FUKPIG – Belief is the Death of Intelligence CD
For quite a few years FUKPIG were simply a side project created by members of ANAAL NATHRAKH and MISTRESS which could never get anywhere because of their day job band schedules. It wasn’t until last year that this three piece, featuring Drunk on vocals, Misery on guitar and bass plus Migg on drums and lead guitar, got a full length out. That twisted combination of Black Metal and Grind/Crustcore was Spewings from a Selfish Nation. Let me put it to ya bluntly. I liked it much more than the last ANAAL NATHRAKH and the same goes with this new one. Yeah I know it sounds crazy since ANAAL NATHRAKH is the archetype of BM and Grind but FUKPIG adds the strong DISCHARGE influence which is the key plus the random synth passages. The Brits are pretty much kings when it comes to this style of extreme music. FUKPIG keep with the social & political lyrical themes more than other bands doing this style which separates them from say DISHAMMER. Even the cover art looks like something from Britain’s crusty spikey haired punk past. The biggest difference of course is the production and musicianship which far surpasses the past bands that now influence FUKPIG. DISCHARGE and EXTREME NOISE TERROR never sounded this good.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
GOAT FUNERAL – Bastion Lucifer CD
When I did a Google search trying to find some more info on this German band the first search answer I got was a website for a book of poems by Christopher Bakkin from Sheep Meadow Press. After I took a shower (wouldn't you) I continued on and found nothing more than I already knew. GOAT FUNERAL hail from Germany and are a duo consisting of Von Blutsteyn on vocals (more on that one later) and Isaac Goaten who plays guitar and is in charge of the computerized instrument programming. Bastion Lucifer is their full length debut but in 2008 they did a split with DIES FYCK. On that release they contributed five songs the highlight being the one titled “Goat Funeral Says Fuck You, Please”. Thankfully this one is much more mature in song titling but their sympathies or lack there of haven’t changed at all.
The first thing which caught my surprise about this act is that they’re German and actually play German Black Metal. Regular readers of Scumfeast Metal 666, and frankly who isn’t, will remember my consistent jab at German BM bands who copy the styles of the Norwegian blackened brothers. I can see a little influence but to be a full blown DARKTHRONE wannabe is kinda silly especially in 2010. German Black Metal is somewhat close to what the Swedes do. It’s in your face loud like a blitzkrieg wall of noise attack. The vocals are pure tormenting screams. Von Blutsteyn is perfect is his performance of over the top wails of pain. His vocals are an assault on your senses. I’d say his vocal mix is too much up front and overpowering. Even your most war torn BM fan will scream “stop I can’t take his voice anymore” after multiple listens. Yes that’s a good thing because sometimes you need to thin the heard.
Another point which distinguishes German BM from the rest is their symphonic or what I call the Wagner effect. It’s not that they use keyboards but it’s the whole atmosphere in which they are laid out. For example some people will have a parade and afterwards head to a bar for drinks. On the other hand with Germans they’re invade a country and take it over. To put it mildly the atmospheric use of the keyboard programming by Isaac Goaten on here is at times subtle as a jack boot to the head and grandiose as a tank battalion crossing the border. The song “Church of Genosuicide” is a perfect example of grand symphonic beauty bringing forth some latter BATHORY influence amidst the brutality. The main weapon, aside from Von Blutsteyn who does sound like a young Shagrath, is Goaten’s tremolo strummed rhythms which are as sharp as knives. If anything there’s a slight EMPEROR influence which is cool and clearly evident on songs like “Why I Hate the Fruit” and the awesomeness of “Goat – Fuck – Perversion”. After a few listens you’ll feel like you’ve been invaded, plundered and now occupied by an oppressor. Sounds great where do I sign up?
