somber atmospheric elements. This German band does exactly the same thing and what’s better is that it doesn’t sound paint by the numbers. Is it original? Hell no, nothing really is anymore. But if you put this on for your jaded snob of a friend who thinks they know “everything”, and they’re still in their 20s lol, they will swear its some long lost DISSECTION recording. Some people might be offended by that but they’re welcome to their opinion and licking my toilet bowl clean. THULCANDRA haven’t taken the template and pressed the copy button. They’ve reinvented the sound from long ago and have given it new life for fresh ears along with old ones which are not jaded. I’ve also got to give credit to V. Santura, guitarist for DARK FORTRESS and TRYPTYKON who produced this. The sound on here is perfect. He really got the best out of his fellow countrymen.
HEIDEVOLK – Uit Oude Grond CD
First off let me admit that my family’s ancestral homeland is Holland. Even though we are quite a few generations removed from first landing here in North America (pre-Revolutionary War) I am still proud to call myself a Dutchman. I also get a kick out of hearing extreme bands from the Netherlands. This Dutch band has only been around since 2002, releasing the debut in full length in 2005. But in that short time they have become one of the stronger players in the whole Pagan Folk Viking Metal genre. This is just their third full length as well. What makes HEIDEVOLK (ala: Folk from the Heath Land) and this release stand out amongst the Pagan Fest pack is their attention to homeland. The vocals are sung in Dutch and they are also sung clean as opposed to the typical death metal growl style favored by many of their peers. I always complement bands when they take that route since it makes the music far more interesting. It also allows you to learn what they’re singing about and actually listen instead of just playing the CD for kicks. Their music deals with their culture which lies in the Dutch province Gelderland which once again differs from many other bands who just do the Valhalla chic thing. It’s personable instead of just playing by the numbers.
Another difference is that HEIDEVOLK lean more towards a Power or Classic Metal style, along with a few surprises, with their songs then the much used melodic death metal theme. One of the complaints I’ve heard from people who don’t like Folk Metal is that they see it as melodic death metal with fiddles. HEIDEVOLK do use some alternative to Metal instruments plus vocal harmonies which present the listener with a chance to join in on the choruses if you know the language of course. What’s even better is the accent/dialect that vocalists Mark Bockting and Joris Boghtdrincker use which has me envision being in some ancient drinking establishment watching these guys sing while bellied up to the bar. That’s another thing which I look for in bands of this genre. Does the music transport you to another place or push forth that feeling of identity with something from the past. HEIDEVOLK do that on here whether it’s the rowdy cuts, somber pieces or full blown blasts which make you want to grab a weapon and charge out the front door screaming your best battle cry. Apartment dwellers might want to reconsider that last suggestion.
WINDRIDER – To New Lands CD
I’m still waiting to hear a one man symphonic metal act with female in a prom dress operatic vocals. I’m sure one exists out there, in Berlin perhaps, but I don’t frequent such bars. This one man (child prodigy?) folk metal act from the UK will have to suffice. I say child prodigy since this guy Elliot Vernon is twenty years old but his musical compositions sound like something created by someone with more than just peach fuzz for facial hair. After a few listens to this I’m thinking sure it’s good but it would sound better if an actual band was performing it. While listening to the opener “To New Lands” (Prelude) I was thinking this is not a song but an opening to a movie. All that was missing were the credits. After three minutes of epic rousing keyboards and drums, then electronic bird sounds with a background synth melody, it then gives way to water breaking upon a shoreline with some guy with a deep voice talking about new lands.
Wait a minute is this FAIRYLAND or the MOODY BLUES? Either way it bleeds into the title cut, part one. This is heavily keyboard driven power metal with Viking/Folk motifs. The over nine minute title cut does get boring by the halfway point even after Vernon adds his just passed puberty wannabe Nordic vocals which are as gruff as he can get. The third cut “The King Under the Mountain” opens with a synth imitating an accordion then the in studio choir effects to finally give us a TYR quality folk tale. Once again this could be a better song if you had a band performing it adding meaty riffs and more powerful drumming. Vernon performs everything in studio but supposedly he now has a live band where he does the vocals and guitar with a session bass and drummer. I’ll guess and say he has programmed keyboards for the live performances. Don’t you just love it when those things fuck up during a show because of amateurish sound checking?
There are seven tracks total on here and a few are long boring epic keyboard driven indulgence like “There is no Victory” which after nine and a half minutes had me thinking is there no let up? “Seven Fathers of Iron and Stone” should be handed over to FALKENBACH to record. In fact I think Elliot Vernon is a great composer who needs to hand over his songs to other bands to perform or write film scores. I think fantasy movies are in vogue again. Look no offense but I just can’t get into this to the point where I should. Instead of Vikings on a longboat singing about wind in their sails I keep picturing Vernon with a mini synth and a laptop singing while wearing a plastic Viking helmet for inspiration. After over thirteen minutes of the final track “To New Lands” part 2, I’m ready to hail Thorazine and say good night. Get a band and record together next time.
Friday, August 13, 2010
BLACK BREATH – Heavy Breathing CD
Southern Lord Records
Did Greg Anderson of Southern Lord Records lose a bet or what? This is not Doom which Southern Lord is some what known for along with Black Metal. This is fuckin Hardcore. Someone took a bunch of old Hardcore 7”ers from the 1980s, handed them to some young metalheads and here are the results. I’ve heard every one of these fuckin riffs years ago albeit they’re being played well on here. The vocals are as caustic and angst ridden as if they were sung by a bald headed psychopath or a spiky haired nihilist back in 1984. Back in the eighties it was common knowledge that the difference between Hardcore and Thrash was the musicianship. But this is nowhere near Thrash standards of today as in clean sounding garbage which tries to copy the past and fails miserably. Ok not all modern day Thrash bands are like that and the production on here is clean but not polished.
