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It’s that time again.  The time of year when leaves are falling, the air has finally turned cool and we draw near to the season of death and renewal, where the veil between the natural and the supernatural are markedly gossamer thin.

To celebrate the ending of the old and dawning of the new, we’ve got a heaping helping of seasonally appropriate death and black metal for you, offset by some more positively toned punk, traditional, AOR and even free jazz (!).

So without further ado, I suggest you dim the lights, light the jack o’ lantern and let the cool evening breezes accompany your perusal of this month’s offerings…

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Aktor – I Am The Psychic Wars (Ektro)

2 songs, very 80’s underground metal – not in the sense of any genre like thrash, early death or proto-black metal, but in the general sound of more local, unsigned or small indie label acts like Blackened (of “sin sentence” fame), Messiah Prophet or New Renaissance’s Phantom or Cerebus.

It’s pretty straightforward, reasonably lo-fi and muddy, and quite likeable, though the keyboards get a bit weird and tend to be overly present in the mix.  Not essential, but I definitely dug it.  Can a full length be far behind?

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Beastmilk – Climax (Svart)
Even more retro-80’s than last month’s LowCityRain, this taps more into the British new wave and post-punk sound, with more than a dash of gothic rock tossed in to the mix to spruce things up a bit.

Hell, they even tap into Samhain just a tad on “fear your mind”, and the vocalist does that sort of Chris Isaak by way of Robert Smith quavering under reverb thing that so many bands of that era seemed to gravitate towards.  It’s a real flashback, and very much in the good sense.

Beastmilk’s sound is melodic and noisy and odd all at once – a modern day equivalent would probably be the Hives, though this is much more Wire by way of early Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division and early Echo & the Bunnymen.  If those comparisons don’t sell you, I don’t know what to say.

Let’s put it this way, if you were a faithful viewer of shows like Old Grey Whistle Test and Something Else back in the day, you’ll feel quite at home here.  More power to the kids for bringing this sound back – all I can say is it’s about damn time.

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Crucified Mortals/Exorcism (Hell’s Headbangers)
Well, these Crucified Mortals guys are definitely from the Midwest – there’s that unmistakable twang in that say-tanic gal cursin’ some’un that kicks off the rather brief proceedings here.  Strangely, it’s a sort of dark-toned punk-crust metal crossover that pulls a bit from Repulsion while having a very NYC hardcore vocal dynamic.  Meh.

Exorcism is a bit more to my tastes, very lo-fi, but decidedly metal in a thrash/proto-death style.  The vocals are a bit over the top with the death metal thing, and he seems to be swallowing the microphone – there’s pops and spit hitting the damn thing throughout his growls and grunts.  It’s amusing and a bit endearing for its sheer ground level amateurishness.

In all objectivity, the Exorcism tracks fall somewhere between an early Swedish death metal demo and a live show – it’s pretty raw and low rent.  Probably not something that would appeal to a mass audience, even one comprised solely of death metal fans.

I don’t know how often this will get replayed, but give them props for getting the basic idea right.

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Cult of Fire (Iron Bonehead)
An album from Czechoslovakia but entirely titled in Sanskrit, hmm?  I don’t get it.  There’s Tibetan Buddhist monk chanting and sitar (already conflating two related but completely separate musical and spiritual traditions), then it eventually goes all black metal on us.  It’s sort of Heaven Shall Burn era Marduk, but with a lot more keyboard and reverb for atmosphere.

It’s OK, but very samey after awhile (and that while comes pretty quick, given the length of most of the tracks).  While admittedly some of the best black metal is done outside the English language, it’s still comprehensible to those who know or pick up a bit of Norwegian, Swedish, German or what have you.  These clowns might as well be singing “bibbity bobbity boo” for all anyone knows – not a big fan of that idea.

My thirst for knowledge demands comprehension – babbling away at incomprehensibilities doesn’t cut it.  Maybe some Czech listeners out there can point out if they’re talking the native tongue at all, but from the titling conventions, I’m guessing not.  Not bad musically, but taken as a sum total, better luck next time.


Dark Age – A Matter of Trust (AFM)
Syncretist to the point of nigh-unclassifiability, Dark Age are a reasonably long running black metal act who went sort of death metal, but now are more of a gothic-industrial-modern metal concern with some pronounced emo leanings.  Some really strong tracks poke their heads up throughout the running time, and the overall sound and polish are notably good.