DISHAMMER – Under the Sign of the D-Beat Mark mini CD
Spain’s DISHAMMER is what you would call a one trick pony. Their melding of DISCHARGE and HELLHAMMER is simply primitive compared to what else is going on in extreme music. Fortunately for anyone out there whose coolness hasn’t frozen their brains, all of that is a good thing. I’ve been promoting the greatness of this band to everyone I know who hasn’t turned into a jaded piece of human garbage. Their 2008 full length Vintage Addiction was a wakeup call to everyone whose head was up in the clouds or their ass. Every once in a while you need some pure unadulterated aggression just to shake the cobwebs loose. Fortunately I don’t have that problem. What DISHAMMER does is bludgeoning. They take the old axiom of keeping things simple. Their songs are fast blasts which don’t give you time to be philosophical and ponder the meaning of it all. Yes kids this is the type of music your parents use to listen to before they got old, boring and started enjoying alternative country. Metal and Punk destroyed hippie music. DISHAMMER destroys Indie Rock Hipster Metal. On this their latest force to be reckoned with the band simply shaves off what they had on their full length and stick you with a CDEP. There are only two cuts that stray over the three minute mark and the rest are slam pit thrashers. Once you get through opener “The Devil’s Advocates” and the second cut “Outlaw Psychopath” you’ll be hooked and if not then you’re shovel ready.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
RITUAL – The Ancient Tome CD
Heaven and Hell Records
This old New Jersey band’s claim to fame comes in the plump form of That Metal Show’s host Eddie Trunk. Back in the mid 80’s while a DJ at WDHA 105.5 FM, I’m sure you all remember it, Eddie Trunk called RITUAL “one of the most promising bands to come out of New Jersey”. After that Eddie then went on to play another KISS record, totally forgot about RITUAL and the rest is history. I have to wonder if this band’s sole remaining member, singer Billy “Wildman” Farley, fills up Eddie Trunk’s email account with requests to get on That Metal Show. If not that then I can just imagine him, in a gravely voice strained from years of abuse, leaving messages on Trunk’s voicemail. “Hey Eddie, remember me? It’s the Wildman from RITUAL. Remember 1985 dude? Let the metal play man and let me on your fuckin show. Dude, I’m more interesting then that GUNS N’ ROSES’ fuck. You could have me and Bon Jovi on representing Jersey. Eddie please, I’ve got this comp CD out now and I need the press. It could be your pick of the week dude. Eddie answer the phone dammit I’m almost out of minutes.”
Well Eddie Trunk might not be listening anymore but maybe someone else will especially if they’re into East Coast 80’s Hair Metal. This compilation combines the band’s three late 80’s demos which would be a perfect gift for anyone who still worships Bret Michaels or Vince Neil. There are fifteen tracks in all on here. The first seven are from the band’s 1987 demo L.T.M.P. (Let The Metal Play). Aside from the cheesiest title I’ve seen since the late 80s this is in the same vein of POISON and the CRUE. There’s even a power ballad, “No Longer Feel”, which is the third song in. Another cut “If I Had Your Love” comes close to being a partial power ballad. The rest is the obligatory 80’s Hair Metal lyrical themed tales of wanting love, fighting, Rock n Roll life, etc. The next four tracks are from their 1989 Evil in You Heart demo and illustrate how the band’s sound progressed from second tier standings to one equal with their million record selling peers. The last four cuts are from their Dark Star demo which was also recorded in 89.
Unfortunately for RITUAL this was too little too late since the popular musical landscape at that time was about to undergo a major shift. Spandex would be replaced with flannels. Hairspray and eyeliner sales for rock musicians would end with dirty hair and heroin chic becoming the norm. And the word “Grunge” would become the new flavor of the month musical term followed by “Indie Rock”. I’m sure if you threw a bucket of cold water on Billy “Wildman” Farley while he was in a deep sleep. He would probably wake up cursing Kurt Cobain. Be that as it may if you wanna relive the glory of 80’s Hair Metal then RITUAL will take you for a ride on the revival train. Personally I was never a fan of this era of popular music although I dated alot of women who were. I think Farley would’ve faired better in music history if he moved to LA like every other budding wannabe rock star musician did. Obviously Eddie Trunk’s water carrying recommendation didn’t help him any.
OVERLORD – Back into the Dragon’s Lair CD
Heaven and Hell Records
I’m all for modern bands who have grasped that spirit of Metal’s early days and have tried their best to recreate it for today’s fans. In the past few years we’ve seen a fair share of bands going the retro route by bringing back the sounds of Thrash, New Wave of British Heavy Metal as well as the classic 70’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal style. As all of that is fine with me I still stand behind the original artists who first broke ground. Furthermore I think it’s even cooler if you find some obscure band from back then who were regional favorites plus had the chops of the well known acts but unfortunately never made it. Years ago we would comb through the vinyl bins everywhere we saw used records for sale or trade cassettes through the mail. Nowadays it’s Ebay to the rescue or you can turn to the connoisseur record labels that specialize in unearthing the originals or atleast modern bands who sound so close to it you’d be fooled. Heaven and Hell Records is one of those labels who have become standard bearers in that realm of Metal cool. This latest one find will give one of those “holy shit this is cool as fuck” moments. It did to me.
