SEVENTH CALLING – Epidemic CD
Heaven and Hell Records
Back in January I gave this Minnesota band’s three song CDEP, Prelude to Madness, an ok review. Well here they are with a new full length and I’m about to eat my past words. Musically this release is what we would’ve called back in the 80s “Metal as Fuck Dude”! Way back at a time in the 80s when NWOBHM was waning and Thrash was just about to explode you had a handful of bands who sounded like SEVENTH CALLING. They had all the classic metal melodies, the guitar virtuoso soloing and mean vocals but they also had these crushing dirty riffs. Because the bands didn’t have huge recording budgets it all sounded rough, insane and pretty cool. Let me put it another way. I could envision a slam pit with half the participants wearing METALLICA shirts and the other wearing PRIEST all going nuts to this release. SEVENTH CALLING plays metal.
The overall attitude on Epidemic is angry metal guy. Opener “Test of Time” is pure fist pumping mania. On “Paid in Blood” vocalist & rhythm guitarist Steve Handel sounds like King Diamond after smoking a carton of Marlboros like a harmonica. Last time around my only fault with their CDEP was Handel’s vocals but after listening to this dink half a dozen times he has grown on me. He’s got the angry guy vocals down pat like snarls but he can’t hit that true falsetto as if he was singing Power Metal. Still he’s alot better than yours truly who thought he could do JUDAS PRIEST karaoke drunk. Handel really excels on songs like the title cut and “Ignite the Fire”. You can’t fault a guy who sounds like he’s ready to jump off the stage and bite ya. As with their CDEP the real powerhouse of SEVENTH CALLING is guitarist Alex Ritchey. Last time around I compared him to Michael Schenker but now I think I was aiming too low. His solo work on these nine cuts is at times clean cutting with slight tech shredding and at other times you can imagine dirt flying from the frets. On “Fractured” and “Tyrannical Reign” he really cuts loose showing off every facet of total eighties metal guitar face ripping.
Actually with all of my bravado in tack I can still see myself eating crow that has been ridden over a few times from this band’s touring van as well as this dink. Heaven and Hell Records is like their Pittsburgh label cousins in arms Shadow Kingdom in that modern trends are meaningless and classic sounding metal never gets old. Seriously even though I grew up listening to and seeing those great early bands I still love hearing new ones keeping the faith.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
HOODED MENACE – Never Cross the Dead CD
Profound Lore Records
A friend of mine named Karen, who also writes in a blog about music albeit not as extreme as yours truly, once asked me why the American metal scene doesn’t accept doom metal like it’s accepted in other countries. I didn’t have a definitive answer for her. The truth is that there are alot of doom metal fans in the states but the genre is so varied. Just like black metal, you could have two people in the same room and they’d hate each other’s fave bands. I personally like alot of variety within my doomster choices. This Finnish band is a perfect example since they’re pretty much a death/doom act but add alot of extra flair to keep it exciting. This is their second release although mainman Lasse Pyykko (aka: the Leper Messiah on guitars, bass and some vocals) has been crushing the weak for some time while in other doom bands like PHLEGETHON and SARNATH. In 2008 this band released Fulfill the Curse which was the equivalent of a nuclear explosion with slight melody. Never Cross the Dead is Lasse’s way of saying that first one wasn’t a fluke.
Those of you familiar with other Finnish doom acts might find HOODED MENACE disturbing. They’re like some spiked prehistoric slug from hell that slithers along secreting acid as a trail. You can imagine the vocals emanating from said beast as well. It takes a few listens to appreciate every little nuance they toss in to spark things up. It’s dirge doom with a sick guitar tone and a menacing machine like rhythm cadence. Every once in a while Lasse will throw down a clean guitar solo that sounds like an electrical shortout. Other times they’ll even put it in second gear to lay down SABBATH style grooves complete with a melodic death metal solo. We call that in the trade “coming up for air”. One great example is the cut “Night of the Deathcult” that starts out with doom riffs that ripple over your face and leave dust in any cracks you might have. It’s like the beast has arisen and its fuckin hungry with the riffs taking the place of its stomach growls. By two minutes in the beast is on the hunt and you are on the menu. SABBATH style riffs that you can ride upon like the worms of Dune.
The song “The House of Hammer” sounds like you’re listening to a TYR album with a ten pound weight on the needle. “Terror Castle” sounds like the whole thing falling in on itself with you in the dungeon being pounded with one stone at a time. “Rituals of Mortal Cremation” and “From Their Coffined Slumber” makes you wonder if they have sludgy Louisiana type swamps in Finland and if they do I wouldn’t sweat the snakes. There’s something much more menacing in them there Finnish bayous and its HOODED MENACE.
