TOMBSTONES – Not for the Squeamish CD
Seeing that this band is fronted by Stevo Dobbins of IMPETIGO fame I was expecting something more intense. This is basically horror tinged Thrash/Punk. The title is a little on the hyperbole side of things unless this is supposed to be a Halloween party dink. Secondly having a Crypt Keeper/Yoda like voice intro to almost every song might have been a great idea when you were fuckin drunk but when you sobered up didn’t you consider it pathetic? One or two voice intros would’ve been cool but this many is ridiculous. Along for this sick ride Stevo has Patrick Bruss from CRYPTICUS on guitar and bass plus on drums it’s Elektrokutioner. There are technically sixteen cuts on here with only nine actual songs and the rest fuckin intros. Musically it’s not bad and Stevo’s vocals sound fairly sick and twisted. Patrick Bruss cranks out some simple but chunky thrash riffs that have a hint of DARK ANGEL or even SOD. In fact the latter dropped name sounds closest to what’s performed on here because the serious factor seems low. Still you can’t beat cuts like “Grave Undertakings”, “Roast of the Town” or “Horrific Howlings”. If this line-up simply did a straight forward release, yeah even with a voice intro and outro, then they would be fierce.
Friday, October 29, 2010
HAIL OF BULLETS – On Divine Winds CD
Metal Blade Records
I ‘m not shy about expressing my appreciation for traditional Death Metal, or what people today refer to as “old school”, in fact I’m pretty in your fucking face about it. With that said (don’t get me started) I’ve always been a fan of Martin van Drunen as a vocalist, whether it was when he was in PESTILENCE, ASPHYX or BOLT THROWER. So when HAIL OF BULLETS released their debut full length Of Frost and War in 2008 I went into combat with it. Remember people I am a vet. At the end of the year I placed it, like the flag on Mount Suribachi, at the top of the Scumfeast Metal 666 favorite’s list of Death Metal. Not to anyone’s surprise Death the Brutal Way by van Drunen’s other band, the reactivated ASPHYX, landed in the top spot last year with GOD DETHRONED’s Passiondale placing second and was a great war themed epic in it’s own right. So if you think I’m about to be a little bias here well that’s an understatement.
The latest from HAIL OF BULLETS takes us to the Pacific theater during World War Two. Since this is only the Dutch Death Metal band’s second full length we’ve got plenty more tales of twentieth century war to come. Taking on war as a subject for songwriting, especially in Metal, is far from being a new concept. So many bands have done it that it’s become monotonous and at worse down right silly. What makes it intriguing nowadays is that some bands have actually done their research into the history. Add to that some traditional sounding death thrash riffage with crushing bass and drums plus a vocalist who actually sings. That’s what HAIL OF BULLETS has achieved once again on here. On Divine Winds is not a step up from Of Frost and War or even 2009’s Warsaw EP. It’s simply a continuation of the all encompassing theme of war all the time.
Like I mentioned earlier this battle takes place in the Pacific which is a strange place for a Dutch Death Metal super group to take us but remember, it’s all about the research. After the obligatory one minute symphonic intro, ”The Eve of Battle”, the release gets going with “Operation Z” which hits you like the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that it was code named as. The combined punch of guitarists Paul Baayen and Stephan Gebedi will not excite the ADD crowd but for fans of “old school” bludgeoning it will and afterwards you’ll be dusting off those BOLT THROWER LPs for reminiscing. Baayen and Gebedi plus bassist Theo van Eekelen and drummer Ed Warbly simply create a sound that reminds the listener of battle. This works well on the fast thrash cuts like “On Choral Shores”, “Strategy of Attrition” and “Kamikaze”. Seriously you’ll want to grab that vintage M1 carbine you’ve got hanging on the wall and charge into the front door of the nearest Japanese Steak house. Also when the band decides to down tune things like with “Full Scale War” the death/doom crushes like the sinking of a ship. All through this van Drunen’s caustic and tortured vocals cry out as if he were the narrator of a live documentary. As with history of that war this ends with a big bang, “To Bear the Unbearable”.
Some critics today say that “old school” Death Metal has become an official trend du jour for people protesting against the genre’s technical and progressive moves. I think they’re part right but they miss a major point especially with a band like HAIL OF BULLETS. The sound and style might be a throwback to times when pure aggression was the key factor but lyrically it’s progressed. That’s the difference people should use as a stick to measure things by. On Divine Winds is a perfect example and another great release by this band of veterans.