BLACK BREATH hail from Seattle so obviously this five piece band know about the greatest Hardcore band, in my not so humble opinion of course, ever to walk out bloodied but unbowed from the Northwest. I’m talking about POISON IDEA, the best American Hardcore band that ever lived and Pig Champion the world was never the same after your passing bro. To be honest back in the day the punk rock hippie commies hated POISON IDEA along with alot of other cool bands for a variety of reasons, all dumb reasons of course. They would’ve hated BLACK BREATH as well. Thankfully no one gives a flying fuck about what any commie hippies have to say, if any of em are still around. Does Maximum Rock n Roll magazine still exist?
I’m gonna guess and say people will try to put BLACK BREATH into the square peg of D-Beat. Here’s a fact from someone who was actually around back in the late 70s Punk era and all throughout the 80s Hardcore scene. No one ever used the term “D-Beat” instead we simply called it Hardcore because that’s what it was. In the late 80s you did have a bunch of Anarcho bands that basically stole their whole sound from DISCHARGE and even had “DIS” as part of their band names. As a joke we reviewers called them “DIS-Bands” but their sound was Hardcore, period. As far as the term “Crust” well that came from the Anarcho Punk crowd who wanted to create a sub-genre to disassociate themselves from other Hardcore bands, especially NYHC, who weren’t spouting communist/peace punk politics. Who came up with the term “D-Beat”? I’ll never know and don’t start tagging this Seattle band with it. You already have DISFEAR. And most of you losers out there think Punk Rock started with RANCID.
Yeah there’s some DISCHARGE influence on here but that band only had a handful of riffs which they used on all of their 7”ers and LPs, except when they entered the “Brave New World”. BLACK BREATH capture alot of the fury and intensity that was common with bands from LA to DC and all inbetween. The guitars have that buzz saw type of sound which just makes you wanna jump out of your chair and slam into a hippie punk. The rhythm section is flat out perfect for what these guys are following. As far as the vocals, like I said before its old school and I would know. Every two bit burg in the US had a band like this back in the 80s and they all put out demos or if they were lucky, a four song 7”er. This Seattle band is now joining the ranks of other great modern day HC acts like DOUBLE NEGATIVE who are keeping the spirit of the 80s alive and sounding authentic.
HOWL – Full of Hell CD
Relapse (BEEP) Records
This Rhode Island band might just (BEEP) fill the top spot of 2010’s hipster favorites. (BEEP) Frankly any band that follows along the MASTODON template these days (BEEP) is hipster material and this is just their debut full length. I won’t be surprised if (BEEP) they’re on a bigger label next year. Musically this is early (BEEP) MASTODON sludge rock to a T. The cover artwork looks like something John Baizley of BARONESS would’ve come up with. The only thing (BEEP) missing is a one word title. Oh and before I forget (BEEP) there’s a woman in the band but she’s on second guitar and not (BEEP) bass. That’s sure to gain points with the Indie Rock/Hipster crowd (BEEP) who haven’t realized there are women in Metal. Sure there aren’t many but to hipsters (BEEP) they’re clueless to even that fact. That crowd thinks black metal is an offshoot of rap metal. (BEEP)
By the second playing of (BEEP) this, yes I went for it a few times, I could only (BEEP) think of this in the same vein that I thought of THE SWORD. Musically (BEEP) they’re not the same of course but the pretense is spot on. Where (BEEP) as THE SWORD were for Indie Rock losers who (BEEP) were clueless to the fact that there was something called (BEEP) Stoner Rock back in the late 90s along with the whole Doom genre which is (BEEP) older. HOWL seems to fit in now for the faux sludge crowd who are (BEEP) clueless to the pre- MASTODON era of bands. I was (BEEP) surprised to see that they were not from Atlanta, Georgia even. I’m (BEEP) sure it’s on their touring schedule and they will be playing (BEEP) a newly reopened Indie Rock club here in September but on a (BEEP) weeknight. Good luck with (BEEP) that one since if present experience shows the only time (BEEP) you can get a crowd out on a weeknight is to have (BEEP) it a free show or make sure the band caters to the (BEEP) under twenty-one crowd.
By my third listen (BEEP) to Full of Hell my thoughts were that they are a sludge version of LORDI including the corny song titles like (BEEP) opener “Horns of Steel” along with “Parish of (BEEP) the Obscene” and “Heavenless”. (BEEP) I think MANOWAR might have a case for copyright infringement. I also think the (BEEP) metal community will see this as more like being “full of shit” with the monotonous quality of the songs, especially that (BEEP) over ten minute opus which closes (BEEP) this dink. The hipsters will eat it up (BEEP) which is what I’m thinking it’s geared for. I mean come on (BEEP) this is like the MONKEES. Even a band (BEEP) like BLACK TUSK has a little more (BEEP) originality. Oh and if you are wondering about the (BEEP), well the mp3 promo contains a (BEEP) every thirty seconds. I figured it should be included (BEEP) in the review. Hopefully I’m not the (BEEP) only one with the brass balls to (BEEP) mention how fucking (BEEP) annoying it is. Although I don’t blame Relapse (BEEP) one bit after what happened with (BEEP) the Blue album by BARONESS en all. (BEEP)
BLACK SUN AEON – Routa CD
This is the side project of Tuomas Saukkonen who also fronts the Finnish band BEFORE THE DAWN. What’s similar to his main band is that on here Saukkonen also takes on all instruments and vocals aka: uberman. While his vox is more on the death growl side he also includes two background vocalists, one male and the other female, to add some clean vocals. Routa is two CD’s worth of melodic doom which is frigid and frankly miserable. Each disc has its own separate title with the first one called Talviaamu and the second one Taiviyo. One disc would’ve been fine but with two you get the feeling of what it would be like to get stuck in a snow bound cabin with AMORPHIS. Nothing against AMORPHIS of course but we’re talking no heat, no sauna and no booze. Someone please give me a knife.