There’s absolutely nothing black or death metal about this record, it’s a different animal entirely.  Check out my interview with vocalist/guitarist Eike Freese.


Duncan Evans – Lodestone (Prophecy)
Now that’s service –  I asked for it last month, and the next month, they deliver a full length.

“Bird of prey” makes its second appearance here, and there are a few tracks that approach the promise of the aforementioned single such as “the curtain falls down”, “Cindy” and “girl on the hill.”  But like Richard Thompson (who alongside Nick Drake would appear to be Evans’ main influence) the material is a bit spotty overall – too many major keys, not enough of that fast moving if often delicate fingerpicking and arpeggiation of chordal structure going on.

He’s good, like I said last time around, and we definitely get at least three more very promising songs to play with here – but the album as a whole doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the earlier single.

We’ll see how he develops over time, but for now, write this one up as a guarded positive.  Good, but with the potential to be so much better.  Thompson only had one “night comes down” and one “calvary cross”, after all…


Def Leppard- Viva! Hysteria  (Frontiers)
Can I really be the only one out there who thinks Def Leppard ceased to be a concern with the departure of Pete Willis?  He and Steve Clark drove hard rocking anthems and awesome album tracks such as “sorrow is a woman”, “wasted”, “rocks off”, “me & my wine”, “lady strange”, “mirror mirror (look into my eyes)”, “you got me runnin'”, “bringin’ on the heartbreak”, “photograph”, “too late for love”, “foolin'”, “stagefright” and “rock of ages”.

By contrast, after Willis was booted out (and the band had to deal with Clark’s untimely passing not long thereafter), we got top 40 cotton candy fluff for the ladies, complete with nigh-exclusive single-word titles and goofy singalong choruses.

Sure, they were always more of an AOR oriented act than the rest of the NWOBHM they came up as part and parcel of, but really – compare any of the songs I mentioned with (I’m sorry, but let’s be honest here) junk like “women”, “rocket”, “animal” or God help us all, “pour some sugar on me”, and you’ll be forced to agree that those two guys made the band – losing them was a death knell.

I realize a lot of folks have some personal associations and memories of good times correlated to this album (and its even more forgettable sequel Adrenalize), but let’s be honest with ourselves here.  This stuff is just crap, comparatively – the sort of fodder that deserved to be competing with the latest Madonna or Michael Jackson effort at the time, hardly “metal” (or even “hard rock”) by any standard.

So the band gets back together, with none other than Sweet Savage/Dio/Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell in tow, to deliver…a live album (which I believe comes with a related DVD) whose first disc is almost entirely dedicated to reliving that album.  Yeah, THAT one.

Well, disc 2 certainly saves the proceedings a bit, with a smattering of tracks from High N’ Dry and a few nods to Pyromania and On Through the Night, but the fact is that the bulk of the affair is dedicated to (and being marketed on) the retro-Hysteria concert.

I love the first 3 Def Leppard albums, and Vivian Campbell as well, so I can happily report that the performances on the material therefrom (mainly sidelined to disc 2) are certainly on point, sufficiently aggressive and well performed, complete with some damn good solos from Viv.  In fact, that second disc comes quite recommended, as live albums go.

But really…HYSTERIA?

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Eden’s Curse – Symphony of Sin (AFM)
This internationally staffed but primarily UK based act has gone through a true dark night of the soul with the departure of original vocalist Michael Eden a few years back and a brief misstep of a single (chalk one more singer in and out of the picture).  Even the band members themselves had to be wondering if that was it…but they’ve pulled through with what may very well be the album of their career.

Better production, more powerful harmony vocal choruses and (in all honesty) a better singer in the form of one Nikola Mijic are bolstered by one hell of a batch of songs.  Utterly suffused with the sort of positivity and spur to action that mainstream metal used to be known for back in the mid to late 80’s, the band has gone from a sort of Dokken fronted by Marc Slaughter to a Knights of the Thunder through Intuition-era TNT with Steve Perry as frontman.

Can’t recommend this one enough, and be sure to check out my interview with the entertainingly loquacious Paul Logue for more details.