OVERLORD were one of those could’ve, should’ve but didn’t bands from the 80’s and 90s. They hailed from Canada but didn’t sound like RUSH or TRIUMPH who were both big boys back then and no they didn’t sound like ANVIL either. Although OVERLORD did manage to record some obscure EPs and demos back in their heyday it was the inability to sustain a permanent lineup plus the ever changing frontier of the music scene which finally put an end to their hopes of becoming more than just another band out of Ontario. The band was started by two high school pals Mark Platt on guitar and Branko Zuga on bass back in 1984. This duo was the backbone of the band and spent over a decade adding various other musicians to the line-up in order to keep their musical dreams alive. Back into the Dragon’s Lair is a best of compilation which showcases the band’s creative output. For anyone out there who needs their early PRIEST/MERCYFUL FATE prescription filled then the first part of this dink will medicate you quite nicely. Once you hear the opening cut on here “X-Rated Man” you’ll swear that’s a fuckin JUDAS PRIEST outtake. The same can be said for “Endless Sun” as well. These first few cuts come from a four song self titled EP recorded back in 85. This was with their first vocalist, Colin Wilkinson, who alternates between Halford and King Diamond as far as vocal styles go and is way better than Ripper Owens. The song “Distant Orphan” could be a MERCYFUL FATE outtake from Don’t Break the Oath. I’d say the first four cuts on here, plus the fifth song “Walk Softly” from a single song 1988 demo, are worth the price of admission.
Next up the band’s sound as well as style changes significantly with a bunch of cuts from their various demos they recorded in the 1990s one of which was titled Into the Dragon’s Lair. It’s at this point where we’ve got new vocalist Jim Feeney into the lineup. The band’s sound comes close to Sonic Temple era CULT with Feeney doing a spot on Ian Astbury, and Platt’s riffs mimicking Billy Duffy. Their songs from this period like “Midnite Flight” and “White Witch” carry that strong mainstream Hard Rock production quality that I’m surprised they never made it into AOR rotation. The final cuts on here appear from the band’s final outing which was their Open Eye EP from 1983. The band still carries that CULT influence except now they’ve added touches of funk progression which was in form for it’s time. You listen to songs like “Mind Slide” or “Never Enough” and wonder how the fuck did this band not make it big especially by early 90’s standards of popular Rock music. Those guys from VH-1’s That Metal Show could’ve been interviewing the members of OVERLORD instead of their usual ex-members of KISS or sobered up has-beens of Glam Metal. As far as this CD goes, It’s a pretty cool collection that not only showcases their progression from 80’s to 90’s Metal but also gives some justice to a band who were just as good as their peers.
HELJAREYGA – Self Titled CD
My friend Chris gave this to me when he came over to my Leif Erikson Day party back in October. Viking Metal was on the agenda that night. This is basically the side project of Heri Joensen of TYR who has gathered around him a few fellow musicians from the Faroe Islands, including two members of SYNARCHY, John Venned on guitar and Isak Peterson on bass. The other guitarist and the drummer are unknowns to me. This full length is just five songs with all the cuts sung in their native language which I always find to be cool. Because Joensen is the mainman behind this project I can’t get away from thinking this is what TYR would sound like if they were more progressive sounding. This release is all out “epic” as far as the production goes. You’re not gonna get to hold the heathen hammer high but you can sit back and relax as the tales of Faroe Island mythos are sung to you.
PLACE OF SKULLS – As a Dog Returns CD
Giddy Up! Records/Exile on Mainstream
PLACE OF SKULLS is like BLACK SABBATH high on Jesus instead of drugs. In the past people really didn’t give a shit because it’s stoner rock, dude. The whole Christianity thing didn’t make a difference except for those who professed the idea that since weed was growing in the Garden of Eden then it should be legal to smoke. Also people usually cite BLACK SABBATH as having their share of Christian themed lyrics. Although I’ve always pointed out that BLACK SABBATH sang about a wide variety of issues including war, drugs, the occult, Satan as well as God. If one were to use a Doom band for an analogy on Christian themed lyrics than that would be TROUBLE. The reason why I’m bringing all of this to the forefront is that exploring the idea of spirituality whether personal or abstract is nothing new in Metal especially with Doom. So fully understanding what this band always had in mind as far as inspiration goes makes me wonder if this new one is more of mainman Victor Griffin (guitar/vocals) expressing his personal beliefs or is it full on proselytizing? Understandably if you’re against religious proselytizing in music, especially metal, then I suggest you throw away 99.9% of your Black Metal collection.