Frankly I consider this to be complete overkill on Saukkonen’s part unless he plans to use this for a background soundtrack for a future documentary on Finnish winters. Along with the melodic death doom sounds you also get heavy does of gothic rock as if someone actually did bring some knives in the cabin with them. Actually I like the gothic tones more since the melodic doom simply gives you boring riffs and keyboards laying down an atmosphere as exciting as the color white. I could nail this down with just a few cuts which would include the title track plus “Funeral of World” and the song “Black Sun Aeon” which features the female vocals of Janica Lonn. The rest of this is headache inducing.
THE WOUNDED KINGS - The Shadow over Atlantis CD
I Hate Records
England’s THE WOUNDED KINGS must have been on some decent shrooms when they got into the studio to record the six tracks that make up The Shadow over Atlantis. While listening to the first cut “The Swirling Mist” I now know what BAUHAUS would have sounded like it they went doom with Tony Iomni on guitar. Actually as this release crawls on I think this was recorded in an opium den considering the psychedelic atmosphere put forth. Someone must have also tossed in a box of razor blades for extra influence because this is bleak. I will say that I love the heavy downtuned riffs that have an edge about them. The rest of the instrumentation sounds muffled especially the drums. It kinda sounds like there’s some foam stuffed inside em to muffle the beat. I think it takes away from this recording because a crisp and clean drum sound from the snare and toms is what’s missing. Along with the riffs the solos are clean, psyched and at other times jangley. The general vibe here is supposed to be gloomy and they do a good job at it.
The Shadow over Atlantis is a seminal concept album about the apocalypse with the two longest cuts on here “The Swirling Mist” and “Invocation of the Ancients” standing as bookends it to the point of being in a cataclysmic box. The only thing that has any freedom at all on here is the vocals. They have that sung from afar type quality as if narrating while the music represents the enveloping saga. Two cuts on here, “Into the Ocean’s Abyss” and “Deathless Echo” are short keyboard driven pieces which hit the somber note. They kinda rock my Bach meter and have me wanting to find some keyboard driven doom with that old dead composer as an influence. Overall I find this to be an incredible release even with the muffled percussion. I think you need some black lights and a strobe to really enjoy this one plus some cough syrup wouldn’t hurt.
NOMINON – Monumentomb CD
Genre: Death Metal
Well I’ve had their Omen CDEP, which was a teaser of this, since last year. I almost forgot there was a full length coming out. Actually it did come out and I’m just getting it now. Well be that as it may NOMINON have never failed at putting out some of their homeland’s (Sweden) best death metal. The thing about them is that they take their sweet time at putting out full lengths. They’ve also had a few line-up changes over the years. This is their fourth since starting out in the early 90s. Now sure they have plenty of EPs and split releases out which seem to be the artillery barrage before the final full on assault of their full length invades your ear drums. Is it worth the wait? You bet your ass it is. Here you have just a hair less than forty minutes of death metal done right without any modern bullshit.
On Monumentomb, these Swedes don’t just thumb their noses at conventional wisdom, aka: no core, no melo-death, no doom or black, no tech progression, no shit. They bask in the knowledge that if you think the genre is regulated to antique status then you never liked it to start with and deserve to rot. This release is pure greatness. There are three different vocalists on here with Erik Sahlstrom doing seven of the nine tracks. Sahlstrom’s vocal style is more akin to thrash and yet fits well with the band’s sound. Frankly it is a cool change of pace which I welcome. Tore Stjerna, of NEX and IN AETERNUM fame plus he also produces this beast, tares a new asshole on “Undead Beast” and Johan Thornberg does pretty much the same with “Wrath of Shiva”. Ironically these are my favorite cuts from this CD although every cut has its own merits. Would you like another twist? Their present vocalist, Henke Skoog from EVISCERATED, does not appear on here. Fine but for now will leave the vocals aside. Musically from the opening cut “Mantra Reverse”, and that scream by Sahlstrom, you will be knocked against the wall. Thick riffs hit you like spiked baseball bats. Aggression is the key here and as each chunky blast slaps you even harder then the last like on “Mountain of Hate” you will give in.
DIABOLIC – Excisions of Exorcisms CD
Genre: Death Metal
After I listened to this, their fifth full length, I kept wondering to myself why good old fashioned death metal was not relevant nowadays. Maybe if the writers in magazines and on websites would stop looking for the latest gimmick bands, genre benders or using old stalwarts as punching bags then maybe people would search out the real cream of this genre’s crop instead of getting stuck with the crap. Until that day comes, chances are it won’t, fans have to rely on labels like Deathgasm Records who release these gems regardless of trends. Why wait around with baited breath for the next long awaited CD by the well known giants of Florida death metal when you have it right here. DIABOLIC might not be a house hold name and have had an on again off again career but dammit Excisions of Exorcisms is damm good. DIABOLIC reminds you of some of those other guys from Florida who you haven’t had reason to be reminded of. Excisions of Exorcisms is a no frills pummeling and just after half of the CD is done you’ll be screaming “Whatafuck”. Their brand of death contains hints of thrash as if the 90s never happened. This dink is just over the thirty minute mark with the first half fast but then slows down to a grinding crawl on the latter tracks. I think of it as chasing you down, capturing you and then slow torture. The vocals are standard death grunt growl but atleast you can understand it. Someone hand this band the torch.