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Epysode – Fantasmagoria (AFM)
Progressive metal from Belgium.  I gather they’re some sort of all-star group, though I’ve never heard of any of their other/prior bands, so who knows how true that is.  There’s no less than FIVE vocalists, but other than the female vox on a track or two, I didn’t notice a hell of a lot of variation.

I’m not a big Dream Theater fan, so this sort of chunka-chunka riffing broken up by guitar and keyboard (or guitar synth) noodling isn’t really my ballpark.  All I can say is that it’s not exactly John Arch-era Fates Warning or pre-Empire Queensryche we’re talking here – this is really quite generic to my ears.

I’ve heard better, I’ve heard worse, I really don’t care.  It exists.  That’s about all I have to offer here…

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Circle – Incarnation (Ektro)
uh…Circle goes all black metal/noise or something.  Am I missing something?  This doesn’t seem to be the same band that gave us the excellent, catchy electro-trance Six Day Run last year…unless you’re big on J.G. Thirwell, give this one a pass.

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Falcon (ex-Circle) – Frontier (Ektro)
so…the Circle that gave us Six Day Run has gone on to be the wannabe Southern-fried hicks of Beer & Ribs, and I don’t know who or what is calling itself Circle these days.

The good news is, you get a dash of the old Circle shining through here.  This is particularly evident on tracks like “ranger”, with its dual guitar bridge and early 80’s Frontiers records-like AOR feel, the propulsive “Vegas sundown”, the early Motorhead-esque “Ace of Hearts”, and more AOR with “leather seat” and (to a lesser extent) the ridiculously titled “Miami tits”.

So that much is clear at least – these ARE the same guys who gave us Six Day Run.  If you can put up with some truly half-assed lead vocals and a quotient of tracks that should have been left on the cutting room floor (“horses”?  “bringers of the dawn”?  “seasoned girl”?), there are some gems to be found herein.

Much, much better than I expected from “beer and ribs”, but not up to the standards set by Six Day Run either.  Give it a shot if you’re curious.

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FoR – Blakaz Ask0 Herto  (Iron Bonehead)
Some guy belches at you for two minutes and 52 seconds, which is just strange, and a really bizarre way to kick off an EP (or “mini LP” as the band would have it).  Puke-metal eventually ensues with “vocals” somewhere between Mortician and Incantation.

That said, this is not really death metal to my ears, nor is the aesthetic they’re going for with the album cover – it’s like they couldn’t decide whether to go full hog on the black metal thing, so they tried tossing a dash of grindcore vocals in and played some really sloppy, slow variant of death metal instead.

Weird enough to have some interest, but probably not worth pursuing unless you always wanted to hear early Abruptum fronted by some guy whose idea of fun is belching up a keg or two worth in your ear.

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Incantation – Mortal Throne (Hells Headbangers)
Speak of the devil, as they say.  For’s inspiration themselves, here to pass gas out the front end at you.  Same as it ever was…same as it ever was, as David Byrne once sagely penned.  This is a reissue of earlier Incantation, their second album in fact, so it’s really no surprise that it sounds just like I remember them from back in the day…but then, did they ever really “grow” as a band?

Not as musically off kilter or clever as Immolation or Suffocation, but from the same scene and sticking to the same basic template.  Of the three bands, Incantation are the ones that can easily be passed over – but if you’re hardcore on the old school and already worked your way through even the obscurities like Baphomet, Desultory and Necrophagia, I imagine these guys could be on the list of also rans to tap into.

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Iron Dogs (Iron Bonehead)
Awkward.  Really awkward.  Think Heavy Load, or something along those lines, but give it some really thin sounding guitar lines – very early 80’s Swedish style proto-metal.  Too many of these tracks just don’t work at ALL – “firebird”, “free and wild”, “kingdom of steel”…and somehow, the weakest tracks are put to the front of the album.

By the time your ears either start becoming adjusted to the oddness of the sound or the better songs start coming into play, it’s already too late – they put their worst foot forward and queered the deal.  It’s interesting as a concept, but really strange and unlikely to be to the tastes of most.  And that ridiculous photoshopped cover…sheesh!


JUMALHÄMÄRÄ – Resitaali LP (Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions)
Four tracks of someone fiddling around with an old organ – never changing the tone, it’s all thin and reedy pipe organ style and long drones.  Think your favorite spooky album intro, but then picture that as one long album with little variation.  I don’t get it.