Monday, October 25, 2010
THE ABOMINABLE IRON SLOTH – The Id Will Overcome CD
This is average sounding GRIEF and EYEHATEGOD worship on this band’s sophomore effort. The songs tend to lean more to the Anarcho Punk side of the isle considering most are short with titles like “Two Black Helicopters” and “A Nation of Ignorants” to name a few. The only exception being the thirteen plus minute “Heterodox Nonconformists” which really sounds like a practice jam where they just Could Not Stop Dude. Ya know with their band name I was figuring this was going to be something along the lines of GNAW THEIR TONGUES or MOSS. I’m guessing they’re trust fund babies who think Obama is not as leftist as they’d like. Coming to a hipster third tier sludge fest near you.
THE FORESHADOWING – Oionos CD
Cyclone Empire Records
I thought this Italian band’s debut Days of Nothing from a few years ago was more “goth” then gothic doom. On this their sophomore effort they have embraced an approach more in line with ANATHEMA or MY DYING BRIDE with a different style vocals. Marco Benevento sings clean and yet very foreboding which fits well with the songs which are about war and its aftermath aka: loneliness, death and loss. Oionos is a perfect album for the excessively gloom. The opener “The Dawning” starts the theme off with some militarist cadence drumming and hits you with some serious riffs that forge images of a war torn battlefield. The title cut is fairly magnificent with it’s opening chugging riffs with some eerie sounding Hammond organ played in behind to set a gothic tone which doesn’t steer away from the doom. I also like how they took an instrumental interlude type of cut “Soliloquium” which ends with Gregorian chants and bleed it into “Lost Humanity” with its crisps riffs. “Chant of Widows” is probably the most upbeat and at times heavy cut on here which actually breaks out into a rhythmic pace. The latter part of the release gets deep into the gothic realm. There’s a STING cover of “Russians” which THE FORESHADOWING give the doom and gloom treatment to. I still hate STING. The final cut “Revelation 3-11” is an interesting keyboard driven instrumental which opens with the now famous speech by J. Robert Oppenheimer after the first atomic explosion. From there its pure melancholic guitar riffs ending with Oppenheimer’s words “Now I have become death the destroyer of worlds”. If these Italians planned on putting out the most miserable and depressed feeling release of the year I think they did it.
SECTIONED – Purulent Reality CD
The wrath of the pissed off strikes again in that here’s another entry into the old school death metal sound and fury crowd, this time from England. SECTIONED are heavy as fuck, with double bass pounding, strong yet melodic rhythms and leads that will slice you to ribbons. Plus they don’t give a rat’s ass if their sound reminds one of early GRAVE or MORBID ANGEL in fact that’s a complement. The songs on this band’s debut, Purulent Reality, are for people who feel the genre has moved so far to the progressive technical degree that it’s soulless noise. Count me in on that one since the genre itself is at its lowest creative point in years.
ALKONOST – On the Wings of the Call CD
The Russian band ALKONOST, named after the Slavic goddess of death, play the type of pagan folk metal which is for genre connoisseurs and not your typical Paganfest slummers. Their music is epic and melodic consisting of heavy handed riffs and thunderous bass lines that could sit well with fans of Doom (yes there is a folk doom sub genre). Although there’s some keyboards and folk song structures, the pieces missing are the acoustic/folk instruments which are almost obligatory within the genre. That’s one thing which sets ALKONOST apart plus their ability to add a slight progressive metal style and yet keeping it within the pagan folk metal boundaries. Another part is the duel vocals with the male, bassist Alexey Solovyov, taking on the harsh thundering growls while the female, Alena Pelevina, are sung clean with a touch of the operatic. Speaking of Alena she has a beautiful voice but for some, aka: anyone who hates older NIGHTWISH or WITHIN TEMPTATION, the operatic vocals can be tough for most extreme metal fans to accept.