THE HOWLING WIND – Into the Cryosphere CD
Profound Lore Records
Genre: Black Metal/Sludge/Doom
For quite a few years now whenever a few bands come out and give a swift kick to the Black Metal orthodoxy, which is fine by me, it’s followed by a trend. For every band or artist who breaks down a wall they are followed by coattail riders. We’ve already heard plenty of indie rock losers jumping on the bandwagon of avant garde or post black metal with mixed results. Now the next trend, if this year’s releases are any type of indication, is Blackened Doom/Sludge. Obviously it’s nothing new under the funeral moon but there just seems to be a preponderance of these types of bands of late. You could go back to NEUROSIS and their 2007 release Given to the Rising CD as an influence on current events. I’ve reviewed quite a few Blackened Doom bands this year. What I try to do is find some thread to these bands which makes them more then trendy. This two piece act seems to be one of the non trendy bunches.
THE HOWLING WIND is made of Ryan Lipinsky (aka: Killusion) on guitar, bass and vocals and Parasitus Nex on drums. These two individuals have honed their chops in a variety of extremism. Parasitus Nex has been in a number of bands but I know him from sludge doomeisters ALDEBARAN. As far as Ryan Lipinsky goes I’ve been a long time fan of his doom band UNEARTHLY TRANCE, but he was keeping things black and mean way back in his former band THRALLDON. Another little tidbit of knowledge is that these two guys live on opposite coasts with Lipinsky in New York City and Parasitus Nex in Oregon. I don’t know if that has anything to do with influences but musical side projects involving individuals who live far from one another is also becoming a bit of a trend.
The more I listen to Into the Cryosphere the more I’m thinking NEUROSIS meets CELTIC FROST in a filthy airplane hanger located somewhere in Alaska. I lived in Alaska for two years so some of my more frozen metaphors are from personal experience and the lion’s share of the cuts on here has some dedication to the cold. This is their second full length and my first so back tracking to compare ain’t gonna happen as I write this but I can judge em from their other bands. Parasitus Nex brings on alot of his past projects into this one where as Lipinsky does not and is working in new territory. His vocals on here are harsher than what he does in UNEARTHLY TRANCE and musically he’s pushing an atmosphere equal to hypothermia on the brain. My favorite parts of Into the Cryosphere come when the duo unhinge themselves from the sludge, or in their case trudging through deep snow, like on “Ice Cracking in the Abyss”, “A Dead Galaxy Mirrored in an Ice Mirage” or the latter half of “ Teeth of Frost”. But other than that I find most of this numb as in mind numbing or psych damage. THE HOWLING WIND was probably shooting for something on the brutal side of frostbitten nuts but they’re just not there yet. The sludge will always draw them back into warmer climates. I’d call this decent but not worth clubbing a seal over.
IMMORTAL - The Seventh Date of Blashyrk CD
Nuclear Blast Records
Intro: “Welcome to the Seventh Date of Blashyrk. We are IMMORTAL and the Sun No Longer Rises.”
This is my obligatory live dink review. Last year it was one from DEATH ANGEL that came my way under the same circumstances. I get the dink but no DVD, oh well. Secondly the live show is a recording of older material from a year prior but the band has a new release out. The case here is that this is from their performance at Wacken in 2007. Ok sure it’s great especially hearing Abbath asking the audience “How the fuck are you doing so far motherfuckers?” after “Withstand the Fall of Time”. The set list is pretty good with cuts spanning all of the releases from their career, except nothing from Blizzard Beasts obviously. Since I didn’t see IMMORTAL when they last toured I would’ve liked to hear a few of the newer cuts off of 2009’s All Shall Fall. I mean that was a great album and “The Rise of Darkness” would’ve sounded great live along with the title cut. So why didn't they just release something more up to date? Secondly why was the label sitting on this till now? It would seem that maybe 2008 would've been better or maybe 2009 just prior to the release of All Shall Fall. Yeah well I'm not some record executive. I'm just a fan with some common sense.
But even with that it’s still fuckin IMMORTAL live! When “Withstand the Fall of Time” blasts out from my stereo speakers I’m standing up with both my arms up above my head. I’ve got the horned fists saluting and I’m screaming “yeahhhhhhhhh IMMORTAL fuckin rules!” The true sons of northern darkness, yes they perform that cut, on a live dink for you to blast from now till the judeo/christian holiday season. Everyone loves IMMORTAL. If someone puts corpse paint on they use a photo of Abbath for inspiration, I know I did once for Halloween. I was at work at the bar. A customer asked me if I was a ghoul. I told him no I’m Abbath from IMMORTAL, a son of the northern darkness, pure fuckin holocaust motherfucker. I then stuck the horns in the clown’s face (he was dressed as a clown) and walked away.
On this CD they end the show with Blashyrk (Mighty Ravendark) obviously. I consider it one of the best metal songs as well as videos of all time. Yes many people out there scoff but screw you, play your DIMMU BORGIR and be quite. I know if I was in the audience I would’ve been floating a foot above the ground at that point. Yes I love IMMORTAL always have and always will. They’ve never strayed from their original mission to bring about a crisp cold wind down from the mountains to freeze you to your bones.
TERATISM – Via Negativa CD
I first got into this Minneapolis, Minnesota black metal band two years ago with their Pure Unadulterated Hate release. I also figured with that not so loveable gem they would be easily recognized as one of this nation’s premier BM outfits. Yeah well so much for hoping. TERATISM is not new to the scene since they started out in 2002. This is their fourth full length and they also have two splits out plus their original demo. You can call then cult or underground but don’t call them lazy. Here’s something else to remember. Critics of USBM always lump all of the US bands together, WRONG! USBM bands that come from the extremely colder regions or the seriously fuckin hot regions of this nation tend to be the best of the bunch. You can also include BM bands who hail from large Midwestern cities with shitty urban conditions as well as populations. The lion’s share of the bands that come from other areas of the country are mediocre at best or just plain suck like from California. I mentioned earlier that TERATISM hail from Minnesota which in my opinion is a cold miserable place plus it has alot of wooded areas so obviously it’s a great influence for Black Metal.