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Kuolemanlaakso Musta aurinko nousee EP (Svart)
Weird modern black metal with a pretty crappy vocalist.  Sadly, it’s just not as good a batch of releases passing my way this month…

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Lords of Ruin – Life is a War (indie/no label)
Speaking of which, there’s this indie EP release from some members of Drown and likeminded “industrial metal” by way of nu metal and aggro.  Totally not my scene, though I do know a few older coworkers (folks in their mid 50’s) who think they’re staying young by listening to bands like this.

This basic sound, alongside grunge, is the exact reason why I drifted away from metal completely throughout the 1990’s.  Hearing it again, or new variations thereof, is unlikely to endear me to the style and sound now…

If you’re into that sort of downtuned, depressing/angry growl/scream thing, check it out, you’ll probably dig it.  I can only speak for myself here, and call this one a loss.


Place Vendome- Thunder In The Distance (Frontiers)
Erstwhile Helloween frontman Michael Kiske is back with a new project, tapping more into the AOR vein.  Think Styx crossed with Saga but diffused through a heaping solution of Journey and you’ll get the general idea.  Nice guitar work on the solos, and Kiske even hits a few of his famed high notes (though it’s a bit toned down from the days of Keeper of the Seven Keys).

While Frontiers has put out albums I’ve enjoyed more (Fergie Frederiksen, Find Me, even Harem Scarem), this is strong stuff – I certainly liked it, and am glad to see a vocalist the quality of Kiske still very much alive and kicking, musically speaking.

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Malthusian – MMXIII (Invictus)
Some asthmatic guy takes a hoarse breath, and that’s what they choose to utilize to kick off the album…so you already know you’re in trouble.

It’s really slow and downtuned, eventually turning into a faster and more aggressive bottom feeder death metal vibe.  There’s a lot of reverb on the puked vocals, which makes this feel a bit like Zom.  I’ve heard a few too many bands like this over the years, not to mention of late, to walk away incredibly impressed by this.

Tune up the guitars a bit, and pull back from the reverb a mite – it’s just too noisy, and I love underground metal and punk, so that’s really saying something.  Goes nowhere, really.

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Necroven – Descent Into The Cryptic Chasm 7″  (Blood Harvest)
Ah, a genuinely spooky intro for a change!  Of course, it’s more Incantation style vox yet again (what the hell is it about this month?  Did all the John McEntee clones come out of the closet all of a sudden for Halloween?), but the band is a lot better than that, and better recorded.  The end result reminds one of a more black metallized Grave.  Not bad, particularly with the nigh-nonexistent competition this month…

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NOCTURNAL GRAVES – From the Bloodline of Cain (Hells Headbangers)
I wish I was Morbid Angel… well, OK, I’ll settle for Necrophobia… how about Grotesque?  No?  Well OK, close enough…

Very fast, tremolo guitar driven, with nasty Mike Browning style vocals and sloppy Slayeresque solos.  You can NOT tell one song from the next, don’t pretend different.  But all told, not bad for what they’re shooting for here.  If you’re in the mood for this sort of thing and don’t mind very little variation, it should fill the bill.

In the grand scheme of things, I’d have to admit I enjoyed it for what it was.  Don’t go in expecting miracles, and you might be surprised how good it is.

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Possession (Belgium) – His Best Deceit (Iron Bonehead)
The always eerie childrens choir over some guy screaming in an odd way, then it goes all black metal on your ass.  They so want to be Grotesque…

It’s got the right idea musically, but falls in an unsual middle ground between appropriately lo-fi (like Vlad Tepes, who they may also be trying to reach towards being) and proper clarity of production – it’s too “clean” for the former, but too hissy and shitty for the latter.

How you see this one really comes down to one simple question: just how badly did you want to pick up a few new black metal albums or EPs this month?

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Putrid Yell/Eaten Alive (Iron Bonehead)
Wow, talk about crap production!  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guitar tone sound this compressed and crunched…even the vocal sample in the intro is totally mp3’d into oblivion – think early videogaming, when they actually tried to talk?  You know, like Nintendo Dance Aerobics or something, that tiny, overdriven, nearly incomprehensible blather?  Yeah, that’s the production on Putrid Yell.

The band themselves aren’t all that bad, underneath all that…as a reference point, I guess think sub-Nihilist.