If you can get passed all of that and don’t mind songs sung in their native tongue then you’ll enjoy ALKONOST. On the Wings of the Call is their seventh full length and if I dare say most accessible to English speakers. The band is well known in their homeland as well as Eastern Europe but breaking out onto western audiences has yet to come. Since they are now on this German label they’re hoping things change. I’ve only been a fan for a few years now but once I heard their unique take on pagan folk metal I became an instant fan. The seven cuts on here are simple guitar driven melodies that owe more to the gothic progressive metal side of the aisle. The atmosphere is laid back with nothing that will drive one to jump out of their seat and shout. To me this is decent background music which would even be a delight to the shoegazer crowd. I like the way they keep the keyboards mostly in the background not to overwhelm the listener. It’s a hypnotic journy to the motherland.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
ABIGOR – Time is the Sulphur on the Veins of the Saint CD
End All Life Productions
It’s sad to say but I only have two releases by this Austrian Black Metal institution and those are from the 90s. I haven’t heard anything of theirs in over ten years. As far as their older material well Channeling the Quintessence of Satan from 1999 was a swift industrial kick in the genre’s backside. My all out favorite Nachthymnen from 1995 is simply brutal and surpasses the simplicity of what the Norwegians had previously done. So when I pushed play and heard the newer ABIGOR my first thought was should I be wearing a black wig and high on some designer drug? The term “cyber black metal” was coined back in the 90s so it seems that ABIGOR have taken that aesthetic to another level. This makes DODHEIMSGARD sound tame in comparison.
Time is the Sulphur on the Veins of the Saint contains two long tracks running close to the twenty minute mark. They are simply designated as “Track I” and “Track II”. Actually you can hear multiple tracks spliced within each which then are tied together. Both cuts are layered with industrial/experimental intensities which push this into a chaotic mess. There’s some blackness buried under the eclectic acid jazz which is what most of their music consists of. I give credit to drummer Thomas Tannenberger for keeping things grounded and interesting. TT assaults with blast beats which run into complex jazz runs which reminds me of Bill Bruford. If it wasn’t for his pounding I would’ve drifted off in a hypnotic trance. Arthur Rosar’s vocals vary in style which is a complete change from the past. No more BURZUM-ish schrieking like their previous vocalists. Rosar spends most of the time howling like a ninety year old lady who still smokes two packs a day. Peter Kubik is still the Robert Fripp of Black Metal. At times he sounds as if he’s wearing metal gloves to achieve some of the more shrill noise.
There are two types of music. One is the stuff you actually enjoy listening to. The other is technically brilliant of the avant garde fair which you name drop to snobs but you never really listen to. This new ABIGOR release falls into the latter category. Years ago critics use to sing the praises of bands like ARTURUS and VIRUS for their advancements in progressing the Black Metal genre into an industrial waste pool with a KING CRIMSON rubber ducky. Probably the critics of today will be more in tuned to this than I since for them anything other than “plain o’l black metal” is the thing. As for me well it’s an interesting dink but I’m simply a Neanderthal now pardon me while I throw on some PROFANATICA.
HEATHEN FORAY – Armored Bards CD
Black Bards Entertainment
This Austrian band takes the Viking/Battle metal genre to a new level. On the opener, and title cut, their sound reminded me of AMON AMARTH and DRAGONFORCE sharing the same tour bus. They’ve got the melodic death part down with the six finger fret dancing guitar soloing and the growled vocals. Ah but then that’s followed by “The Blight” which is a page ripped from Metal’s classic past with pounding riffs for headbanging and a decent crowd joining chorus plus some melodic soloing. Hell yeah this is great! Fact is that HEATHEN FORAY adds alot of cool stuff to their sound that doesn’t touch on the usual pagan black motif. This is their sophomore release. I never heard their debut, The Passage, from last year so all I’m going on is how well they compare to their contemporaries. HEATHEN FORAY seemed to have grasped a sound that’s distinct from the pack. Along with the afore mentioned styles the band blends much more into the stew. Power Metal gets blended in along with typical Folk elements but never overwhelming or blatantly obvious homage’s. “Bifrost” is a perfect example of everything coming together and it’s also sung in German. “Messenger of God” is pretty straight up Melodic Death Thrash worthy of a pit while “Endless Sorrow” could almost be considered a soul crushing Doom ballad. Another standout track is “Hopfen & Matz” a rowdy folk number perfect for a bar fight. All in all HEATHEN FORAY cover the bases to make this a damm good release.
POLLUTION – Modern Warfare CD
This Serbian band’s brand of Thrash is pure paint by the numbers early California Bay Area sound. If you wanna hear the release that early EXODUS could have made then here you go. This is their debut but it’s part of EBM’s “Thrash is Back” series which is a few years late for the revival. Maybe no one told the band about it. Be that as it may Modern Warfare has eleven decent tracks but nothing which really grabs hold of you in 2010. That’s not to say it’s a bad release on the contrary they are quite good at recreating the past and that’s part of the Thrash Revival appeal. Maybe with this release some people will toss these guys into the “retro thrash” can and forget about em. I’m optimistic like I was with the all the bands from the Thrash Revival’s first wave. Who knows, they might come out with a killer sophomore effort. I hate to say it but I kinda like this more than the last EXODUS release.
