Abigorum and Cryostasium - Unholy Ghost Liturgy, Abysmal Growls Of Despair - Worst Putrid Tongue, Aeonless, Aornos - Mors Sola, Athos - Noht Lerapot, Balance Interruption - Door 218, Barbarian Swords - Worms, Brain Damaged - Nacion Infecta, Celestial Crown - Rebirth, Conceived By Hate - Death & Beyond, Culto Negro - Abismal Speed Metal, Dig Me No Grave - From Past Aeons, Амезарак - Non Lucidum Tristitia, Велиар - Сквозь Века, Gravespawn - Inexorable Grimness, Hordes Of The Apocalypse - Now They Are Everywhere! There Is No Escape!, Satan's War Machine - Violent Death Abomination, Satanath Records (Russia), Satarial - Blessed Brigit, Sectasys - Brotherhood Of Chaos, SevenSins - Due Diaboli Et Apocalypse, Sin Of God - Aenigmata, Symbol of Domination, Taiga - Sky, third eye cinema podcast, Veldraveth - Malformations Of God, Vomit Of Doom - Magnus Cruelty, Wolf's Hunger - Bež’te živi vraćaju se mrtvi
Third Eye regulars are no doubt well familiar with Russia’s estimable Satanath Records from our monthly music roundups. In fact, just this past month, we gave a deservedly positive review of a band that out-Arch Enemied the post-Angela Gossow Arch Enemy (Nordwitch – check ’em out, if you’re into that particular vein of femme-fronted melodeath, you’ll love ’em).
So it may be no surprise that the label has once again opened the vaults of recent releases (and those of their related sub-label Symbol of Domination) for another go.
Will this round be as good as the last time around?
If the promo photos are anything to go by, yours truly’s hopes are high…so let’s dive in and see what’s in the Samhain goodie bag this time, shall we?
First up, we take on Satanath Records. This is the equivalent of the major leagues, in terms of the two, and based on past experience of the label, it shows – stronger material, more polished acts. Did we mention it’s more particularly inclined towards black metal?
So let’s see what they have for us this time. We kick things off with…
Sectasys – Brotherhood Of Chaos (September 19)
After a well produced intro of chanting and such, the sound goes all to shit. Thin, trebly to the point of annoying guitar tones (think a Telecaster using overdrive more than solid state distortion or thick Gibson-style humbucking tones), iffy drum production (the double bass and tom rolls sound like someone hitting empty pie tins in the rain SWISH ISH SHISH ISH ISH at blastbeat/death metal footwork speed)…there are overtones to the sound that make it clear this was recorded in studio, but the mix and choice of sonic pallette is simply atrocious.
The only guy who comes off sounding halfway good here is the vocalist. Reminds me of old Christian metal from the 80’s in that respect…just flip “I am the dark god” to “I am the creator God” and yep. Same thing.
OK, I’m cracking just a bit wise. But seriously, it’s the exact same flaw in production/mix (though the guitar and drums never sounded this crap!)
The vagaries of sonics aside (and admittedly, you have to overlook elephants in the room more often than not when it comes to black metal), these guys aren’t half bad. I guess if you think a bit Marduk, but with the more generic sound of bands like Tsjuder and a bit more to their credit than a strict adherence to “Norsecore”, you might get something simlar to what these Venezuelans are throwing down here.
In other words, I can’t claim to have been overly excited by this one…particularly given the annoying tones and screwed up production (is it overly produced and clean? Is it entirely underproduced and hissy/noisy/ear-grating? Was some asshole really, really drunk when mixing this down?)…
…but I can also see it as closer to the “thank God (or insert relevant infernal deity here) it’s not another one of those shit ‘occult black metal’ Swe-blackened death jobs” than far too many of the competiton.
Worth a listen if you’re into the late 90’s Swedish/Norwegian sound. Despite the flawed production, it definitely has its merits.
In fact, I kinda liked it.
SevenSins – Due Diaboli Et Apocalypse (September 20)
Arabian overtones and heavy use of keyboards. Someone really likes Nile…
But wait! There’s more! Now they go all symphonic power metal, albeit with snarly pagan/black metal vox! Then they tag in oddly dramatic soprano vocal bits!
We’ll even throw in this set of ginsu knives, absolutely free! Now how much would you pay?
Seriously, though, these guys are blending elements of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu with those of Nile and (really weirdly) those of bands like Edenbridge, Orden Ogan and Rhapsody (of Fire)…even tagging in the more pagan/Viking flourishes of bands like Leaves Eyes along the way.
I don’t get it, to tell the truth. I like my black metal old school, raw and uncompromising as a rule, my death metal in the classic Morrisound/Sunlight vein…and my bombastic, symphonically oriented power metal to be uplifting, with soaring nigh-operatic (generally male tenor) vox.