TRIDENT – World Destruction CD
With band members who’ve done time in such Swedish notables as DISSECTION and NECROPHOBIC, this new band TRIDENT qualifies as a blackened death metal supergroup. Guitarist Johan Norman decides to resurrect a career that in the past had him in DISSECTION as well as SOUL REAPER, to name just a few. To do that he gets friends from NECROPHOBIC, Tobias Sidegard on vocals and bassist Alex Friberg, plus Jonas Blom from GRIEF OF EMERALD for the drumming and finally an unknown Ewo Solvelius on lead guitar. Seeing that the guys from NECROPHOBIC have no steady commitment there’s a good chance this might be more than just a one shot deal.
After an ambient opening cut, “The Trident”, which is filled with keyboards, acoustic & electric guitar, plus some string instruments the horror begins with “Jaws of Satan”. Welcome to Swedish blackened death 101 with all the elements at hand. This is followed by a more explosive cut “Nemesis” and from here on things get somewhat more exciting. Since this style of extreme metal has been done before so many times it’s hard for anyone especially someone from Sweden to reinvent the genre. So basically you have to find some standout qualities and there are a few. “Slaves to Anguish” is slow but savage in its attack. The choice of Tobias on vocals throughout this release is the key ingredient for enjoying World Destruction. “Stockholm Bloodbath” is another winner. Guitarist Ewo Solvelius takes a few cues from Trey Azagthoth (MORBID ANGEL) in his playing. Overall this would be the third prong of the actual Swedish trident which includes NECROPHOBIC and UNANIMATED, both of whom had excellent releases in 2009.
DE PROFUNDIS – A Bleak Reflection CD
Thankfully this English death/doom act is not another cookie cutter product heavily influenced by their nation’s holy trinity of Doom (ANATHEMA, PARADISE LOST, MY DYING BRIDE). What they do bring to the listener is a more aggressive progressive sound which is not boring and has some black metal touches with the vocals. Take ISOLE, OPETH and ENSLAVED blitz em and that should give you a good idea. This is a lengthy release (over an hour) so you’ll want to plan ahead to play this one because it’s an experience. In between the life crushing riffs (bass heavy) and gravel throated vocals (there are no clean vocals on here) there are calmer passages containing piano and string instruments. If there was something to complain about this release it would have to be the song lengths. The songs really drag more ass than an alligator to the point where you’re begging for something to happen or atleast end.
GALAR – Til Alle Heimsens Endar CD
Dark Essence Records
It’s always cool to listen to a metal band from another country that incorporates their natural surroundings as an influence as well as the musical aspect. GALAR hail from Bergen, Norway and are primarily a Norse influenced act with black metal touches. Think of a light hearted version of BURZUM or ENSLAVED with a greater emphasis on the Norse/Viking themes and harsh plus clean sounding vocals. GALAR are a two piece act with army of session musicians. The main band consists of Slagmark aka: Marius Kristiansen who gives you the harsh black metal styled vox plus guitar and bass. Also there’s Fornjot aka: Are B Lauritzen who’s responsible for the clean vocals as well as the keyboards and the bassoon. Yes I did say bassoon and there’s a wealth of it on here as well as some classical piano and string interludes. GALAR are not some Christian devil icon worshipping corpse painted kiddies. This duo is two classically trained musicians who are breaking all the rules of black metal and adding new ones. Sure adding classical elements is nothing new but what GALAR are doing on this release is adding black metal to the classical. Think of BACH or WAGNOR wearing a pentagram while playing the piano with DARKTHRONE in the balcony blasting along. Sadly the production on here is lacking. The music should be overwhelming but it’s still in the low fi range which does this a disservice. Still I consider it a great release.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
WATAIN – Lawless Darkness CD
Season of Mist Records
So far this year I’ve had the luxury of reviewing two of the many supposed most anticipated releases of 2010. This is the third and I’ll probably cross paths with a few more before the end of the year. The only reason I’d find myself in the same room with such releases is because I like those bands to start with. Whether or not some bozo from the metal media expects greatness I’d still pick this new one up by WATAIN. To say these Swedes don’t have a target on their back because of media hype is putting it lightly. Sure the band’s lack of humility could be one reason but ever since their 2007 release, Sworn to the Dark, the metal media wonks have placed WATAIN as leaders of the black metal genre. Therefore whenever something about black metal is the subject matter for the press the media wonks try to get a quote from WATAIN’s bassist/vocalist Erik Danielson. To make matters worse Danielson has no problem in supplying them much in the same way Gaahl (ex GORGOROTH) did in the past and Fenriz (DARKTHRONE) does now.