KRIEG – The Isolationist CD
It’s safe to say that over the past decade USBM has come into its own respectfulness to the point where you won’t even hear a Norwegian snicker anymore. Although with a variety of styles going for it which has made it hard to nail down sub genres, the USBM scene can be separated into three categories. They are underground/cult, mainstream and hipster, which is a damm far cry from the days of kvlt, troo and false. KRIEG are thankfully of the former, the underground/cult, and hail from my birthplace of New Jersey, despite rumors to the contrary that I appeared out of the Black Forest circa 1318. Since the late nineties KRIEG, aka Lord Imperial and a revolving door of backing musicians, has been the most creative when it comes to putting out releases (full lengths, EPs and Splits) consistently. Although they’ve put out a few splits since, the last full length was 2006’s Blue Miasma which was something of a depressive departure from the band’s former brutality. Since then Lord Imperial has been constructing this new one in the hopes that it would raise some spirits, his and hopefully fans.
When I first learned that Candlelight Records was putting this out I thought it was a misprint. Nothing against Candlelight of course but it’s a step up for KRIEG and might imply a “comeback” of sorts. After a few blasts of The Isolationist I’d say it is, although what Lord Imperial has conjured up from the depths of his mind to display here is definitely sick and twisted, it’s also slightly polished. Even with the shine, The Isolationist is a great release as far as modern black metal standards go in 2010. It’s not as necro as say The Black House but that was 2003 and as much as I’m known to be a stickler against sweeping progressiveness, on here it’s not always the case. On “Photographs of the Asylum” there’s an unnerving sense of desolation and despair which harkens back to KRIEG’s past. It’s as if Lord Imperial is channeling painful past memories as an influence which drags the listener into the pit of violent despair. It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks on here. The song “Ambergeist” is another impressive track which starts off brutally horrific and ends with the black n roll style which was last touched upon on the Blue Miasma full length. “Depakote” is another captivating track that draws you in slowly as it starts off like a blackened doom of a snail’s crawl. Suddenly it switches to full on brutality with blasts intense enough to crack the lead paint on your walls. It then switches to some psyched out chamber of horrors bad trip only to revert back to the blasting then outro doom.
One good note about the polishing this has is that Lord Imperial sounds far more menacing with his vocals. Listening to the screams during “Blue of Noon”, with its added dread of a guitar tone, you could imagine a forest clearing itself of all wildlife out of fear. Not all is on here is dominated by pain. At times this does become an endurance test for those who expect more that blood curdling intensity. Some cuts like “Decaying Inhalations” and “All Paths to God” seem to drag on while the experimental doses of noise, ala “Remission” and “Religion III” sound like filler tracks. Be that as it may, just like past releases by KRIEG, this one is not to be shared but savored preferably late at night.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
HACAVITZ – Metztli Obscura CD
If there’s one nation that tends to get overlooked when it comes to the Black and Death genre extremes it’s Mexico. Although their numbers as far as insane sounding bands go is small, almost everyone is on par with their contemporaries in other countries. HACAVITZ is one of these overlooked bands who I first got into back in 2007 with their Katun release. This latest one is just as good. In fact Metztli Obscura will scorch your ass worse than a screaming sphincter burrito from a Mexican gut truck. Yes I had to use a cheesy Mexican cuisine reference but atleast I didn’t mention black beans because I hate black beans. They’re disgusting. I might like my metal black but not my food and in some circumstances neighbors as well. But anyway, Blackened Death Metal is on the menu here with HACAVITZ, aka: Antimo on guitar, bass, vocals and Oscar on drums. Metztli Obscura is a step forward as far as writing incredibility infectious songs, nine of which are on here. It will shake you BM foundation with it’s all out attack. This is just all out anger with a better production job than their last one. Along with being a great guitarist Antimo’s vocals are down right vicious whether he’s in growl mode or screaming. Lyrically most songs are sung in English and Spanish but when he starts singing in some Aztec language this get cryptic. What NILE is to ancient Egypt, this duo is to the ancient Aztec.