SevenSins, whether to their credit or detriment, jumble up the mix, taking the leg bone and connecting it to the arm bone and putting the skull where the foot should be.
Folks pining for the heyday of Dimmu (I won’t say Cradle, because I have an ongoing and abiding affection for their first few albums, and the feel here is very, very different from their oblique Decadent-toned gothicism) who also spend an inordinate amount of time in the pagan/Viking and power metal arenas and kinda have a thing for Nile may be quite pleasantly surprised.
PS, the production is pretty damn strong, in case you were wondering…but given the bands and genre elements they’re drawing from, was that even in question?
Sin Of God – Aenigmata (September 23)
A very modern death metal. The drummer has an unfortunate propensity towards a stiff armed, four on the floor-style variant of the blastbeat…despite displaying some excellent death metal-style double bass footwork and the occasional speedy tom roll or two.
TAP.TAP.TAP.TAP. It’s not even the TAPATAPATAPATAP you’d expect…this guy’s going to give himself tendinitis for sure.
That noted, the drum production is quite excellent and he’s definitely front and center, particularly when it comes to the footwork he excels at.
You’ve probably noticed I haven’t said much about the guitars. That’s because they’re pretty generic: detuned, growling, trying to be “technical”…sorta zzzzzz. I guess if you were looking for Disincarnate-lite but without a James Murphy to keep things interesting, you’d get riffs like this. But hey, people seem to love this stuff, don’t ask me.
Vocals are similarly appropriate for the sound they’re shooting for…but like I said in the discussion of SevenSins, my idea of death metal is much older school, more informed by the 80’s underground and thrash metal that preceded it. What great bands of recent vintage have bands nowadays been weaned on?
Yeah, that probably explains it all.
Other than the guitars being buried beneath both the vocals and drums, the production’s pretty strong (if very obviously ProTools) and the musicianship is certainly up to snuff and quite “professional” sounding…
…just lacks the soul to give it (black, leathery) wings.
Balance Interruption – Door 218 (September 28)
Weird mix of the more symphonic/overproduced vein of black metal (sort of the Dimmu school, though not slavishly so), Primus (check out the weird fills on “last sunset without sun” and electronic/industrial crap ala Atari Teenage Riot (check out that CD stutter that kicks off the album…sheesh!).
Then they bring in “you belong to the city” saxophone…and I mean the crappy plastic soprano sax used by folks like Ornette Coleman and Roland Kirk, mind…toss in a few bass to the front lines ala the aforementioned M. Claypool and a wheedly-whoo guitar solo or two (“oh, Dream Theater, I love those guys!”), rinse, repeat.
It’s quirky as hell, but not as outright fucking annoying as stuff like the Von Deer Skulls – you could listen to this for a bit without running to shut that shit off already!!!! as with other bands of this ilk.
Not exactly The Residents go black metal, but not a million miles removed from that, either.
Still not my cup o’ joe.
Abigorum (Russia) and Cryostasium (USA) – Unholy Ghost Liturgy (September 29)
Vaguely ambient noise with (aimless) musical accompaniment. Often lurches straight into black metal territory on the guitar/drums end, but never feels anything like black metal or the strong attention to atmospherics above all else that defines the genre.
In fact, it felt like the intro to Celtic Frost’s “into crypts of rays” for 20 tracks…but not as inherently amusing and entertaining as that suggests.
I’m surprised this wasn’t a Wraith Productions release, honestly.
Barbarian Swords – Worms (November 11)
Pantera goes all black metal!
Well, no, not really. But there’s a strong scent of aggro to the overdriven hiss-screamed vox that brings that feel to the forefront…
The guitars are…strange. There are moments where they slow things down to a Candlemass pace (“total nihilism”, “the last virgin…”, “requiem”), but then they start working a speedy modern death metal thing…or lurch towards the Watainish end of “occult black metal” sonically.
So do you want to be a doom band? Or an overly polished, melodically-challenged modern death metal act? Or yet another in the “pile of dead bards” that is the Watain zombie? And what the hell is with those vocals?
Honestly not sure what to make of these guys…and given the all over the place vibe on display herein, I’m not sure they do, either.
Next up, we tackle Symbol of Domination. This seems, again speaking in terms of impressions here, to be the farm team, where new and less established (or polished) acts hone their skills and get a platform to share their material at the same time. As a rule, the label tends to lean more death than black metal, but that’s by no means a hard and fast rule…as you’re about to discover. Read on…
And in the lead out of the gate, we have:
Conceived By Hate – Death & Beyond (November 13)
Now this is more like it. Still leaning very much towards the modern end of death metal (with strong thrash elements), the overall feel you take away from these El Salvadorians is “melodeath”.
And that ain’t exactly a bad thing.