If I didn’t tell you where this band was from your first thought after a few songs would be Norway. TERATISM conveys a truly cold, cruel and bleak atmosphere within their sound which is very Nordic in influence. What shines out the most are the vocals by Wrath. I bet that the more notable USBM clowns, from places like California, are paying off magazines not to cover this band because of Wrath. This guy can screech like a rabid pterodactyl, gurgle as if blood was pouring out of his mouth and sneak in an Attila snarl as well. You listen to “He Descends” and it’ll send chills down your back, especially if you have the stereo speakers behind you like I do. The band consists of two guitarists a drummer and bass player who gets lost in the sound anyway. Overall Wrath’s vocals dominate the sound quality you can still appreciate how the musicianship and song writing structure is far from your garden variety crap. There’s alot of variety in the riffs which is something symphonic bands have to hide by covering everything with keyboard melodies. A good raw yet epically melodic BM band like TERATISM uses the guitars. A song like “Necrofuge” would be ruined by some wannabe DIMMU band because they would throw that wall of noise at it and blast beat it to death. Yes there’s plenty of blast beats but they are tempered with added variety in the beats with minor key breakdowns. All in all I say this is an incredible release with ten cuts that will give the unanointed the willies and the copycats the creeps.
FOLKEARTH – Viking’s Anthem CD
Stygian Crypt Productions
I’ve been a fan of FOLKEARTH for a few years now. When it comes to the Pagan Folk/Viking Battle Metal genre they are fairly unique compared to other bands. I know the genre itself gets a fair share of critical hits, some well deserved, but this one really emulates class as well as talent. I’ve always considered them as on the top of the heap as far as the genre goes. For those of you unfamiliar with FOLKEARTH, they are not really a band but a continually changing line-up of musicians from all over the world, although mostly from Europe. They don’t even record together but instead one musician will come up with a riff, a melody or sometimes a full song. Then its recorded and sent off to someone else or a group of a few musicians involved adding on to it. I’m sure there’s some final arranging going on behind a recording studio console but in the end it works perfect and its proficient since this is their eighth full length since 2004. As far as the musical instruments involved you have the basic guitars (electric & acoustic), bass and drums plus various woodwinds, stringed instruments, keyboards and always something weird but traditional plus their many vocalists male and female.
Viking’s Anthem might be their most accessible release so far as the first two cuts, “Beasts from the Blizzards” and “Ragnarok” both sound like they could have appeared on one of their contemporaries’ releases. “Beasts from the Blizzards” works perfect as an opening cut with it’s strong almost Power Metal style and guttural vocals. It also contains a violin which takes the place of a rhythm guitar and added female vocals but the guitar leads really sell it. I think every Viking themed band has a song titled “Ragnarok” but FOLKEARTH keeps theirs at a slow folksy tempo as if it were to be sung around a campfire. As this album continues you can understand its beauty as what could’ve been an average cut from an AMON AMARTH or FINNTROLL release gets the added Folk instrument treatment. Songs like “Viking’s Anthem” “To Avalon” or “The Eternal City” both start out as pure Folk pieces but turn into galloping melodic death metal anthems. Other cuts like “Legacy of Steel” stick within the Folk framework which appears to me especially since I really got into their Songs of Yore release from 2008 which was all acoustic.
FOLKEARTH is a band that I’d mention first to anyone interested in the Folk/Viking Metal genre. I really feel think this one here is their absolute best so far atleast. While some bands might toss in some violin or a tin whistle to a few songs and then call their sound Folk/Viking Metal. FOLKEARTH actually incorporates the various instrumentation and melodies. I doubt it’ll make you go out to a costume store to buy a plastic Viking helmet or give you a hankering for a horn of mead. I think it will give you an appreciation for this much maligned genre. The members of FOLKEARTH are not furies or festive drunks. They are talented international musicians who work hard to create something which to me sounds like a modern metal interpretation of the past.
RAMESSES – Take the Curse CD
This is my first time listening to one of their releases even though they’ve been around for seven years and have a slew of EPs and split releases out as well as one full length from 2007. Last year I saw that UNEARTHLY TRANCE, another great Doom band I like, had a split release with RAMESSES but I never picked it up, I will now. Prior to playing this one I checked out the band’s history and found out it had ex ELECTRIC WIZARD members Tim Bagshaw on guitar and drummer Mark Greening. On bass and vocals is Adam Richardson who had spent time with Justin Oborn in one of his pre-ELECTRIC WIZARD bands, LORD OF PUTREFACTION. I’ve got that pre-ELECTRIC WIZARD CD so I knew about them plus I’ve always been a fan of ELECTRIC WIZARD. After all of that knowledge I naturally figured this was gonna be Let Us Prey meets Monothiest at the Great American Smoke Out, except it would be in England. My second guess was that it would be almost an hour’s worth of I hate Jus Oborn, since we know there’s no love loss between him and his ex-band members.
Thankfully my first guess was on target, this is CELTIC WIZARD or if you prefer ELECTRIC FROST. There is absolutely nothing new as far as originality when it comes to their interpretation of the Doom/Sludge template. But to their credit RAMESSES are extremely good at it and that’s what I’d rather hear than some avant garde innovative fart fest. Tim Bagshaw might have been playing bass in ELECTRIC WIZARD for a decade but he was also tutoring himself by reading Tom G. Warrior’s book of bone crushing riffs for guitarists. After blasting opener “Iron Crow” a few more times as well as cuts like “Baptism of the Walking Dead” and “Black Hash Mass”, I think the term “bone crushing” is taking this man’s guitar prowess lightly. What Bagshaw does with the riffs makes the sinking of the Titanic seem like a drop in the bucket. Although the guy is more versatile than that since he also shows his psych doom side, especially on the title cut. I’m not talking about butterflies and paisley shirts either. What we get here are bats, big giant fuckin bats with six inch fangs.