BLOOD CULT – We are the Cult of the Plains CD
For those of you out there who feel the confines of Black Metal are too limiting and artists should be given limitless space to stretch the genre’s boundaries, I give you BLOOD CULT. Hailing from the fertile land of America’s Midwest this band incorporates country, bluegrass and a few other styles into the Black Metal formula. If this was released on some nondescript label I’d consider it a one off novelty act but it’s on Moribund which means it’s serious. Secondly this band has been around for years, having released over a dozen demos, a handful of comps and one official full length We Who Walk Behind the Rows from 2005. But it’s 2010 and a perfect year for the flat out ridiculous.
This dink starts off with some typically raw sounding BM with some added black n roll on “My Forest Home” from there the band takes things into directions which will make you cringe. “Devil’s Sabbath” delves into hippydom slightly which is nothing new but “Ludi Ceriales” takes things all the way to the Burning Man fest. From this point on the band rarely comes close to not sounding like a complete joke even when adding some VENTURES to the BM mix. I’m guessing this will likely be heralded by the “hate black metal” crowd as being new and innovative. The problem is that it’s really not new at all as far as novelty acts go. Black Metal meets Americana, big fuckin deal. I’ve heard alt-country bands do metal songs at a bar I once worked at and it was not enjoyable. Want more novelty band history, how about DREAD ZEPPLIN or BLACK VELVET FLAG? Those bands were once novelty acts which were heralded as genius until the novelty worn off. This band should just change their name to the GRATEFUL BLOOD and sign up with an Indie Rock label.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
PERVERSOR – Demon Metal CDEP
PERVERSOR/MORBOSIDAD – Invocaciones Demoniacas split 12’’
Nuclear War Now! Productions
Here’s a band I got into last year with their full length debut Cult of Destruction, which was released by Nuclear War Now! Productions. Unfortunately it came out in late 08 or I would’ve had it in my best of listings for 09. That release by Chile’s PERVERSOR, who started out in 97, stayed out of the rack ready to play at a moment’s notice for a year. So for now no new full length but instead we’ve got two worthy shorter releases. PERVERSOR are pure unholy blackened thrash that explodes in your face with the fury of a nuclear blast. This is demonstrated excellently at the ending of the cut “Detonate” which opens the Demon Metal CDEP. “Victory of the Legions of the Dammed” sounds like early MAYHEM crossing paths with SARCOFAGO. “Enthrone the God of Blasphemy” could be an outtake from BATHORY’s The Return. The song, “March to the Temple of Doom”, kicks up the speed and suffrage if you’re a loser, only giving a short mid period break. Listening to this I can envision some sick slam pit filled with demons chasing the unworthy (aka: whomever I hate this month). That cut bleeds into “Command” which sounds like blackened Hardcore or what the kids call “crust”. Five songs in seventeen minutes which will burn your sorry ass and hopefully make you drop that kiddie crap from your conscience. PERVERSOR bring back that danger to extreme metal which is surely needed.
On the split with MORBOSIDAD these Chileans are in full thrash and burn mode with six cuts worthy of giving the dark lord sunburn if not blisters. The first three cuts are complete insults to music in general furthering my respect for this band. Their latter three are more in the frame of what I expect aka: fast blasphemous thrash that’s semi understandable. “Metal Massacre” is a cut they could end their shows with and then watch as the club erupts in flames. The Awakening of the Ancient O” is more early BATHORY worship at 45 rpm speed. Finally “Obey” brings back the early MAYHEM. As far as the other side of this platter is concerned, MORBOSIDAD is a band from California who has been around since the early 90s although this is my first time hearing them. These guys are no slouches when it comes to their brand of punishing blackened death. Their side consists of six cuts, although technically it’s four since the second cut bleeds into three. MORBOSIDAD are a Mexican death squad in musical terms that is. The vocals are growled in Spanish while musically the band mixes death grind and some thrash. I like them alot because of their relentless pounding plus the lyrics being sung in Spanish, when there’s no death screams or growls, sounds sinister as fuck.