The biggest mistake Victor Griffin ever made with PLACE OF SKULLS was to have the godfather of Doom, Scott “Wino” Weinrich, appear with them on 2003’s With Vision release. Not that it’s a bad album on the contrary it’s an essential by every standard of traditional doom. The problem is that it’s become the band’s high water mark since their 2002 release Nailed. On this latest one Griffin reunites with the original PLACE OF SKULLS line up of Tim Tomaselli on drums and bassist/vocalist Lee Abney. Of course the hipster hype for this was high, I wonder if that was before or after anyone heard the power ballad about Jesus, “Though He Slay Me”. That’s just one of many “born again” favorites which appear on As a Dog Returns and so answers the question of why this band’s reunion CD wasn’t reunited with their original label Southern Lord. As far as this the band’s fourth release goes musically it’s filled with traditional heaviness, which should be obvious because of Griffin’s former history with PENTAGRAM and DEATH ROW, along with a dash of Southern Rock ala the opener “Timeless Hearts” as well as the title track. In case you didn’t know but Tim Tomaselli spent time with MOLLY HATCHET so some of that groove is going to leak in plus Victor Griffin can lean heavily into some blues rock soloing. Unfortunately all of this simply reminds me that I’m listening to Christian Metal. I have nothing against Griffin’s personal beliefs. I’m just not interested in those lyrical themes and musically there’s better releases out there.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
GHOST – Opus Eponymous CD
Rise Above Records
From personal experience I find ghosts to be more of an annoyance that something to look upon with awe and excitement, least of all scary. As far as the band GHOST is concerned, they follow into a similar fate. This Swedish act, which keep their identities cloaked in mystery, sounds like a third rate early BLUE OYSTER CULT covers band opening up for an ARTHUR BROWN reunion gig and that’s being nice. Since there’s not much information on them I had to take whatever their MySpace page had to offer. According to that, GHOST is power pop, black metal and progressive. After listening to this dink I say that’s a load of crap. Their influences are early seventies rock drenched in Hammond organ, simple melodic chords and hallowed hall choir vocals. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ghosts of dead BEACH BOYS were in on the recording of the vocal tracks. Yeah there’s your “pop” influence.
Right now the new flavor of the month for Doom is bands who take their influences from obscure late 60’s/early 70’s Hard Rock/post Psych acts. The DEVIL’S BLOOD is one of those bands who are riding that coattail, JEX THOTH have also been tossed into that lot for reasons unknown to me and now GHOST seems to be the latest. The difference is that JEX THOTH is actually Doom with psych influences and they’re damm good. The DEVIL’S BLOOD are more classic rock than female fronted metal that can hold your attention for a few minutes. GHOST is neither and if they’re going to be the poster band for new Doom by unearthing influences from obscure acts of the past I’ve got news for ya. The reason why certain bands have remained obscure over the years is because they weren’t that good to start with. This debut release by GHOST will probably end up in the same way.
JEX THOTH – Witness CDEP
I Hate Records
While JEX THOTH straddles the fence between Psych Doom (proto-doom if you will) appreciation and hipster music we have this fifteen minute offering which leaves anyone who actually liked their stuff (myself included) wondering what happened and what’s next. The three songs on here are not representative of what made their previous material interesting. The first cut, “Raven nor the Spirit”, opens with a pretty decent gothic keyboard run but halts suddenly to give Jessica Thoth (aka: Jex) a chance to express her best Nancy Sinatra siren impersonation. This bleeds into “Slow Rewind” which comes closest in recapturing the pure Doom aesthetic which was part of the band’s charm. The keyboards add a foreboding sound quality with lead guitar spikes piecing through. Jessica’s vocals are full on melancholy which sounds decent. The cut starts off slow but ends with a fine gallop and some decent guitar soloing. The final cut, “Mr. Rainbow” which is a cover by some old English band SLAPP HAPPY. Anyone familiar with the Garage Punk band, THE DETROIT COBRAS, will understand the term ‘culling from obscurity”. Yeah in certain circumstances it works but on here it sounds uninspiring if not all out boring. Two things I noticed about Witness is that the new band members Jessica has surrounded herself with are lacking. Secondly her vocals are only in one mode “melancholy” where as on the previous releases her singing was more versatile. All in all this CDEP is a disappointment which means hipsters will love it.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
CHILDREN OF TECHNOLOGY – It’s Time to Face the Doomsday CD
What we have here are four Italian crusty punks who not only wear their influences on their sleeves, backs and legs via patches but also musically. Yes they’ve got the uniform down but I doubt their music would be as welcome at those bastions of anarcho punk, ABC No Rio or Gilman St., back in the 90s. This band combines VARUKERS, GBH and MOTORHEAD (lots of MOTORHEAD) into a soup that tastes better than anything you’d sample at a Food not Bombs sidewalk service. But wait, these guys are from Italy so where’s the RAW POWER? Yeah well even without some “fuck authority” hardcore grit this is still a worthwhile release.