Adam Richardson adds alot more than thundering bass lines or other times its intricate plucking that conveys an atmosphere of foreboding terror. His vocals are of mixed ranges and he illustrates them well whether it’s an almost caustic scream or death like guttural pain. It pairs perfect with Bagshaw’s riffs and the assorted horror movie samples looped into many of their cuts. As far as the drum work goes Mark Greening plays like he’s been cut loose from restraints. Power Trio comes to mind now after listening to this continually for the past few days. If you thought TRIPTYKON was the greatest thing in 2010 since sliced bread then here’s a new loaf. It’s not fresh but its damm good.
GRAVELAND – Cold Winter Blades CDEP
No Colours Records
I must admit that I’m a fan of GRAVELAND aka: Rob Darken. I’ve always liked his music from his early raw BM days to what he’s progressed into now which some people like to call Epic or Pagan. I will say that it has never influenced me to run around in the woods behind my home wearing chain mail, a helmet and swinging a sword at imaginary invaders. I have a hard enough time when I’m running naked through the neighborhood being chased by professionals. GRAVELAND is just one of many Eastern European bands whose music has drawn me to them like lighting to a rod. Obviously not all of the BM bands from this area of the world have the same qualities. But the ones who forgo the knee-jerk Christian church hating and focus more on epic tales of folklore, pride in homeland plus inject heavy doses of atmosphere appeal to me. I’m not saying Darken wouldn’t mind seeing some churches burnt to the ground as his past works showed very well, but over the years he’s moved on from mere arson to better weapons and larger battlefields.
On this five song EP Darken, who’s still responsible for all the instruments, seems to be continuing where he left us on last year’s Spears of Heaven full length. Infact some of these cuts were previously left on the studio floor for just this moment. Call it cheap, lazy or maybe he had something else in mind. As far as the new material “In the Morning Mist” is blackened medieval ambience which relies heavily on the keyboards and choir chanting until Darken kicks open the monastery doors and a fog of filthy soot spreads out over everything. The drama of this little fracas goes back and forth for seven minutes with the choir sounds winning out in the end. Ouch that hurts! “From the Beginning of Time” follows in a similar vein although the sloppy drum beat gives it a Black & Roll feel inbetween the heavily used keyboard ambiance. “White Winged Hussary” is the most interesting of the older unused tracks from previous recording sessions. It starts out as a folk tune with a military like drum beat then gradually gets more epic with the added keys and choirs. Two minutes into it Darken turns the thing into a downtuned rock number with a subtle touch of post punk. This could be an incredible peak into the future of GRAVELAND. If Pest can do it why can’t Darken?
The last two cuts on here, “Spear of Wotan” and “Dance of Axes & Swords” are typical GRAVELAND with dirty riffs, eclectic drum patterns, background keys and choirs plus Darken’s dead man vocals. Liking GRAVELAND always comes with a price since many outsiders have simply written Darken off as some sort of Polish woodland loving fascist with a medieval wardrobe fetish. Musically I find his releases always surprising especially his EPs. Although I won’t be touching his latest split 7”er with KREUZFEUER.
OCTOBER FALLS – A Collapse of Faith CD
Like all of this Finnish band’s releases it’s always recommended to listen while alone. Their dark yet hypnotic sound is not something you wish to share with guests. You’re better off just letting them borrow it or burn them a copy. I’d warn you because giving this or any one of their previous releases as a gift is akin to handing a gun to someone who is obviously suicidal. This band’s music is so miserable and weighty but yet so lush with that post Black Metal ambience that dances around your psyche. You can’t do anything when the music is playing except sit there, listen and contemplate life’s bleak outlook. M. Lehto’s vocals sound like some forest beast whose foot is caught in a trap, has lost his life long mate to a hunter and hasn’t eaten in a week. We’re talking some serious pain here people. Even when the acoustic guitar passages intertwine with the sheer electric intensity of melodies there is no breaking from the sorrow. A Collapse of Faith is simply the title track cut into three pieces lasting over forty minutes. I think of them, actually it’s mainly M. Lehto who handles everything with two other guys on bass and drums, as a more Doom like DRUDKH.
Friday, August 6, 2010
BONDED BY BLOOD – Exiled to Earth CD
One of the more promising bands of the Thrash Revival decides for their sophomore release to make a concept album. There’s nothing wrong with these types of albums as long as you have a decent concept to work with. These Californians came up with the concept of Earth in the future, a dominating alien race and human warriors fighting for freedom. Ok so my first guess is that they didn’t come up with this idea by passing around an L. Ron Hubbard novel on the touring bus. I say they got it from one of the tons of video games out now with this type of scenario. I’m not into video games but I’ve read plenty of science fiction and by those standards this concept has been done so many times that it’s an insult to most people’s intelligence.
When this band’s debut came out Thrash fans gave them a pass on their choice of a band name because their music was decent. What has kept the naysayers of the Thrash Revival at bay was that half of the bands released pretty good follow-ups. Unfortunately BONDED BY BLOOD has not done that with Exiled to Earth. I’m guessing the argument for this will be that people are tired of the silly Thrash themed albums which bands like EVILE produce. Well sure who isn’t? So the next best idea you could come up with was to base your album on something that only lonely guys who sit at home on Friday nights playing X-Box will appreciate. Pardon the pun but you really alienated your fan base with that generic idea. There is a good side since this will sell well in Germany where fantasy metal is king. They could tour this album playing it beginning to end as long as there’s plenty of concert seating. In the future, if they have one, the band can pull a RUSH and do it as a melody.