DODSFERD/MORTOVATIS – Until Your World Go Down Split CD
DODSFERD – Another Two of your Scars and the World is Dead 7” EP
Obscure Abhorrence Productions
Everyone’s favorite one man Black Metal Greek misanthrope, Wrath aka: Nikos Spanakis, is back surprisingly I might add. Last time we crossed paths was with his Suicide and the Rest of Your Kind Will Follow CD from 09. I figured the time was close for his self inflicted demise and any bystanders around him at the prescribed time. Personally I always liked his black and roll stuff but when he reverts into suicidal mode I’m ready to scream “do it”. In all seriousness I wouldn’t want that, not yet atleast, because he is supposed to finish off his musical trilogy which started with Death Set the Beginning of My Journey in 08. We will have to just await that opus and deal with these two releases.
The first one on Moribund is three cuts by Wrath in DODSFERD mode and one cut from his more experimental BM project. The DODSFERD material is exceptional and if they are what to expect for his next full length then look out. The first cut “Only Thorns Can Embrace Your Condemned Throne” is patented Black n Roll which Wrath has been known for and which got me into him when I first heard the Fucking Your Creation CD. The next cut “Another Two of your Scars and the World is Dead” is again typical Wrath in suicidal mode. It’s a drawn out gothic and depressive affair but still brilliant. The last one by DODSFERD is a live version of “You call it Resurrection I call it a Fairytale for Human Parasites Your Kind” from his Cursing Your Will to Live CD. You’ll wanna stick with the studio version since this live one is a bit spastic. As far as Wrath’s MORTOVATIS side project goes, this is one twenty plus minute cut of drone and experimental noise which sounds like a SUNN O)) throwaway. The 7”er is for collectors only since it’s the studio cuts which also appear on the CD. In other words stick with the CD.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
ENSLAVED – Axioma Ethica Odini CD
I’ve never been a huge fan of this band’s post black metal work. I consider their first three full lengths as essentials. When they started moving away from that into what I now consider progressive metal with black metal elements ala “gray metal”, my appreciation for them faded. I don’t think of their progressive material to be total shit since ENSLAVED have a black metal past and it’s clearly evident when listening to their releases. They’re just one of many who have decided to push the envelope and have become synonymous with what people consider post black metal. What’s really funny is how DIMMU BORGIR, whose latest dud of a CD I reviewed a week ago, has followed a similar path since they too have progressed far from what they originally started out as. The difference being that in certain BM circles DIMMU BORGIR gets trashed while ENSLAVED gets heralded. Both bands ride the black metal fence and yet you have people on opposite sides trying to push each one over. DIMMU BORGIR, who considers themselves BM, is trying to stay while people are pushing them out. On the other hand you have ENSLAVED, who really don’t consider themselves BM anymore, wanna get out but people are pushing them back in.
Something else of interest is that for every older fan lost they’ve gained a newer one who sees the gray and likes it. Out of all of the bands from the early Norwegian BM scene, who are still around, only ENSLAVED are today looked upon by these individuals (mainly Indie Rockers into metal) as being worthy of greatness. Also there’s this attitude amongst some people which started when the band released Isa in 2004 that has set my bullshit detector on constant alarm. You have these snobby little gay pop pedigree fucks that look down their nose at this band’s early greatness as if it were adolescent garbage along with everything else in the early history of Norwegian Black Metal. They look at Isa and everything up to 2008’s Vertebrae, which I didn’t like at all, as greatness from a band who climbed out of what they consider the gutter of Norwegian Black Metal. It’s because of this attitude that I became suspect of what was being written about ENSLAVED over the past five years. I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating especially in this case. Its one thing to expand the parameters of a music genre but there comes a point where the sound has been diluted. ENSLAVED has always been a unique band. They started out from inside the dark woods and now have clearly passed the edge of the black forest.
During the time I was home over the weekend I had this playing while I fucked around doing chores. I think I must’ve listened to this dink over twenty times. As far as Axioma Ethica Odini goes, it sounds like a potentially good black metal release ruined. The opening cut “Ethica Odini” is a perfect example as a song which represents the bad pattern of this release. Things start off at a blackened tremolo picked gallop with harsh vocals and a good solid rhythm but then the storm clouds suddenly break to let the sunshine in. Your evil comfort zone gets upset with melodic clean vocals and the prog elements. Imagine sitting at home listening to some decent extreme metal then your roommate walks in, turns it off and pops in Love Beach by ELP. We’re talking about an abrupt change in styles here which ends up in a fight to see who outlasts the other. The second cut “Raidho” follows the exact same pattern except this time the two distinct vocal styles mirror what you hear with deathcore as in harsh vocal/clean vocal. I really hate that crap. On the third cut “Waruun” they repeat the process. ENSLAVED have clearly run out of new ideas and are now just following a recipe making sure each ingredient is measured perfect. “The Beacon” is probably the only song on this release which harkens back to this band’s early Viking black metal days. “Axioma” is two plus minutes of ambient FLOYD worship. “Giants” sounds like some decent epic doom found on the recording studio floor after AMORPHIS left the building. The song “Singular” follows suit but is epically ruined by prog. Once you reach “Night Sight” you’re ready to move the fuck out and you still got one more cut to go. “Lightning” adds more FLOYD worship. By the way PINK FLOYD only had one record that I liked/still like and it wasn’t progressive 70’s rock. Care to guess which one? As for this release I think it’s perfect for Indie Rockers or Progressives. If you had any question whether or not ENSLAVED have moved on from black metal then this should answer it. Mine was answered years ago.