The cover is AWESOME.  Two of the shittiest drawn zombies ever, laying there rotting away – it makes Obituary’s Slowly We Rot look like a masterpiece worthy of hanging at the Louvre.  I loved it, great touch (seriously, I love that kind of low rent DIY thing).

Eaten Alive is really quiet – I guess the production’s a bit better, but it’s still rather hollow and thin.  I liked Putrid Yell a whole hell of a lot more, though – they stood out a bit from the crowd, which goes for a lot.  Eaten Alive is competent, and playing somewhat in the Death Breath ballpark (which is probably why they put these two bands together), but there’s just nothing there…it’s a bit boring.

If you’re up for a laugh and don’t mind hearing some piss poor production (or just want a really funny piece of artwork to laugh about with likeminded friends), pick this one up for Putrid Yell, you’ll probably enjoy it.

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Slussenanalys – Livets spindlar (Ektro)
Everybody’s favorite Finnish punk rockers are back with full force and effect on this two song single.  Interestingly enough, the guy running this project looks like a grizzled old homeless hobo, complete with long grey beard, but the music is pure youth angst and chaos – noisy, sloppy and aggressive without losing sight of proper harmonic structure.

In other words, it’s still music, unlike where a lot of younger acts seem to be taking things, particularly if they think they’re being “progressive” or what have you.  Hell, guys, even Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and Sun Ra understood how to cut a proper tune…learn the damn instrument before you try to get all funny with it…

But back to Slussenanalys – I guess the best comparison would be live Iggy Pop bootlegs from the late 70’s through mid 80’s – the kind of raw, energy suffused, sloppy yet still focused take on rock (or punk if you prefer) that gave birth to the equally excellent Guitar Wolf in the 90’s.

If you dug Aquila Helvetos Asfaltos, you’ll love this one as well.  Short but sweet.

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SORCERY – Unholy Creations  (Hells Headbangers)
Sorcery was always fourth tier among the echelons of Swedish death metal.  I had the brief EP Rivers of the Dead, and that was quite enough for me.

This is a collection of all their demos that preceded that EP, which doesn’t exactly raise my opinion of the band per se in regards to their status in that oft-hagiographied scene.  That being said, it is certainly a whole hell of a lot more interesting than I recall the arguably “more polished” version of the band being.

Croaking like Attila Csihar in the Tormentor days (but without the interesting if oddball variations and breakouts into pseudo-operatic tonalities the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas vocalist was prone to), vocalist Ola Malmstrom lends a gnarly Eastern European black metal feel to some fairly basic, heavily thrash influenced, near-blackened thrash era Sepultura metal miles away from the Sunlight Studios sound (or later Gothenburg variant) Swedish death metal bands were known for.

With odd keyboard style volume swell introductions, overly-close mic’ed nylon string acoustic bits that approach a mellow Zeppelin-like sound, hissy drums and a whole lot of home recorded, boom box radio feel on the overdriven, compressed guitar tone, 1987’s The Arrival demo is by far as good as the band gets – it’s all downhill from here, kids.  10 tracks of tape trading, mid to late 80’s goodness from start to finish.

The following year’s Ancient Creation, by contrast, is nearly unlistenable noise, with a lot more distortion lending a nasty hiss and blurring to the mix – despite a ton of extra reverb tacked on to the vocals in particular and more bassiness to the drums (where you can make them out in the messy mix), the speed picks up dramatically, and you can barely pick out what’s going on, even on the vocal end.  They were clearly playing way too loud for the recorder’s capacity here.  7 tracks of irritation.

1989’s Unholy Crusade is a huge improvement over Ancient Creation, but still manages to sound a whole lot shittier than The Arrival, despite an obvious studio based origin to the recording.  There’s a whole lot more separation to the instruments, and the band has slowed down to a more genre-standard midtempo crunch; there’s more vaguely James Murphy-influenced solos and vocals are easily comprehensible once again – but it’s still a step down from their ’87 masterwork.

Jump ahead to 1992 for the three song Maculated Life demo, and it’s a more familiar Sorcery, well into the accepted Swedish death metal modality, and about as bland and middle of the road as you probably recall them as being in relation to the better known and more deservingly feted members of that scene.  It’s not bad, but hardly on the level of Desultory’s Into Eternity or Gorement’s Ending Quest (or better yet, Darkness of the Dead), much less the various acts leading and relating to the Entombed/Dismember echelon.