Musically it doesn’t get any better. I never noticed it on their debut but on here the pitch of Jose Barrales’ vocals can be annoying. The background vocals/shouts are really pathetic as if they were recorded in the janitor’s closet. There is absolutely no fuckin bass on here except for the title cut. I think they only used the guy for photo ops. If there’s a good thing on here it’s the clean solos and a few non recycled riffs which cut through the boredom on each song. You gotta give credit to guitarists Alex Lee and Juan Juarez for just keeping this interesting enough that it doesn’t become a skeet target. “Desolate Future” is probably the best cut on here thanks to those two and should be part of their live set. I’d predict a few more but I don’t want to come off sounding like the name of another band’s concept album and yeah I thought that one was sub par as well. Exiled to Earth might not be a turd but with three quarter’s of it being in the toilet I found its ability to float disappointing.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR – Evil Power CD
The Grind-House Records
“Let’s Kill These Motherfuckers”, a song from this release, should be the anthem of 2010. I know when the November elections roll around I’ll have that song bouncing around in my cranium when I go to polls to vote. I’ve been very angry at some politicians for the past few years, very angry, but I won’t dwell on that here. As far as LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR, I didn’t get into them until 2008 when I picked up their War Metal Battle Master release. It was one of the best releases of that year as far as I was concerned and frankly that’s all that matters. Now I’m a huge fan and this release hasn’t wavered my appreciation of them one bit in fact I’ll say now that Evil Power will be on the Scumfeast Metal 666 fave list for 2010. Hyperbole on my part again, I don’t think so. One of this band’s main influences is violence. I learned that in 2008 and it’s what really appealed to me in their music. Another thing is that this trio from Chicago has a sound and style that crosses all genre boundaries. In the past they mixed everything from sludgy doom, black & death metal and full on thrash. I take back what I said before. This band doesn’t just cross genre boundaries, they smash through them.
On Evil Power, their fourth full length, the band cuts back on the sludge and picks up some more speed. There’s more hints of angry, pissed off hardcore from days of old. When I say “days of old” I’m talking about 1981 to 1988, the era when HC was real before it became crowded with hippy commies. The above mentioned anthem is a song some modern day punk rock kid only wishes one of his fave bands could’ve come up with. But they couldn’t because they’re pussies and think Punk started with RANCID. Then there’s the more thrash approach which these guys, with a new bass player, seem to have swallowed whole and crapped out. It’s barely controlled aggression which makes it tough to even type this review. Every time I concentrate on the music my fists clinch and suddenly both middle fingers fly out like switchblade knives as if I’m ready to battle the world. It’s the title cut which is almost a call to arms, a call to war.
This came out a few months back so I deliberately kept away from reading reviews or hearing songs from their site. I wanted to feel the power of this release like full force trauma. That’s how I discovered War Metal Battle Master. I saw it in the store, remembering seeing their name before but that was it. I took it home, placed into the stereo and pushed play. When that release kicked in it was like a shotgun blast point blank right in the gut. Thankfully I’ve got a tough hide unlike many of you of course. As far as Evil Power goes, this was like traveling down the highway going 90 miles per hour in a muscle car and crashing head on into a bridge embankment. Of course I’d survive that, remember I said muscle car and not some piece of crap hybrid. I doubt you could get one of those things up to 90 miles per hour before they started shaking and pissing just like a little dog. Violence! Yeah it’s a beautiful thing.
ENFORCER – Diamonds CD
Heavy Artillery Records
After a few listens I’d say this band’s sophomore release is a winning follow up. I saw them back in 2009 in a local club playing with CAULDRON. That was one fantastic show which brought back some cool memories from my early days. While on their debut Into the Night I thought their sound was firmly planted in the second tier of NWOBHM bands from the past. On Diamonds they’ve obviously moved up to the top tier with the MAIDEN influenced “Midnight Vice” along with “High Roller”. We’re talking first era MAIDEN of course. Think of the galloping rhythms and twin guitar assault of Killers but with a little more melody along with a higher pitched vocalist. On other cuts there’s a further reach back to the Metal days prior to NWOBHM. It’s as if, while in their early teens, their parents threw down a dozen old LPs for them to play with. One of those records must have been from RIOT another one might have been the first DEF LEPPARD LP or even the pre pop days of the SCORPIANS. Listen to “Running in Menace” with its MTV era pop metal overtones or the blaze of “Take Me to Hell” with its crowd inviting to sing along chorus. “Katana” could be their set closer with its guitar duel off. Yeah everything about Diamonds is pure nostalgia worship and done right. It obviously appeals to me since I grew up then and saw almost all the original bands. We didn’t have genres back then. We just called it Metal, son. For today’s generation, lucky bastards, you get to see it all done true to the original from a band that is still doing clubs. Well maybe not anymore after this one.
EXODUS – Exhibit B: The Human Condition CD
Nuclear Blast Records
I’ve always given this band credit for staying in the fight with all the problems they’ve gone through. The Baloff/Souza frontman switch off did lead to some fun debates but those days are gone, as is Baloff. Rob Dukes, whether you like him or not, is firmly planted behind that mic now. (???) Secondly he has lead this band through the Thrash revival by still keeping them relevant or at least good for a few surprises. What my peers seem to forget is that Dukes is in the Dio/SABBATH paradox. This is EXODUS for the newer generation of Thrash “therefore I am” enthusiasts. He wasn’t doing too bad trying to put the band’s past behind them with their two Dukes on the mic releases. Then in 2008 they fucked it all up by releasing Let There Be Blood. You know keeping a few classic cuts from the past in your live set which you never originally sang on wasn’t that bad. But to do the whole Bonded by Blood album and in your newer style well that was stupid in my not so humble opinion. I’d have to include my own foolishness since I saw it in the store then and automatically picked it up thinking “new EXODUS, yeah!” It wasn’t until I got home, pulled it out of the bag and looked hard at it then groaned “oh no”.