BLACK FUNERAL – Vukolak CD
It’s been a few years since these entities actually put out something musical instead of just hawking satanic trinkets and artwork from their Myspace page. Vukolak is their eighth full length and if you’ve heard any previous releases by them then you know what to expect. If you haven’t well, you ever been to an insane asylum during a Hellraiser DVD marathon? Yes I do like BLACK FUNERAL in fact it is because of my playing of one of their CDs at a party years ago that a close friend claimed I have an unhealthy obsession with sick, twisted and necro black metal. I can’t lie because it’s true and if whatever mainstream/Indie Rock fag pop blackened lite bands are at one end of the spectrum then BLACK FUNERAL sits proudly on the opposite. Plus how many other bands include with their CD a demon card and an actual invocation on fancy parchment paper? I framed it and hung it in my bathroom.
If I were to make a list of great USBM bands then BLACK FUNERAL would be in my top five and some people who claim to like black metal would balk at it. If their displeasure with BLACK FUNERAL is based solely on their music then I’d understand, it’s not for the meek. Their sound and style is based on the early raw BM attributes. There are no vocals in the sense of actual singing. These are literally screams of torment that make what some of their European contemporaries have done seem tame. Musically it’s the opposite since BLACK FUNERAL do borrow much from those same European acts but production value is lacking with them. Words like “raw”, “primitive” or even “basement sound” do apply to their recordings past and present. Vukolak shows that they have not changed much since starting out back in the early nineties. Something else of note is that Michael Ford aka Akhtya Nachttoter (screams, bass & noises) and Marchozelos (guitars, bass & drums) are not just recording music for fans. They are creating apocalyptic sounds based on a Luciferian belief with vampyric overtones. I know this might come as a shocker to some people but orthodox Satanism or any dark religious belief system is not ambient, symphonic or melodic nor does it sound pretty to the ears.
Nowadays there are far too many people who have gotten all of their Black Metal knowledge from Vice magazine and can’t wait for the movie version of Lords of Chaos. People like them would not understand BLACK FUNERAL or even tolerate Vukolak. (Except Nazgul from SATANIC WARMASTER since Ford contributes an incantation on his latest.) It’s a very harsh sounding piece of work. Michael Ford has outdone his previous releases but only slightly in the musical department. It’s his conviction to the research involved in producing lyrics which are religious in nature, blasphemy to all that some consider holy. Ford is also an accomplished author who has written books on Occultism and Luciferian beliefs. There are far too many liberals, faux atheists and closet deists in the metal media who simply don’t understand the orthodox religious aspects put forth by bands like BLACK FUNERAL. To them it’s just another religion for them to mock like all other religions, except Islam because they’re afraid of them and it would be politically incorrect. If you consider the opinions of cowards then pass on this one. On the other hand (the left one) if you feel like searching for something intriguing or cultist in black metal then everything about BLACK FUNERAL and this release will peak your interest. Let your faith guide you, ha!
BLASPHEMOUS – Bearer of the Darkest Plagues CD
This band hails from the Philadelphia and South Jersey area which I know first hand is definitely a place that’s grim, black plus full of death and those are just the things you see in the row houses. It’s a perfect place for a hate filled band to come from because influences abound. I don’t know about a full on black metal band though which BLASPHEMOUS would like everyone to believe they are. I just get visions of some overweight slob in corpse paint wearing an Flyers jersey and stuffing his face with a cheese steak. Then again it could be skinheads in bomber jackets who got off hearing AD HOMINEM and wanna recreate it. Either way Bearer of the Darkest Plagues is a ten cut filthy sounding release which bounces around as if genres were lottery balls. Unfortunately the winning numbers on here are not in the black. BLASPHEMOUS actually sounds better when they cut into blackened death thrash mode and rip apart at the seams. “Path to our Demise”, “Entering Oblivion” and “Among the Wolves” are perfect examples of when things run well. Otherwise the only thing going for them in the black metal department is catchy song titles like “Raped Upon the Altar”.