Back in April, Season of Mist released a two song teaser to push the anticipation level up a notch. That contained a new cut “Reaping Death” and a DEATH SS cover. The reviews for that was luke warm but DEATH SS did get alot of friend requests to their Myspace fan page. Also Danielson has been warning people that Lawless Darkness was going to be some sort of black metal rebirth. Well after blasting this continuously over the weekend I’m here to tell you this is not a rebirth of black metal. Lawless Darkness is an abortion served up on a silver platter for all the bozos to eat. Most of the clowns in the metal media who praise WATAIN are clueless to what they’re really all about. The devil is supposed to deceive the easily foolish and more specifically them being heirs to DISSECTION. Lawless Darkness is like Storm of the Light’s Bane and The Somerlain redeployed for a second salvo from the indication of opener “Death’s Cold Dark”. The beautiful melodies bombarded by cold harshness which leaves you in pain from touching it. The harnessing of classic metal riffage whether its thrash or NWOBHM and then pummeling it with blastbeats that are short, concise and devastating. This is the classic design of Swedish black metal, sweet brutality, laughing while you gallop across a road paved with the bodies of the believers. The second cut on here “Malfeitor” is a perfect example. “Reaping Death” sounds better within the album structure then tossed out as a bone for the dogs to gnaw on. In fact the first three cuts on here are like inviting all of the lackeys, well wishers, followers and coattail riders into a great hall then have a massacre ensue. Afterwards you can swim across the pool created with their blood laughing all the way while listening to “Four Thrones”.
“Wolves Curse” is where the dark princes stretch things out for nine plus minutes to the reflections of a lycanthropic nightmare. It’s a barrage of traditional thrash riffs with sick guitar soloing weaved within. Danielson’s vocals start off as hoarse, harsh and still human but end the song animalistic. This will have to be a staple for future concert set lists. I can just imagine a huge audience in agony and pain withering on the ground as they all transform from human to night beast. I will say not everything on here is pure blissful hate. The instrumental title track was strange. Pre release info on this had Danielson boasting that they had more material than needed for this release. The song itself sounds more like a practice jam albeit better than most. “Total Funeral” is classic metal blackened. But those are minor instances to say the least. The last three cuts on here are where WATAIN almost return to their Casus Luciferi era especially on the cut “Kiss of Death”. Somewhere Jon Nodtveidt is grinning from ear to ear as well as I. The final cut on here “Waters of Ain” is a fourteen and a half minute climatic fuck you to all the unworthy, the human garbage that have waited patiently for this new one and are probably disappointed. “Waters of Ain” encompasses everything WATAIN has done musically in their career, therefore it needs to be the longest cut they’ve ever written.
In my not so humble opinion what the band has done on Lawless Darkness is to give the middle finger salute to the “herd of sheep” who think modern day black metal needs to all sound the same, it needs to be progressive, it needs to sound like sheep farts, etc. Those types see all music as a product that needs to conform to short sighted simple minded themes. I know that black metal is the most diverse of all extreme metal genres. It conveys passion onto the listener and from that point on the individual moves on from it to create and to live free of constraints. WATAIN is obviously not willing to create within the restraints that short sighted critics have placed upon them. Lawless Darkness is a black metal release that actually sounds metal in all its classic sense. It’s a release created for the people who actually like metal and not a bunch of superficial coffee house worms who don’t. If this CD sells a hundred thousand copies, less than a quarter of the buyers will “get it”. The rest hopefully will use it as a weapon for their self inflicted demise. Sometimes you just have to thin the herd.
NACHTMYSTIUM – Addicts; Black Meddle Part Two CD
I must admit that I was late getting into NACHTMYSTIUM mainly due to what I considered hype by journalists of questionable musical tastes and motives (Indie Rock Losers who hate black metal but write for metal mags). In 2008 I decided to check out this band’s Assassins: Black Meddle Part One CD and liked it enough that I placed NACHTMYSTIUM in the category of bands that are good despite being liked by Indie Rock Losers (a rarity to say the least). I passed on the band’s EP from last year but was looking forward to this full length expecting more of their experimental mixture of black metal meets 70’s proto psych & prog rock. Prior to getting this I finally saw NACHTMYSTIUM live at a local venue while on tour with EYEHATEGOD. Their set contained a few new cuts from this and sounded almost blackened punk and roll. I thought they were great and not what I was expecting at all. As far as this new one goes the feeling is the same.