The title explains everything since the songs on here show an obsession with the apocalypse (they like using plenty of referential samples) although not in any fucked up “peace punk” fashion. The riffs, most of em, rely heavily on blues based punk n roll which was something the British Oi band, ANGELIC UPSTARTS, used to bust out. “Racing Through the Valley of Death” is probably the closest they come to the Brit-Punk/Hardcore genre. But mostly these guys and one gal rely heavily on the “what would Lemmy do” style of song writing and run it through a punk grinder. CHILDREN OF TECHNOLOGY would’ve fit nicely in with the old “scum punk” motif’ of my old print zine.
DECREPIT BIRTH – Polarity CD
Nuclear Blast Records
Oh no I’m reviewing a Tech Death band’s release so as usual I’m gonna hate it then go on some demonizing rant right? Ah no on the contrary I actually like DECREPIT BIRTH in fact I think they’re at the top of this sub genre of Death Metal. I place em at that level because they can actually write songs which have fuckin melodies along with technical proficiency. They’re not just another babysitter for wet shit, butt pissin people with attention deficit disorder which is what I consider most Tech Death to be. In all honesty I wouldn’t mind if they dropped the some of the tech brutality and the trigger drums because they sound fuckin fantastic when they are not in that mode. I know that would make em into a simpler sounding band but what the hell just listen to those melodies.
Guitarist Matt Sotelo is criminally underrated whenever someone wants to drag out their listings of great guitarists in Metal. Hey look if you take out all the past greats and concentrate on who’s actually doing something in the present tense then I’m placing him in the top five. Another thing which needs mentioning is the Chuck Schuldiner/DEATH references whenever something is written up (articles, interviews, reviews) about this band. Their 2008 release, Diminishing Between Worlds, was worthy of every critical acolyte it received. One thing DECREPIT BIRTH doesn’t deserve is the constant comparisons which I believe are only used to diminish their own greatness. Look, Schuldiner and DEATH had their day but they’re gone. If you can’t live with that indisputable truth then I suggest walking in front of a bus tomorrow. Hey guess what, everyone has influences and DECREPIT BIRTH is not painting by the numbers.
Now while I step down from my soapbox and wait for the check from Nuclear Blast let me tell you that Polarity is this band’s best work, so far. Yes I do believe the door needs to be left open for more. Polarity is simply a pleasure for anyone into actual listening. To reference particular songs would be a disservice to the release as a whole. I’ll just say that if you listen carefully to the simply crushing arrangements and extreme tempos which change lanes faster then a New York cabbie. Not only does guitarist Matt Sotelo makes things sound effortless but the clarity with his solos is to me impeccable. To me most Tech Death sounds like turning on the radio and spinning the dial as if the musicians involved suffer from tourettes syndrome. This band does it as well except you can actually latch onto melodies as they explode out of nowhere but won’t leave you dizzy.
As far as the rest of the band well that’s where the interesting part comes. Bill Robinson has that “everyman” death metal growl which doesn’t go over the top into exaggeration. That’s another reason why I think this band is at the top of their genre. Since he and Sotelo are the main members of this band it’s hard to look at the rhythm section as nothing more than two guys holding on for dear life. Like I mentioned earlier, the techniques employed in modern technical death metal especially overt usage of trigger drums turns me off as a listener as well as a fan. It’s that “typewriter” sound. As far as the bass playing, with the exception of a few jazz runs, it keeps a good foundation for when Sotelo goes into full shredding mode. Other than that I can’t see or hear anything other than pure greatness on Polarity. It’s definitely one of the best Death Metal releases of 2010.
Friday, November 12, 2010
NOX AUREA – Ascending in Triumph CD
This might be their second full length but it’s a “triumph” in the realm of melodic Death/Doom. NOX AUREA hit all the right buttons as far as having compositions containing powerful riff tempos, cascading keyboards, a gruff lead vocalist who sounds like a forest beast and drum treatments which make the earth rumble. Although just having all the right ingredients to fulfill the recipe requirements are only part of it. What this Swedish band adds as accents is where they turn delicious and fully enjoyable. Aside from the intense male vocals there’s female vocals employed which act as splashes of gothic atmosphere. The eight tracks on here are not typically slow and will carry the listener along at a pace which I think is actually upbeat for this genre on a few cuts.