Decent solos, good production, respectable death metallish vox…the only thing I didn’t really like was the drummer’s insistence on sticking to a fast two-beat (BASS-SNARE BASS-SNARE BASS-SNARE) throughout. It’s not as annoying as the blastbeat (or worse, the four on the floor tendinitis beckoning stiff arm approach of Sin of God), but the guy can obviously do much better (and does, on tracks like “we choose who suffers”).
Now, when I hear “death/thrash”, I think semi-unfortunate comparisons like Solstice (good band, shit vocalist), Demolition Hammer (ditto) or Morbid Saint (ditto)…and Conceived by Hate ain’t that. The band plays a slower, more midtempo death feel, but with enough of a trad cum thrash feel to notice that something’s a bit non-template, and the vox ain’t nowhere NEAR as irritating as any of the three aforementioned “crossover” acts. In fact, they’re perfectly acceptable for the style.
Not much else to say about this, except to expect occasional keyboard accompaniment (that was a bit strange, but it fit…) and an encouragement to give ’em a spin…you may well dig it.
Велиар – Сквозь Века (September 15)
Strong death/black offering in the best sense of the term.
Keyboard bits bring a sense of actual majesty and gravitas, production is strong if a tad “dry”, the guitars are busy with memorable riffs and melodies and there are sorta chanted, Viking/pagan-style vocal accompaniments at the choruses that bring a strong feel of “the motherland” to their efforts.
If you take them as Russian pagan metal, then pull things like taffy more firmly into the (modern) death metal arena, complete with hyperspeed footwork and fancy syncopated fills on the drum end and tremelo-oriented, sorta “technical” lines that mysteriously manage to retain some sense of melody and individuality…who ever heard of such a thing? Cough.
This album comes off as more of an indictment of the failings of modern, “technical” death metal and all its generic, wholly forgettable atonality than anything else…because they prove you can have your cake and eat it too.
Still not exactly inside my wheelhouse when it comes to either death or pagan metal, but pretty damn good, especially by comparison to far too many post-1994 “death metal” bands.
Satarial – Blessed Brigit (January 9)
To judge by the album and song titles and their stated “folk/black metal” orientation, you’d think Satarial would be the modern variant of Sabbat (or perhaps the subsequent Skyclad). But not really.
The female chanting in tracks like “manifest of paganism” and “chaos” felt quite Tulus to me (think “sosteren av natten” in particular), and there is a decided attempt to merge folk instrumentation and melodies with the more bombastic pagan/death metal sound of the band otherwise (sorry, black metal isn’t even on the table here…), but…it’s arguable.
There are certainly elements of worth here, and I applaud their quirky attempts to bridge the expanse separating trad folk of the region and a more modern, somewhat OTT pagan/death metal sound.
Interesting, and well worth a listen for fans of Martin Walkyrier and company to see if it grabs ya.
Wolf’s Hunger – Bež’te živi vraćaju se mrtvi (September 9)
At first, this comes off as still more modern black metal playing in a similar ballpark to bands like Marduk, Tsjuder or even 1349, but without the intense devotion to “Norsecore” that may imply.
Strong production, a chugging midtempo-to-fast approach alternating between tremelo lines and thick death metallish chordal construction…at times it even sounds kinda Witchtraplike (“gvozdeni puk”, “vostani Serbie”, “lesinari”)…and therefore you could say it even leans a bit thrash. More than a little, in fact.
They even go a bit pagan metal at points (“Rusja” could easily have been an Arkona track…the Russian Arkona, not the Polish one).
Then they close out on a nod to everyone’s favorite Pokemon Go monster (“Eggxecutor”…or as it comes out in Serbian, “Egzekuto”). I love that guy. Just don’t get how a batch of pissed off, broken eggs turns into a coconut tree with psychic powers. Go figure.
Now someone has to do a song about Gastly and Gengar. Or Koffing! Yeah, that’s a good one. I could name off quite a few bands who’re just blowing smoke outta their ass…
Maybe a lighter, fluffier power metal band could do one about the Oddish…
Not bad at’all.
Abysmal Growls Of Despair – Worst Putrid Tongue (September 13)
Funeral doom. Not melodically inclined, progressive leaning funeral doom ala Ahab…but the “real deal”.
Absurdly slow, Black Sabbath played at 15 speed on those old record players from back in the day (remember when they ranged from half speed to 78?), bottom of the bowels belch-growls and detuned to the point of rattling guitars.
On the one hand, I appreciate the general sound being evoked here – certainly enjoyed Ahab’s four platters of goodness – but on the flipside, without any variation, it feels kinda pointless.
If this was an excruciatingly slow section that gave way to a more midtempo one (or even, just to be funny, a blazingly fast one), this would be fucking awesome…but as it is, it’s just kinda aimlessly lumbering.
Not bad for the type, but nothing to get excited about.
Hordes Of The Apocalypse – Now They Are Everywhere! There
Is No Escape! (September 14)
Discharge meets GBH-simplistic riffing, terrible vocal and drum production, and breakdowns into abject noise.