This newest one is somewhat redemption for that last mistake. I give Gary Holt alot of credit for writing material that’s far more than cheap rehash thrashers. The songs have gotten longer as in epic proportions and more intricate. It’s like what I mentioned earlier that you just don’t know what to expect from these guys anymore. A perfect example is opener “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles” with its acoustic intro. I literally jumped out of my chair, pulled the CD out from the stereo and examined it to see if it really was EXODUS. It was but things get moving in the right direction after that. I’d say half of this is righteous thrash with the rest being mediocre moments which by now we’ve become accustomed to. A friend of mine told me he could take the best songs from the Rob Dukes era of EXODUS, put them on a blank CD and still have room for Bonded by Blood. Ouch! Yeah he is not a huge fan of Dukes growled type vocals but to the man’s credit he does expand his vocal style on here. Some of the better cuts are “Hammer And Life”, “Class Dismissed”, “March of the Sycophants”, “Democide” and “The Sun is My Destroyer”. Not all of which are thrashers in fact “The Sun is My Destroyer” is slightly more death metal oriented. This is a long CD coming in at over an hour which is like two thrash records from the 80s. I’ve got the American release version which has the extra cut “Devil’s Teeth”. Supposedly the Japanese version has a SCORPIONS cover??? Maybe I don’t want to know?
UNLEASHED – As Yggdrasil Trembles CD
Nuclear Blast Records
Does Johnny Hedlund still drink mead from a horn on stage or is it really iced tea? If you ever see some band on stage taking pulls from a Jack Daniels bottle, it’s actually iced tea. I’m not sorry if I ruined your drunken rock star fantasy worship but it’s about time you come down from the ceiling. The same could be said for this long time Swedish Death Metal band. Don’t get me wrong because I’m still a fan. In fact I was playing their Where No Life Dwells CD from 1991 the other week. The music still pushes me to pick up my ballpean hammer and chuck it at the picture of a christian monk I have on the wall. Take that you missionary fuck, Viking Death Metal rules! Unfortunately the war is long over and we’ve been involved in an occupation for quite some time. 2008’s Hammer Battalion was definitely a worthwhile release but that’s the rub. The word “exceptional” hasn’t been used to describe an UNLEASHED release for a while and it’s not going to be done here.
This new one is consistent with the previous out put of UNLEASHED, so if you’re a fan then you won’t be disappointed. Obviously Nuclear Blast Records is banking on it since scooping them up from SPV. So just like previous releases this new one gives you a heaping helping of Norse mythology to study upon. The title goes into so much detail that this would turn into a Wikipedia insert instead of a review. Hedlund’s vocals are at their most attack mode in a while. I doubt it means this is his last battle since Nuclear Blast probably has him signed for two more. Musically UNLEASHED are as always a group of bloodied but unbowed warriors who are ready for a fight anytime anywhere and they will win. The riffs on here are cleaner than normal thanks to a better recording budget. Fans know they’ve reached more to the melodic side over the years but this time they’ve landed and have placed a flag on the beach. Still the guitar lines on here will flay your christian sympathies and if that doesn’t work then the drums will crush your skull. As always I’ve never looked upon an UNLEASHED release for having standout tracks. To me it’s always been the body of work taken as a whole and on here it is the same way. Is this a great release? No, but they are a consistently great band who have yet to put out a disappointing release. And if you don’t believe me I’ll chuck a ballpean hammer at your face.
FITCAGE – Pigumanity CD
Soul Flesh Collector Records
From Russia with Grindcore plus plenty of Death Metal, inbetween song sound bites and western influences. Grindcore is technically universal so seeing that this band was from Russia really didn’t excite me one bit. They could just as well be from bumfuck Oklahoma or that little piss ant burg where you call home. The sound and style is pretty much going to be generic with a few exceptions of course. This genre does have some high water marks which I definitely praise from time to time. But for the rest of the crowd I look for deficiencies which always turn me away. If a Grindcore band sounds like a bunch of brats screaming left leaning knee-jerk political rhetoric than fuck em. Grow your hair out, get an acoustic guitar and stand on a corner in that college town you live in to play for spare change you fuckin hippie. Secondly if your release has more less than a minute songs than over a minute than you really suck. You’re not making music you’re just cranking out annoying noise to piss people off. Guess what? You’ve pissed me off too and I’m coming over there to that shithole you call a practice space to beat you senselessly with your own fuckin instruments.
Why am I so angry? Well it’s this fuckin CD and it’s good. FITCAGE fit into my prerequisite for good Grindcore because the music simply makes you angry. There are nineteen songs on here with only six under a minute. As far as the influences go these guys know their NAPALM DEATH and NASUM inside out. Some grind snobs might find that a bit too much but not me. If your sound pays homage to two of the five standard bearers of Grind then more power to ya comrades. Another thing is that FITCAGE don’t mind a little Death metal creeping in for a great effect. There are Grind snobs who believe having DM in their sound is impure and beneath them. I just wanna shoot assholes like that in the back as they run. I’d like to shoot em where they stand but they’re cowards and always run like scared rabbits. That’s why when you aim for their heads you’ve gotta lean into the shot. But enough of my weekend exploits, I’d say FITCAGE are probably one of the better Grindcore bands I’ve heard this year which ain’t saying much. I’m not saying Grindcore in 2010 is equal to the sight of an unflushed toilet after a week’s worth of usage. I just don’t get much Grindcore coming to me because of the politically incorrect nature of Scumfeast.