NOX AUREA describes themselves as Gothic Doom and the opening title track would suggest that but it’s the only example on here. Once you get passed the first track then things go into a different direction. “The Loss and Endeavour of Divinity” is one of the many examples where elements of Death and Doom rise and fall with the haunting keyboards presenting this atmosphere which is beautifully epic. One of the shorter cuts, “The Delight of Autumn Passion” creates this feeling of soaring like an eagle (choose whatever flying creature you want) over a forest after the trees have gone into their Fall color display. Since that’s what is going on in my little o’l neck of the woods the music just added to my love for this season. “Mother Aletheia Chapter II” is another number which ends up lifting one’s consciousness. The before mentioned female vocals almost float in on a breeze. There’s plenty of emphasis on the Death side of things as well.
The closer “Emendare” returns to the haunting doom which we began with but it shouldn’t end there since you’re likely to replay this again in one sitting. Most people know my biggest criticism about “gothic metal” is that all the female vocalists are prom dress wearing operatic sirens. When I read up about this band’s debut all I saw were references to “gothic”. While listening to Ascending in Triumph I was waiting patiently for the “diva effect” and thankfully it never appeared. What did appear were Black Metal elements which were a complete surprise but overall this was very melancholic. The riffs are sustained and heavy which simply keeps you on the edge of your seat. This was definitely a big surprise of a release.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
GRAVE DIGGER – The Clans Will Rise Again CD
The first thing I noticed about this new release is that guitarists Schmidt and Herrmann have been replaced. The band’s new guitar slinger is Mr. Axel “Ironfinger” Ritt, who use to play with the band DOMAIN. Well Mr. Ironfinger (yes I’m laughing) has some pretty big musical shoes (four of em) to fill. Actually he just has to keep the riffs plus a few solos somewhat exciting which is not very tough to do here. Last year it took a month of listening to their Ballads of a Hangman release before I could write one word for the review about this long time German Power Metal institution. It’s not that I hated or really liked the release but come on its GRAVE DIGGER. Writing about a new release by them is akin to writing about a new SAXON LP. The last time I did a SAXON review was in 1980 for my high school newspaper. Not that we had a hip school (it wasn’t) but they refused my reviews of JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH on the grounds that they didn’t like the (in their opinion) Satanic band names. Whatever, the editorial staff is probably dead by now or should be. GRAVE DIGGER actually started out back in 1980 but I didn’t get into em until seven years later. Today I have three of their releases from the 90s plus the one from last year. They’re not gathering dust but they are buried under a stack of other dinks of the same genre.
OK I’m not a huge fan of the band or the genre (well there goes my free Wacken 2011 tickets) but I thought last year’s release was decent especially for a band that’s had alot of decent releases over their career. The Clans Will Rise Again falls into that same category. Supposedly this is a sequel to their Tunes of War release from sixteen years ago. I wasn’t a fan of that one although I have a friend who considers it their best work plus he likes wearing that Scottish skirt. I’ll give credit to GRAVE DIGGER and that’s they sound a helluva lot better than some of their peers who are still lingering around. Although I haven’t heard that new ACCEPT release but I’ve heard good things so far from fans. Musically Ironfinger has altered the band’s song structure a bit. In the past the band had catchy tunes because they were somewhat borrowed from far more famous traditional Metal acts. I won’t mention any names but with Ironfinger on board it’s alot harder to figure out what or who their borrowing from nowadays. Chris Boltendahl couldn’t hit a high note again even within a studio effects environment but alas he tries anyway. Vocally he’s better off with what he has now (the low gruff vocals) and the background gang shouts cover him well. The audiences like the gang choruses and probably will go nuts if the band tours Scotland. I can just see it. A German band plays songs about Highland history to a bunch of drunken Scottish hooligans. A soccer game will most likely break out during the show.
With any new GRAVE DIGGER release means atleast one cool tune that will overshadow everything else and will stick in your head like a bad commercial jingle. On here it’s “Rebels” and along with it being catchy, Mr. Ironfinger gets to show off with a decent solo. I haven’t checked You Tube yet but if they make a video for a song off this release it needs to be “Rebels”. Unfortunately I’m guessing “Hammer of the Scots” will get the nod for a video even though it’s not an exciting cut. “Coming Home” is a damm good number which should be part of their live set since it has the before mentioned background gang shouts. “Spider” brings back memories from the band’s early releases and “Execution” has a riff which sounds like it was lifted from an English band that has a leather loving singer. So The Clans Will Rise Again has some decent material which will please anyone out there who still plays their 80’s LPs. There’s something missing on here (there is an obligatory ballad and it blows) and that’s the outstanding epic number. The final cut, “When Rain Turns to Blood”, comes close but in reality it suffers from that last song on a release dilemma. After a few listens I found myself just skipping over the boring numbers in order to get to the real stuff. The band does seem to be on a roll since 2003 cranking out releases quite regularly. Maybe if they take a year off and harness the full potential of Mr. Ironfinger, who knows what will come out in 2012. I wouldn’t mind hearing some real German steel.