When the guitars are actually chugging along at high speed and doing little escalating arpeggiated fills, your hopes raise dramatically – will this turn into a proper thrash effort, marred only by buried, tinny/hissy drums and an even deeper buried, aggro vocal?
So production and simplicity aside, let’s get to the main sticking point here.
That’s right. We’re talking vocals.
Seriously, this is something else. In point of fact, the vocals are unbelievably bad, shifting from Anselmo worship (“the last fertile…”) to a Suffocationesque death metal orientation (“into the nightmare”) to a more snarling/annoying one ala Hammercult, then goes into full-on pig squealing (“steve da king”) before settling into a croaking biker band-USBM one (“nihilistic nirvana”). And it keeps changing from track to track, none of which are any good.
I have no fucking idea what they were thinking here.
You can walk away from this with the impression that these guys really dig old thrash…but didn’t have the skills to give more than the most basic, crust punk take on that. But that’s OK, really.
The real problem here? Is that they want to be chameleons of (underground) metal vocally…but fall flat on their ass in the attempt.
Taiga – Sky (September 16)
Another band working in the Sepulchral/Quebecois/Vardan vein of introspective, moody black metal.
The band per se achieve their goals well enough, though they could stand to get themselves a much cleaner and more improved production, which would improve their sound and match said approach astronomically. That aside, no real complaints on that end.
Unfortunately, this is yet another of those bands in black metal who adopt this ridiculous screechy yodeling-as-vocals trope that’s becoming increasingly common of late.
King Diamond at his most obnoxious by way of Fleurety and filtered through your local midwestern farm/Swiss yodeling competition winner.
The band’s pretty good otherwise.
Ditch that fucking vocalist, ASAP.
Aeonless – S/T (September 17)
Wow, this is the most badly compressed album I’ve run across in ages. Was this a really dicey internet download or something? Sheesh…
So outside of the howling, uber-thin vortex of sound this presents the listener with (try listening to your neighbors apartment wall through a drinking glass or playing telephone through a solo cup or empty toilet paper roll, it’ll give the same effect…), what do these guys have to offer?
Well, their sound is kind of jaunty, with an oddly Eastern European lilt. There’s that Finnish orientation towards folk melodicism in the guitar lines, but many if not all of the songs here kind of sound the same – it’s hard to tell that you’ve passed from track to track.
There’s a bit of a Sabaton meets Turisas feel (toward which the comment about their jauntiness alludes), and taken in small doses, Aeonless is even quite likeable. I guess if they wound up on one of those magazine sampler CDs, you’d gravitate back to play their track a few times before tossing the disc into the collection pile.
The problem is, this is a full album’s worth of songs that really fail to distinguish themselves from one to the next. Jaunty, volkischer, melodic and somewhat uplifting songs, to be sure…but one sounds much the same as the next (or the five that preceded it).
Worth a listen, see if it grabs ya.
I’m looking at you, Sabaton fans.
Athos – Noht Lerapot (September 18)
Greek one man black metal act. The drumming is appropriately horrific, alternating between slow, off-meter POUND POUND POUND crap and faster bits that fall entirely outside the tempo of the song.
And you kids made fun of Immortal back in the Battles in the North days? Please.
Otherwise, fairly standard black metal of a given type…strangely, not what I’d expect from Greece, who vary between the superior Rotting Christ school of neo-traditional syncretism and the subpar “occult black metal” Watainism of far too many bands of Grecian origin slagged in these pages over the years.
Instead, this is more…I don’t know how to peg it exactly. Generic is the word that comes to mind.
There is a fairly strong melodic orientation to the tremelo guitar lines, but it’s hardly Finnish sounding, nor is it akin to Norwegian acts like Gorgoroth or Ulver in that respect. The vocals sound more like puking than the usual black metal snarl, at least when not going all declamatory (as in “samset hats sitop aasem”), and the issue with the drums has already been addressed*…so what else is to be said?
* though admittedly, when things slow down to a rock tempo as on the interminably lengthily titled “noht lerapot siesk atiok aniep erpaieht analog ilanit siervan ag whew will this fucking title ever end,” he’s able to pull off the sticksman thing competently enough.
It’s not bad, occasionally pronounced drumming fails and strangely generic feel aside, and I did like the melodic line-driven guitar work.
Celestial Crown – Rebirth (September 21)
Now THAT’s interesting…wasn’t expecting to encounter a gothic metal band on the label.
Admittedly, this is in the older sense of the word, when bands like Therion and earlier Tristania/Sirenia ruled the roost with their more death metallized orientation and focus on male shout/growl vox…but Viktoria Seimar’s sweet soprano turns nearly make all the boring parts worth waiting through.
Yep, I’m giving a bit of backhanded advice there. Cough.