WARBEAST – Krush the Enemy CD
WARBEAST comes straight out of Texas kickin ass and taking names (yeah that’s an ANTISEEN lyric) which they do with punishing ease on this their debut full length. The band plays mainly aggressive old school Thrash but various genres are explored, beaten upon and finally kicked across the room. Their twin guitar attack from Scott Shelby and Rick Perry invokes early SLAYER with fierce riff abandonment plus dual soloing included. The rhythm section of bassist Alan Bovee and drummer Joe Gonzalez supplies enough bombast to keep your head banging along. Finally there are the vocals by Bruce Corbitt which range from pissed off to angry then angrier. There’s something else which is important to note. This is not some new Thrash revival band copying a template from the past greats.
WARBEAST are veteran thrashers from the lone star state consisting of former GAMMACIDE members and Bruce Corbitt former vocalist of RIGOR MORTIS. They’ve been playing together since 2006 under the moniker TEXAS METAL ALLIANCE but in 2009 they decided to change their name and were quickly signed to Housecore Records which is a label run by Phil Anselmo, no introduction needed with him. Not only did Phil sign them but he also produced this release. I’m guessing RIGOR MORTIS and GAMMACIDE shared a few show bills with one of Phil’s bands in the past so it all looks like a friends club. Either way the ten cuts on here represent something that I see definitely missing with alot of these newer Thrash bands and that’s hunger. Krush the Enemy sounds like an older band trying to make a comeback release and willing to tear through anything to get fed. The Thrash revival is over with as far as any surprises go and now all we have are bands opting to be top dog at the pound. WARBEAST just entered the fray and has made all the other new pooches look like pussies.
HIGH ON FIRE – Snakes of the Divine CD
Their 2007 release Death is this Communion on Relapse Records was one of that year’s best and showed by appearing in many end of year top ten listings. That was three years ago and since then they’ve switched labels plus don’t have producer Jack Endino, who many cite as the defacto reason for that release’s greatness, twisting the knobs on here. I guess the big questions on the minds of their admirers are what will they do to surpass it, will they change directions or will they wimp out to the mainstream/hipster/Indie Rock scene like so many others. With all that said after one listen I can say that they haven’t changed at all. Their patented Sludge Punk/Thrash sound is intact to a point where there’s not much difference from their previous releases. What is unfortunate is that it’s taken me many listens to actually sit down and write about it. When a release sits around for weeks gathering dust until it’s time to give it another spin for writing inspiration is an obvious indication that excitement is not on the bill.
The opener and also title cut starts off with a breakneck riff that carries along until the trio breaks momentum and skids along a pool of sludge. There’s a noticeable difference in production quality from their previous opus although not a huge point of contention. The band has become a well oiled machine with their sound. That spark from the past has been harnessed and is now simply keeping the lights on. Once you are thoroughly past the opener then things start falling into place like a routine. There are some good standout cuts like “Holy Flames of the Firesplitter” and “Frost Hammer” which are both mid-paced rockers that years ago I would’ve started a pit to. “Bastard Samurai” is probably my favorite cut as it slithers along like a doom dirge maggot across a filthy floor. The rest I’d place in that yeah it’s ok file or skip over completely.
I remember reading the band’s studio diary when they were making Death is this Communion and their working relationship with Jack Endino. According to Matt Pike (guitar/vocals) Endino didn’t push them but did get the best out of them. I’m wondering if Endino would’ve allowed the filler interlude cut “The Path” to appear on here if he were still behind the console. I could also say would Steve Albini, who produced their incredible Blessed Black Wings, allow a track like “How Dark We Pray” to pass without atleast punching it up a bit. Matt Pike, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel are Extreme Music’s modern day power trio who are unashamed to wear a few influences of similar three piece bands of the past. I always likened them to MOTORHEAD gone sludge punk. I won’t say that Snakes of the Divine shows the band running on fumes but maybe a tune up is in order. There going on tour in a day so most of these cuts will probably go over better live.