NATTSOL – Stemning CD
Prophecy Productions/Lupus Lounge
Normally the storylines behind how bands come together is pretty average so whenever something different comes down the line my interest is peaked. The story of this Norwegian band is a great example. I had read about it this past summer and heard one song off of this release. Since then I’ve wanted to check this out and here I am finally. You have this guy named Erland Antonsen who a few years ago after being in a few other bands decided to start his own musical dream project. He has all the material written and then starts recruiting various full time band members and session people to record his opus. Now after all of that work Erland then picks up and leaves the band just prior to this debut’s release which was this past summer. Not only does he leave the band in the hands of his recruits but he leaves music altogether citing family obligations. Now to me that’s a great story but as far as the music is concerned well its kinda average sounding pagan/folk infused black metal which is nothing really new. In fact the sound conjures up relics from black metal’s second wave.
Upon first listening to Stemning I was imaging IMMORTAL and ULVER crashing into each other on a mountainside during a ski accident. Obviously Erland is influenced by the latter mentioned band since he’s responsible for the acoustic guitar parts and bringing in both male and female session vocalists. You can’t help but hear early ULVER, when they were still black metal, through the shimmering melodies. As far as the IMMORTAL influence goes; the full time band members (aka: the ones who promise to keep the band going) Venomenon, who’s responsible for the harsh sounding vocals and guitarist Nattsjel giving us the frosty riffs. The only major difference is in the production which is clean like a mountainside after an avalanche. That’s to be expected since technology has come along way since the second wave started. Actually if Erland really wanted this to be a complete homage then the sound quality would’ve been altered and it would’ve been horrible especially with the added cleanly sung male and female session vocals. The same could be said with the acoustic guitar parts. I think this is a decent release to add to a collection of other decent pagan/folk infused black metal releases. I see the title of this to be ironic since musically it does stem from some damm great originators.
LANTLOS – .Neon CD
Neige of ALCEST, PEST NOIRE and the now defunct AMESOEURS is a busy little Frenchman. Not satisfied with his own creative workings he’s out spreading his talents to anyone who’ll have him. Herbst aka: Markus Siegenhort of Germany’s LANTLOS decided to bring him in as vocalist. Seeing that Neige’s last output with ALCEST on this year’s Ecailles de lune, also put out by Prophecy Productions, was one giant ethereal fart of shoegazer boredom. This change in scenery with Herbst fully in charge of the creative process might draw Neige back to the black. After listening to .Neon I wondered if Herbst not only used the ALCEST debut, Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde, as a template but brought in Neige for pure authenticity.
.Neon is definitely shoegazer black metal and will have plenty of indie rock losers in awe of it’s resemblance to ALCEST in sound along with Neige on vocals. Herbst, on guitar and bass, likes his melodic jazz, effects pedals and layers upon layers of guitar noise to create his musical atmosphere which by and large ain’t a bad thing. Drummer Felix Wylezik offers up these off kilter drum patterns on a few memorable songs which cut through what would otherwise be hazy boredom. Last but not least, especially in this review, are Neige’s vocals which I’ve never criticized. His most notable performance on here comes with the song “Pulse/Surreal”, a jazz infused number where our boy let’s loose with some clean vocals layered over his formidable harsh screams. Some other memorable cuts include “Neige de Mars” which breaks away faster from the shoegaze snails pace. Then there’s the title cut which adds some AMESOEURS’ influence with the background female vocals.
I don’t know if the future of shoegazer black metal will be saved from the pigeonholed lackluster of its forbearers thanks to Herbst. One thing is for sure and that’s Neige has become the new namedrop for the avant garde. That’s a title once held by Jarboe of the SWANS, who in all honesty has no talents worthy of the praise she gets. For as much crap I lay upon Neige the man actually has talent and tends to bring out the best to everyone he performs with. Three songs interesting songs on here that won’t put you to sleep out of a total of six ain’t bad.
BLACK ANVIL – Triumvirate CD
Back in the 1980s the New York Hardcore music scene had its fair share of bands that leaned towards a more metallic sound. Some of them tried to deny it of course which was like me trying to deny my own New Jersey accent. Eventually a few of those bands just gave up and moved onto the more profitable Metal pedigree or in other words they just wanted to make enough money to eat and stop sleeping on floors. I start off with that history lesson because the three members of this Black Metal band used to be in KILL YOUR IDOLS, a Hardcore band from New York who might’ve played a CBGB’s Sunday matinee show before the place was closed down. I really don’t know their history other then name recognition since I gave up on Hardcore years ago. In fact this is my introduction to BLACK ANVIL, who have a previous release Time Insults the Mind. I think they’re on tour with WATAIN as well, a tour which will bypass my little ole neck of the woods. Be that as it may after a few listens to this I really can’t hear any previous baggage.