That said, Dennis Volynkin can and does drop a few clean, gothic-style vocal phrases into the mix every now and again, and those work pretty well…and in all honesty? Even the growly bits aren’t terribly offensive, at least by comparison with some I’ve heard. Then again, I’ve heard more than the average bear, so realize I’m probably grading on far more of a curve than you will, dear reader…
The band themselves? No issues whatsoever – it’s fairly typical, if less symphonic than usual for the genre. There’s plenty of melodic orientation, and at times it feels a tad Moonspell circa Irreligious, at least when Volynkin’s doing his clean baritone thang.
I was good with it, especially when Siemar went all Sarah Jezebel Deva on “consumed by fire”…gorgeous.
Decide for yourself, give ’em a spin and see if it sticks.
Veldraveth – Malformations Of God (September 22)
Seriously generic “black metal” with a decidedly in your face, wholly non-atmospheric, non-sinister approach, a generally “Norsecore” feel and production (albeit minus the devotion to intense speed) and very death metal vocals.
So should we call this (sorta) “blackened death” instead?
So, so off-brand.
Remember MSB, the white box label, plain boldface text cheapo alternative to all your favorite foodstuffs back in the day? “Money Saving Brand,” the most generic of generics.
Consider Veldraveth the MSB of (sorta) black metal.
Aornos – Mors Sola (September 24)
Snarling, sinister-sounding vocals? Check.
Tremelo riff-inclined guitars? Check.
Terrible, all treble, no bass production? Check.
Dimmu meets Ancient-style keyboards? Check.
The vibe of late 90’s, post-second wave, strangely “populist” black metal crossed with elements of the extremely overplayed Swedish school of “occult black metal”.
Yawn and stretch.
Brain Damaged – Nación Infecta (September 25)
Pretty intense take on thrash metal. Production’s not very good, but the riffing is fairly Witchtrap (Colombia)-like.
Can you tell it’s South American blackened thrash?
Can you tell it’s from Colombia?
Good by me, mis amigos…
Oddly, they actually cover Ray Charles’ “mess around” (altering the lyrics slightly to “thrash around” and exhorting fans to “bang your head” in the process). Even more amusingly…it works.
Sure, it ain’t perfect. But this sort of thing, the basic sound they’re working off here? Is why people love South American blackthrash, folks.
Love the Decadent-style cover as well…
I’m giving ’em a fairly uncontested horns up.
Dig Me No Grave – From Past Aeons [re-release] (September 26)
Surprisingly, this is a reissue of a demo.
I say surprisingly, because aside from some rawness and trebly edge/light signal bleed on the high end? This is pretty well produced and crunchy sounding. It’s also a pretty polished performance…
Expect wet sounding gargle-growls somewhat in the vein of Suffocation (but not quite – he’s not swallowing the mic, it’s not as hollow or “brutal” in tone) or perhaps even Mortician (who they dedicate a song to, apparently) and a fairly relentless (if a bit thin sounding on the single note lines) riffing backed by some fairly in your face drum production.
I’m not always happy with the drumming (snare patterns tend towards being far too simplistic and slow blastbeat driven) and they seem to be reaching for more of a “prog/tech death” thing than they’re capable of, but it’s not a bad sound at all, at least at the time this demo was recorded (can’t speak to where they may have progressed since).
Satan’s War Machine – Violent Death Abomination (September 27)
South American-style blackened thrash, straight outta the Ukraine.
Think Sarcofago drumming alternating with power metal-style typewriter double bass, a whole hell of a lot of signal bleed on the overly distorted guitars, thrashy, dirty-sounding riffing and snarl-puke vox. It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to take a shower during, never mind afterwards.
Well? With a name like “Satan’s War Machine”, were you expecting subtlety?
One more thing: every song pretty much sounds the same as the rest. Sometimes that can be a plus…sometimes a real detriment. Just keep that in mind, because you’ll find pretty much zero variation from track to track here.
Myself, I kinda liked it in the same sense as I do most Hell’s Headbangers releases – not the sort of thing I’d run out to grab or replay more than once, maybe twice…but certainly listenable and working a certain grungy retro aesthetic.
Vomit Of Doom – Magnus Cruelty [ep] (October 13)
Very dry but clear and powerful production here. If you’re big on vinyl, consider this a brand new record in terms of mastering.
There’s that sort of mix of heft and clarity that can also be described, equally accurately, as a bit too mids-heavy and hissy. It’s no crystalline CD remaster, that’s for damn sure!
The vocals are a bit OTT, with too much GUAHHHHH puke-yelling overlaid with way too much reverb. It more or less buries the guitars, particularly with the sloppy, noisy, utterly crazed drumming here.
Once again, pretty much every track sounds alike*, and it’s all fast, sorta gnarly South American blackthrash, this time from Argentina, home of both Emilio Vieyera and Isabel Sarli. That should mean something, but probably doesn’t. But what the hell, they both made some hilariously entertaining movies!