The CD opens with this ambient percussion laden minute and a half track with a whispering voice spelling out letter for letter the sentence “nothing hurts more than being born”. OK the opening intro sucks so hopefully it’ll get better and it does. “High on Hate” is blackened punk with just the right amount of foreboding atmosphere to make it threatening. The third cut “Nightfall” has even more punk rock influence bordering on radio friendly English pub rock. Interesting yeah sure like a black metal version of the CLASH minus all those stupid reggae influences. It was at this point where I wondered if this thing continues on its present course than tomorrow night, when I’m at the club, I’m gonna find me some Indie Rock Loser and beat em senselessly. My level of disdain for Indie Rock reaches levels of hatred far beyond those mere mortals who hate disco and new wave, both of which I hate as well. The genres of emo, screamo and the various tangents of “core” are all laughable and don’t garner a beat down but I digress.
I will say that Addicts defies all preconceived perceptions and expectations of their past output. “No Funeral” has this cool rhythmic keyboard back drop reminiscing of some sixties garage punk/psych or the 80’s/90’s revival of it but blackened by Blake Judd’s vocals and vision. In some sick strange way I find this to be one of my favorite tracks on here. The blackened garage punk theme continues on for a few tracks and then on “The End is Eternal” things move into shoegazer territory which is nothing new to the black metal genre. Although by the midpoint things drag on until the crescendo slowing walks you out with Judd’s painful screams. A couple more punk infused tracks follow and then it’s the closer “Every Last Drop”. This is were the band gets about as FLOYD-esque as they get on Addicts including a David Gilmore type solo and background voices within it’s eight and a half minute length.
After listening to this a multiple of times my opinion of NACHTMYSTIUM has not wavered. They are a very good band. On Addicts they have taken a style of music (Punk/Garage Rock/Psych) which I’ve always been a fan of and reinterpreted it within their vision. The end result is fuckin incredible to say the least. It’s safe to say that this will be listed in Scumfeast Metal 666’s end of year favorites.
ROTTING CHRIST – Aealo CD
Season of Mist Records
This Greek band might have strayed from the path that their debut full length and black metal essential, Thy Mighty Contract from 1993, paved but since then they have some how kept things interesting to say the least. I have a few of their other releases and with the exception of 2007’s Theogania I was never impressed that much after the fact. In other words they collect dust but Aealo has this spark about it. When it comes to reinvention ROTTING CHRIST are at the front of that line. Remember they were very gothic sounding for a little while and now this new one finds them really delving into a more folk metal fixation with melodic death metal overtones. Overall Aealo has aspects that span this band’s career which is appealing in a whatafuck kind of way.
Alot of the music on Aealo reminds me of a more blackened ELUVEITIE with female choir backing vocals. In fact the ladies, they’re named the PLIADES, are featured on many tracks along with ROTTING CHRIST’s almost militaristic or tribal musical sound. These Greeks are now sailing in northern European waters like Vikings dining on souflaki. You listen to a song like “Noctis Era” and figure that ROTTING CHRIST could easily be on the same bill with TYR at Paganfest. It’s actually a great cut along with “Fire Death and Fear”. Some other cuts bring out the tribal goth, “Thou Art Lord”, which features guest vocals by Nemetheana of PRIMORDIAL. “Pir Therontai” is more tribal industrial with Magus of Greek black metaller’s NECROMANTIA. Both cuts could fit into any goth vamp’s playlist from hell or Hot Topic.
All in all I found Aealo to be an decent listen as far as pushing the limits of this genre daring band. Sakis’s vocals are at prime gruff and growl. Guitarist Giorgos Bokos has added so much intricacy with his expanding lead work ever since he joined in 2005. If there were a down point I’d say it’s with the drumming. Themis Tolis sounds as if he has taken a back seat to a drum machine at times. The final cut on here is not so desirable either and a gothic waste of eight minutes.