There’s a bit more – a song left off of Ancient Creation, a middling rehearsal from 1989 and an awful one off from 1997, long after the band had ceased to record (and well before their more recent reunion), but you get the basic idea.

While there’s plenty to dig into here for the Sorcery fan, this was a good comp even for listeners like myself who never got why some quarters held the band in reasonably high regard over the years.  But regardless where you stand, I do recommend looking into Unholy Creations, because it gives a much better picture of what the band is capable of at its best, with enough of a “warts and all” approach to similarly show them at what’s quite likely their worst.

My final take?  Get this one for The Arrival, which is seriously the best material Sorcery ever recorded.  If you were around for the glory days of metal and a fan of the underground when it was jam packed with interesting bands who really didn’t sound like anyone else at the time, this is Sorcery’s shot at the brass ring.

Even if you can’t stand the more “mature” experimentation and leanings towards Swedish death metal per se that comprise the rest of the offerings on this comp, the earliest material here is quite unique and well worth pursuing – you really won’t regret taking a listen.

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Sound and Fury – Pulsacion (Ektro)
Weird, vaguely fusionesque electrified free jazz.  If you were really hip on Miles Davis’ earlier experiments in this direction (which I really didn’t care for even as a huge Miles fan and big fusion head – I probably know every note of the Frank Zappa, Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Al DiMeola and quartet incarnation of Return to Forever catalogue by heart), you may have a taste for this.  Certainly if you were big on Ornette Coleman, but even Roland Kirk, late period Coltrane and Eric Dolphy had more of a melodic and harmonic base for their explorations, so this is reasonably far afield.

There’s enough of a horn section pulling together to establish  themes now and again to suggest not only Coleman but Sun Ra, but far less of the latter’s “big band” basis and approach – it’s a lot more “free” than “jazz” in that sense.

As noted, I love jazz fusion, at least when done right, and find it to be one of the highest (if not the highest) expressions of the musical art form – demanding not only a good understanding of one’s instrument and basic musical structure as an underpinning, but the ability to improvise and shoot from the hip in a very present and palpable sense.  Given that, it’s hard to knock anyone for following their muse wherever it may take them, particularly if they aren’t merely copycatting whatever band or trend is “hip” or “selling” at the moment.

But this one’s a bit too loose and noisy for my tastes – melodic lines, such as they are, prove far too scattered and distant from any temporarily established tonal center to justify in all but the most abstract sense.  Sonic Youth is positively tonal by comparison (and yes, I’m a huge fan of those guys as well, particularly in the pre-Dirty era).

All depends on how far reaching and expansive your personal musical tastes lie, really…

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Tombstoned – S/T (Svart)
Oy, another Sabbath clone doom metal act.  They do it very well, thank you very much – if you were dying for yet another in what’s becoming an extremely well worn trail of followers of that particular band and sound, then hop on the electric caravan and check this one out.

I’ve always found that guitarists with a taste for heavy rock and metal start out with Sabbath…and move the hell on as they progress on the instrument and tastes mature a bit.  These guys (and dozens of others like them) apparently never left that early cradle, and like those obvious nigh-tweens still getting pushed around in baby carts you always seem to see in trashier chain stores these days, seem to prefer sticking to the Ur-template to branching off and becoming something a bit more (like, say, Blood Ceremony did with their recent and quite excellent The Eldritch Dark).

The bottom line?  More Sabbath than Sabbath has been in decades.  Very recommended for those who eat and breathe the first four Iommi/Butler/Ward/Osbourne releases, as Tombstoned obviously has done.


ZOM Demo MMXI LP (Invictus)
A sea change of sorts from the recent Multiversal Holocaust, MMXI finds the band retaining the noise base and slap echo enhanced, over-reverbed vocals of the former while adhering to a far more listenable and standard speed/death approach.

The guitars (and to a lesser extent, drums) are far more present in the mix, with the vocals, cymbal noise and overdriven hiss more of a side effect and underpinning to the sound than its raison d’etre.  There’s also a lot less vocals, period, allowing the band to breathe and express itself a whole lot more than last time around.

At points, it’s almost The Horror era Tribulation in feel  – Zom is hardly breaking any new ground here, but it’s quite different from their last go-round.  A definite improvement.