* exception: the Slayeresque “pest of tomorrow”, which is by far the band’s best foot forward.
Амезарак – Non Lucidum Tristitia (October 14)
Finnish sounding black metal from Russia. It has that evil yet melodic feel with painful snarly-hiss vocals you find with Satanic Warmaster…or even, heading over to Norway, Gorgoroth in the Hat and Pest era.
Where these guys go wrong is in their insistence on slowing things down too often – the faster material is what gives the aforementioned impression.
Unfortunately, they seem to prefer a more lumbering, Clandestine Blazelike approach – which can work as well (as on track 6), but tends to just come off quite flat (as on tracks 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8).
If they kept to the speedy stuff (like tracks 1 and 3) or the majestic depressiveness of track 6, this would be a 5 star, horns way the fuck up review.
As it is, just know there’s a lot of promise here…but a sadly unfulfilled one.
Let’s stick to a very direct “success vs. failure” motif and grade Non Lucidum Tristisa 3 out of 8 (or literally, tracks that work vs. those that don’t).
Even so, don’t consider this a slag by any means. I’m just waiting for that promise to come to fruition.
Culto Negro – Abismal Speed Metal [ep] (October 15)
More South American blackthrash in the Hell’s Headbangers vein, this time hailing from Costa Rica.
This one bears a similar production style to that of Vomit of Doom, albeit with less hissiness or signal bleed. In other words, a clear, very dry mix that seems more suited to vinyl than CD, but a few steps up from the aforementioned band’s latest.
The band themselves also acquit themselves far better than their Argentinian peers, with a damn sight more variation from track to track, old school Brazilian blackthrash-style riffs galore, hyperspeed but never out of control drumming, a thick (if often a bit too atonally inclined in the clinches) guitar tone and black metallish vocals that would fit perfectly if there were less reverb and/or doubling utilized.
In other words, when it’s a single voice without a hell of a lot of digital processing, it works. Too bad they chose to get cute with it.
Loved the riffing, which was evocative of everything from Witchtrap (Col) and early Slayer (naturally) to Holocausto and early Sepultura…possibly with a touch of Mutilator to boot (!) And how the hell often do you hear those guys referenced?
Keep the vox a bit less fast and loose, amigos. You don’t need all that fancy-ass processing, reverb and slap echo, it’s only hurting ya.
On the whole, horns way the fuck up.
Gravespawn – Inexorable Grimness (November 21)
- A strange mix of vocals that say Graveland or Grand Belial’s Key,
- pagan folk,
- keyboard-driven schmutters,
- power metal-style typewriter drums (but with blastbeats appended thereto),
- an undertone of good production allowed to get hissy and earache inducing on the vox and treble end of the guitars and cymbals,
- and guitars that can’t decide if they want to be bombastically pagan (“scribes of forsaken lore”, “the old dragon’s domain”), straightforwardly Marduklike (the fast sections in “oath of the annihilator” and “thy gates ablaze”), annoyingly “occult black metal” in their ringing open string atonality (“between the devouring monstrosities” minus the one driving riff that actually works) or pushing into emo-ish “dark metal”/”post black metal” territory (the slow sections in “oath of the annihilator”).
Yeah, I know.
Say what the fuck?
I don’t even know how to rate this one, honestly – these guys are all over the map stylistically, wearing their influences on their sleeve to the point where you start to doubt there’s anything even inside said sleeve.
To put it another way: this one’s so syncretistically copycattish, is there a band proper to be found beneath all the nigh-cover band style swipes?
You may dig it, who knows.
Not like it was terrible or anything…I’m just not hearing anything original or uniquely identifiable as “the Gravespawn style” in this.
So was it just me, or did things sorta flip this time around?
I mean, I walked in expecting the Satanath label stuff to once again trump the S.O.D. offerings…and while there were pluses and minuses to each label’s releases here, the case may well have been the reverse!
Either way, hats off to the label(s) in question for so many interesting signings…and the bands themselves for their efforts where applicable. You already know who the worthies among you are.
Finally, we close things out with some offerings from the Satanath distro. These don’t belong to either of the aforementioned labels, but from other, smaller ones available through the storefront…
Bonecracker – Пороки (Wings Of Destruction, Darzamadicus Records, Metal Race)
Crunchy modern thrash, with that sorta (modern) death metallized feel and overly processed, ProTools sound.
They really like that wah pedal set to pull the harmonics, but it’s hardly Loudnes, Obsession or Randy Rhoads we’re talking here – the tone’s way too thick and fake-sounding. Think more Dragonforce…
The vocalist likes to alternate between the millenial propensity towards shout-yelling (think anything from what passes for “punk” these days to metalcore to emo to aggro, but with a whole hell of a lot less screamo-shrieko bullshit…this is actually sorta listenable, if obviously overly pissed off and sorta teenaged) and clean declamatory business. The latter obviously works better, but neither one’s likely to turn you away holding your ears in disgust, let’s put it that way.