NEGATOR – Panzer Metal CD
Holy shit, it’s MARDUK with Legion back on vocals. I know some people who wish for that to happen. Yeah right just keep that candle burning in your window, Legion is with WITCHERY now. This is the third full length from this German band but their last one, Die Eisernen Verse, came out back in 2005. I never heard it so comparisons are nil. All I can say is that Panzer Metal sounds like MARDUK if they would’ve done just one more release with Legion, then again maybe not because this sounds better. I’ll even toss in some DARK FUNERAL just to give a full nod to Swedish black metal. Remember these guys are German but have totally tossed aside their heritage in blackness and opted to copy the template of someone else. Oh well happens here in the states all the time.
To their credit NEGATOR really bring back the mid 90’s impact of Swedish black metal to the point where you would think this is some long lost gem albeit with incredible production. The sound on here is so clean you could eat off of it. Music wise it’s a fuckin relentless blitzkrieg, pardon the pun, even on the moments where they do slow things down it’s still a forced march in jack boots over your skull. There are no melodies and absolutely no atmospheric breaks which is something mid-period MARDUK fans of yore wish for. (Personally I like MARDUK from the beginning to their present releases, fuck you.) I don’t mind a band steeped in nostalgia as long as they’re as good and explosive as this. Listening to this is like sitting in a grandstand somewhere watching tanks roll over people, which is a twist on monster truck shows.
BLACK TUSK – Taste the Sin CD
I saw this Savannah, Georgia band when they opened up for PENTAGRAM a few weeks back and thought they were pretty decent sludge punk. They were like the poorer, redneck cousins of BARONESS except on that night they were playing for a metal crowd and not a bunch of indie rock losers, who BARONESS now plays for. Still after a handful of songs I went to the bar because even though they were tweaked and rocked like they were on meth their songs started overflowing onto each other. So here is this band’s latest release, their first for Relapse but they do have previous stuff out. Their 2008 release Passage Through Purgatory was decent as well. Normally I don’t comment much on cover art but Taste the Sin was drawn by John Baizley of BARONESS, so it looks like a BARONESS cover. Musically this dink follows the same pattern as their live show. Yeah out of the gate this thing smacks you in the face like a ball peen hammer. BLACK TUSK can dish out a pummeling of filthy grooves. But by the halfway point you’re bored so you figure it’s a perfect time to go take a shit and bring a book with ya. Yeah that’s what I did and the book was Care of Game Meat and Trophies. I did keep the bathroom door open to hear the CD.
WULFGAR – Midgardian Metal CD
No shit there I was in Stockholm last year in a bar telling this drunken Swede that what their nation’s melodic death metal scene needs most to give it a kick in the ass is an AMON AMARTH cover band. Enter WULFGAR from Sweden who were probably playing the bar scene in Stockholm for the homies while the real thing was on the road. No I was not hanging out in Stockholm but WULFGAR does sound like a AMON AMARTH cover band. They even had Jens Bogren who mastered the last two AMON AMARTH releases working with em. The only difference between the two is that their vocalist, Emil Augustsson, sounds a little like Johan Hegg but only after he chugs a second bottle of jagar or you chug it because jagar makes you hard of hearing.
Don’t get me wrong since I think Midgardian Metal, their sophomore release, is pretty damm good as far as Viking themed metal. If you are a fan of that then after you drop this into the dink tray and push play you’ll be dawning your plastic Halloween Viking helmet and hailing to the hammer. Ah yeah that’s another band’s song but we’re on a theme here. When WULFGAR kicks out songs like “Norsemen of Steel”, “Fight Win Kill & Conquer” and of course the nod to the female listeners, “Valkyria”, you can’t help but place tongue in cheek. They sound like AMON AMARTH but with song titles borrowed from MANOWAR. You’ll probably play this for your friends before you pull out the TURISAS.
CELESTE – Mortes Nees CD
I don’t mind bands that take the black metal template and beat it severely in order to see how far the edges will expand from its original shape. It’s something that’s always been part of the genre but those bands were firmly in the black to start with. CELESTE sounds like a screamo band trying to play post rock/post black metal and failing at it miserably, at least in the black metal dept. Four children of incestuous relationships (?) from France singing in French, the song titles and lyrics are in French. I have no idea what they’re singing about. The guy could be screaming about how his parents are satanic and he’s in love with a hot chick but is stuck in a relationship with a girl who everyone thinks is a lesbian. It’s the mustache. Then there’s the over the top wall of noisy discordant guitar which is headache inducing. Hey guys the paint on the wall that I’ve been watching while listening to your CD is dry already. I bet they named the band after one of their moms. This is their third full length as well, yawn. This is an experiment gone all wrong. The black metal genre was about power and not some wimp crying while his friends bash & pop in the background.