Triumvirate could’ve been made by any of this band’s European counterparts as far as the raw sounding BM template goes. Try blasting “The Evil of All Roots” to your buddy, who dresses up as Shagrath every Halloween, and ask which Scandinavian country he thinks this band might be from. Then spring the truth on em that they’re from New York, New York a helluva town. That’s only part of the fun because BLACK ANVIL also treats us to something else which is part of New York’s finest and that’s death metal grooves. For example “We Own You” and “Dead and Left” open with sickening riffs, courtesy of guitarist Gary Bennett, sounding from the filthy subterranean level then alternate em within the black tremolo picked rhythms. But blackening the blood stained streets of the metropolis is not the only thing these guys are into. BLACK ANVIL also adds bits of atmospheric alienation with short cuts like “Crippling” and “Eliminate”. Performance wise, vocalist and bassist, Paul Delaney has a somewhat harsh howling vocal style and probably doesn’t have any trouble hailing a cab in the city. Drummer Raeph Glicken does a decent job at alternating styles without sounding like he’s in the gray area.
Since I’m on a lower pay grade then with your typical media handlers I’ll just keep things in reality. Triumvirate is a decent release and adds to America’s blackened heritage of acts that can stand along with the European base. Although this is certainly not anything new under the black & death banner which has been waved for a long time by such greats like VITAL REMAINS or INCANTATION, also from New York. The only difference being that BLACK ANVIL play shorter songs which works out well for short dick hipsters to pre-ejaculate over in their unenlightened praise. Maybe with their third or fourth release they’ll get the dark denizens of the underworld to cum black blood.
LIMBONIC ART – Phantasmagoria CD
Long time fans of this Norwegian Black Metal outfit hold their early years, 1996 – 1999, as the pinnacle of their creative greatness. No argument from me with that since I got introduced to LIMBONIC ART with their Ad Noctum Dynasty of Death release from 1999. When the end came in 2003 after mainman Daemon aka: Vidar Jenson decided to put a pitchfork in the band’s ass and called it done there wasn’t much of an outcry from people. Sometimes it’s better to just say it’s over with, I’m done, which is pretty much what Jenson did. A few years later he was back with partner Morfeus aka: Krister Dreyer in tow to rekindle some fire and that resulted in 2007’s Legacy of Evil. That one showed a complete turnaround for LIMBONIC ART as the duo pushed back the symphonic elements to the nosebleed seats and cranked up the guitars. It was one of the better BM releases that year. Since then Jenson and Dreyer had a falling out leaving Jenson to carry on as a one man unit.
Phantasmagoria is a good representation of modern symphonic black metal that hasn’t gone to shit. Let’s be honest here, thanks to the output over the past five to six years by bands like CRADLE OF FILTH, DARK FUNERAL and DIMMU BORGIR, the sub genre term of symphonic black metal is not very popular with the extreme crowd anymore. In fact it has more to do with hard rock, goth, Hot Topic mall rats and copycat bands (especially in the US) trying to make it big. What Jenson, who performs everything on here, has done is to remind us of the early greatness of the sub genre. Phantasmagoria is not a walk down the dark path of second wave nostalgia; on the contrary it’s cleaner sounding and volatile. Listening to this is akin to watching some lone figure in a room succumbing to uncontrollable fits of rage which has him screaming along with tearing at the walls in order to break free. Musically this is fine tuned to perfection with all instruments performed equally with none out shining the other.
I give Jenson alot of credit since without Dreyer I was expecting this to be light on guitar extremity. It’s quite the opposite with black metal riffage that must’ve left Jenson’s hands bleeding after each recording session. His example of the blackened “wall of sound” is not as bombastic as some of the previous named bands nor does he rely heavily on keyboard usage for cover. From beginning to end Phantasmagoria presents a pure tortured atmosphere which is relentless on the nerves. Jenson’s vocals, actually painful screams, alone are enough to send the unintroduced to the ward with windowless padded rooms. I love music which seconds as a device for audio torment and torture. Another important note is how Jenson weaves elements of other genres within the template. Imagine a more majestic or grandiose sounding ANAAL NATHRAKH, and then your head explodes. If Vidar Jenson was trying to prove something with Phantasmagoria then he’s done so.