There’s a lot of melodicism on display…I’m tempted to coin the phrase “melothrash” to describe ’em.
It’s not what I’d call thrash – this ain’t the Bay Area, Teutonic or Brazilian schools, and there’s absolutely nothing 80’s about it.
But is it melodic, riff-heavy and quite listenable, with a fittingly strong (if overly computerized) production to boot?
Burning Butthairs – Dirty Sanchez (RTM Productions)
With that cover, band name and song titles, are you surprised it’s kinda grindcore?
The only real surprise here is that it’s not entirely or template grindcore, with an unusual propensity to slow things down and work a more properly, if quite basic, death metal thing instead.
As such, I won’t slag it too hard – at least they seem to be leaning towards the right direction musically speaking.
But still pretty questionable.
Daat – There Are None So Blind As Those That Will Not See [ep] (Heretic Records)
Beneath a cover pleasantly evocative of both Seance and Master’s Hammer lies yet another in the endlessly proliferating “pile of dead Bards” that is Swedish-origin “occult black metal”…more commonly referred to as the Watain zombie.
Another one for the pile…
Defiance Of Decease – Suicide (Narcoleptica Prod.)
The more modern, overproduced and mournful variant of doom metal with death metal elements (mostly on the vocal end).
As you might expect, zero complaints on either the performance or production end…just kind of unspectacular and yes, narcoleptic.
Lush ambient business gives way to a midtempo gothic metal-style track, but with snarly-growl black metal vocals.
Next track, they go more particularly black metal, complete with fast tremelo riffs…but the vocals still don’t seem to fit. Too overproduced, too…off. Then in the middle of the very same song, they flip and get all pagan metal…with strong emo overtones in the melody lines on the guitar at the close.
Next track, they’re working an odd sorta thrash riff…oh, wait, that just gave way to a sorta gothic metal thing again…next track, it’s somewhere between pagan and goth-symphonic…now a piano instrumental…now a mournful guitar instrumental…now piano and guitar together…now guitar again, but a bit more distorted and awake sounding, eventually getting a vocal near the end of the track (yes, this is four separate tracks we’re talking here). Now another instrumental, guitar and piano. Three more “regular” tracks, then back to the ambient stuff.
OK, so remind me again.
Exactly how is this supposed to be black metal?
Can’t get more hipster and “post black metal” than this.
Encrypted – Drifting To The Impaled [re-release] (Lord Of The Sick Recordings)
Incredibly simplistic, nigh-grindcore level “brutal death metal”. A lot of stutter stopping and belch vox, but don’t you dare think Suffocation…this is about as “technical” as your 90 year old grandma who’s still trying to figure out her AOL email off a 256K dial up. In 2016.
I keep seeing Beavis and Butthead getting into this one.
DUN-DUN DUUHHHHHNNN!! DUN-DUN-Dun-DUUUUHHHHHHNNNN!!!!!!!
Exterminio – Homicide In First Degree [re-release] (RTM Productions, Grindhouse Music)
Now these guys really wish they were Suffocation. The riffs and drumming just aren’t up to it, though. Especially not the riffs, which are kind of midtempo and lumbering, despite the swallow the mic vox and speedy stutter beat drumming…
Stick to the three Scott Burns-produced albums instead.
Oh, wait. You mean this wasn’t Suffocation with a middling-skilled substitute guitarist?
Hair Balls – Atomic Cucumber [re-release] (Dark Front / Zombie Records)
Crossover thrash, more or less. If you were really big on DRI in particular (and stuff like Agnostic Front or early Cro-Mags to a lesser degree)…possibly with a touch of Nuclear Assault…these guys may be for you.
Thick, meaty guitar tone, punk-style thrash riffing and shout/shriek vocals that seem to be shooting for something between Joey Belladonna and Phil Anselmo, but wind up sounding Kurt Brecht by way of John Connelly.
Not bad at all, really…just not especially exciting, either.
Morass Skoffin - Blindfold [ep] (Rebirth The Metal Productions / Goressimo Records)
You know how Exhorder, at least in their Slaughter in the Vatican days, was thrash leaning aggro?
Yeah, well these guys are very clearly aggro leaning death metal.
Dimebag does death!
I know, that sounds wrong, considering…but you get the idea of what to expect here.
Onkel Hryum – Ragnaroll (self-release)
With that great cover, you just know we’re getting into Finntroll territory.
But before you start doing that hummppa jig thing and yelling “trollhammeren!”, hold up…because while this is pretty obviously “troll metal”, there’s a lot less lilt and excitement to the feel being evoked here.
Too silly (with the vocals) to be “pagan metal”, too heavy, angry and metallized to be (as the band would have it) “folk metal”, too subdued and 4/4 to be the fun “trollish” experience of either Finntroll or Trollfest…I don’t know.
The guitars and bass seem a bit too bouncy and have too much “snap”, which says more Primus or nu-metal than what we consider metal proper (then or now), the folk elements are very present, but feel…subdued.
It’s hard to describe just why this fails where so many similar minded acts succeed, but it’s all down to feel in the end. It just doesn’t come off very anthemic, very drunken and silly…it’s kinda “serious” and “straightforward” in feel where it should be quite the opposite…and yet, there’s those goofy-ass vocals to contend with, leaving even the most po-faced listener with a decidedly cocked eyebrow, looking at this entire thing somewhat askance.
Rajam – The Jackals Regiment (Ludah Production)
Terrible vocals, awful production.
They do throw a lot of melody lines and a very thrash/death riffing orientation down on the guitar end, which works quite well…if you didn’t have to contend with the thin, tinny production, whining guitar tone and signal bleed style scream-vomit into the mic vocals at the same time.
They’re from Indonesia, and I remember seeing some bands from that region in the Global Metal documentary…they were similarly annoying in sound, so this may be the “Indonesian sound”.
If so, that’s why nobody talks “Indonesian metal”…
Scolopendra Cingulata – Kuoltuu Kaikin Kohetah [ep] (More Hate Productions, Narcoleptica Prod.)
Black metal straight outta Kazakhstan, of all places.
Once again, we’re going for a vaguely Finnish approach, with melody lines driving the tremelo guitars. The production is complete crap, with all but those lead guitar lines being buried at the bottom of an active blender. Do you start banging your head when you make a smoothie?
If so, this band’s for you…
With a real production, these guys might have gotten a very different review: I didn’t mind what I was hearing beneath all the hiss and signal bleed.
Sea Of Despair – Море отчаяния [re-release] (Wolfshade Records, Metallic Media)
Mournful gothic metal in the older sense of the word, with sweet soprano female vox as a highlight and accent, while death growls carry the heavy lifting. There’s a slowness and mournfulness to the sound that suggests a leaning towards doom, but overall, it’s pretty much early Tristania.
Not bad at all, actually.
Serpentine Creation - Incest [ep] (Metal Masala)
Despite the uber-tacky title, this is fairly standard “pile of Bards” Watain zombie schmutters of the “occult black metal” variety.
Production is excellent (think Cradle of Filth-level crispness, fullness and bombast), and they seem to lean more towards the best sense of that overused term, as in “the reason why anyone cared about Danielsson and company in the first place” vs. the “oh, good lord, here they go AGAIN with this shit…” we encounter several times a month.
As such, I’ll give ’em a well deserved nod.
Still sick of this fucking sound to no end, but if I was going to listen to ONE band working this style?
No question, hands down, Serpentine Creation for the win.
Soijl – Endless Elysian Fields (Solitude Productions)
Slow doom with light melodeath touches. Amorphis circa Karelian Isthmus gets really into My Dying Bride and My Silent Wake, essentially.
Great production, thick enough reverb to call The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen to mind, but all in the service of melodeath-like (modern) doom metal.
I liked this one quite a bit, actually.
Tanator - Possessed By Madness, Possessed By War (Grotesque Sounds Prod. / Narcoleptica Prod.)
Terrible production…well, to be more precise, a really weird mix again.
Snotty-throated gargle snarls on vox. These are actually pretty audible…but their very nature leaves the end result sounding rough and hissy.
Uber-thin guitars that are so overly distorted and buried in the mix, all you get is the same hiss you hear when the rip saw is going on a construction site.
The best recording comes on the drum end, but even that’s sorta compromised and questionable. While the floor toms are well mic’ed and powerful, the kit is inclined towards signal bleed, particularly on the cymbals…even so, the drums are by far most prominent instrument and fairly up front, just behind the lousy vox.
Simplistic thrash with nasty, sorta death-thrash vox and what comes off as really bad production in the end.
Various Artists - A Tribute To Possessed: Seven Burning Churches [compilation] (More Hate Productions)
Here bands get to cover one of the greats, one of the original blackened thrash acts (and arguably one of the first death metal bands as well).
Is all of this necessary? No fucking way, stick to the originals.
Do most if not all of ’em hack it competently enough? Yeah, I guess.
Best of ’em was Regressive’s cover of “swing of the axe”, but that was always one of my favorites from Possessed anyway.
Various Artists – Russian Death Metal vol. 3 [compilation] (Darknagar Records)
You know how it is with comps. You’re lucky to find one or two gems amidst the dross who’ve likely never been signed (and with good reason).
Some are intensely annoying (Permafrost), there are more than one or two Suffocation wannabes and most of this leans more towards the “brutal” and “deaththrash” end of the equation than I’d prefer.
Aside from the one negative aforementioned impression, none of ’em really stood out in any appreciable way.